Our journey to become licensed foster parents has barely begun and we hit our first road block. Our above ground pool is an issue. There are all types of rules to having a pool when a foster parent. The rules are understandable and basically we need to turn it into Fort Knox or build the Great Wall of China around it. Earlier this summer as I wrote in the “Just Five or Six More Summers” blog we were faced with replacing the liner of the pool. At the time I felt God urging me that it was the best stewardship to just repair the pool rather than take it down. So we invested in the necessary repairs and went on. Little did I know how much stronger God was going to place this burden of foster care on my heart just a few short months later, but God knew. There was also no awareness that our pool set up would be considered “climbable” by a small child. I am not sure my five foot five inch build could climb it, but a strong-willed, strong-bodied, beef-cake toddler could very well prove it unsafe. As I received the news from the case worker Friday I found myself back in an “arguing with God” moment. Exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally from the week I yelled out “Why on earth would you put this on my heart if we can’t do it!?” “Why would you give me the green light to invest in fixing the pool just to tell us to take it down!???!!” After I prayed/said/asked my piece and started to listen God started to provide the answers. One answer He provided was actually a question right back at me. “What is a greater sacrifice Anita, to give up a broken pool or to give up one that is fully restored?”
As I have said before I am just a sinner and I often try to fix things within my own strength instead of trusting God first so after my frustrated cries out to God I thought, measured, and researched prices of fencing. The financial reality that the price of the fence and it’s lack of true function for our set up was just too great a cost for what the pool is worth. By that next morning I had completely surrendered to fact that the two options we have as a family were to take the pool down and foster children or leave the pool up and not foster children. My heart was now in complete submission that whatever we need to give up I am on board and that the life of any other human being is far more important than anything material. The next question was what did the rest of the family feel God was telling them? The first conversations were just between my husband and I. After he had about twenty four hours to digest everything and pray he had come to the same point as I, “We can just take the pool down.” Initially a family meeting with us all together was what I thought was in order. With the timing of a busy weekend this really wasn’t a possibility. Separately I spoke with each daughter about the decision we were facing. When I spoke to our youngest about the decision we faced as a family I explained the options including the ones to get the pool to the requirements necessary. Her words were “that would look really dumb” when explaining how we would need to fence it or change the railing of the deck.
After allowing the girls about twenty four hours to think and to pray I asked them separately what their thoughts were about the pool. Each of them separately said “We need to foster children.” With each response from the most important people in my life my heart grew fuller and fuller with love toward them, toward God, and toward who ever God is planning to place within the care of our family. He is doing an amazing work in all of our hearts. There are so many scriptures that in my own bible study time, shared by friends on social media, and bible study/sermons at church that keep pointing us toward this decision. It is funny that the one that has been on my heart the most has not been presented in any other way than through God bringing it up from the depths of my heart.
Matthew 25:35-40 “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”
What God keeps repeating to my heart over and over is…”I was a stranger and you invited me in…”
This last week has been incredibly busy. I’ve thought about listing the hours I worked, activities, meetings, etc… I have had, but some details are unnecessary and a bit boring. What I will explain is that I am very tired and pretty well feel like I am losing my mind with all that I need to remember. Sunday morning I found out I needed to get my daughter’s passport to church to have copies made for an upcoming mission trip. Sunday afternoon I hurriedly obtained it from the safe place it has been kept for the last six months and was quite sure I had placed it in my purse. The plan was to have it copied while I was in with the rest of the choir preparing for our patriotic musical. Well the person that was going to copy it and myself both forgot. That evening after the musical we had the church youth group over to our house and the next morning I got up for work at 4:20 am as usual. Upon arriving to work I found out I had arrived an hour earlier than I was actually scheduled. The fact that I unknowingly sacrificed an hour longer sleep should demonstrate my state of mind and the fact that I am losing it completely.
The passport was now long forgotten until this evening when my daughters and I went shopping at Target. My youngest had a gift card burning a hole in her pocket and the oldest needed a pouch to carry her passport for her upcoming trip. With the thought of the passport retrieved from the depths of my memory I now started to look for it in my purse not having remembered seeing it over the last two days. We got to the car and I emptied my purse. Each daughter looked through my purse. No passport found. The entire car ride home I started retracing my steps in my mind trying to think if I laid it down somewhere stupid instead of putting it in my purse or if it had fallen out of my purse. I had only been to church, work, and home until our Target trip.
As we continued home my chest had become tight and I was now nauseous thinking that all the anticipation, prayers, preparation and cost of this life changing trip for my oldest daughter was all pending on locating the now lost passport.
As we neared our home I silently prayed very hard pleading with God to help me find this passport. Come to find out my youngest daughter was in the back seat doing the same as she could tell her mom was growing close to losing it! I had promised my oldest that she could start practicing driving the car down our private lane when we come and go. She drove down our lane when we left and it was now with the very last ounce of patience that was left in me I kept my word to let her drive down our lane back to the house.
It was through keeping my promise God answered my prayer. Her passport apparently had fallen out of my purse at some time while driving over the last few days and had slid between the passenger seat and door. As I walked over to the passenger side of the car there it was. I think I actually heard a heavenly choir sing as I bent down and scooped up that precious passport!
God hears our prayers. He is faithful. He cares about every detail of our lives. He is very real and every bit of my sustainer, redeemer, best friend, Lord, Savior, and my Heavenly FATHER!!! His presence is so evident to me everyday!!!
