Want to Know How to Lighten Your Load?

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Usually our son is a pretty good hiker.  Today’s journey started out rough!  Usually a good hike is packed full of very valuable life lessons today’s hike did not disappoint!  As we embarked on our adventure our ears were plagued with continuous whining and complaining from our son!  My husband will soon be fifty and I will soon be forty seven,  we reminded our twelve year old of our older more worn bodies pushing through the physical strain.  The complaints continued on.  We had him stand next to me to show that our legs are actually the same length after the excuse of “your legs are longer than mine”, was spewed out! The attitude was rough and put quite the damper on this beautiful day!  Finally God placed a thought in my mind that was ever so true for myself more often than I like to admit.  “Son you are being weighed down by your bad attitude.  It is heavier than your own body is!”  If you take that attitude and throw it far down that hill your load will be so much lighter!!  You are missing the beauty around.  You are missing the warmer air, the sunshine, the fact that you can see so much farther while the leaves are off the trees!!  Even the muddy path is kind of fun!  It’s fun to get dirty!”  It took some coaxing, but praise God the “tude” started to dissipate!  The guy found a pocket knife off the beaten path as he did some exploring!  He even sang a little!  Toward the end of our 6-7 mile travel I heard “the sun looks so nice going down over the river”!

We all really have those moments when our bad attitude and self absorption really weighs us down. It truly weighs down everyone around us!  As I explained to our son I used my hands to tug at my chest and then flung my arms in a throwing/tossing motion toward the steep of the bluff,  I felt a sense of relief within myself even!  Throw that bad attitude away!  It boils down to our bad attitude is actually sin creeping in.  A bad attitude steals our joy and we miss out on the beauty surrounding us.  Even in pain or trials there are blessings God pours upon us if we have our eyes open!

Hebrew 12:1-3 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

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When Things aren’t Really What they Seem

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We have lived in our home just over two years now and at least the third bird has now flown into our back door.  I had heard something hit the glass this morning and when I walked out to the living room there was a dead bird laying right there on the patio.  Two of the birds have died right a way.  One woke up after about 10 minutes and staggered off, possibly died later of a brain hemorrhage.  Why on earth am I writing about these poor birds?  Of course if I could have saved them I would have.  My heart breaks each time this happens.

This morning has me thinking of how our sin and the sin of others can look so appealing and safe on the surface.  The devil is always working to deceive just like he did with Eve in the garden of Eden.  “Oh this is the way to go, this is safe, one time won’t hurt, it isn’t your fault, it isn’t really hurting anyone, you only live once, you won’t have any friends if you don’t…”   So many lies that lead to death and destruction.

If I could just warn the birds before they fly into the glass…  My conviction this morning… If I could just warn the person before they try drugs…  If I could tell the person that is so down how much God loves them and I do too…  If I could tell the young girl that you are so pretty and loved by God… you don’t need a man’s attention for your worth…  For the used and traumatized by the sins of others… you are worth so much more than that… that is not what defines you…  If I could just tell everyone about the love of Jesus before they fly to whatever is deceiving them that may be a death trap…

It is by God’s grace I am alive and by God’s grace I have been forgiven of my own sin!  Every day God is teaching me more of myself and warning me of what looks good on the surface may be a sinful death trap!

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

My prayer is for God’s truth to continue to be revealed in lives of individuals all across the world, our great country, my family, and within my own life!  Jesus is my hope and I have never known a greater love and worth than my identity as a Child of God!!

Lessons from Our Adoptive Son

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The heart of man kind is such a mystery to us, but not to God.  Our son continues to teach me more and more about human nature and God’s love for us all!  It is amazing how people can go through tough circumstances in life and come through with basically two very different outcomes.  The circumstance will either better us or make us bitter.  Really the choice is our own and is based on our heart!  So often I hear “John has a good heart.” from teachers, people at church,  friends, and family.  He of course has a ton to learn like anyone, especially at age 12.  He does indeed have a very loving heart.  With what he has gone through in life, yet still has such love, forgiveness, and remains “teachable” is quite amazing.

He has been bullied a lot and in a very recent case continues to find forgiveness in his heart.  He tells me “Everything is good mom, we are friends now!!”  It amazes me how his ultimate desire seems to just be buddies with the whole world no matter what anyone has done!

