Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done

It’s been a little bit since I last wrote. It’s been a busy week. I’ve had a lot on my mind, thinking about different subjects. I read a really good book called “Nomad” by Aayan Hirsi Ali, and I went and listened to several of her talks on YouTube. She is an inspiration. An amazing woman. I highly recommend reading her books and listening to her talks. I pondered whether I should devote a blog to her, but I didn’t. I’ve been reading all kinds of news articles and been thinking a lot about our country. I I pondered whether I should write about that, but I didn’t. I got to take a moonlit drive through the countryside and was awestruck by the beauty of nature. I pondered whether I should write about that, but I didn’t. And last night, as I was going to bed, I started to worry a bit. I really need to write something. But what? 

Then, all through the night I kept waking up, and as I lay there, my thoughts turned to prayer and I found the same refrain on my tongue, over and over again. Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done. 

This weekend I have been aware of several different callings to prayer that have happened in our country and around the world. And though I haven’t been able to physically attend a prayer meeting, or log in to a zoom meeting, I have been praying. Specifically for our country. 

And I find myself overwhelmed as I think about the myriad problems our country is facing. I feel that I lack wisdom to even know how to pray. 

And in the end, my prayer just comes down to Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done. 

Lord, this upcoming election…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

One of our Supreme Court Members just died, she’s going to have to be replaced…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

Our country doesn’t know how to handle this pandemic…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

We have so much division in our country and our media and social network platforms are just fanning the flames, seeking to divide us more and more, how do we find unity…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

We have so many injustices happening in our country, babies being killed, children being sexually trafficked, children in the foster care system who are desperate for families, how do we fix this…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

The racial division that is consuming our thoughts, is our system corrupt, what reforms are needed, how do we move forward in peace…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

We have a disaster at our southern border, immigrants, legal and illegal, and being kept in perpetual limbo, children scared and unsettled, and no matter whose fault it is that they are there, they are still there and they need help…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

People who have lost their businesses and jobs because of the quarantine, all the people who are suffering as a result of the natural disasters that have hit us, one after the other…help them Lord…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…

Understand, this is not a weak prayer. This is not an absolving myself of all responsibility, putting it all on God instead. This is a prayer of desperation. Lord, I don’t have any answers. I don’t know what to do. All I know is that I want your will to reign. I want your plan to happen. I want everyone in this world to be drawn to you. I want people to be saved. I want peace. And I have no idea how to accomplish these things. But I serve a God who does know. And so I ask that he move, that he extend his hand to my country and that he bring about his Will, his Kingdom. And I am available to do whatever I need to do to help. I simply lack wisdom right now, to know what that is. And so I pray, Lord, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done. 

My Heart is Full

My heart is full right now.

Our youngest foster child has returned to our home. 

When she got here the kids had a welcome sign hanging up and there was much squealing and hugging and running around. In the midst of all the chaos, she turned to me and said, “Esther, I was waiting for you!” 

You know, I never pursued foster parenting. But it has pursued me. Over the years I have heard stories of the need and my heart would break, but I always felt helpless. What can I do? In order to be a foster parent through the state, you can only have six kids in your home. We have ten of our own. It’s going to be a long time before I can even qualify to become a foster parent. 

And then I would hear another story about the desperate need for foster homes. And my heart would break again. And finally, I told God, if you want me to be a foster parent, you’ll have to do something special to make it happen. 

And he did. 

And we walked a rocky road with these kids, full of extreme ups and downs. 

And then they left and I had no more power over the situation. And I felt bruised and battered, heartbroken. And I told God, I guess you don’t want us to do this anymore? Well, if you do, you will have to work some kind of miracle, because I can’t make it happen in my own power. 

So he did. 

Again.

And my heart is full. 

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. 

 

Will You Mourn With Me?

Emotions. Emotions are a difficult thing. In fact, sometimes they are an overwhelming and scary thing. When we are shaking with rage, shivering with fear, gasping with sorrow, all we want is to be calm. We want the storm to be over. We want to be safely on the other side. In those moments of intensity, emotions are the enemy that we must squash as quickly as possible. 

 

We say words like, it’s ok, it’s going to be alright, just calm down now, settle down… As the person who seeks to comfort, we seem to be allies with the notion that emotions are bad and must be disposed of as soon as possible. 

 

And so, from a young age, we start pushing those emotions down. No, I need to stop crying. I need to calm down. I need to get over this. I need to distract myself. Just don’t think about it. I’ll be over this soon. 

 

And right now, as I try to help one of the kids in my care process some real genuine pain and loss and confusion and anger, I find myself assuring him that these emotions are ok. It’s ok to be angry. You have permission to feel all these things. And I wonder, how do I teach myself this as well? How do I model this behavior when I still haven’t figured it out? 

 

I run from intense emotions. Flee. Stuff it down. Take deep breaths, blow it away. How do I undo all these habits and patterns that have shaped my life? How do I just sit and mourn? How do I allow myself to feel the anger that I have every right to? How do I just permit the sadness to wash over me? 

