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.

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…”

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?

Love Brings You Home Our Foster/Adoption Journey Continues

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About a year ago my mom and I were shopping at Hobby Lobby to find some items for a few projects.  Our foster care licensure process was nearing completion and one project was to add finishing touches to our spare bedroom.   A year ago before our journey began when I walked past this picture and read it the tears immediately started to flow.  This one little sentence seemed to sum up our call to foster children in need in the most perfect way.

That day I did not buy it as I had no clue who would fill the room and I was trying to just keep the décor simple and as gender neutral as I could.

When I wrote A Whole New Kind of Grief in January I had no clue why and what God had planned next.  Grieving someone’s potential to such depth was new to me.  As I write now I have had so much more of God’s plan revealed to me.  As I write now I am in greater awe of His amazing attention to detail on every life.  As I write now I am even more deeply humbled and thankful to be a part of His great plan.

Two weeks to the day of God giving such a definitive answer of “NO”  to my prayer “Do we take the next step toward adoption?” I got a message from a friend’s husband about a need.

You see with our first child we could have no other placements probably never had we adopted.  I had resolved to this was the one and only child God had planned for us to help, but as usual I was so very wrong.   God gave us two weeks to digest all that had happened and then I get a message from a friend’s husband to call his wife about a need.  We were not yet on the market as a foster family.  Our bed capacity still was showing zero as I hadn’t even gotten to fully communicate with our license worker.  As I listened to my friend tell me the story of the need I could feel my heart swelling with love and compassion once again. When asked do you know of a family that can help, all I could think was “all I know of is us”. God had opened our room up and it was specifically for this very need in this very perfect time that it was needed.   Separately speaking to Mike and the girls I watched as each of their hearts did the same as mine.  They all turned into a puddle of compassion.  There are not strong enough words to express how proud I am of their willingness to love and follow God’s call in this ministry.

It has been amazing as we have been able to open our hearts and home to another.  There has been a community of people to help this one life and that is exactly how it should be for a child in need.   It indeed does take a village.  Another amazing turn in the story is that our family gets to remain a strong support in the life of our first child.  Of course I can not share too many details, but God provides the most amazing paths when our hearts are open.

This brings me back to the picture above.  A few weeks ago I found myself at Hobby Lobby again.  When offered to get some new décor for the room our newest family addition only requested a chalk board.  While shopping along I again see this picture that I saw a year ago.  This time I bought it!   Our sweet new member of our family was more than happy to have it hung in the room.

There has been nothing in this life that has brought me to a deeper understanding of God’s love for us than this calling to love this hurt world through foster care.  Our broken lives take us to so many unexpected places, but God’s plan through Jesus is to bring us all home.   Jesus is the only source of true love and our home is our eternal home with him.  As a child I always thought of “God’s Will” to be what job, career, who I would marry, if I would have children, etc…  God’s Will is to completely open my heart to Him.  There is no way I can love unconditionally the way that I have on my own.  It has purely been opening all of my soul allowing God to completely love through me.   Of course my own human nature has gotten in the way from time to time, but He continues to teach me how to rely on Him fully.   God’s will for my life is to love others in such a way that they feel truly loved and  “home”.  Whatever amount of time, capacity, platform, or tool God gives it is all just a way for God to work through me.   My life is to be a channel of God’s love to direct others to Him.  He is our true source of love and our true home.  God’s wish is for all of mankind to come back to Him.  He is such an amazing God that He gives us a choice.  He cares so much about the details of every life that He will provide opportunity after opportunity even in a life of tremendous pain to see His love.  It may be a complete stranger offering a word of encouragement.  We get to see God in small doses throughout our life and it is up to us to accept Him.  As a follower and totally sold out to Jesus I get to be a part of God’s plan to reveal His love to our hurting and broken world.

Home doesn’t always mean to live in the same house.  Home is knowing that you have at least one other person that loves you unconditionally with their whole heart.  Home is knowing you have someone cheering you on in life.  Ultimately home is knowing that there is a God in heaven that loves you in a way that no other can love you.  Ultimately home is knowing that God planned you, wants you, has a purpose for you, and wants to spend all of eternity with you.

John 14:2 “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you.”

