Christmas, the Shepherds and Safe Families for Children

An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord was shining around them. And the shepherds were very afraid. “Don’t be afraid. I have some very good news for you — news that will make everyone happy. Today your Savior was born in David’s town. He is Christ, the Lord” (Luke 2:9-11 ERV).

040_02_0133_BST

….but why the shepherds?

Anyone who has studied Christianity even a little knows that the birth of Christ is central to everything we believe. It was a huge moment. And God could have announced it from every rooftop in existence. Instead though, he sent an angel to notify shepherds at work. Why? In this seemingly insignificant choice, we find the reason why our weary world can rejoice.

Shepherds did the dirty work that no one else wanted to do. They were generally poor. They were not respected in society. They smelled like animals. They slept on the dirty ground to be near the sheep. They were outcasts. They were unwanted and forgotten by all but One…the God who sent word straight to them that the Savior had been born.

In our work with Safe Families we meet a lot of “shepherds.” The ones who do the dirty work that no one else wants to do. The ones who are poor and not respected in our society today. They are the outcasts, the forgotten ones. But I tell you with certainty that they are so important to God. And this is why we do the work we do.

13. Adrian

God used the shepherds, in the story of the birth of Christ, as a declaration that His son would later repeat over and over again. God has a special place in his heart for the outcast. The last shall be first. The weak shall be strong. Beauty from ashes. Mourning to dancing. No one is forgotten. No one is beyond saving.

And that is why the young single mother, the imprisoned father, the homeless child, and the whole weary world can rejoice.

My heart’s desire is that all of us bearing the name Christ-follower would open our eyes to the “shepherds” of our time. They are valuable to God and should be valuable to us. They are broken and messy…but so are we. At least, I know I am.

This Christmas, if you find yourself in the position of desiring to serve but not really knowing anyone on a personal level who is in great need, please check out Safe Families for Children. There are so many ways to help….and so many “shepherds” to get the chance to know!

And if a midst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season you find yourself feeling like a forgotten one….know that your life has purpose. You are treasured by a gracious God who not only has not forgotten you, but who mourns when you mourn and rejoices when you rejoice. You are so very loved.

Merry Christmas!

Safe Families

For My Niece

Harper Love,

Not even 6 weeks old yet, this is a time in your life that you will only know by stories you are told and pictures you are shown. But for your Mommy, these moments will be engraved in her mind, never to be forgotten. No matter how much time passes, she will be able to stop and think and still vividly remember the emotions she felt. And your Mommy is one of the most special people in my life. So I will remember, too.

Being my niece means that I loved you before I met you, simply because I love your Mommy. When something brings her joy, it brings me joy, too. When her heart breaks, I cry, too. When she is afraid, I want to protect her and be scared with her all at the same time. Right now she is feeling a little bit of everything, and so am I.

Because you are my niece and not my child, I can only understand a little of what is running through your Mommy’s mind as you prepare to have surgery tomorrow. But being a Mommy myself, I can imagine. And it’s tough. So as your Aunt and as her sister I commit to do the only thing I can. I am praying. We all are. We are praying for YOU sweet girl. We are praying for the doctors. And we are praying for your Mommy and Daddy. As your Mommy so beautifully said, while this may have caught us off guard, it didn’t catch God off guard. He knows the plans He has for you and we will find rest in that.

Love,

Aunt Jesika

Blog readers-please join me in praying for my sweet little niece as she has a tumor removed from her abdomen tomorrow. And please pray for my sister and her husband as they walk through this while still adjusting to parenting twins. They are strong beyond belief, but they will most certainly need to feel God near.

Soon to come…Wordless Wednesdays

When the kids are having big feelings and I start to notice them moving towards a place that will inevitably lead to a crying or pouting tantrum, I always say the same thing: “Use your words.”

And upon being reminded they have this gift of saying exactly what they feel, things typically calm down. They think for a minute and tell me what’s going on and the situation almost always diffuses itself. Words are powerful like that.

But what happens when there are no words? I have found myself in the odd predicament of not being able to use my words. I read hate spewed out in regards to current events on my Facebook news feed and swear to myself I’m going to delete the stupid account. I hear generalizations made about the people who look and talk like the Moms and babies we work with through Safe Families and feel resentment start to rise because the people making those generalizations don’t know the lives behind the faces. I want to get rid of all the social media and cancel our cable and never read a newspaper for as long as I live. And then I remember…I have a photography business to run, I have long distance family to stay in touch with, and even if I separate myself from everything that is happening in the world…those things don’t magically stop happening. I just stop caring. And that’s not an okay option for me either. I find myself so torn. And I notice MYSELF moving towards a place that will inevitably lead to a tantrum.

