Foster Care: When Your Family Can’t Meet the Need

It’s been a rough couple of weeks around here, which is why I haven’t had time to write a new post in a while. We have had a number of respites coming and going, and we are exhausted from the constant activity!

Unfortunately, we had one particular child who was just not a good fit for our family. This child needs the care of a family who only has one child or no children. Some kids are like that, and that’s okay. But in this home, where there are often five children vying for my attention, I just cannot possibly single out one child for several hours a day. I strive to have one-on-one with each child, but a high-needs child needs a lot more than that.

I have to be honest with you, since that’s what I strive to do on this blog. Foster care is messy. These kids are broken. They have no boundaries. They have no control over their emotions. They act out. They break things (on accident or on purpose). When you’re dealing with a toddler, you can more easily forgive these things as most toddlers need constant watching.

But when they are five, six, seven years old, it’s easy to forget that they are like infants in many ways. They have never been taught that crying is not the only way to get attention or to have their needs met. They don’t understand what you mean when you tell them they can’t have something. Many of them don’t realize that they are constantly putting themselves in danger because they aren’t following basic rules (don’t run into the street; don’t put things into the light socket; don’t pull the dog’s tail).

Perhaps one of the scariest factors about foster children is that they don’t know not to talk to strangers or to walk off with them. How could they possibly know this when strangers came to their home and took them away from their biological family, only to place them in the home of some other strangers, who want to be Mom and Dad? Often, they are put into an emergency home until a long-term placement can be found. So once they begin feeling comfortable with the first set of strangers, they are taken to another home of strangers, who want to be Mom and Dad. Then, they eventually may be up for adoption, where they will meet more strangers, who also want to be Mom and Dad. They are told to go with strangers (their caseworkers) for visits with their family. And each time they meet a stranger, they wonder if they should call them Mom and Dad, too.

I battled with guilt over the past couple of weeks because we were struggling as a family with one particular placement. To say that we were over the whining and crying would be an understatement. But this child was hurting, so we did our best to love the child, despite the behavior. But at the end of the day, we just had to realize that our home was not the home for this child. And guess what I learned?

That’s okay!

You see, I’ve been wrestling with God because there are so many–so very many–children in need of a safe home and a loving family. We need a bigger house for our own family of five, and we are stretched to the limits when we have foster children here. But we want them all. We want to help every single one of them, and we can’t.

The only One who is capable of caring for these children is God. They are His, and He wants us to love them well and to know when He is telling us that we need to let a child go. That’s the hard part–saying goodbye. They cry when they leave, and so do we. But God is there with them, and He has a better plan for them than I could ever imagine!

We are only emergency and respite foster parents right now, so we expect the children to come and go from our home. They come here to be calmed and loved, and then they go to a long-term placement. Or they come here to give their foster family a break. They are ours for just a short while, and then they are gone, and we may never see them again.

Foster care is ugly. It comes from a place of brokenness and loss. It is a reminder of the deep-rooted sin that has taken over our world. And it’s a bunch of sinful people who are trying to help as well. It’s just a mess. But God has a plan, and He wants His people to be a part of the plan. He wants us to love the fatherless well.

If you are a foster parent, I want to tell you that it’s okay if every child that comes to your home is not a perfect fit. It’s okay if your family needs a break. It’s okay to say no to every placement. God wants you to keep on serving Him in love, and He will take care of the rest.

If you aren’t participating in some way in orphan care, why not? The child who wasn’t a good fit for our family may be just the one that God has for you. Each family is unique, and each child is unique, and God wants to fit the two together!

There are so many children hurting and in need. They need you to step up and take their hand. They aren’t a number. They have a name. And some day, Jesus may ask you why you didn’t help “John Smith” or “Jane Doe” when He asked you to. What will your answer be?

 

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Letting Go of Control

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The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps–Prov. 16:9.

I have two young children plus two foster children living at my house right now, yet my house feels strangely empty. We dropped our nine-year-old daughter off for her first week at sleep-away camp yesterday, and my mama heart beat anxiously as we pulled away.

She didn’t even want to say goodbye. In fact, I embarrassed her when I tried to pull her into a hug, and she slapped my hand away when I went to put an arm around her shoulder.

