I must confess that over the past several months I have struggled with consistently writing each week this blog called Heart Treasures....mostly because my Heart Treasures were just too emotionally charged. My fear was that once I popped the cork on all that was happening in my life, I might inadvertently cause harm to the innocent, as well as to the not-so-innocent ones, involved.
What I can tell you is that I was mistaken thinking that the book signing of my first book on October 31st would be the most exciting event of 2015 for our family. Just nineteen days later, a dear friend's daughter came to live with our family of six. She has been a light and a challenge to our family to be our best. As the days and weeks have passed, our family has surrounded her with a fierceness that only comes from a determination to protect those we love.
Together we have been navigating some rough waters. Since this is the Mother's Day season, I thought I would share some of the lessons I have learned the hard way as a Mom and as a brand-new Bonus Mom. (That's the title we decided fit best for school purposes. I call her my Bonus Daughter, and what an awesome bonus she is!)
Lesson 1: Family dinners around the table really are important. The first week my sweet bonus daughter was living with us, we had spaghetti for dinner one night. A few days later, she asked me if I knew what her dream-come-true family would look like. I was stumped. She said, "Remember the other night when you made spaghetti, and we all ate together around the table. We were all laughing and talking about our day together. That. That is my dream." Don't ever underestimate the power of gathering around a table together. Somehow while we share a meal, our walls momentarily come down. Opportunities to create intimate bonds that cannot be broken are found around family tables. For the sake of all that is eternal, take the time to eat with those you love.
Jesus did it often. In fact, Jesus, the resurrected Son of God, cooked breakfast for His disciples in John 21:1-14 to show His love for them.
Lesson 2: Be there. My sweet bonus daughter didn't just wake up one day trusting me. In fact, it took a couple years for her to build up enough trust in my husband and in me. We had to prove ourselves over time by consistently loving her and her sister on their terms whenever they needed it. Three years ago we were merely a safe haven on the weekends, along with several other families. Our family, however, fell in love with the girls. Over time, my sweet bonus daughter began calling me when she just needed someone say, "hi" to after school. Our communication deepened over time, according to her needs and according to her timetable. But every time I saw her name come up on my phone, I answered...no matter what!
"...And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20b (NIV)
Lesson 3: Thank God that grace applies to parenting too! Somewhere along the way, parents began beating themselves up for not achieving perfection. Our grandparents did not do this. These people locked our parents out of the house in the summer until lunchtime, and nobody called the authorities! Yet for some crazy reason, we don't allow ourselves any mistakes with our kids. Once they hit age ten, the girls are emotional mine fields, and good luck deciphering that switch from boy to manhood moment. Let's face it: ALL parents are winging it in one way or another. So from time to time, or more accurately at least once a day, I mess up. Often I have hurt one of my children's feelings, completely by accident, because I tend to be blunt in my "tell it like it is" way of living. (Turns out that isn't how you talk to a girl on the verge of a break-up. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. See what I mean? Ugh!) The greatest blessing is that I can apologize and ask for forgiveness from one of my beloved children - even my bonus girl - and all can be as it was.
Jesus gives His grace even more freely. My sins killed Him. Yet He still died for my sins...freely...of His own accord.
For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 1:16-17 (ESV)
Lesson 4: No child (or parent!) is too old to join in family Bible stories and prayers at bedtime. I am ashamed to admit we had gotten out of the habit of reading the Bible together and praying together as a family. Our bonus girl came into our home on a Wednesday evening when our church's preschool was hosting a book fair. I purchased that night The Brave Girl's Bible Storybook so that we would have a brand-new, age-appropriate Bible storybook to begin our new journey together. If you have tween girls, I highly recommend that book. It deals with real Bible women and real issues that girls face today. (Personally I detest approaching the Bible with a sanitized perspective that cannot possibly apply to anyone living on earth.) That first night our entire family sat down together to listen to the first story and to pray together, each person taking a turn. Often the older children come and join us in our Bible study and prayer time, and often the older children do it without me. Those moments when we are all together reading the Bible story and taking turns praying are my favorite moments thus far.
Jesus taught his adult disciples how to pray. You would think that they would have already figured this one out, but apparently not. The people were not accustomed to thinking they could just talk to God whenever they felt like it, even though they could. Then in Jesus' darkest hour, He took His closest buddies with Him to pray for strength.
Lesson 5: Family is determined by the love that binds the hearts together. We now consider ourselves a part of three different families because one of three siblings lives with us. All three families are working together to make sure the three siblings see each other as often as possible. We all attend church together, making this "task" much easier. Sometimes we have "family meetings" to discuss the children and how to make the best decisions for them. Right now one of the siblings is staying with us while her grandmother is recovering from surgery. We are a family, and we take care of each other.
When it became clear that my friend would not be able to keep her children, members of our church stepped up to provide care for them to keep them out of foster care. The body of Christ in action is such a thing of beauty to behold!
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.... If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.... If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12:12,17-18.26-27 (NIV)
Lesson 6: When you are doing God's work, you will get push-back...even from His people. This lesson this one of those soap-box lessons. I'm just going to tell you that this one has made my blood boil just a little bit. Then I was sitting in my Bible class one Sunday morning, and everything clicked. We were studying Nehemiah. Good old Nehemiah was just working as hard as he could to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, while these nay-sayers were doing everything in their power to stop him. They tried intimidation, coercion, and they even tried to trick Nehemiah into sinning against God to ruin his good reputation with the people. (Nehemiah 6) Right before this very Bible class I had asked for prayers of wisdom and encouragement in our parenting of our own children and our bonus daughter as well as her sister, who had moved in temporarily. During class a wise friend of mine pointed out our Lesson #6: When you are doing God's work, you will get push-back, often even from God's own people. After class a well-meaning friend of mine said something that was not from God to me because she told me I should learn to say "no" more often. I assured her that I was saying "yes" to God and not to men. I wondered later what stirred in her heart to say those words to me. I am sure it was out of concern for my well-being. Listen closely...er...read carefully the following words: I want to be like Jesus.
Jesus was tired. Jesus served. Jesus loves the little children.
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on themand pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
Matthew 19:13-15 (NIV)
He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms,he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Mark 9:36-37 (NIV)
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea..."
Matthew 18:1-6 (NIV)
I have pondered this last passage many times. Could I cause a child to stumble by ignoring his/her needs? Is it possible that by merely not saying "yes" to helping a child outside my biological family that I might cause a child to reject the God I profess to serve?
While I realize others love me and think they want what is best for me, they are missing the big picture by a mile when they try to tell me to say "no" to a child in need when I see no other viable options. Tell me, are YOU willing to raise this precious child? Because I am. I already love her and her sister. We already have a bond. Yes, this is messy, and I acknowledge we don't have all the answers. What I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that God knows ALL of it.
I choose to please God, not people. I want to leave this world completely worn out with all of my talents and gifts used up for the Lord. Jesus went everywhere doing good. Don't judge me for trying to be like Him. (I take naps along the way, just like He did in the boats. 😀) Why don't you join me? It really is the most awesome adventure!
Here am I! Send me! Oooh! Oooh! Pick me, Lord! Pick me!