Christian Family, Follower of Christ, Foster Family, Foster Life

You Are the Answer

IMG_1129

My heart is a big mix of emotions. My office today is our empty foster room. I’m not sure why I did this to myself except that I felt God leading me to lean into the ache of my heart. Not just for missing our girl. When you love a child for 16 months through their most significant seasons of development, it is such loss. And unfortunately, I am a psychologist so my mind tells my heart that she will have abandonment issues. And my heart cannot bear that burden. I must give her to Jesus again and again. Because if anyone knows that Jesus gives children much grace for the failures of parents, I do. He heals. Because He healed me. So I know there is hope for our girl. Because just like I had family stand in my gap, so does she. And my parents know that none of my words are in bitterness, but with the greatest gratitude for the work of Christ in both my life and theirs. It is my own story that has led me to stand in the gap. It is the circumstances of my childhood that fills my heart with compassion for these children.

My hurt is not only for her. And perhaps somehow for the childhood I did not have, which comes in unexpected waves of grief. But for every child who walks this same road. Who does not have what God knows they need. And for the selfish neglect of His church to stand in the gap. We cannot claim His name if we do not carry His heart. We have loved our own comfort and convenience more than Christ. And these kids have paid the price for our self-consumed lives. This is not His fault, it is ours. We cannot ask Him why these things happen to these kids. Here’s the thing. They have lost parents because we have not been in our communities leading them to Christ. And we have not come to their rescue to love them as Christ when their parents cannot.

There are so many myths about foster care. We cannot arrogantly look down on bio parents for their addictions and choices when we have not been there to help them out of their pit and walked with them towards Jesus. It is a myth that they can just get it together. We also cannot assume that entering foster care is the trauma because for these kids, being in the neglectful, abusive home is the trauma. We also cannot assume that entering the home of a stranger, even though it may be better and safer, is not terrifying. It is it’s own trauma. Another myth is that these are bad kids. No, they come from bad circumstances that have resulted in bad consequences and resulting behaviors, through no fault of their own. And the most damaging myth is that kids are resilient. They have the potential to be resilient, but resiliency requires relationship. I could nerd out on verbiage like ACE’s and the lasting adverse impact these children face. I will refrain. Here is what you need to know. Through safe, stable loving relationships, these children can have hope-filled futures. Your role re-wires their minds and brings healing to their hearts.  We want to see things black and white, but when it comes to the mess of sin, it is not. It is both and. It is trauma to stay in the chaos and it is trauma to leave the chaos. It is all trauma because it is all not God’s good and perfect design. These myths must stop being our excuses to excuse God’s expectation of us to enter their chaos. God does have an answer to this mess and it is us.

This is love, that we lay down our lives. We do not love Christ because we have not loved the least. We have kept these kids from coming to Christ because we have not been His hands and feet of safety and protection. We have not opened the doors of our homes. And He says it would be better for us to tie a millstone around our necks and drown in the sea. You see, we want to blame the parents. When we are the ones with Christ. Thus, our silence is the more sinful. Because we know what He has commanded. But we have settled for a self-righteous religion, foolishly believing that if we live our upstanding moral lives, then we are living obediently to our Savior. It doesn’t take much reading in the New Testament to learn that Jesus condemned such pride.

Church, we must repent of our sin. We will answer to Him. These kids are paying the price for our pride, this love of ourselves. We are our own idols. May I have the liberty to say, our own kids are our own idols. As if they have more value because they were born to us “good” people. Have we forgotten the gospel we claim to believe? That we were once just as lost and dead and wretched? The love of Christ leads to sacrifice, submission and surrender. Anything less is a false illusion and sin.

Start somewhere. First in your own heart. There is no productivity in comparison and pointing and blaming. If we each take personal responsibility in our sin of neglect, true change will begin to take place. Ask God where you have been selfish, ask Him to turn your heart towards Him, ask Him how He has called you to step out in obedience to serve these kids. Ask God to reframe your perception of fostering, from burdensome to beautiful. Yes it is certainly hard because these kids are from hard places, but you are seriously doing brain work! Then take the step of asking questions to those of us in the trenches, begin having conversations and praying with other believers about how you can join together and actually BE Christ. Then just do something. This isn’t just “my thing.” This is Jesus’ heart so it must be all of ours.

