Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Reluctant Post

  So, have pondered on posting this post. Glory to God is something of a high priority in my life but I have not mastered it at all. My struggles are embarrassingly numerous and some of them are even more embarrassingly shallow. Lately, I have felt quite alone and even in my faith, there has been a painful separated feeling. Nothing has been particularly awful or traumatic, it was just a slow buildup.
  I have put it in my mind to remember Psalm 3:3: "But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head." What more do I need? I wish I could say that my attitude revealed my trust in that Truth. Instead, I have found myself shedding tears, licking wounds, and harboring pain. (If you need a good cry but need a vehicle to camouflage it, try watching October Baby. No one will ask you any questions.) 
  So, after my eyes were dried out, I pondered on all the difficult situations in my life and as I did, God brought to mind Job so I read chapter 1 and the baseball bat of Truth hit me across the back of my head.

  A lot of people seem to focus on one of two things. Either they focus on what they perceive to be a terrible thing that God allowed to happen or they look solely at the fact that God doubled Job's blessings in the end. It hit me that neither of those schools of thought should be the focus. 

 Job was a man and he had lots of wealth and stuff. He had a family that he loved and he loved them enough that he wanted them to be right before God. Satan steps in and God offers to him the ability to test Job and the reason is not immediately clear. In one day, Job loses his children and possessions. And though he is heartbroken, Job does not stop in proclaiming that God is in charge. Satan turns it up a notch and takes his health. Add to Job's pain and suffering, a nagging wife and discouraging friends and surely, any of us can see that this man was in a terrible place. Job feels the despair, cries out, does some whining, and defending. Job and his friends all make claims on knowing God and what He is like or what He is doing but in the end, God steps in and this is what should be the focus. 

 God says, "Hey, stop it! You think you know me, you think you have wisdom? Well, ponder this..." God allowed suffering in Job's life and the purpose of it was not to be cruel or even to be able to reward him. It was to reveal more of Himself to Job. He challenges Job's beliefs and pushes him to examine himself and by chapter 42, Job is confessing what he now knows without a doubt about God. Then God corrects Job's friends. All the trial and suffering brought men to Truth. I am just guessing here but I bet that these men lived out their lives as men of stronger faith. That was more than enough. It was mercy and love combined but the fact that God restored Job and doubled it was inexplicably gracious. God is that way. 

  In my alone-ness, God is working and not only is He working but He is drawing me to Himself. What really do I have that I deserve? Thankfully, nothing because it would be anything but good. My constant mutiny is deserving of punishment and yet, I have many blessings and at the same time I learning more of who God is in Truth. So, as my daughter reminded me one day this past week: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds..."

  So, that's one joy, two joys, three... :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

I'm Rare & Other Not Well-Done Thoughts

  It feels like someone has hit the fast forward button. We zoomed through Thanksgiving and now Christmas is right around the corner. So much to do and yet here I am sitting in the radiating glow of my computer.

  My bio daughter made everyone take a personality test on Thanksgiving eve. Normally, I would not put too much thought into such things because God and His work in me is my focus, not man's view but this test was a little uncanny so, out of curiousity, I stepped up for my turn. 72 questions later, I click "done" and the reading of my personality profile brings entertainment for all except me. According to this test, I have a rare personality belonging to only 1-3% of the population.
   No surprise that I am labelled as an introvert but I am not sure how I feel about being "rare," although, my family finds it deliciously amusing and bring it up every time I do something they feel is eccentric (like my admiration for a stick I saw laying in a parking lot as we drove by but it was perfect in size and shape, great for poking a fire or walking). Hey, God knew me before He even formed me in my mother's womb, so there I rest toe socks and all. 

  The rest of my time has been spent with numerous vet trips, Christmas decorating, damage control, and chicken chasing. (I'm not helping my cause am I?) Anyway...

  Our littlest dog was outside with my hubby when two dogs from different neighbors' came into the field right beside our yard. She trotted over to investigate and immediately, they attacked her. Thankfully, my hubby was right there to save her but she was bitten twice. She came away from the vet looking like she had a terrible mishap with chopsticks.

  Onto prettier things...
I made a nice centerpiece for Thanksgiving with some apples, a few things from my yard plus an acacia wood platter and tiny candles I found at my favorite store, HomeGoods, on the cheap (less than $15 for the platter and set of 12 candles). What do you think?
  Now I am working on my mantle for Christmas. Here is what it looks like so far:
Sort of plain so far (yes, I know I need my photographer). My plan is to make a plaque with a Bible verse for the centerpiece but so far, there has just not been time. 

