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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter at the Village

First Date in a Loooong Time!
 Since my last update, John and I did get a break!  After 63 days straight, we were given a sweet respite of 10 days at home in Huntsville with our families.  We even got to go on a few dates while grandparents babysat Jonah!  It was refreshing and needed.

 We started back though and immediately John and Jonah both got very sick and were on a ton of meds.  If I thought this job was tough for two people - it's really tough with one and half parents (husband being sick = half a parent).  Then two of the kids here got sick just as John was beginning to feel better. The baby got sick so suddenly that it was necessary to go to the hospital and we were admitted and spent the night.  It was exhausting, but it made us have a much closer bond than before.  Baby and I started in the ER around 5pm Monday, and left at 10pm Tuesday night.  After being stuck in the hospital for just over 24 hours straight, I was so glad to be home again!  I did finally find a good pediatrician though, and the baby is just about completely well now.  Unfortunately, I think I am catching a cold, but the rest of the house is almost well!

Last Date for a while probably...
 In the world of House Parenting there is good news on the horizon!  They have two couples applying for positions!  Hopefully that means at least one of them will be coming to our campus to partner in this ministry!  If we get more house parents, we will probably get more children, and we think that would be a plus.  Sometimes it is a little awkward with just our little family and this particular sibling group - they don't seem to understand that we're not just regular foster parents, and we don't want the other baby to call us parental names lest it offend their family.  We were thinking that if more kids arrived and another set of house parents, it would help the kids to see the purpose of the organization a little more clearly and give the other baby another set of adults so baby doesn't get too attached to us.  We have had them a full six months now - so from here on out we will have parented these kids longer than any of our other sibling groups.  They have also been with Jonah since he was 4 months old, and it is obvious that he loves them all.  The kids think he's super cute and they play with him very sweetly. I am grateful that I do not fear for his safety at all.  He has been teething it seems like for about a month straight now though, trying to cut 5 teeth at once, and he is crazy fussy and wants to bite us.  Sleep...I miss you.

Teething + Ear Infection + Cold = Grouchy Baby
     A couple of different Assembly of God churches down here got together to buy all of our kids brand new Easter clothes two weeks ago.  This was a very sweet gesture.  Shopping for all four of our kids, with a different couple assigned to each kid (some couples also brought children of their own), made us look kind of like multiracial Duggars. Haha! The boys were easy to shop for, however, the girls took longer to find that perfect dress.  Just trying to leave the house with all the kids by 9am is a tough task (and one we usually only attempt on Sundays), but we managed to make it pretty close.  Shopping took a solid 3 hours and then we ate in the little Laurel mall for lunch with all the people who came along to contribute.  The kids were very happy about their clothes, but worn out from shopping.  Getting to see them all dressed up in them today and how happy they were, was really special.  We are grateful for those people and their outreach to us!  We went to one of their churches yesterday for an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids.  It started when both babies were ready to take a nap though, so we brought bottles and the little red wagon of which they are both so very fond.

In the wagon another day (not the egg hunt)
Both babies stayed happy for about an hour, and then I was able to get Jonah to sleep as I walked around with him for about 30 minutes.  Other baby waited to get home before falling asleep.  All of the kids enjoyed it.  They even had an egg hunt for older kids that had several cash eggs with $1 and $5 bills inside.  Our teenagers were happy to hunt for money!

     Lots of different church groups came by this week to deliver Easter baskets to the kids.  It is so funny how holidays are our busiest time for visitors and donations.  With all of the donation groups and individuals, the kids each got 4 Easter baskets loaded with candy and random stuff.  Two groups called ahead of time to ask about the kids and what we suggest they give them, and those baskets were more meaningful and full of useful items the kids were actually happy to receive.  The other two were kind but generic pre-made baskets.  The two call-ahead groups also brought baskets for Jonah!  This was really sweet and thoughtful.  One church even made a basket for John and I.  We were touched by everyone's thoughtfulness and generosity.  Just like at Christmas, we have a long list of Thank-You cards to write!
Friday night we let the older kids stay up late and watch the movie, "The Passion of the Christ," which they had never seen before.  We had a mixed response, that is difficult to explain without sharing their personal information.  I can't go into detail, but please pray for our kids to receive Christ, to be open to the message of the gospel.  I hadn't seen the movie in a long time, and I was again reminded and heart broken at the extreme pain Jesus endured so willingly.  I had forgotten about the devil lurking around in the movie and the strange demonic baby and children.  I understand the symbolism - Satan gives birth to sin and sin gives birth to death, but the scary baby in the movie is weird.  It really scared one of our kids.  Discussion afterward was like, "So do you mean you are scared of the demons in the movie or scared of going to Hell?" Eh...  I think also, since becoming a mommy of a baby boy, I kind of identify with Mary a little more.  I had never before thought of how much agony she had to go through during his death.  Then we watched "Letters to God" last night, and oh how I cried for that mommy too! Being a parent has changed my perspective in so many ways.

