Thursday, June 30, 2016

TEN CHILDREN (the next installment)

Back in July of 2013, I wrote a post on the first twelve children to grace our home through the foster system and Safe Families for Children. All of them fun and handfuls and soul-stretching and beautiful. The first list left off at Miss L & Mr. N who were with us for 2 months. After they left, we took a break during the pregnancy of and first few months with our second son, Silas. But then we were excited to jump in again. Are you ready for the next installment?

Mr. W (24 hours) - A little Safe Families guy--his mom needed someone to watch him while she worked on a holiday (since his daycare was closed). Bryce was working and so I thought: why not welcome another little man with my two for the day. He was three years old and still slept with his mom, so it was a lonely night for him sleeping on my floor--poor little guy. I woke up many times to comfort him back to sleep.

Miss A (6 weeks) - Our oldest placement to date at 12 years old. She stayed with us during the week and took the bus to school 45 minutes away. The weekends she spent with mom and twin brothers--they were waiting on subsidized housing to be approved. It was a challenging placement. We learned a lot (next time: ground rules will be established at the beginning) and struggled to connect (there's no time to bond when kids go home on the weekends).

"Peanut" and JD taking an afternoon nap.

Mr. D, Mr. D & Mr. D (8 days) - Our most challenging placement of them all. We did respite care for 3 foster boys, ages 7, 5 and 3. Graciously, God worked it out so Bryce was home all but one day of their time with us. (There was another day he was supposed to work but my body literally freaked out from stress: I got sick at 3am and so he had to stay home to help me. God knew.) Physical aggression, bad words, rampant disobedience....and yet such sweet and goofy moments. I remember doing a paper plate art project with the older boys and we sang silly songs together (one afternoon when I was at my wits end....thank you, Lord, for spur-of-the-moment ideas). The entire week was eye opening for us to see first-hand the heartbreaking condition of these little lives torn apart by change and trauma beyond their control.

Miss A (1 week) - Her mom called her Peanut; she was feisty and fun (more about her visit here). We enjoyed our week with Peanut, once some boundaries and expectations were established. This Safe Families mom and I kept in contact for a bit after the week ended--she sent me pictures and updates. Such a beautiful part of the Safe Families ministry to be able to continue relationships!

Miss Z (1 month) - This girl: oh how I loved her. Quickly she came (read more here) and suddenly she was taken away (more about this here). We learned even more about the foster care system, how to interact with bio parents (more specifically, what not to do), and allowed our hearts to be drawn into care and concern for her. Sometimes I still miss her and it reminds me to pray.

Our little "Z" and JD playing together.

Big D (12 months and counting) - Our D-man! He's been with us for a year now and what fun it has been to see him grow and change. Here's a post about his first two months with us. Who would have thought that 8 months later his sisters would join our family as well...

Miss S & Miss A (4 months and counting) - Only God could have planned this part of our journey....such sweet girls with beautiful hearts. It's been a crazy ride! More updates about them coming soon . . .

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

7 SIGNS OF A LIFE-WITH-JESUS

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Recently I came across an article titled "6 Signs of Spiritual Growth" . . . and I couldn't stop thinking about the six "signs" listed. While not necessarily bad in and of themselves (new belief systems, new career, self-help, etc.), there was no mention of Jesus or the Scriptures or true spiritual growth according to the Word. And so, may I present another list (by no means exhaustive and in no particular order): 7 Signs of a Life-with-Jesus.

1) More Fruit!
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." Galatians 5:22-24

Life with Jesus means life with the Spirit, and the Spirit produces fruit, in ever-increasing measure. I love how this verse says that those who belong to Jesus have crucified the desires/passions of the sinful nature and instead are filled with love and peace and kindness and self-control. How many times a day do we tell our children to show kindness and love like the fruit of the Spirit! (And by default it's a good reminder for ourselves...)


2) Renewed Mind
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:1-2

Because of God's mercy to us, we offer our whole selves back to Him. Rather than conforming to the pattern this world prizes and pursues, we are renewed in our minds. Reading Scripture, prayer, fellowship with other believers--all of this helps to change our thinking to be driven by Truth (instead of feelings, whims, peer pressure or fleeting pleasures). We are TRANSFORMED, and that is no small word: revolutionized, reconstructed, renewed.

3) Commitment to the Commission
"Then Jesus came to them and said, '...Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" Matthew 28:18-20

This is the commission Jesus gave to the disciples during His final moments on earth. There are four commands: Go to all nations, Make disciples, Baptize, and Teach them to obey. This is the mission we inherit as followers of Jesus. It is specific, focused and imperative. (Definition of imperative: absolutely necessary or required; unavoidable.) Believers need to look no further for a life goal or passion or dream. Here it is, clear as day in red letters.


4) Him >, Us <
"He [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30

This is a simple one to understand (much harder to execute). John the Baptist is quoted above. May his words be our anthem: forgetting self to glorify Jesus. Which is connected to the next sign . . .

5) Attitude of Humility
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus..." Philippians 2:3-5 (further study on this passage here)

Life with Jesus means we begin to live like Jesus, and Jesus lived in humility, as a servant. We can have no greater ambition than to pattern our lives after Him: doing nothing out of selfishness or vanity, considering others' needs more important than our own, and looking to the interests of others. As the Holy Spirit begins to work in our hearts, He begins to change our attitudes. Oh to be truly humble at heart!


6) Sacrificial Living (i.e. pick up your cross)
"If anyone would come after Me [Jesus], he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" Mark 8:34-36

It seems like an odd rhetorical question (of course I don't want to forfeit my soul!) and yet how many of us strive our whole existence to gain the whole world, frantically trying to save our own lives. Yet, a life lived with Jesus and for the Gospel is a life denied, a life laid down, a life lost. Jesus says, Take up your cross (live sacrificially, as I did) and follow Me. In the process, we gain everything: Jesus, salvation, eternity.

7) Love for One Another
"My [Jesus'] command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." John 15:12
"May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You [God the Father] sent Me [Jesus] and have loved them even as You have loved Me." John 17:23

Jesus' command: Love each other like I love you (unconditional, genuine, sacrificial) and Jesus' prayer: May they be in complete unity so that the world will know the truth. This is perhaps the most difficult "sign" of them all.


What other signs of a life growing with Jesus can you think of?





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Looking for further study on perhaps why you're not maturing in the faith? This is a good listen.
Reasons We Resist Becoming Mature: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 - by Chuck Swindol
"The desire to grow up is a natural drive within the physical life, but spiritually we seem to drag our heels. Why? What is it that causes us to resist becoming adult?"