Lord, awaken us…

One reason that I am so thankful God is using our family in foster care is because of the awareness it has given us. Not even just of children or families in care but it naturally exposes you to other children and families that my middle class American life might not otherwise get exposure to. That’s embarrassing to admit as a Christian but it’s true. I’ve been on short term mission trips and I’ve done community services where you go, you give, and then you leave. I get to return to my safe, comfortable lifestyle and quickly forget about what I’ve seen. Not so with fostering. Our life is woven in the brokenness of other families day in and day out.

I can not un-see.

There are daily reminders on every corner of this lifestyle that is so vastly different from mine. A lifestyle that is utterly heart breaking to me and yet to some individuals, it’s just normal. Things I consider wrong, irresponsible, neglectful, harmful, is “normal”.

I know things now that explain so much.

Like that “bad kid” in elementary school legitimately was taught from the time he was a toddler to tell people to “shut up” or “F@$& off”. In his life the people around him considered this appropriate and acceptable, sometimes even funny.

Precious little girls who have never been valued. Ever. Never in their life have they seen women being respected and treasured. Why would she assume she should value and respect herself?

Children that grow up in filthy, neglectful, drug using, abusive homes do not typically grow up to one day realize, “This isn’t normal.” From what I have seen, typically, they grow up and repeat it. I know this because I have cared for the children of those children. And the cycle continues. Some might say “They should know better,… eventually.” How could they know??? No one has ever taught them. Additionally, most of these children’s brain development and maturity has been stunted. Their age may suggest “adult” but their brain still operates as a child. (Google trauma and brain development.) Maybe they age and “know better” but they still have the coping skills of say a 9 year old.

May the Lord flood us with compassion and mercy….

I’m heavily burndened this morning. Burdened for these parents and children. Burdened for the generation after generation….. I asked God this morning, “Lord, what does it take? Lord, intercede for these children and families!!” And what His Word reminds me over and over is how He wants to…… through His church.Through us! And I know that we have got to rise up. We can’t just close our eyes and act like “Not my kids, not my problem.” If we are Christ followers, if the love of God is in us, it is TOTALLY our problem. If the love of God is truly in us, that love will compel us to MAKE IT our problem. I think of that beautiful song by Hillsong, Hosanna, it sings “break my heart for what breaks Yours, everything I am for Your Kingdoms cause.” I have prayed that to God and let me tell you he has not failed to answer that. And my heart is in pieces right now,… kind of beautifully broken, as it is aligning with my Lords heart of mercy, love, compassion and grace.

I am praying that we would not shrink back. (Hebrews 10:39) I am praying that Christians all around would awaken to what God has called us to do. And I’m not saying it’s always foster care or adoption but it IS loving the helpless, the orphan, the widow, the abused, the hard to love and so on. There are so many ways God wants to use us!!! We have got to open our eyes to who is helpless. We have to quit casting our judgement on life styles and choices that we don’t even understand or know the depths of pain that caused it. We need to reach out and be willing to get messy with people. We need to sacrifice our pretty, comfortable, life of convenience and ease. And you better believe I am preaching to myself! 🙂

Pray for me. Pray for our family. I’m praying for all of you. 🙂 Pray we as Christians would wake up and be courageous enough to truly LOVE as God loves, “he who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all….” Romans 8:32

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬


My struggle with church

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We didn’t go to church today. Actually, we haven’t been to church in a month. A series of events have played into this. First, we’re back to visiting churches, and have found ourselves in a very discouraging season. More on that in a moment. Then we got baby E, very early, on a Sunday morning. Then we went to Florida to celebrate the life of Jason’s sweet grandmother who passed away. And for the last 2 weeks we have had every intention of going and didn’t.

