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.

Instant Family – Movie Review

I did not want to see this movie. When the link was sent to me by another foster mom, I immediately told her I was not going to go. I don’t like going into situations knowing my heart strings are going to be pulled. I don’t do lifetime or hallmark Christmas movies. It’s just not my cup of tea. I realize that this is a foster care movie, I realize it would make me laugh, but it was just too close to comfort. I didn’t want to do this! And they couldn’t make me. So a group of foster moms and I went on opening day.  I hate/love my friends for making me do things I don’t want to do!

The movie was very real. It did make me cry, but they didn’t leave you there for as long as other movies in this genre like to do sometimes. I also appreciated that they didn’t sugar coat the life of foster parents or kids. It was obvious that the writers of this movie did their homework and interviewed many social workers, foster kids and parents. So many aspects of our fears, of our secret thoughts, and of our joys were covered by this movie and I was grateful for it.

Would I take my foster kids to see this movie? I cannot paint with a broad paint brush with this question.  I would recommend it only for the older foster kids who feel safe with their foster parents and only if your kid is capable to deal with strong themes like seeing a drug addicted mother repeatedly abandon her kids. For example, I think my 13 year old foster son would be okay watching this movie.  On the other hand, my 12 year old foster daughter who struggles with missing her mom and abandonment would not be okay watching this movie until she is much older. She still has a lot of healing to do before she sees her nightmare played out on the screen. But for my older one, this movie will provide so many awesome opportunities to have deep conversations with him. We can talk about what he related to the most or what he thought wasn’t right. He could also see (hopefully) just how difficult it is to be a foster parent and some of our fears and concerns. I do recommend you watch the movie first on your own and then assess if your foster kids would be okay with it.

I do recommend this movie to all who have thought for more than half a second about fostering or adopting out of foster care. I also recommend this movie to anyone who likes family drama genres.

The movie does contain adult themes that are not strangers to foster parents like comfort masturbating, sexting, cuss words, manipulation, drugs, sexual abuse, running away etc. There is also several times that God’s name is used in vain. There is also a gay couple who fosters a little boy. Generally the mood is light about all these things and I really enjoyed the political incorrectness. This just added more to the general authentic feel of the movie and frankly its comedic value. There was no nudity or sex scenes.

Just be aware, this is not a “Christian” movie. There is a Christian couple that is made fun of, but everyone is made fun of – even the gay couple! The movie is all around very secular. There is a scene at the very end where the main actors answer the question “why they chose to foster” to their teenage foster daughter and although their answer is very sweet, it is also very humanist and came short for me. This is why as Christians, we have such an advantage in foster care to live out the Gospel with these children. Our answer to this question runs red deep in meaning and purpose! I wrote more about this in this blog.

When we enter into the world, the world in all its non-glory exposes itself to us. We cannot shudder away from this with tight lips and eyes closed. The world was us and there are still many not yet part of our fold who are in it. Let’s go get them.

family

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.
– I John 4:18-19

12 Rules for Life – Book Review

I read another self help book – so help me! That is 2 for this year! I will not read another again! Most likely. This one is by Jordan Peterson. Like all self-help books, it has a lot of really good ideas and I will share with you some of the ones I can remember from the top of my head in just a moment. But first I want to say that all of these kinds of books are just things these authors have unintentionally and sometimes intentionally borrowed from Scripture. And that which isn’t borrowed from Scripture is self-exalting and places a huge burden on your own volition and will instead of drawing strength from an outside, eternal, non-crazy source, like GOD!

In regards to the book, Jordan Peterson does do a good job in pointing out obvious things adults should be doing. Like cleaning after themselves, taking their pills, owning their mistakes. He also has a good section on handling suffering and anxiety,  Although, Mr. Peterson does make a good case for believing in God or acting as if there is a god to those who don’t believe, he is not a good theologian. He draws upon the words of Scripture as one would draw from Aesop’s moral stories. He quotes many good practices from many religions and makes a case for getting our morality from a “higher” source. This is what most frustrated me from the book. Why is a Buddhist or a Muslim moral or even an atheist? It is because there is a benefit to that morality – less pain, better spiritual standing with your deity, better quality of life, etc. So when he includes Christianity as a good thing because of the benefits or less consequences or more peace etc, he destroys the Gospel and the true meaning of being a Christian. Yes, we strive for obedience, but not because it is beneficial (although, we will take those crumbs!) but because we have Him already! We have assurance and a hope that transcends this life, so we live like it! Its an overflow of our reality, not a behavioral checklist to get something or win approval.

