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.

Advertisements

This I Know


I want to encourage some hearts today! Here is a simple truth for you to consider. It is okay if you don’t understand it all, have all the answers or have it all figured out. 

I reminded myself this very morning of this same simple truth. I have been known to over-think matters. What about you? Not only that, I often grow frustrated with others who appear to be thinking too little. 

This morning I read in John chapter nine of a young man who had an encounter with Jesus. As is always the case after such an encounter the result was drastic change, miraculous even. People noticed. 

They did not instantly rejoice with him. Instead the people around him were suspicious, questioning, doubtful. They wanted answers, demanded answers. The young man did not know. He did not understand it all. He could not explain exactly what had happened, at least not to their satisfaction. 

Finally, he declared that he did not know the answers that they demanded but, he DID know one thing. I want to encourage you this morning to stop fretting over what you do not understand and rejoice in what you do know! What you do know is enough to celebrate, to embrace and to find hope in. 

What that young man said was “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!””

John 9:25 NLT



So, this morning I have a few things to declare myself and would invite you to do the same! 

I don’t know it ALL but this I know…

I was blind but now I can see! 

I was lost but now I am found!

I was empty but now I am filled!

I was hesitant but now I am sure!

I was without hope and now I hope again!

I was weak but now I’m strong!

I was without music in my soul and now it is filled with song!

I was hurt and unable to forgive but now I can walk in grace!

I was weary but now I am strengthened for this race!

Distractions & Reactions

I’m pretty sure I’m one of the most distractible humans alive. Well, perhaps that’s stretching it a bit. I know this, distractions are an inevitable part of life and it’s our reactions to them that impact our lives. 

What is a distraction exactly?

Well, simply put, it is anything that keeps you from giving your full attention to another thing. 

The thing is, we’ve grown so accustomed to multi-tasking, that we may have lost the art of undivided attention. I know I’m very guilty of the inability to focus on one thing and that thing only. 

As a #momofmany, presently homeschooling five teens, actively involved in our church and outreach ministry, entrepreneur and writer extraordinaire, I feel hard pressed to juggle as many balls as I can at once. 


Here’s the thing that I’m pondering today. If distractions are inevitable and a sure part of life, what can we do about them?

Now, you may be expecting me to tell you to clear your calendar and learn to say no more often! Maybe even stop trying to do it all and remind you to take some deep relaxing breaths. 

While those are good thoughts, that’s not what I want to tell you at all. What I want to discuss is not the distractions but our reactions to them. That’s the crux of the matter. 

You know what my greatest distraction is? People! Whether they are calling, texting, pulling on my sleeve or bickering between themselves, people distract me. Whether I’m reading FB posts, scheduling appointments, answering an e-mail, stopping to pray for them, giving them a ride or listening to their woes, people distract me. 

They distract me because I care and because I believe that #peoplematter. They distract me from the plans I have made for myself. They rearrange my schedule, undo my calendar and sometimes delay my goal-reaching efforts. 

And the truth is, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m glad I’m distractible when it comes to the folks in my life. I’m glad to know that my children want to discuss their days, my friends feel free to ask for prayer, that a stranger on FB is encouraged by my posts and that my reactions to the distractions in my life can speak volumes. 

Reactions to the distractions of life say loud and clear, “You matter to me!”

You matter enough for me to stop and listen, you matter enough for me to delay my plans, you matter enough to merit a brief comment on your post, you matter enough that I will allow you to distract me. 

And you know what, I think the world might be a better place if we were all a little  more easily distracted, not from what matters but towards what really matters, people. People matter. 

Just Breathe

Today is my birthday and I expect to be spoiled profusely. Why? Well, because that’s what I’ve grown accustomed to. I have a husband who dotes on me and a family who makes me feel like a queen for the day and friends who lavish sweet sentiments upon my FB page. Social media is certainly at its best on your birthday. #birthdaygirl

I will be receiving some gifts today. Some are special simply because they will be given to me by one of my children. Some are special because of the obvious thought that went into choosing it. Some are special because, they were needed and will be well used (like my new mini-van, I really needed that). Then there are those gifts that are special today and will likely be special for years to come. I’d like to tell you about one of those. 


The photo truly doesn’t do it justice, you’ll have to take my word for it that it is even prettier in person. My friend is the artisan and you should check out her page. @palletcreationsbydarlene

My husband gifted this to me from him and ALL my kids. Let me tell you, that’s a whole lot of kids. #momofmany  So, it is special because my Henry bought it, my friend made it and my children are a part of it. But that isn’t the reason it brings tears to my eyes when I think of it. 

Two years ago today, on my birthday, I had an encounter with the Lord that changed my life. Now, if you’ve never had such an encounter, I hope you will one day. You will never forget it, just as I’ll never forget this one. 

It’s rather personal, so I won’t go into great detail. However, I have been eagerly anticipating writing today’s blog so that I can share a portion of it with you. 

Here’s what I need to tell you. In Ezekiel 37, there is a conversation between God and a prophet, Ezekiel. It’s a remarkable account of a valley of dry bones. 

Please, pause for a moment and HEAR me. No matter how disjointed, disconnected, hopeless, dried up, brittle or sun-bleached your hopes, dreams, health, relationships, finances and even spiritual condition is – there is HOPE! And here is why. 

“Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’””

‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭37:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

That’s it. That’s the answer. That’s the source of our hope, our strength, our healing, our redemption. The breath of the Sovereign Lord! And when He breathes life into a situation, a heart, a relationship, a ministry – It WILL LIVE AGAIN!

