Saturday, December 19, 2009

God Shows Himself at WalMart

My last post talked about the financial stress that my husband and I have felt lately, which makes this story that much more amazing.

While we were grocery shopping last night at Wal-Mart, to fill our completely empty refrigerator and pantry (which was going to mean a rather large grocery bill), my kids needed to go potty.  My husband took the kids and went off.  On his way back to me, a woman, who was totally unknown by my husband, walked up to him and our 3 older kids and said "God told me to give this to you, as soon as I saw you."  She handed him a crisp, new $100 bill!  Justin was speechless and my 9 year old son was so excited.  Justin said "Thank you" and she responded with "Merry Christmas" and walked away.

WOW!

As Justin and the kids found me, still shopping and loading the cart, my 9 year old son runs up to me and says "Mom, some woman just gave Dad money!"  I looked at Justin, with shock, and he showed me the bill in his hand.  I began to ask him questions like "What did she say?" and "Are you sure you don't know who she is?" He assured me that he had no clue and that all she said to him was that God told her to do that.

WOW!

That woman, whom we may never see again, has blessed our family!  God has truly shown Himself and reminded my husband how much he is loved.  God used that woman to remind my husband that He will always provide.  God spoke to my husband, who has been struggling a lot in his faith lately, through that woman.  God showed me that He is really faithful in all things and will meet all of our needs.  I'm so grateful to God and I'm grateful to the woman who heard His voice and chose to obey and to sacrifice for us.

Today, we will discuss this incidence with our children and we will tell them how God provides.  We will talk to them about the effect of prayer.  We will talk to our children about how much God loves us.  We will share wtih them the important of obedience to God's word - which apparently can be heard, loud and clear, inside a Wal-Mart!

Thank you, God!  Praise you, God!  We love you, God!  Amen.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Perfect Imperfection

This holiday season has not been one of joy for me or my husband. We've been so stressed out about all that our children want for Christmas and the fact that we just can't afford to give them everything on their list this year, or even close. We've been so focused on the struggles that we've faced this year and the stress that we've allowed to enter our lives that it has really distracted from our joy and happiness during this magical time of year.  We've allowed ourselves to get caught up in the "world" of Christmas rather than the "heavenly world" of the holiday.  A few days ago, something occured to me, after I'd spent the morning in silent tears and worry.

Around our house, I'm typically the person the one who drags the box out to the living room and sorts all the branches, assembles the tree and proceeds to fluff each branch, until the artificial tree is as full as I can get it.  I, then, set out to string the lights and the garland and open each ornament box, carefully, while making sure each child gets to hang an equal number of ornaments on the tree and that each child gets to hang the ornaments that he/she has made.  I make sure that every ornament we own is given a place on the tree. I gently instruct where each ornament should go, so that the tree is evenly scattered with these precious memories and reminders of our life, as a family.  I place the angel on the top of the tree. I put the Nativity scene out.  I, typically, am in charge of the decorating for Christmas and then I don't complain.  That's just the way it's been. 

However, this year, in my lack of desire for the holiday to come, I was just not as excited about Christmas as my kids.  I wasn't looking forward to lugging all the decorations out and I was not looking forward to having that huge tree up in my living room.  To be honest with you, I don't think my husband was, either.  We were kind of hoping the kids would forget it was Christmas time, I guess.

Nope. That didn't happen. The kids were so anxious to get the tree up.  They kept asking "Can we put the tree up today?"  Finally, Daddy gave in and dug everything out. 

Justin and the kids set up the tree and decorated it this year.  He tried to "fluff" the branches, but they're just not as "fluffed" as I'd like them to be.  He forgot to put the garland on the tree at all.  He didn't pull out all of the Christmas boxes out of storage, which means not all of our ornaments are on the tree.  There's one small section of white lights on the tree that will not light.  The tree skirt is constantly in disarray and messy.  The ornaments are not evenly place.  My tree is not perfect. 

But, you know what.  Neither was this world when Christ was born on Christmas Day.  His mother was made to give birth in a stable!  He was laid in a manger, out of which livestock ate their meals.  He was wrapped in rags.  Our perfect Lord entered this imperfect world, without complaining.  He didn't tell the Father "You need to move things around and clean it up, first.". (Read Luke 2)

What's even more amazing to me is that I was not perfect when Christ later died on the cross to cover my sins with his perfect light.  No one was perfect. No one will ever be perfect. We are always messy, disorganized, unfluffed, and full of flaws.  Christ doesn't care.  His light covers all of that ickiness!  Everyday.  Every minute.  Every single time.

Now, think of my imperfect Christmas tree.  It was decorated by my children and my husband during a time when I really did not want to mess with it.  I can look at it and find lots of "flaws", but guess what.  When the lights are on, you can't notice even one!  You don't see the holes where the branches are unfluffed.  You don't notice the messy tree skirt. You don't notice the missing garland or all of the ornaments that aren't on the tree.

What you do see is a beautiful glow of multi-colored and white lightes.  You do notice all of the ornaments made by my children and you remember all of the years we've had together, as a family.  That's what Christmas is all about.  Letting the light outshine the imperfections...on your tree and in your Life.  Christ's light is that powerful.  My children will remember the example we show them of Jesus' amazing sacrifice when he came to this world as a babe and left this earth in a horrible death, only to conquer the grave and save us from our own imperfections. 

I will remind myself, this holiday season, and I will trust that God will use the financial struggles we face right now to remind us to lean on Him, not on this world, to give our kids happiness and joy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Takin' It to the Extreme

Last week, I was chatting with my mother...some of you know her, most do not.  Mom and I have been through a lot in our journey as mother and daughter.  I struggle to have a lot of respect for her and the decisions that she's made in her life, but I know that I need to honor her because she is my mother.  I love my mother.  I really do. Even with all that's gone horribly wrong in our relationship, I love her and I'm grateful that we've been able to restore some small resemblance of a relationship in the past several years. 

As we were chatting about random and useless things, last week, she mentioned to me that I "shelter" my kids, too much.  When I asked her about why she believes this, she said its "because of all the things that you don't let them do - you don't let them 'be kids'." Huh?  What?

(If you know me well, at all, you know that this statement is really almost ludicrous because I'm fairly cognizant of NOT sheltering my kids - I want them to be knowledgeable about their world and life, so that they can stand against things that are wrong, with strength.)

I probed her for more specifics..."What do you mean? What do you think they should be allowed to do that we don't allow?" 

Here it comes...some criticism over my parenting decisions to go along with how much I let the kids run my house and I don't "discipline" them enough - which means I don't "spank" them enough. 

Her answer was that "You don't let them watch certain things, like certain cartoons or Harry Potter and you don't let them dress in scary costumes at Halloween."

Are you kidding me?  Remember, my kids are 9, 7, 5 and 3.

Then, she goes on to say that there are times when I am "stuck up" and "think that I'm better than everyone else because I am a (insert air quotes here) born-again Christian."  Yep.  That's right.  I think that I'm better because I'm a Christian.  Okay.  Really?

