Finding God In... FOSTERING

Dear ones, we're about half-way through this amazing series. I hope you have been greatly encouraged by the testimonies of those who have shared part of their stories with you. As a slight reprieve, I want to feature a post this week about fostering. Gabe and I are foster parents and we met this amazing lady when she taught our licensing classes. I would in no way categorize fostering as a 'dry-season' or a dark place... however most of the children that we get to love on and bring into our families are in extremely dark places (or have been in the past.) What they have been through is no joke (as you saw with Lizzie and her post last week.) But God is, of course, in this whole process as well. And I am pleased and privileged to have my friend Dana share a bit of her family's journey.

 

The ONE.

Foster Parenting is not something I grew up dreaming of doing. In fact, it only came as a result of a really tough personal season of “laying it A.L.L. down”. Growing up, I always knew I would be in ministry, and for many years I was sure I would be a missionary to the nations, touching hundreds of lives. And for a season I did just that. Until God me into something unexpected. He called me to the ONE.

Through a season of unplanned detours, both career-wise and heart-wise, my husband and I ended up putting down roots in Missouri in the summer of ‘07. We moved with a specific passion and goal in mind: to foster teenagers. And not just any teenagers, but those with severe emotional challenges suffering from the effects of unspeakable trauma. In short, God has called us to parent those who are facing their last chance to have family. When children experience abuse and neglect at the hands of those who are tasked with protecting and providing for them, it wreaks havoc on their mind and emotions. Couple that with the often-traumatic experience of being brought into foster care and shuffled from home to home, our young people learn quickly they cannot trust a single soul except for themselves. Many of the teens who come to us have not really been parented at all. No curfews. No respect. No good night kisses. No boundaries. No peace. No soccer games. No safety. Just Fight Flight and Freeze in FULL operation mode. Cue the challenging behavior.

This can all get very overwhelming, to say the least. My husband and I often feel inadequate, worn out and ill prepared to handle the tremendous brokenness that meets us at our door every time a new young person moves in. Until I remember the ONE. There is something about Jesus’ story of the 99 that is both life giving and perplexing. The fact that Jesus would leave the 99, to find the ONE, speaks volumes to me on a daily basis about what we do in our home. In all honesty, my family could use our resources elsewhere and probably touch and encourage many many more than we do today = the 99. But instead, He asks for my focus to be on the ONE. The ONE. When I let myself think about how powerful that is, I am stirred deep within at the honor it is that He allows us to have access to the ONE.

The ONE who spent her entire life being sexually abused by a step parent who was supposed to love and protect her. The ONE who was passed off to a local pimp at 11 years old because her “mom” was done raising her. The ONE whose step dad murdered her mom – who instantly became an orphan. The ONE whose parents consistently chose their addiction over their own child over and over and over again. The ONE has a face, a name, a story, a soul and a purpose. The ONE was fashioned by the Creator in her mother’s womb and He has not abandoned His desire for her despite the hell she has endured. The ONE is called. The ONE has a destiny. The ONE can and will be redeemed. This is why we foster. For the ONE.

 

To find out more about the amazing ministry that Dana and her family have, please check out their website www.dogwoodranch.org

Going Number Two

I'm excited to feature another writer today. My sister Alicia Costello has graciously written a wonderful blog for us to enjoy. Please check out her brand-new website too! ~B

My son is 4 years old and 2 months, and this kid is not. potty. trained.

Trust me, it’s not for lack of trying. He took to going number one in the potty fairly well. He goes to the potty every single time to go number one. It’s just, um, number two. He won’t go. No matter how long he is sat on the potty, he won’t do it. The second he gets that Pull-Up back on, he goes. We’ve tried everything. And it’s not only that he won’t go in the potty, but his face is one of no remorse. He’s resolved. He does not care about what we’ve asked him to do. Heck, after changing 4 Pull-Ups today before 2pm, he’s walking around my house literally butt naked because I just don’t have the mental capacity today to change another Pull-Up.

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I’m sure any mom who has potty trained can sympathize. Unless your children are robots, and in that case where do I buy robot children??!!

My husband once said, “I never understood before I had kids why it seemed like every preacher’s story was about their kids. Now I get it. Everything they do preaches to you.”

And God’s never one to waste an opportunity so of course he’s been talking to me through it.

My child has one job: to poop in the potty. We have had many, many talks about this. I have told him he can’t go to big-boy classes at school or church until he poops in the potty. He understands poop goes in the potty. I feel like God has told me, you have one job. You are to go and preach my gospel. Use the tools I’ve given you.

