Friday, December 22, 2017

A Savior For All Seasons

I had been bracing myself all morning for the news. Trying to stay busy, to keep my mind occupied at work. When the call came, I missed it. The case worker was in court all day so she just sent the news in a text. The text message was soon followed by a call from the biological parents asking what time they could come pick up Jacob. 

Just like that, in the same unexpected disruptive way he entered our lives, Jacob would be leaving our family. There was no way to truly prepare for either event. Some things in life just happen. You have to carry on as best you can when they do. 

But why did this leaving, this tearing away have to happen on the same day my father was torn from our lives nine years ago? And why did any of this have to happen so close to Christmas? When the words “Holly, Jolly”, “Joy” and “Peace” are unavoidable. The cheerful disposition and eternally optimistic outlook is expected? 

Life goes on no matter who or what dies. The living, those with their hearts still beating, those who feel the fresh air in their lungs, we must continue to live. 

But how? 

After we received the news about Jacob, I stood in a room full of toys that we had been trying to sort into boxes just moments before. I'd lost my place. It was time for me to go pick up all the kids and somehow explain to them that this little boy they had adopted into their hearts as their brother, would not be living in our home anymore. Somehow, I have to explain to a little boy that I’m not “real” mommy, and he’s not “real” daddy and you have a new home, but it’s your old home. 

Somehow, I have to recover and keep a brave face when the little boy stops us in the middle of our muddled explanation to say, “I miss you.” 

I miss you too.  

That night I went to bed early and could feel my heart beating up in my throat. Upset is what I was, but not in an angry way. Upset in a sad and grieving way. I sat up and opened the Bible that sits next to my bed. I opened up the book, and my heart to the Word of God. I was ready to hear from Him. 

I really had one hard question, “Lord, we were supposed to receive this news last week. Why did it have to be today? Lord, I trust in You but this is hurtful. This is hard.” 

Then I read about Jacob in Genesis 28. He was on the run until sundown, laid his head on a rock and tried to rest. While Jacob rested, God opened up Heaven in his dreams to remind him of two things a child of God must never forget. 

1.) No matter the date on the calendar, no matter the season, no matter what you're running from or what you’re running towards. Whether in the blinding dawn of new life or the dark shadow of death. God says to His child, “I am the Lord Almighty.”

“And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.” Genesis 28:12-13

2.) "I am with you."

"Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15

There in our room, I could feel the reassuring presence of the Lord. I remembered how He had surrounded our family as we said goodbye to dad. How He had carried us through the last two-and-a-half years and the last few hours of this foster journey. I know that He holds the future of Tiny Human in His hands.

The Joy of knowing Jesus, the Peace He brings moved me to anticipate the celebration of His birth in a much deeper way. Emmanuel God with us. At all times, in all seasons, through celebration and grief. He is my hope, my strength my song. The lifter of my head. 

"Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father's house in safety, then the Lord will be my God." Genesis 28:20-21

Monday, October 16, 2017

Love Never Fails

Some days I wish we could go back in time. If we could, I might dial the flux capacitor back to 11:00 on that Thursday night in September two years ago. The night we got the call, the call that a home was needed for Tiny Human. The night we were asked to be his foster parents for “a couple of months.” 

Now, a couple of months have stretched into two years. While in our home and under our care, Tiny Human has learned to potty in the big boy potty, he has learned to ride a tricycle, be gentle with pets, clean up his own messes, brush his teeth, dress himself (sort-of) and help Daddy Chad make blueberry pancakes. 

He has seen the mountains, and napped in a tent through the solar eclipse, watched fireworks and met the Easter Bunny. 

He is learning how to get along with big brothers and sisters. He has learned who Jesus is and we thank Him for our dinner. We pray The Lord’s Prayer together at night and talk about Heaven all the time. 

On Wednesdays he and I have a date. On our way to appointments we take the long way and drive through a long stretch of road construction just so Tiny Human can watch the cranes and road graters, dump trucks and paving trucks do their amazing work. 

He only likes to wear “soft pants"and his Batman shirt. And you have to know the “special trick” to help him put his jacket on. (It’s like our secret handshake.)

My point is I love this boy. This boy that I didn’t even know before that September night will now forever be in my heart. His parents have made great progress and it is looking more and more like they will be reunited with their son.  

The next few months of transition are not going to be easy. We are going to feel the loss and it’s going to hurt. If I could go back in time and just say “no” we could save ourselves a lot of pain. We could protect our hearts from all the uncertainty and heartache we’ve gone through over the last two years. 

We would also never experience what it’s like to be held, strengthened, guided and encouraged by God in the midst of the fog of circumstances that is foster parenting. In the midst of not knowing, we press on with the unchanging truth; the truth of the love of Jesus that never fails. The love of Jesus that rescued Tiny Human, the same love that is healing his parents, the same love that will heal the bond between Jacob and his “real mom and dad” will heal our hearts too. His love will always be there and His love never fails. 