"What does that mean, Mom?", I say.  "How do I think that I'm better?"  In an effort to really hear what she's saying and trying to do some self-reflection, I really want to examine whether I put that out there.  I want to live a life that is an example of Christ's love and compassion - especially to my family who are not believers.  I want to show them that living with Christ isn't always easy but it's full of motivation, inspiration, forgiveness, love and grace.  I want them to see that Jesus is the reason that I can have a relationship with them at all.  So, when she says that the image I give off is that I'm better than they are, I'm mortified. 

Mom couldn't provide me very many examples and she couldn't really justify her statement.  All she could do is point out the decisions that I've made in my life, with my husband, for your family that are different than she would make.  She fell back to her stand-by "I raised you and your brother differently and you turned out just fine."  (Remember, I went into foster care at 12 years old and my brother has struggled with healthy relationships and substances off and on.  Really? She's going to take credit for how I turned out.  I'm not sure how to feel about that.)

I tried to explain to Mom that the things she was saying only explained why I made different decisions for my family.  She tried to tell me that there are pieces of the Bible that are completely true and other pieces that aren't relevant anymore.  She actually said that God was wrong on one point! As I quoted scripture to her to justify my point, she began to get more and more uncomfortable. 

Was she uncomfortable with me or with the Word? Is this what she means when she says I think I'm better than she?  Is it really about the differences in our core values? 

The realization I came to is that its not that I think I am better...I think that Jesus is better!  The Bible says "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me" in John 14:6. That's not ME saying that being a Christian is better - that's the Word of God saying it! I want to have Life.  I want to get to the Father.  I want to know Truth and be reassured that I'm on the right path.  I want to seek out that kind of certainty.  I don't want to have wander around in the grayness of today's "everything goes" mentality or the believe that "its all relative". 

I pray that my mother, my brother, my father, my step-parents and step-siblings come to know the Truth.  I want to see them in eternity. I want them to know the peace that comes from being born-again. I want my children to know that every decision we make, even if its about a show we watch or dont, a costume we wear or pass by, a relationship we honor or discard, matters to God.  I want to make decisions that can be jotted down with pride by my Heavenly Father.  I want to hear my Lord say "well done, thy good and faithful servant..." (Matthew 25:23) at the end of my life.  I want my children to see a legacy full of Christ's example in me!

So, if that means that I have to take it to the extreme - I will! Everyday!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Momma Bear, Silenced



I have just been faced with a situation that threw me into a bit of a tizzy.  I feel like one of my children has been slighted and I'm offended, for my son.  I'm angry that this happened and my natural tendency is to bring it up to the person in charge.  My desire is to contact this person and to let this person know how I feel, in a tactful and respectful manner. 

Instead, I discussed it with my husband. I let him know how I felt and I told him that I wanted to address it further.  He told me no! 

What? Are you kidding me? This is my child and its my job, as his mother, to stick up for him, right? How can you tell me to drop it? How can you expect me to give this up?  Huh? 

In all of my frustration and anger and hurt feelings and drive to protect my son, God reminded me that I have to listen to my husband.  Justin has told me to let this go.  He's instructed me to be patient and to let this work itself out.  He sees no benefit of me bringing it up. 

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Romans 13:1

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 1 Timothy 2:11

Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.  Romans 13:5
 
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21
 
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22
 
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  Ephesians 5:24
 
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.  Hebrews 13:17
 
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? James 4:1
 
Confronting the situation would be a direct disrespect to my husband, who is an authority over me and our household.  He sees no good that would come from me bringing this up.  He addressed the situation in the manner he felt was most appropriate and he has asked me to accept the outcome and move on.  He was very clear and, as much as I may disagree, I have to accept his direction and let this go.  I must resist the temptation I have to "address it", for multiple reasons.
 
I've recently learned that God will hold our husbands accountable for our family, our children's actions, and our actions (Read Genesis. Who did God hold accountable for Eve's actions?).  I've learned that because God placed our husbands in authority over our family, it is his responsibility to lead us down the path that God has revealed to him, in big things and small things. 
 
God doesn't desire for ME to lead our family, make decisions for our family, or teach our children how to respond to life's circumstances - especially our sons!  God's desire is for me to TRUST MY HUSBAND and follow HIS directions.  Doing this, not only shows my husband a higher level of respect, but it also allows him to fulfill his role as leader and protector of our family and allows him an opportunity to teach, by example, to our sons how to be a man.  That is a huge responsibility for my husband!  How dare I step all over that by doing it "my way"? 
 
This isn't easy for me...I want to stick up for my cub.  I want to show my teeth and growl and force this person to see things my way.  I want to stand on my hind legs and show how much I'm willing to protect my cubs.  I want to let this person who offended my child to know that what happened was not right!  
 

Instead, I will take my offenses to the Lord and I will trust that Justin knows best, for me and for our son.  I will follow Justin's direction and respect his authority over me.  I will let it go. 

******************************************************************************
How can you apply this idea to your marriage this week?  Pray about it.  Ask God to show you areas of disobedience (and subsequent disrespect) to your husband. Ask for forgiveness from God and your Husband.  Ask God to help you be more respectful and obedient to your husband's authority over your family - in big things and small things. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pleasantly Pumpkin


This morning, I was able to attend my daughter Chloe's Kindergarten field trip to a local pumpkin patch.  While on the trip, her teacher was looking for a pumpkin flower.  The class recently discussed how pumpkins grew from a flower on a vine into the big, round orange pumpkins that we pick up and use for carving jack-o-lanterns.  It occured to me as the teacher located a beautiful pumpkin vine and flower, cut it off and showed it to all of the children, that our path, as God's children, begins and ends much like that of a pumpkin's path to our carving table or porch decor.

You see, pumpkins start from just one, relatively small, seed that is planted.  It's nurtured and taken care of - fertilized (fed) and watered.  The pumpkin fields are tended and looked after, protected during storms and weather fluctuations. The fields are treated to fend off infestations all things that would attempt to damage the crop.  When the pumpkins are riped, they're laid out for selection by the yearly hayrack rides full of pumpkin pickers.


We, too, start out as a very humble little being.  As a child, we're planted, loved and cared for, protected from fluctuations of our world and given resistance to the infestations of the day.  We start out as an innocent little flower, but as we grow, we change.  We learn new things and experience struggles in life.  The weather changes and storms come.  We see our friends change and we recognize opportunities.  Our blooms change from a flower to a little pumpkin bud and grows into the variety of life that we see everytime we look around at the people in our lives.

As we walked through the pumpkin patch, I saw that some of the pumpkins were large, others were small.  Funny. People are that way too.  I saw that some pumpkins were bright orange all over, but others were moddled with green and yellow.  Some were broken and rotted out.  Some had dimples and holes.  Funny, people look uniquely different, too.  Some had one good side and one bad side.  Funny, people carry two personas, too.  Hmmmm.

I also noticed that some of the pumpkins were still attached to their life-giving vine, while others had fallen off on their own and others were cut away.  People, too, have a life-giving vine and our attachment to this Vine varies.  We can be cut away from God, completely, in our minds and hearts.  We can be hanging on with one little strand to God, trying to fend off the challenges and temptations we face, or we can be clinging to God with every fiber of our being and still relying on Him for every breath of our life, each and every day.

