Three Little Miracles

Yes, God still works miracles! A few years ago, I was blessed to be a part of one! There is no other explanation of how all these people and circumstances could “just fall together”!

It all began on a fall Saturday morning. I was in Montgomery at His Vessel Ministries attending a meeting. After the meeting, I ran into an old friend. We’d met through a Discipleship class at the Ministry. As we were talking she shared that she and her husband had decided to adopt a child through the foster care system. They had been married 24 years and unable to have children. They now wanted desperately to adopt a child. She asked me to pray for them because the foster system was so overwhelmed with placing children in foster homes there wasn’t much time to find them a child to adopt. Immediately someone came to my mind. “I might know of a child.” Her face lit up like a Christmas tree! I didn’t want to get her hopes up, but I was already getting excited myself!

On my way home to Cullman, I called my friend. She and her husband have been foster parents for several years. I knew they had a baby that would be up for adoption soon.

When I told her the story, she said, “We have decided to adopt the baby. But, the three girls we have now are getting closer to being ready for adoption!”

Wow! Three girls! She only said they wanted one! I better check. She might not be ready for 3 little girls. Well, not only was she interested, they would have taken them at that very moment if possible! I reminded her, “This is not final yet!” But already a seed of love had been planted in her heart.

I invited her to come up and visit us the following Sunday. They went to church with us and my friends with the girls then ate lunch with us. I know you’ve heard “love at first sight,” but it was! The girls and this couple fell in love! One of the girls climbed up in the woman’s lap, looked her in the eyes, and said, “Can you be my mommy?” Yes, we cried!!! And the other two were glued to the husband.

They of course, didn’t want to leave, but they had to go back to Montgomery. The seeds of love were growing! In my heart I was praying that they wouldn’t be disappointed. But I was also praying that God would join these girls and this couple.

Another amazing detail, the women had met before. My friend in Cullman had been to a meeting at the Montgomery friend’s house with me. I had forgotten that. So, they were already connected which helped the process of adoption.

The couple applied for respite care, and 2 months later they were taking the girls for weekends. All of us were praying that somehow God would put this all together. But, actually God was the originator of it all! Through court dates, and appeals, wondering and waiting, God continued to bring it all together.

Of course there were challenges, these girls had been through the trauma of being taken from their home, living in foster homes, and not understanding all of this. Yes, they had behavior issues. But the two mothers were able to help each other through this.

A year later, the husband made a call to their lawyer telling him they were finally ready for a court date. Usually this takes months; they didn’t have months. His father had some serious health issues, they needed to go to Texas to take care of him. And he, being in the military, had been transferred to Mississippi.

That night he got a call from the lawyer. “Can you be here in the morning.”  ?!

The next morning, three little girls became “their little miracles”!

All glory be to God from whom all blessings flow!

Yes, I believe in miracles! A husband and wife married 25 years decide to adopt a foster child.

Three little girls half a state away needed parents. And God had a plan!

He always does!

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The One Hour Clean Up

“I’m setting the timer for 1 hour. Now Go!”

Thus started our Saturday “One Hour Clean Up”, a tradition in our family for several years when the kids were children and teens.

The purposes for instituting this Saturday ritual were two-fold: 1) we wanted our children to learn responsibility and develop a good work ethic, and 2) I was a busy homeschooling mom and desperately needed help maintaining order in our home.

I can’t clearly remember the day we started this tradition by accident, but my foggy recollection is that the house was horrendous, the day was beautiful, and the kids wanted to do something fun. I do remember realizing that it would take most of the day, as usual, for me to get the house in order by myself. I then had the options of 1) saying “No” to their requests for an outing, 2) letting dad take them while I stayed home to clean, or 3) insisting that the whole family help where we could all go out together. Since an underlying goal for our family was to raise responsible, hardworking kids, my husband and I quickly decided what to do. We would have everyone jump in and help, getting done whatever we could in only 1 hour, and then permitting ourselves to stop cleaning and go have fun.

cleaning-washing-cleanup-the-ilo-48889We made a list, set the timer, and dove in to the mess. When the timer went off we were shocked! The house looked remarkably clean and neat. It would have taken me at least 4 or 5 hours to do by myself all that we had accomplished together. Granted the mirrors were only wiped 3/4’s of the way up by the kids who were too short. And the wash cloths were folded, but not in perfect squares. Even the beds were made, although the comforter corners may have not been perfectly aligned. The dishes, laundry, floors, and bathrooms had been appropriately washed, folded, swept, mopped, and cleaned. It seemed as if we got more done than we thought we could have before we started. It was amazing!