When we said yes to the call on that late September night two years ago, we knew there would be days ahead when we’d question ourselves. We also knew that whatever we would face on the road ahead, we would be able to face it together and His Love would be enough. Once again, Jesus has proven Himself faithful. And He’ll do it again. We will continue to count the cost and say “yes” wherever He leads.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Not Today Satan

David is our oldest son and this is his first year to play tackle football. When the school year started he didn’t want to sign up. Since all of his friends were on the team he decided to try out. Even though he got started a few weeks after everyone else,  he’s been able to catch up quickly.

Yesterday, at breakfast David told Chad and me that there is one boy on the team who follows him around the field. He stays on David’s heals through the whole practice pointing out every mistake he makes and telling David he should just quit the team.

You can imagine, as a mother, the thoughts of protection and defensiveness that immediately came to my mind. But I know our son. He is not one to back down. And honestly, I can’t think of any better training for real life than to have someone on your heels telling you to give-up. Chad and I listened, told him to ignore the guy and keep showing up.

Yesterday, when David got in the car he told me that he had “handled” the guy who wanted him to quit the team. I was a little afraid know but had to ask, “Oh, yeah? What happened?” 

“We were tackling and hitting in practice today, so I just aimed for him every time. I took him down every time. Finally, when he would see me coming, he would start running away backwards.”

I wish real life were more like 7th grade tackle football. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to put on a padded suit and helmet and literally “take down” all people and circumstances in life that constantly try to get us to give up or quit the team?

We do have a very real enemy! The Word of God tells us that we are not warring against flesh and blood. We are not at war with each other. The battle is spiritual. 

In Ephesians 6:10-18 we are instructed to “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

I don’t know about you, but I won’t be run off the field today. I’m suited up in the strength and power of the Lord, I have meaningful work to do and It’s time to send the enemy running backwards.

Who or what is it trying to discourage you today? Don’t give up! Take strength in the Lord, stand and fight.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

One Life Away

“9:00 AM at the Oklahoma County Juvenile Court House” I read the reminder on my calendar and knew that Tuesday was going to get off to a rough start. As a foster parent it is our responsibility to show up to court appointments for the children in our care. On this day I arrived early and sat in the courtroom for the entire morning docket.

Before the Judge entered the courtroom, an officer led a man wearing a prison jumpsuit and shackles through the side door. The man was a father who would, moments later, stand before the judge and relinquish all rights to his children. An attorney for another biological father is unable to show any measureable progress significant enough to prevent his rights from being terminated.

The gavel fell. Two more fatherless children “in the system” and
still five more cases on the docket where the futures of children were yet to be determined.

As a mother and a minister I can’t help but wonder, “what is going to happen to all of these children?”

At Mission OKC as we work in the midst of those living in poverty, I also see the effects of trauma as it is fleshed out in the behavior of children. Aggression, mistrust, developmental delays and insecurity are challenges we face everyday.

The more I learn, the more hopeful I have become that the work of foster parenting and the ministry we provide at Mission OKC is life changing for these kids. The change that comes in their lives will in turn have a lasting and positive impact on our community.

Recently, I read an article written by Brittney Schaeffer, MS, LMFT, Titled “What You Should Know About Toxic Stress.” 

In the article she defines Toxic Stress or Trauma as “an experience that overwhelms us, sometimes making us feel like we are in serious danger.”

Examples of some of the toxic stresses a child growing up in poverty might face is being a witness to domestic violence, physical or verbal abuse, not having their vital needs met and a life in constant upheaval.

In her article, Ms. Schaeffer states that, “A child that has experienced at least four toxically stressful events was 15 times more likely to attempt suicide, 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, 4 times more likely to become an alcoholic or intravenous drug user.”

Studies have shown that constant exposure to trauma actually changes the structure of the brain and as a result causes an overactive survival instinct. Trauma affected brains and bodies become flooded with stress related chemicals that not only lead to developmental delays, but a greater susceptibility to chronic disease and addiction.

Hope for Healing

The good news. . .” as Ms. Schaeffer explains, “The brain has the potential to make new cells and create new connections—most effectively through safe, compassionate relationships with others.

For this reason, health care professionals, mental health providers, educators, faith-based workers, and peer relationships are critically important to building resiliency to toxic stress.”

At Mission OKC we are on a mission, not only to help the children in our poverty areas make healthy connections to caring members of our community who serve as volunteers, but at the core of our ministry is the desire for them to know the Great Healer, Jesus; To know that they can trust Him with their lives as He promises to make all things new.

What will happen to all these children? They are one caring adult, one kind friend away, from healing and learning to walk with the Lord.

