11 May 2015

a present parent

Oh nap time.

I love you and I hate you.  I love you on the days that you come easy + early.  I hate you on the days that require repeated conversations about expectations.  Or the days when you just get started too late.

Today, nap time started early.  We had a brief conversation about laying quietly in bed.  I didn't add reminders about leaving toys on the floor or keeping hands off of the blinds.  I walked away, leaving the door open so they would know I was listening.

I heard a little giggle.  I quietly tiptoed down the hall to see what was happening.  One brother was playing peek-a-boo with the other - almost silently.  Nearly doing exactly the right thing.  Except not.

One brother spotted me first and immediately became still and disinterested in the peek-a-boo game.  His changed expression caused his brother to glance at the doorway too.  He rolled over.  Almost at the same time they reached an arm back to pull their covers up.  Their bodies were still.  No more peeking across the chasm at one another.


Almost instantly I had that familiar sensation that there was a lesson wrapped up in this moment for me.

The boys were doing almost the exact right thing.  Except not.  They were supposed to be laying quietly in their beds and they sorta were.  But the purpose was rest.  And as long as they were engaging with one another they were never going to find that rest.

Not until they realized my presence in the doorway did they become still. 

So often, I think I am doing the exact-right thing.  Almost.  Which, I mean, is certainly close enough, right?  Um, no.

It is hard for me to be still.   I often engage others instead of just allowing myself to be quiet.  You too?   But when I sense His presence, the stillness washes over me.  Rest comes, clarity comes, peace comes.  I don't know why I distract myself from the goodness that He has for me in this quiet place.  It seems silly when I think about it.

Oh that I would remember that our Father is an ever-present parent, consistently urging me to do the right thing that I might find His rest.




05 May 2015

He is Good

It has been one month and two days since I blogged last.  It was Good Friday.

The post ended with "His love for you - and me - is what makes a day like today a good one."

I've tried to write three different posts since then and I just haven't been able. 

I could have never predicted that in a couple hours after writing that Good Friday post, I would be at the hospital in utter disbelief.  My friend's full-of-life, bubbly, sparkly little girl had left this earth. We sat in a tiny room grasping for something to hold on to. It felt like much too much for this family to bear.

So many questions swirled in my mind.  So many answers were nowhere to be found.  My hands were clenched tightly.  I felt an urge to just crumple on the floor but an inner voice would scold me, telling me to get myself together. My prayers were reduced to phrases that on their own might sound trite or cliche.  They were the only words I could string together.

"Jesus, please come"

"Lord, have mercy."

"Dear God, please!"

I don't remember saying much else.  I just remember feeling so desperate. I wanted to be a better friend with more wisdom for how to walk through this valley of grief. I wanted an instant miracle to restore this little life.

Two days later, I prayed for a worldwide revival on Easter Sunday so that perhaps Jesus might come back that day.  It was a bold prayer and I absolutely believed it possible.  I truly did.

But He didn't come back.  Not yet.

Today, one month and two days later, I still feel so desperate.  I still wish I were a better friend with more wisdom for how to walk through this valley. My prayers remain broken phrases that sound worn-out. At times, I still feel angry that the instant miracle didn't come.  Other times, the utter disbelief washes over me just like in the early hours.

But God.

Even in this darkness, He shows His goodness.  Ever since that day, I have seen glimmers of goodness.  If I were to try to write them all it may get jumbled-up here.  But I've seen these good things, these small reminders of His goodness.  For weeks, every time that I noticed a 'good thing' I immediately felt a tension.  An inner nagging that couldn't quite complete a thought but lingered in the balance between "but if He's so good in these tiny, little ways then why..."

I still can't complete the question -- and certainly cannot answer it.  But I realized that the miracle is that I still see His goodness.  We still see His goodness.  Even in this darkness, we see His Light shining.  These small glimmers of goodness light the way through this dark valley.


"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting." Psalm 136:1 NASB

So I keep looking to Him.  I keep begging Him to come.  I keep asking Him for mercy and keep seeking glimpses of His goodness. I have nowhere else to turn. So I just keep coming back to Him. I offer up my brokenness and my lack and I find Him faithful even here.  I believe Him to be good even now.

