Perfect

Practically everyone I know has, at this precise moment, a perfect opportunity to be anxious. If it isn’t a personal matter like your marriage or your children or your health or your bank account, there’s plenty to be concerned about in our society. Senseless murders, tragic disasters and alarming events continue to happen daily and then flood our minds and hearts with images of sorrow and fear. 

As a matter of fact it is perfectly understandable that more folks suffer from anxiety than ever before. The world is a scary place and due to social media in part, we are barely able to catch our breath before the next bad news is upon us. 

The pressure on families to face the demands of life and not only keep afloat financially but, raise your children to be decent people with a decent education and a decent character are enormous and the perfect pressure pot to simmer anxiety in our minds to a constant low boil. 

Oh, and then lots not forget health issues. Weight gained, blood pressure that is high, feet that ache, migraines that assault, diagnosis’ that alarm, all contribute to the steady state of perfect chaos. 

Who could blame us for less than perfect reactions and words and proper responses when we are in this constant state of frantically fighting the next crisis at hand? No one can blame us but, there is someone who can help us. His name is Jesus, Yeshua, Son of God, God incarnate, Savior, and PRINCE OF PEACE!

He can provide you peace that the world does not offer, peace that passes all understanding and PERFECT PEACE. Perfect, as in customized just for you and your perfect mess. Perfect, as in exactly what you need right this very moment. Perfect. 

Our part? To fix our eyes on Him. No, we aren’t blind to all the storms brewing around us. We see them. We grieve the losses, we prepare, we work hard, we invest, we protect, we improve what we can. But, our focus, is not all these troubles. Our focus is our Lord. The result is trust because when we fix our eyes on Him we find Him trustworthy. 

This is how we can walk in perfect peace when the world is in perfect chaos. Remember, whatever you do, avoid the #peacethieves and one of them is named anxiety. 

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭26‬:‭3‬ ESV)

 

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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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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.

Another

This passage is a very familiar one to most of us. The message of the passage is new each time I read it. Not different, but new as in another.

And that is exactly what we see in this verse – another.

Here’s the thing I feel so sure I need to share today. You are the clay. He is the potter. Even while in His hands the clay was marred. That is you. That is me. Imperfect. Marred.

I know you know this. But, here is a firm reminder. The potter did not throw the clay away. He re-formed it. He formed it again as HE PLEASED. He made it another.

But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. (Jeremiah 18:4 NIV)

The clay simply submitted. It could not fix itself nor form itself. It’s part, our part, is to allow the Master Artisan have His way shaping us. Even when it means starting again. Even when it means a flaw has been revealed. Even when it hurts.

The process may seem slow. The direction may seem to be a detour. The end result may be different that what you had thought sure was best. Instead, you end up at a place in a position, with an opportunity that He thought was best. Then, much to your amazement you realize you agree.

Remember

It is so easy to forget things that we are sure we never possibly could.

As for me, at times when I am weary and a bit overwhelmed with motherhood I might forget how desperate I was to be right here in the midst of this chaos with too little sleep and far more to do than I possibly can do. Not only might I be tempted to forget that this life with all it’s demands and stresses is an answer to prayer, I may also forget Who it was that answered that prayer and how He did so and what I promised in return.

I promised myself and I promised my God that I would love the children He gave me but, I would never forget they were His first and foremost. I was sure I never possibly could.

And yet, I do forget. I forget to remember. I forget that they are His and I am His. I forget that He is God and I am not. I forget that He knows what the future holds and can handle it. I forget with all my limits and failings and struggles, that He has no limits. I forget that though without Him I could not do it, I will never be without Him.

When I forget to remember I feel like everything is too much and too heavy. When I forget to remember I may slip into despair and confusion. I may lose my focus and my clarity. I may lose my hope and my wherewithal.

So, today and many days to come, when I close my eyes at night and say my prayers and prepare for rest, I will remember. I will refuse to worry and fret. I will remember who He is and who I am. I will remember whose they are and whose I am. I will remember. I will worship Him with my trust because He has proven Himself trustworthy.

I will remember because He remembered me.

