My Most Excellent Adventure: Camp Blessing

 

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Jeremiah 31:3b

camp bThis is my 3rd year to come with my teens to a little town outside of Wausau Wisconsin, to help cook and lead crafts at what I’d like to call a good old-fashioned Church Camp experience. NO bells and whistles. NO super slides, or zips lines. NO swimming pools are even cell/internet reception; just good food, lessons from God’s word, recreation, games, crafts, campfires and a lot of conversation. The 4 cabins don’t’ have air conditioning and the teens share a bathroom in the main building. They don’t care. And here’s the best part, most of these campers’ parents came to this camp, and even some of their grandparents! Or maybe the best part is that it doesn’t cost the campers a dime. Men and women who want to see generations grow in wisdom and stature of the Lord sponsor it all! That is Camp Blessing.

My own children have come since 2010. They wouldn’t miss the week. Some of their best friends and what will be life-long relationships have come from this camp. Claire was already up  here, because she served as a Junior Counselor with the Kid’s Camp the week before. (Camp Blessing also offers a week of Special Needs Camp, an Adventure Camp, and a few retreats each year.)

So, Friday evening we packed up the huge car top carrier, the bumper trailer and every nook and cranny of my Navigator and headed to KC to spend the night with my parents. This knocked off the first 2-½ hours of our trip. Early Saturday morning we picked up two more campers from Kearny and started our 9-½ hour journey. I found a Starbucks for my morning coffee and reassured the kids I was travel ready. The fact that QT was where we were picking up our friends delighted all of us. A full tank of gas, loaded with snacks, we were finally off! (And let me just make a plug for the Lincoln makers, I get 4 cup holders up front! One for the shot-gun seat, who was Aunt V on this trip, and three for my personal needs.) Coffee with heavy cream, water, (yes, I actually drank 28 oz. on the road) and my Diet Coke. (Keep your opinions to a dull roar. Yes! I have read ALL the horrible research.)

Just over the Iowa border in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and in time for lunch, is our first stop. We have made a habit to stop at the Petro Trails Truck stop. (It’s kind of like stopping at the Pratte, Kansas DQ when I was growing up.) With its Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Subway, Cold Stone Creamery, a huge Deli, great cheeses, snacks, fountain drinks to compete with any QT, and a gift shop with just about everything, gas pumps and showers, what more could us weary traveler want? (I’m thinking that showering at a truck stop may be something I add to my bucket list…or NOT!) We love this place and even a quick stop takes us 45 minute.   It is always crowded and they need more employees to keep up with the mess; but over all, it is clean and never disappoints. If you want fresh Wisconsin Cheese curds; check out the deli case. If you want a purple sequined hat, check it off your list. Looking for State coasters, they’ve got them. From dude-rag biker hats to lace hemmed bell-bottoms, hand quilted jackets and a plethora of slogan t’s; you will find a complete new wardrobe experience.

Arriving at Camp Blessing a day earlier than campers gives some of staffers kids some special time to just chill and help get settled. (Now I probably should make it clear, I do sleep in the main building staff rooms, which are air-conditioned.) We prep food and get craft supplies organized and watch Melissa, this year’s Teen Camp Director, finalize and over-think the last details for the lessons. We stay up way too late! On Sunday morning we head to the top of the hill and go to the Mission Evangelical church. We triple their attendance each year, and it’s interesting to hear from a church that has no pastor and is congregation led. Each sermon I’ve heard over last few years has been unique in style, theme, or presentation.

Around 3 o’clock the campers start trickling in and we have our first staff meeting. Gregg Mathewson has been the Camp Safety Coordinator/handyman/head dishwasher/ insurer of the lights-out enforcement, every year I’ve been here. He stays in his motor home parked in the churches parking lot, but he is always around the camp. He gives us the fire drill and storm protocol, explains the dos and don’ts of camp policy and will do any dirty job necessary. He can also be bribed with chocolate and ice cream. Then Melissa Cannon, who loves her time with these teens, hands out chocolate to pump up us staffers, gives us the themes and the schedule for the week, and reminds us not to be grumpy.

Melissa takes on “Camp Director” with the gusto of a twenty year old. Her energy amazes me and she is determined that these kids will experience the joys she remembers from her years at camp. She writes the lessons, lines up the volunteers and gathers supplies. Since the camp has no internet or cell service, she has to come really prepared, and a last minute run to Office Depot is just part of the traditions we enjoy. I watch her interact with these teens with a genuine compassion and interest in their lives. She’s one of my girls favorite adults and maybe someday I’ll tell you the fun story of how our families met back in 2009. It’s been a friendship that could only be orchestrated by a good, good God.

