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Musings

Job’s Friends – Part 2

…continued from 2.5.09 posting, Job’s Friends Part 1.

Now, you know what I’m going to say next right? Job’s friends – that was the subject of this posting wasn’t it? I have some “Job’s friends.”  These are the types that caused the saying, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” 

I have had wonderful friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin, off and on through my lifetime. I wish it had been more “on” than “off,” but God knew when we needed someone with “skin on.” God planted them in the right place and right time to offer that helping hand – as if it were God’s hand itself, just to pick us up and dust us off. We got pretty dusty and dirty in the trenches day in and day out. They just loved us and left it at that. He provided friends here and there during the times that were too much for us to handle or in the midst of battle where we couldn’t see our way clear. I wish I could say we had someone by our side through it all, but for the most part it hasn’t been that way. Of course, like I’ve said many times, my mom was always there for moral support. But besides her, Mark and I were pretty much alone to figure things out.

My “Job’s friends” have come in the form of friends, relatives, teachers, co-workers, advisors, pastors, doctors, neighbors, etc. that have felt they had that magical message to bring us that would make everything work out. They are the ones who throw Scripture at you or the “I think that…” advice that so freely flowed out of their mouth without solicitation.  Or they’d discuss our family with other people, voicing their opinion about how we should do things. Of course, they had no personal experience or any type of proof to back up their advice, yet they freely gave it anyway. They wouldn’t get to know us before offering their advice, nor would they stop to think that it was unsolicited. It is seldom that I will ask advice simply because someone inexperienced in our type of ministry just isn’t given any credence in my mind. That may sound harsh, but it is our reality.

The only exception is the occasional led by the spirit pastor or friend whos life is saturated with Bible principles and is very good at making application. He’s the one who starts out with, “I can’t speak from personal experience, nor do I know your entire situation, but have you considered…” They don’t begin to understand but care enough to provide Biblical principles to aid in our decision if we indicated we needed advice. They don’t tell us we’re doing it wrong, or are responsible for their behavior because they realize they just don’t know everything like “Job’s friends” do.  Besides, if he is led by the Spirit, then certainly Satan wouldn’t be able to sway him into being judgmental. Sometimes God uses their comments to give us an idea on how to handle a situation or simply to encourage us to continue being faithful. The critical comments or unsought for advice only caused us to walk away discouraged, realizing how alone we really are. I had a niece recently send me a very encouraging email that was so compassionate that it sounded like God wrote it Himself. Many times when a friend and I would be talking about something in our life, one of us would say, “I just wish God would send me an email and let me know what to do next.” I can honestly say I finally got an email from Him – because someone spoke out of the heart, a heart that was owned by God. That is what I strive to do – because I have learned out of personal experience what heartache is and what it’s like to be judged unfairly by another.

To be continued…

 

 

 

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Musings

Job’s Friends – Part 1

In times of trouble, most people tend to reach out to others for comfort or assistance. Over the years we learned not to even try, for there was none to be had. I can’t count the number of times we’ve gone to evangelists, special speakers, Bible teachers, pastors, etc.  for advice on how to raise our difficult children and been met with the same ol’ answer, “I don’t know what to tell you.” It never failed. So we just quit trying. Now this is not to say that the people weren’t kind hearted or knowledgeable about Scripture. On the contrary, they were usually very learned, compassionate people. That’s why we went to them to begin with because we sensed in them a good heart. But what we were asking was out of the ordinary.

I remember one time in particular when we were at Northland Family Camp, there was a speaker there that outlined the four steps in discipline: a look, a word, discipline, separation. First we’re to give them “the look” to let them know they were out of bounds in their behavior. Many children stop here and change their behavior. Some require the next step: verbal correction. If the child continues on, then we are to administer correction, whether that be spanking, time outs or whatever is deemed necessary and appropriate. He went on to say that if nothing works and the child seems to be unable to take any type of correction, then the parent must consider other means – whether that be kicking the older child out of the home, or finding a children’s home for the younger child. There is Biblical basis for his message, but we wanted to know what to do with children who were like ours, the mentally or emotionally damaged child who don’t seem to have the ability to learn through conventional “disciplinary measures.” It’s not unusual for a Fetal Alcohol Affected child to either not understand or remember a disciplinary measure. These children live in the moment and struggle with reasoning and personal application of instruction.

To them, “the look” was a challenge to be more crafty or sneaky. It’s affirmation that they are slipping up and need to be more careful about how they plan their next gig. The spoken word is just fluff in their eyes – it’s another warning that they were caught and need to be more careful next time. It’s a warning that they’re about ready to be punished and have pushed the limits, to back off and try again later when no one is looking. The third step, the discipline, is something to be endured and tuck away in their memory that no adult can be trusted and they must just endure so they can get on with their life. It doesn’t change or teach them, it’s just another bump in the road. They look at it as an expression of just how dumb adults really are and affirmation that they are to be hated. It didn’t matter that we weren’t the adults who failed them prior to coming into our home through adoption – all adults were alike in their eyes.