I’ve heard that farm animals used for plowing, such as oxen, when yoked together can do more than double the work of one animal alone. First, herd animals work better in teams than on their own. There’s encouragement and inspiration in teamwork. Synergy, they call it in the business. The second reason has to do with the static coefficient of friction being higher than the dynamic coefficient of friction and because the animals have twice the strength on that initial pull to get going, they get a jump-start on the task. (That’s about all I can explain. Go ask your nearest mechanical engineer or physics teacher for more info.) All I know is that our family herd yoked together for a common goal and “Got ‘er done!” God has already shared that principle with us in Ecclesiastes 4:9: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.”

As we left the house that day to “go have fun” we all realized we had already been having fun together. From the 4 year-old to the 8 year-old to the 11 year-old to the 14 year-old to the two 40 year-old parents, each person exhibited excitement, camaraderie, and a sense of being needed and being proud of their contribution. We learned a lesson that day and the new tradition began with enthusiasm. What is one hour on a Saturday morning when you’re all working together and when you get to have a day full of fun afterwards? The One Hour Clean Up became the weekly norm.

But how does that affect my life you ask? I… live alone, or have no kids, or have a maid clean my house. Let’s think of the ramifications of this principle in another area of life. Basically the idea I presented in my family scenario is this:

6 x 1 = 1 x 6
6 people x 1 hour each can do the equivalent of 1 person working for 6 hours!

 

It’s the commutative property of mathematics (if I remember correctly) at work. So yes, those math lessons are important in real life! But how can we use that bit of data in other situations? In church? In service? In volunteer work?

Well, here’s an example. You’re having a churchwide activity. Let’s say you have a class of 24 people and need 2 people to man a booth for 3 hours. If 6 of the 24 volunteer, they each will have to work 1 hour. If 12 volunteer they will only have to work 30 minutes each. If no one volunteers to help you and your buddy, you’ll both have to work the entire 3 hours.

What about in a particular ministry at church? Men’s ministry for example. They have Bible studies, camp outs, retreats, steak nights, archery shoots, breakfasts, and maybe even fishing, golf, or basketball tournaments. If we leave the planning all up to the Men’s Director he’s going to be one busy man with something new to plan, prepare for, and lead every month. But if we get 4 people operating in their gifts and areas of expertise – they each only have something once every 4 months at most. And what if 1 guy can only do the steak night every year? Well hey, he’s got a whole year to plan and only 1 responsibility! And at the same time he is lightening the load for the others.

volunteer-1326758_1280Why do you think service groups, ministries, and volunteer organizations are always asking for volunteers? To lighten the load. Whether it is the Salvation Army, Red Cross, an inner city tutoring program, or a church ministry, your small contribution may not seem like much to you. “Surely my 1 hour a week doesn’t even make a difference?” you may say. But when my one hour adds up with your one hour and my college student’s hour and your best friend’s hour who decided to go with you and the couple-from-the-other-side-of-town’s hour, we end up with 6 hours of productive work instead of just one.

So my challenge to myself and to you is to find something you are passionate about and have a bit of ability to do, and serve for an hour a week somewhere. Serve in Jesus’ name. Be His hands and feet and heart to the world. Spend more time and energy reaching out to the world than you do bemoaning the current state of affairs. Make that call to Teen Challenge and see how you can help. Let your church leaders know what you are skilled at, and be willing to head up that once-a-year event or clean out that storage closet or lead that study. Be the one who starts a program to adopt an inner city school. Help with that fundraiser. Do a backyard Bible club each summer. Organize that school clean up. Bake for that bake sale. Join or start a sewing ministry. Whatever you’re good at, get connected with a ministry that needs your kind of volunteers. It will not only help that ministry, but you in turn will be rewarded by a feeling of camaraderie, fulfillment, and purpose.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:15

 

Spectrum of Faith

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Years ago, I made a conscious decision to see the world the best I could the way my son Shelton does. To understand how he thinks and what he feels, to do my best to understand the world from his perspective. Years ago, the word autism became an everyday part of my vocabulary. Years ago I was devastated, there is no cure, there is no explanation. It simply just is and I was angry that it was our is.

early-diagnosis-autism-neurosciencenews-publicI felt I was armed with little in the way of resources, so I made the decision to learn and understand, to read and to inquire, arm myself with information and pray. I would, I have, I do pray. A lot. In the beginning I asked my King to take it away. Upon reflection of my past behavior, that tends to be my go to with King, just take it away and then I do not have to deal with it. Clearly, I avoid conflict. Clearly He does not seek my counsel on what I think is best for me. When He does not honor said request, I then become angry, indignant, and attempt to give the King the silent treatment. This proves to be a futile effort, rudimentary in its effectiveness. Eventually faith and trust give way. I accept the is, and I make concerted efforts such as the ones laid out above.