  Our girl from the group home has been very excited about Christmas. So far, things are going well but not without glitches. We found a wishlist she had created months back with some scary things on it, like books on black magic, but when she sent me the link to the wishlist, all of that was gone and she only had shoes and an IPod on it. She is also very drawn to dressing and acting like a boy but this seems to be not as bad the more she gets comfortable with us. It is understandable to be uncomfortable as a woman if you have not had a consistent example. Because of her oppositional behavior, we are not directly addressing this issue. The plan is to patiently guide her in love and truth. While doing a sewing project, I began to notice that she becomes very child-like when she and I do things like this together. 

  One area that has been difficult is dealing with our bio daughter's feelings. Surprisingly, she has quite a selfish streak and purposely does things to avoid our girl, even becoming sassy with us. She was enthusiastically on-board when we started this process but now reality has hit and she confesses that it is not as fun to share your family. Her goal after graduating is to do mission work so I think God is using this to sand off some of that attitude to prepare her for working closely with people. Appealing to her with Scripture and keeping communication open has been important but the struggle is not over. 

  In the midst of it all, God gives me lessons from everyday living to guide me. One day I let my little chickens out to free range but one of them got scared and flew over the fence. She ended up in the woods on the other side of the creek. After I climbed down into the creek bed and up the other side, she flew into a tree. The hen was small, an easy prey, and she had made a terrible choice in her fear. I could leave her there knowing that the chances of her survival were small since it was an area that many raccoons inhabited or I could patiently redirect her. I chose the latter. The first try just moved her into a new tree. The second try, she flew to a new tree and higher up but on the third try, she flew back across the creek and ran to the fence. Giving her moment to settle down, I coaxed her into the yard and back into the pen. 
  You see, if I am willing to climb down a sketchy creek bank and into briar- infested woods to try over and over to draw a chicken back home, how much more should I try to draw my children along. The love and patience for them should overflow because they are more valuable and the predators are much more fierce. 
1 Peter 5:
5" So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Untitled Post

  Today is blah. 
It is cold and when I get up in the morning, it is dark for at least an hour. 
Motivation to clean is just not there. 
DCS is getting more involved in the process of our pre-placement visits. 
Therapy sessions are being required before finalizing placement. 
This blog needs new posts and my brain has flat-lined.
Holidays are right around the corner..
  So, with that being said, I'll summarize what has been happening in the past week. 

  Our last weekend pre-placement visit included homemade chili, several rousing rounds of Quao card game with two  friends, dog washing, lunch at what is usually a great local place but not so good that day, store browsing for Christmas decorating ideas, cooking for Sunday, vegging out, church, scorched potato soup, and a sad good-bye. Nothing very exciting  but it was good.

  DCS has started to be more a common word in our conversations with counselors. "DCS wants..." "DCS thinks..." Does it really take an act of Congress to decide if a child that is in a group home should be placed with a family??? I guess so. We were sort of hoping to have her by her birthday which is one week away but DCS is saying that it will possibly happen four weeks from now. They are requiring several family therapy sessions and more pre-placement visits before they have the big meeting. Sigh. 

  Yes, I know my post a while back probably makes it seem like I need therapy but those were raw, unfiltered examples. In person, I do not appear to be in such turmoil...I think. Someone want to back me up on this??? Honestly, I do filter my life through Truth and trust Christ to use me to be a good mother even when I have NO clue what I am doing. God knows my heart is to bring glory to Him in my role of wife and mother and although He could have chosen a much more polished and qualified woman to be my husband's wife and my children's mother, He put me in that position. Yes, I do scorch the potato soup that I worked hours making and I make lunches for my husband that leak applesauce into the pickles and vice versa and I get frustrated and throw pillows into the air because I really want to scream. I do all that and more and yet, by the grace of God I have a marriage that has lasted 20 years and children who can love people in spite of their faults, can laugh at mistakes, and can serve others. Maybe I am not the best person to foster a child and that is precisely why I place it in His hands. If this child decides she wants to be with us then God will see us through it...or we'll get more therapy.

Now if you'll excuse me, there are some pj's calling my name...
Oh yes, I do wear one piece pajamas! Don't hate me because I'm cool. Now go snuggle up with some potato soup but don't scorch it like I did this last time.

Potato Soup
5-6 potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks (I like Yukon Gold)
2 Leeks, washed, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or 1 Tbsp. pre-minced garlic
2 slices of bacon
2 Tbsp. flour
half pint whipping cream
milk (about 6 cups)

In a big pot, boil potatoes in salted water until slightly tender. 
Drain potatoes, set aside. In the big pot, cook bacon until done and remove. Keep grease in pot and saute leeks and garlic until tender. Stir in flour then slowly stir in milk. 