I am not the kind of mom who is constantly on top of her children. They are allowed to ride bikes and walk down to the neighbor’s house in our neighborhood as long as they stay together. Our street is a double cul-de-sac, so we don’t have a lot of traffic, and all of the neighbors know each other and watch out for one another. I am not afraid to take my kids to the park. My kids are allowed to spend the night with a very select group of friends. I drop them off at church on Wednesday nights and go back home to get some work done when I need to.

But something about dropping my daughter off for five whole days without any way to communicate with her unless in an emergency set my mama heart beating wildly. I felt sick. Anxiety washed over me like a tidal wave, and I cried as we drove down the mountain.

The truth is that I have been battling with our decision to send her to camp for months now. I know the camp well because it is where I went from age nine all the way up through adulthood. It’s a wonderful camp, and I know the staff. The camp is only an hour and a half away from home, and my wonderful and responsible niece is in my daughter’s room. But still, I knew that I wasn’t going to be there, and that is the part that is hard for me.

Control. It’s what gives us moms a false sense of security. Whether it has to do with making sure our children only eat organic food or apply hand sanitizer after touching absolutely every germ-covered item they can find, we have a false sense of control. We may think we are protecting them from the harmful rays of the sun by lathering them up with sunblock (also organic) and layering them so that not one inch of skin is showing, yet we are living with a false sense of control. We fret over school choice and friend choice, but we are still living with a false sense of control. And we imagine all of the terrible, horrible, awful things that can happen to our child at a camp that has successfully been in operation for over fifty years.

As my husband and I prepared over the last few months to send our first-born to camp, I constantly found myself praying that God would help me to trust Him. It’s not about trusting my parenting abilities or my daughter’s ability to be on her own for a week or even the counselor and staff who are available around the clock in case she needs anything. It’s about trusting God.

That’s the real problem we are facing in today’s culture. Over and over, I am watching as children are growing up into adults who have absolutely no idea how to function in today’s world. We don’t want to “ruin” their childhood by preparing them to leave us. In fact, as I speak to college students in different situations, the common theme I am hearing is that their parents won’t let them. In fact, I just spoke to one girl whose parents wouldn’t let her drive. She is a sophomore in college!

While I am not at that level of parenting yet, I find myself struggling with my own issues of control. If I don’t send her off to camp now, then when? If I don’t release my hold on her just a little bit each time she has an opportunity to learn something new or stretch her “wings” a little bit, then how will she ever learn how to fly on her own? And if I can’t trust God with my children, then how can I teach them that He is worthy of their trust?

I miss her terribly. I am struggling with not knowing what she is doing right now. Did she remember to brush her teeth this morning? Did one of her friends hurt her feelings? Is she eating well? Is she having fun? Is she homesick?

Honestly, I have never had control over my children’s lives. From the moment of conception, I was not a part of their growth, nutrition, or prenatal care. Once a month, I was able to visit their birth mom, feel their baby kicks, and hope for the best. I had no control over what she put into her body, so I just had to pray that God would protect them and help them to grow as they should. And they have all turned into beautiful children–by the grace of God.

As we have begun the journey as foster parents, we have even less control over what happens to the children who become a part of our family for such a short time. We don’t have a say over where they attend school or whether or not they are vaccinated or even whether someone can post a picture of them on social media. They are ours, yet they aren’t. We love them and take care of them, but we have no control over them.

All over the news and social media are stories of parents who thought they were in control but are now mourning the loss of their child. They had the baby gates up and thought their child was in their crib, but an hour later, emergency personnel are fishing a toddler’s body out of the lake nearby. They thought they knew their teenager was happy and easy-going, yet they are now reeling from a suicide that occurred after their child suffered years of bullying at school. They did all they could to keep harmful chemicals away from their child and only fed their baby organic food, but cancer is still eating away at his body anyway.

I don’t say these things to scare you or to make you stop looking out for your child’s well-being! Organic, healthy food is a great option. Taking precautions to make sure your baby is safe is absolutely essential. And talking to your teens about what is happening in their lives is a must.

But we also need to realize when we can back off a little bit. We need to realize that our children are just ours for a short time. It is our responsibility to love them well and to teach them how to leave us. That’s our job. And we have to trust that they are in God’s hands.

