Life Group.

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Life Groups are small groups at church that meet to study God’s word, fellowship, pray and in our case, eat.  And then we go back for seconds.

I have been in a few Life Groups, and I must say our current one astounds me, because when I look around at the people God has brought together, I see something only God could do, and I am grateful.

My friend Keri and I have prayed over the downtown neighborhoods for years.  She had to move from the area we prayed over, yet God has brought the very folks we’ve prayed about through my front door on an acreage south of town.

We are all so different:  A single mama working and raising her two kids.  An airplane mechanic from Texas.  My son-in-law’s sister and husband from Washington. A gal who hopped on a bus in Oakland, California a year ago, and hopped off the bus in our fair city to start a new life.  The neighbors she invites!  Our neighbor and her son from Ohio.  A woman with an intellectual disability who loves people, loves to gather together, and calls me her aunt.

So we give God the glory for bringing this motley and amazing snippet of the Body together, giving us a rich fellowship and oh, so many different perspectives.   And a side blessing is that my kids enjoy this, too.  They actually get out of bed on Sunday mornings to join us.  That should tell you something.

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March 12: Tells a story.

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I gave this picture to my husband a decade ago?  I wanted  him to know I would do it all over again, because it hasn’t been easy.

Our pastor asked us if we would tell our story to the congregation.  I am all about sharing what God has done in our lives, because it is good to remember.  But when it comes down to it, it is difficult to shine a light on our brokenness, and consider all the people that have been affected by it.

When I was a young woman, I had my story planned out – it was a story with no attachments, a lot of money, and complete independence.  Then I met my future husband.  Then I got pregnant.  Then my story changed, and He started revealing His story to me.  I am so thankful God wrenched my plans from me, and what I thought I was giving up, wasn’t worth having.

“8Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”  Philippians 3:8-11

 

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Tonight the sunset wasn’t to be denied.  We had to drive past church so I could snap a picture.  Then we drove back and heard a sermon about Zechariah and Elizabeth.  They were WAY past childbearing age when the angel told Zechariah God had heard his prayer.  Which prayer?  His prayer for children.  How long had it been since Zechariah had prayed for kids?  He had probably forgotten.  But God hadn’t.  I sat in awe tonight as I pondered a God that answers prayers we’ve forgotten we ever prayed.

Not only did God answer Zechariah’s prayer, in Zechariah’s son, John, God fulfilled his plan of preparing the way of reconciling mankind to himself.  How beautiful that God uses our limited human perspective when we pray to accomplish his grand plans.  The unfathomable idea that somehow we are involved in all THIS.

So I will continue to pray in faith, hoping God will reveal his Amazing in my small requests.

 

Waiting, foster care edition.

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I read a lovely blog post about a mama waiting for her second child to be born, which made me think about my own waiting.

I am certainly not waiting to give birth – I will be 45 in December.  I am waiting for our foster baby to be placed with her great aunt, after she has been with us for eight months.

I got the call last week.  I saw a message from the baby’s caseworker on my phone, and called her back with a tiny hint of dread in my stomach.  A great aunt had filled out all the paperwork to be approved; we were only waiting on a background check.  This aunt lives in a remote city, and won’t see the baby until she is dropped off at her door.

The dread was now full-blown – I felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me.

So how did we get here?  To this place where this baby feels so much like part of our family, yet has never really been “permanent”?  There is nothing easy about the place we are in.  When I am feeding, bathing, dressing, chasing, tickling, singing or reading Where’s Kitty? to this baby, she is indiscernible from any child I have raised.

When I take her to the doctor, and have to check the box next to FOSTER MOTHER, I am taken aback.  It is the truth of our tenuous situation staring me in the face.  It is the same way when a visitation worker comes to drive her to her visit with her father.  And when her father came to her last doctor’s appointment, and I gave her to him so he could comfort her, even though my mama arms ached for her the whole time.

Part of me says, “Self, this should be somewhat of a relief.”  It has been a struggle to let go of what life was like before the baby.  My dreams for what certain ministries could look like at  church.  My freedom to  visit or help someone in the afternoons.  My sleep.  My ability to go out with my husband for a date without a state-approved babysitter.  My time.  My energy.  My carpet with no spit-up stains or toys lying about.  Mine.

But at the same time that I have struggled with letting go of MY SCHEDULE, my heart has went from being possessive of this baby, to knowing God’s best for her may not (probably isn’t) with us, to…maybe we should at least be willing to be her forever parents, even though that means our lives would definitely be taking a one-eighty from the Previous Plan.  When my husband looked at the baby two weeks ago and said he didn’t care if we were older, and he didn’t care if we didn’t have other little kids…he would keep her…I saw how much God has changed his heart from his historical, objective stance of, “Jen, we can’t adopt her if she already has a good home to go to.”

With all grief, it doesn’t hurt all the time.  I feel okay right now, choosing to trust God with her life, knowing he is good, and he loves her.  I pray he will put her in the BEST place.  For his glory.  For her faith to be strong.  That may not be with us, or other potential adoptive parents, but with biological family.

And God has sent us comfort, in the form of family sharing our grief; of friends at church asking about her, then hugging me when I couldn’t answer; and even a foster mama at Becca’s volleyball game whom I had never met:  she hugged me when I told her about the baby’s pending placement, and told me how hard it had been when all of their foster kids had been placed somewhere else.

