Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmastime = Bribe or Blessing?

It never fails, as soon as the big holiday in October passes, I hear parents both in the stores and in cyber-land chatting about the excitement of Christmas. Sadly, more often than not though, instead of focusing on the BLESSING that Christmas brings, they are scheming up ways to use the next two months in BRIBING their kids toward good behavior. Someone was rather smart in taking advantage of this mentality and "helped" parents out by producing the ever-popular Elf on the Shelf.

It's no wonder why families struggle to enjoy the real meaning of Christmas. I've never really fully understood the logic in lying to my children when it's honesty I am striving for. Was St. Nick a real person? Yep, and we have told our children so. But we're unwilling to trade in the BLESSING of Christmas for BRIBERY.

Reality is that God is the one who really sees all that we do ... both good and bad. That is REAL stuff right there. Not some made up magic. Oh and how important it is for our children to know so. That sweet 'lil babe that was born long ago was born with a PURPOSE. To grow up and to die for you and for me, bearing all our sins, so that we might have LIFE. That, my friends, is the BLESSING of Christmas. A pure and wonderful gift for you and for me that we are entirely undeserving of. This is what I want my children to know about. This is what we long to celebrate. This is what changes lives.

I'd love to hear about how you teach your children the BLESSING of Christmas. Please share.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Thanksgiving Basket & The Provider

Nearly 15 years ago, we packed up all of our belongings, along with two little boys, and made the trek from Louisiana to Chicago. During a missions conference at our church, the Lord had led us to leave the Air Force and serve in full-time ministry. We didn't know what all that would entail, but we knew He'd spoken and we needed to respond. At some point during that move God blessed us with new life. While some I'm sure thought we were crazy, the Lord knew we'd need that bundle of absolute joy. A week before his birth though, my husband lost his part time job. It was his first semester at Bible college (after completing a semester at the local junior college) and not only were we about to fill up our tiny apartment with a growing family, we now had no job. I found comfort in looking back to how God had clearly directed our steps. We had to choose to trust Him, even if we couldn't see how things were going to work out.

I'll never forget the day we were notified that our family was receiving a Thanksgiving basket from the school. Isn't that just like God? To show up and make Himself known when we felt so lost and defeated. Not to mention we had two little boys excited for turkey dinner and we didn't know if there would be one that year. The boys were so excited when the basket arrived. I remember kneeling down with them, looking through all the contents and praying ..... "Lord help me to never forget your faithfulness." That thanksgiving basket would serve as a reminder to me during future difficult times that we have a PROVIDER.

As this Thanksgiving season approaches, my heart is heavy for those that need to know Him as PROVIDER. Not just for turkey dinner or clothing or medical care, but also as HOPE and LIFE and JOY. Two little children, whom I have never met {yet}, have made a way into my heart this week. They don't just need Thanksgiving dinner this year, they need a family. They need a safe place to heal and grow and blossom.

You know what is so amazing? These needs don't surprise the Father. He knew before the beginning of time every need. He knew when He gave these precious two children life that the day would come they would need another family. Brokenness, orphans, hunger .... that was not His design. We live in a fallen world though .... a place where suffering is a reality. He is still God. And He is PROVIDER.

I love spending the entire fall season focusing on Thanksgiving with my children. I often hear them share throughout the year what they are thankful for, but come September each year we start drawing in a little closer to really focus in on Thanksgiving. We celebrate the harvest and enjoy all the bustle in the fields of the rural land where we live. We pray for safety for those families who will put in long and rigorous hours. Come October we soak up all the glorious colors the Lord brings around us. And then as we near November we enjoy taking even more time to slow down and document all of the many blessings the PROVIDER has poured out.

This year we tried a new version of the Thanksgiving Tree. Our middle son enjoyed heading out to climb up and get me a nice big branch to bring in. We took turns writing down many of our blessings the Provider has poured out on us. As I sit here on the sofa, I can see the back side of the leaves where they are documented. Flowers, brothers, God, romance, apples, friends, Mtn Dew, silence, pizza, friends .... I chuckle knowing by the handwriting who wrote each one.

It is important to pause and reflect. It's important to remember things like the Thanksgiving basket. It's critical we stop and consider the children that need a family.

