The Egg of Grace

photo (58)
do you see the word grace?

We dyed eggs this weekend with our children like we usually do on the eve of Easter.  I wanted to add an element of learning about our faith in Christ during this Easter tradition.  After boiling the eggs, I took a white crayon and wrote words on them in hope that when the eggs got dipped into the dye, the words would appear.  Thanks to Charity at WatMattersMost blog for her wonderful ideas about incorporating our faith into Easter activities for children.

I chose the words justice, love, helping, forgiveness, kindness, hope, freedom, faith, humility, mercy, patience, and grace.  These words, in my opinion, are all characteristics of how Christians should walk in this world.  They are also characteristics of Jesus, and the words He spoke.  My plan was to talk about each word after we were finished.  My hope was for the kids to walk away not only with colorful fingertips from dying eggs, but also with little nuggets of wisdom tucked away.

Well, this momma’s plan didn’t exactly work the way I wanted it to.  I messed up by writing the words when the eggs were a little too hot.  One by one, as the eggs were pulled out of the dye, white blotches appeared.  It looked more like bleach spots instead of formed words showing up.  My kids were saying things like, “What is that?!”  They didn’t seem to mind and quickly moved on to the next egg. I was a bit frustrated and already figured out a plan of correction for next Easter.

As my son pulled another egg out of the green dye, the word began to form a little clearer than the others.  One might not be able to make it out, but since I wrote the words, I immediately recognized the word grace.  “What’s that say?”, asked my son.  I answered, “It says grace.”  He gave me a puzzled look and moved on to the next egg.

I didn’t have the words at the time to tell my children what grace means.  I was flustered from the whole project being awash, so I just let it go.  As I started to put the eggs up, I couldn’t help but notice that eleven of the dozen eggs were a mess. The only one that was clear enough to form a word was the egg of grace.

Immediately, I began thinking that life is just one big mess up over and over again, and yet, God’s grace is always present.  Grace cleans up my messes.  Grace doesn’t hold a grudge, and grace doesn’t change.  I also thought about how often I fail at showing more grace to my children for their messes.

As I was tucking my son into bed, I asked him, “Do you remember the egg that had grace written on it?”  He said, “Yes.”  I said, “The other eggs had messed up words on them.  We mess up in life and make mistakes, but God offers grace to us.  God doesn’t get mad when we mess up.”  I went on to tell him that we are to offer grace to others when they make mistakes or upset us.  I kissed him goodnight, and walked out of the room.

I learned from this that I should never disallow a lesson that the Lord is placing in front of me.  I should never assume that I messed up so bad that nothing can come from it.  I also learned that my offering of grace needs to supersede what I expect to be offered from others.

There are messes all around me, within me, and because of me.  Most of all, I was reminded that when it seems that nothing good comes from mistakes, and that things are just too messed up to be worth anything, grace appears.

Never say Never

“Never say Never”

The words above were spoken often from the lips of my mom while growing up.  I specifically remember telling her, “I will never work with children; especially abused and neglected children.”  She responded with, “Never say never.”  I’ve thought about these words for years now.

I know that part of my rejection of the notion to ever work with children stemmed from my fear of getting too close to the raw emotions of infertility.  I thought that if I steered clear of anything to do with children, I would not have to face the jagged reality of never being able to bring a child into the world.  My studies in college were all about aging and the elderly population; in other words, NOT about children…never about children.

It was about twenty years ago when I told my mom that I would never work with children (especially abused and neglected children).  As I was sitting at a visit tonight with a couple considering becoming foster parents, the words “never say never” came up in the conversation.  I thought about these words that my mom stated to me through the years, and how true they are.

Just last weekend, I listened as two teenagers in the foster care system shared their stories with prospective foster parents.  My heart broke for these kids.  I wanted to grab them and say, “You are and never will be a throw-away kid!”  Their stories of rejection by birth parents, drug addiction, homelessness, and basically being completely independent of anyone else meeting their needs are ones that can cause great anger and frustration.  Again though, the words “never say never” crept back into my mind.