God's majesty really is amazing, isn't it?  He can turn that tiny little pumpkin seed into a big, glorious pumpkin!  That's remarkable, in the true sense of the word. God can, however, keep his majesty rather simple.  The transformation is a process, for everyone.  We're growing each day and with each new chance.  God allows our vines to twist and turn and sometimes break, but he always give us a chance at life.  Every single pumpkin in that field, at one time, had a chance to be picked.  The variations of color could all be combined to form a beautiful centerpiece, or a fantastic and whimsical decoration. The bumps and bruises on the guords give them character.  The variation of sizes and colors make each pumpkin truly unique.  And, have you ever noticed how hard is to find that perfect pumpkin. You just can't do it.  Perfection does not exist in the pumpkin patch or in us.  It's just not there, and, that's okay!

Take some time today to thank God for his simple majesty.  Thank Him for the process we go through and thank Him for the opportunities each day that we have to reach out for His life-granting blessings.  Thank God for making you, YOU - unique and beautiful to the One who picks you from the patch, every single time! 


Thursday, September 24, 2009

When God Speaks Through Your Spouse

In a moment of disagreement between the two of us (you know the kind - an argument), my husband said some things that hurt.  At first, they just made me really angry.  How dare he say that to me?  I've been a stay-at-home mom for almost 7 years now and in that time, I've done a lot.  I've tried to keep up with the housework. I've tried to keep the family organized.  I've tried to keep the laundry washed and folded (okay, I slack on this one more than other things because I hate laundry so much). I've taken the kids to school, signed all the notes, made sure homework was done, written the checks for field trips, lunches, pictures, etc. I've signed the kids up for various activities and tried to get them involved. I've been the primary care-taker and disciplinarian, simply because I am home.  I've also gone to graduate school, volunteered at church, been a classroom mother for the kids and helped at school parties, and taught foster/adoptive parent classes in the evening.  What I'm trying to say is that I don't feel like I've wasted the past 7 years of my life and I've not spent them on the sofa watching Oprah or General Hospital, eating chocolate. 

So, to hear my husband say that he hasn't really noticed a big difference in the house or the schedule or whatever since I started my final practicum (which is a part-time job) hurt.  He went on to say how ticked off he is that I haven't made simple changes he's requested, like filling up the truck when it gets to 1/2 a tank vs. E, or that I haven't been as resourceful/accountable with our financial resources as I should be, was a surprise.  At first, it felt like he was "giving me instructions" and I didn't want to hear it. 

I mean, really, is he the one at home dealing with all these things.  Nope.  He's at work from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.  That's easy because he doesn't have to deal with the kids and the day-to-day family stuff!  Can't he help out more at home?  Can't he pay the bills, do a load of laundry, help with homework, run the kids to and from, help clean up from dinner, do baths, get the kids in bed, spend quality time with each of our kids, coach the sports teams, volunteer at church, etc. in the 3 1/2 hours he has at home each night, and do it all without getting irritable?  Shouldn't I be allowed to "clock-out" when he gets home? 

Okay, okay.  I know - on some level that all seems totally reasonable.  Last night (and this morning when I woke up), I heard God saying to me..."He does his part without your help." God's right.  I don't get up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready for work.  I don't go to FedEx and help Justin make his deliveries on time, especially when freight is late, so they're all really, super busy.  I don't help coach the football team. I don't coach the soccer team.  I see my kids during the day and I talk to the teachers, so I know how they're doing all the time.  I get to care for them when they're sick and hear how they're growing because I take them to the doctor appointments.  I get to see them laugh and have a good time, while he's at work.  I have my relationship with our children because I have more time with them than Daddy does. 

When he comes home, and I'm expecting him to help with everything because I want a break - when does he get a break?  Genesis 2:18 says "The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."  God created me to be a helper for my husband - not the other way around! Oh, Lightbulb! Duh.  I've known that verse for a very long time and I thought I had accepted it. 

In a Bible Study that I'm taking, we've recently discussed the innate drives in men and women.  My husband's drives are to provide for and protect our family and to exercise dominion over those territories.  My drives are to nurture and support my family and to exercise dominion over those territories.  When I ask my husband to take on my territories as well as his own, I put a great deal of pressure on him.  I ask him to do my part and his own and that's not fair.  When he asks me to do things a certain way, I should respect that he knows how to lead our family and make the changes.  (Wanna hear something else?  Justin actually said to me "If you want the power in this family, fine. Take it." Whoa!!!! That's not what I want and NOT what I'd been praying for in my marriage for a very long time. In fact, I've been praying that Justin would step up more.  Prayer answered - last night!  That hurt.  Talk about God getting in your face...)

Now, am I saying that I, as a woman should be okay to be stuck in the kitchen all day doing "woman's work"? No. I'm not.  I believe marriage should consist of mutual support, encouragment, and respect.  It is a two-way street and each partner must give something to the relationship and the home.  However, what each partner gives is just different.  Each gives something to the family and the home, but each gives what God has equipped him or her to give.  It is unfair of us, male or female, to ask our loved one to give something that God did not design him or her to give.  It's just not possible, and eventually, someone blows. 

So, my encouragment for today is to ask your spouse what he/she feels should be your offering to the marriage. Define your territories and commit to sticking to them.  Check your demands on each other, honestly and sincerely.  Are they equal but different?  Is there something that your spouse would want you to change about the way you do your part, in your family?  Can you make that change?  Today, I will pray about my part and my territories and I will consider how I have been unfair to Justin.  Today, I will really hear the message from my husband because, I believe it may just be a message from my Father.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Remembering and Recognizing

When I was only 12 years old, my world was turned upside down but it turned out that this event would make everything about my life make sense and seem to be exactly the way God intended it to be. 

At 12 years old, I thought I might be pregnant.  WHAT?!?!?! I know, it's crazy - 12 and to be scared of becoming a mother - what was going on?  Out of fear, I confided in my best friend that my father was sexually abusing me and that he'd been doing it for years - as long as I could remember.  That was a huge secret and my friend didn't really know what to do with it.  Can you blame her? She was only 12 years old and no 12 year old should know what to do with that (or should they?).  For some reason, she was led to tell my secret to the school counselor and report to child protective services was made. 

Later that day, I was called to the counselor's office at school to be interviewed by a social worker and a detective, and I have to admit that I really wanted to take it all back and say it wasn't true!  I knew that it was not a good thing to have these people asking these questions.  I knew trouble was coming but I answered all of their questions truthfully.  I had to.  There was a detective there and I knew these people were serious!  I saw no way out of this situation, but I did wonder if this situation would make it all stop.  What would happen next?  Would my father get arrested?  Would my mother believe me? What about my brother? What would happen?  I had no clue but I sat there and answered their questions.

In the next instant I was flooded by fear and confusion.  The social worker told me to get on the bus and go home.  "What!?!?" "Are you kidding me?" "You don't know what will happen to me!" were the thoughts that came rushing to mind.  What the social worker hadn't asked about was the discipline used in my home, which was very harsh and abusive.  I was now really afraid of what would happen when I got home and there was nowhere else for me to go.

As I walked in the door, the phone rang and my mother's jaw dropped.  My mother, my father and I drove to the detective's office together for questioning and I was being told to recant the story the whole way.  After some time, I was led to a room down the hall and I watched my parents drive away (without saying goodbye) through a window.  I remember feeling scared and alone but also a sense of relief because I didn't have to go home with them.  This night began a 6 year journey through foster care for me, which included 9 different places (1 relative placement, 4 group home stays, 3 long-term foster families, and 1emergency foster home).

