Friday, December 30, 2011

New Life



It’s almost the New Year and I it is a time when a lot of people reflect on their lives, the good and the bad, especially of the last year, and think about their hopes and dreams for the new one.  One of my favorite Bible verses is 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
God is in the business of creating new life.
As I was reflecting on this I couldn’t help but think of two families in my life. One is a family with a vivacious 9 year old girl who is in the hospital and she awaits a new liver. She has dealt with more illness in her short life than most people I know. Her family is torn between the hospital and their home about 2 hours away…just waiting. Shelby is too sick to be at home now, so they are keeping her as healthy as possible and praying that the new liver will come soon. She awaits this new life of feeling like a healthy person without all of the limitations she has had. She awaits being able to run around with her friends and attend her school again. She waits to be home with her family and live in the “norm” (which by the way many of us complain about, you know chores to do, jobs and school, fighting children, etc.). Her family wishes the same. They wait for what this new life will be like with a healthier child. They wait to be reunited again under one roof. They wait for the “normalcy” of life with sibling spats and homework projects. They wait to live without the fear and stress that it has brought them to wait for this liver. It will be a new life.
Then I think of another family, they too wait, but for something different. They wait for their little boy Brody who they hope to bring home from Ukraine. He is a precious little boy who has lived a life with a lot of loss and because of his HIV + status has waited for a family that would say “yes” to him. I’ve wrote about him several times in this blog. He awaits this new life with a family (one he doesn’t even know is coming). He awaits having a mommy and daddy to tuck him in at night. Little does he know but his new life will also include two little brothers to explore the world with and skyping with his best buddy from the orphanage who has found his forever family (the thought of the two of them reunited by skype brings tears to my eyes!). His family awaits for this new family member to make complete what has been missing. This family awaits to shower this little boy with the love that they overflowing from their beings. It will be a new life.
Christ has promised all of us a new life in him. A new life that lets us shed the pain of the past and walk into the glorious light of a new life.
Advent is a season of waiting and I know that we are in Christmas tide where we acknowledge the fulfillment of God’s promises. Well this new life is a little of both. We are awaiting the new life that will come but it IS coming. We may not know what that looks like. Most likely it is far beyond what we can dream.  I know last year at this time there were several painful things happening in my life. There were many losses on so many levels.  This year God has brought myself and our family to new life in more than one way. The joy we have experienced this year, even that which was intermingled with heartache, was breathtaking.
It is my prayer that you step into the new life that Christ offers you this New Year, allowing God to not only do new things but also to transform the pain and hurt of the past into something beautiful.
In the meantime I ask that you keep the Martin and Sadler families in your prayers as they await the fulfillment of their hopes for new life.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Seeing From Another Perspective




It is a time of the year where we focus a lot on Mary. We think about Mary’s journey while pregnant, we think about Mary’s birth NOT in a birthing suite with all the amenities, we think about Mary wrapping Jesus in swaddling clothes, we think about Mary taking in all of what happened on that night and “pondering these things in her heart.” But I find myself thinking about Joseph. We don’t know a lot from the Scriptures about what Joseph said or what all he did. How did Joseph feel about the birth of what he would raise as “his son” but who was not his by blood?
In July, we had our foster son placed in our arms; it is a moment I will not forget. We have had 3 of our biological children placed in our arms before that. Can I tell you that the same OVERWHELMING sense of love, joy and awe of God’s creation came over us!
I keep finding myself completely overcome with emotion as I think about this precious baby that was placed in our care. It keeps bringing back an image of Joseph, who I believe, held Jesus for the first time and stared with wonder at this beautiful baby. He, too, fell in love and in that moment accepted the responsibility to raise him and nurture him, “blood” or not. Yes, the birth of Christ is amazing in so many ways but one of those that we often don’t focus on is Joseph and his choice to jump in and “adopt” Jesus and raise him as his own.  We know that Joseph protected his young family and we know that he taught Jesus his trade as a carpenter. Both of these are signs of a parent living out their call.
So while I will be singing songs this Christmas about Mary and her baby boy or hearing the scripture that paints the scene of Mary and Jesus, I will be picturing Joseph beaming while holding Jesus and knowing the blessing of the lesson that Joseph taught us all if pay attention and see things from his exceptional perspective.

Here is Joseph’s Lullaby from Mercy Me….


Saturday, December 10, 2011

No Mangos


One thing that not everyone may know about foster care/foster parenting is that the children are able to receive WIC benefits. So for the first several months, “Z’s” formula was covered and now additionally his baby foods are covered (jars of fruits and veggies plus infant rice and oatmeal). There are so many things through this process that open our eyes to the ways of the various systems of our government. We have never been on food stamps before but there was a time that Craig lost his job and while seeking a more permanent job, we were without healthcare insurance and the kids and I received Medicaid. I became one of “those people” that people make judgmental statements about on facebook and out in public. You know, “lazy people, who won’t get off their butts and work and want the rest of us to take care of them” kind of comments. Well my husband was working full time. I was working part time as a pastor (which talk to any pastor and there really isn’t such a thing) and going to school full time (and raising 3 kids) yes, definitely the picture of laziness (insert sarcastic snort). The ways in which we were treated in doctor’s offices changed. Then of course, if people heard our story they would say, “Oh, but you are the exception; most of “them” take advantage of the system.” Now let me be clear, there are people who take advantage of “the system” AND the system is not perfect but still, “those” people have stories and some you may be surprised to know. During that time, my eyes were opened.
So here we are in another situation, receiving these benefits for our foster child. Yes we receive looks, especially when they see our other children (after all why do we keep producing if we can’t afford them…oh sorry, my bitterness is coming out again, I digress…). Well there have been two incidents that have stood out to me. First a couple of months ago, we went to buy formula and found that the price of formula had gone up so our WIC coupon that should cover 4 cans of formula, only covered 3. There was only a few cents difference, but we were not allowed to pay it; it either had to cover the whole amount or you receive less. Now for our family, we could afford to buy the other can of formula, however, for so many, that (expensive!!) can of formula may have had to stay on the shelf.  I imagine there were babies that had less bottles offered or more diluted ones, so their families could stretch their last can of formula until the next set of coupons went into effect. Now today, we went to buy little “Z” some baby food. We are really branching out as he has tried other things and I think his tummy is finally getting the hang of eating J. We are allowed to pick out jars of Gerber or Beach Nut baby food. HOWEVER, as we branched out today we learned, he cannot have Mangos. I researched more and found he can’t have guava or papaya either. I’m not sure why this is bothering me so much. I can definitely feed him some mango or papaya, etc. I used to make my own baby food for the other kids and am not doing this as much with him just because of being busier. But somehow, knowing that he cannot have a jar of fruit that costs the same as another jar of fruit BOTHERS me! It bothers me, that these “tropical” fruits are somehow too good for those who are needing assistance?? It bothers me not so much for “Z” but for others. It just seems like it is one more way that we separate the “haves” and the “have nots.”
During this Advent season while we are called to wait and hope. I pray for the day that we can have less separation between classes of people. That not only can everyone have mangos J but that all people could see each other through the eyes of God: as God’s beloved sons and daughters. May we all examine our hearts and seek to make them more in line with our Creator.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Remember when you are sitting at the Thanksgiving table tomorrow....