We were in a whole different ball game than most parents and were seeking advice on how to throw the next pitch. But no one knew, so we stopped asking. We grabbed our Bible and tried to glean as much information and wisdom as we could find. It withstood the test of time, obviously, for it is the beginning of all things and the hope in all situations. But it wasn’t necessarily an easy path to take. There were no true stories or parables that fit. We couldn’t find any verses that dealt with raiding the food pantry at night to steal food or what to do when a child drew pictures on the bathroom wall with their own waste. It didn’t tell me what to do when a child’s head turned around in circles…OK, that never happened, but I was expecting it to!  It didn’t tell me how to deal with the every day things that are so absent from normal households. Yet it gave me principles to go by and the assurance that our loving Father was there to guide us. We had to learn to walk in the Spirit and hear that still small voice in the din of everyday life with 15 little ones all vying for my attention – good or bad, it was all the same to them!  Of the 15 children, 13 are adopted and 12 were special needs. That means we only had three who had a proper view of life, untainted from the world, and the rest, well, you get the picture.  Needless to say, if the preachers and teachers didn’t have the answers, who would?   To be continued…

 

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Adoption Musings My Kids Spiritual Truths Things I've Learned

A Knee-jerk Response

OK, normally I don’t respond to ignorant statements or rude accusations. It’s just not good practice. But occasionally a public insult requires a public rebuke and I feel that is warranted on occasion. There are others who are struggling with similar circumstances that may gain some insight or comfort in what I’m about to address. I made a decision a while back to share my experiences with you all – both good and bad – in an attempt to bring God glory by using His Word to counter the evil in this world – both from the outside and from within my own heart. Yes, it is an assault on my pride to expose my pain to others. But if it will help someone along the way, I am obligated to share it. It is God who must be lifted up – not me. I have always believed the statement: John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease,” but I have not always lived it. Today I am going to live it – much to my own demise.

I have no doubt that when I get to the point of this posting, I will experience much public dishonor from the child that has chosen to dishonor her mother by pouting online when she should be repenting in private. But I also believe that much good can be accomplished by avoiding the “mamby pamby religion” of the world by addressing a sin pubically that has been committed publically. (“Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” I Timothy 5:20) Although this doesn’t say the sin must be a public one before we rebuke publically, I try to stick with the advice I was once given, “Praise publically, rebuke in private.” The Internet has complicated relationships by exposing the world to private concerns by those who do not have the wisdom to keep “private” things “private” (that’s why they’re called “private”).

I have some children whom I have adopted that are not living for God. We as parents set the right example, told them of our wonderful God and His provision, love and care, advised them against evil and helped them in every way we knew possible to live clean, God pleasing lives. We were successful with some and with others, not so successsful. Though I know we are only called to be faithful and rely on God for the results, we have had many a broken heart over some of our children’s choices to live for themselves.

Some of these children had hearts that were tainted before God took them out of the world and planted them into our family. They had experienced sin in a way as small children that haunted them throughout their days with us and on to adulthood. Though we showed them a loving, healing God, the time in our home apparently was not enough to bring a complete transformation. We were tough disciplinarians for we knew we were obligated to address each and every sinful behavior in order to keep our house in order, but we also provided loving acceptance – not of their sin, by any means, but of them as a person. Unfortunately, the bitter, wayward ones only remember the discipline and assign responsibility to us for it, but that is only a sinful, immature response to their own guilt and consequences for their sinful choices.

The way of the transgressor IS hard. (Prov. 13:15) I would find it somewhat amusing if it were not totally heartbreaking that some of our children are proving the negative aspects of the Bible with their lives. Many verses in the Bible that address sinful living and the results of such life choices are being proven out in those in our family who are not living right. That said, I’m going to share with you some of the comments made by adopted children that I’ve encountered over the years. The last one is the one I am specifically addressing in this post and is currently displayed online. Keep in mind that we are not supposed to be offended by other people’s comments or actions, but to focus on God and what He has done for us. We tend to be a petty and superficial people and fall prey to hurtful gestures or comments. This is something I’ve worked on for years but have not successfully conquered. (Psalm 119:165 “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.”) If I am who I ought to be, these comments will not offend me. Yet, I find it a struggle daily.

“I just want to live on my own and stop living with all these rules.” Often you’ll find those who make this statement join the Marines. This is quite amusing to me! We all have accountability whether it be with our family, boss, or the law. This is an immature response from a rebellious heart.

