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!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Hope

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses and trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they look not to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek and consult the Lord! Isaiah 31: 1

There's been a lot of talk this year about hope, more often the lack of it. The political climate in our country bred a spirit of hopelessness.

Looks like it's not just a recent problem. Any individual, any generation, any country that looks to the supposedly strong and mighty and powerful for hope is eventually going to find that hope is gone.

A familiar phrase I've heard during several of the past elections has been this, "No matter who is in office the day after the election, I know the One who is still on the throne." There, and only there, will one find hope.

During the first week of Advent, I read a lot about this hope we have in Christ. It's all about hoping for something better than we have now. Or simply hoping that there is something better than we have now, politically, culturally, systemically, in our communities, our families, homes, and individual lives.

"We hope that something more beautiful is coming because we must, because the alternative us unbearable. And this work of hope is a muscular work, filled with sorrow, faith, perseverance, and resilience." Michael T. McRay

When we look at the needs in front of us and the pain around us, we lose hope. When we trust people or things to bring change, we lose hope. And when we put one foot in front of the other to make a difference yet don't see a difference, we are tempted to lose hope.

But we don't live as those who have no hope!  We know where to put our hope - in the One who fulfilled the promise of Hope when Jesus came as a baby to bring hope to His people. And the One who promises to fulfill all hope when he returns to make everything right and perfect and just.

And so I pray for your hope and my hope to continue in the new year. Until the day of Jesus' second coming...

"We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 1: 2 - 3


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Don't fight, don't fix

Some days trauma lies just below the surface.

And some days, trauma comes spilling out all over things, and houses, and people.

And some days I feel like I'm the only one truly fighting the battle and I am out of strength and ammunition.

And in those moments God speaks to me, "I fight your battles. You don't fight. You don't fix. You can't fix or change anyone.  Come to me. Watch. Learn from me. Lean on me. I will fight. I began a good work and I will see it through to completion. I will draw all to myself. I always keep my promises. But I do so in my time because I can see the big picture. Trust me."

He never promises that loving others will be easy. But He promises to be there.

"The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31: 8

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cling

Like many people, I'd be hard pressed to name a favorite Psalm. So many of them touch my heart. Some are written just for a season in my life. Others are daily reminders of an awesome God.

One day I sat with Psalm 63, one of the Psalms on my long list of favorites. More specifically, I sat with the first half of verse 8:

My soul clings to you...

I asked myself what this might look like. The first picture that came to mind was of one who is falling from a high place and clings to a rescuer. The fingers dig deep into the rescuer's arm with fear. The person is not going to pull away on their own but will need to be pried.

I thought of Victor when a dog barks. While he may have happily been playing with the dog just moments before, the unexpected bark throws him into a panic. I scoop him up and hold him while his legs circle my hips and cling to me. His arms won't let go of my neck.

And I thought of the pictures of trees growing on the side of a cliff. They have managed to grow strong roots which cling to the cliff's side so the tree won't fall in great wind or rain.

Each picture tells me something else about what it means for me to cling to God.

Most often I find myself clinging when I'm overwhelmed with life. I sit in God's presence and I cling, without leaving. Like the one who clings to a rescuer, finding protection and safety, I can look around with eyes that perceive from this high perspective. Things look different from here, in the arms of my rescuer. When clinging to Christ on the cliffs of life, I can look around with spiritual perception. I stay and weep and pour out my soul. I confess my weariness, my anger, my sins, my downfalls, and my short-comings. I give Him my unanswered questions and beg for healing and change in myself and others. I beg Him to listen and respond. To speak. To love and to hold me as the second half of the verse promises,

...my right hand upholds me.

And He does.

But I also want to cling as the tree clings. It is strong and constant. It's foundational roots are there on calm, peaceful days so they can be stronger when the storms come. Those are the roots that I need.

To cling when life seems easy so I can cling when circumstances want to pull me down.

My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You; Your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63: 8a (AMP)

Monday, December 11, 2017

The blessings will come down

Do you know that old Bible school song?

"The blessings will come down as the prayers go up..."