By 4:30, the cooks are busy preparing the first nights dinner and we are always thrilled to have Roberta Johnson delicacies! She makes camp food from scratch with fresh ingredients and her Italian flare. She has a crew of ladies that make cooking for 40+ just plain fun! I may not be officially in the kitchen, but I’ve been known stick a hat (or hairnet) on my head to slice and dice so I can hang with these ladies. Besides being an amazing cook, she just finished nursing school and will be christening her skills by sharing Camp Nurse duties. Roberta has a way of making all of us feel special and practices hospitality in biblical proportion.

I love watching the campers greeting each other and parents who probably went to camp themselves reunite. I listen to them reminisce and laugh. This is a unique group of people. They come from so many backgrounds and theological prospective, but they come together each year because they don’t want to miss camp. From the shyest to the most gregarious teen, everyone is anticipating the week. They have traditions and routines that have become the highlight of their summers. (And don’t think about a new Camp Director messing with some of these traditions.) I hear boys planning skits and girls discussing the camp romances. Twenty-nine teens; laughing, sharing, joking and getting reacquainted. Playing games, lounging on the couch, checking out their cabins and willingly turning in their cellphones and electronic devises, there is this mystery of Camp Blessing that cannot be explained unless you’ve experienced it first hand.

IMG_8099Crazy Love is this year’s theme. I am excited to listen to what comes out of the lessons and discussions from the rich and amazing scripture she is using. I am waiting with anticipation at how God is going to work in the hearts of some of these teens. But, I am already in absolute awe of how this place draws my heart to reflect upon a Father who has reckless and abounding crazy love for me. I am in the middle of the beautiful Rib Mountain range outside of Wausau, Wisconsin, surrounded by tall fields of corn, nestled in a peaceful wooded campground, and He is whispering; I love you.

camp 4I’ve only been a part of this for a few years, but it is a joy to serve along side people who have been around for decades. As the campers get ready for their first night of lessons and worship, it is obvious His sweet evidence of grace is continuing to transform me on my most excellent adventure to Camp Blessing!

 

 

Evidenceofgraceheader2

A Letter To Me

319228_2685295530425_1403682975_nDear Twenty year old Me,

As life races by and I want to slow down, I think back to the early you. You will think to yourself, “I wish I knew now what I knew then”, but would I like to start over? Yes! And no.

But, there are a few things I’d like to tell you; things that may have alleviated undue pressure, preempted trials, put less wear-and-tear on your heart. But I also want to say, relax! It’s going to be ok. In fact, it’s going to be awesome. And hard. And beautiful. And laborious.

I’d first like to tell you that you are as messed up as you think. You are continually going to be tempted to follow after the wrong passions. You are disobedient and you will never be able to get your act together. You are gong to blow it as a wife and mom over and over again. You are filled with sin by your very nature and there is no hope for you to ever amount to anything…But GOD! He is rich in mercy, and because of the great love with which He loved you, even when you were dead in your polluted disobedience, He made a way! He made you alive together with Christ! It was by grace you have been saved—stop trying to “be better’, “love Him more”, “act the right way”, because only grace saved you! Nothing you have done or will ever do, it was unmerited grace from God alone. Now dear self, just walk out the good things He has prepared for you. (Eph. 2)

Secondly, you need to understand your roll, as a mother, is not about making your child love God. You get the privilege of training them in the things of God. You get to mimic the gospel. You get to pray for each of their salvations and that they belong to Him. You get to be a walking example of Christ-like character with abandoned humility. But nothing you do will save them! You cannot protect them from Hell; you cannot walk out their trials. God saves; He is the only one who can save them. Matt Chandler says, you “gather the kindling, but only got ignites their hearts.” Stop all the striving and rest Cathy Jo. Rest in the promises of Psalm 78:6 “that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God.”

 Also, don’t miss out on so much. Stop and watch your kids more. Watch how they play and interact with others. Put down your magazine while your child is on the playground, or at the pool. (It’s a good thing there was no smart phone with FB when they were little!) Rachel Jankovic is right, “Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.” Interact more, play more, enjoy more time with them. Know who they are really are. You may hear it all the time, but the time really does go by way too fast. You will blink; they will be grown with kids of their own! Be willing to die to yourself just a little more, don’t fret that you will never have one moment alone. I promise you, you will one day tinkle without an audience! Your house will be free from an avalanche of toys and the mysterious purple stain is on a rug that will be replaced many times over the next several years. Engage your children everyday, it will make a difference

Cathy Jo, you are going to read a lot of great, gospel saturated parenting books over the next few decades. Continue to choose what you read carefully. Don’t be swayed by things that tickle your ears or make you feel better as a mom. However, I wish you would spend more time in the book written by your Father. Spend less time trying to learn how to be a better parent and learn about the perfect parent. You are going to miss a lot of great truths that will transform your heart by trying to be a godly mom and never really knowing God. His word will grow your faith. His word will be the blood flow to the heartbeat of your life. Remember ‘formally, when you did no know God you were enslaved, but now that you have come to know God’, you wont turn back or regret it. (Gal. 4:8) Remember Psalm 73:28, “But for me it is good to be near to God” and being in His word is a great way to be near to Him.

