Graduation Speech

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What’s the latest graduation speech you’ve heard?  Something about “be yourself,” “life is a journey,” and “live your dreams?”  Or maybe a little deeper like “dare to dream the impossible” or be a “world changer.”  I find myself considering what I would say if I were ever asked to do a commencement speech.  It seems that the likes of Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton are MUCH more likely than me to get asked to speak at a graduation, but hey, you never know.  I’ve felt a certain pull to consider what I would tell 100+ young people on the brink of a big change in their life.

I would like to read them a story.   Something along the lines of “The Spooky Old Tree” by Jan and Stan Berenstain.  The Berenstain Bears were favorites of myself and all my siblings growing up.  We enjoyed their tales of adventure and mystery with simple plots and rhyming words.  They usually had mama bear getting the last word about doing chores or telling the truth.  It was a practical way for kids to gain wisdom and enjoy learning morals.  The Berenstains have even written a Christian series with books such as “The Berenstain Bears: God Made You Special” and “Easter Story.”   But I think “The Spooky Old Tree” would be my top choice because it fascinated me as a kid.  My Dad would sit us down at night to read stories, and he would often be sleepy.  We would have to nudge him or eventually read it ourselves when our frustration mounted at his nodding off.  But I remember his heartfelt emphasis on the last five words of the book: “Home again, safe at last.”  This set a peacefulness in our souls that our Dad would be there for us, that home WAS a safe place so that when life took ugly turns we could come home and be safe.

As graduates of all ages walk across the stage this June, I pray that they may know the God of peace and mercy who provides a safe home for us.  May our home, a place that is not of this world, be in the presence of our Lord and Savior, and may it feel safe.  As we reach for the beauty of Jesus’ presence, the joy of his salvation, and his everlasting arms, may we say we are “home again, safe at last.”  And as we glimpse this place here in the natural how can our faith not be strengthened on this journey?

“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” Hebrews 13:14 NLT

Rainbow

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Wow!  What a rainbow this morning!  Right over Culver Road, as if I could head to Cobbs Hill and find a pot of gold there underneath it.  It was stunning… And then another one next to it.  Its arch reaching over Midtown Athletic Club and the eastside of the city.  Two rainbows in the early drizzle of the morning, with the sun rising in the east.  The perfect set-up and reminder of promises.  Promises kept.  God always keeps his promises.  He is the one who follows through when there’s unrepented sin.  He is the one who comforts us after a loss.  He is the one who pursues our loved ones, not yet knowing their need for Jesus, with great fervor.

So I rejoice and pray! I am SO thankful for God’s promises, and I pray for my adopted son, nearly 18, that his heart might soften.  I pray that he would see his need for a loving Savior and just Father.  I pray for his dreams and goals.  I pray that he would experience joy knowing that this life is good, but I also pray that he will experience trials and see his need for perfect love.  These may seems like selfish prayers, but I hope that they are not.  These may seem like judgmental prayers, but I hope that they are not.  I want to pray as the Bible teaches: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 ESV. I pray God’s promises manifest in his life and the lives of all our children.  May God continue to pursue my loved ones with reckless abandonment and bring them ALL into the kingdom of Christ!

Great Expectations: Teens

Ever wondered what goes on in their mind?  These strange creatures that live in our homes, eating everything in sight, and rolling their eyes when we make suggestions.  They are TEENS.  We have launched into the teenage world with this amazing young senior who is living under our roof, preparing for college, playing baseball, and working.  Seriously, overnight we went from our eldest being 13 to our eldest being 17. Should we be afraid?  No. This adventure in parenting has taken a new, exciting turn.

We are now in the Trust; Obey; Hope; Pray; Contend; Sacrifice; Persevere; and Love phase.  Not that we weren’t there before, but we now have less influence.  It’s true, the time of choosing their play dates, clothes, hairdos, music, and meals is over.  I remember when we went to the park to meet up with multiple families because I loved their MOMS, and my kids played with whomever.  It’s harder to get to know families of kids in school, especially college.

So we do not lose heart, and we do not faint.  We set expectations.  For those with teens who have grown up in their home they know the expectations, and they are worth repeating.  We expect purity.  Keep your mind pure by thinking on things that are holy and lovely.  Keep your body pure by practicing self-control and wisdom, not following the culture. Trust God to lead you in your endeavors as you seek Him.  Keep your body healthy by eating whole foods and exercising.  Set your mind and hands to work hard and serve others with a spirit of excellence.  Follow the Ten Commandments.  These things we have set as expectations from the beginning, and we gradually bring them into situations now, even with a new resident.  Our expectations haven’t changed, just our audience.  So we pray over each discussion as God leads our children into His presence.  May His love show through these expectations and in every discussion!

