Want to Know How to Lighten Your Load?

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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.”

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Do not Grow Weary in Doing Good

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The older I get the more I love to hike and the more reasons I have to love it!  Simply enjoying the outdoors, I can be “still” and listen to God the best, each hike is an accomplishment that no one can take from me, it is therapeutic, it is a great time to learn more about whoever is with me, it is great exercise, a goal is reached… I can go on and on.

Just a couple weeks ago my sixteen year old daughter was upset about our family’s hospitality being taken advantage of.  One of her statements was “I am tired of our family doing things to be nice and it always being taken advantage of!”  A few years back our now nineteen year old had a similar statement after witnessing me having to take some pretty rotten verbal abuse from a birth parent.  “Mom why was he so rude to you when all you have done is try to help?!”

My answer was and still remains the same.  Just because our kindness isn’t always well received, or we are taken advantage of, even if a thank you never comes, we are to never stop doing good.  When God calls you to something it doesn’t matter what human beings say or do.  If God has put it on our hearts to help someone He has a plan.  We don’t always get to see the bigger picture.  We have no idea what is going on with a person or another person’s heart.   Truth be told anything good that God has called us to is not really about us.  If our hearts our right it is all for God’s glory.  Every good deed He calls us to is sharing His love with a broken world.

Jesus healed ten lepers and only one returned to say thank you. Luke 17:11-19

It has taken fortysix years to be where I am in this and God is continuing to work on me.  Even when someone has a completely different lifestyle, beliefs, and views it is becoming more and more my prayer, “God show me how I can love this person the way you need me to!”   God help me be more aware of this hurting world around me even if the world tries to hurt me.   Help me to point to you, show love, show grace, show mercy, and not cast judgment.

If we have done what God has called us to do then that is it.  Let it go, shake off the negative, and trust that God is using our obedience for the good of His perfect plan!!

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Like hiking when my muscles are tired and my joints hurt the end result is worth it!  The result is always going to be worth it to continue doing good even when it seems useless.

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We had a Really Good Day

After another rough week of tough behavior God has given yet another glimmer of hope.  It always seems to be when I cry out that I really don’t know if I can keep on that God allows me to see into a glimpse of His eternal hope.  He gives me a little peek at His plan for a child that the world has beaten down and has broken.  There are times that our family feels completely alone trying to piece together some semblance of a happy life for this life that has been so shattered.

There are definitely three notable triggers of poorer behavior, red dye, processed refined sugars, and video games.  In my opinion the world would be a much better place had these things not been invented.  One thing I have noted is that the last two times I have stated that screen time is up (after preparing our child with the time and how long allowed on it) the computer was turned off without any attitude or fight.  Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!!!  No anger and attitude!!!  Thank you Jesus!!!  I had no clue how braced I am for the utter defiance with nearly every word I utter.

Today after church it was just the two youngest children and myself so we made a plan to have fun.  It was too beautiful of a day to waste cleaning and getting organized.  After explaining the plans in detail several times backward and forward we set out.  There was initial complaining that was very obviously coming out of a source of fear of the unknown in the child.  Simple explanations, a little of ignoring some comments, and giving choices seemed to be working and for one of the first times I saw genuine emotional regulation in this child.

Part of our outing involved a short hike up to a cross on a bluff in our town.  Hiking has become a significant gauge of emotions, trust, confidence, physical well being, and much more for our child.  The hike was made with minimal complaints, our kiddo actually had fun and wanted to take pictures.  A very significant change from our very first hike.  His physical condition is far far better with much more endurance.  There was next to no drama.  Our child heeded my warning of some poison ivy with no arguing and followed instruction in avoiding it.  On the way down some fear of slipping started to overwhelm, but our child admitted that it was fear being felt and asked to hold my hand tight.  A very significant sign that human relational attachment is finally happening for this little one who has been deprived of it for so long.  My hand was all the comfort needed to press on and complete the task.   After the walk he stated that he really didn’t want to do that part of the day again.  I asked what was it that he would not want to repeat.  This time he openly stated “I was scared”.  My response was “yes, but you did it”!!  “You overcame your fear”.  His reply was “no, I really didn’t”.   I stated that “Yes you did because anytime you are scared and still go on to complete your goal you overcame your fears!!” Overcoming fear doesn’t mean we don’t still feel the fear.  We just don’t let it stop us from doing what is right, completing our task, or achieving the goal!”

We went on to have lunch at a outside venue which brought about anxiety for our child who wanted to eat inside with airconditioning.  Without resistance he chose his food and talked to other people around us with respect.  Once again Thank YOU JESUS!!!  Sitting near us was a very well trained dog that the owner and the dog showed off her many tricks she could do.  With our child getting to give the commands.  Later I pointed out that an inside restaurant wouldn’t have allowed that smart dog inside so it was a neat surprise with eating somewhere outside.

Our child got to go apple picking for the first time ever again with minimal attitude and defiance.  Then played well on the playground with other kids after.

As he held my hand so tightly during our hike out of fear yet also out of trust in me I couldn’t help but be reminded of whose hand I am grabbing onto.  Our child has no idea now, but hopefully one day will realize how tightly I am holding on to the hand of Jesus.  Hopefully he will learn in time that I have fears.  We all have fears and there is  only One that will always be there for us.  As our child learns how to trust us and have a relationship with us.  As he learns what family means I pray God will soften his heart to realize that He has a Creator God that loves him so very much.  How very awesome that it was reaching the cross today that gave us hope in our situation that some days seems impossible.  It is truly the cross that my hope rests in.  The cross that Jesus died on to save me.  The cross where he conquered sin and death.  The cross He carried for me so that He can hold my hand through this life and on into eternity!!

