What Does "Chosen-ness" Look Like in Daily Life?

If you missed the first post in this series, start here.

You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed you [I have planted you], that you might go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit may be lasting [that it may remain, abide], so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name [as [a]presenting all that I Am], He may give it to you.

John 15:16

 Instead of accepting, acknowledging our chosen-ness we sometimes are like the toddler who lost his grasp on his helium balloon who walks around, head down, searching for it while it floats on the ceiling. Our chosen-ness is there, up there in God, not down here on earth in taking spa days and having luxury cars. When we put our self-worth in those, yes, it’s going to fail us and make us miserable. We cannot have self-worth without God-worth, that’s the way God created us. 

The Donut Man said it best. “Life without Jesus is like a donut ‘cause there is a hole in the middle of your heart.” Instead of focusing on choosing to fill our hearts and lives with Jesus, we may walk around empty and stuffing that hole with whatever we think will build our self-esteem. And we will fail. EVERY TIME.

What does “chosen” look like in daily life?

If you read all of John 15, there are some startling revelations about what it looks like to live chosen. First of all, a sign of being chosen is we bear fruit. As I apply this to my own life, I realize that if I’m not bearing fruit in the purpose God created me for, then I’m going to wither up and be miserable.

Being chosen means getting pruned. Have you ever used pruning shears to prune a bush or tree? You’re cutting parts off. Sometimes it means cutting little new growth called suckers. These suckers sometimes grow at the base of shrub and suck out nutrients before they get to the top of the plant. They are “wick” as Mary says in The Secret Garden but they are actually life sucking. Not life giving. Being chosen looks like pruning all the things out of my life that do not bear good fruit whether they seem “wick” or not.

I may be jumping around in the chapter a bit, just bear with me (get is? bear fruit, bear with me?) Another important sign of our chosen-ness is we “abide” or “dwell” with God. When I think of the word dwell, I think live. We live with God . We invite Him in to all parts of our lives. We depend on Him in all situations. He is our source. Our life-line. Sometime we fight our life-line like those times when I was in labor and I fought the oxygen mask because I was focusing so much on surviving the pain. We must remember, apart from Him, cut off from Him, we can do nothing. He is our oxygen. When our version of self-care cuts off our union with God, we will lead fruitless lives that don’t effect eternity in positive ways. Our treasure will be here on earth amassing material things or coddling earthly bodies that age, wrinkle , and pass away.

Your essence (who you really are and Were created to be) vs your personality (the armor you adopt to protect yourself in a broken world).

Your essence is the part that is made in the image of God. Essence is the part that is fearfully and wonderfully made. It’s the part God sees and loves and says is good.

Then we, adapting to a broken world filled with broken people, adopt a personality that puts up a barrier between us and God, and us and others, and us and our essence. And it causes all sorts of problems until we make our way back to our essence and live from there instead of from our personality. We end up looking for the balloon in other ways. We define and defend our personality instead of going back to our essence and our chosen-ness.

Chosen is not self-serving, it’s Christ serving.

It’s probably our own fault but when Christians begin speaking of self-care and chosen-ness, we get the wrong mental picture. We picture ourselves on a massage table being served fruit-flavored sparkling water. It’s okay to do those things, it’s not what chosen means. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Chosen as a daughter of the king means we serve the king. We serve others. Not ourselves. 

In my short minds-eye vision of being a child and coming to the table (I shared here), being chosen means accepting the invitation to dwell with God. It means accepting the invitation to enter the conversation with other family members in the body of Christ. For me it means writing this post. It means writing and speaking the words God has put on my heart instead of shrinking back and thinking I’m an afterthought and no one wants/needs to hear what I have to say. I’m not sure what it means for you. I encourage you to think about it. To pray about it. Have some thoughts on your chosen-ness? Feel free to share in the comments!

* Kristin collaborated on this post, specifically the section on essence! Thanks Kristin, our conversations always stimulate deeper thoughts and good words!

