Friday, May 8, 2015

Friday Closing

I have more sweet friends than I deserve! After a trying week, these beautiful peonies! Several others sent encouraging music via email, others remembered me in prayer. I am grateful in ways I cannot express!

I couldn't stop taking pictures of these beauties today! 


I woke up this morning more tired than usual but so, so thankful for Friday! I slept in just a bit; everyone did because we had a little rain during the early morning hours and everything was so cozy and still. Friday at last! Later tonight we will load up and drive to the airport and welcome our guys home! It has felt like ages since Jon and Andrew left!

I've started my days with some Psalms this week. This one here (Ps. 105) was a good reminder of my job description. It is what must take priority, and my obedience in it will work its way into all the other jobs I undertake. Whatever happens, whatever comes, may I do and pray these things relentlessly~

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
 Sing to him; sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually!

And things do happen and trials do come our way! We should expect it. Things had been going along smoothly for the first several days of Jon's absence, then, well, not so much. As I type here this evening I can see little cuts and scabs on my hands which came from caring for a child that has given in to every sinful behavior they could come up with. My muscles ache. I've had to physically subdue this child's anger and hatred before, but this episode was quite a bit more extreme. It's an ugly thing-- because the manifestation of sin is always ugly-- but this subduing was the most loving thing I could do at that time. Still, in many ways, it feels like a battle lost. 

I know it is a test: "Will you love me if I act like this? Really? Prove it!" And so the unleashing of threats, hatred, defiance, violence, etc. begins.

So yes, in a sense I feel like we are not making good headway with one individual because things are getting harder. But in another sense, these are valuable lessons for the rest. The blessings of obedience are evident in the life of those who obey, the consequences of sin are tremendously ugly. Late at night, the older kids and I have sat up and discussed how we should be prepared for the morning; we armed ourselves with this verse:

"…but God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Rom. 5:8

When we were unlovable, undeserving, and actively opposed to God, He loved us in the most sacrificial way. We can strive to be Christ-like in the way we actively choose to love those who act against us. We talked about the fact that loving these kids is really a display of our love for the Lord, and our expression of love is an expression of God's love to them. So really, IT IS ALL ABOUT GOD! 

This afternoon while I had the youngest two take naps, the rest of us enjoyed a little treat. We hid in Michael's bedroom lest one of them wander out before nap time ended! In my defense, I'm just trying to avert long, drawn out problems! The rest of us need to enjoy our relationships which are still very much together and intact! I was encouraged by their words: they told me how surprised they were at my calm and composure during the "episode." To me, it is a wonder anyone could see any sort of calm or composure!

This little tea and scone break was well timed because just half an hour later our little ticking time bomb exploded again! (Pray for me, will you?)

Not many people speak out truth about adoption. In our time and culture, it has become romanticized and trendy. Many people go into the process with unrealistic ideas, only to be unprepared for the difficulty and trauma of it all. Many placements/adoptions fail. 

For some people, adoption is a way to build a family, and under many circumstances this is a lovely way to do so. But for those who want to open their home to the needy, adoption can be a very difficult road. These "needy" children are typically not the ones that make good additions to happy homes if happiness is the ultimate goal. It is not the building of a family, but simply an answer to the call to care for the needy. It may simply be a way to fulfill biblical hospitality to children. 

I have more to say. Maybe we will be the ones to say the things most won't want to admit. Maybe we will be the ones to help others view adoption and the care of needy children in a less romantic way, in a realistic way that still is beautiful to God. Maybe we will scare anyone contemplating the idea, or maybe we will be the ones surprised by the beauty of it. I don't know. 

For now I pray for our salvation... That all six children would be saved, that God's mercy and grace would shine into the darkness, and that in it all, God would be glorified...

"Save us, O God our salvation…
that we may give thanks to your holy name;
and glory in your praise."

…Because salvation is for God's glory!

But for right now, I'm off to the airport! Happy Friday!


Monday, May 4, 2015

Of Late

There's always plenty going on, isn't there? If you're like me, it seem to all gel together into some sort of jumble by the end of a week's time. Someone will ask, "How was your week?" and I've already forgotten.

In the last week there has been a theme: Running! I haven't been running in my running shoes as much, but just always running! Running out the door, running out of time, running out of food, out of patience, out of money, out of ideas. And yet, never running out of things to do! Never running out of self. Perhaps the other kinds of running wouldn't be so bothersome if I was a little more empty of self.

