Our Family

Our Family
Our Family: Pops, Me, The Teenager, The Boy, The Freckle Faced Ninja, Miss Priss, Miss Sassy Pants, Madi-Lou-Who, & Dora the Explorer

Thursday, November 29, 2012

When God Calls Us to Hard Things

Some words just freeze in you.  They stick in your heart and soul and you will forever remember where you were when they were uttered.  All too often they are words of anger or fear.  

But sometimes...sometimes...they are words that express joy in the midst of sorrow; convict us of something; show us there is still sorrow even as we are experiencing joy.  And they change us.  

Last May was "National Foster Care Month" to show the reality of the children in our foster care system.  To highlight the need for more foster parents.  We just had Orphan Sunday recently to bring awareness to the 132 million orphans around the world.  Hoping to open hearts to loving a child not of their body.  Saturday November 17th was National Adoption Day.  

All these National Something Days.  They make me wonder what it is I should do.  What is God's plan for my family?  For your family?  To become a foster parent?  To adopt from Ethioptia, Haiti, Guatemala?  To love on the foster family or the widow down the street?  Sponsor a child in a 3rd world country?  

God commands us over and over to take care of the widows (I believe this includes the single mom's in our communities) and orphans, over and over again.  But what should I do right now?

As I wonder, I sit in my comfy home watching leaves float around on the fall wind.  The sounds of the dryer and of my children playing out side and the smell of fresh baking bread are in my house.  It is comfortable.  It is warm.  There is food.  There is at least 1 discontented child upset at being sent to their room.  :)  But over all, there is contentment.  

Last Saturday, National Adoption Day, we sat in a class for families wanting to adopt a child in foster care.  Some were adopting a family member.  Others were like us; they felt God leading them and they were following.  We were there to tell them our story and to answer questions as those who'd walked that path a little ahead of them.  We don't have all the answers, just some experience.  

Lydia was snuggled up in the lap of a friend who was leading the class when the question was asked, "What do you like about being adopted?"  She considered it a second and said, "I have a mommy and a daddy now."  

The words hung there in the air and Will nodded along with her.  Next to Lydia sat a beautiful woman whose heart was wounded as a child.  She is the other trainer for the class.  When they taught our class, I remember her telling a bit about her life.  Around age 13 she and her siblings were put into foster care.  I do not know her whole story but I can imagine the courage it takes to even utter the sentences.  She was adopted by someone who sounds like she has the patience of a saint and a heart full of love for hurting children.  

As my eyes caught hers, I saw simultaneously there, old pain and new joy.  The tears brimmed as she tried to smile.  She is still so wounded that sorrow came to her; But I could tell she also found joy that her work had helped a child be able to say they were an orphan no longer.  Joy and pain in such a short sentence.  

Those words, frozen in time, hanging in my heart, "I have a mommy and a daddy now."  

My first thought was joyful for my children but sadness that they could even remember a time when  they wondered who would be their parents.  Felt unwanted by parents who didn't fight for them.  Felt unwanted by a foster family who after almost 2 years didn't plan to adopt them.  How do you explain to a child that you care for them but that your home is not meant to be their forever home?  As adults we get that, but a wounded child?  

As those words kept surfacing, I began to feel sorrow.  For any who have ever felt that pain and not been able to heal from it.  For any who as an adult never had that forever family adopt them.  

Then the sorrow began to stir a discontent in me.  I feel a sorrow so heavy I cannot cast it off.  It is for the children who do not have a parent now, whether due to death, or neglect, or drugs and alcohol that have stolen that person from them.  

The orphans of Uganda and the rest of Africa who have not been placed in a loving foster home or an orphanage where they will get fed but instead wander streets looking for a way to eat.  

Orphans in some countries near Russia who are tied in their cribs until age 5 when they are placed in mental institutions and made to forage for food on the floor.  Most die withing months of arriving there.  

The orphans of Haiti and South America, living in dumps, being looked at as no better than the trash that belongs there.  

The orphans of America who see their parents once a week or less, who are continually told "you're coming home soon!" only to find out after a year that they cannot go home because their parents are still on Meth.  Or who are promised a "forever family" for years until at age 18 their disillusionment is larger than their hope for life.  

The ones who mark themselves with tattoos, piercings, and cuttings to make their outside match the pain within.

"I have a mommy and a daddy now."

A physical, living, breathing parent is not the same as a mommy and a daddy. Existing on earth doesn't count as loving and being a family.  And that is what we all crave.  Family.  A mommy and a daddy who love us no matter what.

It struck me last night how many stories and movies were about finding a family.  Sometimes they are disguised as a love story but that's not what they are about at their core. They are about having a place where you belong.  You are known.  You are accepted. You are loved.  

The Blind Side, Oliver Twist, While You Were Sleeping, The Proposal, Annie, Good Will Hunting,...

How many children are living stories, wishing they could utter that phrase, "I have a mommy and a daddy now?"  It sort of sticks in my throat.  The thought, 'what is God calling us to do about it?'  

