Scandalous Rainbow.

rainbow

The nation is still reeling from Friday. The Supreme Court’s decision has created waves of emotion – jubilation, vindictiveness, grieving, anger, despair… responses have been swift. The rainbows boldly painted across our nation have added to the dizzying swirl of reaction and unbridled words.

Scandalous rainbow.

For me, I look on that prism of light and I see so. much. more. The scandal of that rainbow stretches far back into history.

Back into days when “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5) Back into the days when the pervasiveness of egregious sin demanded the response of the Righteous One.

His response?

“I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.” (Genesis 6:17)

All life. Every creature. Everything.

The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23a)

All life, except one man and his family and representations of each animal in kind. God would keep this tiny remnant alive in a boat, designed by God, built in faith, tucked into this way of safety by God’s own sovereign hand.

At the end of the whole ordeal, when that family emerged from the darkness of that ark, God painted His rainbow in the sky – a promise to the remnant of those who believed that even though sin must be judged by Holy God, He would never destroy the earth in that manner again.

Rainbows, first mentioned here in the first book of the Bible, appear again in the last. John attempts to describe the indescribable and says that “A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.” (Revelation 4:3) The throne of the Holy One. The throne about whom the heavenly hosts proclaim,

“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.” (Rev. 4:8)

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.” (Rev. 4:11)

The scandal of that rainbow is so much more than we realize. It is more than a political stance, more than a civil rights movement, more than public opinion about sexual orientation.

This scandal is that there is a God who created all things. They exist only because He willed them to do so. He is holy, holy, holy.

In Him there is no darkness at all. He does not change – He was, and is, and is to come. He is the only One worthy to reign, the only One worthy to judge. His holy nature is the very source of the definition of all that is true and right. Everything outside of His holy nature and will is the definition of all that is wrong and perverse.

We have rebelled, chosen our own way, and deserve destruction. But instead of wiping out humanity, God looked at the pervasiveness of egregious sin and sent His One and only Son to shed His own blood on our behalf – the Righteous One for the unrighteous.

He designed the way of our salvation, and when we respond in faith, we are tucked into this way of safety by His own sovereign hand.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

God’s Word and ways do not change. From beginning to end His story has been the same – how desperately we need Him, for we are a sinful and depraved people deserving His judgement.

Do not fear the rainbow – let it remind you of the undeserved grace of Jesus lavished on us. Let it bring grief not for lost political ground but for the millions of people who need to hear.

Do not fear those in power – God is ultimately the one on the throne. What if we prayed with as much zeal as we protest? What if we prayed for our leadership to encounter Jesus, not political defeat?

Do not fear people – our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Love your neighbor. Bind up the broken-hearted. Show them that love really did win – on the cross, not in the courtroom.

The days are dark and will no doubt get darker, but the Holy One, the Worthy One, the Almighty One holds all things, and has tucked us safely under His wings though the storms may rage around us.

The nation is reeling. But because of God’s scandalous rainbow – God’s scandalous plan – it is well with my soul.

Posted in Current Events | Comments Off on Scandalous Rainbow.

What I wish you knew about foster care

What I wish you knew about foster care

On the first day of this month, which also happens to be National Foster Care Month, we picked up a sweet little baby boy – our second foster placement – from the hospital nursery. Once again, we’ve had weeks full of diapers, burp rags, middle of the night feedings, and precious baby snuggles. Our hearts have enlarged again to make room for Baby M.

This time has been a little different. When we picked up baby D, we knew that saying goodbye was possible. This time, we picked up M knowing firsthand just how painful that can be, and had to make a decisive choice to love with abandon – to remind ourselves that all we can do is fix our eyes on Jesus, trust His sovereign plan, love this child well, and treat his family with dignity no matter what. It’s all we need to do.

Fostering is wonderful, and difficult. It’s also often very misunderstood. I continually have conversations with people clarifying common misconceptions. Today, the last day of National Foster Care Month, I wanted to share what I really wish others, especially others who have been transformed by Jesus, knew about foster care.

1. A foster placement is not the same as an adoptive placement.

We are a foster-to-adopt home, which means that we are open to pursuing adoption if the child in our care ends up in permanent custody with the state and is officially “adoptable.”

This child is not legally ours unless adoption papers are signed. We don’t have rights to travel, pick a babysitter, or even get him a haircut without outside approval. So no, we didn’t name him.

2. With a foster-to-adopt placement, we don’t know how the case will unfold.

Will the biological family work their case plan and be able to move toward reunification? Will an extended family member step forward and pursue a kinship placement? There can be a number of different ways a case can go. Usually when people ask me about details of how our case will proceed I just tell them it is an adventure in trusting the sovereignty of God. I mean every word of that statement.

3. Every foster, foster-to-adopt, or adoptive case is different.

The families are different. Their circumstances are different. Their backgrounds are different. Knowing the story of one family who has fostered or adopted does not translate to knowing how another family’s story will play out.

4. Life matters. Every life matters.

I am “pro life” because people are created in the image of God, woven together in their mothers’ wombs by the Creator Himself. Life matters.

This means that not only does Baby M’s life matter, his biological family matters, too. I cannot claim to love this child because of what Jesus has done for me while treating his parents with contempt.

5. The Gospel has huge implications for my understanding of foster care.

Jesus has redeemed and restored my life – and He has sent me on mission. My life is not my own.

The most common reaction NP and I get when talking about fostercare is “oh, I could never do that.” We can’t either on our own- but He gives us strength and grace for each day to do whatever He has called us to do. We certainly aren’t doing this because it’s easy or because it sounded fun – but He has commanded us to care for the orphan, to be a voice for the voiceless, to defend the cause of the weak and vulnerable. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it hurts. But it’s not about us – our lives are not our own.

Ultimately, if the Gospel forms our understanding of foster care, it boils down to stepping into brokenness and praying for and seeking the redemption and restoration of broken lives. Whether that means a broken family being strengthened or reunified or a baby’s life being restored by being grafted into a loving and stable family, it’s about restoration.

6. Parenting of any kind is hard. That doesn’t mean it isn’t wonderful!

Parenting – from pregnancy to childbirth to dealing with rebellion in older kids – hurts. It’s fraught with pain and difficulties and grief. But no one told me when I was pregnant with our biological kids, “I could never do that. It would hurt too much.” They congratulated and rejoiced with us! We recognize that while parenting is painful it is also full of joy! And while foster parenting can be really difficult, it is wonderful – I wouldn’t trade our time with these little guys even though our hearts ached and may ache again! Children are a blessing from the Lord!

There is much more I could say – but others have said it more eloquently than I. Here are some great articles for further reading:

  • Three Things I’ve Learned about Foster Care from Love146 – I so appreciated this article’s focus on the link between child trafficking and kids in the foster system. It also has some wonderful suggestions about how to support and walk alongside foster families even if you aren’t called to foster yourself.
  • The American Dream is Ruining Foster Parents from The Forgotten Initiative – It’s not about “winning” foster care. Love the child, treat the family with dignity.
  • Foster Care Prayer Guide from Focus on the Family, Hope for Orphans, and Show Hope – Want to know how to pray? Love this specific prayer list for the workers, families, children, and churches involved in the foster system.
  • Guide to Understanding Foster Care from Show Hope – Want to learn more? This is a free 9 page downloadable booklet that details:
    • The importance of foster care
    • The requirements of foster parenting
    • How to support foster care providers
    • Adopting from foster care
Posted in Adoption and Fostercare | Comments Off on What I wish you knew about foster care

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on When 2014 ends quietly.

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 –
Date
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!

Posted in Daily life | Tagged | Comments Off on This is how we do it: Mom’s Daily Planner