Wednesday, October 31, 2012

arm yourself

are you armed right now?
'3 swords' photo (c) 2011, . . - license:

no concealed carry license needed to arm yourself in this way:

"since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh, no longer for human passions but for the will of God" 1 peter 4:1-2

it is important to have a right view of suffering, remembering that it decreases our love for sin and increases our love for God.  

as i was thinking through this verse, i asked myself, "why do people arm themselves with weapons?". i thought of four reasons:

1. to fend off an attack
2. to give themselves confidence 
3. as a preventative measure (if a robber suspects or knows you are armed, they probably wont attack you)
4.  to get themselves in the mindset to be ready to defend themselves as any given moment

after writing these down, i realized how appropriate this imagery is of arming ourselves with right thinking about suffering.  all of these purposes are paralleled.  

1. to fend off an attack - when we have a right view of suffering, we can battle the temptation to be depressed, not trust God, etc when suffering comes.

2. to give yourself confidence - if you have a right view of suffering, you do not need to be worried about the possibility of suffering in the future.

3. as a preventative measure - you will be less likely to slip into depression if you have a right view on suffering as soon as it starts.  also, the Enemy is less likely to attack you, knowing that his flaming darts will be extinguished by your strong shield of faith (ephesians 6:16)

4. to get yourself in the mindset to be ready for suffering - the fact is, you will suffer in your life on this earth because of the sin and brokenness in the world.  so it makes sense to get ready for it.  if you have the right mindset, you wont think, "oh poor me!", but you will think, "yes!  i am ceasing from sin!!"

Monday, October 29, 2012

have you suffered? be thankful.

suffering is one of those things that is much easier to be thankful for in hindsight.  so do just that.... look back and be thankful.  it will also help in your current trials.

one of the main reasons i am thankful is because i don't know any strong christians who haven't suffered deeply.  and i mean real suffering... not first world problems like "starbucks got my order wrong", "my parents wont let me stay out late", "i don't have enough money to send my kids to ballet AND karate" or "i have lots of exams to study for and i might not get all A's this semester".

meditate on this:

"whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God" 1 peter 4:1-2

so as to live... no longer for human passions

the suffering that we endure takes our eyes off of the mist that is this life on earth.  we see how silly and fleeting they are.  suffering has been used in my life to cast off the desire for the appearance of a perfect life.  i am more willing to be honest about the brokenness, the sin, the failures.

i also have less and less desire to run after things that people around me run after.  in the past few years, God has greatly decreased my desire to eat a perfect diet, have the latest, fashionable clothes, have a perfect looking, squeaky clean house or a financially secure future.  these are not bad things in and of themselves.  but i don't want them as the main thing.  i want jesus as the main thing.

so as to live... for the will of God

the parallel to God decreasing my desire for these things is him increasing my desire to know, love and do his will.  i love sanctification more than personal satisfaction, which is why i have been happy to give up many of my personal desires in the process of knowing God better.  for example, we really want to adopt.  but by God grace i am excited about the role he has us playing in the life of our foster baby's mother, even though it means she is likely not adoptable.

alex and i have lots of hopes and dreams for the future (such as adopting lots of children, owning a large piece of land and living overseas).  and because we think it will glorify God, we have confidence that God will grant these things. but if he doesn't we are ok with that.  because we don't desire these things for our sake, but for his.

so... have you suffered deeply?  if not, i think that it may be wise to pray that you would, for the sake of His name.

as AW Tozer wrote, "it is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly before he has hurt him deeply".

Saturday, October 27, 2012

the mental shift from adoption to foster care

well, its happened again.  but this time it was faster.

we have made the mental shift from adoption to foster care.

its hard. some parents put forth a little effort to get their children back after they have been taken into the foster care system.  but few parents do everything exactly right, and follow court orders to a tee.  but this is the second time the mother of foster children in our care have put forth this kind of effort.

(this is not to say that we root against parents getting their lives together.  we just know that it happens frequently, and we would love the opportunity to adopt a child whose parents are unable to care for him/her.)

but i am thankful.  i am thankful because we have a good relationship with littlest miss' mother.  i am thankful that i have gotten to talk about jesus with her, and share how much he has impacted my life.  i am thankful because she has expressed interest in reading the bible, and because we got one for her.  i am thankful that God placed littlest miss with us, and he is in control of her future.

not allowed to post pics of littlest miss.  but picture esther
with a LOT more hair and darker skin.  right now LM is
about the size esther was in this pic.

and i can't help but to think ahead to our next little one.  will s/he be our forever ever child?  i don't know.  but i do know that for now there is an extra pair of cheeks, and an extra forehead in our home that require extra kisses, a little bundle of joy that requires lots of hugs and snuggles.  good thing i have more kisses and hugs than esther can handle.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

three common questions about our foster care experiences

i hear the same questions over and over about our foster care experience.  i thought i would answer some of them here in case you are interested:

wow, you've got your hands full.  how do you handle it all?

yes, our hands are full.  full of blessings.

