Thursday, June 18, 2020

HE Listens

So, my van died last Sunday.
Which meant Brian and I were quickly looking for a vehicle to replace it. And this activity made me a bit uncomfortable, because 1) we weren't planning on getting a new vehicle (I mean, we've talked about it randomly over the past several months. But it still felt like a sudden and unexpected purchase.) and 2) I don't like spending large amounts of money. We scoured websites, and debated the pros and cons of various options. And through it all I felt quite unsettled about being able to make the best choice.
Nonetheless, Brian came across a van which seemed like it may be a good fit for us. And we made plans to go for a test drive Tuesday afternoon.
So Tuesday morning I prayed, and I asked God to close the door if this one wouldn't be a good one for us. I asked Him to lead us to the best decision. And I believed He would.
We were in a bit of an anxious rush Tuesday afternoon trying to fit too many things into too little time, and Brian drove right past the exit we were supposed to take. Then we came to the exit we thought would be a good substitute, only to realize as we were on it that it was not the one we thought. Oh, it was marked with the right numbers, but it was a detour and did not put us where we thought we were going. So we found ourselves in a sort-of-familiar-place and figured out where we needed to go. But as we were going there we discovered that the road was closed, traffic was re-routed, and going was slow. (All of this happening while we're under the pressure of getting through with the test drive and back home in time for Brian to participate in a video meeting for work.)
My mind went back to the prayer I had prayed, and I asked, God, are You closing this door? Are these delays and detours Your doing? Are You leading us in this moment away from buying this vehicle? (Because, yeah, sometimes it takes me a few minutes to recognize the obvious things HE puts in front of me.)
So when we finally made it to the place where this van was, I had already made up my mind that this was not the one for us. And after inspecting and driving it, Brian came to the same conclusion. Which was a good thing, except now we had no leads on a vehicle.
Then came Tuesday night, and my participation in a prayer meeting on Zoom. As everyone was gathering and the host asked how we were all doing I let out a heavy sigh, which led to a brief explanation of our dead van and the search for a replacement. During the last portion of the prayer meeting I was asked to pray about my need for a van, then someone else would pray for my need and present a request of their own. And on it would go - each person praying for the need of the person who had just prayed, then voicing their own prayer which would be prayed for again by the next person. It almost caught me off guard when the organizer said, "Karen, will you begin by praying about your van need?" but I was happy to oblige. So we prayed for God's provision of a vehicle.
And here's where it gets really good.
Because another thing happened Tuesday night.
An individual about 20 minutes away from us posted his van for sale. The very make and model Brian was most interested in us getting. And Brian found that listing.
Yesterday morning Brian contacted the would-be seller and made an appointment for us to take a test drive. And I continued praying that God would lead us to make a wise decision.
We got to the seller's house and he tossed us the keys to the van and as we got in Brian said, "Hey, 242!" There was a sticker in the back window which indicated to us that the seller most likely attended a church with which we are familiar, and somehow that increased my confidence that we could trust him. Not that going to a particular church makes a person a "good" person, but it felt like a nudge from God that this was a good thing. Everything about the van checked out, we had a good conversation with the seller, and later in the day Brian talked to him again and made a purchase agreement.
That van now sits in my garage.

The thing is, I know God is so much more than a van-provider.
There are bigger and more pressing needs in this world than how I am going to get from point A to point B on any given day. I get that!
But I was delighted by how clearly God lead us in this buying decision over the past couple of days. As I looked with hind-sight (and as He continues to show Himself in various details) it was so obvious to me that God was listening and leading. And I thought, maybe somebody else needs to be encouraged to pray - trusting and believing that God hears and acts.

If that someone is you, I pray you will boldly approach His throne of grace today!


Friday, June 12, 2020

Just Like That

Some 21 months ago a young boy was removed from his home.
Roughly three months ago my husband and I became involved in his case as foster parents.
And many of the moments in the course of those three months have been filled with conversation, anticipation, skepticism, and angst regarding the ambiguous future. The wondering when he would ever get to be with his parents again.
Hearts broke over the separation. The wait. The unknown.
Explanations didn't statisfy.
Reasoning wasn't adequate.
And prayers often felt empty for this little boy.
Then the day came.
We had crossed boxes off the calendar counting down to court day. The hearing was held, the judge made a ruling, support services were secured, and the caseworker gave the go-ahead.
And within an hour a little boy's life turned upside down again. (This time, with a lot of Yaba-daba-doooooooo expressions.) He bid farewell to the friends he had on XBox Live. He gave hugs and said good-bye to our family. He grabbed his bags, and just like that - he walked out of our world.
To go home. Where his heart longed to be.

