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 with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Friday, February 16, 2018

No matter what

In the face of yet another school tragedy, where kids are killing kids, social media has lit up once again with pie-in-the-sky, more-divisive-than-uniting answers to what I think we all know, deep down, are systemic issues with many roots.

I usually stay out of the conversation. I'm not a Rhodes Scholar, I have few letters behind my name, I have no intentions of ever being a doctoral candidate, and I parent enough trauma in my own home that sometimes I just can't deal with the trauma outside. And for that I am sorry.

But of course, as the story unraveled yesterday, there were themes from this young man's story that jumped out at me, themes that the media barely touched on - adoption, death of parents, expulsion from school (yes, even this one). Why? Because in my world, all of these themes shout trauma, rejection, separation - heaped one upon the other in what must have felt to this young man like love would never be stable, never be close enough to reach, and never for him.

No, not every child from a place of trauma is going to take a gun into a school. Not every child is going to take his inner turmoil out in such a public way. Some children have more resilience than others and as of yet, we have not figured out how to determine the amount of resilience a child has. Are there some children who suffer extreme trauma yet miraculously heal? Yes! Do some children, teens, and adults walk the difficult path of recovery and come out not just healed, but healers, on the other side? Yes!

This we do know. If there is going to be healing, it takes the unconditional love of at least one caring adult. Someone who says, "I'm here for you through thick and thin. Pull out everything you've got. Show me your worst. I'm not leaving." Past trauma makes it difficult to connect, to attach, to receive and give love. That shouldn't matter. Each child deserves at least one person in their corner. Sometimes it's a parent. Sometimes it can't be. That's where the rest of us need to step in.

There's a meme that pops up each time there's tragedy inflicted by a juvenile and it says something like, "We need to care less about whether our children are academically gifted and more about whether they sit with the lonely kid in the cafeteria." I agree. But it's not that simple. We can't assume that we can send our kids to school and they're going to learn to sit with the lonely. Similarly, we can't expect to talk with our kids about sitting with the lonely and have it happen just like that. At best, we'll raise kids who are great at telling everyone how they should care for the outcast. At worst, we'll raise kids who don't care at all. Why? Because, as we all know deep down, our kids are watching more than they're listening. And they all reach that magic age where their hypocrisy meters are fully charged. We can't possibly expect to tell them what to do if we aren't doing the same.

I'll be the first to admit that loving those who can't or don't love back is not easy. It's easy to love those who love back. It's easy to bless those who are already blessed. But what about those who react to our love and blessing with anger and hate?

I fail at this. Too often. But I try. And not just because I feel like I need to show my kids what to do. But because I know it's what Jesus does for me. If I'm not inviting the stranger, the outcast, the lonely into our home, then I'm not living like Jesus and I can't expect my children to do so. If I am not friendly or kind to those I deem unworthy because they won't reciprocate, then I can't expect my children to do so. If I'm not willing to meet people in their place of sorrow and hurt, then my children won't, either. At the same time, if I'm not modeling boundaries so that I don't succumb to compassion fatigue or burnout, how will my children learn to set their own healthy boundaries? If I'm not walking my own healing journey, being saved from my own stumbling blocks, how will my children know they need to do the same? Wounded people may wound people but healed people can heal people!

I'm not naive enough to think that there's one easy solution for the systemic issues surrounding violence, but I do know that there are a lot of people who need unconditional love. And I'm trying to do my part to love when it's not easy, to step into another's "stuff", and to model this so my children do the same.

Monday, February 12, 2018

District orchestra


We've gone to a lot of concerts through the years.

Some we've enjoyed.

Others were to be endured.

Some were just the right length.

Others had us checking our clocks on a regular basis.

This year's District orchestra concert, at which Isaac secured principal violist and a short solo, was a pleasure.  Director Justin Lewis chose music that was enjoyable for the teens and a delight to the listener.

And bonus, Justin's mother, Jesse's former cello teacher, was in the audience. So fun to have a quick catch-up chat with Mrs. Lewis!


Monday, February 5, 2018

Victor-isms for a new year

Victor (while listening to The Flight of the Bumblebee played on various instruments): The trombone is almost like an elephant's trunk.

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Mom, how do you know the Gingerbread Man story? Do you read the Gingerbread Man story in your Bible?

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Victor: Eden, let's play chickens!
After a bit of clucking and chicken play...
Victor: I pooped out an om-blette!

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(While playing music together...)
Victor: Mom, play a duty with me.
Me: A duty? What's a duty?... Oh, you mean a duet?
Victor: Yeah, a duet!

