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.

‘Tis the Best Gift We Can Offer {a few lessons from reading home studies}

A part of my job is to read home studies for prospective foster and adoptive families. I have probably read somewhere in the thousands of studies. Although each one has a unique perspective on life and various layers of the human story, there are a few themes that run with each one.
 
1) People do not recall the “things” they were given as children. Instead, they remember vacations, family game nights, traditions, meals around the table, going to their grandparents’ house for family gatherings, feeling loved and knowing they are wanted.
2) People recognize that chores were good for them. Some had way too much put on their plates, while others did not have enough. Because of both experiences, the importance of appropriate chores is appreciated.
3) People recall the tempers of their parents and the fighting that occurs. Looking back on their childhoods, they are able to talk with detail about how fighting between their parents affected them and in some way, affects their current relationships – both in a good way and a bad way.
4) There is usually at least one solid adult who meant the world to them. For some, it was their mom. For others, their dad. For several, it was a relative or neighbor who mentored and loved on them when they needed it.
5) Children, who are not allowed to freely express their emotions, remember it as adults. They recall feeling stifled by not being able to show anger or being fearful if they showed anger.
6) Even in the worst home situations, most people walk away with a set of values taught to them. They can tell the difference between authentic values and false living.
7) Most people are forgiving towards their parents. Even as adults, people tend to still crave a decent, healthy relationship with their parents.
 
Reading home studies can be quite tedious. Interesting, but tedious. Each time I read one, I’m like, “Oh…yeah. I totally could be handling that issue better” or “Man, wish I could be as wholesome and loving as that mom.” Needless to say, reading the stories of others can be quite humbling!
 
However, with each study (basically a story) that I read, I am reminded that none of us are perfect. We each have our own insecurities, challenges, talents and imperfections. What is important in life is that we connect with our children, we give them experiences, and we never abandon or pull away from them.
 
Just a few reminders as we head straight into Christmas. Children will not remember each gift they open on Christmas morning, but they will remember us and the love we give.
‘Tis the best gift we can offer.

Love Is Not (always) Enough

As someone who works in the field of child welfare (and as an adoptive parent), I have been afforded many opportunities to train folks just coming into the foster care arena.  It is really inspiring to see people, from all kinds of walks of life, choose to step towards children in need.  It continues to convince me that despite a lot of junk in the world, there are still amazing people out there.

During the initial foster parent training, I have heard people say things like, “I’ll just love it out of them” or “All they need is love”.  This is in reference to trauma and behavior related issues.  In my head, I’m thinking, “Well, bless your heart.”  And, I mean it.

Seriously.

Bless your heart for wanting to love on children.

is not (always) enoough) (5)However, love is not always enough.  This is where rubber meets the road and is a hard pill to swallow.  I know that goes against just about everything that most of us have been raised to believe and even what we teach our children.  But, it is true.  Love is not enough to erase years of abuse and neglect or genetic issues or any other struggle a child has.  If love were enough, I suspect there would be a decline in child abuse and neglect cases as well as a decline in substance abuse or any other issue that causes turmoil in one’s life.  We all know people whose love was unwavering; yet, their child succumbed to bad choices.

This post is not meant to be disheartening.  Of course, love is powerful and feeling loved is crucial.  However, if one enters into child welfare and expecting all the feels of goodness and sweetness, it will be a very disappointing and bumpy ride.  It is child abuse and neglect that lands children in the system – not warm, fuzzy, feel-good rainbow kind of moments.  Don’t forget that.

We must stand up and speak out for children.  We must wrap our minds around the fact that while love is powerful, alone, it cannot solve the issues at hand.  It takes resilience and courage.  It takes flexibility, sacrifice and humility.  It takes the willingness to recognize that we have a lot more to learn than we believe we do.  It also takes a whole heck of a lot of humor.

In caring for abused and neglected children, love (in itself) may not always be enough.  It can, however, set the wheel in motion towards a journey that meets the pain and hardship of others head-on.  It can stir hearts and minds in the rendering of waking up each day with a passion to seek and serve children in need.

 

Loving children means meeting them where they are at; RIGHT where they are at.

There isn’t a better example of this than Jesus.  He met people where they were at; the outcasts, the lost, the sick, the hungry, the dead, and us.  With love, He chose to discipline and in love, He chose the Cross.  He chose to stay where He was supposed to and He did it out of love, but He also did it because He know what He needed to do.  (Thank you, Lord!)

