Saturday, November 18, 2017

His Rest

I need my sleep. Ask anyone in my family. My mother will tell you of the toddler who would fall asleep in her soup. My brother will tell you stories about how crabby I got if I didn't get enough sleep. I remember going home at night in high school, long before the cool kids gave up. My older children would tell you of nights that they told me to go to bed because I was losing my cool. I just seem to need a lot of sleep to function well.

And, as you might guess, sleep has been a scarce commodity here at the Kautz House in the past couple of months! Having three children, teaching full-time in our home, leading AWANA, and teaching Sunday School makes for one busy mama! I find myself getting up at 5:00 or 5:30 AM to catch some quiet time for a bath and Bible-reading, or to prepare for my students.  Instead of taking a quick nap in the afternoon, I am supervising trampoline time or reading dinosaur books. I have more laundry, more sweeping, more cooking, and more care-taking of children with the wee boys in our home.

Sometimes, at bedtime, I'm cleaning one more toilet, scrubbing one more floor, or folding one more load of laundry. And I'm tired.

Really tired.

But, in the middle of reading Hebrews 4 one morning, I found these words: So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:9-10).  And the words "God's rest" resonated in my soul. God's Rest sounded so peaceful and renewing. I needed that!

So I began to pray for God's rest. I prayed that I would have the energy to take on the next task, through God's rest. That God's rest would flood my soul and body and mind. That instead of getting whiny and crabby when tired, I would seek His rest. 

It works! 

Truly! I have found reserves of peace and energy that I've never had before. I have been able to manage my exhaustion and have reserves to continue on. Not that I'm not tired, I am. But I'm not overwhelmed by it. Praise God!

He will provide whatever it is that we need to do His work. You can trust that. So can I.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Teaching Prayer

One regret I have (among many) in raising my older children is that I never taught them to pray. My own life was far from faith during the time they were little, and teaching them to pray was not on my agenda.

It was a totally different story almost 9 years ago when our now-10-year-old came to live with us. My husband was in seminary, and my faith life was active and growing. On our very first date, my husband had said, "Could we pray together before we go?" Our prayer life was/is essential to our marriage; we have been very blessed!

So our daughter was taught from Day One to pray. We talked to her about prayer being "talking to God," and a person could pray anytime. God would listen. God cared. And she has developed a faith that is deep and real; it shows in her life. We pray with her each night, and I listen as she prays for her birth parents, her siblings, her friends, the child we sponsor through Compassion International, and for herself. It is good.

When we were asked to foster the two boys, we asked about faith instruction. It was fine, the social worker said. Because they are foster children, we haven't sat down to instruct them about our faith and prayer, but because they are living in our family, they have heard a lot of prayer. They go to church and to Sunday School with us. We do not disrespect their culture (they are Native) or their parents, but simply by living as part of our family, they are experiencing our faith and prayer life.

And oh! Is it sweet! The preschooler began to ask to say the prayer before meals or at bedtime after only a couple of weeks. He prays, "Thank you, God," and then he lists everything he is thankful for. Like this: "Thank you, God: potatoes, Mom, books, school, brothers' visit, Sister (their name for our daughter), bed." It gives us such insight into what he values! And I know God is listening to him with love and grace.

The toddler has recently begun chime in with a list of things he likes: "Doweeya (dinosaurs). Brother's name. Doweeya. Doweeya. Sister." But his favorite prayer word is "Amen." He will say "Amen" through the entire prayer! I've noticed he says "Amen!" with special enthusiasm if the prayer is going longer than he would like. And especially at mealtime (He likes to eat).

The long-haired dude in the middle is my husband... lol!
Today, the toddler stayed in church with me while the other two went to Sunday School. About two-thirds of the way through the sermon, he started saying, "Amen. Amen. Amen!" He finally said, fairly loudly, "Amen, Papa!" There were a few chuckles, and then he settled in for the rest of the sermon, eating blueberries as slowly as I could provide them peacefully.

God is blessing us so greatly through this fostering experience. One of the sweetest blessings is the growth of faith in each of us. It is precious to see our daughter including the foster boys in her idea of family. It is amazing how God provides for us, as parents: insight, patience, love, acceptance, energy, and everything we need. The support we've received from our congregation and from our friends is delightful. And of course, seeing God at work to grow faith in the little guys is a blessing. Pray on!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Village It Takes

I have never been so mindful of the adage, "It takes a village to raise a child," as I have been this month. We said "yes" to fostering two preschool boys without having anything in place to make room for them in our home, our day-to-day lives, or even in our car!

We moved the "spare bedroom" into what used to be my glass shop and more recently the reading nook for my older school kids. Now it is our spare bedroom. There is enough room for the bed and that's about it! But we still have a spare bedroom, and we'd love for you to visit us.

