Woke today and knew pretend had to be over, No more escapes into my imagination, No more useless wishes of rescue Regardless of its orientation, This escape hatch has to firmly close. Lord, yes, the Lord Himself knows the truth, He could choose to return the woman in me, He could restore all the bits and pieces, Yet He has said, "No," and let me be And I watch leftover memories flow away. Still stumbled through my day tripping over His call, My wheels stuck between disobedience and right, My wheels losing traction getting to the altar Then I could no more delay or fight, Today I have to banish you walking away in my mind. There are many tears I cannot yet cry Losses I cannot begin to understand But the innocent are safe and protected, No innocent blood shed by or on my hands, Love unspoken, deeds undone, freedom gained by incarceration. ----dfav 1/8/2021
Like a young horse just broken to saddle,
You are prancing around in circles
Desperate to run…
The spring waiting winters departure battles,
Young sap bubbling in your veins,
Bulbs tired of waiting…
You’re confident you could pop out of frozen soil unharmed.
I understand, I was thirteen once too.
So was your father…
Our youth too held similiar promises and charm,
From the oldest person to the youngest,
This fact is true…
God has a plan for you and He cherishes your innocence,
He created You to want to please Him
Can you do that hurried…
Your clean heart and purity are to Him a great importance,
They matter to us for your heart is a treasure
Don’t sell it cheap…
Wait, discipline yourself to seek God’s best,
Don’t settle for cute when you deserve soul,
God’s plan is within your hand…
Run the race of endurance, heed your need for rest,
Wait for God’s timing to carry you through,
He has your best interest at heart…
Enjoy youth now while you can laugh with less pain,
While life is ripe with possibilities
And the future is bright…
Live in these moments, God’s gift to you,
Don’t force tomorrow, you have today
With less shadows cast by light…
Be thirteen for a full 365 days,
Fourteen will follow, years will pass
Don’t rush what isn’t given yet…
Hold to what things God has to say,
Every day will age you naturally
I speak from experience…
Will you learn?
Heart breakers don’t have “a look”
A road may not take you where you want to go
Sometimes every seemingly right turns wrong
While the least expected one may love you so.
Why learning to find square roots is necessary
Or best friends have to move away
The direction to go isn’t easily determined
Or how to avoid “horrible, rotten, no good days”.
All the answers, cautions, warnings
Won’t prevent you from mistakes and consequences
But God will be with you every step
He will be by you, a friend forever relentless.
Life can be messy Daughter, and sweet
Learn to trust God within you to see
That some heartaches can be avoided if you do
Other things, like square roots, just have to be.
As a Minister to Youth a couple decades ago I would find myself reminding some of our female youth that when they wore short skirts to church then went bounding up the stairs things would show they didn’t mean to be seen. I always felt as if I was speaking strictly for my own benefit for repeatedly they would say, “Miss Faye in church men shouldn’t be looking!”
I would counter with, “Of course they shouldn’t, but frankly men are visual creatures and when you offer them visual treats their eyes are going to be drawn to them, in church or not. Plus, do you really want males in church or out of church to see what you are displaying?”
Fast forward a decade plus and I am having a similar conversation with my niece over an eighth grade graduation dress, then a senior prom dress. Again, it seemed like a useless conversation.
With our own daughter my husband and I started early to correct behavior and to teach her modesty. We’ve tried to instill in her not that her body is something to be ashamed of or that is “dirty” but that there are special parts of her body that deserve special consideration and that are private. It has not always been easy to teach modesty to a young girl in this day and time.
Fashion has seemed to dictate clothes for girls that are as revealing as their adult counterparts. We often struggle with finding appropriate clothing that is going to allow our daughter to feel good about herself in the way God would want. Low necklines, short hem lines, tight fits and thin material. Plus, the lack of garments such as slips available for girls!
