May 27, 2014

I Need A Little Help From My Friends

So, this summer is going to be the summer we try some new things, try and figure new ways to do some things that aren't working right now, and having as much fun as possible.

First up, Ethan has suddenly lost all ability to remember anything and complete any task.  It is seriously driving me crazy!  I can send him to go get his shoes on and half an hour later he is still not wearing any shoes and has completely forgotten I ever asked him to do anything.  I don't think he's being ornery or trying to be disobedient, I think he genuinely get distracted and forgets things.  However, this just cannot continue.  I seriously feel my blood pressure rise!  So, I've decided to try a few things this summer and see how it goes. First, I am going to (or at least attempt to) give him only on task at a time to complete.  Then, I'll have him repeat back to me the task he needs to complete.  Lastly, I will stay with him as he completes the task to make sure he gets it done and does it correctly.  I have to admit, I am not looking forward to this because I know it will be time consuming and difficult to do.  But, I am reminding myself this is just for a season.  It won't last forever.  However, if any of you have any other ideas that I can use, please, let me know!  I am willing to try pretty much anything.

Next on the list, the kids' constant nagging and arguing with each other.  Most of them started after we finished with regular school hours, so it may just be that they have too much free time on their hands.  I am not sure.  But, I think I've decided that this summer is the time to go ahead and take them through The Young Peacemaker. I know that Ethan may be a bit young for it, but I think that I can adapt it for him.  I am praying that going through these lessons will help them to think through things and think of others before responding to things.  Again, any other thoughts would be more than welcome!!!

I am also hoping to do the final chapter of The Care and Keeping of You for Younger Girls. OK, it's actually chapters in the middle of the book, but it's the ones on the period and body changes, so I decided to save it for last.  She was ready for the other things in the book, but I didn't think she was quite ready for it at the time.  I still feel like we have a while before she actually hits puberty and gets her period, but I am seeing that the drama is slowly increasing as the hormones are slowly increasing and I want to be sure to cover all this before it hits so she isn't freaked out.  Prayers appreciated.  I am also hoping to finish up our 8 Great Dates in the next month or so, as well.

I hope to be able to spend the summer mornings doing some review school work with each of the kids.  For Ethan, I want to continue doing math and reading.  He has come a long way with both and I really don't want him to lose that.  With Sophie, I would like to continue doing grammar, math, and writing.  Do any of you out there do this?  If so, what kind of schedule do you use?  A little from each subject each day?  One subject a day?  Just a little here and there with no real schedule?  Haven't quite figured out how I want to do it and would love suggestions.

I am also looking forward to LOTS of afternoons spent at the pool.  It's our favorite place in Hannibal in the summer.  It's like our little reward for surviving another school year!  It's the one thing we look forward to every year.  And this year I am totally excited because both kids can really play without me having to follow them around!  Hello reading!!!!  Fiction, non-fiction, lesson planning!  I can't wait!  Who wants to join me?  As long as we're in town and it's not raining, we'll most likely be there!!!!!!!

Sorry for so much rambling, but I look forward to hearing some other suggestions from you so I have some things ready to try!

May 26, 2014

Lessons Learned From This Year of Afterschool Adventures

Well, we have closed the chapter on the first year of Afterschool Adventures.  I never dreamed that I would be so involved in something in which I hadn't really ever intended to participate.  It was all God getting me there, keeping me there, and leading and guiding our awesome leader.  It's had it's ups and downs.  And a HUGE learning curve.  I'm not sure any of us knew what we were doing when we started...not sure we really know what we're doing even now.  We have had no success getting the kids or their parents to church on a Sunday morning, but the kids' attendance and participation for Family Quest has only grown.  As we look ahead to our story time with them this summer and pray with nervous and excited anticipation for next year, I couldn't help but reflect on some things God used this ministry and these kids to teach me.