He asked me today “Mom, if you could choose any job you wanted what would it be?”  After a second of thinking about what I truly enjoy in life I said a park Ranger!  I have loved being in the woods since I can remember at age four begging my dad to take me for walks in the woods by our house!  I told John I love the woods and I love taking kids on hikes too!  Hikes teach a lot of life lessons!!  He says “Yeah!  I think all the hikes you take me on have helped me get more mature and responsible!!!”  Oh my gosh that is that sweet heart of his, God love him!!  I then said I love to fix up and restore old houses too!  A park ranger that also fixes up houses those are my dream jobs!!  He agreed and was satisfied with my answer!  😂

Recently we redid our laundry room.  My husband tore out a closet that just wasn’t very functional.  Our home was well built with a LOT of plaster and wire.  It sure wasn’t like the fix up home shows that seem to always just take a sledge hammer to bust out walls a lot of different tools and grit were needed.  This wall had resilient layers of plaster with a strong fine mesh wire, and a strong studded framework!!  After the walls came down and stubborn tacks in the floor were removed we were able to restore this space to a pretty little room maximizing the potential of the space.  I was reminded of what God can do with a human heart!  He wants to restore us, tear down the walls of bitterness, and maximize us to the full potential He created us to be!!

There is so much in the Bible about the heart!  We all sin, after Adam and Eve sinned we all have the curse of sinful nature.  Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?”

We all are in different stages of restoration and need of restoration.  When we look at others how God sees them it sure helps to protect our own hearts from bitterness.

Every person God has used in His great plan has sinned, but He always considered their heart.  It was the condition of their heart that caused God to use them.  Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Moses, David, Paul, Peter, John… the list is so very long.  All sinners, yet had hearts that were repentant and teachable, loving, able to receive and give forgiveness.  The scripture of course speaks better than I.  Here are just a few verses that really touched my “heart”!!  ❤️

1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Jeremiah 17:10 “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

Psalm 119:2 “Joyful are those who obey His laws and search for Him with all their heart.”

Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.”

Proverbs 21:2 “A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.”

Proverbs 4:23 “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

How is your heart condition?  God is continuously working on mine!!!

Do not Grow Weary in Doing Good

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The older I get the more I love to hike and the more reasons I have to love it!  Simply enjoying the outdoors, I can be “still” and listen to God the best, each hike is an accomplishment that no one can take from me, it is therapeutic, it is a great time to learn more about whoever is with me, it is great exercise, a goal is reached… I can go on and on.

Just a couple weeks ago my sixteen year old daughter was upset about our family’s hospitality being taken advantage of.  One of her statements was “I am tired of our family doing things to be nice and it always being taken advantage of!”  A few years back our now nineteen year old had a similar statement after witnessing me having to take some pretty rotten verbal abuse from a birth parent.  “Mom why was he so rude to you when all you have done is try to help?!”

My answer was and still remains the same.  Just because our kindness isn’t always well received, or we are taken advantage of, even if a thank you never comes, we are to never stop doing good.  When God calls you to something it doesn’t matter what human beings say or do.  If God has put it on our hearts to help someone He has a plan.  We don’t always get to see the bigger picture.  We have no idea what is going on with a person or another person’s heart.   Truth be told anything good that God has called us to is not really about us.  If our hearts our right it is all for God’s glory.  Every good deed He calls us to is sharing His love with a broken world.

Jesus healed ten lepers and only one returned to say thank you. Luke 17:11-19

It has taken fortysix years to be where I am in this and God is continuing to work on me.  Even when someone has a completely different lifestyle, beliefs, and views it is becoming more and more my prayer, “God show me how I can love this person the way you need me to!”   God help me be more aware of this hurting world around me even if the world tries to hurt me.   Help me to point to you, show love, show grace, show mercy, and not cast judgment.

If we have done what God has called us to do then that is it.  Let it go, shake off the negative, and trust that God is using our obedience for the good of His perfect plan!!

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Like hiking when my muscles are tired and my joints hurt the end result is worth it!  The result is always going to be worth it to continue doing good even when it seems useless.

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Freedom in Adoption

 

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One or two days out of the week when I am off work I get to walk our son to the bus stop.  Walks and car rides seem to always be the best opportunities to have meaningful conversations with my kiddos.   Our son essentially talks non-stop.  Sometimes he says a lot of words and I  still have no clue what he is actually talking about.  We have a lot of work to do on the who, what, where, and why content in his verbal communication.  There are times though he says things that are so very profound.  He continues to teach me how to have good listening skills as I work to teach him how to communicate well.

