The Lenhart Family

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Nameless Faceless Babies


“Over one third of all Americans have considered adopting or fostering but less than two percent ever actually do.”  This statistic popped up on my Facebook feed earlier this week and I can NOT stop thinking about it. This statistic has haunted my heart all week. What prevents would be adoptive or foster parents from taking that step and moving into action? As a foster and adoptive mom, I can come up with a list a mile long of barriers that stand in the way. When God placed a call to adopt and foster upon our lives, I had my own personal and extensive list of excuses that I was prepared to rattle off to God every time I felt Him tug at my heart for the orphan. When you are “considering”, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the process and paperwork. Overwhelmed by the financial aspect. Overwhelmed by what people will think. Overwhelmed by the naysayers. Overwhelmed by an unseen future. Overwhelmed by the vastness of the need!!


I love the movement that I have seen within the church over the last decade to rise up and take to heart the commands about caring for the orphaned, widowed, and fatherless. The church has been caring for orphans for centuries but I think we just forgot about it for a minute.  The cross, in its reunification and redemption, is orphan and foster care at its best! But I wonder how many believers get stuck in the “considering” phase. It is easy admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. The great tragedy of the church is not that Christians do not care about the fatherless but that Christians do not KNOW the fatherless.



A fellow foster mom and dear friend of mine and I were lamenting the other day about how hard tempting it is to dishonor the confidentiality agreement we sign as foster parents. When you have the cutest child on the planet living in your home, you want to show them off (but you cannot share their precious faces or names or cute little corks on social media). You want this precious child to be known, not for selfish or vain motives, but because you are utterly convinced that if they were KNOWN the shelters would be empty and our homes would be full. If the public knew what a blessing it is to foster, if they looked into these babies beautiful brown eyes, if they held their chubby little hands, if they heard their precious little prayers the foster care crisis would not exist. If only they were not nameless faceless babies, if only they were KNOWN…


David Platt said it best when he said, “We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”


Disclaimer: I am not trying to guilt anyone into doing anything! Guilt is not a sustaining motivator. I will be the first to admit that not everyone can or should foster or adopt. But there are sooooo many other ways to love on orphans outside of opening your home to them.

I ask you, no I urge you, to watch this video. It's 12 minutes long and it presents the plight of many kids growing up in the foster care system. Children in your neighborhood, in your churches, in your child's classroom are living and breathing this "nightmare" that they consider "normal" life. They are removed from their home, their parents, the familiar in the middle of the night. They are separated from their siblings. The "lucky ones" get placed in a strangers home but many of them will be placed in a shelter. If there is no room at the local shelter (which all too often is the case), they get to spend the night sleeping in at DHS office and then possibly moved a shelter in another part of the state the next morning. They travel with whatever belongings they managed to grab in the rushed chaos when they were removed from their home. Their belongings are carried around in a trash bag (a trash bag!! what kind of message does that send to them about their value and worth? a trash bag for God's sake!). For the "lucky ones" placed in traditional foster homes rather the group homes, institutions, or shelters... statistics show that they will not be there long enough to become settled or create any sense of stability because the average child in foster care for greater than 18 months has three or MORE placements.


Many foster children enter a system in which further damage, trauma, and abuse are heaped upon their already wounded hearts. This is one of their stories...






Like a ostrich who buries their head in the sand, we can not pretend away the plight of the precious children growing up in the foster care system allowing them to remain nameless faceless babies anymore.  




Once our eyes are opened,
we can't pretend we don't know what to do.
God, who weighs our heart and keeps ours souls,
knows that we know and hold us responsible to act.
~Proverbs 24:12

Sunday, April 28, 2013

I would do anything for love but I won't do THAT (guest post from my favorite preacher man and husband)


Today I walked for foster care awareness... With a new sense of clarity on what I will do for the foster care crisis in our state.

