When 2014 ends quietly.

There is something terribly daunting about an empty page. A blinking cursor.

How can I cram these weeks and months into words, to make my silent blog not-so-silent? Do I even want to? I wasn’t sure. So it sat quiet.

Life was not quiet.

Fall flew by in a blur. October was crammed full of meetings and school and work and prep for my upcoming trip to Thailand. Ready or not, we were leaving on a jet plane.

And then, Thailand. How do I describe Thailand? Amazing. Wonderful. Providential. Holy. Devastating. Heartbreaking. Life-altering. I laughed so hard I’m sure I looked crazy and cried so hard I thought my heart would just burst open. We saw children sold in front of us, and we saw children offer themselves for sale. We spent afternoons playing jenga and drinking sprite with new friends who would be sold that evening. We saw God move. We loved people. We left it all on the field.

I came home exhausted and spent in a way I cannot describe. Jet lagged, yes. But much more than that. Utterly emptied of my strength.

This was a good thing. I remember sharing with our team several days before we left – there was no Kristi left. I was toast. The only One carrying me was Jesus – I had no physical, spiritual, or emotional strength left. And He really did – He carried me.

This was how I came home on Sunday afternoon. Monday, I got a call from our social worker – she wanted to meet with us regarding D’s family. Tuesday, we met with her in a small, sterile room across a little table; she told us that D would be going to live with his grandmother. What day would we like them to pick him up? I wanted to say “never.” Instead, we said, “Friday.”

I can’t put into words how difficult November was. My heart was not broken – it was shattered into pieces. Some pieces were scattered in the red light districts of Thailand, some were with my little D who I loved like he was my own even though he wasn’t… who I desperately longed to have as my own son while at the same time longing for his family to be restored.

I am a slow griever. I’m usually the one at the funeral who doesn’t cry much, and then a couple of months later can’t seem to get myself together. In some ways the loss hurts more now than it did in November. And that’s ok – D deserves to be loved so deeply that his leaving hurts terribly. I still find myself listening for him to wake up from his nap.

The thing about times of grieving and heartache is that no one can fully understand. NP can’t fully understand my feelings, I can’t fully understand his. Our Thailand team experienced much of the same things, but we processed them in very different ways. Friends and family wanted to hear what the trip was like, how we were doing after Daniel left… but we just couldn’t fully describe it, and they couldn’t fully get it.

And that’s ok. Jesus can. Only Jesus can.

Elkanah could not comprehend the depth of his wife’s grief – no one could. So Hannah poured out her soul to the Lord {even when Eli the priest thought she must be drunk!} and found Him to be faithful. 1 Samuel 1.

Hagar found herself so unjustly used and mistreated that she ran away and wandered alone in the wilderness. God found her, and she discovered that He was the only One who really saw her. Genesis 16.

The woman at the well tried hard to isolate herself, to avoid the painful truth of her own life, to avoid the condemnation of others. Suddenly she found herself face-to-face with Messiah, the One who knew everything she had ever done and yet still loved her with scandalous grace. John 4.

In this age of social media, of so many, many words, our human need to be seen and understood seems amplified. I constantly hear from women that they feel isolated, like no one understands, no one really sees. And they’re probably right in some ways. Proverbs 14:10 says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.”  

No one else fully understands what 2014 has been like for me. And that’s ok – I’m going to let them off the hook. They can’t fully comprehend it. And I can’t fully comprehend their pain, either. The pain of an unwanted diagnosis, the loss of a dear loved one, their marriage struggles, a financial earthquake… perhaps I’ve been in a similar situation, but only Jesus can fully see. Only Jesus can carry their grief. Only He can understand.

I think that’s part of the reason why, sitting in a smelly stable after a host of angels had sent shepherds to greet her Divine baby sleeping in a feed trough, Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19) Because who could understand that?! Who would even believe her? Who could understand the joy and exultation and fear and uncertainty swirling in her heart and mind? Only God.

I don’t know what 2014 has been like for you. Even if you’re a close personal friend, I can’t fully comprehend what 2014 has been like. But He can.

Let’s agree together to let one another off the hook a bit, shall we? To stop demanding that people understand us? To understand that they just can’t, even if they try? To give ourselves permission to not attempt to explain… to ponder in silence?

