Wednesday, December 3, 2014

5 Things I Learned During Foster Parent Training

How you look at things determines what you see
I just want to say thank you to all the people who have supported us through prayer, babysitting, listening and training during these last 10 weeks.  We survived, we thrived, we whined (maybe just a little), we learned.  Now granted we learned much more than five things during all this and really this class would be good for all parents especially those parenting kids from hard places.  I will go on record to say that the training required for an international adoption is inadequate at the very least and insufficient at preparing parents for bringing a child home.  This does not mean to say that what we received these last 3 months was perfect or exhaustive, but very certainly a good start in preparing someone for the arduous yet significant task ahead.  So in no specific order here are at least 5 things I have learned:

Kids Need Compassion  My kids, your kids, the kids down the street, the brat you hear screaming at the toy store, the relentless 3 year old rolling on the floor having a fit.  They all need compassion.  Sometimes it is the last thing you want to offer.  Bad behavior or choices maybe has led to some  uncomfortable consequence or emotions and yet the kids God has given us need to know there is grace for them and that despite the situation we love them.  When we fall to our knees before God do we want to hear a scolding or do we want the arms of grace to surround us with compassion?  The gentle instruction will be much more warmly received after that and probably better delivered too.  With what measure of compassion does God give to us?  And what of that do we as a parents offer to our kids?  I think of the servant forgiven of his debt by his master who then was unwilling to forgive the very small debt owed him in Matthew Chapter 18: 21-35.  View that in light of us and our kids.  We often see that parable in regards to others outside our family or more for adults, but what about parents and kids?  It's a perfect fit.

Good/Right Behavior is NOT the Primary Goal in Parenting  This has been my goal for 10 years worth of parenting.  It may not have been a conscious one, though through my words and actions it has made it's way to the top of the list.  I get embarrassed when my kids misbehave in public because I take it as a direct reflection of my ability to parent.  When my children disobey at home I take it as a direct assault on my authority in the house.  The chaos of unruly boys and fighting brothers is too much to bear some days and I just want them to be good.  At first glance these all seem like nice, reasonable thoughts yet they fall short of the real task at hand in raising children.  It is to nurture and grow the seed of faith God has planted in the hearts of our children.  We want them to know the love of a Savior and the love of a family.  In time they learn to read, write, create and maybe obey, but not because they are made to, but because they learn right and wrong by your patient words and diligent teaching of truth.  A child will begin to trust your guiding when he has learned that he is safe, valued and heard.  If you are only an authoritarian you are only obeyed because you are feared.  I want my children to trust me because I am the first connection they have to God.

I'm Not Ready  About 4 weeks into our classes I realized I was in over my head.  And even now I am completely overwhelmed.  The subject of why kids end up in care is deep and it is real.  The burdens they carry are great and the needs they have are huge.  What I did not realize was how much these scenarios we covered were going to bring up hurts from my own past.  I wish that I could say I have moved on and that I've overcome them, but I have not.  That pain is still real and deep in my heart and unless I have come to a place of healing I cannot help a child walk that path of healing.  One other weighty thing that has come up is that I probably have ADD and that at least one of our boys does too.  Many children in the foster care system have been diagnosed with it and so therefore we learned a lot about it in our training.  As we were going down the list of symptoms Chris and I turned to each other and said, "oh my gosh!  That's ****!"  Then as I dug a little deeper on my own I began to put the pieces together for myself.  I don't really know where to go from this place, but I know that God wanted us to take this training for several reasons and hopefully one of those in the right time will be to welcome more children into our home.

Kids Are People Too  Have you noticed that kids have ideas, thoughts and feelings that are entirely their own?  Sometimes as if they are totally different little persons from you altogether!  My kids feelings matter.  Your kids ideas matter.  Their thoughts and opinions matter.  Now granted they will rarely display these at a convenient time or place during your already hectic day or in a fashion most pleasing.  But they will want to be heard.  In time a child can either learn that they matter or worse yet think they don't.  It may come in a small package, but all the things that come together by the hand of God to make you unique also comes together by the very same God to dwell in the heart of your child.

It Takes a Village  I can't do this alone.  Even with an awesome husband, which I am blessed to have we cannot expect that this monumental task of parenting can be done in a bubble.  I pray you have a church that stands beside you.  Seek out a friend who will partner with you in prayer.  Meet regularly with other people to pour over God's word.  Pick up the phone and call someone in that moment of utter chaos who can speak words of life and peace to you.  We were made for community.  I think I have said that before and I'll say it again.  We need each other.  Maybe your that other person.  See someone downcast or someone who could use a hand or encouraging word?  Be that for them when they don't have the courage to ask or even know where to turn.  In the Foster care system it takes a village of social workers, foster families, school teachers, judges, birth families and many more.  Be part of the village somehow.

