Adopted

Last week I shared with you all about the new kitten in our household. Well, it’s over a week now since adopting this new member into our family, and it’s been an adventure. Five years have passed since our last kitten, Oreo, came to live with us, and I am now reminded how much fun it is to have a kitten in the house… especially at Christmastime.

This little fellow had to jump through a lot of hoops to be adopted into our family.

First, he had to be tamable, but he passed that test with flying colors in only a day.

Second, to protect our other cats, he had to be disease free. A quick trip to the vet assured us he was a healthy little kitty… and a boy.

Finally, he would have to fit in well with our two other cats. After all, they do rule the roost. After only a couple of days, our five-year-old cat is acting more like a kitten than he has in years, and our thirteen-year-old cat just mostly tolerates the newcomer. That’s about as much acceptance as I can hope for from him.

When the decision was then made to keep him, it was time to give him a proper name. We couldn’t go on calling him “the kitten” forever. All six of us had ideas and names we liked. There were at least eight names on the list. It was a hard process to finally decide on “Butterscotch”. We know his name, even if he doesn’t yet.

I think he’s a lucky little bugger to come into this house of cat lovers. He will be loved and pampered all the rest of his days. I try to remind him daily of how lucky he is, yet he doesn’t seem to comprehend it fully.

I wonder if God looks upon me with the same mentality sometimes. There are times when I don’t exactly act all that appreciative that I have been adopted into His family. There weren’t even any hoops for me to jump through. God was willing to adopt me before He tamed me. He was willing to take me even in my spiritually unhealthy condition. I didn’t have to prove that I could get along with the other children in His family, either. And then He named me. That was easy. He calls me “Daughter”. No hoops. Just eyes opened to His love for me.

To be adopted into a family is really a significant thing. It’s a conscious decision to choose someone to be in your life, your family, forever. My children were born to me. They were gifts from a holy God. I chose to have them, but God chose them for me. I had little say in the matter. Adoptive families share a different kind of special.

Let’s wrap our minds around the concept that God chose us, adopted us into His family. If you are a new creature in Christ, then He did that. He chose you. The Bible teaches that we were dead in our sin. Dead people do not choose anything. They are dead. So Christ, while we were still dead in our sin, died so that we could live. He did that. For us. He left the plushiness of heaven to come and be born of a virgin, so that one day we would be adopted into his Father’s family and be brothers and sisters with him.

But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance. Galatians 4:4-7

I remind my new kitten every day, as I pull him once again out of my Christmas tree, how lucky he is to be in our family. I point a scolding finger at his little pink nose, only to have him playfully bat it away. I accept his purrs and playfulness as thanks enough. But how much more do I need to be reminded how lucky I am to have been adopted into God’s family? Sadly, most days I take for granted this most precious gift.

This holiday season, amidst, all the holiday chaos, I hope to take some time to truly appreciate that Jesus came to Earth for me as a baby, lived a life for me, and gave that same life up for me so that one day His Father could adopt me as His sister. Seems Jesus was the one jumping through hoops for me, now doesn’t it?…

Giving Thanks

It’s a glorious Thanksgiving Day here. I’m not talking about the weather. I haven’t even looked outside yet. But in my heart, where I think Thanksgiving really is, it is glorious.

Last night at church, our pastor asked us to write a thank you note to God. He even gave us paper and the time to do it. It’s not always natural for us to have a heart of thankfulness in our lives. So many times we think we haven’t gotten what we deserve. Mostly, in reality, that’s probably a good thing.

So I’m going to share my thank you note with you here. I found that actually writing my thoughts down, (rather than just thinking them in my head) putting real pen to real paper forced me to dig deep, and I found that I ran out of room on the paper I had been given to write all that I am thankful for. I hope that maybe you, too, will find a piece of paper and a pen today and write a thank you note to God for all He’s done for you.


Dear God,

I thank you for my life. The breath that I breathe. Each new day you give to me. Thank you for loving me with a passionate love and for giving me a savior in your son. Thank you for knowing I would need him.

Thank you for giving me a most excellent partner in life, and for the blessing of children. Thank you for the joy and riches they bring to my life. Thanks so much for my family and sweet friends. Thank you for a happy home where you are in our midst.

Thank you for never leaving me, and helping me to see your hand in my life when I thought it wasn’t there. Thank you for the great life challenges of this last year and how you are making all things right once more. Thank you for placing Matthew in a holy place of ministry again, and for giving me work that I love.

Thanks for the passion to write about how you speak to me. Thank you for speaking to me.

Thank you for kittens, chocolate, hugs, and laughter. Thank you for the promises of faith, hope, and love.

Help me to chase after you all of my life with a heart of thanksgiving.

