Goodbye for Now

Yesterday our time with our foster kids came to an end. And it felt like my heart walked out of my door. And I am frozen between conflicting emotions.

 

I love foster care, the chance for families to help children in need. I hate foster care, the need is too deep, too wide to ever possibly completely fill. 

 

I am heartbroken that these kids are gone, they became part of our family. I am relieved that these kids are gone, my family unit is back in place again. 

 

I am devastated that I can no longer pour into these kids. I am relieved that my daily burdens have lessened. 

 

I feel desperate panic that their departure from my home is causing them even more pain. I feel comfort that the struggles that my birth children have been facing are now being relieved. 

 

And I hate the messiness of it all. Why can’t life be a neat printed picture where we carefully color in the lines and everything is orderly and in place? 

 

Why is love so painful? And beautiful? And ugly?

 

I feel like there has been a death in my family. 

 

Goodbye my loves. I will always be here. I pray that there will be a time again when I can be in your lives and let you know just how much I love you. 

 

Running on Empty

You know that phrase, “God never gives you more than you can handle” ? I am going to go on record and say, Bullcrap. That is not true. 

 

Looking back at my life I can see times when all of my reserves have been full. I have had a lot of margin in my life: lots of stored up energy, an overabundance of grace and peace. And then there have been times when I have been completely drained dry, nothing left to give. I would compare those times to kind of like putting $5 of gas in your tank ever day and then having to commute to work and run to the store, and every night, the tank is empty and you wonder if you can make it to the gas station with what you’ve got left the next morning. And you hope you can dig up another $5 for the next day. 

 

Sometimes God throws jobs and challenges at us that are more than we can handle. 

 

Giving birth to ten children within a sixteen year stretch of time, was more than I could handle. Raising ten kids was more than I could handle. Having various homeless families and couples live with us over the years was more than I could handle. Taking in foster kids was more than I could handle. 

 

I find myself in a place now, where the phrase, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” really means something to me. I am in daily need of sustenance. Daily. Yesterday’s bread is gone and used up. I need more today. The phrase “My grace is sufficient for you..” has heavy meaning. Sufficient means enough, adequate. Note, it does not mean overflowing abundance. It’s just the right amount, none left over. Each day I need a new dose of that grace. 

 

I have learned what living on empty means. It’s kind of like doing math all day. Here, you get 10 units this morning. Dealing with that conflict subtracts 3 units, running errands subtracts 2 units, stressing about bills? Minus 2. If we run out of units, then we shut down the day. Turn on the tv, take a short nap, go get pizza for supper…There’s some addition going on as well. Read your Bible in the morning? Add on 3 units. Shut the door to my room and do something peaceful and solitary for fifteen minutes, Plus 2. 

 

And each night, I collapse into bed. Not dead. Haven’t completely failed at life yet. We’re still taking steps forward. The daily bread was provided. The grace proved to be sufficient. 

 

God is still on his throne, and his hand is still upon me. And I will sleep and do it all again tomorrow, leaning  heavily on my God. 

 

And I pray that somehow my life will bring glory to God. That somehow this season of desperation is also a season of great fruit, a season of big growth, a season of close intimacy with God. 

 

And I realize that despite the fact that I am living on the edge, it can still be a place of peace. Today my bible reading was in John 16. Verse 33 stood out ot me,

 

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

 

This old hymn comes to mind…

 

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

Alan Jackson

What a fellowship, what a joy divine

Leaning on the everlasting arms

What a blessedness, what a peace is mine

Leaning on the everlasting arms

 

Leaning, leaning

Safe and secure from all alarms

Leaning, leaning

Leaning on the everlasting arms

 

What have I to dread, what have I to fear

Leaning on the everlasting arms?

I have blessed peace with my Lord so near

Leaning on the everlasting arms

 

Leaning, leaning

Safe and secure from all alarms

Leaning, leaning

Leaning on the everlasting arms

 

Happy Birthday America

My relationship and feelings toward the United States of America has always been complicated. I grew up in Haiti among people of many different nationalities and America had the reputation of being the bully of the world. They also had the stereotype of being uncultured, crass, oblivious. As a child, I was not overly impressed with my American citizenship. 