With love,

Friday, October 31, 2014

Making Time To Make Memories: A Photo Update

An afternoon Sunday hike

Big brother

Growing and getting stronger

Day at the Dulles Plane Pull with Daddy

Now that's a serious snow plow

Turning 10

Wings and Wheels

Fall Festival with our church

Turning 6

Exploring DC

Photo extravaganza in DC

My Boys

Standing Strong

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

More Than a Bunch of Teddy Bears

In this picture you might see a crazy women who has a goodwill addiction or if you think like my kids, a pile of ammo for a stuffed animal fight or maybe you see what I see, HOPE.  I see the kids who will at some point come into our home and need care, love and lots of grace.  You see Chris and I are 2 weeks into a 10 week training course to become foster parents in our county.  These bears are part of my "nesting".  I won't have a child growing in my belly and we won't be doing adoption paperwork, but our family will be growing.  We will welcome kids into our home that are hurting, neglected, confused, angry, and maybe without hope.

I am very thankful for the training we are receiving and from the conference we attended in DC by Show Hope called The Empowered to Connect Conference.  Little by little we are growing our tool belt of knowledge and resources to care for kids from hard places.  My moms group at church will be using the Bible study that goes along with the book The Connected Child by Karen Purvis.  What I'm trying to say is that we are not alone.  We have others who stand shoulder to shoulder with us in this, praying, babysitting, listening and learning.  Granted this has already felt daunting.  The information is overwhelming and the task just a bit scary, but...

"The helpless entrusts himself to You; You are a helper of the fatherless.  
Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their hearts. 
 You will listen carefully 
doing justice for the fatherless and the oppressed 
so that men of the earth may terrify them no more." 
 Psalm 10:14b,17-18

Maybe it's just a bear.  Or maybe it says, "this is mine, someone cares for me and I will always have a room to put it in" even if that home is mine or that someone is me I can always find more bears for each of the children that God brings my way.

Please pray for us and our family as we prepare to open our home to more children in 2015.

With love,

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Raising Godly Men

As a mom of four boys we are on a mission in our house to raise godly men and to teach our boys that there are indeed differences between males and females.  We have each been given different roles and gifts within a family and community.  Daddy is the head of our household, the leader, final decision maker and bread winner.  I am the homeschool teacher, boo boo kisser, cook and the bill payer.  Now this is certainly not an exhaustive list; my husband and I do share a great many duties, but we believe the Bible has given us a template to follow.  It helps us to understand where we each fit in and how to use our gifts to best support the family and to fulfill the purposes and callings to which God has put us.

Natural born leader:  Adam being the first man was given the duty to name all the creatures,  care for creation and to create.

Suitable helper:  Eve was created to be the perfect counterpart to her husband Adam.  She was not  made to follow him around and clean up after him, but to partner with him in his duties of care and creating.

 Now unfortunately due to sin these roles have been all screwed up.  Men are raised without courage. Women are power hungry.  Families are torn apart by divorce.  Single parents struggle to fill the role of both mother and father.  Women do not have strong men to lead their families.  And so many men either are too aggressive or not even truly present for their families.  Women all too quickly step in and take charge, never giving husbands a chance. We are not connected to each other as husband and wife and we don't get our roles.  But Titus chapter 2 gives us a window into how it should go.  I encourage you to check it out.

"In the same way, encourage the young men to be self-controlled in everything.  
Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. 
 Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, 
so that the opponent will be ashamed, having nothing bad to say about us."  
Titus 2: 6-8

We are hoping to stop this cycle with strong biblical teaching, example and a whole lot of prayer!  Last year we taught a Bible class written by John Piper based on his book What's the Difference and let me tell you that raised a lot of eye brows.  We talked about submission, leadership in the church and how we fit into all that.  One other book I highly recommend is Wild at Heart by John Eldridge, a must read for all men and any women with a husband or sons.  My goal today is not to spell it out for you, but my hope is that at least today it will peak your interest and just maybe you will dive into scripture and see what it has to say.

The other day I had proof that maybe we were getting through to at least one of our boys.  Levi and I are just starting our Kindergarten year together and we needed to review letter names and identify things that were created by God or man made.  In the interest of time I figured out a way to combine the activities.  Each letter was on a puzzle piece that corresponded with a brightly colored picture starting with that letter.  We made our way through the pieces matching A and apple then shouting God created.  And so it went.  B and ball, man made.  C and cat, God created.   Then we got to J. Jam.  Levi just nonchalantly says, "women made." moves onto K.  The end.  To him that was a logical answer.  I laughed hysterically, high-fived him and immediately called my husband.  I love my job!

