Juvenile Court

I spent the entire morning in Juvenile Court today. Which here, where we live, deals with not only delinquent youths, but any cases solely concerning minors (custody, child support etc). We had to attend a hearing on a matter concerning our foster kids. We showed up at eight-thirty am, supposed to be there at nine, and weren’t seen until eleven-forty-five. During that entire time we sat in the lobby, surrounded by people wearing their stories on their stress-filled faces. 

 

For an empath like me, it was one of the most emotionally painful mornings I’ve had. 

 

I’m not sure what happened to all the privacy laws, but at this particular court, everyone uses the lobby as the place to consult with their caseworkers, their lawyers, their children’s lawyers and caseworkers…Everyone just sat there in front of everyone and talked about their business as if no one else was listening. My ears were burning. I kept looking down at the floor so that my shocked expressions wouldn’t give me away. Not that I was trying to listen. I was people-watching, and then, instead of just being curious about their business, I was suddenly hearing all about it. 

 

I was feeling so sad. So much heartbreak. So much dysfunction. So many shattered families. 

 

I turned my attention and started watching the people that worked there. The brassy receptionist who kept her face completely indifferent to all the weary world that showed up at her desk, looking for directions. She had no problem being firm and short in her answers. But I also saw her gather an armful of large, very soft,  cuddly, stuffed animals and arrange them on her desk. I heard her comment, The kids will love these. I had all the context I needed since I had just watched the movie “Instant Family” (which I highly recommend) where the kids in the foster system had their collection of Court Bears they were given when they had to go to court. 

 

I watched a short woman in a red suit, who radiated the aura of Lawyer from New Jersey. She had a group of sycophants following her around as she “showed them the ropes”. There was the court-appointed lawyer who made his rounds, introducing himself to all his new clients. He managed to keep a friendly, but competent air about himself. There were caseworkers who looked like they were just Done With This Job. They looked worn out and frustrated. There was the guardian ad litem who angrily demanded a clear answer from a parent who was not talking straight. There were the young men, who had just left a courtroom, shaking their heads, expressing their disbelief at what they had heard behind closed doors. There was a middle-aged man with some kind of disability that made him limp very badly. He was bustling about, doing his work with a smile on his face. He looked like he had a passion for his work. 

 

I sat and watched all this teeming humanity around me. And it occurred to me that it’s actually pretty wonderful that I live in a country that has a Juvenile Court and all the offices and people connected to it. This building represents our country using it’s tax dollars to protect children. Protect children from broken caregivers who are no longer giving care. Protect children from the stupid mistakes they make when they break the law. Try to get them off that path and onto a better one. Get justice for children who have been treated evilly. 

 

I hate that we live in a sinful world. I hate that no matter how many systems of government we’ve tried throughout history, people still treat other people badly. I hate that there really is no answer, no solution. The only way to revolutionize this world is for everyone to find Jesus and his Way of Love and Peace and Justice. And the Bible doesn’t seem to hold out hope that will happen completely until Jesus returns. In the meantime, we’ve got to somehow maneuver through these crazy times we are living in. 

 

All that being said, I’m glad that we are making an effort to protect the children in our country. I am thankful for all those people in that building that get up every day and go to work in what has to be one of the hardest work environments. I am thankful that my tax dollars are helping support this system. I am thankful that hopefully, every day, at least one child is getting a chance at a better life because of what goes on there, at Juvenile Court. 

 

Not the Same Old Same Old

IMG_20200117_074805_915Yesterday my alarm woke me up at 6 am. I laid in bed, not wanting to move. I tried to inspire myself to movement by thinking about everything I needed to get done in the next 50 minutes before I woke up the kids. Get dressed, cook breakfast, sign homework folders, write sick excuse notes for two kids, have my devotions. 

 

No. 

 

That was not inspiring me to get up. 

 

I tried to think about all the things I needed to do today, thinking maybe that will stir up a bit of excitement for the day. Hmm. Lets see. Clean house. Feed kids. Go grocery shopping. Take care of kids. Ad nauseam. Nope. That wasn’t inspiring either. Honestly, that just sounded like a repeat of all my days. Each day running into the next. Same old day. Nothing new under the sun. 

 

I finally managed to drag myself out of bed, cook the oatmeal, do the stuff. Get the kids up. Braid little girl’s hair. Everyone got your backpacks? Ok, let’s get moving. We all filed out to the van. It was still dark outside and I could tell that the whole sky was covered in clouds. But, right over there, on the horizon, there was a small break in the cloud bank and the sunrise was pouring through that hole. 

