What’s a Girl to Do (Athaliah)

This is the third part of a study called _False Images – Your Future is not Cast in Stone_. First we looked at Rachel and her inability to let go of the false images of her father. Next we looked at Ruth and how she determined to embrace her future. This section is subtitled ‘A Reason for Treason’. This time we will look at Athaliah & next time Jehosheba. While you may have heard of Rachel and Ruth, Athaliah and Jehosheba may be less familiar. Two women, faced with choices. They are both real life characters in a dramatic, suspenseful story but, the roles they play are totally different. Athaliah is the villainess while Jehosheba is the heroine.

If you asked most people who the most evil woman in the Bible was, chances are, most rarely would think of Athaliah. After this study however, that might change. She is violent, deceptive, murderous and possibly the epitome of evil. Before we enter into the action of the story, let’s have a bit of background.

Many scholars agree that she was the daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. She had learned Jezebel’s wicked ways and embraced them as her own. Remember we always have a choice. She had a choice. She was married to Jehoram the son of the Godly King Jehoshaphat. Jehoram had a choice as well. He forsook the ways of his father and under the influence of his evil wife undid a great many of the good things that King Jehoshaphat had accomplished during his reign. Excuse me for just a moment while I pause to pray for the women whom my five sons will some day marry. Although I’m being a bit facetious at this moment, I truly do this on a regular basis. Oh the influence of a wife on her husband (and vice versa of course).

When her husband died, their son Joash became king. She was no longer the Queen but, she was the Queen Mother and this satiated her appetite for power. But, then everything changed. While she was not Jezebel herself, she had that same spirit of manipulation and hunger for power. When her hold and influence were threatened she took action. Awful, terrible, horrific action. She intended to keep control AT ANY COST.

“When Athaliah, the mother of King Ahaziah of Judah, learned that her son was dead, she began to destroy the rest of the royal family.” (2 Kings 11:1 NLT)

Just in case that isn’t perfectly clear, let me clarify. She killed in cold blood all the royal seed. Anyone who could have a claim on the throne was annihilated. She murdered her own grandchildren. I can hardly type the words without my heart lurching in horror. She was so determined to have what she wanted, she destroyed her own future and sacrificed those she should have protected. Selfish, self-centered, deceptive, manipulative, usurper! She became the king. This was indeed a reason for treason, there was an imposter on the throne!

I’m so thankful to say that this isn’t the end of the story. After this bloody scene of murder and mayhem, the curtains close and reopen to reveal Jehosheba, our heroine. I can’t wait to tell you all about it next time. Until then, I want you to stop and think of the choices you have before you. Just like every lady we will look at in this study, you may have a family heritage of sin, dysfunction and shameful acts. You do not have to claim those false images as your own. When you are tempted to, stop and ask yourself, “What’s a Girl to Do?”. There are options, there are always options. You do NOT have to be what has been before you. You have a new heritage as a child of the King. You can be redeemed, purchased with a price and set free from the heritage of sin. Even if you yourself have already made choices that you regret, this is not the end of the story.

When I talk to my children about family trees, I developed a unique method of explaining it. I would draw a tree with branches and roots. I always tell my children that they have roots of their own biologically that are different than mine and Henry’s. Those roots helped determine the color of their eyes, the height of their stature, the shape of their mouth. But, as an adopted child, they are grafted in to our family. I always stop and add a branch at that point. I explain that while we did not determine the color of their eyes, we will help them to see truth and recognize right from wrong. While we didn’t have any part in how tall they stand physically, we can help shape them and make them spiritually strong. We didn’t contribute to the shape of their mouths either, but we hope to encourage them to smile, to choose their words carefully and lift their voices in praise.

This same illustration applies to us spiritually. The roots are there, roots of sin, roots of pain, roots of despair. They’ve had their influence, we might as well not deny it. But, that is not the end of the story.

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)

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A Woman Forsaken

It was Autumn 1993, so 20 years ago that I sat on the small screened front porch of our home in a rural setting and faced deep disappointment once again, for the millionth time it seemed. I felt betrayed by my own body, misunderstood by the people who I loved the most, abandoned by God and humiliated. My husband, Henry, and I had been married a decade. This was our year to turn 30 and we were childless. The first and second year of our marriage we experienced pregnancy but lost those babies before they came to full term. While I was comforted that we would see them in eternity, my arms remained empty here and now. As time passed we climbed into our assigned seat on the infertility roller-coaster and buckled in for a less than thrilling, far from enjoyable ride that had left me sitting still and feeling numb on a porch swing with coffee growing cold in the cup I held in my hand.

