Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - A year in review

When a new year comes around I like to look back and reflect over the past 12 months.  Here is a selection from each month, a sort of highlight of the last year of the Suvar's (you can click on the months to read each full post).  God shows his faithfulness throughout it all - all praise goes to Him!

So many of my regrets come from my REactions.  Many of my victories stem from thoughtful actions.  I am challenging myself to put this into practice with my own 3 little ones.  I often react in impatience, frustration, anger.  I would like to instead act with patience, long-suffering, and love.

I want my kids to remember me as their mom who, instead of griping in anger about what they did wrong, speaks to them with gentleness, helping them to see what they did wrong, and what they can do better.

That probably sounds all idealistic and a little bit like kum-by-ya, but I think putting it into practice will reap rewards.

I have to admire my Grandparents for their ability to hold on to those memories that mattered - there were so many things that their children and grandchildren would love to  reminiscence and smile over.  But yet, they didn't hold on to so many things that their home was a huge cluttered mess.  Looking back, I can always remember Grandpa and Grandma's house (first at the farmhouse, and them at their condo) to be a place of uncluttered calm. 

And yet, I kept coming back to the thought that although all these things are great and wonderful and fun to look through, we ultimately cannot take a single thing with us.

What will stand is how our lives were lived for Christ.  My grandparents have been following Christ for well over 60 years and they have shown by their lives Who (not what) they are really living for.

God asks us for our EFFORT.

Our whole heart, soul, body, and mind effort.  When we get knocked down or get those proverbial stones thrown at us - we keep giving that sold-out effort for Him.

Because while WE were yet SINNERS Christ died for US.

We too are those people who need His grace and salvation.  We are the ones that throw the stones and would rather be doing something other than what God wants us to do.  But while we were yet in our sinful state - Christ died for each one of us.

He didn't have to.  But He did.

And so, despite all those questions that keep coming back to haunt me while I lie in bed at night...

I'll keep giving the effort, Lord.

How many lies I have let myself believe over the years?

"I can do this on my own"
"If I just do enough good, then God will love me"
"Me first. God second."
"I have to earn God's favor, just keeping working,working,working"

We have the following verses on our white board this week:

You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.  And you will know the TRUTH and the TRUTH will set you free.....Everyone who sins is a slave to sin...So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.  John 8:31,32,34,36

How often are we allowing ourselves to be enslaved by Satan's lies?  My prayer this week is that God would open my eyes to the lies that I am believing.  Lies I have been telling myself for so long, that I believe them as the truth.

I am disappointed in myself when I treat the children in my life like they are an inconvenience.  Someone who is in the way of what I want to selfishly accomplish.

Ugh.  I cringe with what I just wrote, but it is the sad, pathetic truth so I will leave it there.

But I also know another truth.  One that outweighs the lie that my kids are a nuisance to my already crazy day.

The truth that all of these children were placed in my life for a reason.  My three little kiddos were born to me because that is exactly where God wanted them to belong.

These teenagers were placed in our house for a reason.  Their young lives have been through some tumultuous stuff, but God brought them to this place and for this moment, this is where they belong.

And that is a privilege for me.

But lest I get too boastful about how I am here to raise them up to know Jesus and His sacrifice for them,  I remind myself that I am learning just as much from them as they are learning from me. 

We have seen countless times how drastically affected a child's life has become when there is no father in the picture.  I understand some circumstances cannot be helped.

But that is where those 'father-figures' can step in.  Every child needs a 'dad' to look up to.

Boys need to learn how to be great men.

Girls need to learn how to be treated - and loved - by great men. 

Ten years ago, when we were enjoying our short little 3 day honeymoon, we discussed about going out on a longer trip someday.

After 10 years of saving and planning, Paul and I got to see it all come to fruition.

It.  Was.  Wonderful.

I want you, Owen, to be sure of yourself, knowing God has created you as a unique individual, with unique qualities and tastes.  The best person you can be is YOU, not an imitation of someone else.

People's valuation of you should not matter, only God's valuation of you should.  Measure yourself by his ruler, by His Word, not by the measuring stick of your peers.  

OK, I thought I would make a post up about this for all those family members of mine who live a ways a way and don't know all the nuts and bolts of what we do from day to day here at Gateway.  I have thought about doing a post about a typical day for awhile but always had the thought that it's going to come off a bit arrogant - who really wants to know what I do all day?

But in the end, I am deciding to do it most of all for me to look back on some day.  Because someday this will all be past and I am going to think I was pretty crazy to be doing all this.  But blessed, oh so very, crazily blessed. 

So for today I will snuggle her, and breathe in her sweet scent of her hair, and read her just one more book.  I'll enjoy her sweet giggle and the sound of her little feet padding across the kitchen floor.

Because we know this life is but a vapor, and it's going by quickly.  But God gives us these glimpses of heaven through His little children to remind us Who, and what, we are working for.  To make this journey a bit more bearable until we finally make it home.

