Sunday, July 29, 2012

no mistake

"You wonder sometimes why you are permitted to make mistakes in your choice when you sought so truly to do My Will in the matter.  To that I say it was no mistake... All your lessons cannot be learned without difficulty, and this was needed to teach you a lesson.  Not to him who walks on, with no obstacles in his way, but to him that overcometh in the promise given.  So to attain peace quickly in your surroundings, as well as in your hearts, learn your lesson quickly.  And the overcoming is never the overcoming of the one who troubled you, but the overcoming of the weaknesses and wrong in your own nature, aroused by such a one." -God Calling


Thursday, July 26, 2012

a sacred history

Awhile back My Love and I read in Sacred Marriage a chapter about your sacred history.  The author encouraged the reader to talk openly about the journey of your relationship with your children, friends, loved ones.  It is a sacred history that should be remembered.

In that light, Brother has been asking me to tell him spooky stories lately.  I think it sprung from our camping trip a few weeks ago but in any case I usually respond with, "Mommies don't know any scary stories."  That is when I try to tell some story of our family history to keep the sweet memories alive.

The very exercise triggered a panic in me.  Suddenly I had amnesia and couldn't remember a single moment of my life before today.  I mean, I could recall important memories like when my shirt sleeve caught on fire at Girl Scout camp in fourth grade.  And how My Love and I met and got engaged.  But everything in between and since seemed like a blur.  I couldn't even remember moments from my kiddos' young childhood.  Has this happened to any of you?

There have been so many amazingly wonderful memories.  Why can't I recall a single one?  The Enemy would like nothing more than for me to believe the history of our family is not full of gifts worth remembering.  That is how I so easily get stuck in the muck of today.

"Just look it up on the [private] blog," My Love said.  (Sidebar: Awww.  He knows I still have a blog.)  But he is right, there are lots of cute (and not so cute) moments shared there for my family and friends to see since Brother's first year.  I just wanted to have them all there on the tip of my tongue though.  And why weren't they there to pull from my mental filing cabinet?  Because I don't take the time to think upon them.  Instead I groan at the sight of her spilled milk into the cracks of the table and him eating spinach salad with fingers rather than the big boy fork to his left and me yelling "I told you to sit on your BOTTOM THREE TIMES ALREADY!" while enjoying a nice family dinner.  I fill my mind with annoyances and frustrations and long sighs.  I have grey hairs, people.

No, no, no.  I have this all wrong.  The sacred history of this imperfect family that God built should flood my thoughts hourly.  I should talk daily about the journeys we took through Europe together.  About bringing our tiny puppy home in a huge cage in the back of our Volvo.  I should remind Brother about the time he pooped out of his diaper in his new outfit right as our good friends were coming to meet him after just getting home from the hospital.  That was not our finest moment of peaceful communication, I tell you what.  But all these stories make up our family.  And the family we have today is a testimony of all God has done in and through us.  The more we talk about, the more God is glorified and we are blessed by our own history.

So I intend to start sharing (in person) the stories.  We all have a sacred history worth telling and God will be glorified as we dwell on all that he has blessed us with.  Give it a try.

Earlier this week the five of us climbed up in our bed and I took out a scrapbook I made for My Love during our first year of dating.  It was before we had digital cameras so the glossy prints are glued to the pages but the sentiment is still there.  The picture of me before our first date.  The ticket stub to our first movie.  A flyer from a Delirious concert we went to together.  Photos of so many firsts.  We looked like babies.  Do you have any such memory book or photo album from days gone by?  Consider pulling one out and sharing a bit of your family's sacred history with your loved one/s this week.  You'll be surprised how the sweet memories come flooding back.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

something heavenly

My thoughts exactly.

Monday, July 23, 2012

satisfy me Lord

"I'm begging you to help me see you're all I want, you're all I need. Oh satisfy me Lord."

"In me, oh Lord, can you create a pure heart cause I'm afraid that I just might run back to the things I hate."

