Saturday, March 2, 2019

Wandering in the Desert

Goodness, what a journey the Lord has taken us on!  If you have followed our foster care/adoption story at all you know that we have been blessed with the privilege of raising four additional kids.  We stepped in initially with the hope of being able to come alongside the birth parents to work toward restoring the parent/child relationship.  As with most of our plans, things worked out differently and  in February of 2015 we learned that we would have the opportunity to move toward adoption on two of those sweet babies, but at that same time, we learned that we would have to say good-bye to the younger two (ages 3 and 21 months).  What a bittersweet year that was.

Even now four years later, so many emotions still fill my heart. The heart wrenching goodbye that came on March 8 of 2015 left us completely Broken. It was the hardest thing any of us have ever had to do.We spent the next year trying to put the pieces back together.  Not just our pieces, but each of our remaining six children were also shattered.  I can still see my sweet Anthony laying in his brother's bed shortly after he had left.  I can still hear him saying to me, "Momma, I am pretending that Aiders is laying here with me."  Not a one of us walked away from the boys' departure unharmed.

So fast forward 866 days, that is how many days went by before we were able to see these sweet boys again.  We spent those days weeping, trying to heal, and praying without ceasing.  God answered our prayers and on July 21, 2017 the boys were returned to our care.  I have often referred to these kids as our  "Moses Babies"  and as the events of the last year and a half have played out, I again find myself relating to Moses.  This time I am connecting with the part of Moses story where he leads the Israelites out of bondage and away from Pharaoh's harsh treatment.

In Chapter 14 of Exodus we can read how God used Moses to lead his people out of Egypt.  He parts the Red Sea and leads them into freedom.  The people had spent years praying to be delivered from their circumstances, hoping with each new day that they would be rescued.  Now finally that day had come.  What an incredible celebration they had as Chapter 15 begins. It doesn't take the Israelite long to realize that along with their fulfilled hope came new challenges and by the beginning of Chapter 16 they cry out, "Would that we had died by the Lord's hand in the Land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you [Moses] have brought us out into the wilderness to kill the whole assembly with hunger." (Exodus 16:3)  In other words they are saying, "Man this is way harder than we thought."  They wanted God to rescue them but didn't really want to have to suffer in any way.  They didn't want it to cost them anything.  Can you believe those whiny Israelites?  What a bunch of big babies.  I am so glad I am not like that...

But wait...
Maybe, just maybe I am?

Now don't misunderstand what I am saying, I do not regret for even a half a second that the Lord answered our prayers and brought the boys home to us.  Not a moment goes by that I do not realize how incredibly blessed we are to share our lives with them once again.  But, what I am saying is that it was harder than I expected it to be.  The sweet, happy go lucky boys we had to send back into questionable circumstances were not the same boys that returned to our home.  They returned broken, having experienced heart breaking things that forever changed them.  Our hearts ached as we realized how much they had changed and still break as we are working through the healing process.  I struggled with angry thoughts like, "If only they had not left our care..." and "I didn't create this problem but here I am stuck with having to fix it."  So I guess the truth is, we were not the same either and there were challenges to face as we worked to adjust to our new normal. It has been hard and at times I have whined to the Lord (and a few friends) because things were way harder than I thought they would be.  I eagerly await the part of the story where I get to pen, "...and they lived happily ever after."  But real life is not like those fairy tales and much like I recently heard Liz Bohannon of Sseko Designs say, "You have a story to write.  You cannot know the end before you start typing."

To continue with the Isrealite's story, they spend the rest of Exodus traveling through some hard places and facing unexpected challenges, but EVERYTIME,  EVERY SINGLE TIME, the Lord provides for them.  You need water, here have some water from this rock.  You need food, well let me give you some manna from Heaven.  Tired of manna?  No problem, here is some quail.  Surrounded on all sides by your powerful enemies?  Not to worry, I will make you victorious.  Time and time again God meets their needs.  However, as they work their way toward the promise land, they continue to whine and complain, to grumble against God, and often to do the exact opposite of what God told them to.