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And like God, I’ve given my child tools. Pull-ups. Access to the potty. And God’s given us tools, although they’re different. He’s given some an extra measure of encouragement, or some a teaching gift, or some a hospitality gift. God’s given me everything I need to do the job he’s asked me to do. And with my kid, I’ve given him everything he needs to do what I asked him to do successfully. And he still won’t do it. In fact, he takes my tools I’ve given him and just poops all over them, which is the opposite of why he has them. And I don’t know if you’re honest enough with yourself to point to a time in your life where you, even you, have taken the tools God has given us to do the exact opposite of what he wants us to do with them. I know I’ve done that more times than I care to remember.

As a mom, the second my kid actually poops in that potty, I will be so relieved and elated, I won’t even care about the years he spent being disobedient. I will just be so happy he’s being obedient now. I’ll just let that preach itself.

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But for now, I’m stuck changing Pull-Up after Pull-up. I get frustrated until I literally take the Pull-Ups away. He couldn’t even go in his pants if he tried. He has no pants. Even the act of taking the Pull-Up away preaches to me on some deeper level. Like, it reminds me of the parable of the talent where Jesus says about the unfruitful servant “even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Matt 25:29)

But, thankfully, unlike me, God is so, so patient. Even if it takes us years, God continues to give us unmerited second chance after unmerited second or third or forth or seventy-ninth chance.

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The Bible says very explicitly that God’s mercies are new every morning. So, consider today a great place to start. Apologize to him, and begin using those tools God gave you to do to accomplish the goals he’s set up just for you. Don’t be afraid of how many days you’ve spent being disobedient, just worry about your obedience today.

Take these next few sentences as your challenge:

I’ve given you the goal. I’ve given you the tools. I can’t move you on to the next season until you start being obedient in this season. I’m ready to go if you are. I’ll be beside you on this journey. I see the way. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Your job is just to trust me and obey. And if you follow me, we’ll go on an adventure together.

14 Verses to Overcome Mom Fear

It is a pleasure to reblog a great post about overcoming fear. Abbey has wonderful advice and pulled some amazing scriptures out! She is giving away a copy of Helicopter Mom as well. You can enter the giveaway here.  

Being afraid for our kids comes naturally, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. Fear is not from God. Thankfully, God gives us promises in His Word to help us overcome the all-too-common “mom fear.”

(This post may contain affiliate links. For my full disclosure policy, click here.)

The first time Selah put herself back to sleep without one of us picking her up, I begged my husband to go in and make sure she was still breathing. I was terrified that in the 15 minutes between her waking up and going back to sleep, she had somehow gotten herself into a weird position and died.

My husband loves me, so in he went. Lo and behold, she was fine, curled up on her side, snoozing away. But that was a lesson for me.

I can choose to be afraid for my children. I can live in fear that they’re going to stop breathing or hit their head one too many times or break a bone or electrocute themselves. I can stress over every little thing and let anxiety rule my life.

But is that how God has called me to live? Absolutely not.

I can’t be afraid for my children. I can’t live in that. It’s not healthy and it’s not from God.

If He can hold the world He can hold this moment; not a field or flower escapes His notice. Oh, even the sparrow knows He holds tomorrow. (Sparrows, Jason Gray)

Fear for our kids comes all too naturally. We read horror stories online or in books, and the devil uses them to draw us farther into fear. We start automatically picturing the dresser falling on top of them when we hear a loud noise, or suffocating on a blanket when they fall asleep quickly, or falling out of their crib when we don’t go get them the second we hear them in the morning.

And of course, as good parents, we should do everything we can to keep them safe. Lower the crib mattress. Don’t pack their crib full of blankets. Secure the dressers. Cover the electrical outlets. Those are precautions, and they are good and necessary.

But living in constant fear isn’t good, it isn’t necessary, and it isn’t from God. In fact, He specifically calls us to overcome fear, and He gives us verses in His Word, time and time again, to empower us to do so.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Anxiety and thanksgiving cannot coexist. When your heart is feeling anxious for your children, begin to thank God for all His blessings. In return, He will send His peace to guard your heart and mind from fear.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew‬ ‭6:25‬-26

As moms, we fear that our children won’t have everything they need. Maybe we don’t know how we’re going to pay for groceries this month or we can’t afford to send them to a good school. Friend, God loves you, and He loves your kids. He will provide EVERYTHING you need.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

I want you take a few minutes a memorize this verse. Set it as the background on your phone. Write it on your bathroom mirror. Hire a blimp and drag it across the sky. Whatever it takes.

Mama, this verse is your battle cry. God has not given you a spirit of fear. He has not given you an anxious heart. He has given you POWER over the lies of the enemy, LOVE for your babies, and a SOUND MIND to trust in Him. Meditate on that truth.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:8

There is no fear in love. NONE. Do you love your kids? Then do not be afraid for them. Christ loves you, and when He died to demonstrate that love, He drove out fear once and for all. He now calls you to be made perfect in His love and to let go of your fear.