I suppose most would argue that it's not Biblical. God never promised us prosperity and a continual flow of good days just because we pray.

And they'd be correct.

But He did promise blessings. We just need to stop looking for our blessings and start searching for His blessings. His blessings bring hope and joy. His blessings bring Him the glory. His blessings remind us that He loves us and cares about every part of our lives.

Even the large pile of laundry in my laundry room.

Let me explain.

Yesterday I came home from 4 days full of the 3 R's: relaxation, refreshment, and 'riting. They were good days and just what I needed. They were also perfectly timed. Trauma and chaos reigned at home but God had me right where He wanted me, in a place where I meet with Him the best and where I could stop, drop, and pray without distraction or agenda. And I needed that, when, on my second day at the beach house, I got a call from the high school. Of course they didn't know that I was on vacation until after they told me that one of our own had left the school and was missing. While the Good Doctor, school officials, the police, and one very special bloodhound searched for the missing, I could stay a bit removed and send my prayers to the One who knew exactly where the missing would be found. And three hours later the missing was found. But not before causing even more damage to oneself. Needless to say, the Good Doctor was glad to see me home last night and it wasn't long before we traded places - he quickly fell into a deep and restful sleep but for some reason, I was wide awake.

And then I knew why. One of our own was leaving again. You know that fight-flight-freeze response we all have? When one has suffered trauma more than one can bear, one will choose one of those responses all. the. time, whether there is real danger or not, most often not. In our house we have 2 fighters, 1 freezer, and 1 flight risk. So I decided it was as good a time as any to set up camp in the living room and pray for one of our own. What a privilege it is to pray for another. Even at 1:30 in the morning.

And in that time of prayer I remembered a blessing we received while I was gone and which the Good Doctor was anxiously waiting to share with me when I arrived home.

We have a lot of laundry in our house. A few years ago we were given a second washer and dryer for the laundry room. A wonderful gift! While I don't use the dryers that much, the washers were very much in use. But about 9 months ago one of the washers stopped working. And the repair man said it would cost us more to fix it than to buy a new one. Except we didn't have money for a new one, either. So we've been watching Craigslist and Facebook. Many possibilities but nothing that would fit under the existing dryer. But while I was in New Jersey, the Good Doctor made another inquiry into another washer. And this one was almost exactly the same as the last one, a perfect fit.

He loaded up the van with the kids who needed the most watchful eye and drove to meet the couple selling the washer.

And that's where the blessing comes in. The wife explained to him that she had been checking us out on Facebook. She had been praying that the right person would come to buy the washer. When she saw our family and what we were about, she said that she and her husband discussed it and decided that they wanted to bless us with the washer - free!

So yes, as I sit here at 1:30 in the morning, praying for one of our own (who did return home without a search - this time), I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that the blessings do come down as the prayers go up.

Psalm 5: 11 - 12 (Amplified)
But let all those who take refuge and put their trust in You rejoice; 
let them ever sing and should for joy, because You make a covering over them and defend them; l
et those also who love Your name be joyful in You and be in high spirits.
For You, Lord, will bless the [uncompromisingly] righteous 
[him who is upright and in right standing with You]; 
as with a shield You will surround him with goodwill (pleasure and favor).

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Love

We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4: 19 - 21

Love. We throw that word around a lot in our culture. I've never done an official study, but I suspect that most of us use love to describe things more than people.

Oh, I just love pizza!

I love that dress on you!

I love puppies, they're so cute! You can do anything to them and they always love you back.

Maybe that's the problem. Things are easier to love than people. But do they really love us back? Does the pizza love us in the middle of the night? Does that dress love your friend when she's lonely? And do puppies really know how to love?

Love is hard. Believe me, I know that. But I also know that the more I don't give up when love when it's hard, the more I learn to love when it's hard.

Jesus modeled perfect love. Perfect love that lays down it's life for a friend. I have adopted my friend Susan's stance on love, "My job is to point you to Jesus and to be willing to lay down my life for you." That's Jesus' love. It should be mine, too. That doesn't mean that it's immediate. I'm human. And that's why I've also needed to learn that that kind of love doesn't come from me.