If you are interested in becoming a part of Mission OKC as a prayer warrior, financial supporter, or volunteer, please visit our website or contact us at

For more helpful resources like the article sited in this post like Instilling Hope & Wellness on Facebook. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Fostering Faithfulness

It has been a year now since we opened our home to become a foster family. I still remember answering the call, an actual phone call, that changed our lives forever. That night the question was asked, if we would be willing to accept a two year old little boy into our home and love him as if he were our own. By faith, we stepped out into the unknown and said, “Yes.”

The next day Chad and I drove to the Department of Human Services where we were lead to an office to take a seat. After making introductions, the caseworker asked if we would like to meet the child. Moments later she rounded the corner with a little boy who looked scared and confused. We sat with “J” and played with a toy truck while answering questions and completing paperwork.

As we finished up the work they had for us to do, they asked if we had any questions. We were so new to the whole process I wasn’t sure what questions to ask. The main question burning in my mind was, “How long?”

“How long?” was the one question the social workers weren’t prepared to answer. They gave us a general idea, but their answer was qualified by saying, “We don’t like to give timelines because so much of the progress is out of our control.”

As it turns out, not having a timeline is the hardest part of foster parenting. Now that we see that a commitment to foster for three months can turn into years, I have changed, or truly God has changed my view on parenting and what my priorities should be.

As parents, we take for granted that we have years, not months to instill values in our children. We spend so much of our time just trying to get our children to stay out of the way of traffic and behave in public that there seems to be little time for anything else. With some kids, it’s a full time job just to keep them alive until their 18th Birthday.

God has shown me it is by His divine will that children are placed in our care, even children who are born to us; and no parent is given a definite timeline. We are not afforded the knowledge of how many days we will have to demonstrate the love of God to this child, to foster a love for His word, to teach them how to pray or why we worship.

Jochebed, the mother of Moses, had only the early years of his life to teach him about the one true God. Her opportunity to do so came at a high cost. She risked her life to save Moses and God gave her an opportunity to shape his character in those formative years. I imagine Jochebed didn’t let a single bath or meal-time pass that she didn’t whisper truth to Moses about the character and nature of His creator.  As she laid him down each night, knowing her time with him was short, I imagine she told him the story again of how she floated him in a basket down the river to be found safe among the reeds. As his eyes would get heavy and he would begin to fall asleep she would remind her precious son, “God saved you for a purpose and if you follow Him you’ll find it!”

Hannah, the mother of Samuel had promised her son to God. After he was born, she  weaned him then brought him to the temple of the Lord with a blessing, “For as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” In 1 Samuel 1:19 it says that every year, as Samuel grew, his mother would make a new linen ephod or robe which was a priestly garment. When Hannah and Elkanah came to worship, she would bring Samuel this new robe. As Samuel grew in his purpose, his mother made sure he was covered in a reminder of his place in service to the Lord.

Are you a parent? Has God entrusted a piece of the future to your household? How much time do you have to lead them to Salvation?

None of us can answer this question, and once we realize the gift we have in each moment we will find new meaning in our role as parents. Whether God gives us years, months or minutes with our children may we be faithful to use this precious time to lead them into the way of Life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Yokes, Burdens and Blessings

I was at an awkward age, fourteen years old, and struggling to survive what seemed like an earth shattering let down. Just about the time that I was old enough to be able to “officially” participate in the youth group at our church, my father resigned as pastor.

Up until that time I’d only been included as, well . . . the pastor’s kid. Always present, but not accounted for and certainly not included in the awesome stuff like break dance battles on Wednesday night or discipleship weekends.

Instead, one day I found myself sitting in the break room of a Christian counselors office while my parents sought help to understand the aftermath of my father’s resignation. My dad, who was always best at finding colorful expressions to describe complex emotions, called his current state of being, “church residue: what’s left under the wheels when the big church machine rolls by.” When people asked him where he’d go next, what he planned to do he’d reply, “Well . . . I’ll let you know as soon as I lose the license plate mark on my forehead from where the truck hit me.”

He was hurting, our whole family was hurting and we were experiencing all the emotions that accompany loss: Rejection, sadness, anger, grief, confusion, frustration etc.

I’m sure when my parents sought counseling they expected to have a light bulb moment. Especially since these counselors specialized in helping ministers families. I don’t know what all was said, but I asked my mom when we got back in the car. I too was hoping for answers, some word of wisdom to cut through the cloud hanging over our family.

Dad was quiet, but Mom turned around from the front seat and said, “They read a verse to us from the Bible, out of Matthew.” Then she looked it up, because she’s a pastors wife and had a NKJV Bible at the ready.

She read to me, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt. 11:28-29)

Then she explained, “The counselor read this verse and explained that it just might be that we’re carrying a burden that God never intended for us to carry. When we are obeying God in the work He’s created for us to do, and the work He’s created us for, the yoke is easy and the burden is light.”