Yet with our daughter the message seems to have gotten through. At least she knows what we will say yes to and no to when it comes to her clothing and when she is looking at what characters on television or what models in magazines are wearing she remarks, “Geez, didn’t their Mama tell them to put some clothes on?” Even the men in her life she expects to be appropriately dressed. When we passed a Jeep full of bare chested males whose bodies boasted tattoos and evidence of working out she yelled (inside the car), “Go put some shirts on! No one wants to look at your naked self or your tattoos.”
Sadly in church this Sunday I wanted to repeat my conversation with the youth of long ago, only with women of all ages.
The young lady who’s long in the back, short in the front dress that was made of material so thin you could see the color of her underwear when she walked across the front of the church.
The mature woman in the choir loft whose breasts were showing.
The lady in the front row of the congregation the men were having to look anywhere but in order not to get an eyeful.
The teens in skimpy spaghetti strapped tops.
The teenage boys and girls in jeans so tight I wouldn’t be amazed to learn that they had to soak in baby oil to get into them.
This wasn’t an unusual Sunday either, which makes it more of an issue. I remember the young woman who came to sing our special music one Sunday whose dress would have more appropriately labeled a sweater and had males all over the church blushing or gawking.
Yes, men have a responsibility to keep their thoughts pure and to not lust after females. Yes, they should be focused on worship in church. Yes they are responsible for their own decisions, actions, thoughts, feelings, impulses and sins.
But we women have responsibilities too and I believe one of those is to be modest in our clothing choices. Instead of referring you to what Paul in 1 Timothy 2:9 had to say directly about women’s clothing choices or Peter in 1 Peter 3:3 I want to draw your attention to I Corinthians 8:9 where Paul in discussing the eating of food scarified to idols but which I think can be aptly applied to my point.
“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”
Yes, I propose in the area of lust for the members of the opposite gender we all have our weak points. And knowing that I believe we all have a responsibility NOT to try to be a stumbling block to anyone. For if we are daring to dress with less modesty in the choice of clothing we have to go to worship the Lord our God in, WHAT are we choosing to wear outside the church?
The church is not a body of believers who are perfect, it is a body of believers who are sinners saved by grace who join together to learn about the Word of God, draw strength and encouragement from our church family and then to go into the world and tell others about Jesus and how He has changed our lives and can change theirs.
The world does not share those common goals.
Before anyone gets riled up thinking I am calling for a return to women covering themselves head to toe behind burlap sacks that is totally untrue. All I am saying is that we can choose to dress in ways that are attractive WITHOUT our breasts showing, our underwear being revealed or every curve or lack thereof we have being broadcast to anyone whose eyes happen to look our way. Along with that must also come an attitude change. If we want men to think of us as intelligent, kind, strong women capable of anything why would we want to advertise ourselves as objects for their sexual impulses? If we don’t want people to talk about how our clothing doesn’t fit us well, we might be wise to think modestly and wear clothing in the size appropriate for our bodies EVEN if that number doesn’t make you feel happy or that hemline make you feel young.
Samuel King stood 6’4 in his worn jeans, long-sleeved dark blue work shirt with his long weathered face crowned by a greasy black hair comb over, eyes as black as his hair and his 283 pounds was solid from years of manual labor. His feet were planted a foot apart shod in cowboy boots caked in so much grease, mud and red Georgia clay that the color was hard pressed to be named. He towered like an angry thundercloud in the front counter area of McDonald’s, totally out-of-place among the bright yellow, white and red decor. Sam didn’t care. He didn’t care that he didn’t fit in, he didn’t care that people were moving as far away from him as he could and he didn’t care that the 21-year-old red-haired frail looking manager was telling him that he had to leave.
“Shut up, I ain’t leavin’ ‘til Becca gits on home.” The man shouted, blasting spittle on the managers head.
