May I Have Your Attention?

According to the dictionary attention means – to take notice, to regard, to deal with, to take special care. 

A child who feels ignored with go to great lengths to be noticed. 

A person with an opinion will speak loudly in order to be heard. 

A humanitarian cause will be promoted so it will be dealt with. 

A tragedy will be shared so that special care can be given.

But, how do we give the child the attention without rewarding the bad behavior? How do we listen without encouraging the shouting? How do we deal with the cause without making matters worse? How do we give special care during great tragedy without wasting precious resources?

So many of us would do all that we could do if only we knew what to do and how to go about it. 

One thing I know is that desperate  times call for desperate measures and desperate people take desperate actions. Then, of course we all shocked and horrified at the desperateness of it all. “How awful!” We exclaim. “How sad!” We bemoan. “How wrong!” We protest. And then we all discuss what should be done to stop and help and change. Sometimes an effort is made. Sometimes an intervention is attempted. Sometimes a prayer is prayed. But, sometimes we wonder if what we did really made a difference and what to try next?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately myself. This week there have been two desperate newsworthy events. One was an earthquake. One was protests sprinkled with riots in a major American city. I’ve tried to read and understand a bit about what is happening and how it is being handled. I practically had to avoid social media for all the frothing, twisted faced comments that spewed from both camps concerning the protests. 

It was crystal clear to me that many people took this moment of publicized desperation as their opportunity to prove their point, whatever their point was. I quickly found myself wearied of those who kept repeating that there was a problem and then looking for someone or something to affix the fault to. Nobody, or certainly very few, took this an an opportunity to look beneath the tidal waves of emotions and resulting acts of violence to determine why these people were so desperate. It was just so much easier to declare them bad, wrong and the problem itself. 

I had a lengthy discussion with my three middle children who are 15, 15 & 14 about this matter. I was interested to hear their thoughts and discuss options and possibilities. My girls came to us at 6 & 7 from a situation that would be beyond what most of us could fathom. The street they lived on as small children was so volatile that the police would only come on the street in atleast two patrol cars for backup. The girls were taught to fear the cops and by the time they came to me, my oldest daughter would throw up at the sight of a white man in any kind of uniform. 

Now, please understand, that I understand that were taught wrongly. But, the girls believed what they were told and what they saw. What they saw was people being arrested and children being ‘taken away’. Of course, they were too young to understand these were the right things being done. They only remembered the desperate moments, screaming mothers, crying children and sometimes guns being involved. 

So, my three teens and I considered that street, less than an hour away from where we live now. What could we do, what could others do, to make a difference in such a place. We talked about how children still went hungry because the resources that were suppose to feed them were misused. We talked about how pointless passing out money would be. We talked about how few would take the opportunity to leave or change. 

Then we talked about how the people on that street weren’t so different from us. Making bad choices, repeating mistakes, struggling with relationships, feeling overwhelmed at times. Here is our conclusion. The only way to help a place in such a desperate state is to help an individual person. To really make a difference, it must start there, in that place, with the people who are living it and experiencing it. 

So, that being said. We believe that real social healing must be from the inside out. Real cultural change must begin in the hearts of individual people.  My prayer is that it will begin in me. I pray that I won’t be quick to judge and wag a finger at a person who is in a place of desperation that I can’t begin to imagine. I pray that more people will go into neighborhoods that are struggling and interact with individual people. I am proud of the Dream Centers that our church has in place for just this reason. I plan to go and be a part and take my children so that they too can be a part of the solution. I will continue to participate in the service group that ministers to the women and children of a local shelter. What will you do?

  
For more info on the Birmingham Dream Center – http://www.birminghamdreamcenter.com/

Your Day is Coming

Today, this very moment, I am the busy mom of many. I am trying to get myself together before I wake the kids and prepare myself for the onslaught of activity and noise. I will likely have to raise my voice to be heard above the din. (In case you are wondering, din is a loud confusing mixture of noises that last for a long time.)

Today, this very day, I will likely speak with one of my teen daughters concerning her choice of clothes, scold my other daughter concerning her bossiness. I will most likely have to remind one son to keep on task and another to keep his hands to himself. I will surely pray hard as I attempt to teach my son with dyslexia his reading lesson. Oh, and let’s not forget the two ‘grown’ sons. I’ll most certainly be cautioning and encouraging them. 

