Love like Jesus

There is something about fostering that I’m learning and have wanted to share. It’s something that I’m not sure gets talked about openly, because it’s a sensitive subject. I imagine it’s very hard to understand if you haven’t fostered or adopted, but I’m guessing it’s not unique to me. :-/

Before we stepped into fostering, the idea of caring for children in need just pulled at my heartstrings. For the most part, I thought that loving someone else’s child the way I love my own would come naturally. Especially since, for now, we have chosen to foster babies and toddlers. I just couldn’t imagine it being difficult to love a baby. Additionally, knowing that these children are coming from such broken places, I assumed the compassion I had would further fuel my love and affection.

I thought too highly of myself.

There are days when my affection does not flow naturally. My love feels forced and fake. I get irritated by behaviors that I didn’t contribute to. I forget about their trauma and being compassionate.

I am selfish and self serving.

Honestly, the thing that confronted me most (and God has been dealing with me ever so gently) is all the selfishness and pride that is bound up in my parenting. My kids aren’t perfect, but they are healthy, generally happy, mostly obedient, smart, funny, and beautiful. And though I KNOW that is all because of God’s sovereign grace and mercy, there are moments when I’m tempted to think, “Jason and I did such a good job. We are such good parents.”

Children in foster care come with so much hurt and brokenness and it manifests itself differently in each child. It takes awhile sometimes to see the unique God given beauty and wonderful characteristics that He has placed in them. They come dealing with trauma. They come with quirks. Right now we have a screamer. My point is, I have been enjoying my children and parenting out of the overflow of GOOD things. We haven’t had to walk through anything really tough yet with our children and so, for the most part, loving them, liking them, it’s been pretty easy. In foster parenting you are brought a child that has been hurt, had no structure, and no loving discipline. They exhibit odd and even frustrating behaviors that are not their fault, at that point you are confronted with your true motives in parenting. I’ll be honest, I like when our children make us look good. It is an “I will invest in you and you will yield a profit,” mentality, with the “profit” being you respond in a way that makes me feel and look good. I know, it is worldly and consumer oriented. I know that’s not what parenting is about. Children are not our accessories though often we treat them that way.

Here to serve, not be served.

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
Galatians‬ ‭5:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God has revealed to me that if we are to be effective in fostering (AND parenting), we have to accept the good and the bad, the beautiful and the broken, just like he does.

Katie Davis makes a compelling observation in her book, Kisses from Katie:

It’s just different when it’s your own child who’s suffering. But should it be?…..I believe that this is a normal human reaction. I also believe it is wrong. I believe that every human being on this planet is God’s child, perfectly made and beloved and cherished by Him. I believe that His heart hurts, even more than mine when my baby is hurting, for each and every one of the hurting, dying, starving, crying children in our world. So I have to believe that if my heart was truly seeking to be aligned with the heart of God, that I would hurt for each of these children as well. But sometimes, I forget. Sometimes I’m busy. Sometimes hurting for my very own children feels like enough. I believe the world says this is okay. I believe it is wrong.

This was so very convicting for me to read. But I believe she is right! Not only have I thought it was okay to love or hurt more for my children but more selfish than that, I have been all about what is good, beautiful and easy, and when faced with the uncomfortable, bad and broken I realized how shallow my love is. Thankfully God has placed His Holy Spirit in me and THAT is what makes it possible for me to truly love. I pray my heart would continue to align with His so I can love like He loves. We are here to serve and especially in the hard, broken places. It’s our job to show our children and other people’s children and ALL PEOPLE how Jesus loves.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭20:28‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Advertisements

Why Do You Pray?

 I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain.

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on firm footing.

Psalms 143:6,8, and 10 NLT

I love the saying “Caught not taught.” With parenting so much of what our children learn is from what they see, what they catch us doing. (We all know this can be both a good and bad thing.) Even still, our efforts to find those teachable moments definitely needs to be made. One thing I was recently prompted to talk about in depth with our children was prayer. My kids “catch” me praying regularly. We strive to pray with them at bed time, dinner, and other given opportunities, so I believe they are learning how to pray and the importance of praying often. The question that came to my mind was “Do my children know what the purpose of prayer is?”