Study Your Students

As our children get older, they change. Go figure!  Let’s take the time to study them.  Let’s sit with them as they watch movies, allow them to cook a meal (and make a mess), and plan time with just them to ask questions.  Take some time to think about your child’s languages.  

How do they express frustration?   My older son tends to argue.  My younger son shouts, punches, and throws things.  My daughter stomps off to her room and shuts the door.  

How do they express love?  My older son plays with my hair and gives me a kiss on my nose.  My younger son asks me to lay with him at bedtime and says, at random times, “Mom, I love you.”   My daughter barely speaks to me at all.  She disappears into her room to do homework, only comes out for dinner, and gives me one word answers about her day. BUT she asks me to braid her hair, she asks for a granola bar in her lunch, and she asks me to help her study science.  Right now, these are her expressions of love.  Asking.  

So I say, “YES.”  Sometimes it’s not easy.  I don’t REALLY want to braid wet hair at 10:15 at night, or study Earth Science (which I already passed!) on a Thursday night when I need to prepare to teach my co-op class. But I challenge you, as the Lord has challenged me…Keep studying!  

I will do my best to keep studying my children to see what they need from me, what they no longer need, and what they need from God.  Then I can show them love by meeting needs, coaching them, and pointing them to God who can fulfill their deepest spiritual, emotional, and physical deficits.  All my studying leads me to notice the empty spots in their lives that Jesus can fill.  I pray that by HIS grace, they will see their need for Jesus and ask Him to fill them, too.

Expectations

I have learned that it’s easier to not expect things in life and then be pleasantly surprised when things work out great.  Like my wedding, for example.  I had not planned to get married right out of college and had only attended the wedding of one cousin prior to my own.  So I knew very little about weddings, wedding planning, or even cultural norms.  My mom educated me (and my fiancé) on a few things. For example, she informed us that she would “not have a picnic for her friends” and “I can’t handle outdoor weddings…what if it rains?”  As it turned out it poured all day on our wedding day, so it was a good thing it wasn’t outside.  But whose wedding was this, anyway?  We had wanted to make it possible to invite every person we knew in the hopes that they would somehow see Jesus through us at the wedding.  It’s about glorifying God isn’t it?  It’s about being married to someone you can serve Jesus with, right? No matter what happened on that day, rain or shine, cake topper or no cake topper, late to the airport or on time…we would still be married.  That was our great expectation.  And here we are.

Now on to children.  How many could we handle?  One, two, ten?  How many should I expect to have?  I had no plans.  My friends were nervous for me.  They wondered if I would make it since I had no expectations.  Come what may, I did want to have kids…more than one and less than ten.  Boys, girls…it didn’t matter.  I can’t control that anyway.  Why fret about things I can’t control?  There are plenty of things to worry about that I can control.  So after our first, we settled into the routine of diapers, crying, feeding, loving, and sharing responsibilities…well, not quite.  I pretty much did everything for our first, while my husband enjoyed her when she was “fun” and “not hungry,” i.e. not crying.  Whenever she would cry he would hand her to me and say, “She’s hungry.”  So we made it through the first, and when the second came along things REALLY changed.  All of sudden he HAD to do something. Our first night home from the hospital was a real dose of reality.  Our two year old cried for mommy through her entire bath and bedtime.  Nice!  It got better from there, and we ended up with three lovely little munchkins, all about two years apart.  Such blessings!  I am not in control, God is.  We exercise wisdom, trust, discernment and pray, pray, pray. But ultimately God is in control.

So it seems to be a good thing to have less expectations, and more trust.  But when my husband announced that we were done after three I must admit, I struggled.  How did we know three was the right amount?  What if we stood before God and he said, “You should have had four.”  I was worried. But my husband was not.  He said three was good, and there you go.  I wasn’t into having another without his support, so there it was.  Three little beauties and I WAS GRATEFUL, SO GRATEFUL for God’s blessing.  I could trust God and my husband that this was it. Praise God for his wisdom and provision!