 

Emotions are scary. 

 

I wonder why? 

 

I think about this child in my care and wonder, what is best for him? His emotions are so overwhelming that he is struggling to function. And if I’m being completely honest, I would just like his emotions to go away. They are really messy. They are really hard to deal with. They make life complicated. 

 

In the old days, when people died, people would gather, have a time of public mourning, weeping, remembering. They would change their clothes to reflect their grief. 

 

If only we had such rituals in place to deal with other forms of grief. 

 

When I miscarried the first time, I think I would have taken great comfort to put on black clothing for a period of time. To cover my face with a black veil. To have a monument that I could visit and cover with flowers. 

 

We need these visual rituals. No. Some of the things we are mourning and grieving aren’t physical deaths. Maybe it’s a separation, maybe it is a dissolving of something that was good. Maybe it’s simply loss of innocence. 

 

I think it  would help to put on mourning clothes, pour ashes over my head, tear my clothing, hire a group of professional mourners. It would signal to the world, I am in pain. I need time to deal with this. I’m not ok. I need you to be sad with me. I need you to join me in this pain instead of trying to pull me out of it. I need you to be angry with me over an injustice served, over a wounding that was given. 

 

What we need is to be able to sit and stay with our hardest emotions, and have people come and join us. 

 

And all of this reflection tells me what I must do to help this child. I must be angry with him. I must be sad with him. I must join him. And maybe, maybe we will heal together. 

 

Surprise!

Well, we’ve had a lot going on at our house since I last wrote. Two days ago I suddenly acquired a sibling group of three more children into my family. Six days before Christmas.  

 

Surprise! 

 

First, let me say that I am very humbled that God and all the powers that be were willing to entrust me with these children. Second, it’s absolutely terrifying. You want me to do what??? I have spent a lot of time on my face before God (mentally, because I’ve been too busy running around doing everything that has to be done), and he has showed up in a very big way. 

 

The first night we had the kids, I couldn’t sleep. My brain was too busy making lists of everything we needed to get these kids settled in AND have Christmas ready for the WHOLE household. I finally gave up on sleeping and moved into the living room, got the fire going in the fireplace, snuggled up on the couch and just let my brain do it’s thing. As I finished making up my lists I told God that I needed him to Provide in a really BIG, EXTRAVAGANT way. 

 

Twenty four hours later, almost everything on the list has been checked off. 

 

And how did God achieve this? Well, he used my family and friends and church. As I have reached out to ask for prayer and tell people what is going on, the overwhelming response has been, yes, we will pray…what can we physically do for you? And I have been able to resist the urge to think, I can do this, I don’t want to bother people asking for help, and instead I’ve been able to say, This is what I need…thank you for helping. 

 

And this is what Christmas is all about. Jesus came to earth as a baby, he paid the price for our sin and he has given us all that we need so that we can learn to be like him. The God of love. Love God, love each other. Not just mushy sentimental love, but physical, something you can touch, love. What are your physical needs? Let me help you. 

 

I am just at the beginning of this wild ride and would appreciate prayer for our family as we walk this new road. 

 

Life is full of surprises. 

 

Fat Fridays: Week 23 In Which I Climb Up On My Soapbox

I have been a bit at a loss at to what to write for this Friday. Since I’m trying to make an honest journal of this weight loss journey, I finally decided I would just have to stick to honesty. I promise that the following really does have to do with my weight loss journey!

 

I have always had a hard time when people make disparaging remarks about poor people. People on welfare. People on food stamps. People on government assistance. Homeless people. Everyone seems to know some lady on welfare who’s got a boatload of children and is just racking in the bucks, fancy phone, nails done perfectly, designer clothing. She is the person people always bring up when they are explaining why all this government assistance is actually just a big swindle. The poor people are living off our tax dollars and laughing behind our backs at our gullibility. For each one of you that has mentioned this woman before on your Face Book pages or blogs, or in conversation…What’s her name? Have you actually met this woman? Do you know her story? Or is she simply someone that is a friend of a friend of someone you met the other day who happened to mention knowing her. Maybe one of you actually does know her name, knows her story personally, and is disgusted at the way she has manipulated the system…but I’m going to guess that most of you don’t actually know this woman personally. I do not disagree with the notion that people take advantage of the system. It’s true. People are sinful and there is always going to be someone trying to get something for nothing. But these welfare systems are a lot more than those occasional individuals. It has been my experience that people who speak harshly against a group of people usually have no personal contact with that group and get all of their information second hand. It’s been my experience that when I get to know people personally, get to know their problems, their background, I have a lot more sympathy and compassion. So, today I want to share a story with you.