Not as a society.  Not as the church.  We know the answer to that one.  The bible is quite clear on that point, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."  James 1:27. 

No, as an individual.  As a family.  What is he calling me to specifically?  What about you?

At times I have patted myself on the back that, because of us, there are 4 fewer orphans in the world.  But just when the sweet music starts to play in my head and the warm fuzzies get all warmed up, the hard part of parenting wounded children kicks in.  Before I can get too full of myself, I find myself on my knees begging God for help.  So can't I just rest on my laurels and be done?  I mean, haven't I done my part?

That's how we think.  I take a meal every Wednesday to so and so.  I made a blanket for that one family.  I served at Thanksgiving at the soup kitchen.  I direct traffic in the church parking lot.  I went on a mission trip a few years back.  Dust off my hands, I'm done.

But what if God's not done with us.  I'm not saying there are things wrong with all those ways of serving.  And I'm not saying we have to singly attempt to take every orphan in the world into our homes.  It just seems that we can get comfortable in our serving.  And I don't think God really likes comfort.  I haven't found a bible verse yet that says, "Enjoy all your comforts oh ye ones and rest in your comfort zone."

God seems to like to call us to hard things.  Growth and change are uncomfortable, yet it's what God seems to desire to see in us.  And boy does He change us when He calls us to something new.  Something scary.  Sometimes I wonder if He doesn't call us to hard serving, not for those we serve as much as for our own hearts.  My own selfish sins have certainly been revealed to me more and more as we've journey through the past several years since our adoption.  

Some of you are going to say, "I'm already maxed out and never able to say no as it is."  That's our challenge as women, jumping in to every request to make everyone happy.  But that's the thing.  Is that serving?  Is that the serving that God is calling you to?  Because God's serving isn't always fun.  It isn't always easy.  It brings us a holy discontent but it also gives us a deep inner joy we can't find anywhere else.  

While you may have the gift of hospitality, having your friends over for dinner parties and hosting baby showers, while nice and all, probably wasn't God's idea of how to use that gift.  Ever thought about using that gift in a ministry capacity?  Throw a dinner party for women at a half-way house?  Hmmm, that doesn't sound so easy now does it.

Some of us have the gift of prophesy but telling everyone what is wrong with their life, judging quickly, and then telling them how to live their life isn't exactly a servant's heart is it?  But what about mentoring a friend who is having a tough time?  What about leading a discipleship group of teens?  What about mentoring or adopting a foster child?  That isn't so easy.  

For many years Tony and I have felt that at some point God is going to call us to be foster parents.  To teens.  I have been relieved each time we talk about it, that He hasn't called us there yet.  Because that's hard serving.  And it's WAY outside my comfort zone.  I'm not excited about it.  But at the same time, I am.  Scared, terrified, and excited all at once.  Because shouldn't a 16 year old have the right to say, "Because I have a mom and a dad now."?  Don't they deserve that just as much as my cute young children?

I desire to live out God's heart for His children but wounded and hurt teenagers are just so...messy.  They are angry.  They are immature beyond belief. They are sometimes uncontrollable.  Sometimes unreachable.  Sometimes they are kind.  Sometimes they are determined.  Always they are God's children.  And He sees what we cannot, past the scars and behavior, to the child within.  The scared, but lovely creation He planned for.  

I read Katie Davis book she wrote about her community that she's immersed herself in, in Uganda.  I read her blog as she writes about being a foster mother in her mid-twenties to 13 young girls.  She expresses their pain and sorrow over being deserted or having parents die.  It's hard serving.  Living amidst pain and sorrow.  

Is God calling you to something scary?  Something that seems out of your control?   Something...messy?  Yeah, I know that fear.  I pray that God gives all of us the faith to follow Him down those messy paths.  I know He will supply the path if we will take the steps.  I know He will hold us up when things get hard.  

And I know that we will hear those words.  Words that freeze in the air and bring tears to our eyes.  I pray many moments like that for you.  Because they change us.  

Be blessed.    

Saturday, November 10, 2012

All You Need Is Love

So now that you have Paul McCartney's voice in your head..."Love is all you need..."  I have a question for you.  Do you believe you are loved?  

When you yell at your children for no reason at all other than you just feel irritated that they interrupted your plans, do you feel loved?  

When you realize you completely did something wrong at work, even though you insisted you were right, and have to not only redo it but own up to being wrong, do you feel loved?

When you exchange angry words with your spouse over something as inconsequential as which of you left something undone or socks on the floor, do you feel loved?  

And when you mess up, is love always enough to fix it?  Is it true, "all you need is love?"  Is there time when love falls short?  

I was pondering that the other day.  Our children weren't feeling particularly loved.  And I was misunderstanding.  I thought they were just feeling out of sorts.  Needed a bit of discipline.  

When I finally began to realize what was going on, I knew just how they felt.  We all feel unlovable at times.  Times when I KNOW that I was such a bad mom today.  How can the creator of the universe know the thoughts in my heart and the words of my mouth and still love me no matter what?  

