BLOG site of Amy R. Maxwell

I am the wife of B.J. Maxwell (married August of 1997) and mother of our four adopted children.
I am blessed with the awesome privilege to care for & love my husband, invest in & love our children, and keep our home.
May I steward these gifts well, for the glory and praise of Christ Jesus our precious Lord & Savior!

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus . . . sweetest name I know!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

I Presented a False Gospel on Facebook

Dear Christian,

A few months ago I decided to take a break from Facebook. The first few days off Facebook were awesome. I had more time and less stress. I began to truly enjoy living life with my family instead of waiting for a photo op or quotable moment. However, the weeks that followed were surprisingly difficult. I found myself depressed and lonely. I once had hundreds of friends at my fingertip whom offered encouragement and prayer WHENEVER I needed it. Gone. The silence was deafening. I also felt incredibly guilty. Guilty?! Why? I feared that folks would think I no longer cared for them.

It has taken me several months to truly understand how dangerous (Facebook in particular) was to my soul and ministry to others.  When my husband deactivated, I remembered feeling sad and even frustrated because I felt like he was choosing to not have a relationship with family & friends that we would otherwise never see. I have always thought that Facebook had many redeeming qualities. It helped me to stay in touch (and live life) with family and friends who do not live near us. It helped me to know how to pray for others, and it was also an excellent avenue of dispersing information and such. I have known folks to deactivate or take a break for various reasons: too much wasted time, approval addiction, seeking man’s applause and not God’s, vanity issues, etc. I probably struggled with each of those at some level, but my main struggles (that God really brought to light over the past 3 months) were different.

Allow me to unpack a few thoughts I have been sifting through over the weeks . . .

What other situation (outside of social media) gives you a microphone to spew your thoughts and unlimited selfies to the world? Social media allows others to take a seat OUTSIDE your home as you put on display every good or (perhaps) bad deed. We are given a huge photo book of your life, and 99.9% of that book is you. Would you ever invite someone into your home to only show them pictures of yourself and talk nonstop about everything you love and hate? Not to mention the fact that the only reel we mainly put on display are the glorious highlights. We rarely see the dark and ugly. We rarely see real life. We boast in our strengths and perfectly decorated lives. And, if we decide we don’t like you anymore we “defriend” you or (worse) we still give you a front row seat to the story of our life but you no longer have any say or voice. You can only sit and watch as we live our lives so wonderfully without you. We are the masters and creators of our domain.

Even Facebook (the company) knows its own dangers! Listen to this:

Facebook founders purposefully created something addictive, the social network's first president told Axios in an interview. “God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains,” Sean Parker. With each like and comment, Facebook is “exploiting” human psychology on purpose to keep users hooked on a “social-validation feedback loop,” Parker said. (Washington Post)

(Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook’s former vice president) “I feel tremendous guilt. I think we all knew in the back of our minds, even though we feigned this whole line of ‘there probably aren’t any really bad unintended consequences.’ I think in the deep recesses of our minds we kind of knew something bad could happen, but I think the ways we defined it were not like this. It literally is at a point now where I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. If you feed the beast, that beast will destroy you. (New York Post)

Those are NON CHRISTIAN responses to social media!

If there is anything I want to you remember and read it is the following (I have been extremely convicted about this) . . .

Beloved Christian, every “like” or comment on a photo or status update is a testimony and witness to Christ Jesus our Lord.

You remember that wedding photo you liked? It was a beautiful picture. A joyous occasion! Why not like that photo? Well, what you may not see is that couple left a spouse to pursue an adulterous relationship and high tailed it to Las Vegas to marry, perhaps even against the church’s approval. Your “like” may have communicated something FAR DIFFERENT to that couple. You see, that couple sees that their Christian friend (who dearly loves Jesus) approves of their marriage.

