20 March 2017

small things

My sister-in-law sent me a package of baby girl clothes.  She saw the picture of the "needs" at the Foster Care boutique where I volunteer and offered to ship some things.  I told her that I know clothes can be expensive, but she was happy to cram as many into a box as she could.

Small little things, but with so much meaning. A mom of a baby girl, saw the need and thought of her own baby girl and how much she loves her.  And knew she wanted to help this foster momma that is loving on a baby girl that is just a bit younger than her own.


The words foster care still hold so many nuanced complications.  The process isn't simple, the problems are many, the solutions are complex.  But being a part of it, can be as simple as seeing a need, looking around your home, and passing on some small things.

Many of us are not able to be foster parents right now, for a variety of reasons -- I totally get that, I have my own reasons too.  But there is no reason that we can't ALL play a small part in supporting those that are currently foster parents.  Their job is so critical and so taxing.  They are called to love with all their hearts, for as long as they are asked, and then to say good-bye in as positive a way as they can when their time is up.  And many of them do this over and over again for the sake of children that are caught in hard places.

At the very, very least if you are a believer you can pray for these children and these foster parents.  Look up your state's "waiting children" and find a child or sibling group to pray for.  This weekend I saw a write-up about a sibling set of 5 that was waiting for a forever family.  The article was shared multiple times. I don't know what it is about this particular group that caused them to be shared over and over -- sadly they are not a unique case.  There are many, many sibling groups available for adoption today -- likely in every single state.

Another very simple way to be involved is by supporting foster families with basic needs.  Donations to Buttons + Butterflies are very much appreciated and relieve foster parents in many ways.  Obviously the fact that everything is free is a big benefit.  Its also nice because the boutique is a quiet little place for children.  We have fitting rooms so kids can make sure items fit them well.  Foster parents don't have to deal with a bunch of other distractions like they may encounter at retail stores.



Its also helpful to pass along items that babies outgrow; cribs, pack-n-plays, highchairs, carseats, strollers.  All of these items can be expensive to purchase on short notice {and oftentimes that is what foster parents have to do.}  If you are in a position where you can donate these items, instead of selling them, I encourage you to do so.  As our boys grew, there were times that we absolutely needed to sell the baby gear to buy toddler gear, and times when we were able to give away items.  If you can give, give.  If you cannot right now, I am sure you'll have an opportunity at some point in time.

If you want to be even more involved you can contact your local DHR and ask about volunteering or being a respite care provider.  Every state has different procedures and qualifications for supporting foster families in this way.  I am not gonna lie, it might be a lot of hassle at the front end.  But I tell you what, if you feel a pull in your heart to help in this way --- it will be worth all the hassle!  You will get to care for kiddos that desperately need adults to show them love and you will give a break to those foster parents that might just need a date night or a weekend away.

I will probably always be passionate about foster care. I will probably always encourage EVERYONE to be involved in one way or another.  This is not something that only a few special people can participate in.  Our communities will be stronger when we all play a part.  Small things matter -- in more ways than we know.

Here is an Amazon Wish List of the items that are currently needed at Buttons + Butterflies Clothing Boutique which serves Russell County foster families.  Click here:

http://smile.amazon.com/registry/giftlist/1JCJMIBQ97K36/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_gln

17 February 2017

foster care needs

"The prospect of having sex with strangers for money scared Jean. But returning to foster care sounded even worse. “I was willing to do whatever I needed to stay away,” she said."

That is a quote from an article I read a couple days ago and I cannot stop thinking about it. Foster care should not sound like a worse option than selling yourself for money.  This girl was 15 years old.  She had been abused by her father since she was 9, and was impregnated by him when she was 13. 

{You can read the full article here.  Its long but worth reading, in my opinion.}

This is a story out of Texas, but I can say that some of the same struggles happen in our local foster care offices as well.  I will admit that there are problems and challenges aplenty. We could spend a good long time discussing all the issues with our foster care system.  It is broken.  

Church, we hold the only answer that can fix this kind of brokenness - its Jesus.  I honestly believe that one of the critical answers to this brokenness is believing families that are willing to bravely say yes. I am not saying this is easy, but do we walk away because its hard?  We shake our head that a 15-yr old thinks prostitution is a better option than foster care, but we ourselves are unwilling to even consider it - in a way, we agree with her. Lord, help us all. 