I will continue to stand witness in this dark valley, squinting through the darkness counting the shimmers of God's goodness as we make our way through.  Believing every 'good thing' is a glimpse of his loving-kindness toward us, His tender loving-kindness that is everlasting. 

I first heard this song at the funeral.  I watched my friend raise her hands in worship as I listened to the lyrics for the first time. There are no words to describe the depth of emotion that I felt - I think all of us in the sanctuary felt - in those moments.  It was holy.  And He is good.




03 April 2015

Good Friday

We sat around the fire this morning and asked the boys if they knew what today was. . . Good Friday.  We talked about Jesus dying as we ate our lumpy oatmeal.  One of the boys asked, "but why do they call it 'good'?"  And I admitted that was an excellent question.


We reeked a bit of campfire + funk from a night of camping and I explained that if Jesus hadn't died for us we'd have no hope at all.  I said something about how all of us needed a Savior.

It wasn't a long, planned-out conversation - no colorful eggs to tell the story, no object lessons, I didn't even open the Bible app on my phone.  We just talked about His death which gives us Life.

But as this day unfolds, I keep thinking about how desperately we need a Savior.  About how we all just reek a bit of smoke + funk + we're broken down in this world.

He came for all of us.  Not a single one of us is enough on our own.  We need a Savior to rescue us.  And so He came.  For each of us.  He comes now still. He comes with Love for the broken + the messy + the smelly + the lost.

He chose the cross, for you and for me.  He suffered for us.  Willingly because of Love.

Not because we deserved it, or because we were trying really hard to be good.  Rather He did it precisely because we could never be good enough nor could we ever deserve it.  His mercy and grace and love drove Him to that cross.  His obedience to His Father endured death on our behalf.


If you aren't sure that His love is for you, I pray you'd find out.  I pray you would be brave and walk into a church and ask, "Did He really do this, even for me?"  The answer is "Yes. Especially for you."  I promise you it is.****

Right now today, not after you get yourself clean or after you read the Bible in a year.  No, right now, today, just as you are -- His love for you is unwavering.

 "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8 NASB"

His love for you - and me - is what makes a day like today a good one.




**** p.s. You don't have to actually walk into a church to find out these answers.  You can ask me or anyone you know that knows Jesus.  I do believe the Church is a great place to find out more about Jesus though.  If you need help finding one, I'd be happy to help with that! :)

27 March 2015

#ThemeParkTherapy

A long, long time ago I was a classroom teacher.  I was awesome at some parts of it {my bulletin boards were spectacular!} and not-so-terrific at other parts {my plan-book was sub-par apologies to anyone that ever subbed for me}.

There are some moments I will always treasure from that time.  One in particular was a field trip to Lake Michigan.  We took our 4th grade classes across the state to PJ Hoffmaster State Park.  The majority of those kiddos had never seen a Great Lake, so when they got to end of the trail and the trees gave way to the dunes + the shoreline their surprise was audible.  It was so precious.
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In case you have never seen a Great Lake yourself, here you go:


See?  Beautiful, right?
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But back to the point.  The kiddos were just so surprised and delighted and awed by it and we got to see it all over their faces and hear it in their voices.  The students that showed no interest in math were enthralled by what they were seeing.  Students that were typically quiet in the classroom were suddenly chatty.  This experience leveled the playing field - we were all fascinated by the scene. I'm so grateful I was able to be a part of it.

I was thinking about this trip to Lake Michigan because The Cora Reid Greene Home for Children has launched a new program.  Its called "Theme Park Therapy" -- aka #ThemeParkTherapy.  The hope is to give foster families this type of shared experience to treasure for always.  A day when kids get to be kids and parents get to witness delight and awe and joy.  The goal is to send 56 foster kiddos + parents to Six Flags {its not Lake Michigan but I think the kiddos will love it nonetheless!}.  The total cost is $2500.  Basically, a donation of $45 would cover admission, lunch, + transportation to the park for one person.  Not a bad deal.


I love that the organization is covering the cost for the children as well as the parents, and that they thought to cover lunch and transportation as well.  Our family has been at a theme park before and felt a little stressed-out about the cost of food, or wondered if the entrance fee was really worth it.  Have you been there too?  This program eliminates that tension for the foster family altogether and just allows for them to have a special day together.

