To my Children from Your Imperfect Mom

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To my precious children. An apology is owed to you.  You see I am not perfect. Lately I have heard the remark “I am not perfect like YOU!”  It is a rebuttal that has sliced me to the core.   That is the one thing I have not wanted my children to see me as.  I have not wanted them to feel any pressure that they need to be “perfect” for my love or approval.  As a preacher’s daughter that is exactly what I rebelled against in my teen and early adulthood years!!  I couldn’t stand the pedestal I felt pressured by the world to stand on.  Temptations and the need for friend’s approval and popularity overwhelmed me.  I look back and often wonder how I even survived other than by the sheer Grace of God.  I was a hypocrite I was a fence rider.  My faith I had as a child was constantly being suffocated by the world.  This hard headed mom was once a very strong willed child who had to constantly do things her own way by her own self first.

Thankfully God did not give up on me and turn His back as I did to Him.  Oh I had many an idol I placed before Him.  I skipped out on church some, but you see I was a hypocrite.  I was all about image.  I had to make my dad look good, but at every ounce of freedom I was pushing my sin and His forgiveness to the full.   Sometimes I would listen and feel conviction when I was in church.  Other times I had my self so justified in my own mind I felt nothing…   Then consequences of my own personal choices started to occur.  The consequences brought guilt, shame, embarrassment, and loneliness.  There was no one to blame but me.  I was feeling the fullness of my burden of sin. Definitely something I didn’t really carry at age five when I accepted Jesus.   It was because of my mistakes and imperfectness that I came to realize the magnitude of what Jesus did on that cross for me.  He took that burden of sin and shame to the cross and died the death I deserve.  Do I wish I hadn’t made mistakes?  Yes I would go back and do things different.  Would I have the deep relationship with Jesus I have now were it not for my mistakes. Most likely not.  So I am grateful Jesus doesn’t give us do overs He washes our sin away instead. It is an individual journey.  Of course I want to protect you from making bad choices.  You may not make the same mistakes I did, but you will make your own.

This leads me to why I believe church is so very important.   Like our pastor just said on Sunday usually when people stop coming it is because they are not liking the conviction.  Conviction does not feel good.  Not at first. Now I have come to welcome it!  I desperately desired to hear the Word of God!  I desperately need fellow Christians, sinners saved by Grace, praying for me.  I go to church because I have watched the power of God’s Word and prayers of God’s people transform lives, my life included!  Because I remain connected in worship and prayer with fellow Christians I get to witness miracles.   My week is a hot mess when I don’t go.  This I noticed in very early adulthood.  When I didn’t make it to church and get the spiritual refreshment I was a complete wreck.  Weeks I made it there was just enough strength and accountability to get through what ever was handed to me.

You my dear children have also brought a much deeper understanding of God’s love.  As I would do anything I can for you.  I would die for you.  I can not take away your sin. I can not choose following Jesus for you.  God made a perfect creation and gave mankind free will to choose to love and obey Him.  Wow if Adam and Eve only had one thing God asked and only one sneaky  snake tempting them to disobey and they STILL sinned.  Sheesh it is no wonder we are such a mess now as sin and its consequences have multiplied over and over.  There is a constant bombardment of temptations.

So your mom is actually  a very imperfect person who desperately needs Jesus every moment of every day.   I need to go to church to worship and pray with other believers.  I need God’s word to teach me and correct me daily,  I need to hear the Word preached at least once a week to be given a more biblical perspective of life.

So I sincerely apologize to have given any pressure that you have to be perfect.  Jesus tells us to come as we are.  He is the one who is perfect and makes us right.  No matter your mistakes I love you.  You will have to face your own consequences and I pray your journey will lead you back to and closer and closer to God.

Love,

Mom

All the Finger Pointing

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We are all guilty of it. Not one of us is exempt from pointing a finger at others.  The judgement and blame is all around us everyday.  Social media has exacerbated the division and judgement unlike anything I have witnessed in my life.  In my own experience I have watched people who claim to be Christian and God fearing cast heartless and relentless judgement.  Sometimes even from my own family members against other family members.  The judgement goes from the Christian end of the spectrum to the one who claims there is no God.  Those that claim they are the most tolerant of others until the other has a differing belief or opinion.