 

At first the clouds were just a dark purply-pink. It wasn’t drawing a lot of attention to itself. I had to point it out to the kids. Look! The sunrise is just starting! As I pulled the van out, I was once again thankful that my trip to the school takes me almost directly East. Every morning I get to drive into the sunrise. We all practiced our Bible verse for the week as we drove and then I started my daily out-loud prayer for the family. I was in the middle of a sentence when the van crested over a steep hill and suddenly we could see the entire valley and a glowing orange and pink sky….Oh my goodness! Look everyone! My spirits lifted a little more. 

 

I stopped at the first school then headed west to get to the next school, then finished the circle and pulled into my driveway. I kept the car running, sat in my seat and just watched the amazing show that was happening up in the heavens. I finally got out of the car, took a picture, then went back into the house…on with the day. 

 

I found out a couple hours later that a dear elderly woman in our church had passed away that morning. And I wonder now, if that sunrise was for her. 

 

And I am convicted once again, that there is no such thing as a normal, boring, ordinary day. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 118:24,This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

The only way to rejoice and be glad in a day, is to look carefully, purposefully, for all the things that we can be glad about. A beautiful sunrise. A three year old’s silly comments. A warm fire. Money to buy groceries. A home large enough to fit all my kids. Being part of a family. Laughing with friends. 

Yes. My boring, nothing-happening day was actually a good day. Full of wonder, if I just took the time to look. 

 

It’s Urgent!

My house is clean. Upstairs and Downstairs. I am running the last two loads of laundry and once those are folded, I will be completely caught up on my laundry. The dishes are washed too. I know what I’m cooking for supper tonight. All the pets are cared for, and even my front porch is picked up. 

 

You might be wondering why. It is only Tuesday after all. I’m not entertaining tonight.

 

Well, I would say it has a lot to do with the fact that I have three new children. Since they have moved in, I have felt a driving need to keep everything clean and organized. Way too many people here to have it be messy. But, aside from that, I have been feeling a sense of Urgency. I don’t have time to waste. The kids are at school. Lets get these chores done now, because when they get home, they are going to be wanting, and demanding my full attention. I need to spend this evening reading books aloud, not cleaning up my kitchen. I need to have a plan for supper because I’m going to be asked “What are you making for supper?” and the fact that I have an answer is going to bring a sense of security and safety. 

 

As I am realizing how tenuous foster situations are, I am feeling a sense of urgency. I don’t know how long I have. How much love and stability can I cram in the time that I do have? 

 

The sad thing is, why haven’t I had this sense of urgency all along? I only have a limited time with my own children after all. I know this is true as I have already launched two children from my home. Time is of the essence. 

 

It took a major life change to help me remember just how precious time is, and how little of it we actually have. And how I need to be using the time I have to the best of my abilities, instead of lagging around saying, I’ll finish that task tomorrow, there’s no rush, I’ve got time. 

 

A couple weeks ago I had a startling dream. In my dream Jesus came back. For those of you who aren’t overly familiar with the Christian Faith, Jesus coming back is the Grand Finale. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for since he returned to heaven 2,000 years ago. It’s what scripture has told us to be anticipating. In fact, I found this quote, “One out of every twenty-five verses in the New Testament refers either to the rapture of the church or to Christ’s coming to reign over the world (cf. Jesse Forrest Silver, The Lords Return, p. 29).”

It’s pretty important. 

 

So, I had this dream. And I remember what stood out the most was this feeling of, “Ok. That’s it. Game over…Now what’s going to happen?”  I thought about the dream here and there, then about two days ago, there was this crazy loud noise, it sounded almost like a ram’s horn being blown and it was going on and on and on. And I was walking around my house, looking out windows, checking devices, trying to figure out where this sound was coming from. Again, my thoughts jumped to Second Coming…Is this it? Is Jesus about to show up? The sound eventually stopped, but I found it amusing that once again my thoughts were on Jesus coming back. Especially since this is not something I usually think about a whole lot. 

I don’t think that these dreams and thought patterns are supposed to mean that I am soon going to pin down a nearby date when Jesus is definitely going to return. But, I think having a spirit of expectancy, and even urgency about Jesus’ return is important. 

 

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” 

 

Jesus not only saves us from the debt of our sin, but he’s also got stuff laid out for us to do while we are here on earth. And we actually have a limited time to do it in. For most of us, that time will be cut short when we die, not with Jesus showing up in the clouds. But, no matter how it’s cut short, the fact remains, our time is limited. 

