I Am the Least Likely

Your story - whatever it is - may be used to spurn future generations into faith

Can I take you back somewhere for a moment?  Like, way back…

Lying in my bed with my fat cat “Cupcake” resting nearby, nestled in warm covers, and dim lights, I wondered, “Maybe God knows I would make a horrible mother and that’s why this happened.  Maybe, it’s because I was a bad person in a past life or because I should have been born a boy.  Maybe, it’s because the doctor made a mistake.  Maybe….”

These thoughts raced through my mind shortly after my hysterectomy.  They ripped and raged at my heart.  I didn’t understand what a lifetime of barrenness would look like, but oh boy, did I believe that I was destined for shame, anguish and never being a mother.  I understand now that these dark whispers were not of God but of the face of darkness.  They were from the Enemy, who likes to nip and chew at every single vessel and cell of our existence.

I carried around this heavy blanket of thoughts for many years.  It seems odd to even call it a blanket, though.  When we think of blankets, we think, “warm, soft and comforting”.  However, like a blanket, these thoughts wrapped themselves around me and engulfed my body.  Soon, I began to cling to them – much like a child clings to a blanket.  After all, I was a child when barrenness knocked on my door.

These thoughts often brought shame, confusion and resentment towards a supposedly loving God.  Even after all of these years and being a parent, I still have moments where my mind escapes back to those nights in my bed and of the times where I could not stop the tears from flowing.  Besides, why would any loving Father ever allow this?

The truth is that I am the least likely to be typing this and to be speaking of spiritual freedom.  I am the least likely to work with children, promote the importance of adoption, advocate for foster children, share in support of foster families and play a small part in the molding of new families.  I am the least to be doing any of this.

The reality is that I had already envisioned a life minus anything to do with children.  It just hit too close to home.  I went to college and got a degree in Gerontology – the study of aging.  I didn’t want anything to do with children.  I even told my mom, “I don’t want to work with children; especially abused and neglected children.”

(I’ve since learned that we shouldn’t tell the Lord what we won’t do.)

I often recall those moments in time where I wondered what in the heck I was going to do about all of this trauma – medical and barrenness.  I believe that these are the times when the Enemy wants to steal progress and remind us only of what we struggle with, what breaks our hearts and where our fears lie.

Still….the Lord is there to hush those whispers and calm the waves of painful remembrance.

Ending up in child welfare (because the Lord closed every single door until the one to child welfare opened up), being around children, and working with kiddos who needed homes, forced me to confront that part of my life that I had always hidden away; never showing to others what I was dealing with.  This is why I am the least likely.

God takes the least, wipes the slate clean, clears the fog and reveals a truth that pierces through the darkest of places in our hearts.  It was He who put me in child welfare.  It is He who has kept me in it.  It is He who continuously reveals so much of who He is and who I am in Him.  It is He who hushed those horrible, slithering whispers that tried to capture a future without children.  It is He who took a hold of my barrenness and threw it off of me; declaring a new identity.

Imagine being bound by chains of self-doubt, grief, and angst.  Now, imagine those chains being broken.  This is what the Lord is capable of.

Yes, I am the least likely to testify that a faithful and all-knowing God took a hold of my barrenness and shaped it into what my life is today.  I am the least likely to proclaim that motherhood is important, infertility is not a result of being a bad person, and that God is out to punish us all.

It is just the opposite.  Listen closely.

The VERY thing that the Enemy used to devour my spirit, the Lord used to not only create a new life but also to fill it with exactly the opposite of what the Enemy desired. 

The Lord took what ripped my heart out and turned it into a lifetime of devotion of working on the behalf of children.  He took the biggest void in my life and blessed me.

What was meant to harmmeant to stealmeant to boundwas turned into a revelation of the all-consuming love of God.  It turned into that incredible feeling of true freedom – know that you are exactly who the Lord intended for you to be and that you are living out His story of your life.  Not only did it become a revelation, it evolved into a lifetime of doing the exact opposite of what the Enemy wanted.

Did you read that clearly?  A complete opposite of what the Enemy wanted.

If you ask me about the presence and proof of God in my life, all I would have to do point you to where I was versus where I am now, and that would be sufficient.  None of this happened by accident.  It still catches my breath.  It still feels so raw and real and beyond belief.  For me, the proof of the Lord is revealed daily.