  • Ministry is hard.  Now, I grew up as a preacher's kid, so I already knew this, but it was just reinforced this year.  It seemed that anytime we thought we had things figured out, it was all then thrown upside down and it felt like we were starting over.  Anytime humans are involved things are messy and complicated.  This was messy on steroids!  I'm still not sure I have all the relationships and families figured out.  Their lives are a far cry from the way I, or anyone else I know, grew up.  I really have no idea how to love on and truly reach these kids.  Each week I rest on the promise that God's Word will not return void.  I pray that He'll use those memorized verses, songs, and stories to grab their hearts, even in the darkest of moments.
  • There is no worry that my little homeschooled kiddos are sheltered.  Especially after this year.  Thanks to the Afterschool kiddos my kids have heard some colorful language, lots of name calling, seen lots of anger on display, every possible bad choice in dealing with said anger, and they now know what DFS is and why there is a need for foster parents.  They didn't need to be in public school for any of these things, just ministry.  (But I am thankful they are there with me each week, seeing that others live a very different life than they do, learning to love and care for others, regardless of who they are or where they're from.)
  • Prayer is needed work.  We couldn't do this ministry without prayer.  I know that Jennifer would tell you that our worst days came on the days we spent the least time in prayer.  In fact, prayer and preparation became so important that it's now an unwritten rule in our house that on Wednesdays school is done at lunch, regardless of what we've gotten done that day, so the kids can get in a good rest/down time and I can get a good time of prayer in specifically for that day's meeting and the students.  I'll admit, the control freak in me doesn't always want to stop if we haven't finished what was on my to do list for school that day, but I've seen how differently Afterschool goes when I prepare my heart and my kids' hearts, minds, and bodies this way.
  • Messiness is beautiful.  I can't really explain it.  Most weeks we're all just a hot, glorious mess.  But it's also somehow one of the most beautiful things I've seen as God has S-L-O-W-L-Y melted some ice cold hearts as these kids begin to trust us and we begin to love them.  Admittedly, sometimes it's hard because there's little to no discipline we can give these kids to help them to truly have a change of heart along with their change of behavior, but every frustration, tear, and even moment of panic has been worth it.  We may never see the result of the work we are doing.  But, if God grabs hold of even one of their hearts, draws them to Him, and changes their lives, then He's also changed generations of families as they move from barely acknowledging Him to serving Him and training their children to do the same.  Generations.  
  • People who only see a flight or fight response will only have a flight or fight response, even if they're in 2nd grade.
  • I need to spend more time in prayer for our Christian public school teachers.  For 9 months out of the year, these kids spend the majority of their time with them.  It's hard to be with them for 2 hours, I can't imagine what it's like for 7, with 25 others thrown in the mix.  These amazing people are called to be salt and light, love on, care for, and encourage these kids who are so hardened by life.  I don't know how they do it!
  • Sometimes, love is given because someone deserves it.  Sometimes love just makes no sense.  I've seen these kids, whose parents pay little to no attention to them, blow most of their money on drugs, discipline them in cruel ways, and can't even pay rent, love their parents fiercely anyway. They fear the day DFS knocks on the door and they will possibly be taken from their parents.  I'll be honest, I don't get it.  There's nothing about that that makes sense.  I know many of our foster families in town and they are so loving and caring and would do anything for these kids, but it's their parents they love.  It makes no sense.  But you know what, God's love for me makes even less sense.  How this holy God could love me when I lie to Him, ignore Him, constantly choose other things over Him, could send His Son to die in my place just to restore right relationship with me...mind.blown.  It makes no sense.  But, I am glad that He did it.  And I am glad for this weekly reminder of His love for me.
  • Don't hate me for this, but my goal is no longer to merely get people to come to church on Sunday morning.  If that's my goal, then this ministry is a failure. We've tried to get them there.  We've failed in that every time.  You know what they need?  To know the truth of my Savior and their need for His salvation and to be loved here in a way that shows Jesus is real in my life and is real in theirs.  They need to know their need for forgiveness and redemption.  And this takes time.  Lots of time.  Lots and lots of time.  Like, I've come to accept that I may never see any of these kids or their parents in church on a Sunday morning, but they'll remember that God came to earth as a man and died on the cross for them.  One day when they're older and at the end of their rope, I pray they'll remember the scriptures they memorized and the Bible stories they heard and will turn to Christ.  All I can do is love them like Jesus and leave them in His hands. (Which is the same thing I have to do with my own children.  I don't know why I ever thought this would be any different!)
  • Maybe a Saturday evening service isn't such a bad idea after all! ;)  People who didn't grow up in church don't get up on Sunday mornings.  It's a day of relaxing and sleeping in.  For many, Sunday may be the only day they don't work.  Especially if they work 2 or 3 jobs.  Getting them up and going on a Sunday morning has proven to be virtually impossible.  (Of course, part of this may be that we haven't truly let them see the joy of being in a church family, being loved on as a church family...they only ever see the bad side of churches, and who in the world would want to be part of that?!?!)  
  • I desperately want my church family to fall as much in love with these kids and this ministry as I have. Yet, I also know that not everyone will.  I think most think it's a great and needed ministry.  Several have donated money or snacks for us to use each week.  But, my deep and honest prayer is that God will lead several couples to walk alongside us in this journey and adopt some of these sweet families. I pray that they will step up to take these kids with them to Family Quest each week where the kids will study God's word, see how the Word affects our everyday lives, and see how a loving, caring family can truly function.  They need this.  They need this desperately.  So, if you are a member of Calvary Baptist Church, keep an eye out in the coming months for some ways you can be involved in this ministry.  Pray and ask God how He would have you be His hands and feet with these families living so close to our church building.  
Lord, move in a way that I've never seen before as you grow and change this ministry. Give me Your eyes to see others and Your heart to love them.  Help me to live this in front of and with my children, that they might see You in all I say and do.  Use this time that my kids spend with these Afterschool kids to draw them to You.  Help all of these kids to see their need for Your salvation.

