God thwarted my plans, and that’s okay.

As Christians, we often wonder if we are doing God’s will.

Before my husband and I began our journey of fostering children, we thought for almost a year if it was God’s will to foster children. I am going to say something very bold: If both you and your spouse have thought about fostering children, it is God’s will, because if it is not, I promise, He will close that door. Most couples never consider fostering and those that do consider it, it’s usually one (usually the wife) who is more open to it. So if both of you are up to it, please take the next step in getting certified.

In life, we are sometimes so fearful to take any step in any direction because we are afraid of making a mistake and somehow and in some way thwart the will of God (Job 42:2). Let me take a whole load off your shoulders: God loves you, and “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Rest in this knowledge, my sister or brother take the next step.

I say all this because I want to tell you about the time in my life God didn’t give me foster children. My husband and I had completed our classes. We had gotten our fingerprints – TWICE (that’s another story). We did the home test, the body test, the psycho test. We got our CPR certifications. We turned in all our paperwork, watched all the videos and drew out our fire escape plan. All we were waiting on was our background checks to come back. I had only been living in Kentucky 4 years, so being an import from Texas, I needed a background check from there also. So I submitted my background check application and sent it off to Austin, Texas. My Kentucky background check came in 6 weeks and I got nothing from Texas. Nada. All the people in my church who took the foster classes with me, they all began getting their placements, and I was left waiting for this background check. I. was. devastated.! You just don’t understand, I have the organization skills of a squirrel on crack and the attention span of a puppy when it comes to paperwork. I loathe paperwork, and I had done it! Every single piece of stinking paper. And I wanted my foster kid! I had finally stepped out in obedience. I was finally unafraid of getting a little monster kid! I had tried so hard to get my home up to par. I was ready to be the hands and feet of Jesus to all the orphans of Western Kentucky! But flipping Texas was taking its flipping time! Months went by and nothing came.

Then came a call that changed my life forever . . . . .

A friend of mine asked if I wanted to translate for a young man that had just arrived from Guatemala. I would sit with him in all of his high school classes and translate for him what the teacher said from English to Spanish. The answer was an easy “yes” because my life was on hold, not being busy with foster children. That’s when I met Kendell. And as I sat with Kendell day in and day out, I found out that he was orphaned at 6. That he had no support here in the states and slowly, God revealed to me that this was why the Texas background check never came. The child God had for me, at this time, would not come from foster care, but would come through Crittenden County High School. The child God had for me was not Kentuckian, but Guatemalan. The child God had for me was not a youngster, but a teenager. The child God had for me would not be speak with a lisp or a stutter or have delayed speech, but would speak Spanish.

God uniquely brings about our passions. Not all of us have the interest in loving a child who doesn’t share our DNA. Frankly, it’s so rare that even radical Christians struggle with the idea of loving children who are not their own blood. This is why I want you to see how special you are if there are tugs at your heart to foster children or adopt them. Not everyone feels those nudges.

Six years ago, tomorrow, Kendell moved into our home. He has my heart and loves me fervently. He takes care of me when I am sick, lavishes me with hugs and kisses and makes me laugh every day. He is sweet and caring to all of his brothers and sisters, and there is nothing he wont do for any of us. About a year after he moved in, he became my brother in Christ! Seeing him grow in his faith has been inspiring and I can’t wait to see how God will use him to further His Kingdom. Almost 2 years ago, we officially adopted him and gave him the middle name Josiah. Josiah in Hebrew means “God supports”. And He does.

