Armor of God

Last year, I started “Tuesday Night Teachings” with my children. My plan was to keep this up on a weekly basis. Goodness. That plan fell through! This week, I finally got back to doing a lesson. This one is called, “Armor of God”.

I gathered the kids around and asked them to name what was in front of them. They quickly guessed the round “ball” as being a walnut but weren’t quite sure what the nut was. I told them, “They’re both walnuts!” The kids couldn’t believe that tiny nut was inside of that big, green ball.

“Do you know what the armor of God is?”

They threw out some ideas gained from their years of being involved in Sunday school.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about the armor of God. Right now, in our world, things are a little scary. Christians are fighting against other Christians regarding politics and what is right or wrong. Sometimes, I feel like I’m not good enough or misunderstood. I feel bad about myself at times as well but then I remind myself that the only opinion that really matters is God’s opinion of me. I try to keep on the armor of God.”

Looking at both walnuts, I said, “The walnut without the shell is someone who doesn’t have faith. The one with the shell is someone with faith.”

I then took a knife and applied pressure to the walnut with the casing still on it. The knife cut into it a little bit but not all the way through.

“Now, look and see what happens to the walnut without the shell around it.” Applying the same amount of pressure, the walnut cut right in half. The kids were like, “Whoah…”

I pulled out a hammer and knocked on the walnut without a shell. It crumbled. I knocked on the walnut with the shell and it barely dented.

“When we talk about putting on the armor of God, what we mean by that is keeping our faith, knowing that we are protected by God…even when we are worried, scared, or feeling bad about ourselves. People say things that cut us like a knife or the weight of what we’re dealing with is so heavy that it’s putting pressure on us. Just like the walnut(s), without the armor of God, we can get cut or crushed. Now, that doesn’t mean that words won’t hurt or we won’t ever worry. Keeping on our armor of God will help us.”

I read Ephesians 6:10-17:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

After our lesson, our family said a prayer and took communion together. I encouraged them to be strong in their faith even when bad things are happening in the world. And, friends, I think we can all use this reminder right now.

Using walnuts, a hammer, and a knife, I gave my kids a visual representation of the armor of God. I truly hope they wear it all of the time.

STAND Above the fray

Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I landed on a friend’s posting of a long, drawn-out conspiracy theory that, quite frankly, demonized people who voted a certain way. Anger visited me. Putting my fingertips to the keyboard, I started typing a rebuttal. At that moment, these four words hit me: STAND ABOVE THE FRAY.

Social media is used to weaponize folks. Visceral tongue-lashings of others go on day after day. I admit that I have been guilty of it. I’ve posted an emotional response to things and then had to delete my post because I never want to hurt anyone or spread a message that doesn’t represent who I am, or more importantly, who Jesus is. I’ve been blocked by people, unfriended, and misunderstood. None of which gets to the heart of any issue that we’re facing.

The United States has a lot of problems right now -the pandemic, voting rights issues, treatment of non-white people, conspiracy theories that turn into triggers. The list goes on. But these things are not what I’m talking about it. The problem I’m witnessing is the hate and disdain for others because they simply don’t vote the way one expects them to or in the same way. Or, they don’t want to jump down that rabbit-hole and join others in their quest to prove they’re right.

Growing up, my parents were on opposite political spectrums. One was more conservative, the other more liberal. One a Republican, the other, a Democrat. They had friends and family members between this political spectrum. Not one time did I ever hear a nasty word about someone because of the way they voted. It was simply just that they voted based on their concerns and life-experience. That’s it. Because of freedom. Because of the right we all have to choose how we vote.

Our children are growing up in a society that devalues a person’s right to choose a political leaning. And I refuse to be someone who doesn’t raise her children to assume the best about people – regardless of how they vote.

So, when it comes to politics, I’m choosing to stand above the fray. This is a new concept for me as I’ve always enjoyed a good back and forth. But, anymore, I find that decent conversations are hard to have with others when falsehoods and scorn are being splattered across the scene.

I choose to stand above the fray of:

  • Assuming that if people are passionate about one issue, they don’t care about others.
  • Demonizing and calling one side evil or assuming the other is more righteous.
  • Categorizing people solely based on how they vote.
  • Believing that someone isn’t Christian (enough) because of whose name is marked on a ballot.
  • Dehumanizing others because I don’t understand their fears or struggles.
  • Questioning patriotism because some question leadership.
  • Spreading conspiracy theories that are usually just that – a conspiracy with little truth.
  • Joining in on ridiculing others by sharing memes that do nothing but promote bitterness.

I will fail at times but I’m giving it my all so that the only thing I promote is hope, love, and authenticity. I’m rarely met by Jesus when I go low. And, others are not met by Him when they see me go there.

I’m choosing to stand above the fray.

Two Podcast interviews

Hey, friends! I had the privilege of chatting with not one, but two incredible women who serve the foster care community. The links to my two podcast interviews are below. I sure hope you’ll take some time to listen to them!

Jamie Finn of Foster the Family is a foster and adoptive parent whose heart is on fire for serving Christ. She welcomes us into her world by offering glimpses into what real life looks like as a foster family. Jamie’s writing is emotive and stirring. If you haven’t read her blog, I highly recommend it.

Jami Kaeb of The Forgotten Initiative is also a woman on fire for Jesus and children. As the founder and executive director of The Forgotten Initiative, Jamie encourages others to step out of their comfort zones. She is a wonderful advocate for all members of the foster care community.

Link to my interview with Jamie Finn: http://www.fosterthefamilyblog.com/episodes/episode40-caroline

Link to my interview with Jami Kaeb: https://theforgotteninitiative.org/s8e11/

I’d love for you to listen to these two podcast interviews. I hope this week meets with you ample grace to get you through.

Blessings,

Caroline

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.