My first placement was with a relative, who told the authorities to move me just 2 weeks later because she "didn't want me to make this up" about her husband.  I was moved to the Wichita Children's Home in Wichita, KS.  The "children's home", as it is commonly known here, was a big place with lots of rooms and lots of kids.  Every 8 hours staff changed and we carried "point cards" everywhere - even to school.  Meals were held in a big dining room and at the same time each day.  I would come to spend 3 months there this time and would be placed in 2 different units within the "home".  I would come back to the "home" 4 years later, in between foster home placements. to see many of the same staff there. 

That first summer in WCH was difficult and to be honest with you, I don't remember too much about it.  What I do remember are the stories of those that cared for me - the staff.  I was blessed to meet some really incredible people at the "home" who have impacted my life beyond measure.  People like Marcy Ray, Kim and Shawn Raider, Jamie Johnston, Sjonna Ocshner, and others, who gave so much of themselves to serve kids like me, of all ages, who were alone, scared and confused.  People who would introduce me to safety and security for the first time in my life.  People who would show me that life didn't have to hurt and relationships with adults didn't have to be scary or confusing.  People who would introduce me to Christ without ever saying His name.  People who I am sure prayed for me and for the other kids there. People who would let me sit in their office and hold teddy bears or play games or throw a frisbee with me.  People who would stay in touch with me even after I left the home. People who would watch out for me and advocate for me, or let me watch and sing along to "The Little Mermaid" whenever I wanted.  People who would later invite me, a teenager in foster care, to play a part in their wedding.  People who believed in me then, and still do. People who helped me to become the woman I am today.  People God knew I needed at that exact moment.

Just a few days ago, I received a call that one of these very special people had died.  Jamie Johnston left this world on Sunday, September 20, 2009.  She had worked at the home much longer than I can remember and had touched so many young people, just like me.  She had worked with too many youth and families to count, for sure.  She had impacted the lives of her co-workers and her community in such a kind and gentle way, that only Jamie could do.  Jamie was so caring and nurturing.  Her soft voice was comforting, yet honest.  She remembered you long after you'd left her sight and I know, in my heart, she prayed for so many, for so long.  Jamie was a remarkable woman and one that will be greatly missed. 

As I reflect on this time in my life, I remember not only what happened to me and the journey I took through foster care, but I also remember all of the incredible staff, case managers, therapists, teachers, counselors, social workers, the court service officer and judge who impacted my life in such a profound way. I also remember many of the other young people experiencing the journey alongside me and the struggles they were going through and I recognize that the young people I serve today are no different.   

I admire the efforts these caring workers put into their jobs and I respect the time and effort that each one gives to their clients.  I recognize that our system of foster care is not perfect. Our families are not perfect.  Our therapy techniques aren't perfect. Our laws and regulations aren't perfect.  Heck, the workers themselves, aren't perfect, but they try.  Each and every day, these people hold the life of a child and a family in the palm of their hands and they work as hard as they can to impact that family in a positive way.  Social workers don't stop serving their clients at 5:00 p.m. Social workers, and other caring professionals who serve families and children, think about their clients and pray for their clients and try to discover new ways to help improve situations or find resources to offer, every day. 

As a social worker, now, I look back with appreciation and respect. I thank each and every one of these people for taking the time to choose the job they did and be a part of my life - YOU HAVE HELPED ME TO BE WHO I AM!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An Attitude of Gratitude

Jesus,
Thank you so much for wonderful husband. He works so hard for our family and I know that he's tired most of the time. He's committed to coaching so both of our boys can play their chosen sport this year and he's volunteering at church with 2nd graders for AWANA and all of that keeps him busy every night of the week, after long, long days at work. He's busy at games all day on Saturday and manages to give our girls big hugs and kisses each time he walks through the door. He holds them as they fall asleep and then carries them off to bed. Thank you, Lord, for Justin's heart. Thank you that he loves me even when I'm not the wife he deserves. Thank you that he has always been there for me and thank you for allowing him to become exactly the man I needed as my husband. He's been patient and gentle when I needed him and he's protected me when I needed that too. Thank you, Father, for my husband. He is really a blessing to me.

Thank you for my children - even on those days when I'm so frustrated and I'm yelling way too much. Thank you for their health. Thank you for their energy. Thank you for their uniqueness. Thank you, Father, that they laugh and play as much as they argue with one another. It melts my heart when they say "I love you, Mom." and give me a hug - and I thank you that they can each say those words to me. Thank you Jesus for allowing me to raise them up to know you and love you.

Thank you Lord for my friends. You have blessed me so completely with the women in my life - always supportive, encouraging and ever so helpful to me. Thank you that we can get together and laugh uncontrollably at even the most stupid jokes or stories. Thank you for giving me friends that will and do cry with me when I need to cry and thank you father for my friends who have prayed for me, my marriage, my husband, and my kids. I truly don't know what I would do without friends who pray with me and for me! That is a blessing beyond measure.

Thank you Lord for the teachers you've put into my life over the past few years. I've so enjoyed all of the messages I've received directly from you through these wonderful Christian leaders. Thank you for the chance to attend the conferences and hear amazing testimonies. I only hope I can apply all that you've shown me to share my testimony better and to glorify you in all I do!

Finally, Jesus, thank you so much for dying for me. I know that it is only because you love me that you would be willing to do that for me! I am not worthy of that kind of love because I know that I sin each and every day and I have to always repent for things I do and choices I make. Lord, it is humbling to know that you suffered and went through all that pain before even my great, great grandparents or their great, great grandparents were even a glimmer in someones eye - you knew that I would need your grace and I thank you for offering it. I am so grateful for the gift that you gave to me on that cross, just when you were losing your very life on earth. Thank you so much! I love you Lord. I love you Lord. I love you Lord.

In Jesus' name I am grateful. Thank you, Father!

This is just my way of remembering all that I'm truly grateful for today.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wonder Woman


Yesterday, someone said that I must be "wonder woman" because of all that I am involved in or do. That's not the first time I've heard that statement or been asked "how do you do it?" way more times than I care to remember. So, what's so special about my life that makes others think I'm able to do so much more than they? I just don't get it.
Here we go...I am married with 4 children, ages 3-9, and the cycle of year-round sports practices (for 2 kids) has quickly collided with Wednesday AWANA at church. My husband is assistant coach for the 3rd grade football and the head coach for U8 soccer. We both volunteer during AWANA - he's a verse/group leader and I am a Sparks "secretary". Justin works 40-50 hrs per week at FedEx and I'm in graduate school. This being my final year of school (which I love to point out), I am completing a practicum, which basically means I'm working 18-20 hrs/week at a school 30 minutes from my home (for no pay, which is the part that really stinks!). This means, 3 days a week, I have to get the older 3 kids ready for school and off to the neighbors to catch the bus and then get the youngest to daycare and head off to work. On top of that, I just started a Tuesday night Bible Study (because I was starving for more and need to remember to be fed, spiritually, too) and I signed up for a MAPS group on Friday mornings (because I know that I am NOT alone in this season of life). I also teach pre-service training classes and do home visits with prospective foster and adoptive families 1-2 days per week. I have way too many loads of laundry to wash, dry, and put away than I care to count in a week and 3 bathrooms in our home that constantly need to be cleaned. A never-ending cycle of meals to prepare and dishes to clean along with carpets that need to be vacuumed way more often than I can get to it. Oh yeah, the amount of dust accumulated in my house in one week would probably equal a new world-record! Yes, I do have a lot going on. I'll give you that.