Yeah. That experience was so prolonged, and then it happened so fast.
And in many ways, the future is still uncertain.
What will our relationship with Foster's family be like? Will there be one at all???
When will we have our next foster child? What will that relationship look like?
How will my heart handle the coming and going of these children?
What else is going to change in my life?
Ahhhh, so many questions. And I do not have the answers at this moment.
But I do have faith.
I know that God knows. Just as HE knew Foster would go home yesterday.
And I am choosing to trust HIM with every bit of the unknown.
Just like that.


Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Like the Lily

I walked out to get the mail yesterday and saw this:

I leaned in closer, and saw this:

And I seriously almost started crying.
Not because I was angry at the deer or rabbit or other critter which so greedily ate my lilies to the ground. (Though I was.)
Not because I was upset that the pest repellant I purchased seemed to have failed.
(Though I was.)
Not because I am still bitter about the critter who ate my flowers last year.
(Though I am.)
Rather, I almost started crying because my heart felt just like that obliterated lily.

That is, prior to going out to check the mail I spent much of the morning feeling defeated.
I wrestled with concerns for a little boy whose future is uncertain. I battled with the desire to express compassion in the face of angry outbursts. Because, honestly, when animosity is coming at me - kindness isn't my first thought. I contended with choices between what to allow and what to limit. *read that: how much screen time is too much screen time* And I fought with urges to find a way to become all-powerful and just make everything all-right.
I felt like I was failing at every turn, and looking at those lilies with a sense of I'll-always-lose-to-those-nasty-critters-so-I-should-just-give-up had me feeling the same way about the struggles I'm trying to work through with Foster.
So I looked at the would-be flowers, and I wanted to cry.
Thankfully, God led me into the living room moments later (Which has become my husband's work-from-home base.) and coaxed me to be honest about my heart condition.
Brian suggested I take time and go for a bike ride.
So I did.
And as I pedaled I prayed. I poured out my heart to God and begged Him for wisdom. I told Him everything I was feeling and I asked Him to be my Help. It was so good to expel physical energy while simultaneously putting voice to the needs of my heart. I went a longer route than originally planned, but I think that may have been God's leading - HIM knowing I was gonna need more than "a few minutes".
By the time I parked the bike back in the garage I felt peacefully certain that God is good and is still in perfect control of the world.
Then I remembered that a couple of days ago Matthew came to me with deep apologies for getting too close to my flowers with the weed wacker. I realized it wasn't a critter who destroyed that little patch of lilies after all. The pest repellant may, in fact, be working. And the rest of my flowers are probably not in danger of being wiped out. Because my son was solemnly sorry for his mistake, and I am sure he'll be more careful in the future.

Monday, May 25, 2020

From the Heart of a 10-year-old

So, I learned something last week.
I learned that even though grown-ups have good intentions, sometimes their words may be empty, meaningless, and even hurtful.
The fuller story is this: Foster was having a really rough day. He is missing his parents, he is frustrated with a broken system, and the delays and shut-downs caused by the Corona virus are making it worse. So, on this particular day he was angry. And he was being very vocal about it.
At first I was just listening. Trying simply to be attentive and to let him express his feelings. But then he said something which made a light bulb go off within me, and I was taken aback by the profundity of what he communicated.