Lastly, Be still! You will put a lot of unnecessary mileage on your heart. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not!” (Psalm 37:7) Sometimes the waiting will seem forever, fretting will sneak up on you! Yet, “Be still, and know that (He is) God.” (Psalm 40:10) Cathy Jo, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.(Philippians 2:13) You are the recipients of Christ’s imputed righteousness and you can anticipate with joy, absolute acceptance from God and His everlasting inheritance. He will never love you more or less. His love is perfect! He is out for your good and His glory, no matter what the next 35 years bring.390278_2685291930335_1567766229_nAnd I’ll give you a clue; it’s not what you imagined and more than you could have hoped for!

For His Glorious fame,  Me

Photo credit goes to the very talented Allyson Bird @AllysonNeelyPhotography

Adoption; A New Name, Pt. 4

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1 John 3:1aIMG_7964

Did you know that when you adopt a child, they issue a brand new birth certificate with your name in the space as mother and father? No secret code, not a different color, no asterisk to let some historian down the line discover that this is really an adopted child. You are issued an official state Birth Certificate, identical to the one a child born from your belly would have!

Adoption fulfills the legal obligation for us parents to call the child ours. But it also meant that with complete confidence, they could call themselves ours! God intervened in an extreme ways. He took children from tattered broken places, at times unwanted, to status of a much-wanted “chosen child.” And all the red-tape, that was hard and difficult reminds us that Jesus satisfied all our legal standing with the red-tape of His shed blood.

FullSizeRender (85)Something that was of significant importance to our family was the fact that when you adopt a child, you get to give them their name. Many children out of foster care are older and do not want a new name. However, some may want a totally new identity and help choose a new name. Our children were 3, 5 and 6, but they wanted to be called by their new “real” names preceding any real legal name changes. Part of that, was the gospel stories behind “why” we wanted to give them new names. They embraced their new identity and were eager to be established as our heirs. They would be the family of the  grandparents and Aunts and Uncles and cousins who they already loved. Our youngest daughter had a middle name that seemed to fit her and we liked, so we still were calling her by this name. (Side note: for some strange reason we call all of our children but one, by their middle name) One day, prior to our adoption and totally off subject, she said, “and when I’m your real daughter, I get my new name?” That was it! One of my favorite Aunt’s name was picked out and she would get her name, which means, “light”! She lights up a room with her laughs and smile, she has lit up our hearts from the beginning. We pray that she is a light to our world as a child of God! (Phil. 2:15)

In Genesis 17:5 and 17:15 God changes Abram’s name and Sarai’s name to names with significant new meanings. In Genesis 32:28 he changed Jacob’s name, and in John 1:42 He called Simon by the name Peter. Throughout the Scriptures you will find name changes, but God specifically changed the names of four people to let us see their new identity in Him. Changing names for a Jewish person couldn’t be some arbitrary, “we think it’s cute” or cooler. It was about a divine plan that He had for them and generations to come.  God called His people out of sin, they responded in faith, and He changed their name.

There was great spiritual significance to the names God gave these people. We wanted to make sure we chose names that would signify the change in the status of our child, but also make them our heirs. There was to be no distinction between biological and adopted. We began by choosing a first name that began with “C” because each of us had “C” first names (not intentional when picking our 1st two’s names, but non-the less, we ALL had “C” names.) We looked at the meaning behind each first name carefully and chose one that could prophetically speak truth about God into their character. We chose spellings that would be ones that reflected ours and unique to us. Secondly we chose middle names from our friends and relatives who were dear to us. To remind each of them of the history of our family. This was the case with our biological children and would not differ for our “chosen” children.

“No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” Genesis 17:5

God was proclaiming His promise that we would be His seed, their new names were significant to what they were and what promises He was calling them too!

My children each have their own story to be told. But, His story is the story that we want them to know and share. We hope their adoption, their name changes, their counted as our heirs; have given clear shadow image of our adoption in Christ. Opening doors to continue telling His story.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1 John 3:1a

Giveaway #5

Kate is a stay-at-home mom and married to  Jason a church planter. After burying 2 baby boys and finally being blessed with a daughter and son, they thought their family was complete. But God kept whispering to them that He was not finished growing their family. He placed adoption on their hearts, and you can read for yourself her beautiful story.  http://www.theadoptshoppe.com/

I am so excited to be giving away one of her original paraphrase & design  totes. Made in India by women rescued from the sex trade, you will be honored to carry these adorable, fair-trade bags.