"If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your strength!
Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?"
Proverbs 24:10-12

I know not everyone is able to foster a child.  But every single one of us should be praying for these children.  And we better be praying for the folks that are currently fostering.  

I am going to be real honest here, we are not currently foster parents nor are we pursuing it.  We are broken over it though, and we are praying hard. I am volunteering weekly at Buttons + Butterflies -- the boutique that serves local foster families. Its wrecking me all over again.  And while it feels small, I know it matters.  

This week I put out a call for some shoes and socks and underwear for a foster momma with four kiddos. There are plenty of clothes for the sizes that she needs but these items were lacking.  

My neighbor sent me a pic of her cart and said she had bought some things for the boutique.  This sort of thing always makes me want to cry -and for a billion different reasons it feels like.  1 - Grateful for the generosity of friends.  2 - Grateful that I get to connect the need to others that can provide for it.  And if I am being honest the other reasons aren't quite so fun to talk about.  Because I see the sweet little items and my heart breaks for the kiddos and what they may have experienced in their young lives.  There are days that I might wish I could just shrug it all off, but God keeps this place in my heart so tender.

I know some of you reading this are puzzled about what you are to do.  Its OK. Take those puzzled questions to God, He will provide answers. 

If right now your heart is beating out of your chest and your hands are sweaty and you think this might just be the time to start the process to foster, don't run from it.  Lean into it.  Faithful God will meet you there.  I know Muscogee County has an orientation coming up next week. I can get you the specifics. If you are on this side of the river, I can track down information for you too.  

If you would like to know more about meeting some of the needs of kids in care, let me know. I know baby items in good, used condition {or brand new of course!} are almost always in need - carseats, cribs, changing tables, etc.  

If you are interested in helping at the boutique I would be happy to chat with you about that. The boutique currently serves Russell County foster parents, they are able to "shop" for the children in their home and they do not have to pay for anything.  If you would like to donate to the boutique, please keep this in mind -- the goal is for this to feel like a boutique for foster families.  We do accept like-new used-clothing, but we do not want this to feel like they are shopping at a thrift store.  When I sort donations -- I don't play, I have a trash-pile, a donate-pile and a keep-pile.  We also accept donations of new underwear, bras, + socks. 

Finally, if you have questions, please ask.  No questions are off the table. This is too dear to my heart to be offended by things people don't know.  

13 February 2017

six!


Y'all this past year had some big growth opportunities!
 Early on in your days of being 5 y'all navigated the loss of a great grandparent.  We saw again how deeply empathetic you are, and the questions you asked about life and death revealed how much you think about things that are hard.  While I was in Michigan and daddy explained about hospice care, Lincoln, you were convinced that we should take grandpa to a different doctor so he could get better.  You couldn't begin to imagine why we weren't trying.  I hope you always have a determined spirit that wants to fight to make things better.
Over the last year, there were many headlines with a phrase that caught your attention - "black lives matter."  We don't shy away from conversations about our different skin colors, so innocently when you heard the newscaster say "black lives matter," Franklin you said, "I am a black life."  And we agreed that you are.  For the next few days you would casually categorize the people around you as a "black life" or a "white life" and as awkward as that felt, it was good for all of us to enter into the conversation.  We talked about the things that make us the same and the things that make us different.  We talked about how sometimes people treat people differently because they are not the same.  You looked at us like that was a crazy thing to do. We hope you'll always be aware of the beauty of the people around you, whether you are the same or not, that you'll recognize the uniqueness of each soul God puts in your path.
You completed pre-K like rock stars, and it feels like so long ago! You did so well in your first "school" environment!
And although it was quite hard on momma's heart you headed off to Kindergarten like you have been ready your whole lives. 
We are so proud of you as you go to school each day - to your separate classes.  While you seem glad to be together at home, you haven't once asked to be in the same class.  You seem to enjoy having space and getting to be your own person.  We are so grateful that you have teachers that love you both so well - and that send the same homework home each week!

Its a joy to hear about how you are doing in your school work, but also as you socialize with your classmates. Now that you are in Kindergarten, you have practiced tornado drills, and fire drills, and even lockdown/intruder drills.  Each of these drills have had follow up conversations at home, and as much as it feels like you are too young for some of these talks, it is also a gift that you come home and want to ask us the hard questions.  We pray that we will always be a safe place for hard questions.