Foster complained, "DHHS tells me to be a happy kid. Just enjoy being a kid. Don't worry about things. Just be happy. How am I supposed to be happy when I'm the only kid who isn't with their parents?????"
This young boy, though he was unaware of what he said, nailed every well-meaning adult who has ever told him not to worry about all the adult-things which need to take place in order for him to be reunited with his parents. It is so easy for us as adults - who have tons more maturity and life experience than a 10-year-old foster child - to encourage said child to leave the concerns to the adults; to keep living as a care-free child, doing only the things a child needs to do.
I mean, it makes sense!
Leave the details to the adults. They'll handle everything.
Just be happy, and enjoy being a kid.
We, as adults, probably all wish we would have followed that advice as children.
The problem is, a child who isn't with his parents - who can't even visit them face-to-face because of a stupid virus (his words) - isn't happy. He isn't carefree. Even though he is surrounded by many adults who love him and are trying to care for him, he is not content.
And I realized as I listened to Foster repeat this refrain several times, when we tell a child like him not to worry - rather just be happy, we are completely invalidating their feelings. We're basically telling them, "There is no need for you to be sad about your situation. Stop feeling that way. Instead, pretend that your life is good. Live as though we have worked through the issues and you're back where your heart wants to be. Just act like everything is OK, even though it isn't."
Oh, I know, we would never think of saying those words outright.
How insensitive is that???
But it's what we imply when we tell a child to assume our level of experience and maturity, and to look at the circumstance through our eyes.
It may be true that a foster-child cannot affect his situation by worrying about it. That the adults are truly the ones with the responsibility, ability, and obligation to fulfill the duties. But a child doesn't have that understanding, and asking him to operate as though he does is simply not fair.

Yeah. So that's what I learned through my foster son's expression of anger and frustration. People (adults and children, alike) need to have their feelings validated, because they're real. Not saying we should live based on our feelings, mind you, but we need to be allowed to feel and express them - and we need to know somebody cares. I pray God will give me the grace to remember this reality whenever I am about to tell Foster (and all future children He brings into my home) not to worry.
Ahhhh, LORD, please make my heart sensitive to the hurts and needs and feelings of these precious children who You love so much. Please make me an instrument of love and peace for them!


Monday, May 18, 2020

Maybe God Sees COVID-19 Differently

I watched a bit of my governor's COVID-19 Update from last Friday, and it got me to thinking.
Governor Whitmer invited some religious leaders to attend the daily conference to "offer prayers for unity" and something one of them said made me wonder if God might be looking at this situation differently than we are.
He prayed, "We know You do not wish this terrible evil upon us...We know that You encourage the efforts of our brilliant researchers in looking for treatments for the symptoms and a vaccine for the virus." And somehow, claiming to KNOW those things just didn't sit right with me.
Because, to me, the implication of knowing that God does not wish for us to be in this circumstance and knowing that He is rooting for smart people to come up with a solution is that God is neither powerful nor in control. Or, maybe He is powerful and in control, but uninterested in helping us - opting, instead, to "encourage" scientists to find a solution to our problem.
So, maybe He's weak.
Or maybe He's withdrawn.
Or maybe we need to look at our present circumstance in a different light.
What if the God of the universe - the Creator of the world and everything in it - what if He, Himself, could put an end to COVID-19 in the blink of an eye just by willing it to be gone? What if He doesn't need anybody to come up with a vaccine or treatments or any other thing? What if He isn't looking for us to rely on ourselves and new normals and safe practices and mitigations and all those other buzz-words we're throwing around these days? What if God in His holiness and wisdom and perfect authority has allowed COVID-19 to become a pandemic among us (not necessarily a "terrible evil upon us") so that we would be brought to our knees in recognition of the fact that we can't rely on ourselves? What if He has allowed a tiny virus to devastate us - to strip away our confidence in our selves and our things - so that we would surrender our wills and our lives to an almighty God who is the only One worthy of our trust?
What if God is more concerned about our hearts and our relationship with Himself than He is in bringing an end to COVID-19?
What if COVID-19 is a tool He intends to use to bring the world to Himself?

I mean, maybe I'm way off in my wondering, but I believe God is good and powerful and in control.
And if He didn't wish for us to be going through what we're going through I believe He would end it here and now.
But He hasn't.
Instead, He's allowing it. And I think we would be wise to seek to understand why, and to respond obediently in accordance to His ways.


Monday, May 11, 2020

I Have the Best Kids EVER!!!

My children absolutely BLESSED MY HEART yesterday.
Even though we're apart, and life isn't what we all wish it would be right now they "got together" and made this video.
Seriously, y'all. This act of love has my heart bursting with JOY.


Monday, April 27, 2020

HE Will Complete It

Have you got a few more minutes to be blessed?
Click on over to Youtube to listen to He Who Began a Good Work in You.
Just close your eyes and allow God to lift your heart.