In the words of David Platt “God has designed prayer as a means by which we might grow in love for Him, on a moment by moment, day by day basis.” (If you’d like more on that you can listen to his sermon The Privilege of Prayer.)

I agree and believe that when we understand prayer from this truth, it changes everything. When we come to God with a desire to commune with Him, know Him, and love Him more, it will certainly impact how we pray. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Not our little kingdom, HIS Kingdom. Not our wills and what should be’s, HIS perfect will.

So, do my kids know why we pray? Let’s find out. 🙂

Me: Tonight we are going to talk about prayer. Can you tell me what the purpose of praying is? Why do we pray?

Ryann: Umm cause we’re talking to Jesus. And its nice to Jesus. Cause when we pray it makes us happy.

Micaila: We pray because its important to Jesus and because its loving to Jesus and it cheers you up.

Caleb: For food and for God.

Ryann: Oooh Oooh! For other people!

Caleb: Nooo I wanna say thaaat!!! (Tone change) For other people.

Me: Those are some good answers…..

Ryann: What does it really mean? Because you didn’t seem happy with my answer.

Me: (I had to laugh, I didn’t think my expression showed disappointment lol) You’re answers are good but there is more to why we pray.

Since my children are almost nine, seven, and three I really did feel these were pretty good responses. But it also confirmed that it’s important to teach our kids the biblical reasons why we do the things we do. If we don’t teach them, they will merely be going through the motions of tradition and run the risk of becoming like those Paul referred to in his second letter to Timothy- “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” Or they may become teenagers and later adults who view God as an estranged parent you only talk to when you need something or call on when you’re in distress, but ignore all other times. Or worse yet, view Him as a genie we recite our self serving wishes to.

A few more questions I asked were:

Do we only pray when we want or need something?

Will God always answer our requests the way we want?

Is that wrong of Him?

I was thankful that my girls answered a resounding “no” to all these questions. I lost Caleb to some foam wrapping he found inside a game and decided to crumble all over our living room. 🙂

I proceeded to teach the girls the acronym “P. R.A.Y.”
P- Praise God for Who He is and what He’s done.
R-Repent of sin and ask for forgiveness.
A- Ask or make requests to God.
Y- Yield yourself, your life to Him.

This led to even more meaningful conversation as we talked about the attributes of God. Some examples the girls gave without prompting were “He is kind.” “He is merciful.” “He is perfect.” We discussed what all those words mean and more practically what this would look like for them. Talking about things a nine and seven year old might repent of like impatience with others, delayed obedience/disobedience, being dishonest, poor attitude in school, and being selfish.

What amazed me was what my kids do know. Praise the Lord! Yet there was much they didn’t know or at least couldn’t yet put into words, I assumed they knew. We finished our time by praying through the acronym and it was really wonderful.

“Holy Father, Thank you again for the opportunity to partner with you in raising these children. As Ryann reminded me tonight, You ARE perfect, therefore completely trustworthy because all you do is good and right. I know I’ll make mistakes, as will our children, but I pray we would be diligent to build them a solid godly foundation that, no matter what, they will return to You, the Way, the Truth and the Life. “

Luke 6:47-48 “I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built.”

Jeremiah 33:3- “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

The dangers of being cute

Having Caleb has brought on some different challenges to parenting. Some of you can relate to the scenario.

He is the youngest of three and his older siblings are two darling girls who love to mother him. There is four years difference between him and our middle daughter so it had been a little while having a baby around. Because of our girls being slightly older they are more interactive with him. Every one of us has been guilty of laughing at that silly boy. He is a clown! It’s different with him, he’s a typical toddler, but he has older siblings to mimic. He says and does a lot of things neither of the girls ever did, good and bad. Over the course of his two and a half years of life by our sheer amusement with him we have encouraged his desire for attention. There’s nothing wrong with liking a little attention but I’m learning, sometimes the hard way, that how and what we give attention to can be dangerous.

Beware of cuteness.

Caleb is constantly being affirmed that he is funny and cute. Yet even at his young age he is learning to use his cuteness to get away with disobedience and rebellion. Sometimes even THAT is cute, except it shouldn’t be. On plenty of occasions we have buried our faces to conceal our laughter at something he shouldn’t be doing but it’s just “so cute”. The offense being minor and he being funny begins the slow process of undermining a rule or boundary and feeds the idea in his little mind that “I can get away with…… if I act silly and cute.” He has the ability to smile and talk in such a charismatic way it is often difficult to be firm and follow through with discipline. I regret the times I’ve let him charm his way out of consequences.