 

All those good ideas of how we can serve others, help the people around us…we need to get moving on them. Not just sit around thinking, there’s no rush, I’ll do it later, I’ve got plenty of time. 

 

May we all live our lives with a sense of urgency. Our time is short. 

 

My Family Isn’t as Weird as Yours!

The other day I saw a link online to a sensationalized article about a family somewhere in Scotland who had ten boys and one girl. (The 11th child was the girl!). Since I now currently have eleven children in my home, I was curious, and clicked on the article. It says that she washes forty-nine loads of laundry a week. What! I mentally counted in my head. I only wash eight to ten loads a week. Unless we have to wash bedding. Then it could be maybe fifteen, tops. Except, my older kids do their own laundry, so I would need to add on about four more loads to that number. And I have a really big washing machine. And it probably holds about three loads worth of some small European type washing machine. So, if you add that all up, say, I do twelve loads, plus four loads, equals sixteen loads, times three, equals forty-eight loads of laundry. Hmm. 

 

The article also says she vacuums her house seven times a day. Well, now that’s just weird. Must be a clean freak. 🙂 Unless her house is all carpeted and it’s small. I could see vacuuming a lot if that were the case. I don’t vacuum seven times a day, but I probably clean my toilet that many times. Too many little boys in the house. 

 

They didn’t mention how many times she washes dishes. I use paper plates. (Not environmentally friendly, not sure what to do about that…)The other day I ran out of paper plates and wasn’t going to be able to make it to the store for a bit. So, we used the regular plates. I washed 3 large dishwasher loads a day, as compared to one large dishwasher load a day, plus handwashing all the oversized pots and pans that don’t fit. Lots of fun. 

 

They also mentioned that she went grocery shopping twice a week!! I scoffed for a minute, then thought about it. Well, yes, I do go grocery shopping twice a week, but that’s not two GIANT shopping trips. I usually do a really big grocery shopping, then halfway through the week, I go and stock up on fruit, milk, bread and whatever random thing I’ve run out of. Because when I buy an entire weeks’ worth of fruit, my kitchen tends to fill up with fruit flies. Plus, it helps keep things fresh if I go twice a week. But, my second shopping really isn’t THAT big. Maybe just two trips walking from the car to get everything in the house. 

 

The photos of the family in the article showed all the kids lined up in color-coordinated t-shirts. The mom is an exercise instructor and looks amazing despite having just given birth to her eleventh child. The children are all handsome and photogenic. Sigh. My children are beautiful, most of them are photogenic, but several of them have not mastered the art of the “real smile” and instead look sickly or constipated, because, for some reason, that’s what they think they’re supposed to do when someone points a camera at them. I have one child that has literally spent his entire life trying to mess up our family pictures. I won’t mention any names, but if you track down any family photos you’ll spot him. I think that color-coordinating is corny and refuse to participate in that particular form of child torture. Though, all my friends that do coordinate, do look very nice in their photos. 🙂  And, lastly, an exercise instructor I am not. Double sigh. 

 

In the end, I found it really funny to read this article that was trying to make having eleven kids sound like some kind of weird freak show. What? They even brought up the OctoMom. I especially found it funny that I spent the entire article comparing my family to theirs, trying to justify how my family was better. What was that all about? I went back and found another article, not so sensationalized, about the same family. They sounded like regular, interesting people. We’d probably get along pretty well if we ever met. When am I ever going to get over this comparison thing? It’s not a competition. 

 

I will keep reminding myself of this. 

 

This is your 5 Minute Reminder to Stop Worrying

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I saw this today and thought, yep, that about sums up where I am right now. 

 

Now, I’m not sure if my theology quite  puts me at the place where I think God is deliberately setting me up, but I definitely think he allows me to get into places where I am not in control and all I can do is trust him. 

 

I have to tell you, I don’t like this place. When a problem presents itself, I am one of those people that wants to come up with a plan right away and then implement that plan right away, whether I have given it enough thought, prayer, counsel etc…I just want to be moving…forward…sideways…any direction, as long as I’m moving and not in a standstill. 

 

I am fortunate to have married the man I did. He is a great balance to me. His inner rhythm is at about half my tempo. Where I rush and scurry, he slowly ambers along. Where I finish the job quickly, though a bit messily, and perhaps not quite the way it was supposed to be, But it’s done! He methodically takes one step at a time, takes a lot longer than me, but ends up with a perfectly finished product that doesn’t need any tweaking. We balance each other well, because he can come to a complete standstill and sometimes needs a bit of nudging, while I need someone to rein me back a bit, hold on, let’s think about this a bit longer.