Today, when your heart is gripped with fear or worry, when you feel overwhelmed and distressed, when you’re feeling out of options and depleted of hope – JUST BREATHE and then allow God to do what only He can! 

Now, that’s a great way to celebrate a birthday and every day for that matter. 

So Loved 

Yesterday my five youngest children and I made a one-day, out-of-town road trip and I was the driver. It was a very beautiful and happy day spent with lots of folks we love. 


Naturally, on the drive home I was doing a lot of thinking and pondering. Things like, never ever give up on the possibilities of what God’s love can accomplish. His love is the most powerful force on earth and can change situations, people’s hearts and the direction of a person’s life. I needed that reminder. Maybe you did too. 

Another truth that is stamped on my heart was verified yesterday. There’s an old adage that says you can’t pick your family. I’d like to firmly disagree. Yes you can. Marriage is a perfect example. A choice to be family is made. Adoption is another example. A choice to become family is made. But there are other examples as well when no judge declares anything at all. Instead hearts declare belonging to one another because we so love them. 

You may not can choose who you are related to by blood, but you do get to choose your family. I’ve chosen well. Not only by marriage and adoption, but also by relationship. By caring and loving and praying and connecting and communicating and hoping and helping and sometimes the biding of time, by so loving them. 


During the next few weeks I will be in four different states visiting family. I will see two dozen family members. I am blood related to less than half of those, only nine to be exact. And yet, they are all my family. 

How can that be? I’ll tell you clearly how. Because love trumps blood, love trumps hate, love trumps differences,  love trumps distances, love trumps circumstances and love even trumps the law of the land sometimes. Relationships are formed when commitment is made, time is invested and choices are lived out. I so love them. 

Today I am loving the beauty of love. The choices we make, the lives we live, the paths we walk and yes, oh yes, the families we have!

Below is a photo of a few of my most beloved family members. I don’t share a single drop of blood with any of them. What we do share is love and let me assure you I so love them!


Below is another photo. This one is a photo of my mother and sister with whom I share blood. Guess what? We are family, not because of blood but because of relationship, precious memories, laughter and the bonds of love! I so love them. 


I can’t conclude my thoughts without adding this. The MOST important family decision you can ever make will be to become a part of the family of God. Choosing to be adopted into His family, as His child, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ will be the most life-altering decision you ever make. You know why? Because of love, once again, because of love. He so loves us. 

Permanent Residence in a Life of Love 

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house,”1 John 4:17-18 MSG

I like the thought of a ‘permanent residence in a life of love.’

“Permanent residence” is different than staying in a motel for a while or even renting a home temporarily. Which describes your relationship with God? Are you committed to this life of love? Does love have run of the house of your soul? Has your heart been overtaken with the love of God?


How can we know? 

  • Well, if you are doing what you should do but resent it, that isn’t love, that is obligation. 
  • If you are doing what you do to achieve status or influence or reward, that likely isn’t love, that is manipulation. 
  • If you expect to always be appreciated, noticed or paid back, that isn’t love either.

I think a house where love runs things will be furnished with forgiveness, the benefit of the doubt and second chances. I think a house where love is in charge will have strong walls of firm boundaries that keeps those who reside there safe. I think that a house where love rules is a house where growth is encouraged and people are respected. 


Today’s challenge is to make a permanent commitment to this life of love and let love reign.

Lodes and Nodes

Some times I really do think that we mommas think we are impenetrable, unstoppable, and without limits. Okay, well maybe that’s not what we think, but it is how we tend to live. We function on too little sleep. We operate under too much stress. We press on when we feel we must even when we are feeling exhausted. 

We are, after all, the ‘mother lode’. We are indeed the source of so much that our children, our husbands, our friends, our churches need. That’s what a mother lode is. It is defined as the abundant and rich source of something valuable. This is an apt description of most mommas that I know. 


Of course being a mother lode can be quite the load. It can be draining. It can wear you out and run you dry. And yet, still we are tempted to continue on, to hide our weariness, to pretend all is well when our well has run dry. 
As a Christian I fully understand that I am not the true source for anyone. I know exactly who my source is and when I’m thinking straight, I run straight to Jesus for strength beyond my own, wisdom beyond my years and courage beyond what is humanly possible. 


Yes, mommas are human too even when we don our capes and place the coordinating masks upon our face. We do have our limits even when we are desperately trying to ignore them. And guess what, they aren’t ignoring you. 

I am not a medical doctor nor a psychologist. I have however lived long enough to be convinced of a few things about physical health and emotional wellbeing. Here is one of them.

When we consistently ignore warnings and continually over stress our bodies and minds, there will be repercussions. It may be simple things like being short tempered and snappy at our family, poor performance at our job, or even lack of energy. It may also lead to serious health crises. 

I recently read a number of reports claiming that stress and anxiety can cause a number of issues, one of which I’m experiencing right now, swollen lymph nodes. Our bodies respond to our stresses. What stresses us out, stresses our body out. 


Tomorrow, January 26,  I will be having surgery and having a biopsy on a lymphnode. All the initial tests have good results and I’m so thankful. I am not expecting a bad report. But something is causing my axillary nodes to be distressed and I’m blaming stress itself. I believe the constant strain and drain I’ve put on the ‘mother-load’ has lead to consequences. 

Now, what to do about it? Be brutal. Slash that calendar load. Say no more often. Find time to rest and to spend time in the presence of God. Make sure you eat right, rest well and exercise often. Refuse to live in a manner that tears you down bit by bit. 

You might as well know that I’m talking to myself and letting you listen in on the conversation. I hope I’m listening well and I hope you are too.