Sunday, May 27, 2012

God Sees

Joe and I attended a special event at our church tonight where we heard the stories from a missionary our church supports.  They live in Africa.  And we were convinced that we would go and be even further inspired to go to Africa.  Ever since we "lived" there while adopting George, we have said we left our heart there.  We have told everyone, "We will go back and live there."

We were anxious to listen and learn about what these missionaries are doing in west Africa....and we waited on the Holy Spirit to move in our hearts.  Waiting for a nudge or a leading that would say, "This is where I am sending you."  The Spirit was pretty quiet.  I kept waiting.  Not much came.

Then, our pastor took the microphone and talked about how God broke the hearts of these missionaries for a people...the people of this country in Africa.  But..they in turn would ask YOU...who is God breaking YOUR heart for?

And that is  when the hammer slammed against my chest. 

God HAS been breaking my heart.  Now, my heart breaks and will always breaks for the fatherless of the world...and I will be obedient if God asks us to adopt again.  But, God has placed a "people group" in my life who literally keeps me up at night and causes me to cry into my pillow.

My heart breaks for single moms.  Modern day widows.  Many of whom are also part of the fatherless. 

I have been blessed here in SC to be able to do this ministry work without having to change a law first - thank you, Lord!  And so, even though SFFC is in it's infancy in SC, I have been working with several modern day widows...and the common theme I hear after several conversations is this, "I feel so alone."

And I remember a story in the Old Testament.  A story of a mom who was rejected and left with no husband..her child with no father.  It is the story of Hagar.  Hagar was a maidservant, probably from Egypt, who was a part of Sarai and Abram's household.  Sarai was not getting pregnant, and so she insisted Abram sleep with Hagar.  Hagar, became pregnant and enmity developed between the two women.  Sarai eventually caused Hagar to run away...I always find it interesting how Abram didn't go after Hagar, he wasn't being a husband or a father at all. 

Who DID pursue Hagar?

God.

The Bible says, "The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in a desert" (Gen. 16:7a)  The angel ministries to Hagar, encouraging her and even making her a promise.  The story goes on to say this, "She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now sees the One who sees me."

God sees.

God sees the broken hearted women. 

And He pursues them.

I got a text from a mom I am working with.  She felt overwhelmed at the amount of groceries one of my host families took over to her house.  She wrote, "I don't deserve this."

And I was moved to write back very simply, "God loves you and He sees you.'

If this is the message God wants me to share, I will.  Because I know....

God sees.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Silence

I just finished reading an article that appeared in W*rld Magazine on May 5, 2012 entitled, "Give Them Shelter" that features the plight of women caught in the world of human trafficking and the struggle to help these women find long-term housing.

I have become friends with a woman who left a horrible home-life with an abusive boyfriend, who not struggles to find long-term housing.

I am working with a woman in prison who is longing for stable help upon her release, especially regarding long-term housing.

A co-worker has a pregnant teen sleeping on couch to couch. 

And we bang our head against the wall because we are virtually HELPLESS to help these women.

Modern day widows.  These are women who are all moms (or soon to be moms) who have NO man in their lives.  No one to protect them, provide for them, be there to support them.  Men have left them and left the children.  Unfortunately, that is just the way our culture is these days. 

And what is the thought that runs quickly through your minds?  If you are like me, and my conservative, Republican mind...my first thought is, "They made their bed...they need to lie in it." 

Sadly, I have yet to crucify those thoughts.  Thankfully, I can capture them and throw them out as soon as they come in. 

Because that mom in jail...well..she was horribly abused by her biological parents who lost their parental rights when she was 6 and then put up for adoption.  So...is it her fault that she has struggled to find stability?

That mom who left the domestic violence situation...well...she grew up in a home where marriage was disposable and witnessed her friend being beaten by her mother.  So...is it her fault that she was drawn to the chaos of abuse again?

And those women being rescued from human trafficking were wooed when they were 13 by the local pimp with compliments and gifts until he told her "she owed him" and had to repay through sex acts.  So...is it her fault that she has no where to turn and finds it easier to just numb her mind with drugs and have that pimp being like a Daddy to her?

Yes..that is the reality for so many women.

So many women are BROKEN HEARTED.  No one has loved them.

And then, they get desperate, they reach the point where they finally say, "NO MORE!"