I love you,
Stacey

One Little Kitten

Someone had knocked over my little fern out back. I’d noticed it on the floor of the patio when I looked outside yesterday morning. I couldn’t blame the usual culprit, my tuxedo cat Oreo, he’s strictly an indoor kitty. So I wondered, and blamed the wind…but I was still unsure. Not too long after that my oldest son opened the door and stepped outside.

It’s then that he heard it. A kitten. Meowing. Loudly. But where was the sound coming from? We all walked outside and listened. It grew louder and more panicked sounding.

“It’s in the grill”, I thought.

I stepped over to the barbecue grill, and opened the front door to peer inside. Sure enough, there it was.

A small, orange kitten. Scared to death. You may not particularly like cats, but we are cat people. Personally I am a fur, feather, and scale person. I love all animals. I’ve brought home all manner of critters. I once scooped up a baby rabbit from my front yard, and brought it inside too. We’ve had all manner of animals pass through our home, both wild and domesticated. I wasn’t sure which category this little kitten fit into, but I did what I always do and reached in to scoop it up, thinking, “This is your lucky day, little one.”

Apparently the kitten didn’t think he was so lucky and as soon as I grabbed him, he went into full commando defense mode. By the time I could pull him off me, my hands were scarred and bleeding. I don’t know which way he ran, I was too busy seeing stars.

An hour later, my fingers were bandaged and no longer bleeding. And he was back. This time sitting on top of our grill, meowing just as loudly as he had when he was stuck inside. My husband walked out there and he took off again.

We set up a cage with a small bowl of food inside, my son rigged the door with fishing line strung through the window and we went on about our business. About an hour later he was back… inside the cage, eating the food. My husband pulled on the fishing line, and the door to the cage swung shut. We had him this time and with no casualties!

He spent the night in the cage on a towel, the cage covered with a blanket for warmth. With a full belly, I’m sure he felt like he was at the Hilton. Unable to sleep, I got up and Googled how to care for a feral kitten. There are lots of thoughts on the net about the subject. I read that the younger the kitten is the more likely it is that it can be socialized and become a pet. Some feral cats however will never be socialized. Apparently, if a cat has had no human interaction they might as well be a wild skunk or rodent.

Reading this made me sad.

But I had to realize that while “our” kitten was young (maybe about ten weeks old) we still might not be able to convert him into a pet for us or anyone else.

Still, there were a few signs that most websites told us to watch for as positive cues that the kitten could be socialized. Using a litter box was one. Eye contact with humans was another. Our kitten had done both already. A willingness to eat in front of a human was another good sign. He did that too, although it took a while to convince him it was okay.

I can’t predict the outcome for this little kitty. Is he too lost, too wild, to save? I hope not. He’s a cutie. He’s a shorthaired, orange tabby with no tail. I haven’t let the kids name it yet because I am trying not to let them get their hopes up that we will tame him. But they are knocking around a few options anyway. My daughter likes Bobby because of his tail, or lack there of. My son likes Cheeto. We always seem to name our cats after snack foods.

I can’t say what the outcome will be for this little kitten. We will try our best to help him. I hope he is not too lost to save. As I read what the websites had to say about cats like him, I couldn’t help but make the leap to our human condition.

While some cats are just beyond our reach, people are never beyond the reach of the Holy Spirit. As long as we have breath left in our bodies, the Holy Spirit has the power to come into our hearts and do a great work, revealing to us the truth of the gospel.

How comforting that is to those of us with friends and family members who really need that truth to save them. No one is beyond His reach. Not one. It’s the hope offered to us in the scriptures. It’s the reason Jesus came. To bring us hope.

Land O’Denial

Sometimes I find that I am not living at the address printed on my checks, but rather I’m living in the Land O’Denial. Lots of things can take me there if I allow them to.

I had to laugh at a long time friend who recently posted on her Facebook wall that she needed a new dryer. Hers was apparently shrinking all her jeans. I invited her to join me in the
Land O’Denial.

And why not? It’s a great place to be. I like it there. Problems don’t exist in the
Land O’Denial. Issues that must be dealt with elsewhere can go on without limit there.

Happiness abounds. Stress levels are manageable because we just ignore those pesky problems that bring us down. See that extra ten pounds on the scale? Well in the Land O’Denial we can just explain that away. I’m just retaining water this week. Or like my friend, it must be the dryer.

If it’s that last ten pounds that has sent you to the Denial, then you are probably okay to visit there for a while. No real harm done. Its when we hang out there to avoid some real serious problems that need our attention that it can do some damage. We get real good at pretending or rationalizing away our issues.

Like that bad relationship, for instance. It’s just easier to ignore the problems that keep popping up with that person than deal with them. It’s less stressful to pretend that everything is fine.

Or what about that nagging pain? We’ll go to the doctor sometime. It’s not bad enough yet to really be an issue. We all have to deal with a little pain sometimes, right?

