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.”

We are all Lost Without Light

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Last weekend our family took a camping trip in the midst of all this selling and buying a house business.  My husband works midnights and had been awake for 38 hours at the time we arrived at the campground well after dark.  It was a campground that was new to us so we had no clue where everything was located.  My husband got quick little instructions from the guy that checked us in and no map was given to us.  Needless to say we drove all around with one wrong turn and dead end after another.  We stopped by the office again where I ran in got further instructions and requested a map of the campground.   Even with that we lost the road we were on and could not really see the markers.   We still ended up on the wrong site, but it all worked out.  Miraculously our tent went up easily even in the tiredness and confusion.  We had a nice no drama time other than the lostness we felt when we first got there.

If it weren’t for instructions from someone that knew the way,  the map, and our headlights we probably would have ended up in the river.

This got me to thinking that this is such a picture of life.  We are thrust into this world completely lost.  When relying on our own strength and knowledge we really make one wrong turn after another.  There is one light  and only one light to guide us to our true home and that is Jesus Christ.  Looking to His road map, the Bible, and getting instruction from others that are wise in His word are the best instructions.  Most important is His light shining on our path in the direction we are to go.

The next morning we awoke to sunlight and could get a true perspective in how the campground was set up.  Looking on with daylight it was no wonder we were confused.  The road did disappear and the site markers were hard to find.  Only with full day light could we truly know where we were.   This reminds me of heaven one day when we get to see God’s Glory and plan in fullness.   Jesus is the light of the world.

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying,” I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 

 

This is Not Our Home

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Just recently Mike and I attended more Foster parent training focused on trauma.  The trainer had us all participate in an exercise to help us to better understand the loss that children in care have endured.  She gave us each five blank index cards and instructed the class to write one thing that is important to us on each card.  Some wrote individual names I grouped my people which might have been cheating a bit.  As I began to write God was my first card.  Next I wrote husband, kids, extended family, and then friends.   Not one material thing popped in my head as to what is truly important to me.   So for the next step our trainer asked us to give up one card and lay it upside down on the table in front of us.   As much as I love my friends that was the card I gave up.   Then the next part of this exercise I watched as the trainer went around to each person and took all but one card.   Everyone reacted with “aww you are mean!!”, there were a lot of sighs, gasps, and sad faces.  As I watched this process I just kept saying/praying “Just please don’t take my God!!”.

Guess what card I had left?  Yes it was my God card.  I think I was the only one smiling in the bunch.  The reason for the smile was that it is God who has given me everyone and everything in my life.  Without God the creator my sweet husband, precious children, all family members and friends would not have ever been.  I would not be.  They are His to give and His to take.  Everything on this earth is His.  No matter what I do or how hard I work to earn something.  It is God’s.

This point is driving home even deeper with me as our country and our world continues to be hit by natural disasters and wars.  Right now so many people in the great state of Texas have lost family, livelihoods, and homes.   We do not know from one second to the next what turns our life journey will make.  We are to love and cherish all that has been given in the time that we have been given.  Each moment is a gift of God’s.

So that brings us to this next step in our journey of Foster care.  We now have our home on the market.  As we have stepped into stories and lives of two children so far in our journey the reality of how much of me these kids need has really hit hard.   As I have evaluated the hours I work and our finances God placed the question on my heart.  “What are you really working for?”  I can spend my life making very little impact on this world keeping my own little world maintained.  Or I can work less maintaining my own little world and spend more time making a greater impact in the world we live in.   Life is about people and relationships.  In my fast paced job there is very little forever impact made.  To provide love and safety to a broken young person and their family that can last forever.   People need our time, our love, our encouragement, our hugs, our smiles, our true heart felt concern and help.  People do not have changed lives for the better by me having a nice home.  So we press on looking forward to the great things God is going to do.  We press on as God plans for our life path to cross the life path of others.  I pray God will use us to bring Him glory and point the world to His love and true healing He gives us through Jesus!!

Hebrews 13:14 “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”

When We Sabotage Our Own Lives

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Once again I am preparing myself to pack up another child’s room.  Once again I feel the sting of grief.  My hope is that as my heart is shattered into more pieces that God can use those pieces to love that much more greatly through me.