These are somethings I remember from this book:
1. If you are going to be anxious (i.e. sin), set an allotted time to be anxious and to worry. Yes, you wont gain anything, but make a list during that time of what you can do. Worry for that allotted time and then stop worrying. This prevents you from worrying at night before going to bed and losing sleep because you have already worried during the day. (I’m not a big worrier, but this sounded reasonable)

2. Take your darn pills. Although, he uses the other word, I really liked this. I struggle taking my medicine. For no reason. I just don’t take them. I forget and doing that can cause havoc in my body. In his book, he just plainly states to take them. Americans are the worst in taking their medicine and there is absolutely no reason not to. So whenever I get the thought that I will just take my medicine later, I can hear Mr. Peterson’s words clear, “just take your da*n pills!”. So I do. Simple right?

3. Before you try and clean up the mess of others, clean your own room! In all senses! A good quote, very Biblical.

4. Men and women are different. Women love strong men and men like pretty women. In other words, men should not be afraid to toughen up, to explore and stop whining. And women, should not be afraid to be homemakers, take care of themselves and be sweet.

5. Have one foot in “order” and another in “chaos”. Do not be a complete organizational dictator and also leave room for spontaneity and adventure. The balance of these two is what makes life fun.

6. If you don’t like your children sometimes, others don’t either. Guide your kids to be likeable, it is not fair to them to allow them to act like monsters. Other people will hate them because of their behavior and it is your fault for letting them get away with it. Not acting like a monster will help them make friends and will win praise from adults. This will make them feel awesome about themselves

There were other things in there that were good, but these are just what I could remember at this moment. I think I am going to not recommend this book though because it is just another self-help book and as Christians, there are so many other sources to help in our walk.

If you are needing help in any area of your life, I do want to recommend Rick Thomas’ website.  He has a limitless collection of great articles to help you in any area in your life. All of which are Christ-centered and Gospel-soaked!

 

Blank Birth Certificates

About a week ago, my 3 foster children lost their biological parents. No, they didn’t die, they just chose not to show up for most of their lives.  After years of being in the foster care system, the powers that be decided that my kids parents were unfit to be parents and their rights were rightfully terminated. Technically, on paper, my foster children are orphans. They have us, but legally their birth certificates now have blank spaces where their parents’ names should be.

Unfortunately, their case is not unique. Today, in Kentucky alone, there are over 8,000 children in the foster care system. Many of these children age out not ever “belonging” to anyone. Their birth certificate being blank for the rest of their lives. We live in a very broken world.

But I tell you all this so this little, minuscule light of mine shines even brighter.

This morning, I fed my kids chorizo con huevo (Mexican sausage with egg). They saw me take out the plump, greasy, fat links, then squeeze the red clumps out of their casing, my fingers covered in red-orange ooze. “What is that?” the smallest one asked. “It’s chorizo, and I’m going to mix it with your eggs this morning.” He being the most sensitive to my feelings just slowly said “okay” and walked away. I accompanied their eggs with some quesadillas filled with Oaxaca cheese, and grilled them in butter and needless to say, my Kentucky native foster children ate every bit of what I made and loved it. And, may I add, they pronounce “chorizo” beautifully.

chorizo

This morning’s breakfast

My foster children, who we plan to adopt, are themselves adopting me and my culture. The oldest one, whose name is John, has adamantly stated he would like to change his given name at his adoption hearing to, get this, JUAN! My littlest one is always requesting for me to make fideo, a type of Mexican spaghetti that I grew up with. My foster daughter is looking forward to her quinceanera (a huge party celebrating her 15th birthday) where we all celebrate her becoming a woman.  All of them can sing Lalo Mora’s song “Un puno de tierra”!