“If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Psalm‬ ‭91:9-12‬

Your tent=your family. If you make God your refuge and trust in Him, no harm or disaster will overtake your family. He will send His angels to protect you, guard you, and keep you safe. There’s no need to fear, because God is with you!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

When we trust in God, He fills us with joy and peace. Fear cannot live in a peaceful heart. If you find yourself overwhelmed with fear, you are not trusting in God. Take a moment, pray to your Father, and be filled with His peace. Then, watch your fear fade away in the light of His hope.

We cannot overcome mom fear on our own. We need the truths of the Word of God to fill us with peace and take away our anxiety and fears.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

God doesn’t give as the world gives. He doesn’t take it back and He doesn’t give you less than you need. He has given you His peace, just enough for today. Make the choice to accept and live out His peace. Remember, you are a living gospel to your kids. Show them how to accept God’s gift of peace.

“For He Himself is our peace…” Ephesians 2:14

This fills my heart with such a feeling of safety. God Himself is my peace. He doesn’t send an angel to take His place, and He doesn’t take a day off. He is my peace. He is with me, and He will protect me from all fear.

Repeat that last line to yourself. “He is with me, and He will protect me from all fear.” That, mama, is the truth your heart needs to hear.

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5-6

We have no reason to be afraid. God has promised to never leave us and never forsake us. He’s there, always, forever. Man can do nothing to us, nothing to our kids. There is no need for fear.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3

When we keep our minds on God, He keeps us in perfect peace. Think about it. If we are constantly thinking on the Lord, thanking Him for His blessings, remembering His promises, fear cannot exist. It is overtaken by thoughts of God, and replaced with beautiful peace.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

This verse gives me such confidence! God is FOR US! He wants us to be safe and protected and at peace. And if He wants that for us, then that’s how it will be, and nothing can come against that. God’s will for our life is not one of anxiety and fear, and when we realize that, we can begin to live in peace.

“The Lord will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:7-8

This goes for you and your family. God will keep you safe. He is always watching you and taking care of you and your husband and your kids. There’s not one moment of your life that He misses, not one danger that He doesn’t see coming. God’s got you.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

This is one of my favorite promises. God is with us, so there is no need to fear. He is our God, He is strengthening us, He is helping us, and He is upholding us. How much better can it get??

We cannot overcome mom fear on our own. We need the truths of the Word of God to fill us with peace and take away our anxiety and fears.

“Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.” Proverbs 14:26

Not only is God looking out for us, but for our children, as well. When we fear the Lord, love Him, and serve Him, He surrounds and protects us. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! He does the same FOR OUR CHILDREN. OUR hope, OUR trust, OUR peace, it all trickles down to our kids. When we trust in God, they are protected. That is the best motivation for me to overcome my anxiety, fears, and sin, and truly TRUST God.

KEEP READING FOR A GIVEAWAY!

A couple of weeks after Selah was born, I began to struggle with mom fear. A few days later, in an answer to prayer, I came across the book “Helicopter Mom” by Bethany L. Douglas, and it changed my life.

Bethany is a mom who has struggled deeply with fear for her children. From little things to big, she knows what it is to be afraid, but she also knows how everything changes when you begin to trust God and His promises. Here are a few of my favorite quotes form the book:

“God promises so much help in return for giving up our worry and fear (in short, for obeying Him): His peace. God not only commands us not to worry, He ensures an easy pathway to peace. He promises peace and doles it out freely in exchange for our fear! All we have to do is give it to Him!”

“That’s right: Fear is an idol. Hear me well: We are sinning! We wallow in the fear, of the fear for our kids- so we put up false idols to make us feel better. This idea that we know best because we have researched it, that we know the ideal way, and we have the knowledge to back this up is nothing more than so many false idols.”

“It does not do your kids any good if all you do is focus on the image-the idea-the possibility of blood shooting out of his leg and totally miss the work of faith God is asking you to do in yourself and your children.”

This book changed my entire outlook on mothering. Fear is a lie and an idol and if I choose to live in it, I am not being the mother that God has created me to be. If this sounds like your kind of book (it is), you’re in luck, because I’m giving away a signed copy to one lucky winner! Just enter below for your chance to win!

Losing What You Never Had

This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. We're almost done dear ones! This is the last part of our Jonah series! I pray you've been encouraged, convicted, and refined through our Bible study of this wayward prophet. We looked through Jonah's hissyfit in our last installment. I pray that my attitude is never quite so juvenile as Jonah's, however I'd best not look too closely...

Let's take a final look at the God's goodness and His sovereign will in the last chapter of Jonah.