As Mike and I think and look back we feel no regrets.  I pray and ask God was there something else that needed to be said or done.  There is nothing, but a peace He gives that we did all we could.  We loved whole heartedly we provided chances, forgiveness, teaching, true sacrificial giving of time, energy, and resources.

There has been nothing that has painted a better picture of what Christ has done for each and every human being than this ministry of Foster care.   We are born into a sinful and broken world.  Why are innocent children abused and neglected at such a young age?  Why are so many people succumbed to addictions to drugs and alcohol?  Why are we so prideful and full of ourselves?  Why are we so selfish?  Why are we so ungrateful?  Why do people who show nothing but love and kindness get taken advantage of?  It is all because of sin.  God gave us all freewill.  I can not make choices for any other human being and can only control my own.

We become comfortable in our situations of sin self inflicted or inflicted by others.  It is what we know.  It is why so many victims of domestic violence just keep returning to the abuser. When love steps in, when God calls to a person’s soul, we become uncomfortable.  We start to realize there is something far greater and bigger than us and it is scary.  The thing about our human nature is that so often we start to see and realize what true love, true abundant life can be and we sabotage it.  We retreat back to old ways because it is what we know.  Our sinful habits are what we think will make us happy.   It is a deceitful lie that leads us down a painful and deadly path.

The image of Jesus dying on the cross taking all my sin and shame as well as every human being’s remains the strength that keeps me going.  Christ was rejected by his very own.  He is rejected every minute of every day.  So many curse Him, turn their backs on Him, and run straight into the pit of destruction He came to save them from.

Oh, but when a person finally does realize their great and desperate need of His love and forgiveness that is when life truly begins.   Life is hard and the consequences of our own bad choices are very hard.  God gave us a way out of the pit.  He gave us a way to true life through Jesus Christ.  As my relationship deepens more and more I yearn for each breath I take to be for Jesus.  Because of my own sinful nature I still have so much to learn about full surrender and trust.  The more I breath Him in the deeper my peace, joy, and realization of how loved I am becomes.

My heart breaks when the love I give is rejected.  I can only imagine how Jesus feels to have paid the penalty for all sin through death on the cross only to be rejected by so many.   In fact the love I give doesn’t even come from me it is Christ loving through me.

So my eyes will continue to look that much more intently on Jesus and His way.  Everything I do is for His Glory and not mine.  God has a plan and perfect will.  My hope and trust is that anything done for His Glory will not go in vain and that He will take the seeds planted and continue to water His truth on them.

Philippians 2:1-5 “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and one of mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”

Once Going Organic There Aint No Going Back

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Two of the teenage girls my life has been blessed with came out to talk with me on our back patio yesterday morning.  I was actually getting to sit and study God’s word in peace.  Truly one of my most treasured happy places that I need to be in so very much more.  There was conversation about some tough things and tough parenting going on in our home right now.  The words and analogies that come out of my mouth sometimes most definitely do not come from my wee little brain.  We were talking about how conviction hurts and we get angry with whoever and whatever points out our brokenness.  We don’t want anyone telling us we are wrong no matter how kindly it is done.  Our human nature wants to stay in our sinful nasty ways.  We tend to make excuses and cast blame on everyone but our own self.  It hurts, but once we have surrendered to God’s ways and we truly desire to follow Jesus with our life then we start to experience true joyful, pure living!   I told them it is like drinking Organic Milk.  A few years back when I went through total detox for health purposes I started buying Organic Milk for the kids.  Now that we have tasted what is more healthy and pure the regular milk taste terrible.  Regular milk actually taste like chemicals with a hint of card board.   The words coming from me were that once we truly surrender to following Jesus the sin that we clung so tightly to starts to become like the regular old milk.  Once having the true taste of freedom, peace, and joy that Christ brings then the old sinful temptations start to look and taste like pure poison.  The closer we grow to Jesus the greater our desire for His ways and not our own.

We all have our different weaknesses, we all sin, and it all is disgusting.   No matter what our weakness is Jesus can heal us, purify us, and help us to live abundant life that He planned for us.   When God is convicting us it is painful to see how broken and dirty we truly are, but we can not experience true living without realizing how broken we truly are.

