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.”
It seems that God uses things that irritate me to teach me the best lessons. Our son we are adopting has a habit of constantly touching the walls in our home. A good habit we are trying to get instilled is good hand washing. We have far to go with the hand washing. Needless to say the walls are down right gross. As I see him placing his hands on the walls I remind him that he has two strong legs to stand on. There is not a need for touching the wall. He insists that he is in his “pre teen” years so he definitely is old enough to walk without touching everything. There are some sensory reasons behind the wall touching I am quite sure. Being aware of trauma needs is important. Alas it is a bad habit that needs a conscious effort on his part and our teaching to overcome.
Today I was going around each wall with a magic eraser sponge yet again. Feeling slightly irritated as I have to do this quite often. Recently our home was ravaged by a stomach virus and I feel even more paranoid with hygiene and cleanliness. God started flooding thoughts over my mind as I scrubbed. Here go the wall lessons for Anita today.
I notice the dirty hand prints most in the bright day light. How true in our own life that if we let Jesus shine His light on our own hearts He sure reveals a lot of dirt.
How much of a habit do I have in leaning on God? Do I turn to Him in prayer? Do I go to His word for all answers? Am I leaning on my own strength instead of Him?
Do I rely on old habits to calm anxieties. Do I hang on to worry? Do I let go of false security and fully trust God?
It takes a magic eraser to clean the walls in our home. It takes the blood of Jesus to clean our hearts. There is nothing magic to the remedy for our sin. It is the pure love, grace, mercy, and power of Jesus taking my sin to the cross, dying, and rising again that cleanses me.
All people that I love have habits I can’t stand. God has shown me unconditional love and forgiveness. Truly loving them completely is to love their imperfections as well. I get to clean the walls for my family.
Thank you God I have a home with walls and a family to make them dirty.
I have qualities that are annoying to others and thank God they love me anyway.
Thank you Jesus that you saved me even though I do not deserve it. Maybe I should make my boy clean the walls. Sometimes Grace is better and I will do it for now.
I probably don’t even want to know how many times God has protected me from consequences and has shown me Grace.
Dirty walls teach me patience and to prioritize. People or things first? Clean when you aren’t needing to focus on people.
Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
Walls will one day crumble, but the love God gives us to give to others will last for all of eternity!!
One of my teen daughters had friends come over to hang out. Our town and public school system are very diverse. One thing I really love about this town is that there are people from all types of backgrounds and we don’t all look the same.
This morning I was in our basement restroom and my heart stopped when I noticed the light switch cover in the bathroom. Beneath the silver duct tape is a confederate flag. We just moved about a year ago and the previous home owners were from Alabama. There were many hints of Southern culture left in this home.
My sweet daughter was worried that friends coming over with darker skin would be offended by the symbol of that flag.
It is difficult to put my emotional thoughts into words. Maybe that is why I feel compelled to sit and type this out.
First I felt a heart warming pride that my child considered the feelings of others. Out of respect of her and her friends I think I will just go purchase a new switch cover.
Second I felt a sadness. A sadness that greed led to slavery in our country. A sadness for all the life lost in war over the sinful greed. A sadness over the divisions there are just because of skin color all over our world.
Third I feel angry that we even have to be so politically correct and walk on egg shells because of hatred. If we all loved as we should there would be no such thing as political correctness.
Then lastly my thoughts and emotions turn to the symbol of the cross. The cross that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died on. It is a symbol of true freedom. A symbol of the freedom of the sin that enslaves us. The sin that has this world so broken and torn. Sin that has caused the hatred, greed and division. Jesus came to provide the one and only way to healing from sin that enslaves us. He came to this earth as a very poor helpless baby. Led a life without sin. He demonstrated the perfect way to love others from all walks. He demonstrated how to love the sinner and not fall to the temptation to sin. His name and the symbol of the cross causes an emotional stir in everyone. It may be love and thankfulness or hatred, but there is an emotion. For the cross and the name of Jesus I will not cowar to political correctness. It is by his name and what He did for us on the cross every human being can have true freedom and peace. He died for all people and for all sin. He rose again on the third day proving He is God.
1 John 4:7-11 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might love through Him. This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
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.
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!!
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.”
Names are not being shared due to privacy and this blog is public.
This past year and a half one of my life long friends has been on the front lines in the war against childhood cancers. Her son at age 13 was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. From the side lines I watched this family that I love go through one of the very hardest trials I can ever imagine having to face. It seemed that with every doctor visit, treatment, test, surgery all they ever received was more bad news. Helpless is the only word I can think of when it comes to something as devastating as this. For the parents the feeling of helplessness not to be able to fix and make things better for your child. For the grandparents helpless to not be able to make the hurt for their children and grandchildren go away. Helpless is the word for the aunt who went above and beyond caring for the younger children of this beautiful family. Helpless is the only word for the friends and family in the outer circle of support wishing there was something that could be done to make it all just go away.