Let's see. A few things stick out from the last 7 days…

First of all, Andrew is almost clear across the country this week visiting with friends. It's was a great opportunity for him and I didn't even let my mom-type worries get in the way. He flew out with Jon on Saturday to Chicago; Jon continued on to Kentucky from there while Andrew stays with dear friends for the week. Because the first flight was delayed, Jon didn't have time to clear security with Andrew and meet up with our friends. The transfer was made safely in the end, but there were some nervous feeling from here! I'm thankful for this experience for Andrew. He talks all happy and brave on the phone; I probably won't know if he misses home until he returns.

Also, I've been watching Jack's big toe closely since Jon pulled out the longest, thickest splinter ever. It was more like a small plank impaled straight into the ball of the toe. We don't quickly run to urgent care around here: Jon sterilized some pliers and a metal blade in the flame of his torch and did a little surgery. Jack was brave as always, and his toe looks like its going to fair out just fine as the redness and swelling subside.

I had a slew of appointments last week. After one doctor's visit, I drove over to the lab for some blood work while Jon was home with the kids. The parking was full and I was driving Jon's F-150. I entered the parking area only to discover the last space was way too small, so I had to back out since the parking lot was like a dead end. I flung my arm over the passenger headrest and looked out the rear window, then proceeded confidently in reverse. Then CRUNCH! An elderly couple in their Lexus backed out of their parking space just as I was passing through. Gah. These sorts of things really get to me. They make me feel costly in time and trouble. Jon is great though; he takes me and my expenses all in stride.

Friday night we hosted a little evening/meeting time for the youth leaders of our church. It was such fun, partly because the group is just so special, and partly because it's so nice to have people over and converse with adults. (Can you tell I feel like I'm living in a very small and difficult world right now?!) My food turned out fine, relationships were deepened, and plans for the future were made. I feel so thankful to be in the loop on things, especially as my older kids are now (or will soon be) the recipients of their ministry.

Saturday night Olivia was at a youth event, and afterwards her friend spent the night with us. Again, I was so blessed. The girls and I chatted in the kitchen till we were all tired, laughing and goofing off. I felt so privileged that my teenage daughter and her friend wanted to hang out with me!

Today I had only three kids with me for most of the day: Olivia, Michael and Jack. We are nearly done all our course work for the year, so we packed up after I dropped the other two kids off at the charter school and went to the beach. Olivia had an online class late in the morning, so she set up her things in the car overlooking the ocean. Not a bad way to do school. I am considering new options and praying about the next school year. The only sure thing is that we are transitioning, but I'm not sure how it will all play out. It will be some sort of "hybrid schooling" in which I dip into all sorts of new options and try to maintain flexibility and a custom education. We shall see…

But for today, this was our classroom and I liked it very much!


Sunday, May 3, 2015

January Chill and God's Faithfulness

The sun was warm and pleasant, the afternoon was slow and monotonous, my heart discontent and restless. I looked out the window and noticed a boy's hat hanging by the pool. The greenery suddenly looked inviting, and the sight of the straw hat brought a jolting reminder that these days with my growing boys won't last forever. I stepped outside for a moment, realizing I have altogether neglected to breathe deep, relax, and to give my burdens to the Lord. I moved toward the pool, unlocked the gate quietly and hoped not to be discovered. I had a cup of coffee in hand, hopeful for a little boost of something, and my camera because I regularly need to see beauty from a different lens than my own eyes. I needed some sort of recharge on every level.

I forced myself to be intentional, to notice, to feel. I tried laying down by the edge of the spa, letting the warm breeze sweep over me like a balm. I wanted to feel soothed, cared for, and sustained, but restlessly I busied myself with my camera. Restless. I ignored the real issues of my heart and I looked for beauty in the gifts God surrounds me with rather than in God Himself. I see that now, but at the time I did not. I've been frantically restless.

From the other side of the pool fence, five children played soccer. I was thankful for this, since we are all growing weary. Truth be told, no one feels like playing with the new arrivals anymore. We are forcing smiles, forcing kindness; we are forcing and reminding and trying again and again to just love. It's a love of choice at best right now. Loving with the brain and with action is hard when the heart is numb or indifferent. Yeah, like I said... truth be told...

This season of my life sort of feels like a deep winter freeze. The sun shines beautifully outside, but I curl deep below the blankets and wish for the kind of warmth the soul feels. Another day dawns, and I want to shut my eyes to it for a little while longer. I am numbed by the cold headwinds of my life.

I knew this season would come, but I imagined myself up early praying, strengthened and sustained. I imagined sensing the face of God shining, warmth for the soul. Jesus told his disciples to pray in the garden, but they shut down and slept because they couldn't handle the weightiness of it all. When prayer is what I need the most, I have become silent, stuck, benumbed.

