Thoughts on Psalm 32:8

10.16.2014

This morning for my quiet time I, Hart, read Psalm 32:8 and started to jot down my thoughts and they quickly grew from a short journal entry to something a little longer that afterwards I thought I would share with others in case it serves as encouragement to you.

'I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.' Psalm‬ ‭32‬:‭8‬ ESV

How comforting this promise is! The sovereign God; creator of the universe; maker of me and Savior of my soul; the One who holds it all together and works together good for those who love Him; the One who knows no beginning and no end; who orchestrates everything and knows all that will happen because nothing can happen outside of Him allowing it to happen, promises to instruct me in the way I should go and His eye is always on me!

What came to mind almost right away when I read this at first was the classic story of an expert taking a young and inexperienced person under his wings and training him: Mr Miyagi and Daniel-san, The Karate Kid (the original one...not that one with Jackie Chan). Mr. Miyagi was the older, wise expert, the master, and he took Daniel who was young, immature, and inexperienced and trained him to the point where he became a well trained fighting machine and capable of winning the karate tournament.


Mr. Miyagi's teachings were odd at first. Daniel didn't understand the purpose of washing Mr. Miyagi's car (wax on wax off), sanding the floor and painting his fence. When one watches this for the first time it almost seems that Daniel has become this crazy old man's slave. But then in an inspirational moment Mr. Miyagi shows Daniel-san that those jobs, though they seemed insignificant, odd, boring, laborious, actually were preparing him for fighting. Isn't that like God so often? How often do you think "God why are you letting me go through this? What could I possibly learn from this that would be important or help prepare me for the future?" But God, as seen in this verse, promises to teach us. The master promises to train us! And though His teachings may seem odd, or difficult, or unimportant, He knows what is ahead of us and knows how we need to be equipped.



"I will counsel you with my eye upon you." Think about the end of the movie. Daniel-san is in the final round of the championship. He's banged up, and now facing his arch rival after almost giving up, and who is behind him? Mr. Miyagi. The master is still there with his eye upon him.



Obviously there are differences. Real life isn't accompanied by an 80's inspirational soundtrack. There's not always happy endings. And there's one major way we are not like Daniel. Though he was young, inexperienced, and kind of a punk kid, he was the victim (His arch rival, and his rival's gang, beat him up and constantly hound and torment him). Though we like to think we are, in reality, we aren't the victim. In fact, Ephesians 2 goes so far as to call us God's enemy. We rebelled against the King of kings, and rightfully deserve the King's wrath. But God being rich in mercy poured His wrath into His perfect and spotless Son, and in so doing rescued us. And as we see here in the verse, He promises to take us under His wing, His protection, His shelter, His guidance, His ever watching eye, and trains and teaches us the way we should go. His teachings don't always make sense in the moment, but He is the Master and knows what we need preparing for.

God, let me take delight in the promise that you, the Great Teacher, the Ultimate Master, have taken me under your wing and guide and teach me. Help me to not quench Your Holy Spirit and forsake Your teaching and guiding. Grant me the eyes to see and mind to understand Your teaching, and the discipline, self control and perseverance to follow You and obey You.

---

Side note - Yeah life isn't accompanied by an 80's inspirational soundtrack, but how cool would it be if it was!?

Foster Care Update: Loving B to the End!

10.09.2014

There have been so many times that I have wanted to publicly share the awfulness we have endured the last few months within the SC DSS system, particularly in Richland County, but today we celebrate, because God moved and because God is doing great things in the midst of a broken system, particularly through their new county director, Reese Palmer, who we met with this morning.

As you know we have been fostering B for over a year now, and when it came to light the depth of what we were dealing with with Judah and his bone marrow failure disorder, we began to realize that our role in the foster care system needed to end. But it was far from easy.

You see, Hart and I could NOT give up on the little girl God placed in our family. Most foster parents would have not hesitated to pick up the phone in the midst of such a crazy trial and have a child moved with the snap of their fingers, but we couldn't do this to this little one. I guess you could say we weren't most people. We couldn't stand the thought of her being traumatized again by moving to an unfamiliar home, with people she didn't know, and never seeing us again.

While the storm at DSS was brewing and transition after transition was happening, our own family was enduring our own storm with caring for our medically fragile baby. Family members of ours stepped in to help and began caring for B during our many hospitalizations and numerous doctor's appointments. A bond formed deeply there and while at first they began seeking how to just become respite caregivers, at the same time, we were realizing more and more that what we would be dealing with was a life-long situation with Judah. We knew we couldn't continue fostering. These family members wanted to step up to become B's foster parents. They could also adopt her if that need ever arises.

It's just that during this time B's caseworker changed 4 times in 1 month and we all were having trouble navigating the system. We had a lot of problems with stability during this time and with changing hands during a particularly stressful time, it felt as if we were now the enemies and not treated as a key component with a voice that could help work towards the right end to help the whole child. And it made us sick. It felt as if the entire system was against us and B's needs were being disregarded.