John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Growing Strawberries and Being a Foster Mom

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Feeling down thankfully is not the normal for me.  Most days there is a song in my heart, a one liner joke or pun at the tip of my tongue, and a some smooth dance moves especially designed to embarrass my children or anyone around at any given moment of opportunity.   That has not been the case lately.  For the first time in my life I would have to say I have felt extremely down.  The bombardment of what I refer to as “stupid stuff” has been non stop from the moment I made the call to start the licensing process for Mike and I to become Foster Parents.  There have been a million annoying things.  The attack on our marriage, strain on finances, everything breaking, annoying stressors in our jobs, you name it Satan has been blasting it.  Nothing real huge just stressors that are like stepping on a Lego block barefoot it hurts, but doesn’t cripple.  Our choice to become Foster Parents has been totally and utterly a calling from God.  In my heart I know that these attacks are because we are doing what we are suppose to.  In my heart I know that if we weren’t making a difference Satan would not be trying so hard to get us to quit.  Physically, mentally, and emotionally I have grown tired.

There are days I feel the weight of so many people sitting on my shoulders.   I feel that I am crumpling underneath the weight of this cross God has called me to bear.  Actually I feel like I am flat on my face with my mouth and eyes full of dirt under the cross.  Each time I cry out God provides someone, something, or some sign of hope that lifts me back to my feet with a renewed strength to keep on with my cross upon my shoulders.  This road of ministry as with any God called ministry can be a very lonely and painful road.  The more God teaches me how to love with His love the greater the strain under the weight of my cross He has planned for me to carry for Him.   It is hard to explain being able to look someone in the eye that actually hates you and still feel a deep compassion for them.  It is hard to explain wanting to still help and give all I can even when the help is not well received nor wanted.  The only explanation is God’s love, God’s strength, and God’s will.  It sure does not come from my own ability because I can not.

Today I had one of those moments that I could feel God lifting me to my feet and giving a renewed strength to carry this cross. Our pastor’s sermons the last two weeks have had a significant impact as well as scripture God has led me to personally preparing me to see what I needed to today.

This afternoon I walked down to our little raised garden that really isn’t much to speak of.  A few years ago I planted two strawberry plants as well as many other types of seeds and plants.  The strawberries were the most successful so two years ago I decided to just let the garden be a strawberry patch and planted two more plants.  Each year the vines take over more of the garden and the harvest of plump red strawberries grows larger and larger.   There really hasn’t been much work needed.  Just the space for the plants, sunshine, rain, and some pulling of weeds.   God brought the fact to my attention that our call to Foster Care is much like our little strawberry patch.  We need to be willing and open to providing the space, resources and care.  The rest is actually up to him.  What lives we actually make a difference in has nothing to do with us, but is totally about God and His power to change lives.  It is God’s power that grows the strawberries.  It is God’s power that will make the difference in the lives he puts in our path.   We are to be available and let him love through us.  There is a nice harvest of delicious fruit that took a few years to get to reap and enjoy.  There is no limit to what God can do with the opportunities to love others, children, families, caseworkers, state workers, and our community through the ministry of foster care.   As of now counting our birth children we have had four children to plant, love and nurture.  Like the four strawberry plants I pray the love of these children will spread, grow, and bear a tremendous harvest of fruit.

Luke 9:23 “Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with me, He must deny Himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

 

John 15:8 “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

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Sixteen Years of Painful Facial Breakouts and What Finally Brought Healing

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This is not me but exactly what I dealt with for sixteen years.

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Me now no filter and standing by window with revealing day light.   Revealing my nose hairs and imperfect make up application, but there is no rash being revealed!!!  YAY!!!

The purpose of this blog is to share with others what I have learned in life in hopes that maybe at least one person can be helped.   So much of my focus has been on our journey in foster care this past year that I have overlooked a small miracle that has happened.  This miracle took sixteen years of praying and searching for a cure and it is has been in front of me every time I look in the mirror.  Now that I am a “cool up with the times” mom with snap chat I see it on my phone too!!!

