Cracked

Let’s say you’re building a home. You’ve done all your due diligence. You have the perfect lot. Soil test is done. You have beautiful house plans drawn up by a reputable architect. You’ve got your general contractor who has all the right people in place. Green light to go. You start with your foundation. Seems to be a perfect pour, situated just right on your property. You are so excited as you envision this home you’ve dreamt about for years. People are excited for you. Finally the time feels right and here you stand before this massive slab of concrete on this gorgeous piece of land.

But then you notice a crack. How could this be? This was carefully thought out, carefully poured. But it’s your foundation. It’s what this house will be built on. You can’t ignore this crack. You can’t proceed with building and hope that one day the crack will resolve on its own. That’s not how it works. If the crack is there now, the crack will only get larger with more materials, weight and pressure. Maybe you won’t see it, maybe others won’t see it as you mask it with dry wall and flooring but it’s there. And it’s a hazard. It’s a danger to your whole house.

Let’s just say we have a crack in our foundation right now. The foundation this adoption hinges on. The deeper we go on this foster/adoption journey the more I get why people further along than us (and MUCH wiser) say how full of pain it is. It’s just not going to be tied up with a neat little bow. Trauma sucks. It’s ugly. It seems so unfair. I hate it for these boys, I hate it for our family and I hate that I can’t rescue them with love and hugs and kisses. It’s just not that simple. I wish it was.

I feel crushed under the weight of raising five kids, two with tremendous emotional needs, a husband who works quite a lot, and very limited support. I have been crushed under the weight of this RAD diagnoses. I’m running ragged carting everyone to all manner of appointments to accommodate the needs of these little guys, all the while being hit and screamed at by them. I feel frustrated and slightly abused and I am so consumed by how to help them. So consumed that I fear it’s cracking my foundation; my marriage, my three older children, myself.

As it stands we have to put a hold on moving forward with this adoption so we can re-evaluate what’s in the best interest of everyone. The boys are still with us. We’re getting more services in place to help them. But I don’t know what the future holds. I have cried a lot. I don’t want to contribute to their trauma by them moving. But I also don’t think it would be fair to them to move forward with building their lives on a cracked foundation. They need strong. They need stable. Maybe things will get better. Maybe we will strengthen and unite and move forward. Or maybe changes in plans will occur. I just don’t know but I’m asking you to please pray.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever- help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Psalm 46:1-11 NIV

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What’s your part?

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many……..

On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:14, 22-26‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We studied this passage in Sunday school this morning. It’s a pretty familiar one but it struck me like I was reading it for the first time. Maybe it was Jake’s carburetor analogy. He was showing us this little teeny tiny piece, an air screw, that allowed the carburetor to even work. Not only did you have to have the piece but it had to be set just right or the carburetor would not work. Paper weight.

I loved it.

Its got me thinking though. We live in a VERY individualistic society. A society that kind of says if you can’t do it yourself you probably shouldn’t do it. The biblical model of relying on others to accomplish things flies in the face of a “you can only rely on yourself” kind of world. And the thing that really stood out to me in this passage is, “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” And in the NIV translation it goes on to say, “while our presentable parts need no special treatment.” Basically I take that to mean the parts that stand out, the ones we see in the forefront and spotlight, maybe even the people that we view as the “super Christians”, they need no special treatment and they can not do what they do with out the “less honorable” parts upholding them. And actually, those “less honorable parts” really deserve the highest honor because their role is SO important. They are indispensable.

Jason and I answered the call to care for orphans and vulnerable children through foster care. Many people think we are special angels and they could never do what we do. I don’t want it to sound like I don’t appreciate the encouragement but we are not special. We are totally normal. And I wish people would quit thinking we are special because I’m starting to wonder if they even understand how much help we need. How we can’t do this alone. And currently we are desperately trying! Often I have thought to myself, “Lord, I KNOW you have called us to these children. But why have you called a family that has such limited local support??”

I think I know why.

I think he intends to use us to invite others along on our journey. To invite other parts of the body of Christ.

Some may look at us and think “Wow! Look at what they are doing. What an amazing role they are playing in the body of Christ.” But honestly, sometimes….. we feel like we’re missing our air screw.

Maybe you couldn’t do what we do. Maybe that is because God meant for you to play a different part. A more INDISPENSABLE part. Maybe you’re an air screw. 🙂

Please take a moment to watch this short video. And if you are interested in pursuing the call to care for orphans in some capacity I welcome questions and would love to direct you as best I can.

https://www.faithbridgefostercare.org/churches/what-is-a-foster-care-ministry/

A church. A family. A home.