Until today. A round table was held with many key people within the county, and it was realized that just as I felt like all along, it was in B's best interest for us to pass the baton to our family members. I am so glad that I did not give up. That we can all have a happy "ending", even if it's just fostering. B and her baby sister were both allowed to be placed together under the same roof, within our extended family. A family she loved, was used to, and already saw as HER family. The most amazing thing is that we can truly be a village raising a child. That we can still see her and love her with all of our hearts, just a little further removed than the day to day in our own immediate family. We can focus on stabilizing our baby's health. Finally.

As I returned home, and scooped that baby girl up in my lap to read her before nap story, she took the story I had chosen "Goodnight Thumper" from my hands and placed it back in the book basket. She instead picked up her Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones and placed it in my hands.

It fell open to pg. 74. And I read:

"No one loves me," Leah said. "I'm too ugly." 

But God didn't think she was ugly. And when he saw that Leah was not loved and that no one wanted her, God chose her-- to love her specially, to give her a very important job. One day, God was going to rescue the whole world -- through Leah's family.  

Now when Leah knew that God loved her, in her heart, suddenly it didn't matter anymore whether her husband loved her the best, or if she was the prettiest. Someone had chosen her, someone did love her -- with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love. 

So when Leah had a baby boy she called him Judah, which means, "This time I will praise the Lord!" And that's just what she did. 

And you'll never guess what job God gave Leah. You see, when God looked at Leah, he saw a princess. And sure enough, that's exactly what she became. One of Leah's children's children's children would be a prince --the Prince of Heaven --God's Son. 

This prince would love God's people. They wouldn't need to be beautiful for him to love them. He would love them with all of his heart. And they would be beautiful because he loved them. 

Like Leah." 

Like B. Like you. Like me. 

It gave me chills reading that to B. (even the part about having a baby boy named Judah!) Seeing her heart and how she longs to be loved and how she has a love for God at even a young age. The fact that we got to keep loving her with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love. And we get to pass that on. 

It's an honor. A true blessing from God. 

And I am thankful I can say that THIS. THIS is what fostering is all about. It's about making a difference. And maybe we could only do it in one life. But we did it. And by God's grace alone. He kept us going when we wanted to give up.

And now I get to collapse into a heap of joy under the weight of God's mercy and grace. He is truly the defender of the weak and helpless. The fact that he would use us as part of it, is beyond belief. 

Thank you, Jesus! I know he will continue writing B's story and I know she will always be loved, because God chose HER!

He writes the best stories.
 

Fostering Through the "Storm"

7.26.2014

I suppose it's time for a little foster care update on this blog. It took a dramatic turn when Judah entered this world and the focus shifted promptly to him and his health, and to our survival as a family, sustained by prayers of those around us.

We need prayer again. B has court this coming Monday.

I cannot write specifics, of course. So, we ask for your prayers covering her and our family, and that God's perfect will be done in her life. Whatever that looks like.

I remember clearly almost a year ago getting that first phone call. A little girl. 7 months. Would we take her?

We held hands, prayed, and said, "Yes!" Even though the world would eventually tell us how crazy we were. For we knew just 2 days prior, that God was knitting together a little one made in His image.

We knew it would be hard to both be pregnant AND foster, but we went full on ahead, knowing God would work out the details. I don't think we realized HOW pushed to the limit we would be, but it was worth it. Every deep moment chasing deep moment.

Our deepest, most serious family portrait! Haha! (Photograph by Kelly Smith)
I remember when God breathed to my soul this verse for B.

"Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved.'" Romans 9:25 

For so long, I thought that meant she would be MINE. A mini-promise entailing God's chosen child for our family. But I was wrong. Throughout this journey, I discovered the reverse to be true. She was not MINE, but His. HIS promise over B, that she was His BELOVED. He was taking care of B. He had bigger plans than what I could dream for her.

The rush of the past 4 months, being in and out of the hospital with Judah, there were so many times when I just didn't think we could keep fostering our precious B, a little one we didn't want to be tossed around in the system, a little one we loved like our own! Time and time again, God allowed people to step up to help. And on one occasion, then many thereafter, Hart's cousins kept B for us when we needed them.

They fell in love head over heels with this sweet girl.

In the same moment where I knew I wanted God's best for one that I knew was His beloved, I knew that puzzle pieces were beginning to form where B was fitting perfectly with our extended family.

While we have continued fostering her through this "storm" of life, we could not have done it without Hart's family stepping up, saying, "YES!" to this unique and beautiful B!

Monday is huge. Our family will stand before a judge and ask that he allow B to become a part of our extended family forever. Truly the best of both worlds for her and our family! We would get to be a huge part of her life. She would still be a part of our family at large, and we could watch her grow up, still see her for Holidays, birthdays, etc! She would be truly, deeply loved! I know that full well!

We don't know what will happen. But, we can pray. We can ask that God works mightily in this little girl's life. That she gets a beautiful family that cares for her best interest! A place she can live life to the fullest! Hart's cousin's home is that! We want her there! The place she truly would be the happiest!

As a mother, a foster mama, I know, none of these children (bio or foster) are MINE, but His. I know that when we said, "Yes!" It meant we would grow. We would learn a ton about ourselves! As seasons of life change, we know that sometimes it's not always how we pictured it, that through the storms, we are refined. We are changed for the better, and we come out more like Jesus than ever before.