My story.  My personal journey.  My medical problems, surgeries and barrenness turned into a testimony of what a truly loving and forgiving God can do.  My life is an example of redemption (over and over again), of the glory of God revealing Himself, and of answered prayer.  This is my testimony and I refuse to hide it away.

Yes, I am the least likely to proclaim the beauty of adoption, to advocate for children and to pursue the heart of God.  It is not by my works that I am a parent and an advocate for children in need.  It is the Lord who is working through my barrenness.  It is the Lord who has taken away my doubts about motherhood.  It is the Lord who declared Himself in my life.  It is He who has sustained me through working in child welfare as long as I have.

Friends, if you are going through something that is tragic, life-changing or appears to have stolen your future, I’ve been there.  I understand.  While I may not know your exact pain, I do understand how quickly life can change and how rapidly you can succumb to desperate thoughts.

Friends, in Jesus, nothing is impossible.  We are made new.  In Him, our futures are just getting started.  Don’t give up.  Your story – whatever it is – may be used to turn future generations to faith.  

 

If you met me many years ago, I would have convinced you that I am the least likely to talk about spiritual warfare and the faithfulness of God.  It is not that I didn’t believe in that stuff.  I just didn’t want to feel it.  I didn’t want to talk about it.  I didn’t want to do the hard work to discover myself and the Lord in it.  I wasn’t ready.

I am the least likely to share any of this, but… the Lord has this incredible habit of taking the least and using them to proclaim the full measure of His grace.

“I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” -John 15:5-8

 

Headed Up the Hill (Guest Post by blogger Lisa Robertson of “Mess Into a Message”)

Right outside the main gate of Ancient Ephesus, there was a hill that acted as a – for lack of a better word – “baby dump.” It was a pagan society and when an unwanted baby was born, it was dumped up on the hill and left to die. Archeologists have found that often times these babies had deformities – or what our current culture would label, “special needs.” And other times, the child was just unplanned or unwanted. Ephesus also operated with a mindset that required you to live up to a certain standard…to look and act a certain way…beauty = worth. Therefore, if you birthed a baby with special needs, there was a lot of pressure and judgment placed on you.

Sound at all familiar?

With this evil and utterly disgusting practice in Ephesus, ancient writings suggest that early Christians would head up that hill to rescue the babies who were left to die and to adopt them as their own.

Isn’t that a beautiful image amongst a gruesome scene?

Now, I am no Bible scholar and I don’t know much more than that about the background of Ephesus during that time…(a friend and pastor at our local church shared all of that with me) but can you imagine what the culture must have thought? If they witnessed these early Christians trekking up that hill to rescue these “unwanted” children? They must have thought they were crazy. Why would they choose a hard, “against-the-grain” life by seeking after these children and choosing to make them their own?

I often feel that way as a foster parent. Many people don’t “get it.” They don’t get WHY we became foster parents. WHY we choose hard. WHY we would choose to welcome a child that required over 40 medical appointments in his first 8 weeks of life… Or simply why we would choose to sacrifice our time, our resources, our family dynamic for the “mess” of another’s.

Our culture often doesn’t “get” why an expecting family chooses to carry out the pregnancy they’ve been told will result in a still-born baby. WHY the expecting family chooses to bring their baby, diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, into the world when they learned of the diagnosis with plenty of time to terminate. WHY the comfortable family pays $40,000 to head to China to adopt a special needs child. WHY the foster family adopts a sibling group of 5 with trauma backgrounds that will lead them into endless amounts of therapy.

Why?

Because we were once a needy, blemished child on that hill crying out to be rescued. Our Savior heard our cries, and He climbed that hill to come get us.

In Acts, after Pentecost, Peter and John – filled with the Holy Spirit – proclaim the gospel and teach about Jesus’ resurrection. They heal a crippled man proclaiming to have done it in the name of Jesus. The rulers, elders, and scribes were astonished…they recognized they had been with Jesus…but they wanted them gone because they were afraid of losing their power or influence. They talked with each other and said, “What shall we do with these men?” (Acts 4:16)

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They witnessed miracles in the name of Jesus but they didn’t like it. They didn’t want it to be true…it didn’t fit with their culture or nicely into their standard boxes. Peter and John’s boldness threatened their lifestyle. These “Jesus people” were proclaiming to do things in the name of Jesus? With his help and power? What!? Well, that’s just uncomfortable.

