Saturday, May 23, 2015

Content in ALL Circumstances

My sweet baby D's birthday was this past week.  It was an incredibly difficult day for all of us here as we didn't get to celebrate it with him.  There was no cake and ice cream for breakfast.  No balloons, no streamers, no pictures.

It has been 77 days since we have seen his sweet face.  Most days it still seems as if we will never get out of this dark valley we are walking through.  Every once in awhile I see a little glimmer of light on the horizon but it quickly fades as reality once again sets in.  This is a hard place to be.

It would be an easy jump to leap into a giant pity party. Or to grow angry.  Angry with the foster care system, angry with the judge, angry with dishonest caseworkers, angry with God.  It is something I must choose to fight against, sometimes minute by minute.  In fact the new catch phrase at the Graham house has become, "Focus on your blessings rather than your burdens," as we work to encourage each other through this new normal. 

As I was thinking about all of this yesterday, it made me remember a conversation I had recently with my 7 year old.  It was Easter time and we attended the community Easter egg hunt.  As we arrived, children were divided according to their age group and given a specific area to hunt.  Within each area were 3 prize eggs: 1 golden egg, 1 egg marked with an "X" for a boy and one egg marked with an "X" for a girl.  As we set off on our hunt, my girl was quite lucky.  Among her treasures, were both the "X" egg and the golden egg.  As we headed to turn in our treasures I decided this would be a great teachable moment.  I pulled Skyler aside and asked her to think about others in her age group.  There were a lot of other kids and I wanted her to share one of her prize eggs.  We talked about how it would be kind to give one of the two eggs to someone else so they could have a special prize too.  I told her that it wasn't really fair for her to have 2 prizes when others had none and asked her to give the girl egg to someone else because the golden egg was probably the grand prize.  With much encouragement, Skyler kept the golden egg and gave the "X" egg to another girl in her age group.

As it turns out, the big prize was for the egg with the "X."  The little girl Skyler gave this to received a huge Easter egg basket filled with toys and candy. When Skyler turned in her golden egg she got a chocolate bunny.  To say she was mad is an understatement.  All the way home she complained and grumped about not getting the big prize because I made her give it away.  I listened to her whine for a bit but after about 10 minutes, I had had enough.  I sat her down and talked with her about the situation.  I reminded her that when she went up to the egg hunt, she went with nothing but an empty basket and now she was coming home with not only a bunch of eggs, but also a chocolate bunny.  I tried to help her see that she came home with more than she went with.  I would love to say that my pep talk worked and she skipped off merrily into the sunset counting her eggs (and blessings), but not all endings are storybook endings.  I am pretty sure that if you ask Skyler about it now, a month later, she will still be mad.  She may never forgive me for this moment! 

At least not until she is older and wiser like me.  I mean I would never react like that. 

Or would I?  Maybe a better question is, am I?  If I am honest, and I always try to be, I would have to shamefully admit that I am behaving the same way.  I wanted the grand prize...I wanted the boys to stay here with us. If they are here I know they are safe, well cared for, and loved.  I don't want to be satisfied with the chocolate bunny of the 2 and 3 years we had them here.  I want the whole basket.  I have come home from the party sulky and mad.  I did not get what I wanted, and it is not fair. 

I can imagine Jesus pulling me to the side and reminding me..."Marla, you came to the party with nothing, and you went home with a full basket."  I wonder if He is as weary of my whining as I was of Skyler's?  My home is still overflowing with blessings.  I have a husband who serves the Lord with all he has and who loves me.  I have a houseful of children and we have been celebrating things like marriage and graduation these last few years.  My children are all walking with the Lord, I have a nice home and a warm bed. The list could go on and on.  But still I whine. 

I imagine the Apostle Paul may have had a similar struggle before coming to the place where he was able to pen these words: (red words mine!)

Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned [am learning] to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned [am learning] the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

 Thank you for your prayers and encouragement as we walk this road and I hope you will be encouraged to learn with us to be content in ALL things.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Unshakable Faith

I have been silent for awhile.  I have been suffering with a broken heart.  There are days when the greatest victory I achieve is simply rising from bed. 

Some days it is a struggle to just breath normally.  The memories of what was...the fear of what might be...these are crippling at times. 

It is maddening to me that the rest of the world continues to move on, as if my whole world has not been shaken to its very foundation.  But, that is how it must be.

I am still required to go to work, fix meals for my family, clean my house, pay my bills.  The ordinary everyday continues to demand that I move forward, even though I am so incredibly broken.

For those of you who may not know, my family and I are foster parents to my niece and 3 of my nephews...well we were.  For 7 years now we have been knee deep in the uncaring bureaucracy of child protective services.  But, on March 8th two of those children (age 3 and 22 months) were returned to the home of their birth mother. 

You may be thinking, well what did you expect?  You are just the foster mom, isn't this what you signed up for?  And of course this was the ultimate goal, what was to be expected, at least originally.  Oh, but three years of loving someone makes it incredibly difficult to just walk away, even under ideal circumstances.  Knowing it was a possibility doesn't stop me from feeling like I have suffered a great loss.  We literally lost 2 babies overnight.  I still do not know how you say goodbye forever....and I am shaken.

And so I have been silent.

Silent when it was time to say goodbye to babies who were clinging to me, begging to stay.
Silent as I hold the sobbing shoulders of my "other" kids. 
Silent as I watch my husband's heart break along with mine.
Silent as my 7 year old asks me who will keep the boys safe now. 
Silent as my 4 year old asks when his brothers are coming back.
Silent as I look into the sad eyes of my children.
Silent from my weekly radio program, Growing Stronger Together.
Silent from here, from this blog where I try to encourage people to SHINE.

How can I encourage others when I am struggling so deeply myself? 

Maybe people are wondering if I have lost my faith in God and that is why I am writing today. 

As I stated above, I am broken and shaken to my very core, but my humanness does not change who God is.  Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that, "Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever."  My circumstances may have changed, but my God has not, and there is comfort in that.  The truth of 2 Timothy 1:12 has become my heart's cry, "because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day."

I admit, the days have been dark, but God....
But God has been faithful,

"But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness."       ~Psalm 86:15

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you."        ~Deuteronomy 31:6

I love that, even in my humanness, maybe even despite my humanness, God remains faithful to me. 
The truth is, I do not know what tomorrow holds.  I do not know if there will be more heartache and pain, or if there will be some victory.  I do not know, BUT God knows.  I would be lying to say that I can rest easy in knowing that God has this all in his hands.  My heart aches, my mind constantly worries, but when I look to the cross, I can find peace.  I do not like what is happening, this part of God's plan for me.  But, I don't have to like it, I only have to trust that God has a plan.

"For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."   ~Jeremiah 29:11

"All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and who are called according to His purpose."   ~Romans 8:28

So, have I lost my faith?  No way!  The only thing getting me through the day to day is my faith!  Yes, I am broken and I am shaken....but He is not!

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."
 ~Hebrews 11:1

If you are walking through a dark valley and are struggling to find hope, please, please, please seek His face, immerse yourself in God's word and God's promises, He will not disappoint you.  As always if you have questions or comments please send me an email at 
With Unshakeable Faith,