Entanglements 

This morning I have been doing a lot of thinking and my thoughts have led to the entanglements of life. For the most part, those entanglements involve people. People don’t come in the easy-care, wrinkle-free, stain-resistant department. People are difficult. Whether young or old, they require maintenance and time and energy and effort. I’ll tell you what else they require, they require a lot of patience and forgiveness. If you want an easy, stress free, drama-less life you’d do best to avoid people altogether. Of course you’d also miss out on the best of life while trying to sidestep demanding entanglements. You’d never have a big family fight but, you’d never experience the joy of reconciliation. You’d never lose sleep worrying about problems that are not your own but, you’d never know the great delight that comes in sharing the victories that are not your own.
The truth is, people disappoint us. They falter and stumble. This morning I was reading Romans 15 in The Message and several phrases really stood out to me.
“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”

That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.” Romans 15:1-3
One dictionary defines entanglement as ‘to twist together or entwine into a confusing mass’. Nothing about that definition beckons unto us saying “come a little bit closer”. As a matter of fact, it pretty much shouts “AVOID AT ALL COSTS”. When Henry and I decided to become foster parents we were cautioned by many to reconsider. After all, the foster care system is one entangled mess. I often call it broken, but, truly entangled is a better description. It is one thing to take a child into your home, it is another to deal with family visits and siblings and relatives and therapies and social workers and court appearances. We were cautioned but, we pressed ahead and in our fifteen years of foster care we fostered forty-five children. A few were there short term, maybe a dozen, but there were many who were with us for years and seven of whom we adopted.
When we were training to be foster parents one of my concerns was how I would feel towards the birth parents. Would I be able to be civil to these people who obviously didn’t want their children and had harmed them in some way? And then, as is so often the case, experience taught me differently. I began to meet these real, struggling, faltering human beings and I was for the most part flooded with compassion.
I remember once that a birth father showed up at our door early on Christmas Morning, pounding until we opened it. He held gifts in his arms and shouted at us to let him see his son. We had to try to calm him while we explained that his son was no longer there. You see, he wasn’t supposed to know where his son was because he would not respect the boundaries of visitation. Social services had found out that he had figured out the child was with us and after over two years of building a relationship with us, he had been moved. I’ll never forget the look on that man’s face when he realized that his determination to break the rules and outsmart the system had resulted in another move for his son. It was an entanglement.
Another time on another early morning one summer, I went to let our pooch out to potty and saw a vehicle parked in our driveway. Inside the car was the mother of one of our teen girls who was with us for nearly four years. She just sat there and I just stood there wondering what to do. I was in my housecoat and had rollers in my hair. I hadn’t even had my coffee. I decided to step to the car and she rolled down the window. “Would you like to come in for coffee?’ I asked. She looked so defeated and sad sitting there that I could hardly stand it. She came in and I hastily went and woke our foster daughter. “Your mom is here,” I told her, “come on, let’s fix her breakfast.” We did and I’ll never forget her comment that she couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten. It was an entanglement.
Once, we had a child placed with us rather suddenly. The social workers knew we could be counted on in a crisis and this was a crisis. The child’s parents were in a heated divorce and each accusing the other of endangering the child hoping to prevent the other from having visitation rights. Tempers had flared in the courtroom until finally the judge ordered the child taken into custody until it could all be sorted out. This was a Friday and that meant a long weekend ahead. The child wasn’t your typical foster care child. This was all new to him and to say he was traumatized is not an adequate description. He was nine years old and I already had two other nine year old boys, as well as several other children. He cried and cried. He would only speak to ask me to take him to his grandparents. I explained that I couldn’t do that but, I could keep him safe until he could return to his family. Finally, I asked him to tell me about his family and then I did something I wasn’t allowed to do. I searched for their number in an old fashioned phone book until I figured out how to contact them. His grandparents wept openly as I explained who I was without giving them a name or address. I’ll never forget their gratitude of just hearing from me, a total stranger that he was safe and being cared for. They had been praying, feeling totally helpless and alarmed. It was an entanglement.
One of my son’s birth mother and I spent a lot of time together. She was young enough that she could have possibly been my daughter herself. I kept her other children many times that weren’t in foster care to help her when she’d find herself in trouble once again. When she got straightened out enough that the judge was willing to give her another chance, I thought I would absolutely die. We were losing our baby. I had invested in her and now my reward was that she would have her son while we lost our son. See how entangled it gets? But I’ll never forget the day, just three days later when she showed up at my door with him in her arms. She told me she couldn’t raise him and she knew I was supposed to. He became one of our forever children through adoption.
If you will, scroll back up and read that portion of scripture from Romans once more. If you find yourself in a position of strength then take the opportunity to lend a hand to those who falter around you. Are you strong financially, then take that as an opportunity for service, not status. If you are strong spiritually, reach out to those whose faith may be faltering. If it really isn’t convenient to get involved, welcome to the life of extravagant love and get involved anyway. Not sure exactly how you can help? Then, ask how you can help. Wade right in. After all, that’s what Jesus did for us and He is our perfect example of how to live this life, even with all the entanglements.

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DNA does not lie. 

Curiosity won and I did an Ancestry.comDNA test. After several weeks, I got the results yesterday and I’m trying to make sense of what make no sense to me. 

