Faith over Fear but Not Being Foolish

“I’m scared I’m going to get the virus.” His chocolate eyes looked up at me as he mumbled these words. “Don’t be scared” I said to assure him. “Remember when I told you guys that we need to have faith over fear but not be foolish?” This is why we are staying in the house as much as we can. “Okay…”, he said before relaxing into his bed.

Faith over fear but not being foolish. I’ve done my best to teach my kids this thought while also clinging to it as well. It’s hard, isn’t it? Not hard to be faithful. At times, not hard to be foolish (although we can do a really good job at being quite foolish). The fearful thing – yeah, that one. It’s a challenge to not fear.

Even as believers, our minds wander into the world of “what if”. I know I’ve found myself wondering what life would look like if I got this virus or if anyone I treasure does. These meanderings of my mind do not help. They don’t keep us safe or prevent us from getting exposed to it. Instead, they remind me of just how human we really are; how vulnerable we are.

Friends, this is what I have experienced in my life and believe: we may be strong and healthy one day, then completely broken down the very next day. Our physical bodies – flesh and bone – are Earthly. Our soul is not. And maybe that is one of the main consolations we can hang onto at this time.

Instead of focusing on what is going wrong or our fears, perhaps, focusing on what is going right would do our souls well. In my city, a Facebook group dedicated to helping each other through this has revealed so much. I’ve lost count on the number of times people have offered to shop for someone else or give advice on how to remedy a situation. I’ve woken up to messages checking on my family and have exchanged lots of “I love you’s” this week.

Faith over fear but not being foolish. In some respects, watching the chaos and ashes unfold around us reminds me that the Lord can make beautiful things out of dust and ashes.

Love is greater than fear. What a gift that is to witness.

Life Lesson: Having Faith

Here’s another Tuesday Night Teaching that I did with my kids. This one is called, Life Lesson: Having Faith.

“Having faith in God means that even though we cannot ‘see’ him, we know he is there. Faith is believing in what we don’t see. Can you actually see love?” My kids nodded that “no”, we don’t really see love.

“What about smells? Can we ‘see’ them?”

Giggles…”Well, maybe sometimes….”

“Okay, but you get the point.”

I looked at my daughter and reminded her of the times she thought God wasn’t listening to her prayers because she didn’t see the answer. I then spoke to my kids about feeling distant sometimes from God, especially when times are hard.

“There are moments when we are going through rough times and we really don’t feel or see that God is near us.”

I took three sheets of wax paper and held them up so that they blocked a cross hanging on our hall.

“Remember, the cross represents God. Can you see the cross now?”

“Not really”, they said.

“Okay, there are other times when things aren’t quite as bad but you still wonder where God is.”

I removed one sheet of the wax paper.

“You can barely see God, right?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s say things are maybe a little bit better but still a little cloudy and you’re not sure if God is near you.”

Removed another sheet of wax paper.

“The cross is becoming even more clear now, right? Okay. Now life is great and we’re moving along…”

Removed the final piece of wax paper to reveal the cross.

“Do you see that the cross was there the entire time, even when you couldn’t see it or when it was a little hard?

This is what it means to have faith in what is unseen. No matter how bad things get in our lives, even when we cannot see him clearly, he is there.”

I then read Hebrews: 11:1:

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Explaining faith to children can be hard, especially for extremely literal kids! I’m hoping that this visual lesson helped them to truly believe in what is unseen; to have faith in God during times in their lives when the view is cloudy and when it is clear.

Life Lesson: Having Faith – this one is for us adults, as well.

Podcast Interview and Thankfulness

Hey friends – Just a little note about a recent podcast interview and thankfulness.

It was 1983 when the words infertility/not being able to ever give birth first became a part of my vocabulary. People just didn’t talk about it, then. Not.At.All. To think of women (and men) throughout centuries who suffered in silence makes me ever-so-thankful for where we are now when it comes to this topic. We still have a long way to go for it to be understood, but we have made significant progress.

Recently, I had so much fun on a podcast called: Foster Care – An Unparalleled Journey. You can listen to my interview by clicking here.

As an adolescent, I knew that I had a lot to say about it but also wanted to keep it hidden out of shame. I thought, “maybe one day, I will write a book”, but it was a burden to carry, becoming heavier as each year passed. When given the opportunity to tell it now or write about it, I still feel a measure of the pain unpeel itself from me – even after all of these years.

Reminded of what the Lord can do with hardship. The Enemy can’t stand for us to be free of the things that were meant to bring us suffering. He would rather us live in misery, sticking to the labels we often give ourselves.

