19 December 2013

the best kind of surprise

On Sunday, Pastor Bill talked about how much he loves to give gifts at Christmas.  He said he makes a list of all the gifts he gives and then numbers it.  He doesn't give any hints and has the kids open their packages in a certain order.  He talked about how great it is to see the anticipation on his loved ones' faces knowing that he's picked the right gifts for each one.

How much more does our Father enjoy giving us the right gifts at the right time?  He delights in giving us good things.

This confirmed for me all over again the goodness of the plans our God has for us.  The certainty that He has the just-right job for Brad once this Army stuff is all over.  Its boosted my confidence to wait for Him to give it, knowing He will give it at the right time.  Sometimes I feel like begging for hints.  Maybe just give me a sneak peek... like Christmases past when I would sneak into my dad's closet and try on my clothes... but then God gives us a week like this, with special moments downtown and a sneak peek at how He is at work in the details and His presence is just so near.  And I know.  I know His plans will be the best kind of surprise and they will be just right for us.  So we'll wait to unwrap that gift until the time is just right too.

Speaking of Christmas gifts, we had our Family Christmas this past Saturday.  It gives our boys time to play with their presents from us and gives us more space in the car (because we don't haul their gifts with us!).  We had a really nice day and I think 5 out of 6 of us stayed in jammies until bedtime when we put on fresh jammies for bed.  All of the boys were thrilled with their gifts from us and it was just a lovely day.  My heart is full and my burdens are light, my hands are open for the gifts He is giving this season.

Looking forward to our trek north and the word on the street is that we'll have a white Christmas; of course, we're more excited about seeing family than seeing snow {especially me, there's only a small slice of my being that is looking forward to snow - and only for the boys' sake!}

18 December 2013

pink sparkly shoes and the God who knows

When Brad and I walked in to the Department of Family & Children Services office yesterday, we were invited in to pray with part of the staff.  It was humbling and amazing and felt a little bit like holy ground... holding hands with state workers, praying on a Tuesday morning for at-risk children and the ones that work hard to love them well.  God is at work and we are so thrilled to be a part of it.

But we aren't a part of it alone.  So many of you have helped... and given so much more financially than we have.  I wish each of you could have been standing in the supply closet when the caseworker told Brad and I this story.

A little girl came into care last week.  She came at night with only her night clothes on.  In the morning she decided she wanted to go to school that day.  She picked out an outfit that fit her just right.  They found a necklace for her to wear.  There was even a jacket that fit her.  It even matched her outfit.  Then she looked at the shoe shelf and timidly asked if she could have the "pink sparkly shoes."  She had no shoes.   Of course, the "pink sparkly shoes" were her size too.  A caseworker fixed her hair nicely.  And she stood proud.  She was going to be late to school, but she r-e-a-l-l-y wanted to go now that she was all dressed.

When the caseworker picked her up at the end of the school day, she asked if anyone complimented her outfit.  She said the little girl flashed a big grin and said, "yes!"

I tried to keep the tears pooled up in my eyes as I listened.  I could picture this sweet little one who had been through who-knows-what in the night... standing taller and proud because she had a cute outfit on, pink sparkly shoes, and even a little bling around her neck.

It's a tiny piece in a huge, messy puzzle... but it matters.  Every item donated has a purpose, we pray for the kiddos that will wear these items.  I cannot thank you well enough.  I hope somehow you understand that your gifts to these kiddos help in ways we can't fully comprehend.  When you can't buy one of everything in every size {and I know some of you wish you could}, I do believe the Spirit leads you to buy what we'll be needing.

Everything this little girl needed was there - in her size.  He knew what this little girl needed, and prompted y'all to buy the bits and pieces to make up a whole outfit.

I stand in awe. Our God loves His little ones.

I'll add an updated needs list to this post shortly.  But I wanted to get the story written for those of you that have given.  I can't be certain, but its likely that this little girl walked out of that closet with items that were sent from Hawaii, Alabama, Illinois, Michigan and Fort Benning.  How awesome is that?

Here's the updated needs list!
 Remember, clothing items must be new.  Some sizes have either pants or a shirt but don't make a complete outfit... so feel free to buy bits or pieces, the outfits will come together perfectly. I am certain of it.

Here is a list of the shoe sizes we need as well:

Other items that are needed:
toiletries for older kiddos
like-new small toys, stuffed animals, balls, coloring books

As always... if you have ANY questions feel free to ask!  Thank you so very much for caring for these kiddos in crisis! 

09 December 2013

when you feel less-than

There is this one lie that exists in certain circles that makes my blood boil.  I get angsty and want to blurt and holler and cry all at once. 

Likely, because I thought that lie was true for awhile too.

I saw a familiar hurt last week as I listened to a discreet story.  The one about past sin that haunts.  Do you know it?

This lie lodges in - somewhere between confession and freedom - this lie that some sins are worse than others.  Some sins render you worthless, useless, broken for kingdom work -- that somehow you will always be less-than because of it.

If you've never heard this lie, and never believed it to be true; then you are probably shaking your head in disbelief.  Shocked that people fall for this junk.

If you are like me, you've battled this lie and by the power of the Holy Spirit you've won; but you haven't forgotten how heavy the weight of it is. 

Or if you are acquainted with that lie right now, if today it is lingering in your heart, then you might be thinking, "but you don't know what I've done."

It's true.  I don't.  I have no idea what you have done.

But I do know what God has done.

He won.

Sister, there is not one thing on this whole earth that you can do that He can't redeem.  Not. One. Thing.