Most of you know I grew up in my daddy’s church. From age 4 to 25 I went to one church with my family and a congregation that became like family. I had friends, I had mentors, I had pseudo grandparents. I was involved in youth, went to camp and on mission trips. I was corrected and confronted about everything, from driving with my brother at 14 without a license, to wearing too low cut of shirts. I couldn’t get away with anything without someone seeing, which I realize now was a blessing, though it irritated me at the age of 16. But I always loved my church. Always. I never wanted to escape it. Even then as an immature adolescent. It was my second home, my extended family. As I grew up and matured as a Christian I began to appreciate First Baptist Lutz all the more. It’s not perfect but it’s seeking to take the gospel to all nations through various forms of ministry. Being apart of that church has helped me understand what the body of Christ should look like.

Moving to Georgia has rocked me in this area. We have struggled for 7 years to feel really connected to any church. And not just feel connected but witness the power of the Holy Spirit, alive and active within the congregation. Moving to the country, especially, has made it an even greater challenge. I don’t mean to knock on churches but we’ve been to too many where it feels more like a Christian version of a country club. Meeting on Sunday’s, preaching out of the Bible and singing Christian music doesn’t make the church truly alive in Christ. I have left churches in tears simply from feeling unwelcome and like an “outsider”. Feeling like these Christians, who don’t know me at all, could care less about the state of my soul. That’s a horrible, scary observation.

For awhile we attended a newer church, but after a couple years we felt it was simply stagnant. Through a lot of prayer and agonizing over what to do we left.

Once again, we were confronted with “What is the churches purpose?” In short, the purpose of the church is to come together, encourage, admonish and equip one another through the teaching of the Bible, prayer, and singing Psalms and spiritual songs. Then we effectively scatter through out the week taking the gospel into our community and beyond. Disciples making disciples. Essentially, one would think, you would start seeing growth and life change in the church as a byproduct of people being reached with the gospel of Jesus. Additionally, the church would engage in outreach together to further the gospel and love people like Christ loves us. (A few passages to support that description. Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:42-47, Acts 6:7, Colossians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 8:1-2)

So, we started visiting again. I was very frustrated and disappointed with our seeming unfaithfulness to a church body. That’s how it felt. I didn’t want to “church hop”. That was not my paradigm. We connected with another local church and the pastor very quickly. He was somewhat new to the area. He seemed like a strong leader, ready to pour everything he had into the community and commission us, his congregants to do the same. It seemed as though he understood the Bible and how it described the church as we did. We were excited and all in.

He was not what he seemed. We suffered a great loss under his leadership. He was let go. We were devastated. We were left with a broken, hurt, unhealthy church that we had really just started attending. We tried to hang in there. Maybe not hard enough, I don’t know. But we began visiting again.

And here we are. Visiting. With no church “home”. I’m becoming so frustrated by our situation that when Sunday rolls around it’s tempting to just want to stay home. In fact this morning I even thought “ugh, it’s raining. I don’t want to go out in that.” Never in my life has rain kept me from wanting to worship with the body of Christ. I can’t even describe how sad this makes me. Sad because I can see its effects on us spiritually. Because I’m not foolish enough to think it has no effect. It totally does. Sad because this is not what I want for my children. So yes, it pains me. Praise God it does. What a mercy from the Holy Spirit because I do not ever want to give up on the body of Christ. I do love the church. I don’t know why we’re struggling here. I’m starting to wonder if it’s us! I know we are not perfect, nor are all our desires and ideas, and I know there is no perfect church.

What we want is to be connected with authentic Christians that love God passionately, are rooted in his Word and with all their might want to live it out. And for some reason in this “Bible Belt” small town we haven’t quite found that. Fortunately I know this whole experience is not meaningless. I have a different perspective now. Mainly, I have compassion for people who are visiting, who have been hurt by the church and the ones who have faded out of church completely, and sadly a lot of people in this area have. All in all it’s been a very humbling season, which I can ALWAYS use humbling. 🙂

Maybe you’re like me. Can I just encourage you, don’t give up on the church!! Just keep going. Keep praying for God to lead you to the right body of Christ. Keep praying the church in America would have an awakening. But don’t give up and stay home. We were never meant to be lone Christians. And yes, I know we have our brothers and sisters in Christ all over and outside our local church and thank God for that. I have needed them so much to spur me on to not give up meeting with my local family in Christ. God means to work through the body of Christ, the local church. Your local church. My local church. Christ loves the church, it’s His bride. We’re called to love like Christ, so we too must love the church and never ever give up on her.