Now, many years later, my efforts are not always as intentional. One such instance happened a couple of years ago. I was scanning the radio stations when I heard an interesting talk show debate of sorts. The voice of the host, the lack of inflection and excitement despite the passionate subject matter, seemed vaguely familiar to me and I continued to listen. Over time, I grew to like the show host and co-host. Their discussions were informative and varied, but I could take them, or leave them, all contingent upon the next song played. My opinion and understanding changed entirely the day I heard them discussing how the parent of an individual with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) was told by a person of authority that this child was incapable of having a relationship with Jesus. In essence, the authoritarian told the parent to give up hope and not to expect from his or her child the impossible. I was stopped at an intersection, headed into Fultondale. That discussion marked me. It immediately gave me cause to listen. I turned the radio up and settled in.

I’ve also made a conscious decision to be honest, to be candid, if I’m gonna lay it all out there I ain’t even gonna try to lie. So here goes honesty, it marked me because if I am honest, I will admit the very thought has crossed my mind. It does not take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that a relationship with Jesus hits the top of my priority list for my children. It is often the answer to the rhetorical “Why I do what I do” or “What are we doing?” If I do nothing else in this life I want their relationship with the King to be better than my own. All of my children have professed a relationship with Jesus, each one fleshing that out as uniquely different as they are.

pexels-photo-207653Shelton, randomly just told me he loved Jesus and that was that. He isn’t such a big talker about it. He rarely gets emotional. Being the overly emotional and dramatic individual that I am, this is a concept I have difficulty with. As I listened to the radio that day the host divulged a fact about himself. He reported that he too was on the autism spectrum. He then debunked the entire theory that the individual in question could not have a relationship with Jesus. I ain’t even gonna lie here, I got out of my minivan elated, an extra pep in my step. Hope again prevailed and I carried on about my day a little lighter.

From that point on I was what they call “a dedicated listener.” Shelton most especially enjoys the show. To date my favorite was his reaction to the discussion that revolved around “Fiddy Cent” and his large donation to the Autism Society (fueled by his indiscretion at an airport involving an individual on the Autism Spectrum). Between Shelton and the host’s explanation on how it feels to be bullied when you are on the Autism Spectrum, I was enlightened. All I can say is, I had no idea. It was eye-opening.

It is now customary for us to listen to the show as we traverse the Alabama terrain going from place to place. On just such a day recently my wandering thoughts were focused on what my ears were actually hearing. It was a discussion on the emotional matters. The scenario being described, I’m familiar with. An emotionally driven and charged time of reflection, worship, prayer, a box (or twelve) of tissues scattered about the premises, crying and hugging and crying and more hugging. My emotionally dramatic self loves a time like that. I’ve been a puddle lots of times, but as my world has morphed into that of being the mom, and as my age has progressed and time has passed, those times are fewer and far between. It is not that I am no longer moved by the King, in fact I am more moved now than ever but those moments tend to occur more in private than in public. (There’s also the small logistical detail that my dry eyes do not as readily produce tears.) Over time though, I’ve come to realize, rarely was I weeping over that which should have grieved me. Rarely did I weep because I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God, or devastated by my own sin.

So as the host described such a scene and interjected his perspective of having not understood it. He made the following statements, “Statements of the Day”, maybe of the decade…”All that is emotion. There isn’t much in the Bible about emotions. There is a lot about faith. Faith is carried out dry-eyed serving day-to-day.” I wrestled with that one for the remainder of the afternoon. Those I saw may have even wondered where my mind was. It was here, camped out wrestling over that one, weighing what I know about faith and service against the stated argument. I even went to the recess of my memory and recalled a statement made by a friend of mine several years ago about how the King himself, hadn’t allowed himself to be dominated by emotion and feelings, how when He could’ve buckled beneath it He didn’t. In the midst of Lego sea creations, brain-builds of all sorts, hello’s and goodbyes, errand running and lunch I wrestled, and again the King said to me “What is your name?” He asks me that when He wants me to refocus, to gain a new perspective. Declaring my name gives me cause to pause and reflect. I’ve come to realize that emotion isn’t a bad thing; God made me to feel emotion, but it is not to dominate me. All that emotion doesn’t add up to faith. Emotion is not required for a relationship with Christ, faith alone is.