My Word for 2020

I started choosing a word a year many years ago because some friends told me about it. Actually, God chose it for me. Some years it took months for me to hear it. Some years I tried to reason it out of existence. The word would sneak into my thoughts again. The word would suddenly appear in my Bible reading, in conversations,  and on signs. Then I wrote it down in my journal. (You can read about last year’s word here). About four years ago, I found out Debbie Macomber wrote a book –

ONE PERFECT WORD: ONE WORD CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE

I checked out of the library on cd and listened to it on a solo trip to South Carolina. I had lots of “aha” moments during the listen and wished I could write and drive. If you are wondering what all this “Word of the Year” stuff is, I recommend you read or listen to her book! On to my word. 

My Word for 2020

In September I attended Winsome Retreat for women at White Sulphur Springs. I really needed some time with the Lord. My stress level was on overload. I needed to make some drastic decisions or my body would go into full-on CFS crash mode. I’ve been there before (almost bedridden) several times. I know the signs. 

My problem? I like to work. Really. I do. I like to do good things that help people. I like to do ALL the things. What happens is I treat life like a buffet, I put all the good things on my plate, I try to do them all well and I get sick. Literally. Then one by one or all at once, I have to quit, I have to scrape all the things into the metaphorical trash.  My body crashes. 

My Vision

I was really hoping for an angel appearance at the retreat. I wanted an angel to show up and read a list of items to “scrape off my plate” followed by a “thou shalt do this.” I didn’t get one. What I did get was a tiny vision in my minds-eye during a worship session. I was suddenly a freckle-faced toe-headed little girl with my hair sticking out on the sides. The table was laden with food and adults were sitting around it. I heard a voice say, “Act like you are chosen, come to the table.” I walked to the table and climbed up on a stool. I was grinning. That’s it. 

As I drove home, I kept thinking of the word chosen as I listened to Taylor Leonhardt’s “Diamonds.” Here are some of the lyrics:

Shadows can speak louder than anything

And you believe the lies they’re saying

You are not an afterthought, love himself dreamed you up

Dressed you in diamonds, called you his star

Been hiding all this time, your hands over your eyes

I see you, darling, you have my heart

Not good enough, that’s what you tell yourself

Invisible, nobody notices

You are not an afterthought, love himself dreamed you up

Dressed you in diamonds, called you his star

Been hiding all this time, your hands over your eyes

I see you, darling, you have my heart

I see you darling

You’re a precious thought hidden in the heart of God

How good it is to know you

You became a word none of us had ever heard

How good it is to know you, how good it is to know you

I cried as I listened to “Diamonds” over and over the hills and around the mountains. I often think of myself as an afterthought and truth be told, I hide behind work. 

With all this talk about self-esteem and the Christians yelling things on social media, “Don’t talk about self-care or self-love, just talk about Jesus.”

Before you pick up a stone and pelt me with it, may I point out that being chosen was God’s idea. Not man’s. The whole reason we live and breathe on this blue and green orb is that God chose to create us. He chose to love us. He chose to adopt us as His own because it was his kind intent.

Even as [in His love] He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (consecrated and set apart for Him) and blameless in His sight, even above reproach, before Him in love.

For He foreordained us (destined us, planned in love for us) to be adopted (revealed) as His own children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the purpose of His will [[a]because it pleased Him and was His kind intent]—

– Ephesians 1: 4,5


I’ll end with the above Scripture which is one of my favorites! Make sure you read it a few times and let it soak in. Did you chose a word for 2020? Feel free to share it in the comments! Join me here next time for “What Chosen-ness Looks Like in Daily Life.”

When We Don't Like Our Children

When We Don’t Like Our Children

Years ago when I was a young parent with only three children (pre-adoption), I joined a friend, Kelley,  for a talk she was giving. The talk was held at a low-income housing development full of Moms who were desperately trying to keep their families together. They had endured all sorts of difficult life circumstances and needed some friendly encouragement. I’m glad my friend was there to give it. I was just tagging along.

Kelley began her talk with, “Some times I don’t like my kids.” There were audible gasps in the room. That’s just generally a statement Moms are not allowed to say. As she continued her talk, she explained the difference between loving her kids unconditionally and liking them (or not sometimes). I’m sure every woman in that room breathed an inward and a much-needed sigh of relief (including me).

