Friday, August 5, 2011


Challenging Times
There is one day in the year that we have named "Consecutive Day" in our family. It is the day when our children's ages run in order, seven in a row. When we first became a family of seven children we had a 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 year old child for a day. Then we start doubling up again. There were a few years when all seven of our treasures were teenagers--all at once! I tell you this because I think it will then not surprise you to hear, with seven children so close in age, that we have faced some significantly challenging times, some battles to fight, some circumstances that have stood in direct conflict to the very words God has given us about our children as individuals and us as a family. I'd like to share with you some encouragement that we have learned to rely on in the midst of these times of pain, discouragement, anxiety and fear. Certainly some of you are reading this in a good season of your families' life, full of the warmth and beauty of adoption. I praise God with you for this season! But I know that some of you are in the thickness of a battle, overwhelmed and in need of supernatural strength.

God has not set you up to Fail
As an adoptive or foster parent you are probably aware of a sense of purpose in your life relating to the call to open your heart and your home to a child in need. I want to encourage you today that God has not set you up to fail. He has not called you to this radical life and exposed your heart, without preparing you for this very moment you are standing in right now. You and I have the backing of heaven as we choose each day, each moment, to be faithful to our purpose. How do we access these heavenly resources for ourselves as parents, and in turn for our children? One of the stories I have gone to over the years for help is the one from 2 Chronicles 20, the story of Jehoshaphat. We haven't had a vast army literally attack us, but maybe you are like us and have had times as a parent where you feel as if you, your child, your family, is under attack.

Fear and Friends

When Jehoshaphat gets the report, "a great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea,"  his response is familiar to me-- is it to you? "And Jehoshaphat feared and set himself to seek the Lord and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord..."  I like this for two reasons. One, he is afraid. When I see the issues of our children's past rise up to try to steal away their inheritance and come against my peace and hope, I confess that my first response is also fear. But, like Jehoshaphat, I have learned that fear and anxiety are my cue to seek the Lord and to call for prayer. Finding people that we can trust to stand with us in prayer for our children has been a key for Stephen and me--my second reason. Our friends, the van Zyls who you will meet at Hope at Home 2011, like to say that "parenting is a team sport." And I'll tell you, we have found that we have great need to call on others to pray with us, to help us face the enemy that comes against us. I encourage you to find at least one other believing friend who will do as the people of Judah, seek God's help on your behalf.

Telling it Like it Is

What happens next is really great-- I love it! Jehoshaphat proceeds to remind God of who He is. In other words, he takes his focus off the vast army marching against him and begins to proclaim aloud, in the hearing of others, the awesome character of God. "Are you not God in heaven and do you not rule over the kingdom of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might so that no one is able to withstand You?" And then he proceeds to remind God of things He has done for them in the past. And he tops it off with reminders of promises God has made to them as a people. Only after all of that does Jehoshaphat bring this devastating situation before God. 
"For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You."
The deep, seemingly endless pit of need created by rejection, neglect and abuse, has made it easy for Stephen and me to recognize that our parenting, and even our love, is not enough to bring wholeness and freedom to our children. We realize, like Jehoshaphat, that we have no power in ourselves to take this enemy down. 

The Battle is Not Yours

God's response to the prayers of the people is clear and freeing, full of HOPE,
"Be not afraid or dismayed of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's." 
I have taken this word from God to Jehoshaphat personally, and I encourage you to do the same. Do you struggle with fear and anxiety as a parent? Looking at the great multitude of issues and behaviors, not to mention the sometimes crushing weight of the past, it is so good to hear these words. God repeats Himself again, saying, 
"You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourelves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you."

What do I DO?

It is helpful to see that God does not mean that we have no role or part in the battle when He tells us that the battle is His. The scripture takes the time to say exactly where Jehoshaphat leads his men, "You will find them at the end of the brook before the wilderness of Jeruel."  We have found God to be amazingly specific in how we are to deal with each of our children, in each season, in each specific issue. Listen to His voice telling you what to do with your son who has outbursts of rage way out of proportion to the situation at hand, or your daughter who lies regularly and without remorse, or your teen who has become rebellious and distant almost overnight, or your precious grade schooler who clearly is not able to make healthy friendships...... Wonderful Holy Spirit will whisper to you practical answers to real problems. 

A Story

Some years ago, not long after two of our children came home, we were enjoying a typical day in our "new normal" of post adoption when one of our sons asked if he could watch a movie. This request was common-- really common! When I answered "No, not now my son," (my "really common" response!) our son was devastated. We had begun to see that disappointment was a trigger for this child and that his response to it was often extreme, far out of context for the normal disappointment that every child feels when he doesn't get his way. This time he declared in his broken English that he was not going to live here anymore. He preferred the orphanage and was leaving, never to return. I am still full of thanks to the Holy Spirit for the whisper of His voice at that moment-- like Jehoshaphat who knew exactly which path to take and where to stand, I sensed a clear leading from the Lord. "My son, mommy's don't leave their children, so if you are going to run away, I will have to run away with you." He looked up at me in anger and stormed out the door. Following him, both of us barefoot in the heat of the Atlanta summer, I said, "I wonder where we will sleep tonight?" "On the side of the road," was his response. "Wow, that will be uncomfortable, but mommy's always stay with their children." (I remembered the "Runaway Bunny" book and realized we were living it out!) Our conversation continued like this about a quarter of a mile. And then, our precious son said, "Let's go home," all of his anger and pain drained. I tell you this because it is clear to me that God's answer to this typical but serious issue was one that brought life, healing, hope. This was His answer for this particular situation. It was specific for this child and that need, rather than a blanket answer to every child who is angry and walks out the door. 

Belief and Praise

Let's listen, believing God for practical solutions to the real life issues we face as parents and those who love adopted and foster children. Believe, this is what Jehoshaphat says to his people.
"Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper."
May we, each one, be established and prosper as we face the great multitudes of problems that come against us, our children, and our families. Through faith we will access the answers, the healing, and the peace that is our inheritance in Christ. As you read the end of the story you see that Jehoshaphat assigned people to praise God, before the battle was won. He believed God was who He said He was and would do what He said He would do-- always worthy of praise. 

As they stood where God told them to stand, Judah saw that the enemy was indeed destroyed (they had killed each other off!) All that was left to do was to gather the spoils, a three day effort because there was so much-- love it! I believe that we parents will one day be in this position of gathering the spoils of this battle--not gold, jewelry and weapons as with Jehoshaphat, but wholeness, healing, healthy relationships, love of God, God-given identity, good success.....
And our families will be called Families of Blessing, just as that battle field became known by all as The Valley of Blessing.

Let it be as You have said oh God!

Click here to find out more about our HOPE AT HOME 2011 Conference, September 23-24. We are ready to stand with you in prayer!

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