You remember your friend’s status update that talked about the love of their life? Perhaps they shared how they can’t live without the other and love conquers all! Today they are celebrating 5 years together! Did you know that they are secretively living together? Perhaps you, a church pastor, or a friend from a church they know “likes” the comment and suddenly this couple feels assured that their relationship is good and right. But Christian, we know that sex outside the context of marriage is sin.

Your friend is bragging about the fact that they just belittled their child in public. Though you know little about this “friend” you comment back with a similar story and laugh about the hardships of parenting. Your friend struggles with anger and has either physically or mentally abused their child on several occasions. They present half truths on social media. But your uninformed comments have now given this friend Christian approval and they feel rightly justified. Christian, uncontrollable anger has no place in the heart of a believer.

Your friend loves posting pictures of herself on social media. Goodness, I cannot even begin to count how many “You’re so gorgeous!” “What a babe!”, etc. that fills her comments. You decide to echo the same sentiment. What is the harm in praising another’s beauty? This friend struggles with self esteem. She constantly fills her updates with photos of herself because she is desperately empty and needs the approval of others. What does it convey when Christians marvel and praise outward beauty? Beauty is fading and our true beauty should be found in Jesus alone. Christian, “let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” (I Peter 3:4)

Your friend loves to go off on political, Christian, or ethical rants. If there is one thing you can count on from this friend, they are QUICK to speak! A Christian friend comments with similar rants – OR – criticism to the friend for posting the inflammatory comments. First, we should always be slow to anger. May it never be said of a Christ follower that they are consistently argumentative, rash, or overly critical. We have a saying in our house. “You must know what is TRUE before you know what is RIGHT.” Seek the truth of the situation to discern what is the right thing to do or say. Secondly, the Bible is very clear on how we should approach a brother in sin. We should go to them privately (that may mean face to face or perhaps even a well thought out, prayed over, letter). If they don’t listen you are to take one or two more people with you. If they still don’t listen (repent), you take it to the church. (Matthew 18:15-20) We love to argue and belittle one another on social media. What kind of love and light, dear Christian, are we displaying when we care more about being right than winning others to the love and mercy of Christ Jesus our Savior?

Your friend loves posting and reposting Bible verses and cute Jesus memes & photos. You “like” them and even repost it yourself. She often asks for prayers requests to which many respond with “prayers going up!” Did you know your friend hasn’t stepped foot in a church in over 20 years? Did you know that she has never opened her Bible (to truly read and discover the mysteries of Christ)? Did you know she doesn’t really know Jesus? She might KNOW of Him (“the demons also believe and shudder” James 2:19) but she has never repented from sin and walked in obedience. She knows all the key words (that Christians like to use) but her heart is hard and far from God. But your “likes” and “I am praying for you” never challenge her to examine her love for Jesus. Her need for prayer is really a need to GET OUT OF A BAD SITUATION (sickness, divorce, hurt, pain, rejection, etc.) She is an enemy of God, but we embrace her as a sister in the Lord. Yet, even as a “sister” we don’t love her enough to hold her accountable to the Gospel. Our Facebook gospel often ends at “God is love.” But there is far more to that redemption story!! Hallelujah! God is love, but God is also holy and hates sin. Scripture is very clear that we must flee from sin and walk in obedience. With repentance comes much hope! Then comes the abundance of God’s love! AMAZING! Christian, we cannot throw God out there as this unholy, father-Christmas entity that has nothing to say about sin.

That last situation has been haunting me for weeks. How many times have I done this? How many times have my non-believing friends and family misinterpreted my “likes” into approval (for their sin) or acceptance (of their salvation)? I believe social media is replacing what the Church was and is to do. Social media, Facebook, is becoming a church within itself. We leave our newsfeeds feeling connected, encouraged, and approved. We don’t NEED the fellowship of the saints anymore. We have now created a hologram church where discipline, accountability, and authority (the uncomfortable and hard stuff) no longer exist. We vent with no filter and surround ourselves with friends (i.e. social media approval) when we should be alone and on our knees in prayer. I fear that I have unknowingly encouraged folks in a way where they really believe they are “Christian” . . . and they are not. Forgive me, Lord. I fear that I have unknowingly approved of sin that the church would otherwise DENOUNCE. You never fully know the motive or truth of one innocent picture or post. Your “like” could say a thousand curses against Jesus.