This tote is sturdy grey canvas, the interior is fully lined with charcoal fabric and has a side zipper pocket. It fastens with a magnetic clasp. The approximate size is 12.6″ x 16.5″ x 5.9″with a 12″ drop handle.

Evidenceofgraceheader2

I’m Adopted, Part 3

There are huge costs in adopting children. For some families, its financial; some are emotional. There are costs of great time while your fostering prospective adoptive child. Parent visits, therapists, doctors visits, parent/teacher conferences, lice removal. Balancing meetings with your personal calendar is stressful and you realize this is for rest of your life. And the stresses of caring about other peoples broken children can cause a parent to question if they have lost their mind. “Am I really able to love these children as my own.” Yet, there is something very deep and right about taking on cost for the life of a child!

By the end of our first year, our life was busy and yet seemed to be hitting on all cylinders. Clint had graduated and a new residency was promised, enabling us to stay in Joplin and adopt 3 of the children we knew God had planned to be ours. We had survived a 30 pound 5 year old who threatened all of our lives if he couldn’t have a cup of pudding. We survived relinquishing one child to a police officer for our safety and the safety of the kids in our home. We survived lots of lice and survived many tearful parents meetings. And more lice. We survived the little girl who purposefully climbed a 5 ft. bookshelf, plugged an iron in, and laid it on my mother’s brand new white carpet. We survived the biter who had to be picked up early at his Head Start almost every day. We survived my hysterectomy and long recovery. We survived the stress of the clinical rotation of Medical School.We survived a grumpy downstairs neighbor who didn’t embrace the noise of six to seven children in a 3-bedroom apartment. We survived the fine imposed by our apartment complex for one child writing all over the new playground and apartment walls with permanent marker. We survived the laborious job of finding an amazing 6-bedroom house to help “grow” us, and the towering hoops to finance it on a Residence “promised” salary.

Everything was lined up on this Friday in September, 2002. The boxes were packed and stacked neatly to the ceiling, ready to close on our dream house the next Monday. Sitting in one of the three meetings I had for parents that day, discussing how quickly we could transfer our license to our new house to accommodate the sibling group of a child in our care. I wasn’t surprised when I was called by one of my caseworkers into another meeting.

The rest of the next few days, weeks and ultimately six months would take a novel to really give you details, but, in our STARS class, there was a saying; “It’s not about if you will be hot-lined, it’s about when!”

That day was a whirl of interviews, accusations, stunned disbelief and guilt over the “what if’s”. When Clint got home that day, he had his own disheartening news (that he wouldn’t share with me until the next week) about a random chest x-ray he’d had and a P.E.T. scan that was scheduled for the next week. Ruth was terrified of why her “brother and sisters” were taken away and it took all my strength to reassure her that God was working things out. I wasn’t even assured I believed!

As foster parents, we are guilty until proven otherwise. We do not have parental rights for visitation, and we do not have advocates among caseworkers.   It didn’t matter how many caseworkers, police officers, judges, State Representatives or high profile commissioners, that believed this was a grievous mistake; no one felt they had the authority to place the children back in our home. Even testifying before legislator in Jeff City who were appalled, could reverse the decisions made on that day. Weeks, turned into months. We felt abandoned by the very system we had sacrificed to serve.  But, we had God. And I had a God who was more interested in changing me and perfecting me into His image. He was a God who wanted to rescue me!

There were idols that God needed to pull out of my heart. There was broken messy ugly sin that was lurking under the surface. Just because I looked put-together on the outside, just because by His grace I had a natural bent with children and mothering, just because I passed all the background checks; I was a child in need of a savior. There is a tendency among us Christians to elevate ourselves in comparison to “them”. Since we aren’t using drugs, or neglecting to feed our kids, or living in filth or…you fill in the blank; we can be blinded to all the brokenness in our own hearts.

Over the next few months God showed me how even something like my “impatient tone” with my children was a grotesques sin with a root of hatefulness and a root of needing to be on the throne. He showed me that I wrapped a lot of our worth in how we  “looked” on the outside and modeled a  false identity to my children. He exposed a huge idol disguised with the expectable name, “motherhood”. When the kids were out of the home and I had no idea where they were, if they were safe, if someone else loved them as much as I did. He asked me to trust His love for them was greater than mine. He exposed my identity in my own works and my self-righteousness. God stripped me bare and gloriously started to pour into my broken mess as His adopted daughter!

I will never forget the day He returned our three foster kids to our home. April Fools day to be exact! I can tell you how I never want to experience such a great loss again, but I love the beauty of the Refiner’s fire; that then, and today; is transforming me more into His likeness. I can wear His imputed righteousness like a royal garment covering all my stained rags. I am a “them”. (as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; Romans 3:10) I was an orphan child who would perish in my sin had Christ not adopted me. He poured His Spirit into my heart and embraced me into His forever family.