[thanks to rachel jankovic's book "loving the little years" for finally giving me a good response to the "you've got your hands full" comment i hear whenever i go out"!]

we are a bit ambitious.  its partially because of reading this story of a 21 year old mother of 14 kids the day before our first placement, and partially because jesus has a habit of leading us to do crazy things.  our first foster placement was four young siblings, ages 1, 2, 3 and 4.  currently we have two babies, a 12 month bio baby and a 1 month foster baby.  so, in both of these situations people have (rightly) assumed that my days are busy taking care of little people.

on one level, we can only do it by God's grace: he give the energy and patience to make it all happen.

on another level, it helps that i value efficiency and organization, especially since foster kids require more time/energy/effort than typical kids for a number of reasons (extra doctors appointments, a constant flow of paperwork, driving to and from visits with birth parents).  i think God did create me as a fairly high capacity person (by his grace) which enables me to take on the care of multiple littles.

but don't get the impression that its easy! it does require a lot of sacrifice, especially of my time.  i don't get a lot of "me" time, and i am ok with that.  i'm only on the internet once or twice on a typical day, and i'm not great about returning phone calls.  i love to read, but i read much less now than before kids.

what made you decide to do foster care?

Here is a post about why we want to adopt and here is a post about why we are choosing to do it through the foster care system.

is it hard to see them go?

of course it is.

if you don't get attached to the children in your care, then you are holding back part of your heart and not fully loving them.  this is especially true because we really want to adopt, but the kids that have come into our home have gone back with their biological parents (that seems to be the route that things are headed with our 1 month old baby girl, but that is a subject for another post).

my first foster baby girl will always be my first baby girl in my heart, even though esther is my first baby girl who is really ours ("really ours" isn't synonymous with biological.  if she was adopted she would also be really ours.  it bugs me when people different between your adopted kids and the ones that are "really" yours).  i still think about her a lot.  when esther was first born, i used to call esther the other baby girl's name frequently.

the pastor of our church in columbus made a good point once.  he said that jesus calls us to do things that will get our heart broken.  but he also promises to bind up the brokenhearted (psalm 147:3 and isaiah 61:1).  jesus pours into us so that we can pour out to them.

we can put our heart out there to love these kids and get it broken when they leave because of jesus.  period.  there is no other reason.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

early autumn in our home

for the past 5 years of my life, august/september has marked a significant life change each year.  in september five years ago, i left america and went to germany for almost a year (wow, hard to believe that was almost 5 years ago!).  the following august i got married to the love of my life :) .  the next next august we moved from ohio across the country to california.  the next august we took in four foster kids (well, the first two came in late july and the older two boys came in august) and moved from a two bedroom apartment to a house.  the following september esther was born.  and this year in early september, our new foster baby girl was born and came to us three days later.

things have been a whirlwind again.  we are re-adjusting to waking up in the middle of the night for feedings (without the luxury of sleeping in the next morning!).  laundry is once again a daily affair.  when esther naps, my hands are no longer completely free to do gardening and housework.

in addition to the new baby, we also got 5 new english sussex pullets who should be laying in December some time.  we look forward to having enough chickens to satisfy our need for eggs, and hope that they will even produce extra for us to give away.  right now they require the extra work to keep them separate from our full grown rhode island reds (affectionately called the divas) who like to pick on them.

i am struggling to get it together to put a nutritious dinner on the table each night, which partially due to my lack of planning.  i hope to have a meal plan laid out for next week to make things go more smoothly (i almost always meal plan except for during crazy times of life like when you unexpectedly get a newborn baby.  if i would have known her timing of coming to us, i would have stocked up on freezer meals.)

as long times of bible reading and praying are a struggle right now, i seek to memorize and meditate on scripture for a few minutes here and there throughout the day, especially while feeding babies.  this is more conducive to short periods of time when you are sitting but your hands aren't really free then extended bible reading (and more fruitful than going on the computer, though it requires discipline!)

i am mentally preparing myself that for this season of life, where i will never be caught up with housework or gardening and i will have to be satisfied with "good enough".  being a perfectionist this can be hard for me at times, but it has a positive humbling and sanctifying effect on me.

i have fallen behind on watering my garden (dang so cal weather with no rain! :/ ) and am getting very little produce as a result (although my cantaloupe plant has already given us three good sized cantaloupes, with four more ripening on the vine!  thank you Lord!).  i am trying to start planning for my winter garden, which i probably should have already started by now.  still trying to figure out what grows well here in the winter.  i might attempt some broccoli and leafy greens.  does anyone know if green beans will grow in so cal in the winter?  it sounds more like a spring crop to me, but i never really know with so cal weather.

in things with baby girl, my heart vacillates.  its hard when you don't know what the future will hold.  the saying "take it one day at a time" definitely applies to foster parenting.  it could also be the reason that God lead me to memorize part of psalm 37 recently which instructs us to "trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.  commit your way to the Lord, trust in him and he will act".