I believe every Christian needs to examine and ask themselves, “Why am I on social media?” Everyone of us may answer this question differently. I was on social media for years. I loved sharing our life with others. I loved keeping up with family that live far away.  But is it good and wise to have 24 hour access to an idol that feeds pride, demands your opinion over love, and cultivates shallow relationships . . . all from the privacy and secrecy of our homes? Just look what has happened to our culture because of the 24 hour news cycle! There are many great reasons to be on social media. I am not saying that all social media is a sin. However, as with all good earthly things, there MUST be balance and accountability. We must examine (and then re-examine) every post and “like” you put out there. Remember, we “have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). Christian, Christ is living in you!

Jesus Himself, the King of Glory, came into this world to be born in a lowly manger. He came to serve, humbling Himself to death on a cross. (Philippians 2) There are those whom God calls out to carry the heavy burden and responsibility of proclaiming & teaching Jesus to the masses (great evangelists, Bible scholars, and prophets of old come to mind). Did you know that some of the strongest warnings in the Bible are directed towards leaders who mislead God’s people? Social media gives you a mic and puts you in a position that you seriously don’t need to be in. Are you ready to shoulder that burden? Do you understand that you will you be held responsible for misleading others? To most believers, God demands that we live simple, quiet lives – serving & loving, always ready to share the hope of our salvation to those around us - not the masses – but rather in our homes, our workplaces, our streets, and our little communities.

God’s people are characterized by perseverance, humility, obedience, truth, and love. We seek Jesus in all things. Let us not become “idle, going around from house to house, gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention” (I Timothy 5:13).

I presented a false gospel on Facebook. I cheapened it. I winked at sin and gave assurity of salvation to those who are perishing. I have extended worldly love and withheld truth & the love of Jesus. I proclaimed friendship with the world, all the while knowing that “friendship with the world is hostility toward God” (James 4:4). And worst of all, I have communicated that my life is all about ME – self.

Dear Christian, please prayerfully consider your activity or involvement with social media. Ask the Lord to reveal to you what is good and best as you desire to share Christ with those around you.

With deep love, sorrow, and humility,

Sunday, July 30, 2017

I Hate You

Relationships are hard.

We are hurt and misunderstood
by family,
close friends,
and even church members.

We would rather sulk, hate, and become embittered before making one single effort to extend grace and love.

What do we do when relationships go wrong?
Conflict (misunderstandings, assumptions, sheer ignorance, sin) is inevitable.
So now what?

I believe MOST of us, whether we want to admit this or not, run and pout (go to our safe zone) instead of doing the hard work of reconciliation. It takes a lot of work on our part to build healthy relationships. And, if we claim to be a "Christian", we are commanded to forgive and live at peace with one another. (Romans 12:18; Matthew 18:35; Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13, etc.) A Christian simply cannot live a life of bitterness. Period. This also means we can't live a life of peace faking.

Are you a peace faker?

One of my favorite books is The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. In it he asks the question,
"What are you really living for? It's crucial to realize that you either glorify God, or you glorify something or someone else. You're always making something look big. If you don't glorify God when you're involved in a conflict, you inevitably show that someone or something else rules your heart.” 
What is ruling your heart?
What are you ALLOWING to rule your heart?

Sande also goes on to say,
“Conflict is one of the many tools that God will use to help you develop a more Christ-like character . . . As you worry less about going through conflict and focus more on growing through conflict, you will enhance that process and experience the incomparable blessing of being conformed to the likeness of Christ . . . Because Christians are the most forgiven people in the world, we should be the most forgiving people in the world as well.”
Have you been forgiven in Christ? Does God continually apply His balm of grace and forgiveness in your life daily? If so, what is holding you [me] back from forgiving others?