One evening we had finished dinner and were winding down before bedtime. I was sitting on the couch and Caleb came to me and asked if he may have a waffle. All of my kids have a habit of wanting to eat out of boredom. I reminded him we just ate dinner and no you may not have a waffle it’s almost time for bed. That answer seemed to appease him and he walked off. Moments later Ryann announces that the freezer is wide open and then I began to hear noises from the laundry room. I knew exactly what was going on and I was honestly tempted to pretend I didn’t. I sat on the couch and contemplated if I felt like parenting lol. I credit the Holy Spirit for impressing on me big time that this most definitely needed to be addressed.

The door to the laundry room was closed which is unusual, it’s rarely closed. I open the door and not to my surprise find Caleb; Sitting in the laundry room…. in the corner behind the door….. eating a frozen waffle.

I looked at him very seriously and in a soft, calm, yet firm voice (which was definitely evidence of the Spirit!) I asked “What are you doing?” To which, in all his adorableness, he responded “Nuuuufffiiiiing” with a big grin.

The quick and easy thing to do would have been to smile and laugh at him, take the waffle away, and simply remind him that “Mommy said no waffles.” The end. I mean it was just a frozen waffle right? No harm, no foul.

But as I stood there the Holy Spirit revealed to me clearly what was taking place.
1.) He flat out disobeyed. Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death. If I don’t address his disobedience with firm discipline it will result in future disobedience. It will erode not only my authority but other authorities in his life. He must learn now in the small things to obey his parents and trust our rules because as he gets older he will need to learn to trust and obey God his Heavenly Father.
2.) He tried to hide his disobedience, which is a form of dishonesty. Proverbs 28:13 He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. It was very obvious that he was hiding. I needed to address this behavior and explain that we don’t hide things in this home. If you have to hide it or keep it a secret it’s more than likely not a good thing. We want our children to learn how to be honest and transparent in every circumstance.

Caleb received a few spankings after our chat. Proverbs 29:15 The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother. As I wiped the tears from his sweet chunky face I told him that I loved him and that it was very important for him to learn to obey mommy and daddy and to be honest. Now I recognize he’s two and there was a lot said that maybe he doesn’t understand….. but he will. 🙂

I also felt in all that God reminded me of this; Caleb has two older sisters that watch and absorb everything going on around them. This lesson was not taught just to my two and a half year old there were two others that were learning through observation. We can’t forget the impact our parenting has for those watching. Doing the right thing takes a lot of effort but I trust what scriptures promise and that we will see the fruits of our labor in due time.

Proverbs 2:11-12 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.photo

Nerf Wars

I admit that as a parent I am not necessarily the “playful” type. This has always been Jason’s strength and I’m grateful for that. Somehow he can even involve our kids in projects around the house like painting and building and make it fun. That’s a gift if you ask me! My attempts to play with our children usually feel tired, forced and mechanical. I guess I left my imagination back in middle school when I used to pretend I was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy playing and having fun,… mostly with Jason and other adults. With my children I lean towards the serious, structured, caregiving side. Somebody’s gotta do it. 😉 Jason on the other hand is naturally playful and being married to him is helping develop more of that spirit in me. 🙂 It’s so neat to see how God uses our differences to help strengthen each other’s weaknesses.

Back to becoming a more playful mommy because I recognize its importance. I heard this said, in regards to parenting teens, “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” We begin forming a certain kind of relationship with our kids long before the teen years. I see my weak areas and honestly, it terrifies me to consider the possible negative effects my flaws could have on my children. Being a parent is a seriously scary responsibility. Am I the only one who ever considers “What if I totally mess my kids up?” Having confessed that though….. I also have Jesus. 🙂 I know He can change me as I acknowledge my need for Him.

Philippians 1:4-6 “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Can I get an Amen?!