 

Before I was born, my American Father and my British Mother had given birth to my brother in Haiti. The United States, Great Britain, and Haiti all refused to give my brother citizenship because my parents had spent very little time in their home countries. My parents made the decision that the entire family needed to have citizenship from the same country so they moved to the States and began the process of getting citizenship for my brother and my mother. I was born during that time in Kentucky. 

 

I remember as a child, asking my parents why they didn’t go to Great Britain and get everyone citizenship there? That would have been way more cool than being American. I can’t remember their exact answer. I think it had to do with the fact that they were working as missionaries in Haiti and the United States was closer and easier to travel to than Great Britain. I think there were more reasons than that, that’s just the one I remember. Maybe something to do with the fact that an American passport is easier to travel with? 

 

I was living in Haiti when the United States decided to put an embargo on this tiny little island country. I watched as food, fuel and medicine became very difficult to find. And I was ashamed. Ashamed of my citizenship. Angry at the US and the harm it was causing to this tiny country where I lived. That anger lingered a long time. Maybe some of it is still there. 

 

As an adult I think I’ve had a good reality check. I spent some time living in Chile, gave birth to my second child there. Loved Chile, but it wasn’t home. I’ve read articles and followed devastating stories of the lack of medical freedom in other Western countries. I’ve talked with friends from Russia, learned a little bit about growing up in the Soviet Union. Essentially, just learned a little bit more about the world than I knew as a child. 

 

My husband and I are wanderers at heart. It’s hard for us to be settled down in one place. It feels bizarre that we have actually lived in the same city for sixteen years now. It’s a common conversation for us to talk about where we would like to move. Especially when things get crazy here in the U.S. Let’s just leave, my husband says. And I take him seriously. Ok, where should we go? We start listing off countries. And as we say a name, I point out the problems that I am aware of for that country. And by the end of the conversation, we always reach the grim reality that there really isn’t any “better” place that we could go and still be able to raise our large family in the manner that we see fit with the minimum amount of dangers to our children. 

 

And now, I realize that I have a multi-national audience. I will just point out that while our country probably has just as many pitfalls as any other country, we are familiar with these pitfalls, we are citizens here, not foreigners, and we know all the ins and outs that we wouldn’t know in another country. No offense meant towards other countries. 

 

And so, here we are on the 4th of July. Firmly established as American Citizens. Not going anywhere. And it’s my country’s birthday. 

 

I got on Facebook this morning and was bombarded by heavy discussions about mask wearing. Pros, Cons. A lot of strong feelings. Our county’s health department has mandated mask wearing. Our Mayor has spoken out against it. Our Sheriff has spoken out against it. This has caused a very big stir in our county. The division is irritating to me. But, now I will tell you what I like about my country. We have the freedom to speak out and tell the world at large what we think. I think your law is stupid, and I’m not going to follow it. I think your “mandate” is unconstitutional and these are the reasons why…I think all of you all should stop fussing about masks and just wear them! I think we need to fight this! I think everyone should be more worried about this virus! I think the virus is a scam! I think we are all going to end up dying in the hospital if people don’t take action soon! 

 

We have the freedom to voice what we think without fear of retribution. 

 

We have freedom to speak up about anything and everything. Hey! Black Lives Matter! Hey! Blue Lives Matter! Hey! Medical Freedom is important! Hey! I hate that decision that our President made! Hey! I think your State is stupid for opening up their economy in the middle of a pandemic! Hey! I think your state is stupid for shutting everything down and ruining their economy! 

 

Though all of our viewpoints have become very polarized, we still have the freedom to voice them. 

 

I worry about this freedom being taken from us. I can see a political trend where this right is slowly being gutted. I pray that those who want to silence all these voices will not be successful. 

 

From my standpoint,  this is the strength of our country. The freedom to think what we want, hold whatever views we wish, and the freedom to voice those opinions. 

 

I do not hold with the view that the United States is the most amazing country in the world. I don’t hold with the view that Being Christian and Being American are one and the same thing. I do not hold with the myth that America has been a paradise, a bastion of freedom, for all peoples since day one. 

