Lesson During a Holiday Break

Some times you just need a break. Right now, that is me! The Friday before Thanksgiving I realized I had no words. I got a little panicky because I was already going to take the next week off and couldn’t take more! Right? Seriously, where did I come up with these rules? In the almost 4 years of this blog, I have only taken a week off at a time and very rarely. Well, when you make your own rules, you can break them.

In the end, I decided to take the rest of the year off unless I had ideas. Honestly, life is so busy there isn’t time to think. It has been good for me to not be so rigid with writing. If people lose interest in reading it, so be it. I can’t control it anyways!

Days after deciding that, we had family in town and my oldest got sick. Turns out she had pneumonia and is finally recovering. It has been a scary few weeks, but she is on the upswing. She is getting better just in time for her daddy to get something like the flu. He is now the one with a cough, no appetite, and no energy. Is it summer yet?

Speaking of seasons, it isn’t even winter, and we had 8 inches of snow between Friday and Saturday. The most snow in the Atlanta area since the blizzard of ’93! School got out early Friday and just started back up today. Thousands of people were without power for days. Ours surged a few times but never went out.

Yes, life is hectic right now. In addition to work, taking care of sickies, and keeping up with the house and children’s homework, there has also been Christmas shopping and planning. No pressure. Over and over I keep hearing people say how blessed they are. It is true, we are blessed, but I have heard it said when someone is talking about a good circumstance. No matter what, we are blessed. We are blessed whether we have power or not. We are blessed if we can buy our children Christmas presents or not. When life is good or life is hard, we are blessed. God loves us. He sees where we are and knows us fully. He provides for us in unusual ways and in His timing.

My prayer for you is that you feel that blessing from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. You are never alone. You are never forgotten. You are loved with an everlasting love and it won’t be taken away. May your days be cheery and bright, not because of your surroundings, but because of the peace that comes from knowing you are loved no matter what.

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My Sister is Better Than Yours

My sister is the best.

Elizabeth and I have had the typical sister bond that fluctuates throughout childhood and then solidifies once both are adults. She is still bossy and I revert to whining when she gets bossy. After all, some things never change. The biggest thing that hasn’t changed is that she is and always will be one of my best friends.

When we were kids, Elizabeth and I played together. I can still remember when she suddenly grew up and didn’t want someone younger hanging around. It’s OK though. I read her diary and told on her for watching MTV. Us younger sisters have some weapons to use!

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One of the best things about my sister is how she will drop everything and help when she is needed. Twice she moved home to help when Mom had cancer. Elizabeth took care of everything like a much older person. She put her own life on hold and put all of our needs ahead of her own and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Back then, I was living my life and didn’t appreciate her sacrifice like I do now.

Several years ago, I was told I needed a biopsy and ultrasound.  After I scheduled them, I called Elizabeth and cried to her. Until I heard her voice, I hadn’t understood how scared I was. She quickly said she would come down and go with me. I told her no, knowing I would need her later if there was anything discovered. Thankfully, everything turned out all right.

Our 11 year old daughters are 11 days apart. Elizabeth and I not only have our background the same, but we went through pregnancy together. (Although, it was my first and her second. I was not allowed to complain about having a baby to take care of when she had a baby and a toddler. She also made fun of my swollen sausage toes. We are family, after all. We can make fun of each other.)

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When someone upsets me, I have a sister who gets angry for me. No one messes with me without her wrath, because she is loyal to the bone! When she loves, she does so with her whole being. There is nothing she wouldn’t do for her family or friends and we know it.

When I look at my own girls who are about the same age difference as us, I pray they have the same friendship as us one day. The world is tough and having someone in your corner who grew up like you and is always there for you means the world on the hardest days. They are blessed as I am to have a sister who loves them. In my mind, siblings are the first gift parents give their children. That is a friend for life!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Hearing God’s Whisper

Last week, I started reading Mark Batterson’s new book, Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God. It is fantastic so far, but I have not had time to read much. God is whispering to me to read it instead of writing a long blog post, so I will leave you with a quote from the beginning of the book.

“If your life is off-key, maybe it’s because you’ve been deafened by the negative self talk that doesn’t let God get a Word in edgewise! Maybe you’ve listened to the voice of criticism so long you can’t believe anything else about yourself. Or maybe it’s the Enemy’s voice of condemnation that speaks lies about who you really are. If you don’t silence those competing voices, they’ll eventually deafen you. You won’t be able to sing God’s song because you won’t be able to hear His voice.

