A Baking Furnace

Wednesday, June 29, 2011  ::   3 important comments

Who in the world would bake in Tucson, AZ in the middle of the summer? My friend Tenney definitely would not. But, alas, I love to bake, so I heated up the house for much of the day!

We are heading to New Mexico tomorrow to hang out with my family and to pick up our kids who have been on a week long get-away with grandparents. It's been a nice week, but I'm ready to see my kiddos!

When I visit my family, I like to take food. My parents cook and play and host for 12 of us, so helping out with some baked goods, fruit, veggies, and whatever else sounds helpful makes me happy.

In the old days (smaller kids, fewer responsibilities) I would experiment with different baked deliciousness. Lately, I've just been sticking to the tried and true, easy, and most requested recipes.

Here is what literally heated up my house today:

Banana bread that has no oil and made with whole wheat flour.  Some of the loaves have pecans and chocolate chips.

M&M cookies. I've been making these for years. And, people don't seem to mind.

The recipe I have makes SIX DOZEN! That's a whole lotta cookies! 

Moo-Moo bars, aka, chocolate oatmeal bars.  My aunt Jenny once said, "Mmmm, what are these called? Moo-Moo bars?" Yes, Aunt Jenny. That is exactly what they're called! Butter and sweetened condensed milk? Moo-moo indeed. This time I used more whole wheat flour than normal, so they turned out a little darker. As you can see, Chad and I decided to taste one to make sure they were ok. Pretty good. Want to taste them??

Lots of people have asked me for the recipe for these delightful Moo-Moo bars. I'm not so good at writing it out for the requesters, so here's your chance (Susie.)

1 cup butter
2 cups br. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking soda
3 cups oatmeal

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Add flour, salt, soda, and oatmeal. I mix all of this in my fancy schmancy mixer, but if you don't have one (Susie) just mix really good by hand. You can do it! Spread 2/3 of dough into greased and floured jelly roll pan. (I just spray the pan with Pam. So much easier.) After you've prepared the chocolate filling (see below) spread it over the dough. Top with the remaining dough by spoonfuls. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Chocolate filling:

12 oz semi-sweet choc chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tblsp butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
(I always half this part. It's just too much chocolate, but this is the real recipe. Experiment and see what you like, but my Moo-Moo bars are pretty good, so you may just want to trust me on this!)

Mix these ingredients and melt it in the microwave.  Be careful not to burn it. Start with 20 seconds or so, then stir it up. If you need to, blast it a little longer... I'm speaking from experience when I say to heat it slowly. Burned chocolate is stinky and not tasty.

Let me know if you plan to try the recipe.  Or, just let me know if you want to skip baking and just come over and eat some that I've made.  I'll be happy to whip you up something sweet.

P.S.  I was nominated for Top Family blog on the Circle of Moms site.  Cool, huh?? So could you be a great friend and click on over there and vote for me...every day for the next two weeks?  That would be awesome.  :)

The Splash Zone

Thursday, June 23, 2011  ::   7 important comments

People, including my four crazy kids, were jumping of the roof into our pool this Saturday. The daring men were canon balling off the roof! The splashes were HUGE! We soaked it up.

For some strange reason I felt like I was adding safety to the situation by sitting on the side, you know, adding some cushion in case someone over-jumped. Always lookin' out for my friends!

I love this candid shot of me and my kiddos! Thanks for the great pic, John D! 
Happy summer! Wear sunscreen! Be safe! Have fun!! 

Welcome back to ETC, Emily! Hope you are feeling better! 

People Pleaser Ponderings

Thursday, June 23, 2011  ::   4 important comments

What I'm about to write isn't an original thought.  Many people have processed through this quandary. There are a jillion articles on it if you google the topic. It's just been bugging me lately, so I thought I would share. 

To defriend or not to defriend, that is the question. 

I was looking through my facebook newsfeed, and realized there are a lot of people that I'm "friends" with that I've maybe only spoken to once, or came to Second Mile for a month or so then left, or knew many, many moons ago, but we don't really interact now at all.  It's kinda strange when you really think about it. 

But, alas, I'm paralyzed, hovering over the delete button. 

The pros of facebook for me:  
  • I can easily communicate with people in my church.
  • Posting pictures is easy and helps grandparents get their grandkid fix.
  • Reconnecting with a few people from long, long ago is interesting and fun.
  • Reading snippets of people's lives is entertaining. 
  • I feel so popular having so many friends. (I'm kidding.) 