I will be a bridge for biological families! I will take lots of pictures so they don't miss a precious moment that they are apart. I will give them the macaroni art projects and the cutesy finger paintings that I wish were decorating my own refrigerator. I will hunt to find them the perfect mother's day or father's day card and gift so they special on that day and never underestimate or question their role as parents. I will  invite them into our home on holidays, birthdays, and whenever safely possible because I want to share life with them. I will NOT talk negatively about them EVER. I will NOT see them as the "enemy" but partners and sojourners in this journey to raise these precious children.

I will NOT pretend I don't know what I do know about the nearly 10000 Oklahoma children living in DHS custody. I will NOT act like an ostrich and bury my head in the sand. 

I will memorize their faces. I will hear their stories. And I will share those stories until my voice can no longer shout their names.

As a pastor, I will preach the spiritual significance of orphan and foster care until I'm blue in the face.  I will not sugar coat the biblical mandate of caring for the fatherless and will not rest until the church grabs hold of our calling to do something.

I will ever be asking myself "what more can I do?" I will make room in my house and my heart for "just one more" if it means there will be one less child sleeping at the shelter tonight. 

I will be deemed foolish by friends and family for opening my home to just one more. They will think its not fair to MY own children but I will believe that I am showing them a true picture of the gospel lived out in our living room.

I will hold their chubby little hands. I will cheer ridiculously  loud at their soccer games. I will play make believe, pretty pretty princess, and dress up. I will make sure that a night does not go by while they are living under my roof that they are not tucked into bed and told repeatedly how loved they are.

I will make my life uncomfortable so that they will not be. I will sacrifice time, money, resources, vacations, sleep, and go without so they don't have to.

But most of all and because I love them with my entire heart and soul not withholding anything back.... I WILL BE WILLING to know the heartbreak of goodbyes because every child deserves to have someone who is willing to get their heart broken for them.

What WILL you do?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Happy Birthday!



In keeping with tradition and within our budget, to celebrate my amazing husband's 36th birthday I would like to share just 36 of the things that make him amazing to me!!


Drum roll please... (in no particular order):

1. He has more faith, courage and boldness in his little pinky than most people have in their entire bodies (myself included)!

2. He is the hardest worker I know. And even though I sometimes complain about the way he never stops working, it also makes me very proud that he is so dedicated to providing for our family and further God's kingdom

3. He inspires me and others to want to be a better person and not to waste our lives but make the most of every opportunity God placing before you

4. He can make me laugh so I hard I cry even when I am determined to be in a bad mood

5. He is man's man who is also not ashamed to cry about things he really passionate about

6. He can honestly say that no one's opinion of him matters other that God's and he is not afraid to live his life that pleasing one

7. He occasionally cooks dinner and even cleans the kitchen after wards. He makes amazing enchilada soup, chili, pancakes (not in Haiti), spaghetti, and he has mad grilling skills

8. He is VERY transparent with people and will be the first to admit his weaknesses, apologize when he has done something wrong, and take ownership for his actions and past mistakes

9. When he sets a goal for himself, he will go to great lengths to accomplish it and is so determined it's scary

10. When I first became a Christian, I was terrified about the parts of the Bible that ask women to be submissive of their husbands. But the way that he unconditionally and unselfishly loves me makes submitting to him just a natural overflow and reaction to that kind of love

11. He has such a servants' heart in so many ways.... which is one of the qualities that makes him an awesome leader

12. He laughs and smiles a lot... and the extra wrinkles of his face just prove that.

13. He loves our daughters in such a way that will require any prospective husband to have big shoes to fill and a high standard to live up to

14. He does pretty much all the laundry... really he does. I hate laundry and he has just always done it

15. He rarely complains about anything and lives out Philippians 4:12 in a way that amazes me

16. He has changed more poopy diapers and given more bedtime baths than any man I know

17. He would give away the shirt off his back and our last penny in the bank if a friend needed it (and he has). He uses everything that God has given us to bless other people (our house, car, education, resources etc..)