We had tried to give it time and let nature take its course for a few years. We had tried old wives tales, herbal remedies, temperature taking, chart keeping, several laparoscopic procedures to address the endometriosis and even a round of fertility pills. We had prayed prayers, been anointed, claimed verses, stood in faith and as a show of how sure I was, I had given up my job in preparation for the baby I was sure we would soon have. The ob-gyn had assured me after the last procedure that he would leave the back porch light on for me as he thought I would soon return with the success of pregnancy achieved!

Those who cared for me tried their best to comfort me, Henry, like Hannah’s husband from Scripture, hoped his love was enough to fill the void. My precious grandmother encouraged me to just not think about it. My mom pointed out how fortunate I was to have a husband who adored me. My nieces and nephews declared me the best aunt of all as I lavished my attention upon them. While I appreciated their efforts, I felt alone in my despair. They did not understand what I was facing. They could not relate. They did not know.

I had taken my Bible out on the porch with me and I stared at its pages blankly. Desperate for understanding and longing for direction, I tried to focus on the words printed on the delicate pages. I couldn’t. I squeezed my eyes tightly shut, willing away the unbidden tears and allowed myself to pour out my emotion through swirling thoughts in my mind. Obviously, God did not feel I would be a good mother. I must be incapable of that kind of love and commitment. Every person I knew was trying to avoid what I was trying to attain, pregnancy. I had failed to give Henry a child; surely he was disappointed in me. I was faulty, broken, not enough. There was no holding back the tears now, they streamed freely. I sat down the untouched coffee and reached for a tissue. My Bible began to slip off my lap and I instinctively grabbed for it. I embraced it and held it close to my broken heart. “Help me God! Please help me! If this is not your will for me then please take away this desire this longing, this emptiness! Please help me understand!”

I drew the Bible from my chest and let my eyes fall upon the page that had been revealed as I had rescued it from falling. For the rest of my days, as long as I draw breath I will never forget that moment, those words.

“The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Your children hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you.
Lift up your eyes and look around; all your children gather and come to you. As surely as I live,” declares the Lord, “you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride.
(Isaiah 49:14-18 NIV)

“The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.’
Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who bore me these? I was bereaved and barren; I was exiled and rejected. Who brought these up? I was left all alone, but these—where have they come from?’ ”
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips.
Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”
(Isaiah 49:20-23 NIV)

I could scarcely believe what I was reading. Great hope did not abound that morning, instead a trickle of hope coursed it’s ways into my aching heart. I didn’t understand everything and all the pain was not erased instantly. But, I knew my God had heard me and answered my cry for help. I knew there was a purpose in the delay. I knew a plan was in place. I was not forgotten.

From that moment I began to seek diligently what God had in store for us rather than my own plans. It took several months to unfold before we found ourselves enrolled in the required training classes to becomes state licensed foster parents. Many considered us foolish as they cautioned we were setting ourselves up for heartbreak. Henry was very hesitant at first, worried that the pain of letting go would be too much for me. I addressed all the worries and concerns with a new found determination. I had been called. I would answer the call.

And when people asked how I could do such a thing, I asked them, how could I not? What this could do to me was not as important as what this could do for a hurting child who may be feeling just as abandoned and forgotten as I had felt.

We fostered for 15 years. Forty-five children came into our lives and into our homes. Some stayed for short times, some for years and seven forever as we were blessed to adopt them. Throughout those years God met me many more times in the pages of Scripture with comfort and strength to do what He had asked me to do. Those stories I will leave for another day.

I hope you will today take this one thing with you. The Word of God and what He says is more real than what you see or hear or feel. I know this to be true. I have lived it.

As unlikely as what I read that morning 20 years ago seemed, less than a year passed before one night under the starlight in my driveway I saw the social worker carry one of my children to me in their arms. Just like the scripture proclaimed, there would be so many that we would need more room. Exactly as the Word proclaimed, I had hoped in Him and I was not disappointed.

Real Bread – The Adventure

Real Bread

Not so many years ago, I was trying to talk myself into buying ‘wheat’ bread instead of the packaged white bread at the grocery store. Eventually I ventured further and bought a bread machine and a box of mix at the grocery store. I was very happy to be making bread at home! I was sure I was on my way to a modern day prairie girl. Little did I know what I had started and just how far I would go on this journey I had begun. Prairie girl indeed!