However, lately I've been bombarded with friend requests from people I haven't seen in 20 years that I'm pretty sure hated my guts all those years ago.  I think it's that dumb "people you may know" side bar. I've actually accepted a few requests from people, write them a quick note asking how they are doing, and then don't hear a word from them.  Am I being used in some weird way? Is it cool to have a huge number of facebook friends.  Hmmm, strange indeed.  

And then there is the "I'm going to come to your church then leave and never tell you or talk to you again" facebook friends.  That's just awkward. I don't really know them or anything about them, but it just seems wrong to defriend a sister or brother in Christ.  

I have a couple of friends that will never defriend anyone unless absolutely necessary.  They feel like it is like severing a relationship. I've only defriended three people in my facebook history.* Two of them I felt guilty about and one requested me again.  Of course I've noticed the people who have defriended me because I keep a running spreadsheet of my facebook friends. (Again, kidding.) 

What about you? Do you ever defriend? What is your criteria for defriending someone? More importantly, what is your criteria for keeping the facebook friends you have? Do you think you will ever deactivate your facebook account? If yes, what in the world will you do with all that time.... 

*I deleted one of them because they continued to post foul and offensive jokes about women. The other two just always had the f-bomb in their status and I really hate the f-bomb. Because of the guilt I felt in defriending them, I now just hide people when they use obnoxious language.

(I'm computer challenged and my computer guru is out of the country for the summer.  For some reason the comment section under the title disappeared, but I still would love your feedback.  Just click on the title to see the comments already posted and to leave your two cents.  Sheesh. I need to learn some computer stuff.) 

To Cherish and Care For, Part 2

Tuesday, June 21, 2011  ::   3 important comments

Our little guy only lived with us for two weeks. He came, we unpacked, he went to his summer program, we swam a few times, cuddled often, my kids read to him constantly, and then he left. For some reason, God has given me the ability to have very difficult conversations with kids with grace and dignity. This was one of those times.  I had to be the one to break the news to him that he would be leaving our home to live in another state with someone he may or may not know.

This is the life of foster care. My family was so heavy-hearted when our little friend left, but not because we had grown attached to him or felt sad for ourselves. To look at my children and tell them that there was no way to know about his future was difficult. I'm grateful that they are experiencing real life ways to know and trust that God is sovereign and God is good even when we don't know the outcome of a given situation. Chad and I can tell them all the time, but for them to get to move head knowledge to experiential heart knowledge is invaluable.

You know, I had always had a plan for the size of my family. Before Chad and I were married, we thought we would have five kids, then we adopted Esther. Quickly, we decided four would be a nice number. After Kyle was born, three became our new ideal. God knew what we really needed and apparently He thought it would be really funny if we had twins...Morgan and Carah.  I cried for a month when I found out I was carrying twins because I was so afraid. I definitely did not think I had the qualifications or skills to parent four kids.  But, God is sovereign and God is good. He knew all along that we wouldn't be stopping at four.

One of the biggest reasons I drug my feet in getting back into foster care is a fear of how many children I will actually end up with.  God has graciously given Chad and I a way with kids. I'm not the person that kids run to for fun, silly voices, cute games, or treats from my purse, but our home is a place kids can find secure love, consistent boundaries, attention, affection, and appropriate discipline. As much as I'm afraid to admit it, I have a feeling we will have countless kids come through our home. God has not shown this to me to be His plan, but I believe He has asked me to surrender to His will for our family. I'm terrified that I will be the old woman who had so many kids she didn't know what to do. (Hopefully, I won't have to live in a shoe.)

For now, we are keeping our placement open for a young boy. We are praying God will allow us to adopt a boy at some point. Our family will keep believing that God has a sovereign plan for our family and that He is completely good.

Please know that saying God is good does not mean that I think he will give us a life of ease and comfort. His goodness means that He wants us to become more like Christ who gave himself up for us. He doesn't promise that our lives will be easy, exactly like we hoped or planned, or that we will get what we think we deserve for all the great things we think we are doing. His goodness includes giving us joy, hope, peace, never abandoning us, and mostly pointing us to Himself where we find ultimate satisfaction.

More thoughts are coming...

Pirates Baseball Awesomeness

Saturday, June 18, 2011  ::   3 important comments

I fell off the planet socially this spring.  Baseball overtook the night life of the Haynes family because we spent three to four nights out of the week at the field. Most of the time I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Sometimes I missed having people over for dinner, going on dates, and just laying around watching mindless reality television. After sorting through some photos, I realized that every single minute was totally worth it.