Feeling a little blue? You’re not dealing with real depression. Everyone feels the blues from time to time, don’t they?

It’s okay to keep using that charge card. Things are a little tight right now. Hey everyone’s in debt now, aren’t they? Besides, I’m worth it. I deserve to have those things. I need them.

The Land O’Denial seems like such a great place. A happy place. But the truth is, it’s a dangerous place to hang out for very long. The greatest thing- after salvation- that a relationship with Christ can bring a person is Truth. Jesus offers us the opportunity to walk in truth. He is the light and in him there is no dark place.

The Land O’Denial has lots of dark places to hide our issues. Jesus wants to come into our lives and shine a light in all of those dark places. He’s not interested in exposing us, but in exposing those areas where he can help us become all we need to be in Him. He knows there are areas we cannot face alone. That’s why we head to the Denial in the first place.

But a relationship with Jesus means we never have to face an issue alone again. Ever.

Are you taking frequent trips to Denial? Do you find yourself hanging out there often rather than dealing with the hard things of life? Saying “YES!” to Jesus gets us so much more than fire insurance for eternity…which is great and all, but a relationship with Christ also means we are never left alone to deal with our issues. We no longer have to be held hostage by them in denial.

Living a life outside the Land O’Denial can be challenging. I mean you have to deal with things, but that’s what life is all about. Dealing with the challenging things of life in the light and truth of the Gospel beats running to Denial every time. Denial says, “Ignore it, and it will go away.” Truth says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Roller Coaster Ride

This morning, I feel like a kid waiting on a new roller coaster ride. Standing in line, nervous, afraid, excited. I’m a bit fidgety and impatient. I am eager to get on and terrified to see it pulling into the station at the same time. I think I may need medication.

I guess you might be wondering the source of these feelings I am having. Perhaps you’ve had these same labile feelings over something in your own life. For me, these feelings come as a result of something my husband is doing today. He is not about to get on a new roller coaster, exactly. No, he’s starting a new job. To clarify, he’s starting a new church job.

My husband is a minister. He has spent nineteen of the last twenty years of our lives together in full time church work.

He is passionate about the local church. He believes it is the hope of the world to hear the news of Christ. We both do.

It’s been great. Mostly. Like a roller coaster ride. Sometimes it’s all out exciting with unpredictable twists and turns. Then on occasion it feels like the bottom drops out from under you, and down you go only to swept up again on another exciting turn. Lots of ups and downs on the ministry roller coaster.

We stepped off that roller coaster a year ago. One of these days I will share that experience here. Or maybe I’ll write a book. Truth really is stranger than fiction, and it would make a great story… Now. A year ago it was a nightmare. A year ago it felt as though we were fleeing to save our family. We were, really. On the few occasions that I have shared our experience, eyes bug out and mouths drop open in disbelief.

So now, a year later, there’s a bit of a “here we go again” feeling. I have to remind myself that we are not where we were. Fortunately, we’ve had a while to sit back and observe this new church. I’ve actually done more than that. I’ve peeked behind doors, and left no stone I saw unturned. So far, so good. While there’s no perfect church, I think we are going to be okay here. I’ve not been asked to drink anything resembling purple Kool-Aid.

I’d like to be able to see a little farther down the road than I can, except that’s just not how God works. He only allows us to see what we need to see to take that next step. Likely, much more than that and we’d wig out. So He leads us, step by step, into His plan, revealing just what we need to see so that we balance our faith to follow Him with our initiative to do so. At any moment I can be like the kid in line at the theme park. I can walk right up to the ride, and cross my arms and say,

”Uh uh. I ain’t getting on.”

That’s where I am this morning. I’ve bought my ticket. I’ve waited in line. Now the coaster is sitting in the station ready for me to climb on. Maybe that’s where you are in your life, too. You are following God in faith and while you feel excitement, you can’t shake the nervousness and fear you feel also.

Well sisters, we have a choice to make now, don’t we? We can stand in the station and watch that train pull away without us, or we can climb on, strap ourselves in, and enjoy the ride.

Christmas Before Thanksgiving

I saw Santa Claus yesterday. I did a double take because yesterday was November 10th. I had not been drinking. I was driving home after a long workday, and as a drove through my small town headed home, I saw him. He was a life-sized Santa statue sitting atop a table outside a small restaurant called The Three Eared Rabbit (no kidding).

It pulled me out of my drive-home-daze, and I started looking around me, noticing all the other Christmas decorations going up. Before Thanksgiving. It seems more and more we are skipping right from Halloween to Christmas. No money to be made from Thanksgiving they say.

I’m not too bothered by this really. I like Thanksgiving. It’s not that I am ready to make it a non-holiday or anything. But I’ve decided that for the first time ever I am going to put up my own Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. I think we need the hope of Christmas more than ever this year.

