The Sound of Angels Singing…

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We are a fostering family.  We’ve been licensed for a little over a year and have had two sets of brothers placed in our home.  The set that we have now is more long-term than the first set.

The two-year old came to us completely non-verbal.  He was described to us as “the most unruly child they (the caseworkers related to the case) had seen in their careers.”  Of course, they didn’t say that when they brought him to us, but four days later upon their check-up visit.  That night we were told the above and that now “he is a totally different child.”

We (my family) never experienced any of the behaviors that they described.  Other than him not speaking, he was a normal two-year old.  He followed directions well… he played… he was fine… because he was safe and loved.

We taught him a few words in sign language to take the pressure off of him to speak and so we could communicate, even if it was very minimal.  We’ve had them for three and a half months now.  He has started speaking, little by little.  About a week ago, he said “thank you” for the first time.  It was imperfect, but it sounded like angels singing to me.  Please, thank you, and more were the first words we worked on… they were also the ones he would never say.  Since he spoke “thank you,” it’s as if the barrier has been broken.  Just in the past week his vocabulary has blossomed.

This morning, on the way to daycare, I heard ” I won doe peas” while he pointed at the McDonald’s.  Translated, that is “I want go please.”  Y’all, that is four words put together in a sentence!  I got all emotional… still am.

We are not perfect parents and we do not have perfect kids.  We don’t have college degrees or exciting careers.  What we do have is the love of Christ in us that works through us.  God has taken an imperfect family of four to love on some kids, even if just for a short time.  And, God has shown me his work…He has shown His grace… He has shown His love.

Some people tell us how proud they are of what we are doing, only to follow it with “I could never do that.”  Sometimes, I want to shake them and say “WHY NOT?!”  There are countless numbers of children in the state systems that just need a safe place to be.  Some may get reunited with their families and some may not.  There’s not a perfect answer most times, but the issue is if not you, then who?  If we as Christians can’t take in the children, who will?  What example are we setting by denying care to the least of these?

Now, I know that some just aren’t physically able.  But most of the time, I hear “I can’t love them in my home just for them to leave.”  Y’all, people come in and out of our lives all the time.  All the time!  Sometimes good-byes hurt more than others, but you move on.  God opens a space for someone else to come in your life.  It doesn’t stop you from loving people.

So, I come to you with this… you don’t have to be perfect… you don’t have to have the biggest house with 47 rooms… you don’t have to have lots of money… what you do need is love… and a willingness to take a step.  God will work through you… and in the process He will show you miracles.

If you know me, I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about fostering.  If you don’t know me, find a foster parent and ask them questions.  If you don’t know any, call your local DCF office.  Don’t block God with excuses… let Him use you.

I will follow with… I you are not able to foster for whatever reason, you can still help.  Find a foster parent and help them.  You can always buy things for the children, or offer to babysit, or simply pray for the family and the children… while praying in simple, it is HUGE!

“The King will replay, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

Loving the Broken…

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One of the hardest things in life is to love someone that’s broken.  Maybe you have a friend or an acquaintance that God has sent your way that has been through something difficult.  What if it’s someone closer to you, like your parent, your spouse, or your child?

There are many ways to be broken, none of them are pretty.  Brokenness, even in objects, leaves jagged pieces that usually hurt when you touch them. The pieces can cut you, they can make you bleed.  But, what do you do when something is broken?  Do you leave it on the floor in pieces? Usually, no… you pick it up… and if it has enough value to you, you try to repair it.

We can’t “fix” broken people, only God can do that.  “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3  We are called to love, though.  This… this is life’s biggest challenge for me (that, and saying no to chocolate).  I want to fix it… I want to point out your brokenness so you can fix it.  I want to help heal you, but I can’t… that’s not my job.  My job is to love you… to show you Jesus’ love.  I fail… not all the time… but this isn’t about partial credit.

God has sent me some pretty hard-to-love people throughout my journey.  I’m sure that He has put us together for both of us to learn our own life lesson… but I can be hard-headed (shocking, I know).  I always say that if God puts you in a circumstance to learn a lesson, you better learn it the first time because He will keep teaching you until you get it.  He keeps teaching me to love more… to love when it’s not easy… and sometimes I fail.  All I can do is keep trying… but, pray to try correctly.

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record or wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Lesson of Contentment…

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This is a picture of me, my cousin, and my brother (left to right).  I’ve wanted to tell this story for so long and tried many times, but I couldn’t get past the emotion.  I’m going to rip off the band-aid today.

My cousin and I are a few weeks apart in age.  My granny kept both of us when we weren’t in school/pre-school.  We were raised together, almost like siblings.  I knew that he was different, but probably not the same way that an “outsider” might look at him and think he was different.  He can’t speak… can’t really feed himself… has to be taken to the bathroom… really can’t do very much on his own.  Yet, he taught me huge life lessons.