"You're beautiful.  You're beautiful.  You're more than all this world can give.  You're beautiful.  You're beautiful.  You're love is all I need to live."

Sweet dreams, people.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

foster care, love, and the presence of God

Hang on, people, because the roller coaster that is my life just took a turn.

God is funny like that.  He gives you peace in a situation that you have resolved you can't wrap your mind around and then he reminds you once again that he is in control so don't go drawing conclusions prematurely.

Let me back up.  I wrote this post on Wednesday and then Thursday I got a text from a local friend who was looking to get her hair cut and needed some moral support.  I think she even used those words.  I need you.  The kids and I were just wrapping up school so at 10:45am I packed their lunch and left them with my friend's two older children so W and I could have a few hours for girl time.  I am not that spontaneous, people.  The kids were thrilled to go though and had a good time while we got our hair cut and went out to lunch.

W and I made it to the salon after trying two others with no success.  She tracked down this girl who had changed locations and was able to get us both in (I decided to get mine cut too.).  I'm not sure how much support I was able to give my friend, but her haircut turned out great so I hopped in the chair after her.  R and I started chatting.  She asked how I knew my friend and I asked if she was originally from this state.  That is when God showed up.  

R went on to share that she GREW UP IN FOSTER CARE IN OUR COUNTY.  She was sexually abused by her alcoholic father and her mother chose to stay with him.  R was the only child removed from the home as they assumed her brothers were safe.  She ended up living with her grandma until age 7 when she died and R went into foster care.  She said she lived in a different home every year and was never adopted.  Our conversation was supernatural.  She kept talking and cutting and cutting and talking and I was a little afraid I was going to come out of the chair with a pixie cut but all was well.

I asked her what advice she would give to foster parents who wanted to do the best for the children placed with them.  "Just love them," she said.  "So many families acted like since they were happy I should just be happy but I wasn't."  She told me about one older couple who had been like loving parents to her, but when the wife died when R was 15 and they didn't think the husband (who was a disabled vet) could care for her and the other foster teens in the home, she had to leave.  R was emancipated from the state at 17 when she got her cosmetology license and has been on her own since.  She did go back to that man's house when she wound up pregnant and alone at 20 (she gave the baby up for adoption) and he took her in as his own during that chapter of her life.  There were three other former foster kids living there also.  She felt love and acceptance from this man.  "Sometimes I just needed to be sad and he gave me the freedom to do that.  We just buried him a week and a half ago."  Chills ran through my body and my face fought back tears.  "There were 31 former foster kids (who many are like family to her) at his funeral.  He made a big impact in so many people's lives and most of us went on to make something good of ourselves.  I wish he could be here to give you advice."  It chokes me up to think about that divine spontaneous appointment.  I drove away being reminded that God is ultimately in control of my life and can act when and how he wants.

I went to my women's Bible study that evening.  I walked in and sat down in the front row of the room a chair away from another girl in my small group.  "I thought of you this week," she said.  "My friend was trained to be foster parents in our county about a year and a half ago and they never got a call in all that time.  They were discouraged and confused as they clearly felt God calling them into this service for him.  Well over the July 4th weekend they got that call and they welcomed a sibling set of three of the sweetest kids who were placed in foster care for the first time.  They expect it to be for six months."  Of course there was more to the conversation but I was once again floored by God's involvement in my little life.  I told N about God's recent revelation to me (shared in the previous post) and then what had happened at the salon and now her conversation with me there.  We sat in awe at how God was moving in my life.

So we wait.  Not for some desired or expected result but trusting that he is in control and that he doesn't want us to give up on his perfect and complete plan to use our lives.

Pray for us.