With love,


Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Story My History

My dad is a pastor which makes me an infamous PK or pastor's kid made famous by movies like Footloose and A Walk to Remember.  Now I might not have been as wild as Ariel Moore or as docile as Jamie Sullivan, but I did have a wild streak and a high school sweetheart.  I grew up in church; literally in the church building spending my summers as a little kid raiding the kitchen for Little Debbie snacks, pretending to teach school in the Sunday school rooms and eating the elbow macaroni meant for crafts.  My brother and I spent a lot of time with my dad at the church and in the homes of several older ladies of the different congregations.  I went on home communions, nursing home visits and everything in between.  Weddings and funerals were a part of life and I got to be a part of the ministry.  When it snowed we walked to the church and shoveled the parking lot.  At Thanksgiving time I helped my dad prepare 10 or more turkeys for a church dinner.  And so it went as a PK, but it wasn't that simple, because you see I had a mom who wasn't around much and when she was life was hard.  She suffered from mental health issues ranging from depression to what we would later learn to be Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).  Normal would never be a word I would use to describe my growing up years, but I have always had Christ.  Through the teaching and witness of my dad and others in the church my faith grew and grew and truly was what sustained me.  Even when nothing seemed to be consistent, God stood firm never changing and always faithful to His promises.

But He said to me,
 "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." 
 Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ's power may reside in me.  
2Corinthians 12:9

Over the years we moved a lot, each time I remember secretly hoping for a chance to start over, but scared at the same time.  Maybe this time I wouldn't be the fat kid.  Maybe at this school making friends wouldn't be so hard.  And the last move leading into my junior year of high school I thought my life was over leaving behind a boyfriend, friends, track and cheerleading teams, but also the baggage of a life that didn't totally honor God.  Being a big fish in a little pond has always been my preference, but that isn't what I got.  Home was still a mess, however I did get to start my first real job and it was right alongside my dad!  He served as Director of the Lutheran Mission in Cambridge, MD and I was well.........the janitor.  As it turns out he was able to expand my duties and I got to help with sorting clothes, stocking the food pantry and waiting on customers.  Thrift shops are an indulgence of mine that I am not ashamed. To have the chance to work at one that also shared the love of Jesus and helped those in need was super cool!

Now before my short story gets too long let me introduce the new leading man in our story, my husband Chris whom I met at the new school and was lucky enough to date.  He must have hit his head or something because he was crazy enough to want to marry me, warts, scars and battle wounds.  He accepted it all, all of me, every broken part, even the Jesus girl in me.  He didn't get it yet, but he loved me!

With marriage and a new career as a Marine we were now faced with a whole new set of circumstances to trust God and to see his working in our lives.  This time was different though.  Never before had I needed to find my own church, but we had a lot of things to be new at like being married, looking for work, how to spend money and how to be grown-ups.  God used that time in Hawaii.....Oh did I forget to mention that was where Chris was sent for his first duty station?  It wasn't exactly paradise at first.  I felt very lost there and very much alone.  I had gone from being a daughter to the wife of a Marine all in the same year I graduated high school in, and then moved to an island in the middle of the Pacific. 

In those 4 years, at the church God eventually led us to our eyes were opened to a totally different way of doing church.  Small group ministry was the method by which almost all of the work of the church was done.  Most members were involved in a weekly small group.  They got together in peoples homes to eat, fellowship and share in the Word.  Prayer supported this whole endeavor and accountability to each other made growing my faith a team effort.  I was no longer alone.  I began to grow in my confidence of who God made me and my husband began to attend church with me and he was even coming to small group.  It was here that we witnessed the life changing power of God's word.  With the support of leaders in our church and our small group Chris accepted Christ and was baptized.   

We are back in the Mainland now, with 4 kids and ever changing circumstances.  VA has been our home for almost 10 years, certainly a record for this PK!  I have no idea what the next few years will hold.  I don't even know what the next month will bring, but small group is on the horizon again for our new church and I can't wait to see how God uses that in the next chapter of my story.

The years after we left Hawaii were filled with many trials.  I suffered miscarriages,  Chris was traveling more than he was home and I lost my mom.  In all of this one thing has remained, God's steadfast love for me.  From the time I was a little kid, to the lost young women in Hawaii, to the scared new mom in VA, God has been faithful to me.