 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant[a] and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die,and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh,in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

Jonah is angry at God. As we saw in the last installment, he's throwing a hissyfit when things didn't go as planned. And yet, in this passage we see God still providing good, rest, respite to him... even in the midst of his disobedience and angst. God made a shade vine grow over him. His grace overflowed in a very physical way- and Jonah relished in it.

He was refreshed- and yet a change of heart didn't occur despite God's provision. Has God ever provided goodness, even in the midst of your disobedience? How did you respond... with joy and heartfelt change of attitude? Or perhaps with continued selfish entitlement? How often are your feelings affected by whether things are going well or not?

The shade ended, the hot winds blew once again... and Jonah sank further into his resentment of God, even going so far as to say "I'm so angry I wish I were dead." Whoa! Ungrateful much?!

Jonah demonstrates here what so many of us still struggle with today. This strange idea of entitlement, that God somehow owes us something. That the good things in life we deserve and are owed. I liken it to my children at Christmas- they wake up and find presents under the tree for them. They don't necessarily deserve them, they've been lovingly picked out just for them just because I love them. They surely didn't earn or pay for them, they were purchased with my money through my hard work. The gifts are freely given... and often (depending on their behavior) they are freely taken back. How often after receiving a great present have I found my boys fighting over them, resulting in me taking them back for a time. They pitch a fit, they cry hysterically, they bemoan how unfair it is that I took "their" toy away. How quickly possession occurs in their little minds. What they do not understand is that me, as 'sovereign' mom, gave them that toy and I can just as quickly take it away.

You see the picture here? As the scripture states, the shade provided Jonah was not of his doing, it was God's grace. It was not tilled or nurtured by him, it was through God's gardening that it grew. It was God's gift to give and to take away. Yet so quickly after it appeared Jonah claimed it as his own- his very own, his precious (cue Gollum voice...)

How quickly do you claim God's goodness in your life as your 'own'... your deserved gift? How quickly do you close your fist around the present He gives you, and cry out in frustration and angst when He takes it away? Health, wealth, children, cars, houses, possession, spouses, everything. We received NOTHING of our own volition. It is ALL through the Father. His to give, His to take away.

Unlike Jonah, who received a stern reprimand from God about his attitude, dear ones we must learn to hold our palms open at all times to the Holy One- both in the receiving of His gifts, but also in the easily giving back to Him when He takes away.

It's all by His hands that we give and receive. Let us keep open hands and open hearts in the good times and the bad.

In Need of More ~ A guest post by Lindsey Gibson

Frantically, I dig through my purse looking for lunch money I had forgotten to give. Impatiently I fuss,”Who put all of this in here?”  “Why can’t you remind me sooner? “ “I’m sick of this! I can’t do this! You’ll just have to go without,” as the contents of my purse are tossed everywhere. Mind you, all of this taking place in the school drop off area, while cars wait behind us. They, my children, have no other choice but to exit. The door slammed shut, and the example of love and patience departed as well. Frustrated, I grit my teeth and proclaim, “I cannot do this! I cannot do this, anymore! I hate my stupid brain, why can’t I get it together?” I look down at the heaped mess in the seat and scan evidence of an apparent struggle, while the hot darts of defeat are set and ready to fire. I blew it, again!

Fear and heaviness sink on my shoulders as changes swirl around our family, and the simple tasks seem huge in the midst of the uncomfortable stretching place we are wading. With resolve, I come to terms, once again, that I DO NOT have it together. It’s obvious that achieving whatever picture I’ve painted of what “together” looks like is forever out of reach.

Lately, it takes all energy to get out of the house in the morning, and one setback can set the mood for the rest of the ride.

I sent my kids to school without money to eat. Check.

I let them see me frantic and frustrated. Check.

I mumble, “I’m, obviously, in need of more…”Sleep? Medication? Quiet Time? People to do more?

With defeat, I pray…

“Lord, I’m sorry, I’m sorry I lost it. I want to have it together, but the more I try, the more it crumbles. I want to be a good wife and mother. I want to be all you want me to be. Surely, you won’t fulfill all in our lives, if handling such minimal tasks like facing the pressure of morning mother hood and car line in such a horrible way."

I confess, I. AM NEEDY!......I mean, the disgustingly and clingy needy….For more of HIM!

As I prayed and pondered a calm assurance from the Holy Spirit flooded my frustrated  and fearful heart. With a gentle reminder, in the way he does, I realized that I am, undoubtedly, in need of more…..GRACE.

What is it? How do I get it?

Hebrews 4:16 (NASB), tells us,"Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." At all times, we are welcomed and encouraged by right and privilege to boldly cry out, openly and without fear, to our Heavenly Father. YES, he is God! YES, he is all-knowing and powerful, but his ear turns to the cry of his sons and daughters.