Our culture and society today are often uncomfortable with this same boldness. In a world that strives for comfort, the “American dream,” biological children FIRST, adoption as a last resort, “my body, my choice,” and any other comfort inducing mindset…the idea of choosing the hard, choosing to live “against-the-grain” of what is typically acceptable, choosing to love sacrificially like Jesus…is well, uncomfortable and not ideal.

Might we stand against this societal strive for comfort and be people that our society and our culture “doesn’t know what to do with.” Might we proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.

Might we make our local foster care agency not know what to do with us as we step into the muck of foster care and love birth families beyond what makes sense.

Might we make our world around us scratch their heads and not know what to do with us as we literally go to the ends of the earth to willingly adopt the “unwanted.”

Might we make doctors and nurses scratch their heads and not know what do with us as we turn down their offensive offer to terminate and instead lovingly and excitedly choose to carry our special needs child to term and deliver them into this world.

Might we be the people headed up the hill to rescue the blemished children in the name of Jesus and by the power of His Spirit…knowing ourselves what it feels like to be rescued and adopted as sons through Jesus Christ (Acts 1:5).

Might we do none of these things out of charity, but out of love for Jesus.

 

Read more of Lisa’s beautifully honest posts on her blog:  Mess Into A Message Blog

Things That Happen to Kids Who Age out of Foster Care

Oh, friends.  Writing this article broke my heart.  Working in child welfare, I’ve always been aware of some of the struggles that older youth face both in the system and once they age out of foster care (U.S.), but I never really took a hard a look at the statistics.

In my home state, I have seen a change in the way cases are handled.  We are putting more of an effort in developing safety plans to keep families intact.  We are aiming for and making increased placements with relatives and others who know the children.  The number of kids entering care has dropped significantly in my county.  However, there is still older youth who are aging out – whether prepared or not.

They face homelessness, pregnancies, risk of exploitation, and lack of resources.  These are just a few of the risks they deal with.  If you’d like to learn more, read this What Happens to Kids Who Age out of Foster Care.

If you want to help, consider contacting your local child welfare agency or advocacy group.  Get involved.  Become a foster parent or a mentor.  There are a lot of ways that YOU can make a difference!

Blessings,

Caroline

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?

 

 

It Makes You Human

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I’m super excited to start the process of putting together a support group for people with fertility issues at my church that will begin this summer! This is something that has been on my heart for years. I’ve always felt a calling to do this but have fallen into the thought pattern of “I’m just too busy”. I do not know what the Lord is planning for this but I certainly hope that it will be used to touch the hearts of those struggling as well as educate others about infertility.

I’ve been thinking about the perceptions and stigmas of infertility a lot. One thing that was said to me far too many times is this, “Trust God’s will” and “God has a plan for this!” I knew I would never have biological children, of course, but this did not cause me to wonder what God was doing and why I had to deal with barrenness. I also knew that He must have had a plan for me to go through what I was going through, but I just wondered, at times, what He was doing. These questions were not wrong to have. If anything, they caused me to explore my faith a bit deeper. They certainly made me very human.

If you are struggling with infertility and people keep telling you “Trust God’s will” or “If it is God’s will, then it will happen”, please understand that most people do not know how to respond to someone who is dealing with fertility struggles. Not knowing how to respond also makes them very human.

The more we share our experiences, the better off everyone is. Find a trusting friend, immerse yourself with others through a support group, keep a journal, start a blog, or just start talking with others about what you are dealing with.

Whatever you choose to do, please remember that questioning God’s will in this time of your life does not make you less faithful, it just makes you human. 

 

Beautiful for God (quote from Mother Teresa)

“Do you want to do something beautiful for God? There is a person who needs you. This is your chance.”
-Mother Teresa

I find this quote from Mother Teresa to be simple, powerful, and truthful.  I think that if you substitute the word child for the word person, it makes this quote even more awesome.  I hope your day is one that shines beauty for the Lord’s sake!

Voice of Truth

The song titled, The Voice of Truth, by Christian band Casting Crowns is one of my favorites.  I love this song.  Each time it comes on the radio, I crank it up.  The words of the chorus are quite simple:

But the voice of truth tells me a different story.  The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid.”  And the voice of truth says, “This is for my glory.” Out of all the voices calling out to me.  I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

-Casting Crowns

There was a time in my life when I did not know what truth was.  I heard many “voices” but none of them were comforting.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that there were moments in my growing years that whispers of darkness, cruel thoughts, and hurtful words were a part of my psyche.