Some of the results were no big surprise. I knew I had Irish ancestors on my paternal side and Scottish ancestors on on my maternal side. But I had always been told and believed I had significant Native American blood. I have genealogies with names!

Anyway, as I keep reminding myself, DNA does not lie.  Well, it may not lie, but it sure can surprise you and challenge what you thought you knew about yourself. Mercy. 

So, first to the two big surprises. 

Shocked and greatly pleased that I am 5% European Jewish. I have visited a Messianic synagogue over the years. I have studied and celebrated Biblical Feasts many times, such as Passover. I can sing the Shabbat blessing in Jewish and own shofars. I loved all of this, but had absolutely no inkling that it was an actual part of my DNA. 

Yesterday morning before I received my results, I told three of my teens that I wanted to attend Rosh Hashanah this Wednesday night. And then I get these results. I have to say that I am absolutely thrilled with this surprise. The photo below is me at Passover this year. 


The other shocker is a big disappointment. All of my life I have believed that I had significant Native American blood. I have names of Native American ancestors listed firmly in my family genealogy. And yet, zero. The DNA results said ZERO. I am trying to process and understand how this could be. 

My initial and simplified answer is that the Native American DNA is just too far back and too insignificant to register. This makes me sad. I have always taken pride in having both Cherokee and Creek ancestors. Ugh. 

This is a rendering of a Creek Indian princess, Sehoy McGillivray, who is ‘supposed’ to be one of my ancesstresses. She married Lachlan McGillivray from Scotland and the line keeps going directly to my great-grandfather, Lovid Busby Smith, then to my grandmother, my mother, and to me. Or so I thought. 


Among the non-surprises was that my ‘genetic community’ was from the early settlers of Mississippi and Louisiana. I was born in Louisiana and graduated highschool in Mississippi. So, this is perfectly expected. I’ve got cousins all over the Southeastern United States. 

The Scandinavia part was puzzling. This, I had no clue of and it makes up nearly a third of my DNA. Viking? Who me? Couldn’t be!  I honestly know very little of the Scandinavian people. I understand some iconic beauties are from that region. For instance, Ingrid Bergman, Ann-Margret, and Greta Garbo were actresses with such bloodlines. Perhaps I’ll find out more as I take this very interesting DNA journey. 

As I said from the beginning, I wasn’t surprised at all of my Celtic background. Not only was I aware of my strong Scottish and Irish lineage, I am proud of it. The music! The lilt! The dances! The short-tempers too! (I’ve relied on this excuse many times). 

Well, as with most things in life, one answered question leads to dozens of more questions. We live, we learn, we discover, we adjust. That’s my real heritage. I’m a human being, crated in the image of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ, being consistently transformed into the best me possible by the Holy Spirit. 

I find it interesting that just this week, I quoted a Danish philosopher and will share with my small group tomorrow morning. I’ll share it with you now. 

Less of Me – Literally 

For fifteen years I have been on a weight-reducing, healthy-choosing, activity-increasing, life-extending journey. 

My wake-up call began with a visit to my doctor and the diagnosis of diabetes. I reacted with denial first, resentment second and finally fear. I was astounded by my weight. 

I was in a terrible state of mind, let me tell you. And for the record, I was not a person who fantasized about food. I did however find comfort in food. Mostly, I just didn’t have time to think about it, or so I thought. 

I was physically and emotionally tired. By that time we had been fostering for over a decade. I had experienced more heart-ache and loss than I like to admit to even now. I had been traumatized and I was worn out. So, I ate what was easy and inexpensive and convenient. That’s the simple truth. 

Besides the diabetes I also had developed an enlarged liver (the non-alcoholic sort) and various other ailments that seemed to declare that any efforts to change now would be too little and too late. Still, I determine in my heart to try. 

I would seem to do really well for a while and then fall back into old habits or hit a plateau with the weight loss that would discourage me. But today, I stopped to consider where I was and how far I have come. I have certainly not arrived, I have many more pounds to lose and many more health issues to address. But I’ve come a long way baby! 

I almost didn’t write this blog for several reasons. For one thing, I didn’t want to sound bragadocious (a word of my own invention). For another, I still have so far to go. And finally because it’s personal to me, a private matter. You know?

But anyway, I decided to go ahead and write this because I am SO THANKFUL and maybe I could encourage another struggling soul. 

If you feel like it’s just too little and too late to change your lifestyle, let me assure you, it is NOT. You can start fresh today and again tomorrow if need be. 

This morning when I weighed I had broken a plateau that had roadblocked me for several years. I just never seemed to be able to get past that point. I’d give up. I’d try again. I’d gain a few pounds back. I’d try again. I’d get frustrated. I’d try again. 

And so, today, I can celebrate that 68 lbs of unnecessary weight is gone. It took a long time and I’m still losing more, but hey, 68lbs is worth mentioning and celebrating. 

I wore size 22/24 and now I’m fitting into size 14. I’ve been able to come off blood pressure meds and have greatly reduced my diabetes meds and my liver has returned to normal size. I am healthier than I’ve been in decades. 

I hope you’re taking good care of yourself, eating right, exercising properly, resting enough. But if you aren’t, you CAN change that. It may not be instant results, but the results will come. #takecourage