I think there was a famous sermon once that was titled something like… “Friday is here, but Sunday’s coming!” That’s how I feel today, this Sunday morning. Like finally Sunday has arrived! The sun streaming through my windows brings fresh promise, and the chill in the air brings an un-welcomed promise of colder weather soon approaching.
This past week has been a whirlwind of emotions and unreal situations. One moment we three were baking chocolate chip cookies, the next moment we hear the kids might be taken away with their Mom and her boyfriend/alleged pimp to a foreign country, one moment flying kites in the backyard, the next pulling my arm out of a five year olds mouth when she was trying to bite me. Ups and downs. This is normal for everyone I guess, but maybe not the kids being taken away. That was new.
Apparently, as far as I can understand, Child Protection Services (CPS) works very different here than in the States. A court can remove children from the parents if they believe their circumstances are unsatisfactory or unsafe, but the parents still maintain some rights like visitation and such. The odd thing is, that even if kids are taken away by a court order, the parents can request to regain custody, and often it is granted even before an investigation is complete. The reasoning behind this, is that all foster/abandoned children are in the system with the hopes of being reintegrated within the family, so they will blindly give back custody in hopes that this will lead to long-term reintegration.
One of the dangers here, is that in the case of these two, the Mom has been lured into a relationship that seems more like a human trafficking case. The man keeps promising to marry her, buy her a house, get the kids back, whatever…..but first she has to do: this, this, this and this. It will never happen. We as a staff, came together and prayed about this situation together, as the favor of God needed to fall on these children to protect them….this protection would only come from Him, there was nothing we could physically do.
When the kids came home, I can’t lie that I was a little numb and didn’t know what to say to them. Did they understand what was happening behind the scenes? Did they understand the dangerous situation they could again find themselves in? Did they want to go or did they want to stay here? All these questions.
A few hours later, I heard the news that they were safe for now, and would remain in our custody. Relief doesn’t come close to the feeling that washed over me. I took the children upstairs where we read, and told them I had some news for them before we did anything else. I told them that I didn’t know if they would be happy or sad about this news, but that they were going to stay here at this house. Cheers erupted from both of them, with raised hands in praise! Wow. Not quite the reaction I expected, since all day they told me about all the great things their Mom gave them and how pretty she was, etc. After they knew they were safe, they then expressed just how bad they thought her boyfriend was, and what they’d want to do to him if they had the chance. Cook him. That’s what they’d do. Cook him on a stove. Neat.
From what I’m hearing, this type of plea for custody is more of a normal happening than I would like to believe. But it is reality. For now the kids are safe, and even when they’re kicking, biting, screaming, telling me to go away, God reminds me that they are here and they are safe, and they are being cared for and that is what He wants.
God is so patient with us. He puts up with my kicking and screaming at times, the moments I really don’t want to submit to His desires, the moments I would rather do my own thing, the moments I want to just lose my temper…..and He is patient and calm to consistently be faithful to me, reminding me of the cross, reminding me of His sacrifice, reminding me of all that He has blessed me with and walked me through and urging me to stay faithful through the tough days too.
This week I read about the early church martyrs of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and a few thoughts still cling to my thoughts and heart… “The early martyrs believed that if Jesus is Lord and the only Savior, then he accepts no rivals–no person or religion or ideology or empire. They affirmed that the Christian faith requires nothing less than a firm and joyful commitment to this conviction. Jesus came as God in human flesh to show the way to God and to be the way to God for us. This is the only Jesus there is.”
We may not be faced with death for our faith, but we are certainly faced with a choice each and every day to die to ourselves and to live for Christ or to put something else in His rightful place.
“We will never be able to love, pray, think, feel, work, meditate, fast or even die our way into a deeper spiritual life if we rely on human effort or clever schemes alone. There is nothing we can do–nothing we have to do–to find a way to God, because in Jesus Christ God has already made his way to us.”
As some of these martyr’s Sunday approached, the dawn of a new life apart from this physical world, their countenance was victorious rather than defeated….leaving family, child, status and life behind, one account of a young mother Perpetua says this: “The day of their victory dawned, and they marched from the prison to the amphitheater joyfully as though they were going to heaven, with calm faces, trembling, if at all, with joy rather than fear.”
Trembling with JOY rather than fear. That’s how we all should live. That’s how I want to live. Undaunted. Not fearfully waking on Sunday morning but trembling with Joy that Christ has given me one more day to live with His love.
Ephesians 5:1 Imitate God therefore in everything you do. Because you are His dear children. Live your life filled with His love….