May 17, 2014

Randomness From an Exhausted Brain

  • I am so tried I can hardly keep my eyes open.  Since Wednesday evening (it's now Saturday evening) I don't think I've made it to bed before midnight.  Hoping tonight breaks that streak!  But, it's all been worth it as I have been able to assist with a yard sale benefiting two missionary families in our church.  God showed up in a big way and I am so excited to see how He will continue to provide for their trips to spread the Gospel to the ends of the world. 
  • I'm not sure why, but I cannot stop watching 19 Kids and Counting.  I am so amazed with how organized, fun, calm, and loving the entire family is.  Oh, how I pray that our family could be that close and that loving, even as our kids grow older.  I was amazed at God's timing that I was watching the episodes with their preemie Josie as my cousin was just beginning her own journey with her preemie Olivia.  It gave much hope and encouragement, and also kept them on my mind to be praying for them.  God is good!
  • Watching God work in people around me is so amazing.  He takes care of the big and small details alike.  He answers prayers, provides crazy big things, handles the small things we would never think of.  And though I love watching this, Satan really uses this in me to bring out the competitiveness which steals the joy I should have for others.  Rather than looking at the gifts God is raining down on others, I start looking that things that I don't have, the places I am not going, and my prayers that seem to go unanswered.  It is a real struggle for me to trust God, reign in this feeling, and rejoice in Him, regardless of what's happening at the moment.
  • My house is gross.  I've been at church pretty much non-stop since Wednesday and Kevin has been pretty busy with work this week.  This means that nothing has been cleaned.  Guess what we're doing next week! I am praying that the memories we've made and the service we've done for the Kingdom will outweigh the kid's memories of this messy house!
  • We have one week of Afterschool Adventures left.  It's been a rough semester.  We've had a lot of highs and a lot of lows.  It's been frustrating, tiring, and very trying. But, we've also had some really sweet moments that have been encouraging, inspiring, and hope-filled.  Praying hard that God will provide couples to adopt all of our kids for Wednesday nights so they can get a sense of close-knit, loving family studying God's Word together.  
  • I am so thankful for a sweet moment with one of our Afterschool moms.  I know it was totally God because I would never have done it on my own.  After a challenging evening with one of the children (in which one of our school teachers who knows and loves the family had to step in to help control the child), we had to talk with his mother.  Confrontation is so not my thing, so I am so thankful this beautiful, loving teacher was there to handle that.  I could see the stress and frustration on the mother's face as she expressed having many of the same problems with her son and just didn't know what to do.  She was at the end of her rope.  God really moved in my heart that we needed to pray with her right there in that moment.  I asked if we could, she said yes, and we prayed together right there in the street.  Again, I don't doubt for a moment that it was God who moved me to do that because that was not something I would ever do on my own.  I don't know if anything has changed, but I feel so blessed that she allowed us to spend those few moments in focused prayer with her and for her and her family.
  • I live for bedtime.  Is that just me?
  • A group of ladies from church went to see Mom's Night Out this week. So much fun!  And much needed!  So thankful to have that time with some very dear friends and some ladies that I enjoy but don't really spend much time with.  It was great!  Lots of laughs, a few tears, and a blessing for all.  We should do that again soon!
  • Lord, thank You for letting me see glimpses of You in the big and small.  Continue to open my eyes to see You in everything.  Lord, open my heart to those around me.  Help me to love them like You love them.  Help me to see them as You see them, not as the world sees them.  Fill me with Your love, grace, compassion, and words.  Give me a desire for You and Your Word that I might be an example for my children and be able to teach them in the way they should go.  Lord, show us how to be Your hands and feet, here and around the world!