There are so many struggles that children in foster care face, they often miss out on some very basic childhood moments.   A trip like this can help restore a little bit of what has been lost.  It won't solve every problem or magically erase trauma and heartbreak, but it can give a foster family a delightful shared experience.  We recently read an article online from Foster Focus Magazine and it outlines a similar program and the results they have observed.  You can read Disney Therapy: Just a Spoonful of Sugar here.

The Cora Reid Greene Home for Children has set-up a special paypal page for donations specific to this program.  You can find it by clicking here.  

Also, Brad has encouraged crowd-funding for this as well. You can set up a fundraising page on Pure Charity and have your friends donate directly to your page.  This would be a super easy way for a Sunday School class or youth group to rally around our foster care community.  You can click here to find out more about this option.

If you have any questions about the program you can comment here or on The Cora Reid Greene Home for Children facebook page.  And don't forget to share this!


23 March 2015

run your race

Sometimes there are just words on repeat pounding in my head. Over and over and over.  Does this happen to you too?

Today, its "run your race."



Of course its rooted in a verse, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And LET US RUN with perseverance THE RACE marked out FOR US," Hebrews 12:1 {niv} [emphasis mine]

Oh, Hebrews 12 is jam-packed with goodness and even Hebrews 12:1 is chock-full of treasure itself.  Maybe just go re-read it one more time.  I'll wait.

And the follow-up is "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith." Hebrews 12:2a {niv}

Good Truth.

This metaphor about running a race is a drum-beat in my heart.  We all have a race marked out for us.  We don't all run the same race, except we do run at the same time.  Wild, huh?  My race won't look like yours, yours won't match mine.  Our course might overlap, at times we might even get to run alongside one another. We likely didn't start at the same place and might not finish at the same time.  But we get to run our race.  You get to run your race, I get to run mine. 

And the key to running well is keeping our eyes on Jesus. Oftentimes we get this part a little mixed up. We think we should match pace with other runners on the course so we look at what they are doing.  Or we feel bad about how poorly we are performing, we get upset with the results we are seeing right in front of us, and forget to look ahead. 

But when we focus on Jesus, we remember, He goes before us.  He called us to this.  He prepared us for this.  He will get us through this.  The highs, the lows, the hills and the valleys, He has marked the course for us.  He gives the pre-race brief, He'll direct us through every intersection, He'll encourage every step forward we take -- and He will stand alongside us when we just need to catch our breath.  He won't condemn our missteps, but He will do some course-correction.  At times it will be painful.  He'll remind us that its worth it.  He will cheer us when it seems there is nothing even worth cheering.  His delight in us will be evident with every slow clap and high five.  He will push us beyond what we thought capable and then a little further still.  He will stand at the finish line confidently awaiting our arrival.

We get to run our race.  You get to run your race, I get to run mine.   Is that cool or what?

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In somewhat related news, I ran a race with Walker this weekend.  Which is always such a delightful experience.

We didn't train for it.  At all.  So we are both hobbling around a bit two days later.  Our legs are sore, but we are still glad we did it.  We learned an important lesson about training better before the next race we run together.

I was also reminded about the kindness that is often found at these types of races.  All along the way there were words of encouragement.  Walker and I ran a pretty steady race, there were a lot of hills so we adapted our strategy and decided to walk the uphills.  It worked for us.  With the walk breaks, we kept trading places with a few other people on the run -- we'd walk and get passed, we'd start running again and pass them, etc. 

We were just a handful of the people on the course.   None of us ran the race exactly the same way.  Even Walker and I had some variances between us.  But we all ran that race Saturday.  We stood around afterwards discussing those hills and congratulating one another. We talked about other races we had run and even talked about upcoming races.  Nobody came up to us and asked why we bothered running if we were going to walk the uphills.   None of the early finishers mocked the late finishers.  Actually at the end of the race, the crowd of cheering onlookers grew as each finisher joined in the cheering for the other competitors.

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Oh that we would cheer one another on in this way.  What beauty if we would encourage each other as we run the race marked out for us, not only allowing differences in pace and style but celebrating those differences as well. Realizing that the best thing we can do for one another as we run, is to continually look to Jesus -- keeping our eyes on Him and reminding each other to do the same along the way. 

12 March 2015

Emergency Clothing Closet Needs

It's been a long while since I have posted an updated list of needs for the Foster Care Emergency Clothing closet*.  Winter always finds me with a sick kiddo or two and I inevitably have to cancel a volunteer day here and there.  When I get out of the habit of going, I start to pull back a bit.

