Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Loss

A lot of foster care is about loss. We've all experienced loss on various levels. There are little losses, big losses, and gigantic loss. Each one changes us, however slightly.

My life seems to be full of loss at the moment. There's the loss of familiarity as I start a new class online with a new teacher. There's a loss at work because one of the tellers was transferred to another branch and the manager who hired me there also transferred. Because of that there are a lot of changes and my job description has dramatically changed. There's the loss of being close to family that I've been feeling since we moved to NY. There's the loss of the little ones who held my heart for the eight weeks they stayed with us. They still hold my heart, but I can't hold them anymore.

As I mentioned before, each loss changes us. The unfamiliarity of a new class causes me to be extra attentive as I try to learn a new teacher's personality and preferences. The changes at work are causing me to re-evaluate whether or not I really want to stay at this job until I am done with my masters. The distance from my family makes me want to reach out to them more often. (Although I've miserably failed at this of late.) My empty arms make me ache in my soul and cry myself to sleep as I wonder if God plans for my arms to ever be filled longer than momentarily.

Thinking about all these losses, it would be easy to get down in the dumps and have a humongous pity party. But then my mind goes to the loss that each of our foster kiddos face when they come into care. They pretty much lose everything except their own self identity. Is it any wonder that they fight for control in so many little things when they have lost all control in most of the big things? I should say not! What constants do they have?? None.

Even with all the loss and changes in my life, I have constants. There is my husband who is so patient with me in my grouchy Eeyore-ness. There is our sweet poodle, Ninja, who sits with me as I sob about the pain I feel inside. There is my church family, supportive, sweet, loving, and praying. There is God's faithfulness to me. When I start to think about what I have instead of what I've lost, I realize just how blessed I am. It doesn't make the pain go away, but provides beautiful contrasting thoughts to sweeten my days and gladden my heart.

So I guess one of my challenges as I deal with the children God places in my care is to teach them to find the good things. Even at those moments of darkness, there are people who love them and who care. If I can teach them the joy that can be found in counting blessings, I will have made a difference in their lives.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Long time, no write!

I don't even know if there are still any eyes out there in the great chasm of the internet that still take the time to peek at my blog. If not, that's ok. If so, that's ok, too. For now, because of the busy-ness of my life, this will just be a quick journaling outlet as I feel like it and have time.

So much has happened since we moved to Syracuse. After a long (more than a year, start to finish) process we have been approved for foster care here in NY. We have had an almost two month placement with two bundles of energy, three and four years old. It kept us on our toes to be sure. Just this last weekend, they were reunified with a relative, so our house is very quiet again. I miss the extra hugs, kisses, music, laughter, and play. I don't miss quite so badly the fits, tantrums, bed-wetting, and total lack of alone-time.

Every time we say good-bye, I think that perhaps it will hurt a little less. Unfortunately, it doesn't. Like we've said to so many people, so many times, "If you don't hurt when they leave, you probably aren't doing the job right." We do our best to do the job right, and boy, does it hurt when they leave.

At some point maybe I'll type up a post full of advice, but for now, I just needed to get some words on the page.

Our lives are super busy as always. I am in my ninth of eleven classes in my master's degree in Educational Administration. I'm working full time at the bank, sometimes on the teller line, and sometimes at a desk on the platform side, which means my days are spent in solving problems for people and building relationships, while actively pursuing sales goals as well. Then of course, there's church, where I teach Sunday school, play the piano, and try to be a good pastor's wife by loving my people and trying to find ways to show we care. In between all that, when I have a minute I love to doodle, dream, and plan in my bullet journal. (Thanks to my sister Charity for getting me hooked on that!)

Jason works full time as a driver for elderly in addition to pastoring. He is growing into a better pastor every day, and keeps very busy between his two jobs.

So, if you are lurking out there and still reading, give me a shout-out and let me know what you want to know about our lives here in the cold, snowy city of Syracuse. Who knows, maybe next year your question will be answered! :-)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pumpkin Chip Cookies, THM style

I've been following the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan for a while now. I have lost about 40 pounds, and have been encouraging my husband to join in. He has dabbled around the edges, but today, he decided to give it a go. I wanted to make him something to celebrate, so I tweaked an old recipe of mine to make his favorite cookies on plan.

This is a great fall recipe because of the delicious pumpkin flavor!

Here's the recipe:
Ingredients:
1 cup butter
2 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 cup erythritol/stevia blend
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
3 cups baking blend (I use Briana's recipe found here.)
1 12 oz. package on plan chocolate chips

Directions:
Cream butter, eggs, sweetener, and vanilla. Add pumpkin. Stir in dry ingredients. Drop onto cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes. Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother’s Day Thoughts

pink geranium

Mother’s Day gift from our church

Over the past year, I’ve been thinking about this day. Last year, Jason asked me if I would be willing to share some thoughts for Mother’s Day and I told him that I couldn’t, that it would be too painful. This year, in many ways, it is even more painful. You know about the pain that our family has just recently been through as we lost another child. My heart has been broken once again, and once again, my arms are empty on Mother’s Day, but as I thought about Mother’s Day, God spoke to me about taking some time to honor the ladies around me who have come to mean so much to me.