Kevin Engle was the youngest manager McDonald’s had in this restaurant and he was frantically wishing one of the other managers was on duty instead of him. He was rightfully frightened by Sam King and suddenly aware of why Rebecca King worried when he switched her shifts or had her work late. She had tried to explain that her father was difficult and didn’t understand she couldn’t always get off right on time or had to work a different shift than expected. Kevin remembered her request to use the phone one more time during the last hour of her delayed departure and his own refusal to allow her. Well, tomorrow, Kevin decided, tomorrow Rebecca’s difficult father wouldn’t be his issue anymore because he had all intentions of letting her go.
“Sir, you can’t act…” but that was as far as Kevin’s quaking voice got as tried to regain some of his authority. Sam’s large baseball size hand reached out from the end of his leg sized arm, seized Kevin by the collar of his uniform and tossed him aside. Before anyone could react he had swept over the front counter, uncaring of the displays he knocked down and landed beside the terrified cashiers. “Becca! Becca you best be gittin on out here girl ‘cause when I find you you are in for one more whoppin’!”
Kevin recovered enough to scramble to his feet and he shot out of the restaurant with a speed the coach would have admired as he ran for the fire station less than a football field away. When he burst into the bay, panting and panicked the firemen had a hard time understanding what Kevin’s emergency was but once they heard the name of Sam King they knew it was trouble. One of them called the police while three others went back with Kevin to McDonald’s. Maybe they could calm Sam down although not one of them believed it possible.
Hanging back Kevin let the firemen go in first, feeling braver standing behind them than in the lead. The customers had cleared out and so had the employees except for the ones Sam had either pushed down or knocked out. One was laid out visible just beneath the swinging gate leading to the back of the counters, another midway down the aisle at the grill. Sam could be heard still calling and threatening his daughter somewhere in the back, his curses loud and ugly.
One of the firemen used his walkie-talkie to request for paramedics and the other two went to help the victims. Leaving the walkie-talkie fireman to also deal with Sam. “Anything back there like a gun or knives?” he asked Kevin.
Kevin’s negative response helped the fireman quickly decide to wait for the police unless Sam became a threat to someone instead of property. Already in the distance police sirens were heard.
Sam King slammed out of the McDonald’s back door and walked right into the path of Officer Macon who had his gun out and aimed. He was subdued after only a little resistance and handcuffed before being left in the back of the patrol car. His anger seethed within him and he added the weight of the last half hour’s events into Becca’s account. Although some might think him to be illiterate he was shrewd. He knew he could not afford to allow anger to pour from him now, he would wait until he had Becca in hand before venting that, but it was hard to pull himself back into control.
Twenty minutes later on the way to the police station Sam remembered that his wife was responsible for taking Becca to and from work today and he had the impression Martha had told him something about needing to stop at her mother’s to help her with something or the other. That meant the reason Becca wasn’t home yet was because her mother had made that extra stop. That was okay, Sam reasoned, then they would both pay. They would both pay dearly.
To be continued…
Happily settled in the first desk of the first row in front of the teacher’s desk, with her permission, on the first day of school I was alive with excitement. I could barely contain my joy. That all changed when Cheryl Samson* walked in with her mother and stopped in front of me announcing she wanted my desk. Mama not only forced me to move to the last desk in the last row in the corner but also to apologize for having taking Cheryl’s seat. I was defined in this moment as being unworthy to sit up front, I belonged in the far corner.
A spark of joy returned soon when I was called to the teacher’s desk for her to see how many words or letters of the alphabet I could recognize. Happily I told her that I already knew how to read, my mother had taught me! I rattled off the titles of the books I had read already, the majority of the Bobbsey Twin and Donna Parker series as well as Huckleberry Finn. Not believing me she handed me the Dick and Jane reader and told me to read out loud. After I read several pages my teacher stopped me.
“Your mother,” she told me, “has obviously taught you not to read but to memorize books. You’ll have to learn again.” Cheryl snickered behind me. “Memorizing the words on the pages doesn’t mean you can actually read!” the teacher said as I quickly went back to my seat. I had never known Dick and Jane existed until a few minutes ago. I was defined in these moments as unintelligent, misinformed and as a liar.