There is not one sin that cancels out your potential for God's kingdom work.  Not. One. Sin.

The accuser would rather you remain feeling less-than.  Believing this lie that although you are forgiven you are broken, saved but sidelined.  But that is just not true.  The best way to battle a lie is with Truth.

"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 NASB

The accuser wants to keep you cowering low.  But, sister, hear me.  You are free.  When you walk in your freedom the glory of God will shine through.  The accuser would hate for that to happen.  If you feel condemned, it is not from God.

"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  Romans 8:1 NASB

Deny the accuser a place in your thoughts.  Call him a liar and kick him out.  You have sisters cheering you on through tears, because we've been where you are.  Our deepest prayer is that you will know :: You are free. You are whole. You are redeemed.

"Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.  Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?  I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:18-19 NASB

When He forgives, He does so in a way that our minds can barely comprehend. 

"For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him." Psalm 103:11-13 NASB

You are not less than.  You are a child of God. 

02 December 2013

simple advent

Advent has begun! And I r-e-a-l-l-y just wanted to tell you about what we are doing this year... mostly because its low-key yet our guys love it.  None of these are original ideas of my own, just things pieced together to work for us. We do a pretty basic advent countdown calendar.  We hung our bags up Saturday night and the boys were quite delighted to find them.  Each bag has a sweet treat {usually a piece of candy for each boy}, an advent Scripture passage, and an activity.  The activities are generally things we do each December anyway but its more exciting when its in a bag I guess.  {Examples: Watch Rudolph, Go see lights at Calloway, Drive to Michigan, etc}

I wanted to tell you about it, though, because this year we also added a reading from the Jesus Storybook bible and we are loving it. 

We had the best discussion this morning at breakfast about how mind-boggling it is to think about "the beginning."  Such sweet treasure!  

As you can see, I used markers to number our bags, and randomly cut pieces of construction paper to write the details on.  You don't need to go all out or get crazy fancy.  {Or you totally can if you want to; but I want to assure those of you that feel behind that it is SO NOT about the level of fanciness!  I promise your kiddos will not care a bit.  Not a single boy murmured a word about me not using cute-scrapbook-paper for the numbers!}  You won't see a pin on Pinterest of these paper bags and that's ok.  This is just a simple way for us to slow down and connect each morning in December and help build the anticipation of our coming King.  If you don't have bags, use envelopes!  Or just put it on the counter in the morning.  Whatever! 

If you have The Jesus Storybook Bible it'll be easy to jump in today.  Click here for the list of readings. And guess what?  I just found out there is a printable there if you just want to print off the list.  Bonus!  {If you don't have The Jesus Storybook Bible you might want to add it to your Christmas list.  It is beautiful.}

If you want to read the other scriptures we are using this year, I found them right here.  I am sure there a bunch of places you can find advent readings.

This is really just for those of you that were hoping to do something for Advent this year but didn't get it together yet.  You can make it simple.  You can make it work for your family.  It doesn't have to win craft awards or be pin-worthy.  Keep it simple and enjoy your kiddos.  I promise you won't regret it. 

27 November 2013

when the holidays are hard

Sometimes, seeing holiday decorations in the store in September gives you a pit in your stomach. You knew in your heart the holidays would be hard this year, but you had no idea you'd physically feel it.

I know because I have had that experience.  And every year I remember.  I remember for me, because God was near in a way I hadn't experienced before and I don't ever want to forget it.   I also remember for you.

Maybe this year you had expected a big, round, growing belly-full-of-baby, but instead you carry the heartache of a loss. It's ok to still be sad months later. It's ok to remember what you had hoped for.

Maybe you made space in your home and your heart for a child to join you through foster care or adoption, and you are still waiting.  Your arms are empty and the longing for someone you've not yet met overwhelms.  Its ok to lean in to that longing, God put it there.

Maybe this year you aren't unpacking decorations where you thought you would. You aren't where you expected for reasons you don't yet understand. It's ok to feel disappointment; even if you are certain God's plans for you are good.

Maybe you won't be celebrating with the one(s) you want to - maybe you'll celebrate together via Skype or FaceTime miles apart. And you'll be so grateful to see one another but all the more desperate to hold close and hug tight. It's ok to let the joy mingle with sorrow. You don't have to choose just one.

Maybe this holiday season is one more in the string of "after" holidays. Your loved one is gone and every holiday since is a different kind of hard. Grief joins you unexpectedly and unpredictably. Maybe deep down you are hoping for just one holiday season like "before" because it's beginning to seem so far away. It's ok if you can't make sense of it. It's ok if one moment you are jolly in a way you thought you wouldn't experience again; only to feel guilty the next moment for letting yourself feel that joy. 

Sometimes, the holidays are just hard. Please know I'm praying for you through the hard.

When Brad was deployed, there was this one mental image that carried me through the longest nights. It seems a little silly when I explain it. It was based loosely on that children's song, "He's got the whole world in His hands." I imagined God's Hand was big enough to hold our family together. Though miles apart, I imagined the Creator could hold both Brad & I tightly together in the palm of His hand. I begged Him to do that for us. I believe He did.

My prayer for you through this holiday season is that Hope creeps in. I pray that as you let hot tears of hurt roll down your cheeks that you won't try to stop them or hide them - but that you'll offer them to Him. I pray you'll sense His presence in an unmistakable way, maybe like never before. I pray you'll be certain that He is with you even if you are in a mess. Because He is.

I pray your heart lets Hope in. I pray it settles into nooks & crannies you hadn't thought about in years. I pray it crowds around your hurt like so much Kudzu on a Georgia pine.