Use. Your. Words. Jesika.

I will tell you something that my children don’t know yet. Sometimes words won’t cut it.

And so I bow my head and close my eyes and tell God that I’m here. I meet with Him right there. In front of the computer screen. Behind the steering wheel. In the middle of a sleepless night. In my silence, I know He can hear my heart. And I choose to be still. I choose trust. And when I find myself full of worry, I choose trust all over again. Over and over again. And when my words aren’t enough, He still is.

All of this has translated to my writing. I try to write something, either on paper or via this blog, every single day. It’s important for writers to actually write. And I’ve had trouble doing that. So in an effort to keep me accountable and to keep the blog active, I’m starting Wordless Wednesdays. This will basically force me to log in and post SOMETHING. It may be a picture I’ve taken, or a meme…or some other form of randomness. Hopefully in the process, this writing slump I’m in will pass!

So tune in tomorrow! There will be something interesting to look at. And hopefully interesting things to read will not be too far off from that!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving…you guys, in the midst of all the craziness this life can bring we have SO much to be thankful for. Let your hearts be full of joy. We are rescued. We are loved. We are valuable to God, mess and all.

Until the next blog…be blessed!

Thankful

In the 14 months we’ve served with Safe Families, 13 little ones have come in and out of our home. Some stayed a weekend, others for weeks at a time. Some we said goodbye to and never saw again, others we found ourselves hosting repeatedly. Each situation has been unique. There have been kids that have broken our hearts, and kids that have helped mend them. There have been mothers we’ve connected with and mothers that wanted nothing to do with us. We have been admired by families and accused by others. We have been overwhelmed with the way our little community has reached out in support of us in big and small ways. In so many moments we have felt inadequate and in so many moments we have felt such satisfying joy in the knowledge this is God’s work and we get to do it. It has been a roller coaster that has had twists that left me yelling “I want off this ride!” and turns that have been the most incredible adrenaline rush. And as Thanksgiving approaches, I can’t help but feel grateful for all of it.

There were two little girls who came to us in the middle of the night, scared and longing for home. They would have chosen their homeless shelter over our home without a second thought. Their Mama was intimidating and closed off. But that Mama is now one of my dearest friends. Hosting them was a gift from God.

There was a baby boy who came to us refusing to make eye contact and chose high pitch screeches over words. He didn’t know how to be held and didn’t like affection and he pushed us to our breaking point. But by the end of his month and a half with us he was hugging and laughing and looking at us directly. He said many words and couldn’t be persuaded to call us anything but Mommy and Daddy. When he started crying when we pulled away we were so broken. But no matter where life takes him and even if we never see him again, we get to pray for him by name every single night. Hosting him was a gift from God.

There was a 4-year-old boy who loved to play during the day. At night he was angry and scared. He’d kick and scream and sob and despite our best efforts, I don’t think he ever felt at home. All sleep deprived and frazzled, we dropped him back off to his grateful Mommy and the biggest I ever saw him smile was when he said “I ain’t ever fixin’ to see you again! Bye!” But God met with me every single night I was up with that little guy, because God doesn’t sleep either. And I wouldn’t trade that time with Him for anything. Plus, his Mommy later texted that he couldn’t stop talking about how much fun he had…so maybe he felt more at home than we realized. Hosting him was a gift from God.

There were some little ones who stayed with us and things couldn’t have gone more smoothly. They were well-mannered and although they missed their Mom they seemed to like us just fine. But Mom in her brokenness made some awful allegations about us. And I felt like we were being punished for doing the right thing. We thought about giving up and calling it quits and deciding that the mess that comes with crisis just wasn’t worth it. But we learned so much, and we grew thick skin and we watched God fight for us and learned we only needed to be still and trust Him. We came back more passionate than ever and so….hosting them was a gift from God.

There was a little girl who stayed with us who at first would shout things like “I’m going to kill you!” but by the end of it was asking me if I’d be her Mommy. She transformed from mean and harsh to loving and affectionate and her grandparents still e-mail me about the way she flourished. The time away from her, allowed them to flourish, too. We saw them come full circle. Hosting her was a gift from God.

There are so many stories…and each story is a gift. I never want to lose sight of the precious gifts of joy and peace and perseverance we’ve been given in the midst of consoling hurting kids and sweeping up their spilled cheerios late into the night. i don’t think my heart has ever felt more gratitude than what it does this Thanksgiving.

Until the next blog…be blessed!