If you really think about this, it’s true of all relationships even our relationship with God. Sometimes we don’t feel “liked” by God. It’s just a feeling but we try to get back in His good graces. We like being liked. So when I began to have children, I assumed I should like them and love them all the time. As my image of God changed, so did my understanding. God loves us unconditionally but He doesn’t like it when we sin because sin separates us from Him. 

The burden of Mom guilt.

If you’re a Mom, you know that you can love your child unconditionally and still not like some of their behaviors just like God. As Moms, we carry an extra load of Mom-guilt. I’m not sure where we got it. Maybe we all picked it up at Target by mistake. It seems to be a universal item we carry on our shoulders. We feel bad when we’re mad. (I rhymed). Right?

 Do you know who has an extra load of guilt? Foster parents. Adoptive parents. I’m not sure why. Maybe when we were signing all of those papers, we accidentally signed one for an extra bag of guilt with some fine print that said, I will always like this child no matter what he does. That’s just not realistic. In one day, I witnessed two foster Moms feeling guilty because they didn’t like their child that day. 

Guess what? I love my husband but sometimes I don’t like him. I don’t like him when we leave the house to run two errands and he turns it into ten and I don’t get Starbucks. We don’t like our children when they don’t do the right thing, have a fit, steal, lie, or fill in the blank. It’s a given. It’s what we do with the dislike that matters. 

What to do with the dislike.

I’ve watched Moms in the grocery store telling little tiny kiddos, “You’re getting on my nerves! Stop it!” I don’t think that’s the way to handle dislike. There are no clear directives for the kiddo to make amends or change the behavior. Does a three-year-old even know what a nerve is? 

The best practice is if a child needs to change the behavior, give him clear short concise instruction. Much shorter than that sentence. If the dislike is super strong and lasts for a long period of time -get some space. Be still before the Lord. Examine yourself. What’s causing your frustration? Is it your unrealistic expectation? Is it the child’s past trauma causing mayhem? Is it your lack of planning?  Lack of consequences? Lack of sleep? Or it a more serious issue that you need extra help overcoming. 

Ask God for wisdom and be honest with yourself about how you are feeling. 

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 1: 5


Have you experienced a season of dislike for one of your kiddos? How did you handle it? Feel free to share! Want to here more on this topic? Check out Podcast Episode 120 here.

Deciding When to Accept Outside Help For Your Kiddos

Deciding When to Accept Outside Help

As I mentioned yesterday

As Adopting the Hurt Child says, many health professionals blame the adoptive parents for the child’s current problems. This statement summed up how I was feeling: “It is an unfortunate fact that many of those who attempt to provide treatment to adoptive parents with disturbed children know very little about issues related to adoption.” Rafal’s issues were a result of me not caring, nor were my present strategies ineffective. 

As a parent, it is my job to protect my child. That’s true for any parent, but medical issues can be especially scary and complicated when a child has been through traumatic circumstances — especially if those experiences include past medical issues. It is important for parents to know as much of the child’s medical history as possible. This is not necessarily just a bunch of papers that record history; there needs to be an understanding of how a child has received medical care.

It is difficult to make decisions about medical help for children who have had trauma

It is difficult to make decisions about medical help for children who have had trauma. Myriad services are available to adoptive families: counseling, speech therapy, play therapy, camps, feeding clinics, and much more. Jerry and I both settled into the conservative camp on this issue. We decided we didn’t want our home to be a revolving door of services. Our children had spent enough time in institutions, including orphanages and hospitals. What they needed now was to see what a secure home looked like. 

I felt confident that I could do the research and help my children with speech, physical therapy, feeding, and whatever other challenges came our way. I am not saying that every family must do this. I think parents should make informed decisions and do what is best for each child. 

Shortly after Rafal’s hospital visit, I attended a workshop for parents who wanted to handle the speech therapy at home. I went to work with Ania and Hunter right away, and later with Rafal. 

