Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Finding Encouragement from Moses While Raising Foster Children

Raising three foster children can be a challenge.  In my case, I find this to be especially true.  All three of my foster children are in diapers.  The oldest is a nearly three year old boy who has a ton of energy, is strong willed and defiant, will not obey, refuses to nap, and has major screaming fits when he does not get his way.  The second is a recently turned two year old girl.  She came to us when she was nine months old, weighing  only 14 pounds because she was not fed properly.  While she appears to have recovered well, she still has baggage from not being fed properly; she has little desire to eat and it is a constant battle to get her to eat.  Because of her small size, she is under medical supervision by doctors who continually want to test her to see if something is wrong, even though, to date, they have found nothing wrong with her.  In recent months, she has been demonstrating some of her brother's strong willed and defiant traits.  The third child is a baby boy born in July.  Unlike his sister, he wants to eat continually and wants to be held all of the time, even though that does not always make him happy.  The worst part is that he refuses to sleep through the night.  Every night he is up once or twice wanting a bottle.  Often, he will not return to sleep, requiring my wife or I to stay up throughout the night to keep him quiet so that he will not wake his brother or sister, who are little terrors if they do not sleep all night.  The kids are high maintenance and require constant supervision.

I realize that I am complaining a lot.  But, you need to know these facts in order to understand my reaction to reading Numbers 11.  In this chapter, the Israelites are complaining again, this time about the lack of meat to eat.  Moses was displeased (verse 10) and beginning in verse 11, he says to God, "Why have you dealt ill with your servant?  And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me?  Did I conceive all these people?  Did I give them birth, . . . I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me."

I know my circumstances are nothing like what Moses faced.  But, sometimes I feel like Moses.  Like the Israelites, the foster kids are high maintenance.  Even though their behavior has improved during the 17 months they have lived with us, they still require constant supervision and we still have the previously described struggles.  While they may not complain like the Israelites, their behavior makes it difficult to be around them and it feels like their behavior is complaining.

Some days are particularly difficult and, like Moses, I ask "Why God have you but this burden on me.  The lack of sleep and lack of time with my wife is killing me.  I cannot handle it.  I know you want me to help needy children, but why did you have to give me such difficult children. These are not even my children.  Sandy and I did not even give birth to them.  I did not bring them into this world, so why am I paying the price of raising them?  How am I supposed to get the strength and patience to raise them?  I cannot do it. This burden is too heavy for me."

In the passage, God responded by providing helpers for Moses, by providing for their physical needs with quail, and by punishing them with too much quail and a plague.  For me, the punishment does not apply because the foster kids are children and are not responsible, in the same way, as the adult Israelites. 

However, I do see other similarities.  God has provided people to help us.  My wife is a great help to me.  In fact, she does more of the raising of the children than I do.  In reality, I am merely the helper for her.  My children are also a great help.  I know God would provide, but I do not think we could raise them without the help of my children.  Others help occasionally, like our parents.  Another help is actual encouragement from other people.

Similar to God's help in Numbers 11, God also provides physically for us.  Even though Sandy and I get little sleep, somehow I am responding better than I ever thought I would with such little sleep.  He is providing supernatural strength to survive my lack of sleep.  God also provides opportunities for Sandy and I to get away and spend some time together.  We enjoy weekly dates to the bookstore, which are made possible by my older children who babysit.

While at times, it seems like the foster children are a burden, I know that God has given us a privilege to raise them.  He does not give us more than we can handle.  If they are such a challenge, then God knows we are capable of handling this challenge.  And, He has given us a lot of help in facing the challenge, including physical help from our children and supernatural help to survive little sleep.  Ultimately, if these children accept Christ as their Saviour and spend eternity in heaven with God, then whatever price I pay is worth it.  My price is very little compared to the price that Jesus paid to provide salvation for me.  These children also provide multiple opportunities for me to learn lessons from God.  I have gained a much greater understanding of what it means to be adopted into God's family and made a child of God.  I have learned that I need to be dependent upon God and not really upon my strength.  These lessons are continuing.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Engagement Night

On the last day of Fall Quarter at Cedarville in 1988 (that sounds like a long time ago), I picked up a small diamond engagement ring.  A short time later, I was with my girlfriend, in her car, driving home.  She had finished student teaching and said her teacher was asking if she was going to get engaged over Christmas break.  She said that she was not getting engaged.  I had to keep a straight face as the ring sat in my pocket.