Throughout the 18 months there was always something common with each conversation shared with my friend. The most common topic that brought brightness and hope was always his nurses. My dear friend and her husband (also my friend) would always perk up as they mentioned the nurses by name. I saw a sparkle in their son’s eyes when he or his parents spoke of them. From the sidelines I witnessed how the healthcare providers for pediatric oncology not only did their jobs they became family to a hurting family. They were the ones that were there with each gut wrenching blow of horrible news. They were the ones doing all they could to help the pain and nausea. They were the ones praying as they hung each medication that this would be the treatment that would stomp out this thief of a disease. They were the ones that would sit by his bedside and play games. They were the ones that sat by his bedside and took the time to know who this child really is and not just know his disease. They were the ones laughing, crying, hugging, and sharing in the anger at the unfairness of childhood cancer. They were the ones he chose to go on his first date with as one of his final life wishes.
The words “he chose his nurses” are words I can not speak or type without tears flooding my face. As one of his very final wishes he chose to take his nurses out on the town. The pictures of this event show the brightest smiles on all the faces of the nurses and the face of this sweet boy. His nurses were his heroes. His nurses made his final painful days brighter. His nurses made him feel important and not just like another patient. He chose to leave this life in the place that had become another home with the healthcare workers that had become an adopted family. His nurses were there alongside his mom and dad sharing in their pain and grief.
Of course I have a special place in my heart for nurses, but now I believe that pediatric oncology nurses are truly the most heroic of all. To open your heart and step into the lives of children and families going through the hardest of all life’s battles. These beautiful souls are doing so much more than trying to kill cancer cells. To open your heart to love even when you know you might not have the ones that you love for long shows the quality of true angels of mercy. These are the unsung heroes that walk among us.
A couple weeks ago I took all three of my children on a hike in one of our local state parks. Hiking is one of my most favorite things to do outdoors. The bucket list of hikes I would love to take is extremely long and gets longer and longer instead of shorter. This was our foster child’s first real hike ever I am quite sure. There was severe whining and complaining the entire hike. This was a very short hike compared to what this momma really loves to do. All along the way there were little break throughs amongst the complaining and threats from our child. “I can’t go any further!!! Oh look there is the same kind of bug you and I saw that one time mom!” “Oh I hate spider webs!! Oh my legs are worn out!!! Oh look at the cool butterfly!!” All three children missed the beautiful deer that crossed our path right in front of us. All the way were opportunities to teach about God, His creation, His love, and that in life we need to stop, listen, and look otherwise we miss the greatest blessings from Him. As the hike grew more intense with inclines so did the complaining. The story of the Little Engine that Could (one of my favorites) came in handy that day. With each step I encouraged “I think I can…I know I can!!” At one point I turned and looked at our child to keep encouraging and I saw just how far we had come. I said “Turn and look and see just how far you have already come!! I know you can do this!!”
We reached the top to see the awesome view and the first response was “wow!”. Then that hard shell of pride and survival methods from a harsh life went back up. The guard had been let down just for a moment showing a glimmer of hope that love was winning this child’s heart. The opportunity presented itself to explain that the reason I love hikes so much is that they are hard. The girls started telling him how they have even watched me fall down on hikes. It is a goal that requires physical, mental, and sometimes emotional work. All along the journey God provides little views of His Glory and His Blessings. Once we have persevered and reached the goal then we get to see something beautiful that we never would have seen had we not made the long journey. Each hike I have ever taken I have gotten to see more and more of God’s glory, His beautiful handiwork of His creation.
So it is with life and definitely parenting. Anything truly worth anything takes a lot of physical, mental, and emotional work. As God directs and leads down new paths it is so hard. I stumble, hurt, cry, feel like giving up and then He shows little snipits of His glory. Each new hurdle in life God reveals more and more of His Glory to me that I would have missed had I not listened and taken the path He directed.
Not only was this hike a teachable moment for this young precious child it was one for mom as well. Just keep looking at how far you have come I can hear my Heavenly Father encourage. Just keep taking one step and one day at a time and trust me.
It is always good to look back and see what God has brought us through and the prayers that have been answered. The past is not a place to dwell, but to learn from and press on.
So a message to all parents and especially foster/adoptive parents. Just look at how far you’ve come!!!
Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”