 

I will tell you what I am proud of though. My husband was able to quit his job and start his own business with very little hassle. I can send my children to a free public school, or I can keep them home and homeschool them. I can go to the church of my choice and worship in the way I choose without fear. My city is clean. The trash is picked up weekly. I have reliable clean running water and electricity. My city is full of parks and playgrounds that I can enjoy without charge. I am an hour away from a beautiful National Park that is also clean and well-kept and free of charge. If I have any complaints, I have places where I can seek justice. 

I still have mixed feelings about my birth country. These past months have been a time when minorities have been voicing their reality that this country is not as Free for them as it is for others. Here’s the thing. While our country may not be the Home of the Free…yet…we have the potential. We have the framework to make it happen. We still have the freedom to pursue change and reform.  Our country is not static. All the things we don’t like, we can change. And that is probably about as free as we can get. 

 

Happy Birthday America. 

Seeking His Face

I’ve been having a rough day. A rough week. A rough month. After moping around this morning, I decided I might as well set my problems aside and get to work on something. I needed a notebook to make some lists. I dug around in my drawer and found a notebook that was half-filled with writing. Well, I could use the unwritten half. No problem. Curious, I looked to see what I had written in the other half. I found sermon notes. I glanced through it, trying to figure out when I had written this down. I came upon these notes that were talking about Matthew 5 verses 1-6 and how we need a desperate hunger for God. And there were the words,

 

Empty Yourself.

 

And so I decided to just stop and do that.

 

I, Esther Heneise, do not have the strength, power or wisdom to live my life in a Holy manner. I do not have what it takes to run a household for twelve people. I do not have the stamina, passion, endurance, desire, to give everything I have to these ten children under my roof. I do not have the self-discipline, self-love, logic and wisdom to take care of my body in the way that I should. I allow my cravings to rule me. I do not have the attractiveness, passion, self-sacrifice, that is required to be a good wife to my husband. I do not have the time nor the desire to reach out to others outside of my home. I do not have the power to overcome depression. I don’t have energy to pursue adventure, excitement, change. I do not have the wisdom to know how to prepare for the future. I do not have the organizational skills required to keep up with every single detail of my and my family’s lives. 

 

Plain and simple, I don’t have what it takes to do this life. 

 

Then the next words were,

 

Fill Yourself. 

 

So I did.

 

Jesus lived the perfect life for me, because I couldn’t. Jesus has already paid the price for my slothfulness, my gluttony, my selfishness, my pride, my wrath, my envy. That heavy debt has been paid. Jesus has given me the Holy Spirit.  The power that raised Jesus from the dead is now inside of me. 

 

Plain and simple, it’s not my power that gets me through this life, it’s God’s power. 

 

Then came this question,

 

Are we seeking God’s face or do we only want to see his hands? 

 

I had to think about this.

Is my desire to know God better? Worship him? Serve him? Spend time with him? Or do I just want him to swoop in and solve all my problems and then go away again? 

 

Honestly, I would say that lately my prayers have been more “Show me your hands God!” than “Show me your face.” 

 

All this introspection lead me to the conclusion,

 

I need to repent. 

 

I’m sorry Lord. I have not been seeking you first. I have been seeking solutions and answers. 

 

“But Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his Righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

 

I’ve got to run after you first. The answers and solutions flow from that seeking. We don’t seek answers and solutions. We seek you. 

 

And so that is what I will do. 

 

Create in me a pure heart, O God,

    and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 

Do not cast me from your presence

    or take your Holy Spirit from me. 

Restore to me the joy of your salvation

    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 

 

Psalm 51: 10-12

Big Siblings are the Best

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I did not grow up in a large family. I had one brother. He was and is a good brother. I’m thankful for him. But, my kids like to point out that I have no idea what it’s like to have multiple siblings. They usually bring this up when I am asking them to have more grace, more patience, for their younger siblings. You only had one brother! You have no idea!! And yes, they’re right. I can’t fully empathize. 