So to the fun part! Our girls were given nerf guns for Christmas. Also- I have discovered the toy that brings ol’ Buffy out to play with the kiddos. Enter the crossbow and darts; this is so totally on! We have been having so much fun with these things that Jason decided it was necessary for him to purchase a few more. I mean, it’s for quality time’s sake. 🙂 Last week, after buying our new weapons, Jason devised a surprise attack for when the girls came home from school. To say it was awesome is an understatement. If you have older kids you need to get some nerf wars going. Actually, if you have no kids you should get some nerf wars going. I recommend having dinner already made though because you will play for hours and probably lose track of time and then be hungry from all the energy you just expelled. And yes, people will most likely get shot in the face and that’s why you wear sunglasses. Caleb shot me point blank in the forehead. Traitor.

But not every night can be a nerf war night. I feel it necessary to paint a more accurate picture. Some nights we are tired,…. okay me…. like every night. There’s math to be done and we’re wishing we had a homework pass. Dinner needs to be made and honestly I don’t love to cook. Some evenings Caleb is a hot mess working toward a hot bottom. Other nights the girls are having their attitude adjusted by privileges being revoked.

It’s not always one way or the other. Some days are joyful, sweet and fun, other days are long, tough and weary. Then there are those days that just pass. God is always at work and is always good even if I’m not “feeling it”.

I just love what Paul says in Acts 20:24 “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

And there you have it. 🙂

Good bye De Vil

Cruella who?

Yesterday I posted about those not-so-super-mom moments I struggle with. Maybe you can relate to the scenario. All seems well and than you get hit by a land mine of emotional stress, anxiety, frustration and you are certain in that moment someone needs to be on the receiving end of it to make you feel better. In a rational thoughtful state you know that’s not the truth but you lash out anyway overcome by your emotions and it only makes you feel worse, sending you down the guilt ridden road accompanied by a long list from the Accuser himself.

I identified what I view as contributors to the scenario for me personally but after some thought I realize this is a specific, reoccurring area of sin that I am not content to just hope goes away or think thoughts like “I’ll do better next time.” In fact as I am reading through this book The Pursuit of Holiness I am reminded that it’s my responsibility to take Spirit filled action and be prepared to not give in to the sin of anger.

So maybe you can relate and that’s why I thought I would follow up my post and share here how I hope to become a more spirit controlled mommy when that moment of stress overcomes me. So how might one combat this? Well my very sweet friend who often acts more as a mentor to me than she realizes was sharing with me something she was doing through a marriage Bible study/book. And I thought “what a fantastic tangible intentional way to actively participate in battling this area of sin I am dealing with.” So here is my spin off of what my friend shared with me. Oh and ps, just another wonderful reason to have Christian women in your life who want to run this race as hard (and sometimes harder) than you do. So often we build up and encourage each other when we don’t even realize it. What a blessing! That’s all God and he wants us to have deep godly friendship. 🙂

I wrote down on an index card the struggle. All of it. How, I do not want to be impatient or use angry frustrated tones with my children. That I know it’s not edifying and I know God has called me to a higher standard and he also provides a different path than to give in and lash out. And then you look up verses that will help you in that moment to choose what Christ wants you to choose. Here’s my spiffy card.

20140621-183049-66649494.jpg
The next part is to carry it with me EVERYWHERE. Memorize the scripture. Have the card on hand if not IN hand so that when the moment comes your better choice is right in front of you. So far I am seeing the good fruit Spirit filled actions produce. Like when Caleb scribbled all over it 5 minutes after I wrote it up. ❤️😃

20140621-183051-66651474.jpgThere are many other ways we can work through temptation and walk the path of obedience this is just one. I hope it strengthens and encourages you as it has me.

Grace upon grace…..

It’s been about 3 months since we packed all our things up and began moving. What a process this has been. The whole move in general has not unfolded exactly as we had planned in our hopeful minds. But of course, His plan is far richer and more beneficial for enabling us to glorify Him. When we accepted the offer on our old home we had pretty quickly gone under contract with an approved short sale. We were told that it being “approved” would enable essentially a normal closing. It was wishful thinking to expect being able to directly move from our old home to our new home. So we found a rental that allowed month to month leasing. As with most short sales you run into your share of surprises. I lost track of how many times we changed due diligence and closing dates, haha. We jumped the gun on giving our notice to the landlord and that is how we ended up here with our cousins. So that’s the short version of the story.

