Turn on the Lights

The following passage from Isaiah is one of my favorites. Throughout my life as a Christian I have often turned the pages of my Bible to read once again these powerful words.

It is a straightforward statement expressing what God wants from us who claim to be His. It clearly defines how He wants us to spend ourselves and what the results should be.

Yesterday our pastor challenged us to consider our lives and ask ourselves two questions. What am I doing that I shouldn’t? What am I not doing that I should be? I’d like to pass that challenge along. Read the passage below without rushing through it. Savor the flavor of what God is saying, what He expects, what He wants your life to taste like. Then, make changes and choices accordingly.

The results will be phenomenal. “The lights will turn on and your lives will turn around.” There is really very little I could say that would add anything to these life-changing Words. If you’ve been wondering how to proceed, what to do with your life, how to order your steps, where to start or how to make a difference. Here it is.

I’ll close with this thought. When you manage to turn on the light for another, you’ve managed to turn on the light for yourself as well. “Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.”

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The GOD of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, GOD will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again. “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.
‭Isaiah‬ ‭58‬:‭9-12‬ (The Message)

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DUE TIME

I needed to read this again and thought you might want to as well.

Have you ever felt so desperate for things to change, for relief, for an intervention and an interruption in what seemed like a living nightmare that you couldn’t even bring yourself to say it out loud? If so, then you understand how Hannah felt.

Stephanie Rodda

Studying the Bible is unlike studying any other text, at least in my opinion. At first, it is exactly like studying any other written material. You discover the facts, determine the setting, identify the main characters, etc. Next you see spiritual lessons, truths and applications for Christians in general, the church as a whole and these are valuable and worth taking note of. But, then, there is a third dimension, one might call it, where you are reminded clearly that there is more for the person who is willing to be taught. If we will look carefully and listen intently, the Holy Spirit will make it personal. It is one of the remarkable results of sincere Scripture Study. Suddenly, this is not just a story about something or someone from long ago. This is not just a lesson for everyone. It is PERSONAL and your own spirit is quickened by…

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Contusion Confusion

Several weeks ago I was reaching above my head for a can of vegetables and it fell out of the cabinet. I tried to dance my feet out of the way and even attempted to grab/slap it. I think I made the impact worse. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! I yelled so loudly that I startled my children. They helped me hobble to a chair and get an ice pack on it. The edge of the can hit right above my inside ankle bone and an immediate knot and bruise appeared. In medical terms that is referred to as a contusion. Over the next few days I had moments of seriously wondering if I had broken my foot. But, then I would rest it, ice it and take ibuprofen for the swelling and pain. It would feel a bit better and I’d soon be about my business until I’d step in just the wrong way. The ouch would start again, the hobbling and the throbbing.

I’m a busy mom of seven and still homeschooling five of them. Our school year had just started and I was impatient with this mystery injury. It was indeed a matter of confusion. A friend was kind enough to loan me her walking boot and that helped a lot to relieve the stress on my foot when walking or standing at the stove. My family was super supportive, taking many of my steps for me. But, after two weeks I was still having pain and went for X-rays. Thankfully there was no broken bone, no fractures. The doctor said he thought the can hit in more than one place as I had three bone bruises. My first thought was, “It’s only a bruise?”. He must have seen the expression on my face as he went on to explain the contusion confusion. A bone bruise is different than a soft-tissue bruise. I listened skeptically as I was a bit embarrassed to have gone to the doctor for a two-week old bruise. But, he was right. As he expected, in less than a week, I was cautiously walking and standing normally.

So, why in the world am I taking space on my blog to write about ‘just a bruise’? Here’s why. Life can really bang you up sometimes. I’m thinking a fair few of you reading this have been bruised in your spirit lately. Maybe even your heart feels the strain of an unexpected blow. Perhaps you’ve been caught off guard and were injured emotionally. Could be that you are impatient with the healing process. You may be anxious to get on with life and busy yourself with what needs doing. It is possible that right when you think you are recovered a miss-step sets it to throbbing again.

