Wednesday, September 28, 2011

away she goes

away she goes.

When I was younger, I filled my junior high and high school days in student government, mock trial, model united nations, girls state, and was named a Senate Youth Scholar (the one and only still to date named from Northwest Arkansas), I've had chances to do mock debates on the state and national senate floors, and walk up and down the government hallways over conversation with some of the greatest and brightest in politics all before the great age of 18.  I had opportunities most will never have.  I don't say that in a cocky way but in a "I know I've been blessed way."

I prayed and planned that someday I'd have a chance to go into the field, but then I became a young mom and a lot of those prayers and dreams went up on the shelf... then college happened... then life happened... But that prayer has never left me.

Today someone called me out of the blue and said, "rach, have you ever thought about going into the house of representatives because you would totally be great at it"...  

Have I??

So, I'm still praying and listening to God on this one.  The election wouldn't be until November 2012 which gives me lots of time to plan and raise support, but damn... 

I want this.

The real question is, "does He?"

I would finally get the chance to have a real hand in our community.  A real hand in shaping the future of our area.  And I do believe we can do better for ourselves and our kids.  We need more resources for kids, more resources for those living in poverty, more help in breaking down cultural barriers and creating a community that embraces diversity.  

I want to be part of it.  It's time to decide who I want to be, and I want to be one of God's kids that brings Him smiles often regardless of where He leads me.

So please pray for me friends :)

Exciting steps ahead regardless of which direction.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The well will not run dry...

The well will not run dry 

I'm tired, but I knew I would be.  We have had a full week of court appointments, additions to our family, lots of work stuff, and some really hard/good/hard stuff this weekend that I can not go into.

Probably the old Rachel would have thrown her hands up in the air by now and cried and gave up...  But I'm not the old Rachel.

The old Rachel would have looked within and tried to pull herself up by the bootstraps and accomplished everything herself until she got so tired that she ran herself into the ground or got extremely ill....  

But I'm not that girl anymore.

The kind of strength and renewal I cling to now doesn't come from me, or my strength or abilities.  I can't run dry anymore.  My source for energy and strength and joy and persistence can only come from Him.  I've grown to be so dependent on Him that I can sit and say:

 I'm weary, I'm tired, I'm worn, but You are my strength and my portion and through You I will rest and refill my cup.

This well will not run dry, because His love endures forever.

So friends, if you are tired, broken, stressed, hurting, or empty you don't have to do it all alone anymore,

Let the God of peace carry you... I am certainly having to rely on being carried at this point.  And it feels good to rest in a Savior's arms and admit I can't do it without Him.  

Peace and love and sleep :),

Rach

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

we will hold ourselves to a standard of grace, not perfection.

Those who have known me for a while know my past is working with teens.  Teens from all types of backgrounds, economic status, some who made excellent choices, some who made really poor ones, some who just could not find their way, some came from really supportive homes, so came from no home, some had crappy attitudes, some were on student council, some were in a gang, some smiled, some cried, some liked me, some did not, and we treated them all the exact same.... with a clean slate and with grace.

I say all this leading up to what is about to happen:

We are hoping to have our girl home with us on Friday.  Our girl, meaning the seventeen year old that we just got guardianship of who will be living with us this year.  She is not foster care, so that means when the time is right some of you will get to meet her, or maybe see a picture of her, or learn her name, or become a crucial part of her support system and we can share more details about her than if she was in foster care. 

She is going to be a part of our forever family, and she is a girl I have known for a long time.  A girl I have grown to love as my own.  A girl I could not bear seeing go to foster care, especially if we could not open yet to take her.

I got to visit with her a couple days ago, and I put on my "mama hat" and said "now we need to talk about the expectations we will have when you come home."  She asked me, "will it be like a step system, where I have to earn things or earn trust?  I can do that, Ms. Rachel"

I had forgotten.  Most youth programs/shelters in our area treat kids like criminals.  :( 

So, when she asked if she had to earn our trust, what she was really asking was:  will I have to go through the steps like at some places she was used to- such as, earn the right to get to wear make-up, or brush her teeth without someone watching her, or make a phone call, or watch television, or get a snack, or be able to read a book, or have earrings, or perfume, or have friends....etc...etc...?

Because everywhere else puts you on the lowest level when you arrive, and you have to work as hard as possible just to be able to get to do common ordinary things that you and I call ---- dignity. 

Apparently, a lot of places who "help kids" have forgotten about the word dignity.

Mind you - this girl - is a good girl.  She has made a couple poor choices (but I have seen A LOT of kids in my day, and she has not even tipped the ice burg in things she could have done), and for those couple bad choices she has paid severely. 