He sees you, dear one. He understands your joys, your pain, your shame, your worries about what lies ahead in 2015. Cry out to Him and you will find Him to be faithful.

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This is how we do it: Mom’s Daily Planner

A few weeks ago a friend was telling me how organized and on top of everything I seem to be. And I burst out laughing. I certainly don’t feel organized and on top of things! In our hectic life, I usually feel like I am two steps behind and holding on for dear life, constantly running late and wondering what I am forgetting (or very well aware of what I haven’t had time to do.)

However, after struggling to learn the ropes as a mother, homemaker, homeschooler, and a part-time work-from-home-mom, there are a few tips I can share with my friends who want to know how we do things. I certainly don’t do it “all,” and I won’t even claim I do these things well… but I can tell you how we seek to manage certain aspects of life to maintain sanity and some semblance of order. :)

Occasionally in coming weeks I’ll add some “this is how we do it” posts. I hope they are helpful as you seek to manage whatever you have going on in your life. First up: the daily mom planner.

Women’s lives are exceptionally seasonal. Every day, week, year is so different. In these years with young children, they grow and change and just when we find something that works… it doesn’t anymore. For me, I have found the same to be true with homekeeping, as well – just when I find something that works… it doesn’t.

So honestly, rigid “do this on this day/at this time” systems just don’t work for me. I get off the schedule and then feel like I can’t catch back up and it feels stressful. Flexibility is king. But, I need enough structure so I actually get something done.

A while back I had seen a printable online for a one-page “daily docket” – I believe it was this one. I loved the idea of having everything I needed to do on one sheet, and I tried it out for a while. But using one sheet per day was more space than I needed – I didn’t want to waste that much paper, and it also is more helpful for me to have my whole week at a glance.

I simplified and customized my own planner page that combines what I love about the daily docket with those old academic week-at-a-glance assignment notebooks from my school years that always worked well for me. I have always liked to check things off a list. ;) I made several hundred copies of my daily planner sheets at the local office supply place and filled up one of these Five Star Flex Hybrid NoteBinders. [Affiliate link.]

photo-7I’ve used this system for over a year now and I can confidently say that it works really well for me.

Each day has a column –
Dinner [I use this as my meal planner, too – helpful to have it all in one place!]
Women’s Ministry tasks for that day
To-Do List
General Time Plan
Box for Misc. Notes

On the far right side, I have a column for “notes” (often reminders and things I need to get done at some point… I also use this section as meal planning for the weekend) and a section for “next week”- sometimes I need to jot major things down so they don’t fall off my radar.

What works best with this system is when, at the beginning of the week, I cross check schedules with our paper calendar in the kitchen and the calendar on my phone, just to make sure I’m not forgetting anything major. I write fixed appointments down on my time-plan for the different days. Then in one glance, I can see all the major ministry tasks I need to do that week, the meal plan for each night, and I can add in major household tasks and homeschool projects/ blocks of time where they make sense with the rest of our schedule.

I don’t do this perfectly – but when I don’t use my planner I regret it!

If you think it would be helpful for you, feel free to print and use my template. But, like I found with the one-page daily docket, what works for you will probably be different from what works for me. Customize it to what you need to keep track of.

Happy planning. This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it – and redeem the time!

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If not us, then who?

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while now know that human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and children has become something I just can’t shake. Five years ago God began to deeply stir my heart to speak for the voiceless and to act. But how? It’s a complex issue and there aren’t easy answers.

Some victims are literally in chains, many are held in invisible bonds of drug addiction or psychological control. Some women find themselves deceived and sold against their will, some think they have no other alternative, or choose to enter a life of degradation as the best of the terrible options they see in front of them.

It’s a deep darkness. But God is at work. Jesus is light that overcomes the dark, hope that shatters hopelessness.

Now, five years after God began to tug at my heart with this issue, after I’ve blogged and shared and hosted events and done what little I could… it is my great privilege to say that I will be part of a team that will be traveling to Chiang Mai, Thailand this November; while we are there we will be partnering with a local existing ministry seeking to share the hope and love of Christ in the red light district, shining His light in the darkness.

The darkness is dark, indeed –

  • 27 million people are estimated to be in slavery today worldwide – more than any other time in history. [Source]
  • Human trafficking generates +$32 billion per year. [Source]
  • 66% of white men that land in the Bangkok airport are in Thailand to participate in sex tourism. [Source]
  • That 66% only accounts for about 10% of the sex tourism activity in the country. [Source]
  • In Chiang Mai alone there are 5,000 prostitutes. During peak season, there are close to 25,000. [Source]

But oh, how great is the love of Christ! God is working and doing great things!