One of the teens is being adopted by his foster parents when he turns 18-years-old.  He will be adopted when he becomes a legal adult.  I’m sure somehow through his eight-to-ten year stay in the foster care system it was said that he would never be adopted, and never be part of a family.  The other teenager spoke about celebrating sobriety and accepting the Lord.  I’m sure too that at some point in this child’s life, someone thought he would never get sober, never make it in a family, and never accept the Lord.  I venture to guess that both of the boys have thought these things about themselves as well.

“Never say never” is a saying that tends to provoke us to be mindful of what we say, do, and feel.  I can boldly state that I never imagined working for a Christian ministry focused on meeting needs of children in foster care.  I never visualized ever sharing my story of having a hysterectomy as a child and infertility to anyone outside of my close inner circle of friends and family.  I never thought for one minute that my professional life would be filled with working with families who are struggling with infertility, or who are desiring to care for children desperately in need of love and stability.

I never, ever dreamed of being a parent to any child, let alone three children. While fostering my son, I really wondered if we would be able to adopt him.  I probably told myself “it will never happen”.  I also never thought I would adopt a little girl.  Now, at this age and with the great blessing of children and a full life, I never would have dreamed of bringing in, loving on, and caring for another baby in need of stability.  “Never” seems to be an Earthly reaction to what life can throw at us.

I want you to know that the Lord has spoken this into my life:  “You will work with abused children.  You will work in ministry.  You will share your story of infertility with anyone willing to read or hear it.  You will work with families who have also felt the cutting pain of infertility, and with those who attempt to bind the wounds that the world has left on children.  You will be a parent to a son and a daughter.  You will follow as I lead you down the path of taking in another child.”

It feels like a life-time ago that I stood in my mom’s kitchen declaring what I would never do.  She was right you know,….”Never say never” to what the Lord has planned for your life.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

The Lamp and the Light

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.  Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

I’m exhausted from the day.  It is not that I’m physically exhausted, but emotionally exhausted.  Our hearing was heard today to obtain custody of the precious little one who has come to live with us.  I fret over his future, and yet, I love his birth mother as she too is a child I once carried around as an infant.  My husband and I petitioned for guardianship of the baby because we love him and we love his birth mother, his grandmother, and his great-grandparents.  We are all family, and family matters.

I’m exhausted from the day.  I had to be on the witness stand to testify as to why I would be a good home for him.  I had to prove myself, my experience, my relationships, and my stability.  This is not the first time I’ve had to do this.  Being a former foster parent felt like a constant attempt to prove myself as being worthy of being a parent.  I have not cared for a single child that has come to me free of legal strings attached.  I’ve had to testify and show the courts and other powers-that-be that I am capable of providing and loving on a child with-whom I’ve already taken into my home, cared for, and loved on.  I’ve had to prove myself, and yet, the Lord already approves of me.

I’m exhausted from the day, but, I have this sense of inner peace.  I know that my God loves this precious little one more than I can ever imagine.  He commands this child’s destiny.  He has written his past, his present, and his future.  He sings over this baby, and He rejoices over his growth like a proud daddy.  The Lord, and His word are the lamp upon his feet, and the light upon his path.  Truthfully, He is the lamp upon all of our feet, and the light upon our paths.

I’m exhausted from the day, but also at peace knowing that the Lord would not set me and my family upon this path if any of this didn’t matter to Him.  I sat in the court room today at the table with sweaty palms, quick breaths, and a rolling stomach.  I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and welcomed the Lord into the courtroom.  I said softly to myself, “Lord, be with me.”  Although nervous and uncertain what the Judge would think, I felt great strength knowing that God was with me.

I’m exhausted from the day, but not worn out.  I know this fight, this passion to protect, and this path has been lit by the light of the Lord, and the choice to love the way He wants us to.  I know that He is the lamp upon which my feet walk, and that each step forward may feel like it is in darkness, but not for long.  I know that He will light the way.

Custody was granted for us today.  This little babe that we love is with us for now at least.  Custody may be temporary, and I may not know what the future holds for him or for his place in our family, but I know who holds his future.  I know to trust the Lamp that will guide the child’s feet, and the Light that will brighten his path.

I know in the depths of my being that the Lord loves this precious baby more than I could ever imagine or fathom…now that is something that refreshes my soul.