But, here's my question...How am I really all that different than the woman in the mini-van next to me at the stoplight or my friend who is shopping for groceries with her kids-in-tow at Wal-Mart?
So, when my friend called me "wonder woman" yesterday, I had to stop and think. I typically blow it off when someone makes this comment, because I know that its just something easy to say. However, I know that I'm not that special. I know that I am doing exactly what every woman does. We all try to be all and do all for everyone around us. Women are expected to be good and supportive wives, who keep a good house and support our husbands and our children. We're looked at by how we care for our homes and our families. We serve our families through the chores we do all day long. We are constantly doing something for someone else - and we do it because we love it! We avoid complaining and try not to get grumpy when the house is messy 2 hours after we finish cleaning it. We're having babies, chasing and potty training toddlers, all while getting the school-agers and teens where they need to be, on time.
Women are often expected (either by herself, her husband, her checkbook or society) to work outside of the home and help "support" the family, financially, while being conscience of how we spend our family's resources on groceries, clothes, jewelry, home furnishings and decor. That means that we may be working a job at home and away, in which case, we serving our boss and our customers all day long.
As girlfriends, we are always there for our friends and their families, too. We make sure we attend all the important birthdays and get-togethers to which we're invited. We answer emails and follow up on face book regularly, commenting on as many status updates as we can, just to let them know we're there and we care. We take time to talk on the phone and attend the next home-show/party that our friend holds - often agreeing to host our own, so she can get the benefits. We're there when our friend needs to cry, or laugh. We make a meal when someone is sick or has a baby and we offer to babysit so our friend can go on a date with her husband. We're doing a lot.
At church, we're called to serve in the nursery or preschool or children's ministry, or all of the above. We're supervising the youth groups and chaperoning camps. We're organizing VBS events and then we sign up for women's groups so "we can feel connected, too". We try to talk our husbands into the couples small-group or taking advantage of that home-team opportunity. Oh, and don't forget how we often encourage our man to participate (just as completely) in the men's ministry groups. (Isn't it funny how quickly we forget the men don't need all the "relationships" we do, and encourage them anyway?)
We are the team-moms, making snacks for the team after each game. We send the emails, make the phone calls, create and distribute invitations, and bake cakes for our kids birthdays. We plan extra-special holidays and family get-togethers. We sign up to help with class parties all year long and are there for every doctor appointment and parent-teacher conference.
In short, we do a lot. Don't we? All of us...women are busy, busy, busy.
I haven't even talked about the sacrifices women make, yet. If we were almost out of food, we would go without so our children could eat. If our clothes were old and outdated and our kids had a growth spurt, we would spice up our existent wardrobe so we can buy the new, longer pants for our kids. If our husband had a meeting, we'd reschedule ours. If we want to go out of town for a girls-weekend, we line up all the sitters, schedules, and meals ahead of time "so he doesn't have to worry about it". We pick the sick kids up from school and take them to the doctor. We clean up the various bodily fluids and comfort, even our husbands, when they're under the weather. We even do the carpool when we just don't feel like it, so our kids don't miss out. We're the first to miss our "event" if something comes up. We slip out of bed, weak and tired, in the middle of the night to help so-and-so get to the potty or go back to sleep from the nightmare. We pull the covers back up over the child who's kicked them off and now looks cold, and, we do it all out of love. Some women put their careers and life-dreams on the back burner to simmer, while raising the kids. We pray for our husbands, our children, our friends, our community, our church, and so on. We sacrifice and we do it every day, but we love it.
So, am I really wonder woman? I think not. Are we all "wonder women"? YES!!!!!!
I believe that God created woman because He knew, in His infinite wisdom that the world would need someone to do all of these things. Now, this is not to say that men don't hold a very special place in our world - they absolutely do, but I'll save that for another blog. Genesis 2:18 (NIV)
The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." This means, to me, that God knew and intended for women to help hold things together and to make sure things run smoothly.
He knew the world would need a species full of "Wonder Women"!!! Amen?
So, the next time you see a woman who is doing it all and you wonder how she does it...take a good, long look at your own world and give yourself some credit for all that you do and how well you do it. YOU ARE WONDER WOMAN in your own right!
I think I might just change my profile pic (at least for a while)...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Mother's Confession

It happened. I don't like it, but I must admit it. I must confess my sin. I must acknowledge my mistake and I must consider how it will effect those I love the most.

Last night, I walked into our basement to find that my four amazing kids had once again turned into powerful tornadoes and destroyed our basement. There were legos, colored pencils, stuffed animals, DVDs, dirty laundry, and other miscellaneous objects strewn about and I have to say that it really did look like a massive F5 storm had just run through our family room! Actually, this scenario happens quite a bit around my house and it happens in various rooms of my home - each of their bedrooms, the kitchen, the bathroom and the family rooms! I think it has to be some conspiracy amongst my children to think of all the ways that they can make a mess. I only wish that their master plan also included an designation to the clean-up crew!

Yesterday, however, was a little different...I had specifically asked/told the kids to pick it up several times. Then, inevitably, I would get distracted and so would they, so the mess was not corrected. When I finally went downstairs to check, I saw just how bad the basement had gotten and I was immediately frustrated. As we all started to pick things up (because now they really knew Mom was irritated and they started helping - hmmm, what was their clue?), I noticed that the curio cabinet where our wedding memories are stored had been tampered with (again!) and I lost it. You can imagine the steam shooting from both my ears as the hair on my head stood up and my face turned red. All I could do was think of screaming a growl-like sound from deep in my stomach. I was so upset! I had discovered my husband's wedding day boutineer crushed and destroyed by our children.

I don't know why, but this was a really big deal to me. You see, I really have very few, if any, items from my childhood. Going into foster care and then spending 6 years in "the system" will do that to a person. I have only a few pictures, cards and the like from my teenage years and even fewer from before the age of 12 years. The things I collected while dating my husband and since we've been married mean the world to me. I know its silly, but I sincerely treasure each and every trinket and memory of my relationship with my husband and this curio holds an extra-special place in my heart. It is the very last thing packed before a move and one of the first things unpacked upon arrival to the new home. I have even told the kids, "This cabinet and the stuff in it was in this house before you were here and it will be here after you grow up and leave this house." (Crazy, huh?) It is really that important to me and they have all been instructed to leave it alone - numerous times.

Up until this year, they've all understood and left the cabinet and wedding memories alone. I'm not sure why, but recently it has become a topic of interest and intrigue, and this time, it meant an item was destroyed. AAAAGGGGGHHHH!!!! What was I to do? I couldn't very well replace the boutineer. I couldn't express how much it had meant to me in a way that the kids could understand. I couldn't save it by putting it back together. All I could do was scream and have an actual phsycial reaction to the loss I was feeling.