“to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:5-7

 Post Script: Clint’s diagnoses of inoperable lung cancer from that “hot” P.E.T. scan came to nothing after a huge surgery. We call him Dr. False Alarm and lovingly refer to it as the cheese curd. Also, the C.A.N. Review Board took the authority to exonerate me, and demand for the return of our children. God brought them home within a few days, even though we were told it would take 4 weeks!

cropped-evidenceofgraceheader2.jpg

Giveaway #5

Kate is a stay-at-home mom and married to  Jason a church planter. After burying 2 baby boys and finally being blessed with a daughter and son, they thought their family was complete. But God kept whispering to them that He was not finished growing their family. He placed adoption on their hearts, and you can read for yourself her beautiful story.  http://www.theadoptshoppe.com/

I am so excited to be giving away one of her original paraphrase & design  totes. Made in India by women rescued from the sex trade, you will be honored to carry these adorable, fair-trade bags.

This tote is sturdy grey canvas, the interior is fully lined with charcoal fabric and has a side zipper pocket. It fastens with a magnetic clasp. The approximate size is 12.6″ x 16.5″ x 5.9″with a 12″ drop handle.

Costly Adoption, Part 2

FullSizeRender (76)“According to God’s Word, when you were adopted into God’s family, it changed your entire identity. You are now a child of the King. Throughout Scripture we see the value that God places on adoption.” Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Clint and I enjoyed going to our STARS Foster Care classes. I bribed him with the promise of the free Schlotzsky’s they served us for dinner each week.  Clint called it “date-night”. It was in this class we heard the horror stories and statistics. We listened to experts on children and heard testimonies from former foster children. But, all I heard was that as foster parents, we could get further training and become adoptive parents and state would help pay the costs for our adoption! What?

Now I can say, that Clint was still onboard for fostering, but God hadn’t convinced his heart that we needed to adopt a child. Our son was engaged to be married, we had another year before Clint would graduate from medical school, and then a 3-year residency would still be in our future. I wasn’t worried about God changing his heart…adoption is picture of what Christ has done, He came and saved us to bring us to the Father. I had a Holy Spirit empowered peace for God to work in Clint. I didn’t badger or coerced him, I just prayed for God to work. Oh!… and make sure the massive paper work was completed and all our “t’s” were crossed and “i’s” dotted. I sewed quilts and purchased bunk beds and set up a crib in our little three-bedroom apartment. I arranged for inspections and background checks. I was on a mission! I was too busy to worry about Clint’s heart and “left” that to God.

We graduated with our foster care license in April of 2001, ready to welcome some adorable child or children. The first call that came within days for 12-year-old, even though our parameters were 0 to 6years old. Clint declined, I was heart broken and we waited. May; no placement. June; no placement. In July we called to make sure we were still on the list. On July 23rd we got our call. Two little girls ages 1 and 3…and “oh, by-the-way, there is an 11 year old brother”. I said yes!

I have a vivid memory of my first trip to the DFS office and three of God’s precious children standing in a sea of desks and cubicles with muffled chatter from phone conversations going on all around. It is imprinted on my mind like a photograph. Their dirty faces, stained miss-matched clothes and the oldest girls self-cut bangs. Their huge confused eyes darting from me to the case worker to each other as they huddled as close together as possible. The little ragged gold floral suitcase held a small hurried gathering of their belonging and the odor as I buckled their frightened little bodies into our red Ford is etched into my mind. The case worker gave me a brief explanation of why they were brought into custody, handed me a voucher so I could buy some clothes. With an envelope holding official papers and the date of our first meeting, she bid me farewell with, “oh, and they have lice.”

IMG_7926I would learn that if a child didn’t arrive with lice, score! But I learned so much more about the cost of bringing broken children into our home. Vibrant, well behaved, well adjusted, happy, curly headed tots don’t enter into foster care. “Grit” thats what another adoptive momma called it.“..well meaning, redemption-loving people can often embrace the beauty of adoption while neglecting to communicate its grit.” Trisha Wilkerson What I learned would stretch the limits of what I thought I was capable of. It would take me places emotionally and physically where I never imagined. It would remind me that Jesus “joyfully laid Himself down so that He could raise us up with Him.” I was going to be able to be His image bearer as I experience a different deeper love; as I hurt with, grieved with, celebrated with, wept with, vulnerable children who God chose to place in our home. (Some for short periods, our record was less than 4 hours and some would become ours forever.) This is the hard and costly reality of where foster care begins. As I began to walk with broken children, I saw a vivid and beautiful picture of how Jesus walked this earth because of my brokenness.

These precious children had to learn too.  Learn the names of new uncles and cousins.  Learn our holiday traditions and to put up with mom’s crazy need for matching outfits. They had to learn to taste new food and learn to ride bikes and swim in big pools and celebrate birthdays. They had to learn it was safe when they heard police sirens. They learned if they were disobedient, my reach would be an embrace.  They had to learn to trust the unknown, and how to grieve loss of their normal. It cost them their families that they loved in spite of their horrific circumstances.