 

Right now we have two major areas in our life that need some solutions. Right now. Like, maybe yesterday. Or last month. 

 

And I am very impatient to see these areas fixed. Very impatient. It interrupts my sleep. It messes with my peace. I feel like I am on edge, unable to relax because these things are looming. 

 

In both situations, we can do nothing. We are waiting on other people to do their part, and we have no way of hurrying up the process. Though I am tempted to suggest some ideas, maybe if we did this, this, and this it would hurry it up? But really, that’s just me fretting. 

 

This past week, everywhere I turn, whether it be my daily bible reading, a church service, memes on Facebook…everywhere…the message says, over and over again. Trust God. Have Faith. Don’t Worry. And so, I say, yes, I am just going to give this to God and stop worrying. And then five minutes later I find my mind stuck in the same rut. Oh, yeah. Wait. I’m giving this over to God. Ok. 

 

This has not been one of those sunbeam-through-the-clouds situations where I say, Oh! I get it! I just need to trust that God is taking care of this, now I am going to stop worrying! No. It’s been more of a daily, every hour, turning it back over to God. Forgetting. Worrying. Turning it back over to God. Forgetting. Worrying. Turning it back over to God. If you get what I’m saying. 

 

Does this make me an imperfect Christian? Lacking in Faith? I don’t think so. No, I have not been an example of calm, unshakeable faith…but I have consistently been calling on God for help. God and I have had a lot of conversations about this. I feel an urgency to stay close and connected to him right now as my worries try to overwhelm me. I feel his hand on me, I know that not only is he working in the physical realm, but he’s also working on my heart, wanting to grow me in this area of faith. And that’s a good place to be. 

 

Last night I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t picked out our new Bible Memory Passage for the new school semester. This last semester we covered some of the basics with Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer. We’ve already done my two other favorite Bible passages, Psalm 139 and 1 Corinthians 13. What should we memorize now? I flipped through my Bible and hit on the book of John. I love John. Especially the passages where Jesus prays for his disciples, and talks about the vine. I scanned a couple chapters and decided, lets do John 14: 1-6. 

 

So, this morning, I quickly looked at the first verse again, so I could memorize it and teach it to the kids while we were driving to school. 

 

It says,
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)

 

And there you have it. My daily reminder to stop worrying, believe God is who he says he is, and he can do what he says he can do. 

 

I will continue to remind myself of this. Every five minutes if necessary.

 

“Hillbilly Elegy” and Jesus

I’ve been reading a new book, “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance. It is a memoir of growing up a hillbilly and a commentary on the working white class from Appalachia. 

 

I just went and read several reviews of the book, now that I have finished it. I find it very amusing that I was completely unaware that this book was actually a cultural phenomenon to explain why Trump was elected. I was also unaware that it is a Pro-Republican book and that a multitude of Universities across the country chose this book for their summer reading, and apparently that choice shows how racist and conservative these Universities are. I found it especially amusing to read a review from someone who actually lives in Eastern Kentucky Hillbilly Country who claims that since Vance did not technically live in Eastern Kentucky, he had no lawful claim to the title “Hillbilly”.  (I find this amusing because I was born in Eastern Kentucky, and all the years I lived there, it was always made very clear to me that I was “Not From Around Here”.)

 

So, in my ignorance, I thought it was a book about a boy growing up in a poor, dysfunctional family and an attempt to pinpoint what things in his childhood actually enabled him to rise above this upbringing and end up doing well for himself. And at the same time, an attempt to understand why his particular culture (hillbilly) is the way that it is. 

 

I’m not going to even attempt to analyze this book in it’s political context. I’ll just tell you what I took away from it. Dysfunction is everywhere. People do crazy things. It doesn’t make sense. The dysfunction and craziness affects a child’s ability to grow up into a stable adult. Some kids can be helped. Others can’t. So far, we don’t have any way of measuring who is going to “make it” and who isn’t. Though we can statistically say that the majority of children growing up in dysfunction will take that lifestyle into their adulthood. 

 

So, what do we do? What should our response be to such gloomy news? 

 

This week I read some interesting verses in Luke 6.  Here’s what verses 30-31 say:

 

Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

 

I remember when I was 20 years old. I was living in Haiti for four months, staying with friends. I went out with an old childhood friend of mine and we were walking through the marketplace in Cap Haitian and an elderly man approached me and asked for money. I brushed him off and kept walking. My friend confronted me. Why didn’t you give him any money? You have money! What would it have hurt to give him some? 