     It is difficult to get out of the house in time for Sunday School, but because every single person in the house had their entire outfit picked out already and mostly bathed the night before, it was actually easier to make it today!  So, hopefully we will continue to make sure everyone picks out their clothes the night before church so we can make it to Sunday School more often.  Church was lovely.  We sat next to some visitors who had a pretty little baby girl they said was 11 months.  I adore dropping our babies off at nursery, and don't even miss them or feel one bit guilty about handing both babies over for the 2 hours we're there.  They both like the regular nursery workers and there is lots of good padded baby equipment for them to play on, so I know they are safe and having a good time.  I sat and admired this other little baby until she began to fuss and they just left.  I was pleasantly surprised that our worship time even included the Casting Crown's song "Glorious Day."  I like singing the hymns that I know, but sometimes this small town church music guy pulls out some hymns I've never heard of before at all, and those I struggle to use as worship.  Today held a bunch of old familiars!  I enjoyed our pastor's sermon, as usual.  My mom was able to come and visit this week during her Spring Break and it was so nice to have her here to help with all the kids and hang out!

She even gave us some money to feed everyone after church today so we wouldn't have to cook/get the kitchen really messy.  We picked up our local favorite - Taco Bell.  The kids like the new Cool Ranch Doritos Tacos and John and I like the Chicken Cantina Bowls.  It may sound lame to eat fast food for lunch, but in our household, it's a HUGE hit!

     After we came home from church and the babies took naps, we all put back on our new clothes and tried to take some nice pictures.  John's camera is kind of old though and it was difficult to get enough light because it was raining outside.  It is against policy to post pictures/personal information about the kids on the internet, so I can only share ours, but we took about an hour and half to take over 200 pictures of the whole group!  Here are some of my favorites:

Our Family!
His pants have room to grow :) 
Happy Easter

 Happy Easter Friends!  I hope you had a blessed day.  I cannot believe April is already here! Thank you as always for keeping us in your prayers.  Pray for everyone to be healthy and if it is the Lord's will, for the new House Parents to be hired quickly!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Starbucks and Complaining Christians

I used to love the white chocolate peppermint mocha, venti, with soy milk.  Then I found out it weighed in at over a whopping 600 calories and I decided my beverage of choice needed some tweaking.  I now order the tall sugar free vanilla latte with soy milk and a shot of peppermint because this cuts me back to a 2 mile run in caloric exchanges.  Mississippi has many faults though, one being a serious shortage of civilization including such places as Target and Starbucks, so I can only indulge in my hot frothy friends when we go on breaks.  The recent news media has been saying silly things about how the Starbucks CEO said something about how people who believed in traditional marriage could take their business elsewhere, although that is not what he said, and lots of "Christians" are blowing this way out of proportion and acting angry about it.  You can read more about the truth of the situation from here and here.  I like the opinions in those two articles and I'd like to add my own thoughts on this.  I do not like to post long things on facebook, so I don't.  I rarely "rant" anywhere, but this is going to be one.

I am so sick of Christians acting like they can only understand/be friends with/relate to people who are just like them.  This is NOT what God calls anyone to do, and it is simply an extension of making "clicks" in high school - the adult version of "I shun you because you aren't exactly like me" is NOT any cooler than the middle and high school version.  Hateful comments are hateful, mean and hurtful no matter how old you are.  Political and religious differences can create meaningful discussions and useful new opinions and information.  Political and religious differences should NOT cause adults to act like bratty children and bullies.  People seriously underestimate how AWESOME other people can be EVEN THOUGH they have very different political and religious beliefs.  I personally have some wonderful friends, whom I love and cherish and keep in touch with, who have little in common with me in the areas of politics and religion.  I also have Christian prayer warrior friends whom I love as well.  God did not create us to only love those who live like we do.  He NEVER said, "You should only be nice and kind to people who look and act like you."  On the contrary, MULTIPLE times He said to LOVE others.  Others = All people who may look and act very differently than you do or believe what is right and wrong.  Here's a few examples:

Matthew 22:36-40

English Standard Version (ESV)
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Luke 10:26-27

English Standard Version (ESV)
26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Romans 12:9

New Living Translation (NLT)
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.