Then the Bible study started where one of the two leaders gives a lesson before we break off into smaller groups.  I kept smiling as I took bullet points down an a sticky note found in the bottom of my purse.  1 Corinthians 13 was preached about on Sunday morning as we visited our old church.  Verse 13, "And these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."  And there it was being shared again as she too focused on the whole chapter.  She spent time on verse 8, "Love never fails." Meanwhile the speaker's husband was in the sanctuary behind us doing worship practice to this song and then this song unbeknownst to her I'm sure.  You couldn't have planned those moments better.  God is awesome.  The rest of her talk included John 15, the vine and the branches, abiding in Christ, how plants work, how fruit grows, and of course the fruit of the Spirit (which Brother has been singing around here for months).  She polished it all off with a bit of Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."  (which is also a line in one of the above worship songs) Yes, Lord.  I hear your broad repetitions in my life.

Now you might be thinking, what does all this talk of love and vines and abiding and fruit have to do with foster care?  Well it doesn't really.  All it speaks to me is that God is present in my life.  He repeats himself.  He is alive and he wants me to know even when I have no idea where this life is going, he is leading me.  So there.

I used some birthday money sent by my grandma to buy this wall hanging to put in my green dining room.  I had been looking for a little something to remind me to BE loving (yes I need to be reminded) and there it was while I was shopping for a friend.  I went back and bought it for myself today (with a 30% off coupon).  Happy Birthday to me.  Thanks Grandma (who doesn't read this blog)!

So yes, I realize this post is all over the place but sometimes the presence of God makes me feel that way.  It is a friendship like I have never had and I am so thankful that he loves me and tells me so often. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

growing our family

"Fear of what others will say is want [or lack] of trust in Me.  This must not be.  Convert all these difficulties into the purification of your characters.  See yourselves as those around you see you, not as you wish to be, and walk very humbly with your God.  I will set you on high because you have known My Name, but it must be a purified you to be exalted."-God Calling

When I read this today, I knew it was time to share.  God is doing something new in me that I haven't let him do before.  Don't get me wrong, I have preached "die to self" and "submit to the Shepherd" but I didn't even know that I wasn't fully doing it myself (even though I really wanted to).  There were people who probably knew the truth before I did.  People who know me well.  Namely my husband and my first family.  Yes, God was doing a work in my heart and mind but the core of who I was hadn't really been transformed.  When I am irritable "out of the heart the mouth speaks".  It is hard to really feel like you are growing spiritually when part of you feels like a fraud after losing self-control over something trivial.  Even confessing it here and claiming not to be perfect wasn't really getting the job done of carving out my "heart of stone".

God has been working and in a way that I never saw coming.  All this waiting really threw me.  I got caught up in the service I felt God was calling me into and forgot that walking in obedience in all things on every day is more what the Lord really desires.  He will use us when the time is right in the way that best pleases him and we don't even need to realize it when it is happening.  

I spoke to a trusted friend and mentor recently and God used her to speak truth to my heart (not in so many words).

"What if this whole process of stepping out in faith and following God on a journey to foster parenting didn't actually end in bringing foster children into your home?"

Obedience is not always about finding something on the other end.  It can also just be about hearing his calling and doing the thing he asks you to do when he asks it.  Why does it feel like a failure if there is no end result?  Maybe part of me thinks "but we have told so many people and they are all watching".  The truth is this process has never been about us and it still isn't.  For now, we know God opened a door wide and said WALK THROUGH.  We obeyed.  Seeking anything more than pleasing him in obedience makes it about us.  So we wait only to obey him in the next thing when he asks it.

Not long into this process of waiting for something that we assumed was promised to us, we realized that God had a big plan to work in our marriage.  "Oh, that must be it," I said.  "He is strengthening our relationship so we can be better prepared for the tough road ahead as foster parents!"  That may still be the case but I no longer feel like that is the reason for this chapterGod wants to heal our marriage because it needs it.

"What if this whole process of stepping out in faith and following God on a journey to foster parenting was only about learning how to have a sacred marriage?

And not for the purpose of what comes next but only because it brings God glory.  Would that be enough?  Would I still question the reason for the path we walked and try to figure out the why for this process?  Or would this chapter of strengthening our marriage be enough of a reason to start any journey?