It may not feel good to say that love is not always enough, but let me tell you, this Momma has lived this truth.  Right now as I’m typing this, my thoughts are to where I had planned on being.  I had been scheduled to be in the Ukraine.  Yes, you read that right.  I was asked to travel to the Ukraine to train Ukrainian foster families who have taken in children with very little to no resources.  However, I had to cancel those plans.

One of my children has been struggling with anxiety and a variety of emotional and behavioral issues.  Loving this child is not enough to keep this child stable.  I had to ask myself some hard questions.  Do I leave for a two-week trip to another part of the world knowing that my child is struggling?  How would my absence affect this kiddo (who does struggle with some attachment stuff)?  What would happen if, in my absence, everything breaks apart and my child ends up suffering because of it?  

I really wanted to go, but just simply loving my child regardless of where I was on the planet would not have helped.  I chose to say “no”.  I have found that when it comes to parenting children whose beginnings of life were not exactly ideal, it has taken more than love.  Love is obvious, but what seems to overrule my life as a parent is fortitude, understanding, the willingness to learn, the desire to change my own parenting style, and whole lot of grace and empathy.

For those who are seeking to become foster or adoptive parents, set your love aside for a moment.  Take all that energy bound up in desiring to love a child and put it to use.  Use it to build up a pool of resources.  Use it to open your mind about what works for children who come from difficult circumstance.  Use it to persuade yourself to tweak and adjust your expectations and parenting style (which will evolve as time goes on).  Don’t set love aside, of course, but take the same intensity and use it to seek knowledge about how to help children heal.

Love is not (always) enough.  LOVE IN ACTION, well, that has no measure.  It will look different for you and I.  If you truly want to love a child who comes from a hard place, then you must understand that LOVE is a VERB.

It has to be.

 

For any future foster or adoptive parent reading this, I’d love to hear from you.  Ask me anything.  I can be brutally honest, but I think that is what you probably need to hear.

 

 

Christians, isn’t this what Jesus died for?

Despite taking an intentional break from writing for a bit, this past weekend’s events that exploded in Charlottesville caused my fingers to find their way to this keyboard.  My mind is just reeling with furious thoughts about all of it.  Last night before bed, I asked my husband, “I wonder if what happened this weekend is even going to be brought up at church in the morning?”

This morning, I said to him, “We need to do church at home today.  I’m not sure if our church is going to talk about racism and what happened.  We need to and we need to do it now.”  My husband and I have held ‘home church’ before with our kids. They actually enjoy it as we try to make it light-hearted and fun.  This morning, however, we brought them to the table with a more sincere tone.

The beginning of our conversation went like this:

Me:  “What color of skin do you think Jesus had when he was alive on Earth?”

My kids:  “White!”

Me:  “No.”

Kids:  “But, he’s white in the pictures.”

Me:  “I know but he was not white.  His skin was brown.”

My husband:  “He was from the Middle East.  Their skin is brown, not white.”

My daughter:  “I think his skin had all of the colors in it – white, brown, black.”

Me:  “Maybe, but he definitely was not white.  He was a brown man.  The reason why we are talking about this is because something bad happened in another state this weekend.  A group of white people got together, carrying torches and chanting things.  These people believe that only white people are good and that we are not equal in God’s eyes and some of these people would call themselves Christians.  So, if some Christians claim to love Jesus (who was brown) but do not love people who are a different color, does that make any sense?”

My kids:  “No.”

We were honest (in a kid friendly manner) about the violence and that tragically, a few people died.  In an effort to show them what God says, we went to Scripture.

Acts 10:34-35:  Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 

Romans 2:9-11:  There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For God does not show favoritism. 

James 2: 1-9:  My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.  Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?  But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.  But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

Our children were immersed in the conversations and we told them that as white people and as Christians, we are NOT superior to anyone.  Jesus died for everyone – regardless of skin color and it is wrong for any Christian to feel otherwise.

As we finished, we watched the “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. King. It was a wonderful way to show our young children that the fight for racial justice has been going on for far too many years and sadly, there is still so much work to be done. There are still too many people in the world who do not see others the way God sees us – through eyes of concern, mercy, and love.

20170813_165848Anytime we have church at home, I ask the kids if they want to draw something that is related to what we discussed.  My daughter decided to draw Dr. King giving his speech.

I know my husband and I are not perfect and we are certainly not Biblical scholars, but if there is anything at all that we can teach them as Christian parents, it is this:

Love others as God loves you.  