As I stated in my previous post, I am so grateful to be here with our cousins. God is using this in a much greater way than simply housing us.

It’s been humbling to parent alongside them for the last month. As parents we are all aware that we have different styles, different priorities, things we find more important than others, ect. What I am reminded of after living here is to never get too proud in my parenting. I don’t know it all, I am not perfect, neither is my parenting. I want to be humble enough to acknowledge the areas I need maturing in and also receptive to learning from other people.

1 Peter 5:5 and 6 “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

Now you may accuse me of the obvious here but I’m saying it anyway. You really can’t KNOW a person unless you live with them. As close as we have been with our cousins I still have been privileged to know them even more intimately after having lived with them.

One thing that really sticks out to me, specifically in regards to how they parent is the giving of affection and grace. I struggle at points with both of those actions. I have many fears and reasons but after observing this family in the throws of reality I have concluded that you can’t underestimate the power of affection and grace. I believe that their children will grow up, no matter what happens, with a complete confidence in the fact that they are loved and treasured by their mom and dad. I have been apart of some chaotic mornings getting everyone off to school and watched both Nicole and Scott set aside it all to send their family off with love and kisses. This is not some rote, habitual, disingenuous action. It’s sacrifice.  One of my biggest problems is moving beyond how I feel to choose love and grace and affection. It requires sacrifice to set aside bad moods and attitudes and convey to your family members “No matter what, I love you.” Those words and a simple hug and kiss can often be the hardest thing for me to express when I don’t feel it. Yet for our young children those actions, whether they were received a lot or not enough, will shape them.

John 1:16 “From his fullness we have received grace upon grace… “

Romans 12:10 “Love each other with genuine affection,and take delight in honoring each other.”

Nicole works full time. This adds a whole new level of admiration I have for her. I have watched her turn off whatever happened throughout her day and walk through the door with a smile ready to embrace her family. This is no easy task for a mom. When we return home from anywhere we are welcomed with the many needs of our family. When I asked her how she does it she told me “When I turn into the neighborhood I just start praying……” And let me tell you I can see the evidence of those prayers.

The other quality I would note of this family is their humility. They are not afraid to acknowledge their own imperfections and weaknesses and their great need for His saving grace. None of us are perfect, but that is how His power is displayed. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I’m only scratching the surface here on what all I believe our family has gained from living here. It has been such a blessing to see their love in action on a daily basis. I know God is using this for a very specific purpose. He knows the areas I struggle in. It’s no surprise that he would move us back on Crimson to drive home the power of grace.

2 Corinthians 4:15 “as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.”

Legacy: Parenting by Design Devotional

Parenting is super hard. It’s also incredibly rewarding when we do it in partnership with God, our Heavenly Father, the Creator and Designer of the family. Jason and I have been running into some new parenting hurdles with our girls getting older and the addition of our foster daughter. The good news of this is it draws us near to God in search of his will and the right thing to do. I really like this daily devotional Parenting by Design through Youversion. Its something I can access quickly when I need some truth to hold me accountable. I need to have scripture on hand all the time and the prayer line open. Otherwise I make excuses and justify my poor behaviors, attitudes and choices. This was the devotional I read today and it resonated deeply with me. I think we all want to leave a Legacy and I want ours more than anything to be marked with Gods Love. It’s a lot of work with lots of intentional actions to fight against the battle of sin. But we can do this! Be encouraged, his grace is enough.

LEGACY: Parenting by design

God knows the consequences of sin and pleads for us to obey his commands. He lets us know in advance that our choices will have lasting consequences for us and for our children. Sinful choices can be the beginning of destructive family patterns that often carry on generation after generation.

But God’s mercy far outweighs his judgment. Many more generations will be blessed if we choose to love and obey Him. In the face of temptation, remember that the way we live our lives establishes a lasting legacy, either in the form of blessings or punishments. What will we choose to give our children and the generations that follow?

When faced with temptation, consider the legacy that sin passes on to your children.

Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the Lord your God, and I demand all your love. If you reject me and worship idols, I will punish your families for three or four generations. But if you love me and obey my laws, I will be kind to your families for thousands of generations. (Deuteronomy 5:9, 10 CEV)