to be thankful for the blessing of the family that surrounds you. Yes, that family may drive you nuts, make you cringe with some of their jokes or remarks, may bore you with the same stories year after year, may make your stomach hurt with a special recipe that never turns out so wonderful, etc. BUT you are blessed to have a family! This year as I gather around my 2 Thanksgiving tables with both sides of the family, I will look around and know that I am blessed to belong. In response to my gratitude for the blessing of a family, I will be giving to help fund the adoptions of those that hope that soon they too will be a part of someone's Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and  plain-ole'-everyday table!


I encourage you to make this part of your tradition this Thanksgiving: to find a family that is seeking to adopt a child or for a child that is waiting to be adopted and has a fund set up for when their forever family finds them.

Here are a few suggestions to connect you with a child/children that you could support:

At http://positivelyhopefilled.wordpress.com/ you will find the story of a little boy who changed our lives. (you can read about it here http://godismakingaway.blogspot.com/2011/09/where-it-all-started.html).

OR

You can go to http://www.reecesrainbow.com/ to learn about all sorts of special needs children from around the world who are awaiting adoption.

OR

http://projectfindher.org/pfh/ for a local family's upcoming adoption.

Wishing you and your family a very blessed Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Got Gratitude?

Psalm 95:1-6
Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
   let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
   and extol him with music and song.

 For the LORD is the great God,
   the great King above all gods.

In his hand are the depths of the earth,
   and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
   and his hands formed the dry land.

 Come, let us bow down in worship,
   let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.


I decided to join many others in the "gratitude challenge" this November. Basically on facebook, I post one thing I am grateful for each day. A few samples from my posts :

I'm grateful for my couch, which I fully intend to collapse on it tonight.
or
Today I am grateful for Jonah's explanations that he gives me about why he gets in trouble at school because they make me laugh (which helps with being irritated that he keeps getting in trouble!). He was in trouble for making toys into weapons and he told me that this was not true, he did not make said toy into a gun, only a lightsaber which noises were not a "pow pow" of a gun but a "pzpzpzpz." Then he goes on to say, "But mom I tried widdy, widdy hawd not to get in trouble...it was at the end of the day." God bless his teachers.

One thing I have noticed in the past few days is that I'm looking for the next thing to be "grateful" for instead of focusing so much on things I could complain about. Further, when I start to have those negative, complaing thoughts, I almost have made it a game of "what could be something to be grateful about in this situation?" For instance, the other day it started to snow. I was not thrilled. I'm not a huge fan of snow and being cold. However, I looked out my office window and you should have seen the faces of the kids leaving the preschool, they were so EXCITED! I was grateful to see this thing that I wouldn't necessarily call a blessing for me, be a blessing to someone else. I know my kids can get on my nerves when they are fighting with one another, but I can remind myself that I can be grateful that they are healthy enough to do so and that they have siblings to fight with.

Do do you have a spirit of gratitude? If not, take this next month and cultivate a spirit of gratitude. My hope is that while I am doing this for the month of November, it will become a habit and something that I will carry as a permanent discipine in my life.

If you haven't already, I hope you will join me in the gratitude challenge!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gifts of Grace

Life continues to be very full! There can be those moments of doubt that creep up where I wonder if I am "failing" in one of my various roles. However, in the midst of it, God was providing encouragement in many different forms. First, my FABULOUS group of moms in our Mom's Connection at church suprised me by saying that they felt that I took care of everyone else and that they wanted to do something for me and they were going to take turns bringing our family a meal once a week! I was suprised, overwhelmed and had to fight the urge to say, "No, really you don't need to do that, but thanks anyway." But I accepted this gift of grace. Then a few days later, I opened up my mail and received a fun card of encouragement from a good friend. But still doubts continued to plague and one morning, I had kind of hit a low. As I was spending some quiet moments in my office, a person came in to drop a few things off and then ended up telling me a story about a low point in their life and how something I said came to them in that hour. That person left telling me words I needed to hear, words directly in response to what I had cried out to God earlier that morning. A gift of grace. I left a short time later to grab some food at my house before going on some hospital calls and I pull up to my house and my mom's car is in my driveway! I go in and find her trying to suprise me by cleaning up a few things and helping with my mounting laundry piles. I couldn't take it anymore, I said, "STOP! I can't take one more nice thing being done for me!" Of course, she didn't stop. My mother is wonderful. But it was a lesson for me about the gifts of grace that God offers us. It is SO much EASIER to GIVE those gifts that RECEIVE those gifts. I don't want to have to "need" help or be perceived as one who someone needs to encourage and do something nice for. How dumb does that sound! I love to help others and encourage others; I love those moments when I know that the Holy Spirit is moving through my words or actions; that I have joined in partnership with God to offer another one of God's gifts of grace. And here I was ready to deny (or fighting against the urge to deny) that same experience for someone else. I am thankful for the wonderful people God has put in my path; those who have showered me with gifts of God's grace. I hope that you can be on both sides of this blessing, both in giving those gifts and in receiving them because both have powerful lessons.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Where it all started…

