Saturday, November 22, 2008

It Grieves Me

It won't make me popular, but it really weighs so heavy on my heart. Neal and I used to be youth leaders, and I see so many of those now young adults in the church today and they are living with one foot in the world and another in the church, they're there every Sunday morning, maybe even serving in ministry, but they're fighting headaches from hangovers from the night before. They're instructing the kids, telling them to make good choices, keep themselves undefiled, and then they go home and watch programming or listen to music that promotes, even exalts a lifestyle totally contradictory to biblical truth.

I cruise the MySpace Pages and Facebooks and I see all these comments and interests that really need to be taken stock of. They choose political correctness because righteousness isn't "cool." I wonder if it's become so acceptable that the conviction of the Holy Spirit has become completely squashed or do they live with some certain level of discomfort and lack of peace in their lives all the time? If they do, do they even recognize where it comes from?

As Christians we are to be IN the world, but not OF the world. But when living LIKE the world is there any effectiveness anywhere? Surely it soils the testimony to the unbelieving when your friends who don't know the Lord don't see any difference in you. And I worry about what influence you're having on those who come behind, those who see you walking a crooked path. It makes me really sad when I see it among people who I knew to once love and serve the Lord with commitment in their youth but have allowed themselves to be led astray without counting the cost, not only to themselves but to the peril of others.

I remember one time when Neal and I were young Christians and we went to Magic Mountain with a "believing" friend and Neal's unsaved brother (at least, I think at the time) and my "Christian" friend wore this Christian t-shirt and then spent the whole day gawking at and hitting on women, speaking disrespectfully to them, being lewd even, all the while having the name of Christ emblazoned across his chest. I just wanted to beg him to take off the shirt. He was a bad influence and a bad witness. I want to cry out to so many people I see living such worldly lives and I want to cry out "Don't tell them you're a Christian!"

I'm not saying I'm perfect, Lord knows I fail every day, but I try to respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit when it comes, I try to live honestly before my friends and family and admit my failures and turn back to God and ask Him yet again to change me. But I see so many young people at a crossroads, people I love and care about, they don't realize that the decisions they make in their late teens and early 20's can stay with them for the rest of their lives. God is a redeeming God, but you can and often will bear the scars of your choices now for a lifetime to come. Don't play games or serve the Lord halfheartedly, it is the lukewarm that He spits out of His mouth.

Don’t misunderstand me, there are also those I see that make me so proud, they have lived the life rightly before God, not perfect, but real, and true to what they believe. There are even those who have gone astray but have turned back to the Lord and are living testimonies of His redemptive work. But my heart weighs heavy with fear and concern for those who think they can live a double life, and I wonder why they would even want to?

You have to know who you are and what you believe, and then live like it. There is no room for compromise.

"I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn't make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn't mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with crooks, whether blue- or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You’d have to leave the world entirely to do that! But I am saying that you shouldn't act as if everything is just fine when one of your Christian companions is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house." 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 The Message

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rejected - Addendum

I was just reading back over my post "Rejected" from a couple of days ago, and I want to clarify, it is not my intention to paint his teacher as a villain in the situation we are dealing with. I don't think she is the source of the problem. I think the source is the change and transition he's going through. I think perhaps she's not able to help him as much as I'd like, and I think she's a young teacher and can obviously learn more about how to deal with different kinds of kids and their personalities, but I also believe that her heart is good.

I think she wants to help Ethan, maybe she doesn't know how to any better than I do. I think she is a straight shooter, and sometimes when people are talking about your kids, you need a little more of a buffer than a straight shot. I'm very pragmatic myself, so I know I have stepped on my fair share of toes unintentionally. I have a critical eye, I see the faults and shortcomings in things more easily than the positives, but I have learned to look for the good, maybe she needs to do that? I don't know. Maybe it's something as simple as working on her delivery?

I do know Ethan's teacher is a lovely young woman who loves Jesus and is in teaching because she wants to help and minister to kids, I do believe that. She's no villain in this struggle, I just wanted to clarify that. Hopefully God will use this situation to grow all of us up in Him, and I'll come out a better parent, Ethan a better student and her a better teacher, and all of us just a little closer to Jesus.

