Monday, April 28, 2014

The Mess


It started this week when I was on the phone with a nurse discussing my foster daughter's health.  As many of my friends know, we've spent an incredible amount of time trying to do everything possible to get her healthy... or more realistically, as healthy as possible for the past 6 months.  She is absolutely precious and I love her like she is my own so I am honored and humbled to be able to do this for her.

But, with this has come some surprising consequences. 

On the phone, the nurse said that I have it all together and I'm a great parent.  I laughed out at this because what she didn't know was that I was standing outside on our front porch so she wouldn't hear all the chaos that comes standard with three boys raging in the house.  Let's just say that there is usually a lot of screaming involved (although if you've read some of my other posts like this and this you're not surprised). 

I know I don't have it all together, but from the outside, it looks that way to some people.  People praise me for all that I'm doing for our foster daughter and tell me that we are amazing and so special to be able to do this. 

The truth is though, I'm not special.  In a conversation with another friend a couple weeks ago, she asked how I am doing this since foster parenting is... well... hard. Very hard.  It is complicated and messy.  My answer to my friend was that this is what I know God wants us to do; I'm completely convinced that this is where I am supposed to be.  She looked back at me and said, "Well, that's it then.  He gives you everything you need." 

She is right.  I've often said, I'm not special. God is.  He prepares us and sustains us in whatever situation He wants us in.  I don't deserve the credit.  I can't take any of the credit.  I've said it before that we don't look like the ideal foster parent candidates on paper since I have fibromyalgia, three biological sons, and we live in a three bedroom house.  I wasn't even 30 yet when we were going through the process of getting licensed.  At 31, I don't really feel any more qualified!  But somehow, He makes it work.  He is giving Brian and me the wisdom and the ability to somehow pull this off.  It's not us.  It's Him.

So despite all of this divine intervention, there is a second consequence.  There are some people who worry about our three boys as we go through this process.  It has been hard explaining, feeling like I have to justify my actions for my foster daughter because it comes at a cost of some time and energy for my boys.

Honestly, there are times I feel like a bad parent.

God's been working with me on that.  My life is complicated, messy even.  Not just because of foster care.  That is me.  I'm a sinner and not a saint.  He has redeemed me and His gift of grace covers all of my failures.  Wallowing in my failures trivializes His grace, His sacrifice.  So does pretending that everything is perfect.

We all live in some sort of a mess.  From me, foster care birth parents, pastors, missionaries, the homeless person sitting on the street corner, and you.  No difference really since the Bible says in Romans 3:23 that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"  There really is no difference because a fail is a fail no matter how you do it.  We are all in the same boat here.  Our world is sinful hence the pain and struggles everywhere.  That is why we need Jesus.  His death paid the cost for our transgressions so that we might be made whole and reconciled to Him, if we ask and follow Him.  He's the hero. 

That is why I am sharing this today.  All my authenticity is for the purpose of showing how God is the hero.  He changed my life.  I'm doing my best, but we have days like today where we missed church because of sick kids, one threw up in my diaper bag, a different one has wanted to eat nothing but goldfish crackers (and I considered giving in to avert some screaming), I've been telling one to climb in bed for more than an hour, and I am really sore from a fibro flare up so I can barely type.

I don't have it all together, but God does.  This is how we parent.  This is how we do foster care.  Serving Him is like that; He uses broken and hurting people to make a difference for Him.  It is so incredibly humbling and profound.  What's more is that He wants all of us to serve Him with everything we do.  That's worship, a way of life.  God works best in this mess.  Our church had a series awhile ago called "No Perfect People Allowed"; I loved it because we don't need to have it all together to follow Him.

So no pedestals please.  God wants to do the same thing with you, if you'll let Him shine in your mess.  He always gives what you need.  He made me "enough" and I'll be forever grateful.

Please come check out more on this topic at my new site, Uncommon Grace!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Grace Versus Guilt

I absolutely love Easter!  It has been a part of my story since the very beginning.  Let me explain:

I was born on Easter.  It has always been a joke amongst our family that I was born into the church since my parents were timing contractions as they sat through the Easter morning service listening to Chuck Swindoll.  Apparently, his message that morning got me excited about life and I made my official entry a later that evening.

I'm always thrilled when my birthday and Easter fall on the same day; it hasn't happened in years, but I feel like it always reminds me to celebrate my spiritual birthday as well as my physical one.  When I decided to follow Jesus and trust Him as my savior, He gave me grace and forgiveness for all my sins.  As Jesus said, this makes us born-again (John 3).  Honestly, there is no better birthday present!  I wrote a devotional about it for Rest Ministries; click here to read it.