The confession...I allowed myself to get way too angry. While I did NOT touch my children in any way, at all (I was far too angry to even consider it...) I yelled and said things to them, out of pure reaction, that I should not have said. I overgeneralized my reaction to the broken flower to other things that I had felt the kids disrespected in our home - our furniture, the walls, their toys, the DVDs and video games, my efforts to serve the family, etc. That little broken boutineer had somehow turned into a representation of me! What?!?!?! That just doesn't make sense.

The kids are kids. They make mistakes and I am supposed to be able to recognize the mistakes, forgive, teach and move on, right? I mean, isn't that what mothering is all about - helping our children to learn from their mistakes and make better choices? That's what the "good moms" do.

After I sat down on the stairs and thought about my reaction (okay, over-reaction) to the broken boutineer, I cried. I cried because the flower was destroyed, but I also cried because I had exemplified a behavior for my children that I was ashamed of. I thought about this interaction for several hours last night and have thought of it several times today. I'm really ashamed of myself, as a mother.

It has occurred to me, though, that my kids love me even when I act like a complete fool. They look up to me and know that I am there to keep them safe. When they fall or get hurt, I am the one they come to for all-healing "kiss my owie, Mommy." I am the one they hug spontaneously and say "I love you, Mom" (or, as Sarah, my 3 year old has recently started to say "I like you Mommy.") I am the one they want to watch them dance or tell them how special they are. I am the one who will find the lost shoe and get their uniform clean before the game. I am Mom.

So, tonight, as I put my kids to bed, I will apologize for getting so upset about a broken flower. I will show them the example of humility and restoration of a relationship. I will admit that even Mommy makes mistakes and that mistakes are okay. I will ask them for their forgiveness for yelling the way I did and I will tell them that it was not okay for me to respond that way.

Hopefully, this will be what they remember. One of the biggest lessons I can teach them is the relationships are important and that when we love someone, we do all we can to make amends when we do wrong. That is the example I want to set. I also want them to learn to forgive and I will forgive my children for breaking the boutineer. It was, afterall, a flower.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Sheepish Reminder

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice,”- Psalm 95:6-7 NIV

I’ve seen this verse a few times today and until just now, I’ve simply skimmed over it. I didn’t really think it applied to me, today. I thought to myself “Yeah, yeah, I get it…He’s our Shepherd and we are his flock.” It’s a message that kids start hearing in Sunday school very early in life. You can picture it now…the painting of Jesus carrying the sheep. It’s drilled into us – the metaphor of Christ and the Church being like a Shepherd and the flock of sheep. I know it well. A shepherd will not leave any one of his flock alone or lost. He will seek them out and bring them home safely. He ensures that all are fed and cared for equally and with love. Being a shepherd is his whole life – those sheep are his life! Without the sheep, he wouldn’t be a shepherd and that’s a big deal to him and to his family.

So, why is this verse suddenly a big deal to me? As I read it again, my eyes are drawn to the words “we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care” over and over again.
My husband and I have definitely had our share of times in the valley, and several of those times somehow started in our wallets. In 2002, we filed bankruptcy because we had simply overextended ourselves and we didn’t see any other way out. We were young and had made lots of really poor decisions in the two years we’d been married. At the advice of our attorney, we included our home and our car in that bankruptcy and lost both. We worked hard to rebuild our credit and we were able to buy a house again in 2004, but we quickly got selfish and greedy and wanted a “newer” house (you know – like the Jones’), so we sold and bought another home 1 year later…with a deceiving adjustable rate mortgage. It was a house we couldn’t afford, but we fooled ourselves into thinking we could “make it work” and “refinance” in the two years the mortgage guy had suggested. Boy, were we stupid! We pretty quickly started struggling to make ends meet on one income alone and got behind. In order to avoid a foreclosure, we sucked it up, put on our big kid pants, and accepted the consequences of our decisions, and knew we had to try and sell it. Thankfully, a short sale was finalized before the bank foreclosed and we’ve been renting since late 2007.

In the time since, we’ve paid stuff off and gotten out of collections, but every week is still tight. We often wonder if we will ever be able to own a home again and we wonder how long it will be before we can breathe, financially. So many days, it feels like we’re drowning in our own financial pool of quick-sand! We go to the store and wonder if this check will hit the bank before the paycheck does. We scrape every last drop of gas out of our cars before we fill up and pray that we don’t get stranded. We check the account every day to see if we’re still in the black or not. We’ve had our utilities shut off and somehow always manage to make it through (perhaps with a few extra “fees” in place”).

Our marriage has struggled, too, and there were times when we actually had thoughts of what life would be like if we weren’t married anymore. Would it be easier? Would it be cheaper? Would the kids be happier? Were we just too young when we married (we were 20)? Could we make it work and still be friends, for the kids? What would it do to our family? How would our friends react? All the questions…none of the answers were right. It would cost way too much to split up, the kids would suffer too much, and we would not be happy apart. It would all be way harder if we were dealing with it alone.

So, today, I’m reading this verse. Psalm 95: 6-7 and it occurs to me…we are under His care! Right now. At this very minute. Even as I am worried, again, about our finances and I’m stressed about all we have to take care of. Kids’ sports are expensive. Fundraisers are coming out of my ears. The cost for the church activities is increasing each year. We still haven’t had a birthday party for our son, who turned 9 in July. Christmas is coming soon. Rent is due next week. The kids are growing out of their jeans and the weather will cool off soon. It goes on and on. But, WE ARE UNDER HIS CARE!

He IS our Shepherd! That means HE WILL NOT LET US GET LOST! He will continue to take care of us and He will continue to provide for us! We, his sheep, can totally count on Him to lead us exactly where we NEED to be in order to have all the things we NEED. He will NOT let us die or be hurt, but He will let us learn…perhaps, that is what He’s doing now.

I spend so much time worrying about how God will provide and where this dollar or that dollar will come from, that I am forgetting to pay attention to the first part of this verse: “Come, let us bow down in worship, and let us kneel before the LORD our Maker”. I need to have a worshipful heart! I need to praise God for his provisions and his leadership. I need to be grateful that He has always given us a home to sleep in and food on our table. We have what we NEED. Our Father, Our Shepherd is completely and totally taking care of us – each and every day!

Thank you, God, for always keeping my family safe from harm. Thank you for always making sure we have food and shelter and clothes. Thank you for reminding me that we are loved by you and that our family is valuable. Thank you for my husband who works so hard for our family – even when he feels like he’s on a treadmill. Thank you for not letting us give up on our family. Thank you, Father, for my kids. Thank you, Lord, for my friends, who are always there to remind me just how good and faithful You are to me and how much You love me. Thank you God! Thank you God! I will worship you all the days of my life! I will trust and have complete faith in you and Thank you God for showing me this verse so many times today so I can remember to worship you because you will take care of me!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What I Learned from Break-Apart Cookie Dough

For the past two days, I've baked some fresh cookies for after-school snacks and I freely admit that I've used the break-apart cookie dough. After all, it is by far the easiest way to make cookies, and as a busy mom of 4 - I need easy and fast. I have noticed, however, that the cookie dough pieces are not always uniform and, because I'm a little anal, that always bugs me. At least two of the "rows" are always bigger and some of the "chunks" have more chips in them than others, sometimes a corner breaks off the cookie-dough piece and sometimes the edges are real jagged. Yesterday, though, I tried not to get hung up on how each cookie would be a little different from it's neighbor and I thought to myself "These little pieces of cookie-dough are a lot like life."