B's story is beautiful in Christ and we know God is writing a beautiful ending! Please lift her up in prayer!
 PhotosOf Grace Photography by Kelly Smith

Judah - 3 months

7.01.2014

This little butterball is 3 months old! He turned 3 months on the 20th of June! Life has been non-stop since his birth with all of Judah's health stuff! We are praising Jesus that his Neupogen is working for him and his ANC levels have been 1400 - 1700 the last month on it. Months 2 to 3 were uneventful health-wise for Judah and for that I am SERIOUSLY thankful! Thankful that all it included was weekly trips to the hospital for labs, running to a myriad of dr appts, and his daily shots! Our new normal! Every night that we give his shot, we pray that God would heal Judah, that the Neupogen would never give him crazy side effects, that his body would begin to make it's own neutrophils and that he would never develop leukemia, cancer, or other complications. Right now, we don't have have to worry about a bone marrow transplant while the Neupogen is working well. However, if it ever stops working for him, we will have to do the transplant. 

While having great levels, we will always be cautious with him! Continuing to wash hands, not be around anyone sick, wipe down restaurant tables, avoid major crowds and public swimming pools, or day-care and nursery type settings. It has altered life for us, but it's worth it to have him healthy and happy!
Enjoying his sink bath!
Judah is quite the miracle baby. His spirit is so sweet and tender and when I tell him about Jesus, he just listens with his whole little being. I know that it seems crazy, but I feel like Judah gives all of himself to whoever he is with. He listens and gazes and talks and focuses on you with all he's got. He truly amazes me with all he has been through, to love the way he does!
 He is SUCH a chunk! He weighed in at 14lbs 2 oz at 3 months, so you would think he would be a good little sleeper for me. NOPE! He is quite the opposite! He still wakes me up 1 - 2 (or 3 on rough nights) times a night! He is quite persistent or else I would ignore him. Okay, truth be told, I go to him pretty quickly, but I think with his SCN, it makes me nervous to just let him CIO, plus he is sharing with his brother and I don't want him to wake up Cai! His naps are kind of shoddy, too! I try everything to get him to sleep better! Cai was a much better sleeper at this point, but we are sort of behind the curve and there are times when I can TELL he is struggling with bone pain or just not feeling well, so he gets lots of extra cuddles, despite me being exhausted! All in all, we are making it, and I would love to sleep more, and hope to soon! (Right?!)
We just got word that Judah's ENT wants to do another ear tubes surgery on August 15th! We will be putting in a larger tube and doing a more extensive hearing test afterwards that will help us determine if Judah's hearing loss from his ruptured ear drums is permanent or not! We, of course, pray NOT!
 Now just for fun! Here's a little comparison of Judah and Cai at 3 months with Fievel! I wasn't able to get months 1 and 2 with Fievel for Judah, but we started at 3 months! It will be fun to see how he changes each month! I had Fievel when I was little and with Cai he was our largest stuffed animal, hence his month by month pictures!
And by himself with Fievel! 
 
And from months 2 (left) to 3(right).... I feel like he hasn't changed too much! 
And I will leave you with Cai loving on Judah baby! They have such a sweet special bond! I love it!

Embracing Full Time Motherhood

6.14.2014

 
This is me in the back of our minivan embracing my current stage of life in motherhood. Three kids is NO joke! Especially when 1 is a newborn and the middle is 17 months. Add in the 3 year old and it's a beautiful disaster every day! 
This is how I normally look these days! 

With all of Judah's health issues, we have decided I need to be home full time to care for him as we figure out his body and how he responds as a neutropenic. I won't be returning to teach my beloved fifth graders. It was such a hard decision for me to come to, even though I knew it was what I had to do and what made the most sense for our family! Hart is so supportive and God is so amazing in how he provides! Hart's real-estate work with The Mather Co. has been thriving lately and we give God all the glory that we can have me stay home without having to change too much right now. Although, we are down to just 1 car again! But the good thing is that we have Hart's mom's car on occasion and Charlie's Tahoe to go between. The other good thing is that I rarely go places during the week unless I have to, because dragging 3 small children anywhere is, again, a beautiful disaster! It's much easier to just stay home right now! 

But back to making the decision to stay home. I loved LOVED my job, but I am grateful to reduce stress in this already stressful stage of having 3 very small children!!! 
I know that being able to take care of these three little people well is where I need to be. This will afford more protection over Judah and allow us to figure him out as well!
Being a wife to this man is a gift from God! I am grateful he wants a not-so-stressed wife! Freeing me up to love our family better and focus on making our house a home!  
Praise God, that I get each day with my kids! I am so tired right now and constantly on the go taking care of everyone's needs, but it is worth it, even if you find me locking myself in the bathroom from time to time!!! Haha! I really do look forward to being home full time again, but at the same time, I do mourn the loss of my awesome job! I know God is in control and He always will be our Provider! 
For now, I know this is exactly where I need to be! Preferably by a pool simultaneously! Haha!