I spoke to that same friend as she listened so well about how God had been aching in my heart (during this time since being approved to foster parent) a desire to grow our family.

"What if this is God's way of growing your family?"  

To include something big that has been missing.  Isn't that enough!?!

My desire to adopt has not faded.  I still feel like that is something God will call us to do some day.  But until that phone rings to bring home a foster child (even with low odds of that ever happening) or God directs us to pursue something else, we know that we are obeying God right where we are.  I no longer feel like this life will end in discontentment if I don't see evidence at the end of this road because the path led us here and God is doing big things.  If on the journey through this chapter of our marriage God brings who I wish to be into sync with how others see me there will be abundant fruit worthy of his praise.  Isn't that what the process of sanctification does in us all?  And in the end the better me will be seen for his glory.  The one that better reflects who God is.  His will is perfect and complete for me and it includes this day, my 31st birthday.  Oh how he loves me!

Monday, July 16, 2012

step on and up firmly

"These last few weeks have been the submerging before the consciousness of rescue.  Go forward now and conquer.  Go forward unafraid." -God Calling, July 14

"Many of My disciples have had to stay in the dark, alone and friendless.  They struggled on, singing as they went.  For you, too, there must be songs on the way.  Should I place your feet on an insecure ladder?  Its supports may be out of sight, hidden in the secret Place of the Most High, but if I have asked you to step on and up firmly--then surely have I secured the ladder." -God Calling, July 15

I have lots to write about but will soon be off to swim lessons for the Bundles this morning.  I am thankful for the friends in my life who share godly counsel when He leads them and for the times they wait quietly for the Holy Spirit to speak the words to me.  He has been talking and I have been processing.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

his sunflower

Bundle Brother came home from Sunday School one day with a small paper cup filled with dirt.  Down inside was a sunflower seed.  Daddy helped him plant it in our front yard and we had fun watching it grow and bloom.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

the right thing at the wrong time

I talked to KB for 2 1/2 hours yesterday (God kept my Bundles napping for most of it).  I am not usually a phone person.  An unfamiliar area code came up on my phone as it rang and for some reason I answered it.  She spoke as if she knew me but I couldn't place her voice.  Once she told me who it was I was overjoyed to receive a call from her while on the ground in Haiti.  She is halfway through her thirty days of serving with a ministry called Danita's Children this summer.  As she told me story after story of things she saw and what God was doing.  I couldn't help but feel a flicker of light being lit back up inside of me. 

During the months that we were praying about, preparing for and completing our foster parent training the idea of God using our family and this home for his glory was heavy on my heart.  I read books about foster care.  I set up the spare bedroom.  I envisioned little faces at the dinner table and in the back of the car and pushing the shopping cart.  My heart ached for God to use us.  

God asked us to wait.  I kept preparing believing with all my heart that a phone call could come at any moment (which it still can) and felt I needed to be continually learning about what God was walking us through.  Then one day I realized that I was so busy dreaming of the future that I was missing the now.  I actually said out loud to My Love one day that, "If this is all that there is I will probably become discontent with my life!"  Huh?!?!?!  Are you kidding me?  Look around Girl!  You have a BEAUTIFUL life.  But what I meant was I felt so strongly about what God was going to do that I couldn't see myself being satisfied with the American Dream that we live that the world strives for.  My life can't only be about myself and my husband and my two healthy kids.  I am ready to be used.

God has changed my attitude since then during this period of waiting.  He has given me great contentment for this day because he has written it for this day.  I don't spend too much time longing for the children "who might be out there in the world right now" because they are first and foremost God's children and he has them safely in his hands.  He will bring them to us when the time is right.

But as I listened to KB talk, I began to ache again.  For the millions of people whose lives only include suffering and who have to rely on God for EVERY THING.  We were out of power for two days in the heat and we thought that was misery.  When our phone call finally came to an end she left me with several very specific prayer requests to get her through the rest of her time there and as she returns "home".  My stomach hurt.  I felt a nagging in me again.  My house suddenly seemed gigantic like it has at times in the past and I told God I was ready for him to fill it up already.