He Is Enough

“I was walking blindly into a new season, a place that didn’t line up with my plans and dreams for the coming new year. A place that I never would have chosen, never wished or asked for. But God’s promise to Abraham spoke to me. God wasn’t promising me ease. He wasn’t promising that things would go as planned. He wasn’t promising a world without trouble, without heartbreak along the way. He was promising me Himself.” Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope

If you are looking for a good book I encourage you to read this one. It was appropriate timing that this book arrived in the mail for me today.

Today I recognized that I still have some grieving to do. I told my mom that I was having a strange urge to cry that I didn’t understand. I’ve been “fine”. When my miscarriage has come up I have felt “okay.” But today it was like the flood gates unexpectedly opened back up and my heart is aching like it did the day I learned of our loss. This is still all so foreign to me. I’m starting to learn that when you experience loss, it never stops resurfacing. And sometimes you can handle it emotionally and sometimes you just can’t.

I long for another child. I long for our family to continue growing. It also doesn’t help that Caleb asks me every other day, “When will we get a baby?” He tells me he wants a brother, after all “Micaila and Ryann have a little brother. I want one, too.” I mean who can argue with that? We pray for God to grow our family (however he chooses) and right now I’m struggling to be patient as I wait on his revealed plan. Before I found out I was pregnant we thought God was leading us to adoption but that door closed. Then we were having a baby naturally,…….then we weren’t. Now we are waiting for a placement. Which isn’t meant to be permanent but I certainly wouldn’t mind lavishing all this love on someone temporarily. And yet, here we wait. And the thing God whispers over and over and over is, “In your grief, in your waiting, you have Me.” Because so often when I want something, good somethings, I tend to start thinking Jesus + said thing will make everything better, whole, satisfied. And I have certainly searched my heart wondering, “Is Jesus enough for me?” I want to say whole heartedly “yes!” I guess maybe that’s the point of this season. Maybe God keeps us in these places so we will truly understand deep down that He is in fact enough. He is enough when we have and enough when we have not. He is always enough and He is always good.

“His desire is for us- that we would know His love in these unexpected broken places and that we would know the true hope found only in His Son Jesus, the Lamb, who never, ever stops reaching out for us, who cups our pain in His nail-scarred palms and cradles our hearts close to His. He wants to be our reward.” Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope

The God Of All Comfort

On August 7th with great surprise and joy we found out that we were having another baby. Number 4! I was shocked and thrilled and a little bit scared all at once. The weeks that followed were filled with wonderful happiness as we gradually began sharing the news with loved ones. Over the Labor Day weekend I made a trip to Florida to tell Jason’s family and my siblings. It was wonderful having all that support and excitement.

At 10 weeks I went in for a routine appointment. I was looking forward to hearing the heart beat on the doppler this time. I had been having spotting, which was abnormal compared to my other 3 pregnancies. I also suspected I had a uti the week prior but there was no bacteria in my urine. It was strange all the symptoms and discomfort and yet no apparent reason. On my drive to the OB, as I sang “Thy will be done”, I had this strong sense that God was preparing me for sad news.

There is no heart beat.

I felt like the air was being sucked from the room. I immediately started crying. I have never lost a baby and have had 3 healthy pregnancies. But in the wake of that moment Gods presence was so near to me and Romans 8:28 just became even more personal.

Jeremiah 8:18 “You are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.”

I can’t even describe the deep sadness I have felt. Psalm 119:28 “My soul is weary with sorrow, strengthen me according to your word.” I have brief moments where I’m not crying but mostly I just keep crying. When I think about not seeing this babies face or holding him/her, letting that little hand wrap around my finger. Knowing that our kids will not be getting a little brother or sister. We have so much love built up for this baby and just like that, no heart beat. I’ve never known this kind of ache and grief. And yet I know my gracious Father will not waste it. I sense his strong comfort and peace, even in my ache and tears, I know with certainty “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭This promise doesn’t diminish my grief but it strengthens my hope in the midst of my grief. I can cry and rest in that promise all at the same time.