As our family presses on I pray we have many many more days like this one.  Days where true connections and happy memories are made.  Days that bring healing!

Our pastor quoted this scripture today and brought tears to my eyes.  The Word of God is good at cutting us to our deepest core of emotion.  “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”  Matthew 10:42 

The greatest reward will be greeting this child in heaven one day because we just kept holding on to Jesus!!!

Just Look How Far You’ve Come

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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.”

 

 

Living Water

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Hiking has become one of my top all-time favorite pass times. Living smack in the middle of Midwest America there are very few challenging trails to embrace. The circumstance of our geographical surroundings leads me to plan as many vacations as I can around this love to hike and explore. It has to be balanced with what the children and my husband enjoy as well. My definition of fun is often very few others definition.
There is something about the anticipation of what will be around the next bend of the trail. The thrill of reaching the goal of the destination set to reach. God’s creation is photogenic as where ever one looks there is such beautiful artwork. There is pain that comes with these hikes. As I age the pains are becoming more plentiful, but that seems to add to the joy of reaching the final destination. Despite the pain in my right knee, despite the pain in my left hip, despite falling, despite pain in my lower back, and despite the fact that my feet now have their own heart beat I am here!!! The climb, the battle, the pain is all worth the views and discoveries.

There has been a particular hike in the Smokey Mountains that I have had my sights on for four years now. This past vacation there was time allotted for my husband and I to set out on this adventure I had been patiently waiting for. It was well worth the wait, the anticipation, and the four mile one way up a mountain trudge. The path followed closely alongside a bubbling mountain stream with the ultimate destination set for a beautiful one hundred foot waterfall. The entire trek was lined with moss and ferns growing in and out of everything. The beloved ecosystem literally houses hundreds of different species of plant life. There were trees that had to of been hundreds of years old along the trail. As we continued to place one foot in front of the other I kept thinking of Living water mentioned in scripture. Life thrives by this beautiful stream as it gives nourishment and the much needed water for these plants to survive.

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Life with Jesus and receiving the “living water” He teaches of and gives believers is what spiritual life, health, and growth requires. You see in a life with Jesus as our guide there is always anticipation of what will be around the next bend. There is anticipation of our final destination of His glory for eternity. Along the strenuous path there will be pain, struggles, and falls. Through the struggles there will be strength, endurance, and a beauty that will prevail as one continues to focus on Jesus and His purpose and plan.
John 7:38 “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
John 4:13-14 “Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

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Cling to the Rock

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One place that I can clearly say I feel the closest presence of God is in the mountains. There is a peace and tranquility unlike no other place for me. The size and majesty of the rocky slopes always seem to remind me of just how big God is and how very small I am. While Jesus walked the earth the mountains were also one of His favorite spots to pray. Luke 6:12 “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”

There is a love for the outdoors and the challenge of long hikes that has been instilled in me. I would have to give my father credit for these loves as going on hikes with my father is one of my all-time favorite memories of my childhood and of my “Dadders”. It is now something my husband and I love to do and actually is more of my idea of a date than flowers and an expensive restaurant.

The first hike we went on this year required a pretty tricky steep rock scramble at the end to reach the summit. My husband and oldest daughter scaled the rocky steep like there was nothing to it. The strength and agility they both have has always amazed me. Neither one of them are bulky looking muscle heads, but you do not want them to give you a friendly slug to the shoulder (OUCH!!). Our youngest daughter and our two teenage family friends who vacationed with us opted to stay at the bottom of the steep. Not quite sure how far I would make it I proceeded to see how far the old arms and legs would allow this gal to climb. As I hit the trickiest spot I said a prayer of thanks that the other girls had remained at the bottom. As each limb of mine was stretched in opposite directions to find ledges to cling to I was reminded that this rock was my safety. As long as I clung to the rock I would be safe. One false footing or slip of my hand I could easily plummet to my death and really put a damper on this vacation. Doing my best impersonation of a spider monkey I made it over the tough spot and stopped to rest and to determine if I should continue the climb or not. That spot took its toll on the old arms. Upper body strength has never been one of my “strong” points having slacked on my bench pressing and pushups the last forty one years. Continuing on I had gotten three quarters of the way up and my arms and legs started to do the fatigue shake. My husband and daughter started making their descent and voiced words of encouragement, but the trust of my own physical capabilities and strength was shattered by the tired muscle shakes. Not being a huge thrill seeking risk taker I decided to error on the side of caution and to make my way back down via doing a reverse spider monkey scooting on my rear end. Actually the fact that I could make it as far as I did was thrilling to me after the left side of my body had gone numb just a year and a half prior. During that time my walk resembled Lurch from The Addams Family. Spider monkey on a mountain was such a greater blessing of an impersonation than Lurching around our home.

The connection of my physical safety relying on the rock reminded me that my spiritual safety also relies completely on the Rock. I had to find strong foot holds to the rock, cling to the rock, hug the rock; there were times I just wanted to find a cleft in the rock to hold me. You see scripture describes Jesus as the Rock of our Salvation. From what I can conclude there are over fifty scripture references referring to God and Jesus (God in the flesh) as our rock, our stronghold, our fortress, and our salvation. Psalm 18:2 “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” There has been no greater safety I have found than clinging to God my Rock. In life it is so easy to slip into paths of destruction both physically and spiritually. As I continue the climb in this life I want nothing more than to cling to my God, my Jesus, my Lord, my Rock, and my Salvation!!!!
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It looked like I had so much farther to go when actually climbing. Looking at pictures I realize how close I had gotten. It was the camera hooked to the bra strap that was the problem….yeah that was it!! Ha Ha!!