There is so much to pray for. So many needs, so much sin, such heaviness. And loneliness, too. When I sense I need God the most, I have found myself frozen in place.

Ah, but He is there! He knows it all, He sees my weakness, and knows my heart. And He loves me still, calling to me, "Come."

I recommit. He is always there; I am the one that moves in and out of fellowship. I am the fickle child, brooding outside in the cold. But He is ever saying, "Draw near to me."

And I ask of Him again to hide me in the shadow of His wings and to make His face to shine upon me, and to save us in His lovingkindness. (Ps. 63:7; 31:16) He is faithful still.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What He Said

It's backyard afternoon play for two kids, and from the kitchen window I am constantly sorting out disagreements. Another fight erupts, and this time they come rushing to the door. Both are pointing fingers.

He says, "Just because she saw me cheat doesn't mean it's OK for her to cheat!"

Gah. This is the logic I'm supposed to sort out.  :)


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Choose Joy

"And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."  
Nehemiah 8:10

"But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
and a refuge in the day of my distress.
O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, 
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows to me steadfast love."
Ps. 59:16

I came home one afternoon with a car load of kids and a trunk full of bags, feeling rushed, without a good plan for dinner, and weary of the endless mundane. Then I saw this boy-styled bouquet on the kitchen island, a little gift from my little Jacob. The reverse side of the red tag is a "snuggle ticket" for me to turn in at any time. This picture is a good reminder to me tonight that there is so much good right now. The way I see things, and the way I respond, is always a choice.

I've been telling two kids in particular this nearly every hour of every day, but we all need to be reminded. The way we live is a choice, and therefore we choose the consequences for those choices. We either obey the Lord from our hearts, cheerfully, or we do not; in return we either receive blessing, or misery. Obedience comes with a promise: "You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long…" (Deut. 5:33). On the other hand, sooner or later, sin leads to misery.

This is pretty straight forward, and can be easily made evident in the life of a child. A child who is selfish and unkind, who speaks lies, who grumbles and complains, who cheats, who is disrespectful… this child is miserable. Not only are they miserable, but they want power to make those around them experience their misery. Such a child also needs to be corrected and/or separated, and for a time their misery is further magnified. 

So the laws of the world are evident: God made us and we must obey, and for our obedience there is good reward; for disobedience there are sad consequences. Children can be shown that liars cannot be believed or trusted, cheaters are not fun to play with, bad attitudes separate friends, disobedience leads to the removal of privileges, etc. But as I am teaching these children, I also want to encourage and empower them. I tell them about forgiveness, and about restoration and new chances. I tell them about choice. We don't have to live in a way that leads to misery, we can choose obedience and joy. 

And so I preach it to myself, and I must practice it too. When (for the 10th time in a day) the same angry, disrespectful, and unpleasant child is yelling out hateful words at me through closed doors, I can still choose joy. When the day's plans are turned upside down, or when people are hungry and there is no magic wand to make dinner appear, or when my life seems insignificant and things are not as I thought… I must choose joy. 

I don't have to live at the mercy of my circumstances.

The issue of joy has been on my mind this week. Sometimes I choose well, sometimes I don't. This choosing of joy is an active, conscious, and continuous business. If I let my natural response win, it's a quick downward slide and a hard climb out! So I'm working at it: when the drama from a miserable little person begins, or when the day is just plain blah, I have to choose joy! The others are watching and my attitude is infectious. My response should please the Lord, and it should be instructive to the many eyes watching.

I tell them, "Don't let anyone steal your joy! Don't ever give anyone that power!"

Ultimately, our joy is in the Lord. He will strengthen us and give us a joy that is from Him-- an out-of-this-world kind of joy!

Galatians 5 tells us that joy is a fruit of the Spirit, meaning that it is a supernatural work of the Lord in the life of the believer. This is the kind of joy that I want. The scriptures also teach us that we must "work out our salvation" (Phil. 2:12). The fruit of the Spirit don't come without effort on our part. Our sanctification is a joint effort, but really, when you think of it, it is all God. God gives us the grace to desire obedience, He enables obedience, and in His pleasure He lavishes more joy and grace to those who are faithful. On my own, I would not even choose Him, or obedience, or joy.

So I sometimes find myself humming, or singing out loud, words like, "The joy of the Lord is my strength" or Matt Redman's song 10,000 Reasons. In so doing, I am instructing my heart and setting an example. Honestly though, most of the time I am just trying to keep my head above the water line, knowing the dangers of letting myself go under! 