I Pick the Cross

photo (56)Last Friday, we took our children to an amusement park not too far from where we live.  My parents came along to enjoy the day, and to help out with little ones.  My son was quite determined to find either a shark tooth or alligator tooth necklace, so naturally, his Papa assisted in finding and purchasing him one.

My 4-year-old daughter and I looked at a few of the charms for necklaces, and I kept pointing out the butterflies, hearts, guitars, etc…basically the ones I thought she would want.  She carefully picked up and inspected each one, thought long and hard about her choice, then picked up a yellow cross with small red dots on it and said “I pick the Cross”.  I have to admit that I was a little surprised by her choice.  I just didn’t guess that she would choose a cross for her necklace.  After all, there were far more shiny, decorative, and cute ones that little girls tend to find appealing.

I asked her again if it was what she wanted, and she said, “Yes, I pick the Cross”.  My heart was warmed by this.  Our daughter seems to have always been a child who embraces God.  She has reminded me time again that God lives in her heart.  She leads the prayer at dinner time, and if we get a in hurry to eat, she reminds us that we must pray first.  She wakes up nearly every day wondering if it is Sunday because she is excited to go to church.  She has asked time and again if she was a little baby in Heaven with God before she was in her birth mother’s belly.  I probably shouldn’t be too surprised that she picked the Cross for a necklace that her Papa bought her.

In thinking about this again today, I  thought of why Jesus reminds of being like a little child and having a child-like faith.  I know there have been and still are times when I do not pick the Cross.  Instead, I have picked the shiny, appealing, and popular things the world has to offer.  I still struggle with wanting more of the world’s charms, and find it a constant battle to focus on desiring the Lord over anything else.  If I told you otherwise, I would be a liar.  Even if I didn’t admit it out loud, God would still hear the words of my heart, and the longings of my desires that often sway me from Him.

The world tells us, “Pick me! Pick me!  Don’t do what you think God wants you to do.  Do what is best for you, what will put you ahead, and what will serve you.  Don’t listen to Him.  Don’t pick the Cross.”  In those times when I have listened to the world, I have missed out on the blessings that come from walking in His light.  On the contrary, in those times that I have ignored the world and focused my actions on His calling, I have been abundantly blessed with grace, insight, and strength.

I often learn wonderfully humbling things from my children, and am sure that I will continue to as I raise them.  I am also quite sure that I will walk the fine line of balancing my desire for the world with choosing to follow Christ throughout the rest of my life.  I know though, that living a life in faith and choosing to pick the Cross will never cause me to fail or lose.  I will have gained everything that is worthy of gaining by choosing the Cross, and by choosing Him.  After all, Jesus gave everything up, and carried the Cross for me.

Father, Thank you for using my daughter to teach me about You.  Thank you for instilling in her a heart that longs for You, and I pray for Divine protection over her.  Father, help me, and help us all to always pick the Cross, and our Lord and Savior over anything else in the world.

Diaper Rash Fix (Homemade)

photo (52)This is probably one of the most random posts I will ever share, but I thought I would pass this tip along for any mommies who are struggling with treating their infant’s diaper rash.  My granny raised ten babies in the Ozarks area with very little money and had a cure for just about anything.  My mom passed along my granny’s cure for diaper rash, and it definitely works!

It is quite simple.  1) Take flour (plain white flour) and scorch it in a skillet until light brown.  2)  Let it cool completely, then gently pat onto baby’s bottom.

It works within 24-48 hours.  The diaper rash or redness is essentially gone!  Make sure to warn your sitters or anyone else watching your little ones though as it may shock and scare them a little to change a baby’s diaper and not know that you have coated their bottoms with scorched flour!

I know my granny had other fixes from her life of raising children with very little resources.  I need to ask my mom and other relatives so that I can write them down and pass along to my children.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Dear Infertility (Part 2),

Dear infertility,

It’s been a while since we’ve spoken.  Funny how I carried you around for so many years, and now I don’t think of you on a day-to-day basis like I used to.  I swore I would never forget you, be able to let go of you, or even get over you, but, look at me now. You do not consume me anymore.