When I was pregnant with our oldest 16-17 years ago I started getting painful break outs around my mouth and chin.  It was a painful red rash that would start with tiny little blisters.  I had started with trying cold sore medications as my own first treatment to no avail.  As I went through my pregnancy I mentioned it to my doctors as well as doctors I worked with.  No one could give me any answers and I had one doctor even suggest that maybe I just drool a lot in my sleep.  Never waking up with saliva soaked pillow cases I wrote that off as a possibility quickly.

After I gave birth to our precious bambino the rash continued.  I had hoped that after pregnant hormones chilled out so would the rash.  To my disappointment even a year later it remained a battle.   The battle of the weird face rash!!!   Hydrocortisone made it worse.  No facial cleansers I tried helped.   I would change one product at a time to try to figure out the trigger.  Finally I went to a dermatologist and was diagnosed with Peri-Oral Dermatitis.   This just means “You have a rash around your mouth WOMAN!”  The blanket diagnosis with no reason as to WHY and doxycycline were the only answers.  The antibiotic would clear it up for a while then it would come back maybe a year later and I would take the antibiotic again.   Mind you antibiotics also kill healthy good bacteria and can be more harm than good on many levels.  My thinking was if this is something that can hurt an unborn baby’s bones and teeth what else is it doing?  As a nurse I am thankful for antibiotics, but we have learned the hard way that too much of anything can be very bad.

A few years back due to other health issues I went to a very strict clean eating diet.  Took several supplements to get my body chemistry balanced.  Guess what????  The rash still continued.  It was some better, but even after three years it would still raise its ugly little blisters!!   Mind you the healthy life style has made me so much better in so many ways so I totally give a shout out to healthy eating!!   Woot Woot for vegetables!!!!

So this past summer my sister signed up to sell Mary Kay and my youngest daughter and I went to a facial to support her.   With the prodding of my dear daughter Cora I left that day with a consultant kit thinking well I can get the fifty percent discount for our three girl faces.  So I immediately started to use the basic Timewise Miracle set that came in the kit.  My face was in a full on break out as it had been for at least a year with nothing helping at all anymore.   Within a week the rash was gone.  It has now been eight months and it remains gone and I am still on my first set of skin care because a little of the product goes a very long way.  My skin now has a healthy youthful glow that it has been missing for a very long long time.  I haven’t even moved up to the repair skin set yet that is available and the results have been amazing.  My body was having a chemical  reaction to the products that are sold at all the basic department stores.  What chemical I still can not figure out.  I had even tried a $300 set from someone who sold another skin care home sale company and it had made the rash worse.  Mary Kay does not even have a set that is that expensive.  This company continuously tests their products and makes them better and healthier all the time.  My face is proof and I am proud to be a part of something that can truly help someone.   After years of caking on concealer and being embarrassed of my face I am not ashamed to leave my home without make up to run my kids to school or to go to the store.   Mind you I am not beauty queen or super model.  I will continue to age and wrinkle, but can now do it with a healthy grace.  The wrinkles are from hours of laughter and smiles so as they happen I will sport them proudly. They will be less deep and have a much brighter glow thanks to a wonderful company that has it’s foundation built on the golden rule.

My prayers right now are  for God’s guidance with how to balance life and this rash of doubt that clouds my mind.  How do I put Him first, take care of our family,  continue our ministry of foster care, work full-time as an RN, and continue to ask God what is the most impactful way to spend my time on this earth to glorify you Lord? What is my next step Lord? If you would like to learn more about Mary Kay and try the products I would be thrilled to be your consultant and share what has helped heal me!!   There is nothing I would love more than to give another woman the confidence there is in having a healthy clean and bright face!!   Most of all I want my life to point all to Jesus the healer of my soul.  A healthy face won’t matter one day when I face the end of my life, but having Jesus as the healer of my rash of sin determines where I will spend eternity.  Do you know Jesus?  Even more than sharing the help of Mary Kay I am most greatly thrilled with sharing the hope and healing that only comes through Jesus Christ.