Because of the Lord's faithful love we do not perish, 
for His mercies never end. 
 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!  
I say:  The Lord is my portion, 
therefore I will put my hope in Him. 
 Lamentations 3:22-24

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

True Love

Now I hope that by my title you are not hoping for a wonderfully romantic post about my amazing husband and our perfectly delightful marriage and tips on how to make yours as such.  One of these days maybe I'll take some time to write about just how much God has blessed us in this gift of sharing life together in marriage, but not today.  Today I know deep in my heart God is attempting to stretch my ability to care more deeply and more His way for my children.

Our son Toby has been home over a year and a half now and yet I struggle regularly to feel affection for him.  It has not come easy and probably will not happen anytime soon especially if I keep doing love my way.  In 1Corinthians chapter 13 Paul is writing to the church in Corinth about how to love each other.  They were apparently struggling to do that and given the tension we find in families and churches alike in our own day, it is not hard to imagine what they were going through.  We share different gifts, different strengths and certainly different weaknesses as a church and as a family.  Sometimes those can work in syn or as a compliment to each other or they can rub you raw.  The secret ingredient to all the parts working together is the one thing Paul describes as the only lasting thing, love.

"Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love." 1Cor. 13:13

My Holman Christian Standard Bible puts it this way "Of faith, hope, and love, love is greatest because it continues into the next age.  Both faith and hope will be fulfilled in eternity, and so will not remain."  and thus we can understand why it is of greatest importance to us to live out now.  What we practice now with love will be lived out for all time in Heaven, but thankfully on the other side of a sinful world.

The love I am living out is reflecting a poor image of true love.  I started thinking about how I am the if's in the beginning of Chapter 13.

I love to talk and offer an encouraging word.
I love to sing and lift my voice in worship.
I have a great big faith that believes big things.
I love to be generous in sharing.

But if I do all these things without love I am NOTHING.

Many of these things, if not all I have done in love and with love, BUT my love has found many limits.  I pick and choose where and whom I love.  Can you relate to doing things on your terms?

As I read through this chapter today I use it as a guide for confession time, a way to acknowledge my shortcomings and to seek the perfect image of true love, My Savior and My Redeemer.
Love is patient

Love is kind
Love is not selfish

Love does not keep a record of wrong

Love hopes all things

Set aside some time today to work through the passage.  Make your own list.  Confess.  Seek Him who is perfect in love.  Pray for strength to love more deeply and to go where He leads you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Got a Testimony? A Story From a Mission Trip To Haiti

Every summer our church sends out several mission teams; some are within the United States and the other is either to Kenya or Haiti.  With the return of these trips many stories are shared with the congregation to tell about praises, experiences, struggles and the working of God's hand in these many places.  When we share what God is doing in our life and in the life of His Church around the world we grow closer to one another and to the love of Christ for His people.  Your testimony is  a powerful thing.  It is unique to you.  No one else will have your same story.  You have a distinct message to share with others.  Here is one man's story of his trip to Haiti.

Worship was amazing.  Worshiping with a group of people from a totally different culture on a small island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean really made me feel small.  It made me realize just how large the Church is.  There are people all over the world worshiping God and it was very humbling.  The thing that really hit me was the sincerity of the worship.  According to our standards, most of these people did not have much.  We too often praise God for all the things we have or the things we get, but the Haitians I met praised God just because He is God.  I didn’t understand a word of the 2 plus hours of worship Tuesday evening, but it was the most powerful worship experiences I have ever had.

I am not sure if I really made a difference in anyone’s life.  I’m not sure exactly why God wanted me to go, but I do know that He really wanted to teach me about dealing with fear.  I have a very, very real fear of flying.  The kind of fear that will grip you and take over all thoughts.  When my daughter and I decided to go to Haiti, I knew the flying would be the most difficult part for me.  I kept putting off thinking about it, but as we got closer to the date, my fear became almost crippling.  I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to go through with it.  Everyone tried to help, but I couldn’t put this fear to rest.   I looked to scripture and started to focus on Philippians 4:13

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

 I thought of our Pastor's recent sermon when Jesus asked a man if he was willing to be healed (John 5:1-14).  Pastor then looked at the congregation and asked if we were willing to be healed, are we willing to surrender all, no matter what the cost?  I determined I was!  