Each morning I wake up and create a plan for how that day will go. I have a morning routine that occurs each and every day. After I check email and my calendar (okay - I'll admit - facebook and twitter, too), I balance the checkbook to see how much money we have that day and I create a mental checklist or a "to-do" list for that day. Often times this lists includes phone calls, household chores (laundry is always on there), errands to run, emails to write, people to see, etc. I have just made my cookie dough and separated it into chunks.

Then I start to break it apart and tackle each piece. I get the kids up and remind them, several times, to get through their routine. "Get dressed." "Brush your teeth." "Get your shoes on." "Eat your breakfast." (I think I should just put this on a recording of some sort and play it over and over each morning - I would save myself some major energy!) I start a load of laundry, do my hair and makeup and then my daughter's hair, make breakfast, and get the kids to the bus on time. I clean up from breakfast, fold laundry, sweep the kitchen, make a phone call, write some emails or update my status lines, and the day has started.

As the day goes on, inevitably, some part of life's cookie dough breaks off in a funky way - that phone call doesn't get made or this errand doesn't get ran or there isn't enough money to go do that thing today. The kids need a little more cuddle time or it occurs to me that I haven't sorted through that closet in months. My predetermined little chunks lose their shape! The kids start fighting or a friend calls and needs to talk about a struggle she's having - there's more chunks in that segment of my life's cookie dough. We can schedule our days and make plans every day, vigilantly, but sometimes things change.

Then it occurred to me that God said this would happen. He wasn't talking about cookie dough but he did forewarn me that things would happen beyond my control and that there's no benefit to me by worrying about what I don't get done each day.

Matthew 6:27 (NIV) says "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? " Isn't this God's way of telling me not to freak out if my cookie-dough chunks aren't all the same size or if there are an uneven amounts of chips in each little square? Really, what difference does it make? There are still only 24 hours in a day (oh, and only 24 chunks in my break-apart cookie dough!) and that's all I have to work with. Is it enough? YES! God knew all that we would try to accomplish. He knew that we would worry about our schedules, our "to-do" lists, our children, our spouse, our friends, our checkbooks, our errands, and our chores. He knew we'd worry and He reminds us that this worry is useless!

He gave us all that we need to accomplish what we need to. He provided the perfect amount of time each day - 24 little chunks. He provides us energy and strength each morning. He provides us with friends who care and family who loves us. He provides us with the houses we clean, the laundry we wash, the car we drive to run errands, and He can provide all the money we need to make it work. All He asks is that we give Him 1 little chunk of our day. (By the way, He doesn't even say it needs to be a full hour...just a little time with Him.)

If something happens as you move through your day and the cookie-dough pieces start to break out of their predetermined sections, see this as God's way of telling you He's got it under control and let it go! The cookies are still going to be warm, gooey, and full of goodness at the end of it all. If they get a little burned, consider them "crispy". Don't worry about it...let each day be a new batch of break-apart cookie dough provided to you from your Heavenly Father!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Mother's Day Story


I was honored and blessed to be asked to share my story for the Wichita Eagle. This story was printed on Mother's Day 2009 and written by a terrific reporter, Suzanne Tobias. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed and treasure the experience.

**********************************************************************************

SHE DREAMED OF BEING A GOOD MOTHER

Sunday, May 10, 2009
Section: LOCAL & STATE
Edition: main
Page: 1B
BY SUZANNE PEREZ TOBIAS, The Wichita Eagle


WICHITA - Even during the bleakest moments of her childhood, Serena Hanson dreamed of motherhood.

As a young child, when she suffered physical and sexual abuse. In group homes and foster homes, one after another, where she spent her adolescence. And on her own at 17, in a tiny apartment she worked two jobs to pay for.

"To be a mom, a good mom," she says. "That's all I ever wanted."

This Mother's Day, Hanson is living that dream, nurturing her own four children and countless others as a social worker, teacher and advocate for adoption and foster care.

She teaches parenting classes at Youthville, a foster care agency, and is working toward a master's degree in social work at Newman University.
Her children are stairsteps -- ages 8, 6, 5 and 3 -- and her husband works 10- to 11-hour days as a driver for FedEx.

Friends and colleagues call her extraordinary. She says she has "instinctual faith," an optimism and purpose drawn from a childhood of insecurity and doubt.

"I would not be the person I am had I not been in foster care," Hanson said. "So I'm grateful for that. . . . Bad things happen, but that doesn't have to determine who I am or the path I take."

Hanson was abused from about age 5 until middle school, when a friend told a teacher what she knew about Hanson's home life. Authorities took her to the Wichita Children's Home.

That led to a series of group homes and foster homes -- eight moves in all -- for Hanson, who at 12 quickly got the message that she was "too old to be adopted."

She didn't believe it, though.

Still doesn't.

"She was very mature for her years," says Sarah Robinson, director of the Children's Home, who met Hanson when she lived at the home as a girl and has kept in touch ever since.

"She had of course suffered a lot, but she always seemed to have a plan," Robinson said. "She wanted to make the world better for children."

Hanson met her husband, Justin, at Northeast Magnet High School. She was a sophomore; he was a freshman. He saw her in the hall and told a friend, "I'm going to marry that girl."

"It really was like a fairy tale," Justin Hanson said. "She's an extraordinary woman, to be honest with you. She always was."

Her background didn't bother Justin, but it haunted Serena, especially when the couple started talking about marriage and children.

"I heard the statistics about (abused children) being more likely to become abusers or to have a partner who is an abuser," she said. "But I knew Justin, and I knew in my heart that he wasn't that way."

The couple married in 1998, shortly after graduating from high school.
They had their first child, Shawn, in 2000. Serena spent eight years attending classes at Barclay College in Haviland, and earned a degree in psychology and family counseling.

For more than a decade, she has juggled work, school and motherhood. One recent afternoon, she snuggled 3-year-old Sarah on her lap, fluffing the girl's blond curls.

"I want to be an involved parent, because I never had that -- at least not until foster care," she said.

She meets with her children's teachers. She volunteers when she can. She goes to school music programs and cheers from the audience.

And two evenings a week, she teaches MAPP -- Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting -- to families who want to foster or adopt, and she tells them the effect they can have on young lives.

She and Justin want to become foster parents, too. And someday she'd like to do more, possibly lobbying for foster care reform on a state or national level.

"She can really understand the trauma of it, and I think that's very important in order to help others," said Robinson, the Children's Home director.

"She also has this resilience . . . a belief that you've got to get out of your past, no matter how terrible it is, and move forward."

The Hansons will spend this weekend moving forward -- from their Goddard twin home to a larger house where their children can play.

"She always wanted to be a mom, as long as I've known her. Always wanted to have a big family," Justin Hanson said.

And now, "She's the rock of our family."

Monday, August 17, 2009

First Day of School

This morning I sent 3 of my 4 kids off to school. Shawn is in the 3rd grade, Derek is a big time 1st grader and Chloe - one of my little princesses - went to her first day of Kindergarten (all day!). They were so excited that they all woke up early and came bounding up the stairs, got dressed right away, brushed their teeth with no arguing, and finished their breakfast with over 30 minutes to spare! I, however, was not so excited. It seems the summer went by so fast and we just didn't have a chance to do all the things I wanted to. It doesn't seem possible that Chloe is going to be away from home all day - she's only 5! AAAAAGGGGHHHHH! What's a mother to do?