Fifteen years later, those two little girls are now my beautiful teenaged daughters. We also adopted another son. That eleven-year-old boy would be a casualty of a broken world. He would not become a part of our glorious, redemptive adoption story. There were 14 other children who came and went, I don’t even know their new stories. There is a costly, gritty, ugly, hard part of fostering and adopting children. Children, who come with wounds most of us cannot fathom. But, embracing the beauty of adoption as part of God’s plan helps me grasp the price that God paid for our salvation and adoption! It cost God the price of his Son’s life.IMG_4468

Giveaway #5

Kate is a stay-at-home mom and married to  Jason a church planter. After burying 2 baby boys and finally being blessed with a daughter and son, they thought their family was complete. But God kept whispering to them that He was not finished growing their family. He placed adoption on their hearts, and you can read for yourself her beautiful story.  http://www.theadoptshoppe.com/

She started The Adopt Shoppe out of necessity to finance their adoption. She uses verses to make “billboards for your heart”.

I am so excited to be giving away one of her original paraphrase & design  totes. Made in India by women rescued from the sex trade, you will be honored to carry these adorable, fair-trade bags.

This tote is sturdy grey canvas, the interior is fully lined with charcoal fabric and has a side zipper pocket. It fastens with a magnetic clasp. The approximate size is 12.6″ x 16.5″ x 5.9″with a 12″ drop handle.

An Adoption Plan, Part 1

 

1525782_10152046920988559_287581868_oWith Ruth coming back from working with orphans in Africa, to my own adopted children growing up so fast and being away at camps and starting college, my mind has been swirling with the Gospel in Adoption for weeks. I decided to save the last giveaway from The Adoption Shoppe and spend the next few BLOG’s sharing our journey of fostering and adopting.

Clint and I wanted lots of children; six was our starting number. God had another plan for our family. Blake came 11 months and 22 days after we were married. (2 years earlier than our plan!) Ruth arrived a short 14 year, 4 months and 12 days after him. There were babies conceived between that time, but the pregnancies, which didn’t come easy, always ended in the pain of miscarriage. Adoption wasn’t an option in our minds because of the high cost and the inconsistency of our finances as a self-employed carpenter family. And, adopting had not become the chic “in” thing to do propelled by high profiled celebrity adoptions. We had no idea how we could ever add a child by adoption. When girls with unplanned pregnancies came into our life, my fantasy was that they would just knock on my door and hand me their baby. But those were just my plans.

 By the time Clint return to school to figure out what he wanted to be when he grew up and the miracle of Ruth, we moved to southern Missouri for Clint to finish his last two years of medical school’s clinical rotations. It was a town I was sure we would only stay for the 2 years required! (Obviously those of you who don’t know our story, are seeing huge gaps in this BLOG, but this is about our adoption story, and those gaps will have to be filled in at another time.)

 

With Blake leaving for college, Clint and I decide an apartment would fit our family of 3, and we chose one that based rent on our income and had an amazing swimming pool. Ruth and I loved going to the pool each day and quickly I felt like the Pied Piper. The apartment had a policy that children couldn’t swim without adult supervision. I hated to see these sweaty little kids, standing outside the fence watching with yearning souls that would not be quenched if I didn’t invite them in under my watch. Each day I found our cooler needing to grow to accommodate the extra snacks and drinks that we would need to sustain our time at the pool. Never, in the entire first 2 months there, did I meet a parent or sitter concerned with who was watching their child at the pool. There were a few children who would tell me they needed to “go ask” but each of them returned quickly donning their swimsuit! I was curious about these children’s parents, even following them home to see which apartment was theirs. One little girl and Ruth really enjoyed each other, so when I followed her home to see if she could join us on the playground, my inquisitiveness was met with a cracked door and the obvious need for this mother to stay anonymous.

The summer came to an end, and the pool closed and the playground became more desolate as the children began to attend school, or day cares, or just didn’t leave their apartments as often. Something else began to happen frequently. Police officers would enter the complex accompanied by an official looking woman in a pantsuit and name badge. Most often, after a short time, crying children with small bags or Wal-Mart sacks would be escorted off the property. Sometimes there was silent shock on the parent’s faces, sometimes bitter wailing, sometimes, angry obscenities.

This is where our journey in foster care started. This is where God showed me that there was a whole different side to being a mom. At first, I just thought God could use my flawed but “redempted” self to encourage moms. I didn’t see abuse as much as ignorant neglect. I saw second-generation non-mothering. I was astonished at the lack of nurturing skills that I assumed came natural to mothering.  I wanted Jesus to use a broken storyline from my heart and life to let these moms see His willingness to enter into their mess. I needed to engage these marginalized, maybe abused, neglected, hopeless moms and love them as Jesus has loved me. I wanted to engage these moms in the middle of the brokenness and show them the beautiful redemptive story.