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Me: Victor, please turn your record player down. People are still sleeping.
Victor: But this will make them rest. I'm playing Silent Night. That will make them sleepy.

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My nose smeller is jammed.

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Victor: Why is Dad talking to the TV? (During the Super Bowl)
Me: Because he is telling them what to do.
Victor: No, the coach does that!

Monday, January 22, 2018

I keep asking

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God's people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened 
in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, 
the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, 
and His incomparably great power for us who believe.
Ephesians 1: 15 - 19a

I know this has been a tough year for you. It's been a tough year for all of us. But your dependability, your spiritual leadership in our home, and your gifts of love, grace, and forgiveness have steadily grown.

These words from Ephesians, chosen for you when you were just a little guy, continue to be my prayer for you. Yesterday the phrase that begins verse 17 popped out at me, "I keep asking..." I will keep asking that you will be filled with the Holy Spirit, that you will be given wisdom and that your hope will always be in Christ.

There is a reason for everything and your life experiences, all before you are out of your teens, are surely part of God's plan for preparing your for your life's work. As you pursue a career in music, possibly education, your understanding of children and behavior will be invaluable. Your ability to love even when there isn't always trust, will be crucial. Your maturity and calmness in the storm will be a steadying influence among your peers.

So I keep asking that God gives you every experience necessary so that you can be a light wherever you go, a light which attracts others to you so you can lead them to the Father who never leaves, never fails, and never gives up.

Happy 17th birthday, Isaac! I love you and hope you have a great day! And even though you called out my gray hairs in your Christmas letter, thanks for your steadfastness as we've weathered the events that brought them there. It has been a joy to begin the college selection process with you, to see you grow in your musical abilities, and to watch how God is bringing it all together.



Friday, January 12, 2018

Transitions

Transition. Change. Some of us handle "new" and the as-of-yet unknown with fear and trepidation. Some transitions are easier than others. The support of those around us can make all the difference.

Twenty five+ years of marriage and nine children will give you plenty of transitions. Each has been a learning experience and an opportunity to grow in trust. Do I truly trust that God is good and always has the best for me? Even when those around me don't celebrate God's plan?

When someone close to us tells us that God has called them to something else, we can respond with fear and anger, implying that our needs are greater than God's or that He can't possibly have something good in store for all of us. As Christ followers, the better response is to support and bless and to see God's hand in every aspect of every change, for all who are affected. God is a good God and His ways are good for all who trust Him.

We feel the support and blessing and we are thankful for our friends and family, especially our church family.

Looking forward to this time of transition and what it means for the Good Doctor, for me, for us, and for our family.

Here is our big news, in the Good Doctor's own words:


Big changes coming for me...
To all of my family and friends both near and far:
Around 20 years ago, I was a young pastor and a young father getting my feet wet when a church leader challenged me to write a life mission statement for myself. Since then, this mission statement has guided me in many ways, particularly in making career decisions. Almost 15 years ago, I made a decision to come to McBIC based on this mission statement. And while it has changed slightly over the years, the basic message has stayed the same:
My long-term goal is to leave behind a legacy of pastors, counselors, Kingdom-builders, and especially children who are committed to expanding the Kingdom of God in this world.
With this in mind, I am excited to share about a new transition in my life. I recently accepted a new position of Assistant Professor of Counseling at Liberty University Online as a Core Faculty Member. Let me share a few details about this development and how it will impact my church family, my own family, and me.
• I will be teaching graduate counseling students for their M.A. degree online. This means that except for one week a year in Lynchburg, VA, I will be working locally, with my office either at McBIC or at home. I will have responsibilities in teaching 11 classes for an 11-month position.
• This will allow me the flexibility to stay part-time at McBIC Church and do a lot of counseling work with our recovery community and people connected to McBIC. It will also allow me the flexibility to work anywhere in the world in the future.
• This position will also allow me the flexibility to write, do research, and speak at conferences, churches, and other organizations on things that I am passionate about: orphan care, the transition to healthy manhood, counseling issues, and supervising counselors, among other things. I will also be more available to speak on Sunday mornings.
• It will allow me more flexibility to be at home during the day and allow Cindy the opportunity to get more involved in officially working outside the home for the first time in 23 years starting this next fall.
• I will be transitioning my time commitments with McBIC during the next few months through April 1 (Easter Sunday), and then working with Pastor Layne and the staff as I set my personal and professional boundaries in place for my part-time role at the church.
• As Pastor Layne and I have talked about this transition, I am honestly excited about the long-term potential impact that this will have for McBIC. One of the major things that I am praying for in this transition is that the Kingdom of God will continue to expand through the ministry footprint of McBIC. Over the next year or so, Pastor Layne and the pastoral staff will be praying about potential staffing changes that my new role at McBIC can mean for the church. I am very confident that Pastor Layne will lead our team and the church well. And I am very pleased to continue to partner with him in a part-time role.
For many of you, I have known you and partnered with you in work and/or ministry for many years and have found great joy and fulfillment in that. Many of you reading this are part of my family and extended family, and you have seen our family grow and expand over the years to where we are now. For others, you have known me from my childhood years and watched me grow and develop academically, socially, and relationally. And for others, we have been friends and colleagues through my student work at Bluffton University, Kutztown University, Biblical Seminary, and Regent University. To all of you I say “thank you” for your support and prayers for my family and me as we enter this time of transition. I look forward to connecting with many of you over the next months. May God richly bless you.
In Christ,
John King

