That Can’t Be All

This week I read a number of articles. Among others I read about the plight of children and sex-trafficking, the effect on children’s brains who spend their first years in institutions, the results of poverty on children’s educations and the issues that could accompany trans-racial adoption of children.

I found myself wondering if people will ever understand that our children are worthy of our best resources because they ARE our best resources. And when I say ‘our’ children I mean the children of your community, your city, your county, your state, your country, your world. They are all OUR children.

Throughout history and unfortunately still in modern times children are exploited, under-valued and over-looked. They are often mistreated, neglected and abused. Instead of being treasured they are considered disposable trash.

This is a cycle, an ugly, hungry, devastating, cruel cycle that continues generation after generation unless we intervene, unless we make a difference.

I may hurt some feelings here, but, I’ll take that chance. Doing good by your own family and children is not enough. That is important. That is a priority. But, that can’t be all. Otherwise, we haven’t shifted things. We haven’t adjusted outcomes. We haven’t altered the future.

There are so many ways that you can make a difference in a child’s life. You can be a good parent and grandparent, certainly. But, you can also mentor a child that doesn’t have a dad or a living aunt available. You can foster a child. Don’t tell me you can’t because it would hurt you too much to let them go? Do you hear what you are saying? How can what it would do to you be more important than what it would do to them?

You can adopt. You can tutor at a center for underprivileged children. You can rock babies at an orphanage. You can sew up dresses, knit a hat or have a fundraiser to send to those who are able to go when you can’t.

You can make sure that children who know you know they matter. You can be trustworthy and reliable when you make promises to a child. You can treat them with dignity and respect. You can value their opinion and listen to their thoughts.

You can teach in a public school or in a Sunday School room. You can sponsor a child or visit a child or laugh at a joke that makes no sense. You can buy school supplies or a bag of groceries so a child doesn’t do without. You can be intentional and develop a plan.

Don’t dismiss this someone else’s responsibility and problem. Take hold of it and make it your own. Don’t declare you have done your part. Instead search out the next thing that needs doing and do it.

What would our world look like? How would it change? Where would we find ourselves in the future if we would do something? If we would do more? More than we are doing now? Would the cycle then be broken?

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Compromised Confidence

Lots and lots of articles, blogs and books are written on the subject of confidence. Here lately it seems I am hearing the word everywhere I turn. My new devotional book I’m reading with a friend is about having a confident heart. This morning during corporate prayer at our church it was mentioned once again. All of this got me to thinking. I did a bit of googling and almost every quote, image, meme and article it pulled up was on SELF-confidence. Then, I had one of those ‘aha’ moments. That’s why there is so much interest.

Simple definition of confidence is full trust. Full as in complete. Here’s the thing, I think that people don’t find themselves trustworthy. I think they’ve learned that other people most certainly can’t always be fully trusted. I’m afraid that hesitation to trust has caused us to apply that same uncertainty to God. Can we trust Him?

As a foster parent for fifteen years I am not sure that anything impacted our home and threatened our success as much as broken trust in the children’s lives. Their ability to trust, their willingness to trust, was greatly compromised. After all, they had been betrayed, traumatized and taught well that trusting people makes you vulnerable.

As Christians I think we often approach God with the same suspicions that these hurting children approached us with as they entered our home. You know what? I learned to give them time. Time to feel safe. Time to get to know us. Time to rest a while and recover a bit from the storm that brought them to us.

God is willing to do the same for us. He understands when we are battle weary, afraid, concerned, unsure and confused. He sees us. He is EL ROI, the God who sees us. He is aware. He doesn’t look at us with disappointment. He looks at us with compassion.

I so clearly remember one of our foster children who arrived so angry that she scowled at me upon arrival. She arrived with a sibling who was older and actually thankful to be there. But, this young girl was having none of it. After we sat down and discussed house rules and got to know each other a bit I told them I’d like to welcome them with a hug. The older sibling readily agreed. The younger said I better not touch her or I’d regret it. Well, I took her word for it and honored her choice. I gave her space and time. I still cared for her, provided for her, spoke to her and mothered her. But, I didn’t hug her.

She watched me like a hawk. She sized me up and she sized me down. She saw me hug the other children. One day she took a courageous step and asked me to hug her. We became fast friends and she lived with us several years.

I’d like to say that I never disappointed her, that I never caused her to slip into a place of broken trust. But, I’m sorry to say that wasn’t the case. Without going into great detail that might cross boundaries of privacy, I will tell you that we parted due to very sad circumstances. I knew that day she felt I too had abandoned her and that I too was not trustworthy. Those were very sad days. Even now as I type these words my heart is heavy.

But, there is more to the story. This young girl who had faced so much hurt and disappointment in her life was adopted by loving devoted parents. She has still struggled at times but, she learned what I have learned. People aren’t always trustworthy, but God is.