"You will make known to me the path of life; 
In your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever."
Ps. 16:11

And I pray, "Lord, walk with me! I cannot do this alone!"


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Boys

My boys. I so love them. They are such fun, uncomplicated, and sweet in unexpected ways. And they are funny. Nowadays, I hear the constant clack, clack, clack of Kendamas from morning till night, I hear talk of armpit hair, and grumbles about taking showers. I am constantly running out of band aids, clean socks, and food. But they all come up during the day and give me hugs. Some still give full arms-wrapped-around-my-body hugs, and one has grown to give me sideway arm-around-the-shoulder hugs. I tell them a boy is never too old to hug their mother good-bye in public, and they jokingly roll their eyes at me, but do it anyway. Being a mother of boys has been an enjoyable adventure for sure!

My last post had a crazy amount of feminine pictures of my Olivia, so I only think it fitting to have a few of the boys. Unfortunately for me, my boys aren't into posing for anything other than spontaneous, candid photos, and even their patience for those are pretty limited. Still, I am grateful. We have a fun time and they aren't bothered by me requesting pictures with my big camera in public.

Yesterday afternoon, I took my three boys out for a little change of scenery. We have school and  chores and such, but an outing of sort is becoming a Monday ritual. Finding myself with just the boys was unexpected, and the simple fun we had was memorable.

Here, we found a Bronco we liked. We could picture ourselves heading to the beach with the surf boards strapped to the roof, windows down...

Our outing consisted of perusing through an estate sale warehouse; Michael enjoys watching the auction which takes place each Monday. Next we hit a little chocolate shop, then the boys hung out on the sidewalk while I checked out a little clothing boutique (and saw some cute sandals I think Olivia will love). Finally, we looked through an antique store that always has cool things the boys enjoy.

These pictures surprised even me. Look how big he is getting?!

And then there is this boy. I can't post pictures of him (and maybe this is pushing it), but because I have a feeling much of what we are experiencing now will be forgotten (in many ways, this is my hope!), I wanted to remember these feet. He has been with us 10 weeks, and of those weeks he has spent 8 weeks in casts. The first one was from a broken arm; in talking with the orthopedic doctor, that break lead to the discovery of a structural problem of the feet. This is being corrected now.

He played gaga ball at school, thus tearing the "big and tall" men's socks I make him wear over the casts to keep dirt and stones from creeping in. By the end of the day, they were all drooping forward and torn, but he was so proud of beating three other boys. Sister tattled and said the shoes kept falling off during the game.

Two more days and the casts come off. I'm not sure what comes next, other than a good, long, soapy bath!


These words from Sunday worship, here again tonight for me to remember truth:

O grant me wisdom from above,
To pray for peace and cling to love,
And teach me humbly to receive
The sun and rain of Your sovereignty.
Each strand of sorrow has a place
Within this tapestry of grace;
So through the trials I choose to say:
"Your perfect will in Your perfect way."

I don't always know much, but I do know there is purpose in the things God ordains for our lives; most of it, however,  we may never understand on this side of eternity.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

La Voilà

Ma petite chérie… my little darling.

And now she is fourteen. Still my darling, and still quite petite.

It has been a sort of tradition to take birthday pictures, and though I don't really like to be bound by tradition, I really wanted to do this with Olivia this year. The trouble again was finding the time to sneak away, but one afternoon Jon came home unexpectedly and we had a small window of time together. I told Olivia to take a few dresses along, and I grabbed the bunch of Baby's Breath I had on the counter before we took off. A couple weeks prior I had noticed some pretty green grass in the hillside next to the road, and I had mentally bookmarked that location for our picture-taking time. It was so fortunate that there was still some greenery because, after all, greenery lasts but for a moment here in SoCal. Most of it had turned to brown already, but in one north-facing section we found our green.

I'm posting a lot of pictures, I know, but let me indulge for just a while; she is growing up too fast.

For our next little set, we moved up the hill and-- to our delight-- discovered these blossoms of orange and yellow. She had brought two other dresses, and we thought navy would make a nice compliment. Changing behind a stump was no big deal for this girl… we do what we can when we can, and try not to miss an opportunity!

We climbed a little further, but by now I knew our time was running out. I knew she really wanted to make a crown with the Baby's Breath, but we did not have twine or wire to work with. In fact, we also forgot to bring a hair brush. This little flip and loose bun, along with the pictures, was our quick attempt to capture a different look that included her favorite little white flowers.

Delicate and graceful.

Je t'aime, ma belle petite cocotte.   xox