Tuesday, May 21, 2013

In the Wake of Tragedy

I am having a hard time watching the news. This happens every time a tragedy hits that involves a school, teachers, students. I wasn't able to watch the footage of the most recent school shooting. Now I cannot bring myself to watch the new coverage of the Oklahoma tornados. Why? Part of it is the fact that I tend to become hyper focused on things like this and they seem to take over my life. Another part is that I usually struggle with survivor's guilt. It could have been me. It could have been us. How can I continue to live my comfortable life when someone else's life has just been ripped apart and changed forever? I can't continue to go on with day to day activities... I need to be there helping. In the midst of the pain and suffering... Trying to make things better. 

Because of this, I have made the conscious decision to not purposefully watch news coverage of this tragedy. I know what's happening. I grieve for those who have lost so much in such a violent act of nature. I pray for the families who have lost everything and especially for those who have lost loved ones. 

But these types of situations always make me start thinking... What would I do if this were happening here? What if it was my school that was threatened by a gunman who wanted to take the lives of my students? What if it were me and my students huddled in a hallway listening as the tornado approached and threw our lives into chaos and terror? I can tell you what I would do... I can tell you what ANY teacher would do... We would fight for those who look to us for protection. I would throw myself in the line of fire to save the life of a child. I would shelter those students that God has placed in my care, even if it meant that my life would be at risk. And I would pray. Hard.

As this school year comes to an end, marred by such an incomprehensible tragedy just a few hours drive away, I ponder the calling that has been placed on my life. The calling to teach. The calling to protect. The calling to love. And I thank God for it. I thank Him that He chose me for this. He called me to be a teacher. I love it and it defines part of who I am.

So here is the challenge that I am laying out there. I will take it on... Will you?

**Pray with your child for their teacher(s) every night.**

How much more respect and admiration will our children show to their teachers if they're praying for them daily? How much strength and confidence will our children's teachers feel if they know that they are being lifted up to the Father everyday by the ones they have been called to teach? How amazing will it be to see our children learn to lift up the people that God has placed in positions of authority over them? How incredible will it be when our children begin to see the results of their answered prayers??

We will be starting tomorrow at my house. Join us.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Not Sure...

I'm not sure that I've ever been quite this excited about hearing that somebody will probably get a new apartment in a few weeks.

I'm not sure that I've ever been quite this disappointed upon learning that somebody didn't pass their driver's test.

I'm not sure that I've ever put so much effort into coordinating schedules so that two little girls both have birth family members attending their graduation and music performance, that just so happened to be on the same day at the same time.

I'm not sure that I've ever been quite so pleased as when a six year old little girl walked into my bedroom at 6:20 am on Mother's Day just to wish me a Happy Mother's Day before getting back into bed after a trip to the bathroom.

I'm not sure that I've ever missed a cartoon theme song quite as much as Wonder Pets. 

I'm not sure that I've ever been this exhausted and satisfied at the end of the day.

I'm not sure that I've ever been this positive of God's calling on my life as I am that he has called me into foster care ministry.

I'm not sure that I've ever been this blessed.

It's funny how God knows me so much better than I know myself... I've always known that foster care was in my future, but what I didn't know was that God would change ALL of my other plans I had for myself so that right now, for this time, for this day, He would have me exactly where He wants me to be... Living life with two little ones who need me right now and and their Mama who needs me too.

 Not deserving, but blessed and highly favored. 

I blog with BE Write

Monday, May 6, 2013

Non-Mother's Day

Can I be honest? If your answer is no, quit reading now.

So I'm hitting a few milestones this month. One is my one year anniversary of being a foster mommy. I received my first placement, Little Man, on May 25, 2012. It's been a year of many firsts, but this Sunday brings about a first that I am honestly dreading...

What is Mother's Day to someone who is not Mother?

I will wake up this Sunday having spent everyday for 6.5 months caring for two precious little girls. And for me, it will just be another day. Another day of wiping snot. Another day of making sure that sibling rivalry doesn't turn into sibling beat-uppery. Another day of getting two children dressed, ready, hair done, matching shoes on, and out the door in a timely fashion. Another day of worrying about whether or not I have enough money in the bank for the things that they need for school on Monday. Another day of listening to the fits when they go into time-out for disobeying or pinching their sister's arm. Another day of spending two hours driving to take them to a visit with their Mom...

Their Mom...

We will spend a good bit of this week shopping for Mom's gift and making her something special so that the separation between mother and child will not be quite as painful on a day that celebrates mothers. We will spend Sunday afternoon in the car driving to go see Mom and Grandmother and take them out to eat. We will give her gifts and hugs, spend time loving on her, and telling her "Happy Mother's Day." Then I will bring them back home where we will eat a quick dinner, take a quick bath, and then get to bed to start another week of school.

Am I a mother? Yes, I perform the duties of one. Am I Mom? No. 

In my heart, I know that I chose this. I chose to stand in the gap for children when it isn't possible for them to be with their birth families. I chose to be the one that is not, and never will be, the one that they love the most. I chose to be a single mother of children who are not my own and will only be with me for a season of their lives. 