Treat others as you want to be treated.  

We are ALL precious to Him.

 

As the day has gone on, I have thought a lot about the victims of the terrorism (which is what it should be called) that occurred when the young man decided to drive his car into a crowd of people.  My heart aches greatly for the young woman who lost her life as well as for her family.  However, I have also found myself wondering, “What if my son or daughter would have been behind the wheel of that car?”  As a parent, this question causes me to consider what we teach and show to our children and how we should be making every effort to train them in the education of love not hate.

It is up to us (Christians) to set an example for the world.  If we do not stand up for injustice and denounce hatred, then who are we following and where is Jesus?  It is not comfortable to stand up for others nor it is popular at times, but nothing about the life of a Christian should be comfortable.

Jesus was not comfortable when he hung on the cross for every single soul.  When I visualize my Savior literally pouring his life out for me, for you, for our friends, and for our enemies, I am embarrassed by what we have done with this grace we have found.

Hatred should have no home in the heart of a Christian, neither should silence.  We must consider our own feelings or lack thereof when we see displays of hate that occurred this weekend.  We must teach our children that Jesus is for everyone, we are not better than anyone else, and mercy always has a place at our table.

Christians, isn’t this what Jesus died for?

 

 

Sweet Mom, Judgy Mom, & a little bit of caffeine

20170505_150607Standing in line at Starbucks, I sparked up a conversation about coffee and children with a mom (I’ll call her Sweet Mom) of two little ones as my soon-to-be 11-yr-old son eagerly waited for his special treat of an Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte.  Caffeine does not negatively affect my son.  It actually helps him concentrate.  This is a part of ADHD that most people do not understand, but that is not what this post is about.

Sweet Mom looked at her little guy and said, “Grandma gives him sips of her coffee, sometimes.  He LOVES straight, black coffee!”  We both laughed a bit but as we did, I noticed a lady (I’ll call her Judgy Mom) standing at the counter and listening to our conversation.  Sweet Mom had her back to the lady and had no idea Judgy Mom rolled her eyes and shook her head in disgust at our conversation about allowing our kids to have caffeine/coffee every now and then.

The longer I stood there and watched Judgy Mom’s utter dismay at us, the more I found myself wanting to come to the defense of Sweet Mom and all of the other moms out there who are just trying to do the darn best that we can.  By the time Judgy Mom got her own caffeinated beverage, Sweet Mom swiped up her drinks, told me it was nice visiting and went about her merry way.  When the barista called my son’s name, I proudly grabbed the drink, handed it to him, and said, “Here you go, bud.  Enjoy.”

As I walked to the car, drinking my own strong little number, my imagination decided to embark on a conversation that I chose not to have with Judgy Mom (because I’m not a confront and destroy kinda girl).

Here is what I really wanted to say,

“I’m assuming by the look of disgust on your face, the rolling back of your eyes, and the shaking of your head, that you just can’t believe the nerve of some “young moms” these days allowing their kids to have a little caffeine from time-to-time.  You might think it is abusive or neglectful or just bad parenting, right?  You might wonder what on Earth we also allow our kids to have.  

Well, here’s the deal, Judgy Mom. (Okay, I wouldn’t call her that to her face.)  If you really want to see “bad moms or dads” in action, why don’t you join a Child Abuse and Neglect Investigator on a home visit to investigate allegations?  I’m sure arriving at a home and finding a neglected baby in a crib whose diaper hasn’t been changed for four days would probably alarm you.

Or, how about you take a look at pictures of a blue-eyed, 4-yr-old child who was beaten so severely for not eating her dinner fast enough that the imprint of the perpetrator’s boots was left on her skin?  (Yes, this is a real situation.  I’ve seen the pictures.  I still have the images engraved in my mind and it’s been 10+ years since viewing them.)

Perhaps, you can become a CASA or other type of advocate for children so that you can learn how a lot of kids don’t eat over the weekend because there is no food in the house and their only meals come from school.  Once you do any of these things, you won’t be as tempted to roll your eyes and shake your head in disgust at two moms having a chat about the antics of slightly coffee-fueled children.

How about that?”

I know some of you might think this is a little extreme, but one thing that gets my goat more than anything is the amount of parent-shaming that exists nowadays. Perhaps, I’ve seen too much.  Maybe, working in child welfare has skewed my perception of what is a “good mom” versus a “bad mom”.  All I know is that once you truly learn what is happening to children and what some parents either do to their kids or allow their kids to go through, it is really hard to get all worked up about things like caffeine, sugar, screen time, red dye #40, or whatever other items that have become a trendy thing to frown upon.