It was much harder before the cross, but through Jesus, it is, according to, Colossians 1:21-22, "And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His (Jesus) fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him(God the Father) holy and blameless and beyond reproach." Furthermore, Hebrews 10:19 (NASB) tells us, "Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus…"

Out of mercy, he lowers the kindness rope to rescue us out of our miserable and muddied mess, to bathe us in his grace, which is joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, love and favor. In other words, he loves us despite our mud pie making ways. Gosh, we are such Daddy’s girls, aren’t we? I mean, being adored despite thick sludge is quite amazing, and as we shower in his grace, presence, and word, we are strengthened and refreshed. We, then, can move forward in faith and knowledge, therefore, gain the ability to fulfill our purpose by his design.

As the realization pricked my overwhelmed heart, I began to exhale. I don’t have to do it alone and everything I need is free for the taking, My first step is to ask ,with all assurance that what I lack is made abundant and available out of pure love, and he gladly takes it from there.

The move of surrender is a mighty one!  Wow! Why do we make it so hard? Our wish may be to please him with our efforts, actions, and performance, but truly the greatest step is one of surrender.

He wont take what we still hold, but gladly accepts what we give. 

 

Lindsey's blog can be found here. She is a Jesus Lovin', Vintage Treasure Huntin',Turquoise Adorin', Tennessee girl! If you spend any time on her website, you'll find yourself wanting to buy all her dresses (I'm kinda jealous of her wardrobe, not gonna lie!) Please take a moment and drop by it! Her passion is to teach, write, and speak into the lives of women the unfailing Love of Jesus Christ, and ignite a passion for God's word within their hearts. She is a wife, mother, and nurse. Lindsey, thank you for your heart of flesh and sharing with me and my readers today! ~B

Ragged Around the Middle

This last week has been hard. I mean HARD! No, nobody died, I didn't lose any limbs, the house did not burn down, and all our pets and houseplants are still alive... and  yet, I feel like I've been beaten on the inside with a baseball bat. I am tired. No- I am exhausted both emotionally and spiritually. I may look okay on the outside, but man! I am ragged in the middle! I am goo on the insides.

I probably should have seen the potential for a bad week on the horizon. After all, I came off an incredible spiritual high in Houston over the weekend at a Beth Moore conference (#LPMLIT). The Holy Spirit was so palpable there, I had such a soul-renewing experience. I felt that God and I worked some stuff out and He just poured lavishly into me. It was wonderful! My parched soul got some much-needed God balm.

I should have known when I fell sick on the way home on Sunday that there were thunderstorms in the distance. I got home and spent the next day with a high fever and was pretty sure I had been run over by a truck. Two of my 3 kids were sick as well, and between them all they managed to pass the ick around to each other for the entire rest of the week. Just when one got over it, the next one took up the puke baton. I've spent more time cleaning up vomit (on light carpet no less, insert sad face..) than I can remember in recent memory (and I'm a nurse!).

Both my boys decided to go ahead and go through baby boy puberty this week as well. My oldest fell head-long  into "I am 5, hear me roar, I don't need you, I won't obey you, I will personally do everything in my power to make your life miserable" mode. Awesome. He's like a tiny bull in my china closet- and, much as I hate to admit it, he did a lot of damage to my psyche this week. The middle kid, who is going through "I am finding my independence, I don't want help with anything, my brother is trying to kill me, I have all these new emotions that I don't know what to do with so I'll just cry ALL the time like a pre-pubescent teenage girl". I am telling you, I literally have PTSD from his cry right now.

My daughter continues to have some pretty serious GI issues with not being able to keep food down. We have a specialist appointment scheduled and it cannot come soon enough. The poor baby can't help herself but she is a hot, sticky, smelly mess more often than not.

Whew! They are exhausting. And, full disclosure... I really don't like my kids right now. I love them, they are mine and I suppose I'm responsible for them, but my love bank is going on empty with them during this particular season. It's just the truth, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. They are just so HARD right now.  I know I'm not alone and I know I'm not the first mom who has seriously considered sending her kids to a boarding school in Antarctica... indefinitely. (I'll send them birthday cards.)IMG_9190

Perhaps what is really the kicker for me is I feel there is no small part that I've played in this. Their behavior can only be (at least partially) due to my parenting skills- or, lack thereof. Ouch. It's a hard pill to swallow and one that goes down with no small amount of shame, frustration, discouragement, ire, guilt, regret, and anger. At myself. I am so bad at this at times!

I'm their mom, I desperately want them to be successful and happy, obedient and respectful. In short, I want to raise normal human beings who I don't constantly fear will spontaneously combust with sin. Is that too much to ask?

