Sunday, May 31, 2009

Your State as a Traveler

My last blog talked about our family being on a journey. The truth is, we are all on a journey. The route we take and the final destination…that is about the only difference between us. Otherwise, we can pretty safely say that each of us has some road to take.

There is a lot that can be said about traveling. We could talk about the terrain—whether the journey is smooth or rocky. We could talk about whether we are walking this road alone or with others. We could also talk about how long of a trip we have ahead of us. Some trips are quick and easy, others are long and arduous.

But there is something else to consider when we are taking a journey. That is the state of the traveler. Have you ever taken a journey where you were so excited about the final destination, that nothing bothered you? It didn’t matter how cramped your legs got, how many hours had gone by, the number of bathroom stops you had made…all that was before you was the final, glorious end. Then there are journeys that are more difficult. The final destination, as wonderful as it may be, may not be in the forefront of your mind because you are so focused on how uncomfortable your seat is, how squished you feel, the driving or rocking sensation that is making you sick.

What state are you in with the current journey you are on? Are you feeling tired, overwhelmed and cranky? Or are you excited, full of joy and just feel so ready to burst with happiness? Sometimes the answer is in the circumstances around us. I find it difficult to be in a good mood when I take a long drive. I guess I’m just not that much into scenery. I prefer a quick trip via air travel, rather than driving long distance. Two summers ago we drove to Niagara Falls, Canada. It took us about 12 hours to get there. Although I knew we were going to see one of the most amazing sights in the world, it didn’t seem worth it as we traveled. Yet in the end, once I saw Niagara Falls, the drive was more than worth it.

Sometimes we need to take a step back and not consider the path we are on or even the final destination but what state are we in. It does no good, if you really think about it, to complain on the way to wherever you are going. It won’t change much. The only thing it really does is make you more miserable. How much fun is that? And if you are miserable enough, the final destination may be less enjoyable. Your discontentment can take away from the joy of it.

I say all this because I have recognized that as our family ventures on this current journey, I have to be careful about my state. It may not be easy (taking care of five children suddenly is not easy!), it may be filled with uncertainties (how will we do this?) and I may run into some bumpy spots along the way (just dealing with social services in itself is bumpy)… but will I focus on the difficulties? Will I focus on the uncertainties? Will I focus on the problems? They are going to be there. As much as this may be from God, the reality is that it will also be filled with difficulties and struggles. It does no good to pretend it won’t…to act as if this road will be smooth sailing. Yet at the same time, it does no good to complain. It won’t make things any easier. I will have to really guard my heart and my mind. You need to as well.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Too Busy to Sacrifice?

Our family is on a journey. It is definitely an uncertain one. We don’t know the path we will have to take, we don’t know how we are going to get there and we don’t know where we will ultimately end up. I wonder if it’s anything like how Abraham felt when he was called to leave Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. He only knew he was called to go…he didn’t exactly get a roadmap from God, a step-by-step list of instructions. He wasn’t given many details. He was just told to go and he obeyed. Our family is obeying the orders we have received…we are taking the steps necessary to become foster parents. We know what we want, what we would have happen and what we would like the end result to be. However, we also need to understand that God may have something totally different in mind.

So far the start to this journey has been an interesting one. Not only are we learning things about our family (for instance, how incredibly selfless our children are) but we are also learning things about others (their support or lack of support). For the most part, we have tons of support. We have people cheering us on, offering help in one way or another. But I have also received a couple of comments that weren’t outright negative; however, both of them contained a word that I can’t seem to shake from my mind…busy.

Both comments had something to do with the fact that weren’t we busy enough…again, not outright negative comments but the fact that I heard something similar from two people has gotten me really thinking.

If someone were to ask that of me…aren’t you busy enough? I would most definitely agree! As with any family, yes, we are busy. We have three children who are involved in various activities. My husband and I have activities either together or apart that keep us busy. We both work. We are involved in church and ministry. We are most definitely very busy people. But the bigger question is—does that mean we are so busy we don’t have time to do God’s bidding?

I wonder how many people fail to do what they have been called to do simply because they thought they were too busy. I don’t know too many people who can say that they don’t lead busy lives. However, does busyness give us an excuse to cast aside the needs of others?