Go Pirates!! 

Second place and happy

My awesome friends agreed to wear sweet pirate masks to support the team during the championship game. This is only half of the group. Sixteen pirate masks are quite noticeable in the stands of a little league game. Thanks, friends, for being such great sports and supporting Kyle! 

The starting line-up introductions. 

Kyle's favorite position is 2nd base.  And, he's a great hitter! (And I'm a dorky proud mom. I'll admit it!) 

Coach Dad and his mini-me  

I love this kid! 

Kyle loved this season so much that he's decided to skip out on football this fall and play baseball in the fall league. Chad and I are supportive, excited, and ready to coach/cheer him on to lots and lots of baseball fun! 

Moxie Memorizers

Wednesday, June 15, 2011  ::   16 important comments

The middle of the month of June is upon us.  I want you all to know that I am sensing your weariness in this huge endeavor of consistently memorizing scripture. Several of you have talked to me about getting behind, or struggling through reviewing, or just lacking motivation altogether.  I get it. I'm in the same place. But, thankfully, we have Galations 6:9 to spur us on.  It says, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for in the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." This verse is so encouraging to me. God acknowledges that weariness will happen. He tells us we will reap a harvest from our efforts. And, He encourages us when we want to quit. Let's do this together. Do not give up. You can do it!

I'm needing some encouragement to press on to know Him more deeply, so my verse for the next two weeks reflects my desire.

Hosea 6:3
Let us know; Let us press on to know the Lord;
His going out is as sure at the dawn;
He will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth. 

Reading everyones verses inspires me. Thank you for continually posting. If you need a reminder that we are a very small part of the awesome body of Christ and that many women around the world are memorizing two verses a month, click over to the Living Proof blog and read Beth Moore's post and see the hundreds of comments of women's verses poor in.  I don't know about you, but remembering that we are part of a huge body bolsters my desire to be disciplined and not miss out on the blessing of saturating my heart and mind with scripture.  Thanks for joining me in this life-changing group we call Moxie Memorizers. We are two weeks away from being half-way through our first year together! 

It's time to post up! Just in case you forgot, I'm so so proud of you all! 

To Cherish and Care For, Part 1

Friday, June 10, 2011  ::   4 important comments

Almost 5 years ago, God abruptly brought four beautiful girls into our home. Naively, we agreed to keep them with us for a few months. We were told it would be three to six months of time spent in our home and lives. Almost two years later, they were finely allowed to go live with an aunt in another state.

When they came to live with us, Chad and I were not licensed foster parents. (We became licensed a few months later.) To be completely honest, the thought of being a foster parent had never occurred to me. In that season of my life if you would have asked me to become a foster parent, I more than likely would have laughed in your face, told you kids just aren't my thing, and chuckled at your absurdity for days to come. This is probably the reason God chose to drop the four precious girls in my lap instead of asking me to take steps on my own.  My thick skull often requires unavoidable obedience.  

When the girls left our family, they took with them pieces of our hearts. My own four kids still regularly talk about and pray for them.  All six of us were forever changed. I knew for certain that I could not keep them forever, yet at the same time my heart was so downcast and broken when they left. The dualistic nature of my heart in the entire process of fostering them was astounding.  I would long to love and protect them while at the same time, long for our lives to be back to "normal." When they were finally in their new home, I boldly spoke that I was out. Done. Finished. Foster care wasn't my cup of tea. We told our foster care specialist that we would only be helping other foster families by providing respite which in my mind provided a needed service and required very minimal from me. 

Three years have past with many foster kids coming in and out of our home so their permanent foster families could take a short break. Respite was something I cherished during our time with the girls, so I was happy to help foster families in this way. 

Last October God put it on Chad's heart to take our church through the book of James. Over and over Chad talked about caring for those in distress... widows, immigrants, the poor, and orphans. My heart was stirred once again for foster care, but I was forcefully shoving it out of my mind. My excuse list exceeded all rational thought, but the basis of my denial was fear. 