At home, annoyed by my why questions about Cheryl and the desk and having to relearn to read, my mother mumbled as she peeled potatoes. Finally she sent me to my room saying, “People like us aren’t like people like her.”
“People like us”? Why were we “people like us”? What did Mama mean? I was defined now as less important, belonging to some “people like us” that I didn’t understand.
Homecoming at school brought the opportunity to be the First Grade Homecoming Princess. All I had to do was enter, sell baked goods and juice during recess for three days and collect as much money as possible from my family. If I collected and earned the most money I could be the Princess. I earned myself first runner-up. Cheryl won the Princess title.
I was pleased somewhat to be the runner-up. I would still get to be part of the Homecoming Court and walk out onto the field at the football game half-time. Only I blew that by trying to mimic Cheryl and failed miserably, embarrassed my family, received a spanking, lecture and hearing the story repeated through the years, the humiliation fresh every time. I was defined as foolish and bringing shame to my family. I was defined as a “runner-up” not a winner.
To make everyone happy I learned to pretend. I pretended not to know how to read and pretended to let the teacher teach me all over again. I pretended to be less intelligent. That I didn’t want the very things I wanted the most. That my home life was just as normal as anyone else’s home life was. That I deserved to be last in everything, that runner-up was the best I’d ever be. Through the years I learned to settle for less because I had pretended so long to only want and deserve the least that I didn’t even try. I was wearing the assigned masks given to me and defined by them regardless of their truth.
These three events, all too quickly defined me to myself as what I was given the message I was to be. I recognized all too soon that what made Cheryl one of “those people” instead of one of the “people like us” were the following things: Beauty, money, expensive clothes, intelligence, importance, lineage, and social status. Money, I acknowledged as the years passed, could buy it all. Or at least buy you the ability to fake it.
Reality was that there were a lot of things that set me apart from other kids. None of those were any of the reasons my mother had cited, or my teacher insisted upon or that my childish mind connected to. All that these false definitions of me did were to enable me to hide away.
Redefining who I was would take years. Slowly it happened.
I learned I did have the ability to earn A’s by earning them in master level classes. I learned I could do, at least some algebra, by teaching myself from my daughter’s textbook and the online tutorial lessons to help her. I learned to be a parent that gives her child wings to fly and roots to let her know she is always loved and always has a home, instead of clipping her wings and binding her with her roots. It has taken years of on and off therapy to peel away layers of pretense, hurt, shame, wrong definitions and forbidden anger and I’m still redefining myself as one of God’s creations.
Paul’s words in Romans 8:28 have reminded me “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And again in I Corinthians 15:10 Paul’s words have given me courage, “But by the grace I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
King Solomon’s words from Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:” repeatedly whisper to me that the bad times will pass and the good will come, all in God’s time. While Jeremiah in 29:11 has told me, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jesus’ has instructed me of my mission for him in this life in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
We all have defining moments in our lives…defining scriptures that have awakened us to who we are in Christ…what moments have defined you…what scriptures have awakened you?
*Name changed for privacy. All scripture from the N.I.V. translation of the Bible.
Those of us who are parents are constantly faced with challenges in raising our children. As our own daughter nears adolescent the issues become more delicate and complex.
Our daughter is 11 years old and in the sixth grade and she is a worrier. She worries to the point that she can become a crying, miserable mess of emotions just thinking of something going wrong. Not just “big” things but little ones as well. Just yesterday she was approaching tears in the store as we searched for new sneakers for her because she was worried that we would not find any that suited her needs. So when my eye caught this sentence when flipping through a ladies magazine, “Yet even in happy times, my son had been a worrier;” I stopped to read the article.
Reading it further I did so in a sense of disbelief, for once I read the title and subtitle I couldn’t help but feel my heart sink within me. “Surely,” I was thinking, “this isn’t what it truly talks about.” The article title is “The Fortune-Teller’s Gift. A crystal ball. Gleeful fibs. And the best $10 I’ve ever spent.”