If You Are A Mom

Then you have to check out this post on another blog I recently discovered. And I encourage you wholeheartedly, GO FOR IT! GET INVOLVED! GIVE IT A SHOT! This blogger reviewed the concept so beautifully, I want you to tour through her neighborhood on your way to the big event!


Or go directly to the source. The Mother Letter Project

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


My mother's heart is hurting tonight. My sweet Ethan is still really having a hard time adjusting to his new school. Yesterday he was on a continuous downward spiral at school. On his behavior chart he moved from green, to "bad green" to first yellow and eventually held his own on "bad yellow" before sliding into red, which I believe actually leads to administrative involvement. As it was, he lost like 10 minutes of a recess which is high cost to him. Honestly I can't even recall what the offenses were, I know a lot of busyness and not staying in his seat, he does this new nervous smirky thing that was offending his teacher too. Needless to say it was a really bad day.

What broke my heart though was the conversation we had at home afterwards. He's been getting in more trouble lately, a lot at school, some at church, even at home. I don't know what to make of his acting up. Yesterday we sat and talked about the importance of making good choices, he kept asking me, "am I on thin ice?" I asked him what he meant and he wanted to know was he close to being in a lot of trouble. Truthfully, I felt like since he had paid a price at school for not sitting in his seat and such that I didn't need to re-punish him at home. I tried to explain to him that his bad choices were giving people a bad impression of who he is. I tried to explain that at this school he's new, so all they see is what he shows them, they don't have a history to know that maybe he's just going through a bad time.

He just looked so dejected. Last year he was doing great in his academics, this year he is struggling a lot. Math, which he was an ace at in 1st grade, is really hard. And I am saying I think it's really hard. Something is awry if a 38 year old woman cannot figure out 2nd grade math. But that aside, I look at my son and I know he's hurting, so I asked him if there was more going on.

He absolutely erupted into tears. He was so hysterical I couldn't understand him for several minutes. My heart just broke for him. I held him, hugged him, and waited for him to calm. I asked him finally to try to explain to me what it was. He told me there is something that "spooks" him at his new school that wasn't there at the old one. I think what he's trying to express is the sense of intimidation. I just think those were the best words a 7-year-old could come up with to express that sentiment, because I don't think he could be referring to anything actually spooky. Spiritually, I believe his new school is a good place, a godly place, maybe even more so than the old school, at least at the highest levels (his teachers were pretty special.) He feels so disheartened. He told me he only has one friend and that no one else likes him. I think the "friend" he's talking about is another little girl in his class who is struggling, and that he reached out to her because he sees it.

It's hard, he is the new kid, and all the other kids have been together since kindergarten. The cliques are set, and no one is looking for new members. I sense the same thing even among the parents. There have been a couple moms who I would call welcoming, but literally, I can think of maybe three, and the rest are not welcoming. Even his teacher, there is this sense of rejection there.

Today it was my turn to cry. This morning we talked all the way to school about choices and attitudes and how to be a good friend. I told him, "you are not a rude boy, so don't act rudely; you are not mean, don't act meanly." We talked about sitting still and not making those smirky smiles if he did get into trouble. We laid out a plan, prayed over it, hoped for a good day.

Pick up time has become a time of absolute dread for me. I hate it. I worry about what I will hear when I pick him up. I was so relieved when I asked him how the day was and where he ended up on the behavior chart when he told me "happy blue." (It's the only step "up" you can make in the day. I was so happy. It was ice cream day so I gave the kids each their dollar and waited chatting with one of the few friendly moms, when his teacher came over. "Happy Blue!" I said, "I'm so excited." To which she replied, "Yeah, he started out that way, but I forgot to move him."

Apparently he tormented a little girl to tears (daughter of the woman I was talking with, and teacher shared the story with us both) because he was pointing out the problems she got wrong in math. The mom was very gracious and kind of stepped away as Ethan's teacher and I continued to talk, and she shared more about the day. She told me how he apologized and seemed sincere, but also how they had this talk about Ethan thinking he wasn't a nice person. She actually used the word "jerk." I can't even remember all the details of the conversation because I was dumbstruck that it didn't seem like she had really tried to counter that point. I don't know, I've shared before that I think she actually has issues with Ethan. And I wonder if I see it, does he? It's not like I can ask him if he thinks his teacher likes him, because then I just plant the bad seed in his mind if he isn't thinking it already.

