Wednesday, February 14, 2018

WALK TOWARD DYING

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How much do you love your life?

In John chapter 12, Jesus talked to His disciples in a vulnerable moment:
"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me . . . Now My heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!" (v23-28).

Jesus Himself was troubled about the trial He knew was to come (how understandably human--sounds a lot like me). But do our trials even compare--carrying the weight of sin and being crucified for the salvation of the world? Jesus asked his disciples: will I ask God the Father to save Me? And then He immediately answered: no! this road to death--"this very reason"--is exactly why I came to earth!

Often my heart is troubled. Our foster-to-adopt road is hard. Admittedly there are brief wondering moments of if-onlys and what-ifs and not-fairs. What if the girls hadn't come. What if we could go back and only have two bio boys in our life right now. When the sorrows and difficulties increase, what shall I say.....God, save me from this hour? Shall I wish that I had never walked this road?




At the end of all time, believers will be commended for their overcoming and their dying. In Revelation 12:11 we read:
They overcame [the accuser] by the blood of the Lamb
And by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

The last part of that verse stated in the reverse might look something like: they hated their lives so much as to walk toward death. Sounds a lot like what Jesus said: "The man who hates his life..." Hating = a laying down, a giving up the rights to, a humble walk toward death, even as the heart is troubled. Jesus Himself literally walked toward death on a cross. And He didn't ask God to save Him. Instead Jesus prayed: "Father, glorify Your name!"

Dying brings new life. It's a simple farm truth but also deep spiritual truth.
Losing your life means you actually save it.
Hating your life means you actually get to keep it for eternity.

Where is there death in your life right now? It might be the death of dreams, preferred plans, or hopes for the future. Perhaps it's the death of deeply ingrained selfishness or self-centeredness or comfort or stability. It's quite human to be troubled by this "dying" but here's the question: do you love Jesus more than you love your life? Are you asking Him to save you? Or are you bravely (and maybe through tears & trembling!) asking Him to glorify His Name no matter what?

Shall I say: God, save me from this journey? Save me from this heartache and endless waiting and pain? No, I choose to believe & trust that this very road is exactly where God wants me--it is exactly His plan for me. I choose not to shrink back but to press forward on this path He has given me. I forsake love of my own life and instead I choose the overcoming walk toward death. 
I choose to boldly declare--Jesus, glorify Your Name!


// Want to read more Gospel musings? Click HERE. //

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

KIDS UPDATE // FEBRUARY 2018

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Fair warning: apparently I have lots and lots of words when I write children updates. I get started and then just can't stop. No pressure to read through all.the.words.  I mostly post these updates for our own memory's sake. 

Miss S--our joyful girl with wonderful exuberance in storytelling

Miss S loves to tell stories! She loves to tell about something that happened to her--in great detail and with wonderful hand motions. She is just so excited and happy! Her class teachers at church and Bible Study Fellowship always say that Miss S loves to answer questions . . . and her answers usually give the answer away for the next 2-3 questions. She can’t help herself!

Miss S took dance lessons in the fall and just loved her classes. I was so proud of her bravery to do something all by herself--since she and JD usually do activities together. Seeing her all dressed up in a black leotard & pink tights was so special for me. She’s still our “crafty” daughter--would much rather do an art project than play with her dolls. Sometimes we have to insist that she sit at the table and work on something for awhile (since she would rather follow her siblings around and copy what they’re doing), but once she gets into it, watch out! The ideas start flowing. A couple of weeks ago she made a cat ear headband out of pipe cleaners--it was all her own idea! And she was so proud of it.

Miss S has lost 4 teeth so far over the last year. The last loose tooth was hanging on by a thread but she wouldn’t let Bryce pull it out. She was standing near him, so he did a quick movement with his elbow to bonk her hand that was wiggling the tooth and out popped the tooth. She cried and then she laughed! Miss S is doing very well in kindergarten. She has started copying words from books and making connections with all of the reading foundations that we’ve been laying over the last year--her remembrance of letter sounds and ability to sound out words is great. Any project that involves coloring or glue or scissors or tape is definitely her favorite.

All of the kids are responsible for chores in the morning and throughout the day as needed. The older two just graduated from emptying the dishwasher to rinsing/loading dirty dishes. It’s amazing to have extra help in the kitchen! I can get food put away and everything wiped off while they are working on dishes. Silas & Miss A help unload the dishwasher now. Everyone has a job for taking care of the dog. They take turns using the handheld vacuum under the table. Miss S & JD empty bathroom trash cans and also fold their own clothes. And all of the kids except Mr. D put their own clean clothes away, make their beds, and keep their rooms clean. Every bit of help helps, that’s for sure!



Justus--our conscientious son with a wonderful wittiness that pops out on occasion

JD, as he prefers to be called, is our make-sure-the-siblings-stay-in-line child. He is definitely an “oldest child” in that regard. A couple of times a week we have to deal with some sort of meltdown about how someone is not doing something just exactly the right way. We try to have lots of teachings about grace!