You can put your confidence in Him. You can trust Him when you aren’t sure you can trust yourself.

I’m glad to report that we have had occasional contact with the young girl who is now a young woman and a mother herself. I enjoy every time she calls or visits. I try to forgive myself for not being enough and remind myself that God was and is enough, every time, no exceptions.

Look, I don’t know what has shaken you to the core. I don’t know what broken trust you have faced. I don’t know if your mother abused you or if your husband abandoned you. I don’t know if your friends betrayed you or if your church disappointed you. I don’t know if a person you depended on wasn’t dependable after all. I don’t know who has let you down or even if that person might be me.

But, here is what I do know. You can place your confidence in God. You can fully trust Jesus Christ. You can rely without hesitation on The Holy Spirit.

I’d like to share a few verses from the Bible concerning confidence. I pray that as you read them, you, like the frightened, angry little girl that walked through my doors one day will find your courage and place your confidence in the One who deserves it.

Confidence (full trust)

We have this confidence as a sure and strong anchor for our lives. This confidence goes into the ⌊holy⌋ place behind the curtain (‭Hebrews‬ ‭6‬:‭19‬ GW)

The LORD will be your confidence. He will keep your foot from getting caught. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭3‬:‭26‬ GW)

We’re not ashamed to have this confidence, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (‭Romans‬ ‭5‬:‭5‬ GW)

We can go to God with bold confidence through faith in Christ. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭3‬:‭12‬ GW)

He is not afraid of bad news. His heart remains secure, full of confidence in the LORD. (‭Psalms‬ ‭112‬:‭7‬ GW)

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Another Hannah

As I pressed through the crowd of energetic students that had attended the very large gathering that our church hosts monthly I had one agenda. That was to find a seat as far removed from it all as possible so I could rest a few moments until my three teen-aged children joined me and we could head home. It had been a wonderful night and I had enjoyed it but, it was late and I was weary. I soon spotted the perfect cushioned bench in a corner and it was only occupied by one other person. I sat down and likely sighed while doing so.

I offered a hello to the lady and we fell into an easy chat. She offered her name and I told her mine. She said my name sounded familiar. As we continued to talk she asked me if I was there with my children. I told her my three middles were there but I had two older and two younger.

“Seven!” She exclaimed. I smiled. I pulled up a family picture on my iPhone as I am so quick to do. “I know why your name sounded familiar. I worked at DHR years ago.” Boom, just like that a connection was made.

She shared with me that she now worked at a group home and was there with ‘her girls’. After a while they arrived and she introduced me to them. All teens. All girls. All living in a group home because somehow family wasn’t either willing or able to care for them. My heart squeezed just like it does every time I meet such children.

One of the girls was named Hannah. The reason I was waiting there for my children was my daughters had gone to find one of their friends in the crowded gathering. Her name was Hannah too. When my crew arrived I also introduced them. “This is another Hannah.” I told them.

Another Hannah. As I drove home and even as I prepared for the respite of sleep I thought of this other Hannah. Who would cover her in prayer as she slept tonight? What crisis or tragedy had brought her to such a place as a group home at such a tender age? Did she understand that she was valuable? Did she feel cared for? Did she struggle like most teen girls with self-image? Had anyone told her that she could be anything she wanted to be? Did she view the future with anticipation or dread?

One of my all time favorite human beings to have lived on this earth will always be my grandma. Although I can no longer call her for a chat, I often recall our chats from days gone by. When we started fostering and then later adopting, she was concerned that I would overdo and wear myself out. One day after I told her how compassion had gripped my heart for yet another child (we would eventually foster a total of forty-five children), she said, “You can’t save them all.”

“I know Grandma,” I answered. “But, those who cross my path, who I have the chance to make a deposit, to make a difference, I’ve got to try.”

My days of fostering are over as we focus our energies and efforts on the seven we adopted out of the system. But, my heart is just as filled with compassion as it was twenty years ago as we prepared to start that journey.

Tonight, when you tuck in your Hannah, your beloved child, say an extra prayer for another Hannah. When you shop for new shoes for your Jonathan, consider that there may be another boy, just like yours that needs shoes as well. When homework time is trying your patience, keep in mind that there is another child who has no help with homework. When you discuss college plans with your teen, don’t forget there is another Joel, another Carlos, another Aisha, another Breana, another Crystal, another Peggy, another Gary, another Joseph, another Trey, another Brittany, another child who may not have such opportunities.

And then, once you remember, don’t you dare turn away. Once you are aware, don’t divert your eyes from the need before you. If you can adopt, adopt. If you can foster, foster. If you can mentor, mentor. If you can give money or time or shoes, then give. If you can pray, then for the sake of the children, pray.

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I Might Cry

Our waitress seemed anxious as she approached our table last night and very briefly greeted us before asking a bold question of complete strangers. “Are any of your children brothers and sisters?” All eyes turned to me. My husband and children waited for me to answer. The waitress seemed to be most eager for my answer as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other. I’m pretty sure several nearby tables had their ears tuned in to hear what I would say.