18. He always see's the glass as half full

19. He forces me to try new things and get out of my comfort zone and I love him for that

20. He has no desire to "keep up the Jones" and refuses to let our family become another causality of the American Dream

21. He is the most amazing Dad to our children and any other children God places in our life that need a daddy.

22. He has the ability to see hurting people, find out what they need, and then bend over backwards to make sure that need is met

23. He truly believes that "anything is possible" and and always encourages and challenges the people around to do more "big" and "impossible" things

24. He has never met a stranger and when he talks to you has an uncanny ability to make you feel like you are the only person in the room

25. He is very protective of his family and God's church

26. He see's the injustice of the world and wants to BE the change

27. He chooses to be a blessing even when cursing would be so much easier

28. He is always a student... doesn't think he knows it all, has everything figured out, or has arrived

29. He has overcome a lot of really difficult obstacles in life and learned from every one of them

30. He has forgiven some the most "unforgivable" people and loves some the most "unloveable" people

31. He will die long before his convictions about certain things do

32. He's smokin hot!!!

33. He fights FOR not with his family! His knees are bruised and broken (literally) from the way he battles for us in prayer.

34. He has the amazing ability to speak the truth in love and can call me on my crap

35. I have had the blessing of being married to him for more than half of my life at this point. And the thought of growing old with him makes the thought of growing old not so scary

36. He is not a quitter! He doesn't give up on me, our, marriage, our children, or anything


HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAKE!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lately....

What I Want You to Know About Being Disabled(or living with chronic pain)



Today has been a rock bottom place for me. There is this adorable little girl dressed up as the cutest Minnie Mouse and I have begged God for weeks that today would be a "good" day and I could take her trick or treating for the first time in her life... But today I'm stuck in bed, on medication that makes me sleep, and trying to find beauty even on the ugly days.

Many of you know that my back/ spinal injury has caused my health to be up and down since I fractured several vertebrae back in 2006. Two spinal fusions, three operations, numerous epidural injections, countless physical therapy sessions, 2 pricey TENS units, hours and hours of massage therapy, and lots and lots of prayers has brought to a place right now where my bad days outweigh my good ones. Where hopelessness has unfortunately taken root and I'm literally holding on and claiming the promises of God because that is all I have.

So why write a depressing post? Believe me the last thing I desire is your pity or to be THAT negative person but what I do desire is to be UNDERSTOOD. 

I want my kids to know when you look up in the bleachers at your football game and I' m not sitting next to your dad, there is NO place I'd rather be than cheering you on (because I am and always will be the biggest cheerleader in you life both on and off the field). I want you to I miss being your taxi driver, because if I could get those dang head phone outta your ears, we always have the BEST conversations in the car. 

I want my baby to know it breaks my heart to not be playing on the floor with you (building blocks and crashing them down, playing with your little people farm, playing babies or having tea parties with you)! It rips my heart to shreds that when you come home from your day with daddy that you run into our bedroom "Mommy! Mommy!" because you know that is where I'll be. It also hurts more than I could have ever imagined when I have to shut my door because we can't play right now, and you wiggle the knob/ bang on the crying for me, shouting "MOMMY!", holding whatever baby or toy you've brought us to do (seriously THAT is the hands down hardest part). 

I want my husband who fasts and prays and picks up the slack that "appreciation" doesn't describe what I feel!! That I'm sorry when I lash out in anger and I'd give anything to have our lives back.

I want my best friends to know that every time I can't follow through with a lunch date or a promise to babysit your kids, IT KILLS ME! I want you to know we would love to have dinner, a coffee date,  or my personal fav a game night but "good days" are usually spent loving my kids first and foremost. I want you to know whether it's been weeks/ months/ or years since we hung out I love you dearly. True friends can pick up right where they left off no matter how long it's been since you've seen them (we just have more to talk about to catch up). I need my friends more than I ever have before and yet they are because of my inability to "do stuff" are more distant than before.

I want my church and the people who I minister to that parts of my soul feels deadened because I can't do what I love, be as connected in your lives as I want, and serve to my greatest potential in the role as pastor's wife right now. Truth be told, I cringe when people ask how I'm feeling because telling the truth makes me feel like a Debbie Downer or Negative Nelly... That's not who I am naturally so avoid the question or put a positive spin on it when I can.