Two years later I did get my 3 little monsters from foster care, and that’s another story!! (There are so many awesome stories when you say “yes” to God!) But by then I didn’t need a background check from Texas. They have also been a blessing to me and I love them to pieces! And in them, I see the healing power of Jesus Christ and the magnificent sovereignty of our Lord. Just wow! (more of this later)

My friend, trust our Father! Do not lean on your own understanding (Prov.3:5). If you are not in His will, he promises to work it out. Ephesians 1:11 says: In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. God’s purpose will stand with or without you (Isaiah 46:10). You know the way, the way that was given specifically to you, now walk in it, boldly, knowing full well that He will support you or even thwart you. (Isaiah 30:21)

By the way, I never got my background check from Texas,

I picked up a homeless person

It was the first day of school, finally! I had had the kids since March and they were finally going to school in mid August. I had plans to eat Doritos and binge watch some nature or crime show all day. I dropped them off at school and as they got their temperature checked, I willed the thermometer not to read high. Then I went to McDonald’s, parked for a moment to eat my breakfast and listened to the news! (Yes, this is my idea of fun) After eating, I took the longer way home just to enjoy the ride ALL ALONE! Then, I saw her, she was walking barefoot near the dam in Grand Rivers. She was frail, thin and looked disheveled and lost. I didn’t want to stop, I wish I had taken the freeway, but there was no way now that I was going to ignore a woman that most likely was homeless at best, or abused and exploited at worst. I sighed a big sigh of frustration and knew I had to obey the tug at my soul to aid this image bearer. I made the U-Turn and then another, and pulled up close to her, only to realize that she was really a he! He was very thin and looked Southeast Asian. He had already seen me and I didn’t have the heart to just drive away and leave him there. I then called my husband and just said “I’m pulling next to a homeless man, I’m putting you on speaker phone just in case he’s drugged up and tries to kill me.” This isn’t the first time I do things like this, so Nathan just sighed and stoically said “okay” and stayed on the line. (I love him so much!) I wasn’t too scared of him, since I probably had about 100 pounds on him, but people on drugs can get pretty strong, even skinny ones.

I briefly talked with the man to find out if there was any way I could help him, but he didn’t speak much English and I don’t speak anything else but Spanish. So I got no where with him. I didn’t have any money and I had just gobbled up my McDonald’s breakfast, so I gave him what I had, my leather moccasins. My favorite, Minnetonka, comfy, tan moccasins. “He has no shoes, he has no shoes.” I kept telling myself. He is walking through the streets and has no shoes. All the homeless people I had ever seen before have had shoes, even their dogs have those little scarfs. This man, has no shoes, and I have a closet full of them. So I gave him my shoes, and he took them gladly and to my surprise they fit him a little big! But he was still grateful. I then tried to ask him where he was staying and he pointed at the woods and that he had been living there for 4 or 5 weeks. So I gave him the other thing I had. My Thirty-One monogramed bleacher blanket that cost me more than I’d like to admit! But here was a man who was living in the freaking woods. He was covered in bites, he had no shoes, and looked starved. So I gave him my blanket! I had 20 blankets at home! I even crochet blankets all the time. For fun! Blankets. Throws. Fluffly towels. Not leaves, or grass, or branches. Blankets, that’s what I have. He has leaves. I have blankets. Blankets!

I then asked him if he wanted something to eat – as I shamefully wiped the biscuit crumbs off my chest. He mentioned he hadn’t eaten in two days. So that’s when I decided I would take him to Wendy’s. I was also able to figure out that he had 3 children, and that he would like coffee since he hadn’t had any in a very long time. He was also a butcher and worked mostly with pork. His country of his birth is Thailand and he speaks Karen.

I eventually took him to my home (yes I know, I did tell my husband what I was doing and he was okay with it) and had my oldest help me get him some clothes. My oldest also wasn’t too surprised when I bolted into his room crying that I had a poor, half-starved man waiting in my minivan. He was a little upset that I picked up a man, but once he looked at the half dead man just waiting for us, he didn’t say much but helped me pack a duffle bag for him full of clothes, towels, an extra blanket and socks. My oldest accompanied me to drop him where he wanted to go and when we said goodbye, ThaiThai (which is the name my oldest and I affectionately call him, not his real name). Well, ThaiThai cried. He then put his hands together, bowed his head and said what I think was thank you. My oldest squeezed my arm and whispered to me in Spanish — “Not right now. Hold it together. Be strong. Cry later.” I didn’t hold it together and cried. We drove off and I sobbed.