I am writing this to myself as well. This is hard for me. I prayed so long and so hard to become a mom that it is hard for me to let them go. It is hard for me to not want to drive back up the mountain and bring my girl home. But what would that accomplish? For one thing, she would be incredibly embarrassed and upset with me. She might even resent me for awhile. She would miss out on the amazing opportunity to make new friends from other places. She would miss learning how to study God’s Word. She wouldn’t get a chance to enjoy sliding down the Super Slip-n-Slide or tubing down the river or hiking to the falls. And she wouldn’t have a chance to grow into herself a little bit more and gain just a little bit more confidence in going out and conquering the world for God. While might feel better having her home with me, I would really be doing more harm than good. She wants to be a traveling missionary nurse some day, so I have to start letting go of her now in order to encourage her to follow the path that God has planned for her future.

So while I stay home and fret over her this week, I am just “praying without ceasing” and trusting God. He’s got her in His hand, and nothing that happens to her is out of His control.

The Lord of hosts has sworn:
“As I have planned, so shall it be,
and as I have purposed, so shall it stand”–Is. 14:24.

P.S. Don’t laugh, but we are going up to see her tomorrow night for Fun Night, so it’s not like I’m even going five days! Baby steps, right?=)

 

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Happy Father’s Day

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When I was growing up, one thing I was always sure of was my dad. There was never, ever a moment in my life that I didn’t believe that my dad would be right there. We are a lot alike in temperament, which resulted in a lot of arguments between us, but I never once doubted that he really loved me. And he always, always had my back–even when I was being a brat. He worked at my school and was always a part of any sports events, choir performances, or band performances that we participated in. He fought me when I wanted to stray, and he was waiting with open arms when I returned. He cried over me, prayed over me, and waited for me to find my way. And he always loved me and cheered me on in my hopes and dreams. In fact, he’s still my number one fan!

As I’ve gotten older and become a parent myself, I have seen just how precious my dad truly is. I have seen other dads who abandon their children, who give up on them when they stray, who miss the big and little moments in their lives, and who just can’t even stand being around their kids. That has never once been my dad.

In fact, now that my dad’s a grandfather, I can see just what a unique individual he truly is. Many grandfathers can’t tolerate being around their grandchildren, or they are too tired to do much more than greet them when they stop by. But my dad? He sees potential and beauty in each of his grandkids, and his desire is to help each one of them grow into the best person they can be. So he takes them out on individual “Pops’ dates.” He takes them visiting with him or on tours with him or to the local ball game. He buys them donuts while talking to them about how they are doing. He listens to them, and he loves them so well. In fact, my kids fight over whose turn it is to go with him, and they carefully count down to see how many of the ten grandkids are left before it’s their turn to go again.

You can see how difficult it could be to find a man who could father as well as my dad does! But my husband is one of the unique ones as well. When I first met him, one of the reasons I fell in love with him was because I could see how well he loved his nephew. He was compassionate, gentle, and loving toward the only child in his world. He immediately volunteered with me at our church to help children who came in from the less-fortunate side of town, and he loved them with his big heart as well. He worked in the nursery with me, was full-force in the children’s ministry with me, and helped me babysit our friends’ kids. When his second nephew came, and then all of my nieces and nephews after that, he continued to love each of them as his own.

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When we were dating, my husband specifically told me of his desire to adopt. He wanted there to be one less child in need of a father. His heart for the fatherless was overwhelmed by the needs of so many. And so together we pursued adoption.

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
    maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute–Ps. 82:3

When the babies cried in the middle of the night, he would tell me to go back to sleep while he fed and changed them. As he saw it, I was with them all day, and he needed to help out when he was home. As they have grown, he continues to “relieve” me at the end of the day, taking over parenting duty despite coming off of a very hard, labor-intensive job. He takes them out on individual “Daddy dates” (or “Dudes Day Out,” as my son calls them). He lets them crawl in bed and snuggle with him in the morning. He plays games with them, attends their events, and makes a point to remember their favorite treats. And they adore him.

When we decided to foster, he dove right into that as well. We are new to this adventure, but he was right there by my side for our first placements. He loved them, cried with them, prayed with them, read to them, played with them, and tucked them in at night. He showed them grace while setting firm boundaries. And he quickly became “Daddy” to them. It was extremely difficult for him when they had to leave, and he cried as he said goodbye. He loved them well.

As I see these two strong, wonderful dads that are part of my kids’ lives, I am humbled to realize that “more than 20 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father” (National Center for Fathering). Twenty million! That means 20 million kids did not understand why anyone was celebrating fathers today. They don’t know what a father can (and should) do for their health and well-being. And those children do not understand the value of having and loving their heavenly Father. They have no example to follow.