Last year I reconnected with a friend from high school via Facebook. It was through some of her posts that I became aware of Reece’s Rainbow, which is a website that advocates for children with a variety of special needs around the world. I went through the website looking at the various photos. I saw many beautiful faces and many that tugged on my heart strings. Then as I scrolled down, I saw this little face, little “B.” My heart leapt and I began to get teary eyed. Now if you know me, this isn’t my norm. There was just something about him. I felt a connection to him. I couldn’t stop thinking about him; worrying about his safety (as I do with my other children) and thinking about the fact he didn’t have a mom or dad to tuck him in at night. I made his picture the background on my computer and prayed over him every morning and night. I showed his picture to my children and my husband. My kids began to talk about him a lot. My husband and I decided to look into adopting him. We even happened to find a youtube clip of him with another little boy that was on Reece’s website; they looked inseparable. What if we were to adopt him and his little friend? I even went as far to reserve a blog title “Bringing Home Our Boys” in case that would ever happen. Unfortunately, we eventually found out that we did not meet all of the qualifications of his country. It was a hard pill to swallow. It is strange to mourn a child I never met (just as it was strange to find myself loving and worrying for a child I’ve never met).
However, it was through this process that we learned of the dire need of foster homes. It is because of this little boy we were brought to the ministry of foster care and now have the blessing of having little “Z” in our lives. We are forever changed and for that we are forever grateful.
I continued to pray for a family for the little boy “B.” Then a little over a week ago, I happened to see that someone else that I had been linked up to on facebook (through a friend because this woman was looking for a place in Rockford to host a forum on HIV adoptions) put up a picture and I couldn’t believe my eyes: it was little “B’s” best friend, the other boy we had thought of adopting. He had been adopted by this family and there were pictures of this little boy and “B” together at the orphanage dressed alike. I knew it was “B.” I contacted her and asked for verification and she told me that indeed it was and that they had hoped to bring him home as well but due to some things that changed in the country they wouldn’t be able to. I was upset for him. He thought he was being adopted too and now he has lost his best friend, his brother.
Then, AT THE SAME TIME, unbeknownst to any of us another mom that was on Reece’s Rainbow contacted me to let me know they wanted to adopt “B” (as I had been advocating for him on there). Amazing!
I had hoped to be this little boy’s parents but it was not to be. But I believe that God has allowed my heart to be stirred enough about this little boy to help BRING HIM HOME. I encourage you to go to http://reecesrainbow.org/?s=broderick and read his story. Pray for him and if you are able, please make a donation, whatever amount you can, to bring him home to his new family. Children like him are eventually moved to another type of institution where the availability of his life-sustaining medicine becomes no more.
Isn’t he just absolutely adorable? Oh, I will always love this little boy. That may sound absolutely crazy to many of you, but it’s true. He will always hold a special place in my heart. It is my prayer that he will soon know the safety and love that a family can provide. Can you be a part of that too?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Running On Empty

It has been a little quiet on my blog front lately. I've been trying to think about things that I could write about and the truth of it is, there was nothing. I find that God often stirs in me something to say and that is what comes out in my writing. It is very similar to sermon writing. I listen, pray and wait and writing pours out. Lately, that hasn't been the case. I feel like lately my "spiritual tank" has looked a lot like that gas tank above, just barely above empty. Just enough for me to fulfill the next thing I have to do, or eke out a sermon or provide a prayer or word of comfort for a family in crisis...but not much more. 
Have you been there?
Have you felt like your cup was anything but overflowing?
I was reading a devotion today that talked about the "check engine" light coming on in a car and how it is a call to stop, look, pay attention because something may not be quite right.
I think I've been seeing that light on but (not unlike my own car) I've ignored it.
I am going through a season in ministry where it seems like I'm more of an event planner making sure the details are all worked out than engaging in life changing, kingdom difference kind of ministry. I have felt like it drained me of the living water that sustains me. That was my "check engine" light. Those thoughts and feeling should have caused me to stop, look, pay attention and do something. I should have saturated my spirit with prayer, scripture, Sabbath and other spiritual disciplines...but I didn't. I ignored my my warning light.  
We hear Jesus talking about the living water in John 4 and in verse 13 he says, "... the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”   
I love the image of a spring of water. It is more than enough water; there is abundance.
Christ offers us the living water, one that quenches our thirsty spirits when we become parched because of life. Maybe you are in that season of life right now or maybe your cup or tank feels pretty full. Take a lesson from me, watch for those warning signs and stop, look, pay attention...and draw closer to God.







Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Empty Seat


A few weeks ago we went to our annual family reunion up in Northern Wisconsin. I love it there! It is great to get away from all of the everyday distractions and just spend time together with my family and some quiet time with God. I have a journal that I keep for each of my kids that is kind of a letter to each of them telling them what they are like at that age as well as recording funny sayings or doings. Each year at the lake is one of the main times I write in them. I get to see how much they have changed: how they can now cast their fishing line, swim without a life jacket, build sandcastles, etc. It is also a time to reflect on our family and what has changed in our lives since the previous year. On our way home I had a specific memory from the previous year. All three of our kids were sitting in the back seat and I told Craig, “look there is still a seat open back there and next year it will be filled.” We were hiding our little secret that we were expecting another child. Unfortunately, we lost that little one. It was not the first last year and sadly, it would not be the last. However, this year, I looked back at that seat and it was filled. Beautiful, little baby “Z” was back in his car seat sleeping away.  We wouldn’t have known last year all of the pain and the joy that this year would hold. It was through those losses that God opened our hearts to adoption and foster care. I believe God put several people in my path that would help shepherd us in this journey.
Some of you may be reading this and asking, do I think that God caused those losses so that we would be able to open our home to other children in need. The answer is no. BUT I do believe that God works to redeem those painful places in our lives. Romans 8:28 says that God is working to bring good through all things. That doesn’t mean that everything that happens is good or is even God’s doing but that through God’s grace, even those ugly places can be made beautiful.
Take some time to think over your life and see where God has redeemed those painful times in your life. If you are in the midst of one of those “bad” times, open yourself up to God’s healing and restorative work.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

He Will Carry Me

4 years ago I woke up knowing that it would be a scary and, hopefully, wonderful day. My labor was going to be induced with my son Jonah. I had a history of a partial abruption, so I was scared for my life and the life of my child. In addition, in not quite the middle of my pregnancy, I was accidentally given a medication that could be very harmful to the baby. There were a lot of complications during my pregnancy so there was a lot of fear and anxiety (including just the normal stuff that I would be giving birth!).  Somehow, I was able to sleep the night before. We had set our alarm for the morning so that it would wake us up with music instead of the annoying buzzer. Craig turned over as the alarm came on and said, “Listen to what song is playing.” It was the song, “He Will Carry Me” by Mark Schulz. The peace that surpasses all understanding came over me and I knew that whatever this day would hold, whether it be full of just wonderful blessings or whether some of my worst fears would happen, that the promise is that God will be with me no matter what, carrying me through.
Jonah was born at 3:05 p.m. and with only a little breathing difficulty was perfect. I thank God for this wonderful little boy!
Since then, there have definitely been those “valley” times in my life. I have clung to the promises that this song sings about. We are not promised a life where everything will be easy (and quite frankly there are times when it seems unbearable) but God has promised to see us through the storms. I hope that you will all feel the sustaining presence of God whether you are walking through a time of great joy or great sorrow. 