And let me end with some grace. I realize that much of our disobedience is simply due to a lack of awareness. That was us for years. But once we become aware, we are responsible. My heart is that all of us as Christ followers are without excuse. Further, our lack of willingness may also be due to lack of support. That is my second goal, that by bringing awareness, an army of support is forged. Lastly, know that God knows what you can and cannot do. There are seasons and how you are called now may look different than in another season. May I lovingly say, though, that obedience always requires sacrifice. So examine your heart to make sure you’re not confining your calling to what you think you “can” do. Christ followers have the singular calling to lay down our lives. As with us, God is currently moving our foster advocacy in a new direction that will actually allow us to better serve these kids in a greater capacity and is a better fit for this season of our family. He will ask you to step out in obedience in the way that YOU can best serve these kids, with your gifting and circumstances and even your own story. But it will all push you out of your comforts and require great sacrifice.

Christian Family, Easter, family, Follower of Christ, Holidays, Ministry

Easter Week Family Easter Basket

IMG_0043

When our children were younger, I began doing an Easter Week Easter Story Basket to  to help them better understand the events and meaning of this holiday that is the culmination of our faith. Nothing fancy, I just gathered objects from around the house to use for our basket and wrote out devotions for each day. It has been my intention for a couple of years now to get our Family Easter Week Devotion into a format to share. I finally made myself get it done this week! I made baskets with each object and a copy of the devotions for each family with children in our church.

My hope is that this tool helps your family more meaningfully experience Easter and gain a deeper gratitude for the sacrifice of Christ.

Here is the link to the download. Enjoy! Also, I finished this up with my two year old foster toddler in my lap, so if there are typos, please forgive! I am usually grammar police but I had to just be good with getting it done!

family easter basket devotions

Follower of Christ, Foster Life

I’m Not Wired for This

img_2661-e1551807220740.jpg

Here’s the thing. I’m not a sit down and play kind of mom. Read books? Yes, every night. Teach my kids how to do chores and responsibilities. That’s my jam. Play? I’ve never been that mom. Ever. A few minutes is about all I can do. My 3 bio’s were so close together in age that they were built-in play mates, so it was never really even noticed that mommy didn’t play much with them. But the reality of parenting a child from trauma is that their greatest need is constant closeness, attention and affection. And for me, that is absolutely draining. Big kids, WHERE ARE YOU??? I NEED YOU TO PLAY WITH HER!!! Here’s the other thing. I also prefer being alone. Seriously. My people know, stay out of my kitchen if I’m in there. If I’m getting ready in my bathroom, please for the love do not get in my space. Being around people for any length of time sucks the life out of me. Loud and crowd sends my senses spiraling. All I know is, my wiring is weird. I own it and embrace it. But it’s not necessarily a fit for being a foster mom. This past two years of fostering has forced me to do things out of my normal. It’s forced me to do things out of what fits my personality. And it’s fostered a deeper understanding of myself.

It’s taught me that the purpose of knowing how we are wired is not so much to narrowly define the space in which we are willing to operate. Because if what we do and how we do it is only within the limits of how we feel comfortable and what comes natural to us, then we’ve not really given God much room to use us in ways where only He can be glorified. I’ve always thought that understanding my personality was simply to guide me into the kind of career and activities and relationships that fit me. The thinking that obviously, God made me with this wiring so only these certain things and areas are mine to live. What these last two years of doing what’s so far outside of myself has taught me is that when God shoves me outside of the safe lines of my personality, it is the understanding of myself that informs me of how I will struggle and how I will be strong. It is self-awareness that informs me of what my self-care must be. Let me give you an example. My enneagram 5 self screams at me saying, MAKE THIS STOP. You see, parenting trauma is exhausting. And my personality type has very low emotional tolerance. It’s like the difference of an ocean and a dry river bank. Don’t you dare touch the few drops of water available to me. The greatest fear of my wiring is being depleted- you asking too much of me. So everything in me says, this child is asking too much of me. However, instead of me saying no to being her middle mom, I acknowledge the limits of myself. I realize what I have to do to self-care and must keenly be self-aware. I admit when I have simply met the max of what I can give and ask for help. What she needs and who I am simply do not match. But God has no yet released me from middle mothering her. So instead of saying, “oh this can’t be my calling,” I continue to say yes by leaning into Christ to be sufficient for me. I trust him to be my source because even though my well of emotional capacity is shallow, his is bottomless.