I want my nursing students to know I miss them like crazy. They have all the potential in the world to make amazing RN's and I will be there to see them walk across that stage receive their diploma and pin them! (I also miss my paycheck but God is teaching us dependence on Him like NEVER before)

My family, my friends, my church family deserve more than I can give in this current season.  

Jake and I have always embraced a transparency in our ministry and we will never ascribe to a fake it til we make way of doing "church" .... 

So I have to confess that right now I feel like an epic failure and like I'm constantly disappointing people and not being faithful to my commitments. I have never struggled with depression and hopeless like this but part of my healing means bringing into light that which has been in darkness.

I believe that there is a spiritual element too to it all. The enemy wants to make me ineffective and unable to accomplish what God has for me. 

All this to say.... God is faithful and we are already praising Him for the healing that we know is coming. We are fighting to get our life back. Please in the meantime, be praying for our family and be patient with us and the "new normal" we are trying to adapt to!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Where else do you get court side seats to see lives changed?!?!?!



I know I've said it a hundred times but after investing decades into youth ministry... It make my heart burst to see former students live their faith out loud in adult life!! Right now several of them are training to be missionaries, some are at bible college training to into vocational ministry. One of previous young ladies is a senior literally counting down the days until MCC's move in day. She is oozing excitement about the next chapter in life!!

What started out as an Instagram comment on a picture of her standing behind a pulpit... Turned into this blog post because the last thing I am is brief and to the point when it comes to writing. Who knew that there were word limits on the comment posts?!

So here is my advice to her, to other soon to be bible school grads about to begin their careers, or even those currently in vocational ministry but in a funk! This is my Instagram completely unsolicited advice column/ post: 



1. It's not "my" pulpit, your pulpit, or anyone else's but God's. God loves his beautiful bride the church, regardless of who is the pastor, elders, etc... God's the head, foundation and the center of the church and everything in it.

2. If He gifts and chooses you to share the word, understand the immerse privilege and responsibility of that always. Don't take it lightly, you may he the only 'Jesus' some will ever hear or see. 

3. Those in full time ministry have great influence. That puts a huge bulls eye target on your back. The enemy wants YOU because if he get you to stumble and fall so will those you are influencing. 

Vocational ministry is hard, exhausting, can leave you typing resignation letters that never get sent. But it is the most amazing "job" you will ever have (we would work for free shhh don't tell the elders).... 

Where else do you get court side seats to see lives changed?!?!?! 

4. "You can not give what you don't possess".... In other words, if your own relationship with Jesus isn't on fire/ thriving/ growing, you can not FAKE it on the stage or your platform. No depth in your relationship with God= no depth to your teaching.  

Get fired up on stage, yell when you need, cry when you need to... Not to force emotional decisions but to show you're not afraid to be PASSIONATE

5. Teach genuinely and with vulnerability out of the well spring of your own current walk. Everything you experience is a sermon illustration waiting to happen. (Once you have a family get their permission FIRST before using an embarrassing story about them for your sermon illustration)

Speaking of having families and being in ministry... remember they are FIRST. God will hold you accountable for how you led them. You are the ONLY mommy, daddy, husband , or wife that you loved one has. Love them. Don't make them a make priority make them THE priority! 

"No one's opinion of me matters, if my children do not think I am genuine, no amount of success in ministry will make up for my failure at home."

"My desire is that the people who know me the best respect me the most."

 6. Gods word is alive and active! You don't need awesome programs or flashy entertainment to bling out the story of Jesus. The gospel stands alone, no fluff needed. 

7. Preach with complete humility. One the most passionate preachers /teachers I know will not take to stage/ platform/ step up to the pulpit without falling to their knees FIRST (begging God to show up and show off because if He doesn't we all might as well go home). Spend as much time (OR MORE) praying about your lesson or message as you do preparing for it!

 "As a Christian minister, I have no right to preach to people I have not prayed for." (A.W. Tozer)”

8. You are just the vessel or the messager. The message is always the same even though of methods of delivering that message might change.