This turning six, it feels like a weird milestone for a momma.  So big, but still so small.  There is a little more letting go, sending you off to grow, and welcoming you home to refresh.  Little increments now, that will continue to ask for more letting go as you grow older.  I sense it now, especially on the days when you try something new.  Like how you were afraid of the ocean at first, but then couldn't stay out of it.  Or when you did the Spartan Race and I worried that it might be too hard, or you might get hurt.  You just go out there with all you have and do your best. We are so proud of you!  We are so glad God made us family.  We pray that you will always seek Him in your life, listening for His voice and following where He leads! Happy happy happy (belated) birthday!  I know SIX is going to be great!




12 January 2017

today

We have a poster-sized frame near our front door.  Its right above the very first piece of furniture Brad and I bought - an oak phone stand.  On the phone stand sits a typewriter that belonged to my Grandpa Lewis, he was a collector.  I scribbled "write your story" on a piece of paper and put it on that typewriter.  I had received a poster in a Causebox awhile back and that frame fit will in the space so it worked.  Last Christmas I wanted to letter something Christmas-y for the it so I did.


 I feel like its a bit amateur-ish but I love that song and I believe those words, so it came back out this Christmas too.  Last week, I decided I wanted to put something else in the frame as we started the new year.  I wanted a message for the boys as they went out the door.  {And maybe a message for me as well.}  I did what I always do when I am on the hunt for a new idea.  I went to Pinterest.  I searched "entry way signs."  I couldn't find anything with the right words though.

That night I couldn't sleep.  I found out the hard way that frozen coke has almost the same amount of caffeine as unfrozen coke.  Sleep is often elusive for me, and it takes very little to nudge me toward the wide-awake side of the spectrum.  I thought through my Facebook feed and wondered if I had forgotten to pray for anyone, so I prayed again for all the things I could remember that I said I would pray for.  Then I started thinking about that entryway sign.  I knew I didn't want it to be cutesy, but didn't necessarily want it to be dramatic either.  Sometime in the wide-awake-middle-of-the-night God reminded me that I could just write my own words for our boys.

So Wednesday morning, the last day of our glorious Christmas break, I started writing some words out after Brad left for work.  I prayed for guidance, but it wasn't a long or elaborate prayer.  I settled on something I thought might be just right + began sketching out how I might space it on the paper.

As the boys voices grew louder outside my bedroom, I knew my lettering time was ending for now. I left my papers and pencils and pens on my table and wandered into the house to see what the boys were doing.  I don't remember many details, normal stuff, I guess. When Brad came home around lunch time, he didn't feel well.  He had chest pain, and didn't feel right.  He mentioned that the flu was going around in Georgia + Alabama. He had chest pain the day before too, so it was a bit concerning.  I thought he had a respiratory infection or something.  He couldn't get an appointment at our clinic so they told him to go to the ER.

Sometime later, after the text that said he was done with triage came a text that said his EKG was fine. I was relieved, and also grateful that perhaps the chest pain complaint would get him in and out of the ER quicker.  Eventually the texts told me about the labs they were running and what not.  In a round about way he mentioned that he had an IV and that they had given him nitro and aspirin as a precaution as soon as he arrived.  The next text said, "they are admitting me".  And then there is a whole string of back and forth texts. Brad confessed that he thought it was going to be heartburn and I replied that I surely would have gone with him if I had known.  I wondered what to do.

Its now late afternoon on the day before the boys return to school after 20 days off.  I decide nobody would go to bed on time if I left right then. I sent some messages out to framily.  I called my parents, each phone call a new opportunity for me to burst into tears, while my mom + dad had to endure awkward silence until I could get a word out. I told Wilson, as chill as possible, and asked him not to tell his brothers just yet.  I tried to take deep breaths and prayed for Brad.  And then I saw my papers and pencils and pens all laying out on my table.

I read the words I had written that morning.

"Today, you'll walk out that door and it might be amazing, or it might be horrible, quite possibly something inbetween, we can't know for sure.  But we know the Maker of every day.  He is Good, He is Kind. He is True. And He has prepared YOU for this very day.  He goes before you.  He is with you.  Seek Him. Love well. Give grace. Spread hope.  He will lead you home."

I would have never guessed that Brad would be in the hospital later that day.