Ania and Hunter are nine months apart in age. Hunter helped Ania learn English quickly. He also gave her his slight speech impediment. They developed the same speech pattern — a New Yorker accent, I called it. Woild for world, goil for girl. They were extremely funny to listen to and oblivious to the fact that they had developed their own accent. 

Yes, I did receive flack for my decision to not receive a great deal of outside help, but as a homeschooler, I’m used to that. It is scary to step outside of the realm of the professionals — and to clarify, I did not lose my faith in the medical establishment as a whole. I understand that professionals are human beings who have diverse backgrounds and subjective opinions based on their own presuppositions. I guess that is just a fancy way of saying I don’t trust people based on titles. I trust my mother’s intuition more. 

Parents should not be afraid to question professionals who work with their children.

Parents should not be afraid to question professionals who work with their children. Has this professional treated children who have had traumatic hospital experiences, RAD, or FAS? Do they even know what any of these terms mean?  Will they support your morals/values and back up your work at home?

Parenting the Hurt Child recommends: “Parents should be seen as a part of the treatment team. After all, they are the only ones who can actually help the hurt child.”

Our society is built on professionals, but that hasn’t always been the case. Parents and extended family used to be the only thing that a child needed. Outside help was only sought in extreme circumstances. Nowadays, parents are offered prenatal help, lactation consultants, Birth to Three services, mommy and me classes to ensure the child is moving and talking properly, and preschool to socialize and learn basic concepts. It’s enough to make mothers feel as if they are incompetent. 

Since young mothers are told they need help, they assume they do. It is an unfortunate turn of events. These services are offered to help, not to tear down the confidence of parents. Traditionally, grandparents and extended family helped mom and dad when they were perplexed. Should Johnny be walking by now? Should he speak at nine months old?  These used to be questions you would ask family. Now pediatricians have handy checklists for each age and stage. 

As nice as they are, these lists shouldn’t be taken as gospel truth for each child. My older brother is a genius by IQ test standards. Sometimes I have a hard time with understanding the explanations that come from his complex brain — I’m just not that smart. Yet, according to my mother, he did not speak to adults until he was three. When he did begin speaking, it was in paragraphs. My mother was not extremely panicked about it because she once overheard him practicing speech in his bedroom. She figured he would share conversation when he was ready. If he had been three today, my mother would have been advised to accept in-home help for a genius who was busy privately perfecting his speech.

Parents are the Experts

My point is this: Parents are the experts. The decision of whether extra help is needed should not be left up to someone outside the home (such as Social Worker 1). Parents should not be pressured into receiving the all of the resources available. I have seen articles in newsletters and online where new adoptive parents are plopping children in speech therapy, school therapy, and more. 

My concern for these families is this: Are they building a family, or are they just a continuation of a government institution? Again, my point is not that outside help is never beneficial or necessary — just that it shouldn’t be the default. Each family should ask themselves these questions before embarking on the professional help route:

• How will this help affect the child?  

• What happens if help is refused?

• What are the long-term results if no help is received?

• What is necessary?

Once you have the answers to these questions, proceed with what you think is in the best interest of the child.

This is an excerpt from the chapter “Medical Issues” in How to Have Peace When Your Kids are in Chaos.

The Day I Was Reported

The Day I Was Reported

I sat in a small sterile room at the children’s hospital, holding a wiggly Rafal on my lap. It seemed as if we had been here for hours. After the initial measuring, weighing, and getting vitals, eighteen-month-old Rafal and I waited. He fussed, and I fed him a jar of baby food. Then the door swung open, and a petite lady flew into the room. She walked around us, examining Rafal, then started hammering me with facts about him being underweight and his head being too large for his body — facts I already knew. Then she introduced herself as a social worker. 

I wasn’t able to get a word in edgewise. This woman was angry at me for some reason. She went on and on about him being delayed and me needing assistance with him at home — and why hadn’t they seen him before this? She rushed out of the room and returned moments later with another social worker.

Social Worker 2 was quiet and let me talk. I introduced Rafal: “He is adopted from Poland. I have only had him for a few months.” I explained the feeding methods in the orphanage, the shortage of staff, and a little of his history. Within minutes, Social Worker 2 was in tears. She had adopted also. We cried for a few moments together. Then she said I had everything under control and left. 

