“Lord, what did I do? Is this not what you asked of me? WHY? Why is this so hard, why do I feel as if I am being punished?" No answer. I cried and cried during this bathroom ritual that had become a weekly event and lasted almost two years. Feel guilty, get nauseous, go to sleep, wake up at 2am, throw up, cry in the shower, try to sleep again at 4am. I worried this would be my story for the rest of my life.
I knew this was what God called me to do. He called my husband and I to pursue and care for the orphan. I knew it was God’s plan. I chose willingly to become a foster parent, even jumped at the chance like an overzealous servant. I chose to have my home checked constantly by the state, to become a counselor and a help to the bio parents and to become a mom to hurting kids. But I didn’t choose the hurt that would be inflicted on me in the process. I didn’t choose the endless lies, the overwhelming theft or the cunning manipulation. I didn’t choose to have to have the sex talk with a 4 year old or to have to train a child to give affection appropriately. I didn’t choose the many police calls about vandalism, suicide threats and run aways. I didn’t choose the tremendous loss of friends, baby-sitters or family support. I didn’t choose the incessant chatter, the head-spinning questions or the rough language. I didn’t choose the verbal abuse, screaming and hitting yet the fake charm turned on around strangers. I didn’t choose the smell of urine everywhere, the daily hidden soiled underwear, or the mysterious poop smears. I didn’t choose the depression, anxiety, intense stress, guilt or anger. (Click here a blog post with a list of RAD symptoms)
Exhaustion took over my body, my mind and my spirit. I felt tired, worn down, and just plain defeated. My feelings were constantly rubbed raw from being betrayed and cursed by the ones I was trying so desperately to help heal. I needed healing. There was no break from the anger and bitterness that grew rapidly inside me. I confided in no one that I was overcome with anger and could not muster up that distant motherly feeling of love. I was stuck in this shell of an energy deficient body devoid of any love.
What was wrong with me that I couldn’t love these children that I prayed so long for and God, so generously, provided for me to care for.
“If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2b-3I felt like nothing. I felt empty. How do I stir up feelings of love from nothingness? Well, we all know we cannot create anything out of nothing. I prayed to feel love. It never came. But God did begin to teach me what true love was. True love is sacrificing all (your will, your desires, your time, your life) for others, not because they deserve it but, because God says to.
(Click here to go to our facebook page and read my Christian review of Disney's movie Frozen)
Love is not a feeling but a command to act.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34
“This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” 1 John 3:23But where does love come from. How can I turn from the angry, worn out, bitter mom I have become into the hugging, joyful, soft-spoken, smiling woman I wish I was? The answer is Jesus. Jesus has taken us in our anger, in our sin and loved us so much He sacrificed all for us. When we are washed in that love, mercy and grace we are renewed and begin to learn to imitate that love toward others.
“ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10
“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 and Proverbs 10:12
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins…We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:10, 19
“I 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
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” John 15:9
"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2So we know love is commanded of us. We have the example of perfect love in Jesus. What is missing? What are the steps to muster it up inside myself? Why doesn’t love just come easy for me? Why do I feel Paul’s very words, “I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:14-15).
I had become a Christian in 2009, my whole life, heart and attitude changed. But then in 2011 and 2012 these orphans brought on challenges and trials that tested me, time and time again I was failing. Failing to keep my joy, peace and love during the fire of their behaviors and words. I had faith, I knew Christ, but my faith had not yet been tested and was weak.
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” 1 Peter 1:6-7I had to learn to submit to the beginning of this lifelong refining process (a process God promises will make my faith more precious than gold!) and focus my energy into “putting on love” (Col. 3:14) in all circumstances and sufferings. Jesus began revealing to me through His Word that before I can put on love, I must lay aside something.
“But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him" Colossians 3:8-11I began to meditate and memorize Scriptures that directed my path away from anger and bitterness.
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:29-32
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:3-8
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.” Philippians 2:14-16
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:9, 17, 21, and 1 Thessalonians 5:15Overtime I began to resolve to put off traits that God called evil. I resolved to not let them consume me and to fight DAILY (1 Cor. 15:31) to put on love. But how do I put on love? God gives us three clear steps:
1) "LET THE PEACE OF CHRIST RULE IN YOUR HEARTS, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be THANKFUL." Col. 3:15 (also see John 14:27 and 1 Thess. 5:18)
I wanted to obey the Scripture, “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27) but finding peace while a storm raged in my home and in my heart seemed hopeless.
“I can do ALL things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.” Philippians 4:13-14
"Consider it ALL joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4As I learned and read Scripture I found that peace and joy can be and are cultivated in suffering, trials and affliction! I began to practice (and still do) giving thanks to God in everything, even the hardest times, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18). “Lord, thank you for this child’s xyz behavior, I know this is the testing of my faith, please help me put you on display and show them grace and love in how I respond.”
2) "LET THE WORD OF CHRIST RICHLY DWELL WITHIN YOU, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with THANKFULNESS in your hearts to God." Col. 3:16 (also see Rom. 10:17 and Eph. 5:19-20)
For the word of Christ to dwell within me I had to actively get it in there, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Through the gentle, yet firm, prodding of a wonderful woman that discipled me during this time of struggle I began to set aside time every morning to read and be alone with Jesus. Sometimes I would have to wake up at 5am to find any kind of peace or quiet in our, at the time, chaotic home. With lots of coffee ready I would read, study, pray or just sit quietly listening for God’s still, small voice. Some days was 5 minutes, some days an hour. I began to cherish and seek out that time whenever I could grab it. When I finally quit my job and stayed home full-time I joined a local Precept Bible Study at my church. It is quite a study that teaches and equips women to faithfully dive deep into God's Word!
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13Chore time became morning worship choir practice. I stream a playlist of free hymns from youtube in the mornings during daily jurisdictions. The more I studied and listened to the Word of God the more thankfulness and biblical teachings flowed freely out of my mouth when they were needed most, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Eph. 5:19-20).
3) "Whatever you do in word or deed, DO ALL IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS, giving THANKS through Him to God the Father." Col. 3:17 (also see Col. 3:23 and 1 Cor. 10:31)
The last thing God did in me was to allow me to give control back over to Him. I was so worried and anxious with these escalating behaviors in my children that they would end up in jail, on drugs or pregnant. I, in fear, wanted to stomp out these behaviors in any way possible to keep them from future pain and consequences. I had taken control of the kids that were on loan from God into my own hands. Jesus owns all. Jesus determines the outcome of my children's hearts regardless of how I parent them. What God requires of me is not to change their behavior, but to glorify Him in my response to their behavior. I had to practice what I preached, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.” Colossians 3:23-25Are you where I was? Are you struggling with anxiety, anger, guilt, bitterness, frustration? Struggling with your children, bio or adopted, normal or special needs? Struggling with your husband, your in laws, your parents, a friend?
Know first only God can change hearts so leave that department with Him, put it down, it is too burdensome for you to carry.
Second, did you notice in all three steps to putting on love there is thankfulness, “be THANKFUL,” “singing with THANKFULNESS in your hearts,” and “giving THANKS through Him to God the Father?” Start with this simple goal: to thank God throughout the day for EVERYTHING, even if you don’t see anything to be thankful for in it. “God, I want to be thankful, I don’t know what You are doing and don’t see an end to this trial, but I choose to say thank you.” (Click here for my Thanksgiving Poem)
“Be anxious for nothing, but in EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6(Read this post: "Love Does Not Come Naturally" about daily devotionals to help you continue in your pursuit of putting on love!)
Posted by Shannon
Soli Deo gloria - Glory to God alone