When we were little, my mom was a single parent.  I think my granny always tried to over-compensate for things I didn’t have.  So, birthdays and Christmases were like hitting the mother load.  One Christmas in particular, I was sitting on her living room floor.  I was around five or six.  Gifts were being passed out and my stack ended up surrounding me like a fortress of materialism.  I remember looking over at my cousin’s stack.  He had a few boxes, which I knew were clothes.  He had a new touch and feel cardboard book (because he had worn the last one down).  And, he had a plastic bag… the kind you get at the grocery store.  The best thing he had… was a huge smile.  He was so happy with that book and that bag.  I can’t even tell you.

I looked at my castle of presents and felt sadness.  I can’t tell you that I made a stand and told my family to donate it all to charity or anything, but that moment impacted me.  It impacted me so much that I am moved to tears 40 years later just thinking about it.

The lesson I learned, right there, was contentment.  We fill our lives up with so much stuff.  We must have the biggest, fastest, best, newest, most… and we must have it first.  We buy things we can’t afford to fill a space in ourselves that stuff will never fill.  You know what does fill that space?  Jesus, #1… #2 is relationships… people… friends… family.

Now, I’m not saying that all things are bad and I’m not advising you to purge your possessions.  I am saying that you should spend more investing in the people around you.  Become a better friend… hug a neck… send the card… love more…  I promise (and you can hold me to it) that your empty spaces will be filled.

Another important lesson I learned from my cousin is that God made each of us uniquely.  We are all different, but we each have something to give.  Even if you can’t communicate, you can teach… and even if you know everything, you can learn.  Open yourselves up to learn from those around you.  And, remember that you are teaching those around you, even if you don’t realize it.  What are they learning from you?

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

 

Experience Creation (Mission Trip Lesson #5)…

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Have you ever seen the beauty of God’s creation and it took your breath away?  Pictures never do spectacular views justice, but at least it serves as a reminder.  Our mission team visited the municipal building in Ojitlan.  We walked up a flight of stairs and were immediately struck by this view.  I couldn’t speak, tears rolled down my face.  I was so overcome with the beauty of it and with the gratitude of being allowed to see it… to feel it.

I haven’t traveled much in my life.  I’ve been more places than some people, I’m sure… but far less than others.  In life, we need to get out of our box and experience God’s creation.  He made the world, yet we confine ourselves to small areas and rarely see what He has done.  I know that there are many places in the world that we may not have the money or ability to see, but with some effort, there are many we can.

I knew that I was going to Mexico, but I didn’t know that we would see this volcano along the way…

I saw some of the most beautiful flowers…

I saw my son in a way that I don’t really get to see at home, in the daily grind.  I saw him as a young man who has listened to things we’ve tried to teach and of whom I am very proud…

I heard the laughter of some sweet friends.  Music to the soul…

You don’t have to go around the world to experience God’s creation.  You will see more of it if you do, but there is creation all around us.  Beautiful flowers, trees, butterflies, people, smiles, laughter.  The key is to see it, to experience it, to feel it. To know that God made all things and that we are gifted with the ability to live amongst it all.  Don’t take it for granted.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.  And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31

God Can Use Your Circumstance (Mission Trip Lesson #4)…

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About four years ago, our church adopted an “unreached people group” in Oaxaca, Mexico.  My understanding is that this is a group, among many, identified by the International Mission Board as never being reached by the Gospel.  The first team went to start our journey as a church to reach these people.

On their way through the mountains, the horrible roads caused two flat tires.  Now, let me explain that in the car were two, yes TWO, pregnant ladies!  Can you imagine?!  On a mountain highway… in a country where you don’t speak the language… two flat tires… two pregnant ladies… and no tire store.

The group of five had broken down in front of a house.  The ladies of the house invited some to stay there while the others went to the nearest city to get the tires fixed.  These ladies don’t have much, but they offered shade, bananas, and most important… hospitality.

Since then, our church has had many teams go to Mexico.  Just about every team that goes visits these ladies.  We now affectionately call them “the ladies by the river.”  Years have gone by.  Two of those first team members have followed God’s call and moved to Mexico to further our efforts to reach these people.  Garrett and Brittany live in Tuxtepec, Mexico with their two beautiful children (their youngest was born there).

From that first encounter until now (April, 2017) there have been six professions of faith and three baptisms from the ladies family!  Garrett & Brittany continue to visit the ladies by the river every two weeks.  They continue to disciple the ladies so that the ladies can disciple others.  All from two flat tires.  In my book, that would have been considered a bad… or at least scary day.  Instead, it became a story of salvation.

What’s the lesson here?  God will use your circumstance, if you let Him.  I don’t know what your circumstance is… maybe it’s a trial you are going through… maybe it’s just a chance encounter with someone… maybe it’s a flat tire… whatever it is, look around.  See what God has for you in that moment.  Be sensitive to your surroundings…

I encourage you to follow Garrett and Brittany through their journey.  Please pray for them as they follow God’s call to be missionaries in a foreign land.  No matter where you are reading this, you can be a part of reaching these people.  Visit their website to find out how you can give, go, and/or pray… The Knights of Mexico.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

Heart of Flesh (Mission Trip Lesson #3)…

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This is me, my son, and K2.  She is strong… she is brave.