He likes to talk about when he first came to our home for respite care as a child stuck in the foster system.   Many times he has said he knew this would be where he would stay, his forever home.  I don’t remember what led up to the statement that struck me so deeply, but it was probably some of his reminiscing that he loves to do.  The statement that has caused me to ponder so deeply was “Now that I am adopted I am free!”

In the last six months our guy has made greater strides than he had in the fourteen months prior.  His reading has really improved, he keeps his room clean, self control, and maturity have also tremendously improved.  Of course with ten years to catch up we still have a way to go, but the leaps and bounds have been amazing.

Even with deep empathy sometimes it is hard to imagine what a child in Foster care truly goes through.  As a family licensed in Foster Care there are times we feel “bound by the system”  so I can only imagine how the children feel.   Not knowing where and who you will live with. To have so many emotions that you can’t even begin to understand.  Fear, anxieties, lack of trust.  People and a government that should have your best interest in mind continuously letting you down.

For our son adoption has meant freedom.  Freedom to let oneself love. Freedom to trust. Freedom from the worry of where you will lay your head each night. Freedom from rules that “regular” kids don’t have. Freedom to let go of fear. Freedom to get to hang out with friends.  Freedom to have your picture taken. Freedom to say “this is my home”.  Freedom to say I belong. Freedom to say I am loved.  Freedom to have structure.  Freedom to have loving discipline because someone really wants you to succeed.  Freedom to say I am wanted…  I could go on and on.  Until he said those words I really hadn’t realized what a release of chains of bondage adoption can bring.

It is such a reflection of what being adopted into God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ brings.  When we give our heart and life to Jesus He gives us freedom.  Freedom from our own sins that bind and consume us.  Freedom from worry when we trust in Him.  Freedom knowing that no matter what happens in life we have an eternal home.  Freedom to love and know that we are SO VERY LOVED.  Freedom knowing that He will provide. Freedom to embrace His loving discipline because He wants us to succeed.  Freedom in knowing that God indeed wants us even when all else has failed and forsaken us.

Ephesians 1:5, NLT: “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”

John 8:36

36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Galatians 5:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Ephesians 3:12

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

This World Wants to Prey on My Children

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Back in May we traveled to Florida.  Leaving at 1 am with 4 children in a rental minivan we set off on our adventure.  We made great time until  we were close to our destination. All the holiday travelers with the same idea seemed to converge onto the same interstate.  Once we arrived the goal was to unload, go get groceries for the week, get some take out Chic-Fil-A,  take a night walk on the beach, then get some rest.  The grocery store was a mad house as others had the same goals in mind.  Once we reached the check out and started putting items on the counter the older gentleman checker started conversing with me.  Our sixteen year old daughter had come along to help.  What started as pleasantries about where we are from quickly soured for me.  The checker turned my answers about our local floods to political.  Bashing our standing President and then telling me who to vote for in the next election.  The response I chose was simply to remain silent at that point.  My look I am sure said “really dude?”.    At that point he turned to my daughter and said “ahh you are the one I need to talk to”.   He had hoped she was 18 and able to vote. Even after he found out her true age he still continued to push his opinions on her as her mother stood right there.  Paying customers from another state simply trapped having to have this stranger’s opinion forced on our tired ears.  We both remained silent in our own political and faith beliefs.  At one point when he told her what party to vote for when she is 18 I did simply say “Well she does have two very conservative parents.”  That was all and the conversation went back to pleasantries.  The Holy Spirit definitely gives my heart a lot of discernment in what words truly matter and when silence is much more golden!

It was interesting as a mom to have to sit back and watch “the world” prey on my child forcing opinions without truth.   It was politics on the surface, but so much of what is happening is actually a spiritual battle within our country and around the world.  It always has been a spiritual battle more than physical.

Later that week just the 16 year old and I were on the beach one afternoon.  I had gone down to the water for a while to cool off.  As I came back to our chairs I found two young girls sitting with my 16 year old.  As they introduced themselves to me and spoke of their intentions my heart went from worry to hope.  These brave young college girls were sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ right there on the beach.  They didn’t force, they asked questions, shared personal testimony and had scripture to back up all that they said.  They shared  Jesus as a choice that we have in our life to make him Lord.  God gave us free will. It was a blessing to share what Jesus has done in my life and to pray for them before they left us.  As they left I had a renewed hope that for all the false messages God will bring true messages along for my children.