KB and I have a very unique relationship.  God bound us together before we even met and he continues to use our conversations to bless each other even though we are in very different circumstances.  I asked her what God was teaching her while in Haiti.  Her answer was long and detailed after pausing to think but she shared something from a sermon given there on the compound.  "The right thing at the wrong time is disobedience," she said.  Other than briefly speaking before she got on the plane to fly to Haiti we hadn't spoken in about a month so KB wasn't really up to speed on all that God was teaching me here in Virginia.  I told her that she thought this was a morale call for her but really God was using her to bless me.  Yes.  Foster care, adoption is the right thing for our family.  But if we pursue it at the wrong time we are outside of his will and are disobeying God.  


So we wait...patiently.  We wait in this six bedroom four bathroom house for God to work everything together in his perfect time.  This is the time for our marriage.  To prepare us for the journey ahead when he will grow our family.  I know he will.  I imagine my thoughts and emotions will continue to fluctuate between peace and discontentment like on a roller coaster from time to time.  It's God's way of keeping my mind fixed on him no matter the circumstances.  Please pray for my heart.  It is a Mama heart for more than just these two and I want to be completely transformed so I may be better used by God when His time is right.

Friday, July 6, 2012

the headache was just a symptom

NOTE:  This post is a metaphor.

It is like one day I noticed that I had a headache and I couldn't remember for how long.  It grew in pain enough that it became noticeable and bothersome.  I tried taking more naps with the thought that I might just be overtired.  I decided to drink more water in case the cause was dehydration.  When none of those ideas worked, I reached for the over-the-counter pain medicine to curb the symptoms.  Time passed and the headaches didn't fade.  I just learned to tolerate them better.  None of my methods were really helping.  Soon I started to think that there must be something else going on.  I notice my eyes are beginning to feel strained while reading and driving so I go to visit the optometrist.  Aha!  My vision is fading and I need glasses.  That must have been the cause of the headaches.  I fixed the problem.  I picked out some cute frames and went on with my life.  Funny thing is the headaches didn't go away.  I tried getting more sleep and drinking more water and taking more pills to treat the pain even though I know those things didn't work before.  I decided to go to the doctor.  The pain seemed bigger than me now.  I exhausted my efforts.  The doctor did some tests and when I stood in front of the scans as he explained them to me he pointed his finger at a growing tumor on the optic nerve in my brain.

I wasted so much time managing the symptoms that I forgot that my Father is the Great Physician.  If I had just gone to Him at the first sign of a "headache" I would have heard him tell me that I needed immediate radical surgery.  That I couldn't waste another minute.  In fact there wasn't even time to wait and hear the details of the procedure.  The only thing I needed to do was HUMBLE myself and SUBMIT to his authority so I could learn to TRUST the all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful Father that I know Him to be.

This has been my realization lately.  God has shown the spot light on the tumor in my life.  The root sin that I have ignored while trying to put band-aids on the branches that have grown out of it.  It is time for a massive surgery in my life.  And now that I have come to the Great Physician and heard his diagnosis there is no way I can go back to "sleeping more and hydrating and self-medicated".  The process of His way will be initially more painful than the headaches I was experiencing and grown used to, but the healing and restoration in the end will bring me one step closer to the Promised Land.  Who really wants to stay in the desert anyway?

Pray for us.  God is working miracles little by little over here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

promise of peaceful harvest

I have much to write about and yet somehow time hasn't allowed it.  Perhaps I need a little more time to chew on what God is doing in my life.  Stay tuned.  Until then...

Hebrews 12:1-13 (NLT)

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.[a] Because of the joy[b] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;[c] then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.
And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children?[d] He said,
My child,[e] don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t give up when he corrects you.

For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”[f]
As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?[g]
10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.