 

I was shocked. Having grown up in Haiti, being surrounded by people begging any time you went out in public, I had adopted the habit of just saying no. There were too many people to help. I didn’t have enough money to give to every single beggar, so I simply didn’t give to any of them. My friend’s accusation was a jolt to my system. Maybe my approach was wrong? 

 

Shortly after this I went to Chile for 5 months to stay with my brother, sister-in-law and their new baby. Chile also has a multitude of beggars. As I went out with my brother, I watched as he gave something to every single child that approached him. He commented that he had been convicted that he should give to anyone who asked him. I decided that I too wanted to be like that, and I adopted the habit of giving to anyone who asked me. 

 

Over the years there has been the occasional person I have said No to, simply because I felt very much like I was being “handled” by a professional and I hated the feeling of being taken advantage of. But, later, after walking away…I have always felt bad. I am not called to decide whether someone is worthy of my charity. I’m just called to freely give. 

Yes, there have been situations when I have helped someone and then they have continued to ask for help and continued and continued to the point where I felt like if I helped them in the way they were asking, I would simply be enabling them. In those situations I have said, No, I can’t give you money, but I can help you with something more longterm like getting a job or finding housing or enrolling in school.

 

Taking this back to the “Hillbilly Elegy”. We are surrounded by people who have been or are being harmed by living in a dysfunctional home. Some of those people will respond well to help, whether it be mentoring, counseling, encouragement, opportunities, education…others will not respond well. No matter what help they get, they will remain stuck. So, what should our response be? Well, Jesus said to help everyone. He didn’t give any addendums over whether that person was worthy of help, or whether it would be a waste of time to help, or whether that person was a lost cause. He just said to help people.

 

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6: 35-36.

 

So, that is my take away. This is a crazy world, full of hurting people who simply aren’t making it. All I can do, and what I am called to do as as Christian, is help wherever and however I can. 

 

Last Day of the Year

It is the last day of the year. Last blog of the year. Last post of the year. 

 

Every time we have a “last” we always feel like it should be extremely profound. Well, it’s the last day of the year. I’m doing laundry today. We’re going to clean the house. I’ve got to do a bit of grocery shopping. This evening we’ll have some pizza and the teens are going to have some friends over to watch movies. On the surface, none of that is profound. It’s very mundane. 

 

But, let’s dig a bit deeper. I’m going to spend the day taking care of my family and my children and our home. It’s a good family. It’s a good home. I am very blessed to be able to have this family. In fact, I would say that puttering around my house with a bunch of children is kind of along the same line as being the curator of a large treasury. My sole job is to keep the diamonds polished and make sure the gold is lined up just right. So, yeah, it’s actually a pretty profound way to end the year. 

 

I’ve been trying to do a little reflection, think back on the year, what stood out? I was looking at my blog posts for the year…glancing at the titles, what did I write about this year? I think if I needed to sum up the year, I would say it has been a year of going deeper. A year when I was able to spend time thinking about issues, people, books, politics, how does all this fit with Jesus and the Bible…I was able to engage with these subjects and go a bit deeper instead of skimming along on the surface. For an introspective introvert like me, who tends to live inside her head, that actually made it a really great year. 

 

It’s been a year of not hiding. Sharing my thoughts with others. Giving real answers to the “How are you doing?” question. That’s been a challenge. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written a blog, hit post, shared on FB, and then gone into a complete panic. Wondering if I should just erase the whole thing. DELETE! DELETE! Please know that I have not shared lightly. It has often been a major victory for me to hit the POST button. 

 

It has been a year of Overwhelming Grace. Looking back at all that has happened this year, the main theme I see is God granting strength and patience, endurance, provision. His hand always tightly wound up in every single detail. 

 

It’s also been a year of Seeing. Seeing the beauty in the every-day moments. The sunshine hitting that tree just-so. The dark clouds forming that geometric pattern. That tiny wildflower hidden in the grass. The kindness of a stranger at the store. The rich community feeling while standing in line at the bank. It’s kind of been like turning on the light switch in a dark room and realizing that you’ve been standing in an art gallery all along. Who knew all this beauty was just sitting here, waiting to be seen? 

 

It’s been a year of slowly blossoming friendship. Getting to know some of you much better online. Getting to know some of my old friends much better as we’ve carved out time to just be together. And realizing that all these friendships have always been waiting right here, it just took me making it a priority to seek them out at a deeper level. 

It’s been a good year. I am thankful. 

My blessing for all of you for this next year comes from the Bible, Numbers 6: 24-26:

“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;  The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”