I feel very strongly that more than ever the "church" as in the body of Christ, aka all Christians, is looking and growing INWARD - as in making the physical building cool and pretty, and doing "fun" things, and "playing church" instead of actually being the body of Christ by helping and loving OUTWARD - as in meeting new people outside of church, going on meaningful mission trips with a real group of people (seriously big churches - you have 300 people in Sunday School and only 21 go on a mission trip?) and loving people where they are instead of pitying them and acting "holier than thou."  I know that not everyone can afford to go on mission trips (honestly, I've wanted to go on mission trips so many times and they've been cancelled, or the group wasn't big enough so we couldn't go, or other weird things that stopped me even though I was ready and willing to put up the money and time for it) and that lots of churches do have meaningful outreach programs.  However, look at the percentage of the church members who are actually participating in those outreach programs: if you have 90% attendance on Sunday morning, but only 10% of people show up to do a local, free mission project (like going to a soup kitchen or doing a VBS outreach in a poor neighborhood), I believe that at least 50% of those in attendance aren't really serious about their faith and probably only pick up their Bible on Sunday.  I'm giving the other 30% of people the benefit of the doubt that they really did have to work, or there was no childcare available for a single parent, or a plausible reason other than the BS truth that "I just didn't feel like it."

I think the outrage and hatred toward people of different political and religious beliefs is never more obvious than in that 60% of fake Christians who think that by showing up on Sunday morning, they're doing Jesus a favor.  It's the whole '10% of the church is doing 90% of the work/outreach.'  I won't even start on James 1:27 - all versions and what the church is missing out on by not supporting more orphan and widow ministries.

Here's what I am trying to say:  If you SAY you are a Christian, then LIVE like Christ by showing LOVE to ALL people.

Don't read too deeply into this.  I am not saying we should legalize gay marriage.  I am saying we don't have to be so freaking mean about it.  Jesus died for them too.  I still love Chick-fil-A, and have really loved dressing up our foster kids to look like cows on "Cow Appreciation Day" so we can eat free food.  I will also still drink coffee from Starbucks, and never forget the first date I had there in Huntsville with my husband, or the mentoring times I had at a Starbucks in Memphis with a cool teenage girl.

This is a very good article on how same-sex marriage may affect Christians. Jimmy Needham's Blog

It's more about the way you live your life, and less about the list of things you hate.  Let. It. Go. Move. On. Share. Love.

Real Love

Monday, March 11, 2013

I'm Not God

The title of this post may sound rather obvious, but it's a really very good thing that I'm not God.  It's a good thing that I'm not God (for you and me and the rest of humanity) because of the following reasons:

  • I have a hard time being patient with ignorant/stupid people.
  • I struggle with the sin of potty mouth when I am alone.
  • I cannot forgive some sins - specifically those against children - I do not want to forgive people who hurt kids, and I do not even try to most of the time. (I know theologically God is the only one who can fully forgive sins of others, but I mean as far as Jesus tells us to forgive others "seventy-times-seven" type of forgiveness).
  • I need at least 7 hours of sleep or I can be rather grouchy.
  • Sometimes I struggle with insecurity with many things of which I should be confident or not care at all what others think anyway.
  • I do not love everybody all of the time - or even half of everybody half of the time.
  • I love some people more than others. Specifically, I love my family, my husband, and Jonah more than strangers.
  • I would never sacrifice any of the above listed people to fix any of the things you have done wrong, let alone strangers.
  • I could not and would not let my son Jonah to be hurt, let alone killed, to save anyone else, including you, no matter what relationship we would have. 
These things came to mind yesterday during church when I enjoyed a sermon about Abraham and Isaac from Genesis 22.  I was with my parents at Wall Highway Baptist Church and, their Pastor did a great job of painting the picture of Abraham's tremendous faith and obedience to God to follow through so quickly with this excruciatingly difficult task.  He spent a good amount of time explaining how much Abraham loved Isaac, had waited 25 years for Isaac, how he was staking his whole future on this son, and how much he must have been upset at this request of God.  Pastor explained how deeply Abraham must have been questioning and praying to God on the 3 day journey out to that mountain.  How much he must have been begging the Lord to let there be any other way.  He also talked about how although the Bible does not give the age of Isaac, the fact that Abraham strapped all the wood needed for the sacrifice to his back meant that this kid was pretty strong and big - probably between 10-14.  Then he said something like this, 

