Healing

It is good to write that my heart is healing.

It is resting even deeper in the love and sovereignty of God.

This morning, as I am laying here, I look outside and see the sun shining and the trees with their little green buds.  A cool breeze is blowing, and I hear birds singing and wind chimes ringing.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Snapseed(5)We continue to check days off the calendar.  Further and further from what was before, and moving one day closer to eternity. Chris has continued to put in applications at dozens of different places in Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky, and Arkansas.  But what God has given him right now is a part-time position at Charter Communications.  It is only a three month position, but it is filling our days and allowing us to pay the bills, so we are content with that.  He has been able to continue his lessons for his Biblical counseling certificate, and I am thankful that he has had the time for that.

The boys are continuing to like this school, and I cannot even express how happy that makes me.  Alex received the first place award in his cooking class for an ice cream contest, making horchata ice cream with coffee caramel sauce.  His class does catering for the school and community, and he really likes that.  William enjoys doing air-soft with friends that also live here at the training center.  He usually plays soccer with the students here every week.  We just learned that both of the boys will be able to get their temps and start driving, so they are excited about that.  (Yikes-can’t believe that time is here already!)

Max is as friendly and talkative as ever.  He has been reading more lately, which makes this mama’s heart happy.  And whenever he gets a chance to go “air-softing” with friends from here on campus, he takes that opportunity.  Miles also enjoys going out and doing air-soft, and he has started to enjoy running.

All four of the boys have been taking turns making a meal once a week, and it is fun to see what kind of meals they choose to make and the satisfaction of feeding their family.  We continue to have good family discussions as we work through the emotions that have surfaced over the past few months.  It is a good thing to be able to talk about these things and how they relate to God, and our beliefs about Him.

My sister came home last week from Papua New Guinea, where she served as a missionary for a year.  Aside from the fact that I love being with her, laughing and talking, it is so good to hear her stories of God’s faithfulness and to see the way that God has led her step by step as she seeks to follow Him.  I cannot wait to see where He is leading her to serve next!

As far as God leading Chris and I, we are beginning to get a sense of what He may have in mind.  Just the way that He has closed doors, and reminded us of our gifts and experiences and passions, we are sensing that maybe our life from this point forward is going to be different than it was in the past.  A different career, a different place, a different lifestyle…we aren’t quite sure of the destination, but I think we are facing the right direction now.   We have ideas and hopes and dreams, but there are some pretty significant roadblocks that would need to be removed, and of course, we know that He can and will remove those in accordance with His plan for us.  I would sincerely love your prayers as we seek His intended area of ministry for us.

My heart is finally catching up with what my mind knows to be true.  And yes, there are days that there is pain and tears, but being able to go to the source of that and remind myself of the truth, I can cry and give it to Him, rather than cry and hold onto the pain.  He is sovereign and He is trustworthy and He is pouring out His goodness on me.  Resting in just those few of the beautiful truths about Him, my heart is centering on Him.  Because of His grace-His sacrifice on the cross, knowing there was no way that we could pay the penalty for our sin, we can find peace in Him.  And that’s a promise that offers healing.

“To all those who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 1:7

He Understands

Words seem to elude me.  I cannot seem to express what is going on inside of me as a result of the past few months.  I keep thinking “I’ll just wait until I’m in a better place emotionally to blog about this”.  But that doesn’t seem very honest.  I have always sought to be transparent here, and although I’m now very cautious about doing so, transparency still seems to be the best policy.

So many of you have asked me what happened and I have been waiting until I can separate myself emotionally from all that occurred, but that is not the case .  I find myself becoming more and more distrustful of people, wanting to hide away from everyone and everything, having a hard time thinking about investing in relationships anymore.  And that isn’t good.

I know that God created us all, as the body of Christ, for each other.  The spiritual gifts that He has bestowed on Chris and me tell us that He particularly wants us involved in people’s lives.  And I can’t very well be involved in people’s lives if I am hiding in my home.

Several of you have asked what happened, and why we had to move.  I can’t go into all the details, but maybe this will help you understand a little better the path God allowed us to walk these past several months.