On top of finding out this very sad news we were faced with the decision of having a d&c done or waiting for my body to do what it should do. You have all these emotions and then you have to decide what’s next. It’s scary and confusing, mounted on top of trying to grieve this tremendous loss. I never knew all these details involved with having a miscarriage. I was really concerned over possibly having a d&c. I began asking for prayer that God would allow my body to do what it was designed to do in this situation. The next 2 days it all began to happen naturally. More tears, more sadness, but also gratefulness for God sparing me the decision of the d&c.

During this time we have had countless family and friends praying on our behalf and loving us in so many ways. It has been incredible knowing how many people have prayed for peace, comfort, and wisdom for us. And we have received all those things in abundance. I would say I have more of a bent towards depression and God in his great mercy has covered me with comfort and confidence during this difficult time. I didn’t know you could be so sad and at the same time be at such peace in Gods sovereign plan. I didn’t know I could have such deep grief and yet fully assured of Gods goodness in something so heartbreaking. It’s something that doesn’t even make sense to me and yet, it’s where he has me. I feel like a child crying buckets of tears while being wrapped securely in my Fathers arms while he whispers, “It’s going to be okay.”

My mom was able to fly in almost immediately. As a family we had a little burial and ceremony to honor this little life. As much as I instinctively want to shield my children from hurt, this time has deepened all of our understanding of compassion, thoughtfulness, the preciousness of life and of course love. We are closer now and I wouldn’t change how we’ve included them in our rejoicing and now in our grief.

I can’t express the comfort I have felt from the body of Christ. The cards, flowers, prayers, messages,…. there has been an outpouring of love as you have grieved with us. I haven’t had the chance to tell everyone, but others have shared for us and I have been told of ALL the prayers for us. Thank you for mourning with us and praying on our behalf. We are so blessed and grateful. I’ll end with this scripture from Habakkuk. I love the imagery of this passage and the message it’s conveying and its what I am praying over my heart. That even when I have precious things taken away, I can trust and rejoice in my Savior. Please pray with me.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk‬ ‭3:17-18‬

Lean not on your own understanding…..

I wrote this post a few weeks ago. When I got around to publishing I wasnt sure what to title it. And then it hit me. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I have written before on strange feelings that you experience in fostering children. There are so many. Strange not being necessarily bad, just weird, like butterflies in your stomach.

We had gotten to have our two previous foster boys with us for several days. Their grand parents were feeling under the weather so I was thrilled to offer some relief. We had little baby J a week and big baby K for the following weekend. I thought I was biting off more than I could chew. I mean 6 kids is one thing. But 3 of them under the age of 2 that’s another story. All in all it was a real treat. You really learn how to improvise with that many babies. “Here, have an appetizer while I fix your dinner. Puffs anyone?” Honestly the goal in my head goes something like this, “If we can keep the crying to a minimal it’ll all be ok. I’ll be ok. Here, have a go go squeeze.” I probably spent half our grocery budget in all that trendy baby junk but whatever, it works! And then Jason came home on Saturday with the big guns. Bubbles, chalk, and a slide. My hero! 😍

Back to the topic at hand though. As I watched Jason teach baby K, who is now totally a toddler, how to play teeball I felt mixed emotions. On one hand I felt a sense of happiness and Gods grace in this little guys life. Someone (us!) is teaching him teeball. Yet there is a sadness over the fact that we are filling shoes of his real parents. When I feed baby J his bottles and snuggle up to his precious face….. I feel privileged that I get to do this but I feel broken that his mommy isn’t. It’s good and sad all at once.

People often tell me, “I could never foster. I wouldn’t be able to let them go.” Honestly, it’s crossed my mind to respond, “Do you think I’m void of those emotions?” Usually I say something to diffuse the comment because I know people don’t mean what could be implied. A fellow blogger and foster/adoptive parent Jason Johnson has the perfect response, “Instead of letting the fear of getting too attached deter us, we should actually let the fear of these kids never feeling truly attached to someone drive us. These kids need people that are willing to love them enough to hurt for them if they ever have to let them go.”