img_2664.jpg

We’ve misunderstood the purpose of all the personality things. Yes, I certainly believe it is wise, for example, to see that if we are introverted that an extroverted career may not be our best decision. But we cannot put such narrow limits on what God asks of us. We’ve actually used our wiring as boundary lines of how and where we are willing to serve God. But what about Moses? A man with a speech impediment called to speak before pharaoh. Gideon, the most unqualified match, called to be a mighty warrior.  God is going to ask you and me to do things that are entirely against who we are because He wants us to experience more deeply who He is. And He wants to use us in ways that can only He can receive the glory. So rather than placing limits on my obedience, as I am obedient, I begin acknowledging my personal, unique limits within the yes. Instead of placing restrictions on my obedience, I realize how my unique wiring will respond within the yes, how I will have to refuel and how I will have to rely on others. Rather than limiting our availability to God based on our ability, we are informed about ourselves for the purpose of knowing how we will need Christ to strengthen and sustain us as we do this thing that we literally do not have the capacity to do. “I could never do that” is almost like a dare with God. “Oh really? Let me show you just what I can do in and through you.” Saying yes to the things outside of ourselves is how we experience his limitlessness in our limitedness. It is how we experience his sufficiency in our insufficiency. It is how we learn to live dependent upon the depths of who he is rather than the boundaries of who we are.

And so last night, we bonded over baking. Because it’s more tolerable to me than playing. It’s like the balance, or maybe compromise, of my capacity and her need to be close and connected. And when we are done, I have to go be BY MYSELF for a few minutes to decompress. But for 30 minutes we measure and stir and pour and laugh and lick the spoon. Because what she needs matters more than me staying within my lines and limits.

img_2669.png

 

Follower of Christ

Social Media Wisdom for Christians

*This post was originally published in 2015 on my former blog. I personally needed the reminder.

Our social media culture has brought on an entirely new set of struggles and strife for Christians. Sadly, we look worse than the world most of the time, simply because of our social media interactions and reactions. We argue and fight with each other more than those who don’t know Christ. No wonder the world has no interest in our message. If Jesus has made no difference in how we live our lives then why would they have any need of Him? Follower of Christ, you can stand staunchly and even prove yourself right, but I’m afraid that looks far more like the Pharisees than Christ. When Jesus said to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, He meant social media too. We do not have the freedom to abandon our Christ-likeness on social media. The fruit of His spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control. When we get into social media soapboxes and rants and raves, we are loving ourselves more than Christ. And nothing about us is displaying His Spirit. I believe we have an incredible opportunity as Christians to display Christ to the world like never before through social media. But we are wasting it. Because we care more about being heard than proclaiming Christ. We act like victims and look for every way possible to get offended. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” No wonder they don’t know.  

God’s Word gives us wisdom, even for social media. Over the past few years, God has used the following verses to teach, convict and correct me when it comes to social media. I share out of love, not out of condemnation.

As much as it is up to me, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

Please. Stop fighting and arguing. If you take notice of Paul’s example, he was a master at engaging conversation and even speaking the truth without picking a fight. Facebook is no place to argue positions or to set each other straight. We spend so much time fighting each other. Do you realize that the lost can read your fight? And posting statuses? If you’re fighting with a friend, let’s just please stop the passive aggressive posting and learn some healthy conflict resolution skills. Further, if the world does something you don’t like, say make a red cup or pass a law, just pause before posting. Paul responded the way he did to those who opposed him because he was guided by the Holy Spirit. We would be wise to just pause and pray first. Ask God, would this be wise? Will this help or hurt the name of Christ? Do you realize that you have people who follow you whose only frame of reference of Christians is what you post. Their eternity matters so much more than my voice being heard. As for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we don’t have to fix them. If he or she posts something stupid let’s just stop trying to diffuse their stupid by creating our own. Pray for him or her. Out of love not self-righteousness.  Trust me, I know. It makes me cringe too when a Christian posts something that is just off the wall or mean. Or different than my opinion. I want to scream too. And I want to fix it because I don’t want those who don’t know Christ to think that is how all of us are. In reality though, if I do try to fix it, I honestly just make it worse. Maybe they don’t realize how it comes across. Maybe they had a moment of poor judgement. Maybe they have a perspective I need to consider. And yes they may be wrong. However. Let your life speak for itself. You are held accountable for you not them. God may lead you to graciously and lovingly send them a private message or have a face to face conversation to address it. And He may not. But public forum is not our place to resolve conflict with one another. In reality, it won’t fix the problem but create a bigger one. And others are watching. We are a witness to others of the love of Christ simply by how we interact with each other on media outlets.

Turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5:39)

Can I just say that if Jesus didn’t reply when falsely accused and walked to the cross, then I can keep my mouth shut. I can speak truth but do it in love. I can love my social media neighbor as myself. I do not have to get the last word. You do not have to prove your point. The way of Christ is to love others more than ourselves. That’s the truth of the gospel. While we were still sinners Christ died for us. Because He loved us more than himself. He chose death so that we could have life. Somehow we’ve abandoned that when it comes to social media. We love ourselves so much more. We would rather make our point than pray for the other person. We would rather be heard than to hear the other person. We look on “them” with contempt rather than compassion. We want to be right rather than to know they are right with God. We love ourselves more than we love our neighbors on social media. I’m not talking about wavering from the truth of God’s word. But nothing about our approach is like Christ. He saw people as sheep without a shepherd. Their posts and opinions show something deeper into their soul. If we would take our eyes off of ourselves and our hands off the keyboard, we might just see them as Christ does and be moved with compassion. God never separates truth and love. Why do we?

Whatever is true….think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Ladies, this is for us. Stop getting jealous. When you see “her” post that appears as though her life is perfect, think about what is true. Your life isn’t worse than hers. (Yes, that is a generality. I know there are always exceptions.) You don’t need to get franctic and try to fix your life to make it look like hers. Your husband may not have bought you that awesome thing that hers did for her, you may not have gone on her awesome vacation and you may not have made those adorable Pinterest gifts. Breath. It’s just ok. Does your husband faithfully provide for you? Does he show his love in the quiet mundane of life? Think about the truth and loveliness of that. When we dwell on “these things” it keeps our minds from places they don’t need to go. There was a time when I would post all of these family projects we would do. If I’m honest, I was probably posting out of insecurity I was dealing with and not even realizing it. I truly thought I was just sharing, not at all intending to brag. However, after a couple of other moms commenting on what a better mom I was than them ( I am so just not a better mom), I stopped with those posts. Because how I make her feel matters more than how I feel. And sweetie, your worth is so much more than the number of likes you get. Think about what is true-you are created and loved by God. That is the only opinion that matters. Stop dwelling on the approval of others. We have allowed social media to gauge the quality and value of our lives. Jesus has already determined that. Further, maybe we should use this verse as our rule of thumb when choosing whether or not to post something: Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell {post} on these things.

Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought. (Romans 12:3)

Do not be wise in your own opinion. (Proverbs 3:7; Isaiah 5:21)

Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:5)

One of  the blessings and curses of social media is that everyone has a right to an opinion.  The problem is that we all think our opinions are right. I think we need to go back to third grade and learn the difference between fact and opinion. As Christians, we need to follow the example of Christ. If He didn’t think more highly of Himself when He had every right, then I absolutely do not have the right to think that everything I think is right. We are so arrogant. We act as if we have it all figured out. We think our thoughts and opinions must be heard. As Christians we have become victims in our mindset. We get so easily offended and call it injustice. Blogs are one of those things that I love and I hate. There can be so much to learn from others. And believe me, I need all the help I can get. What I notice, though, is that blogs have become our source of wisdom and information. We let the blogger do our thinking for us. Even the good ones. Don’t let some blogger be the voice of God in your life. Read it and examine it and pray about it. And if you’re the writer or poster, please remember that there is so much pride in thinking that what I think is right. Can I just pause right here and ask you to internalize that rather than think of “that other Christian” who needs to hear that? Christian, none of us have anything figured out. If we did, He wouldn’t be God. Humility is the greatest sign of maturity in a Christian. So let’s just get over ourselves and how smart and enlightened and spiritual we think we are. Christ took on the form of a servant. Let’s start asking ourselves how social media can be used as a tool to serve God, not ourselves.

Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. (Colossians 3:17)

Let’s use the incredible opportunity of our time of being connected to the world for the glory of God. God placed us in this time and place for a purpose. He planned for us to live in this social media culture. What satan means for evil God means for good. Paul meant everything. As Christians in the 21st century, it means social media. We cannot rant and rave about how unjustly we are treated and our rights. First, because Christ never did. He says to expect to be hated. So can we just get over that? Secondly, if it’s not displaying Christ then it’s not glorifying Christ. The purpose for our lives is to bring Glory to God. Including social media. Instead of using it for your own personal platform, how about let’s try leveraging it for the glory of our good and gracious God?