When Chris lost his job at the end of August, we knew that God was opening up a door for us to move into some kind of ministry.  We prayed sincerely for His will and He led us to become house parents at a children’s home in Arizona.  We have had many kids come into our home and our hearts over the years, and we were excited to invite more in.  We were told that they simply wanted us to raise these boys like we would raise our own.  And so we jumped in wholeheartedly with both feet.

We loved being house parents to the ten boys we had, plus our own four.  They received hugs, love , prayers, time in God’s Word and more love.  We began to see, though, where our convictions about raising children didn’t line up with the philosophy of the home, and so at the end of January, when we shared this with them, they told us they felt it was time for us to move on.  So many unexpected things transpired over the weeks that followed, that it still seems so surreal.

My heart and mind have played reruns of these events over and over and over.  I’ve asked God what I did wrong, what I could have done different, what I would do the same…   But in my heart, I know that we spoke the truth with a sincere heart.  When we had our 90 day review, we completely expected that some good dialogue would come out of our questions.  We truly believed that we would be able to work together to find what God’s Word said about our concerns.  We did not do it out of spite, or a sense of “our way is the only way” or to stir up trouble.  We did it because we love those ten boys {that will forever have a place in our hearts, and a home if they should ever need it}, we want what is best for them, and most of all, we wanted to be true to the convictions that God has given us.

God used those circumstances to move us from Arizona to Roach, Missouri.  My parents work here at a missionary training center, and they have graciously shared their home with us.  Chris is still looking for a job.  He has put in applications here in Missouri and in Indiana, but has found temporary work here in Camdenton while he awaits a more permanent position.  He has had moments of discouragement, but for the most part has demonstrated great faith and confidence that God has a plan for us.  The way that he has loved me and comforted me in the midst of my tears and doubts has been absolutely precious to me.

The boys are settled in their new schools and really liking it.  They have plenty of space to play outdoors here.  They get to play walleyball and soccer every week. They are making friends and feeling like this is home.  We’ve had several sharing times around the table after dinner, (that we lovingly refer to as “Walton moments”) where the boys have been able to share some of the issues they are working through.  I think these times are so good for them.  It is safe place for them to work out all that is in their hearts.

I spend my days quietly.  My parents spend a lot of time down at their office, and now that the boys are in school and Chris is at work, I have the house to myself.  I’ve been working on sorting and backing up all the pictures on my computer.  And I usually make lunch for my mom and dad and myself.  I spend some time reading every day, which has been really nice.  My back has been pretty bad since I overdid it while packing and moving.  It is hard to not be able to do all the things that I would love to do, but I am slowly getting better as I am being careful and wise about what I do.

I have really enjoyed getting to cook for my family again, and have been taking advantage of the cool days to make lots of soups, which we didn’t really eat a lot of while we were in Arizona.  Today, William turns 16, and he requested quite the birthday meal.  His meal is starting with an appetizer of nice olives and roast garlic with crusty bread.  Then we’ll eat lobster and shrimp fettuccine with roasted brussel sprouts on the side, with sparkling apple juice to drink.  Followed by flan for dessert, and then a movie together as a family.  I love getting to have special meals like this one, and I really enjoy taking care of my family by preparing meals for them!

I am very thankful that God is a patient God.  I am not angry at Him, and I do believe that He is sovereign.  I believe that He used some circumstances out of our control to move us, and His reasons are (as of right now) His own.  He will share them with us in His perfect time.

Right now, I am okay with being alone.  I have been blessed with so many dear and wonderful friends.  True and honest friends.  Friends that I can count on being honest with me, and friends that have proven that they are who they say they are.  I think I would be completely content if I never had to meet a new person again.  I just want to stick with the people that I know and love.  The ones that I know are trustworthy.  I just don’t know that I can trust my judgment.  I’m afraid I will trust the wrong person, or that I will love someone, only to have that person cut off from me.

This is the struggle of my heart right now.  There are so many Truths and Promises that my mind knows, but my heart is just a bit wounded and is lagging behind, trying to catch up.  I know that it will heal in time, and my mind and my heart will be in one accord.