One thing I love so much about the bible is that every word and sentence has a distinct purpose for God including it. As a mother reading the four gospels I often find myself paying close attention to Mary. A simple young woman that God planned to use to change the world. Just recently I mentioned to the middle school girls in Sunday school how much I loved the verses that say “Mary pondered and treasured these things in her heart”. There is a specific purpose for Luke chapter 2 to mention that Mary intentionally paused, pondered, marveled, and took time to treasure distinct happenings in the young Jesus’ life. She knew that his conception was of God and that there was something special and miraculous about this child she bore. She didn’t have the full picture and understanding until this child grew to a man, died, and rose again of what God’s purpose was for this child.
Little by little Jesus grew and revealed himself and his purpose to Mary. Each special moment, each little hint of who this son really was, Mary stopped and recognized it. She kept these moments in her memory until eventually God revealed to her that the son she bore was God in the flesh who had come to save the world from sin.
These scriptures are a reminder for me to stop, ponder, marvel, and treasure the moments in my life that God reveals himself. Each answered prayer, each “perfect timing”, each time I see His divine protection, and with every miracle. He is always there and patiently waiting. He reveals himself and his plan little bits at a time, as much as my maturity and faith can handle. I am so grateful for the blessings of those moments.
Luke 2:19 “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Not many of my own words tonight. Just searching the word of God for comfort and thought I would share the verses that are bringing me peace. I have no clue what the future holds, but what I do know is who holds the future. My Heavenly Father holds the future, He holds me when I let Him, and hears the prayers of those who love Him. That is really all that I am one hundred percent sure of.
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:8-11
“In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:10
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
““Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10
This week has brought me back to the place of continuously thinking of life, death, heaven, and relying fully on God’s strength. As another dear family member fights for life I keep thinking of heaven’s cheerleaders. I reminded our loved one that many people are praying and that he has a cheerleader in heaven, my dad. A single tear came from our loved one laying there unable to communicate with me. Little movements of his fingers at mine, a small nod of the head, “yes”, and the single tear were the signs given that he was still there and listening to my words.
The thought of heaven’s cheerleaders has overwhelmed me over this past year since my own father’s death. There is a humbling gratitude I feel for the blessing of being the offspring of a legacy of Jesus followers and having come to my own personal decision to follow Jesus. I know who is on my side and I am on the winning side. I am never alone. There are many saints who have gone on to be with Jesus who are cheering in heaven. God’s angel army is cheering and fighting for and with me. Best of all my greatest cheerleader, Jesus Christ, who fought my battle over sin! How awesome it is that when I feel darkness of sorrow trying to swallow me whole I just cry out to Jesus and joy overcomes the dark. The light of Jesus stomps out every hint of the darkness of despair. With God all things are possible and I am watching and waiting with great anticipation to see how God is going to answer my prayers in the next days and weeks. I can not imagine living life without Jesus and without my cheerleaders in heaven!!! Is Jesus your cheerleader or are you trying to rely on your own strength to get through this life?
Mark 10:27 “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Isaiah 41:10 ” Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Jeremiah 32:17 “‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. “
The amount of answered prayers continues to grow in this teensy life of mine. God actually sustains me moment to moment most days by His answers. One thing I am learning is to never forget those answers. By continuously remembering when God has provided protection, strength, and healing in so many ways I am humbled. As I have been studying through the Old Testament there is so much to learn about answered prayers and forgotten answers to prayers. The Israelite people are a huge example of forgetting where God has brought them. Time and time again God heard their cries and brought them out of slavery and turmoil only for them to forget where they started and who had gotten them out of the depths of despair. In my own life I have learned that God is always faithful to hear my cries. He doesn’t always answer in the way I have orchestrated in my mind. He always answers better than I can ever imagine. His answers always come with tremendous growth in my own faith. The true test as a believer is remembering where God has brought us. Will we allow Him to change us and grow us with His answers? Will we remember where we started and how far He has brought us? Will we see the miracle of His perfect timing and see His beauty even in our darkest times? When times are good will we give ourselves the credit or give all the glory to God? As I study I have found that King Solomon is another huge example of forgetfulness. Both 2nd Chronicles and 1st Kings record the account of God coming to Solomon in a dream and Solomon asking for wisdom to rule God’s people.
2 Chronicles 1:7-12 “That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon answered God, “You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. Now, Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”
God was faithful to Solomon in His promises. The news and fame of his wisdom carried so far and greatly that even the Queen of Sheba had to check this out for herself. Solomon had a great start, but a not so great finish. He had a weakness for the ladies, hundreds of ladies actually. How the guy kept up with all that girl drama is a mystery to me. Amongst the hundreds of ladies were ladies from all types of backgrounds and countries. God had warned of the dangers with marrying those of different faith. Many of these women came from homes and lands that worshipped idols and not God. His weakness for the ladies led to weakness to be swayed into their idolatry and alas to forget how and why he had the very position of king in the first place. God had given everything to him, life, power, wisdom, material goods, and fame. He forgot where he came from. God is faithful to us and in his promises. It is in our weakness and pride that we fail Him.
As I reflect on the greatest answers to prayer it has been the prayers for protection, for God to help me love others as Jesus does, for God to help me to forgive others as Jesus, for God to lead others to Him, and for whatever I do to bring Him glory, not me. These are the prayers that I have seen His greatest miracles. My continuous prayer is to always remember. To remember that God gave me life and that everything I am and have is and was God’s in the first place.