I am so blessed beyond measure and I am ashamed at how self-centered I can be, so I want to give out a warning to all of us, my dear Christian brethren. Do not let this “pandemic” make us self-centered. I wanted to do what I wanted to do with HIS time. I wanted to not share the material things that HE has given me so much of. I felt inconvenienced when He wanted my simple obedience. Covid has done this to us. The kingdom of God does not cease to expand because of a virus. The threat of death has never in over 2000 years thwarted the mission of the Church – on the contrary it usually thrives within it. Fear of the unknown has never been an excuse to disobey our God who calls us trust in Him and not lean on our often flighty understanding.

Don’t grow lazy my brothers and sisters. Righteousness is not something we can drift towards. We must strive for it. Obedience is often hard (giving away your stuff, sanctification, mortification, giving away your blanket) and sometimes scary (helping out a man you thought was a woman). It is a constant struggle and now with the excuse of a “pandemic”, very easily we can lose the will to struggle for righteousness. But, take heart, we trust in the One who has overcome death. He loved us so much, He didn’t fear the ultimate virus which has an 100% mortality rate, but bravely bore it and we are now immune. Forever. And not only are we immune, but we have been given the call to tell others of this great news! That they too may live forever with Him!

So love on the ThaiThai’s around you. Don’t neglect the assembly of the saints. Tell God “Yes I Will”. Live fearlessly – wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Remember, what’s the worse that can happen when you obey God? Death? But your immune!

God bless my friends!

Doll Bones

I read this book out loud to my children and they loved it! This book is about 3 coming-of-age children – Alice, Zach and Poppy. They are in that awkward stage in their lives when they want to play children games, but feel pressure to stop acting that way. Most of the pressure is place on their own selves and a lack of communication among this trio places them at risk of ending their friendship.

With the encouragement of Poppy they set out on one last adventure to find the gravesite of an old ceramic china bone doll. The thing is super creepy and is said to contain the ashes of a murdered girl with the hollow of her body. The adventure is super fun and exciting and a bit scary. There was never a dull moment.

I truly enjoy reading these kinds of books to my kids. The book has real characters with real problems. They hurt each other feelings, they misunderstand their parents, they feel overwhelmed by the pressures of life. They cry, the yell, they hope and they lose hope. Talking about all these moments is why I love fiction. My kids and I had great talks about so many different things and it was great to hear their perspectives and walk them through better understandings of things.

This book would be perfect for a middle-schooler.

I gave this book 4 stars out of 5 on Goodreads

You can buy the book here.

A Place of Execution

I listened to this book on audio and it was intense!

The book is divided into two parts. One part is set in the 1960’s and the second part is set in the late 1990’s. The book is about a young girl who goes missing in the cold countryside of Scardale in England and the investigation afterwards. The second part of the book is set 30 years later and is about a journalist trying to write a book of what all transpired there. I had no idea what was going on until the very end and I loved every minute of it!

The book is a crime novel and does explain several heinous crimes that exposes the darkness and how evil man can be, but thankfully where it could have been more explicit, it left to the imagination. It still got a bit uncomfortable to read at times. My mind aches to know that these kinds of crimes happen all the time, and now even more with the internet.

As a Christian, I understand that these kinds of books are not for all of us, but this is our world and it is broken. People are depraved and need the saving grace of God. When we opened our home to foster care and then later adoption, my biological children were exposed to this darkness. They now knew things that they would not have known had we not fostered. “Where is their mom and dad?” my 8 year old asked, and the truth shocked her. Never could she have imagined a mom neglecting her children, or a dad in prison because of drugs. Not all parents are nurturing, not all sex is good, not all people are nice. It is not right and we know that, and we will do all we can and fight to be the light in the world until He comes, or we go home. These kinds of books unfold the dark world we live in and helps us safely see the consequences of sin. They bring me to pray, to be observant, to be aware and to be thankful.