“You love your birth kids more than us, your adopted ones.” I’ve never had this said to me personally, but others have endured this accusation. I’ve discovered the heart can love regardless of blood line. I actually forget sometimes that some of my kids are adopted and not mine by birth. If you ask me which of my children are adopted, I say, “I forget.” If asked which ones are “my own,” I’ll say, “I have 13 adopted and 2 homemade and they’re all my own.” It doesn’t matter how you come into our family; what matters is that God made us a family and that’s that. I guess that’s the love of God manifested. He has adopted us by a spiritual birth like we have adopted children by the court process. Parent/child adoption here on earth very much parallels the spiritual adoption of God toward believers. Add into the equation the spouses of our children, and you find another type of adopted love – that of accepting someone into our family by the choice of our children. I look at my sons-in-law as my sons – a bond that can’t even be broken by divorce. Sorry, that’s just how I am. Once a son, always a son. Get used to it! Adam, Mark and Scott, you’re stuck with me!

“I don’t have to do what you say when I turn 18.” Well, of course they don’t. By law, they become an adult and are at that time responsible for their own actions. But the Bible also says that we ought to honor our parents, seek wisdom of the aged, seek wise counsel, and seek the Kingdom first. (Eph. 6:2,3; Job 32:7; Prov. 24:5,6; Prov. 15:20-22; Matt. 6:33) If a child is wise and loves God, he will want to obey and follow the counsel of his parents. The problem encountered here isn’t necessarily one of disobedience, but one of wisdom and respect for the parents who sacrificed for the child the past 18 years. If the parents and the child are abiding in Christ, they both will receive guidance about the child’s future decisions. God didn’t put the child in that family only to sever the relationship at age 18. God will guide the parent who will in turn guide the child. That’s not to say that God won’t speak directly to the child, but He will also speak to the parents as well. We’ve had situations where God spoke to us first and then after relaying it to the child, she saw His direction. We’ve also experienced a child receiving something from God and sharing direction with us, which in turn caused us to seek God’s direction, which He gave. God will answer those who ask – whether it be child or parent. To seek wisdom from the parents and to trust their direction takes humility and submission. It’s only those who truly know God and abide in Him that posess these qualities.

There will be hard consequences for the child who goes off on his own and ignores the parent’s counsel. I think I speak for every parent when I say that I don’t want to live those consequences with them! If they are going to choose to be of the world, I do not want to join them. I will separate myself from the world because God has told me to and if my children are wanting me to participate in the world on their behalf, they will be disappointed. The attitude of, “I will do what I want,” will only lead to pain and failure. I have a child who repeatedly went against wise counsel and after one thing leading to another is presently in a ungodly lifestyle. This leads me to the last “comment” in which this blog is dedicated to. It was her words online that spurred me on to write this post.

“My mother doesn’t love me.”  Recently one of my children made the statement online that I don’t love them. It’s kind of ridiculous that I’d even answer this one, for there has not been another mother in history that has had as much patience or forgiveness for a child than I have, nor has there been another that has given as much. I know I am at risk in responding to this, for it will appear that I am trying to answer this ridiculous charge by justifying myself. But I do feel a responsibility to answer this for all the adoptive mothers out there that have spent their life for a child who has no desire to love and serve God, let alone their family – the family that has done so much for them already. It’s like the verses: Prov. 26:4  “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.” Prov. 26:5 “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” Until this situation came up, I really didn’t understand these verses. But now I do. There is a popular saying in the world that basically says that you can’t win no matter what you do. That’s what these verses are implying. Foolish is as foolish does, so let’s not copy the foolish. But there are hurting moms out there that need to be vindicated. Forget ME – God knows. But I can’t leave those other hurting moms to fend for themselves. It’s not right. So, if you can indulge me a  little, try not to think I am defending myself, think of it as I am defending all the moms who have given of themselves only to be dumped on and labled as unloving by their children. I throw my lot in with them today. Some of the things I’m listing here will not match others’ stories, but basically, our stories are the same. I will use the term “I” but really mean “we.” It’s just easier to write in the first person.

1. I took in a child that was tossed aside by a mother who didn’t love her enough to do right by her and put her needs ahead of her own. That’s called “adoption through court termination of the parent’s legal rights.” How many mothers do you know that were willing to take into their home a child who was physically and emotionally damaged? Oh, you don’t like that word, “damaged?” What word would you use? Let’s be real and use the words that fit. Realize too that “damaged” doesn’t mean “not valuable.” Actually, I think that God has a special place in His heart as we all should, for those who suffered at the hand of their parent – who was supposed to protect them.  FAS causes actual holes in the brain, which by the way, is caused by the birth mother’s drinking while carrying this child. It is a damage that cannot be fixed. Many times you’ll find a child with FAS will have reasoning problems, lack of impulse control, trouble learning, etc. I have seen these things managed through spiritual growth. It never goes away, but God can still direct the heart. 