I believe that most parents are just like my husband and me – trying to balance work, parenting, social activities, sports, spiritual development and medical needs all while raising kids to be half-way decent human beings.  There are some days where we literally eat on the go and high-five each other in passing.  There are others where we eat home cooked meals all day, stay inside and just be together.  Either way, I do believe my kids are going to be just fine and that we are doing our very best at this glorious, God-given task of raising future adults.

To Sweet Mom, whom I met at Starbucks today, your kids are precious.  Don’t worry about Grandma sneaking a sip of coffee to your little guy.  You’re doing just fine.

To Judgy Mom, I’d love to meet with you and talk about parenting over a nice, large cup of coffee.  I bet I can figure out a way to give you an outlet for your obvious concern about children.

To all the other parents out there, if you are meeting your kids’ physical, emotional, and social needs, plus working each day to raise them to be half-way decent human beings, then you are also doing just fine.

Let’s stop parent-shaming.  There are far too many issues going on with children and families to worry about a kiddo getting a little bit of caffeine.

How about that?

Kids These Days (or so, they say)

A few months ago, I listened as a gentleman of a different and older generation say, “I feel sorry for those of you raising kids in today’s world.”  His words, although meant to be sympathetic, sort of frustrated me a bit.  I keep seeing on social media and hearing through conversations that children these days are just “doomed”.  They are spoiled.  They want immediate action.  They are not being raised “right”…whatever that means.

Essentially, there is no hope for the younger generation…or so, they say.

Last week, I was a guest speaker at a local Vacation Bible School.  I spoke to around 200+ children from ages four to thirteen.  My topic was about what they can do to help foster children in their communities.  The four-year-old’s through Kindergarten ages just did not quite understand what I was talking about, so we decided it would be more fun to sing songs.  Besides, that’s way more fun, anyway!  Right?  After we were done, this little sweet-pea of a girl around the age of four came up to me and said, “We can give books to babies who don’t have them.”  Oh, be still, my heart.

The eighth-grade boys…well…yeah.  Let’s just say I’m SO looking forward to my son being in the eighth grade.  NOT.  Major kudos to those of you who teach this age group!  Don’t get me wrong.  They were respectful, but you know…a little “too cool for school”.

The first through seventh graders were listening with intent.  When asked what they could do to help out children in foster care, they offered, “Help find them a home”, “Invite them to church”, “Tell them about Jesus”, “Give them a Bible”, and “Be nice and be their friend.”  Children as young as the first grade were suggesting these things.

Afterward, I thought about the words of the older gentleman and his worries for those of us raising kids in today’s society.  I also thought about the different editorial posts floating around Facebook and other social media forums that suggest that children of today do not have a chance.  Call me an idealist, but I disagree.

Sure, life is vastly different that it was in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.  I was a young girl in the 70’s, in Junior High and High School in the 80’s, and a college student in the early 90’s (which, by the way, was awesome).  Life is different now than it was during these time periods, but you know what is not different?

LOVE.

FRIENDSHIP.

GENEROSITY.

COURAGE.

COMPASSION.

CURIOSITY.

OPPORTUNITIES TO MESS UP.

OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE IT RIGHT.

EMPATHY.

THE NEED TO CONNECT.

THE DESIRE TO DO GOOD.

Just a few days ago, my daughter told me that for one of her birthdays she wants to ask people to give gifts to homeless children and families, instead of her.  Let that soak in a bit.

If my little sampling of children from Vacation Bible School and my daughter’s expression of what she wants to do are a reflection of “kids these days”, then I dare say, they are going to be just fine.  So, please stop saying that children growing up in today’s society are doomed.

Quit judging us parents.  We are doing the best we can (just like you were when you were raising kids).  I am raising three children in today’s society.  They struggle with various issues, but let me say, THEY ARE GOOD CHILDREN.  They might misbehave from time to time, but they know right from wrong, and they have hearts that desire to seek friendship and to help others.

For the love of children, please stop thinking that all kids are just spoiled or misbehaved or don’t care about their fellow-man.  I mean, come on.  IF they are this way, then really, who should we be blaming?

If you think today’s generation of children is not going to turn out okay, what are you doing to help?  Can I offer you a few suggestions?