In the light of all we see around us, we need to be clinging to the hope that the birth of Christ offers us all. I am thankful for many things in my life. This last year has been quite a doozie for my family. Lots of challenges, many obstacles to overcome. I know some of you have faced some overwhelming challenges this last year as well. Job loss, financial troubles, relationship breakdown, illness, and the like.

I am thankful for the precious people in my life. My family, my friends have blessed me so much. I am thankful for the job opportunities that have come our way this year. I am grateful for even the very basics of life now. Food, shelter, clothing. No, it’s not that I want to skip this time of Thanksgiving at all.

But in the big picture, I’m talking about

the really big picture

of life, all those things I am thankful for fall infinitely short of my thankfulness i feel that God saw fit to call upon his only son to leave his heavenly home to come and be born of a virgin for me. For us.

That, above all, should be the reason we get out of bed in the morning. As Christians if we get out of bed just to pursue the things of this world, then we have missed the best reason to hit the floor running at the break of day. If we can manage to look at life in the light of eternity, it all begins with the birth of that baby. Without that, all else would be meaningless.

So I do think this is a great season of the year to recognize all the things we should be thankful for. God has given us many things. Great things. Even the challenging things He gave us this year was to improve and bless us. But the most grateful I am this year, is for the great hope that came when Christ was born.

So I will join others in ringing in Christmas a little early this year. For the hope of Christ fills my heart with Thanksgiving like nothing else.

Adults-in-training

I write a lot about raising kids. I spend a great deal of time doing that. This last weekend I sat with my oldest child at a college where he has been accepted to continue his education next fall. I wondered how in the heck we had gotten that far already. Wasn’t it just last year we were packing him off to kindergarten with his new backpack full of brand new crayons, pencils, paper, and safety scissors?

Since that day I have lost count of how many safety scissors I have purchased for my four kids. I probably continued to buy those round-ended scissors for them much longer than was necessary. But I wanted them to be safe. I didn’t want them to get hurt. I still don’t.

I don’t want to risk them getting hurt emotionally or physically. I worry that they will make a choice that can negatively impact them for the rest of their lives. I worry about cyber predators that stalk unsuspecting young people. I don’t want my kids to be unsuspecting. I want to protect their hearts and minds from the evils of this world. Ultimately that’s it.

For when I boil it all down, the things I want to protect my children from are things that are truly not of this world.

The Bible teaches that we do not fight against the evils of this world, but against powers and principalities we cannot even see or hope to defeat on our own. It’s a wonder I ever sleep at night. Not only do I have those seen and imagined dangers to worry about, the real battle is with unseen foes. Terrific. It’s probably a really good thing that they are unseen. If you’ve ever read a Frank Peretti novel you might get just a visual taste of what we are up against. (Frank is quite descriptive)

If I thought seeing my two oldest boys grow up and out from under was tough, I was ill prepared for what was to come with my daughter. For some reason, the risks seem greater, the dangers more…. dangerous for her. As she turns thirteen and insists on growing up, I may have to resort to medication. For her dad.

I suppose every father (or all the great ones) look through princess glasses when they look at their daughters. No matter how tall, mature, or developed (sheesh) a girl becomes, her dad sees that little girl in the princess costume that once sat in his lap and adored him. Great fathers have great love for their sons, but they cherish their daughters.

As parents we can choose to walk this child rearing path in fear or in faith. It’s a choice we make. Every day. To walk in fear is to say that I am choosing not to turn my fears over to the Lord in prayer. Instead, I am going to hold tight to them and keep them safe with me. I do not trust that the Lord will worry enough for my children, so I will do it myself. I think the lesson for us to learn as parents is that we cannot fight this battle for our kids standing up.

This battle is won on our knees.

That’s not to say that we are absolved from doing all that we can to infuse our children with noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable things. We are to fill their hearts and minds with the things of Christ and show them with our lives what it means to truly love Him and be loved by Him. We must be wise, and do our best to help them navigate the pitfalls that litter their paths. With our help, they can sidestep many of those. And for the ones they step right into in spite of us or while we are not looking, they will then experience the overwhelming grace of the Father who loves them as He leads them out again.

It’s then that we parents get to be God with skin on. Because it doesn’t matter how many safety scissors we buy them, they will still have trouble in this life. I think it is easier for Christian parents to put their lives in God’s hands than it is for them to give their children’s lives that same opportunity.

I look at my three adults-in-training (my little ones doesn’t quality for that yet) and I realize that my role as parent is probably as crucial as it has ever been. And it is probably most crucial now that I give their lives over to the One who holds them in His hands anyway. I don’t want to walk in fear for my children.

I want to walk in the freedom of great faith, knowing that God has His hand on them every step of the way, and that I can trust Him with my fears.