Right now I'd give myself a solid C- in this parenting assignment. I'm sure there are those who would say that I'm being too hard on myself, but I'm admittedly frustrated. So, because I'm a writer, you get to share in my vent. I'm at my wits end with my boys, and my heart hurts for them, over them, and because of them. This parenting stuff is difficult and not for the faint of heart!

I don't have any reality-shifting insight into this. Except to say that once I get over this emotional muscle-soreness, then it is on like Donkey Kong with my boys. I won't be outwitted, outwilled, or outwiled by two kids that combined don't weigh as much as my left leg.

A few lessons I'm leaning on:

  • I am reminded hourly how much I need God's help and wisdom in this season. He is a perfect parent, so I can't go wrong by committing this way (again and again and again) to His direction.
  • I am sobered by how my kid's behavior is a reflection of my parenting. It makes me think on how my behavior reflects on my Heavenly Father's parenting. Am I an accurate representation of Him?
  • I realize that as much as I want them 'normal', that they are exactly that- they are sinful little heathens that need Jesus. Their behavior is nothing less than what is to be expected. They are as normal as normal can be.
  • So, going off of that, I DON'T want them normal... I want them exceptional. I want them different than others. I want Jesus for them. I want more for them than what their own little fallen nature can offer.
  • I am very much looking forward to the end of this season, yet need to remain resolute in hashing it out day to day while we are in it. As much as I want to throw up my hands, throw in the towel, take up chain smoking, and punch a wall (let's be honest here), I know that I am called to more and better. These little sinful aliens wrapped in adorable child costumes do need me, and need me to show them better. So I'm required to step it up. I need to model Jesus more and better- consistently and regularly, intentionally and with passion.
  • I am not naive to the fact that I am battling for my kid's hearts and souls with Satan. He's fighting for them as well. This ALONE is motivation enough for my endurance...
  • I am grateful for God's gentle patience with me and His guidance through this.IMG_9192

So, without a victorious closing paragraph, today Mom I just want you to know that you're not alone. Momming is difficult and it downright sucks at times. We don't have to like our kids all the time. I'm giving us permission to dislike them occasionally. It doesn't change our love for them, but it's a more honest take on this thing called motherhood. We're not perfect and that's okay. God is perfect and as long as we're leaning on Him, we'll be good to go.

On those super hard days and season, lean harder into Him. Or, as I heard Beth Moore say this last weekend, rather kneel down in front of Him- this will get you praying instead of fighting and ultimately out of the way for God to clock your kids Himself. Let their Daddy take care of it!

Stinky Blanket Interventions and the Ultimate Laundromat

  Those of you with small children know that getting a chance to wash their blankies/bears/taggies/etc is the mom equivalent to a bank heist in the vein of Ocean's Eleven. It takes time, planning, patience, and not a small amount of cunning, and sometimes outright lying ("I don't know where your blankie is honey....!"), and/or manipulation. At times sheer willpower, bribing, threatening, and the occasional middle-of-the-night-grand-theft is required.

It's not pretty and it's not easy.

For some strange reason my boys are thumb-suckers (which I'm sure is not genetic at all, I mean it's not like their mom sucked her's until 4th grade!). And not only that, they both have the blankie that is a requisite item to fully embrace the entire thumb-sucking-self-soothing experience.

Our 3-year old boy, Jonah, has been likened more than once to Linus in Charlie Brown. The kid carries his rag-tag blanket everywhere. What once was a super cute pattern of lime green polka dots on a bright white background, has now become olive colored splotches against a variegated backdrop of varying tones of browns, tans, some reds, yellows, and oranges. A good portion of the trim has come off and even 'clean', it still looks dingy. (Remind me to NEVER buy anything white for my boys again...)

Jonah blankie

But man! that child loves his blankie, and getting it from him to do the regular laundry is nothing short of a parenting miracle. He will go hours without it but as soon as he notices me putting it in the clothes basket, he immediately determines that it is the most precious possession he owns and will not part with it for the world. No amount of begging, pleading, logical interceding, or threatening will change his mind.

Let's face it, my kid already has an addiction... to his blanket.

What Jonah doesn't realize, and doesn't care about, is how nasty and gross his blanket tends to get. It is drug through all manner of ickiness outside- through leaves, dirt, mud, and (I'm almost sure) dog poop; not to mention the inside hazards- his baby sister's spit up, meal times, superhero fights, and toy room emergencies. We've been potty-training him... so I'll let you imagine those scenes. Grocery store floors, Chuck-E-Cheese equipment, parks, camp sites- you name it, that poor piece of fabric has seen it all. Add in that boys are just dirty and smelly in general and you've got a full-blown Hazmat scene on your hands at times.

Laundering this precious possession is an absolute must.