This is where I hope our stories differ!  I hope that I can take some notes and learn a lesson or two from my fellow sojourners so that I can walk a different path.  I want to be more like Caleb and Joshua who chose to believe what God had promised rather than what seemed to their fellow Israelite brothers to be sure defeat. (Numbers 13).

No matter how the end of our story ends up being written, I know that God truly is the "author and perfecter" of my faith and so I will fix my eyes on Jesus. After all, He too faced circumstances that were harder than we can imagine and suffered to fix a problem He didn't create, and He did so with joy?!   Here's hoping we can too! 

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lazarus Moments

     Faith is such a complicated thing isn't it?  According to Hebrews 11, faith is believing what we cannot see.  There have been times in my life when  faith has come fairly easy for me, and other times when I have had to continually read and reread God's promises to hang on to even a shred of faith.  This is not because I did not believe God is who He says He is, but rather because I had played out circumstances in my head, knowing for certain that God was going to act and then struggled when things did not play out exactly as I had planned. Can you relate?  Have you ever been in a situation and been totally and completely baffled when the circumstances played out quite differently? Well, if so my friend then we are not alone.  We can look back in the Bible and see that we are in good company.  Take the events of Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha for example.  The Bible tells us that Jesus loved Lazarus and so when he got sick, his sisters sent word to Jesus to let him know.  Let's pick up the story at the beginning of John chapter 11:

"Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea,“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
     So basically at this point the sisters are wondering where Jesus is because they need him and he isn't showing up, and the disciples are wondering why on earth Jesus would want to go back to a place where he was and is very unwelcomed.  It seems that no one quite understood what was happening, and that things weren't going the way everyone else (besides Jesus) thought they should.  Take special note of verse 4 though where Jesus promises that this sickness will not end in death. Let's pick the story back up in verse 9:
"9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
I love this little extra lesson about 12 hours of daylight.  I am sure the disciples were wondering what on earth this tid bit of fact had to do with anything, but Jesus goes on to tell them that if you walk in the light you won't have trouble seeing.  It is my guess that what he is really saying is, "Hey I am the light, if you walk in me then you won't fall."  At this point we also realize that Jesus already knows that Lazarus has died, but the disciples are still confused as to what is going to happen. I would be to since Jesus just said this story was not going to end in death. I love that Thomas tells the rest of the disciples, "Hey let's go so we can at least die with him."  This is the same Thomas that later insists on sticking his hands into Jesus' side before he will believe that Jesus has been resurrected.  It makes me giggle a little when I read this, but I can relate to times when I have walked in obedience to Christ all the while thinking, "Well this isn't going to turn out well but I guess I'll go since you said I have to."  And so the disciples and Jesus set out for Bethany.  

"17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
     I am so Martha here, "Jesus if you had been here (like I asked) then this would not have happened!"  I can hear the frustration and disappointment in her voice as she is broken by the circumstances she knows Jesus could have prevented.  She is wrestling with her faith, she had written the story a different way and now she is struggling to understand.  My heart has cried out this same cry, "God, where were you?"  Yet, she knows that Jesus is who He says He is and she offers up this last shred of faith, "But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." 

"23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him."
     Jesus promise Martha that He has the situation under control, but she still does not understand.  This is not what she had imagined.  Jesus asks her, " Martha, don't you trust me?" Well those weren't his exact words but that is the gist of his question.  Martha affirms her faith and then remembers her sister and goes to get her.  
"30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there."
     More misunderstanding.
"32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
     Mary echos her sister's feelings here, "Jesus where were you?  You could have stopped this from happening." This part of the story always shakes me. Jesus knew what was about to happen. He knew that hope was going to be restored. He knew that in moments Lazarus was going to walk out of that tomb alive and well.  Yet, Mary's brokenness "deeply moved" Him.   Seeing Lazarus's sister so hurt by the circumstances (even though they were a part of a bigger plan) brought Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, to tears.  Man, that is just incredible and humbling.  How many times has Jesus wept for me in the midst of my lack of understanding of the bigger picture, in the times where I have wrestled with the question, "Where were You, God?  If You had been here this wouldn't have happened?"  All the while my heart was breaking Jesus saw my agony and responded with tears of His own as He quietly whispered,  “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;  and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
  There are no words except to echo Martha, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