I would only allow my adult children to read this book due to the sexual crimes explained in the book and some language.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes dark crime novels and mysteries. You can buy the book here.

I recently found out that there is a TV series based on the book, and I think I may watch it soon. You can watch it with an ACORN TV subscription here.

I gave this book 5 stars out of 5 on my Goodreads.

Born Again This Way

Sometimes it is scary to pick up authors that are unknown, especially when it comes to theology and heated issues like same sex attraction, homosexual identity, and gender roles. Then add upon that the complications of church culture and traditions and you have lots of room for cringy moments. Thankfully, this book had none!

Rachel Gilson was frank and didn’t dilute the Gospel. Her struggle to obey God, her conversion and her testimony are both beautiful and triumphant. Her explanations on the importance of inter-generational friendships was so moving that it has changed my life! I now am looking for ladies much younger and older for me to befriend. I loved this book and how she allowed us to peer into her old life and gloriously bask with her in her saved life.

She also had a lot to say on the idol of romance and love that our generation has fallen into. What a clear call to revisit our faulty thinking of what love is and what marriage should look like! Her voice on the unique importance of singleness was also just as powerful. Using the Bible, she backs up her stance on these subjects and she rightfully dictates the holiness and usefulness of both.

I recommend this book to any Christian wanting to read more about same sex attraction, marriage, and singleness. If you enjoyed Rosaria Butterfield’s books, you will enjoy this one. If you struggle with same sex attraction or someone you love does or just want to understand more, this book is full of hope for all because it is full of the Gospel.

I 5-starred this book on my Goodreads.

You can buy this book here.

Mulan

I was so excited when I saw that Disney would be creating a live action movie on the story of Mulan. And when I saw the previews, the movie looked colorful and epic! There is just so much that could be done with the beauty of Chinese culture.

Mulan is the story of a Chinese girl trying to figure out where she fits in a society where girls bring honor through a good marriage match and being good wives. There is trouble in the land though, and men from all the families in China have been called to join the army and fight against an invading force. The problem is that Mulan has no brothers, and the only man left to fight in her family is her old, injured father. Mulan takes matters into her own hands, steals her father’s armor and impersonates a male soldier. She does well as a soldier, overcomes lots of obstacles and saves the day more than once.

I didn’t like the movie and was a let down, and this is why . . . .

SPOILER AHEAD . . . .

I remember the original Mulan, and I loved it! This Mulan, unfortunately didn’t cut it for me. I was so let down. There is no dragon ancestor, but a phoenix. There is no will power, but the power of Chi. Mulan isn’t discovered, but admits her gender. And what was worse, Mulan doesn’t overcome the enemy through the help of her comrades, but is helped by the enemy witch woman that wasn’t in the original at all.

The movie does have some great scenes, but they are momentary. The rest of the movie looks like a colorful but cheap drama set. The poor acting also doesn’t draw the spectator into their emotions. The war scene in the original cartoon was something that made me gasp at just how spectacular it looked. The war scene in this one was left wanting.

Maybe I am just a purist. My children didn’t like that there was no Mushu and the extra story line with the witch was confusing to them. Why is she even there?

Overall, the movie ran flat for us. It was $39.99 that we will never get back, but it still works out since we are a family of 8 and going to the movies for us costs us more than that. If I knew how bland the movie was going to be, I definitely would have waited for it to be free on the Disney+ app.

The movie is rated PG-13 for sequence of violence.

American Gospel

American Gospel – Christ Alone is a documentary almost 3 hours long. It is free on Netflix. It is mainly an explanation what of what the true Gospel is, what it isn’t and a warning against the prosperity gospel. The movie calls out several popular pastors and explains what it truly means to take up our cross and follow Jesus.

I loved this documentary and it was a breath of fresh air to hear the Gospel just spoken over and over again. It reminded me of the freedom in God that I have and the grace that I couldn’t earn. It brought back the memories of the first times I started to understand just how special I was to have my eyes opened to the Truth of His Word. My heart leaped hearing the Gospel preached by so many and hearing their testimonies on how they came to salvation.