YOU be the bigger person.
YOU be the first to extend the light of love and grace.
YOU stop all the assumptions.
YOU stop allowing bitterness to overtake your life.
YOU stop peace faking.
YOU obey. Simply obey.

Who's with me?

Heavenly Father, help me to love well. 
Help me to love like You. 
You are always faithful, always loving, always good. 
You know the worst in me, yet love me still. 
You know the many times I have denied and despised you, 
yet the depths of your mercy knows no end. 
How my heart longs to be more like You.
Keep leading me to Jesus.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Epoxy Does Not Save!

I just spent the week (from about 7am to 1am each day) trying to repair & beautify our laminate counter tops.

On day 5, I have NOTHING to show for hours and hours of labor. In fact, our counter tops are in worse condition today than they were 5 days ago.

I found (what I thought would be) and easy DIY counter top kit online. I did a lot a research on the product and even bought the additional products that folks WISHED they would have had while applying the kit. After tons of research and video watching, I was excited and ready to update/fix our counter tops while the kids were away at camp. Just “3 Easy Steps” and I would have new counter tops!

Then, epoxy happened. Epoxy happened ALL over the place!

Once the counters were carefully painted (in a beautiful mosaic of browns, black, and white) I was now ready to do the step others wished they had done (but very few dared to do) . . . epoxy. I have never used epoxy, and I know VERY little about it. The first coat was a disaster. I tried to apply it like paint – thin and methodically. But epoxy needs to be POURED on which allows it to flow naturally where it needs to cover. The first coat was tacky (literally and figuratively) with hundreds of pockets and holes everywhere. After several hours of panic and research I did a second coat. I poured on epoxy by the quarts and just let it flow. It looked like streams of living water on my counter tops! Beautiful!

Then, it dried.

While the epoxy was curing it began leaving large holes in random areas. Also, the edges and back splash areas were left lumpy with solidified drip marks. Well, I thought, if coat ONE did not work, and coat TWO almost worked, surely coat THREE would do the job!

As I was mixing up my last batch I could tell something was wrong. With epoxy you have to stir, stir, stir before you apply. As I was stirring, bubbles were popping in the air before me. Although it was fun to watch my little bubble factory, this was NOT suppose to happen. Then as I began pouring the epoxy I could tell the texture was off. It wouldn't smooth down (into that “liquid glass" form I had seen previously) but I tried my best to fix what I could. My efforts weren’t terrible but they weren’t great either. Then the mixture started heating up QUICKLY. It was burning my sponge brush (leaving burnt sponge pieces every where) and then my hand started to feel like it was on fire (I didn't have any gloves on). It was burning through the paint cup onto my hand! I dropped it and it landed in goopy, cloudy mounds all over the counter top. For hours (through many tears and a couple of slammed doors) I tried to scrape, blade, sand, alcohol, and heat the epoxy to remove it, but it was virtually impossible. It was an absolute, utter mess!

So, where is the Jesus lesson in this?

I believe the Lord works for our good and His glory in all things. In all of life’s joys and sorrows God is weaving together a beautiful tapestry of grace. I like to think of my tapestry as a quilt. (I LOVE quilts!) What was God doing in this particular square? To the outside world, I merely have ruined counter tops. After all, they are “just counter tops”. My husband and other family members reminded me of this yesterday during the chaos. (I am happy to report they are still living today.) But to me, this was a labor of love. four loooooooooong days of labor. I wanted to fix and beautify our counter tops on the cheap and (what I thought) easy. I did not want to bother anyone else for help or money. But now I need help and I need to spend money we don’t have to buy new counter tops.

Failure. Or so it seems.

Let’s liken my old counter tops to “man’s heart” (in its original state) – flawed & sinful. And then perhaps epoxy (humor me here) represents the world (sin) trying to cover and beautify those flaws.