When a few weeks away from the office turns into a month away, its hard to get back into the swing of things.   Especially posting the lists of needs.  It always feels a little awkward to do it again. This week, however, God has been using my own words to encourage me.  Of course, it was via conversations with Lincoln + Franklin.

Lincoln does this thing at dinner where he tells me what he is going to eat.  He tells me many, many, many times, "I am going to eat this chicken."  I tell him, "stop talking about it and just do it.

Yesterday the boys were picking up their room.  They were singing the "clean-up song," you know the one?  Everybody everywhere...  I took a peek and noticed that they were singing but not really doing any of the work.  I told them, "you can't just sing about it, you have to actually pick stuff up!  Just singing the song doesn't make it happen.

I've been to the clothing closet twice this winter without posting an updated list of needs.  As I got ready to go yesterday I  realized that just going down and doing the inventory doesn't really matter if I never share what is needed.  I am basically just singing a song and expecting the work to happen magically.  Tuesday afternoon I told myself I would get the list done.  Its now Thursday and I told myself that I have to stop talking about it and just do it. 

Sometimes I am exactly like a four-year-old.

But I am finally getting it done.

I know so many of you are eager to help so I apologize for not keeping you informed of what the current needs have been.  The list of needs is longer than it has been in awhile.  So keep an eye out for bargains.  Remember, we only accept new clothing at this time.  A lot of sizes have shirts but no pants, so if you find a deal on pants/jeans we can probably make outfits with what is on-the-rack. 
 



A few other items we need are toddler-size underwear for boys + girls; and 4T diapers. We could also use shelf-stable snacks that are individually packaged. We actually have LOTS of child-size backpacks and bags right now!  Yay!



*Foster Care Emergency Clothing closet - This is located in the Muscogee County Foster Care office.  The items are used for children that come in to care and might need a fresh change of clothes. I am always happy to answer any questions you might have about the closet :)

04 February 2015

four

Dudes, you are four.  I cannot even believe it.  And yet I can, because we just lived through "3."


I won't sugar-coat, three was a rough one for us.  Historically, it hasn't been my shiniest parenting year ever.  So in a way, I knew it would be a challenge. And surely you can acknowledge that it was.  The good news, though, is that we made it through.  And we all still love each other.


Don't get me wrong, though.  It wasn't all bad.  Not even close.  There is just something so delightful about a toddler becoming a bigger person.  I can't help but love the random questions you two have asked me over the past year.  Like last week when we were driving, Lincoln said, "Mom, do you love gum parties?"  I mean, you just can't find those kinds of questions everywhere.

I am still overwhelmed that I get to be your mom.  I mean, really, its a pretty amazing gig and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  Not even in the middle of the night after someone peed their sheets.  {But don't ask me then because I am probably not thinking clearly.}  [And also, those days will soon be far behind us.  Please, Lord, let it be.]

 Franklin, you've discovered that you love to take pictures with mommy's phone.  Like every chance you get.  You are super smart as you figured out how to open the camera without unlocking my phone, which I still don't know how to do.  Its always fun to find the many, many pictures you've taken while I was busy somewhere else.


You still love sweets like nobody's business.  And consistently beat all of us with your speed in eating them.  Its actually quite marvelous to behold.  {However, you have come around with some veggies too. Maybe this year you'll like even more of the green things!}


Lincoln, you still love music.  You cannot {CAN NOT!!} sit still when that salt-n-pepa geico commercial comes on.  No matter what you are doing, your body moves when you hear the beat.  It is adorable.  It's what you do.
You are a sensitive little dude.  You have the biggest heart and it can break pretty easily.  If Franklin is in trouble, you want to help him out.  You never miss a thing, you notice people's feelings as well as every smell everywhere.  Sometimes you point out how people smell, which is something I kinda hope you grow out of.

The two of you are heart-melters without even trying.  You'll defend one another in a split-second, and moments later it appears as though you are fighting to the death.  You each have your own unique qualities, while you still insist on flip-flopping character traits.  One day Lincoln is "the outgoing one" the next day it will be Franklin.  You won't be labeled.  And that is ok. 
I can't begin to imagine what kind of treasures we'll discover in the year to come!