When someone close to me hurts me again and again - lying, stealing, ignoring, blaming, yelling - my human nature says to give up. I tried my best. Don't let the door hit you on the way out, right?

Wrong.  That's when I know I need to sit with Jesus. I need to ask Him to fill me up so I can pour out. I need Him to remind me of who I am so I can help someone else find who they are. When we understand Christ's love for us, we are free to love others with that same kind of love. We want to do love like Jesus did love.We don't do so out of a desire to perform or to earn our way into Christ's love. Instead, we walk into the hard and messy and broken because of His love which walked into the hard and messy and broken to rescue me from perfectionism, fear, anxiety, bitterness, and self-absorption. And continues to do so every day.

And in those moments He reminds me that every act against me which feel like rejection, is really rejection of Him. And then my heart breaks again and love replaces the anger and hurt in my heart.

This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

His commands are not negative. They come from His great love for me. He knows that by commanding me to love my brother, my neighbor, and yes, even my enemy, I will better understand His love for me. His commands are life!

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Matthew 22: 37 - 40

Monday, November 27, 2017

Parent/Teacher conferences

Okay parents of more than one child: Some parent/teacher conferences are more enjoyable than others. Let's just be honest and admit it. As you might expect, Victor's could be of the sort that would cause sleepless nights and tears. However, he is in the most amazing preschool and I just love chatting with his positive and encouraging teachers. Remember that child the ophthalmologist said would never see anything, not even light and dark, and who didn't like to admit that he was wrong even when we showed him the yearly miracles (side note: we don't go to that doctor anymore)?

Well, today, that child was found spontaneously sorting manipulatives by color. I even saw the video where he happily held each bear up to his right eye (the one with a pinhole of vision), stated the color (yellow-yellow, blue-blue, etc.) and placed it in the correct oval.

He enjoys painting and participating in crafts.
"I made a string through it."

And he's using his cane at school - without banging or hitting!


He's even starting to interact with peers in a closer-to-age-appropriate manner. But of course I can't include pictures of children that don't belong to me.


We have many more hills to climb and hoops to jump through but since it's about progress, not perfection, we celebrate each and every VICTOR-y!



Saturday, November 18, 2017

Victor's talented fingers

He may still wake me in the middle of the night to tell me that his MP3 player needs to be charged or his CD is skipping or just to ask me why we did a certain thing during the day...

He may still wake way too early most days...

He may still refuse to get dressed most mornings...

He may still pinch, bite, hit, or scratch me most every day...

He may still be the pickiest eater I've met...

He may still soil his pants most days...

He may still have a need to be in control 24/7...

And he may still take an hour and a half to go to bed, asking for a drink of water, or a new CD, or to sleep on the floor rather than his bed, or to give everyone a hug, or to make sure his imaginary friends make it into bed with him...

But Mr. Victor sounded out and read his first words last week...M-O-M and D-A-D...

...and typed the word ball on the Brailler all by himself.
Such talented fingers!



Friday, November 10, 2017

A portable hobby

One week ago today HopeAnne taught me to crochet. She learned much of what she knows from my grandmother, her great-grandmother, and now she has passed it along to me. My mom tried to teach me a long time ago but these hands that were so good at small quilting and hemming stitches, just couldn't loosen up enough to crochet. My stitches were too tight.

I guess you could say I've loosened up over the years?

I'm not sure the Good Doctor would agree.

Anyway, I fought the urge for quite some time. I didn't think I needed yet another hobby. However, I did envy the fact that her hobby was portable. A sewing machine, not so much.

And then we found out about a local group that makes hats and scarves for different organizations that help the homeless.

So I asked her to help me make a scarf.

That was last Friday. My first attempt wasn't the greatest; add a stitch here, lose a stitch there. That scarf has curves it's not supposed to have.

But it will still keep someone warm, right?

And then she told me that you have to count your stitches.

Makes sense.

Now I'm on a roll. One week down and 4 scarves complete.

Of course she has at least double that, and with all kinds of fancy stitches.