2. I faithfully endured 18 years of lying, stealing, cheating, bitterness and rebellion – without reservation. I knew God gave me a job to do and did it to the best of my ability, faithfully – and may I add, without much help. There were times when we only had the Bible to refer to. There were no others around like us, no pastor could answer our questions, no one could offer us anything in counsel. I cannot list all the pastors that said, “I just don’t know what to tell you,” for they are too many. Yet God was faithful and sustained us.

3. Even after my child walked away from everything we’d taught her, I still continued to pray for her and welcome her back after it appeared she’d repented. This happened a dozen times, and each time we as parents were faithful. Each crisis that came, our counsel was always the same, love God, surrender to Him and your life will be peaceful and victorious. Yet, at each crisis, my words went unheeded and with each consequence, (and some of them were life altering) no changes were made toward following God and His Word.

4. I always counted her one of the family, regardless of what she did or how she treated me or other family members. Lies were told, accusations were made, yet I maintained my care for her. I did not choose to participate in her life when she was living contrary to God’s Word, for I too must answer to a righteous God who holds my life in His hands. But I never stopped hoping she’d do right and love her family. It’s funny to me that someone who lives such a wicked lifestyle can judge those who desire to stay out of it to be unloving. I haven’t changed these 20+ years other than hopefully progressing toward loving and knowing God more, and hopefully generated a bit more wisdom through it all.  Though I could understand some of the behavior due to genetics and brain disfunction (FAS) I still maintain that God is the God of healing and He alone can bring someone to a righteous life regardless of their limitations. Either way, there is no excuse.

5. Though battered about, disappointed, dishonored and at times sustaining irrepairable loss and damage, I have loved my children consistently. Have I wanted to be with them while they live apart from God? Absolutely  not. We are supposed to steer clear of those who live godless lives. (Romans 16:17  “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” Prov.  4:14 “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.”)

Did the prodigal’s father follow him to the pig sty and ask for pictures and a first hand account? NO! He, nor his other son, wanted to fellowship with that lifestyle. Did he love the boy when he returned? Absolutely! Did the other son accept him with loving arms? Uh, No. Do you know why? I do. I’ve lived it and have seen it in my own family. When the prodigal returns – even with a genuine repentent attitude, the other siblings resent them because of all the things he did to the family and how he hurt the father. They don’t believe the repentance is genuine because they saw the pain it caused the father. Don’t be too hard on the prodigal’s brother. Yes, he should have received the brother unconditionally after he returned in a penitent attitude, but remember, he had to stay behind and repair the ruins the prodigal left. My kids have grown tired of the pain that’s been brought into their parent’s lives by those who choose to live a sinful life. It really gets old when it happens over and over and seems to never stop. I am glad that God renews our days. I could not have endured or survived these past 25 years without His sustaining hand and the love of those children who do follow our Lord. And let me not fail to mention that I DO have loving faithful children who honor me and are an encouragement. I am thankful to them for their testimony of God’s grace.

6. Not one time have I said anything that would bely an unloving attitude. I have counseled according to Biblical principles. Oh, I haven’t minced words, I called sin “sin.”  I’ve told my kids that the day they leave our home in rebellion is the day they no longer receive any type of financial or housing help from us. I will not aid and abed children who do no honor their parents or appreciate with their actions the sacrifices we’ve made for them. God names us parents for some reason, so they are to recognize that when it comes time to plan their education, who they marry, etc.

7. Have you ever heard someone say that they didn’t feel that God loved them? Well, we know the problem isn’t with God, but the one who makes the accusation. They have lived in a way that has caused them guilt and separation from God. God never moved, He’s always been in the Heavens waiting for man to come to Him. He’s the perfect picture of a loving parent, yet people accuse Him wrongly. So, there is where I find my comfort. If God, the perfect parent can still love a rebellious child who raises his fist at Him, why can’t I with His help?

8. I could list the behavior and decisions of this child that questioned my love.  But I won’t do that, for it would be “answering a fool according to his folly.” But I will say that this child cannot go on fooling herself indefinitely. I just hope I live to see her come to the truth and acknowledge it. True love constrains – keeps us in check and urges us to put others first. (2 Cor. 5:14 “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.”) If we love God, we will love others and limit our actions to things that are only pleasing to Him, putting others ahead of ourselves. (1Cor. 10:24 “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.”)

9. Even if I did lack love for my child, and showed that in my actions, it would not be prudent to advertise it. The very act itself proves a lack of spiritual and emotional maturity. It would not be honoring the parent who gave their life for that child. But at the same time it does shine a light on the maturity factor of the one who spoke it. (Prov. 10:12  “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.  Prov. 17:9 “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” …might I add, families? ) No, it was not the sin of this mother or any other mother that separated the child from the family. It was the willful, rebellious sin of the child who chose the world over God and His plan. The mother has already proven her love over the lifetime of the child. It’s a “dun deal.” 

God is the only true judge and I am not afraid of His judgment. He’s been so good to me.