 As we got to the airport, I opened my passport and noticed my wife had written me a note and it ended with Philippians 4:13

 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”   

Later, waiting for the plane, I saw an armband on another team member's wrist which said,

 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 

 This may sound odd to some of you, but as I sat, waiting to take off on the airplane, praying for strength and courage, something happened that I am convinced was God letting me know all was going to be okay.  I have a passion for working with people with Intellectual Disabilities.  I looked up from praying and in front of me, a young boy looked back from his seat.  He had Down Syndrome and I knew God was providing the comfort I so desperately needed.  He knew exactly what would bring joy to my heart in that moment.  The boy didn’t say a word, but he truly encouraged me. 

 I made it through the flights.  My poor daughter probably had bruises on her hands from my grip as we were taking off .  How many times does Jesus tell us not to fear?  How many times do we read it in scripture?  I really think God wanted me to surrender all of me…to rely on His strength and to not let fear rule me.  If fear had kept me from going, I would have missed out on a truly remarkable experience.  I would have missed a wonderful and powerful week.   

Too often I have let fear run my life.  Whether it be fear of dying or fear of failing, or fear of what others may think, I now know that I can rely on God to get me through it.  When I got home I went running with a good friend.  We had discussed my fear of flying and he was praying for me.  He had a gift for me.  He had gotten me a running shirt, and you’ll never guess what it said on the back?

 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

  Each of us has a story to tell and I think it is safe to say that God worked in each of our hearts during that week.

I am thankful for friends like this at church and in my community who are bold enough to show the world their imperfect selves so that our Perfect Savior Jesus Christ is made know through them.

"You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 
 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. 
 Instead they put in on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 
 In the same way, let your light shine before men, 
that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."  
Matthew 5:14-16
View from our front steps of God's handiwork

With love,

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Upside of Anti-Busy

 Our family has a camper because tent camping no longer suited our family size or this mommas idea of fun anymore.  We have tried since we got it to find at least one new destination each year to try.  Two years ago during our adoption of Toby we needed a little break from the busy of the adoption process and college classes so we retreated into the mountains of Virginia.  That park, Douthat State Park has proved to be one of our favorites nestled in the Allegheny Highlands and one of the original Conservation Corps VA State Parks.

It wasn't until we were at the local grocery store and only grocery store I might add that we realized we are from the "city".  The girl who waited on us asked where we were from because we clearly didn't look familiar and when we told her she said, "ooooh your from the city."  To my surprise I nodded, "ya I guess we are are." This of course got me thinking about all the differences between where we live and where we were spending this wonderful week.

We come from the land of traffic, lots of traffic and it is not uncommon to spend hours of everyday in your car.  Many families have both parents working and children in daycare.  Homes are large, payments are high and the list of activities to be involved in is endless.  We have a plethora of stores and restaurants to choose from and countless ways to spend that paycheck the tired commuter worked so hard to earn.  Now these might not all sound like bad things and I'm not condemning those who live this life.  In our area it just seems to be a way of life and it does come with it's own set of benefits.  For instance when we needed to get ready for camping we ran by the local bike shop, Batteries Plus, NTB and then Chik-fil-A for dinner all in the span of 1.5 hours completing our errands as easy as that!

The large downside to this is that people are pulled in a million directions and the drive to keep up is exhausting.  There are summer camps and fall sports, followed by piano lessons and meetings with the PTA, garden club, Karate lessons, play dates, Norwex and Thirty-One parties, after school care, swim meets and ballet practice.  I'm exhausted just reading the list and I know I might catch flack from local friends, but the truth is we are too busy.

While in that tiny town in the mountains I watched people talk to each other.  Cell phones stayed in purses and pockets.  And all of the sudden the busy we find ourselves tangled in didn't seem so appealing.

As a general rule I am anit-busy.  This does not mean to imply that I think others like being busy, they just are and don't get me wrong, I am busy too.  I am busy with child raising, laundry doing, food buying, meal cooking, homeschooling, friendship making and marriage building.  BUT my calendar is not full.

You can call me just about anytime and I'm free for a chat.  If you stop by my house you are welcome to let your kids out of the car and run wild with mine.  We can sit and have coffee or some good old southern sweet tea.  This may mean that my lesson plans for school will have to wait till the afternoon or that all that laundry in my room will remain in a heap and that perhaps instead of the fancy (LOL) meal I had planned for later, we'll just have something simple. 

"Make Your ways known to me, LORD; teach me Your paths.  
Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; 
I wait for You all day long."
Psalm 25:4-5

I will admit that my anti-busy was at first forced upon me by little ones and budgetary limits, but I will also tell you that many times I have thanked God for this very thing!  He has shown me the blessing of slowing down, of making time and of having the space in my schedule to breath Him in.  When we are so busy not only do we shut out others like family, friends and possibly spouses, but we tend to not have time for God either.  Today I pray that He may open your eyes to the blessings of being still before Him and that He give you the courage to step out of the rat race of "city" life with me.

