Just A Simple ‘Please’

We were¬† in two cars, driving home from some training that had gone late into the evening. From the backseat, a sweet voice piped up: “Dad, I think I need to pray to ask Jesus to save me.”

What followed was a sweet conversation, both in the car and at home, tracing the story of Jesus through the Bible. Reviewing truths. Remembering Jesus. Why He came. Why He lived. Why He died. Why He rose.

After several minutes of conversation at home where I had joined them, my husband asked our daughter, “So, now that you know all of that, what do you think you need to do?”

She replied, gently folding her hands, “I need to pray and ask God ‘please.'”

That was it. A simple request. One word. We clarified what was behind the simple ‘please,’ but her prayer and that one word stayed with me as I fell asleep that night.
There was something about the way she said it. Something about the confidence. The trust. The faith. The hope. The security.
She had no fear. No worries. No confusion.
She approached God in a simple way because it was that clear to her. She simply believed that what she knew of Him was truth. That He would do as He said He would. That she simply needed to ask.

“Please.”

So much contained in such a simple word. The faith of a child. A glimpse through the curtain and into eternity.

“Please.”

It transported me back. Back to when faith was that clear in my mind. When God was that good and trustworthy. When a simple request with honest confession was all that was needed. I felt the weight of my years. The swirling confusion of my struggles. The depth of all my questions. And a quiet calm brushed through it all.

“Please.”

The Father stands ready. Arms outstretched. Full of delight. Full of unfathomable love. Ready. Waiting. For every child to come home.
We approach and hesitation begins to melt away as the love in His eyes draws us closer.
But still. The chasm remains. We must choose to cross it. We must accept and receive.
The gift is free. The Giver is longing to be give it. This gift that is living and breathing. Full of power and love. The gift is ours for the asking.

“Please.”

The glimmers of eternity settled deep into my spirit. Declaring their truth. The depth of their riches. The surety of their promise.
One day we will know Him in all the clarity of a child. In perfect awe and wonder. With flawless trust and confidence in who He is and what He says.
This will be eternity with Him. This will be the joy of His presence. This will be the delight in His goodness. This will be the trust in His words.
And eternity’s light filters down. It’s rays touching the dark and brokenness of this world today. Every dull and dismal aspect of my life. It warms. It heals. It brings life.
We can live today in that warmth. That life. That truth.
We have received a gift that is good beyond our understanding. A gift given so very simply.

“Please.”

 

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We Weren’t Ready

Two years ago we did something we had firmly stated (multiple times) that we would NEVER do. We simply couldn’t. You see, it didn’t fit our current family. Our kids were still too new in our home to disrupt this way. We didn’t really have the time or the space. We were really too young yet ourselves. We simply were not ready.

But. God was ready. And. We said ‘yes.’

Yes…to disrupting birth order.
Yes…to making the newest child in our family the oldest.
Yes…to a preteen boy.
Yes…to fostering an older child.
Yes…to the boy who will soon be our son.

Here’s the thing. By human standards…we truly weren’t ready.
We didn’t have a vehicle big enough for the family.
We were going to be adding in a 3rd school to the mix.
We had nothing. NOTHING for a boy his age. No clothes. No essentials. No experience.
We had toys that were pink. And toys for babies or toddlers. And that’s it.
We had 5 other children. None of whom we had known since birth.
We had a family dynamic in the home that was far from ‘normal.’
We had always said ‘never.’
We had no clue how to parent a pre-teen. I know that’s technically true of every parent and their oldest child, but in our case we were being introduced to the preteen on the day we were asked to parent him.
We had a bedroom…but there were pipes sticking up out of a gaping hole in the floor, the wall plaster was falling in a little, and there was only patches of carpet.
We had a bed…we had recently been gifted another set of bunk beds. But we had no sheets. And no mattress.
We just weren’t ready.

And yet, that phone call. That 30 second bio. It stirred our hearts in a way that only could’ve been God. There was just something about this child. About this story. About the need.

And so, we stepped out in faith. Hubby left to head to the DCS office where our new addition was waiting.
I scurried around at home to move all of our things out of the master bedroom. Our mattress was thrown on the floor of the in process fourth bedroom and we moved the twin bunk into the master.
Hubby and sweet son came through the door. They struggled through homework for nearly 3 hours. (It was important to us to set this up well right from the beginning.) Then they made a trip to Walmart to purchase pajamas, clothes for school, toiletries, sheets, and some toys.
Hubby read him a Bible story, we tucked him into bed, and we tip-toed across the hallway to our mattress on the floor where we lay awake listening to the cries of pain and despair from the other room.

We weren’t ready for this.

It was harder than we ever could’ve guessed. I will not downplay that. We have had valleys so low that we wondered if we would make it through. There were days when we simply could not keep all of our children safe and we had to let go of what we believed were essentials in parenting. We have dealt with behaviors and patterns that we never would’ve allowed in our home before. There were nights we didn’t sleep at all. We had to choose our battles so carefully that sometimes it felt like we weren’t fighting for him at all. Our other children struggled in huge ways. This was a crushing change to them in so many ways. Our strength was taxed far beyond our limits. Our responsibilities were more than we could bear.