Here is what I learned from my contusion confusion. All bruises are not the same. Some are nothing but a little surface discoloration and slight tenderness. Some can actually damage the soft tissue and muscle. They need extra care. Then others actually bruise the bone. Those hurt a lot and take a lot longer to heal. A bruised bone requires more intervention, more rest, more time. Often times, a brace of some sort is required to lessen the stress of normal activity while it is healing.

Now, I don’t know what kind of bruise you a facing today. I suspect that you may be fully aware that you are still in the healing process. You can be facing betrayal or grief. You may be experiencing shame or embarrassment. You could be struggling with trusting others or maybe even trusting yourself. You might even be good and aggravated at your actions that made you vulnerable to the injury in the first place.

The doctor explained to me that the places on my foot where I had the bone bruises were not protected by much fleshy tissue. They are more vulnerable to an impact injury. This is why people in construction wear heavy boots to protect their feet.

Vulnerable is not a word any of us embrace but, it is an accurate description of our emotional and spiritual state many times. When we fostered for fifteen years, I was always filled with compassion at the vulnerable state of the children that came into our home. Eyes wide with fear or anger, they would often size us up suspiciously as they limped in with their wounded hearts. They had been bruised. They needed to recover. They needed time. They needed rest. They needed healing.

If we tried to move too quickly in the new relationship, they might recoil out of pain. If we were making progress the slightest miss-step might take us back to square one. There would be days when the injury to their ability to trust seemed beyond repair. There were times when they needed more specialized care. There were times when we only had a short time to minister to their bruised hearts before they returned to places where they would be at risk for further bruising. There were definitely times of contusion confusion. We prayed a lot as we tried to determine just how deeply they had been bruised. We applied support through firm healthy boundaries. We applied love and mercy and grace liberally to try to ease the swelling. We didn’t expect more than they could give. We tried hard not to be discouraged when it seemed all our progress had been lost.

I am so thankful to say that I did see healing and the ability to function return in many of their lives. Sometimes we were just a temporary safe place. Sometimes we became a more permanent safe place. If you need a safe place, Jesus has prepared such a place for you. I know it may seem to some like a crutch to rely on the Lord. I understand the inclination to rely on yourself. But, if you are ready to progress and complete your healing, don’t refuse the offer of a strong arm and a place of safety. Lean heavily on Him. You can trust Him. He won’t drop you. He won’t leave you where He found you. He understands. He was bruised too.

“But, he was wounded for our iniquities (transgressions), he was bruised for our sins (iniquities): the chastisement of our peace was upon him and by his bruises (stripes) we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

Constants, Variables and Coefficients

Last week was our first week of homeschool for this school year. It was challenging enough that it makes me a bit apprehensive about week two and three and so forth. I think sometimes folks who don’t homeschool assume that folks who do are super confident in their ability to do what they’re doing. Truthfully, most of the time, we are shaking in our shoes and hoping we are getting it right.

Another first last week was the launch of a small group I am leading called Spirit of Adoption. As I spoke with a new friend concerning her questions about adoption, my thoughts turned, oddly enough, to the algebra lesson I had done with my three ninth graders. (Yes, I said three).

I may have lost a fair few of you as soon as the word algebra fell before your eyes. But, hold on before you run away in horror. This isn’t going to be an algebra lesson, I promise. Instead, I hope it might be a life lesson for the days ahead as you attempt to juggle the constants, variables and coefficients of your life.

As I introduced algebra to my three middle children, I told them that mathematics has a language and if you didn’t learn it you’d always be confused as to what was being said and therefore, expected of you.

Interestingly enough, I had chosen to take to my first meeting of Spirit of Adoption a printed copy of one of my blog posts called ‘How to Speak Adoption’. Yes, adoption has a language of it’s own as well that can be overwhelming at first.

At one point in our conversation I realized that I could use one to explain the other. So, here’s my attempt to do so.