The two years with the girls required almost everything I had. It was overwhelming, exhausting, heartbreaking, time-consuming. Feelings of fear of neglecting my own children plagued me. I didn't have the capacity to do anything but parent eight children. Our days were masterfully ordered like a boot-camp, and inwardly, all I had to give to God was my tears. During the book of James, Chad revealed to me that he had been thinking that we should open up our home again for a foster child. The confirmation that God had stirred the same conviction in both our hearts without us talking about it was timely and poignant. Our children had been asking for months if we could take in a young foster boy, and now God had showed his intent to Chad and me. 

Our placement was open for almost six months with no word of a child coming to live with us. The spring semester was so difficult because of life and ministry. Often if felt like the plates we were holding were starting to crumble because they were too full. I questioned often how in the world I could care for a needy child in the midst of all the chaos. God in His sovereignty knew we couldn't.  Because of the feelings of doubt swirling in my heart and mind, I really prayed about whether or not we should be doing this. Three weeks ago I specifically asked God to make clear whether or not he wanted us to keep our home open for foster kids. In less than a week we got a call for a five year old boy that needed a home immediately. I would say that was a fast, clear answer! 

So yes, we do have a foster son right now. In fact, our house has three extra kids because we are keeping two sweet girls for the week for respite care. However, let me be clear. None of this is exciting, happy, adventurous, wonderful, or makes us good people or heroes. In difficult circumstances, finding the words to say often eludes us as humans. I get that. Please don't feel like you can't voice your feelings about what we are doing, but please, at the same time remember what it is that we are doing. 

Innocent children are abused, neglected, rejected. People who don't know how to take care of humans have babies. Lest we become judgmental, people who do not have the means to take care of humans have babies. Many foster children's birth parents love them deeply, but they don't have skills, education, or money to care for them. 

People often ask me how we do it. How do we take them in? How do we let them go? How do we deal with their vast issues? How do we not despise their parents? How do we let our own kids be exposed to such difficult things? How do we balance the schedules? How? How? How?  

Psalm 84:5-7 talks about all of us being on pilgrimage, a journey. It says that as we pass through the Valley of Baca (of tears) it will become a place of springs and autumn rains. God gives strength to strength for each part of the journey. The strength we need for today is different than the strength we need for tomorrow because we don't know what tomorrow holds. 

That's it really. God's perfect grace gives my family the desire and ability to care for children in distress because it is what he has asked us to do. When it is time for them to leave our home we weep, but we also realize our pain is small compared to the pain they've experienced. When they act out in strange ways because of their abuse, we give boundaries and lots and lots of hugs and cuddles. When we are tempted to despise their abusers, we remember that abuse is often a generational issue, that people need education, financial help, to be loved themselves, that we also struggle with anger and bitterness and Christ works in our lives to enable us to love deeply. When I worry about my own children, I remember that they aren't really mine, but God's and He uses them to teach me deep, profound things about how to love those in distress. When I fret about overwhelming schedules, God gives us the strength to accomplish the important, and grace to not dwell on the unimportant. When I'm emotionally spent and struggling through deep fear, He reminds me that He is in control, that His faithfulness is great, and His mercies are new each and every morning.

The word foster means to promote growth or development, to bring up, to cherish or care for.  Proverbs 31:8-9 says, "Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly. Defend the rights of the poor and needy." More and more it is becoming the desire of my heart to defend those who are destitute, the poor and needy. For now, God has asked the Haynes family to speak up and defend abused children in Tucson. As He empowers us to, we will promote growth, develop, bring up, cherish, care for, and love kids that come to live in our home. Make no mistake. This endeavor is not an easy one. This week has required much dependance on the One who develops, cherishes, cares for, and loves me and my family. I pray that we are reflecting Christ in authentic and tangible ways to the precious children that have come into our home over the last five years. Only God knows the impact He has on their lives through our family. Only God knows the impact He has on our lives through each child.  