Dear infertility – You made me feel as though I was being punished.  If children are a reward from the Lord, then I must have done something pretty awful not to be rewarded with children…right?  You made me feel this way.  You spoke these lies to me.  You made me feel as though I was less important to the Creator of my beginning and Script-Writer of my future.

You made me think that I would never experience the same type of happiness that those around me were experiencing.  You forced me to wallow in my own despair, and yet, you never consoled me.  You never wiped my tears.  You never told me anything hopeful.  Instead, you shouted at me.  You screamed pain to me.  You never promised me a happy ending.

Dear infertility – you forsake me.  You made me feel like a victim, and at times, you made me feel as though I deserved what happened to me in my youth.  I’m here to tell you, I didn’t deserve it.  I was never a victim, and never will be.  The Lord was not punishing me.  He was not withholding His blessings of children.  He did not forget my name.  I was never less important to Him, or to the world He created, even though you made me feel that way.

Dear infertility – my Creator, my Comforter, my Healer, and my Hope remembers me.  He remembers the tears I cried because of you.  Not only does He remember them, He carries them.  He does not leave me feeling like a victim as you did.  He did not punish me.  What happened to me was an accident, a life-changing mistake that led to a tragic illness that even He mourned over.

He heard the deepest cry from the most secret place of my heart, and He listened. He did not ignore me like you did.  He answered me with the opening of doors, the closing of others, and the humbling moments that led me to being a parent.  He rewarded me with the gift of children.  He charged me with the care of some very special little ones that mean more to Him that I can ever imagine.  You, however, would have never promised me this.  You never would have told me to continue hoping for the fulfillment of my heart.

Dear infertility – I barely remember you, even though I will never forget you.  I will never forget the way you made me feel, the isolation you brought to my life, and the agony of not knowing if my prayers would be answered.  I will never forget being told that you would always be with me.  I was a child myself, and yet, I was forced to learn about you.  You stuck to me like glue.  I didn’t want you.  I didn’t need you, and I certainly didn’t understand you.

Dear infertility – remember me?  I am not the same person I used to be.  I am not that sickly girl, confused teen, and anguished woman I used to be.  I no longer doubt how incredible the Lord is, or even who He is.  I no longer feel like I am on the outside looking in on a life that would never be fully lived.  I am whole.  I am complete.  I am fulfilled.  I am living a life fully lived.  I am certainly not what you want me to be.

You even tried to damage those who loved me.  My parents and family members grieved over what you did to me.  My grandparents went to their grave never knowing that you would not dictate my future.  My parents will not forget what you did, but they too are busy with the joy of grandchildren to think about you anymore.

I suppose you will always be with me, although, I don’t listen to you anymore.  The truth is, I will never listen to you again.  I am too busy listening to the laughter of my children, and the love of my Lord.  I am too busy getting up in the middle of the night changing diapers, fixing school lunches, planning parties, and living a life full of the reward of children.

Dear infertility, I thought of you today while I was holding a little one and praising my Lord.  I thought of how you must feel now that I have moved on from you.  Can I ask you one thing?  Can I ask you to only remind me of you when I start to take my life for granted?  It is not that I don’t recall you from time-to-time.  When I scan over the memories of life and what all the Mighty Lord has done, you do enter my mind.

I remember laying in the hospital bed clinging to life and learning about you.  I remember trying to wrap my young mind and heart around you, even though, I had no idea who you were.  I remember being a teenager and feeling like I was so different from the other girls.  I remember crying into my pillow as I watched others being rewarded with children.

Dear infertility – it’s been a while since we’ve spoken.  It’s been a while since your name has crossed my mind.  It surely has been a while since the tears flowing from my eyes were filled with you.  I may still call on you from time-to-time, but for now, I’m going to tuck you back into my heart again.

Goodbye for now, goodbye.

Related articles – the first letter I wrote to infertility:

Dear Infertility

More than ADHD

His 1st art exhibit at a local community center!  (one of his many talents)
His 1st art exhibit at a local community center! (one of his many talents)

A pitiful sounding knock on the front door told me that my son was coming inside a little earlier than expected.  When questioned about the time he had outside, he told the story of being “told” to go home because he didn’t want to play the game the other kids wanted to play.  My heart sunk a little.  I know that he was probably leaving out a few details, and perhaps he was being a little aggressive, selfish, or anything else that a boy can be, but I didn’t really care.  My heart hurts when his heart is hurting.