The three key words we studied in algebra in our first class were variables, constants and coefficients. If there are any true algebra experts reading this forgive my VERY simplistic explanation. This isn’t, after all an algebra lesson in earnest.

In Algebraic Expressions a variable is an unknown value. It will often be represented by a letter. Determining exactly what that letter represents will lead to a solution to the equation. Until you do that, it’s a mystery exactly how things will turn out.

The third term we learned was coefficient. That is the term for the constant that precedes the variable. I hope I haven’t lost you yet, because I’m about to ‘bring this home’.

Families are unique expressions themselves. Almost every family will include variables, some more than their fair share. Hopefully there is at least one constant. The problem is I think, that the order is lost in a family with the constant isn’t placed properly so that it can serve as a coefficient.

Why is that important? Because a coefficient (when properly placed) multiplies the variable. It helps the variable to find a greater value. It brings out the most from the unknown factor.

Oh, how I hope this is starting to click in your minds as you consider your own families and the struggles that occur when many individuals strive to become one beautiful expression of love.

In my home we have more variables than most. We have seven adopted children, four of whom were older child adoptions. We have lots of unknowns. Sometimes we have limited background information. Often times unknown experiences, abuses, special needs, struggles, that we can not determine at first.

Your family may face variables such as divorce, step-children, financial woes or a discouraging diagnosis.

If you keep trying to figure out the value of the variables without a constant, you’ll likely end up frustrated and discouraged. But, when you factor in a constant, you have the opportunity to do some problem solving.

If presented with such an equation during math class we would protest. Hey! Give us something to work with. Give us a constant.

If we reorder the equation to include a number with value, at least there is a chance. We need a clear goal, a bottom line, a constant. The more constants, the easier the answers will be found.

As an adoptive parent when dealing with the variables, the unknown values, our greatest challenge may be finding the solution to becoming a functioning, bonded, loving and trusting family. So, how do you build trust with a person (even a child) who has learned through betrayal not to trust.

You become the constant. You become the known part of the equation. You are consistent with rules and boundaries. You are the solid ground, the stable place, the safe place while they are learning.

And one day, when properly placed before them, your constant will multiply their variable and the results will be VALUABLE.

As a Christian family, we rely heavily on a very powerful and solid constant to help keep us constant. We trust The Lord and position Him as our coefficient. He comes first and He multiplies the rest. He brings clarity and understanding and healing and hope. He is, after all, the most magnificent expression of love.

A Labor of Love

September has arrived and we are glad about it here on our little homestead at Pumpkin Swamp Cove. Our new school year starts tomorrow and we are weighing in with one fifth grader, one sixth grader and three ninth graders. The two oldest are college bound (to begin in January) and this is going to be a FULL schedule for this #momofmany. There are also several important church activities we will be participating in and this weekend we celebrate the 11th birthday of our next to the youngest son. September has always been full of new beginnings and adventures. I’d like to share one with you.

Eleven years ago we were in the process of adopting our second and third sons and had made it clear with DHR that we were done fostering. The plan was to finish these adoptions, after all who wouldn’t be ecstatically happy with three sons, and turn in our fostering license. We had fostered for eight years and had fostered over forty children. It was time to focus on our three sons or so we thought. I even announced to my husband we should sell all the baby stuff that was in the storage room. I decided that we should put together the baby bed and make sure all the parts were there and all was in order before trying to sell it. And, so we did.

The next part of this story may make a few of you guffaw and hesitate to believe me, but, regardless, I assure you it is an accurate account. I went to bed that night, eleven years ago, with an empty baby bed in my dining room ready to be sold. As I slept, I had a dream and it was so vivid that when I awoke I was breathless and looked hard at that baby bed in disbelief. When my husband walked into the room, prepared to leave for work, he noted my alarmed state and asked what was the matter. You can imagine his surprise when I declared, “We are going to have another baby.” I recounted the dream to his stunned ears and told him how I had seen a baby boy in that empty baby bed as I dreamed. It wasn’t just a regular dream, I knew it. He wasn’t skeptical, after all we had been married twenty years and he had seen such things happen before.