All of those watching shake their heads in awe and say, "See how He loves her."  And here we remember that if we walk in the Light we will not stumble, and others will see our faith, though small and wavering, and know that He is who He says He is.  But the story isn't over yet:

"38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

   Oh friend, our story isn't over yet either.  No matter how hopeless of a situation we find ourselves in, Jesus can bring just the tiniest sliver of hope to it and before you know it, the tomb will be wide open and what we thought was dead can be brought back to life and we can dance with joy as Jesus proclaims, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Orphan Sunday

Today is Orphan Sunday....kind of a weird name if you ask me.  I guess I am just not a fan of labels and it feels like calling someone an "orphan" is insulting.  Despite it's name, I think this day is a great wake up call for all of us to look around and see what we can do to help those around us. Not all of us are called to be foster parents, or to fly off to Africa to build an orphanage, but some of us are!  However, if you can't picture that being a part of what God has in store for you, it doesn't mean you are off the hook. James 1:27 clearly tells us that we are, " to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  

So, how do we do that in our everyday lives?  I have an idea, or two to share with you if you are interested. 

What if...the next time we went to one of our kid's sporting events, we cheered for the kid whose parents are never at the game?  And let's be careful not to point our fingers at that mom or dad either.  Maybe it's a single mom who is working two jobs just to put food on the table, or maybe the parent is caring for younger children or an ailing parent.  But, what if we stood in the gap for them, bought their kid a water, encouraged him or her to do their best, maybe even paid for them to have a team picture, or any of the 20 things that come up as an extra expense during the season?  

What if...we shared a little extra love and kindness to that neighbor kid that is always asking to play with your kid?  Maybe treat him or her to ice cream or a nice popsicle on a hot day.  And what if we sat down and talked with him or her, really talked and connected with them in a way that let them know they mattered and you really cared?  What if we invited the neighbor kid to join in with our family game of baseball, or the next water balloon fight? Would it make a difference in his or her life?

What if we did Christmas a little different this year? Are there any children you can think of that could benefit from a little extra love given anonymously? Could we come alongside a family that is struggling and make sure their son or daughter has a present, or two, or three to open on Christmas morning?

What if we invested in a student at our local school, making sure he or she had the school supplies needed to begin the year off right?  Is there a child in your life that could use some new school clothes?  Extra help with homework? Someone to listen to him or her read?

What if we just showed love to all of those sweet little faces that we came in contact with?  What if we looked past the dirty clothes, the sometimes ornery behavior, or if you are from a small town, it might even mean looking past the last name, and just loved all of the people, big and small, in our lives.  Maybe they don't match up with the Webster's dictionary definition of  orphan (or widow) but sharing a little extra love certainly couldn't hurt, right?

These are just a few ideas that come to mind, but I hope you have found one that fits for you. Maybe you have some other ideas that you could share in the comment section below. 


Monday, July 4, 2016

The Heart of the Matter

Goodness, what a great summer we have been enjoying here in the Midwest.  I think we have swam more this summer so far than all of last year combined, and though the last few days have been unseasonably cool, we are hoping to enjoy some splashing in the sun by this afternoon.

Maybe it's just us, but every year there seems to be that one item that we have purchased, undoubtedly on clearance at the end of the last summer season, that everyone wants.  Sometimes it is a particular raft, other times a pool toy that has unknown magical powers!  Goggles are the coveted item in this year's pool.  Not just any pair though, because we have at least 4 pairs out there at last count.  No, this years coveted goggles are THE ones (yep just one pair) that not only cover your eyes and allow the ability to see underwater without that awful chlorine burn, but also cover your nose so that you don't have to plug it. These goggles are not too big, not too small, but alas, these goggles are just right.  More than one squabble has erupted over this coveted pair of goggles.

The other day as I was watching my Skyler girl swimming around in the goggles it made me remember my pool days from years gone by. (More years than I care to mention:) I remember as a little girl, laying on my back underwater and looking up through the water at the distorted view of what was above the waters. Sometimes I would squint my eyes and try to make sense of what it was I was actually seeing, while other times I would swim around oblivious to what was actually happening above the water or even right around me. Other times, as I navigated the murky lake waters, I was only able to see what was right in front of me.