As soon as I heard that our church would be sending a team to Chiang Mai, it seemed like I should be part of it. But the excuses rolled in… and they seemed pretty legitimate. After all, we have three young children. I homeschool. I have a lot on my plate. My husband isn’t crazy about the idea of sending me into the red light district. AND, we had just been licensed for foster care… what if we ended up with a baby before then? (lo and behold, we did!)

But God kept tugging on my heart and working on NP. And on the day when I had decided it was clear I was supposed to go, Matthew West’s song “Do Something” came on the radio in the car – and tears welled up in my eyes.

Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did – I created you.”

If not us, then who?
If not me and you?
Right now, it’s time for us to do something!
If not now, then when?
Will we see an end
To all this pain?
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something.

Indeed. It is. So, here we go.

What will we do in Chiang Mai? Pray. Spend time with women working in the bars. Love them. Educate them. Show them that there is hope. And did I say pray? Only God can do what we will be asking Him to do.

The cost for my trip will be $2,500. That is a big, daunting number with a comma in it. And you know what? We are asking for God to provide over and above our trip expenses so we can invest the surplus in the ministry we are partnering with.

If you would be interested in financially supporting me, please click on the paypal donate button below.

And of course – I would love for you to pray. Pray for our team as we prepare. Pray for the ongoing work in Thailand. Pray for the victims. Pray for the johns. Our world is broken but God is bigger.

The video below will give you a glimpse of what some of our time there will be like.

Oh Lord Jesus – may your light shine in the darkness! May your light shine through me.

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Wrestling with selfish love

paciBaby D is two months old. I know his snuggles and sounds, his sleeping and eating patterns. I dearly love this little guy like he is my own.

Every week I get him ready for his visit with his biological parents. Every single week I choose to believe that he is safer in the arms of his heavenly Father than he is in my own. I bathe him and get him dressed and kiss his little cheeks and pray over him and hand him over to the social worker.

This journey is so wonderful and so hard. The thought tugs at my mind every day – what if we have to give him back? And the thought that I hate and constantly have to battle with truth whispers in the dark – if he goes back to his family, was this all worth it?

Last night I sat and talked with a sister in Christ and fellow foster parent. I snuggled little D’s downy head in the sling on my chest as she chased her active 10 month old foster son through the room. Their little guy is heading back to his biological family in a couple of weeks. We talked about the fostering journey – so wonderful, so hard.

We talked about the choice to love – the choice to love deeply because these children are valuable, not because we can keep them or because they somehow enrich our lives. The loving choice to give foster children discipline and structure because we love them and not because it’s easy, knowing that they will be growing up in someone else’s home.

For several weeks I’ve been pondering how selfish my love often is. How often I love people, even my own children in some respects, because they add something to my life.

Today I watched a video about hospitality linked in a post on the Gospel Coalition site (for the next two days you can watch it free with the code from TGC). This quote from John Perkins stuck out to me so much, especially in light of my own ponderings and conversation from last night.

“So how do we do justice – is to see God’s image in this humanity and to serve this humanity. The problem we have is the way we do our charity and how we think of them. We approach them like we’re going to give dignity to them. You don’t give dignity to people – you affirm it. Hospitality is saying, “you are significant. I honor you. I love you. You are under my roof.” Love and hospitality is the platform that makes justice – and any kind of justice – available.”

I don’t give little D dignity. God created him in His image and gave him dignity. As I open my home to him and snuggle him and love him and cry and pray over him, it’s not because I in my goodness of heart choose to lift him up and give dignity to his life – it must be motivated by the dignity, significance, honor, and value that God created him with.

Foster care challenges us to love not because we benefit from loving. Foster care challenges us to love because people are valuable and God loved them first – because God loved us first – and commanded us to love the orphan like He loves them. Not because we need to grant them dignity and worth, but because God already created them with dignity and worth and commands us to recognize it.

If D goes back to his family, will it have been worth it? Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.

Because it’s not about me and what I get out of it. It’s about God and a little boy He loves so dearly.

Posted in Adoption and Fostercare, Christian life | Comments Off