So, back to our conversation...

I paused for a moment, and then remembered something I put on my Facebook a week or two ago, "Girl, at our house we hold ourselves to a standard of grace, not perfection."

I then continued, "in our house we practice do-overs, we practice forgiveness, and we practice honesty, and when you enter my home, you enter it with a clean slate and you enter it with my trust."

Tears swelled up in her eyes, and she then smiled, "I really want to go home." (and home meant with us)

How could we not love this young lady and want to hug her neck and root for her? 

She faces some unique challenges, and it will be a very growing season when she comes to stay with us, but she has a beautiful heart that needs redemption, love, grace, and restoration, and I think this may be the core of what God has led us to.  Being the family that offers second-chances, means cutting through all the messiness and loving and seeing what God loves and sees.

Bless her heart, she has already filled a big chunk of mine.   

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

bella.


The word bella in Italian means beautiful.

For whatever reason, that word keeps circling in my mind as we are about to leap into this new season.

Bella.

Making the things that are broken bella through courage.

The really beautiful things and people in life are not necessarily the ones who have never been hurt, bruised, or made bad decisions.  It is the ones who overcome those hurts and find healing.

I want to live a crazy and beautiful life.  I want God to use my brokenness to help others.  I want God to use my brokenness to submit to His will for my life.

Let us all not be afraid to do the unthinkable, the scary, the crazy to achieve His kind of beautiful.

Our home will soon welcome two more to it, and it will be messy and crazy and scary and exciting and above all else... bella

At the end of my days, I want God to say, "la sua una vita bella".

It was a beautiful life

Sunday, September 18, 2011

yield

yield (ji:ld):  to submit, to surrender; to go on another path; a return on investment; to wait



For those who have been following our foster journey, you know that we have been in a "waiting" period.  And although we try to embrace this season, it has been difficult.  We have had all our ducks in a row and been finished with all our training, etc. since July, and have just been waiting for our final home-study which is something DHS has to do. 

They need homes to open badly.  They have far too many kids, and not enough homes, but they have even fewer social workers to manage getting these home-studies finished and homes opened.  It is frustrating, for both sides.  We have been prayerful though.  We know that everything about this has been part of His plan, and we have been called to submit, called to yield, and now we continue that, but the road is turning.  Turning in a TOTALLY unexplainable and unplanned direction.

Over the past two weeks, we have been approached to take guardianship of two children.  One is a newborn baby that we will only be caring for for a couple months and have temporary guardianship over, the other a seventeen year old who used to be my student and who is trying to finish up her senior year.  Neither kid is in foster care.  AND in fact, had we already opened as a home, we would not even be able to consider helping them.

I cannot help but believe that this was all part of His timing.  Maybe He was not ready for us to help kids in foster care, but help two kids stay OUT of it.  We find out this week on the teen, and next week on the newborn to finalize the guardianship paperwork (and there is still a small chance they will not stay with us) which is why I am choosing to continue to be vague about them.  They deserve the right to have privacy over their situations.  But both kids are wonderful, I am just sayin'.

Never in my life have I ever been approached about becoming a guardian for someone, and I find it hard to believe that both of these circumstances within the same time frame are by coincidence.  Steve and I took some time to pray over both children and the direction God wanted us to take, and decided that this is the right thing to do.  So, as long as the court stuff goes as planned our family will soon be doubling, ahh!

We are excited and scared, joyful and anxious.  What does this mean for our foster journey?  It means we yield.  It means we surrender it, and we wait.  We will wait until God shapes this out and maybe that will mean we don't open as a foster home for a while.  But, in our hearts we will already be doing it.  For Steve and I, it has never been about the measley little stipend you get from DHS.  It has always been about helping kids and families rebuild, and we have been presented two opportunities to do that NOW. 

So, we continue to wait, to pray, to love.  Once we get the final word on these kiddos, I will let you all know, but in the meantime we ask that you pray with us as well.  It is about to get real, quick.  :)

Our journey to foster care = unknown
Our journey to helping and loving kids = more real than ever

Thursday, September 15, 2011

divine appointment(s)

divine appointment

About a year ago, it occurred to me that all the great coincidences I had with people were more than just by luck or chance but indeed what I used to consider coincidence was most likely a divine appointment :)

So I want to challenge myself and anyone who reads this to ponder the following:

- what seems like a small gift from us to someone (a cup of coffee, a smile, holding a door open, a compliment, an hour out of our day, a card, a meal, a hug) could mean the world to someone else.  Our little things can be mighty to someone else.