When I was choosing, though, I didn't really think about the moments that make this an awkward and painful place to be. I didn't think about the moment in church where moms are asked to stand up and be recognized, but yet I don't feel like I have the right to stand, because I am not Mom. I didn't think about the little part of my heart that yearns to be the one that is thought of first on Mother's Day. I didn't think about how hard it would be to see all of those stupid Mother's Day commercials that show a daddy helping his child give Mom a gift while knowing that this will not be anywhere on my schedule this Sunday. I didn't think about how hard it would be to see all of my friends with their families without feeling a pang of jealousy. I just didn't think...

To be utterly transparent, I never imagined how much I would dread this day and wish I could hide under a rock for the duration of it. But I'm glad I didn't think. I'm glad those things that cloud my mind with dread right now weren't a part of my thought process when I was making the decisions that needed to be made a year ago. For where would I be without my Little Man and the many lessons he taught me about love and laughter? And where would I be now without my two spunky little girls who seem to teach me more everyday of forgiveness by forgiving me of my many, many shortcomings? 

So to all other non-Mothers out there... Happy Mother's Day, from me to you.

I blog with BE Write

Saturday, April 27, 2013

When It's Just Not Enough

I am not enough.

I cannot help them all.

I cannot be everything they need me to be.

I cannot be everywhere at once.

I cannot fix all of the brokenness.

I alone cannot, but the church can.

We are one body, one organism rooted in His love and sacrifice. Together, we can do what needs to be done for the least of these. 

Together we can mentor those who need a strong and steady example of Christ in their lives.

Together we can make sure those who feel forgotten have someone who remembers them continuously.

Together we can encourage families who are broken and battered to hold on to the hope that comes from a Savior who redeems even the most broken of people.

Together we can step in the gap and be a champion for those who have no energy left for the battles that still rage in their lives. 

Together we can speak words of truth, words of comfort, and words of hope and healing to those who need to know that someone cares enough to meet them where they are.

Together we can be a shoulder to lean on to those who are brokenhearted.

Together we can hold up the arms of those who are weary and weak.

Together we can, rooted in Christ alone.

The ministry God has called me to is foster care. He gives me the opportunity to pour into young ones who have been ripped from their homes and everything they know and love. He gives me the strength to love on birth families, even when it is HARD. He allows me to speak words of hope and healing to broken families and encourage them in their journey to reunite their family again. 

Is it hard to love another's child as if they are my own? Yes, it is

Is it difficult to listen to a mommy cry on the phone because all she wants to do is have her babies back and it seems impossible that she will ever be able to have them again? It rips my heart right out of my chest.

Is it infuriating to see people get away with hurting a child because of a broken system that does not hold them accountable? It makes my blood boil.

Is it the best decision I've ever made? Yes, it is.

So what has He called you to? And who will you champion for? 

I blog with BE Write

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hubris and Other Stuff

Hubris. Excessive pride. The downfall of man. The snare that waits around every corner to catch me by the ankle. Hoisting me, dangling, into the air, and turning everything upside down. (For my fellow Harry fans, pride is my Levicorpus.)

I've been contemplating for a while now (on and off since my last post, actually) what I should write about on here, but nothing ever really tickled my fancy. Sure, I could tell you about the ins and outs of my days as a single foster mom, but honestly, that would be as much of a bore to write as it would be to read. Sure, we have our struggles and our victories, but it's really just a normal life... Or as normal of a life as we can muster. The real newsworthy stuff is much deeper down than that. It is buried under the chips of plaster that have started collecting at the base of the wall that I have built up around myself. 

My wall is my pride. My pride is my wall. It's a beautiful wall. All dolled up with lovely murals and intricate tapestries. Artwork that shows what I want people to see. What I want myself to see. All of that lovely artwork is on both sides of my wall... Fancy, huh? The problem is that I've been staring at these beautiful images for so long that I have started to truly believe them. I began to think that they depicted the real me. All the while, I have continued to build my wall higher, reinforcing it wherever there may be a weak spot and ensuring that I am protected from the prying eyes of those around me, even those closest to me. Wait. Did I say wall? I meant fortress! If I continue to build, I will very soon have turrets and towers that overlook a moat filled with crocodiles, sharks, and piranhas. View from a distance, but swimmers beware!

It has been hard to see this wall for what it is... A blockade, an excuse, a hindrance. When you put so much energy and effort into something, it's difficult to admit that it was all for naught. But it is. My pride is hurting me. It permeates every area of my life; work, friendships, raising kids, loving others... It keeps me from truly trusting those around me because I am afraid they will see the real me. It keeps me from opening up and building true friendships with people because I don't want them to get too close. It allows me to be complacent with shallow friendships that never truly scratch the surface, and surely won't go the distance, even though I yearn for something more meaningful. It keeps me from reaching out to others in pain for fear of being asked to share part of myself in return. Most importantly, though, it separates me from my Creator and Savior. I accept the fact that God knows my inner-most thoughts. I know that He alone knows me fully, better than I know myself. There is no hiding from Him, no pretending in front of Him. No, the pretending is for the sake of others. I have strived to make others think that I am someone I am not. Why? To impress, to placate, but mostly to be accepted... to fit in. For the majority of my life, church has been where I have friends. It's my home base. It's where I know that I will have someone to sit with and someone who will be there when I need a hug. In high school, it provided my social circle. It's where I belonged. 