I’ve posted this before, but I think it’s worth posting again–especially on Father’s Day:

 

nationalfatherhoodinitiativefatherabsencecrisis

Fatherhood.org

The statistics prove that these children need a father! They need a man in their lives that will come alongside them, cheering for them from the sidelines as they stumble, get back up, and try again. They need someone who will still be there when they mess up and will love them despite their failures. They need someone who will gently lead them to God, who will pray for them when they have doubts and lose their way, and who will welcome them back with open arms.

How can I let Father’s Day go by without begging with you, pleading with you to see one less fatherless child in the world? Remember those statistics? Twenty million kids? That’s just in America! Those are the kids sitting next to your kid in school. They are the ones your kids play with on the playground. They are the ones you walk by on the street. They need you. They need a father.

There are over 130 million fatherless in the entire world. That number will never stop overwhelming me, so I will never stop pleading their cause. I will never stop asking you to do something!

Today is Father’s Day. I am beyond grateful for the wonderful fathers in my life, but my heart aches for those who don’t know where their father is tonight. Or perhaps they know where their father is because he’s the one abusing them when he should be loving them. Some don’t even know who their father is. And some wish that they didn’t know their father.

So what can you do? Be a father to the fatherless! Step up and add one more to your family. Love one more child. Foster. Adopt. Volunteer at the local boys’ home. Mentor the young men in your church. Pray for them. Love them. Fill that void and point them to the Father who loves them more than any earthly father ever could.

If I have withheld anything that the poor desired,
    or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail,
17 or have eaten my morsel alone,
    and the fatherless has not eaten of it
18 (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father,
    and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow),
19 if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing,
    or the needy without covering,
20 if his body has not blessed me,
    and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep,
21 if I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
    because I saw my help in the gate,
22 then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder,
    and let my arm be broken from its socket.
23 For I was in terror of calamity from God,
    and I could not have faced his majesty–Job 31:16-23.

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What Can You Do to Help Them?

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Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world–Jms. 1:27.

She came skipping down the driveway at 1:30 in the morning, her hair an oily mess from the coconut oil treatment she had received at the Department of Social Services. Her sister was sound asleep in the caseworker’s arms and refused to wake up to greet me.

“What’s your name?” She asked sweetly, running through the front door and past my husband as though she had lived here all her life.

“Katie, and welcome to our home.”

She immediately began to rummage through the toys in the living room, as excited as though she had just entered Disney World. She could barely contain her eagerness to touch and see everything our home had to offer her.

The caseworker had us sign the contract that said we agreed to take the girls and attached a sticky note with their names and birthdays on it–no other information. And then she was gone, and we were thrown into the unknown waters of foster parenting.

When you decide to foster, you are required to take so many hours of training every two years. But they can’t really train you for what happens when two little girls enter your home and disrupt the family harmony.

When our children had gone to bed on Saturday night, they were part of a family of five. When they woke up, they found two additional sisters. Two very needy, clingy, whiny, demanding sisters. What rules would they have to follow? How strict should we be, considering their circumstances? What should we expect from our own children?

Within five minutes of arriving in our home, the oldest child was already calling me, “Mama,” despite the fact that I was trying to get her to call me Katie or even Mama Katie. But my husband was non-existent for the first couple of days. They were afraid to refer to him at all for the first day. Then they started to refer to him as “him”–“Where is ‘Him’? When is ‘Him’ coming home from work?”

My husband sought to connect with the girls and decided to give me a break by pushing me out the door on Tuesday night to get together with a friend. But knowing that the girls hadn’t connected with him yet made me miserable to leave and caused me to have an anxiety attack. The pressure to take care of everyone was overwhelming, and the stories the girls shared with me were heartbreaking.

My oldest daughter struggled to make them happy, which sent her into her own bit of panic. Her people-pleasing mentality overtook her, and she was losing precious toys left and right in an effort to be the best “big sister.” Once I sat her down and told her she was allowed to say no, she seemed to be able to breathe a little bit better. But the adjustment was hard the first few days.

As we began to set boundaries and to get back into a normal routine, the girls seemed to begin to fit in our family a little bit better each day. They started understanding that they had to clean up after themselves when they played (although that is a continuous learning experience for all the kids!). They started to learn that they have to eat the food that is put in front of them, including the vegetables and fruit, or they will be sent to bed. They are learning boundaries. And they have started to realize that my husband is safe and have started calling him “Daddy,” despite our efforts to get them to call him “Jamie.”