Summing up the article Ms. Maynard’s son who at the time the article is written about, was 11-years-old and in the sixth grade. He had always been a worrier but that year the worries had overwhelmed him and he rarely smiled or laughed anymore. His mother, seeing her son’s misery evident by his slumped shoulders and subdued countenance after a holiday performance at school spotted a shop advertising fortune telling for $10. They stopped and the fortune teller, who the mother recognized from her previous employment as a fast-food worker, took her son into the fortune telling session. Twenty minutes later her son reappeared and Ms. Maynard paid the $10. She learned from her son how perfect the rest of his life was going to be.
He was going to have a wonderful life, go to college, be a movie or rock star and marry a nice girl. They would be the parents of a boy and a girl while living in a great house with a pool. He was going to live a long life as were all the members of his family. Even though his mother knew the fortune teller was a fraud and given her son hope based on a lie she wasn’t concerned. Her son did grow up and find that the fortune teller had lied and his life did have troubles and he did have to learn how to deal with the issues in life beyond our control. Still, Ms. Maynard considers the $10 she spent the best investment she ever made. Her son got the message she herself wanted him to understand at that time, “Don’t worry. You’ll be OK.”
As Christian parents this mother’s choice certainly isn’t our choice to help our daughter learn to handle her worries and fears. Last night, to continue with the example of the “could be” shoe disaster while her father continued to look for shoes, I took a moment to touch her hand, look into her eyes and remind her we hadn’t looked at all the shoes yet and that this wasn’t the only store we could go to. We would find her shoes. We then continued our hunt and quickly found her a pair that met her needs, our budget and were still stylish.
Our responses to our daughter’s worries vary, depending on the fear, situation and the time we have in the moment. We sometimes address it enough to ease her mind and return to the issue when emotions aren’t as stirred up or time permits a deeper exploration of the problem. We encourage her to pray about everything and pray with and for her in her presence and in our own times with God. Together we explore the Bible for the truth she needs. We’ve made her life affirmation Jeremiah 29:11.
We’ve also sought professional counseling services for her as well as medication when it was something that required that intervention. We do not discount that there are times when intervention for people of all ages needs to be aided by professional help or other resources. But we do not forget to point her towards the ultimate resource for seeking guidance on her future, assurance for her worries and calmness for her heart – God.
It’s not my place to say Ms. Maynard made a bad decision. It isn’t the decision I would make. Yes, her son got the message she wanted him to get, that everything would be okay, but it was hope based on the words of a fortune teller and that doesn’t work for our family. We don’t discount that there are people who practice things that are empowered for sources other than God but God’s word gives us some very clear understanding of how He views trusting practices such as fortune telling. Specific scriptures relating to this issue are given below.
Indulge me this one question. Of the investments we as parents make in our children everyday what do you consider your greatest investment?
These are not the only scriptures pertaining to this subject in the Bible. References are from the New Internation Version of the Bible.
Everyone should study God’s word on their own with the counsel of the Holy Spirit and the use of trustworthy resources.
“Acts 16: 16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.”
“Deuteronomy 18: 9 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. 13 You must be blameless before the LORD your God.”
“II Chronicles 33: 1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” 5 In both courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger. 7 He took the carved image he had made and put it in God’s temple, of which God had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. 8 I will not again make the feet of the Israelites leave the land I assigned to your forefathers, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them concerning all the laws, decrees and ordinances given through Moses.” 9 But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites. 10 The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the LORD brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.”
“Galatians 5: 16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
“Jeremiah 29: 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD. 10 This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” 15 You may say, “The LORD has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,” 16 but this is what the LORD says about the king who sits on David’s throne and all the people who remain in this city, your countrymen who did not go with you into exile—“
This is a true story. I know the people who live these lives. Only the names* have been changed for protection of their privacy.