“Sir, do you remember me?” Hannah asked. “I am the very woman who stood here several years ago praying to the lord. I asked the lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. Now I am giving him to the lord, and he will belong to the lord his whole life.” And they worshiped the lord there. (1 Samuel 1:26-28 NLT)

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Assumptions: Ten Steps to Avoid Them

I’ve been considering how assumptions can strain even the strongest of relationships. An assumption can compromise trust on both sides. An assumption often means choosing to believe the worst when we could have chosen to believe the best. An assumption is often the result of fear or insecurities, a self-protection mechanism. An assumption rarely makes things better. An assumption proclaims loudly that we know a person’s heart and have determined their intentions. An assumption can hurt the heart of those we claim to love and add insult to that injury.

How can we avoid the snares of wrong assumptions, faulty conclusions and unfair judgements?

#1 Don’t. Just don’t. When you are tempted, refuse to assume. Get the facts. Ask a question. Find clarification before you come to a conclusion.

#2 Give the benefit of the doubt. Choose to believe the best until the facts (not feelings) prove otherwise. Feelings are fickle.

#3 Remember the character of the person in question. Does this sound like them? Does it line up with what you have experienced with them before?

#4 Keep in mind your state of mind. Are you already aggravated with the other person, put out with them, have a bone to pick?

#5 Err on the side of mercy. Don’t be so quick to give them what they deserve. Justice knows how to locate them if justice is required.

#6 Say you are sorry. When you were wrong, admit it, don’t excuse it. Apologize and hope they are willing to apply mercy when you weren’t.

#7 Consider the consequences. How will your relationship change? Will it cost you dearly if you assume incorrectly?

#8 Avoid words like obviously, apparently, undoubtedly, clearly when determining the intentions of another person’s heart.

#9 Forgive. Offer do-overs and second chances. If you were right and they were as rotten as you imagined, keep in mind, we all make mistakes.

#10 Decide now and often that you will not lump people together. All men. All teens. All southerners. All politicians. Yes, even all politicians. Each person deserves the opportunity to prove themselves, make their own way and even their own mistakes.

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Painful Possibilities

Pain is seldom a welcome part of our life and yet a guaranteed result of living. From the tiny ouches to the excruciating, you can count on it. Don’t let that discourage or frighten you however. Along with that assurance of pain comes an accompanying assurance of possibilities. Let me explain.

My 12 year old adopted daughter has injured her foot. She hyperextended the tendons on the top that extend from her toes and let me tell you, she is experiencing some pain. She and I along with my 13 year old daughter (her birth sister) are heading out of town early in the morning where plans of hikes and zip lines have fizzled into disappointment. Instead she will be hobbling around on crutches, soaking her foot in Epsom salt baths and keeping her hands and mind otherwise occupied while her foot is elevated.

Although I am so very sorry that she is hurting and although I regret that she won’t have the same opportunities to enjoy our trip, I intend to take advantage of the possibilities that pain is presenting. Take advantage of my child’s pain? What kind of parent would think such thoughts and do such a thing? Well, once again, let me explain.

You see, my daughters came to me at ages six and seven. Sometimes I grieve over the lost time and not just because of time itself, but, because I never watched them suckle, I never had to choose the right diaper rash cream or soothe them as they teethed. Instead they learned to rely on each other and to self soothe. They learned that adults didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to a child in pain and as a matter of fact, an admission of pain might put you in a vulnerable (and therefore dangerous) position.

So, for the next week our so, my daughter is going to be much more dependent on me. She will need my assistance, my guidance, my tender loving care. And yes, I am going to take full advantage of the painful possibilities. While she is being still and quieter than usual, I will show her how a mother chooses to nurture and reinforce what I’ve been teaching her half of her life now. Pain is about more than vulnerabilities, it is also about possibilities.

Pain provides possibilities to build a trusting relationship, to bond more deeply as you depend on another – a possibility to experience the miracle of healing.

Chances are most of you reading this are experiencing some sort of pain right this moment. You may have an injury yourself. You may be suffering with an ongoing illness. You may be grieving the loss of a loved one. You may be in pain for countless reasons and feeling extremely vulnerable.

If that is the case let me assure you of this truth. You have a heavenly father who is totally aware of your pain and your broken dreams and your grieving heart. Guess what else? He intends to take full advantage of the painful possibilities. He wants to draw you into a more intimate relationship and comfort you into a trusting without reservation. Don’t hesitate to turn your face His direction. He has already turned His face toward yours.

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” CS Lewis _The Problem With Pain_