There is a sense of rejection in my son's heart. Where he went to school there was a sense of family and belonging, of acceptance, and Ethan has not found that here. I look at him and wonder where it comes from. I know I hold rejection in my heart. Even in my own church where I have "belonged" for nearly 20 years, I have people I feel rejected by. You know, you share yet another prayer request, and in a curt response you feel like they think you have no faith, or your spiritually immature. (And maybe I am, I wonder.) But there are histories there, roots of rejection. I do not believe Ethan feels rejected in our family. If anything, we have made it clear that his "adopted" status makes his security stronger, not weaker. With adoption certain guarantees are made. The other day the kids were driving me nuts and I was yelling (as I do) and my girlfriend was visiting her mom across the street and she was harassing me a little about it (as she has done before.) I asked her if she "wanted one," as in one of my kids. She wasn't interested, and when we got in the car Victoria pointed out that I could not give Ethan away. Little do they know, that he is also the only one I must guarantee an inheritance to. Those are cool parallels to being adopted into the "family of God."

I don't know if the same "security" he has in his adopted status with his dad and I has a dark side of question or doubt about the mother who gave him up. She came up recently. We were at the grocery store and Ethan told me, "You're the best mom in the world." To which Victoria replied that I was his "only mom." And he said that no, he had TWO moms. I told him that wasn't true, that he had two mothers, but only one mom. And then I told him I wanted him, and that his birth mother wanted him to have things she couldn't give him, because I did not want to imply that she didn't want him. I believe giving a child up for adoption is the most loving thing any woman can do, but I do not know if it somehow creates a hole in his soul. I know other adopted kids, both maladjusted and well adjusted, I do not know why some carry it more heavily than others. I do not know yet, which way it will be for Ethan, and have no clue if any of this is at all related to what we are facing now. All I do know is my little boy is hurting, and I cannot fix it for him. (In case you are wondering how the conversation ended, I asked Ethan if he had any questions or anything about his adoption or his birth mother, to which he replied that he did not, and then I reminded him, yet again, that if he ever does, he can ask me anytime.)

Honestly of all my three children, Ethan is the one I feel like I can best relate to. He is the most like me. He is not touchy feely, he's very black and white, has a strong desire to see justice, and to see it swiftly and clearly. He can be legalistic, he can be forceful, he can be a lot like me. And I know I have a bit of melancholy that I carry with me and deep inside always some sense or fear of rejection. I do not know if I carried it when I was seven. I know how to deal with those feelings as an adult, well, I suppose I do and I don't, because I do still struggle, but I also press through (or emotionally eat through when that doesn't work.)

Perhaps it comes from the deepest knowledge that we aren't home, we don't really belong here at all. Maybe both Ethan and I need to find the way to crawl up into the lap of the father and find our belonging there, me first, and then perhaps I can lift my son there beside me.

Please read my addendum to this post.

15 Random Things About Me

Random or embarrassing? You be the judge.

1. I had my first kiss at 15 years old in the middle of my high school campus, his name was Andrew Ruiz.
2. I'm a pretty good cook, especially (Americanized) Italian and Mexican cooking - though I have neither nationality in my background (that I know of.)
3. I have a nervous habit of pulling locks of my hair and covering my mouth with it and my hand.
4. When I was in high school, my 2 best subjects were math and chemistry.
5. Before I was a Christian, I used to be an avid Stephen King reader.
6. If I am concentrating really hard, I will chew on my hair absentmindedly. (Gross, I know, at least I don't bite my nails.)
7. When I am in a crowded restaurant, it makes me uncomfortable to be seated where there are more people behind me than in front of me.
8. I used to want to be either an interpreter or a Spanish teacher.
9. I have a goal (sort of, since I'm not actively pursuing it) to memorize the entire Book of James in the Bible.
10. I have 4 chapters of a novel written that's been stuck up on shelf somewhere for more than a decade.
11. I have a callous on the middle part of my middle finger on my left hand from chewing on it when I'm really anxious of extremely focused.
12. When I was in 5th grade the principal wanted me to skip ahead a year in school, but I begged my mom not to make me and spent the year in an advanced program that I hated.
13. I have mental rules about the proper distribution of condiments on the sandwiches I make.
14. I like to sing in the shower.
15. Writing poetry comes really easy to me. (So I know it's a gift and not a talent.)