Keep speaking of those things. Keep walking in faith. Keep believing. YOUR story matters.

I also just want to say a big, “THANK YOU” for those of you who have reached out or have read my posts. Your kindness truly means so much.

The 11-yr-old girl I used to be would not believe how far we’ve come; how far she has come. She would be thrilled and dance with joy.

She would also be so encouraged and thankful for you.

a hope for the future

Have you ever met a kiddo without a hope for the future? I have. After having been in foster care for several years, a 12-yr-old boy was assigned to my caseload. One day, I asked him, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” He looked me straight in the eyes, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Eh…I figure I’ll either be in jail or dead by the age of twenty-one, so does it really matter?”

Speechless. It took me a moment to gather my thoughts.

“Don’t put that out there! There are all kinds of things to be and do when you grow up!” (I said this to encourage him but to no avail.) Shrugging his shoulders again, he said, “Well, it’s probably true.” Conversation ended.

Years later, I found out that after he aged out of foster care (because he was never able to be matched with a family), he ended up committing a non-violent crime and was sentenced to prison…right around the age of twenty-one. I have no idea if he is out or not, but even after all of these years, I wonder if he ever found his place, or better yet, found himself, in this world.

Trauma defined his life and identity. It filled in the lines between his growing years. It slapped a label on him that was nearly impossible to peel off. Had he been able to connect with one consistent adult (other than child welfare professionals), would his life have turned out different?

YES. I ABSOLUTELY BELIEVE SO.

How can we, as a society, help kids like him?

We need:

  • Families interested in fostering kids over the age of twelve, including sibling groups with mixed ages.
  • More funding for programs designed to target at-risk youth and provide them life skills, opportunities to explore jobs and support.
  • Trauma-informed base of knowledge into any program, school or other sites who provide care, in any capacity, to youth.
  • Churches to educate themselves and get engaged with systems that might make them uncomfortable. (Jesus doesn’t ask us to be comfortable, anyway. Can I get an ‘Amen’?!)
  • Purpose-driven resourcing for at-risk youth. Meaning, behind every action that is taken with this population, make sure there is a purpose that will drive them towards a better future.
  • Mentors!! We absolutely need adults to step up and seek out ways to get involved. I’m not going to lie. It isn’t pretty all of the time and you may not think you are making a difference, but every small action can lead to big leaps for these kids.

If there isn’t a mentoring program in your community, find out how you can start one. Talk with various agencies who work with at-risk kids and ones in foster care. Consider if your small group at church could provide support. Speak to your schools about what they might need. I am a firm believer that when at-risk youth (in or out of foster care) find connection with at least one adult, their chances of success greatly improve.

Kids deserve to have a hope for the future. We can help get them there. I believe that!

Life Lesson: Apples to Apples

In continuing life lessons for my kids, I decided to focus on loneliness. For fun, I’m calling my lessons, “Tuesday Night Teachings“. They look forward to Tuesday nights and ask, “Are we going to have a Tuesday Night Teaching?” This one is called, “Life Lesson: Apples to Apples”.

We sat around the dinner table and took turns telling each other what we are thankful for. It was a pleasant sound to this mom’s ears to hear my kids talk about being thankful for people in their lives, including our family.

This conversation about being thankful for each other was a perfect lead-in to tonight’s lesson.

“Don’t leave the table just yet. I want to talk to you. I saw something on Facebook that made me really sad. A guy lost his pet cat and asked for help finding it. He said it was the only thing left in his life. It made me cry for him because he later found that his cat had gotten hit by a car. I thought about how lonely he must be without his pet – especially because he said that his cat was really the only thing left in his life.

There are a lot of lonely people in the world.”

Passing the bowl of apples around, I asked each person (including myself and husband) to pick the one that is the most appealing to them. There were six different apples in the bowl. Each of us grabbed the one that we wanted and then took turns telling why we picked that apple.

“Now let’s all take a bite of our apples.”

The kids giggled a bit. My oldest son joked about thinking he might have swallowed a part of the core.

Lining the apples up next to each other, I said,

“Look at that. They are all so different on the outside, but look at the inside. They are the same. People are a lot like apples. God created us to be unique in our skin color and size. We each have our own ‘flavor’ but on the inside we are the same.

Do you notice that there is one apple that wasn’t picked? That is how some people feel. For instance, some people are left out because of the way they look or the color of their skin or for other reasons. On the inside, they are just like you and me.”

I ended the lesson by talking with my kids about how loneliness is a big problem in our world but if we can get past what is on the outside of a person and look at the inside, maybe we can help each other not be so lonely.