You are not forgotten, and you are not alone.  God welcomes every part of you to Himself.  May your Hope grow in this fertile soil of ashes and pain. May the hope of future glory carry you, as you wait for the Beauty to come.

May these words fall over you like the first time.  Might we all cling to them with bravery.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."  
 Romans 5:1-5

24 November 2013

answered prayers

Once again.  God answers prayers in a surprisingly amazing way.  And I am humbled and awed and feel so itty-bitty small.  In the best way.

Thanksgiving is this week.  I think its fair to say the holidays are upon us.  Its such a joyful & generous time.  It truly is, and I love it.

However, I've been carrying around a small concern for a week or so.  We had talked to the caseworker at the foster care office about providing Christmas stockings for the Christmas party.  We weren't really sure if it would be something we could try to organize through our church or if it was something we would just ask friends to help us with.  Of course, Brad being on lock down this week dialed up my anxiety a bit about how/when we should do this.  Oh, and we are talking about two hundred (200!!!) stockings.

Meanwhile, I hadn't been to the supply closet in about 4 weeks due to all the sickness that we had going on here.  I found a lot of empty hangers; which always gives me mixed emotions.  I'm grateful that there were suitable clothes available for the children that needed them - but I am always a little sad that a child needed them.  Does that make sense?  While I was doing the inventory on Tuesday, I noticed that there are a lot of very-summery-outfits.  (Which are nearly perfect here 8 months out of the year!)  I decided to edit the list to reflect how many outfits we currently have that would be appropriate for the current weather.  There are quite a few gaps.

Of course, I thought about all the needs and felt a little stuck about what to do.  There are so many great opportunities for giving at this time of year.  Most of them are much more convenient and better organized than our little operation.  I wasn't sure what to do or how to start.  Brad wasn't here to talk any sense into me, so I just prayed.  I asked my PWOC bible study class to pray about the stockings with me because there is a deadline looming.

And I waited. 

This morning at church, I mentioned the stockings to our Bible Study class too, asking for prayer about how/when to do this.

After class my friend, a teacher at the middle school, said, "We'll do the stockings."  And I nearly cried.  When I got to worship service I did cry.

I was sure He had a plan for these stockings.  I was desperate for Him to show me the plan ASAP.  Of course,  He revealed it in the just-so-perfect-way that leads me again to say, "Only God."

I am going to go ahead and post a list of current needs for the foster care supply closet.  With all of the crazy sales this week, I thought there might be some good opportunities to grab some deals.  As always, we need new items.  If you have any questions {a-n-y questions at all} feel free to ask them.  I know I often leave out important details! Also, you may have an idea that I hadn't considered, so please share!

Just as a word of encouragement, if you cannot purchase anything right now, please pray for the kiddos in care.  God will provide the needs.  I started tracking retail value of donations on September 28.  Since then we've collected $2799.82 worth of items.  So I do not doubt that HE WILL PROVIDE.  Your prayers are essential!

Underwear (boys & girls including bras)
Winter hats

shelf stable snacks
older kid toiletries (deodorant, body spray, etc)
activity pads
stuffed animals*
sports balls*

* these items can be new without tags, or excellent used condition ;)

And this, just because it blessed me so much.  This video from The Forgotten Initiative helps share the heart beat of what we do, and gives a glimpse into how the donations bless children, and how important your prayers are.  While we aren't quite at the same level as this group, I think the main point translates well to what we are doing here in our area.

Their Story: The Forgotten Iniatitive from Vale Church on Vimeo.

01 November 2013

a little love note to November

Dear November,

You might be my favorite. 

You are just so unassuming and inviting.  You are smack dab in the middle of two big-hot-button-point-your-finger-defend-your-family-choices holidays.  I've waded through the pro-Halloween and anti-Halloween posts.  And you give me a little bit of a breather before the online Christmas controversies get all fired up.  You give me time to just be grateful.  That's all.  I don't have to make any arguments for taking time to reflect on the good things I have been given.  Nor will there be criticism for counting my blessings.  (Although undoubtedly someone will post this gem :: I don't need one day {one month?} a year to be thankful because I am thankful every day.) 

Its finally cool-ish here most days and it just feels like fall.  November, you usher in the anticipation of advent by waking my heart to gratefulness.  You provide an annual meet-up with my Savior, a set-apart time.  My offerings of gratitude seem small and humble but He welcomes me to sort through the year-past and remember the treasures that have been given. 

There is something so powerful in gathering up these good things, of holding them up to Him in praise and adoration.  It is contentment.  It is joy.  It is a memorial.  It prepares me to wait for Him to come.

Sure, technically, Thanksgiving is on the last Thursday of the month; but November, this month-of-gratitude-thing is catching on.  It's not competitive or exclusive.  It is so fun to see others share their thankfulness too, this vast collection of gratitude offered up as praise to our Creator, our Savior, our Gift-giver. 

One of the most clever things about you, November, is that in giving thanks daily; our hearts pick up a habit... and that is really something to appreciate. 

So welcome back, November, I am so thankful you are here!

With gratitude and anticipation,

30 October 2013

when words come back

As a parent, I sure have said some things I regret.  Most every day, I think. 

I've also said things that I desperately hope the boys hear and hold on to, although its hard to know at the time if they do. 