But washing (i.e. blanketnapping) is not exactly as easy as it sounds. Jonah just doesn't understand the neccesary 'evil' of cleaning his blankie.

Good thing I do. Even if it takes a heist worthy of The Night Fox!

I know that keeping the fabric clean can help him stay healthy and happy. I know that the soap will wash away all the filth and keep it smelling clean and fresh. I know better than him that the short time it takes to wash it thoroughly will, in the end, potentially keep him from getting sick, or at the very least keep him from rubbing unspeakable nastiness all over himself. I know better.

He may not see, smell, or appreciate the filth that he wallows in on a regular basis. He seems to be totally immune to it. I know better, so I will do what I have to keep him safe. Yes, I force my kid to let me wash his blanket. I refuse to let him surround himself with such ickiness all the time.

I imagine for us all, there is some security blanket we hold close. Perhaps too close? Every worldly blanket that we hold near and dear has the high potential to get filthy with human ickiness. In fact, I would argue that any blanket that we're holding which is human-wrought will always be filthy- no matter what we do to clean it up and make it look new and smell fresh. Too many of us wallow in the assumed safety of such things, without realizing (like Jonah) how disgusting and unhealthy it really can be for us.

What is your security blanket?

What does it look like? How dependent on it are you?

How filthy is it?

When was the last time you let your Father wash it?

How hard are you fighting Him to launder it?

Today I encourage you dear ones to examine what if any, blankies you have that are needing a good wash. Give them to Abba to throw in the heavenly laundromat! Let Him get the Holy Spirit Tide and Jesus bleach and do some good old scrubbing with His Living Water! Unlike my son's blanket, I assure you, this particular load of laundry will not need another washing...

Better  yet, scrap the earthly blankie altogether and try a God-one out for size. Because in the end, our only safety can come from God. Period. He is our ultimate security blanket.

Like a Hand in a Glove- How to Avoid Being the Octopus

I had to put gloves on my boys today when I sent them outside.  Easier said than done… Because with 3 and 4 year olds, getting them into gloves is not exactly as easy as simply sliding their little fingers into the holes and sending them on their way. In fact, I would venture to say that getting gloves on them is more akin to trying to fit roller skates on an octopus, upside down, with your eyes closed, after the creature has had an injection of pure adrenaline.

Not exactly easy. Or fast. Or efficient. Or particularly enjoyable.

In fact it's downright challenging.

I know all parents can relate. It takes time, patience, not a small amount of dexterity, and amateur sumo-wrestling moves to get all. those. little. fingers. into. the. right. places. Let’s be honest- it’s exhausting and can be frustrating (depending on the level of excitement to go outside and how that translates into wriggles.)  I won’t even mention when, after 5 minutes, they’ve pulled them all off because “it’s making my fingers hurt!” (What is that?? Seriously child!)

How I wish both my boys could just slide their hands into the gloves with the ease that I can! It would be so much easier and faster! But alas, for a while longer, I’m resigned to baby finger wrestling.

I was struck today, while struggling with Jonah’s little digits, how alike this tussle was to reading and understanding God’s word and following His way. There are times and seasons where I feel like there is a lot of grace for discerning what I’m supposed to be learning- for what God is teaching me. It’s obvious. It’s easy, efficient, and effective.

Like slipping my hand into a glove- seamless and effortless.

Other seasons, (like right now!) the wisdom and lessons are not so obvious or easy. In fact, it’s a downright skirmish to figure out what I’m supposed to be learning. Not unlike Jacob wrestling with the angel, there are days where I’m exhausted from the spiritual mats that I’ve been slung down on. It hurts, it bruises even sometimes. It’s a game of patience, of precision (little fingers into little holes), and it often takes time. The exact opposite of the ease of putting my own gloves on.

But just as it makes my job easier if my boys stand still and patiently while I place each finger into the proper place, so also I imagine that it would do me a heckuva lot of good to just be still and let God place the pieces of my life and heart into the proper positions that He wants as well.

This season requires precision work right now!

He is carefully and gently putting pieces where they’re supposed to go. My “helping” Him by trying to anticipate where those locations are… is, in fact, NOT helping. In my eagerness to get ‘outside’ I fear I’m impending and delaying His ability to get my spiritual ‘fingers into my gloves.’

I need to chill out.

I need to be patient.

I need to BACK OFF sometimes.

I need to let my Father put these gloves on me.

One. Finger. At. A. Time.