Epoxy can look pretty awesome! In fact, it might even fool others into thinking you have beautiful glossy granite. But epoxy does not save. Epoxy is unpredictable, needy, and hazardous. It thrives in heat and once cured it is virtually impossible to repair.

We can try to fix and beautify our lives with things of the world (epoxy). We can spend most of our lives laboring in vain because epoxy will never save. Ever. It might be a temporary fix and you might even fool people your whole life with it, but when it is all said and done, you are STILL that flawed and sinful counter top underneath. The only solution for an epoxified counter top is a new counter top – a new heart. Jesus! Only Jesus (despite what Lowe’s may say or offer) is in the business of completely changing your life. And there is no striving and hours of labor to obtain this. Jesus gives freely and he already paid the price, at the cross.

So, when our kids return from camp and ask, 
“What did you do this week, Mama?”

My reply, 
“Nothing but a well researched, Jesus lovin’ blog post.”

Saturday, July 08, 2017

My Secret Life as a Pastor's Wife, Part 3

I have talked about the Church being the bride of Christ, and I have shared my heart on wolves in the church. Now I want to encourage my brothers and sisters who labor in the Gospel.

Paul says it best in Romans 12:12-21,

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Keep persevering, dear ones.
Keep extending grace.

Keep upholding the GLORY of the GOSPEL! 

Our American society does not need another lackadaisical, world-conforming, dead to the bone, grace-less church. It really doesn't.

Fight for the purity of Christ's bride.
Be light in darkness.
PREACH the living Word!

Three years ago I was BEGGING my husband to leave ministry. The toil, pain, and heartache it was bringing to our family was unbearable. After about 15 years in ministry, I just needed to breathe.

In the past 3 years, by God's grace alone, I have found my joy again in Christ and the local church. I am not constantly worried about the image I project or questioning every move I make. (Was I too offensive? Overly sarcastic? Did I speak to everyone at church today? Did I smile? Was my attire too casual?, etc.) Today I can laugh at myself, and even be silly. I can enjoy being with my children at church without fearing someone will feel neglected. I can even enjoy my husband on Monday mornings! (Have you ever reached out to your pastor on a Monday morning? Worst day of the week. The enemy is real.)

But you know, that desire to serve and love others (selflessly) and to proclaim the Word of God never leaves you. And, despite what I would have told you 3 years ago, I miss my husband laboring for souls. I miss the pastorate. He misses the pastorate. 

Sometimes pastors (and their families) need rest, perhaps even time to heal. And that is okay. Again we are sinful, imperfect people proclaiming a sinless, PERFECT Savior to sinful, imperfect people. That gets messy.

I believe many American churches are devouring their pastors. The expectations placed upon their pastors are entirely unrealistic. These churches demand worldly results in a place where LIGHT, LOVE, and GRACE should be upheld. Christ, not this world,
is our example.

Dear Church,

Love your pastors well. Love their families well. Instead of complaining about all their weaknesses, pray for them. Encourage them. The weight they carry (as they labor for your soul) is heavy.
R.C. Sproul Jr. says,
"Pastors are human too. That means, of course, that they sin, but it also means that they have ordinary human needs. While no one joins the ministry in order to receive riches or accolades, honor or power, while shepherds are called to serve others rather than themselves, such doesn’t mean that they are not given to discouragement . . . Want to encourage your pastor? Pursue godliness. Because he loves you, what your pastor wants more than anything else is for you to grow in grace and wisdom, to become more like Jesus. Don’t tell your pastor how smart he is, nor how brilliant his sermons are. Don’t tell him how funny he is, nor how dignified. Show him how his labor in showing you Jesus is making you more like Him. That is the desire of his heart, because that is the desire of HIS [Jesus'] heart. "

Dear pastors and wives, 

From The Preacher and Pastor (by Fenelon, Herbert, Baxter, and Campbell), 
"If the saving of souls, of your neighbor's soul, of many souls from everlasting misery, be worth your labor, up and be doing!"
Richard Baxter also says,
"O what a blessed day that will be when I shall . . . stand on the shore and look back on the raging seas I have safely passed; when I shall review my pains and sorrows, my fears and tears, and possess the glory which was the end of all!" (The Reformed Pastor)
Yes! Amen. All of our labor is not in vain. God is accomplishing a GOOD work in His people.  