I’ve heard from many people that have been on mission trips that you need to look out for the “God moments.”  I’ve also heard that you don’t know if the mission trip is for the people where you are going or for your own self.  I guess, a bit of both.  I tried so hard to be open to the new experiences.  I was told to “be flexible.”  Lord, I tried!

K2 and I have been friends for a while.  I am so thankful that God keeps putting us together more.  I love getting to know her more.  She is tough.  I can’t tell you what she does for a living, but I can tell you that she can take you out.  And, I don’t mean to dinner (although I’m sure she would!).  She is brave… she is hardcore… but she has one of the softest hearts I have ever witnessed.

Everywhere we went in the villages, she and her son were the first to break out a toy for a local child.  She was the first to offer to buy something at every store.  Me… I’m thinking save my money… I don’t really need that.  She was thinking (I’m guessing), I can help support these people’s businesses.  I might not need it that bad, but they might.  I learned to see a different side of money by watching her use it.  Don’t you love it when you are open to learning from others?

Anyway, if you know K2, you know that she gets emotional.  At first, it’s unexpected.  If you don’t know her, I can say that to pray with this woman is a true gift.  She pours her soul into every prayer.  She prays deep and true.  Some of the villagers that we prayed with didn’t understand a word she was saying, but they understood her heart.  What a gift!  I think that sometimes she gets self-conscious about how emotional that she is, but sister… let me tell you, we all should be that way.  When we totally “get” that we are sinners and that Christ gave His life for us so that we could spend eternity with him… that is something to get emotional about!  She “gets” it.

I like to think that I “get” it, too.  But, something about being with this heart of flesh for a week makes me think I could get it more.  She teaches me that you can tough and soft at the same time.  You can be strong and you can be broken.  Thank you sweet friend.

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 11:19

Lost Passport (Mission Trip Lesson #2)…

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This is me and my pastor’s wife (hereafter “K”).  We’ve been friends for years now.  She is artistic, I am task-oriented.  Sometimes, I keep her grounded… sometimes, she encourages me to step out of my box.

Our group had a perfect trip, but our trip home had some hiccups.  We, by the grace of God, made it on the plane out of Mexico.  We landed in Atlanta.  We were hurrying to get on our plane home.  The six of us came around the corner to the US Customs area.  My son and I were in the back of the group.  The others were scanning their passports.  I told my son to get out his passport.  His reply… “I don’t have it, I put it in your bag.”  Excuse me? What?!  “Son, it’s not in my bag!”  Him… “maybe I left it on the plane.”

That is when I lost my mind.  I sat on the floor, emptied my bag, and confirmed that I didn’t have his passport.  All kinds of things went through my mind… we can’t get back in the US without his passport… we will miss our next flight… how could he lose his passport and be so nonchalant about it?!  I sat there and cried… for about 15 seconds.  Then, God said to me “it will be ok, I’m here… get up.” Then, my military spouse self kicked in.  I told my son to go tell the others that we didn’t have his passport.  We all got together and I told them with truest sincerity to go catch the flight home.  My son and I could rent a car and drive home, if we had to.  I didn’t want them to miss the flight.  We’d be ok.  I’m used to being independent.  We were in America, so I was ok.

I reassured my friends that it was ok to go.  They went.  My son and I sat.  We waited for around 20 minutes, which seemed like eternity, for someone to go look on the plane for his passport.  I called my husband, texted my mom.  Then, my phone rang… it was K.  She said “I’m down in baggage claim.  The other mom went to try to catch the plane.  I am here waiting for you.  I am not leaving you.”

Y’all, even now typing those words has me teared up.  I am a military spouse.  I am beyond accustomed to being left, to handling it alone, to being the one that stays behind.  To hear someone say to me “I am not leaving you” was profound.  To have someone choose to stay, to pick me, to lose her ride home… there are no words. I don’t think I’ve had anyone say that to me before.

We ended up getting my son’s passport and getting reunited with K.  She was at a ticket counter trying her best to get us home.  The other mom (hereafter K2), had missed our last flight even with best efforts not to.  We were all stuck.  I watched K as she worked through every scenario to get us all home.  Normally, I am the “doer,” she is the “visionary.”  At that point, all I could do was sit and watch… my brain was fried… I was done.  I was so proud of her for taking care of all of us (I think she was even proud of herself).  I knew it was out of her comfort zone, but she rocked it! I couldn’t find words to tell her what that whole event meant to me and I’d probably cry like a baby if I tried.

Sometimes, we just need someone to be there… to say “I’m not leaving you.”  God is with us all the time and while sometimes we may be physically alone, He is with us.  I knew that God was with me.  He told me it would be ok and I believed that.  But, I can’t tell you what it meant to have this human tell me she was with me.

Do you know someone who is going through a hard time?  Call them, text them, tell them that you are with them… you are not leaving them… hold their hand… cry… just be there.  It means more than you know.

After note: In NO way am I throwing K2 under the bus.  She had a new foster baby to get home to and medical appointments to take her father to.  She is a rock star in her own right and my next blog is focused on the lesson I learned from her.

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6