I’m really hopeful that each little nugget of wisdom about God’s truth seeps into their pores; creating a future filled with a genuine love of others. God doesn’t ask us to necessarily like everyone but he does ask us to love one another.

This God-kind-of-love sets the lonely into families.
It sees us from the inside out.
This God-kind-of-love can change generations.

I believe that.

John 15:12: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

(Life Lesson: Apples to Apples – what other ways have you used to teach children about loneliness?)

Seasons of Change (Life Lesson)

A few months ago, I started weekly lessons with my kids on Tuesday nights. Although I’ve taken a break for the holidays, I plan on returning to “Tuesday Night Teachings” after the new year. My kids really seem to enjoy them! Here is one lesson that I taught called, “Seasons of Change”.

I started off by reading Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 to my kids.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Looking towards my children, I said, “Dad and I have been talking a lot about how much we’ve changed since we were younger.”

One-by-one, I placed the leaves on the table and asked, “What is this?” Each time I pointed to one, they said, “a leaf”.

“Yes, and look at how much the leaves have changed. In life, you will go through a lot of seasons and changes. There will be some days that you feel ‘green’ and happy and other days where you may feel ‘yellow’ or sad. Sometimes, you feel ‘red’ or angry about things going on. Just like these leaves, you will change and go through different times in your lives.

Do you notice that even though a leaf started off green, it ended up red, and even though it went through this season of change, it is still a leaf?” Nodding their heads in agreement, “Yes!”, they said.

“The cool thing is that even though there are changes, the leaf is still exactly what God designed it to be. YOU are as well. Regardless of what you go through or how you change, you were born a child of God and you will always be a child of God.”

Ending the lesson, I explained that this is one of the most important things to remember in life. The only constant is God. When everything else around us changes or when we go through different seasons, God remains the same.

If there is one thing I can hope to teach my children, it is this:

Regardless of what experiences they endure or the seasons of change they go through, I truly desire for them to know just how deeply they are loved by God, how they were created with a purpose, and that they will always be one of His kids.

on this day of thankfulness

On this day of thankfulness, my childhood has been on my mind. Maybe, it is because my daughter is now the age I was when I had my hysterectomy. Sometimes, I see myself in her. Curious. Strong-willed. Lover of fluffy things. Empathetic. Other times, I don’t.

Barrenness rushed in like a thief in the night. It didn’t just steal from me at that time, in that present moment. It kept stealing each and every day as I grew up. A stalker. A shadow that didn’t go away. A reminder of what was missing.

On this day of thankfulness, I’m reminded of the power of restoration. That somehow, grace had the audacity to chase me down, prove me wrong and breathe love and life into my soul.

Thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who took my physical, emotional and spiritual brokenness and flipped the script.

Lightness out of darkness.

Fruitfulness out of barrenness.

Gratitude replacing grief.

On this day of thankfulness, I am truly blessed.

All Just Souls

“All Just Souls” These words hit me while at the emergency room with my oldest son. A transgender woman entered the room and curled up on the chair. She sat there in physical and emotional torment. My son didn’t notice. He was too engrossed in his Ipad.

Soon, the family across from us began staring immensely at this person. “It’s a man”, I heard them whisper. Glaring again. Giggling. Whispering into each other’s ears.

She bent over in pain. My heart sunk. Soon, her name was called out. It was was a male name (meaning not a gender-neutral name). I knew the family would get a kick out of that and watched as they began all over again with the giggles, whispers, and stares. Not surprised. Sickened, though.

She came back and sat down near where I was. She was alone. Trembling. In pain. No one was there comforting here – unlike 99% of the others waiting in ER that evening. The internal battle in my mind started. “I can’t leave my son. What if she has something contagious? What can I do? What should I do? No. I’m going to mind my business…”

These thoughts coursed through me. Occasionally, I would look up and give a good glare at the family clearly enjoying their mockery. I looked again at my son. “Thank goodness he is oblivious to this.”

Before I had the courage to ask her if she needed someone to sit with, she was gone – whisked back to get the care she obviously needed. I sat there riding a wave of guilt over my lack-of-action and defiance to that inner voice that says, “Go.”

“Never again”, I thought.

My son was called back, checked out and (thankfully) able to leave the hospital that night. As we left, I thought about her. “Did anyone come up there? Is she okay? Does she have a family or anyone to support her anymore?”

For the next few days, my mind kept going back to that night at the ER. Yes, I am bothered that I didn’t get up when feeling nudged to do so. I missed an opportunity to try and love on someone who needed it. I’m also terribly troubled by the actions I witnessed.