Over the last fifteen years we have had quite a few families and individuals that we have reached out to and tried to help. Many times we have had people living with us as they tried to get their feet under themselves. I’ve heard a lot of stories. I’ve gotten to know these people pretty well as we have done life together.  One woman in particular has been involved with our family for at least eight years now. She and her children have lived with our family on a couple different occasions. I haven’t seen a lot of her lately, as the last four years has been pretty stable for her. Then, about a month ago I got a call from her. She had been evicted. She was in the process of applying for government housing, but in the mean time she had nowhere else to go. Could I help?

I feel like middle class America does not understand how difficult it is to be poor. There is a pervading attitude that poor people just walk up to a building and are instantly handed food stamps, assistance with childcare, housing, and anything else their hearts desire. It doesn’t work that way. Yes, there is government assistance, but it is not easy to get. It involves getting to appointments and usually transportation is very difficult. It involves filling out endless amounts of paperwork and providing papers like birth certificates and social security cards. And when you live in a state of homelessness, or are trying to escape abusive situations, it’s really hard to keep track of those important documents. And getting them replaced is quite a hassle.

So why don’t they just go get a job?? I hear that a lot. Are they too proud to work at McDonalds? No. Actually, the people I have gotten to know are not too proud to work at McDonalds or any other fast food restaurant. But did you know that most of these fast food restaurants will not hire full time? It’s all part time. And it is usually not a set schedule, you get moved around to what suits them best, not what suits you best. So. Part time hours at low wages. Not enough to live on. Yet, they are mocked for getting on food stamps. I am curious as to how many middle class people could sustain their lifestyle at $9 an hour? And you are only given 20 to 24 hours a week. My friend would really like to get into a family assistance program that could help with childcare, but they require that she works at least 25 hours, and her job at a well-known pizza franchise will only give her up to 24 hours of work a week. So, she needs another job. But she has three children. Someone has to watch them. School just got out, she can’t afford any kind of childcare. What should she do?

People ask, why doesn’t she get a better job? Get some higher education? Surely there are programs that would help her? Well, she is a product of the foster care system herself. She was living in a group home and got pregnant at sixteen. Since then she has devoted herself to taking care of her child, now children. She didn’t finish high school. In order to get her GED she would need to do some serious studying. She has tried off and on to pursue that, but you see, she still has to live. She still has children to take care of and house and feed and clothe. She has no family support system (remember: foster care, group home). Her short marriage to the father of her children was a disaster and while she now has a long-term boyfriend, he comes with baggage of his own: child support that he pays from a past marriage, bills and debts he has to pay on.

Well, she should get into public housing. Ok. She’s trying. She had an interview, she’s waiting to hear. But you see, there’s this little problem of her past utilities bill. She still has a big bill that hasn’t been paid. She can’t turn on new utilities until she takes care of this past bill. She has asked around at many different agencies who say they will help with this kind of thing. But, she doesn’t fit into any of their narrow parameters of assistance that they can offer. Her recent eviction was the final step in a financial downhill slide that was connected to a necessary job change (with a pay cut) and unexpected events coming up with her children that made her miss work. This family’s tenuous existence quickly snowballed into a crisis which left them homeless.

And here we are. Her family of five moved into my bedroom about two and half weeks ago. My husband and I moved upstairs and are sleeping on the floor of our little boy’s bedroom (which they think is awesome, mom and dad right there, available all night long!). I hung a sheet around my bed so I can have at least the semblance of privacy.

It’s been good and bad. We’ve lived together before. She was a nanny for my kids one summer when I was bedridden with morning sickness. She helped potty train one of my boys. She has been the one person I have no embarrassment hiring to help me clean my house because she’s lived with me. She knows how messy things can get, and she’s always been willing to pitch in and help. Neither of us have any qualms about parenting each other’s children. The negative side is mostly just a lack of privacy. And the tightrope walk of setting boundaries and sticking to them. Trying to know when to be compassionate and when to be hard-nosed.

What does this have to do with Fat Fridays? Well, you all. My diet has gone on hold. Pause. I’m the juggler trying to keep a bunch of balls up in the air. This particular ball kind of knocked a bunch of the other ones out of pattern. I’m back to sticking to the basics. God, husband, children… everything else is shifting around. I’ve felt quite a bit of guilt and condemnation about it. Way to go Esther, soon as things get tough you just quit. Mess up. Fail. But, I’m trying to stop listening to that voice and be realistic. This is hard. I’ve taken on a lot and I’m not superwoman. I’m not giving up. I’m not going to wallow in my lack of discipline. I’m still fighting to get back on track. But, I’m going to give myself grace as I figure this out.

For those of you wondering why on earth we did this, it kind of falls into Love your neighbor as yourself… Do unto others as you would have them do unto you… Whatever you do for the least of these, you do unto me… And once upon a time, my husband and I were homeless and we knocked on a friend’s door and they let us in.

Goals: do some journaling and thinking…Why do I always revert to bad eating habits when life gets crazy stressful? Especially since bad eating habits just make it harder to deal with the stress????

See you all next week.