But this is kind of fun! Thanks to those who have donated odds and ends of skeins to HopeAnne. We're both using them to create fun and creative hats and scarves. The possibilities are endless!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Adoption Day


As the Good Doctor told the judge today, on this date 30 years ago, I asked him to a Sadie Hawkins dance.
Obviously he said yes.

Look where that led...

Because today, on World Adoption Day, in National Adoption Month, we officially added the 8th child to our family (those of you who count 9 are correct but we have one more adoption to finalize - hopefully in 2018, although we've been saying that for a few years now).

The day actually started in the wee hours of the morning when I had a dream that awakened me. In my dream I was in labor - contractions, walking the hallways, the whole ordeal. The Good Doctor asked me later if it hurt and I realized we never made it to delivery. I did notice that in my dream there were a lot of people from church sitting around in the lobbies and hallways (it was a spacious and charming hospital). I don't know if dreams have meaning or not and I'm not an interpreter of dreams but this one seemed fitting since there would be another King child by the end of the day and we do have an amazing church family that supports her and us, some of whom came today and many of which will celebrate with us in a few weeks. And yes, there are many parts of adoption that feel like labor pains.


Judges sometimes have a bad reputation, and I don't believe that courthouses are the place where children should find their forever families, but I have to say that Dauphin County has the best judges. When HopeAnne was adopted in 2008, it was Judge Hoover who blessed us with his faith, compassion, and smile. This time it was Judge Cherry who made us laugh as he encouraged each member of the family for the role they play and for who they are.


Mary was blessed by many caseworkers who came to love her on this day. No one should have as many caseworkers as Mary has had during her time in care but everyone should have some of these caseworkers - individuals who care about the children and their well-being. To these women we offer our gratitude.

Mark Silliker, our attorney, has been with us through Hope's adoption, now Mary's, and he's working on the next one as well. What a great office of people who believe in adoption and the power of family.

But Mary, you were the star of today. This day was about you. About giving you what you have always deserved and the loss of which was never your fault - a family. Thank you for trusting us and for your willingness to call all of us your family. It doesn't change the past, it doesn't attempt to wipe it out, but it grafts us all into your story, a story of loss and love and heartache and joy.


We didn't give you the gift of life,
You gave us the gift of you.

We love you and are thrilled to officially call you our daughter. Welcome to the King Zoo!








Saturday, November 4, 2017

Blessed be who?

Today's message is for my kids. I'd like to offer a Christmas suggestion and also a Christmas dis-suggestion (anti-suggestion, non-suggestion?).

A warning?

I do love my Scriptures and a Christmas gift with a Scripture passage is a wonderful idea. There is just one passage of Scripture that I never want to see in my house.

Proverbs 31: 10 - 31

This is my least favorite Scripture passage in all of Scripture. Now, all along I've been blaming King Solomon for this work. I even tried to explain to the Good Doctor this morning that King Solomon is part of the reason that none of us should even have to try to take this passage seriously. The guy wrote everything he was looking for in a woman, then it took him over 1000 tries and he still couldn't find her.

Until the Good Doctor tried to tell me that it wasn't written by King Solomon, it was written by King Lemuel.

(I looked it up. He's right.)

Well, that should tell you something right there. King Solomon was known for his wisdom. King Lemuel, for what? Obviously not his wisdom!

I also tried to explain that some translations include verse 32 which says, "These are the writings of King Solomon which were written in the days before he received wisdom from on high and were meant to be discarded from the manuscript until King Lemuel, wanting to honor his mother, hi-jacked them, and included them saying that they were from his mother."

The first question should be a rudimentary clue: A wife of noble character who can find? King Known-For-Nothing could have just answered his own question with, "Nobody" and be done with it. Much easier to put on a cross-stitch or notecard. I might even have put one on my Amazon wish list. But it doesn't end there.

The Good Doctor then tried to tell me all of the reasons he likes this passage but it really just boiled down to verse 23, "Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land." (I don't want to ruin his little moment of glory but honestly, have you ever seen him sitting at the city gate? Yeah, me neither. Sitting in the recliner with his eyes closed and sports on his phone but at the city gate? Not likely until they install TVs tuned to all the Philly sports stations.)