Until then, I am completely at His mercy and just living one day at a time.  I often can’t even find the words I want to say to Him, but when I can’t find the words to explain the hurt, the betrayal, the confusion, and the weariness, I remember who I am talking to.

And I remember that He, more than anyone else, truly does understand.

And today, resting in that is enough for me.

A Lavish Love

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Lavish: (adj) sumptuously rich, elaborate, or luxurious

To lavish: (verb) to bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities upon.

I have been thinking a lot about the word “lavish” over the past week.  During this season of celebrating the birth of our Savior, there are donors who so generously gift our children here.  They lavish gifts upon our children who truly have a hard time grasping the idea of a giving type of love.  Many have never had a Christmas present in their lives.

When I first heard about all that the children received, I was a little worried about how it affected them; that it would actually contribute to the sense of entitlement that so many in this world struggle with.

And then, I remembered this verse.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.”

God lavishes his love on me.  He bestows His love on me, generously and extravagantly.  He doesn’t hold back because He worries that I might take it for granted.  In fact, He pours His love onto me, knowing full well that there are times that I do, sadly, take it for granted.  He is a Father who loves to give His children gifts, and I see evidence of that all around me.

So, while I still need to work with our boys on cultivating gratitude, appreciation and generosity, I am going to thoroughly enjoy watching our children have gifts lavished upon them.  And I am going to let it be a reminder of how God lavishly loves me.  Deserving or not, it is His nature to love and to give.  I pray that those character qualities will be lived out in my life, and someday, in the lives of the boys that we are raising.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son”…”Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

Full House~Full Heart

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My heart is full.

I am sitting here in the living room, thankful that I have had some extra time this morning to spend in God’s Word.  The room is lit by my favorite lamp from World Market, soft music is playing from my iPhone, a cup of coffee is next to me and I have just had my heart poured into by Jesus.  Reminding me that He is oh-so-good and He has such amazing love for me.

“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.  I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.  I keep my eyes always on the Lord.  With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  Psalm 16:5-6

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

The past couple of days, I so wanted to email all our friends and family with an update of the goings-on of our life here, but thoughts and words just kept swirling around in my mind, and I just couldn’t seem to make them all come together to make sense.  I couldn’t figure out how to share our life without invading the privacy of our boys.  I couldn’t find the way to explain the emotions and thoughts that both Chris and I are having.  And yet, I know I want to share what God is doing here.

“This is the hardest job you’ll ever love.”

This is what one of the supervisors told Chris and I during our training.  He was right.

This past week, we had to see a little guy leave after only a few weeks here at the Acres.  We were simply not equipped to handle the emotional and mental issues that he had.  We were both weary of the wrestling, and yet, the love that Jesus had put for him in our hearts was deep.  The day he left, I was heartbroken.  I questioned God, and angrily asked him why He brought him for such a short time.  How fair was it to let him experience freedom and love only to take it away so quickly?

And then I remembered.  A few nights before our little buddy left, he asked Jesus to be His Savior.  With tears running down his face, he prayed with us and thanked Jesus for paying for his sins on the cross.

Was it for that particular moment on that Saturday night that God brought him to the Acres?  I believe it very well could be.  And I am so thankful to God for bringing him our way.

While my heart still aches every night, and many times throughout the day as I think of him, Jesus keeps reminding me that He is the one who loved this little guy while he was here, and He will continue to love him where he is now.  He will simply find another person who is willing to be used by Him to continue to love this little boy!

Yes, this job is hard.  We spend our days training children-many who don’t want to be trained.  I get it.  Training and discipline are not fun.  It is hard to change habits that have been years in the making.  It stinks to have to do something you don’t want to do.  Especially when one is accustomed to doing what they want when they want.

Sometime, I think the only difference between me and the kiddos is that I am old enough to see the value in discipline.  I have known Jesus long enough to trust His love for me and the way that He trains and disciplines me.