 

Right now, I am thinking about how fortunate my younger children are to have so many older siblings. 

 

I am sitting in my room, and earlier, I heard my 16 yr old in the kitchen, patiently showing the 7 yr old how to make a quiche. My 19 yr old buys books for her siblings for Christmas, always trying to get them excited about a new book series or author. She also bought a plane ticket for her 11 yr old brother so he could go visit her and spend some one-on-one time with her. My 18 yr old has moved into his own place. He regularly comes and picks up his younger brothers to come over and play video games, or his teen sisters to come over and hang out. My 14 yr old  is always picking up the 3 yr old for a cuddle and maybe a tickle fight. The 11 yr old helps the 5 yr old learn how to play Minecraft. 9 yr old sissy helps 7 yr old sissy pick out a special outfit. 

 

I can’t imagine anything better for the self-esteem of a child than to have a household of older siblings who give them special attention and help. 

 

It reaches to the spiritual realm too. Today my 9 and 11 yr olds got baptized. My heart is full. And there was a special joy to hear my 7 yr old declare that one day, she was going to get baptized too! She wants to be like her big siblings. And her big siblings are worth emulating. 

 

I have proudly watched my older children lead the way. And I hear the younger children being influenced. One day Mom, I’m going to go to college like Anna!…Maybe I might try going to a Bible College, like Levi did…When I’m big, I’m going to be a helper in VBS, like Ruthie!

 

No. My family is not one big happy party. We have fights, irritations, upsets. Sometimes one sibling doesn’t like another sibling for a period of time. Sometimes a child just needs a break from everyone in the family. But, right now, I am just aware of what an awesome influence my older children are on my younger kids. And I am thankful. 

 

Why are we so Angry?

My last post was essentially an Angry Rant about people Angry Ranting on the internet. Yes. I see the hypocrisy here. Of course, when you’re angry, it’s kind of hard to think clearly. All you can think about is your anger, and what’s fueling it, and you just want to lash out. And I did. And I’m sorry. While I had many friends that could empathize with my position, I knew that I had written it in anger, not love. So I removed the post. 

 

It’s got me thinking about why am I so angry? Why is everyone else so angry? It’s also got me a little more sympathetic for everyone else’s Angry Rants. Yes. I see. When you are angry, it’s hard to be kind and respectful and thoughtful. 

 

I’m going to try again. 

 

Take 2

 

So, why are we so angry? 

 

I can’t speak for everyone else. I can tell you some of the things that have made me angry recently. 

 

I am angry about a pandemic that has shut down my normal way of life. I am angry that the leadership is so divided, that I have no trust in how my country is dealing with this. I am angry that the news media is so biased, I have no trust in what they are saying and now I feel like I am sifting through mountains of information, and it’s just a guess as to which one is true or false. I am angry at the stories of Police Brutality that have come to light. I am angry that I really wasn’t clued in to what was happening. I am angry that I seem to have no tangible way of making the situation better. I am angry at how politicized the whole thing has become. Instead of a human rights issue, the media (on both sides) seem determined to make this a Political Party issue. I am angry at how divided our country is. And there doesn’t seem to be any way to fix it. I am angry that we are turning against each other on social media, drawing lines in the sand on issues, that many of us just really don’t fully understand. 

 

I am angry at how this shut down has made my life so much more difficult as I try to raise a large family. I am angry that I am exhausted and the light at the end of the tunnel seems very far away and it keeps flickering, like it might disappear. 

 

I am angry at myself for not being “better”, “stronger”. Why do I have to be so weak? Why do I have to struggle with depression? Why can’t I rise above my circumstances? 

 

Before I took my post down, a friend commented on my Facebook page that he disagreed with my sentence I had written that said, “We are better than this.” He pointed out that we are actually worse, and it’s only God’s grace that has kept us at any kind of level of civility (paraphrased). And I had to agree. He’s right. We are all so capable of so many horrible things: anger at each other, racism, superiority complexes, oppression, hatred, murder. 