Joey* is a success story for Alabama’s foster care system. We often hear the stories of failure but there are successful and good stories of the system working, they just don’t get the spotlight as often as the times the system isn’t successful do.
Joey, at the age of eight had enough wisdom to know he didn’t want to grow up in a home where drugs and alcohol were more necessary than food, shelter and clothing. Joey didn’t want to never know who that man was in his house when he came home from or went to school. A lot was wrong in the home Joey was being raised in and Joey knew if he didn’t get out then he’d grow up to do what he saw his mom and older siblings doing; dealing and using drugs. So Joey ran away to the Department of Human Services. He then became a child placed in the state foster care system, as did his younger brothers, of which one had learning disabilities.
Even though he made the decision to leave his family, Joey was having a hard time letting go of the life he’d had for eight years. He had an even harder time facing how his mother’s actions were saying she valued her drugs more than him or his younger brothers. She certainly couldn’t give up drugs to get them back, so what else was he to think? Until she did she couldn’t provide adequate housing or provisions for her youngest children.
It took DHR several foster home placements before DHR found him a home that fit Joey and his needs. Carla and Jesse Carter* accepted Joey as he was and he felt their love for him in many ways. He also knew he loved them too but it was hard to let the old life go. Having had to raise himself, living by his own rules, doing what he felt he had to in order to simply have enough to eat, these were the past realities for Joey and it was hard to let someone else take care of those things. It was all he had ever known. Plus, there was the hope nearly all foster children shelter in their hearts; the hope their parents will change.
Joey was a therapeutic foster child because of his emotional needs. He was on the verge of becoming a teenager now, at the age of 12, and he was changing in many ways. His behavior escalated and then his foster-father, Jesse, died after a battle with lung cancer from working in the coal mines. Joey’s acting out his unspoken inner feelings made him defiant, angry, sullen and obstinate. He refused to obey the Carter’s house rules. He added much to Carla’s grief and refused all her attempts to help, love and support him. Carla had to admit she couldn’t handle Joey’s behavior on her own while she and her older children were mourning Jesse’s death too. She explained to Joey what the family was going through and told him they needed to work together to move on without Jesse.
Counseling, behavioral modification, respite services and Carla’s unending love didn’t help. Joey grew more out of control and violent in his anger. Her broken heart from her husband’s death now shattered feeling that she was unable to help Joey. Reluctantly and with much sorrow Carla called and asked the foster care agency to remove Joey.
He went through more foster care placements but Joey was out of control, his behavior ruled by his anger. He had many things to be angry about, Joey was angry his mother refused to change, not to get him or his siblings back, not if it required giving up drugs. He was angry Jesse died. He was angry he had to change foster homes. Everything and everybody was against him, in his mind. Everything was a reason to be angry. Finally Joey’s anger caused him to be so out of control that he found himself in an inpatient psychiatric facility.
Now forced to be quiet and still and however reluctantly, to take part in counseling and group therapy as well as to take medication, Joey had time to think. Once more Joey’s wisdom managed to at last rule his emotions. He remembered Carla’s promise to him, when he was willing to change she would be waiting. Joey thought about why he left his mother’s house to begin with, not wanting to be the type person she and his older siblings were. He realized his behavior, his choices were as destructive as his mother and older siblings and even without drugs he was headed down the wrong road. Joey begged someone to call Carla.
Carla came. Joey went back home, the only real home he’d ever had. He started trying at school and his grades came up, he was then allowed to play basketball by the school. He began to date and to work part-time jobs.
Joey, Carla and her two older adopted children became a solid family. The court wanted to sever Joey’s biological mother’s parental rights but every time his mother would seem to have stopped doing drugs and was willing to get her life together to get her kids back. But every time she would not stay clean long enough for her kids to come back to her home. It was a painful see-sawing experience for all involved.
