Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child. Have fun!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Beach week

I told the Good Doctor that I'm pretty sure if I could prayer run or prayer walk on the beach every morning, I'd be able to deal with anything. He said we'd see what we can do about that.

For now, I'll have to hold the memories of this week's mornings alone with God on the beach.

Victor resurrected last summer's worship team for anyone within hearing distance. And then he banged so hard on one of his "drums" that he broke it. What's new?

But the big news from this year is that even though he still fusses and complains when walking from the street to the beach and back again ("I don't like the shells!"), he was willing to play in the sand and even allowed Isaac to dig a hole and bury him.

We went to the Wetlands Institute again. It may be small but once again I was impressed with how much of it is hands-on. It's great for Victor. This year he enjoyed the osprey nest replica.

Family bumper cars can be fun.

And Victor got his two favorite rides as well.

"Watch the train, please. Watch the train, please."

Isaac had a wonderful helper for his famous morning omelette.

It might have been just a little chilly on our last day.

Til next time...

Monday, June 12, 2017

Spirit of Adoption

A Spirit of Adoption is mentioned several times in the Bible. It's a concept that intrigues me, along with the obvious opposite, a spirit of slavery. Many today refer to this as an orphan spirit. Either way, a person lives as if there is no one who really loves or cares for them and as if they have to look out for themselves because no one else does.

The Roman understanding of adoption was quite different from our understanding of adoption. In ancient Rome, it wasn't children who were adopted, it was adult males. These young men usually still had two living parents so they weren't orphans at all. If you were adopted, then, by a Roman, you had all the rights as if you had been born of that father, including wealth, power, and social standing.

Many, if not all, of us struggle with an orphan spirit. We live as if we have no one to call our own, as if we have to do it all on our own, as if there is no one to share in our successes, if there are successes. There is no place where this is more evident than in interacting with those who have experienced the loss of one or both parents, especially those in foster care. However, there are also many who live out of this mindset even though they do have an intact family. Satan is always trying to keep us from our true identity and loves to see us living out of a slave or orphan mindset.

Still not sure what this looks like? Both of the sons in the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son are examples of the orphan spirit. One son thought that he had to perform to win a father's love, and the other thought he had to come home begging to earn even a small portion of his father's love back. Ebenezer Scrooge is another example. He thought he had to do it all on his own, not owing anything to anyone but everyone owing him.

Recently one of our children went through an exceptionally difficult time. The orphan spirit was rearing its ugly head and all forms of love were being pushed away. Awakened in the middle of the night, I spent those hours praying for this child and asking for wisdom in how to proceed. The words that came to me were just as relevant for me in my struggles as they were for my child and for all of us who struggle with an orphan spirit.

These are the words God spoke to me:

You can choose to live like a princess in the house of the King
You can choose to live like a servant in the house of the King.

Either way you have the privilege of living in the palace albeit within a specific set of rules, responsibilities, and expectations.

But only one way will bring you happiness, freedom, and a life of opportunity.

It's your choice.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For [the Spirit which] you have now received [is] not a spirit of slavery to put you once more in bondage to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption [the Spirit producing sonship] in [the bliss of] which we cry, Abby (Father)! Father! The Spirit Himself [thus] testifies together with our own spirit, [assuring us] that we are children of God. And if we are [His] children, then we are [His] heirs with Christ [sharing His inheritance with Him]: only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory.
Romans 8: 14 - 17

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A ray of hope

11 years ago today we received the news that we were an officially licensed foster home. And on the other side of the Susquehanna, another mother was delivering a baby girl five weeks early. We were ecstatic to learn that we were going to be foster parents. To whom? We didn't know. The mother on the other side of the river was soon to learn, if she didn't already know, that her little girl would not be going home with her.

Five days later we got the call.  Knowing there was a caseworker on the other end of the phone, the three oldest children were gathered around waiting to hear if a child would be coming to our home. "We have a five day old infant being discharged from the NICU today. Will you take her?" I said yes, the kids cheered, and then we called the Good Doctor, "It's a baby girl!"

Today she turns 11 and knowing that our joy means another woman's grief is not forgotten by me. Does she think about her daughter? Does this day bring back memories? This is not as God intended. Our world is broken and lives are shattered every day. But if we are willing to be uncomfortable so that others are comfortable, the blessings far outweigh the trouble and chaos.

And so today we celebrate Hope because in the midst of brokenness, there is hope and a future. Her smile brings hope to everyone she meets. She tells me that when she is at track club, she encourages the girls who are discouraged. She is a shining light, a ray of hope. Just as God intended.

We just need to say yes!

Friday, May 26, 2017

You've been in the Son

I'm learning the joy and value of spending time in God's Presence. Several years ago we watched Compelled by Love, a documentary about Heidi Baker and her ministry to the people of Mozambique. In the documentary, she says that she has to spend 3 hours soaking the presence of her Savior daily and that without that time, she couldn't do what she is doing. I know I'm not Heidi Baker and I don't live in her culture, but that comment has not left me. She's right. We can't expect to serve if we aren't being filled by the One who gives us the life and breath to serve.