On the flip side we all have experienced the brutal isolating end of being judged by others.  We all have a story.   Literally I have been judged for laughing too much.  (That made me laugh by the way)  I’ve been called every name in the book for doing all within my resources to help provide love and security to a stranger.  It really doesn’t matter who we are we are all guilty of casting judgment and we have been recipients of judgement.

I love reading comments to videos friends share on social media.  Videos of babies, puppy dogs, cats, etc…  I’m drawn to the happy non-political things.  Seriously if you read comments there always seems to be at least one negative Nelly casting judgment.  Recently there was a little girl reading to her cat.  She actually could not read, but was mimicking the love and nurture shown to her as she had been read to.  Literally someone called every person stupid on the thread because the child was not really “reading”.   The beauty completely missed by their blinded judgmental eyes.  Another recent video was two healthy babies sitting on some sort of vibrating platform.  They were laughing and having the time of their lives as their baby rolls jiggled and voices shook.  Someone was claiming child abuse and shaken baby syndrome.  Really there is more vibration driving a car down a gravel road.  My point is that no matter how sweet, innocent, loving, and good the judgement is there.

As God continues to bring people into my life from all walks my prayer has become this.  Lord help me to keep from pointing the finger of judgement and use all ten of my fingers to build others up.   It takes no effort to point a finger.  What does pointing a finger accomplish besides hatred?  It takes God’s power and everything within my own strength to lift  up another.   While we point one finger there are nine other fingers being wasted.

Stories of people who have overcome are also one of my favorites.  Two common factors in these stories I notice is that it took looking to God and that each person had at least one other person that believed in them.  It was a person that God used all ten of their fingers to lift the broken person up, speak truth to them, and say you can do this!!

Truthfully I would much rather sit and listen to the story of the drug addict lying in the gutter than what the “rich and famous” are doing.   I am no better than anyone who sins differently than me.   We all have pain, we all have a story, we all need truth, we all need love,  we all need affirmation, we all need at least one person that believes that we matter.

Scripture tells us when Jesus walked this earth he met people in their brokenness and those were the lives healed.  The blind and judgmental completely missed Him.

What if we all put the one finger down and extended all ten fingers in love?

No Life Expectancy

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Planning has sort of been my thing.  Personally I like to have plan A, plan B, and plan C.  It’s possible I will even go to Z.  Plans continuously running through my brain  how I think things will go, but if something crazy happens we will go with this or that plan.  All the planning so that I can rely on me, myself and I.  I am the master planner!!  Waa haa haa (my power hungry sinister laugh).  It is quite hilarious that God led me to be a nurse where a good day can turn in a split second to complete chaos.  Even more hilarious is that He blessed my life to become a mother where one barfing kid can completely blowout the neatly planned day.  Yet to further the hilarity he has led our family to foster parenting.  It is one thing to mess with my work shift, another to have to change plans due to a sick child,  this life in foster care has become a whole other ballgame of inability to plan.

God does humble us where needed.  Honestly I have been broken to complete submission of the plans and expectations in this brain of mine.   From one day to the next there are constant surprises.  Continuous changes in parent visits, sibling visits, therapist scheduling and canceling, behaviors that change with no clue as to what triggered them.  Will this child or that child live with us until adulthood?  Will this parent turn their life around and heal or will they continue the vicious cycle?  The constant change, chaos, turmoil, blessings, falling in love, heart brokenness, victories, defeats, dealing with choices of others… it all has brought me to expect nothing.   I don’t know what will happen next.  I just don’t know…  Ok God you have me I surrender…  Make my thoughts your thoughts… my plans your plans… my heart your heart… You see the bigger picture and I do not.  You know what is best and I do not.

My job is to love.  My job is not to predict the future.  My job is not to judge.  My job is not to be the fixer, but to point to the true healer.  I can not even love within my own strength it is only the love of Jesus loving through me. I am just not capable of this kind of love on my own.  My words must be led by the Holy Spirit or I mess them up out of my own frustrations.  I can not deal with my own grief and loss without Jesus.  I am a sinner in need of forgiveness each and everyday… I am no better than anyone…

One thing that I know, this life of welcoming the broken into our home has brought me to a place of surrender that I didn’t even know was needed.  Who knew that being a little OCD, planner, lover of organization, lover of predictability,  a bit on the “I will take care of this myself” side was such a barrier between God and I.  Really I just thought I was responsible.  No, my addiction to organization and planning actually was and is a form of sin in my life.  This life has brought me to a deeper level of trusting God in each moment and love everyone while I have the chance and the time.  There are no guarantees of tomorrow.  A blessing and gift from God that has come from opening our home has been a deeper level of understanding what it means to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind… and loving my neighbor as myself…   Still have a long long way to go.  The journey is rough, but I am so thankful for the hard stuff!