Silence.

We can't help you.  There is a 2 year waiting list for housing in Greenville County that would put these women and their children into a safe neighborhood in a clean apartment on a sliding scale.  2 years.  So..what is she to do in the meantime?

My friend struggles between needing a car so she can get a job so she can work so she can pay for the car and the rent so she can work to put her son in daycare so she can work another job to try to save some more money to get into a better neighborhood.  But..she has $500 to her name.  Get the picture? 

Or the mom expecting to get out of prison in several months who KNOWS how hard it will be to find a place to live!  Who now has 2 prison records and has lost 3 children to her behavior but who just now got her GED and a welder's license so she can find a job to keep her fourth child and raise her in a home where she can grow up with her momma.  But, who's gonna rent an apartment to her?  Who is going to give her a job?

I am OVERWHELMED. 

Because here in Greenville, there is a church on every corner.  Why aren't these churches HELPING these women?  I have been asking around...is there a ministry that helps women after they are released from jail?  This mom is begging for Christians to help her when she gets out.

Silence.

I have been asking about the women escaping domestic violence.  There is a shelter.  Really?  Is she supposed to raise her baby in a shelter?  What about long-term housing?

Silence.

Why did we draw the line so far back?  Why have we said, "You messed up one too many times?  Good luck."  Do you realize the result of that attitude? 

The cycle continues!

The children of these moms grow up in unstable environments, possibly abused and neglected.  And they turn to drugs, sex, and bad relationships...just like their mommas.  And then they have kids...and it goes on and on and on.

Unless...we...THE CHURCH...step in. 

Thank you, Lord, that YOU do not give up on me!  Because I mess up every day!  I lie every day.  I judge people every day.  I am tempted every day - and many days I fall to those temptations.  Thank you, Lord, that YOU have never and will never say, "You're out!".  Is MY sin of lying and having idols in my life BETTER than the sin of adultery or drug addiction or premarital sex? 

RELIGION has made the decision that MY little sins are not nearly as bad as those UGLY sins. 

Really?

What does God's word say? 

Proverbs says there are six things the Lord detests.  Do you know what is at the top of the list?

1.  Pride
2.  Lies

The list goes on...but I always have to stop there, and plant my face on the floor in shame and repentance. 

Of course, God does not like the sins of these women..but I am sure He hates my sin just as much!

i started this last week, but then broke my finger...thought about editing....or wrapping this up with a nice, neat ending....but instead we will just end on this broken note

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fluttering Around The Room

Anna has this adorable discipline system in her kindergarten class.  There are several types of small, plastic insets and animals in a tub near the chalk board.  When a child does something that is being disruptive to the class or the teacher, the teacher simple will say, "Anna, go put a turtle in your pocket."

Each animal symbolizes the behavior.  So, a turtle means the child was "slow to follow directions" and a bee means the child was "talking to much" (a busy bee).  An octopus means "hitting others" and a ladybug means "bugging others."  At the end of the day, the teacher asks each child to empty his/her pockets and they mark down which animal they have on a chart that comes home each day. 


My favorite is the butterfly.  That means "fluttering around the room".  I don't think Anna has ever received the butterfly (in the beginning of the school year, she came home with a turtle every day for weeks!)  And as the year has progressed, we see more and more bees coming home. 

If I were being observed and told to put something in my pocket, it would surely be a butterfly.

I am fluttering about my life.

Or, so it seems at times.

I tend to flutter about from one thing to the next, like a butterfly does as she flutters from flower to flower.  I am just like that.  I find the flowers and I flutter about thinking, 'Oh, this pink one is divine!  I must sit here for a while.  Oh?  What's that?  A purple flower!  Oh, I love that one!  Let me go sit there for a while.  But wait, look at that lovely white flower...ooooo...I want to go over there!"

The flowers are all pretty.  They are all good.  And while they are all flowers, they are a bit different.  And my butterfly-self wants to check out each and every one!

So is my life. 

Or, so it seams at times.

I have discovered I have a central theme to my life:  children.  And I have fluttered about with many things having to do with children:  having them, home schooling them, coaching them, adopting them, advocating for them.  You name it...and I have probably done it when it comes to children.  And in my mind...I am constantly looking for that next beautiful flower to land on.