Bedtime is the most difficult time of day. They miss their dad. They want to know when they can call him. They want to talk about their family. The tears start to flow. But each night, the tears are fewer, and the nightmares don’t come as often.

We have had them for one week, and they will not be in our care much longer because we are a temporary foster home. They are going to be placed this week, probably, in a long-term foster home. They will leave us. One little girl already worries about not seeing us anymore. The other one is too little but is extremely attached to us. Our hearts will break, and tears will be shed. But this is what God has called us to at this time. We can’t do long-term care at this point.

As we have taken in and learned to love two strangers in such a small amount of time, we are overwhelmed by what they have seen in their short, little lives. God is a novelty to them, and Jesus is a complete stranger. How do you share the Gospel with a five-year-old when she has no idea who this Jesus is? She doesn’t even believe that she’s a sinner. How do you tell her that she is in need of a Savior when she doesn’t think she’s a bad girl? In fact, she told me that she wanted me to be her savior! Yikes!

Sadly, their story is not all that uncommon in an area of the country where there is a church on every corner! We are willing to send missionaries to the farthest corners of the world, but we are missing the innocent ones who live down the street from us. We now have churches hosting Vacation Bible Schools for a fee, leaving out those children who can’t afford to pay to hear the Bible. We feed children during the school year with free breakfasts and lunches, but we send them home for the summer to fend for themselves. Is it any wonder that the summer months are filled with horrific stories of accidents that are happening to these children? Of parents who are so overwhelmed, they do the unthinkable?

We the Church have started slacking off. We don’t want to inconvenience our own children, so we ignore the ones who need our help. This week alone, we have received two more calls to take in four more children, and we had to say no. We are at the maximum limit we are allowed by law. I heard of one family who has had six out of eight foster children lodge complaints against them, yet they are still allowed to take in children because there are too many kids and not enough homes.

What needs to be done to get the Church to start paying attention again? What do we need to say for the orphans in China who are aging out of the system because no one will take in an older child or because financial costs are too much? Who will save the orphans in Africa? What will happen to the children of America? Who will answer the call?

We have been foster parents for one week. And we’re just respite and emergency care at that. It’s a tough world to enter into, and the emotional and psychological parts of it threaten to overwhelm me and knock me off my feet. We may not even be able to do this for very long. But we have to try. And despite the darkness that surrounds these children, they are quick to love, desperate for hugs and kisses, eager to touch and interact and be a part of our family. Each child just needs to be loved.

The people who foster long-term are the true heroes. They are the ones putting all of their faith in God and stepping out on faith to have their entire worlds turned upside down. They are the ones investing months and years into these children. But they are exhausted because they feel so alone. They are beaten down because no one wants to come alongside them and help them carry the burden. People who were once their friends and babysitters will no longer take their children for an evening. One foster mom I have come to know and love told me that her own parents said they would watch their biological grandchildren but refuse to help with any foster children. They think someone else should carry that burden. And the more foster families I get to know, the more I am hearing this same sentiment.

These children need you. They need a safe place to come home to at night. They need someone to kiss their boo-boos, praise their accomplishments, and, yes, make them eat broccoli. If you are a Christian and you are not participating in orphan care in someone way, then you need to spend some time with God and find out what God would have you to do. Even if you can’t take in children yourself, you can come alongside these families who are adopting or fostering and help to lighten the load. The friend I previously mentioned goes to a large church in town that has a large orphan ministry, yet she and her husband haven’t been able to get a sitter in 18 months, since they began fostering. It just doesn’t make sense to us, so that’s why we went through the training and home inspections. We want to be able to give them a break.

So what are you going to do? The time for action is now–before it’s too late for these children. There are over 130 million orphans in the world, and that includes over 500,000 children who are in foster care in the United States. Summer is here, and God is calling the Church to action.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few–Matt. 9:37.

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Grumble, Grumble, Grumble

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We just came back from a week at the beach. We spent several lovely days splashing in the waves, building castles in the sand, and enjoying time with our cousins. But, sadly, we had to return early when our middle child caught the stomach bug. It wasn’t what we had planned, but he was better the day after we returned, and we were able to have a couple easy days at home before Daddy had to return to work.