Men, I realize that this is largely focused toward the ladies, but I just want to take a moment to remind you of the sacrifices that the mothers in your life make. Whether it is the woman who gave you birth, the woman who gave birth to your children, or your sisters and others around you who have mother’s hearts, they are worthy of your gratitude, admiration, and honor.

Let them know that you appreciate them today!

I’d like to share a passage that pastors all around the United States are likely reading today, Proverbs 31:10 - 31. It shows us God’s ideal for women and gives us women something to aspire to daily. Ladies, I’d like to challenge you. As we read, evaluate yourself. How are you doing in these areas? Let the Word of God speak truth to your heart.

10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.

31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Wow! What a challenge that passage is to us, ladies. Are we that industrious, that trustworthy, that Christ-like? Do we run our homes smoothly? Are our words wise and kind? Are we good stewards? Are we worthy of our husband and children’s praise? If we aren’t is it our daily goal to be more like that virtuous woman? I pray that it is.

Today I’d like to take some time to honor the mothers in our midst. I realize that it doesn’t take giving birth to have a mother’s heart. However, there is a special honor that comes from giving birth and bringing a child into this world, and we want to honor those of you who have done that. You have given birth, that in itself is worthy of commendation. The physical pain that you went through is just a token of the tremendous love you feel for your children and the sacrifices you make for them. Remember those “little” years? The messes, the interrupted quiet time, the diapers, the boo-boos, and the tears of frustration after yet another outfit ruined because of spit-up, food stains, or muddy handprints. Those years, although filled with hard moments, were the years where you shaped your child’s future. During those impressionable years, you taught your children how to act, how to react, and how to love others and love Jesus. You nurtured them. You loved them. I think Hannah of the Bible must have especially cherished those little years. As she prepared to give her son away for God’s service, I can only imagine how she made a choice to make memories she could hold forever. Samuel was God’s faithfulness to her in human form. Every single moment she had with him was a gift. May you mothers of little ones realize that your child is a precious gift and that those “little” days you have with them now are fleeting and special. We honor you for your tears, your sleepless nights, and your patience. We pray that God will give you strength and courage. We pray that he will encourage you and give you joy in the sweet moments you are experiencing.

Then came those teenage years! You showed your love in a different way now. Sometimes, it was by being the “bad” parent in your teen’s eyes, who wouldn’t let your child do what “everyone else” was doing. Sometimes you showed your love by stepping back and letting your independent youngster learn the hard way when it would have been easier to just “tell them a thing or two.” Whatever the case, you sacrificed for them, you taught them important life lessons, you worried about them, and you loved them. Some of you are in the midst of that now. You are choosing to follow Proverbs 29:15 which says, The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. It may seem that the reproof is endless, but you are consistently teaching your children to be Christ-like. Do you think Samson’s mother faced moments like you do? Moments when she worried about his choice of a wife, worried about how lightly he seemed to take his faith, worried about the choices he made? We honor you for your sacrifices. We honor you for your dedication to raising your teens to be adults who are responsible, honest, and hard-working. We honor you for teaching them to love Christ and seek His will for their lives. We pray that God will bless your efforts and give you encouragement on those days when it seems like they just won’t ever mature. We pray that you will be a godly example to those teens so that they look for a wife who follows your example of godliness or they become that wife who loves her husband and her children as you do.

Some of you are in another stage of life. You are now mothering from a distance as your children begin lives of their own. You worry from afar, spend hours in prayer, and give advice when it is welcome. Your children are learning what it means to be parents themselves, and now with that experience, hopefully they appreciate your sacrifices even more. You may have had the joy of welcoming and spoiling grandchildren. I think of Timothy’s grandmother, Lois who passed her faith down, first to her daughter, and then to her grandson. What a privilege you have! What a responsibility! Your grandchildren look up to you, and you can show them to Heaven. You can be Jesus to them! We honor you. You honor you for your wisdom, your example, and your guidance. We honor you for your love for those little grandkids and your guidance in their lives. We pray for you as at times you have to watch them make choices you don’t agree with. We pray for you as you carry a burden for the ones who have gone astray. We pray for you as you teach your grandchildren about faith and family.