Once milk is added, put in potatoes and salt and pepper to taste. 
Let simmer about 20 minutes with a lid, then add cream and simmer about 10 more minutes. If you like it thicker, you can mash some potatoes and stir them in or add instant potatoes. Serve with bacon bits and cheese! 
*Sometimes I use chicken broth to give potatoes a little more flavor

Friday, October 19, 2012

Foster Care Gets Respite, The Heart Gets a Different Break

  Have you ever sat down and wondered how far you could go if you did something in faith? either. My inclinations are to shrink away and hide or jump blindly full speed into the abyss. The latter is usually my first choice unless it involves a large group of people, particularly if they are all adults. I have had to learn to reign in the leaping because I needed to consider my husband's thoughts first.

  Foster care is something we both agreed to step into but getting approved demands that you rehash the past over and over - verbally and on paper. Couple that with the fear of being rejected and it just makes an emotional mess for me. Good thing that is over, besides it is NOT about me which is what I told myself during each interview and stack of paperwork.

  So far, our experience with foster care has been for respite, which is temporary care of a foster child while a foster family takes care of something or gets some rest but it can also be a place to stay while a new placement home is found. 

  The children waiting for a new placement home are really sad because they are so scared. Each move is starting over again and it is unsure what you are getting when you move. Will it be a family with children? A single adult? A different school? A place with plenty of food? A safe place or not? It is even more sad to get a teenager who is pregnant and even more sad than that is a teenager who is pregnant and has an infant. This was our latest call and we said yes. At the moment, we are not supposed to get calls because we are in the process of getting a teenager from a group home and the counselor does not want anyone else in the home when she gets to us but, the phone rang and I answered. They assured me that it would be just for the week. Again, I was given the "talk" which includes any behavioral issues and the reasons why the child is having to move to a new home. The whole thing stirs up my insides because I feel so unprepared and inadequate but the car pulls up and the nerves dissolve when I see this child with child and holding a child. 

  The woman who washed Jesus' feet came to mind as we ventured out on errands. Luke 7:
"36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

  We have had lots of stares since being a different color makes it obvious whose baby it is and it is very clear that she is about to have another any day. We also had an encounter with a rude sales lady that I tried to kill with kindness, a smile, and the face of the sweet baby. She was obviously disgusted by a pregnant teenage mother and would not crack, so I thought it best to continue on as if her rudeness was nothing to dwell on. 

  Jesus proved it - compassion is rooted in love and love is Christ. Again, another reminder to walk through situations NOT thinking of me but displaying Christ. So hard sometimes...

  Several days in and this young lady felt comfortable enough to share some challenges in her life right now. She knows that she has made some choices that were not wise and she knows that she many obstacles to overcome. No one needs to point out those things but someone does need to draw her near and point her in the direction of hope. Her story is made even more challenging as the system struggles to find a new placement home for her and the baby. I know we cannot keep her because we had our first meeting with our child from the group home and, if you can believe it, she is in more need than this young lady. Fortunately, this young mother can be re-unified with her family. She just has to keep working on her goals and make better choices so I pray that a good placement home opens up soon and her ears are open to the message of hope we share. For now, we are going out to purchase a duffel bag or some kind of suitcase to replace the garbage bags in which her stuff is packed. People are sinners but they are never trash.

  More on our child from the group home later...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Flying the Coop and Flies in the Coop

  Months before we moved last year, our son moved out. He wanted to move in with a few buddies and live closer to campus. We sat him down and gave him the "grown-up" talk about responsibility, choices, consequences, paying bills, and handling all the things your parents always took care of for you. His response was probably like most young people's response - rolling of the eyes and repeated confirmations that he knew all that. My folly was that for years I had been repeating to him that it was my job to raise him so that he could leave one day. What a schmuck I am! Here I was staring that moment in the face and I wanted to scream, "You can't leave! The training is not complete!"

  Honestly, I would never feel ready for two reasons. One, I feel like a terrible mother (long story of the past) and two, I feel like I did not adequately teach him the Word of God and that he is going to walk away from church. But, here's truth: God is sovereign, I am not. I could have been the best Bible teacher in the world and lived the most respected Christian life (which I assure you I do not) and he still could leave and not follow Christ. 

  Relationships cannot be forced and definitely not a relationship with Christ. God's Word and prayer are part of my life and therefore, it is in my home but when children leave, they have to choose who or what they will serve. No matter what my children choose, I love them, pray for them, and when led, give advice but I cannot truly know the result of what their hearts took in until they live life.