The first moment I had with my kids actually paying attention to me (the struggle is real!), I said,

“Hey guys, you know that in life you will always be surrounded by people who look different than you, have different skin color, love differently, believe differently and make different choices, right? Well, it doesn’t matter how different a person is or if you don’t understand that person or don’t agree with their choices, what you are responsible for is always choosing to be kind. There is never, never any reason to be cruel.”

“Mom, you know I don’t act like that.” “Yeah, that is really mean.” Soon…their words in response to mine began to warm my heart.

I went on.

“Listen, guys. None of us are perfect or sinless. We have to remember that as we are sitting in judgment of others, God is watching us do that. We are being judged while we are judging others. Again, even if you don’t agree with someone, if they are different or you just don’t understand, there will never be a single reason to show cruelty or ridicule or laugh at someone – especially those who are hurting or in a bad situation. As Christians, we believe that each of us have souls. We need to start seeing each other not as people but as souls who want to be treated with kindness and understanding. We are all just souls. Does that make sense?”

“Yes, we know, Mom.”

It has been a few weeks since this occurred; yet, I keep thinking about the person…that soul….crumpled over in despair next to me.

It broke my heart – but in a good way – in a God way.

There are some who may think I’m leading my children astray by raising them as Christians but teaching them about acceptance and choosing compassion for those we don’t understand. We don’t just want to live by faith, we want to love by faith. That is the difference.

Gosh, when I visualize Jesus, I see him sitting next to those who are persecuted around us or walking right up to someone that others wouldn’t dare walk up to.

He loves those who are unloved by others. I can’t imagine believing so deeply in the love of Christ but not desiring to show that to others; to mock those who he gave his life for, to speak or act in cruelty towards the very ones he came to save.

“All Just Souls” Yes, we are. Let us always remember that.

Author’s Note: I could not leave this post without mentioning the high suicide rate in the LGBTQ community. It is absolutely heart-breaking. If you or someone you love needs helps, here is the suicide prevention hotline for the United States: (877) 565-8860 In Canada, here is the suicide prevention hotline specifically designed for the transgender community: (877) 330-6366 You are loved.

Pouring Into a Broken Cup

My child looked at me and said, “I’m not sure I was made for this world.”

Gut punch.

Eyes welled up.

I did my best to tell my child that there are moments throughout our lives (even as adults) when we wonder about our purpose. We hugged, shared tears and I whispered words of encouragement to my child. This wasn’t the first time my child has said something like this. I thought we had crossed that bridge; met that need, etc. However, that part of my child still leaks.

Parenting kids with extra needs feels like pouring into a broken cup that has a leak in it. No matter how often or how much you keep pouring, the cup never seems to fill up.

Take your favorite coffee cup (or, if you are one of those people who don’t drink coffee, imagine your favorite cup of the beverage of your choice). You love this cup. It has some sort of significant meaning to you. Each day, you greet this cup with joy because you know you can pour your stuff right into it.

Now, imagine if your favorite cup never seems to fill up. You search it and discover a small, ever-so-tiny, crack. You fix that crack and pour into it again. It seems to hold your drink just fine until you notice it leaking again. You search and discover a different crack. You patch that up because you just can’t stand the thought of never using your favorite cup again.

You get up each day with the hope of “This time, my cup will not leak.” Some days, it works! You jump for joy and savor each sip. You go to bed thinking, “Perhaps, I actually fixed it this time.”

The next day, you get up, pour the same amount into the cup, and…yikes. You are pouring into a broken cup. The cup not only leaks your drink all over the place, it literally won’t even hold a single drop. It gets messy. Sometimes, it leaks all over you. You get sad and angry and then sad again. You look at your cup and think, “I’m not giving up on you. I know you will hold liquid again” and then, you patch it up (again) knowing that you may have to repair it in the future.

This is what parenting kids with complex needs feels like; to constantly pour, fix, and pour again knowing that you will never be able to mend all the cracks.

Of course, I’m not comparing children to coffee mugs – at least, not literally. There are days where no leaks seem to appear and your child just goes along the day without any significant issues. You get a glimpse of normalcy.

Most days, though, life is not like this. Before anyone complains that I’m complaining, I truly hope you don’t think that. Although each day as a parent to three children with extra needs is challenging, I know that pouring into them – leaks or not – is worthy of the time and effort. However, parenting kids with extra needs is exhausting. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually.