But God knew what this day would hold.  He knew it when I looked on Pinterest for an entryway sign.  He knew it when I was wide awake the night before.  He knew it when I sat down to write some words that morning.  I saw those words.  And peace rushed over.  Of course, by this time, we had a lot of people praying for us too.  I knew I didn't need to panic.  I knew He was with me. I texted this picture to Brad.

By the time I was able to get to the hospital to see Brad that night, we were pretty sure that all was well.  They continued labs overnight and every test indicated that his heart was fine.  He was released the next day. This week he followed up with his primary care manager and he is starting some meds to help lower both cholesterol and blood pressure.

We've all eased back into our daytime schedules and I was able to finish up this print.  I had to wait longer than I wanted to have it printed, but I think it was worth it. I was so excited to get it up on the wall.  I was hoping it would match with the colors in our living room -- bonus points because it looks pretty good with my Grandpa's typewriter.


And while I liked the words that morning when I wrote them, they are even more special to me now.  I am grateful for the way God revealed His faithfulness through this hard day, and the reminder that He will carry us through each day.  Amazing or horrible or something inbetween.

P.S. I will likely add this to my etsy shop in the next week.  I am finishing up a custom order before I do any other etsy work.

15 December 2016

welcoming

"is wishing I could give my husband a hug."

That was my facebook status 8 years ago today...back when you updated your status in some sort of first-person sentence or some such. It pops up in my timehop each year now, reminding me of the day that Brad's Aunt Linda passed away. He was deployed, we were in Oklahoma and our family was in Michigan.  I wished more than anything that I could give him a hug that evening.

It has become a habit to spend some time thinking about her on this day, remembering the moments I had with her.  We didn't have a long history and we didn't spend many occasions together.  But the time with her lodged deep within and I carry it with me.

I admired that she was a creative; how she embraced her art and shared it well.  I felt I could have asked her a billion questions about all of it, but I never did.  I hope I told her that I adored her work.

a lampshade Aunt Linda painted, it brightens my workspace
Beyond her creativity though, was an inner warmth that drew you in.  I will never forget a particular time when she encouraged me so deeply.  We were at a family wedding, Brad was deployed.  I was there in all my social awkwardness. As we entered the reception after a few family photos, I felt alone and on edge.  The immediate family was all in the bridal party so they were all seated together on stage. My in-laws were occupied with parents-of-the-groom things and I didn't even know where to sit with my boys.  I sat nervously at a table by myself with Wilson - The Non-eater; and Walker - The Unpredictable. Aunt Linda and Uncle David came up, and Aunt Linda graciously asked if anyone was sitting there. The way she phrased the question allowed me to invite them to join me without it seeming like I was a loner. When they sat with me, others joined us soon after. As the meal got under way, I wondered if somehow Wilson's lack of appetite or Walker's lack of table manners would be off-putting to Aunt Linda and Uncle David.  I was a bit of a sweaty-wreck over it.  They had five well-behaved children and I was feeling all sorts of insecurities.  As we ate, Aunt Linda told a story about when her kids were younger, about how Uncle David had been travelling a lot; and someone did something absurd in public.  I wish I could remember the whole story, I can't.  All I remember is that as she shared with me, I felt welcomed and accepted and loved. My insecurity melted away and the tension in my shoulders faded. She simply shared a story and in doing so, she touched my heart in a profound way that I will never forget.

When December 15 rolls around and I think about her, I pray God would make me a bit like Aunt Linda, that He would weave a welcoming spirit into my soul, that I would be one that makes those around me feel accepted and loved.


30 November 2016

Project Greene Light 5K + Fun Run

It the last day of National Adoption Month and I know I didn't say much about it this year. It goes without saying that we are pro-adoption around here.  We are also pro-family preservation; and pro- foster care; and pro-reunification.  There are so many variables to adoption and the internet has turned into a somewhat ugly place at times, so I stay quiet occasionally when maybe I shouldn't. I feel like I haven't shared enough about Brad's organization this fall as they gear up for their 5k, so I wanted to spend a little time on that today.

There is nothing easy about foster care.  Even the stories that seem neat + tidy began with loss + heartbreak. There are so many facets to it that I would do an injustice if I were to try and explain it all right this minute.  I really just want to explain a bit about what Project Greene Light is doing and help you understand why it is important.  I would love for you to sign-up for the 5k & Fun Run this month.  You can join us locally, or register for a virtual 5K {and then whether you actually run a 5k or not is completely up to you and you still get a cool shirt out of the deal}

PGL {Project Greene Light} is going to open an Emergency Placement Home for children coming into foster care in Russell County.  Currently, when children are brought into foster care they go to the county office or the sheriff's department.  And they wait until a placement can be found. This involves phone calls to open foster homes, and if none are available in-county then the search widens to out-of-county homes.