The upstairs bedroom (that used to be the spare) now has two toddler beds, a dresser (anchored to the wall!), a rocking chair, and a bunch of toys. The dresser is full, as the boys came with lots of clothing, and our ten-year-old shared her entire collection (which was quite extensive) of Ninja Turtle toys.

And two car seats have been installed in the Chile Bus. The Chile Bus is a 7-passenger van that my stepdad gave us for the students I teach, so that I can take them all skiing and on field trips. It is now in much more common use because our Subaru is small for five.

Those are just the changes made in the first 12 hours! Then our friends heard that we were fostering. Near and far, they asked what we needed. At first, I didn't even know! Then I realized that we were lacking warmer clothing for the boys, and I suggested winter clothing. I mentioned healthy snacks to another friend because it's hard to avoid packaged, processed junk food.

Over a thousand miles away, a friend with twin sons mailed an enormous box of winter boots, coats, hats, shirts, and even some toys (and a special gift for our 10-year-old). Another friend met me with a huge bag of long-sleeved shirts and sweatshirts. I can't even begin to know how many apples we received, along with many other healthy snacks! We are all so blessed.

A dear Christian friend, the mother of one of our daughter's pals, very deliberately offered to take all three of our children for several hours every Sunday afternoon to give us time to be a couple and time to do the chores that are almost impossible with three underfoot. Another sweet Christian sister handed me a couple of folded-up bills and whispered, "Use it for whatever you or the boys need."

Our village. I am so thankful to God for our village! And it has really opened my eyes to ways I can be of service to those around me in the future.

If you are not in a place to become a foster family, find a foster family and offer something. Offer time by running an errand. Offer grace by holding a screaming child in the back of the church (or by sitting with the one(s) who are not screaming!). Offer a gallon of milk or a box of homemade granola. Offer a gift card to a kid-friendly restaurant. Or babysitting so the parents can go to a non-kid-friendly restaurant! Give a pat on the back to an older sibling in the family.

And if even those offerings are beyond your ability right now, offer prayer support to the family (and let them know you're praying for them!). Fostering can be difficult for the new children... and for the existing family. It can also be a delight! Lend an ear for joys and frustrations.

So, thank you to our village. Thank you to those who pray for our ministry here on the Jicarilla Apache Nation. And thank you to all the foster families out there taking in children in need!

Monday, October 16, 2017

An Unlikely Anniversary


When Brad and I got married ten years ago (October 16, 2007), we never in a million years would have dreamed that we would celebrate our tenth anniversary on the Jicarilla Apache Nation in New Mexico, with three children under our roof! We intended to serve God in a church in the MidWest, near our parents and grown children. It was a prudent plan: Me teaching and Brad preaching in a small town.

But as God often does, He had different plans. Better plans. Infinitely, eternally, better plans. A year and a half after we married, we adopted our 2-year-old granddaughter. I stopped teaching to be home with our new daughter, and we adjusted to living on one income and to parenting together. We thought differently about our future, no longer being "empty nesters." Instead of pursuing my career goals, I tried to provide the best experiences for our daughter.

When God called us to serve among the Jicarilla Apache, we were surprised. As we went through the interview and visitation process, we became more and more certain that this was God's call. We moved our daughter and ourselves here more than four years ago. It has been a delightful place to serve! God, of course, knew what He was doing. Brad is a terrific pastor for this place, these people. My skills as a teacher have been put to use well as I homeschool our daughter and five Jicarilla children.  I am leading a very successful AWANA youth ministry program. We have all grown in our faith and our faithful service.

Even a month ago, we anticipated our 10th anniversary being much like the past nine anniversaries: The three of us going out to eat somewhere nice, stopping somewhere to take some family photographs. One difference was going to be "our party," as our now-ten-year-old called it. She loves to celebrate! We decided a while back to celebrate with our friends at church, inviting our friends in the community, as well. I've been making table decorations and buying supplies over the past few weeks.

But yesterday morning, we were juggling three children as I tried to finish the salad and get the hot food warming up safely. While we talked to the gathered group briefly, thanking people for coming to celebrate, I was holding a wiggly two-year-old who wanted to EAT. As Brad prayed over the food and our marriage, our ten-year-old was hanging onto the hand of an unhappy four-year-old wailing to be "set free." Instead of sitting and visiting through the afternoon, I changed small soiled clothes, chased down children, and said, "No more sweets!" to three.

This is a most unlikely anniversary for us. We are too old for preschoolers; we are even too old for elementary schoolers! We are far, far away from our families, when we had wanted to stay close as our parents age. But we are not disappointed or dissatisfied. Several times today, one of us looked at the other and said, "Who would've thought...?!" But not wishing for it to be different.