Did you know that Anna Jarvis, the lady who founded Mother’s Day was never a mother? She was a loving aunt and devoted daughter who lobbied congress to make the day a holiday because of a suggestion her mother had made before her death. Anna had many nieces and nephews and loved them dearly. There are some here this morning, who never had the privilege of giving birth. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a mother’s heart. They have reached out to those around them and nurtured and protected. They may be a mentor, a favorite babysitter, a loved aunt, a step-mom or grandma, a foster or an adoptive mom. Whatever the case, we want to honor your mother’s hearts. GOD CARES ABOUT CHILDLESS WOMEN. He shares their stories in His word. They have a part in His plan. YOU have a part in his plan. God cares about you and loves you! We honor you for fulfilling God’s plan for your life, even in the hard times. We honor you for giving those tired mamas a break, for lightening their load, for lending a listening ear. We pray for you during those moments when you feel alone or as though you don’t have a place to belong. We pray for you as you try to understand why God’s plan for your life seems so different to His plan for those around you.

There may even be those here who know the pain of giving birth, but also know the greater pain of losing that child, whether through death, or through giving that child up to someone else’s care. We realize that whether you experienced the joy of parenthood for moments, weeks or for years, YOU ARE A MOTHER. The pain that you go through is not lost to God’s attention. God knows. He cares. When Mary was grieving the loss of her Son as He died on the cross, God had a plan. Christ made sure that someone would take care of her, help her through the pain. He wants to do that for you as well. Let God wrap His arms around you. Give your pain to Him. He understands. We honor you and grieve with you. We pray that God will comfort you and give you peace. We pray that when your arms feel empty, your heart will be full of God’s love and faithfulness.

In closing, I’d like to share an article that I found a few years ago as I sat at home on a Mother’s Day Sunday morning. It was shortly after we were to have a foster placement. The placement fell through and I was mourning. Mourning the loss of what could have been and mourning my empty arms. That Sunday, I was physically sick because of the emotional pain I was going through, and a friend of mine shared this with me. It comes from Amy Young who writes a blog called Messy Middle.

The wide spectrum of mothering

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who have aborted children - we remember them and you on this day

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children - we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent - we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren, yet that dream is not to be – we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption – we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

By Amy Young (http://messymiddle.com)

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts. May your Mother’s day be special as you celebrate the love of the mothers in your life! Feel free to share my thoughts with a friend who would appreciate them.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Greater Joy

2015-05-08 13.45.15

My school keys, my PE whistle, a note from a parent, and some grading that needed to be done. They lay on my desk before me as painful reminders of what I’d be giving up.

My Heart’s desire since my memories began was to teach.

After living that dream for eight years of development, enjoyment, and precious memories, now the possibility had arisen that my dreams were going to be sacrificed.

Through circumstances not of my own choosing, the doors of the local church my husband was pastoring would soon be closed to us. To my husband’s excitement however, God was opening new doors. In a conference with several open churches, my husband was now the only available pastor. That meant we had calls from multiple churches for trial sermons. The only problem was that none of the churches were local. 

Although we didn’t know God’s will for our lives yet, it appeared as though we were being led in a new direction.

Boxes had been sitting in our living room. Packing them seemed to me to symbolize packing away my life, my dreams, my goals. They were empty. It was painful to think of once again packing away memories and hopes. My heart hurt each time I walked past and noticed the empty boxes.

Now I sat at my desk thinking about the future. Hot tears poured from my eyes and coursed down my cheeks as I sat and surrendered. I surrendered my ambitions, my aspirations of career advancement, and my lack of control. “Yes,” was my cry. Where God was going to lead us, I had no clue. I still don’t. But what sweet peace there is in that full consecration to God’s will.

I had surrendered with my head and my words weeks ago, but my heart was not so easy.

You see, when you are living your dream, sometimes it’s hard to fathom that God could have a MORE blissful, more fulfilling future for you. When you’ve poured your heart into that dream job, into those precious souls you’ve reached, it’s hard to be torn away, even if there are so many others who need your touch. It’s kind of like a child whose parent tells them to put away their toys and get in the car. The child was perfectly happy with those toys. However when they submit to their parents will, they are overjoyed to find that their destination is the zoo.

A greater joy awaited them when they followed their parent’s plan.

What if they had refused to give up the toys they were holding onto? What if I refuse to let my sweet Savior guide me? Would I be happy? Perhaps for a time.

Would I miss out on that greater joy?

Right now, I don’t know what God’s plan is. I don’t know if He is going to lead us away from this place, or if He will show us that His will for us is to stay put. Whatever the case, my will is to follow His will. I’m content to rest in the knowledge that God has a better plan than my human plans. What a consolation and peace that brings!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have boxes to pack.

I don’t know where we’ll be going or what we’ll be doing, but I must prepare for God to take us to our next stopping point on our journey to our final destination, Heaven.

I’ll keep you posted as our journey continues.

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