This week I carved two fake pumpkins.  It was super hard.  I knew it would be, which is why I didn't do it last year.  Wilson and Walker have fake pumpkins with their names carved in them and I adore them.  My Aunt Lori +and Uncle Joe made them and sent them to us our first year in Oklahoma.  They make me smile whenever I see them.  When I pulled them out this year, I decided we should make them for Lincoln and Franklin.

Early in the season I saw the fake pumpkins at Hobby Lobby but stepped away quickly when I saw their price tag $24.99.  Yikes.  When I found them for 70% off at JoAnn's last week, I sent Brad a text to see if I should go ahead and get them.  I was half-hoping he'd say no because I just knew it was going to be a hard task.  He said yes.  I chose larger ones because Lincoln and Franklin have longer names, so I wanted a bigger work area.  I didn't realize just how much bigger they were until I brought them home.  Oops. 

I kept putting off the task.  I had even hoped to con my mom into helping while she was here last weekend.  Those two giant, fake pumpkins sat by my sewing table mocking me with their facelessness.

Monday, I printed a template from word with each of their names.  I attempted the make-your-own-copy-paper by scribbling a pencil all over the back.  It didn't transfer like I hoped.  So I tried scoring the pumpkin with an exacto blade.  It broke off somewhere along the third letter of Lincoln's name.  I then realized that if I pressed hard with a pen it would indent the pumpkin.  I ended up using a regular-pumpkin-carving knife (the kind from Pampered Chef).  Lincoln's turned out decently.  I was hopeful for Franklin's - which I saved for last because that dude has a long name.  Why didn't we pick something like Jim? or Tim?  or Al?  

I started with the last letter and began working my way backwards.   When I got to carving the K the top piece fell inside the pumpkin.  I tried not to get too frustrated and thought I could glue that piece back.  Then the bottom fell in.  I carved the next N fine and remained hopeful.  Of course, when I got to the A, it fell in.  I skipped the R because it seemed fragile in that area, the F was cooperative for a time.  Then three pieces fell in.  I had no happy thoughts.

Although these were 70% off, they were not cheap enough for me to feel OK with throwing them away.  Besides, Lincoln's was fine but I was sure I wouldn't be able to find another one at JoAnn's to replace this one.  Did I mention all of this carving was happening outside while the boys played?  They heard my frustrated sighs and groans getting louder.  Stupid, stupid pumpkins.

Wilson came over to check on my progress.  I showed him the missing pieces and halfheartedly told him I hoped I could figure out a fix.  I complained (whined?) about how horribly I was doing.  He then says to me, "Well, its like you said with football.  You can't do something one time and expect to be perfect. You have to work at it."

Wait, what?  I totally thought he blew me off when I said that to him at the beginning of the season.  I certainly didn't think he saw any value in the statement.  And here he stands next to me with my mangled pumpkin, using my words to encourage me.  

Doing something terribly the first time you do it, does not mean you will always be terrible at it. A lot of things we attempt take practice, and result in failure a few times.  I desperately want my boys to know that.  I had never guessed God would use a jacked-up jack-o-lantern to let me know the message is sinking in.  He brought my words back to me.

I suddenly felt relief about how insignificant this pumpkin really was. I salvaged all of the fallen pieces for Franklin's name and put it aside until after dinner, baths, and bedtime.  I decided I could turn it around and carve "Frank" into the opposite side if I couldn't fix the mess I had made. 

While the youngest three were in bed, I pulled out the e6000 glue and started putting pieces together.  Wilson reminded me that this wasn't actually the first time I had glued a mess together.  {I broke a vase and glued it back together at the suggestion of this book,.  Wilson watched a lot of that process.} At first, pieces just fell off.  Wilson had to go to bed, and I kept working along slowly.  Eventually I figured out a way to hold them in place as they dried.  To my surprise all the pieces were still hanging together the next morning.

I carved noses + eyes today and the jack-o-lanterns look just fine (although way bigger then their bigger brothers').  Most people won't even notice the lines where pieces were glued back together on Franklin's pumpkin.  They'll just be reminders to me of this slow work of motherhood, and the surprising ways that God encourages me in the process.

19 October 2013

on winning

Wilson's football team remains undefeated.  Wilson keeps a running tally, so I know that they have scored 136 unanswered points.  One team has scored one touchdown against them this season.  There are only 4 teams total in our little on-post-league, though.  So we are on round two against the same teams.

On the pre-game ride over to the field this morning, Wilson told me that his coach had said they couldn't ease up.  He said ALL of the other teams want them to lose so they'll be playing harder against them.  {I agree with the coach, I think all three teams would cheer excitedly if any of them beat us.}

I noticed something during the game today.  It seemed as if all the boys on Wilson's team were playing hard.  Different kiddos were making big plays.  They were trying out new plays too.  They were taking risks.  Their teamwork was clicking really well.  They were relentless.

The opposing team started out tough.  Minutes into the game they forced a turnover after our failed fourth down attempt.  However, they weren't able to score on that drive.  We faced another fourth down attempt and this time broke through the line.  There was a defender in range to tackle our runner.  His feet stuttered and he more-or-less fell right alongside the rusher.  We scored.  When we kicked after that TD, the player that caught the ball took a step or two to the side then fell down as our guys rushed to him.  He didn't want to get tackled, so he wouldn't run forward. 

They were playing scared.  They were playing defeated.

I'm not bad-mouthing 9 + 10-year-old boys here, they actually taught me something.

Sometimes, I play scared.  Sometimes, I play defeated.

I forget that I am on the winning team. 