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Yet

Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord's great love
we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3: 21 - 23

"His mercies are new every morning," began running through my head last night, in the midst of the most recent chaos. Over and over again, "His mercies are new every morning." I prayed this over several of my children.

And then I woke this morning with the same song on my lips.

I opened up my Bible to read the whole passage and something else jumped out at me...

YET

I was looking through Psalms, thinking that was where I would find this passage. Sounds like David, right?

I still think it sounds like David but this morning it meant so much more to me right in the middle of Lamentations. David was a great lamenter, especially as he searched inward. The author of lamentations looks not just inward, but also to the collective sins and chaos and captivity of his people. We lament, we grieve, we confess, and we cry out. But in the midst of it we can declare,

YET! 

Because I remember Your faithfulness,
I have hope.
Because You love me with extravagant love,
I am not consumed by fear or doubt or anxiety.
Because Your compassion and mercy never fail me,
Every morning I can wake
renewed and choosing to walk in Your faithfulness.

Because...YET!




Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Four flat tires



I remember the day I first saw the inside of a baseball. My brother had a ball with stitches coming out. He decided to take the whole thing apart. I never imagined that it would be tightly wound yarn over a round cork. I was amazed. That wasn't what I had imagined being inside a baseball. I don't know what I thought was under the leather, but that certainly wasn't it.

Just the other day I was given another surprise - the inner recesses of a simple bedroom door. I knew they were hollow. I had attempted to attach items to doors with little success but I never thought beyond their hollowness. I guess I'm easily stupefied.


Maybe, for most people, the bigger question is how a bedroom door would come to look this way.

Let me try to explain it through a short analogy a friend (another adoptive mom by the way, go figure) shared with me the other day.

For most of us, if we are driving along and one of our car's tires runs over a nail and becomes flat, our response would be to stop, fix the problem, and continue on our way. We would think it ridiculous if someone pulled over and proceeded to punch holes in the other three tires thereby rendering the car useless.

For children suffering from trauma, however, the second situation is life's reality. They aren't thinking through this, "Oh, I see I have a flat tire, I think I'll make all of my tires flat now." They can't explain what they are doing or why they are doing this. It just happens. And afterward, they look at the devastation they caused with just as much surprise as we do. Except now they add it as another layer of shame and anger and disgust. The same brain pathways that went from one flat tire to four in 10 seconds flat, will do so again in the future with the same shock and awe as the previous time. And now, they might even punch out all of the tires in the closest-parked stranger's (or, more likely, family member's) car as well.

It takes years of loving care, of never giving up, of accepting four flat tires with the same love and respect (and sometimes a blind eye) as if it were just one that had been fixed and now we can all go on our way. It takes years of healing, of attempting to heal, of messing up, and starting over. It means understanding that when you say yes to family, family is forever, no matter what. When you say yes to befriending someone, it means sticking with them forever. It means boundaries and tough decisions and it means loving and not worrying about the outcome. It means being confident of your identity in Christ so you can help someone else find theirs. A person could go through life alone, always puncturing all four tires and picking up the pieces themselves, but why should they? Jesus always went toward the mess, offering again and again to help fix all of the tires. He didn't turn His back or run away from the ugly, the imperfect, and the difficult. We need to do the same.

Look around you. If you look, you will find the people who go from one flat tire to four. Deep down, they're struggling. They feel unlovable. They're afraid; all negative behaviors are rooted in fear. They need followers of Jesus who aren't afraid to stand with them as they replace all four tires - again.

Will you walk into the mess? If trauma is the mission field of our day, are you ready to join the work?