And sometimes, when I feel unloved, the love of my husband, while wonderful, isn't enough.  Sometimes my love isn't enough to fix the brokenness inside.  Not enough to heal the wound.  

For some things, we cannot just love the problem away.  

A child who was abandoned, abused, disconnected from, wounded, taken away...they always sees it as their own fault.  They were not lovable enough.  They were "bad".  They feel responsible.  My kids connect with that and all the band-aids in the world won't fix it.  

But how can I show them that the God in Heaven loves them beyond all reckoning when in my heart of hearts I don't always feel lovable myself?  How can I show them how to have faith when my own often falls short?

I began to ask myself, I know I am imperfect; I know I am a sinner; But if I get past all that, do I grasp the enormity of God's love for me?  Do I truly feel I belong to Him?  

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. 
Ephesians 1:3-5

I am adopted by the God of the Universe.  He chose me.  He chose you.  He gave me my eye color, height, and extra long feet.  He gave you your skin color, your laugh, and your straight or curly hair.  Yet we look in the mirror and see flaws.  We don't see a loved creation.  We see fat, bald, irritable, imperfections, flaws, sins...

There was a girl.  She was a real girl.  She lived a normal life.  Her parents divorced, remarried, lived life.  She was a "good" girl to all outward appearances.  And when she looked in the mirror all she saw was...not enough.  Not thin enough.  Not pretty enough.  Not lovable enough.  

So she sought acceptance and love.  Starting in her pre-teen years she tried to fill the gap with boyfriend after boyfriend.  Continued into her teen years, added being sexually active to the mix.  In college she added alcohol to numb the fears.  

She kept seeking.  Looking for that "love" that was going to make her feel complete.  Each time the boyfriend turned out to be an empty promise, she discovered that she'd given a piece of herself away. Lost a little of herself.  Each break-up lowered her value.  And when she looked in the mirror she didn't see hair color or freckles.  She saw ugliness.  

And one day, tears streaming down her face, she murmured to the girl in the mirror, "I...hate...you."  

Years passed. Counseling helped heal, helped her move on. Try to bury the past.  The feelings lingered.  Marriage.  Children.  And then one day, she met God.  And all the feelings of unworthiness came rushing back.  How could He love me?

But He whispered into her heart, "You are MY child.  I love you no matter what has happened.  No matter where you have gone.  No matter what you have done.  You are not "bad".  You are MINE."

This story could belong to so many of us.  Change a few details and it could be your story.  It is mine.  

And no matter how often I replay that day and remember the love my creator expressed for me, I can still forget.  I can let that slip away and see only the ugly.  And I am surprised that no matter how much I tell my children I love them that they don't always remember it.  

The same being that created the stars, streams that flow down out of mountains, trees that display glorious colors as if they were on fire every fall, and placed the sun the prefect distance from this planet to support life...He is the same being that created you and I.  And we see flaws, sin.  

"In him we have obtained an inheritance." Ephesians 1:11

Do I believe Christ's willingness to die on a cross in my place?  In my being worth that sacrifice?  Do you?    

Would I give my life for Him?  If I were asked to chose between my faith in Christ and my life, would I offer my life for His?  I like to think my faith is that strong.  Like that of Richard Wurmbrand or Deitrich Bonhoeffer.  Strong enough to withstand.  In the comfort of my own room, my own safe home, it is.  But would it withstand a true test?  

God breathes into me his love for me, his creation.  The same creator who made mountains and breath-taking sunrises over them, planned for my eye color.  Planned for your hair color.  Planned every freckle on my son's face and the curls in my daughter's hair.  Planned who would be my children.  So why can I look at that sunrise and be in awe but look in the mirror and...eh, not so much.  And it shakes my belief in my own faith.  

And again I am surprised that my children don't always believe that God could think they are precious.  

Wounded children don't even have to look in the mirror to be less than awed by themselves.  They KNOW they are bad, wrong, less that adequate.  

We CHOSE them.   God CHOSE them for our family.  We want them.  And they see an unwanted, ugly being when they look in the mirror.  God wanted me the day I looked in the mirror and hated myself.  But I didn't see that I was chosen.  I saw ugly and unwanted.  Unworthy.  

Isn't that the way we are fooled?  So how do you and I, who are so often critical of our outer reflections and disdainful of our inner selves, convince a wounded child who sees nothing of beauty in themselves, that they are beautiful and loved.  That their heart is desired by that Creator and by me.  How can I convince myself of that?  

That's just it.  I can not.  I am not enough and neither are you.  We are woefully inadequate to stand in the gap that was meant to be filled by our savior.  I cannot be God and Christ for my children, I have to lead them to Him and let Him do the healing.  I have to let them see me open my heart to God in the same way I am asking them to.

I will continue to shower my children as much as I can with love in my imperfect way;  But more importantly I will implore God to heal their hearts and show them His perfect love.  

I will continually tell them how beautiful and special they are; But more importantly I will plead with God daily to show them how beautiful and special He designed and created them.  

If you are one of those who only sees ugliness, I am praying right now that God will reveal to you just how very precious and beautiful you are.  

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.   The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:4-7