When I've screamed over spilled milk before 8 am, I think the day is lost.  When the teacher writes another note on the homework sheet {that I had signed} about the wrong work being completed, I assume I'll never get it right.  When dinner is a flop and the kitchen is a mess and the babies need baths and the laundry needs folded and I just want to fall down so I won't get plowed over.  I think I'm losing.

But I'm not.  The victory has already been won.  I want to live like I believe that.
"but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord."  1 Corinthians 15:57-58

Sometimes, I just need a reminder.  Don't we all?  So I'm posting a song {surprise!} for you to play loud and dance along with!  Maybe this reminder is too simple for the hard place that you are in today.  I pray though, that you'll find a moment with enough light in it, to turn up the music, close your eyes and just dance.  We win in the end.

The song is "In the End" by Natalie Grant.  It is from her new album Hurricane.  Purchase here.

*the football picture is not from today's game, so the other team will not be incriminated.

17 October 2013

living the dream

As I went to PWOC this morning, I was considering this current push of "pursuing your dreams."  It can be confusing. 

I love my life today.  The way all the parts fit together, I am just pleased.  Content.  At peace.  This was never "my dream."  Is that even OK to say out loud?  {I hope so, because I blurted it out during my bible study class.}  To me, every bit of this life I live was stitched together by Creator God.  There is no way I could've dreamed this up, imagined it, or even hoped for it.  I quoted from my bible study workbook this morning on FB::
"To live for the greatness of God is to live the great life... Every one of us who embraces the glory of God as our purpose will end up doing great things precisely because we do God-things." - Beth Moore from Esther 
I'm just beginning to unpack these thoughts, so I will be thinking about them more - a lot more -you will likely hear more about it too.  God weaves our lives together in such detailed ways.  I'm convinced that the seen and the unseen, it all matters. 

Speaking of seen, I took a selfie today, mostly for those of you that live far away.  I know you must miss my face.

 I took that selfie because I wanted to show you the craziness that Pinterest talked me into behind my face.  Those twisty things.  And those bobby pins.  Part of me thinks it worked.  Part of me wonders.  {You can see Koka avoiding eye contact in the hair picture, she's one to judge.}

Also.  These two were good in their class this morning.  They were given suckers as soon as we hit the sidewalk.  I am not above bribery.  Especially bribery with sugar. 

As I was backing out of the parking spot this conversation happened:

Lincoln:  Wheel broken.  Broke wheel.
Me:  {guessing} Oh, a wheel broke?  On a toy?  It was an accident, though, huh?
Franklin:  No, uh, no, I broke that wheel.  I ran and broke that wheel.
Lincoln: Ya, Frank'in break it.

Well, their teachers DID say they were good.

15 October 2013

celebrate the small

You know when you are just plain grateful?  I'm having one of those weeks.  Which is really crazy because Brad + I have had an awful head cold which makes me not-so-awesome to be around.  However, God reminds me how much I need Him in my least awesome moments, which makes me profoundly grateful for His faithfulness at all times.  This post is just a reflection of some of the things that I am grateful for today. 

I had such a lovely morning in the foster care supply closet.  Truly.  I found out that the car seat + stroller that were donated have been given to a family that was recently reunified.  They needed a car seat for baby.  I hung up a bunch of new donations and rearranged a couple of shelves to make room for some toys and books.  I had BIG plans to take a bunch of pictures.  Then my timer went off.  So you'll have to wait on the pictures. {Sorry!}

In other news, I made THE best pork roast last night.  It was simple and came out perfectly moist and flavorful.  I am only telling you this because it is so rare that I cook a roast so well.  I have started a board on Pinterest for recipes that I have tried.   I was very creative in naming the board, "Tried."  This way, I can go back to that board when I am doing meal planning.  Smart, huh?  I am keeping the recipes I hated there too, so I don't accidentally make them again.  Gross.

Walker and I have registered for our first 5k.  It's a night run, called the Glow K 5K.  It benefits the Wounded Warrior Project.  I think he is going to be a super star!  Sometime last week, it clicked for him that he can run.  Prior to last week, we had to have a come-to-Jesus-meetin in the middle of every run.  I told Brad that I think I have a clear picture of what it must have been like for him to run with me when I first started running.  He is a good man.

Wilson continues to love football.  He likes to play it.  On game day.  At recess.  And as a video game.  He also enjoys watching practically every televised game - regardless of who is playing - unless of course it is an SEC game, then he refuses to show interest.  In the past, I had thought kids that were into sports, were that way because their parents forced them into it.  I was wrong about that.

Lincoln and Franklin are getting huge.  At lunch today they wanted apples.  They both said, "Don't cut it, momma!" Seriously, the 10-year-old still likes his apples cut, but these two.  They want to be big.  Also?  We are having some issues at childcare at church + Bible study.  We are trying separate classrooms at church.  They tend to play off of one another and it can spiral out of control pretty quickly.  In case you wonder what this might look like, I offer this {completely hypothetical} example:
Lincoln throws a toy.
Teacher says, "Lincoln toys are not for throwing."
Meanwhile, Franklin whips a toy in the opposite direction while looking at the teacher that is finishing her sentence to Lincoln.
Teacher says, "Franklin, we can't throw toys, one of our friends could get hurt..."  Teacher's voice trails off as she notices Lincoln laughing hysterically and picking up a toy to throw.  At her.  Face.
Yes, I do believe that is how the spiral begins.  I am hoping to one day find a way to tap into positive peer pressure with one another, but for now we are trying separate classrooms.  They actually do not seem to mind the time apart, so it might be a good thing for them.