Four years later I was standing on the second floor of an old building in downtown Amarillo, Texas. Our whole family was present and wearing dirty work clothes, the sun was shining through newly uncovered art deco style arch windows from 1927 that had been covered over with plaster in the ‘70’s. It was my job to pick up the debris and carry it out to the dumpster while my brothers and dad tore away at the rock. Every time we tore pieces away, we discovered new treasure.

While the old building was being restored, so was my father’s health. He had a new liver after years of near death experiences with his old one. With his new lease on life, my father lead our family into a new season of ministry. We moved downtown, started renovating an old building, and preaching the Gospel to the poor from the heart of the city.

He was free. Every one of us, for the first time in the ministry, felt what it means to bear a light burden, one designed for us by the God who created and purposed us. We were yoked up and empowered by the Holy Spirit who sent blessing after blessing through the doors of that old building. The license plate mark on Dad’s forehead was replaced by a goofy, unrelenting smile. He had faced death and new life. We were all ready to truly walk by faith.

As a young adult, I had learned an invaluable lesson. There is freedom in following Jesus, there is joy in living out your calling. And even though the work is difficult and you’re getting your hands dirty, it’s easy to bear. A life lived in true obedience to the God who made you is the most fruitful and satisfying life you can live!

Recently, I found myself at the feet of Jesus, in a weary place. I was heavy laden and broken hearted at the fact that despite all my best efforts, what I was trying to accomplish was just not happening. The weight of it all felt unbearable.

So I came out from under the yoke and laid the burden down. Fully trusting Jesus with all the questions in my heart about what would happen next. When I came to the feet of Jesus I didn’t find scorn or disappointment, I found compassion. I found gentleness, wisdom and on the other side – freedom. Freedom to continue walking in His purpose for my life and to hopefully continue to bear good fruit.

If you are weary today, I pray you will come to Jesus. You may need to lay a burden down, He may fit you with a new one. Either way, I promise, that after meeting with Jesus “. . . you will go out with joy and be lead forth with peace.”

Thursday, June 23, 2016

"The Fierce 9"

It was the last night of camp and I had run out of coping techniques. The group of girls who had set their cabin on edge all week were out of control. It’s always on the last night of camp; the kids with the greatest fears act out the most. They act out because they don’t want to go back to the way things are back home. After chapel we isolated the group of girls now known as “The Fierce 9” straight to their cabin to settle down away from the rest of the campers. Emotions were broiling; they didn’t know who to take their anger out on. I stood my ground by the door explaining that they would have to calm down if they were going to enjoy the rest of the evening. They shouted in protest, they called me names. Then a punch was thrown into the wall, leaving a fist shaped hole in the sheetrock.

I had spent the last three nights after chapel with these girls. I shared the hidden stash of Gatorades and crackers. In our group time they had the freedom to speak their minds and be rambuxious, but the conversation would always end on a serious note. No matter how tough these girls tried to act and how loud they were, the truth was that they were all wounded, scared and hurting.

Just listening to the way they described their life and the people in it who had hurt them broke my heart. Any one of the experiences they shared would be enough to harden the softest of hearts. The saddest thing I heard was the confession from many of the girls that they feel out of control emotionally most of the time and are afraid of the way their anger is destroying their life.

They needed to hear that despite their circumstances and what has been done to them; they can have peace with God through Jesus. As they grow in Him they will see the life giving fruit of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control. They heard this truth all week long as they participated in the camp activities and they heard it again from me. We could all see that a very real spiritual battle was raging in their hearts as they wrestled with the decision to turn their lives over to God.

To be honest, when the angry girl threw a punch into the wall, narrowly missing my face, it took an extra measure of the Holy Spirit to keep from losing control myself. Pastor Chad and Mrs. Tonya came to my rescue.  

Together, Chad and I loaded up the girls in the van and took them to buy the supplies needed to patch the hole in the wall of their cabin. Instead of the radio, for entertainment on the hour-long country drive to Guymon we called mom, after mom, after grandma to explain how their daughters were behaving. By the time we got back to camp all the “tough girls” had disappeared. There was a new air of humility and meekness.

Everyday for the last two weeks since we’ve been back from camp, the same girls have been up and ready at 8:00 A.M. for the church bus. They have been serving on mission with us  delivering lunches. On Thursday I got a text from the mother of the girl who threw the punch. She said, “Miss Anna, my daughter will not be able to volunteer tomorrow. She came home from camp and asked for help with her anger. I am taking her to her first counseling appointment in the morning. God Bless!!”

         We thank God for His Word, and the power it has to transform hearts for those receive it. Thank you for praying and supporting the work at Mission OKC. May we continue to see these young people set free.