JD enjoys school for the most part (although he pretends not to and enjoys the weekends immensely). He’s quick with numbers and counting and really enjoyed learning how to tell time this past week. We’re working on a “hundred chart” and he and Miss S both can’t wait to find out what their 100 prize will be. He is our only child at this point who will talk about his dreams when he wakes up in the morning--and it really seems like they’re true dreams. He also talks in his sleep quite often.

Justus is really enjoying the sensory jungle gym Bryce is building in the basement. So far we have an area with a padded floor, monkey bars hanging from the rafters, a slide, fabric swing and small trampoline. I think a rock climbing wall is making an appearance soon! Within a week, JD conquered the monkey bars with no problem--he also can do them backwards and will get his feet up on the bars and hang upside down. He’s very coordinated and strong. All of the kids are enjoying the play area and I’m not sure what I did before I had such an area to send them to! He and D have really been getting along well lately, and it’s adorable to see them playing together. JD is so kind and gentle with him.

We still have staggered wake-up times for the kids in the morning (helps the mama stay a little more sane in the mornings). JD and Silas come down when the clock says 7:00 and the girls just graduated to a regular clock from their stoplight clock. They get up when the clock says 8:00 and D gets up when I send someone up to get him. And so far we’re sticking with the 7pm bedtime. All of the kids go to sleep no problem and still seem to need the sleep--and Bryce and I sure enjoy our quiet evenings!



Silas--our sweet boy with a wonderful kindness toward his siblings

Oh sweet Si. It’s so cute how he takes care of everyone--I love how he rubs someone’s back when they’re hurting or crying and says, “It’s okay, buddy.” For awhile, he was infatuated with poor Parson and smothered him with love to the point of really bothering him, but thankfully that season has passed. He loves to snuggle on my or Bryce’s lap--just plops himself down--and he also gives lots of wonderful kisses.

Something cute: he always sneezes two times fast.  And lately he’s been saying, “Whoo-hoo” whenever he gets excited about something--it’s adorable. He also says “yes, ma’am” all the time (in a very respectful manner, when I ask him to do something), which we have no idea where he picked up. Silas loves to do “school” with the big kids and is always in the dining room with us begging me for something to do. He has almost learned how to write his name--he knows all of the letters now for his name but writes it in reverse, from right to left.

Silas has a sensory issue with socks--I find them all over the house. He takes them off as soon as we walk in the door or sometimes when we’re sitting at the table and he also refuses to sleep in socks. When he’s sleeping, he has to be able to feel his blue crochet blanket that lives under the sheets right by his feet. We’re not sure when that started, but he literally can’t fall asleep unless the blanket is right by his bare feet.

Most of the kids take turns playing together and they all do well playing with Silas. He’s our middle peaceful child. Silas & JD love to pretend together and have battles and fight bad guys (JD is a little bit obsessed with bad guys). Silas & Miss A like to pretend and play house and cook things in her kitchen. Silas & D like to build with magformers together or fill their backpacks and walk around the house.



Miss A--our snuggly daughter with a wonderful motherly & caring nature

Little Miss A is a sweet snuggler and all around sweet girl--her little giggle is adorable. She loves to play with her dolls and with their little kitchen in the girls’ room. None of them ever choose to play alone, but sometimes we require them to have some alone time in their room--sometimes they just need a break from each other! She needs a minute to adjust, but then Miss A really enjoys the time playing and always has some sort of pretend story happening. She loves to dress up in her princess clothes (and also loves when she can convince Silas or D to join her). Her motherly and caring nature translates into a lot of bossiness and tattling right now, but she really enjoys keeping all of the siblings taken care of. If they are all playing house or cats or something, Miss A is always the mother-figure.

She is our only child right now who will voluntarily grab books and just sit and look through them. I love to walk into the room and see her sitting on the couch, flipping through library books. We go to the library about every 3 weeks, and the kids pick out the number of books to equal their age before they can go play on the computers--books that I approve of and only one “character” book. They all love to be read to and we have a very specific sitting arrangement when reading books so there are no arguments every time: mom or dad in the middle, 4-year-olds right next to them, 6-year-olds on the outside, boys and girls together, and then D on the parent’s lap.

Lately Miss A has been just singing her little heart out all the time. She can stick to a tune pretty well, although she doesn’t usually know the right words. Her version of “Away in the Manger” is pretty hilarious and entertaining. Hearing her high little voice just singing away is wonderful, especially her made-up songs--those are so cute.

Silas and Miss A are two-peas-in-a-pod quite often. They’ve lived together for just about two years now, and it’s interesting the way they’ve developed some “twin-ness.” For awhile they had a little language all their own. Listening to their conversations is so cute. And they get along pretty well for the most part and take care of each other. The other day, I was listening to them playing their own version of hide-and-seek. Miss A was waiting for Silas to hide in the next room and she would call to him, “Are you ready, Si?” And he would yell, “Ready!” when he was done hiding. I said, “Miss A, why don’t you just count to 20 and then go find him?” And she said to me, “No, we’re not playing hide-and-seek. He’s hiding and then I’m going to find him.”