Once we started settling back into our routine the very next day, the whining began. “We never do anything fun! What do you have planned for us today? We’re so bored! You have to take us somewhere!”

Oh, how quickly our children forget the wonderful memories we create for them! I have often said that they start moaning that they are bored just minutes after we leave a fun adventure! It seems that they are never happy with what we do!

But the truth is that Mama is right there with them. I admit that coming home from vacation was a real let-down. We only get to have one family vacation this year (and that’s more than most people can say!), and it was disappointing to have to return so soon. Getting back into routine wasn’t much fun either. There were errands to run, appointments to keep, and chores to do. While I found myself fussing at the kids for their own whining, I realized that I was doing the same thing to my heavenly Father! “Why won’t the kids stop whining? Why does everyone else get to go on so many vacations while we’re stuck at home for the rest of the summer? Why aren’t there any friends to hang out with?” And the list goes on and on. Sometimes I wonder if God gets tired of listening to me!

I have been reading Connilyn Cossette’s Out of Egypt trilogy, and I have been meditating on the plight of the Israelites. As I have looked deeper at the lives of God’s chosen people, I have felt like a kindred spirit–always whining and complaining!

 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Ex. 14:10-12).

The Israelites had been praying for a way out of Egypt for 400 years! And now that they have their chance, they begin complaining at the first obstacle in their way. I can be like that, too. I pray for a vacation, but then I complain when the vacation isn’t exotic or ends sooner than planned. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

But God is patient with us, isn’t He? He rescues us again and again–just as He rescued the Israelites again from Pharaoh’s army. And they rejoiced in His provision in the very next chapter of Exodus, singing and dancing to the glory of the Lord.

But the Israelites weren’t done complaining! After wandering for a little while in the desert, they started to grumble again.

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death” (Ex. 16:1-3).

But, like I said, God is patient toward us. He is always faithful. So what did God do to these grumbling Israelites, who longed to go back to a life of slavery instead of following Him? He rained down bread from heaven!

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions (Ex. 16:4).

God has promised to “supply all [our] needs” (Phil. 4:19), yet we still doubt His goodness and love! And He is still patient toward us!

Eventually, the Israelites even begin to complain that God is raining down bread that tastes like honey (Num. 11). They complain that they are thirsty (Ex. 17). They complain about Moses’ leadership (Num. 14). They even complain about the Promised Land (Num. 14). Grumble, grumble, grumble.

The truth is, when we grumble, we are sinning. We are taking our eyes off the One Who graciously gives us all things! We lose our testimony because we wallow in what we want and how we are discontent instead of pointing others to the One Who will provide for us.

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain (Phil. 2:14-16).

It’s easy to grumble. Life is hard. Parenting is hard. Kids whine and demand and disobey. Being a stay-at-home mom can be lonely. Depression can easily set in. That’s when we need a reality check. We need to realign our focus and fix our eyes back on Jesus. It’s hard to complain when we recount all the ways we have been blessed.

 

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Wings of the Wind: A Book Review

Wings of the Wind

“When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God gives them into your hand and you take them captive, 11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you desire to take her to be your wife, 12 and you bring her home to your house, she shall shave her head and pare her nails. 13 And she shall take off the clothes in which she was captured and shall remain in your house and lament her father and her mother a full month. After that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 But if you no longer delight in her, you shall let her go where she wants. But you shall not sell her for money, nor shall you treat her as a slave, since you have humiliated her”–Deut. 21:10-14

In Wings of the Wind, the third book in the Out of Egypt series, Connilyn Cossette creates a woman who is forced to follow the Torah written in the scripture above. What would this law look like for a Canaanite woman? What would it be like for a Hebrew man, who is marrying someone outside of his faith? Connilyn Cossette wanted to know the answers for herself, so she decided to create a story that depicted such a scenario.

Alanah is a Canaanite woman, determined to seek vengeance for her family, whom she lost in battle to the Hebrews. Disguising herself as a man, Alanah takes up her bow and arrow and marches into battle, determined to take the blood of at least one Hebrew in exchange for the blood of her family. But when Alanah finds herself in the midst of battle, she realizes that she may be in over her head. Before she knows what is happening, she is shot by an enemy arrow and discovered by a Hebrew soldier.