The movie does call out many beloved preachers and pastors, but I believe they (the producers of the documentary) are being obedient in calling out false teachers. John Piper has an excellent response to this very thing and you can read or listen to it by clicking on this link.

This movie was needed. I needed it because lately I have been complacent in my faith. I have become stagnant and mediocre and I can’t stand myself sometimes. My prayer life stinks, my Bible reading has just picked up and listening to person after person explaining their testimony and proclaiming the Good News, livened my slumbering soul. Praise the Lord, for His salvation. Praise the Lord for His Sovereignty! I am saved not because of my works, because of the work of another!

I highly recommend this documentary.

There is a second documentary by the same director called American Gospel – Christ Crucified that I started watching today and so far, it has been a blessing.

Prayer

Prayer is usually one of those practices that most Christians need to do more often. I know I do! It’s like trying a new diet, you get excited, you’re motivated, you write out little post it notes with words of encouragement, and three weeks later you’re binge watching Netflix while eating a bag of Doritos! Fortunately, there were some pragmatic points I think will stick with me. Here is what I underlined in the book and I hope it blesses you:

“King David learns that prayer is more about “will you? Won’t you?” than “when will you?” pg. 36

“Prayers are measured by their strength and not their length.”pg. 37

“Prayer begins with longing for God’s presence before his provision.” pg. 55

“Peace with God always comes through pardon and forgiveness, never performance.” pg. 58

In the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus is praying and Peter, James and John are with him – “As Jesus brought the so-called strongest with Him, he didn’t share profound words of wisdom. He shared His weakness.” pg 68

“There is no smaller package than a man wrapped up in himself.” pg. 111

This is a short, small and on-point book. I did feel there was a small jab at the founding fathers, but nothing that I couldn’t read over. It was condescending and in bad taste and full of presupposition. Overall, the book was informative and good.

I struggle with prayer. It is my heart’s desire to cultivate prayer in my life. In a way the quote “Prayers are measured by their strength and not their length” freed me of this expectation that the longer the prayer, the holier it is. I am grateful for that quote and I will treasure it. I want to experience God in prayer and rely on Scripture to guide me to know Him more. Mr. Onwuchekwa does well in removing my legalistic approach to prayer. He also emphasizes the importance of communal prayer.

The book served its purpose and I recommend it to all Believers who want to sharpen their prayer life, especially prayer with other Believers.

You can buy the book here.

Do Not Let Satan Use Us

Last night the governor of Kentucky stated that wearing masks is no longer voluntary, but mandatory. As expected, Facebook exploded with blistering comments on both sides. Verses like “consider others more than yourself” and “God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear” were thrown around like cafeteria food during a food fight. It was not pretty and in the end someone has to clean this mess up, and it’ usually is not the ones who were throwing the food around.

Do not get me wrong, using Bible verses is a great way to make a point or to strengthen an argument. But the world is watching us hurt our own. How would things have turned out if two Christians with opposing views had said, “I don’t agree with you on this based on my knowledge of Scripture, let me call you so we can pray together, and so you can better understand me and I you.” or “Let me buy you lunch, I will wear a mask for you.”

I think back to moments where my mind was changed on topics I had held strongly to and I can tell you, it was never changed by Christians ramming down Scripture down the throats of their fellow brethren. It was done by weeping pastors worried for my soul pleading for me to repent – based on Scripture. It was done when a close friend lovingly explained a sovereign God while we sat in her car late one night – based on Scripture. It was done listening to a respectful debate between two Christian brothers who love each other – based on Scripture. It was done listening to someone echo my fears, but still not voting a certain way or taking a certain action – based on Scripture. (And may I briefly add that if you haven’t changed your mind on any subject, you are not a very good listener.)