Discouragement One Beat Foster Momma

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This week as a foster mother has been a rough one.  There have been moments that I actually said (not out loud), “Lord I am tired of trying to raise other peoples kids.  I’m tired of dealing with the problems that I did not create.”  I hate to admit that openly, but it is the honest truth.  The love I have felt for every child within our care has been unexplainable other than the love from Jesus Christ Himself poured through me to them.   This week has been a discouraging week.  Discouraging behaviors and a discouraging system bring me to the point of feeling overwhelmed so often it seems.  Our dear pastor preached this morning on discouragement and it was so needed.

So often it feels like it is all for nothing.  There has been no difference made in anyone’s life especially the children.  Our first two placements probably would not be considered “success stories” according to the world’s definitions.

Just when I feel so low God gives the gift of a phone call out of the blue from our first child placed with us.  I was notified by our second placement of a charitable fundraiser that the kiddo is participating in.  Both continue to check in.  After a lot of attitude and pushing this momma to the limits the youngest child in our home tells me that she wants be a parent just like me when she has her own kids one day.   A birth parent has now been to church six Sundays in a row and we exchange a mother/daughter-like “I love you” when saying good-bye.    The devil sure wants to beat me down and make me quit, but God who is so full of Grace and Love shows me these glimmers of hope just at the right time.   So often it seems like there is no difference being made.  If a child can say that they know that when in our home they were truly loved then that is a success.

Thank you Jesus for pouring out your Grace on me.  Thank you for pushing me to continue pouring out that Grace to others even when it is so hard.  I am so far from being perfectly loving and therapeutic 100%, but God wants to use me despite how weak I am.

As the apostles continued to press on sharing the Gospel of Jesus this verse made me think of what I am learning in this ministry of Foster care.  Acts 4:33″With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.”

Are you Hungry?

 

Our small herd of animals are now bringing me tremendous conviction every morning.  My alarm clock sets off the Pavlov’s dog phenomenon in our household each morning.  We have four furry family members, two dogs and two cats.  Each morning when my alarm clock goes off their hunger kicks in.  I am a snooze button hitter and this drives them nuts.  Our fat little mixed dog starts crying and getting anxious.  Sometimes she jumps off the bed (yes she sleeps at my feet) her fat little body will not allow her to get back up so then the crying really ensues.  Our three legged lab will start jumping up and smacking me with her one front paw.  She often tries to physically pick me up with her nose.  She will bury her nose under an arm, leg or my side and dig and lift with all her might.  The cats jump up and pace on my pillow or my head.  Once I am up there is no time to go to the restroom first.  The four of them are just too pitiful.  Salivating, jumping, spinning in circles, tails wagging, whole little bodies just a shaking, panting.  They sprint toward the kitchen then come back toward my slow staggering legs.  They often turn their heads to look back to make sure I am still coming along behind them.   My husband often refers to me as “Dr. Doolittle” when he witnesses this morning routine.  Their excitement over their morning meal makes me smile.  Their excitement just recently started to bring conviction to my own spirit.

Do I get this kind of excitement within myself over being fed by God Himself!   Do I jump and spin in anticipation at what He is going to teach me through His Word each day?   Do I spring out of bed to read His word or when getting up to attend church on Sundays?   I honestly can’t say I get near as excited as I should.  Dear God help me to be more like my precious pets.  Help me to hunger for your word and to be fed by you just like my animals anticipate their morning feeding.

John 6:35 “Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

The Honest Truth

So instead of folding laundry and mopping a sticky floor I am taking a much needed break.  Whether or not another soul reads these words, typing the thoughts and lessons God continues to work on in me is the most therapeutic.  I guess yesterday I made the mistake of talking too much about the need to be part-time in my job as a registered nurse and stated that “momma’s tired”.   The reply I got was “Well you are doing what you wanted.” As we continue our journey in foster-care some “get it” and some don’t.  That is what it is and I really don’t expect anyone to “get it” or give any approval. That comment though brought out sincere truth of why we are in this.   My rebuttal was “Actually truth be told it’s not what I wanted.” The reply back was, “but you have wanted it for a long time.”  My reply back was “Actually God would not let up in calling us, I put it off for years knowing how hard it was going to be.”  Truth be told if I separate what I truly want in my fleshly human self I would still live in our house we just sold, we would have our pool, I would keep working full-time,  I would keep working long hours to have more finances to put our own two children through college, Mike and I would be planning and taking trips just us.”  Then I remember saying “I wouldn’t change a thing as far as the people that have come into our lives because of foster-care.”