It could be the only happiness they see that day.  It could be the one ounce of encouragement that gets them through.  It could be life-changing, redeeming, beautiful.

- I read a quote the other day that went something like, "what if we woke up tomorrow with only the things we gave thanks to God for today."

Be so grateful.  Each day I challenge myself to practice gratitude.  Sometimes that is so tough.  It's hard in the culture we live in to embrace contentment and gratitude and I struggle daily with it, but when we can embrace it and be thankful I find God blesses us that much more

In gratitude we make what we have be enough and in fact use what we have to overflow to others.

- live today for eternity.  When we start living for our eternal purpose rather than our earthly one we find our true calling.  It's not about a job title, a fat check, or possessions - it's about investing our time, our talents, ourselves in the eternal mission we are placed with

- be intentional - it's not about how many people you invest in... It's about how intentional you are while walking alongside of those who cross your path.  It's not about saving people.  It's about loving people.  It's not about fixing things for people, it's about restoring hope and dignity.  It's not about you, it's not about them, it's about Him.

Divine appointments are not just divine for the ones we meet, they are divine for us.

Be blessed in being a blessing.  Serve before you lead.  Find beauty in the broken.  Judge no one.  Let love heal you. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When there is no happily ever after..

When there is no happily ever after..

Everyone likes a good story.  We grow up craving stories and become storytellers in some way or another. Some of us are better at it than others, while some have a hard time telling them.  We tell stories about experiences from our own lives, radical things we have seen or heard, or retell other people's stories.  But we are all guilty of being storytellers in some way or another.  

A few years ago I noticed all the chick flick movies I would go see started having terribly bad and depressing endings.  You know the type, like ones you would see in "real" life.  Stepmom, the notebook, the time travelers wife, my sisters keeper, the list goes on...  People died, relationships were left up in the air, hurt dwelled...

The truth is, we as a culture, whether we are someone who considers themselves spiritual or not are addicted to the idea of "good versus evil" and most of us root for the "good" guy or the "happy" ending.  

I would like to say that is because we all genuinely wish for the good in things, but I think an even bigger reason is we are all terrified of the happy ending not taking place... Being stuck.  Because that means pain is involved in some way or shape.

I've heard a lot of people say how great it is that I now get to have a happy ending to my story about reconnecting with my dad, and believe me, I praise God daily for the healing that's taken place... 

But for many (myself included for so long) the happy ending in failed relationships or deep wounds never comes.  And what happens then?

Well, lots of things can happen, but I'll tell you that the greatest happy ending is not ever going to take place here on this earth.

For years, I had resolved that I would never know or reconcile with my dad, and I would never get what I wanted from a relationship with him. It just wasn't in my cards.

At first I acted out, then I denied it, came to grips, reached a level of forgiveness, and opted for happiness in other areas hoping and praying that void would be full from God alone.  Sounds a lot like grieving to me, and it was.

When we don't get our happy endings we grieve in some way or another - it is healthy!  And I do believe God never takes us to something that He won't carry us through.

Sometimes I realize how much of a sucker I am to our worlds version of "happily ever after" and forget that the eternal one is so much sweeter.

If you are hurting, lost, confused, or just having a hard time coping with something that isn't what you signed up for or anticipated or wanted, let yourself grieve.  Let yourself feel, and then let God carry you.

Our true happily ever afters can only be found in grace.  And sometimes God rewrites the endings to something even greater.

Monday, September 12, 2011

masterpieces


a piece of wood I found in my backyard
a 79 cent bottle of paint
some clothes pins
and some lovely masterpieces from your kids
=
a lot of fun and an easy way to display their lovely art

me or Him?

me or Him?
I often wonder if God allowed me to make so many mistakes in life so I could fully embrace His grace. My past is full of things I'm not proud of: having a child outside of marriage, marrying someone impulsively to prove people wrong, divorce, failures, bad relationships...

I know God doesn't lead us into sin... but sometimes I wonder if my path into all the wrong things was in some way divinely planned...because if I hadn't come from that and experienced His true grace and healing, I may not have the heart that I do now for those who are walking a similar path...

Lord knows I probably would have never gone into social work, or understood what showing and receiving compassion could look like. I would never have a heart to help the orphan, or the teenager, or the single mama... Or met the man of my dreams who had his world rocked also by the thought the he would never date someone with a kid.. Just to marry someone who had two. Lol

In many ways I question whether God had it planned out this way from the start. Did He plan for me to go through so much challenge and darkness so I could know Him and love Him? Or was it my sinful nature that embraced "free will" and just made a mess of things?