What do ya say?  How 'bout a trip to the country?

With love,

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chosen By God and the Battle That Ensues

In our discussion today about prayer these were Levi's thoughts.....

Me:  Does God always answer our prayers exactly how we think?  When we started our adoption I asked God for a little girl.

Levi:  I'm glad God gave us a boy because I'm a HE-Man women hater!

Family:  *Hysterical laughter*

I appreciate these moments of honesty and humor in my day because though my writing may give you the impression that I am a very serious person, I am NOT.  I am sarcastic and funny and striving to never be too serious UNLESS the situation calls for it.   With that said I find my thoughts are awfully serious lately and that the lightheartedness in my spirit is just not there.

Our struggles with our "little answer to prayer" are many and they are real and they call for serious action.  Mostly I need to pray, but often I fret.  I need to be loving, but I am unkind and harsh.  I need to be forgiving, but I am reluctant.

On the outside looking in our adopted son Toby is doing quite well and he seems adjusted to family life.  Then we go and do something out of the ordinary like go camping or have a sleepover with friends or go out for dinner or school ends for the year and all normal is thrown out the window.  After reading this blog post about a heart of stone I felt a little less crazy.  We are not alone in this struggle and perhaps the things I thought were the real struggle are only symptoms to the REAL struggle.

Unlike the blog post I mentioned no vision has been cast for what future lays ahead for my son.  He may not be destined to be a speaker to nations or even to a small crowd.  This does not change the truth that God has called him to be his own.  I can be bold in making this claim because God choose our family to adopt him.  God choose a flawed, but saved family to adopt Toby therefore I make the bold claim that Toby too has been chosen by God to be HIS child.

Now this is what the LORD says-the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine." Isaiah 43:1

It is this truth that stands at odds with what the Liar of all Liars (John 8:44) would want to happen.  He is a destroyer of families, a liar and the lord of death.  His name is Satan and he has no claim on my son, but this does not stop him from trying.  A battle is going on for the heart of my son.  If he is given the opportunity to lie or tell the truth he will more than likely lie.  If he has to obey or disobey, he will likely disobey.  You may be thinking that is not all too different than your child and that may be true.  I can see a difference in my other children's disobedience.  I have one who is stubborn and determined that he is right no matter what I have said.  I have one who lacks self control and therefore struggles to obey.  I have one who is 3(enough said).  He is a blog post to himself!  Then there is Toby he seems to not even understand himself why he lies or why he will not listen.  He beats his fists against his forehead and clenches his eyes shut and will not tell me why.  He chooses to be by himself rather than the family.  He will play with strangers, but not his own brothers.  He can be affectionate towards those he sees from time to time, but not his own parents.  So much of this goes unseen and yet the battle rages on.

There is a battle going on for his heart. And so I hold onto these promises from God.....

Everyone the Father gives Me[Jesus], and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out.  
John 6:37   

 "If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples.  You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  John 8:31b-32

For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.  Acts 2:39

These words I am giving you today are to be in your heart.  Repeat them to your children.  Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down an when you get up.  Deuteronomy 6:6-7 

......and I teach them to my children both adopted and biological.  I hold onto them because they are the very life I breath.  I am tired and I am struggling, but of this I am sure, God will win this battle for ALL my children.

With love,

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Broken Hallelujah!

I have listened to that song Broken Hallelujah so many times lately either because of my own circumstances or being in prayer and feeling at a loss for someone else.  Many times our praises lifted to God are broken and frail.  We are broken and frail.  If we were to count the number of times we lifted hands to heaven in a desperate state versus from a place of steady ground the first would far outweigh it!

Are you struggling to see how God is working or how he could possibly bring beauty from these particular ashes?  I learned of a very dire situation for a friend this week and walked to my Bible praying that God would lead me to a verse that would reveal a piece of his heart in this situation.  As the song plays read the Psalm aloud as your prayer of praise.

Psalm 146

My soul, praise the LORD.
I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I live.
Do not trust in nobles,
in man, who cannot save.
When his breath leaves him, 
he returns to the ground;
on that day his plans die.
Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea and everything in them.
He remains faithful forever,
executing justice for the exploited
and giving food to the hungry.
The LORD frees prisoners.
The LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD raises up those
who are oppressed.
The LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD protects foreigners
and helps the fatherless
and the widow,
but He frustrates the ways 
of the wicked.
The LORD reigns forever;
Zion, your God reigns for all generations.