These children are just getting to know Chris and I.  They have yet to learn that when we say “I love you”, it means “I will take care of you, I will protect you, I will comfort you, I will keep my promises, I will pray for you, I will laugh with you, I will cry with you, I will be there for you.”  Most of them are at the point that they WANT to trust us, and are testing us to see how deep this love goes.  Thankfully, it is the love of Christ, not the love of Nichole and Chris, that is being tested.  And we know that this amazing love is so very deep, there is no end.

So, I guess right now, our biggest “job” every day is to lay the foundation of our love.  Which is difficult, because there is the practical disciplines of chores, homework, behavior, etc that still need to be addressed.  And it is often very difficult, especially with our younger boys.  Please be praying for us that we will have moment by moment supernatural wisdom!

I am so thankful for our high school boys.  What a blessing they are!  One of our boys has been bringing home a treat for the kids who have been cooperating and contributing to peace in the home.  Another of our boys brings such a sense of calm to our house-the kids love him and he is so good about encouraging them and reminding them when they are out of line.  The younger boys all love him, and I am often looking for ways to give him a little breathing space!

I am still adjusting and from what I’m told, it will take a year or so.  I am often tired (I really wish I was one of those people who can nap!)  I forget things that I am supposed to do (even though I do have a list) and it frustrates me greatly.  I still have not organized my kitchen cabinets.  My back has been acting up.  I am at a loss many times with how to address behavioral issues.  I deeply miss my friends and family!  I miss getting to study God’s Word with other women.  I don’t like seeing our four boys struggle with lack of privacy.

But…

I love our family.  I’m thankful for days off when I can catch up on rest.  I am thankful for the grace shown to me when I forget something important.  I’m thankful that my boys don’t care if my cabinets are organized.  I’m sure I’ll eventually find a good chiropractor and massage therapist for my back.  God will give me wisdom-He promises.  I really like all the other staff members here-what a great group of people!  And while privacy is a thing of the past, I’m so thankful that we have boys that feel completely comfortable coming into our apartment and hanging out.  That they call us Mom and Dad (in fact, our 10 year old informed me the other night when I was tucking him in that he is part staff kid, anyway, because he is ours. *heart smile*)

Yes, indeed. My heart is full.

And now, I need to go make Breakfast Tater Tot casserole for my dear boys.

Hoping each of you have a blessed day!!

Changes

I am sitting here on the floor of our new bedroom, surrounded by boxes and other items that have yet to be placed in their “spot”.

But, not the bedroom of the 2300 sq ft home with five bedrooms that I wrote about last time.  We did move into that house, and we lived there for 3 months before God moved us to Mesa, Arizona.

The end of August brought with it the loss of Chris’ job.  But it opened the door for us to look into full-time ministry, which is where our hearts have been for a long time.  We weren’t quite sure how or where we wanted to serve, but we knew we wanted to be involved in people’s lives.  After one week of praying and searching and trusting God to close any doors He didn’t want us walking through, we were offered a job as house parents at Sunshine Acres Children’s Home here in Mesa.

Sunshine Acres was started by a godly older couple in 1954, after seventeen years of seeing the need and asking God to use them to meet this need.  They wanted to make a home where any child that God brought their way would be loved and protected.  They found this property in shambles on 129 acres of land and their dream became reality.  This beautiful home has been raising children in a loving environment for almost 60 years-and God continues to bless and grow this place!

And now, here I am.  Still in a bit of shock that I am actually living in Arizona, missing my family and friends back home, missing the beautiful fall colors that Wisconsin is enjoying right now, and ABSOLUTELY loving where God has us.  While adjusting to new schedules, expectations and larger family doesn’t always come easily, I just don’t want to settle for “comfortable”.  I never want to be in a place where I am not desperately dependent on His grace, His mercy, His wisdom and His strength.

Our days start at 5:30am, when we wake up our fourteen boys and get them ready for devotions and breakfast.  After eating in the dining hall, we come back to the house and do some chores to clean up the house a bit and get ready for school.  Chris and I finish up laundry and cleaning after we see the kids off, and our days have been filled with meetings, doctor appointments for the boys, settling into our apartment, and running errands.