  • Help a young family that is struggling.
  • Tutor kids at the local school.
  • Teach a Sunday school class.
  • Volunteer at the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club.
  • Work with at-risk kids.
  • Invite the neighborhood kids and parents over for dinner.
  • Donate gift cards and other items to families in need.
  • Love on that single mama doing the best she can.
  • Encourage that daddy who is working two jobs to make the bills and put food on the table.
  • Become a reading buddy to sick children in the hospital.
  • Pray for families, children, and the world.

I can go on and on, but I suspect that you get the point.  Or, at least I hope you do.

Please, stop saying that kids these days are not measuring up to what you think they should be.  I, for one, refuse to believe this.  If you spend any amount of quality time with a young child, I dare say, you will be amazed.  They are not doomed.  They are just beginning to sprout their wings into this vast world.  They are learning about the world around them. Sure, there are things they face and deal with that we may not have as children, but still, the world has a lot of beauty in it.  Let’s make sure we show this to them.

Our young generation will be the next teachers, parents, doctors, pastors, political leaders, chefs, scientists, explorers, artists, engineers, and caregivers.

For my children and for yours, 

or the teenage boy who helps his disabled mother raise his younger siblings,

or the child who sells lemonade on her street to raise money for others,

or the young person who visits the elderly lady down the street because she is lonely,

or the boy who sticks up to the bully at school….

why would you think they are simply not adding up or are “doomed”?  

After all, children are our future…

Give that a thought.

 

 

 

Give That a Thought

While at the store the other day with my daughter, a lady stopped me and said, “Your daughter looks just like you. You sure could never deny her!” I thanked her for noticing us, wished her a good day, and even thought, “There are some days I’d like to deny…..” I’ll just stop there!

It is funny, you know. I get told often how all of my kids resemble me in someway. Sometimes, I see it. Sometimes, I don’t.

I definitely “see myself” in them, though. I see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Do you know those moments when your child says something in just a way that you are quickly reminded of how you must sound when saying the same thing? Yep, these are the times when I realize how much of an influence I make on my kids. It is also a reminder that if our kids can repeat some of the things we say in our not-so-fine moments, then they can surely remember the things we say when we are at our best.

There are also moments when your child does something out of love, or speaks incredible wisdom that stops you right in your place. These are the times when I catch a glimpse of myself in the kids, or am taught a lesson by them.

To the sweet lady at the grocery store who stopped to tell me how much my daughter looks like me, Thank You. As a parent through adoption, I get tickled by it, and find such a great sense of how truly awesome and purposeful adoption really is.

I love that in many ways my kids look like me, and my husband. More important, though, is the thought that every action or word we say as parents strikes even deeper in the hearts and minds of our children.

In so many ways, they are a reflection of who we are.

Give that a thought.

God Won’t Leave You In It {the wilderness of parenting}

Several months ago, I was contacted by an author regarding contributing for a devotional for adopting moms.  I was asked to write a five-day devotion, and agreed to do so.  The book is now out (future blog post to come about it).  I’ve been reading through parts of it, and came across this from one of the other contributors.

In the weekly devotion on the topic of love, she writes:

“Sometimes I feel as if I’m doing this all wrong. Being a mama is hard. My dishes are piled in my sink as I type this. I had to dig through dirty clothes that were in the floor to find pajamas for my baby because the flu has overtaken our house this week. It’s Monday and I haven’t bought groceries for the week. Toys are scattered all over my living room and if I hear Mickey Mouse Clubhouse one more time, I think I might scream.

However, these are insignificant to the despairs you might be feeling today. Loving children that come from hard places is difficult. You might have numerous therapy appointments scheduled this week. You might feel as if you’re the only parent who is still having trouble bonding with your child. You might feel as if this calling to adopt has taken you out in the wilderness and left you with nothing but pain, like Hagar. But God didn’t leave her there.”

Wow. Yep, this one completely jumped out at me. Life seems like a vast wilderness, sometimes. Parenting does, too. So thankful, though, that God does not leave us in our messes, and on our own as we tackle life.

If you are feeling as though your own parenting journey has become a wilderness, take heart. While the journey may be difficult at times, God won’t leave you in it alone.

Jars of Clay {God’s Greatest Treasure}

It had been a rough week with our daughter. She’s extremely sweet at times, but at other times, she can be quite difficult. As we left for church last Sunday, all I was thinking is how much I just wanted to crawl back in bed.

My daughter wanted to stay with us for the worship songs before she went to her Sunday school class. Although I really wanted her to go to her class, I know how much it means to stand together with your child and worship God.