If we end up with the two little ones we are seeking to be foster parents for, it will require some change in our lifestyle. Some things will remain the same…however, many things will change. We are at a point in our life when we can finally just get up and go somewhere—we don’t need babysitters. Our children are old enough to stay home. When we go somewhere with them, we don’t have to pack a diaper bag, a sippy cup and a bag of snacks. They can take their own showers, they can get dressed themselves—they can even cook for themselves. So to go from that point in our life to one where now we need to drag diaper bags, sippy cups, snacks, have children in bed by 8:00, rearrange our plans, and give baths—well yes, it is most definitely going to require some sacrifice. But isn’t that what we are called to do as believers?

To sacrifice is to surrender something for the sake of something else—it is giving up. It is letting go. It is not easy…believe me! I anguished over this decision in the beginning. At first I wasn’t so willing to take on a responsibility that I wasn’t ready for. I am enjoying my life and the stage that I am at right now. I am especially enjoying my children and their ages—yes, even with having a teen and a preteen—I truly am enjoying it. So to change things…to give up my freedom is not easy. Yet…I know that to not do it is to miss out on a great blessing.

Is your busyness preventing you from sacrificing? There are moments in our life when we become so comfortable that God has to do something to shake things up. He wants us to sit up and take notice—He has something more for us but in order to get that more, we have to be willing to give something up. What is He calling you to give up?

When you finally obey…when you finally choose to take the path He calls you to, even if you don’t know the way, He will give you confirmation that it was the right thing. It happened to me one morning when I received my morning scripture verse from my favorite radio station, K-Love. It said:
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
~ Ephesians 1:5, NLT
Don’t let the unknown journey before you scare you from taking that first step. It’s once you take the first step, that the next becomes easier. You can know that you are not walking it alone—you have the very One who called you, to walk beside you and if need be, in front of you.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In His Hands

I told my best friend this morning right before our morning church service started that I am running on God fumes. It is the only explanation for how I have been able to even function this weekend. Our family has gone through an emotional week. We have found ourselves in the midst of a situation that I quite frankly, would never have imagined we would be in.

Last Monday two children, who will be turning 2 and 3 in the months of July and August, were removed from their home. They attend the daycare/preschool center that I work at. It was a very sad scene—the mother actually beat the social workers to our center and so we each had a role to play—one was a lookout for social services, another hid the children, a couple of us tried to calm the mom down. It was hard to keep it together as you watched these children get taken away by three complete strangers—the sounds of their cries in that car as they drove away can still be heard in my mind.

Through the course of events, my boss ended up receiving emergency temporary placement of them. However, my family has stepped up and offered to take them in as our foster children. We have been spending lots of time with them this week and have been amazed at how quickly they have adapted to our family. There is a lot going on—there are still unanswered questions as to the timeframe of how long they will be out of the house, how becoming a foster parent works, the issues concerning so many hearts that have been drawn into this. We know that most likely, in the end, we are going to face heartache. The chances of us getting these children and keeping them forever are unlikely. So we know that it could be anytime soon or even further down the road that they are no longer in our keeping.

Needless to say, a lot of emotions have been at work this past week. I have had many a sleepless night. I was up early Saturday morning for a prayer breakfast and up early this morning for church—so I haven’t even been able to catch up on my sleep. On top of it, having these young children has required more energy than I would have thought I could muster. Just getting them dressed, bathed, in and out of car seats, picking up what they dropped, getting them a “passy” (pacifier) or “cuppy” (sippy cupy) and doing it ASAP or you will be hearing it…it has been a task that while I have questioned “How can I do this???!!!” it has also come quite easily. What makes it easy is that it’s not me—it is all God. He has been empowering me, equipping me, and strengthening me for this glorious task.

Of course, I cannot fail to mention the efforts of my children. My younger two immediately took to them. My oldest tried to pretend they weren’t there at first—but now he is picking them up in his arms and I heard him tell the little girl, “I love you too,” when she crooned, “I love you Daniel!” It has just been absolutely amazing how helpful and loving my children have been. Of course, this could all not be done without the support of my husband. Not only do I have his support but he desperately wants these little ones, too. Our entire family has connected to them.