Our boys start arriving home at 3:00ish and, as you can imagine, trying to wrangle fourteen boys and their homework can be slightly confusing and overwhelming.  We are still learning the ins and outs of the school systems our boys are in.

I am so thankful for the dining hall.  We have our meals during the week (and Sunday dinner) prepared for us by some awesome cooks!  I am truly so grateful for their service to us.  It makes my job as a houseparent so much easier!  And getting to cook on the weekend for the boys allows me the opportunity to do one of the things that I love to do!

After dinner, each house takes turns throughout the week doing “KP”.  We end up usually doing it once a week, and the children all receive a small allowance for helping out.  We are responsible for washing and putting away all the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen and dining hall.  It reminds me so much of growing up at Tambo!

The evenings are busy with different sports and activities, showers and snack time, and of course, free time.  The boys all love riding bikes, or playing on their skateboards or scooters.  We have a playground right in front of our house and a nice lighted basketball court in our back yard for the kids to use.  There is truly a lot that God has blessed us with.

Every evening, we all gather in the living room for family devotions.  We are here to love these children, but the reason we love these children is to help them understand God’s love.  If we love without centering on Jesus, it is all in vain.  And so we take every opportunity to talk to them about God, and their relationship with Him.  We have LOVED these times at night.  We have watched a couple of neat videos, we have shared Scripture and Chris is also reading through a story Bible that we have used with our children for years.  When I think of these boys and eternity, my heart aches for them to be with us!!

A quote that I have thought of frequently during these first few weeks when things have been difficult or I’ve been exhausted, are some well known words from Jim Elliot.

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”

I pray fervently for my vision to always stretch to eternity, and not be short-sighted or self-centered.  There are precious lives at stake!

Our day ends with putting boys to bed, praying with them and over them.  And continue praying for them as we fall asleep.  We asked God to put His love for these boys into our hearts, even before we knew their names or their faces.  And He has.  And it is a beautiful, sometimes painful, thing.

Our days are busy, our hearts are full, our minds are often weary, but we are so thankful that God has placed us here.

Dear friends and family, we hope that our days will eventually settle into a routine and we will have the time we desire to make phone calls, write emails and all that wonderful stuff!  In the meantime, know that we carry you still in our hearts.  I think that has been the hardest thing for both of us to deal with-missing you all deeply.  We are so blessed with the most amazing people in our lives, and we love you dearly.

Blessings!!

 

 

 

Happenings….

I have been working on checking things off my “to-do” list today.  And it feels good.  We move in less than a month, and I am finally getting a little bit excited-about moving into our new house, not about leaving my neighbors whom I love dearly!

Our new house has five bedrooms, 2300 square feet, and a large back yard.  It is right across the river from one of the public pools, and just a couple of blocks from the weekly farmer’s market, library, and bank.  I love the character and feel of this house-it was built in 1900, and I really love older houses.  I don’t love the plaster walls, but I love the hardwood floors!

God has done some really neat things for us.  We thought we would be moving to a different city, and a different school district.  We were all struggling with it, and continued asking God to open and shut doors to move us into the right house and the right neighborhood.

Then the day came that several doors swung open for us.  A friend had been praying about childcare for her children, and felt led to ask me if I would be willing to take her two little girls for the next couple of years.  This was an answer to prayer for her and me both!  This opened the door to this five bedroom house, and to our sons being able to stay in the same school district, and peace for us all.

I am so thankful that the boys can continue (Will is starting 9th grade) at Appleton North, and I am looking forward to having a couple of little girls in our home!  I know that the way my life looks will change, but I am ready and willing.  I know God has great things in store for us, and I look forward to what He wants to teach me!

We are still doing foster care.  We had the opportunity to do some long term respite care for a little one, but with packing and moving, I didn’t sense that it would be wise for us to take that on.  But, we are still excited about being able to help out families by loving and caring for their little ones until they are ready to do it on their own.

Well, I have a pile of clothes on my bed that need to be organized and put into their places…some storage, some Goodwill, and the rest back into the closet!

photo(13)Have a blessed day!

 

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