Mark Schulz: He Will Caryy Me
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSFH6_liOlw 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Balanced, Nutty



It was my birthday 2 weeks ago and a lovely parishioner gave me a bag of coffee (she knows my love for it J). I looked at the flavor and it said, “Balanced, nutty.” I know that this particular woman picked this out just for me. She is one of those wonderful kind and compassionate people who I know is praying for me. She always says that she doesn’t know how I do it being a pastor and a mother (especially when I was a student as well). When the Sunday morning came that we introduced our little foster baby “Z” to folks at church, she looked at me with her mouth wide open. She said she didn’t know what to do, whether to hug me, or slug me, was I crazy?!  We received many similar comments. I admit that it probably did sound a little crazy to “add one more thing to our plate.” BUT God has an awesome way of making things possible when you step out in faith.
I wanted to share with you the story of where my blog name “God Will Make A Way” comes from. Back at the end of2004, I received (ok, caved) to my call to ministry. I would be starting seminary (Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary) in the January 2005 intensives. Now at this time I was a stay at home mom with Gracie who was 3 and my little Mikayla had just turned 1. I had never been to Chicago on my own. I would be taking a mixture of buses and the el train to school (1. Because I do not like driving on the interstate and 2. This would allow me to study as I traveled: there is not a lot of quiet time with young ones in the house!).  Now mind you the only other “experience” I had of Chicago’s public transportation system was through watching “Adventures in Babysitting” over and over when I was younger. So here I was leaving my children, sure I was going to be mugged or attacked by gang members on the el. It was the Sunday before I was supposed to leave for school and I was at church having a conversation with God. I said, “God there is NO WAY that this is going to work. I don’t know how I’m going to leave my kids, I don’t know how it will be possible to do all the school work needed (did I tell you I received my first syllabus for the class and had to use the dictionary to read it!), when I looked at the financial costs of seminary as well as the travel and childcare, it just doesn’t seem possible. God, I’m doing this but it’s just to show you that this cannot work, there is just too many obstacles…there is just no way!” I had been in my own world having this conversation with God and didn’t even notice what was going on in the service UNTIL I no longer got these words out (silently J) in my prayer that the Praise Band began to sing “God Will Make a Way (where there seems to be no way)!” I felt like God was answering my prayer, telling me to simply trust, to let God work out the details. God was so faithful during that time (and continues to be). It was not always easy but with God, even those things that seem beyond our ability to understand how it  could possibly all work out, is possible with God.
Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I spend my prayer time asking God to transform me to be the person God wants me to be and to live out “his good, pleasing and perfect will” in all areas of my life. Sometimes, what I sense God asking me to do feels a little “nutty” I must admit J but the lesson that I have learned over and over again through my life is that if God desires for me to do something God WILL make a way for it. So, yes I try to be balanced in my life (and sometimes wish I was more balanced) and sometimes I feel like I’m going NUTS with everything going on BUT God works in that nuttiness as well and does some pretty awesome things. Blessings on your balanced and nutty lives!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mommy and Ministry

This past Sunday at the 11:00 (contemporary service) I was leading worship with Pastor Jane (she is our new pator that has only been there for the last 3 weeks). My children were down in Sunday School and upstairs we were entering the time for Holy Communion in the sanctuary. As Jane and I stood on the altar, she began to speak the beautiful communion liturgy. I am listening intently and then I happen to see outside the sanctuary doors. I notice my son Jonah is being brought back upstairs by one of the Sunday School teachers. I didn't think that was too odd because my children usually come back upstairs so they can participate in communion. However, I am seeing that he is negotiating with the teacher; I can tell that he is giving him the "I can go in there myself and sit with my daddy, I don't need an escort." My husband and my parents were in the back row and I saw Jonah walk into the sanctuary...and keep on walking. He begins to walk down that long aisle. All the while, there is a part of me that is hoping the liturgy hurries up and gets over before the inevitable happens. But this is not to happen as Jane was only in the middle of it. Then this sweet face comes down to the front of the church and goes to the front row where Jane and I had been sitting.

 I thought it would buy me a few minutes, but again, this was not to be. He grabbed my keys and proceeded to walk up the stairs of the altar and bring them to me IN THE MIDDLE OF COMMUNION LITURGY! Pastor Jane once again proved her grace and ability to roll with things. She says "Thank you Jonah" and keeps right on saying the liturgy.
I admit it, I was embarrassed. There is something to be said for the pressures of PK's (Pastor's Kids). It is pressure for them to be under the microscope and held sometimes to a different standard. As a parent, as a pastor, I feel the need to have my kids behave well in public settings. It is not always easy. Kids are kids. They pick their noses, show their underwear, roll their eyes (oh I hate that one!), they don't listen every time you tell the not to do something, etc., etc. BUT Jesus welcomed the children. Welcomed them for what they can teach us as well as what we can teach them. They have perspectives that have not been tarnished by pessimism, they know how to live a life seeking the joy and abundance that God offers, they know how to appreciate the simple things and to love beyond measure.
So I took my "moment" where the mommy and pastor worlds collided and used it for my benediction :-) I basically said, that even though it was embarrassing, that we should all have the same enthusiasm as Jonah to find where God is actively working and jump in and join in that kingdom work. 
Whatever embarrassing moments you may have or those moments where your different roles in life tug at you, may you find the laughter and grace of God whispering life's lessons to you. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