Upon waking up in a Hebrew tent, Alanah is certain that death is near. But what she finds is much worse–she must marry the Hebrew soldier! She has thirty days to decide–will she stay married to the enemy or will she go back to a the home that is no more? As she begins to learn the ways of the Hebrews, she sees that one thing is clear:

“The Hebrews had been transformed from Pharaoh’s property to a nation of warriors in the space of forty years. Warriors who were more than ready to take over Canaan.”

Although Alanah fears that she will spend her life as a slave, she soon realizes that these Hebrews are more than they appear. Who is this God they serve and why does He hover nearby in a cloud? What is this mysterious manna that drops from the sky every day and makes the weakest strong and the oldest young? Can a God such as this love someone who is not part of His chosen people?

This is definitely a love story, but it is the story of God’s love for each of us–the Jew and the Greek. The slave and the free. Man and woman. Young and old. It is a story that reminds us that God never leaves us nor forsakes us, that He can set the captive free, and that He is a God who can supply all of our needs!

“There was no hunger. No thirst. Only complete satisfaction. Instead of feeling faint, I wanted to spring to my feet, to run, jump, and twirl like when I was a little girl. Yahweh had healed me…The God that took the Hebrews out of Egypt was no figment of Mosheh’s imagination. He had spoken to me–to me!”

As Alanah begins to find love and healing in the Hebrew camp, she also begins to find a home. But when Midianite traders kidnap her and her friend, Moriyah, Alanah is certain that she will never see home again. Again, she is faced with doubts that the Hebrew God could love her, but she is determined to see her friend returned to her family and won’t give up until she has completed that task.

As the pair break free and set off to find the Hebrew camp, Alanah is faced with many challenges along the way, including coming face-to-face with some of the bitterness from her past. Even as she faced prostitution in the temple, Alanah sees God’s hand in her life and realizes that He has brought her to this place in order to bring her to Him and to use her for His glory.

“After seeing the swirling Cloud with my own eyes and comprehending Yahweh’s power, the idea that Ba’al was the god of storms was almost laughable. There was only one God who had commanded the sea to split in two and one God who had crippled Egypt with hail and fire. And that God was no deaf and mute idol of wood and stone. He spoke to me. He heard me in the river. He was alive.”

The story is also told through the eyes of Tobiah, a Hebrew soldier, who stumbles upon a Canaanite woman in the midst of battle. As a follower of the Torah law, Tobiah is forced to take her as his wife, a decision that is not supported by his family or the woman he was to be betrothed to. But this Canaanite woman strengthens and challenges him in ways he has never before experienced, and he finds himself falling in love with her.

But Tobiah is still a soldier and must still go to war after their first year of marriage is over. Eager to see the promises fulfilled of conquering the land of Canaan, Tobiah struggles to stay home as commanded or to take up his shield and fight. When Alanah goes missing, Tobiah assumes that she has made her choice to return to her people, so he decides to go back into battle.

But why does his heart still long for the woman with fiery red hair? Why can’t he move on and marry the woman he was supposed to marry before meeting the Canaanite? And what has always doing right brought for him except a lot of pain? Although Tobiah is a law-abiding, faithful servant of Yahweh, he must learn that he is not the one in control, and he cannot protect those he loves unless Yahweh ordains it.

“I had done everything in my power to live up to my promises, but it was never enough. You are not a god. The words appeared in my mind with uncanny clarity…Had I been trying to be my own god? Determining my own steps instead of ceding to Yahweh’s plan?…Where my strength and ability to protect them had ended, Yahweh Himself had taken up the cause.”

As Tobiah comes to realize his own need for God, will he finally find the peace that has eluded him since his own family was taken in Korah’s rebellion? Will he be able to exact mercy and grace, or will he seek vengeance for the sins he has endured?

This is a love story. Yes, indeed it is about the love between a man and a woman; but even more so, it is about the love that God has for each one of us, whether we are Hebrew or not. While the characters are fictional, the history is not. The stories of the Israelites in the desert, accepting manna from the sky, fighting and winning impossible battles, and destroying Jericho simply by marching around the city with trumpets are all absolutely true. The Gospel story is woven intricately throughout these pages, urging the reader to dive deeper into scripture to find the treasure that lies there. And Connilyn consistently points the reader to scripture with carefully-researched details and in-depth knowledge of biblical history.

“It is fascinating to me to consider how our lives affect one another and even the lives of people we do not even know–and also how sometimes our poor choices may end up being used to glorify God in ways we never thought possible.”