Brad and I persist in prayer for what God has planned next for our family.  We still do not have a timeline for when Brad will be separated from the Army but he continues to search job postings and send out resumes like a boss.  We trust that God has worked out the details ahead of us, and now we wait for Him to reveal those details as the time comes.

I am going to try and do a better job of telling our story here.  You know, the everyday stuff that holds so much of the joy but seems small?  I want to celebrate the small here.  I want to collect it into words as I savor the little tidbits that matter so much.  I hope in doing so, you'll celebrate your small too.  It all matters.  Aaaand now I have this song stuck in my head.  Naturally.

09 October 2013

bowling-pin-shaped-turkey and some happy thoughts

Ok, I mentioned that I was going to share a bowling-pin-shaped turkey project with y'all.  And I am.  But first, some happy news from my "time in the closet" yesterday.  {You know, the one, right?  The foster care supply closet downtown.}
  1. Almost every size has a minimum of three outfits.  Unbelievable.  These are the only sizes that have less than 3 outfits; girls' 24m + 2T, boys' 18m, 24m, 3T, M, L + XL.  Amazing, really.
  2. The boys' old caseworker stopped by to chat for a moment.  She has switched over to the adoption unit instead of foster care.  She loves it and wanted to share how happy she is in her new department.  She also told me that "a 17-year-old girl had just been adopted."  We both smiled wide with teary-eyes as she spoke those words. 
I thought you'd like to think about those happy things.  Have I mentioned how fun it is to be doing this gig?  I feel exceedingly blessed to be able to volunteer there and share it all with you.

On to the turkey.  Y'all, I love it.  It is one of the few things I've done well in terms of family traditions.  And I think it came about as a whim.

It was so hard when we left Michigan to move to Oklahoma.  I had been away from family before, so that part wasn't new to me, but the part about ripping a child from his grandparents and great grandparents and aunts and uncles?  Oh my that was a new kind of hurt.

As we progressed toward the holiday season, I wanted a way for Wilson to feel connected with all the people we had left behind.  I probably saw this idea in FamilyFun magazine or something, it was long before everyone was blogging-craft-tutorials which was even before everyone started pinning those ideas.

I cut out some feathers. One for every member of our immediate-extended family.  Great grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, first cousins.  It was hard to exclude great aunts and uncles and subsequent cousins, but I had to cut out all those feathers by hand and it took a hot minute.

We typed up a little note and asked each family member to write what they were most thankful for over the past year.  We put the note in an envelope along with enough feathers for each family member at each house and included a self-addressed return envelope for the feathers to be mailed back.  I also made a bowling-pin-shaped-turkey and stuck him up on the wall.

And we waited for the mail to come.

I could not have guessed what a thrill this would be for Wilson.  Mail, just for him, almost daily throughout November.   We'd open the envelope, read the thankful notes, and hang the feathers up on that ol' turkey.

It was such fun that we began doing it every year.
 {yes, we used a different turkey the first year, I might not have planned on doing this more than once.}

And now the boys are big enough to not only help cut out feathers, but they can help with addressing envelopes too.  Well, technically only two out of four are big enough to help with addressing envelopes. 

Here's where the whimsical part comes in... I save the feathers every year.  I am terrible at saving the 'right' things.  But somehow, I saved these feathers.

Year after year as we pull out our fall decorations, we find our turkey and all those feathers.  We'll read the feathers from years' past when we hang that ol' turkey back up on the wall.

This year we'll send out 33 feathers to 15 addresses.  The boys will eagerly check the mailbox throughout November.  I'll casually remind family members to send their feathers back.  {We've even transcribed feathers via text or email when "they get lost in the mail." }  It's super fun to add new feathers too, either because of marriage or because of birth, the count is the same this year, but next year we'll be adding at least two new ones!

I would've never guessed when we started this ol' turkey what a treasure these feathers would become.  These two are from my Grandpa & Grandma Lewis the very first year. 

Its such a simple, but special tradition.  Gratitude is a very sweet way to connect our boys with their family.  I thought a few of you might want to try it, especially if you live far away from extended family.

What do you think?  Is this something that might work for your family?  If you are worried about free-handing a bowling-pin-shaped-turkey or feathers, there are templates online.  Just ask google.  Or pinterest!

***do you like step-by-step instructions?
  1. Make a list of family members (or friends) you want to send feathers too.
  2. Cut out a feather for each person on your list.
  3. Buy two sizes of envelopes, make sure the smaller one will fit in the larger one.
  4. Buy stamps while you are at it.  If you are feeling generous buy enough for the self-addressed return envelope.
  5. You may want to buy double-sided tape or poster putty or whatever you prefer to hang your turkey and his feathers on the wall.
  6. Write a note to share what your family is thankful for over the past year.  Ask your family members to write their thanks on their feathers and mail them back.
  7. Stuff envelopes with feathers, note, and smaller self-addressed envelope.
  8. Make a turkey to hang on the wall.
  9. Wait for the mail to come.
  10. Hang feathers as they arrive.
  11. Take a picture of your kiddos in front of their turkey with all of his feathers.
  12. Pack it up for next year.
  13. Repeat.
See, easy-peasy!

07 October 2013

making art

When I was in the very early stages of the education program in college, I did "teacher assisting" in a 2nd grade classroom.  This, more or less, was an opportunity to observe a real-life teacher in action.  I ran copies and checked papers.  Every once in awhile I got to take a small group of students to another room for a group activity.  I was given the opportunity to fancy up the bulletin boards and even escort the class to specials!  Toward the end of the semester I had to do a whole-class-lesson.  I chose a Thanksgiving craft.  It was basic.  Make a bowling-pin-shaped-turkey body and add construction paper feathers.  I think I cut the turkey body out for each student and then gave them the choice of colors of construction paper they wanted.  I had cut the construction paper into feather-sized-rectangles; all the students had to do was taper an end to make a feather.