A few minutes later he got mad at his sister for a trivial thing, erupted into tears, ran to his room, and shut the door.  We gave him his space, but eventually my husband went into his room to console him.  I’m not sure if we ever will know the full story of what happened with the other boys on the street, but obviously my son felt like an outcast.

My maternal, bear-like instincts kicked in immediately.  Truth be told, I wanted to march right across the street, ask what happened, and why my son was the only one not playing outside with them.  I didn’t though.  I stayed in and stewed a minute within myself trying to come up with the right words for him.  I eventually said, “It’s okay if you don’t want to play tag or anything else they want to play.  You don’t have to go along with what they want to do all of the time, and the next time they come over and ask if you if you want to play, it’s okay for you to say no, if that’s what you want to do.”

I don’t know if that was the right response.  It’s hard to teach a child to stick up for himself/herself in this age of “bully-hood”.  I want my children to stand up for themselves, but at the same time, I don’t want their stance to backfire and for them to be labeled.  This is not the first time he has been let down by the kids on the street.  I witnessed a few of them making fun of him and not “allowing” him to play with them.  On that day, I spoke up and said to these boys, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, please don’t say anything at all.”

I have not really ever written about the challenges we have raising a son with ADHD.  A part of me feels as though I’m betraying him a bit by even mentioning it.  Yet, there is another part of me who needs to reach out about parenting a child with it.  Prior to seeing “it” in action, I got caught up in the thinking that “every child is hyper/he’s just a boy”.  I’ve learned through first-hand experience that raising a child with ADHD is difficult.  It causes social problems, potential behavioral problems, and can affect self-esteem.

I know he can be impulsive at times, might not listen with intensity, makes friends and loses them quickly, and always seems to be one step ahead of his peers.  I also know that he gets bored with repeated play and does tend to play by himself a lot.  I’ve heard comments suggesting that he just needs to be disciplined, or he needs to act like other boys, etc.  When things like this are said, it stings a bit.  I’m not excusing any of his social or behavioral challenges because of ADHD, I’m just keenly aware that there are certain symptoms that go along with the diagnosis.  Even I find myself struggling at times with patience in having to redirect him numerous times about the same thing over and over again.

With all of that being said, I also know that he is an incredible child with an inquisitive mind, a tender heart, an artistic streak, and a will as strong as steel.  He’s a unique little guy who loves life and loves his family.  His mind is constantly creating new ways of doing things.  He can make a project out of scraps and comes up with ideas of how to use various items around the house for future pieces of artwork.  In other words, he’s a Super-Boy!

If only others would see him through my eyes, maybe he would be understood a little bit more.  I know all of the reasons why he entered protective services at the age of two-days-old.  I know his history and the history of his biological family.  I know his struggles, his insecurities, and his talents.  I know his desire to have solid friendships as well.  He will never fit into a box that others may want him to, including the box I might desire for him at times.  He is more than ADHD – so much more.

I also wonder if we could all take a look around us and see each other the way our Heavenly Father sees us.  He sees us through eyes of grace.  He knows our past, our insecurities, our struggles, our talents, and our desires.  He also knows that our past does not dictate our future, and our failures do not outweigh our successes.

Who knew the rejection of playtime outside in the middle of America would cause me to think about all of this?!?  It seems that life can throw so many parenting lessons at us, and the Lord’s wisdom abounds in these teachable moments.  It also reminds me that we need to continually build our children up.  We need to be bold enough to tell them just how incredible they are not just because they are children, but because they are diverse and talented with their own set of gifts to offer to the world.

Raising a child with ADHD presents challenges on a day-to-day basis.  It doesn’t just go away over time, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how it will unfold in my son’s life as he grows into adolescence.  One thing I do know is that my love of him pales in comparison to God’s love for him, and that is something I can always be sure of.

Are you parenting a child with ADHD?  If so, what are some strategies you use to increase social skills and reduce any other types of behaviors that come along?