Can God use a Canaanite woman? Can He use a harlot? He can, and He has! So how can He use you for His glory?

*This book was provided to me by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Keep Pressing On to Your Dreams

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Some of my support team

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change–Jms. 1:17.

This week I had the privilege to participate in Career Day at two of our local elementary schools and talk about the process I went through to become an author. It’s been fun to stand beside my illustrator and good friend, Sarah Strickling Jones, who was the first one to say, “I think you have something here,” and gently pushed me to make a book.

As we shared our story and great adventure with the students, I could vividly recall my own days in elementary school, sitting at a desk and trying desperately to think of something to write. When you are first learning how to write, words can seem impossible to grasp and spell, and ideas can feel out of reach.

My story to becoming a writer is actually a story of God’s grace. When I was a toddler, my older sister found me in the living room, writhing around on the floor and shaking. She ran to get my mom, who is a nurse, and my mom immediately recognized that I was having a seizure. Of course, she rushed me to the emergency room, but there wasn’t much that they could do for me except refer me to a specialist. But even the doctors seemed confused by the seizures I began having. They couldn’t seem to figure out what was causing them, and I spent quite a bit of time in the hospital.

The only answer they could find was to prescribe Phenobarbital, a drug that can be used to treat epilepsy and is also used as a “sedative hypnotic” (according to Rxlist.com). My seizures were being controlled, but my mind was being put to sleep. My parents can still recall those years from ages two to five when I seemed to be in a dream all the time. In fact, I don’t recall anything before my five-year-old birthday.

When it was time to begin kindergarten, my parents (especially my mom) were becoming concerned that I wouldn’t do well in school because of the medication. They decided that I had been seizure-free long enough that they were willing to try taking me off of it to see how I would do. But their hopes of having an honor roll student were not placed in me.

One day, I came home from kindergarten and told my mom that I could write to 100. She humored me, thinking that I probably thought I could but really didn’t know the numbers. To her surprise, I was able to do exactly what I told her I could!

I am sure that there are still some lingering issues on my brain from those years on that seizure medicine. In fact, I’m not even sure they still prescribe it today–except in extremely rare cases. I do sometimes forget things, and I may be overly sensitive because of the drug’s lasting effects. But overall, I have done quite well off of the medicine and have had no more seizures! In fact, I did make the A/B Honor Roll all throughout my school career and graduated high school in the top five of my class. I even went on to college and earned a degree in publishing!

This particular book was created in my mind three years ago–in the midst of our third adoption. Sarah challenged me to put my words on paper, and she would illustrate them for me. We had a product, but then we didn’t know what to do with it! Then my amazing friend, Anna, who works for a publishing company, encouraged me to submit it to her boss. With her support, my manuscript was approved, and Sarah’s beautiful illustrations were accepted, and now we are moving on to the design stage to put the words and illustrations together at last!

It’s been a long journey from my days as a struggling, loopy five-year-old, who didn’t seem to have much promise for a future. But we serve an amazing God, who is faithful to fulfill His purposes through us and in us.

I could have easily given up. I could have accepted my limitations and lived a perfectly content life. But I have a support team–parents who love me, siblings who fight for me, a husband who sacrifices for me, children who look up to me, friends who encourage me, and people who believe in me. These are the people who made me keep going when I thought that I would never achieve my dream of becoming an author. They are the reason that I write.

I write all of this to brag on my family and friends. I know that it’s not always easy to support the difficult people in your life, and I am, for certain, one of the difficult ones! But because of them, I can pursue my dreams!

If you have a child who is struggling with physical, mental, or emotional issues, please don’t give up on them! Support them. Encourage them. Love them. You may feel beaten down and lost right now, but they know that you are there. They can feel your strength and love, so don’t give up!

And if you are struggling to see your dreams fulfilled, I just want to encourage you to “keep on keeping on,” as the saying goes. You may be rejected over and over again. You may be told to pursue something else. You may be told that you can’t possibly pursue that dream. Do it anyway!

I may have a best-seller on my hands, or I may not. Only time will tell. But my support team helped me to complete my dream of being published! I am so thankful for all they have done to get me here!

God has a purpose for each one of us. He wants us to hope and dream. He wants us to pursue things that will bring Him glory and give you joy. He gave you talents and strengths that you may not even know. Use them for His glory, and He will bless you beyond measure! Keep pressing on!

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus–Phil. 3:14.

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