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Faith is carried out dry-eyed serving day-to-day.

His Love is More

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“It’s a fig tree.”

As nonchalantly as “the sky is blue” or “I love Minecraft.”

“It’s a fig tree.”

She was a few steps ahead of me, I watched as she rubbed her hands over the leaf and looked behind her to see if I was paying attention. I recognized the gnarly branches and distinct leaf shape immediately. I quizzed her, “How do you know?”

My oldest daughter, Charlotte looked at me and matter-of-factly said, “I can smell it.”

fig-sliced-plate-wooden-tableThe fig tree makes me always think of two things… cookies and the King. I love a Fig Newton, but I don’t love a fig. In my mind, the fig is the King’s fruit, well, sort of. The first Mom and Dad of this world covered themselves with fig leaves after they felt shame for the first time. A feeling that has been palpable through the ages. Shame compels those who are covered by it to make clouded choices and feel the lowest of lows.

It wasn’t until about 9 years ago that I conjectured that the fruit in the garden was a fig. After all why in the world would such an unruly and itchy choice be what one would choose to cover his or her lady or gentleman parts with? I reasoned simply, it was the closest option. Later the King cursed that same fruitless tree, it withered and died, almost as if He were demonstrating His feelings toward the tree that represented sin and death. The very thing that He was soon going to overcome. Perhaps not. Perhaps it is just an unfortunate specimen of botany and I have a bit too big an imagination to leave it as such.

Regardless, as my daughter stated the undeniable fact of the fig trees presence, I pondered what sin and death meant for my oldest, the first of my children, not born of my body, but of something much stronger, my soul. I pondered how sin and death were the very thing that brought her to me. newborn in incubatorBorn way too early and in poor health, she had to fight for her very life. A death sentence at birth was proclaimed over her before she could even contemplate the significance.

Jesus healed her, and she too overcame death. She understands as much as it is possible for a teenage girl to understand. I’ve often said she has an old soul… She is slow and deliberate. She loves a soup, classic rock, and frowns upon the frivolous. Perhaps it is because in the short years she has lived, she has a better grasp on the fragility of life, the beautiful things of this world, and has experienced the healing power and the love of a Savior that many adults do not.

There was a time when I questioned Jesus regarding His plan for her. I wondered why He had scanned the world over and picked me to be her Mama. He gave me her verse when she was desperately sick, and her future seemed unclear. His Word simply stated, He had plans for her, plans to protect her, plans for good, plans for her future, plans filled with Hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

He has confirmed time and time again that He trusts me, He has equipped me fully, and that He loves her more than I ever could. That fact right there blows my mind. Thankfully, the truth of that is not contingent on me understanding it. His love is immeasurably more. His love is more than my sin and mess ups. His love is more than my insecurities, inadequacies, and anxieties. His love is more than I was, I am, or I am going to be.

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Message to a Young Mom

Today my mind is on life, work, and purpose. As a semi-retired, stay-at-home wife right now, I wonder, Am I contributing to the world? What is my purpose? What do I have to offer? Am I where I need to be? Am I doing what the Lord wants me to do?

So today I write to you, the Me of 20-30 years ago, to encourage you. You are in a similar, yet totally different, situation right now, but you are having some of those same type5319000-pile-of-dirty-clothes-for-the-wash-stock-photo questions. The constant stream of laundry – Mt. Never-Rest, as my friend Susan calls it – is a major feat to be accomplished in any given week. Rocking babies, clearing the toys away, rushing to t-ball or gymnastics or whatever, cleaning house, and the constant cooking and dish-washing go hand in hand with the laundry to use up many of the hours in your day. Been there. Done that.

As a young mom with your hands full of babies and dirty diapers and a messy house, you may wonder How am I really contributing to the world right now? You know your husband and children need you, but that seems like such a small thing. Comparing that to working to save the lives of critically ill people or living in a mud hut in central Africa ministering to an unreached people group or keeping a huge corporation running as you click around in your high heals meeting pressing needs and brushing shoulders with other important people or teaching and training the next generation’s leaders, your life may seem simplistic and full of repetitive busy tasks that have to keep being done over and over with no apparent progress made. After all laundry and dishes and the house just get dirty again, and cooking and bathing and dressing have to be performed over and over each day.

baby-child-kid-girl-161593If you are at that stage of life where spit-up on your shirt, puffy eyes from little sleep, and day old ponytail hair seem to be the hallmark of motherhood, take heart! It won’t always be this way, In fact, these days pass much too quickly, taking their joys and wonder away with them. But what do you do in the meantime, in this phase of life where purpose and meaning can feel lost or we can feel insignificant?