After explaining the project to the class, I hung my finished "turkey" on the blackboard and began to walk around the room to see how the kiddos were doing.  They all seemed so eager to get started.  One student asked me to help cut a feather.  So I did.  I heard my name being called out from various places around the classroom.  Kind of frantically.  I also began to notice hands waving violently at me.  The eagerness was replaced with desperation.  I had no idea what was happening.

The classroom teacher must have noticed that I was confused and things were falling apart.  She stood up and met me across the room, she whispered, "they all want theirs to look just like yours."

My heart sank. There was not nearly enough time for me to go around and cut five feathers for each student, and besides, I didn't even know if I had enough of the same colors I had used to make mine.

I had no idea they would want to make theirs look just like mine.  I thought they would love the idea of making their very own unique project.

I think I tried to tell the students to make theirs their own, but I'm not sure how many left that day with a finished project they were proud of.

I never forgot this lesson.

When I went on to teach, I always reminded myself about that instance.  I wouldn't make a finished example to show the class.  I left the projects open-ended and would be as encouraging as possible for students to put their own twist on it.

I did the same thing when I offered that little series of sewing classes at my house.

I don't know if we had stellar art teachers in grade school or if our parents did a super job of making us feel like our own flair was what made our work special. {My sister is crazy creative.}  I just don't know.  All I know is I rarely try to make anything creative exactly like someone else's.  I like to make it my own.  That is not to say that I make up all of the ideas myself, no no no, I just put my own spin on the ideas I come across.  I really enjoy creating.  Especially when I think of creating in the terms of "creative things."

You know how we kind of categorize things as "creative" or not.  Some people say, "I don't have a creative bone in my body."  You've heard that said, right? 

Here's the lesson I am learning lately though.  God is a Creator.  We are made in His image.  We are all creators. We do our best work, when our work is creative.  I am the best mom, when I am doing it with my personality - the personality that God has given me, the one He is continually shaping. When I try to make my momming look like someone else's?  I end up frustrated.  And frantic. And desperate.  And so much like a 2nd grader trying to do her teacher's art instead of making it her own.

The gentle gene is not dominant in my voice or parenting style.  I'm silly, and loud, and a little bit cray-cray.  I can't tell you how relieved I was to find out there are other parents like me... did you read this by Jen Hatmaker?  I'm spicy. 

The point is my momming should look like my own. I can certainly find resources to help in my parenting - as long as I am willing to seek His wisdom in how to put my own twist on the strategies.  Picking up a parenting book and trying to implement it all the exact same way as the author will lead to frustration and disappointment. 

I want to recognize my parenting as art.  I want to be an image-bearer of Creative God in my day-to-day.  Sometimes that will be making super hero capes.  Some days it will be baking pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.  Most days it will be looking into little boy eyes and speaking love and growing patience.  Each will reflect God's glory. 

Do your recognize your creativity?  Have you thought about it before in terms of being an image-bearer of God - the One who spoke the world into being, with all of its vivid colors and vast variety?

One of my favorite voices on the internet is Emily Freeman.  She has been exploring this theme on her blog calling out the art in all of us over the past year or so.  It has been refreshing and challenging at the same time.  Her newest book, "A Million Little Ways," is all about this idea.  I've just begun reading it.  Every time I open it, I teeter between wanting-to-read-the-whole-thing-as-quickly-as-possible and wanting to savor it s-l-o-w-l-y.  It already has plenty of underlines in it.  Here is a quote that I'd love to hear your thoughts on::
He does not manage us, to-do list us, or bullet-point us.  He loves us.  Is with us.  And believing Him feels impossible, until we do, like a miracle, like lukewarm water turning merlot red right there in the cup. And hope sprouts new, because God doesn't give us a list.  He invites us into the story.  God is not a technician. God is an Artist.  This is the God who made you.  The same God who lives inside you.  He comes into us, then comes out of us, in a million little ways.  
Right now, Emily, is writing 31 days of Living Art.  She describes it this way:: "This 31 day series is the fresh, colorful, yet not-quite-all-the-way-filling salad, while the book is the complete main course – warm bread, rich wine, lean meat. Eat what you will. All are welcome."

I'm eager to see how God uses this book to help me recognize the art in my everyday.   I pray that it will move me closer to unflappable.

P.S. I have a bowling-pin-shaped-turkey activity that I want to share with you later this week.  It's not so much the craft as the activity that goes along with it that makes me eager to share it.  It is one of my favorite things to unpack from our fall bin!  Sounds fun, huh?

04 October 2013

the not-so-secret-millionaire

I am going to post an update about the foster care supply closet at the end of this post.  But before that I have to tell you something. 

You may or may not know that Brad is getting out the Army due to his back problems.  We are currently waiting for the VA to send his packet back to Fort Benning to get an idea about when this will happen and what we can expect.  {Not sure how or if the shutdown is impacting this.}  Meanwhile, Brad is hunting down a job.  He is working like it all depends on him, and praying like it all depends on God.  It really has been quite spectacular to watch.  Brad's dream job would be something in orphan care.  We've talked about where we might move.  We've laughed about how most people would be more supportive of us moving to Africa than moving to an urban area.