A few days later, I was standing next to her as she talked with a friend.  They were talking about how guys never want to ask the dad if they can marry the daughter.  Sandy explained that we were going to dinner that night and afterwards I was going to talk to her father.  Again, I had to keep a straight face because I had already talked to her dad.

On December 23, 1988, we at dinner at Wanamaker's and watched their famous Christmas light show.  I had a strong urge to pop the question right then.  I could not keep holding the ring any more.  But, that was not my plan, so I waited.  After dinner, we traveled towards Independence Hall to get a carriage ride.  Due to rain, no carriages were present.  Sandy said the carriage ride was no big deal and we could go home.  I told her that I really wanted to find some carriages.  I drove to South Street and we found some carriages.  As we rode along, I pulled the ring out of my pocket and told her that I have grown to love her over the last several months, I would like to spend the rest of my life with her, and asked her to marry me.  Shocked and speachless, she paused.  Then she said, "Yes" followed by, "when did you ask my Dad?"

Twenty three years later, I am married to my best friend.  A lot has happened during these 23 years.  We have four natural born children living with us, four children in heaven, and three Foster children that we hope to adopt.  We started a solo law practice in the home and turned it into a partnership with real office space.  She teaches our children at home.  We have served many hours in our church and have mentored numerous people.  Through it all, I cannot imagine my life without her.  Although I cannot understand it, I love her more today that ever.  Even though she is 23 years older, she looks more beautiful to me today than she did the day she said "Yes."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Is Xmas Offensive?

It's a common sign this time of year. The sign that says "Xmas" instead of Christmas. Understandably, many Christians get upset when they see the sign. Not only have they removed Christ from Christmas, but they have crossed him out with an "X".

I don't believe that Christians should be offended when they see the "Xmas" abbreviation - because, in reality, "Xmas" is an abbreviation based upon the Greek language. While I do not know Greek, it is my understanding that when Christ is spelled in Greek, the first letter is "X". So, biblical scholars, Bible students, and Christians have, for centuries, used "X" as an abbreviation for Christ. "Xmas" is simply an abbreviation for Christmas, which actually recognizes the name of Christ.

While Christians should be concerned about the commercialization of Christmas and, in a practical sense, Christ is largely ignored at Christmas time, their concern about Xmas is misplaced.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Helping the Poor

Recently, I blogged about how many of the "poor" in the United States are not really poor. While this is true, there are people in the U.S. who are really poor and live in crime infested, destitute neighborhoods. Even though the Bible commands Christians to help the poor, many Christians and churches ignore this responsibility. Instead, they have turned the responsibility over to the government. Such inaction by Christians and takeover by the government has not truly helped the poor, but has made many Christians spiritually poor.

While there is no single answer to problems involving the poor, one solution is for Christians to be active in helping the truly poor. One such couple is Bill and Shannon Merck, who are members of Immanuel Baptist Church in Maple Shade, New Jersey. Seeing Camden, one of the poorest communities in the country, only a few miles from their church, they felt a need to provide real help to truly poor people. For the second year in a row, they organized a Christmas concert to raise funds. The concert took place at their church and involved members of their church, as well as talent from the area. They even had a band from New York City. At the end, Shannon sang and shared her heart. Her passion engulfed the auditorium. She explained the need and how they desired to help. Last year, they raised $1,500.00 and gave coats, gloves, books, and toys to needy children. This year, they identified over twenty children, twelve of whom are currently homeless, to help. These are people who truly need help. Again, they will provide coats, gloves, books, and toys. In addition, they identified a center that provides after school care for poor children. They will assist this center and the center helps children with physical needs and shares the gospel with them. If there is more money, they have identified other needy children through DYFS, whom they will help.
Bill and Shannon are a remarkable couple who are making a difference in the lives of people. They see a need and are acting. They are not living in their own material filled bubble ignoring those around them. They are not being judgmental. They are not waiting for the government or someone else to help. They are part of the solution. For that, I want to applaud them, am glad that we could provide some help, and that my children could be part of the benefit concert.

PS - if you are interested in contributing, let me know and I will get you in contact with Bill and Shannon.