Little did I know that He was going to use me differently. Little did I know that He was still willing to grow our “quiver”. Little did I know He had three children (two already born) waiting to show me more of Him!

And that, is where our adoption story began…..

Giveaway #5

Kate is a stay-at-home mom and married to  Jason a church planter. After burying 2 baby boys and finally being blessed with a daughter and son, they thought their family was complete. But God kept whispering to them that He was not finished growing their family. He placed adoption on their hearts, and you can read for yourself her beautiful story.  http://www.theadoptshoppe.com/

She started The Adopt Shoppe out of necessity to finance their adoption. She uses verses to make “billboards for your heart”.

I am so excited to be giving away one of her original paraphrase & design  totes. Made in India by women rescued from the sex trade, you will be honored to carry these adorable, fair-trade bags.

This tote is sturdy grey canvas, the interior is fully lined with charcoal fabric and has a side zipper pocket. It fastens with a magnetic clasp. The approximate size is 12.6″ x 16.5″ x 5.9″with a 12″ drop handle.

cropped-evidenceofgraceheader2.jpg

 

Sneak Peak Week #5 & Winner

Congratulations Angie Burchfield! Angie won Mary Jo’s adorable T-Shirt giveaway from Week #4.  cropped-evidenceofgraceheader2.jpg

I’m excited that our last “after-birthday-giveaway” comes from a shop that has to do with something close to my heart: adoption! Adoption is the gospel you can see and touchKate’s story is such a blessing and here’s just a little sneak peak! bag 4

#4 Giveaway & Goodbyes

Today, I am spending the day enjoying my grand-girls before they move to Virginia with their parents.  I am feeling that there may be much weeping on my part like they must have felt in Acts 20:37, but Clint reassures me we will see them.  Goodbyes are hard, but this is a great chapter in Blake and Andrea’s life.  However, rather than BLOG today, I’m going to go enjoy these precious girls…and their parents.

But you can still enter this weeks giveaway! Like, Share, Comment here, on FB or Evidence of Grace facebook page. Best of luck!

Do Everything With Great LoveMary Jo of 517creations is one of the most enthusiastic & creative ladies from my area. She is a stay-at-home mom of 2 kiddos and a pastor’s wife. Fixer Upper is her favorite show on TV and has inspired her and her husband to remodel a few houses. (And put sunglasses on her and she could be Joanna Gaines’ twin sister!) Mary Jo has always loved creating fun, personalized items for her kids and for gifts. Recently she has started selling those items.  Mary Jo posts all of her creations on her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/517creations.  “Do Everything with great love” I think this shirt expresses John 13:35 in a beautiful way! The shirt is dark gray and is a regular cut t-shirt. When you win you can let me know your size. Best of luck; Like, share, comment on Facebook, Evidence of Grace.

Orderly Patriotism

“Only our heavenly Father, our heavenly patriotism, can order our earthly patriotism.” John Piper

I wanted to post a patriotic “I’m proud to be an American” post today, but events in my life over the past 7 years have radically rearranged my thinking. How can I be least offensive? Why shouldn’t I be offensive, if it’s truth? I wrote and edited and re-wrote and re-edited for days. Then today, I ran across a Gospel Coalition post by Kevin DeYoung and it was as if he was giving me permission to express my patriotic thoughts.

IMG_7802It is no secret to those who know me, where my political lines are drawn. During elections seasons for 2 decades I wore my rhinestone studded broach representing my party with pride. I spent time volunteering on phone calls and was willing to place bumper stickers on my car and big signs in my yard. When we moved to Branson Missouri in 2006, it wasn’t unusual for me to come to tears when a patriotic song was sung (which most of you know ends every show in Branson) The National Anthem can still cause a lump to swell in my throat. The images of a soldier coming home or heading out to war cause by heart to swell with pride.

 

I am a patriotic person with a strong political bent. For years I didn’t intimately know a lot of people from the other side, and the ones I did know were radically different than me. It was never a surprise to me that along with their political views came very unscriptural views of God or even unbelief in one God. I wouldn’t ever verbalize my thoughts, but I think in the deep recesses of my mind, I may have doubted that Christianity could cross party lines. (yikes, I just wrote that down!) I was very verbal in my opinions and I’m afraid those closest to me may have been the ones most caught in the crossfires when they would dare criticize my candidate.