The next day I got the call that I knew was coming. “Mrs. Rodda, we know you said you were done and we respect that decision but, we wondered if you might could help us for just six-weeks?” They went on to explain that the baby hadn’t even been born yet and they only needed a temporary place until the birth-mom could sort some things out. I didn’t hesitate, I didn’t call Henry, I didn’t pray about it. I said yes, because I had already been given advance notice in my dreams. After all, I could do this, I had taken many babies home from the hospital and loved them as I ministered to them in the Name of Jesus.

I should point out that I say I did so in the Name of Jesus for specific reasons. First of all, I beleived that God had called us to foster. Second of all, I couldn’t have done it on my own strength. The young woman who had struggled with infertility and longed for a pregnancy and the joy of a child, could have never taken child after child and loved them knowing they would only stay a while. It would have been an impossible feat for me. I know, that it was the courage and strength of the Lord that enabled me. I know that it was His perfect love that poured through me into the lives of hurting children. It had to be His love because I would have never been able to bear it otherwise.

The social worker went on to say that the baby wasn’t due for two weeks and she’d contact me with more details. When she called the very next day it was to say the baby was being born early and barring complications should be at our house in two days. Good thing I already had the baby bed assembled. Can you imagine preparing for a baby in two days? Well, I went into hyper-drive and we got the basics ready. I busied myself and pushed away the urge to slip into the hospital and take a peek as this wee one that would surely be our last baby and my last opportunity to love without the promise of return. It would be a labor of love.

When he arrived, we were all instantly smitten, naturally. I cautioned the boys so they would be prepared that this little wrinkly baby boy was only to be with us a few weeks. I showed them the calendar and we discussed the situation openly. Because of an unusual situation with the new baby’s name we called him J.J. and rearranged our lives to accomodate our unexpected albeit not permanent addition to the family.

As is often the case with such situations, there were some complications and J.J. needed a few more weeks at our home. We didn’t mind, we were enjoying him immensely and took great joy even in the broken sleep and dirty diapers because we knew he’d soon be gone from our lives. Extra weeks led to extra months and eventually caution had been thrown to the wind. I loved him as my own, he was my own and yet, the case plan was the same. He would return to his birth family as soon as they were ready. I actually became involved with the family, the birth mother and the other children. I found myself with them in my home, babysitting, buying medications, providing transportation and trying to assist in their efforts to have J.J. join them one day.

It would have been so much easier to stay distant and mind my own business but, then that same perfect love of Christ just continued to flow. Don’t think for a moment that I wasn’t completely human and tempted to resent and judge her life and actions and choices. Oh, yes I was. What kind of person would assist the only person that stood between her and her baby? Some days I felt pretty stupid. Some people all but told me I was. I was torn, torn between compassion for a mother who was falling apart and the mother in me that just wanted her to go away so I didn’t have to think about the day I would have to say goodbye to the child I now loved deeply. It was a labor of love.

The rest of the story would fill an entire book or at least a long chapter of one. I will get straight to the point. For four and a half years we fostered J.J. and attempted to put our faith in action with the young woman who continued to sabotage herself with destructive choices. What we thought was to be six weeks became years of hard work, heartache, struggle and a trial of our faith. I survived by prayer and by reading the book of James daily as I reminded myself that I was to consider it an opportunity for great joy, that I was to let my faith and endurance grow. It was hard. It was a labor of love. After four and a half years we stood before a judge and declared J.J.’s new official name to include James as his middle name. He became ours forever. We entered into a rest that can only come after you have spent it all, poured it all out. It was the kind of rest that comes after a labor of love.

“So there is a special rest still waiting of the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world.” Hebrews 4:9-10 NLT

Here is what I want you to consider, whatever you may be laboring at today. You are not alone. You have a resource available to you through Jesus that can make you stronger and braver than you can imagine. The hard labor is for a season and just as with a woman who travails to birth a child, our labor of love will produce something beautiful. Then, you can rest and that rest will be special.

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