Two Months IS Significant

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As we continue on in our journey in Foster care one of the greatest lessons has been to expect nothing.   The only guarantee and expectation that I personally have learned is that God is always present even when it feels like He is not.   So actually going into this ministry and definitely in the throes of our ministry a thank you is not expected.  We try to teach gratefulness, forgiveness, kindness, compassion, good work ethic, etc… with every opportunity.  The expectation, other than knowing God will be present, is a personal one.  Do I exemplify qualities that Jesus demonstrated for us? Do I show love, forgiveness, kindness, patience, gratefulness,  do I work hard?  My failures in these qualities happen daily so how can I  expect someone who has had a rough start in life to have them.  Why should someone who has had some rough and traumatic experiences at a young age have any reason to say thank you?  It is not expected.

One never knows what is significant to another person when first meeting.  Every person has a story and every person has something that is significant to them or longings that are significant. It is often a mystery and hard work to learn what is significant to another.  What is significant to my neighbor may not be significant to me. Yet we are to love our neighbor as ourself.   So how do we love others deep enough to truly make a positive impact?  Start learning what is significant to them.  It is an ongoing process in relationships with others that never ends.  Love grows deeper and stronger the more you learn and act on what those matters of significance are.   What is a passion, a joy, a hobby, what is the deepest need, what is the deepest longing of the other people in your life?

For our dear child that God has so divinely brought into our home there is a significance of time.  We all need the time of others invested for a relationship to grow, but to some time means security.  Toward the end of March I was asked about a specific date in April and if I knew what that day was.   My brain was in total “der” mode as I couldn’t think of a birthday, sporting event, or historical marker.   The next words gave me a clue as to what is significant to this dear one.  “I will have lived here two months.”

As that day approached two days ahead I was handed a card.  The card was going to be given on the day…no the day before…no the day before the day before….   The anticipation of this date in time demonstrated even more  how significant two months in the same home with no threat looming of having to leave has been to this precious child.   In care it is one day at a time never knowing what is going to change and happen next.  Security is one of our basic necessities as a human being.  We can provide words of assurance and love, but nothing speaks more than time and action.  So our thank you was very unexpected, but significantly heart melting to us.   It has been a wild roller coaster ride of  a first year as a foster home.   There truly has not been anything harder with a greater impact that our family has ever done.  As God continues to mold, shape, and strengthen us as a family and me personally, my prayers have turned into how can I love more?

What Would you do if you had a Million Dollars?

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One of our daughters just asked me this question.  She then followed with would you buy a different house?  My first answer was no, I just want to have no debt.  We then discussed college expenses and saving then then conversation topic fizzled.

The conversation fizzled out, but the thought of this question continued to weigh on me.  A million dollars does not actually go far in our world today it could be a start.  My self evaluation question became, “If money were no object what would you do?”   Then cycling back to the house question my answer started to turn to a yes.

For years now God has put this burning compassion for children who have been rejected and beat down by this world on my heart.  For one year now we have been in the trenches of Foster Care.  The more of the true story and true pain I see this compassion just grows stronger.  This is definitely a mission field that leaves you feeling like your heart has been torn from you, stomped on then placed back into your body to keep powering through beat by beat.

So this is my vision as hard and crazy as it sounds.  As I sit here completely emotionally exhausted God will not stop calling on this broken heart of mine.  Yes, I would buy a new house.  I would buy a working farm or ranch.  I would want to buy it where there are amazing hiking places.  I would start a children’s home with the proper support staff.  I would hire people with the same compassion and broken heart for what breaks God’s heart.  It would be an amazing place with jobs for the children to be assigned to based on abilities and personalities.  Nothing builds self esteem like a job well done.  I would want to do therapy during hikes because who wants to just stare eye to eye with a therapist.  Something about God’s creation truly relaxes and can cause true communication and healing to happen.

Truthfully I am worn out from just having one child that is in care at a time.  Truthfully I do not have the resource within my own self nor financially to make this a reality.  This one question has started to develop into a dream that God’s timing and provision can accomplish if it is in His will and plan.   My heart aches for children who are “unwanted”, for children who push away the one’s that truly want to help, for the children who feel unworthy of love…  My heart is to give as many children new Hope and a new beginning through the love of Jesus Christ.  So if I had a million dollars or if money were no obstacle I would buy a new house.  A house of Hope!!!!