I remember wondering after my hysterectomy if I had done something awful to cause it to happen.  I thought that perhaps I should have been born a boy…yes…being a boy would have been much better than a girl who could not have babies.  I also thought God surely knew I would make a terrible mother.  He must have wanted to spare a child my mothering.  Or, perhaps I was a child killer in a past life…even though I did not think past lives even existed.

As an adult, I wish I could say that these notions faded, but they did not.  I found myself thinking that God did not want me to be a parent.  If He wanted it, then it would have happened miraculously, quickly, and without any additional strife.  I do not know if anyone who reads this believes in spiritual warfare, but I do.  The fact that these horrific, cruel, depraved thoughts lingered in my mind as a child and an adult prove to me that spiritual warfare does exist.  Not one adult ever said these things to me.  Not one child, no one.  Yet, I “heard” them.

Back in 2000, I started going to church again.  As I began to do so, those hurtful words and  notions took a backseat to the Truth that is found in the voice of God.  The written Word became magnified.  In Him, I began to hear “You are beautiful”, “You have purpose”, “Your life was worth saving”.  Even more awesome though was the clarity I received from worship and reading the Word.  I was able to recognize that the voices bringing me down were not of Him. They were flaming arrows of the enemy and I was the target.

His Word and the hope I found in Christ became my shield.  The following verses spoke to me in ways that drowned out the cursed thoughts I once carried:

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Psalms 139:16 “Your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:14 “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Romans 5:2-5 “Through him we have also obtained  access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the  glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in hope of the  glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that  suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character  produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been  poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to  us.

Silence and suffering comes along with infertility.  It can dishearten the strongest of believers.  It can eat at the core of one’s relationship with the Lord.  The enemy whispers “you don’t deserve to be a parent”, “you must have done something wrong”, “it must not be God’s will for you”….and many more things.

I can tell you that when in the pit of despair over barrenness, it is hard sometimes to hear anything but the words of the enemy.  It is hard to see outside of the strife and beyond the pain.  It is hard to hear the voice of Truth calling out.  IT. IS. HARD.  

However, as the song says, THE VOICE OF TRUTH TELLS ME A DIFFERENT STORY.     

The stories of those of us who have struggled or are currently being challenged with the spiritual confusion of infertility are not written by the enemy or anyone else for that matter.  Our stories have been written by the One whose voice is true; the One whose love is everlasting; the One whose shield is strong; the One who breathes life into the most destitute of situations; the One whose grace saves; the One who created us; the One who set our limits; and the One who has declared our future.

What’s the voice of truth telling you?  

For those of you who are battling your way to parenthood, stay strong in your faith.  Know that you are loved by a God who is bigger than your doubts.  Know that He is not done with you yet.  Know that your story is just unfolding.   Take delight in the hope of His promises and the mystery of what He has in store. 

Listen to His Voice of Truth.  Be Blessed.

Out of the Mouth of Babes

(photograph by Sarah Carter – http://www.sarahcarterphoto.com)

My daughter and I were setting up a room in a local church where I was scheduled to train foster parents on grief and loss.  The room is mostly used for youth so the decorations were different from the usual church auditorium.  Coming out of the stage and across the ceiling was a gigantic sculpted tree that was grey in color.  I could see where a child might find it a little frightening; although, I know that was not the intent of the designer.

My daughter said to me, “I’m scared. That tree is scary.”  I comforted her and told her that there was no need to be afraid as mommy was with her.  Again she said, “Mommy, that tree is scary.”  This time I told her that mommy and God were in the room with her so she did not need to be afraid.  When I told her that God was in the room she said, “No, He isn’t.”  I gently said, “Oh yes He is. God is with you wherever you go so there is no reason to be afraid.”

By now, I could tell she was quite agitated with me for saying that God was in the room. She put her hands out in an exaggerated manner and shook them while she said, “No He is not.”  I asked her “Where is God then?”  She looked up at me with her gorgeous blue eyes and sweet expression and said “God is in my heart.”

At that moment, the hustle and bustle of trying to get the room set up while tending to a clinging, somewhat argumentative 3 and 1/2-year-old melted away and I was reminded of how pure child-like faith is.

Do I walk around as if God lives in my heart?  Do I remember on a daily basis the implication of accepting Christ in my life?  Do I treat others in a way that truly reflects the love of Christ?  I love that God uses children to declare His truth and to gently humble us in ways that are so unexpected.

Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.  Psalm 8:2 (NIV)