There have been so many unexpected things in this journey of foster care. First, is that I am overwhelmed with the love that I feel for this little boy who I didn’t even know a month ago. It has been such a blessing and privilege to love and care for baby “Z” and to watch him begin to grow and change. I’ve seen the different ways that God is using our family to minister to this baby and interact with his family.  I’ve watched my children just welcome this new little one into our home as “one of the family.” This is what God does for us: we have all been grafted into the family of God, adopted sons and daughters; the same love, the same privileges, the same “inheritance.”
At the same time, our eyes have been opened even more to the children in our community who are suffering. And even harder, we have had to say “no” to other children who are in need of placement. We are still adjusting to having baby “Z” in our family and working on getting his health back on the right track. We have been called several times to take other children, all very young. Just today we were called for a 7 month old baby who has suffered horrifically. I know you are reading this and saying “you couldn’t possibly do that” or “you can’t save them all.” I acknowledge the truth in not being able to “do it all” but it doesn’t help your heart when you have to say no to a child who has suffered so much and who cannot find a home that will take them in. My heart cries out for all of those who do not know the love that has been modeled to us in Jesus Christ. My heart cries out for those who have endured horrible abuse. My heart cries out for those social workers and case workers who have had to see such deplorable things and who spend hours trying to find a place of refuge for these little ones.
James 1:27 says: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
The church used to be the ones that cared for these children. We now have social service agencies, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but we have used this as an excuse to shut our eyes to the suffering of those in our community and our world. Open your eyes! It hurts like you wouldn’t believe BUT God has called us to not ignore the plight of those in need. The need IS overwhelming but God can use us all to make a difference in the life of another, a life-changing difference. I ask you to be in prayer for all of those children tonight who are going to sleep in a place that is not healthy; pray for this precious 7 month old; pray for baby “Z” and others like him who are working hard and getting stronger; pray for their biological families; pray for their foster families; pray asking God how you might be able to make a difference…



Sunday, July 3, 2011

News From The Barkley Household

There is some news from the Barkley household. Last year, through a variety of circumstances God laid adoption upon my heart. There was even a specific special needs child on the other side of the world that captured my heart. I began to pray about it and pray over this specific child. After some time we decided to inquire and found out that we didn’t meet all of the criteria necessary for that specific country. I will be honest, it broke my heart. I still have this child as a screen saver on my computer and bless him every morning and pray him to sleep every evening (ok with the time difference it wouldn’t really be those times for him). In the process of inquiring about this child, we talked with a wonderful social worker who explained all types of adoption and foster care. She shared about how desperately they need foster homes; places and families for a variety of children that have been removed from their own homes while their parent(s) work on becoming healthier and whole. We spent a lot of time in prayer and discernment. We had many fears and hesitations about foster care (could we really do that; how would it affect our children that we have now; isn’t this really too messy to get into; we are busy people, can we give the time and energy to this ministry; how on earth could we “return” a child that we become bonded with, etc.). We talked to a few people who were either professionals in that field and/or foster parents themselves at one time or another but other than that we just listened for the voice of God. Little by little God softened the fears and anxieties in our hearts and we began to move forward in the paperwork process for foster care. THEN came the news that Pastor Dick was leaving and we decided to keep going. THEN came the news eventually that Pastors Cindy and David were leaving. We wondered if maybe that was a sign to stop. We prayerfully decided to keep going with the required paperwork and classes knowing that we would be licensed for 4 years and could always choose not to take a child (that is always a choice throughout the process). We finished our classes just before the real intense time of awaiting the new pastors. We received news that our licensed was approved and in a few weeks we could possibly start receiving phone calls about potential placements. Fast forward to this past Friday night and without knowing our license was officially processed and we were “on the list” we received 2 phone calls. The first phone call ended up being resolved without a need to place the children but the second phone call was for a 3 month old boy “Z.” My heart was moved hearing his story and we decided to accept him into our home. The social workers anticipate this will be a short term placement while some other family members are identified to care for him. We seek your prayers during this time, both for us, that we would provide medically sound care for him (as he has some medical issues) in addition to being a loving home and for baby “Z” to get healthier and feel safe in this time of transition and for his family that has wounds of their own that are in need of healing.  
I know many of you may not understand why our family is doing this. You may be looking out for our best interests and want to protect us from the strain and the messiness of foster care. We do not expect this to be easy and quite frankly, we know that there will most definitely be agonizing moments. What I can tell you is that through this experience God has affirmed that this is a ministry that our family has been called into (and yes I believe this is a ministry).  When God calls us, God equips us for the call. There is a whole lot of stepping out in faith and trusting and obeying but to share the love of God with another is the call of every Christian. The sermon this morning by our new Pastor Jane (which was awesome by the way) was about love and about how when we love God, we are drawn into loving others more closely.  I was overcome with emotion as my husband brought baby “Z” up in his arms for communion and I blessed this child, knowing that God loves this little one even more than we do and it is our job to live out of that love every day he is in our care and then, as much as it may hurt, let go and trust that God will be watching over him.1 John 4:11-12 "My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!"
My cup is overflowing with this perfect love of God and I look forward to sharing this journey with you about loving the "others" God has put in our lives.



Saturday, June 25, 2011

Somebody Is!

Have you ever had one of those weeks? Maybe it's not just a week but rather you feel you have been walking through the valley of darkness for awhile. Maybe you are weary. However, there are those times when, in the midst of it, you know that somebody is praying for you. What a difference if can make.
I had a week full of struggles for many different reasons and some of it is residual stuff that has been going on for awhile, but it all just became a little too much. BUT I knew, I FELT somebody, actually many somebodies praying me through.What a blessing! We all need prayer warriors and it is something that we can offer to others in our lives. But don't just say "I'll pray for you" actually DO it and then follow up with them to see how things are going. If the time is appropriate, say "do you mind if I pray for you right now?" It doesn't matter how you think the prayer sounds; God knows your heart and the other person feels loved and cared for, and above all, not alone in their struggles.
Whatever is going on in your life today, know that you are not alone. Feel free to share your prayer requests here or under this link on facebook or in an email and know that I will be praying you through.