My heart hurts, weeps, for what could have been.  We've made room for this boy in our family, and he has found a place in our hearts.  Despite his attitude and belligerence, he's grown on us.  My prayers go with this boy, that the seeds that were planted in his 14 weeks here could find fertile soil in his young heart.  That he would not forget the time spent here.  That he would know that we are not abandoning him like so many others in his past.  That our thoughts, and prayers, and a bit of our heart goes with him.   

Jesus knows my need.  My weaknesses are no surprise to Him.  In fact, His strength is made perfect in my weakness!

 I'm still tired.  And I will most likely cry at some point yet tonight, but I have a Savior who knows all about it.  I don't have to be strong, I have a Jesus who is strong for me.  I don't have to conjure up some Christmas cheer, I have the joy of salvation year round.

 Just like winter is just a season, so is this time of life.  I don't want to miss out on the joys because of the frustrations.  Because, no doubt, those frustrations will be there to greet me in the morning.

 It's just very clear to me that I am inadequate and weak.  But that is OK.


Because I have Jesus who is not.    


Sunday, December 30, 2012

December Lookback

Whew!  Well, this month I've been all over the place on my emotional roller coaster.  Thankful for a steady husband, praying friends, and a gracious, patient God.

A little bit of December in review:
 Christmas with the Suvar's

 The first snow of the season
 Candle lighting at Mr. Fritz's

 Seeing my doll house from 20 years ago being played with again - thanks Dad!
 Making Christmas cookies....
 ...and the aftermath
 Steffen Christmas - all the cousins
 Our sad attempt at a family photo...sigh
 Sisters and mom

 Our traditional Christmas picnic in the living room
 What Owen bought me for Christmas with his own money

 Thankfully he loves to shovel snow...and he does a good job!
 Cypress House Christmas

 LOVED the snow we have gotten this last week of December!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Our Merry Christmas

Today our Christmas was spent at home.

All our celebrating with our families happened earlier this month, so on a day when we are used to being somewhere else, we spent it in the coziness of our own home.

Along with a couple extra teenage boys.

Christmas on duty at Gateway.  I'm just never sure how it is going to go.  There are fewer kids in the house because some of them get day passes with their families, so the atmosphere is a bit more relaxed.  But that means the ones that are here do not get to spend it with their family.

Or may not even have a family to spend it with.

So, we are that family for them today.  It started with stockings and cinnamon rolls.  I cleaned the bathroom and did several loads of laundry.  Some Slavic nut break was made.  A birthday cake for Jesus as well.

And even as I type, I hear Paul having a conversation with the boys about Jesus, free will, and His gift of salvation.

"Wait, hold up, hold up, you mean doing good doesn't do nothing for getting into heaven?  So at what point do I get in?"

All while playing a computer game...who would have thought?

I didn't have a solid meal plan going into this day.  I've kinda felt in a funk for the past few weeks if you haven't noticed from my last couple posts.  But a phone call this morning from a former resident, who reminisced about the meal we did last year,  made me rethink what we would do for dinner.

So, with a bit of scurrying, I scrounged up another Slavic Christmas Dinner.

Our Christmas didn't quite look like the ones they sing about in those songs.  There wasn't a whole lot of gifts, we didn't even stuff ourselves silly.  No Santa.  Not even snow.

But there was a husband.  Three children.  And two teenagers.  There was love and warmth.  Relaxing and game playing.

And Jesus.  He was here, too.  He's the One who made the party possible.

Happy Birthday, Jesus.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What I'm not doing for Christmas this year

There is something that we are not doing this year.

We are not sending out a Christmas picture. We are not going online and picking out a style, picking out a picture, picking out a font. We are not putting money out to order pictures and then pay for postage.

It is going against my nature, because, well, I like pictures.  I like taking them, sending them.  And I really like getting them in the mail!  But it has been laid upon our hearts to do something different this year with the money that would have originally been used to send out Christmas pictures.

We bought a goat.

Not for us. But for some family whom we will never meet.  Someone who is in need of a goat for sustenance and income.

So instead of a picture in the mail with a happy holiday greeting, you get this email update.  Who knows, I may go back to doing a picture again next year.  We may sacrifice something instead else to buy that goat.
But this year the sacrifice is the picture in the mail.  Please forgive us.  And have a very Merry Christmas celebrating the birth of our Savior and King!

A quick update and some prayer requests:
Paul and I, and our 3 kids, are still living and working at Gateway Woods.  We will pass the four year mark in January.  There are days that exhaust us, make us cry, but it is fulfilling and we are learning so much about ourselves as God continues to work in us to make us who He wants us to be.  Owen is 6 and has started Kindergarten this year.  He is reading books and doing math, stuff I KNOW I wasn’t doing in Kindergarten!  Hannah is 4 ½ and is going to preschool 3 days a week.  It is an understatement to say that she LOVES it.  Hannah is our singer and dancer and is daily making up new songs and singing (instead of speaking) all her memory verses and prayers.  Madeline is 2 ½ and has quite the personality.  She is the most independent and headstrong of the three.  She loves to color and draw and cuddle on the couch and makes us laugh daily with the little things she says and does.