The next step was no more boxed mixes and with some good fortune at the thrift store, a total of three bread machines. After all, we are an XL Family. Soon, 5 lb bags of white flour just wouldn’t do and I began buying 25lb sacks at the warehouse store.

I suppose you won’t be surprised to hear that the day came when I began to consider milling my own flour. Ever notice how these kinds of things sneak up on you and all of the sudden you find yourself doing things you never thought you’d be doing?

We started with the Wonder Mill. We studied grains. We had homeschool unit studies on it. We cranked until our arms were sore. We bought the Wonder Mill Jr. which is electric and produces flour at lightening speed.

That isn’t the end of the story, but it’s far enough along to say this. We were hooked! There was no going back. We began to see improvements in health and skin and even behavior. My blood sugar levels started to stabilize. I began to lose weight as odd as that might seem, it is the truth.

If you are interested in more info about what ‘real bread’ can do for you, I highly suggest this article.

http://info.breadbeckers.com/

This company, Breadbeckers, is family owned and operated. I highly recommend them for equipment and grain purchases.

Now, don’t freak out or stretch your eyes wide – as Bilbo told Frodo, ”

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

And to add to the lure of new adventures, feast your eyes on this.

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What’s a Girl to Do? (Ruth)

What’s a Girl to Do? (Ruth)

False Images
Your Future is NOT Cast in Stone

This is a continuation of a study where we have already looked at Rachel and what her choices were when she had a chance for a new life, a fresh start. Now we will look at Ruth and what her choices were when facing a similar situation.

In the end, we will get to decide if we are going to be a Rachel or a Ruth. There is a choice to make, but, what’s a girl to do?

Rachel could not let go of her past that she declared she wanted to leave behind. We understood clearly that she could never fully embrace her future until she admitted what was hiding in her saddle bags and relinquished her rights to them.

Ruth, like Rachel had married into a family that was different than her own; like Rachel, she was willing to leave the land of her own family and their way of life. But, while Rachel treasured the idols that belonged to the father she declared had done her wrong, Ruth pushed ahead. Instead of clinging to the past and all the hurts of yesterday, she clung desperately to the hope of tomorrow.

While Rachel ventured forth with her husband and children; Ruth was widowed and childless. Surely, she had even more reason to justify staying where she was. Surely, no one could have expected her to try to create a new life. And yet, even when Naomi, her mother-in-law tried to persuade her to return, she would not go back. Even when Naomi was successful in persuading her other daughter-in-law to return, she would not go back.

As a matter of fact, her final declaration of intention is one of the loveliest passages in the whole of Scripture.

‘But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.’
(Ruth 1:16-18 NLT)

Time after time I have spoken with women who were at a cross roads in their life. Some have been forced into these points of decisions and choices. Perhaps as a teen they were taken from the family that a judge deemed unsafe. Perhaps as a young mother they are trying to establish boundaries to protect their own families from the pain of the past they have experienced. Perhaps they are widowed, like Ruth and feel as if they must begin again, all alone. Perhaps you find yourself there at this very moment.

Too many times we have allowed others to define who we are and determine our value. Too many times we have accepted what always has been as what must always be. Too many times we have felt guilty for desiring a different path to the point of feeling as if we are abandoning those we are ‘leaving behind’.

These are the false images that have been forced upon us. These have blinded us to the beauty and joy that could be ours when we remember who created us and who declared us to be good, very good. And to prove that you are most valuable to Him, God sent His own Son, Jesus to redeem you, to restore you.

I’d like you to consider a different way of thinking about it. Perhaps if you are courageous enough and steadfast like Ruth, you will be the first of many to make choices that lead to healing and hope.

Attached below is the 10 minute YouTube (part 4) of the study that tells of Ruth’s choices. Later we will look at two more women, an evil grandmother determined to destroy her own family and a brave young woman who refuses to let her succeed. ‘A Reason for Treason’.

What’s a Girl to Do? (Rachel)

False Images
Your Future is NOT Cast in Stone

When we hear the term ‘False Images’ we may immediately think of idols that are carved from wood or stone. This study however, deals with self images that can be just as false and warped.

No matter what our families have done before us, no matter what everyone else is doing around us, no matter how bleak the future may seem – your future is NOT cast in stone.

‘Created in God’s Image’

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NLT)

In our original state of creation there was no disease, no imperfections, no shame. Why should there be? Then, sin entered in and changed everything.