I, on the other hand, have never held a distaff (not even dat staff), have never grasped a spindle, and my kids would revolt if I dressed them all in matching scarlet (snow or no snow). I don't think my sweatshirt is made of fine linen and even Victor can see that it's not purple. My lamp does go out at night; someone has to pay the electric bill. I have never handed out sashes to merchants nor have I bought a field and saved up to plant a vineyard (which, by the way, would immediately fail since I have no green thumb).

I guess I should  cut this passage some slack. I do laugh. A lot. And I do wake up before dark. I do provide food for my family. But I have never, ever fed my servant girls. Unless you count the time my daughters were washing the kitchen floor and singing It's a Hard Knock Life. I did feed them. But they were just pretending to be servants. And it's true that I have never eaten the bread of idleness although I have eaten the Bread of Giant. Maybe it's a knock-off brand? And if it comes from out of state or out of country (as most American foods do), then I guess I have brought food from afar. But I try not to.

And I do live for the day when my children will arise and call me blessed (and not just because it's my birthday and the Good Doctor made them do so).

Someday.

But probably not today. Today is Saturday and I'm the only woman in the whole wide world who makes her children do chores on Saturday. So not today.

But when they grow up, and get those kids who are just like them (the Lord hears the prayers of a righteous woman, right?). Then. Maybe then, my children will arise and call me blessed.

Until then, women who don't want to see Proverbs 31 displayed in their homes, and introverts, - UNITE (alone, in our own homes, of course).

Friday, November 3, 2017

Hope

Therefore, brothers and sisters, 
since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 
by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 
and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 
let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, 
having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience 
and having our bodies washed with pure water.  
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 
not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, 
but encouraging one another
and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10: 19 - 25


Victor: Mom, I pooped!
Me: Great! Thanks for telling me.
Victor: Come see, Mom!
HopeAnne: You have the best job in the world.
Me: *eye roll*

This is Victor. Each of these tiles has a Braille letter embossed on it. The other day, Victor played with this 3 different times, for more than half an hour each time. The first time he worked on identifying the Braille letters that he knows, and arranging them to make words. The second time he asked for the board and tiles, he arranged the tiles in 4 lines across the board. The final time, he diligently worked at placing the tiles around the perimeter of the board.

What do these two scenarios have to do with the Scripture passage at the top?

HOPE

Because whenever I find myself losing hope, it's because I've misplaced my hope. When my hope is in Victor and his ability to meet goals and milestones, I feel dejected and without hope. When my hope is in therapies and doctors, I am disappointed and without hope. When my hope is in myself and my ability to "deal with" Victor, I am angry and without hope.

But if my hope is in Christ, I can see through His eyes. I can see how far Victor has come and I can remember the promise of his eventual victory. It's only taken us 2 1/2 years but that particular body function finally finds it's mark in the porcelain throne 90% of the time. And just 6 months ago, Victor would not have been able to sit still to play with the Braille tiles. He wouldn't be able to recognize almost 10 Braille letters because he couldn't sit for 15 straight minutes of instruction. He wouldn't have been able to carefully line up his toys like so many of his peers because he would end up throwing them in frustration before even starting.

Where is your hope? In yourself? In professionals? In perfect circumstances? In governmental leaders? In degrees? All of these will fail and you will lose hope. But by putting our hope in Christ, hope never, ever fails.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, 
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Oct. 31

He was waiting all day!

Every time someone mentioned dressing up he would start to shake and say, "I'm so excited! I've got the wiggles."

She's Hope and Joy.

A special trick-or-treat visit with Ms. Sally, Victor's teacher of the visually impaired. They make a great pair.





Monday, October 30, 2017

The best birthday present ever

Okay, it was a day early but....

Last spring I was approached about writing a whole-church curriculum focused on mission. I surprised even myself with a pretty quick, "Would I? Absolutely!"

This is my passion; seeing people live like Jesus. It was Francis Chan and his challenges in Crazy Love that changed my life from a comfort-seeking American Christian to one who desires to be a radical, self-sacrificing, comfort-giving Jesus follower. So yes, I would love to be part of anything that challenges others to do the same.