OK, now I'm wondering how many people who read this are just going to think I'm a little nuts. And I am, but it has nothing to do with these 15 things! Ha!

How about you, fellow bloggers, tell me 15 things about you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The Lord is constantly having to adjust mine. I'm not sure why He puts up with me most days.

This morning I had a perspective shift, yet again. One of Victoria's classmates lost their home in the fire this past weekend. I know, my parents were spared, friends were spared. I saw the apartment where my husband helped my friend move from just a couple months ago go up in flames on live TV, yet still my perspective, as evidenced by my previous post was still pretty self-focused.

Something about this little 6-year-old, who I actually know (albeit not well) having lost her home really drives in the perspective. Not even the six houses on my mother's street were as much of a jolt. How do you explain to a six year old that everything is gone? Her toys, her room, her pictures, all gone, what kind of questions does that create in a little mind?

I'm sort of shaken to my core a little. My heart grieves for this little girl. Yesterday before I knew about what had happened to her family I came across a picture she had drawn and given to Victoria. In 6 year old scribble it said "To Victoria Love Madelyn" and it was a drawing of the three crosses on top of Calvary. I can only hope that her family is anchored there, because how else do you survive something like this? How else do you hope that somehow, "but God..."

I gave the picture to Victoria yesterday and told her to put it away. When I get home this afternoon I am hoping I can find it. I thought about framing it and giving it back to her family, with a commitment to pray for them through this season. I know my prayer life has really been lacking lately, but now is the time, to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community. The little kids' vice principal did morning ceremonies this morning, which is unusual, but he shared the importance of just loving and reaching out to the people hurting around us. I realize now, in every home are people like little Madelyn, and we need to share Jesus with them.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Free To Be Me

Can I just say it? So far at least (and it is more than half over) November 2008 has sucked. My grandfather passed away, we had a bad leak into our bedroom, then we found out Neal may have to have knee surgery, then all of Southern California caught fire, my parents home in peril for a time, and tonight someone ran into Neal's truck and just drove away. He discovered the damage after his softball game, having no clue who could have hit him. Obviously some of the events of the month are on a whole other plane than others, but the little seem somehow compounded by the big.

Before the fires and the car damages I sent out a prayer request to friends, and I stated quite plainly at the beginning that there was "whining ahead." It just feels like we have been on a short end of an unfriendly stick for a while now, particularly when it comes to medical issues and bills, like Neal's "simple outpatient procedure" turning into a $17,000 4 day stay in the hospital. You sort of feel like you can't catch a break some days... weeks... years.

Anyway, someone who had my whiny prayer request forwarded to them sent me the nicest note in response. It really made my day and touched my heart. He complimented me for being "real." He encouraged me to be transparent. I'm not looking for more, but it was just so refreshing. I am transparent, to a fault sometimes. (A lot of times.) I have had people treat me like I lacked faith, or I was setting a bad example, but I can't bring myself to play the game. Sometimes this Walk of Faith is just hard.

I was thinking about that tonight and I remembered an old movie they used to shown in school back in the 70's called "Free to Be You and Me." It predates some of the diversity that is trying to be enforced now, it was an innocent time, talking about people being OK to feel their feelings and such. Anyway, I went looking for it on You Tube today and found a post that well expressed how I'm feeling these days. I'm not really a cryer, but maybe it's alright to whine... a little... too.

By the way, just for those who maybe want to reprimand me a little for the whining... Neal and I took a trip alone to the grocery store tonight talking about the "stuff" we've been dealing with and we know, this isn't our home, it's not supposed to be a peaceful place.