Actually that is exactly how I could describe these last few years.  I have been so overwhelmed with the circumstances around me that I have not always been able to see very clearly and only had the time or energy to focus on what was right in front of me.  Raising 8 kids is not an easy task under normal circumstances, but when you factor in the additional circumstances of NEVER ENDING court dates and battles, multiple false allegations, constant caseworker visits, a broken foster care system, extended family heartache, and ministry challenges you have a recipe for short sighted survival mode.

That's it really, these past few years we have just been treading water and surviving.  We could see the shore in the distance but every time we tried to swim toward it, we would be swept away by the current of our circumstances.  If you know me, then you know that a lot of time was spent making sure everyone had on their life vests, and that they were nice and tight, but it seems that no sooner would I get one life vest tethered up just right, that another would come loose and I would have to turn my attention to that situation.  Eight years of this can be exhausting.  Eight years of this has been exhausting. On more than one occasion I have comforted myself with the lyrics of the old hymn, "Oh soul are you weary and troubled, no light in the darkness you see? There's light for a look at the Savior and life more abundant and free. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus written by Helen Lemmel)

I imagine that Paul could relate to my circumstances when he penned these words in 2 Corinthians 4:

 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 

Paul was weary from the constant trouble of his day, not the same troubles that I have been facing, and probably not the troubles that you have been facing, but a troubled heart is a troubled heart.  And though I do not know what trials you are facing this day, I know the same God that Paul writes about and the hope He brings.  Paul ends that same chapter by writing:

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Have you ever read a passage like that and walked away thinking, "Well good for you Paul. I'm glad it worked out for you, but I'm just not feeling it?" In all honesty I can say that I have.  I know that Jesus told us that in this world we would have trouble, and reassured us to  "take heart" because he has overcome the world. (John 16:33)  It's just that I didn't expect to have this much trouble and I am disillusioned by the weight of these last eight years.  And I have allowed my heart to become heavy with things rather than trusting God with them, and in doing so my heart sprung a leak and began taking in water.  Heavier and heavier it grew and I just keep doggie paddling.  Treading water will help you survive but doesn't really get you closer to the shore.  What it does get you is tired.  Unless...

Unless you are conditioned for it.  If you have taken the time to practice treading, to prepare your body for the endurance  it takes to stay afloat, to strengthen your core, then you can endure hours, weeks, and even years of treading water. No one makes it to the Olympics without hours, months and years of training and painful, and tiring workouts.

Our Spiritual bodies are no different, we must exercise our faith muscles to make them stronger.  We must work on the core of our spirit in order to strengthen our overall spirit.  So what is the core of our spirit?  I believe it is our heart.  The Bible is filled with verses about the heart and when we talk about giving our lives to Christ, we ask Him to come and live IN our hearts.  One of my favorite verses is a reminder to us of how important it is to take good care of our heart. Proverbs 4:23 tells us, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." 

Sounds like a core muscle to me!
Oh but these last few years my heart has felt so heavy, weighed down by the realities of the world, by my own poor choices, and sometimes I have just been going through the motions of being a Christian because it is what's expected.  I was sure God had a different answer for the trials I was facing, and when the battled ended and I was not the one taking the victory lap, something happen inside of me.  My core spiritual muscle got broken. And sometime during that battle, I lost heart, like an athlete who is on fire and overflowing with talent and then suffers a major injury and never really regains his or her fire for the game.  The headlines read, "Star Athlete Loses Heart." That is where I was standing, or rather laying.  My heart hasn't really been in it.  I continued to go to church, what else would the pastor's wife do?  I  continued to pray for others, to encourage others to walk in the faith, and to believe that God is who He says He is.  But my heart was working on autopilot and my vision was distorted as I lay flat on my back in the pool of brokenness.