When sin touches you it leaves an imprint on your life. When it touches you enough, whether it is your own sin or the sin of others, you may come to the point where you don’t even recognize yourself anymore. You may not even remember who you are or who you were created to be. That’s a terrible and scary place to find yourself in.

An encounter with sin may find you abused or neglected, wounded or crushed, abandoned, betrayed, deceived and accused. As a child or a wife, any stage of your life, sin may have disfigured your self image until you no longer recognize yourself as the very good creation of God Himself.

“Choices – What’s a Girl to do?”

This study looks at five women from the Bible and the false images they chose to reject or embrace. First are two women who were both faced with choices. They have something in common. They both had married into families that worshiped the one true God although that had not been how they were raised. They both had to choose between what they were leaving behind and what the promise of the future held. We will begin with Rachel and consider Ruth next time.

Rachel had married Jacob. Jacob had left his own land and family to avoid facing the consequences of his own actions of deception and betrayal. He had reaped what he had sown by meeting his match in the manipulation arena with his new father-in-law, Laban.

After decades of living away from his family, Jacob decided to return and face his brother and father. When told about this plan, Rachel is enthusiastic about the idea and points out that she had been mistreated as well. So, the whole family (very large family) is in agreement and prepares to leave, secretly. Waiting for the right opportunity, Jacob takes action when Laban goes the opposite direction (15 miles) with his sons to attend to his flocks in another area.

Here is where a pivotal point in the story of Rachel happens. She has made her decision. She is eagerly going with Jacob to leave behind the lifestyle her family chooses and hope for a brighter future. It is at this moment that Rachel stumbles. She decides to take a bit of her past with her as she journeys into the promise of what lies ahead.

“At the time they left, Laban was some distance away, shearing his sheep. Rachel stole her father’s household idols and took them with her.”(Genesis 31:19 NLT)

A huge encounter occurs later due to her unwise choice. More deception, more conflict, because she hid away mementoes from her past. We don’t know exactly what thought process led to her decision, but, I think we can agree it was a faulty thought process.

Have you made the same mistake? As long as she carried those reminders of her past, those false images, she could never fully embrace her future and the wholeness of who she could be; who she was created to be.

One of my greatest challenges as a foster/adoptive mom was to encourage the children I encountered to let go of what wanted to attach itself to them as they tried to heal emotionally. I would often do an object lesson and fill their hands and arms with all they could rightfully claim as ‘their own’ from the life behind them. Objects would represent betrayal, abandonment, rejection, neglect, pain, deception (on and on I could go).

Once their arms were full, I would then offer them something lovely, something they really wanted. That object represented healing, comfort, peace, acceptance, (on and on I would go). They soon had to decide to hold on to what was ‘rightfully’ theirs to hold on to or drop it in a heap and embrace what they desired. We can learn a lot from children. Some if us need to do the same thing.

This is a brief summary of a lesson I taught on a series of seven 10minute YouTubes. If you care to hear it in it’s entirety, I’m including the links below that tell Rachel’s story. Perhaps it will remind you of yourself.

False Images Part 1

False Images Part 2

False Images Part 3

What Can I do to Help?

Sometimes when we hear about a need we just don’t know what to do about it. I find this often to be the response from people when I share concerning the vast need in foster care in our country.

Although I would be oh so glad to hear that every person who read my blog, heard my testimony or met my family was inspired to go out and do exactly what I’ve done, I know that isn’t likely. After all, not many folks are going to feel led to adopt seven children. This was and is our very unique path and calling.

So, if you aren’t able to adopt or foster children, how can you help? So many ways! Countless ways!

First of all, become aware of the need, look it square in the face and refuse to divert your eyes from the ugliness of it. Yes, it is ugly, terribly ugly. Children waiting in limbo like unclaimed luggage at a train depot; aging out of the foster care system without being adopted is an UGLY scenario.

According to http://www.adoptuskids.org/meet-the-children

“Each year more than 20,000 children age out of the foster care system without being adopted. Today there are 104,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted ranging in age from less than a year old to 21.”

Over a hundred thousand children WAITING to be adopted! This statistic applies to children who have had biological parental rights terminated. They legally have NO PARENTS.

I hope with everything that is in me that made you gasp out loud. Perhaps you may have even had a tear come to your eye as your heart was moved by compassion. And listen to this, there are more than four times that many children in foster care all together.

This is huge. This is vast. This is where most people stumble off the path of compassion and onto the path of complacency. It’s just too big; or so it seems. You can make a difference.