9. Be ever in tune with the holy spirit. Let it be Gods words, not your own. His agenda, not your own. You will fail (maybe even bomb) a lesson or two but God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called. Hang in there.

10. The best lessons/ sermons are CAUGHT not TAUGHT! People will more about who God by watching you rather than listening to you! Is your life radically different than those around you because you have been CHANGED by the love of Christ?

I'm been a pastors wife for almost 15 years... Have heard more messages than I can count. And I can name less than a dozen that really stood out to me. That's not because I'm sitting under forgettable mediocre teaching....

IT'S BECAUSE  PEOPLE FORGET WHAT YOU SAY BUT NEVER FORGET HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL!!!

      
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Maya Angelou

Love well! God has big plans and I'm so blessed to see them fulfilled! Keep you're eyes on the prize!



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Make the most of every moment"

For the last 17 months I have had the absolute honor of parenting and being "mommy" to one the most amazing human beings on the planets. Since the day we said "yes" and the case worker brought her into our homes (most importantly our hearts) one late Friday night in June, I can not count the ways she has made our lives so blessed.

From day one she has been a constant source of sunshine and joy  (even as we quickly approach the infamous "terrible twos").

People talk about people who have this illusive smile that magically lights up any room in which that person walks into. Before I met her, I thought that it was some cheesy cliche people use to describe overly happy people.... Now I know better.

She has a smile that melts hearts of stone and makes women's uterus' leap. It is physically impossible to be in her presence and be in a bad mood! IMPOSSIBLE! Her laughter is the sweetest sound I have ever heard and when she says "mommy" my heart physically with swells with so much pride and love, it could physically burst! Needless to say I'm beyond smitten and completely head over heels with this precious baby girl.

 I guess I'm a lot like most mommies... I think the sun rises and sets in my daughters eyes. I have an indescribable bond and connection that words fall short in explaining the depth of my love.

But unlike other mommies, I daily live with the reality that although God has called me to be her "mommy" for a season that forever and ever probably isn't in our cards. Unless something unexpected happens, I will not be there to hold her hand as she starts her first day of kindergarten. I will not seen her hit her first home run, rock her ballet and hip hop dance classes, see her giddy with her first school girl crush, dry her tears when she gets her first broken heart, prom dress shop with her, see her walk across the stage to receive her high school  and college diplomas, visit colleges with her, or even see her walk down the aisle as the beautiful bride I know she will be as she marries the Godly man I have praying for since the day she stole me heart.

I am a foster mom. Although if you were to open my heart, you would see no difference in the amount of unconditional love I hold for her or my other children (both adopted and biological).

Daily I am reminded that tomorrow is not guaranteed! DAILY!

This reminder drives me to live in the moment. Cherish each precious moment I have. Smell her, lots!!! Memorize her beautiful face and the sound of her giggles and the way she says "mommy"! Watch her sleep (goes back to the memorize her face). Put off "things" to create memories. When she asks me to read the same book that we've already read 36 times today, read it again. Blow bubbles (even inside on rainy days). Forget the mess. Sing. Sing. Sing. Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray. Go to the park. Look at rocks, flowers, and bugs. Play in the dirt. Paint her toenails. Teach her the importance of shoes. Talk about Jesus as much as I can. Love her tummy mommy (biological mommy). Watch "yo gabba gabba" and  "tangled" as many times as she wants to. Ignore well meaning people who tell me to let her "cry it out" at bedtime and not rock her to sleep. Kiss her more times than humanly possible to count. Whisper "I love you" in her ear all day long. And pray that even when I am distant memory she will KNOW to the core of her being that she has value and is loved more than she can ever fathom.

 Experience and heart break as a foster mom painfully reminds me that one day my lap will be empty (as will some places in my heart). One day I would give anything to watch "Tangled" one more time with my baby girl cuddled up on my lap. Whether its because you are a foster mom, due to unexpected loss/ death, or an unforeseen medical hardship around the corner.... Life is lived best when we are ever mindful that each day, each moment, is a gift!!! Unwrap every beautiful one you've been given... Before its too late.