We’ve only “let them go” 3 times so far and each time was different. We had our first placement (4 years ago) that we requested removal, that stunk. It was confusing trying to do what was right but fighting guilty feelings. Then we had a emergency placement. That was strange because two little girls came and went within a week and I have no clue how they are doing. Then came the boys. That’s been a roller coaster. In ways I have bonded with baby J like my own. And then there is K…. he has some quirks but something about him is equally endearing. I love these boys. God flooded me with peace when they left us. I pray for that peace to return. As their case moves forward and is coming to a close I am trying to grapple with what their future holds. I want to confidently place them in the sovereign hands of God but my mothering instincts and that pesky desire for control creeps in. I find myself wondering how all the choices that were made for them will effect them. I have this urge to spring into action, “What can we do?!?” And yet everything is out of my hands. And though Satan may tempt me to fear and worry, I am reminded Who’s hands they are in. And so I pray and I trust and I rest in the Fathers infinite love for those two little guys. And I cling to scriptures like this.

“Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them.” Psalms‬ ‭10:17-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Wherever He leads I’ll go…..or stay

We recently have returned from a wonderful, family filled week in Florida. Jason’s brother Mike is now married to Mrs. Jessica Graham. 🙂 Congrats to those two! So very happy for them. We drove down a few days early and enjoyed time with family and friends in Tampa. We then celebrated their union and marriage over the course of a long weekend in Orlando. As we drove home Sunday I felt I could burst from the precious time spent with the people I love most in this world. As I type about it my eyes fill with tears.

The last few days have been hard. I miss e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. This happens from time to time. I come home from drinking deeply (and non stop) family, friends, love, laughter, affection, all the good, God given gifts of relationship and then find myself home, isolated, and cut off cold turkey. My closest loved ones are 45 minutes away and it’s just far enough for loneliness to settle in comfortably. I remember how, in 2010, we sold our home in Brooksville to move CLOSER to family, only for God to bring us 508 miles away. He has always been gracious, especially allowing us to live in close proximity with our cousins those first few years, but in His sovereign mercy He brought us out a little bit further. And when the newness and excitement wore off I’d be lying if I said I’ve never thought about moving back. Back to Dallas. Back to Tampa. Back anywhere that someone who knows me inside and out resides. All along the way though God has confirmed we should be here. He’s revealed the great needs in this small community and that He indeed wants to partner with us in spreading His Good News to the hopeless. And there are many. Time and again the verse, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sister-yes, even their own life-such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:28 I’m tempted to think life would be better in the company of my family or friends. We’d have more support, help in this ministry, more community with believers, etc. etc. All good things. But God has been clear. My love for Him must trump family, friends, and mostly, my personal comfort. God doesn’t always call us away from these relationships, but for us now He has. His Word also tells us, “We have everything we need to live a life that pleases God. It was all given to us by God’s own power, when we learned he had invited us to share in his wonderful goodness.” ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:3‬ And we can trust that His will and ways are perfect. It may not always feel good but He is in control. I am grateful that family is only an 8 hour drive away and not an entire ocean. God truly knows how to stretch me without my breaking.

Psalm 61:1-5 has been at the forefront of my mind, jotted in my journal, and recited from my lips even at points when I wasn’t “feeling” it. In my sadness I have repeated it over and over and the Word of God has been faithful to restore my trust and confidence in Him.

“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. For you, God, have heard my vow; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.”

Even as I want so badly to be with family I know in the depths of my soul, Jesus Christ is truly all I need. Sometimes it takes many shed tears and pleading with the Lord (and a few wasted hours on realtor.com) to remember that and have peace about it. Feelings and emotions can be so intense. But I know I have not been forsaken and that God is with me and goes before me. I hope if you are struggling with loneliness you will know that, too. Fight for your joy in Christ, through prayer and reading His Word. Even when you don’t think you have the strength, the faith, or simply dont “feel like it”, persevere at His throne of grace.

Psalm 68:19 “Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.”

For those particularly pesky bouts of melancholy blues I highly recommend When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper. You can download it for free at DesiringGod.org