May 02, 2014

Open Doors, Changing Hearts, and the Mess That Ensues

DISCLAIMER: This post, as with pretty much all my posts, are just my thoughts about what is going on in my heart and life.  I share my thoughts and opinions, which may be wrong and/or changed at any time.  I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions and acknowledge your right to also change those at any time.

It's amazing how God really changes your heart over time.  Things that once were super important now seem almost silly.  Things that once drove you crazy are now almost a comfort.  Things you once thought you would never do, you find you are doing all the time.  Only God!

God is really using Afterschool Adventures to change this old heart of mine.  He has opened my eyes to the pain and hurt that is right here in my own community.  He has opened my heart to the needs of some of the most vulnerable and their just across the street from my church.  He has shown me the uselessness of mere events if there's no love and time and effort put in with those you invite.  I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure that relationship (pouring your time, effort, love, talent, money, etc on a consistent basis over a period of time) trumps one-time events about 95% of the time.  This may not be new information to most of you, but it's revolutionary and painful for me.  You see, events are so much easier and more natural for me.  Relationships, not so much!  (If you've ever read my previous posts, you'll understand this!)  Afterschool has really driven this home.  Yes, we offer them an event, but the purpose of the event isn't merely to get them into the church doors or to add numbers.  The reason we meet with them every week is so we can love on them and earn the right to tell them who God is and what He has done for them by sending Jesus to die in their place.  It's definitely not a one-time event.  And it's far messier than I ever thought it would be.  Just trying to figure out their families trees is enough to make me want to sit and cry.  Talk about messy! Some weeks they are short on obedience and full of personality.  Some weeks (like this past week), the give us wonderful surprises when about half the group was able to share the Family Quest for their first time ever!  God is so good!  We've had some of our kids move away and we have no idea where they are now.  Some of our kids have moved away, Jennifer was able to track them down, and we are able to swing by and pick them up and make sure they are there to learn about God each week.  Some weeks the kids are running from us, sometimes they are clinging to us and we can barely move.  Every week we deal with kids whose only reactions to frustration are fight or flight.  And we've seen a few of those learn that there are other options...and they've tried to avoid the fight or flight.  I don't know that there have been any major changes, but we are slowly starting to see small changes, here and there.  It really is like they are our own children and we are praying for their salvation, attitudes, home life, grades, etc.   Believe me, I never thought I would feel more comfortable sharing Christ by building relationships and walking this messy life with others, loving them like they are my own family, and pouring out anything and everything I can for others in His name.  And it's not that I don;t like events, I just view them differently and try to plan them much more carefully than before.

I am so thankful to be at a church with so many fine examples of people who truly live this out.  They don't settle for merely throwing and event, tossing out the Gospel, and just hoping someone comes forward at the end.  They live out this messy faith, messy life, and plunge in to give their all to share the amazing love of their Creator with others who have no hope in this fallen world. They do this in their neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and in their families. I am so thankful to be at a church that strives to do more than just host events.  This has not been an easy road, I am sure, but one I am glad we are taking.

Lord, continue to change my heart to be more like Yours.  Help me to truly be Your hands and feet to all I meet each day.  Help me to be the example my kids need to see when it comes to living out my faith, trusting in You, sharing You with others, and giving all I can of myself and the resources You've given me to share You with others.  Lord, lead, guide, and give me wisdom to say "yes" when I need to or "no" when I need to.  Draw my children to you!