"Somebody's Praying You Through" By Allen Asbury:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9MGJpEOs30&feature=related

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Simple Invitation


Last Friday I was Commissioned as a Provisional Elder in the United Methodist (I will save the explanation of the ordination process in the United Methodist Church for another post J). During the worship service, the Bishop laid his hands on each of us being commissioned and prayed for the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon us as we proclaim the Good News. Well this is a lot of names to remember and keep straight during a service so we help the Bishop out with a little card that has our name on it. This was my one thing to remember, my card. I had it at my seat but when I heard them call my name, do you think I remembered the card? No. So I’m standing up there and wondering what I am going to do and I see Rev. Bob Atkins standing there and start doing a game of charades, trying to get him to give me a piece of paper and then an appropriate writing object. He played the game well and soon I had my name written on a piece of paper for the Bishop. All was well. After the service, there was a reception and I got a chance to see Rev. Atkins and thanked him and before I knew it tears started to fall as I shared with him how he had made a difference in my life, not the paper (though that did help!) but because he was the pastor who was at Christ United Methodist Church when I first visited. I had a friend that simply invited me to youth group back in 1992. I went on to share with him that one of those first youth group meetings he came into the youth room and told us a story, I can’t tell you what it was. All I know is that he tied in a faith message with the song “The Rose.” I loved that Bette Midler song but had only known to separate “secular” from “sacred.”  But in that story and singing that song at youth group, I was taught how to combine faith and everyday life; how God works through the ordinary as well as the extraordinary; through those things that have been deemed secular as well as those deemed sacred. Rev. Atkins moved to another church just a few short months later and we never got a chance to know each other more but he made an imprint on my life. I can still remember my heart being stirred as I sat there on the floor of the youth room listening as he spoke.  He was there as my heart was being turned towards the message God was trying to share with me and then he was there as God was confirming my call to ministry: funny how God works.
 All this to say that you never know when you are going to make a kingdom difference in another’s life. A simple invitation to a youth group; a simple story; a simple smile; a simple offer to help another…all of these things can touch someone’s heart in a way you never could have imagined. God may use it to transform another’s life. I hope you will live into the extravagant simplicity that God has prepared for you.
Couldn’t help but share the song…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxSTzSEiZ2c

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Rearview Mirror

It happened today. I looked in the rearview mirror and simply saw. I quieted my heart and let myself take it in: my girls; especially, my oldest Gracie. They have grown and changed so much in the last year. I looked back and I saw…a young lady. Sometimes you have those moments that stop you in your track and you say, where has the time went, how did we get here. I was having one of those moments today.
So often we get caught up in the craziness of our everyday life or get focused on the negative things that we miss the Presence of God in our midst; we miss the beautiful things in our midst. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”
So are you noticing the beautiful things that God is doing in your midst? In your life? Are you seeking God or is your focus on other things?
I heard this great song today on the radio (actually as I was watching my girls come out of the school). It’s called “Beautiful Things” by Gungor.  Here are some of the lyrics:
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You
You make me new, You are making me new
Take some time this week to look around (and maybe even in the rearview mirror) I’m enjoying my “beautiful things:” my now 5th Grader and my 2nd Grader!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The "G" Word


I was riding home in the car the other day with my kids and we were talking about what was going to happen today at church. The church I serve is saying goodbye to 3 of our pastors as they go on to serve in new ministries that God has called them to. My kids probably have heard some of the conversations around about the pastors leaving, but it dawned on them that they were actually going to be leaving soon. My sweet Mikayla had a difficult time when we moved last year (her best friend was moving away, we were moving and Hannah Montana was ending her TV series; the last one put her over the edge J). So as I was talking about their 3 pastors leaving, Mikayla piped up, “All of them are going! I’m going to have to get better at saying goodbye!” Yes, it is a lesson of this life: there will be many goodbyes we have to say. Some of them come through moves, some through graduations, some through death, etc. Most goodbyes are bittersweet, as there is the pain of something that will never again be the same, mingled with the hope of a new life that is waiting. I opened up my email today that had one of my devotions in it and the verse today was Psalm 33:20-21We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.” So like Mikayla, I’m still learning how to be better at saying goodbye. I know that in those goodbyes God is with me helping me and shielding my heart from the pain. At the same time I trust God in the goodbyes, knowing that they are not the end of the story. God is working for good in the new life that is offered to each and every one of us. We just have to accept it and walk into it. So tonight my heart is a little heavy with the goodbyes, yet I know some joyful helloes are coming. I know that God is closing a chapter in my church’s life and I look forward to walking into the blessings that await in the next chapter. I look forward to some company on that walk….   

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Scatterbrained

I completely admit that many times I am scatterbrained. I have a whole lot of things going through this small brain of mine. I also get sermon ideas, blog post ideas, grocery lists, birthday present ideas, etc. that pop up at a moment's notice and take my focus off of whatever I was doing. I seem to have this same problem during my prayer time. I will begin my prayer (and it can be in a quiet room, in my bed, in my car, etc). and it can be with my eyes open or closed (well unless I'm driving then I promise they are always open :-), but no matter where or how I am praying, my attention gets diverted to another task. A good friend of mine says to keep a piece of paper near for when those thoughts creep up and then you can write them down without worrying that you will forget and then go back to focusing on your prayer. Still, I find that I can get confused when trying to pick up where I left off in my prayer. Well I wanted to share with you something from my personal retreat that I took last week. First, as a sidenote, let me just tell you how great it is to get away for some time with God. I got to a great place called Sienna Center in Racine, Wisconsin. I go with my accountability group (a few women who are also in various forms of ministry). One thing that we do while we are there is to engage in some form of creativity. For some that is needlework, water color paintings, drawing, card making, writing and beading. We bead jewelry, book marks, zip clips and prayer beads. It is this last one that I wanted to share about today. Below is the picture of the prayer beads I made (I displayed it on a rock down by the Lake Michigan; I find it Holy Ground to pray by the waters of the lake).

Each bead represents a member of my family (myself included), as well as the church and the world. For each of my family, I had a bead to pray about the joy in their lives; the works (now or in the future) of their hands; for those things that tempt them or lead them into sin; and for my children, one for relationships: those friends that they have now and whomever will be their future significant other. As my fingers walk along the beads, I am able to keep focused on who and what I am praying for and if for some reason I have to stop for a moment I can look down and see where I was at. I found it to be a deeply meaningful experience to put together these prayer beads. I spent time going through all the beads to see which ones I thought would best represent to me that person. It has been a blessing to pray using this wonderful tool and one that a lot of love went into creating. Which brings me to my final point. There is something sacred that happens when we engage in creativity. It is something God has intended for us. So often as we get older we leave creative things to the side thinking we don't have enough time, we are not "talented enough" or that it's simply for children to engage in. WRONG! God speaks through our creativity and restores us when we connect with the gifts that God has given us. So go ahead, do something creative today. Sit down and color a picture (whether you have children or not), go collect things outside or cut out pictures from a magazine and make a collage of some sort. Go by some beads and put them on a string, it can be your first set of prayer beads. Let me know how it goes or feel free to leave other ideas in the comments.
Blessings of creativity to you!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dandelions

It's spring, so I've started to hear the yearly groan about dandelions. I may be the minority but I LOVE dandelions. It may be because of my children, especially one of them who calles them "dandy-fly-ins." I love that they bring a smile to their faces and that they love to pick them to bring smiles to other's faces. It may be the fond memories I have of blowing on the dandelion seeds and "making a wish" as they became those white fluffballs. But I think it's mostly because it reminds me of one ofmy most favorite devotions. It is from my Woman's Devotional Bible and as strange as it sounds, dandelions have taken on a theological meaning for me. So I thought I would share it with you today:

DANDELIONS

By JoAnn Morrison
From the Women's Devotional Bible


Dandelions! No matter how carefully I try to pull one up, I never get the whole thing. The root stays deep in the ground, threatening to grow up and blossom again.