Lip Service or True Serving

Friday, June 03, 2011  ::   2 important comments

Many people are involved in a local church wherever they live. Involvement truly ranges from one spectrum to the other.  To some being involved means they show up each week right after the church gathering begins and leave just as soon as it's over. To some, regular attendance and giving financially is involvement enough. Of course to others, it means knowing people, attending a community group, asking people out for coffee, understanding the ethos of their church.  To be certain, if you asked 100 different people what it means to be involved in their church, you would probably get 100 different responses. 
I believe a truly healthy way to determine someones involvement is to watch how they serve.  
Mark 10:45 says, "Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many." I've had this verse in my heart since college, but lately it has taken on new depth of meaning to me.  It is extremely powerful. 
Jesus served by feeding 5000 hungry people, calming storms, casting out demons, healing sick people, washing dirty feet, raising a dead man to life, playing with children, rescuing women in distress, and most importantly dying on a cross.  This list is not even a fraction of the ways the Bible talks about Jesus loving and serving. Jesus did not serve out of convenience, having enough time, because the needs were obvious to the people around him, or out of obligation. 
One of the lines leaders often hear is, "Let me know if there is any way I can help." Most people's intent in offering their service is sincere, but often there is no meat to the bones of the offer. This has been very troubling to me over the last couple of months.  Many times I've heard offers of help, but all too often when an opportunity of service presents itself, it is passed over.  
Service within authentic community is difficult! It requires getting your hands dirty, missing fun things you may have planned, taking out the trash when you would rather be holding the glittery gold microphone on stage. Our lives are messy which means serving will be messy...it is rarely convenient, there is no glory to be had, and it may/will cost you much.   
As Second Mile starts a community center there are many unglamorous tasks to be done. We all have visions of community changing grandeur, but much mud digging and brick laying must be accomplished. Meetings and emails may be boring and tedious. Writing letters of support takes time. Praying for God's will to be done in the vision of this center takes stamina. We are in the beginning of the parable of the talents. God has given us a vision, and the first requirements are to be faithful with the ideas, writing, and praying. As we are faithful, we will be given the talents to clean, paint, and prepare. As we are faithful, we will be given the talents of teaching, planting, caring, and being part of God changing lives.  Let's not dig a hole and bury the first talents in a field to wait to get to participate in tasks that bring us personal fulfillment or even glory. 
On a more personal serving level, what are ways God asks you to serve? Do you allow your life to be inconvenienced, to have plans changed, to give not out of your emotional or financial surplus, but out of your own perceived need? Could it be possible God may ask you to serve in such a way that you have no capacity on your own so that you can learn to more fully rely on Him? When you are spending time with your community do you wait to be asked or do you look around for tasks to be accomplished? Are you willing to move tables, take out trash, talk with someone who makes you feel awkward? Do you authentically offer to help or has it become a cultural nicety in your communication? Are you someone who offers to help, but misses opportunities to act on your offers? 
These questions may seem straight-forward or even harsh, but think deeply about how you serve.  Service is a part of the radical minimum standard of following Jesus.  Ask the God Who Serves to give you tremendous insight and ability to serve those around you. You will be surprised in the ways he asks you to serve because more than likely, it will come at the most inopportune time. Are you willing? If not, don't ask. But if you are willing, get ready. You've got some unexpected, inconvenient, and totally Sovereign appointments coming your way.   
Mark 10:45  Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom to many.  

Moxie Memorizers

Wednesday, June 01, 2011  ::   13 important comments

Happy June first to you! I'm excited for summer.  It's one of my favorite seasons...the kids are home, it's time to swim, the fruit in season is juicy and delicious, I get to participate in a Beth Moore Bible study group. Summer is just a refreshing time of year.  Woohoo for summer!!

Last month I was a very ambitious and memorized too much.  I stuffed it all into my brain, but I want to make sure the scripture I take in is also getting into my heart.  For that, I'm slowing down.  However, I am really loving the Lamentations passage I'm working on right now, so I'm excited to get going on the next section. The first part is all about remembering my affliction and my soul being downcast, so memorizing and meditating on his faithfulness and mercy will be refreshing...a perfect way to start summer! 
Lamentations 3:22-23 
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, 
   for his mercies never fail. 
They are new every morning; 
   great is your faithfulness. 

There have been times in my life where I thought I would be completely consumed by heartache, affliction, bitterness, and even wandering away from Jesus.  Thanks be to God for his great love! His mercies never failed me. God has been perfectly faithful to me even when I haven't been faithful to Him. If you are in a season of affliction, wandering, bitterness, or heartache, cling to the promises in this verse. He will not fail you. He may not come through in a way that think you deserve or need, but He will come through in His perfect sovereignty. Psalm 130 pairs so perfectly with this passage in Lamentations. Every time I ponder His great faithfulness and new mercies, His full redemption comes to mind. Psalm 130 says if He kept a record of our sins, no one could stand, in Him is full redemption.  My heart fills with emotional thankfulness every time I remember this. 

I'm excited to see the scripture you all are memorizing. God's word is so active in our lives! If you haven't posted in a while, now is a great time to jump back in the game! 

Post and memorize away, my friends!