ChristmasFail

Holidays are hard and wonderful all at the same time. The Christmas season is perhaps the pinnacle of possibilities for stress and (un-needed?) hustle and bustle. It's amazing how God will use this time to knock us between the eyes sometimes. You know, those spiritual 2x4s I love to talk about. I was thusly knocked out this last Sunday, by none other than my own eldest son... who's temper tantrum (x2!) was a new and wholely out-of-character occurance that had both Gabe and I questioning our parenting abilities. He had gotten initially in trouble for trying to play with his cousin's and brother's toys. He'd been kind of 'stalking' them pretty much all day. Upon being corrected, he promptly totally lost it.

In short, Jesse finally told us he "hated" his "stupid" toys. There was nothing to "play with".

Ouch...

Total MomFail! Total ChristmasFail. I was simultaneously heart-broken that he would have such a horrible attitude of ungratefulness, extremely angry that his flippancy was so immediate and complete, and somewhat personally saddened that he didn't seem to enjoy anything that I had lovingly hand-picked out for him.  Total FAIL- for SO many reasons.

After his second complete, screaming melt-down (again, totally out of character for him- which further confounded us! This parenting stuff is HARD!!) both Gabe and I attempted to talk/beg/reason/threaten some sense into him. We spoke of kids all over the world that don't have as much as we do and how we need to be thankful for what we do get- even if it's not exactly what we wanted. We threatened to take all the toys away (which he was totally unbothered by and actually started packing them up... ), we prayed with him to ask Jesus to show his heart how to be grateful, etc etc. For a solid hour we worked through this issue with him. Seemingly to no avail. It was stressful to say the least. I was not bothered as much by the melt-down as I was about his heart.

Because Jesse is brilliant, he is charming, he is witty and way too smart for his own good. He has a very strong sense of justice and rightness, and more often than not when he argues he has totally valid points. He also has almost zero empathy. It's something we saw in him (or NOT in him) early on. It's something we've had to intentionally and very purposefully pray and teach into him. He's getting much better at it (and I have no doubt that God sent his baby sister, Anna, with Down syndrome to personally help teach him patience, acceptance, and empathy,) and I have no concern that if we continue "training him up in the way he should go" that he'll be a might, kind, gentle man of God. But it's taking time and energy and a ton of prayer.

But back to Christmas night. I was really, REALLY alarmed by him. It completely took all the wind from my holiday sails and I became consumed by thinking about what we needed to do with him, for him, to him... you get the idea. He was clearly extraordinarily frustrated- with the situation, with my not understanding his point of view, with not understanding my point of view. I was super frustrated as well- it seemed no amount of talking it over with him would change his mind. But we ended the night with prayer, for all of us, and he went to bed.

Later that night, as Gabe and I spoke over what to do, it occurred to me that what Jesse was frustrated about was, in fact, somewhat legit. Upon thinking back on what he actually received for Christmas, the kid got 4 toys (3 of which were outside/summertime toys), several games, and the rest was homeschool related or clothing. The <extensive> list he had written out to Santa was woefully unfilled (he got only 2 things from it). Throughout the day he had been asking to play with his toys and we kept telling him they were outside toys only and he couldn't go out. The couple of times he tried to recruit people to play games with him, we all said no.

The poor kid had been trying to play all day. And I had set him up for failure.

Ugh! I felt even more terrible. He had been trying to play with his toys, he wanted to play with his toys, and I wouldn't let him. So when he got in trouble for stalking other's toys, his little sense of justice was beyond what it could bear. He's only 4 so trying to convey this particular injustice was more than his heart could explain. Suddenly I got it.

Not that his tantrum was acceptable at all. It wasn't. Yes, he did have one toy that was easily played with inside. And it's not at all about how many or what kind of toys we get (all of which we are slowly teaching our children..) But we understood finally what his initial motivation was and what he had been trying to tell us.

I think he was (as all children tend to be) a bit disappointed that there was so little asked for that he actually received. It came out afterwards that he was questioning if he was on the 'naughty list' because of this! Furthermore, the little guy needed toys he could play with- he saw everyone else happily playing with their toys and and try as he might, he had none to play with. Mostly because I wouldn't let him, or wouldn't play with him. Ugh!

It occurred to me, once again in much Christmas glory, that I am so woefully unequipped for parenting sometimes.  I am not a perfect mom and I never will be. My only prayer is to not screw them up too bad! Next year's Christmas will be different- not in the toys or amount of gifts... rather in the preparation, in the knowing my children and their needs, and in continuing to try to walk them in the path they should go. Lessons were learned, for all of us, and for that I'm grateful.

I am the most grateful that our Heavenly Father is a bit more qualified parent me. He doesn't set us up for failure (even by accident!), He doesn't not know the best way to teach us a lesson, He doesn't not have any idea about how to handle our disobedience or shortcomings. He is the Good Father, the Best Father, the PERFECT Father.

And I really love that as my Heavenly Father, he gives grace and covers my own imperfections as a mother. Thank you Abba for that!