But despite their bad reputation, dandelions are pretty little flowers with their yellow strands all tucked neatly into the center. And truly they are the most beautiful of all flowers when presented clutched in a child’s dirty little hand. No one gets yelled at for picking them. Perhaps they grow only to be used and enjoyed by children.

Dandelions are ignored or attacked, never nurtured or cared for, and yet they always bloom profusely. They demand no pampering or special attention to yield their bright blossoms; they pop up in fields, in lawns, and between cracks in the sidewalk, even in the best neighborhoods. Can you imagine trying to grow them in a garden? They’d sneak through the boundaries and pop their sunny yellow faces up in the surrounding lawn. They would never stay put!

Christians should be more like dandelions. Our sunny yellow faces should be a reminder that simple faith has deep roots that are impossible to dislodge. Our vast number would show the world that even through we are not fancy or pampered we are evident everywhere, even in the best neighborhoods.

We should be as easily accessible as a dandelion. Jesus was. We need to get out of our gardens and jump across the boundaries that keep us where people expect to find us. We need to show our sunny yellow faces in all the spots that need a little brightening up – the crack in the sidewalk or the lawn of a country club.


I hope the next time you see one of those "annoying" little dandelions, you will stop to think about how God can be using us to be one of those sunny little faces who pop in another's life to share the Gospel message. Maybe when you see those white little fluffballs that they turn into you will remember that just as they will blow their seeds around to grow all over again, that we too are called to blow our seeds of faith and spread the Good News to the ends of the earth. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sitting In It

There is a lot of reflection that happens in this Holy Week. I think as humans we like to go from the joy and waving of palms on Palm Sunday, to the celebration on Easter Sunday. However, if we don’t walk through all of Holy Week, through Jesus’ last Supper with his disciples, to all of the events leading up to Jesus being crucified, we miss why we sing out with all of our hearts, 'Christ the Lord has Risen Today' on Easter Sunday. But even if we come to Good Friday services and enter into the pain that Jesus endured for us, still we can leave and go on about our weekend, getting excited for Easter to come.
But this is Easter Saturday and for those first followers of Christ, all hope seemed gone, ‘It is finished’ seemed to be the end of the story. They had lost their friend, the leader, their teacher. They had held onto the hope that he was the Messiah but after the events of the crucifixion they began to doubt. Today was the day they simply sat in their grief, where hope seemed to fade and the darkness overshadowed any light.
I don’t know about your lives but in my own I have experienced different times of grief. I have had those times where it overwhelmed me, where the only choice it seemed I had was to sit in it. Sitting in grief is not a fun place to be. There is something in us that desires to see the hope, see the light for the darkness but there are times when it doesn’t come and so we dwell in it. In these Holy Saturday moments, know that God is there. Indeed we have been promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. Sometimes it is hard to trust in that promise, it seems to fade, just as it must have for those first disciples of Christ. But then Jesus showed himself to them and Jesus will show himself to us. It is a call to cling to the promises of our Savior, even when we can’t understand.
I heard a song this week by Laura Story called “Blessings” and reminded me that in those times of grief, the most profound blessings can come and that God Presence is made known. I’ve added the link to the song below.
My prayer for all of us, is that we experience the fullness of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Spend some time sitting in the grief of the disciples and the grief that is prevalent in this world. Then trust in the promise that Sunday is coming, the Light of this world has overcome all darkness and has conquered death, for you and for me. I wish you all a very Blessed Easter.
Pastor Laura

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Got Perspective?

So many of you know by now that both Pastor Dick and Pastor Cindy will be leaving our church to go where God has called them to. It is hard for many to understand how all of this change can happen at one time. We have a lot of processing to do. We have said a lot of "goodbyes" in the last few years and we are not sure we are ready for any more. I was reading one of my devotions from the Daily Bible Verse that talked about Caleb and the spies. They were sent to go check out the Promised Land. The spies thought it looked like a losing battle; there were huge giants that were scary, no way this was going to work! Then Caleb goes and sees things from a whole new perspective. He is looking through the lens of hope, the lens of a kept promise.

I have felt for a little while now that God is doing a new thing here at Christ Church. I am excited by it. I sense a deeper level here on so many fronts. I have been excited by the various ways that people are gathering together and engaging in community. People are seeking to reach out to those they don't know and to connect. It is so easy in our lives to feel like we don't have the time or energy to engage in one more relationship but people are breaking through those excuses and seeking to live as the Body of Christ. Consequently, in these past few years and especially in these past few months, the amount of folks that are coming together to study  in various small groups has been awesome! I have witnessed people, some who have been in the church their entire lives, really wrestle with their faith and become excited about God's Word and what it means for us today.

We are ready to take the next step as the church, to step out into this new thing that God has for us. But there will be some who peer into this new territory and say, "oh no, not possible, too scary!" And there will be others that look in and say "Look what God has in store for us!"

So as we walk together in these next few months, I encourage you to think about what perspective you have. And maybe spend some time dwelling with Caleb.