The other day I was faced with a confession by a fellow human being, they told me of a horrible deed they had done and I was shocked. Shocked into silence. You did what?? How? I just sat there. There were no words to offer sympathy and justification for the deed, just horror. And suddenly, I found myself preaching the Gospel. This is why Jesus came. All of us have done bad things. Every single one of us. And none of us can fix it. None of us can make all those bad things go away. We are completely helpless. And Jesus came. He lived the perfect life for us. He died on the Cross and paid the price for these horrible things that we have done. He wiped the debt clean. He removed the offense. He is the only one who can make us pure again. We need to come to him. Confess our sins. Ask his forgiveness. Accept his forgiveness. Have faith that he has made all things right again. 

 

That’s where we are at as a country. We have done horrible things. We have turned a blind eye, we have walked in pride, we have vented our anger, we have mocked and scorned each other. There is no way to fix this. People who are concerned about White Privilege feel that old debts need to be repaid. How?  It is too big, too messy, too arbitrary. White Privilege is in essence the privilege of the ruling class which has been going on since the beginning of time in every single country that has ever existed. How can we go back and fix every single wrong? And yes. It is definitely wrong. It is sin. It is evil. 

 

I would say that it can’t be fixed. Every single one of us needs forgiveness. You might say, I’m not a racist! I don’t have any privilege! Or maybe you are black or another one of the minorities, and you say, Hey, I didn’t do anything wrong, I’ve just been wronged against. 

 

Maybe, in the matter of race, you are completely innocent. But can you say the same for every other area in your life? 

 

All have sinned and Fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

 

I look at the mess we are in. All the anger. I am overwhelmed, there are no words to fix it. And so I will preach the Gospel. Because, sappy as it is, Jesus truly is the only answer. And I’m not talking about a religion. I’m talking about the God who says, “Love Me and then Love your Neighbor as Yourself.” And then he gives us his Holy Spirit to give us the power to do those two things. 

 

And as I focus on Him, some of the fear eases away. And as fear eases away, I suddenly don’t feel like I have to lash out. Yes, I can still be angry at injustice, wrongdoing, violence. But, I can also get a bigger perspective. This is a spiritual battle. (As a friend reminded me today!)I need to be praying for my enemies, not gloating over them. Each person I meet is a soul that needs Jesus. My anger isn’t going to save them. But my love and compassion might. 

 

Good Good Father

Good Good Father

Chris Tomlin

I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like

But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night

And you tell me that you’re pleased

And that I’m never alone

 

You’re a good good father

It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are

And I’m loved by you

It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

 

On this Father’s Day I find myself thinking about the Ultimate Father God. The wonder of being loved by him. The comfort of knowing that he provides all my needs. The pleasure of exploring his creation, delighting in the works of his hands. The wonder and awe and even some disbelief that he loves me. He truly is a Good Good Father. 

 

I think about my Dad and my husband, the father of my children. I think about the things I appreciate about them and the way my father fathered me, and the way my husband fathers our children…Both my Father and my husband are followers of God. They seek after him, make God the measure that they are trying to copy. They listen to the Holy Spirit and allow themselves to be changed to be more like Him. And it’s the following after God that has made them the men that they are. And it’s the following after God that has made them the Fathers that they are. And it’s their following after God that makes me able to step back and say, You guys are also Good Good Fathers. 

 

So, Thank you God for being the Ultimate Father and thank you Dad and Andy for choosing God, making Him first, and letting Him turn you into the Good Fathers that you are. 

 

I love you.

One of those days, One of those weeks…

Every once in a while I have a surreal moment when I step back and look at my life and I think,

 

WHAT THE CRAP AM I DOING??

 

What on earth made you think you could handle having 10 kids? And now 2 foster kids too??? What made you think you could keep a house this size running smoothly? How on earth did you think you were going to keep up with this much laundry?? And why did you take on this many pets???? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!!!!????

 

And then I go look for some chocolate and let the kids watch tv and bury my head in a book. Cause that kind of reality is sometimes just too much and I have to check out for a while. 

 

 Actually, I’ve kind of been hiding out from reality all week. One of those, Hide My Head in the Sand, and then maybe, when I finally come up for air, my reality will have somehow magically changed, kind of weeks. 