 In the wise words of Ferris Buehler, "Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."




Tick tock hear the clock countdown
Wish the minute hand could be rewound
So much to do and so much I need to say
Will tomorrow be too late
Feel the moment slip into the past
Like sand through an hourglass
In the madness I guess I just forget
To do all the things I said
Time passes by
Never thought I'd wind up
One step behind
Now I've made my mind up

Today I'm gonna try a little harder
Gonna make every minute last longer
Gonna learn to forgive and forget
 'Cause we don't have long, gonna make the most of it
 Today I'm gonna love my enemies
Reach out to somebody who needs me
 Make a change, make the world a better place
'Cause tomorrow could be one day too late
One day too late
One day too late

Tick tock hear my life pass by
I can't erase and I can't rewind
Of all the things I regret the most I do...
Wish I'd spent more time with you
 Here's my chance for a new beginning
I saved the best for a better ending
And in the end I'll make it up to you, you'll see
You'll get the very best of me
Your time is running out
You're never gonna get it back
 Make the most of every moment
Stop saving the best for last

Friday, July 20, 2012

things I've learned lately

One would think after being a foster/ adoptive mom for over 7 years that I would be a veteran and that my heart would have certain truths engrained on my heart by now. But every placement is different. Every family is different. Every day is different. God continues to teach me so much about loving people and loving Himself on this journey. I continue to make mistakes, take on more than I can handle, spend nights crying for the brokenness of our system (and our world), and yet there is nothing more I'd rather be doing.

Ive heard it said that “The two most important days of your life are the day you that were born and the day that you find out WHY." THIS is my WHY. Being a mommy to my foster babies, adopted children, and even my home grown biological children is IT.

Here are some of the other things I've learned lately:

~ Hands down the hardest prayer to pray HAS to be for God's will to be done EVEN IF IT MEANS.....(fill in blank). There have been more nights than I can count lately that I've cried rocking a certain someone to sleep and praying for the unknown future ahead of this precious girl that has been such a HUGE blessing to us since the day she came into our home over a year ago. There are decisions being made about her future that I have no control over. But I've learned that "I don't have to worry about WHAT will happen when I know WHO is in control."

~ "God is bigger than the pain I might suffer in loving a child and then having to return that child to a mom/dad who has successfully reunified.”
There are lots of things in this world that can leave us broken-hearted. There isn't a more worthy cause this ... loving a foster child as my own ♥

~ There's a huge difference between knowing ABOUT God and knowing Him... To risk and know Him is to willingly place your life in the hands of an unseen God and an unknown future, then watch Him come through. He starts to get real and you start to KNOW Him when you live like that!

~ We care for orphans not to earn favor with God..but as a natural outflow of the favor we have with God through Jesus.

~ When Jesus said that whole "love your enemies" thing, I think he REALLY meant it. Trying to LOVE someone you don't really LIKE is very difficult. Start with praying for them... it's impossible to hate someone you are praying for you. "Look into the eyes of the person most difficult for you to LIKE and see the one you LOVE."

~ "No" is a complete sentence and my people pleasing self needs to say it more. We are too busy. But when I evaluate our busyness, I can separate into two categories (related to my calling or not) to determine if it is worthy of our time. I think being busy isn't bad if a large part your " busyness" can be contributed or traced back to your calling! I am first and foremost called to be a follower of Christ(love God, love people) then wife /help mate to my husband, and then mom to my children and foster children, then ministry/work. My time, energy, focus, and resource delegation should reflect those priorities. "Servicing God and convenience often don't go hand in hand. Sometimes I think God smiles when our plate is already too full of so many things we call important - things that tie us to busyness and leave us little freedom to fulfill our calling, purpose, and destiny."

Well there it is.... the most random hodgepodge of a blog post I ever wrote. But it is characteristically perfect for the current season of my life (where thoughts are swirling, things are crazy and changing, but God is constant).

Sweet Jesus Christ my sanity, sweet Jesus Christ my clarity...