John 3:16 “For God so Loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

 

Foster/Adopt #3

The movie “War Room”, many scriptures, sermons, bible studies, and our first two foster parenting classes have inspired me to start praying in our spare room for the potential children and families whose lives God has planned for us to help through the resource of that room.  Words flow the best for me when I sit and type them out.  My plan of action is to write my prayer for all future children and families as well as write individual prayers as God introduces new people into our lives. Also to frame and hang this prayer in this room and the individual prayers for the current resident of the room. These prayers with permission of caseworkers and families I hope to give to the children and their parents so that they can keep them and know that someone is praying for them.  I won’t be able to share the individualized prayers, but I can share the first prayer publically.

Dear God.  Thank you for the blessing of bringing our small family together.  Thank you for our home and for the resource of this extra bedroom.  The circumstances of how we have this room alone is a lesson in how short and precious life is.  God you have helped me to understand that you created every human being and each child is a gift directly from you.  Help us as a family help every child that comes to live with us to realize that they are first and foremost a very precious gift with a purpose you have a plan for.  Help us to come alongside the parents to realize this gift and to learn how to best care for them.  You created the establishment of family and our prayer is that you use our family to help bring restoration to families that are broken.  Depending on your plan Lord our family is willing to grow when restoration is not possible in families that are in need.

No matter where each child’s permanent home will be, I pray that they will know that they will always have a permanent place in our hearts.  Most of all God I pray that they will know that you provide the greatest permanence and home.  Your desire is to have us all in your family.   Your love is everlasting, unconditional, sacrificial, self less, and pure.  Please help us all to love the way that only you can love.  Help us to have kindness in only the way you can show kindness.  To have goodness in your pure form of goodness.  To have joy that only you can provide.  To be patient at all times which is only possible through you God.  To have a peaceful home and live in the way that only you provide true peace.  To be faithful to you and to each other as you are ALWAYS faithful to us.  To show gentleness just as Jesus gave us the example of gentleness.  To always control ourselves, our emotions, our selfish tendencies, and our words with a strength that you can only provide.  Dear God use this room, our home, and our lives to make a difference.  I love you dear precious Heavenly Father and in your Son’s name Jesus I pray.  Amen

Our Life Really isn’t Ours for the Taking, but for the Giving (foster/adopt a child 1)

I have been debating on whether to write on this topic or not.  Due to privacy I am not really sure how much of this journey I will be able to openly share.  Realizing that my own struggles could very well be the struggles of someone else out there is the draw I have to write and share what God is doing in the life of our family and within my own heart.  The call to foster and/or adopt has been weighing on Mike and I for around six years now.  During this time I have picked up at least a dozen packets from various agencies I kept a lot of them for a while then finally pitched them.   I have questioned several people that have gone down the road of fostering/adopting and some who have adopted from other countries.  The cost of time and finances has been my largest road block.  The rest of the family has actually been open without hesitation the whole time.  It has been my own selfish struggle.

We now have the resource of an extra bedroom our kids have become older, more mature, and much easier as far as actual care.  In fact we are getting close to being “done” as far as parenting goes.  Though one is never really “done” when a parent.   A few years ago we actually were going to apply for a license to foster, but we couldn’t figure out how to even get the classes worked in with our busy schedule so I easily gave up.

Well the topic reared its head again.  The last few weeks everywhere I turned the topic of fostering children was coming up.  I literally was feeling like God was beating me over the head with it.  So much so a week ago Sunday I actually was arguing with God.  Yes, I love Jesus, I have surrendered my life to following Jesus, but unfortunately I am still just a sinner saved by grace.  I yelled at him “I keep asking you what I need to give up in my life and you are telling me to add another human being or beings?!?!?!”  “Lord I am so tired I don’t know how I can!!!”  Then we go to church that evening and our youth pastor’s sermon was on James 1:26-27 “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  The entire sermon brought tremendous conviction and was an answer to my ridiculous prayer/temper tantrum from earlier that day.   God’s answer was this…”You take this step of faith, trust me, I will provide what you need, it will cost you, but that’s ok because I am here and have a plan”.   Every reason I have not to foster children in need is purely selfish.

Needless to say we have started the process to be licensed.  Nothing will happen over night.  There will be ups and downs.  It will be a journey, but it’s not about us.  It is not about me.  My life is not my own.  I had to laugh that one truly does have to pay to be nice in this world.  Today I took a state form to my physicians office to have filled out stating that I am physically capable of caring for children.  There was a charge to have the form filled out.  I will be honest in saying that this caused a minor irritation in me, but a reminder that it does cost to do what is right.   In this life we can give all that we have or we can be takers.  One day when I meet God face to face will he see a life that gave everything?