I'm excited to start a new series with lessons found in the book of Joshua. The Lord has been walking with me through the early books of the Old Testament for the last year and I'm finally at a place that I can share all the insights God's been showing me. Join us weekly for some real, raw, open and honest this-is-where-I'm-at-right-now GodStuff. I pray it blesses you as it has me. ~Bethany

Recently my husband and I took in two new foster children. The Lord led us to fostering, quite unexpectedly, last year and for many months we've had just an infant with us. Last month though He asked us to take in two more, one with special needs. We prayed over them, we talked at length about the pros and cons, we took as much time as we could to decide. Because in this case, taking in these two would give us a total of six children, three of which have special needs, all of which are under 7. Yikes. I'm sure you can appreciate our trepidation at such a prospect.

Yet, God made it abundantly clear to us that we needed to take in these young boys. So we agreed with great expectations and not a few hesitations.

We're a month into our new season with these kiddos and let me just say in all honesty and that its been hard. I mean capitol H A R D hard. I've found myself stretched to the max daily, hourly, minute by minute at times. Going to bed so many nights questioning if we've done the right thing. Waking up exhausted every morning not knowing how I'm going to make it through the day. I've found myself questioning if we made the right call, questioning our sanity, questioning my ability to continue on. I've grieved the loss of time with my own kids and time with my husband. I've missed meetings, missed church, and had to pull out of other ministries that I adored. Yes, it's been a radical life change to say the least.

I don't like it.

I don't enjoy it.

I don't even 'want' it at times.

And yet, even in the midst of the chaos I know that I'm sitting (or more realistically, splayed out) right where I'm supposed to be. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I'm being obedient.

In all honesty, I'm not that foster mom that's dreamed of doing this all her life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad and there are definitely glimpses of awesomesness here and there. I for sure don’t hate this season. But I'm not that foster parent that has the proverbial huge heart for these kids. I foster because it's a ministry that God called us into and one that is worthy to be doing. I do it because it's Biblical and the right thing to do. I do it because I can't say no to my almighty Father- even when I want to- even when the ministry is not only not 'right down my alley' but quite frankly at times is not even in the same city!

This obedience-thing is not for the faint of heart! And it’s H A R D work.

Yet, my Father is good, even moreso in my vast weaknesses. He has me in Joshua right now and the encouragement I've found even within the first chapter has brought me more than once to tears. (It's like He knew!)

"Do not let this book of the Law depart from your mouths. Meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it, then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:8-9 NIV

So where I am at with all this you may ask?

What I'm learning is that when God told Joshua over and over to be strong and courageous, He wasn't at all referring to taking the Promised Land. Jehovah was telling him to be strong and courageous in his obedience to Him. He was instructing Israel to be resolute, obstinate even, in their obedience.

Regardless of the outcome. Regardless of the scenery on the other side of that leap of faith.

Regardless of whether it makes my own life more pleasant or easy.

I'm learning slowly but surely that oftentimes 'ministry' that God calls us to doesn't necessarily come with the assumed great expectations of obedience that we all want. We assume that our obedience to Him will result in happier times, contentment, provision, or greener pastures.

Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Our saying yes to God and these boys certainly hasn't made our highways and byways clearer. In fact it's significantly impacted all of them. And yet, I'd venture to say that it's made their little pathways more manageable.

I'm learning is that my obedience is the only thing I can control. The rest is up to God: the provision for each day, the strength to continue on, the sanity to push forward, and even the wherewithal to choose to obey again...

and again... and again.

What I'm learning is that despite the seemingly extreme 'inconvenience' of this ministry God has placed on us, the idea of being outside His will and His way is far more terrifying. This season may not be one we would have chosen, it has not been ideal by any stretch, we can only hope and pray that it gets easier... but my expectations of my 'yes' are secondary to the work God has for me.

And suddenly the tables are turned. What great expectations I had placed on Him, are now turned and seen through His eyes upon me. His expectations for me must be quite grand to entrust some of His precious children to us for a time.

It turns out, I've learned I had this entire thing backward the whole time.

Dear ones, view whatever ministries God has called you to- easy, hard, good, bad, or ugly- as opportunities to step up in obedience and meet our Father's great expectations of you. It is no small thing to place you where He did with the treasured people and work He's entrusted you with.

You have your Father's great expectations upon you this day- be strong and courageous, be not discouraged!

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.

Hanging Up on Santa- #momfail Christmas Edition

I downloaded the Santa app this week (which on a side note is by FAR the most entertaining $1.99 I've spent in a very long time-!). You can program your kids name and ages, likes, and issues that might put them on the "naughty list" into it, give them kuddos for things well-done, etc,  and then "Santa" will call them at times you can schedule and have all kinds of super cute conversations with them, you can text with Santa or leave voicemails (I am not a paid spokesman...) Anyway, so thus far it's been a hit with the 4-year old. Jesse is spellbound by the idea of speaking with Santa. It's a little alarming how much fun Gabe and I have watching him. Jonah, the 3-year old, however, has had a different experience. Yesterday he was having a total emotional melt-down. (On a side note- I tell you, there are no books I remember reading that prepare you for the hormonal-teenage-girl-emotional-crises that these 3-year old boys go through....come on people! Someone please give these poor new parents a heads-up. But I digress...) So Jonah was pitching a mach-5 level fit when this mom, namely me, decided to try a new tactic to get him calmed down... a call from Santa warning him that he might go on the naughty list. In what would immediately become a ginormous #momfail, upon hearing his voice Jonah freaked out even more and abruptly pushed that big red button on my phone and hung up on Santa.

My child hung up on Santa.

Poor old man never stood a chance!

I'm pretty sure that's a new low in childrendom regarding interactions with Father Christmas, and honestly I'm positive there's some sort of spiritual lesson to be learned or taught here, but I haven't figured out what it is yet. I'll let you know if I do!


Jesse's eyes grew to the size of saucers as it happened, he visibly paled. (At least one of my kids has a healthy respect for the old elf!) I wish I had a camera to catch the reaction because it was truly priceless. He is super concerned now that Jonah is forever on the naughty  list and will never again receive any gifts from Santa. I am a little bit too... because after all, one should NEVER hang up on Santa!