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

Know Your Neighbors…

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Photo Jul 06, 1 03 51 PMI am writing this post to do two things… 1. talk about what an awesome kid I have and 2. be transparent about my own short-comings.

The other day, my younger son was having a fit of rage.  To calm him down, I made him take a walk with me.  We walked to the end of my street and back.  My street is a cul-de-sac.  I don’t normally drive the part that we were walking.  The fact that I don’t walk is another story. 😉

Anyway, we passed a house that is a few down from our house and I noticed that the yard looked pretty bad.  I know that there is a lady that lives there and that her husband died a few years ago… possibly more years than I’m willing to acknowledge.  Sadly, I did not know her name and have only talked to her twice since we moved here ten years ago.  Once within a year of us moving here, she complained about my dog running around… the other, she complimented my flower bed as she was driving by.  It was that time that she told me that she was a master gardener and that my yard “looked good.”

Having that conversation filed away in my brain, it was bothersome at how bad her yard looked.  Something must be wrong… I am ashamed of myself for not recognizing sooner.  This lady has lived three houses down for TEN years.  I did not know her name… I knew that her husband had died, but never once checked on her… I was a poor neighbor and an even worse Christian.

I can think of some excuses as to my failure, but that’s all they are… excuses.  I failed.

But, here is where the story turns… that night, I called my older son in my room.  He has recently learned to cut grass and has been making money doing it.  I told him that I saw a yard down the street that looked pretty bad and that the lady was a widow.  “Son, the Bible teaches us to take care of widows.”  Without a blink, “ok, mom, I’ll mow her grass.”

The next day, he wanted me to go with him because he was nervous that she may come out and yell at him or something.  We didn’t know if she was home.  We didn’t knock.  He just started mowing.  About the same time, my husband came home.  I left him with my son because I had to run some errands.  When I got back, all three of my guys were at her house.  They were mowing, trimming trees and bushes, edging, and raking.  (Mind you, the youngest wasn’t thrilled about it, but he was helping.)

The lady had come out of her house.  She was out-of-sorts and kept telling them weird things, but she was over-joyed that they were there.  I walked down to see their progress.  I could not have been prouder of my husband and boys.  I saw a need (that I should have seen long before), but they were the ones tackling it.  I spoke with her and finally learned her name.  She just kept saying “thank you.”  She tried to shake my hand, but I hugged her instead.  While I was hugging her, she just cried… I hugged tighter.

Before and after...

Before and after…

Later, I asked my son how he felt about what he did… his twelve-year-old response… “good.”  How do I feel?  Well, I swell up with pride at knowing that, while I fail every day, I may have done something right in this parenting thing.

I’ve also realized that in order to love thy neighbor, we have to know them first.  We can’t just go through our daily routines, drive in our garages, and close the doors.  We may have to get a little nervous and knock on a door and introduce ourselves.  We may have to take a leap of faith.  In turn, we may be blessed by the people who are the other side of those doors…

“Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.” 1 Timothy 5:3

Last Night, I Cried…

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CryMy husband and I were talking last night while lying in bed.  A while into the conversation I started to cry.  I told him that I don’t think I had cried in two years (the time he was gone).  His response… “you didn’t miss me?”  My response… “I missed you!”

I explained to him that for the past two years I was afraid to cry for fear that I might not be able to stop.  I had to hold it together for my boys… for my family… for myself.  I couldn’t let the boys see me breakdown because they looked to me to be their strength.  So, I sucked it up, fought it, and held it in… until last night.

Like I feared, once the flood gates were broken, it took a while for the well to run dry.  I think I cried for a few hours.  It wasn’t a loud, sobbing cry, but more a lip quivering, crocodile tear cry.  I went through most of a box of tissue and lost more sleep than I needed to lose.  But I cried.

I cried for everyday in which I felt like I failed.  I cried for every harsh word that I spoke to my boys because I was so stressed.  I cried for every night that I begged God to bring my husband back home to his family and friends that love him dearly.  I cried for every thought of “will my marriage survive this?”  I cried for every hardship and temptation that I knew my husband was facing.  I cried for the gift of every friend that loved and encouraged me along the way.  I cried for every friend that showed up to support my boys.  I cried for each moment when I thought I could not go on, yet found a way.  I cried for knowing that God was with us all though every breath.  I cried for that happiness and relief that I felt when I finally had my arms around my husband.  I cried…

I know that there are plenty of people who looked at me as a pillar of strength.  I wasn’t.  I am just a girl who went through a trial.  I didn’t have any choice, but to get through each day the best I could.  I prayed our way through it and we came out ok.  Nothing has been perfect or even easy, but I’ve learned that good enough is good enough.

“a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” Ecclesiastes 3:4

Forgive…

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TrustIt’s been a while since I’ve written.  We had a busy summer.  Compared to previous summers, it went well.  I can say that because I wasn’t having a party the first day of school… like last year.

Now that school is back in session, our days are packed.  So much has been going on that I haven’t had time to write.

We’ve had some heart aches and disappointments lately.  We are still in the fight to bring my husband home.  God is working… I’m resting my faith in that.

There are a lot of things going on in our lives that are out of my control.  Lots of people making decisions that affect our family, and some of them have been hard to swallow.  I’ve been in prayer and ultimately, I know that God is in control.

I always have to remember that man is… well, human.  God is the only perfect being.  Man will fail us, even when they don’t set out to do so.  We can’t fully put our hope in each other, we must put our hope in God and God alone.