Mr. D--our ninja son with a wonderful craziness that keeps us all laughing

Mr. D is a stinker and he definitely knows it. We call him our crazy kid, in a very adorable and super smart way, of course. He’s probably the most fearless of our children. When we got about 4 inches of snow a couple of weeks ago, D literally cried at the top of hill until Bryce would take him down on the sled and he wanted to do it over and over--no fear! And in the basement, he runs up the little slide holding onto the swing, and then launches himself off the slide in the swing--no fear!

He still sleeps in a crib--not sure how long it will last but we’ll milk it as long as we can! He climbs out perfectly fine by himself, but is trained to just wait until one of the kids tells him it’s time to get up in the morning or after naps. He naps from 1-3:30pm in the afternoon, but from time to time he’ll just lay up there and chat instead of sleep, so I’m afraid our nap days are winding down.

My mom says that God’s gift to me with five kids was for the youngest to potty train himself. And I’m definitely praising the Lord over here! When Mr. D was only 2 years and 3 months, he started running to the bathroom and pulling down his pants when he needed to pee. I definitely wasn’t planning to potty train that early (my goal was hopefully by Christmas, but this was a few months ahead of schedule). Within a week or two, he was completely potty-trained, even at night (trade-off: he yells at us during the night to take him to the bathroom). It was pretty incredible. He was ready, and just did it. Never had to sit for a while to poop--just when in and pooped. And if he told you that he was done going, then he was 100% done. Never had a #2 accident in his underwear, and only a handful of pee accidents (but that was mostly my fault for not taking him after he had been holding it for a couple of hours). The only problem is that he loves to sit and chat on the toilet. Our conversation usually goes something like this: “D, are you done?”….”No” and he starts chatting up a storm…..then I say, “Be quiet and go potty”....and he immediately responds, “I’m done.” Translation: if you’re not going to let me sit here and chat, then I might as well be done. Also, it was super adorable when he used to say to the poop being flushed: “Bye-bye poop. See ya later. Have a good day!”

People used to ask me: since Mr. D is the youngest, does he quietly watch and observe all of his siblings? And my answer: no way! He has to insert himself in every conversation and is just as loud (or louder) than the rest of them. He is determined to make himself heard and “pipe-in" his two cents at all times! Sometimes at the dinner table Miss S and Mr. D are asked not to speak until their food is finished (since they’re usually the two who are talking and not eating), and then we notice that the table gets considerably quieter! Lately I’ve been noticing the complete sentences that D uses. I understand him pretty well for the most part, but people who aren’t used to his talking can’t always follow him. He definitely knows a lot of words though! His little voice is just adorable.

Monday, January 29, 2018

JESUS IN THE FIRE

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As we've walked this foster journey throughout the past 5+ years, I've realized one thing over and over: sometimes you have to take a crazy step first, and then you'll find Jesus right there with you.

At lunchtime the other day, the kids were discussing the story of Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego (yes, it is adorable when the 4-year-olds try to say their names). **Pause for a public service announcement to my fellow mamas: the Superbook kids' show is amazing--my kids love it and are actually learning the Bible stories! I believe you can find the shows on RightNow Media and Amazon Prime.**

Back to lunchtime. As the kids were talking, I began to think about these three ancient friends and their amazing courage. 1st, we do not know all of the story particulars, but we do know that they were not hiding away in their homes. They were right in the thick of things--near the "image of gold" that everyone was supposed to bow down to, near the pagan king, near the cultural reality of their time.

2nd, we know that they stuck together. Oh my, community is so important, especially when you're facing something hard. They were determined to see this through, together. 

3rd, the three friends acknowledged an incredible high truth that blows my mind every time I ponder it: "The God we serve is able to save us from the blazing furnace, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold . . ." (Daniel 3:17-18).
God IS ABLE to save us.
And He WILL rescue us.
But IF He DOESN'T. . . .  What?! What trust they display for us in God's sovereignty and higher purpose and power--co-existing together in a mystery we cannot understand (He Stands Alone), but we can still bank our very lives on.




Which brings me to a 4th realization: Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego found Jesus in the fire. He did not come to them when they wouldn't bow down to the idol. He didn't come when they stood before a furious king. Still He didn't come when they were tied up and about to be thrown into a blazing furnace, made 7x hotter than usual. They were thrown, falling into the furnace. And only then did Jesus meet them.

What a God. What a miracle. The friends walked around in the fire with Jesus. Unbound. Unharmed. Just chatting and walking. I wonder: what did He say to them?

They found Jesus in the fire. After they obeyed. After the struggle, standing firm in courage and walking in faith in God's power. After that horrible moment of falling into flames. They were not saved from the trial. They had to walk the road first, and then Jesus met them.

This adoption & foster journey has been anything but easy. So many hard stories. So many tough moments--in the midst of blessing & hope, yes!--but the realities of our world are there nonetheless, and it isn't always easy or beautiful. But still we TAKE A STEP.  That's my encouragement. Be brave. Do something crazy. God is able and He will rescue you, but even if He doesn't, you'll find Jesus in the fire. And that makes it all worth it.