Yes, this is all a good thing, but there is a larger part of my culture that they are also adopting which is the most important and that is my Christian culture. I pray so they pray, I attend church and they do also, I confess my many, many, many failings and I help them confess theirs, we forgive, we worship our God, we fight being hypocrites and fail some more, we practice hospitality – something they really enjoy. My whole worldview is through the lens of my faith. My identity and the identity of my home is mostly found in Christ. My home of Mexicans, a Guatemalan, Kentuckians,Texans and a Yankee comes beautifully together seamlessly under Christ. This is why I beg Christians to consider foster care and/or adoption. What better way to further the kingdom of God than by having them in your home where habits, culture, and character – specifically Christian ones – are naturally absorbed!? Will you mess up, of course. My first summer with my very pale foster children was drenched in aloe because I didn’t know anything about sunscreen AND that you have to re-apply that stuff! AND that SPF 40 does squat! AND just get SPF 70, trust me! AND what does SPF even mean!?! – My poor white babies were burnt red all summer, sizzling as they slowly walked!  Their brown mama had no clue! You also will mess up in other ways. You may not want them anymore – it will pass, sometimes I didn’t want the kids I birthed. You will regret doing foster care, don’t worry, it will pass – sometimes. You will question yourself, you will lose your temper with them. You may even consider an exorcist for them and even yourself. BUT! This is where my faith, my Christian culture, comes to the rescue. Because it is in my faith where I remember my own adoption. My Heavenly Father adopted me. I was an abandoned baby and he raised me and clothed me (Ezekiel 16:5-6). I was his enemy (Romans 5:10) and he made me His friend (John 15:15). I was dead and he brought me to life (I John 3:14). My birth certificate had blanks (John 14:18) and he filled them and signed them with the blood of His Son (Ephesians 1:5)!

My foster children have blanks right now on their birth certificates, but soon they will have Nathan and Anna Tobey written in on these empty slots. They will be given a new last name – and some a new first name too! They will belong to someone. It is my constant prayer that they will not just be a part of our temporary family, but also our eternal one. I hope that they don’t just become my children, but also my eternal brothers and sisters – sharing with me in my inheritance who is Christ Himself!

Ephesians 1:4-5 says: For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love, He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One.…

 

 

So I read a book for boys.

In my reading challenge, it was suggested to read a book targeted towards the opposite gender. I looked on line and googled “top ten books for men” and conquering the world, excelling in the work place, and how to be a great leader and have people adore me wasn’t at all interesting to me, so I decided to broaden my search. Towards the end of some other google searches I did see Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”. I also noticed that it is a rather short book and this sealed the deal for me. I read it in about an hour and I did find it a bit interesting and, oddly, very applicable to my life!

My husband had to read this book while he was at West Point and one night I decided to share with him what I thought of the book. He was walking about the house and I approached him and told him that I had just read Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”. Like never, he was interested in what I had to say.  I shared with him about how nurturing and caring, but firm these generals had to be towards their soldiers and how that benefited the outcome of war and morale. I shared how knowing the strengths and weakness of not only your opponent but also yourself was imperative in success. Finances and budgeting were essential considerations in war and that there was so much pain and hurt that could be prevented if steps were taken before any actual fighting had to take place. I told him that I could really apply a lot of this wisdom to our family and ministries. I went on and on about war strategy and planning. About how courage is most contagious when we are not afraid of death. How to chose and pick fights and discerning what is worth fighting for is key to success in battle. And he listened to every bit and at the end of it all, all he could say was “I love you so much” LOL Was that a tear I saw? Just kidding. But he was struck by my interest in something he is also interested in, and I am grateful that I did stretch my reading genre quiet a bit and learned some things.

This is how I felt after talking battle strategy regarding our 6 kids:

warrior

Here are some quotes from the book I found I could use when dealing with my kids, my home and spiritual warfare. You can easily apply these to most life situations!

“He who makes light of his opponents, he is sure to be captured by them.”

“If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive and if submissive, will be practically useless. And if soldiers have grown attached to you and are not punished, they will still be useless.”

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

In the midst of chaos, there is opportunity.

There is no instance from a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.

 

I recommend this book to young men or to women who have husbands who are or where in the military or police force. Then I advise you to talk to them about it. They will see you with different eyes and love you at a different level, trust me.

 

The Gospel Comes with a House Key – Book Review

Rosaria Butterfield has become one of my most favorite authors.  Her writing style, her vulnerability and her sincerity in her books creates a paradox in me of wanting to greedily gobble up her books and slowly relish them at the same time. Her latest book is no exception. She challenges the Christian to reach out to the hurting and lonely and be a beacon of refuge and hope to a dying world.

The book is mainly about the lost practice of Christian hospitality and how vital it is in this post-Christian society, because it is in homes where believers and unbelievers can let down guards and shatter assumptions and be together. She reminds the reader that “God’s people were strangers once” and that we should not be “told on the Lord’s Day that we are part of the family of God, but then limp along throughout the rest of the long week like an orphan begging bread”.