There are going to be people in our lives that disappoint us, lie to us, change their minds, hurt our feelings, and break our hearts.  I know that you’ve all experienced this… it’s hard.  What is harder is realizing that you have done the same to someone else at some point in your life.

The best thing we can do is accept that we are all human, we all make mistakes, and we all need forgiveness.  Through my prayers, I have allowed myself to forgive others of their imperfections and come to terms with my own.  Sometimes, it’s hard when it is friends or family that hurt us, but once we realize that we are all in the same boat, it becomes easier.

It is more important to have imperfect friends than no friends… cut each other some slack… forgive…

“God isn’t a mere man.  He can’t lie.  He isn’t a human being.  He doesn’t change his mind.  He speaks, and then he acts.  He makes a promise, and then he keeps it.”  Numbers 19:23

What Are You Waiting For?…

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29753_10150207814735008_722980007_12276545_927369_nThis picture is of my husband and his mother.  He traveled all the way from the US to Australia for his 40th birthday to meet her for the first time.  They both look full of joy in this picture.

My husband was born overseas while his dad was serving in the military.  Long story, but his dad came back to the states with him, without his mother.  So, my husband grew up knowing nothing about her other than her name and her South African nationality.  Once we were married, I searched for her for years to no avail.

One Sunday, while getting ready for church, I received a message on Facebook from his half-sister.  It was a total shock.  He never knew he had a sister… much less two!  He went to meet them for his 40th birthday.  I can’t explain it, but an emptiness in his heart was filled.  I wish I had shared that experience with him, but we couldn’t afford for all of us to make that journey.

The past few years, they’ve all kept in touch.  His mother has sent cards and gifts to the boys.  It’s been a great experience and a neat story to tell.

A few weeks ago, she was diagnosed with cancer.  Her prognosis was not good, she was given four weeks to live.  The family contacted the Red Cross and was able to get my husband off his ship and to Australia to be with her.  My husband knew that he could not help her, but just being there made a huge difference for all of them.

He’s called home a few times.  He said that he and his mom talked his first day there.  His words “it was good.”  Translated, that means he said everything he needed to say and she said everything she needed to say.  What a blessing it is to have time to say all the things that you never got to say before you die.  What a blessing to give one last hug, one last kiss… to hold hands for one last time.

My husband called and said that his mother passed away a few hours ago.  God’s timing is perfect.  If my husband wouldn’t have been deployed to Japan, we might not have been able to afford to get him there.  He made it there in time to see her in good spirits.  He’s only been there a few days, but will be able to stay for the funeral and time with his new-found family.  His mother waited until everyone made it to the hospital before she passed.  Again, God’s timing is perfect.

I hate that I am not able to be with him while he’s dealing with this loss, but I’m comforted knowing that he is not alone.  I am also so thankful that nothing was left unsaid.  It makes me wonder why we don’t say these things to our loved ones now?  Why do we think there will be time?  Only God know when we will leave this earth.  We may have time to say our last words, we may not.

I never met his mother, but her life and death has given me a desire to make sure that my family and friends know how much they mean to me.  I don’t want to wait until the end because I want to live with love, not just die with it.

Do you have something that you need to say to someone?  What are you waiting for?

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”‘ John 11:25-26

Mistakes…

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Have you ever made a mistake?  Of course you have!  We all have.  Some people skate through life with only minor mistakes while others of us make life-altering ones.

I certainly have made some bad choices in my life, but all of them have brought me to where I am.  And, where I am is okay.  I don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t taken the road less traveled.  I believe that God worked through my mistakes to bring me here… here to a wonderful husband, two healthy, all-go boys, a great church, loving family and the best friends a person could hope for.

Sometimes, in the darkest situations it’s hard to see how God is working in our lives.  It’s hard to learn the lessons He’s teaching us, especially if we aren’t trying.  I assure you that no matter what mistakes you have made or are making, God can handle them.  God forgives a repentant heart.  He can forgive you!  He will if you just ask.

The harder issue is can we forgive ourselves?  Let me tell you that you must forgive yourself.  God has washed it clean.  In His eyes, it is gone.  Maybe you need to seek forgiveness from a friend or loved one, but ultimately it’s between you and God.  Let God heal it, let others love you through it, learn the lesson, and let it go…

“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalms 103:2-5

“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” Psalms 103:10

 

Humbled…

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There are times in your life when God takes you by the hand and says, “it’s ok… you are loved… I am here with you.”  Today was one of those days for me.  Today is my birthday… 39th to be exact.  I figure I only have a few more good years left in me before I start falling apart.  At least, that’s what people tell me!

I know that I’ve said it before, but I am a part of an amazing church!  If you aren’t, I suggest that you find one!  The people at my church are truly my family.  I love my “real” family dearly, but the church family that God has provided me stands in the geographical gap that the military has placed in our lives.

I was trying to maintain a positive outlook for my birthday, but honestly didn’t have much hope.  My husband isn’t here to do all the birthday preparations and since the boys can’t mash the gas pedal and steer the truck at the same time, I didn’t figure I’d get a card from them either.  God had a different plan though.  God knew that I needed a little ray of sunshine amidst the strains of my daily life.  He provided!  I am truly humbled at the love and care that my friends and family have shown me the past few days, but especially today.

I don’t know how to express my gratitude to each of you that called, emailed, Facebook’ed, texted, said “happy birthday,” sent cards, gave gifts, and just spent time with me.  Life gets kind of tough here most days, but today was filled with sunshine.  I love you all more than you know.  My heart is humbled and filled with the love of Christ that shines through each one of you!  (Below are some birthday highlights.)

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29