PGL believes their Emergency Placement Home will be an excellent alternative to the current situation.  Children will come directly to the home.  Hopefully, caseworkers will be able to complete their interviews with the children right in the home, then go back to their office to begin finding the just-right placement.  Meanwhile, the children will be able to play with age appropriate toys, change into clean clothes if they want to, and relax in the family room.  The staff will be able to give the kids as much attention as they need because someone else is making the phone calls to find their placement.

Children will be able to stay in the PGL Emergency Placement Home for up to 30 days.  The home will house 7-10 children.

To illustrate the need, here is a story about sibling boys. Initially, these two little guys were placed with a grandmotherly foster momma.  She loved them well, but they were just "too much" for her.  Within weeks of the placement they needed to move.  A foster momma was called on vacation and asked if she would consider taking them.  She cut her vacation short, hopped in her car to drive home, and called the caseworker to say "don't you dare separate those babies."

I don't doubt for a second that the caseworkers would have done everything in their power to keep those boys together.  Every caseworker that I have met cares deeply about every child in their care.  But the resources are limited, the number of open foster homes is limited, and time is limited.

Sometimes, the foster momma can't cut her vacation short.  Sometimes they just need a few days and then they will be available to receive the placement. Having a safe place like PGL's Emergency Placement Home means more siblings can stay together.  It means more local foster children can stay in-county and attend their same schools.  It means willing foster parents can take a few hours or few days to ready themselves for their coming placement - and in doing so be better able to meet the needs of the kiddos they are welcoming into their homes.

It won't solve every problem and it won't make foster care easy.  But it will serve well as a necessary support for those that are doing the hard work.  Consider being a part of it with us?

Click this link to register here.
Feel free to share this far and wide, registration rates go up tomorrow.

23 November 2016

A to Z Lettering & Lovelies

When my sister and I were in elementary school we played little league softball.  It was evident early on that she was good at softball and I was terrible.  She could hit and throw and catch.  When I was up to bat I prayed the pitcher would throw balls so I could walk.  I almost always struck out.  One year when we chose what we wanted on the back of our jerseys my sister chose "hot dog"  and I chose "A to Z."  I think that was my favorite thing about softball that summer.  I loved that my name started with an A and ended with the letter Z.  {My maiden name is Rosencrantz.}



Fast forward 30+ years and I was trying to decide what to call my hand-lettering business.  I was out for a run weighing things over with God and He reminded me of that little girl that was a terrible softball player.  I smiled, because I felt a bit of God's delight in that moment.  My eyes got teary as acknowledged that my name still starts with an A and stills ends with a Z.


Honestly. I have never really dreamed of being a small business owner.  I am terrible with details and deadlines and fine print. However, over the last year I have been steadily taking orders for custom hand-lettered items.  The most difficult part of the process for me has been setting prices for my pieces so I thought perhaps this etsy store would help solve that problem for me.  I had been cautioned about selling in the state of Alabama without a business license so I applied for one of those.

I continued to drag my feet though.  I started setting things up on etsy, completing all the steps except for one.  Finally, last month I was a day late in reporting my business income for the prior month {which was $0.00 -- in Alabama you report your income monthly, whether you made any sales or not.}  As I filled out the online form I got sick to my stomach when I realized I had to pay a late fee of $50.00.  It was my fault and I didn't have any excuses other than fear.  I felt a little bit like that little girl up to bat, praying for the pitcher to throw a ball.  But it was a strike and I didn't even try to swing the bat.  I knew then that it was time to let this thing fly.



So its out there now.  I am still terrible with details and deadlines and fine print.  But I am going to trust God to grow me and stretch me.  I love to sit down and write, words that inspire or words that challenge, or words that make me giggle.  I love to create a special piece that will be treasured by the recipient.  I will keep carrying around my sketch pads and my pencil pouch and doodle in waiting rooms. I will ask God to guide me and give myself grace when I make mistakes.  I will be giddy when I make a sale and be so grateful for those of you that delight in my art.

You can check out my shop here.  When I add new items, I will share them on social media.