 

Like maybe there will be a housekeeper on my doorstep who says, “I have decided to devote the next several years to being your housekeeper. I will wash all the laundry, do all the dishes, keep all the floors clean, keep the refrigerator stocked, and don’t worry, someone else has volunteered to pay my salary.” 

 

And while we’re dreaming, there could also be another person at the door who says, “Hi! I’ve decided to be your summertime Children’s Activities Coach. I will come up with fun games that not only entertain, but also educate, and get kids fit and active, all at the same time! I will also prepare healthy, nutritious snacks that are only given at well-spaced out times that don’t interfere with meal times. And someone else is going to pay my salary!” 

 

Anyway. I haven’t heard any knocks at the door yet. Just little kids banging on the front door because it’s too heavy for them to open, and they’re supposed to use the side doors, but they don’t, and instead just bang on the front door, waiting for someone to magically appear and open it for them. 

 

I’m sure I will get an infusion of energy soon and get back in the game of life. Just going to hide out a little bit longer…

 

An Exercise in Being Aware

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The kids are asleep and I was heading back to my bedroom.  

 

I stepped out on the back deck and I saw Blue. The color blue that reminds me of fairy tales. It’s almost magical. The kind of color I wish could somehow be made into the perfect ball gown, where my glass slippers sparkle on my feet as I enter the silent ballroom, all eyes on me, the mysterious princess. 

 

I stood on my deck and I listened. Crickets. The sound of childhood. Sitting outside on our porch on a warm summer night, deep in the woods in Eastern Kentucky. Going on long walks with my parents in the evenings, down the hollow road (pronounced Holler), take the first right and go up the gravel road to Mayberry Cemetery, get home just as evening has settled.  

 

I stood on my deck and I smelled summer in the city. Fragrant bushes. Green. Also slightly off scents wafting from the alley where everyone’s garbage cans are lined up neatly, waiting for the weekly pickup. 

 

I stood on my back deck and I felt a cool breeze. Surprisingly cool for this time of year and this part of the country. The coolness reminded me that I was only wearing a light summer dress. It made me think of sweaters and shawls. Perhaps grabbing a blanket from inside, curling up on a deck chair while I watched the night fully arrive. 

 

I stepped back inside. Feeling better about life. 

 

This is something I have learned how to do to combat anxiety. There’s a lot of words for it. Centering, Mindfulness, Meditating. 

 

I think I would simply call it, Being Aware. Stopping the racing thoughts and noticing your environment. 

 

From there it’s a simple step to thankfulness.

 

Thank you God for your beautiful creation. Thank you for that amazing shade of blue. Thank you for summertime. Thank you for crickets and trees and bushes and flowers. Thank you for the breeze. Thank you for my home. 

 

Yes. I feel better now. 

Shadow

My son Joshua got a kitten last year. We decided to not get her fixed right away. Let her have one litter of kittens so our kids could experience the miracle of life. I conveniently forgot that hand in hand with the miracle of life comes the tragedy of death. 

 

My foster son has been asking me for a kitten for five months. Five very long months. Practically every day we would have a conversation about kittens. Finally, our cat became pregnant and we promised him that he could choose one of the kittens. He chose a very sweet little black kitten with white markings, named him Shadow. 

 

This morning we discovered that in the night Mama Cat had decided to move her kittens. She had put them in a dangerous place and the little black kitten had gotten squished somehow and had died. 

 

They brought him to me in their hands, crying, hoping that I could fix it. I frantically looked for any signs of life, ready to rush to the vet immediately, but the kitten was dead. And I sat there crying, because it was a sweet innocent little thing. And it was my foster son’s. And he doesn’t deserve this kind of tragedy in his life. 

 

One of my daughters brought me a cloth that we could wrap him up in. My husband dug a hole in the back of the yard. We had a funeral. We buried him and then shared our memories. I told the kids that it’s customary to put flowers on a grave and they ran and found flowers. We fashioned a tombstone and my foster son wrote his memorial on it. 

 

And right now life just feels sucky. 

 

Rest in Peace little Shadow.

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