Are you taking time to pause this season .... to reflect on the blessings which have been poured out on you? Are you needing to know the Father as PROVIDER? Is God asking you to reach out beyond the walls of your home and serve?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Giving Thanks

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever."
Psalm 118:1

Thanksgiving to me is so much more than just the history of Pilgrims and Indians and feasting. It's something that should be going on day in and day out in the lives of our families. Not just when things are going well, but especially when things are NOT. It seems people are so quick to give thanks when all happens quickly. I cringe sometimes at the statement "God's perfect timing". Often as Christians we don't have trouble singing His praises when things are coming together well. What about when they don't? What about when the house DOESN'T sell, the job DOESN'T come through, the illness DOESN'T end in a cure, the orphan DOESN'T receive help in time, the bill DOESN'T get paid, the paperwork DOESN'T come through. What THEN?

Yesterday I had to come to terms with the fact we might not be able to get some intervention help with one of our kids for a very long time. A combination of few doctors in the area for this need and type of insurance was proving to look really grim. By the end of the day (and after some discouraging phone calls) I decided we must just press on with what we've being doing all long .... love/nurture our daughter to the best of our abilities and TRUST God with the outcome. Oh part of me wanted to climb up on a soap box and scream about rights. But the other part knew even MORE than that, I needed to trust the Lord.

My mind drifted back to how He had already proven Himself faithful in our daughter's life. Nearly 7 years ago she was born with some intense needs. She had a future of being a child in the US foster care system. Knowing what we know about her infancy and early childhood, we truly cannot imagine her in that system. BUT GOD! At the time of her conception, the Lord had been stirring in our hearts and directing our steps to her. We were in the midst of our own trauma. You can read about that here. So while I advocate for her today, it helps me to look back and see the fingerprints of her One True Advocate. The one capable of far more than I can ever imagine.

Today while we were in our morning school routine a call came from the nurse at our family doctor's office. For some reason she has not let up on helping us get the help we need. She's gone above and beyond. It seems part of that is from the time we've gotten to have with her building a relationship. She's put in countless calls for us and gotten drug down many a dead end over the last couple of months on behalf of our spunky girl. She's listened to our concerns and educated herself on things she was very unfamiliar with. How thankful we are for her! Even though we are told we can't get into the specialist we need to see until at least APRIL (yes, 6 MONTHS away), it has been a blessing knowing she cares.

Good news today was that she landed us a way into see an OT without the specialist referral (at least for starters). Then it became uncertain if that in fact was gonna fly. After the phone call we went back to "short e". And before my eyes I watched a miracle take place. My daughter, who has struggled for over two years to learn the sounds of letters started sounding out word after word to me with little assistance. I must have looked like a deer in headlights. I could hardly believe my eyes and ears. Over the last few months I have worked hard to believe that ONE day this day would come! One day, my daughter would READ. I wasn't sure honestly if that would even happen this year. Fifty-two words later, I believe it. She looked at me and said ... "Am I reading?". Yes, sweet girl, you are!!!

Next the phone rang again. It was the OT setting up therapy. All had gone through ... when would I like them to see her. Friday? As in two DAYS from now? Um ... SURE!, that would be GREAT! I knew they couldn't address all of our needs, but even getting started with the sensory issues would be a great help.

Then the phone rang AGAIN. This time the assistant to the specialist. Yeah, the one we were told we would not hear from until April! She called to find out our daughter's story. After I choked back some shock, I began telling her story. I now have instructions to call her back after OT on Friday to let her know what all I need to get the assistance & intervention necessary. SERIOUSLY? Alrighty then!

Sharing bits and pieces of this journey over Facebook has connected me with other moms who also face the sometimes weary journey of being an advocate for their child. Then I think of the children who HAVE no voice. What about THEM? Who speaks up for THEM? It happens right down the road ..... it happens around the globe.

November is Orphan Awareness Month. Children all over the world are waiting for someone to have ears to hear, eyes to see and a heart to feel their need. I was reminded today that the same Father who called us to open our hearts and home to this precious girl is the SAME FATHER who will meet her every need.

Would you be brave enough to seek the Father about if YOU are to answer the cry of a child out there? It might be partnering with an orphan care ministry. It might be emptying the savings acct. It might be saying NO to the American Dream and YES to His plan for your family. It might be getting involved in your local school to help with children who don't have someone in their lives to stand in the gap for them. It might be opening your home up to a single mom who is struggling to make it.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving may we seek the One who is above all things.

Lord, I give thanks for who you are. Your ways are so beyond my ways. Thank you for not only giving our child life and a family, but also for caring about the day in and day out needs. Help me to have a heart to respond to the needs around us. Give me eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to respond.