What lies before us is uncertain. The social services system is confusing and disorganized. We are not getting clear, concrete answers on the future of these children. We are not sure where we stand as a family—if we are just very temporarily helping to take care of them or if we are going to eventually become their foster parents. We know what we want but it rests entirely in God’s hands.

The idea of having five children sounds insurmountable—can we raise teenagers, preteens and preschoolers? Can my mind and heart handle all of the various scenarios associated with the wide range of issues to be dealt with? Can we afford this? Can I physically and emotionally do this, day in and day out? What will become of us? What will become of them?

I don’t have the answers—just as you have many questions going on in your life—you may not have the answers either. It is time for us to wait on God. There is nothing we can do. We can’t make things happen. We can’t know the outcome. We have nothing in our control. It is all in His hands and it’s where we need to be, too. Whatever you have going on in your life, put it in His hands. Allow yourself to be held by Him as well. When you feel you can’t go on, you can’t make it another step, He is there to pick you up and carry you.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Confident Parent

I am thinking about writing a book called “The Confident Parent.” I don’t know how catchy that title is but it has been lurking in the back of my mind since a recent Facebook discussion.

I had taken one of those dumb Facebook quizzes…you know the kind I’m talking about, where you have nothing better to do (or maybe you do but you are wasting time anyway) and so you take a “fun” quiz. It was about your parenting style. It claimed that I leaned more toward “Attachment Parenting.” Apparently I am into natural births (hmmm...that doesn’t fit with the epidural I received on my first birth), homeopathic remedies (pass me the Children’s Motrin please!) and living green (I stubbornly refuse to buy a reusable bag—Al Gore wouldn’t like this, but give me paper bags any day!).

Now there were some aspects of the results that I do agree with—I am not bothered by the way some may question my parenting style. I do feel strongly about the way I am raising my children. And I do tend to trust my instincts when it comes to raising my children. I believe those are God-given instincts. I think that comes down to being a confident parent…not a perfect parent, mind you. It is also not a confidence in my own abilities. It is confidence that I believe comes from God, my faith in Him. I trust Him to show me the way when it comes to parenting.

When I posted my results on Facebook, I received a couple of comments that I found interesting. One was about negative criticism of their parenting rubbing them the wrong way and the other was about being sensitive to criticism of their parenting. I think these feelings are probably the majority when it comes to moms and how they view the negative feedback or comments they may receive. I appreciated hearing that feedback because it was honest feedback and like I said, I believe the way most moms feel.

When it comes to parenting, we protect our little treasures. If someone questions the way we are raising them, the choices we make, I think it is pretty natural to become protective of that. I have been there many times. I have had to defend my reasons for doing things over the course of my children’s lives—why I homeschooled, why I stopped, why I chose to not medicate, why I didn’t take a doctor’s advice—I finally reached a point in my parenting that I decided I no longer needed to defend my choices. I could spend my whole life defending or I could spend my life confidently following the direction I felt was best for our family.

This has not happened overnight. My oldest recently turned 15, my middle child is about to turn 12 and my youngest just turned 10. It has taken a few years for me to reach this point, where I don’t question every decision we make as parents. My husband and I are pretty cohesive when it comes to making decisions about our children. We both have learned to trust in one another and in God.

One of the comments made on Facebook was how God knew which child was right for which parent. That is the amazing thing about families—they are all different! No one family is supposed to mirror another. When you look about creation, all that God has made, you find diversity. You find uniqueness and creativity. If every flower looked the same, if ever animal looked the same, it would be a pretty boring world. So I like the fact that as families we choose different ways of doing things, whether it’s how we choose to educate our children, the discipline methods we use, and so on. We need to value those differences and we need to go about parenting our children with God-given confidence. I hope and pray you each have a WONDERFUL, AWESOME, and CONFIDENT Mother’s Day!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Are You Ready?

It has been an interesting past few days. Last Wednesday I received a phone call, in the midst of an extended family drama unfolding, that my younger children’s school had been closed due to the Swine Flu. The only good thing about that news was that it stopped the drama and put that on the backburner, hopefully permanently.