Today in our Life group my one student and I ended up going into the other middle school class with it being just us.  The lesson was on 1 Timothy the first chapter.  Paul was urging young Timothy to stay in Ephesus to combat against all the false teaching happening with the TRUE Gospel.  My friend and co teacher shared that she loves teaching middle school girls because that is the age when all the false teachings start to bombard us.  She wants to help the girls go into this battle armed with the truth.  We explained to the girls middle school through college they will be bombarded with a lot of teachings and opinions that are false.

As a Jesus following mom who made plenty of her own mistakes in those young years, it is so hard to sit back and watch the world try to devour her own kids.  As one child already has turned against the faith it has been painful to see and hear the false messages come from her.  Our relationship with Jesus has to be just that, a relationship.  It can not be forced and must be chosen.  This momma’s prayer for her children is that they will love Jesus with all their heart and want to share that love with others.

This world is tough and grows more brutal by the day.  Our children our constantly preyed upon with so much falseness.  Lies that only brings destruction when we fall victim to them  My advice to other Christian parents is that I have none really.  Not of my own.  Prayer, scripture and completely submitting my children to the Lord are my weapons.    “God they are yours and you love them even more than I do.” “Whatever it takes to keep them in your loving arms or to draw them back to your loving arms is what I ask.”  That is a tough prayer.  Otherwise I watch and listen hoping that the truth will protect them.

1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

For my young friends on the beach.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  1 Timothy 4:12

Adoption Day (More difficult to Write About Than I Thought)

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Adoption day for our 11 year old son was back on March 4th.  Honestly it has been hard to put words to the emotions that go with what his adoption means.  Adoption represents a new beginning especially for a child that is older.  Adoption also represents loss.  My husband and I are honored to step in to meet the need, but there is a sadness I feel as well.   As I have gotten to know birth family there is a deeper connection and commitment that has come along with the adoption.

For our son I have sensed a much decreased anxiety.  There is a reassurance there that I have not seen.  There is also a new level of testing.  While there is relief in the permanence my heart still hurts.  It is so hard to explain this depth of sadness.  I grieve for the loss he has endured.   I grieve the brokenness that brought him into our lives and to our family.   God had a plan of two people, his birth mother and father, to bless him with.  God entrusted them with his care.  Life happens and choices in life happen.  Life choices that can support  strong families or destroy families, marriages, and lives.  My heart grieves for all of this.  We live in a broken world and my personality type wants to fix everything.  I can not fix anything or anyone, but can point to the one who can.  Not everyone will choose healing.

God created the world sinless and good.  He allowed mankind to have freewill.  To choose to love and obey.  The fall happened when the first man and woman sinned.  The curse of sin has run rampant since that time.  The vicious cycles of sin destroy families and lives again and again.  Adoption is a pathway that can break a cycle.

The greatest breaking of a vicious sin cycle is the adoption into God’s family.   When we admit we have a sin problem. When we have a personal encounter with the healing grace and forgiveness.   The healing only comes from God’s one and only Son Jesus Christ.  Following Jesus with our lives and turning from our selfish sinful pride.  Only then can we be adopted into God’s family and find true healing of our hearts and lives.

People say “you are so good” for doing the foster care thing.  No, I am not.  God pounded on my heart for nearly seven years before I finally submitted to making that phone call.  It has been every bit of hard that I knew it would be.   God has been my strength through all of it.  The full dependency I have had to place on him has been priceless.  I have gotten to see him in a way I never would have had I not answered this calling.  Our family has been strained beyond more than I ever thought we could endure. God has been right here with us.  He has been the sword and shield with every head to head battle with the devil himself!!  My weaknesses have been thrown before me daily.  God has used my weakness to give incredible strength that he gives through full submission and humility.  As things have actually gotten a bit easier as permanency goals have been met I find myself missing the desperation.  The desperate cries to God to help me please!!!  Oh this is just a short break I am sure.  There will be future valleys and pain.  What he has brought our family and myself through has only prepared for the next battle.  The hard places in life are not something I wish for.  Now I have a much greater understanding of why God allows hard things and calls us to hard things in this life.  The closeness, the relationship with my God and my best friend is beyond anything there is to offer in this world we live in.  Do you know him?