We would also be unsettled and miserable because we wouldn’t be doing what God has called us to.  Our lives would make little if any impact on anyone else.   It is so hard to explain why we do this in a way others can understand.  It puts a strain on our marriage, our other relationships, our own physical, mental, emotional well-beings.   We actually make our family very vulnerable to some crazy stuff.  Compassion fatigue is very real and despite my best efforts I have suffered it with each placement we have had.  My writing today will have a sad tone I’m sure because I am in the midst of some major compassion fatigue.  Hence the desperate need to write!!

The thing is the deeper my relationship with Christ the deeper my understanding of his love for me and this hurting world.  The deeper my understanding of how weak and insufficient I am on my own.  The deeper my understanding of what He did for me and this broken world by leaving the Glory of Heaven.  He came to this earth to be fully human to face, feel and experience all that we do in our lives yet never succumbed to the temptation of sin.  He led the perfect example of the life he has planned for each of us.  As Jesus came to serve and not be served (Matthew 20:28).  Ultimately He gave his life as the ransom for our sins so that we can be saved from our brokenness of sin.   He rose again as He had said proving that He is God.

My life truly is not my own and my purpose is to live for others.  Life especially in the last 2 years has been a constant process.  Trying to find balance like never before with continuous big life changes.  I have such limitations.   Because I am so weak, so limited, so unqualified God continues to reveal His strength and miracles.  When it comes to what truly matters there just is no comparison to what I want as to what God wants for me.  It may not be my way.  I may not know most of the “whys” until I get to go home one day.  What we are doing is not what I want.  That is the truth.  It is what God wants and I really can’t see anyone being able to do this right without God’s strength, Grace, and Mercy.  Because God is God and I am not what He wants for my life far surpasses what I think I want.

Another lesson is just never tell anyone if your sick, tired, etc… Judgment usually follows. I can cry out to God “Lord I am so tired, I need you!”

Just recently I was told “Thank you for not judging me!” even yet more confirmation that God has me exactly where he wants me.   Our  purpose is to serve and to love.  Our purpose is not to give our opinions and judgment. It is quite a relief actually to leave the judging to God.  To be on the receiving end of judgment of others  is pretty stinky and I pray that God helps me to always leave the judging to Him!!

We are Never too Broken

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My oh my what a whirlwind the last couple months have been.  My take away from all that has happened since the end of August is that if God tells you to sell your house and move just listen and do it!   It wasn’t an overnight decision to put our house that was our  “Dream home”, (those are big fat quotes representing the world view of success and materialism).  To others it may have looked that way.  God actually started planting those seeds as soon as we had gotten our first placement as foster parents.  Everything about this calling has been a process.  God working out one detail at time within each of our own hearts.  It was an idea God worked on Mike and I individually with at first and then brought us together as a couple talking and thinking about it.  Then the actual decision was fast!  God said do it now!   Now is the time!!  So we did!  We had started speaking with a friend that is a Realtor around the beginning of August and boom decided to put it on the market Labor Day weekend.  The first two couples that looked put in offers and the house we ended up buying popped up on the market that very weekend.  Within 6 days contracts were all set.   The main point to our move was to downsize amount of expenses and maintenance so that we can be more available to the children God brings to us.  The house we bought fits the need and the neighborhood is perfect for kids.

So that little bit of background leads to my real blog.  So when we looked at our new house I had noticed a shower that was pretty funky.  By funky I mean mildew stained gross.  The home inspector noted it as a severely stained shower and took photos.  Mike and I resolved that we were probably going to need to replace it quickly and I had already started pricing them at home improvement stores.  The weekend we moved I started trying to clean the shower.  First I sprayed my vinegar, Dawn soap, and lemon juice mix all over the shower and let it sit a while.  In amazement when I went to start scrubbing I started to see a white surface begin to shine through.  I did three layers of cleaners moving next to a name brand shower cleaner, then a product with bleach and even actual bleach for the base of the shower.  Three layers of cleaning, a lot of elbow grease and about three hours of my time.  The effort was worth it to hold off on that added expense for a while.