At any rate, panic seemed to hit our city. We had two “probable” cases of Swine Flu, which has since been changed to H1N1 (yeah, that makes a world of difference!). Suddenly five public schools, one of which is our neighborhood school that my 4th and 6th graders attend, have been closed indefinitely. Thursday and Friday they were home. By Friday night I was starting to wonder if I’m the only one not being fed into what I believe is an unnecessary frenzy. As most times, I feel the media is stirring up the pot and causing more worries than are needed.

So then Friday the number of probable cases goes up to 27. Not looking so good now. I am wondering if my children will ever return to school. I am frustrated not having clearer answers and not feeling as convinced about the seriousness of the whole situation. By Saturday evening we now have 34 probable cases and 2 confirmed cases. The health commissioner indicates, however, that it appears to be a mild condition of the flu. So now I am wondering, is this really just the flu? Now we are being told to be prepared for the possibility of the whole school district being closed down.

Well as of yesterday, the entire school district isn’t closed, however, my children’s school will be closed for an entire week and there is the possibility it could be closed the following week, as well. It has really gotten me thinking about things—if something like the Swine Flu—oh excuse me, I mean the H1N1 flu can stir up such panic, what is going to happen when this world really gets hit with difficult times?

Our church has been going through a new sermon series called “Signs of the Times.” It has been a fascinating series. So far we have learned about the connection that Israel has to end times and what is going on in Europe today and how that plays into it all. Next week is the one I am really looking forward to, the Rapture. It has been an exciting series but it has also been incredibly eye opening. We are truly living in the last days! Is the Swine flu a part of this? I really don’t know but I do see how the world has begun to panic and fret…they have no idea what is yet to come.

So it gets me thinking about the day the trumpet sounds and we who are believers will be caught up with Jesus—I truly do believe that is going to happen very soon. In fact, I wonder if my children will ever experience life as adults—will they ever marry and have children? Or will Jesus come before then? I have heard many people talk about all that they want to do—all that they want to experience—all that they want for their families—they are not ready for the trumpet call because they still have things to do.

Would I like to see my children grow up and fulfill their dreams? Would I like to see them get married and give me grandchildren? I most certainly would. But do I desire that more than seeing Jesus? I think it’s a question we all need to ponder. Where are our priorities? Are they really where they need to be?

There is nothing wrong with having a dream, a desire or a want for something that is good. To see my oldest son become an airline pilot would thrill me. To see my children find mates that God has chosen for them excites me. To think about holding a grandchild someday touches my heart. But do I desire all of this more than I desire Jesus? If I would rather have all of that over the rapture, perhaps my priorities are not in order. Perhaps it has become more about me than about my God.

I see my church heading in a direction that is clearly focused on equipping us to make a difference in this world—for whatever time we have left, we need to make sure that others know about Jesus—because there will come a time, a day when it will be too late to let them know. We will be gone…who are we going to leave behind? As much good as we want for our children, will they be left behind because we were so busy pursuing other things in their lives that we neglected to point them to the way of the cross?

In the next year I hope to see my oldest son be able to fly solo and be prepared to go for his pilot’s license. But will my focus, my time, my energy be so caught up in that, that I neglect to point him toward his Creator? I would hope not! I think we are seeing that in this time, we need to put aside our will and our wants and ask God what He would have us focus on. Who needs to hear about Jesus? Who needs to be pointed to the way of the cross?

I was listening on my Ipod yesterday to this song and it really struck a nerve. I pray the lyrics really speak to your heart as well:

Life was filled with guns and war
And all of us got trampled on the floor
I wish we’d all been ready
The children died, the days grew cold
A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold
I wish wed all been ready

There’s no time to change your mind
The Son has come and you’ve been left behind

A man and wife asleep in bed
She hears a noise and turns her head he’s gone
I wish we’d all been ready
Two men walking up a hill
One disappears and one’s left standing still
I wish we’d all been ready

(repeat chorus)

The Father spoke, the demons dined
How could you have been so blind?

(repeat chorus 2x)

I hope we’ll all be ready
You’ve been left behind [3x]