Wanting very badly for Carla to adopt him so he could be her “legal” son was something Joey talked about with Carla regularly. His heart only accepted the reality of that not happening when Carla told him, “Joey, you are my son. In my heart, and in Jesse’s, you have been our son since the day you crossed the threshold into our home. Now nothing can change the fact that biologically your mother is your mother. Nothing can change that Daisy* is going to do what Daisy is going to do. Everyone who matters knows you are my son. Gene* and Alicia* know that when I pass away everything gets split three ways and it’s in my will that way. Put your energy into your hopes and dreams for your future and I will always be here to cheer you on.”
That’s exactly what Joey did too. He graduated high school with grades good enough to get into one of the best universities in the country. He started attending college, living on his own, through our agency’s independent living program and he worked part-time. He soon discovered that though his basic needs were met it was a challenging lifestyle. So Joey thought long and hard and after talking to Carla he enlisted in the Navy.
He spent time in Iraq, volunteering to go with a team of Marines and he went to Cuba to be a guard at the military prison there. Joey managed to see many parts of the world while in the Navy and experience many different types of work. When his enlistment was up he returned home, a new wife beside him, and resumed his college career.
Joey and Eileen* found marriage wasn’t as simple as they thought. Eileen was accustom to having plenty of money and Joey, working part-time and going to school full-time wasn’t making much money. Eileen found the adjustments to life in the South from life in the North ones she felt she just couldn’t make. So even though she was expecting their son she left Joey and moved back home to her parents.
Carlos* was born premature and has some medical struggles. Eileen and Joey agreed they are better people when they are not together and that divorce is best for them. A failed marriage was not in Joey’s plans and he accepts his own role in the break-up of his and Eileen’s marriage but he is as much a part of Carlos’ life as he can be and financially Carlos is well taken care of now.
From a desperate eight year old little boy forced to take on his own survival to a member of a loving “permanent” foster family to the U.S. Navy to a college graduate to the owner of his own security business, Joey has proven that the foster care system can produce productive and honorable members of the world community. Especially with those like Joey who learn that they do indeed control some of their lives with the decisions they make and who find foster parents like Jesse and Carla. The Carter’s, especially Carla, were willing to work hard with the foster child who was struggling like Joey had been.
There should be successful foster home placements for all the kids like Joey. If you’re considering adoption consider foster care as an option to find the child that is right for you. There are many successful adoptions through the foster care system. Can you and your family help a child like Joey? Also, don’t overlook the older child or sibling groups that are in need of forever families too.
Last night I got all dressed up for my 30th high school reunion. I was nervous. I’d skipped all the other reunions and now I was facing people I hadn’t seen, at least most of them, for 30 years and back then we were all young, healthy and had all our body parts. Now I would face them minus an entire leg and from a wheelchair.
I hadn’t been able to face my Sunday School class at a swim party the weekend before and I see them usually once a week. They had been with me every step of the way through the “before amputation” stages, the actual “amputation” stages and the “after amputation” stages as well. What made me think I could face a room full of people who may as well now be strangers? I just felt like I had to.
I’ve long loved this verse of scripture found in I Corinthians 15:10a; “But by the grace of God I am what I am and his grace to me was not without effect.” I am what I am. God’s grace makes me what I am and it has its effect in and on me. Despite feeling awkward as I wheeled around the room last night, I kept repeating that portion of scripture to myself.
Later in the evening as I sat at the table with my high school best friend and my husband and was re-acquainted with old classmates I realized something else. The girl I was in 1982, who wept at the thought of never seeing some of the very people I didn’t recognize last night had been desperate to feel part of these still slim and beautiful, successful people.
Sometimes in that quest I paid a high price. Not just with stupid diet decisions but in bad decisions that shredded my self-esteem. I gave away parts of myself to men who were not worthy of them and who in the end didn’t appreciate the gift at all.
In those high school years I was the girl sitting at home on prom nights because I wasn’t one of the cute girls or at least a thin one. I imagined magical nights of dancing with a number of handsome boys I knew and danced with none of them, ever.