She challenged me to ask the very serious question: When was the last time a stranger was in my home? Thankfully, due to her previous books, I can admit it was last week, but it really has to be an effort on my part. I can not expect strangers to come visit me, or to initiate conversations with me, I have to seek them out; just as Christ sought me. How quickly I forget that I once was lost, that I once was a stranger, that I once was an enemy and outside the fold. Rosaria’s book is a gentle but firm reminder of our mandate to practice “radically ordinary hospitality” and see “strangers become neighbors and neighbors become family of God.”

In her book she shares her life with us. Her ordinary life. She shares the beautiful stories of doing life together with Christians, and also the very ugly details of the pain that sin causes. Just like any family, there is dirty laundry to be handled, BUT we, as Christians, have something strictly biological families lack, and that is the ultimate purifier and cleaner, Christ Himself and the sweet smelling aroma of grace.

Rosaria practices what she teaches and like always she brings new perspective and vitality to my faith. She is also a foster parent that truthfully exposes the insecurities and blessings of foster care. And as a foster parent myself, her compassionate words of wisdom were a balm to my aching soul. Foster care and radical hospitality are difficult, but Rosaria is able to beautifully orchestrate the Gospel around these practices making these hardships worthwhile and brave.

pic5

I strongly recommend this book to all Christians. This book will change your life if you haven’t read any of Rosaria’s books already.  It will challenge us to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus. It will encourage us to see the equal dignity and humanity bestowed on fellow Image bearers. It will saturate you with the Gospel and the eternal hope we have as a family in Christ. I also recommend it if you are a foster parent, or know of any foster parents that may need encouragement, this book would be a good gift.

You can order the book here.

Here is a short video of her.       https://youtu.be/8XXHXWrh-Rg

Words in quotations come directly from “The Gospel Come with a House Key”

 

 

I took back my children’s medals . . . *cringe*

This year, 3 of my 6 kids started the running club and two of them (the two girls) whined and complained so much that they quit with 2 meets left. I will confess it was just easier for me to just let them quit. I hate it that I allowed them to quit and that I should have forced them to just finish, but alas, I gave in to their squeals of despair and side cramps.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email that our school would be recognizing the kids of running club at the annual rally. I told our family that we would all go and support our little runner. We all (including the girls) agreed to cheer him on. When it came to honor our little runner, the two girls come running towards me saying that they too will be honored and given a medal just like their brother. They beamed as they accepted their medal along with their brother. The award had lost its luster to him.

Don’t worry – I realize I should have never let them get the medal in the first place, but I had no clue they were going to call out their names in front of a gym-full of people, and I wasn’t going to make them sit this out. My heart was not to embarrass them publicly, but to teach them privately.

After the rally, we had to have a very serious talk with the girls. My husband and I waited until we could tell them privately that they did not deserve those medals and that we would have to give them back to the coach. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. We told them that while their brother was running and sweating during practice, they were at home playing. While their brother’s heart was pounding at the meets, they were at home sleeping. Their brother had finished the race, they had not. They had quit, and quitters do not get medals.

All three of them take karate and all three have received their orange belt. They had to take a test and show up to practice for over 6 months to have earned that belt. I told them, “How would you feel if your oldest brother –  who doesn’t do karate – how would you feel if I bought him an orange belt and he wore it around the house and told others he was an orange belt? Would you like that?” Both the girls gasped and said “no”.

As we asked for their medals, one cried because she really wanted the medal, but after this story settled a bit, she said she understood. The other – the more competitive one – understood immediately.

Medals mean nothing if the quitters get one too. Trophies mean nothing if all who participate get one. I saw this with my two older boys who are great athletes. The trophies that were given to all – even the ones who showed up to one practice and two games, are in the trash. The ones that were earned are on display for all to see and even polished.

As parents, these are hard lessons to teach our children. We need to teach them to lose gracefully and learn from that loss. We need to teach them to get up and going even when they feel down. We need to encourage good sportsmanship especially when they’re defeated. And we also need to understand that our children are uniquely made with different talents – not everyone gets a trophy and that’s okay. My two girls learned that you don’t get a medal when you abandoned the team, and their brother appreciated his medal and hard work even more.

In the Bible these qualities are exalted in believers. We are to run to finish the race set before us (Heb. 12:1-2). We are to persevere. (2 Thess. 1:4-5; Romans 5:3-4) We are to work out our salvation (Phil. 2:12). We know that he who endures trials to the end will be blessed (James 1:2-4, 12).

To those who are appalled at my words and think I am going to ruin my children’s self esteem, here is a video that plainly describes what I think about self-esteem.

I leave you with the words of Jesus found in Matthew 24:13:

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.