I expected to move on and raise these three little rascals in all their creativity.  After a few years, however, my thoughts and prayers turned to all the kids who needed a home.  We had room for more, didn’t we?  I never planned to adopt or expected to make it our mission, but suddenly I felt God tugging at my heart for all those precious orphans.  The kids were totally on board.  My eldest would pray for a sister and ask how things were coming.  My sons said they would share their room and toys.  But my husband, on the other hand, was not.  He did not seem too keen on the idea.  So we prayed.  And we prayed. And we trusted God.

In the winter of 2015 I reached a point of desire, interest, and spiritual connection that I could not deny. I felt God was speaking to me to start the adoption process and see where it led.  My husband agreed.  Wow!  Amazing!  He was on board.  So we met with Catholic Family Center.  The social worker presented all the options.  Many were not very expensive, and the child would fit into our birth order by being the youngest.  Maybe we could adopt a 5-7 year old who would only be a year or two younger than my youngest son.  Great!  Things seemed to be going so smoothly!  All the kids were excited.  But my husband was not.  He did not see how he could handle moving forward, taking classes, pouring over folders of potential kids, and paying for the adoption.  The kids and I were disappointed, but it was in God’s hands.  We expected God to work however HE wanted to, and we trusted Him. So we realized that if God wanted us to adopt, then he would make it possible. He would potentially put a child on our doorstep and my husband would be on board.  So we prayed.  And we trusted.  I shared with my small group that if God wanted us to adopt, then he would make it fall into our lap.  They laughed and giggled, and they all prayed the same prayer.

AND IT HAPPENED.  Wow.  Our son literally showed up on our porch in need of a place to stay, just a few months ago.  Wow again.  Here it was, our chance to meet his needs and have son number three.  We don’t really know how long he will stay, and we don’t really know if this is permanent.  We just expect God to be glorified.  We give God the glory for answering prayer and making our family of five a family of six.  We expected God to work and He did.

 

4 a.m. Hope

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It is 4 a.m. and I am awake. Is it normal for a mom to be up at 4 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving?  I am praying. Praying for my friend who graduated her daughter to heaven in February.  These will be hard days  and difficult months for her.  I am praying for my friend diagnosed with breast cancer in May.  She is bald, yellow (chemo) and a little burnt (radiation.)  Do they have hope?  I am also thinking of my “to do” list. Can I get it all done?  Is there enough time in the day?

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 15:57

Here is a new life verse.  God is an ever present help in trouble, and His word sustains us.  He has the victory in the face of hopelessness, despite abuse, with regard to cancer, and in the midst of brokenness.  We have hope because HE IS HOPE!  His death and resurrection have made it possible to THRIVE, despite circumstances.

This has been a rough year.  There have been several family members who have graduated to heaven, family members experiencing the sudden loss of a job, and more negative reports from doctors than I can describe.  It seems like the holidays can make us extra sad since we miss those family members and long to be with them.  But despite the sadness, we have hope.  We CHOOSE hope because we have faith.  Will you choose faith today?  If, suddenly, your world is turned upside down by illness, fear, doubt, or pain…will you choose faith?  Will you choose hope?  We can only choose hope by the power of the Holy Spirit, even at 4 a.m.  Thanks be to God!!

 

 

Changed Forever

IMG_2340Today I am reminded of the song, “I Will Never Be.”  The song writer shares how they are changed after receiving Christ as their Savior.  This speaks to me as I realize that I respond differently to things now than before I was a Christian.

For example, God has taken away fear. I used to be unsure and fearful about life.  Transitions were difficult and I clung to my family and friends. I liked things to stay the same. Now that I have Christ, I have started on a journey to embrace every day including all the NEW things that come. Maybe even the challenges.  🙂  Stepping out in faith is easy now since I know that I am held by my creator.

Another example is that now I see others as more important than myself.  My future is secure, but is theirs?  I long to teach, hug, pray with, and embrace others who are hurting and longing for peace.  I find myself praying for ambulances as they advance toward the scene of an accident.  I pray willingly for the man on the beach who struggles with alcohol and drugs.  His name is Michael. We pray together that God would meet him where he’s at, and that he would see Jesus.  Living on Virginia Beach in the summer and on various beaches in Florida in the winter can be lonely!  I pray that Michael meets other followers of Christ that will tell him that he is never alone.

These examples are just a few of the changes that can occur in a relationship with Christ.  Life is never the same again, that’s for sure!  Would you consider embracing a life in Christ and be changed today?