Preach and live out the Gospel with no regrets. Love, serve, and uphold grace. Be bold and courageous yet humble like Christ. Fight for the purity of Christ's bride. Protect the sheep by calling out the wolves. Love your little church well (your family) so that you are better equipped to love the big church (the local church). Also, never forget, you are in need of a Savior too. It is okay to fail; God loves being glorified in weakness. And, find times to rest. {Even Jesus rested! You KNOW that!}

God's kingdom was not built on a man, 

it was built on an infinite, matchless, sinless Savior!

The earlier quote from Richard Baxter makes me reflect upon my favorite psalm, Psalm 27.
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.” (vv 13, 14)
Come quickly Lord Jesus!

To God be the glory forever and ever. 

Fostercare to Adoption

In 2007 we received a request from CPS (Child Protective Services) for help. They had a family on their case load that they wanted to help get on their feet, and make a fresh, new start. Without any hesitation, our family and church jumped on the opportunity to serve.

This family needed everything – furniture, beds, clothes, bedding, food, cleaning and bath supplies. God quickly began using many families in the church to provide for each need. We were also told they had a newborn son.

Back story: My husband and I were never able to have biological children. We adopted a baby girl a few years earlier and had kept all of her baby things in hopes of having more children. We have always held onto things loosely and had already given away most of our stuff, but letting go of our baby things was a different story. I couldn’t do it. My guilt was relieved to find out that this family needed baby “BOY” items. 

A day or two before we headed out to deliver God’s blessings to this family, I contacted the mother to see if there were any other items that we could get for them. Sheets, pillows, specific sizes in clothes, toys and other items were mentioned, as well as their need for baby “GIRL” items. Their newborn was a baby girl?!

As I was sorting through all the donations in our garage, getting it ready for the BIG delivery, God impressed upon my heart that our daughter’s baby items were no longer “mine”. I had to let go. I grabbed the rope hanging from our attic door, and pulled out the wooden ladder. One by one, each box, carefully labeled and packaged, was brought down. And you know what? That day I JOYOUSLY put together this newborn’s crib, decorating it with all of our daughter’s baby bedding and animals that I had treasured for so long. I could not wait for this family to have what God had always intended for them to have!!

That weekend we headed out to shine the light of God’s glory. Trucks, trailers and cars filled the parking lot of their apartment complex. Folks were coming outside of their homes to see what was going on. We met the family and began filling their apartment. God had provided so much STUFF! Their apartment was packed full! Some of the church sat in the living room visiting with the family, while others busied themselves, putting together beds and tables. Joy filled my heart as we moved their very special baby crib, full of THEIR baby items, in the parents’ room. I remember looking at the crib and rejoicing in what God had done. I had no feelings of remorse or sadness as I saw our daughter’s stuff. “That precious baby girl was going to have the prettiest crib,” I thought. “And just look at those beautiful clothes. How lovely! How wonderful!” We left their apartment that night rejoicing!

During this time, my husband and I were also getting certified as foster parents.


Fast forward 6 months . . .

My daughter and I were sitting on our big, green couch reading a devotional together.

I will never forget the lesson on that day . . .

Ask, seek and knock . . . Jesus taught His disciples that they should never stop praying. He said, “Keep asking in prayer, and it will be given to you. Keep seeking, and you will find what you are looking for. Keep knocking and the door will open!” God always hears our prayers and He will answer! So never quit praying!