Last night the only wish I had been that “Mr. Cool & Cute” who was spinning the tunes would play one slow song so I could “dance” with my husband one time. That one song, that lasted I’m sure no more than four minutes, meant a world of joy to me, so much I wept through most of it.
Those slim and beautiful girls from high school were, for the most part, still slim and beautiful. Those cute guys were still visible beneath the 30 years of aging we’d done. Oh, time had marched its way across all of us. But for a bunch of folks in our later 40’s we all looked good. Yes, we ALL looked good, even me.
Most of all, when I left last night, I felt like I loved the woman I am now, far more than I liked the girl I was then. I also had more compassion for the girl I was then than I did then for I know her complete history and can freely acknowledge every bit of it.
Now the second part of I Corinthians 15:10 came to me, “No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was within me.” (N.I.V.) My life hasn’t been any more traumatic or hurtful than anyone else’s, I dare not claim that, but I can also say I was one of those who had to allow God’s grace to work in me harder because I fell for the world’s version of what beautiful and successful was really hard.
Furthermore, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (I Timothy 1:15 N.I.V.) One who enjoyed that one slow dance better than any other dance in my lifetime so far.
Furthermore, I have a sure assurance now that when this life, with all its issues, woes and sorrows is at last over, I am going home. “Going home, I’ll meet you at the table. Going home, I’ll meet you in the air…and you are never too young to think about it…I’ll be going home, I’ll be going home…” (CD “Conversations” song, “Going Home” as sung by Sara Groves.)
Parking in one of my usual spots to wait for my daughter’s school bus I intended to read a book. Instead I found myself watching a bee and a butterfly dine from some flowering weeds.
Confession, I was thinking, “Why did God make flowering weeds? Why ‘waste’ such pretty blooms on a weed?” (similar questions I’ve had about mice, snakes etc…but that’s another post!)
The buzz of the bee helped my attitude shift. The daintiness of the butterfly flitting from flower to flower opened my eyes. Neither the bee nor the butterfly seemed at all concerned that the pollen they were busily collecting was from a weed flower and not a “real” flower. They seemed to be perfectly content with their meal. It occurred to me, that neither bee nor butterfly probably knew a weed flower from a regular flower anyway. Furthermore, I don’t think they would care. They need pollen. God supplied pollen. Their needs are fulfilled.
How many times does God provide for me and I turn away His provision, His gift because I see the weeds and not the flowers on the weeds? To my daughter who comes bounding off her bus and who snatches a handful of weeds for me because the white flowers with yellow centers are “pretty” it doesn’t matter. To the bee and the butterfly it doesn’t matter. Why does it matter to me?
Unlike the bee, the butterfly or my daughter I have the nerve to have a “standard” for the way God chooses to provide for my needs. Another confession, I also have a horrible habit of setting a “standard” of what God provides for my needs.
The Lord’s Prayer has us pray, “Give us this day our daily bread…” it doesn’t say “Give us this day our daily (insert type of bread here)…” There’s no tag line with various bread type suggests – wheat, rye, pumpernickel, pita etc…
When Abraham took his son up on the mountain where he planned to follow God’s direction and sacrifice him as an offering he said to Isaac, when quizzed about the where the sacrifice was, that God himself would provide. Abraham had no idea he’d find a ram caught in the bushes, but he did. You can bet Abraham didn’t hesitate to accept God’s provision either thinking, “Why not a lamb, or an ox”?
I’m just a woman with a family and many are our daily needs. Who am I to questions or restrict or try to dictate how, when and where God supplies those needs? Who am I to turn down His provision because it doesn’t meet MY standards?!
As we pull away from the roadside the flowering weeds wave in the breeze, the bee and the butterfly have moved on to a new dining hall and the flowering weeds my daughter picked are already dying snatched from their stalks. But alive in me is the assurance God indeed does provide if only I stop looking at the packaging and see instead the blessing.