This is not a good place to be, and after awhile you either run out of breath and die, or you muster your strength and swim to the surface to take a fresh breath of air.  The choice is yours, the air is available to everyone, if you want to put forth the effort it will take to swim to the surface.  I love this promise from Ezekiel 36 verse 26, "26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."
A new heart is there, fresh for the taking.  We can chose to leave our heart of stone behind and exchanged for a heart of flesh.  The best news is that God will perform the surgery, we just have to ask Him to!  Beyond that, He wants to serve as our personal trainer, strengthening our core muscle so that we can endure the hardships that are sure to come, and to heal from those that have already left their mark on us.

Last summer I read a book written by Dutch Sheets entitled, Hope Restored, and I assume it was the inspiration for Danny Gokey's new hit.  (You can listen to that here.) Pastor Sheets tells the amazing story of a heart surgeon who was struggling to get a patient's heart to restart.  Finally, out of other options, he leans down and whispers in the patient's ear, "Tell your heart to beat again," and miraculously that is exactly what happens!  He goes on to relate that perhaps God is saying that as He looks down into our broken hearts, the wounds are deep and our core is damaged.  Healing is on the shore, but every time we start to make progress toward it, we are swept again into the current by our circumstances.  Remember the story of Peter, who walked on the water with confidence UNTIL he took his eyes off Christ and began to sink (Matthew 14)? Perhaps, we simply need to, turn our eyes "upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face..."  and then we will be able to take a fresh new breath and exchange our heavy hearts for hearts that are renewed and strengthened for what lies ahead?  Will you join me for a swim?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Healing A Broken Heart

It has been 459 days since our world has been turned upside down.  459 days since not one, but two very large holes were blasted into our lives with an aftershock that only those who have walked this path can fully understand.  459 days ago, I had to say good bye to two boys that had been a part of the everyday fabric of our lives since their births.  They had been placed here in our home by the Department of Children and Family Services along with two other siblings.  If you follow my blog, you know many of the ups and down of this situation and there is no need to rehash the heartache here.  Today's blog is about how you can begin the process of healing after being in such a place of brokenness.

To be honest, I feel like I have only just begun the process of healing and am by no means an expert in the matter.  However, I have found a few things that have helped and hope that by sharing them here someone else can be encouraged to find healing.

I have always had such a hard time dealing with heartache and tend to run the other direction from anything that looks even remotely like it might be painful.  The hardest part in my journey toward healing has been to allow, and even force myself to "Be still and know that He is God." (Psalm 46:10) My quiet time has taken a hard hit because of the broken place I have been in.  This is not because I am angry at God, or that I have lost faith in Him, but rather that to sit before the Lord means to be vulnerable to myself about the depth of hurt I am running from.  This has been the largest obstacle to healing. So a great place to start is to reconnect with the Lord and allow Him to be the healer of your soul.

Another thing that has helped me is to allow myself to remember and to talk about the memories with others.  I have read a lot recently that one of the hardest things about losing a love one to death is that people are afraid to say their name, especially around those grieving the loss.  I know that my loss is not exactly death but the loss is very similar.  That actually is part of the frustration, it is a unique place to be in, suffering a great loss but not one that is really recognized by society as such.  There are no "Sorry for the loss of your foster kid" cards out there on the market.  And as for support groups for other people in my shoes, well I haven't been able to find one anywhere near here.  A great second step toward healing though is to treasure the memories you had.

Recently one of the boys celebrated his 3rd birthday and though I cannot deliver it to him, I decided to write him a birthday card.  I just shared how much I loved and missed him and prayed that he was happy and healthy where he was.  I plan to continue this tradition in hopes of maybe one day being able to share these cards with the boys so that they will know that I didn't just walk away and stop caring.  Maybe I will never get that opportunity, but hope is like a healing balm to a weary soul.  And so I hope.  Hope and creating new memories is another great stride toward the journey of healing.

One last step I hope to be taking soon is to make some changes in the world around me.  Pain has a way of catapulting people into action and I hope to be able to use this part of my story to help others who are struggling with some of these same things. This blog is the first step in that journey, but I eventually hope to start a support group for other foster parents who are struggling.

Let me leave you with a few verses that I hope will encourage you as much as it has me...