Is God’s voice the loudest voice in your life? That’s the question. If the answer is no, that’s the problem.”

May we all tune our ears so that God’s whisper is the loudest voice in our lives!

 

We Can All Do Something

This week we had the final foster training classes! There is still a lot of paperwork and a home visit to get through. THEN there will be about 4 more months of waiting until we are approved to have children in our home. We are excited (and maybe a little bit nervous) to begin!

Over the last year, I have heard many things from friends and family. Some people have said that they want to foster kids too, but their spouse doesn’t. Some say it is not the right time. Then there are the ones who say it would be too hard because the child would leave. In those cases, I think they need to. These kids need someone to love them. I do understand that not everyone is called to foster or adopt children.

That is great actually.

If we were all made to do the same things, nothing else would be done. I admire people who go on mission trips every year. At some point I want to go on one, but the right time hasn’t happened yet. The people who work or volunteer with homeless people are incredible too. Everyone needs to feel valued. Working at a middle school deserves an extra jewel in the heavenly crown, in my opinion.

For all the people who want to do something you feel is too “big” right now, please don’t let that hold you back. If you have passion, act on it. There are no big or small actions because it takes all of us working together. If you can’t go on a mission trip now, sponsor someone who is. Pray for them and help them get supplies. If you have a heart of compassion for the homeless community, find out what needs there are at local shelters and bring them. When you see someone who has no home, talk to them. Look them in the eye and show them you see them.

Then there are all the people who know that children need us. All of us. If you know someone who is fostering or adopting, you can help them. If it is for a baby, they will need diapers! In our county, diapers aren’t covered. When the family gets a new placement, they may need a certain size clothes for that child. A friend of mine whose family fostered for 20 years said this, “Maybe you can’t actually have children in your home for long periods of time, but there’s ER care that’s always a huge need. A child at 2 am needs a warm safe place filled with love while foster care finds long term care. Be respite care for the permanent or long term care givers. Take dinner over to the family, offer to babysit, take a donation of toilet paper, paper plates, gift card for pizza, movies, Redbox, gas, rollerskating, etc. Find out what the family needs. Come read stories to the littles and/or the big kids. Be the “grandparent” figure that brings ice cream over, yells at the sports events, plays, shows up on grandparents day. Perhaps their birth children need one on one time, maybe the foster children have special needs and you can help that way. Educate yourself on the foster care system in your local area.” (Thank you for this inspiration, Kelly!) No more explanation is needed there.

As our family embarks on the adventure that is calling us, one I have hoped to be able to do for years, we won’t be doing it alone. This is what we are here to do, and we will be surrounded by love. I hope you know what you are here for and are doing it. Adventures are waiting.

Linking with Holley Gerth

 

Who Sees You?

People are watching you. They want to know what motivates you and keeps you going. They see all the little things you think no one sees or cares about. They care. One day, maybe it will lead them to be like you.

All of the actions you take are seen and filed away. Hopefully this is mostly a good thing! The times you do the right thing at your own expense have people intrigued. When you put someone else’s needs ahead of your own, people move a little closer. They can’t help it. Kindness and love are counter cultural to the point that others need more information.

Back in Jesus’ day, this happened. His cousin John had some crazy ways. (I know I am intrigued by him eating bugs and wearing itchy camel hair.) John told people to repent and ended up in prison for speaking the truth and telling King Herod not to marry his brother’s wife.

A verse that speaks to me these days is Mark 6:20. “Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.” The man put John in jail, which I think we can all agree is not treating him nicely. Herod even had John beheaded. John definitely made a mark on Herod’s life, but by Herod’s actions, you wouldn’t know it.

The world is like that too: people want to do their own thing and look out for their own interests. They don’t want to serve others and put others’ needs first, BUT they know that is the right way to act. When they see someone who is living out a life that is godly and pure, they are confused. How is this person doing that? Why are they behaving that way?

Fairly often, when someone is perplexed by Christlike behavior, it manifests itself as disdain and outright contempt. They may want to assume this person must be full of themselves. They may distance themselves so they can feel better about their own life. I don’t think it usually involves jailing them, but that is a possibility! People can find it easier to put someone else down instead of analyzing their own behavior.