We begin and end with Hallelujah, a word that means praise Yahweh!  Our lives should be as such.  The middle is a mystery, a journey that God has mapped out and often we cannot see the route or even the next destination, but we can firmly hold the LORD's hand who as this Psalm says:

rises up
reigns forever!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Lessons from a Country Concert

To the boy following the girl around:

Stop looking at her assets.  Hold your chin up high and take the lead.  Find a girl who respects herself enough to cover up a bit and one who will follow you.  Your time is quickly coming when you will soon be a man.  Our world has enough men with downcast eyes and defeated looks.  We need men who will stand up, take charge and lead their families as Godly men leading as servants and wise decisive individuals worthy of a women's respect. 

To the girl with the purse longer than her shorts:

You are not alone.  You are not the only one suffering from this shortage.  Apparently the US is in a great textile shortage.  Fabric must be spared and there is not enough to go around.  We must campaign for our right to proper clothing.  Oh, wait!  What we really must do is find value in who God made us and not seek to gain our value from what we have to show off or offer or sacrifice in return for some looks, some attention or worse yet our very bodies.  Trust me when I say it is not worth it.  That cannot be easily undone. 

To the parents of the little girl left sitting in her seat:

A glance in her direction every-now and again does not count as supervision.  You are out in PUBLIC.  No one else has your daughters best interest at heart.  You should!  A few beers and being closer to the stage are not worth what could happen if you turn your back too long.  Children are a gift from God, a gift that often feels like a burden, but still your burden to bear.  You only get this one chance to do it right.  Don't screw it up!  Let her be a kid and not the one who had to grow up watching her parents always pick something else over her.

Perhaps no one who reads this blog falls into any of these categories or like me maybe you used to, but maybe there is still a lesson to be learned.  If you have children in your care teach them who God desires them to be.  Teach them to honor God, possess self control, love others and that it's OK to be different than the rest of the world.  Teach them to be the girl who is ACTUALLY dressed at the country concert and looks stunning.  Teach them to be the boy who holds his girl's hands and guides her threw the mob of people so she can go the bathroom for the 100th time.  Be the parent who would rather sit and only hear the show, but certain that your daughter is safe.  Be a Titus 2 Christian in a very confused and aimless generation.

 Titus 2:1-8
You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Friday, May 23, 2014

When You Feel Completely and Totally Overwhelmed

I miss my writing.  I miss putting my thoughts down and sorting out my feelings with words.  And I miss keeping track of what is going on in the Robbins household through journaling.  Perhaps it is not that I am too busy, but that I would choose not to remember all of these days.  Now I am not so sure that is completely true because I know in my head that even in the trials of life we need to be able to look and remember how God has guided us and seen us through.

There are just so many things I want to share and to tell of the ways God has held us and provided for us.  At the moment my husband is preparing to go on a summer mission trip with our church.  He has grown us and stretched our idea of his provision.  This trip has taken both time and money, both of which seem to be in short supply around here, but yet we open our arms wide and say, "God use this for your glory."  He has given us wisdom to turn down a volunteer job for Chris, working in an area he is passionate because God has said, "not now."  He has also planted the seed for Chris to return to school in the fall.

In between teaching school and chasing a toddler I have been listing items on ebay and selling Norwex as a means to bring in a little more funds.  Sales are not exactly booming, but it does help fill in some gaps.  God loves to provide just enough for us, it keeps our hands and eyes ever postured towards his provision and great supply.

And then there is the ick, the struggle and the everyday life that makes it's way through the beautiful places that I have not totally figured out how to turn from sorrow to joy.

Do you ever feel like it's just one struggle to the next?  One thing after another with no break in between?  The enemy stands opposed to any growth of our faith and any desire to surrender to our Lord's will.  He stands ready to attack any chance he gets to thwart the plans of God's people.  He apparently has not read the end of the story.  He doesn't win!  He doesn't succeed and God finishes him once and for all.  Too bad he hasn't caught on and given up as easily as I do sometimes.  My spirit, the Holy living spirit that God has put in my heart rallies me on, but my flesh easily gives in to fear and doubt. 

The struggles continued and peace was hard to find.  I delve into prayer and scripture, begging God not to let go when I was too weak to hold on to his promises.  You can know in your heart that they are true and moments would be fine, and then just like THAT you are swimming in fear.  What a reminder of how fallen we are and how desperately we need God to carry us!