To be honest, we started out looking at existing books and resources but since I couldn't narrow it down to just one, and would have to write study materials to accompany them anyway, we settled on me writing it from scratch.

But it wasn't completely from scratch. It all started from years and years of notes and videos and speakers and books and Bible studies led, and most importantly, insights from Scripture. Since the Good Doctor had already set aside 4 days in April for me to spend time alone at the beach, I decided it was as good a time as any to put thoughts on paper.

God had a better plan, however, and added the proverbial cherry on top when, after 4 mornings devoted entirely to writing, the whole small group curriculum was complete. Complete, not just started. The words just came. Seven small group sessions with accompanying power point, done. Truly Holy Spirit driven. My usual angst and Satan's typical darts - nowhere to be found. None-existent. A safe space, my happy place, and my God.

Upon returning home, the Good Doctor found several Mondays when I could write. Since Monday is his day off, he stayed home with the kids while I holed up in his office and wrote. Four Mondays later there were thirty days of devotionals for the Participant's Guide - done. Completely.

Three editors agreed to read through everything - a theologian, an educator, and an English major - and by mid-July the whole project was complete: a 7 week small group curriculum, 6 weeks of devotionals, and 6 weeks of sermons - all centered on the theme of His Story, My Story, Our Story: Living Like Jesus.

It was introduced by the end of the summer and we started in September. And the Holy Spirit moved. Mightily. The stories of individual stirrings, of intimacy deepened, of decisions to love like Jesus, of lives devoted to live like Jesus, these were the reasons it was written and each testimony brought joy to my soul.

And this week, "the book" was signed by every person who desires to live like Jesus, each individual who doesn't want this study to be just a good idea but who wants it to be life changing. This book stood in the lobby as a symbol of our topic for the past several months. Today, it was joked that we were going to have a book signing, that I was going to have a book signing. But it wasn't me. I was asked to join the Good Doctor in standing with the book, to encourage those who came up to sign. But I couldn't speak. I was overcome with emotion. Joy. Pure joy. To see some of my children come forward to sign the book. To see friends whose stories include great adversity, brokenness, and healing and now embracing their roles with grace and mercy. To see friends whose stories are intertwined with our family's stories. To see friends who are struggling to accept their stories and claim their role in God's story. To see every age represented. To see the line just keep coming and coming and coming. And to hear one of my favorite hymns being sung in the background, "Take My Life..." This was why God wanted the curriculum written. This was why He gave the words so quickly and easily. This is why it was written - so that every single person can go out and love deeply and sacrificially. So that together we can be uncomfortable so that others can be comfortable. So that collectively we can impact that Kingdom for Christ.

I imagine Jesus was standing there, too. This isn't my book. This isn't my curriculum. It's His. It's His story. All His. I know this is true because some days as I read the devotional to HopeAnne, I think, "I wrote that? I don't remember writing that." I get one little part in His grand story. I want to live my story well. I want you to live yours, too.

And my Jesus smiled.

Friday, October 27, 2017

A brownie and a pen

For those who are following along in the His Story, My Story, Our Story series,
here I give you... 
the rest of the story...

Someday I'm going to write a book (Shhh! Don't tell the Good Doctor, he's such a nag about this.) and I'm going to call it, "My Jesus Smiles."

Too many of us have the wrong picture of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Our finite minds can't wrap ourselves around the complexity of 3-in-1 and an all-powerful, all-knowing God who loves us despite our constant failures. So we fill in the gaps with our own small and inaccurate image of each aspect of God.

For me, this means I often forget that not only has He been there for me in the past, He will be there for me in the future. When He said, "Fear not" He meant it. When he said he would send blessing, He meant it. So to teach me this truth, I've found that He often ends each story of fear or would-be fear with an extra blessing, the holy kiss you might say. I find that if I can remember these situations from the past, I will handle new situations with faith rather than fear, waiting with expectation to not only see how God provides, but to find the cherry He puts on top as well.