All this was true. All this and more. And it was in this place. These valleys of desperation. It was here that we began to see the miracles. True, living, breathing miracles of God in our home and lives.

mountain-landscape-2832109_1920If the valleys are low, just imagine how high the mountains are! The victories you experience in a desperate battle are sometimes very small in a long journey, but oh! How huge they appear in your day to day life!
Provisions poured in from those who know and love our family and from strangers we had never met. Clothes. Shoes. Toys. Bedding. Winter gear. School supplies. Monetary support. Meals. Hugs.
Our church deacon came over on a Saturday to help my husband turn our 7-passenger van into an 8-passenger.
Another church member came over to work alongside my hubby and completely finish that torn up bedroom. They turned it into a boys’ haven and we returned to our master.
The children of our friends sorted through their own toys to pass some along to the ‘new kid’ whom they also warmly greeted when they met him.
And the prayers. I am not exaggerating when I say that we physically felt the prayers. Those carried us in ways we never knew were possible.

We were surrounded with help from the community as well:
His teachers were eager to set up helps and programs to aid us as we sought to turn his schooling around.
Sunday school teachers took a special interest and were sure to check in to see what we might need or how they could best love him in their class.
The school bus driver was discovered to be a former foster child who was there to keep a special eye on him as she drove him back and forth from school.
There were other strong male role models who were quick to take him under their wings and invite him into their circles of ministry and activity.

We also saw near-daily miracles in our home:
Children who chose to love even when their little lives had been turned completely upside-down.
Children who prayed for and forgave another when they were mistreated.
Children who ‘got’ the mission and chose to work right alongside us as parents.
Children who gave hugs because they were needed even when they weren’t always appreciated.
Wisdom came when we were most desperate.
Forgiveness was granted when we failed yet again.
Hope came in those long nights. Mornings dawned anew.
New, miraculous strength came when we thought we were completely spent. Strength that was not our own. Completely beyond ourselves.

And the biggest miracle of all?
Salvation came to the newest member of our home. Angels rejoiced. We all cried. And suddenly new life began to grow.

We were right, you know. We weren’t ready. Our home wasn’t ready. Our kids weren’t ready. Our strength wasn’t enough. We couldn’t do this on our own. We were right. All this was true.

But don’t you see? This story isn’t about us.
It’s about our great God.
And God?
He was ready.

 

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Merry Christmas, Heartache

Christmas is a beautiful time of year. So many memories. So much to see and experience. Such a precious time of remembering our Savior and His coming to earth.

In our family, Christmas has become a unique blend of special times…and intense heartache.

I guess it all started 5 Christmases ago. We were grieving a loss, had just added 3 precious little girls to our family, and threw a cross-country trip into the mix. This was such a special Christmas. So much promised hope and love for our family. It was also the Christmas when I began to become uniquely aware of the fact that the precious girls in my home and under my care had needs that I simply would not be able to meet. They had experiences that had broken them in ways I was only beginning to understand. They had memories I would never share in. Our family would have to be cobbled together with more than love. This Christmas began to drive me to my knees in prayer with a desperation I had rarely experienced in my life thus far.

A whole year passed by and Christmas came again. This Christmas we lovingly refer to as “Our Angry Christmas.”
We purchased a tree together, had hot chocolate, and tucked those same little girls into bed. I was so very excited about Christmas that year. We knew our girls a little better. Adoption was on the horizon. Family was beginning to feel secure. And I wanted perfect memories and traditions to go along with the preciousness of the family we were building.
During the following day, I decorated the tree with love and care. We had a special evening planned. One of our sweet daughters came home from school, took one look at the tree, and threw one of the biggest, longest, angriest fits we had ever seen from her. She was too young to explain. Really too young to fully understand. But during that Christmas season, we saw a fit like that first one every single day. Every. Single. Day.
That year we took the tree down on Christmas Day as soon as the girls were asleep. Sobbing in pain and relief.

Since that year, we have been much more careful in our Christmas planning. We have taken things a bit slower. Planned a bit better. Chosen to tell more and surprise less. Set up special events with days of talk and detailed explanations.

Those things help. We have learned more. We have grown. We have begun to understand a bit better how to encourage our special family through the holiday season.

But heartache, like a bad penny, keeps appearing every year. Keeps poking it’s head up when we least expect it. Keeps us up at nights. Keeps us company during long, hard days. Keeps joining in on family activities.
And, somewhat surprisingly, as the years have gone by, heartache has become less like a bad penny, and more like a dear old friend. Not really in the moment, of course, but after. Looking back, it colors our memories with a dimension and vibrancy that we never would have chosen. It broadens our emotions and deepens our understanding. Even when it feels like our family just might be broken beyond repair this time, somehow that same heartache creates a bond that draws us even closer. Tighter. Stronger.

This Christmas was no different. The holiday season was rough. There were some in our family that were grieving deeply. Memories were stirred that created intense pain and longing. Deepest wants were denied. Love and family lost. The finality of goodbyes became real. What would never be again became clear.
Sorrow. Confusion. Anger. Despair. Sobbing. Destroying.
Heartache.

But, looking back, even from a vantage point this near. I recognize.
Heartache is a giver.
We are left with more than we had.

We are more thankful. More satisfied. More aware. Faster to forgive. Deeper in love. Stronger in faith. Slower to judge. Eager to give grace. Softer in our words. Longer on our knees in prayer.

christmas-bauble-2956231_1920And so, Merry Christmas, Heartache,
Our old friend.
May we continue to receive God’s gifts at your hand.
This holiday season
And all through the year.

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