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.