My life is full to the point of me trying to catch my breath and maintain my sanity at points and the reason why? These children. The ones I asked God to give me. My answers to prayer. They have filled my empty arms. They have stretched me and challenged me. I am stronger and wiser. I am exhausted and spent. I am their mother and it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It is the greatest thing I’ve ever done. 

This week, this very week, I’ve been privy to a life-altering event, an answer to prayer. A niece and nephew who have waited as long as Henry and I did (thirteen years) brought home their long-awaited and prayed for child. They texted me a picture of him wearing the little crocheted booties I made them two years ago as a token of faith for when the day came. Your day is coming, I told them. And, now their day has come! Suddenly, they are seeing their dreams fulfilled right before their eyes. Suddenly, the world looks different, priorities change, sleep will become a rare commodity. This tiny life will explode the world as they knew it. It won’t be long that the memories of waiting and hoping and praying will slip into the form of a dusty, stored away yesterday. 

Even as I look for my courage to face my overwhelming day and even as I celebrate their new day, I am remembering those who are still waiting. I am praying for those who will wrap their arms around each other and at times around themselves to try to cope with the terrible time of waiting for those arms to be filled with a child, their child, their very own child. 

Your day is coming. Your path will be different. Your disappointments may be many. Your waiting may seem unbearable. Your plight may seem hopeless. Your plan may be altered. Your hope may be almost diminished. But, I assure you, your day is coming. 

I believe that adoption has a great spiritual significance. I believe if the Lord has given you the desire to adopt you have been called and chosen to a uniquely beautiful form of parenting. I believe that adoption is a result of answering that call. 

So, take courage if you are still waiting. Your day is coming. And when it does, I’ll be rejoicing with you. 

  

God’s Voice in a Child’s Ear

Adults,whether they themselves have been awakened spiritually or not, often find it difficult to accept that a child can hear from God. The spiritual testimony, experience or opinion of a child may be deemed sweet, yet doubtful or dismissed without consideration. I think that this is a result in large of a general attitude that sees children as lacking value, being disposable, incapable of profound thought and basically a burden. Throughout history children could be sold or seized to pay a debt. They were found in workhouses, orphanages, city dumps, abused, neglected or ignored.

Thankfully, times have changed. Unfortunately, times aren’t so different for children. If we aren’t careful old attitudes may attempt to surface as we deal with the children in our lives. As parents we may struggle with impatience as we urge them towards maturity and adulthood. We may be tempted to make them more adult-like by the way we dress them, the activities we allow them to pursue, the expectations we have of them. Some children today have busier schedules than their harried parents. Some parents today live vicariously through their children as they involve them in endless activities.

Childhood should be celebrated and enjoyed. Children should be cherished and treasured. Children should be allowed to have independent thoughts and opinions. Children should be nurtured and given opportunities to grow. Children should be consistently and fairly disciplined. Children should believe that they have a voice and that someone is listening. Children should be treated with respect and expected to treat others likewise.

Our foster care system is a sad example of the plight of children in modern day. Children are too often trapped in an emotional limbo for years as they wait for courts and social workers and birth families to develop a plan for their future. It is a powerless place to be. It leads to anger issues, emotional wounds, trust issues, lack of ability to properly bond and damaged self-images. I don’t want to focus on the dysfunction of our foster care system. I will say plainly that it is broken and I doubt that anyone would argue that fact. What I do want to focus on is this, it doesn’t have to be that way. A child who is displaced from their birth family, whatever the reason may be, can still feel valued and loved and empowered.

Lots of people raise children that they did not birth. One of my favorite Biblical accounts of such a relationship is that of Eli and Samuel. During my years of infertility, Samuel’s mother, Hannah, became one of my favorite women in Scripture. I related to her. As she struggled with shame from not being able to produce a child, I related. As she prayed and asked God to intervene, I related. When God gave her a son after longing for one for years, I related. When she gave that son back to God, I related.

One of my sons became a real life ‘Samuel’ when a judge unexpectedly ordered he must be returned to his birth mother. Our time of separation could be measured in days and ended in our reunification, I am glad to report. But, I understood then and many other times how it felt to lose a child I loved. I believe that is what caused me to have such compassion towards the birth families of the dozens of children I fostered and the seven whom we adopted. But, I digress with my thoughts.

What I really want to tell you today is that children can know God, experience God, hear from God and have their own relationship with God. God can be just as real, perhaps even more so, to them as to you. I believe that their uncluttered minds and innocent hearts are especially sensitive to God. Look at this verse where the boy Samuel had his first encounter with God. According to Jewish Historian, Josephus, he was about twelve years old.

“Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The Word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that God was calling the boy. 1Samuel 3:7,8

Eli was raising Samuel. Samuel had been being trained in service at the Temple. He had been exposed to the things and ways of God, but he did not yet know the Lord himself. Samuel would become a great spiritual leader in his lifetime. Here we see him as a boy and we are privileged to read an account of how his spiritual journey began. Samuel experienced God at a young and tender age. It was not because of a perfect upbringing or a privileged lifestyle. It was the result of a quiet heart and ears that could hear the voice of God.

If you are a Christian parent, you should teach your children what you know bout God. You should share your own experiences and testimonies. You should live in a way that demonstrates your faith properly. But, even more so, you need to do other things. Give them opportunity to have a quiet heart as opposed to a rushed and anxious heart that hastens to the next thing, whatever that thing may be. Pray that their spiritual eyes will be opened so that they can see for themselves. Finally, when they share their moments with God, give credence to them. Don’t be condescending. Don’t imply that their experience can’t be legitimate because it is different than yours. Offer gentle guidance and wisdom, but always be willing to listen.

The most empowering gift you can ever give to your child is permission to know God personally and intimately. Sure, keep their bodies safe, their minds educated and their lives healthy. That’s important as well. But, nothing will shape and form the future of a child like knowing the God of this universe wants a relationship with them and has a purpose for their life. It changes everything. It changes them, their outlook, their dreams, their goals, their plans and our world.

  

Inspired

What inspires you? What gives you the strength to try one more time? What gives you the courage to keep pursuing your dream?

Is it a person? A past experience? Your faith? Music? Scripture? 

Whom do you inspire? With whom have you shared insight? Which person do you share your courage with by encouraging them?

Is is a family member? A friend? A coworker? A student? A child?

  

As for me, I’ve got quite a list of inspiring folks to mention. 

Some I’ve never met but, I’ve read their words that have outlived them. 

  

Then, there are my children of course. They are a constant source of inspiration. Their innocent faith when they pray inspires me to believe without doubting. 

There are countless women in my life that inspire me. My grandmother who faced hardships and held tight to her faith through it all. My mom who is an excellent example of physical discipline, taking care of her body. My mother-in-law who survived illness that threatened her life and thrives today. My sisters, my friends, my heart daughters often inspire me with their encouraging words. 

I must not fail to mention the Word of a God. Oh the many moments I have turned to the Bible for inspiration and never once failed to find it there. 

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”  2 Timothy‬ ‭3‬:‭16‬ NLT

There are certainly days when I misplace my inspiration and instead slip into drudgery and dread. How about you? Are you facing days in this season when it feels as if the sun will never break through the gloomy clouds that seem to hang above your best efforts. 

I have discovered a truth about discouragement. When I feel it creeping upon me, I begin to look for another heavy heart. Instead of commiserating about the woes of the world and multiplying the gloom, I do what I can to lift their spirits. Almost immediately, I find my own spirits are up as well. It’s this wonderful spiritual law. We give joy and courage and then we harvest  joy and courage. 

“Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” Isaiah‬ ‭58‬:‭10-11‬ NLT

Be the inspiration that you need! Invest into another weary soul when you yourself are weary. Give out of your own need and watch God supply yours. Be the light in a dark place that someone else travels and you’ll find you will also keep yourself from stumbling. 

This Glorious Love

I find myself at a loss for adequate words to describe what I am feeling. 

As I contemplate the evidence of such great love I can’t seem to express the tremendous emotions that well up within my heart.

As I consider how greatly I am loved and how much that love cost. This was no bargain basement love, after all. This was love that was extravagant and excellent. This was love that redeemed my soul. This was courageous love that defeated death. This was valiant love that defended me. This was extreme love that died so that I could live. 
This is a treasured love that when shared increases. This is a glorious love that offers forgiveness. This is a perfect love that is given to imperfect people. This is a pure love that is beyond any other love that can be experienced. 

This love is precious and priceless. This love made Him vulnerable for us so that we could make ourselves vulnerable for each other. This is a love that empowers and strengthens. This is a love that heals. 

This is a love that satisfies the soul. This is a love that rejoices in spite of hardship. This is a love worth embracing and making your own. This is a love that transforms. This is a love that can not be silenced. This is a love that rejects injustice. 

This love held Jesus to the cross. This love raised Him up again. This love does the same for us as we die to self and are made new again. This love comforts us when we grieve. This love holds us up when we are weary. This love carries us when we just can’t go on. This love, such glorious love, can be yours.