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.”

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.

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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