Observing other people’s children who always seem to have their cups filled and who are “winning” at friendships, academics and other aspects of life, can be downright depressing. It is NOT that we want other children to fail. Not at all. It is just that the issues that a lot of parents face or worry about pale in comparison to the issues of those of us who are raising extra-needed kids.

When one parent worries about whether her child will make the starting line-up of a sports team, we worry that our children won’t even be allowed to try out due to behavioral issues. When one parent complains about a child staying up too late watching YouTube, we struggle with children who literally can’t sleep without medical intervention. When we look at images of kids at birthday parties or other social events, we grieve that our kids are not invited to any parties.

The saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup” is true, but it is hard to have a full cup when the ones you are pouring into have so many leaks. Our own cups get depleted – almost to the point that we don’t have anything else to pour out. Yet, we keep pouring into a broken cup. We keep hoping. We keep praying.

Considering this, I also look to the Lord. He sees me as a cup that is always needing to be repaired. I can be fragile. I have cracks. I need to be restored on a daily basis.

I can just imagine him saying, “Girl. We’ve fixed that. Don’t you bring that up again.” I can also hear him saying, “Girl. You are worth it. I will restore you each and every day. There is nothing that won’t cause me to repair you and make you whole.” He is pouring into a broken cup on a daily basis.

Those of us who have been chosen (because I believe that) to parent children with extra needs may question if we are meant for this parenting experience. Yet, we are.

Some days, we hold it all together. Other days, we leak like crazy. However, we are repaired and restored each day by the Lord so that we can do the same for His little soul vessels – our children – our beautiful and broken cups.

New Year’s Goal of Changing the Narrative

Watched any news cycles lately? If so, have you heard the phrase, “Changing the narrative” or “change the narrative”? My guess is that you probably have heard that phrase more than once! As 2018 came to a close, I began to think about what my goal for the New Year would be. With “changing the narrative” freshly on my mind (thanks to ALL the various news guests who love to use this phrase), I began to wonder if a New Year’s goal of changing the narrative would be worthy of giving serious effort towards accomplishing.

Let me explain.

2018 was a bit rough for me. I found myself questioning a LOT about my lot in life. We faced numerous obstacles with our children. I turned away from potential career opportunities because they just didn’t sit well in my gut. I realized that I could not keep my children and husband a priority in my life if I pursued these things. I have to admit that my narrative for most of the year was filled with a big old case of the blah’s. I thought, “Well, if the kids weren’t so hard or if I didn’t have to worry about that or if our financial situation was different or if people would just see that for what it is…then I would be able to do this or that or the world would change…or…” Needless to say, I’m thankful that it is a new year.

Over the Christmas break, I took time away from work to spend with my family. During this time, I was smacked with the reality that my own perception and narrative needed to change. What the Lord impressed upon my heart is that the only way to truly change the narrative in our lives is to fully embrace changing it within our own hearts and minds. It isn’t about seeking others to change their narratives. Sure, we can lobby for that. We can advocate for changing the tone to which we disagree. However, in order to create change, perhaps, we must start from within. My goal for this New Year is to do just that.

I know I have other goals to work on in 2019. I need to eat better, exercise more and focus on a few projects that I have in the works. I need to spend more time being present, in the moment, and less time on social media (which is funny because I’m blogging right now). However, the most important goal I hope to achieve is changing the narrative to which I function on a daily basis – especially when it comes to frustrations at home, at work and in my every day life.

It is with a big lump in my throat that I read, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

With a guilty conscience, I read, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

It is with a twinge of hope-filled remembrance, I embrace, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

As this first month of 2019 is drawing to a close, I realize I have already failed at this goal of changing the narrative. I slipped back into the cynicism that can create a false sense of coping. However, I have had a few successful moments of changing my narrative as well.

It has become a daily ritual that starts out in the quiet of the morning before the kids are awake. I refocus on how I want to respond to my kids or whatever else comes up in the day. I remind myself of the important things that I need to focus on – not the ones that drain me or cause contempt in my heart. I am beginning each day with a self-pep-talk of shifting my internal conversation from defensive to offensive. I am consciously choosing to say, “I love you” more often and at unexpected times. I am choosing to never forget that Jesus loves me no matter my circumstances or when I’m at my best or worst.

Keeping all of this in mind, my New Year’s goal of changing the narrative of my life is one that I believe will change me.

“As someone who thinks within himself, so he is.” (Proverbs 23:7)

What are your goals for 2019? Do you think a New Year’s goal of changing the narrative would help you? I’d love to hear your feedback. Post a comment!

P.S. Here is a pic of us as we celebrated the New Year!