We are serving God as He calls. We are here in New Mexico, happily. We are permanently parenting a ten-year-old, delightedly. We are foster parenting four and two year olds for an uncertain amount of time, willingly and joyfully. Life is not simple and clear-cut. God's call is often messy and sometimes unexpected. But His call is always good.

Always.

Good.

So jump right in! Follow His call. Trust that He will provide all that is needed.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Dozen Dinosaurs

A couple of weeks ago, I said to my mother in a phone call, "There's not really anything exciting going on here. Kind of boring, I guess, but we don't mind." She agreed that "boring" was a good thing...

And then life happened. We were asked to consider being foster parents for two boys, ages 2 and 4, for an undetermined amount of time. We prayed. We talked. We included our 10 year old. We prayed some more. Then we said, "Yes."

That "yes" was based on Scripture:

Jeremiah 22:3 says, "This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place."

Matthew 25:40 says, "And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."

That "yes" was based on prayer. On knowledge of what happens to children when they don't have a stable, consistent home. On trust that God would provide... energy, finances, security...

No longer is life "boring!" Our house is filled with loudness, laughter, tears, and prayer. We would ask for your prayers as we parent these two, in addition to our 10-year-old. That God's grace would cover us all as we adjust to life as a bigger family and the boys adjust to life with us. That God would provide all that we all need to follow Him.

On the day after the boys arrived, I wrote this:

Tiny socks
And little jeans
A moment to reflect
On what this laundry means...
It means that God has worked in us
To want to spend a life in service
To put our time, energy, and more 
Into what God has in store
Instead of what we want to buy
Or have or do
The reason why
is God has loved us
Beyond all measure
And has made us His earthly treasure
And we, instead of hoarding here
Are to bring heaven's love near
With our humble feet and hands
To be where this laundry lands


Today I took a dozen dinosaurs, six ninja turtles, and two horses to church... along with two little boys and a half-grown girl. It was a joy and a blessing!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Joy We Share

Due to a short power outage, we had to "punt" this morning on our praise song in worship. Instead of Steven Curtis Chapman, Pastor Brad asked if anyone had a hymn they wanted to sing. Our wee one immediately said, "In the Garden!" (I didn't even know she knew the song!)

So we all turned to the hymnal and sang..."I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses..." I had the scene to the right in my head, from a recent family hike. We belted out the chorus, "And He walks with me, and He talks with me. And He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there... none other has ever known."

I was struck by those words: "And He tells me I am His own." Wow. Me, sinful, meager, small and selfish me. I am His. I belong to God, the Father Almighty. To Jesus Christ, His One and Only Son. To the Holy Spirit.

Me.

His.

I smiled. I know I did because our daughter said, "What's funny?" I replied, "Nothing. I'm just happy." I should've said more. I should've said, "I'm just happy I'm HIS."

I should have explained because this is what I want for her. I want her to know the happiness of belonging to God. I want her to come to church to worship with joy in her heart. I want us to share this joy!

I will speak up. I will tell her how I felt in worship this morning. And not with just her, I will share this joy with anyone who will listen! We should feel joyful in our redemption in Jesus Christ, and we should share it with the world.

May God help me to do this each and every day.

Amen.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Sweet Hour of Prayer

This morning, like most Sunday mornings of much of my life, I attended church. It was a remarkable Sunday in that it was the first Sunday of our fifth year of service here at the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church, but otherwise, it was a regular Sunday. We sang praise to our Lord; we greeted one another, taking joy in seeing people we hadn't seen in a while. We prayed.

We prayed.

We, God's people here on the Jicarilla Apache Nation, prayed for our families, our friends, strangers in Texas and Louisiana, for housing, for sobriety, for safe travel.

Prayer is a vital and living part of worship at the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church. My understanding of prayer has grown during our time here. We pray deeply and strongly and powerfully.

We prepare for prayer by singing "Sweet Hour of Prayer" each Sunday. Today, the song was sweet and strong and loud.

The words "In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief; and oft escaped the tempter's snare, by thy return, sweet hour of prayer" rang through the sanctuary this morning. I knew individual voices reaching up to God for comfort:

A woman who has lost both daughter and granddaughter since we've been here.

A man grieving for his addicted son.

Children whose mother was taken by alcohol, gone too soon.

A grandmother raising her grandchildren from two different families.

And then we prayed our repentance. We prayed for healing. We prayed for our concerns. We prayed for teachers and bus drivers. We prayed for hurricane victims. We prayed The Lord's Prayer. And we prayed for the Holy Spirit to be present in the Scripture reading and preaching.

Hope was preached. Hope was felt. Hope was known in that place. Hope is known in this place. We Christians know hope amidst the distress and grief of life. May we bring this hope to those who surround us in this world.

Amen. And amen.