I have learned that we cannot hear when we are angry. I learned this well with foster children, later with raising teenagers and even my adult child. During a meltdown, my kids don’t hear. They don’t even feel the spankings! Any discipline goes out the window and all they end up feeling is resentment. Also, when my emotions are conflated, I am unreasonable and cannot hear anything either. It is later when I am calm and still that the Spirit stabs me with His Word, that I am able to feel the pain of His rebuke or the rebuke of another Believer.

My dear Christians, if you became angry yesterday and “couldn’t believe how other people behaved” and responded to them, could you humbly go to them and ask them if you were a good Christian witness? To a stronger point, could you look them in the eye and partake of holy communion with them? (I Corinthians 11:29) Could you look into your heart and tell the Lord, I have nothing against my brother, and they have nothing against me? If you can’t, make this right. This is serious (I Corinthians 11:30) and we must be different from the way the world handles disagreements.

Romans 12:13 says: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”

The verse says “as it depends on you”. Don’t wait for the other Believer to make the first move. Don’t brush it off as if it is not a big deal. It is a big deal. A life or death deal.

Why? Because when we are not saved, Satan has us and does what he can to keep us in the darkness, but when we are saved, Satan no longer has us, but can tarnish our witness to keep others in the darkness.

Do not let Satan use you.

If you try to make amends and the other Christian is holding on to their pride, be sorrowful and look back at the verse. It says “if possible”. If it isn’t possible, continue to live your life loving God and loving the saints and then others. Then maybe try again one more time after the election, maybe. 😉

If you didn’t say anything to someone but thought it only – congratulations on showing some self-control, but the feeling to talk to them could be a prompt by the Spirit to come along side them and love on them. Don’t muffle the Spirit, you could be changing their mind soon or they may be on the verge of changing yours!! Or you may not come to an agreement, but at least Satan was denied, God was glorified and this is not a salvific issue. You do know that Christians who wear a mask are still going to Heaven, the same as Christians who don’t?

If an all-knowing, holy God can sit and reason with us feeble minded ignoramuses, (Isaiah 1:18) surely we can reason – one unholy masked ignoramus to another un-masked one! Surely?

Amazing Grace : William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery

This is the second biography that I have read that was written by Eric Metaxas. The first one being on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Reading about the life of William Wilberforce has changed me. There is no way it couldn’t. What this man did with the time God gave him on this earth is just short of miraculous. His convictions changed a whole culture and catapulted British society into an age of providing human dignity for the poor, the less fortunate and of course, the slave. There were so many involved in his life-long campaign to end slavery and I hope I get the opportunity to read up on all of them.

Mr. Metaxas has a beautiful way of revealing the intangible life of Wilberforce but at the same time bringing him down to a level where I can almost touch him. It is an encouraging book of a man who just lived out his faith. Like the biography of Hannah More, these Believers just experienced their faith. They were not side liners or bench warmers, they truly believed what God’s Word says and did it. I couldn’t help but think of my life and what exactly am I experiencing in my faith. What kind of Christianity am I living out?

Wilberforce had long walks with God and brought along his Bible to read. He went against British society and regarded all men to be image bearers and worthy of dignity. He went against the mold and fought against animal cruelty. He thought all children – including poor ones – should be educated and taught to read, write and math. He believed that Christianity was not just nominal, but a way of life that transformed character and changed desires. He spoke up for the weak, the oppressed, the voiceless and the destitute. What a man! In his life time he was part of abolishing the slave trade, enacting laws against animal cruelty, and bringing about the emancipation of the slaves. He also endeavored to encourage Christians to act out their faith and brought about reform in this area. He gave a wealth to different charities and ministries. And as his life came close to an end, he only regretted not being able to do more!

I highly recommend this book to all Believers. It is my hope that it encourages you to live your life fully for our Lord. To be anxious for nothing and love those God has placed in your life. To fear nothing, and fight the good fight that is so many times against our selves. To live on purpose and with focus on the Kingdom and His people. I believe I spend too much time scrolling on my phone when there is really so much to do. May God grant me the ability to be aware that my time here is but a vapor, and that I may be His vessel to be used as He wishes!

You can buy the book here.