We talked about the joy and privilege of prayer. We also talked about how important it is to keep praying, always asking and seeking Jesus! As we finished up our lesson, my daughter prayed and asked Jesus for “a brother AND a sister.” She had already been praying and talking about getting a brother OR a sister for the past several months, but today it was different. With her childlike faith, she prayed to Jesus believing that He WOULD answer her prayers. And what she wanted above anything else (that day, at least) was “a brother AND a a sister!” (A pretty tall order, I thought!)

Three hours later we received a call from CPS. They had “a brother AND a sister” who needed a foster home THAT day.

God heard our prayers!

That afternoon two case workers pulled up in front of our home. Could this really be happening?? The 3 of us walked outside, wondering what the children would look like. How old were they? Was it a big sister, or a big brother? As they unbuckled the kids from their car seats and started making their way into the yard, we noticed that the children looked very familiar. We KNEW these children!

Months of God’s secret interventions were about to unfold. His hand had been in so many details. God’s mighty wave that once crested upon the horizon was now powerfully roaring to shore.

As the social workers approached, we instantly recognized the little boy. We could not believe it! You see, the family we had helped 6 months earlier (the family that had the newborn girl) also had a two year old boy. God had given our church the opportunity to meet this family’s financial and physical needs just a few months ago, and now He was allowing us to care for their children. What an awesome, yet fearful responsibility!

This part of our story is the hardest to write. How do I begin to express the joy that was in our hearts (as we received these children in our home), yet at the same time, knowing that these children were abused, neglected and stripped away from their only family?? What caused us so much joy resulted in great pain and sorrow for another family.

When we received the baby girl, she was underweight and underfed. She was 7 months old, yet wearing 0-3 months in clothes. For over a month she ate every 2 – 2 ½ hours (all day and all night). The boy (a toddler) was overweight and sick. He had ringworm, an ear infection, all his top front teeth were rotten, and staph, to say the least. He was throwing up and very lethargic. The clothes the children were picked up in were horrific. I tried to wash and keep them, but the stench, stains, and filth were overwhelming. (Not to mention the fact that they were several sizes too small.) Needless to say, I had to throw them away. Even the toddler’s sippee cup was FULL of mold and mildew. These poor, poor children. Their condition and neglect had gotten a lot worse since the last time we saw them.

The day after they came into our home, we took the children to see a doctor. I had to literally carry the toddler everywhere, while holding towels and buckets for him to throw up in. He was so sick. Again, how do I explain the complex emotions my husband and I had? After returning from the doctor, we headed to the store. Both children needed medicine, plus we had no clothes, shoes, diapers, food, bottles, etc. We had to literally start from scratch and buy everything a baby and a two year old would need. As we walked through the store, my husband pushing the cart with the baby (who was exhausted and asleep) and I pushing the stroller (with the toddler who had finally stopped throwing up and was now fast asleep) there were moments of joy and pride as we pushed our “new children” around . . . Yet, our hearts were broken as we tried to reconcile what had just happened to these children. Should we be joyful? Is it right to call family and friends and rejoice that we now had children in our home? Our joy was mingled with great sadness and guilt.

What was God doing?

In all the months leading up to their arrival, as we anxiously prepared to become foster/adoptive parents, I never would have dreamed just how difficult it would be. The next 9 months God called our hearts and home to much faith and perseverance. You see, the next 9 months were both wonderful and terribly difficult.

The kids’ first week with us was nothing short of chaotic. The toddler’s new environment and diet took a quick toll on him. His bouts of lethargy were interrupted only by vomiting. His first bath at our house terrified him. Cries for “Mommy” made his new bed all the more restless. The baby was unhappy and always hungry. Fussy most of the day, she cried for a bottle every two hours at night. Our presence did not soothe her. And rightly so; I was not her “Mommy.” Our daughter certainly faced a significant adjustment. Her quiet, structured world had been capsized. And although she enjoyed two new playmates, she didn’t foresee the demand they would make on her toys and parents!