As I watched that shower become white again I started picturing how all of us are carrying the ugly, funky gross stain of sin on us.  Some of us think we are too dirty and too far gone.  Some of us don’t see our own dirt!  There are two ends of the funky dirty sin spectrum.  Our society and even churches can communicate to a person that they are just too bad, too broken, unwanted, discarded, worthless, beyond hope, and will never amount to anything.   The next image that came to mind was Jesus taking the weight of all that dirtiness upon Himself as he hung bleeding and dying on the cross!   For three hours right smack in the middle of the day the earth was covered in darkness as Jesus bore the weight of our shame and paid the price of our sins.   Luke 23:44-46. He shed his blood and gave his life in order for us to be restored washed white and clean.  Three days in the tomb and He arose.  Three hours of darkness to finish the victory over sin then three days in the tomb  rising again to prove He is the one and only God and the only one that can truly save us and heal us!

The world of foster care has opened my eyes and heart even that much more to the need of love and compassion our world has.  Children, parents and families have been discarded as too broken and will never amount to anything.  There is hope when love steps in.  Only Jesus can truly heal and bring cleanliness to the dirty brokenness.  Healing is possible to the hearts that are open and willing to be healed.

When I set out to clean that shower it was a last ditch effort I really didn’t think it would help and we were going to have to rip it out and throw it away.  The shower gave up the dirt with time and sacrifice of sore hands, arms, and knees on my part.

How often do we look at other human beings and hold back giving love, as Christians how often do we selfishly hold back the Good News of Jesus thinking ah it will never work, they will never change.   We don’t know!  God does!  We are just to love.  Our previous foster placements are still in my heart God placed them for a certain amount of time for us to pour in His love.  Nothing is wasted and I believe with all my heart God has a huge plan for every human being.

I don’t want to say much at this time, but now knowing the faces of our next placement we are seeing His purpose, plan, and timing being revealed.  His ways are not my ways and I am so very glad.  His ways are perfect and beautiful!!

Isaiah 1:16-18 Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight: stop doing wrong.  Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.  “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord.  Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

1John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

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This week I was on vacation from the hospital which actually gave me the availability to help four families and six children ages ranging 1-17.  It is so rare that so many childcare needs happened and happened while I just so happened to be available.  God just continues to give affirmation that I am to invest my life and time in precious children!

One of the children that hung out with the Lucas family this week was a seven year old young man that LOVES sports.  Anything that has to do with a ball he loves it!  He and I went out to play some soccer on our kick board one evening.  Loving the goalie position he wanted me to take shots so he could practice up on his mad goalie skills.  At first I mostly kicked the ball to him.  After several times he looked at me and asked “why do you keep kicking it to me?”  So I asked “You want me to make it more of a challenge?”  He nodded yes and smiled.  So surprisingly this old gal pulled off some tricky shots.   One of the shots I just kept dribbling the ball and then fired the ball to the goal while I was still looking off in another direction.  Totally faked him out and scored.  My buddy started laughing and admitted he wasn’t paying attention.

Taking advantage of a teaching moment I explained to be a good goalie you have to always keep your eye on the ball!

Keep your eye on the ball!  As I watched my buddy dive for the hard corner ones and stretch tall to reach the high ones it made me start thinking.   I felt kind of bad watching the little guy work so hard.  Sometimes he still just missed the ball if he wasn’t watching.  I took those opportunities to take those shots for those learning moments to always focus.  As a follower of Jesus Christ I was thinking about my focus.

In life I am one of God’s goal keepers.  God is constantly sending people across my path every day that He wants me to catch and share His love with.  My mind starts to wonder and regret how many people has God sent my way that I totally missed?  How many people have I missed because I wasn’t focused on Jesus?  How many times have I focused on myself, not looked to Jesus, and missed a person He sent my way to share His love with?   Do I ask for the challenges?  Do I ask him for people that are hard to love that I have to sacrificially dive or stretch myself to show His mercy and grace to?  To be a true goal keeper for Jesus I need to keep my focus on Him.   By doing that He shoots people directly to me that He needs me to share His love with, but I have to see them and reach for them.  It is a responsibility that is humbling and such an honor.  It is my purpose for living.  My purpose is to love God and love people.

Matthew 22:36-40New International Version (NIV)

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”