Saying No to Help for the Right Reasons

Social Worker 1 stayed. “Would you like me to set up some help for you at home?”

At this point, I was completely clueless as to what she was talking about, but I knew that she was still angry with me for some reason. I could hear it in her tone of voice and see it in her body language. 

“Help with what?”

“Well, he’s not walking. How about that?  How do you feed him? We could send you to a feeding clinic. Speech therapy.”  She was so uptight, she could barely get the words out. She spit out fragments, and I was supposed to interpret them.

“No, I don’t need any help. I can work on walking. I know how to feed him. I use my food processor to puree things. He has gained weight since he has come home.”

When Rafal was born prematurely in September of ’98, his first four or five months of life were spent in the hospital with no parental care. The only physical contact he received came from the hands of overworked doctors and nurses. He was born with a hole in his heart or atrial septal defect (ASD) and a cleft palate. The staff had a difficult time feeding him, and IVs were used frequently. 

I pieced together some of his medical history through information given to me by the orphanage and the medical records they handed over. Because of his early history, I knew he wouldn’t react positively to another hospital stay. I had mentally prepared myself to comfort him in the children’s hospital. I didn’t know how he would react — but I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be the one in panic mode. 

I had nothing against the Birth to Three program that the social worker was referring to; I just knew that it wasn’t right for Rafal. He needed to have a stable home and connect to Mom and Dad. He didn’t need any interference in that arena, nor did he need fear coming into the home to torment him. 

“So you are refusing help?”

“I don’t need any help right now, thank you.”

“But someone could come to your home.”

“No, thank you. I can handle it.” 

At this point, I was still calm and under the impression that if I didn’t want help, it was okay to refuse. I didn’t realize that I had broken some unwritten rule in the eyes of this particular social worker. Help is wonderful — but at this point in Rafal’s healing, emotionally and physically, he did not need another person coming in the home to work with him. He needed to attach to me. I was working diligently on that, and I did not want a new person in the mix. 

Also, I knew that having someone come in my home to work with him would terrify the other children because of their past medical history. They may have gotten the idea that these strangers were orphanage staff coming to take them away. I know all of these things could be explained eventually, but I didn’t want to take three steps back when my adopted children were beginning to take baby steps forward in the areas of attachment and trust. 

“I am going to write this up and send it to every doctor that is working with him. I am going to state that you refused treatment for this child.” With that, she stormed out of the room. I could hear her filling someone in on the details in the hallway.

Have you ever felt as if you were the villain in your own story?

I’ve heard countless stories of other foster/adoptive parents being grilled for the child still exhibiting the effects of trauma. It’s as if we are supposed to wipe away the years of neglect, malnutrition, and lack of proper medical treatment with a Magic Eraser as soon as they come through the door. It’s just not possible. We adoptive/foster parents can end up feeling as if we are the villain instead of the parent when those expectations aren’t met.

The other day I talked about how trauma’s effects can be delayed. That’s true. Other times, the physical effects are much more evident like in my son’s case. So how do we handle medical issues? How do we handle doctor’s visits knowing we may be called on the carpet for something out of our control? Or maybe we want to refuse help because we know it would hamper the child’s progress?

As Adopting the Hurt Child says, many health professionals blame the adoptive parents for the child’s current problems. This statement summed up how I was feeling: “It is an unfortunate fact that many of those who attempt to provide treatment to adoptive parents with disturbed children know very little about issues related to adoption.” Rafal’s issues were a result of me not caring, nor were my present strategies ineffective. 

Do you feel as if you have blamed for some of your foster/adoptive child’s current problems?

Have you wanted to refuse some services because you don’t think they are in the best interest of the child? 

Do you often feel as if you have no say in when to accept help? 

Join me tomorrow for “Deciding When to Accept Outside Help.”

Do you have a story to share on this topic? Please share in the comments!

*This article is an excerpt from How to Have Peace When Your Kids are in Chaos.