       "This is just my opinion, and the Bible doesn't say so, but since I'm the one up here talking, you just have to listen anyway, but I believe that at some point, Isaac knew what was happening.  After he asked his father where the sacrifice was, and got Abraham's ambiguous answer, he started to put 2 and 2 together, and knew what was coming.  I also believe that a boy strong enough to carry all that wood on his back, up a mountain, would have been strong enough to fight off and overcome his father who was over 100 years old at this point.  I believe that Isaac obediently, willingly, allowed himself to be bound to that altar.  I believe he saw the pain on his father's face and closed his eyes and waited for the knife to come down."  

WOW.  I had not ever thought about whether or not Isaac struggled or laid there expectantly.  I had thought about the trust issues he probably had with his father after that.  I mean that's something to worry about, "Remember that time you literally almost killed me, Dad?" However, the pastor ended his discussion of Abraham and Isaac there and went on to draw the parallels between Isaac and Jesus.  He hit on how they both had to carry the wood on which they would be bound and killed, up a mountain, how they both saw the pain of their father.  Then he really spent quite a bit of time on how much it must have hurt God to see Jesus on the cross.  How painful it had to have been to turn his face away from his only Son and allow him to die for all the sin of the world.  How much it must have broken God's heart to allow Jesus to be tortured and murdered in such a gruesome way, to pay the price for the wickedness of all the rest of broken humanity.  I could not do that.  I love my little Jonah too much to let him die on purpose for anyone else. This kid die for you? No. Way.

God loves us so much more than is humanly possible.  Back to my bulleted list, here's what I cannot do, but God does so well:
  • He is patient with all people, waiting for them to come to a knowledge of His love and grace.
  • He is sinless at all times.
  • God can forgive all sins.  All sins are equal in His eyes, and He puts them "As far as the East is to the West" when we ask for the blood of Jesus to cover them, and we form a relationship with Christ. 
  • God never sleeps.  He's ever-present, all-knowing.  We can never go too far for him to reach out and save us.
  • God has no insecurities and does not need anyone to validate him.  He wants a relationship with us, not just for us to know what he does, but who he is.
  • God does love everybody all of the time. That blows me away.
  • God does not love some people more than others.  He sent his only son to die for ALL of us.  Now, some people really do love God more than other people, and their lives show it, but God loves them just as much as he loves the people who don't even know him yet. 
  • God sacrificed his son, Jesus, to pay for all the bad, awful, wrong things we humans have ever done.
  • God allowed his one and only Son, Jesus Christ to be beaten, humiliated, mocked, and murdered for YOU, so that he could have a relationship with you. 
So, again, in recap, it's very very very good that I am not God.  Think about what the world would be like if God were more like us.  Sometimes I think we don't give God enough credit for how much bigger and way more awesome He is than us.  He is our Creator, our Savior, our King, and he wants to be our Friend and our Lord. Some people think this is just about religion - but it's not!  This is about a relationship with God.  I like the way this guy clarifies the difference: I Hate Religion, but I Love God This explains it perhaps better than I am doing: You can Read it Here in simple steps backed up by the Bible. You can also watch this spoken word version of the gospel: Spoken word G.O.S.P.E.L.

God will wait patiently for you, until you die.  At that point, you must have decided whether you love and follow Christ, or whether you have rejected the greatest showing of love anyone ever made for you.  If you have decided to reject Christ in this life, then God has to reject you in the next one.  I would really LOVE to see you in Heaven, my friend.  So, contemplate the fact that your Heavenly Father gave his Son, so that He could have a relationship with YOU.  Will you let him?