Set your minds on things above. (Colossians 3:2)

We get so lost and caught up in life. Does proving your point on a post eternally matter? I do not like the super spiritual guilt driven posts, you know the ones: you better post this or you’re denying God. What about everything else I’m posting? What about my attitude and actions outside of that post? I can post all the “spiritual” posts I want but if the rest of my life and my posts are not matching up then there is a problem. If we do have a mind fixed on eternity, we will post out of love. Not out of anger or debate or proving our point, no matter how right we think we are. We will pause before we post. We will care more about people than positions and posts. We will see their soul not just their stance. There is so much more to life. Most of our social media problems would be resolved if we just lived this way. Eternally minded. One day, I’m going to be gathered around the throne of God most high. I want as many people there with me as possible. Really, that’s just all that matters.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to “stir one another to love and good deeds” not strife and conflict and contempt. Let us begin to use social media to encourage one another, to bring unity in our diversity of thought and most importantly to make much of our Savior.

Follower of Christ, Ministry

Wrestling With God

 

I wrote this five years ago. And I could rewrite this exact same reminder to myself and say, yes sister, it did get harder because this season is one of even more surrender and silence.

_____________________________________________________________________

A few weeks ago, it dawned on me that I’m beginning to personally understand what those whom I read about in God’s Word experience. Not at all to say that I’m some kind of a spiritual giant. No one is or ever was, really. It truthfully comes down to simple surrender or staying stuck. I’d like to stay stuck, much of the time. Surrender is painful. Painfully painful. But it’s the only way for His transformation to take place in my heart and life. After all, the very purpose for my existence is to Love Him and Live Him. So I choose to allow His work in my life. And as I do, I come to know Him the way that they did. That’s not always as glorious as it sounds. But I’m beginning to see that their stories are recorded, not for us to idolize them but to identify with them. God graciously gives us glimpses into His relationship with them for us to see the work He wants to do in our own lives.

This has been the most painful year of surrender I’ve ever experienced. And I’ve had some tough ones. Years where I’ve had to offer forgiveness that was unearned nor deserved. Years where I’ve had to move from victim to personal responsibility. Years where I’ve had to walk away from everything I had planned to start a life I never expected. Yes, there have been painful years of surrender. I’m almost scared that it might get even harder. It probably will. But one painful purging after another has taught me the reality of His perfect love casting out my fears. Even the fears of what He might ask of me next.

A few weeks ago, my Father and I were having our time together and a thought occurred to me. If I could summarize what this season of surrender has been, it would be the night Jacob and God wrestled. God walked away the winner. Jacob walked away, well, injured. But better.  Better because He had a personal encounter with God. An encounter that would strip him of his pride.  An encounter that would lead to a great nation.

I’m not really sure what the purpose is for my current season of surrender. But I feel like I’ve been in a year-long wrestle with God. I doubt it’s to form a nation. But it is to prepare me. Even though I have no idea what for because He is still silent. Have you even noticed that God didn’t tell Jacob anything? He just wrestled with him. I think just maybe Jacob walked away thinking, “What in the world was that for?!” That pretty much sums up my thoughts. I have no idea what purpose all of this surrendering and wrestling is about in my own life. Maybe it’s just getting rid of things in my heart that need to be put to death. Maybe it is preparing for something. God has been silent. He has given me no answers. Or clarity. Or anything. Just silence. And more wrestling. My survival mantra has become, one day at a time.

In all of this, people in my life whom I dearly love have been experiencing His silence, as well. They have been painfully patient for God to act on their behalf. To see Him move. To see His purpose. To see a miracle. To see something. To see anything. Yet, He is silent. Painfully silent. And I wake up each day, hoping that today is the day we get to see Him move. You know, how the Israelites must have felt and experienced that 400 years between the Old Testament and the New, waiting for the Messiah. Good grief, I hope it’s not a 400 year wait for us, too.

I want to panic. I really do. I’m a planner. Short term. Long term. That’s one of those areas Him and me have been wrestling about. He doesn’t think I need to make my own plans. I don’t like that. But I can’t panic. No matter how hard I try, there’s peace. Isn’t that almost annoying? But here I am, limping away, just like Jacob. I hurt. I do not understand. He wins and I trust. I trust because I’ve learned something from my past seasons of surrender. He is good. Always good. Even when He is silent. And even when He is silent, He is not still nor distant. I must choose to be still, but He is most certainly at work. I may be blind to it all but He is in complete control. That doesn’t always make me feel better. There are times that I just want to scream (ok, I do scream), “enough already!” Enough silence. I need to see something. Anything. I get tired. Weary. Worn. But I am certain that His silence is not His blindness. In fact, just as He created all things with complete power, authority and order, He is at work the exact same way in my own life. So I trust His silent work, because I know He is good. Always and completely good.