Emotional and physical exhaustion quickly caught up with me. I scrambled for furniture during the day and rearranged rooms during sleepless nights. We had to cram the normal nine months of preparation into a few days. Needless to say, my husband and I dealt with a myriad of emotions that week. We rode a roller coaster of joy, frustration, desperation and glory.

The second week we had the children my husband left for a long-planned pastors’ conference. If ever I felt inadequate before I felt doubly so then. I cried every time he called. He even had to fly home a day early. It was such a blow to my pride. What kind of mother was I? I was tempted to think God closed my womb for this very reason: I was obviously incapable of training up multiple children.

Initially, the State scheduled weekly visits with the birth family. This was very difficult on the toddler. A social worker took him and his sister to “play” with their birth family for an hour at the CPS office. He returned confused and we sympathized with his pain. He was constantly being taken away from someone. After each visit, he whimpered himself to sleep. Although he called out for “Mommy” I knew it wasn’t me he wanted. Oh, how my heart would ache for him!

On top of the emotional turmoil, we suffered many health issues in the months to follow. From May to November our family dealt with lice (on three different occasions), numerous staph infections, two blood clots, a punctured eardrum, two root canals, five teeth extractions, adverse reactions to estrogen (which resulted in abdominal pain and bleeding) and several ear infections, not to mention the common ailments of colds, bronchitis, allergies, rashes, and stomach bugs. And did I mention that the baby was teething during all of this?

Lice was our first major battle. We did not realize it at the time, but the baby came into our home with lice. (We had thought it was cradle cap or dandruff.) I remember eating lunch after church one day and looking over at her. I could see her hair moving. I looked closer and there were a lot of black specks moving around on her scalp. LICE!!! There must have been hundreds! We spent that week treating and combing her hair every day, along with washing EVERY thing in our home. And I mean everything! A week or two later she had it again. As before, we took apart the whole house – washing, spraying, and bombing.

After the baby was free and clear, we noticed our daughter scratching her head. She now had lice! I could not believe it!! Our poor child (who has a keen and particular sense of smell) had to deal with tea tree oil and vinegar washes for a week! I was extremely stressed by this point. My once clean, orderly home was OUT OF CONTROL!!! Again, I struggled with doubt. I felt incredibly inadequate as a mother.

Since day one, we dealt with staph. The toddler was constantly getting infections. Staph, on top of the lice, caused a lot of extra stress. Every day I was washing several loads of clothes, sanitizing, scrubbing, combing hair, changing out beds, and administering bleach baths. It really was exhausting, not to mention very isolating. 

I have typed and erased many things. Do I share what God taught us during those 9 months? What DID we learn? Perhaps I talk about all the precious moments? Or should I allow myself to be vulnerable and talk about how difficult it really was? It’s easy to put on a happy face when social workers visit each week. It’s easy to pull it all together when you are at church for a couple of hours on Sunday. You know, it’s a pride booster to have folks pat you on the back for being foster parents. Perhaps to everyone else it looks like we managed and adjusted quite well. But I would feel guilty and ashamed if I did not allow others to see the struggles we encountered as foster parents. For one, there is nothing in us to boast in. We are weak, sinful people. Left to ourselves, we fail. On more than one occasion, we talked about sending the children to another foster home. There were some extremely difficult times. Was it worth the strain that is was putting on our marriage and home? However, we always went back to the fact that this was God’s will for our family and ONLY by His strength would we endure. He was calling us to faithfully persevere.

Fast forward almost 10 years . . .

Guess what?! We adopted those two precious children! Our youngest daughter (“the baby”) can say she enjoyed and used her big sister’s baby things. Wow!! Only God could write that kind of story! We have adopted other children along the way, and each comes with their own story of God’s faithfulness.

Just because something seems impossible, 
don’t stop praying or believing in what God can do.
He makes the impossible possible!