It is one of my least favorite questions and yet, one of the most common. I understand what it is that people want to know. They want to know if we’ve adopted a sibling group. They want to know if they are birth related. They are curious or nosey or bold or well-meaning. But, although I understand what they mean by their question, I also am fully aware that my children are listening. They are waiting to hear validation that yes they are brothers and sisters, yes, we are a real family.

So, last night, I had to decide which route to take in answering this least of my favorite questions. I decided to avoid the scenic route, after all, we were trying to make it to church on time. I decided to give a condensed but truthful answer. I reminded myself to smile kindly and said, “The girls are birth related.”

She seemed quite satisfied with this answer and quickly leaned a bit closer. Her eyes glistened as she whispered, “I placed two of my children for adoption.”

I had hesitated slightly in answering her initial question but, there was no hesitation as I spoke in response to her revelation. “God Bless You,” I said. “You must have loved them so much to make such a choice.”

She stood a little straighter. “Yes. Yes I did. I did what I did because of love, love for them and love for the four I am raising.”

All of this and we hadn’t even opened our menus. Throughout the meal as she took our orders, served our food and checked to see what else we needed, she continued to ask questions and to share about her own adoption experience.

She was very proud to have open adoptions with both families who had adopted her two children. I now know the states they where they live and their ages. She now knows that we were foster parents and that some of our children came to us as infants. I know her son who was adopted will turn 13 in August. She knows that Jeremiah is a musician. I know that she played the clarinet in her high-school band. She knows that we attend Church of the Highlands and that she is welcome there. I know the name of her home church.

It was amazing how much information was shared in brief exchanges once common ground was established. We were connected by the miracle of adoption. We stood on different stages, we discussed different children, we were different ethnicities, different in so many ways. But, we were alike because we were mommas who loved their children and our lives had been impacted by adoption.

As we prepared to leave at the end of our meal she put her hands to her eyes and said, “I’m sorry. I think I might cry.” I touched her elbow that was covered in a sweater that I noticed was a bit frayed. “I understand.” Was all I could say.

“So many people said I should have had an abortion. People thought that was better than adoption. But, I don’t believe in that.” I nodded in understanding and agreement.

As she walked away, my girls studied my face hard and then they asked a hard question. “What did she mean Momma?”

“She meant that she would rather her children live away from her than not live at all.” I told them and felt like I might cry.

We were almost late for service but we made it our seats just in time. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, we had already been to a special meeting that God had arranged and I was glad.

The worship music was especially wonderful. The communion with our church family was especially tender. The message was especially challenging as we were taught about the importance of relationships and small groups. As an example of the impact that small groups can have, a video was shared about one particular small group. The members of that group shared a common grief. The group was for post-abortive healing. As they shared their stories, I thought of our waitress, I thought of the many women who are hurting, struggling, searching for healing, and silently saying in their hearts, “I think I might cry.”

Please hear me if you are one of those women. Please understand clearly that you are not alone, you are not condemned and it is okay to cry. There is healing available for you no matter what it is that grieves your heart.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”
Proverbs‬ ‭27‬:‭17‬ NLT

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Finders Keepers

Here we are a week into the new year and some of us have already blown our well-intended resolutions. That fresh start wasn’t as fresh as we might have hoped. As a matter of fact, we may already have become a little disheartened to realize that into this new year we’ve brought along with us last year’s debt, cluttered house, extra pounds and rotten attitude. Oh dear. Now what?

Here’s the thing. One week down and fifty-one weeks to go. We can still do what needs doing. There is still time. It is certainly not time to give up and quit. It is time to move forward, take the next step and keep on keeping on.

I think that sometimes when our hopes are so high we are more susceptible to disappointment. We might could avoid that by avoiding the high hopes. But, that’s no way to live your life. We found courage to have high hopes for our future and the changes that were needed. Now, there’s only one thing to do. Keep hoping. Keep planning. Keep trying. Keep pressing on. Finders keepers.

Even now that the first week of the new year is behind us. Even now when our hopes may feel a bit dashed. Even now when it looks like some things will never change. Even now no matter what. Keep hoping. Keep believing. Keep praying. Keep trusting. Keep loving. Finders keepers.

And most certainly whatever you do, keep your heart on the right course. Keep your body rested. Keep your thoughts in check. Keep your attitude filled with gratitude. Keep guarding that hope that you have found. Finders keepers.

“You will be rewarded for this; your hope will not be disappointed. My child, listen and be wise: Keep your heart on the right course.”
Proverbs‬ ‭23‬:‭18-19‬ NLT

“And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.”
Psalms‬ ‭39‬:‭7‬ NLT

“But I will keep on hoping for your help; I will praise you more and more.” Psalms‬ ‭71‬:‭14‬ NLT

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