I must choose to look on the bright side. My baby, Sarah (who's 3) is still at home and I love it when she says "Mommy, hold me like a baby." I love that she still loves to cuddle and wants to be told "I love you" all the time, dress up like Cinderella, and play tea party with her stuffed animals.

Beyond the joys (okay, and the stressors) of having a 3 year old at home, I also have to look forward to the older three learning and growing. They each love school and will make lots of new friends. Everyday, they get off the bus and remind me that the hectic lifestlye of the school year never changes. We will have after school snacks, homework, football, soccer and gymnastics practice, AWANA, and other weekly evening "to-dos". They will come home each day and tell me about all they did and discovered (which will stop one day far too soon when they no longer want to talk to me, I'm sure) and they'll tell me about their new friends. This is what I must focus on - not how sad I am that all of my babies are growing up! There is a time for them to be babies, a time for them to go off and be more independent and someday, they will have babies of their own; they cycle will start over. Isn't it amazing how God knew we would need a reminder of this...even on seemingly simple days like the first day of school.

Ecclesiastes 3 (NIV)
A Time for Everything


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Messages We Live

Today I had the opportunity to talk to a young lady that I love very dearly. She's been making some poor choices lately and struggling with some emotional issues. She's been dealing with way too much at her age and has really been forced to grow up way too fast.

In our time together, today, I had to be grateful for the opportunity that God was granting to me. I wanted to be sure that I was giving her the messages that He needed her to hear at that time, rather than whatever agenda I may have chosen. I pray that I used the right words and that I am a living example to her of everything I said. Reflecting back on our conversation, I am convicted to really look at the example I am setting, every day, for those around me.

During our talk, I shared with this girl how special she is and I told her of God's amazing plan for her life. I told her that God knew every single thing she would ever do before she was ever conceived. I told her that God knew what she had done and that He knew all these things before she did them. I also told her that God knew how it would all turn out and how her life would be tomorrow, next week, next month and next year - even when she was an adult with a family of her own. I told her how much God loves her and I told her that God loves her unconditionally. I also told her I love her more than she can imagine.

I tried to recognize and acknowledge her struggles, as a teenager - especially with her parents - and demonstrate some compassion, while not allowing her to make excuses for her decisions. I tried to tell her she isn't alone in her conflicts with the "parental units" and that all teens struggle with this. Heck, I even told her that parents struggle with this because it just sneaks up on us - even though we know our kids will someday be teens from the day they're born! At the same time, I had to remind her the importance of respecting and honoring her parents' direction over her life. Even if she disagrees with them she must respect them because they are her parents.

As I talked with her, it broke my heart to see that she feels so empty and to not understand why. I see her question her significance and her self worth. I see her reaching for the things of this world. I see her questioning her beauty, her intelligence, her ability to cope. It kills me to know that she is searching for some sort of connection and that she thinks she will find it in the wrong places. I reminded her of the people in her life that are willing to connect with her, if she will only let them in.

At this moment, right now, as I type, God is convicting me. I feel Him telling me that I too, question myself and try to fill voids. I question my beauty, my significance in the world, and there are times I doubt myself as a wife, mother, a student, a social worker, a daughter and a friend. I, all too often, resent my body and make excuses for goals not met and duties not fulfilled. I question my significance in the eyes of God, my children, my husband, and this world. So, I am really no different than this young person, am I?

God is telling me that I do not always live out a Godly example for her, my daughters, my sons, and other people I interact with on a regular basis. I need to ask myself "Are people really seeing Jesus in me?" Do I live out my faith every day - trusting that God will lead me and guide me in the way that I should go or do I fall back to relying on myself and my own understanding and my own will? When I am feeling fat, ugly, out of shape, irritable, under-appreciated, stressed out, frustrated, angry, hurt, sad - am I being a living example of Christ? No. I'm not being Christ-like in these moments. That's the truth and sometimes the truth really does hurt.

Funny what situations God will use to speak directly to us, huh?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Meal Plans for busy families that will save you money, too

http://www.e-mealz.com/amember/go.php?r=57947&i=l0


This site offers meal plans, recipes, and grocery shopping lists for families and for couples...plans include point system, low fat, low carb, vegitarian, and plans for several different grocery stores - based on the stores weekly sale ads. Its a great resource and you should check it out!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summertime


Summer, for my family, means that our kids (all four of them) sleep a little later in the morning and take a bit more time to get around. Appointments and activities are later in the day, but are more fun that the typical hum-drum of being in school with picnics and visits to the park, an occasional movie, and trips to local museums. Baseball, swimming, going to the lake and spending late nights out front with the neighbors are routine. Video games occupy us on rainy days and we make trips to the library. The kids are having fun and Mom is a bit more stressed out at times, but its summer and that's the way its supposed to be, right?


As it nears the first day of school, I cant help but wonder if this summer has been the best it could be? Have we spent enough time just enjoying the company of our family, friends and loved ones? I think there are times when I have been so focused on all the things I have to do before an activity or on all the things I'm neglecting while we're doing something else to really allow myself to have a good time with my children. I've spent several days wasting away time on facebook and twitter, and that means I've not given my all to my kids. We've eaten out more than we should,which means we're not eating as healthy and we're spending way too much money. I think that Summertime has become a time for me to be lazy, as a mom, and thats not good.

I've also been lazy in my relationship with Christ. My family and I have skipped church way too many weekends and I've ignored my prayer life and my personal time with the Lord. I know I turn to Him when I need something, but I haven't spent near enough time praising Him for the blessings of Summer. I also haven't used this time to teach my children about these blessings from above. They love to be outside playing in the sun, with their friends, and expending their energy - each of those things is an amazing blessing from the Lord and it is my job to remind them of that.


I think that I will challenge myself to use the last few weeks of summertime to remember and focus on whats most important - my relationships! My relationship with my Lord, my husband, and each of my kids. I will unplug theTV, log out of facebook and step away from twitter each day to spend time with them, meaningful time, and will put the Lord back onto my priority list. Will you? Are there relationships that deserve more of you? Think about it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is the story good enough to tell?

It can be incredibly frustrating to reach a point in your life when you look back on your life and wonder about the point of it all. In my 31 years of life, I've experienced emotional, physical and sexual abuse. I've seen my parents torn apart by domestic violence, alcoholism and adultery. I've been ripped away from my family and spent six years in foster care. I have been married for a decade and have given birth to four children. I've experienced the devastating loss of a baby in my womb. I've questioned the leadership of my husband and we've experienced financial struggles beyond what we ever imagined. We've contemplated divorce and tried to imagine what that would do for our children, in the end, reaffirming our committment to each other. Coming out of these struggles hasn't always been easy, but I know there has to be a point to it. What is the purpose?


How can all of this be used for God's glory? What I have learned from it and how can I possibly put it all into words worth reading? A story like mine must have some value, or else, what was the point. I truly believe that God knows all the events of our life and he knows how we will respond. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) says "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Doesn't this mean that all of my struggles and valleys in life were planned and never intended to harm me? I choose to believe that this is the case, so how can these experiences be used to prosper me and to glorify God.