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait for the Lord;  Be strong and let your heart take courage;  Yes, wait for the Lord.
 Psalm 27:13-14


He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:3

Sunday, March 13, 2016

2786 days......almost 9 years ago we stumbled into the world of foster parenting.  We arrived here quite by accident and with the intentions of being a stepping stone to repair a broken path.  However, somewhere along the road, somewhere between day 1 and day 2786, things changed.  I can't pinpoint the exact moment that things shifted from hoping to reunite a family to hoping to enlarge ours, but the shift happened.

Many of you have faithfully followed us on this bumpy path as I have blogged our journey in bits and pieces through the posts here on this page.  So as I sit typing today, it is with the hope of inviting you to join us in celebrating. Celebrating the end of 2786 days.  Celebrating the beginning of a billion new days.  As of 9:20 am, March 11, 2016. Skyler and Anthony have officially become Graham's.

The waiting is over...

Psalm 30:5b, "Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning."

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Living Intentionally

Lately I have heard a lot of people throwing around the words, "Live intentionally," and I have been wondering what exactly that means.  How does one go about living intentionally?

I think it has to do with planning...with thinking ahead and setting a purpose.  As a teacher, when I introduce a new science topic or a new reading story I work with my students to set a purpose for reading.  We do that by asking ourselves some questions (What do I already know about this topic? What do I want to learn?  What do you think this is going to be about? etc...)  After we have set a purpose, then we can read the piece and focus specifically on what it is we are wanting to learn.

I think this same idea can be applied to living life intentionally.  It is no secret that I am a type A personality.  I am a planner.
Monthly menu...check
Once a month shopping...check
To do list...check
Lesson plans for the week...check
Lesson plans for the month....well I wish but I am not THAT good!

Because I am a planner, living intentionally doesn't seem too threatening or overwhelming.  I have a running checklist in my head at all times (no surprise I know!).  It is more like a question list:

Did I share some time in the Word and in prayer with my kids?
Did I share Jesus with others in my words and actions?  or
How can I share Jesus with others today in my words and actions?
Have I talked to each of my kids today? (some no longer live at home)
Did I have a face to face conversation...a real one... with my husband today?
What's for supper? Did I get it started before work or get meat out to thaw? 
Did I get my work out in?
Did I eat healthy and drink my water?
Did I connect with at least one friend?
Did I complete at least one load of laundry?
Did I encourage my students?  Coworkers? ?

Have I spent time with each of my kids at home one-on-one?
Is everyone's homework done?
Teeth brushed?  Baths?
Did I tuck them in and pray with them?

Please don't call the men in white coats to come get me...I really am not (too) crazy!  Maybe all of these questions seem overwhelming and I honestly do not succeed at answering yes to every one of them every day, but having an idea in mind of what I want to accomplish with each new day helps me to do a better job at being a mom/wife/teacher/friend on a daily basis.  Zig Ziggler said it best when he wrote, "If you aim for nothing, you'll hit it every time."

The downside of this is that you can become either discouraged if you are not able to check off this list of good intentions, or rigid and so focused on checking off your list that you miss God's intentions for you on any given day.  You must remain flexible in your intentions!  Can you see me squirming?  Even typing the word flexible makes the planner in me a bit uneasy.  I wanted to type, "flexible-ish" which is a new word I have invented for those times when I am called on to be flexible and I want to say, "Sure I am flexible-ish..." while smiling and trying to fight back the feeling of panic and doom that is rising within me as my type A brain is screaming, "But this isn't what we planned!"

That wrestling match brings me to one of my favorite verses. Proverbs 16:9 says, "In his heart a man plans his ways, BUT the Lord directs his steps." (emphasis mine)

Life these days is clipping away at lightening fast speeds and if we aren't careful we will be so caught up in surviving the day to day that we will get to the end of our days and have nothing but regrets to show for them.  Whether you are in your teens, twenty's, thirty's, fourty's, or beyond, it is never too late to begin living a bit more intentionally.  What goals can you set for the next week?  What area of your life would you like to see some change in?  What specific steps could you take to begin moving in the right direction for those changes?  Start with baby steps....small successes lead to giant victories, and giant victories are leaps toward living an intentional life...a life with no regrets!

Happy trails my friends!  Feel free to leave a comment here or email me with any questions you may have!  We can do this together!