This evening my heart was completely flooded with joy and praise. And before I go further, let me just interject that today has been HARD. Like WAY hard. So before you get some unrealistic picture from what I’m about to paint…. Picture it all amid several melt downs (including one of my own), a dirty house, a few bite marks,….at this very moment I have a screaming three year old that doesn’t want to sleep because four books was not enough. It’s been hard but you guys God is good even in the hard, amen? The kids and I gathered around our kitchen island (seriously, I can’t believe we are still squeezing the six of us around this thing and there is a dining table four feet away that seats eight! Haha!) I served everyone their plates and Caleb said “And now we can pray!” and Micaila said “Yeah! You’re right, lets pray!” I asked them who wanted to be the one to pray and they all were saying “Me! Me! Me!” This may surprise you all. I mean I AM a pastors daughter, why is this such a big deal? Well I have an even bigger shocker, it’s a big deal because it’s NEVER happened. My children have NEVER wanted to pray at the dinner table. When I have tried to encourage them to, they mostly look down and hope I don’t press to hard.

In April, we visited a church in our small town. This was like our last effort and if it didn’t work out I figured we would just have to move. They were the most genuine welcoming people I had ever been greeted by. They didn’t just give a casual “Good morning, nice to have you.” And assume “You’ll figure the rest out.” They warmly welcomed us, made sure we knew of every event, activity, and appropriate class we could be a part of. Basically, they went great lengths to assure us that they wanted us there.

We’ve visited a lot of churches and one thing I have learned in the process is how important it is to WELCOME visitors. I know. It’s hard. You feel a bit awkward. You wonder if they even want to be spoken to. We have got to get over our own comfort and church cliques and ENSURE people feel welcomed by the body of Christ.

So we tried a Sunday school class and were so impressed by how committed to being in God’s Word this group of adults was. It wasn’t a social hour, it was an hour meant for edifying each other and growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord. And our kids went to class and they thoroughly enjoyed it as well. We recently have been able to start going on Wednesday nights. And we are becoming more and more connected to this church and I see how God is working in the life of this church and my life and my children’s lives. It was not that long ago that Caleb told me “I don’t want to go to church. I don’t like church.” I was heartbroken. As a child I LOVED church. I loved my church family. I loved GA’s and youth, and camp and growing up in church. And I was so discouraged that our children (and me and Jason for that matter) were not connected to God’s people like I had always been.

Last week my kids all shared with me how they wished church was every night. And tonight, hearing their desire to commune with the Lord and thank him for our food and family, I’m just so grateful for God’s faithfulness. We had to hang in there to finally connect with a healthy church. There were times I wanted to give up. Rainy Sundays that I was just fine staying home. But the Holy Spirit kept pressing and pulling and reminding me “You need fellowship with Christians. You need the church. Don’t give up on my Bride!!” I never thought finding a church home would have been the struggle that it was. And I’m so thankful for His grace in that difficult season and for how He has brought us here with this church body.

Link to a previous post on our journey to finding a church. https://familyofgrahams.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/my-struggle-with-church/

Update** On September 23, 2018 our family joined New Harmony Baptist Church. I never imagined how much walking down the aisle, announcing our new membership and being hugged on by the rest of the congregation would mean to me. I was overwhelmed with joy and a very real sense of belonging. I know I belong to Christ but it’s so important to be united to his church. I was giddy all day! And I’m so thankful how God has affirmed our decision with such a joyous confidence.

Thankful for bedtime

So I’m laying in my bed…. Jason had to work late, the girls are still in Florida and I got my buddy Caleb next to me watching Team Umizoomi way to late. I’m reading my new book Confessions of an Adoptive Parent by Mike Berry. I just started it and already feel so encouraged and hopeful.

I don’t know why this struck me just now, maybe it’s the book, “Confessions….” and I felt compelled to write about it but I am SO THANKFUL for bedtime. With our two little guys that is. And let me tell you why.

I love bedtime because on most days it’s the only thing I feel confident I have done right and well.

We have our routine. We get jammie’s on, we read books, we rock a little. For the most part they go to bed well and happy now, maybe a few tears from J but all in all, bedtime is an easy and happy experience. This is a huge deal. We have had bed time issues and I know a lot of children who have experienced trauma deal with on going night time issues.

Our days lately have been hard. The honeymoon is over and we are realizing just exactly what all the trauma and disruption has done to these two little guys. I remember telling Jason one of the “positives” of adopting these boys was that we “know” them. Because we had had them in our home and maintained contact with them…. I naively thought I knew what we were getting into. But I realize now you can’t know or anticipate what you will encounter with children from hard places. There are just so many layers. So much has occurred in their short lives. And it’s all compounding and here we are.

But bedtime is sweet and not just because they are going to bed. Although, that is a wonderful victory for me if I’m being honest. We made it through another day, yay us!! Bedtime is sweet because I enjoy reading to them and they love being read to. And I love reading Pete the Cat and Little Bear and Poems and Prayers. And I know that the simple fact that I get this one moment every night that affirms my soul “This is right”, is not to be taken for granted.

For all the thousand times I doubt myself during the day, I am so grateful to end most nights knowing I did at least one thing well.

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

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

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