I am guilty of not having perseverance. 

But, I am attempting to change that.  I am currently re-reading Bl**dlines by J*hn P!per.  And as I re-read a certain chapter (that didn't hit me the first time I read it!), it was as if God was speaking through a megaphone in my ear. 

"Traci...be more like William Wilberforce."

Ha!  I think I even laughed out loud as I was sitting on my front porch reading. 

"God?  You can't be serious!  All I know about that man is he played a crucial part in ending the English slave trade! You can't be serious!"

Keep reading.

What God was telling me was to start persevering in my CAUSE.

First and foremost, my CAUSE is the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ.  There is NO OTHER WAY.  The gospel changes everything (as I hear each and every Sunday!).  When I wrote about my heart breaking yesterday, I think it is because I see how so many people have not TRULY embraced, or maybe even HEARD, the gospel of Jesus Christ in our own backyards.  So many hurting people who have not known that life-transforming power of good news.  So..my cause is to let my life be CONTROLLED by the Gospel.  I can't be controlled by success or comfort or pride or hate or greed - I will be a slave to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My good friend P!per (I call him that because I read all his books and listen to all his sermons, so he seems like a friend to me now), writes this, "The Christian life means to get up in the morning and go to bed at night dreaming not about how to advance my comforts but how to advance some God-centered cause....we mean raising up a people who don't spend themselves day and night pursuing self-preservation and self-exaltation and self-recreation, but who pursue something bigger and greater than themselves.."

And then, he asks, "What is the great cause you are living for?"  And I heard God say, "Be committed to the cause I have led you to.  Stop fluttering around the room."

I have many conversations with people about my deep desire to move overseas and be a missionary.  Sometimes I forget that I have been asked to be a missionary here.  I will never forget walking around Wauwatosa one sunny afternoon, praying for my neighborhood, when God clearly said "Serve me here."  I was disappointed.  I want to sever THERE not HERE.

God moved us to South Carolina.  And God said, "Serve me here."  And too many times I still say "I want to serve THERE."

It is time to stop fluttering around the room and be committed to the cause of serving the poor and the drug addicted and the jailed women in the upstate who need help with their children.  It is time to stop looking THERE and focus on HERE.  It is time to stop looking for the next beautiful flower and be doing everything I can on the flower I have landed upon. 

It is time. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Breaking My Heart

Everything is breaking my heart these days: 

Suicide.
Abandonment.
Drug addiction.
Divorce.
Children being neglected, unloved, uncared for. 
Abuse.


I am not sure what God is doing in my heart..but every day it breaks some more.  I think God is given me a glimpse of what breaks His heart.  My eyes are opened to so much hurt.

I used to look at the prostitute and have disdain in my heart.  Now, I listen to her story and then cry.

I used to look at broken families and place blame.  Now, I weep for a marriage that is broken.

And then...God led me a round-about way to this blog post.  And I watched this video.

Church...and I am talking to Christians here...you MUST be moved by this video!  You MUST care! 

READ HERE.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Show Some Boys Some Love

Safe Families South Carolina has it's first hosting arrangement!  Praise God!

Two little boys, who have had a tough life.  They don't have much...and now an amazing host family wants to give them a summer they will always remember!  She needs some help to do that.  She lives in a great neighborhood with a pool, biking paths, a stream....and the boys are having a grand time exploring!  They also have discovered a LOVE for all things arts and crafts :)  Good thing they are not with me - ha!

Because these boys have had such a hard life...and because this is a long hosting arrangement, I am asking for some extra help.  They are precious boys!

Can you help?  Here is Wish List :)

The boys are clothing size 5/6 and 6/7, feet size 12 and 13
Used items needed
Crocks

Velcro shoes

Swimsuits

1 life jacket

1 flotation swim suite size 5/6

Toys

Pool toys

Kick board

Sand toys

Bikes

Helmets

1 set of training wheals

Twin mattress

Behavior/chore chart

Plastic slidin storage bins or tote for art supplies

kid size fishing stuff

stool

any art supplies

New things
Socks

Underwear

Construction paper

Printer paper

Glue

Glue sticks

Washable tempera paint

Washable watercolors

Finger paint

Paintbrushes

Canvas

Clay

Glitter

Washable Crayola markers

Stickers

K-4 through first grade fun workbooks