We have a full house of residents.  This past year we’ve had 13 different teenagers come into our lives and home.  Each one takes a bit of our hearts with them.  Prayers are needed daily for these kids that experience more hurt and pain and rejection in their young lives than some of us will ever face.  Please pray for soft hearts to the Gospel.  We have a few kids who have already started their walk with Jesus and we see differences in their lives!  Other kids are still trying to wrap their mind around the idea of Jesus, and what He can do for them.  Some want to believe, some are afraid to.  Pray for these kids families as well.  Some of these kids have no end of placement at this point; they do not know where they are going once they leave here.  Pray for potential foster families and mentor families to come into these kids lives to give them the stability and security that we all crave. 

We thank you for your prayers and want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.  We are so thankful that so many years ago Jesus was willing to come to earth and live a human life, devoid of sin, and die on the cross for each of our sins.  We don’t deserve His sacrifice on our behalf, but we are SO very thankful for it!
Merry Christmas,
Paul, Nichole, Owen, Hannah, and Madeline

Monday, December 17, 2012

Money Shot Monday - a link up

I've never done a link up before, but after following this one for a few months, I think I finally have something to post!

After several days of wonky emotions, the sun broke through and I found renewed hope and energy.

It may have had something to do with it being Monday - a new week.....and residents back in school.

It could have had to do with this girl and her insistence to wear this dress, a flower girl dress from 2 years ago (yes, we went out in public, and it was so much fun!)

But I believe that the credit goes to prayer.  Someone(s) was praying for me and I thank you.  Never underestimate the power of prayer.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cutting to the heart

I don't have a whole lot more in my tank today, but I felt compelled to sit down and get this off my chest.

Truthfully, I have been struggling lately.  There are many different facets to what is causing it.  To protect certain others, I won't go into detail.  Just at a low point right now.  We'll put it at that.

But it's Christmas!

That time of year with sparkly lights and anticipation and warm gatherings of family and friends!

Which is partly why I feel guilty struggling the way I am.  Aren't I supposed to be joyful right now?  In this most joyful time of year?

I try to conjure up some Christmas joy, but often it fizzles out with a conflict or a blowup or one more thing that pulls me away from my children.

I feel weak.  

I feel small.

I feel inadequate.

My favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night and I can sing that puppy by heart.  I especially love that last verse.

But tonight I heard the words in the second verse, and they spoke to my heart.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend! 


Jesus knows my need.  My weaknesses are no surprise to Him.  In fact, His strength is made perfect in my weakness!

 I'm still tired.  And I will most likely cry at some point yet tonight, but I have a Savior who knows all about it.  I don't have to be strong, I have a Jesus who is strong for me.  I don't have to conjure up some Christmas cheer, I have the joy of salvation year round.

 Just like winter is just a season, so is this time of life.  I don't want to miss out on the joys because of the frustrations.  Because, no doubt, those frustrations will be there to greet me in the morning.

 It's just very clear to me that I am inadequate and weak.  But that is OK.


Because I have a Jesus who is not.    

Friday, December 14, 2012

In the grand scheme of things

It has not been the most stellar of weeks.

Blowups, meetings, hard attitudes, new kids in the house.


But my focus shifted when shortly after lunch today I heard about the shootings in Connecticut.  I got chills through my whole body and tears started streaming down my face.

I found my two daughters in the next room and hugged them tight.  I waited in anticipation for the next 2 hours for my son to return home from school.

From Kindergarten.

There are mommies and daddies tonight who are not going to get to snuggle their children into bed tonight because of the tragedy that happened at that elementary school this morning.

My heart aches for those families of those that died today.

And in the grand scheme of things, with as stressful and tiring my week has been, I still got to tuck my children into bed tonight.

We are not promised tomorrow.  None of us are.  But we have this moment. 

And I need to make the most of each moment.

With my children.

With my husband.

With the kids we serve daily.

My prayer is that through this tragedy hearts are turned to God.  That people realize that life is not forever and that this world does not have a lot of good to offer.

But our God does.

And He is still in control.

Monday, December 3, 2012

On the upside

After my downer post last week, I thought I should follow it up with a bit of an upper.

It's so very hard to see a kid leave without finishing their treatment program.  We see so many things left undone, unaccomplished.

But it can be so very uplifting to see a kid stick it out, face the hard stuff, and complete their treatment.

And last Friday we had one of those in our house.  Two days after seeing a sad end to one placement, we saw a joyful ending of another.

Now, in no way is this kid's life "fixed."  We aren't in the business of fixing.

But we are in the business of leading by example.  Shining a light.  Turning lives in a new direction.

I believe what made this placement work was this kid's action of turning his life over to Christ.  Because, well, THAT is where the fixing starts.

I don't know if this particular kid will ever read this, but in case he does, I want him to know that when he left this place, he took a part of our hearts with him, and prayers from us as well.

And those prayers will continue.

And whether a kid sees the program through to the very end, or has to leave early, I believe they still leave with something learned.

Now they've just got to live it.