On one particular day I grabbed my Bible clenched it into my chest as if giving a bear hug to God.  I had no other place to go to find peace, but there.  Making my way up to my room and my big comfy chair I asked God to lead me, to show me a part of his word that I could cling to that day.  And like he ALWAYS does, he provided.

He provided peace.

He provided hope.

He provided assurance of his sovereignty.

The next day a huge thunderstorm came through our area bringing with it hail and lots of rain, but just as quickly as it rolled in, it passed and the sun came out.  And not only did the sun reappear, but a rainbow.  This rainbow was different though.  Looking out my front door I could see the beginning and the end.  It was displayed in all of it's glory right in front of my house, for me and my family.  I am thankful that God does not grow weary in reminding us of His promises and His faithfulness because I don't know about you, but it seems I need a lot of reminders!

I would love to share with you my list of scriptures that God is using in my life right now.  Maybe you are struggling too.  Has the enemy set up camp in your backyard?  Does the truth look like a muddy mess right now?  Are you under spiritual attack?  Don't feel crazy or alone.  The battle we are in is very much real, but truly we fight with better weapons!

Psalm 64
Romans 8:28
Psalm 1
Psalm 145
James 1
Matthew 5:1-12

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Taking out the Trash

Talking with my children about the real things of life, like garbage trucks, an animals niche or what makes up a population often leads us to talk about God.  To be honest I am not sure what the exact path was in this discussion, but it lead to God either way as it so often does in my house.

"These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.  
Repeat them to your children. 
 Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, 
when you lie down and when you get up."  
Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Sometimes explaining the things of God to my kids puts in on a level even my stubborn heart can appreciate.  It went something like this.......

The sin in our lives is a lot like garbage.  We can all picture the ugly and dirty nature of that.  We don't like to see it so we put it in bags, in cans and then as it piles up we tie it off and put it outside in another can hidden from sight.  We buy screens to make our trash cans look more concealed, we purchase fancy trash cans for inside our house and many of us pay to have someone take our trash away.

At some point the trash has to go to the curb.

Someone has to come and pick it up.

The empty can needs to be put away so the process can start all over agian. 

"Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; 
according to Your abundant compassion, blot our my rebellion. 
 Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.  
For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me."
 Psalm 51: 1-3

Our sin piles up.  We live in a fallen world for scripture says, "all have fallen short of the glory of God" and are in desperate need of a savior.  In a way we need the garbage taken out and in an even more impossible way we need someone to haul if off to the dump. 

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."  
Psalm 103:12

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us ours sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  1John 1:9

"The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy."  Proverbs 28:13

God is ALWAYS ready and willing to come by and remove the garbage from your heart, but we have the responsibilty to put it out at the curb for collection by means of confession.

The days of Lent are drawing to an end and Easter is in sight, but the days of confession never come to a close as long as we are here.  Our need for forgiveness continues.  But His willingness likewise is without end!

Gotta run!  I hear the trash truck coming and I have some things I need to haul out to the curb!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Praying for an Undivided Heart

Breaking Free.  A Journey to Being Truly Satisfied.
Day 10

Bible passage: Psalm 86:11-13

My body is a temple of the Living God.  By not taking care of it I am not caring for his temple.  Though I wanted to avoid it, and solely focus on the healthy eating, according to the devotion today exercising needs to be part of the plan.  I have lots of excuses.  I have lots of young kids and little extra time.  The time I do have I would rather relax.  It’s time for me to make a change in this area.  Giving up this struggle to God is supposed to hurt and I am to deny myself and surrender to him.  I am offering up my me time, the time at night I spend staying up late to relax rather than go to bed.  The early morning hours I lay in bed getting a little more sleep I also give to him.  This is my sacrifice.  I have long used the excuse that I am a night owl.  If I am honest with myself I am neither productive nor more rested with my late nights and not so early morning routines. 
Praying the scriptures is a powerful and effective means of communication with our Lord.  It's something that automatically connects us with God, we are praying His very words.  We can be certain that we are praying in accordance with His will because His words are TRUTH AND LIFE!

Let's pray together today for the courage to live an undivided life, a life devoted to Christ, to caring for our bodies as his holy dwelling and also for the desire to give God all the praise and glory for even the tiniest shred of goodness and blessing in us.

"Teach me Your way, Yahweh, and I will live by Your truth. 
Give me an undivided mind to fear Your name. 
 I will praise You with all my heart, Lord my God, and will honor Your name forever.
 For Your faithful love for me is great, and You deliver my life from the depths of Sheol."
Psalm 86:11-17 HCSB
My journal companion while working through the Made to Crave 21 day challenge and the book Made to Crave.