Soon into our service the song “Broken Vessels” by Hillsong Worship was sung. The song uses part of the song “Amazing Grace” in it. Although I was dwelling on the issues of the week, and the problems we had just right before we left for church, I began to listen and hear my six-year-old daughter sing,

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

My daughter has said for several years that “Amazing Grace” is her favorite song. I sing it to her every night before she falls asleep. As her little voice sang the words, my heart was punched.

A little further along in the song are these lyrics,

“You take our failure. You take our weakness. You set Your treasure In jars of clay. So take this heart, Lord, I’ll be Your vessel. The world to see,Your love in me.”

As I tried to sing the words, my mind and heart were interrupted by the thoughts of my daughter, my other children, and my own life. Soon, I was wiping tears away.

During the song while listening to my daughter sing, I was convicted at the very existence of my daughter, and all of us.

Broken vessels.

Wounded. Weak. Full of failures.

Jars of clay.

God’s greatest treasure.

Did you read that? Inside of us is God’s greatest treasure.

Despite our failings as we walk this Earth, and despite our histories, our greatest regrets, and our current circumstances, inside us dwells the greatest treasure of all.

Friends, if you are feeling less than what you wished you would be, confused by your circumstances, or perhaps, that you are not worthy of love, remember this,

YOU are GOD’s TREASURE.

Isn’t that something to cherish?

Just be Still

“Just be still, Caroline.  Just be still.”

These words have echoed in my mind and heart through the past several weeks. Okay, maybe for the past few months.  I’m someone who has always seems to have a plan, goal, and mission in mind.  My to-do list does not seem to have an expiration date, and even time off is filled with a handful of items to check off of it.

In other words, I am used to being busy – physically, emotionally, and even, spiritually.

Several months ago, I went to work out at the crack of dawn (literally), came home, got ready for work, got the kiddos ready for school, and then had a bit of a coughing spell.  I felt a “pop” in my lower back.  I even said to my husband, “I think I pulled a muscle.

Even with pain, I still went about keeping up with my daily regimen.  I also continued to train for an annual 150-mile cycling event that I have completed for the past few years.  However, that nagging pain I kept feeling wouldn’t leave me.  That voice that gently encouraged me to “just be still” didn’t go away.  With the coaxing of my husband, I went to the doctor.  Turns out I bulged a disk in my back out (from a coughing spell, no less!).

I had no choice.  I had to be still.

“Be still?!?” I thought.  That is NOT for me.  I’m not a “still” person.  “I’ve got things to do!  I’ve got a household that needs maintained, a job that needs fulfilled, children to navigate through the day, and a cycling event coming up!”

As I sat in my home, heating pad on my lower back, waiting for the doctor to let me know if I would need surgery or not, and wondering when the back pain would go away, I kept staring at the very things that needed to be done around the house.

I began to think about the past several years, and have they seem to have flown by.  I’ve been really busy, you know.  With working, raising three children, tending to my home, keeping up with this blog, cycling, and starting a handful of other writing projects, it seems as though I was never still.

I even thought,

“I was not born into this world to be still.”

I did get that call from the doctor, a follow-up visit, and the most positive outcome from having a back injury (no surgery needed) that I wanted to hear.  This was the best case scenario.  However, through the course of it all, the words, “Just be Still” kept echoing through my spirit.

The time following my injury I was forced to be still.  No lifting, no riding my bike, no carrying children around, and staying off my feet as much as possible.  I thought I was going to be miserable, but instead, I found peace and renewal in being still.

Instead of looking around at the things in my home that needed to be done, I watched my children play in the living room.  I observed my husband’s care of them, and my daughter’s concern for my health.  It seems that being still is exactly what I needed.

After I recovered, I got back into my normal routine which includes driving my son to and from gymnastics training.  Typically, on the way home from a long day, I am usually flying to get back to the house to start the nightly rituals of getting the kids in bed.  On that night, though, I slowed down, enjoyed the car ride with my son, and caught a glimpse of God’s artistry in the night sky.  We noticed it together, and pulled over to take a picture.Night Sky

“Just be still, Caroline.  Just be still.”

Friends,

That nagging pain you are feeling….

That whisper of “just be still” that you can’t seem to shake….

That rest you have been mandated to do….

Perhaps, these things are drawing you closer to your Father than you think.

Perhaps, being still is exactly what you need.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

-Psalm 46:10