After you are aware of a need, you have a choice to make. You can take action or turn aside. For those of you who are unwilling to turn aside, here are some possibilities.

Contact your local DHR or DHS and ask to speak to a volunteer coordinator.

Contact you local church denominations and ask if they know of a local foster group home.

Contact a foster family in your community and ask what they need.

Simply put, if you can’t foster, support those who can.

Henry and I are no longer foster parents. We were foster parents for fifteen years and fostered forty-five children. We adopted seven children out of the foster care system. Many people would say we’ve done our share. We are so busy, so stretched for time and space and money and energy that you can’t imagine. But, just this week I was reminded by a little girl of the great and vast need that still exist. She looked into my eyes and with haunting innocence, after hearing my girls call me momma, said, “I wish I could call someone momma.”

I will not look away from the ugliness of it. I will answer the call of God in my heart. I will not divert my eyes. I will continue to rattle people’s comfortable cages until they are willing to go into the jungle of the foster care system and make a difference in the life of a child.

Ask yourself this question. How can we do more than what we are doing? How can we not?

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them. (Proverbs 3:27 NLT)

Backyard Betsy Joins the Flock

The following is the first of a series of children’s read-aloud stories that are a part of _The Homestead Adventures of Pumpkin Swamp Cove_ . As a foster-mom for fifteen years and as an adoptive mom, I have seen the process it takes for children to adjust to change. I pray this story will comfort a child who needs it. This story is based on a real chicken and my real homestead. 🙂

This story is dedicated to my daughters, Nicole and Ruth Denise, who came to us at ages 6&7 and had to learn to fit into the brand new world we offered them. They are brave and beautiful.

Later, illustrations will be added to enhance e reading experience. For now, use your imagination.

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The Homestead Adventures of Pumpkin Swamp Cove

Backyard Betsy Joins the Flock

By Stephanie Rodda

Backyard Betsy was a big, beautiful, black chicken who had been raised in a backyard all alone. She had never seen another chicken. She had never been a part of a flock. It was not the best way for a chicken to live. Things were about to change for Backyard Betsy. Changes can be scary even when it is for the best. She did not know what to expect.

She was gently put inside a large cardboard box. It felt as if the ground were moving under her as she was taken to her new home. She was very nervous and cackled her loudest cackle. Then she laid a nice brown egg in the hay at the bottom of the box. When the ground stopped moving and the box was opened, she wanted to stay in the box. She finally came out for some tasty scratch grain that was made with cracked corn. She found herself in a new place. She did not know what to think.

There were children everywhere, it seemed. She had seen children before. They seemed glad to see her. The children were very impressed with the egg she had laid. It was the first of many she would give them. There were chickens, lots of chickens. She had not seen other chickens before. They did not seem glad to see her. She was not sure she was glad to see them. There were goats and dogs and cats too. Backyard Betsy did not know what to do. So, she sat down and was very still and quiet. She needed some time to get use to things.

It was not easy being the new member of the flock. She did not understand the way they did things. She did not know the rules. She did not always understand the language of the chickens. She did not understand pecking order. Pecking order lets all the chickens know which chicken is in charge. If she forgot and needed reminding, she would get a hard peck on the head. She felt very alone even with so many chickens around her. She didn’t know if she would ever fit in.

Some days Backyard Betsy felt sad. Some days she got a hard peck on the head. Some days she wished for her old backyard. It might not have been the best way for a chicken to live but, it was what she was used to. Other days she was so busy learning new things and having new experiences she found herself enjoying her new life. Backyard Betsy wanted to be happy in her new home. She wondered if she ever would be.

Soon she began to find her place in her new flock. She learned to trust Jethro, the rooster who led his hens to tall grass and juicy bugs. He protected them from danger by warning them with special chicken sounds. He watched over them carefully. If he called she came running. Once a chicken hawk was flying overhead in the sky where the flock was. Jethro led them to safety. She decided it was a good thing to follow the rules.

Backyard Betsy would go to sleep each night feeling warm and snug with the other chickens on the roost beside her. She would wake each morning as Jethro crowed when he first spotted the sun. She enjoyed taking dirt baths with the other hens. She could rest in the sun and not be afraid because she was a part of a flock. Backyard Betsy was safe. Backyard Betsy was glad. She would never be alone again.

Points to Ponder with your child:

1- Why did Backyard Betsy’s life need to change?

2- Have you ever had to learn a lot of new things all at once?

3- What was the most important lesson Backyard Betsy had to learn?

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