  It is a lot like the chicken coop my husband built for me. Never having built many things and having no real experience with chickens, made it an interesting undertaking. The coop looks great though and, yes, that is a plastic playhouse. I am so pleased and happy to show it off to anyone who comes over...

 (Isn't it great!)

 but the real test is not how great it looks, it is how well it functions. After a few days, the coop design revealed some problems. Cleaning it is a pain. Ugh! Hundreds of flies took over and the buzzing was sooooo loud that it would made you dizzy. Why????

  Luke 6 reminds me clearly that it takes trial to test the integrity:
47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

  Whether we like it or not, we will face trials and those trials will expose who we are and in what we trust. Even Christians sometimes find out that there is an area where they were not trusting in Christ. The difference is that when the flood comes, the ruin of the house is not "great" because the foundation exists, a lot like the chicken coop. Overall, the coop is solid but the issues inside cause frustration. When I realized the problems, I could have given up on the coop or sat down and had a pity party but I decided that the coop was worth correcting. If I did not correct it, the chickens would eventually get sick and Henna, Nilla, Poe, Jules, Auntie Em, Paislee, and Brownee would cease to exist. They depend on me to care for them.

  It took a drill, some aspen wood chips, and diatomaceous earth to correct the problem. By drilling a small hole in the floor, I can spray out  the inside and the water will drain out. Putting in a layer of aspen chips mixed with diatomaceous earth (the food grade kind) keeps the coop dry and the flies are discouraged from breeding but if they do, the DE kills them. Daily, I scoop out anything too nasty if needed and once a week, I scoop it all out and scrub it down. The coop is a thousand times better.

  The process is a lot like my own life. Christ decided long ago my life was worth changing but it took a lot more than a drill and wood chips. As I repent, the nastiness is scooped out, Christ pours in grace and I am able to grow. Of course, I build up nastiness a lot quicker than my chickens and need scooping out on a daily basis but the process is functioning not frustrating. I depend on God to care for me and without Him, I would have ceased existing long ago (another long story from the past). I have entrusted God with my children as well and in that is peace despite my shortcomings as a mother. They will leave my coop one day but I can keep them before God through prayer.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Swine, Examine Thyself

  Look what the pig drug in!!!

  Adjusting to a child leaving the nest, a hospital stay, a move, and a new adventure have all passed under the bridge. You can either get buried under the burden of change or you break it open, look at it, and discover the joy. Re-evaluation of life is not only good, it is essential. The Bible commands it in 2 Corinthians 13:

 "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!"

  And so, in the midst of putting together a new home and a new year of home school lesson plans for my only child at home, I did just that and I found that I had vision problems and heart trouble. It was not pleasant and brought me into low places. Log removal from my eyes and cleaning out layers of nastiness in my heart was necessary. For this new season of my life, I needed to grow in wisdom and not be so inclined to foolish wallowing in emotional mudpits. The path is already peppered with obstacles that require perseverance, which I am positive are in direct correlation with the areas that need sanctification and my response must match my faith. 

   How does this affect the blog? Well, the content will still contain helpful tips, recipes, home school tidbits, and a smidgeon of silliness but now I can add several new things. The first addition will be great photography because my daughter has blossomed into an amazing photographer. Next, the content will broaden to include information on foster care, dealing with the emptying of the nest, and venturing into farm life. 

  For now, grab yourself some concord grapes and make some grape fruit leather. One of my friends claims that it tastes like manna and since there is no way to dispute her claim, you will just have to see for yourself but, yes, it is worth the effort. 

  Concord Grape Fruit Leather
  • 1 1/4 lb. concord grapes
  • 1/2 c. sugar 
  • 3 T. honey
  • 1 T. fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 200.
Wash the grapes, then squeeze them out of their skins into a pot. (this quite fun, they pop right out). Put the skins in the blender and puree them. 

Cook insides about 20 min. over medium heat, stirring them occasionally, until seeds separate from inside. Put insides through a food mill or berry press to remove seeds and return to pot. Add in skins, sugar, honey, and lemon juice. You may want to taste this while cooking and adjust sugar if necessary. Cook about 35 min., stirring often, until very thick.

Put a layer of parchment paper in a jelly roll pan or half-sheet cake pan. Spread mixture evenly in a thin layer. Bake 3-4 hours until it is barely sticky. You can also dry this in a food dehydrator. When done, let it cool then cut into strips with parchment paper attached and roll up just like a fruit roll-up. Store in an airtight container.