Maybe looking at it this way is easier for me. There have always been people in my life who either hold me at arm’s length or show very obviously that they don’t like me. It took me a few decades to see that not everyone has to like me. I am still a work in progress as I still want people to like me. But I know now that I make some people uncomfortable. While that is never my intention, it can be a good thing. God can always use us in people’s lives as a tool of conviction.

Trust me when I say that I laugh when I realize someone thinks I am too “good” or “nice.” Who, me? I have many faults and don’t always think nice thoughts or say kind things. I am human. I am just glad that God is able to use me and other people who love Him to help others who may be lost. If they see me in my godly moments, that is wonderful and all God’s doing. I hope you see this and remember that being different than the world is good. Keep going and keep pleasing God. His opinion is what matters!

Linking with Holley Gerth.

We are Not Islands

Foster training classes are no joke. My husband and I are being prepared for so many things we never thought about, and there are still a few classes to go. One thing I am realizing is that so many things can be avoided if we just ask for help.

Us parents always feel like we have to do everything alone or else we must be failing. If we can’t do what needs to be done for our kids, what good are we? The thing is, none of us was meant to do life alone. If a parent has a drinking or drug problem, they may be too embarrassed to seek out assistance. If they are being abused physically or verbally, they may think they deserve it and just accept it instead of finding someone who will help them. When a parent loses a job, they can easily spiral by trying to do more than they can on their own.

Asking for help is the furthest thing from simple, so please don’t think I am trivializing situations. Serious problems happen all the time, and we are rarely prepared. Some situations start small and get bigger over time. It is easy to deny there is something wrong even when it can seem obvious to an outsider. It can feel like we have to do everything else first before reaching out to someone more qualified, and that is a shame.

Asking for help from family and friends lately has been so difficult for me. I never want to impose on a friendship, even though I would help them in a heartbeat. Isn’t it funny how we think that way? When I was recovering from my fall, I just wanted to keep to myself and heal, even when others offered dinners and grocery runs. This month we have had all kinds of childcare needs that have almost paralyzed me. It has been enough at times for me to want to say, “This fostering thing is too hard. There is too much to do, so let’s back out.” But when I have asked people for help, they have been gracious and excited. People want to jump in and get this out of the way so we can bring precious children into our home. I have really been humbled.

If we can move past our own misconceptions and accept our limitations, we can do so much together. Parenting is a partnership between the parents as well as the community. Unless we really live on a deserted island, there are people around who would be honored to help us with our needs. This can include childcare, job searches, loans, a listening ear, running errands, giving a ride, delivering meals, and just being there when someone has a problem they have no idea how to overcome. Not every issue is simple, but there are always simple ways to show someone they are seen and cared for so they can go tackle the big problems bravely.

If you have a situation you need help with, please reach out to someone. And if you know someone who you see struggling, by all means, offer whatever help you can. Together we can make this world better and safer for everyone. A little help from a friend goes a long way.

Linking with Holley Gerth

An Open Letter to Satan

Satan, Stay away from me!

Don’t mess with my husband, my children, my marriage, or the rest of my family. There is no place for you here, since Jesus is at the center. You will not keep me from my plans. I will not let you near my future, and more importantly, neither will Jesus.

When I was a child, I was taught to rebuke you, in the name of Jesus. You hate hearing His name. You hate being reminded of His presence, because it reminds you of your future. Your days of roaming the earth are numbered, and you know it.

When you mess with my health, my thoughts, and my life, it shows me I am doing something you don’t like. It strengthens my resolve to keep at it. You may know some of my weaknesses, but I know yours too. One weakness is that you hate when God’s people do things in His honor. You abhor kindness, peaceful hearts, and people being obedient to God’s call. You want to derail us and make us doubt our abilities. You strive to lead us off course by convincing us to let off the gas and coast. You try your best to convince us that what we know is best isn’t necessary and that we should only look out for ourselves.

Sure, sometimes you manage to make even the most well intentioned of us see things your way. You steer us off the course we know is right, because we have listened to you. There are times we stop fighting for what we know is right or we just get tired of feeling like the only ones who are doing that right thing. Those days, we decide to take a break. You must cheer in those moments.

I am telling you now that it won’t work. Your time to plague me with fear, sickness, and doubt is over. You aren’t winning this battle just like you won’t win the war. You try to keep poking and seeing what works. But I have your kryptonite. I have the one thing on my side that you know you can’t beat: the name of Jesus.

He has won. Game over.

Linking with Holley Gerth