We are definitely not the advertisement for foster care.  It has been HARD.  But.  So good.  I love my husband more when I see him love this little one.  My girls continue to cherish this little person, even if they know she is only here for weeks, instead of years.  My faith in the God who sees, who hears, and who acts with mercy and justice continues to grow, as I know in my gut, side-by-side with my grief of not being able to see this little person grow up, that he is in control, and I am comforted.  I am learning that loving Jesus in the ordinary, diaper-changing, toilet-paper unrolling moments is a worthy sacrifice, as much as going out and serving OUT THERE.  I am learning that what he calls us to do he equips us for.  If he intends for us to keep her, he will give us the courage and strength to parent a little one again.  If he intends for her to go somewhere else, he will mend our hearts.

Living and active word.

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A moonlit night this week.

On Friday I read Joshua 6.  The new generation of Israelites have just been circumcised.  The manna has stopped.  They are called to defeat Jericho.  They’re raring to go, and are told to march around the walls of the city.  And don’t say anything.  And do it again on the next day.  And the next.  Wha?

It just dawned on me in this reading that there must have been at least some people of God that thought this was ludicrous.  How difficult it must have been to submit to a newly appointed leader, especially when he told you to defeat the enemy in this fashion.  Those folks would have needed some major faith and obedience, because this plan don’t make no sense.

It resonated with me more significantly this time through because of my sweet foster baby, and how I have to constantly give my perfect plan up to God.  And then I find myself doubting even MY perfect plan.  Placement with a grandma she has never met?  Terrifying.  Placement with us, and raising another girl while I am parenting 3 other teens?  Sorry, I must admit:  terrifying.

But how good it is to be reminded that like the Israelites entering the Promised Land, God is going before this little one, and fighting for her justice and mercy, even though I don’t know what the heck is going on.

After Joshua, the next chapter in my M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan was Psalm 139.

 

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

 

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

 

you discern my thoughts from afar.

 

You search out my path and my lying down

 

and are acquainted with all my ways.

 

Even before a word is on my tongue,

 

behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

 

You hem me in, behind and before,

 

and lay your hand upon me.

 

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

 

it is high; I cannot attain it.

 

Where shall I go from your Spirit?

 

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

 

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

 

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

 

If I take the wings of the morning

 

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

 

10 even there your hand shall lead me,

 

and your right hand shall hold me.

 

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

 

and the light about me be night,”

 

12 even the darkness is not dark to you;

 

the night is bright as the day,

 

for darkness is as light with you.

 

13 For you formed my inward parts;

 

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

 

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

 

Wonderful are your works;

 

my soul knows it very well.

 

15 My frame was not hidden from you,

 

when I was being made in secret,

 

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

 

16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

 

in your book were written, every one of them,

 

the days that were formed for me,

 

when as yet there was none of them.

 

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

 

How vast is the sum of them!

 

18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.

 

I awake, and I am still with you.”

 

Psalm 139: 1-18

God knows the struggles I am having, and even more, he has knit our foster baby in her mother’s womb, and his works are wonderful.  He’s got this.  What a relief!

Sometimes it can be so difficult to hear God, so  I am glad we can hear him speak to us through his word.  Even through verses we’ve heard a thousand times before.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

Morning diversion.

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I try to walk in the mornings to clear my head and pray before the day starts.  The temperatures and the wildflowers this week have been perfect.  Add fresh dew, and I can’t stop myself from trying to capture the magic.

We have had our foster baby for five months now.  I have been wrestling with God about what is best for her.  It is natural for mamas to be protective of their kids, and want them to be happy.  Sometimes we tend to think we are our little one’s saviors, and it is up to us to make sure our kids’ names are written in the Book of Life.

When I was telling my pastor about how hard it is not to have any control over Baby’s future (or the future of any of my biological children, for that matter), he said we tend to pray good things for our kids.  But he has started praying for the best thing:  that his kids’ faith would be greater than his own.  This statement went straight to the heart of my struggle.

No matter where Baby ends up in a permanent home, do I not believe God can call her to himself there?  Does she have to be with me in order to be saved (and safe and happy?).  No.  Therefore, God has been merciful in showing me how to loosen my grip on this precious life, as I ask him to hold her tightly.  I pray her faith would be greater than mine, and that his name would be glorified through her.

Loosening my grip helps me think about the role I play in this dear little person’s life.  I am her advocate, as my friend keeps telling me.  I need to make sure all the people involved in her case are informed, and aware of the problems surrounding her.  You assume they know things they don’t.  I am learning that a ward of the state needs someone to be a voice for them, and I am that voice.  I need to keep learning as much as I can to make sure this child is treated with justice and mercy.

God isn’t only taking care of the least of these through us, but growing the hearts of my family as well.  My youngest daughter didn’t have much to say about the baby when she came to live with us, besides pointing out how horrible her soy-milk spit up smelled (she had a point).    Now my youngest is responsible for making up a baby song (all of our kids had a made-up song we sang to them to cheer them up when they were sad).  She got up with the baby early one morning this month.  When I got up and saw her feeding the baby, I was shocked.  I asked her what was up, and she simply stated, “Someone had to do it.  You always get up.”  Then she handed me the baby, and went back to bed.  She now wants to hold her, and takes great joy from Baby’s newest developments (eating her first solid food the last 2 weeks has been a hoot).  I can almost see our family’s hearts growing, as our love for this baby permanently alters us for the good.  God uses humble things to do his mighty work.

So I am thankful.  Thankful for this little one I have the privilege of loving, caring for and praying for today.  And thankful for how he is molding and shaping our lives through her, even though knowing this is temporary is oh, so hard.