This morning as I was soaking and praying and listening, Jesus and I went for a walk on the beach. Nothing unusual there, that's often where He takes me and I love the conversations we have in my sanctified imagination. But this morning, He walked me into the water, just where the waves were lapping around our feet. We stopped walking and He turned my face toward the sun and told me to look at it. He said, "Just as people know you've been in the sun when they see your tanned skin, people will know you've been with the Son because you will radiate me."

"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13

These were the same men who cowered in fear when Jesus was arrested and crucified. But they didn't stay there. We do grow and mature in the Spirit but only if we spend time with Jesus. The Message translation says, "...they were seen as companions of Jesus." I want to be seen as a companion of Jesus, too!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Her kind of weekend

It doesn't get much better than this.

Field day on Friday. She cleaned up. 3 track races and 1st in all of them. 2nd in the long jump and 2nd in the high jump.

Saturday was a track and field event. She's moving on to Districts!

And Sunday was a 5K.

It's always better to run with 2 friends who can push you.

I don't think she could be any happier.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

She's 19

It's Mariana's birthday. I asked Victor what I should say for her birthday. His response? "Thank you for the donut for your birthday."

It's a start but I feel like we should say a bit more.

This is my strong, independent, so-unlike-me daughter. She likes hugs and people and words of encouragement. She thrives on the spotlight, and attention, and NYC.

I guess one of the only things we have in common - except our size (I am an inch taller, for the record), is that we both knew at a very early age what we wanted to do in life. But that's where the similarities end. I knew I wanted to be a teacher and a Mom with 13 kids. She knew she was made for the stage.   She's had more successes in her first 19 years of life than most of us get in all of our years here. Every audition was hers, with very few exceptions (okay, she didn't get to be Young Cosette but she survived).

So today we celebrated around the table with most of the kids at home. (Funny, the college kids were all here, it was two of the triplets that went missing on us.) We laughed and we shared words of affirmation. Then the big kids went out on the town together. Boy, I'd love to be a fly on the wall!

Here's to always being the strong, independent type who doesn't walk all over the underdog but chooses to instead encourage and share the love of God. I love you, Mariana!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

It's a good thing I don't drink

Before we get too far, let me just say that I'm not opposed to drinking in moderation. It was not something that was done in my home growing up and so I never started, either. But I have thought about it, and have come to my own conclusions about why I don't drink. First of all, I remember my father saying that as a leader of youth at the church, he never wanted to do something that could cause someone else to stumble. Never knowing who might have a leaning or personality which could lead to alcoholism, he didn't want to be someone else's excuse for drinking alcohol which then led to a bigger issue later in life. He also said that knowing his own leaning toward workaholism, he didn't want to find out too late that he would also be tempted toward alcoholism. Those sounded like great reasons to me, especially with children in my home who have seen the negative effects of alcohol, some of whom are in my home because their birth mothers are alcoholics and/or drug addicts. But even more than that, I have decided that it's an expense that I don't need. How can I tell my children we don't have money for this or that when I'm spending money on something that I don't need? There are other expenses I forego for the same reason. In other words, how could I justify my daily nightcap or night out with the girls when the family is sweltering in a van without air conditioning? Again, it's not a decision for everyone but it's the right one for me and my family.

But days like today are how I really know it's a good thing I don't drink. It's only 11AM but it started bright and early when I needed to awaken a teen-ager who needed to go to a volunteer job. That child decided not to wake up so I went again, this time to say that we were leaving. That child chose to get angry with me for the second wake-up call and returned to the bedroom to get ready. So, in the meantime I had to leave to take a sibling to that child's morning event. This began a whole chain of events which ended with the first child being late not only for the volunteer job but also for the next event of the day and me waiting at multiple pick-up locations for a child whose morning became one late-for event after the other - all without apology or gratitude. This is life raising children who have grown up without responsibility and without the chance for small steps in greater independence. I know that. But somedays, it's overwhelming. And this morning, the thought crossed my mind, "I need a drink." It was a personal attempt at a joke and it gave me a chuckle for a moment as I would have no idea where to start or what to try first. But the second thought was more sobering, "I wonder what I would be like if that is where I went for relief from the chaos of this home."

Instead I got a chai and with my completely sober mind (albeit a bit more awake which is never a bad thing) I took it all to God. I prayed that He would redeem this situation, that in the end it won't be about disobedience and irresponsibility but about a lesson learned and a relationship that is stronger. That I would always remember to place my hope and trust in Him and leave the character development of my offspring in His much more capable hands. And that I would grow in grace.

Cheers! (Panera travel mugs of chai don't make a very nice clinking sound, do they?)