So it was an unforeseen work that God began doing in my heart in a place where God and Country are synonyms. Then he brought me to a church where my gospel family started showing up to church with the enemy’s opponent’s bumper stickers on their cars! I was also questioned by some of the leadership about pledging allegiances and semantics about God ‘only saving people’ not countries. Generous justice and redistribution of wealth were touted as biblical principles and I realized that I wasn’t always ready to give account for why I believed what I believed. Political upheavals and the government itself was proving to be a sinking ship. Modern history books were unreliable and I began to see that we as a nation were loosing our moorings.

IMG_7808So I settled back in silence, seeing that a lot of my opinions were just that; opinions. But also, for the millennials, it became the new accepted normal within the church; “don’t” be political if you are a “real, Christ-loving” Christian! What happened to being able to debate in a respectable, loving manner? I could defend many of my candidates, why couldn’t they defend theirs? Political apathy disguised in piety of “loving one another” replaced the voice of political speeches within my Christian community. I began to follow suite of this younger generation and packed away my shiny broach.

…And I began to see only the loud and obnoxious party members shaking their fists and damning the other side to hell. Embarrassed for “my” side, this too seemed wrong to me as a Christian in America.

I think the blurred lines of biblical truth are really the damnation we are experiencing now in a country. We are far from the freedoms our founding fathers intended, and the meanings of their intentions are constantly under scrutiny! I think our “at-homeness” as believes, who cling too tightly to this earth, have blinded us. I think we as Christians have enjoyed freedoms and religious liberties to the detriment of our first call as sojourners. (1 Peter 2:11) I think we have been blinded by the enemy of this world from seeing the light of the Gospel. I think we forget in our zealousness to be image bearers and love others. (2 Corinthians 4:4) I think we have forgotten to teach this generation to stand for absolute truth and be ready to give an account (1 peter 3:15) I think we have cried for a king and we are getting what “we” want.(1 Samuel 8) And, I know many of my Christian friends, who seem despondent and are despairing over the dreadful direction our country is heading, is forgetting Romans 13:1.

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Romans 13:1

 I am blessed by God to be an American. It was His sovereign plan that formed me in my mother’s womb, to be born in 1961, in Ottawa, Kansas, in the United States of America. It has been, and is, a privilege to celebrate our Independence Day with a great urgency for a big dependence on a good God. I am thankful for the rights and freedoms I experience because of God’s extravagant grace. I was born an American, where men and women paid a high price for the freedoms to live in this country. That is just a common grace He chose for my family and me. I am thankful for the rights I still enjoy, and because my hope is secure, I am not going to fear the ones I may lose.

So on this Independence Day” in light of the Gospel, and thanks to the encouragement from Kevin DeYoung “……I’m thankful most of all for the cross of Christ and the freedom we have from the world, the flesh, and the devil. I’m also thankful for the United States. I’m thankful for the big drops of biblical truth, which seeped into the blood stream of Thomas Jefferson and shaped our Founding Fathers. I’m thankful for our imperfect ideals. I’m thankful for God-given rights and hard-fought liberty. I’m thankful I can call myself an American.”

Read Kevin DeYoung’s article: https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2014/07/04/life-liberty-and-the-pursuit-of-happiness/

cropped-evidenceofgraceheader2.jpg Giveaway #4

Mary Jo of 517creations is one of the most enthusiastic & creative ladies from my area. She is a stay-at-home mom of 2 kiddos and a pastor’s wife. Fixer Upper is her favorite show on TV and has inspired her and her husband to remodel a few houses. (And put sunglasses on her and she could be Joanna Gaines’ twin sister!) Mary Jo has always loved creating fun, personalized items for her kids and for gifts. Recently she has started selling those items.  Mary Jo posts all of her creations on her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/517creations.  “Do Everything with great love” I think this shirt expresses John 13:35 in a beautiful way! The shirt is dark gray and is a regular cut t-shirt. When you win you can let me know your size. Best of luck; Like, share, comment on Facebook, Evidence of Grace.

Do Everything With Great Love

 

Sneak Peak: Week #4 Giveaway

Tomorrow will be week #4 of my “after-birthday-giveaway”. Every time you like, or share, or comment on the BLOG, or on Facebook, or the FB page Evidence of Grace, you will be entered for a chance to win.Do Everything With Great LoveMary Jo of 517creations is one of the most enthusiastic & creative ladies from my area. She is a stay-at-home mom of 2 kiddos and a pastor’s wife. Fixer Upper is her favorite show on TV and has inspired her and her husband to remodel a few houses. (And put sunglasses on her and she could be Joanna Gaines’ twin sister!) Mary Jo has always loved creating fun, personalized items for her kids and for gifts. Recently she has started selling those items.  Mary Jo posts all of her creations on her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/517creations.  “Do Everything with great love” I think this shirt expresses John 13:35 in a beautiful way! The shirt is dark gray and is a regular cut t-shirt. When you win you can let me know your size. Best of luck; Like, share, comment on Facebook, Evidence of Grace.cropped-evidenceofgraceheader2.jpg