John 1:12-13 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Galatians 4:4-5 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

Romans 8:14-17 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Saying Hello to You was Easy! Saying Goodbye is so Hard!!

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Our lives are so blessed as God brings along special people and special pets.  Five years ago I wrote about our Chloe in Love, Life Lessons, and a Three Legged Dog.  She has quite the special story.  Since that blog we have become a foster family.  She has been so loving and protective of every child placed in our care.  Her story is one of rescue, unconditional love, overcoming, and perseverance.  Her story and her unconditional love have been so therapeutic for our kids who have had a rough start in life.

In February the day our little girl returned home to her mom we learned that Chloe is full of cancer.  She has lost so much weight I really don’t know how she has continued on other than the fact she loves her family and her life so much!  Chloe has had a sweet intuition about her knowing when any of us are sad or sick.  The last 10 years have had a lot of loss and sadness for our family and for people we are close to as well.  Chloe has been that sweet comfort that I personally have needed so many times.  We say we rescued her, but truthfully she has rescued this momma over and over.  From the day we met and especially from the day I picked her up from her surgery we have had a special bond.  Chloe is the only one that actually listens the first time I say no or stop. 😊  It is so hard to say goodbye, but I am so happy that we got to say hello!!!  Thank you for all the love you have provided for our family sweet Chloe!!  I will miss you so my dear friend!!

If I Ever Doubted the Love… Yes I get “too” Attached and I Wouldn’t Change a Thing

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I wrote this a month and 4 days ago. The go home day was delayed, but God as always had a plan and perfect timing. A family reunited!!  God is so good!!

Today is what this journey is all for.  Today is the day I pass the baton of motherhood back to the one God initially blessed this precious one to.   The past months have been amazing to see the power of Jesus break the chains binding a mother.  The chains that prevented a mother from truly being able to embrace her gift.  Freedom, hope, peace, joy and love have now replaced the enslaved, hopeless, restless, despair, and lostness that once was.

The emotions within me are everywhere.  My spirit is up in the clouds!!  I feel the warmness of Jesus’ embrace.  It is as though he is hugging me while spinning in a circle so fast my feet are flying off the ground!  We are singing, cheering and doing spiritual high fives and fist bumps!!!!  We are standing in the winners circle against the enemy together!!  Jesus has all the love, power, healing, and righteousness… I’m just here for saying “Ok Lord I will!”.  For allowing Him to use our family as His hands and feet.

Out of the children that have left our care this is the best reason.  This is the goal!  Restoring families, lives, and healing is why we do this!!

Why in my humanness am I grieving so deeply?  Last night I was the recipient of one of the longest hugs I remember in my life.  This precious one hung on to me and was rubbing the material of my sweatshirt between her fingers on my shoulder.  There were no words and didn’t need to be.  Sometimes there just are not words to explain all the emotion.  We had been talking about all the positiveness and excitement of the new life in the future.  My phone was in reach so I snapped a picture of this sweet moment.  My eyes look so glassy as I was fighting with everything to not cry in front of this precious little one.  This is a very positive and happy time.  Lord why do I feel such a heavy weight of grief?  In my spirit I feel Jesus’ embrace and in my humanness I feel Him carrying me. His comfort is amazing how he reassures that the pain I feel is because a chapter in the journey is closing and a new one is beginning.  With every ending and beginning there is pain in life .  There is something lost and gained.  There is a cost for what is worthwhile and good.

Great love will always bring great grief as seasons of life change.  It is an “empty nester” type of grief with each child that leaves I am finding.  How amazing that God can bring strangers into our home and give my heart the ability to love them as my very own.  I love them all down to the very core of who I am.  That is why such a deep grief and sadness washes over me as they leave to their next life chapter.  This is a pain I am so very grateful for!  Thank you Lord for allowing me to love, thank you for loving through me,  thank you for the blessing and opportunity to be a part of each of the journeys you have blessed us with.  This hurts, but I would say yes again a thousand times over.

I have to add that in this situation what has been gained is an adult daughter, a grand daughter and a grandson.  God is so good and so amazing how he brings lives together!!