We once had a foster child who was a run-away. Children and Youth gave her this label before she had even come into our care. She had already run away from at least one foster home and had managed to break free from a caseworker while being dropped off for a special life skills program. So before she even came into our home we were mandated to purchase door and window alarms. It was kind of silly, really, since they were easily disarmed and had she actually tried to sneak out through those outlets, she could easily have done so unnoticed. But we were at least compliant. And they provided many laughs when, on multiple evenings, the Good Doctor would go around setting each alarm only to forget that he had done so while making one more trip into the laundry room where the alarm would remind him of his mistake. At least I knew he would never successfully make a run for it through the laundry room and out the garage!

Thrown into parenting a child unlike any we had parented before, we quickly became experts at recognizing the tell-tale signs that an escape plan was being put into place. One Sunday morning when the Good Doctor was scheduled to preach, she refused to leave her room for church. My run-away radar was immediately alerted and I suspected that was her reason for wanting to be left behind. I'm pretty sure God chose a Sunday where I had no choice but to solve this as a single parent; it was impossible to rely on my husband. I didn't even want to let him know what was going on so he wouldn't be distracted during the morning.

I instructed the children that we were going to leave quietly for church so that hopefully she wouldn't know we were gone. I didn't want her to leave before I came back. I prayed. I put something in front of every main door and we left through one I thought she wouldn't use. This way I would know if she had run-away while I was gone. I drove the children to church and signed them into their classes as quickly as possible and then returned home. I was pretty certain she was still home since my plan had seemed to work, although I still wasn't hearing any noise from her room and she wasn't answering when I called.

I sat in my living room knowing she would have to walk through there no matter which door she chose and if she crawled out the window below, I'd hear her. I put my Bible on my lap and prayed. I asked God to tell me what to do.  I wanted to call the police, to have them sitting outside my home when she came upstairs to run. But something stopped me. I came to understand that if the police were here, she wouldn't be able to run but that would be a definite relationship breaker. The goal was always to build, not break, the tenuous relationship we had with her. I was thinking clearly enough to grab a pen so if there was an accomplice I could write down the license plate number. Now I sat in my chair with my Bible and a pen and I asked God again to give me wisdom for the next step.

And He said, "Get a brownie."

"Excuse me, God?"

"Get a brownie."

"But that doesn't make any sense. Who is it for? Why?"

"Stop asking questions and get a brownie."

Well, I could't tell God that I didn't have any brownies because He knew there were some in the freezer so I went and got a brownie.

Now I sat in my chair with my Bible, a pen, and a brownie. Okay, God, now what?

"Look at her Facebook page."

"That's silly, God. She doesn't have any devices in her room. She can't possibly be on Facebook."

But the feeling was strong, "Look at her Facebook page."

"Fine. I'll look at her Facebook page but I won't find anything because I'm telling you that she doesn't have any devices with her!"

But she did. Apparently she had exited her room while I was gone and had found the one and only device in the house which also happened to be the one and only device in the house that was not password protected. She must have been desperate as she had gone up two flights of steps to find that device. Not only was she on Facebook but by logging into her account I could see that she had contacted someone to "scoop her". I knew it was a male but that's all I knew. I didn't know how old he was or what kind of vehicle he'd be bringing, or even if he'd come with weapons (I watch too much Law and Order).

I prayed fervently while watching the conversation unfold and then I saw him write, "Leaving now." I didn't know how far away he was but figured I had anywhere from 15 - 30 minutes before he arrived. "God," I prayed, "this rule-following first-born from the suburbs is so out of her league with this hurting and abused street-wise teen from the city. I don't know who is coming or what this is going to look like when he gets here. I need you and I need you now."

And then that non-audible voice again, "Pull the plug on the internet."

Aha. Why didn't I think of that? She might know he's coming but she'll have no way of knowing when he gets here. So I did just that.

And then she came up the steps, backpack on, and without speaking, walked right by me, out the front door, and plopped herself down on the front steps.  I took my pen and my brownie and sat myself down right next to her.

"So, what kind of car are we looking for?"

Silence. So I decided to fill the silence with every word of truth, every statement of love that came to my mind. Verbal vomit. But with a goal. If she leaves, let the last words she hears be words of love and truth.

And then a VW bug rounded the corner.