From the Daily Bible Verse "In many ways, we find ourselves constantly facing a Promised Land – a place that is exciting, yet unexplored. We finally get a grip on one season of life only for it to melt into another. We understand an industry just in time for that industry to change. But each change is another opportunity for God to be glorified. It is when our hearts are wholly focused on His faithfulness that we inherit the new horizon in front of us."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Patient Trust

For many reasons, this next few weeks is a time where I need to patiently trust the Lord. Gosh, that rolls right off the tongue but is not so easy to live out! I don't want these in-between times: between the known and the unknown. I want to push ahead; to know what is going to happen and start making plans for how those things are going to be. I think it's my way of feeling I have some control over where life is spinning to. But the fact is, I don't have control. None of us do. Further, in these "in between" times, God is molding us and making us more into the people that we are created  to be. I thought about this writing from Pierre Teilhard De Chardin. He calls them "intermediate stages." He talks about not forcing this new thing because God is doing something in the midst of it. So I share this with you today. I am trying to patiently trust God in this intermediate stage, though fully acknowledging it is a time where anxiousness can creep in.
Whatever you are facing in your life, whether you are discerning things about your future, or awaiting for what is to come next, know that you are not alone and more importantly that God is moving in the midst of it.

Patient Trust  
By Pierre Teilhard De Chardin

Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
      to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
      unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of progress
      that it is made by passing through
      some states of instability ---
      and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
      Your ideas mature gradually --- let them grow,
      let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on,
      as though you could be today what time
      (that is to say, grace and cirsumstances
      acting on your own good will)
      will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
      gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
      that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
      in suspense and incomplete.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Community

I sat at our Wednesday Night Dinner at church tonight and just looked around with a warmed heart. A year or so ago we add “family friendly” seating downstairs in our Great Hall. We wanted to give families a place where they could eat together (which unfortunately isn’t the family “norm” anymore) and do so in a way that didn’t stress out parents too much (i.e. worry about their kids being too loud, too messy, or getting up from the table and running around when they were done eating). We have games that kids can take back to their table or simply play on the floor together. While I’ve enjoyed watching families eat together more, I’ve become aware of something even deeper:  community. Kids are sitting with each other and with other parents or adults and different families are eating with each other. Yes, families still eat together but it’s like one giant family meal. I love to listen to the children talk to each other about their day or what kind of stuffed animals they have at their house and giggle over each other’s stories.
I think about the early church that we hear about in Acts (2:44-47) where they sold their property and divided the money to share it anyone who needed it. They lived together, ate together, worshipped together and made sure no one was in need. I feel like got a small glimpse of that community as I watched as everyone shared food and laughter, helping the younger children get their plates back to the table or chasing a child that ran out of the room before their parent could get to them (OK that was my child, I was trying to help get more food to serve from upstairs J thanks for chasing him Erika!) and finally, all pitching in and picking up in one way or another. There was joy in simply being together, to being authentic with who we are and what struggles we have and laughing at the craziness of it all.
We all need  community. It is a gift that God has given us. If you haven’t had an opportunity to engage in that kind of community, seek it out, you won’t regret it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Waiting

Isaiah 40:31: But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

This scripture is forefront in my mind lately. This is a scripture that I’ve read many times. It’s one I sing about, is on a lot of t-shirts or bookmarks and one that is spoken at many funerals (or is on the cover of the funeral bulletin), etc. I think I’ve always focused on the future hope of this scripture: That even though we can get tired and weary our God does not and we can hope for  a time when we will run and not be weary, a time  when we will walk and not faint. We can associate it with eternal life.  But it's a message about the resurrected life today as well.
 I think I’ve ignored the part where it said “Those that WAIT upon the Lord;” Waiting can give us strength.
I have done a lot of waiting lately. Some waiting has come back with news to rejoice from; some, not so much. Others, well, I’m still waiting. I want things in my timing, I want answers now, I want to know how things will work out in one situation or another. But I am called to put my hope in the Lord and that in this season of waiting, I will be made strong; my strength will rise as I wait upon the Lord. It’s rising. It may feel like it’s rising slowly but just as the sun rises and the brilliance of the sun’s light comes and envelops the darkness, Christ’s light has and will continue to break forth and wrap us in love which strengthens us for our journey. God is making the old new, renewing and transforming everything so that light will shine through.
As I wait, I will trust God to rejuvenate my soul and that, in time, I will spread my wings and soar with the eagles.
What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Together We Grow

Eight years ago, I went to a Mom's retreat. It was great to have some time for myself and connect with other women. During the retreat, the women shared about how they were sharing their faith with their children and trying to instill values in their lives. I was so excited to start doing this in my own family's life that I bought these great little cards from something called "The Virtues Project." These cards contained a different virtue such as friendliness, courage, tact, perseverence, thankfulness, etc. and then explained what that word meant as well as examples of how to live it out. I was very excited to bring it home and start it with my family.The funny thing was that my daughter was only 1 yr. old at the time and could hardly talk! So they sat in a drawer until about a year ago. Then I brought them out and have tried to use them as part of our family devotion time.
I don't know about all of you but this part of our lives feels...well a little clunky. This is not something that I did growing up in my own family but we also went to religious schooling every day, so I'm sure my parents felt like it was "covered." As for my family now, we too are very involved at church. My children are a part of many different programs at the church where they are learning about God, engaging in prayer, singing, learning Bible verses, etc. We pray at every meal together and before bed and we have theological conversations everyday but still I felt like we were missing something together as a family. I have several different devotions that I use for myself personally everyday but have struggled a bit finding something that works for our family (and the different ages the kids are). So in the past month or so, I have really tried to make this more of a priority. 
So we use our cards from the Virtues project. We each close our eyes and pick a card and that is our virtue for the next week or two. We read together about what those virtues really mean (it's a good vocabulary lesson too :-) and each day we give examples of how we lived that virtue in our own life. It was really cute the other day when Jonah (my 3 year old son) whose virtue right now is "thankfulness" came up to me and after I fixed his coat that had been inside out, looked at me and said "thank you, see I'm being fank-a-less" (he keeps calling thankful, thankless or in his words, fankaless :-) But he's getting it and the kids are all pointing out when they are living out a virtue at home and of course pointing out when one of their other siblings is NOT living out their virtue very well :-)
In addition to our virtue, we are each working on a different Bible verse that we are not only trying to commit to our memory but also be more purposeful about living out. We have also read a devotion from a place I've checked out online, though I have to admit I'm probably not going to stick with that particular devotional because it's not exactly what I'm looking for.
I just know that it's important to grow together in our faith. I have found that I not only teach them but just importantly, they teach me. I get to see things through the eyes of a child and there is a profound blessing in that. But it's not always easy, sometimes it does feel a little clunky, especially if it is something new. You may even find some resistance from your family but I encourage you to give it a try. I would love to hear stories  of what some of you may be doing to grow together with your family. So share away! We can learn from one another as well as support and encourage one another in the process!