Years of seeing my church partly as a social club, though, has ingrained in me the habit of being a "good Christian girl." Being seen as a prayer warrior, someone who is in and knows the Word, a servant, a leader... It was my goal. That has been the artwork that I have so carefully been painting on my walls. Not don't get me wrong, there have been times when God has gotten hold of me and every bit of my "act" became something genuine and heartfelt. However, as I have gotten older, busier, more jaded, those times been coming fewer and farther between. And then came this weekend...

This weekend was our Lifeline foster family retreat at Shocco Springs. Traci did an amazing job planning a time where the kids got to play and the parents got to learn and fellowship with others who go through the same things we go through on a daily basis. Friday night was great and the girls and I went back to our room for bed looking forward to Saturday. God, however, decided my learning for the night wasn't over. Two times Friday night, Big Sis woke up and tried to get in bed with me. The second time, at 2:00am, after putting her back in her bed, I just wasn't able to get back to sleep. I honestly don't remember how or why blogging came to mind, but I pulled out my tablet and started writing. The first three paragraphs of this entry are what came out. I was looking at my life and seeing it for the sham that it truly is. One would think that this would have brought on some sort of emotion, but not quite yet. It was merely a fact. Something I had to accept for what it was so that I could begin the process of changing. The problem I faced, though, was knowing how to change. After staying up examining my life until about 4:30, I was finally able to get a little more sleep before the morning came. 

As expected, I had a great Saturday learning and sharing with my fellow fosters, but my mind would wander back to what God had laid on my heart during the night. I would find myself thinking about the next steps in this journey and not being able to really come up with a game plan. I figured that on Sunday, I could write some more and maybe that would give me some ideas. Pastor Paul beat me to it. Today's sermon was about strongholds and spiritual warfare. Every single word that came out of his mouth was anointed by God for ME. There may have been some others who needed that lesson as well, but I know for sure and for certain that God timed everything this weekend and even beforehand so that I would be primed and ready to hear. Not just listen, but hear. And I heard. 

Here are some of my notes from Pastor Paul's sermon today:

-A stronghold is built when we fail to deal with sin in our lives.
-There is no earthly solution to strongholds. 
2 Corinthians 10:4
"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds."
-How do we destroy strongholds?
  1. Step into the fight... You can't be indifferent!
  2. Rely on God's provision... GRACE! (James 4:6)
  3. Surrender to God. (James 4:7)
James 4:6-7
"But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."
-**Commitment does NOT work unless it is preceded by surrender!!

(Sunday, 2/10/12; Pastor Paul Lawler, Christ Church United Methodist, Birmingham, AL)

Whoa. God spoke, that is certain. And I've realized something... Other than pride, I have some other strongholds that need to be dealt with. Until these are demolished, I will continue in a fruitless journey. So next step? Surrender. I've struggled with this concept for a really long time. Surrender means giving overe every aspect of my life... finances, thought life, job, future, relationships, dreams, hobbies, entertainment, etc. I cannot just pick and choose the areas in which I will surrender. That's not how it works. He wants all of me. Everything. Up until now, I have held back, scared of what changes this might unleash in my life. Scared of the loss of control, and scared of being held accountable for the life that I've been living... 

Now, since I'm being completely honest and just laying it all out there for you, I might as well tell you the other big reason I have held back on surrender... I honestly haven't believed that it would work. I have, for quite a while now, been unsure about the power of prayer. It wasn't working for me, so I just figured that it didn't work. Maybe for other people, but not for me. I would pray that God would take this struggle away and it would never get any better. I would pray for comfort and I would feel no different than I had before. I would pray for help and no help would come. Well, no wonder! My faith was non-existent and my motives behind it were selfish and certainly not pure! Before today, just the thought of praying a prayer and having a stronghold broken without me actually having to do something would make me laugh internally. Inner-dialogue, "Rrrright. Been there, done that. I never feel any different. It doesn't work. I have to figure out a way to fix this. I just don't think that just praying about it really does anything." Because of this mindset, I have always preferred comfort, advice, etc from other people, I have always sought out people to help make me feel better because I have never experienced the healing comfort of Christ. I've never let Him comfort me. I have always thought the concept of feeling Him wrap his arms around you was impossible. The list of my doubts and insecurities would last much longer than anyone's attention span, but I can assure you that they are there. And just because I've had a break through doesn't mean that I still won't struggle with some of them on a day to day basis, but I plan to try living a different way now... By faith.

Today, at the altar, a song resonated with my heart. It wasn't playing in church, but it played through my head and its simple message overwhelmed me.

  I surrender all.
  I surrender all.
  All to Jesus, I surrender.
  I surrender all.

Let this be my prayer each day as I start a new chapter in this life. Living by faith and not by sight.