So, where does that leave us on the day after Easter?  We spend the day celebrating Christ's resurrection and then life goes back to normal.  We, or at least, I tend to forget.  It is kind of the post birthday blues, if you will.

I struggle with Guilt.  I know most of us do.  Maybe it isn't guilt with a capital G, but even minor guilt is pervasive in our lives.  Some guilt is good; we need it as the Holy Spirit brings things to our attention with it.  Things we need to deal with.  Things we need to make right and ask forgiveness for.

But the rest of the guilt? 

The guilt that I didn't get done all I wanted to because I was sick (like I said, check out my devotional) or the guilt that I should have been bolder with my faith when talking to someone.  The guilt that comes when I don't feel like I am being a great parent and the guilt when I don't measure up to my expectations.  The guilt that comes from the tyranny of the "if only" or "shoulds and ought to have". 

That guilt.  That life-sucking, draining, discouraging guilt.

When Easter is over, our focus fades from grace and makes room for the guilt to gallop right back in.  I think it is because I don't focus on Christ everyday like I do on Easter.  The good news of Easter is for everyday, not just that one Sunday a year.  Translation: one day a year I live in God's grace and the other 364 days I try to do it all on my own.

I know I am more acutely aware of this than most people.  I live with a chronic illness that has kept me in constant pain for the past 25 years.  There were 6 days that I can count that the pain lifted for a few hours (I scare everyone because apparently my personality becomes extremely bouncy and extroverted instead of my normal laid back and quiet self- I am a totally different person!).  This incurable illness has forced the issue of dependency on God; it is literally God working through me in my life.  It has made me see God in everything.  While this is not something I wanted, it has been a blessing in disguise because God has used it to transform me into a very different person that I would have been otherwise: I'm becoming more of who He would like me to be.

In spite of being dependent on God, I feel guilty because I think, somehow, I should be able to do more.  I want to do more... but I can't.  It is beyond frustrating to struggle with guilt from my inadequacies!  And you know what?  If we are all perfectly honest with ourselves, some form of this haunts all of us.  It might not be because of a chronic illness, but we each have our bents as C.S. Lewis says.

We do this because we don't trust Him enough.

We do this because we don't give Him everything.

We do this because we think we know better than Him.

We do this because we don't live like Jesus's act on the cross was enough.

We do this because we don't fully realize the power of Grace.


Somehow, we think our pasts, our presents and even our futures might be too much for Grace to handle.  But, if an infinite God paid infinitely for our finite sins, it is safe to say they are covered.  That is Grace with a capital G.  It wasn't cheap. It cost everything and if we live in guilt, what we really believe in is cheap grace.  That is the kind of grace that can't fix our problems and the kind of grace that just buys fire insurance and doesn't mean that we actually have to give up ourselves to get.

I'm dying to myself little by little each day.  As I do, God takes over and grace moves in.  In terms of my struggles, I honestly don't have much, but if I do all that I can for Him, there is nothing to feel guilty over.  Like the widow who only had two coins, but gave them both, God is far more pleased with that than if I only gave Him a fraction of my life even if I were healthy or rich or smart or anything else that I wish I was. 

This is what Easter is: it is everyday grace.  Even though the holiday is over, we can keep celebrating because grace is 365 days a year for the rest of eternity.  As we die to ourselves and stop trusting in our own plans, we let God come in and slay our guilt.  Give everything to Him today, again and everyday.  It is time for us to live like Christ's death really meant something.  We can't ask for a better "birthday" present, but we have to open it up and use it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Space Saving Mudroom Renovation

Since our eldest started school, I have dearly needed a place to contain the mess that is inevitably deposited on the floor the moment kids walk in the door.  I've stared longingly at the catalogue photos of beautifully organized cubbies to corral the daily disaster.  My problem though is I only kind of have a mudroom.  I say "kind of" because it would be better to call it a laundry room since there is really only standing room to wash clothes and that is tight especially when I have a little "helper" underfoot. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Expecting the Unexpected



Life is sure to never be dull with three boys!  Ours are now eight, six, and two and a half respectively and keeping me on my toes.  My dad was one of three boys and I feel like I am beginning to better understand his childhood better.  When he told me stories about the things he did growing up, I thought they were all crazy.  Now, I'm seeing history repeat itself...