"Is this the car we're looking for?????"

She looked as confused as I. But she must have recognized the driver because she headed straight for the passenger door. I headed straight for the license plate and wrote the number on my hand.  And then the driver stuck his head out of his window, "Hey, I thought you said you were allowed to come with me?" She didn't answer so I answered for her, "No, she's running away and does not have permission to do so." He looked scared so engaged him in polite conversation, asking for his name and moving on to his career aspirations.

"Ma'am, I want to go into the military and maybe join the police force."

"Oh, that's wonderful!" I responded, "then you probably don't want a police record do you?"

"No, ma'am."

"No problem. Don't take her away and you won't have anything to worry about here. Oh, and by the way, here's a brownie. It's for you."

Now he was really surprised. But he wasn't driving away. In fact, he turned to the passenger he no longer wanted in his car and started talking about his own life, "Did you know that I was in foster care?" She looked surprised. "Yeah, my mom kept kicking me out of the house and the cops would find me and bring me home and tell her that she couldn't do that. She'd take me back in but then she'd kick me out again. I went into foster care but now I live with my aunt." More silence. He continued, "You don't like rules do you? I didn't like them, either. My aunt has rules. I didn't like them at first but then I realized that they were for my own good. I started going to school and getting good grades. I'm going to graduate next year. And because my aunt trusts me? She lets me drive her car."

Now he was getting somewhere. She wasn't speaking but she was paying attention.

At this point it seemed silly for all of us to be having this conversation in the middle of the road so I said, "Do you want to come in? Why don't we go inside and chat?" Again, he looked shocked. I could see his wheels turning, This lady just met me, I was going to scoop her daughter, but she gave me a brownie and now she's inviting me into her house? He thought about it for a minute and then agreed. He pulled the car into the driveway and convinced the would-be run-away to join him in the house. They sat in the living room where he talked truth and sense about life and rules; many of the same things we had told her in the short time she had lived with us. But he had credibility. He was from her neighborhood. He had lived a similar story. I pretended to wash dishes in the kitchen, quietly so as to hear the conversation in the other room while they talked.

Two hours later, the Good Doctor arrived home to find our foster daughter amiably chatting with a strange young man in the living room while I still stood at the sink in the kitchen. The only thing he knew was a quick text I had sent to say that we had a potential run-away and that he would need to bring the children home from church. I later shared with him the story of how this young man showed up and not only did he quickly refuse to drive the get-away car (held off with just a brownie and a pen) but he stuck around to share his own story with our daughter.  His story of being in foster care himself was one that she could relate to and while she wasn't yet at the place of acceptance that he was, she listened to his tale of learning to trust and to listen to people who truly cared about him. He told of turning his life around and having goals for his future.

And I told the Good Doctor what I had learned as well. Once again, I learned that we have no reason to fear. As I had listened to the young man talking, I imagined Jesus standing next to me saying, "Remember all those times the Bible says to 'Fear not'? I mean it. You don't have to fear. She didn't run away. And I gave you an even greater gift, a special friend to speak truth into her life. Remember this in the future. There's no need to fear. Nothing catches me by surprise. Nothing."

Faith is built over time, by seeing Jesus show up, do the miraculous, and then add one more blessing just because He loves us and wants us to remember His promises.

And my Jesus smiles.







Thursday, October 26, 2017

Pumpkin carving

I can pull it myself!

It's that time of year again. It's always fun to choose pumpkins together, find a unique idea for carving (well, for some of us), and then sit around and pull guts out of pumpkins.


And I'd say it was a successful year.

Victor selected his own pumpkin. You can have any pumpkin that you can carry. Sometimes you have to give up and pick a smaller one.


He chose circle eyes, a rectangle mouth, and a huge smile.


They do bear a slight resemblance, don't they? It's the smile. Definitely the smile.

He even touched a few guts in the process (but was more interested in pouring them from one bowl into another).


We even had participation from everyone. Effort, no, but participation, yes. Polite, non-complaining participation.

We'll take it. Baby steps.

And really, who's to say you can't have a pumpkin with an equals sign?

For others, creativity abounds.