I don't know. I ponder the question often though. I'm a believer of pre-destination in the sense that God knows my beginning, middle, and end before I ever walked this earth. That thought makes the idea of free-will a question mark at times.


Yes, the Bible says we have free-will in the fact we choose what we do, etc... But the Bible also says He chose us, He knows everything about us and what choices we will make.

He knew before time began that I would write this blog. :)
So was it God's plan that I screwed up my life so I could feel the true love and mercy from my failures and be redeemed in His victory?


These are questions that I may only have answers to when I reach His kingdom, but these are the things I can't help but think about.

If my life was lived more "Christ like" from the beginning would I know Him -- truly know Him-- like I do now...?

Would I appreciate His grace this much? Would I go seek out the ones who are hurting the way I once did?

I just don't know. Either way I believe God brought me here, whether it was always His plan or the new plan, :)

I continue to question His methods out of love and a healthy fearing reverence. I tend to believe He was always steering my ship even in the rough waters, so one day I could embrace healing to show His love to others.


I tend to believe it was Him all along.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

soon or SOON?

soon or SOON?


A couple weeks ago we were told that we should hear about getting our final home study soon. This is the last step in our foster care journey before we can officially open as a home... Well, we are still waiting for soon, :)

Through this I am continually reminded of timing, choices, patience, the beauty of the wait, the increased longing it has given us... But a thought occurred to me this weekend that the wait is the journey.

 
This was the most integral part of all of this. It wasn't the classes, or the fingerprints, or the 100s of papers we had to fill out that grew us and helped develop us. It was the continual trust we have to keep putting in our lives that God has this all perfectly mapped out. I think He knew that I needed this time to lay myself, my need to control, and my lack of patience at His feet.

So, we still wait, and we still pray, and we still love.

We aren't sure how soon, soon, is, :)

But I continue to trust soon will be here right when it needs to be. In the meantime, I'll keep embracing all He keeps putting before us.

For waiting has proved itself to be a beautiful time of faith building and endurance that we will surely need in the next lap of the race :)


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

joy.

Today has been better...  Thankful for all those who have been praying, I have felt those prayers.

I wanted to take some time to post some pictures that brought me joy to look at today:














Tuesday, September 6, 2011

in the storm.

Steve and I got some tough news today, the kind of news you never want to get, the kind of news that I don't know what to do with, the kind of news that I have to trust God has because I don't...

Recently, Steve and I found out that we were going to have a baby and we hoped to share this exciting news with all of you in the coming weeks as I progressed, but we hesitated since it was so early on... Today I found out that this baby is not going to be coming.

I was only a few weeks along, but we were excited.  I know that God has it under control. I KNOW that. 

I was going to keep this news private, but it felt better to write it out, to not be isolated as I lay here feeling so many mixed emotions. 

Honestly, I have laid here thinking of all the reasons this may have happened:

- was there something wrong with the baby?
- were we not ready?
- what is this supposed to be teaching us?
- is this so we will appreciate fostering even more?
- is this a sign to try again or to stop trying?
- how can God be glorified through this?
- was I pushing myself too hard?

And then it hit me that I do NOT need to be thinking or questioning or anything right now... I need to rest, that is it.
And, I am tired, friends...I know I will find the rest I need here in the arms of my sweet Jesus.

We appreciate your prayers, as we quietly rest and heal.  My heart already feels more peace than expected from those who have already prayed.  We love you.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

sucker punch

The past few days have been rough for me... I haven't felt well, and there have been a number of things that just have been off with other areas in my life. 

Friendships that have become rocky, when they shouldn't be, and other relationships that I wish would go away altogether but I am stuck with for the next several years are even more on the decline than normal...which is something I pray will be easy but hardly ever is.  That one is probably easy to figure out without going into detail. 

Bottom line, today was a sucker punch, and my initial reaction was to fight back, to defend myself, to further explain, to scream, to make them understand...  But, God said, "no".

And every time I wanted to send a text or call or post on Facebook or stand up for myself, God said, "no".

And now I sit, crying... because even with a life full of blessings and happiness, my past life of failures still connects to present through my two beautiful babies who are my greatest blessing, and my job is always to protect and care for them regardless of how it makes me look, or how it comes across, and I don't have to defend that part of myself - even when I feel I need to or want to.

I know this blog is vague, but I just needed to write. 

Now, I will put on my smiley face, start a kid movie, and pop some damn popcorn...

Tomorrow is another day, :)