Well, dearest Me, let me offer some thoughts for perspective – things I wish I had been told or was told, but didn’t allow myself to believe when my babies were young.

  1. Cleaning and scrubbing really CAN wait til tomorrow!

I had this little poem by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton posted in my children’s nursery, but I couldn’t allow myself to fully believe it:

“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow,
For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow,
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,

I’m rocking my babies, and babies won’t keep!”

A former pastor’s wife used to say, “The days are long but the years are short.” And now that my “babies” are 30, 27, 24, and about to turn 20 years old, I realize how right she was. Where did the time go? When I call my grandson by his daddy’s name, it’s not because I’m old and senile, it’s because my mind can’t grasp that my baby is old enough to have his own baby. I remember the day that I realized I wasn’t a young mother any more. It shocked me! I thought, “How did I get to this point? I was so busy doing all my required duties as a young mom and suddenly I’m out of a job!”

So if I could go back in time, I’d tell Younger Me – Savor the moments! Welcome the distractions! Sit down and play. Hug and love on those little ones. One day you will wish you could again. Supper burns – oops! Laundry is piled high – who cares. You eat PB&J sandwiches again – so what! Your house isn’t a Southern Living showcase – there’s another season for that. In years to come, what your heart will rejoice over or regret is the hugs, kisses, moments of joy, and memories made with your family – or the lack of those.

2. Image doesn’t matter. Who you really ARE does.

But as a Mom of littles, society sends us a different message. We get this message from society at large as well as from well-meaning friends, parents, husbands, or from media, movies, and magazines full of pictures of perfect houses, gourmet meals, and beautiful people.  Satan shouts lies to us through posts on social media. Over and over we hear “You’re not enough, you don’t measure up.”

When we get caught up in how we appear to others, we lose sight of those little hearts being formed under our command. In other words, the more we look at things through the world’s glasses, the less we truly see our lives as they really are. We’re in a rush, so we don’t see with compassion those sad eyes full of tears; we see them with annoyance. We greedily look forward to those “free” moments where we can escape to TV or friends or Instagram or even alcohol, possessively guarding them because we tire of being self-sacrificing. And we waste our time trying to live up to some vague standards, rather than investing our time in the eternal work of loving, guiding, teaching and nurturing these tiny souls.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

3. Take time to renew.

We moms are a paradox. For all our whining, wanting OUR time and being irritated that we are in constant demand, we will turn around and label ourself “selfish” for taking some alone time to renew and do what’s truly good for us. That’s crazy! Jesus, with all he had to do on earth, took time to be alone. So plan for those essential personal moments to exercise, nap, be with your husband, go on a date, read God’s word, think, grow, and refresh your spirits.

4. Time with the Lord in His Word and prayer are essential.

What we really need… is time alone with the Lord to bathe in His love, see ourselves clearly, get correction from His Word, have our worldview aligned with scripture, grow as Jesus did – “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52) and to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind.” (Romans 12:2) Second Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” And James 5:16 reminds us to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” We see that scripture is useful and prayer is powerful and effective. instagram-cell-phone-tablet-device-163148Those are the worthwhile things to invest our time in that have eternal consequences. In the down moments you have between the demands of motherhood, do you reach for God’s Word or for the smart phone?

5. Being a mom is not a small thing! You ARE contributing to the world!

Raising kids is a thing of great importance. Just glancing around at the selfishness and lawlessness of our world a person can readily see the significance of raising kids full of godly wisdom and character. Training children can be tedious. It is repetitious. A mom doesn’t always see any fruit of her efforts. But you are doing a job that will bear fruit for generations to come and one that will bear far greater dividends than any Fortune 500 CEO could ever hope to achieve.

Will your child be an average responsible citizen, a rebel, or the next Billy Graham, who knows? Only God. But Sweet Mother, you DO have a purpose! To follow God faithfully and seek Him every minute of every day. You DO have something to offer! Little Mommy, you give every ounce of yourself every day for those you love. You are right where God wants you! Don’t let Satan cause you to doubt. You are doing EXACTLY what the Lord wants you to! He gave you those little charges to love and to teach and to cherish.

Now you’ve been told. Believe it!

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men. Colossians 3:23