I even picked up a clever joke to share when we talk about our future.  I mention the show "Secret Millionaire" and talk about how I love watching it.  If you haven't seen it, its a reality show that follows a millionaire into the broken-down parts of a city.  While walking along the streets the millionaire  pretends to be an average joe,  he finds some non-profit-organizations to volunteer with, and in the end he spills the beans about his wealth and hands over some fat checks to the non-profits.  I cry during every episode by the way.  So, anyway, I joke about how Brad would like to possibly work with a non-profit, but that I wouldn't mind if God chooses us to be secret millionaires.  And then I make a joke about promising to write tons of fat checks to all sorts of great places.  Deep in my heart, I know that joke comes from a place of fear.  Gah.

But this week, y'all.  The joke was on me.

When I wrote three posts in a row last week I was spent.  I came downstairs one afternoon and told Brad I had never felt that exhausted from writing a post.  I think my words were, "it was just so hard to write." It felt like a mess to me, but I hit publish anyway.  I couldn't have predicted what God could do with those messy words.

Since that post, we have received over $800 {retail value} in new clothing for the foster care supply closet.  And two more boxes are in the mail!  Plus a couple of local friends have items to donate!   I was even able to meet a friend in the office on Tuesday morning!  It blessed me to share that space with her! To top it off, she brought a newborn car seat with a base and a stroller to donate! BOOM!

{I know, I know, way too many exclamation points, but seriously !!!!!!}

Who are we, that all this goodness should come our way?  The level of giddiness surrounding my heart is intoxicating. 

It is as if I was handed a check by a secret millionaire.

It is as if my Father is trying to tell me something. 

And I'm picking up on it.  Glory, glory, hallelujah!

He has got this.  Wherever He call us, He goes before us and with us.  He is a not-so-secret-millionaire-times-infinity.  Sometimes I forget how easily He can shift resources to the place they are needed.  One of my favorite parts about all of this, is that I wasn't even a little bit convinced that my blog post was going to generate any donations.  God can take what we think is a mess, and use it in ways we couldn't dream.  I'm just in awe.

The more I walk with my Savior, the more I am drawn in to the mystery of His ways.

The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains,  
The world, and those who dwell in it. 
-Psalm 24:1 (NASB)

Ok - time for the update.   Many have asked, "what else do you need?"

The number one need is VOLUNTEERS.  Please pray for volunteers.  Please!  I'm thinking especially for volunteers to help at the front desk.

Here's the clothing needs' list (although there are two boxes en route, so this will change a bit!)  We are almost to the point where any size can be purchased to help keep the closet fully stocked.  Do you have any idea how amazing it is to type the words "fully stocked"??

Some other things that are needed include:
  • towels (for use in the office, when kiddos come into care and need to get cleaned up)
  • blankets (government office building = freezing AC)
  • shelf-stable snacks
  • underwear
  • socks 
  • bras or camis
  • older kiddo toiletries 
  • bags 
Comfort items:
  • toy or stuffed animal (new or used in-no-way-this-is-practically-mint-condition)
  • books (new or practically new)
  • football, basketball, soccer ball
  • lip gloss, nail polish, etc.
If you have an idea, don't hesitate to share it!

If you have questions, don't hesitate to ask it!

If you are a praying person, would you pray for the supply closet?  Pray for the kiddos that will wear the clothing and use the items that are donated.  Pray for them to feel the Love they are desperate for.  If you are far away, pray for the kiddos in your community in foster care.  You might never meet them personally, but your prayers matter more than we can imagine.  I believe it with all my heart.

Finally, thank you.  Your generosity is blowing me away.  God is using you to love His children and I am learning so much in the process.  I am humbled to be in this place right now.  And also, giddy.

26 September 2013

ideas for giving

Ok.  I am going to try to make this quick, but y'all me + the words get all cozy when I sit down at the PC.

I think I mentioned this before, but I am going to go ahead and say it again.  While we were in "the waiting" part of our adoption, a few people {more than I would have guessed} said to us, "I'm so glad you are getting one from over here instead of paying all that money to another country.  There are kids here that need families too."  This always bugged me a bit, because I don't think it really matters where the child without a family is - nor do I think there is an "acceptable price" to pay for an adoption; like there is a cutoff of worth-it vs. overpriced.  Gross. 

However, I know there are people that fall into the camps of "help here" and "there is enough help here, help elsewhere."  (ie. local vs. overseas) I fall right down the middle, most of the time.

So today I have two ideas for how you can give, one for here and one for there.  Both of these ideas are in the vein of orphan prevention/family preservation.  Adoption is, of course, one way to ease the orphan crisis (and obviously, one I believe in wholeheartedly!) but there is SO MUCH more that can be done to help stop the growing number of orphans in the first place.  Many children become orphans as a direct result of poverty... living in one of the wealthiest nations in the world makes this idea so incomprehensible.

"Poverty is not necessarily an issue to solve; it is an opportunity to serve. As we go through each day, our heart's cry should be, Lord, where would you have me give, serve, and invest myself to bring hope to the poor?"
~Orphan Justice author, Johnny Carr

Poverty is an opportunity to serve.  Let that settle in for a moment.

I mentioned this yesterday, and I am going to expand on it today.  The caseworker that I work with most directly also stopped by the closet to chat with me on Tuesday.  She told me that their office is working on getting car seats for all of the caseworkers.  She reminded me of the cars eats that had been in the office when I first came to help sort through things in the spring.  One was expired.  She didn't know those things had expiration dates (some of you didn't either, am I right?)  She was explaining that it would be nice for each worker to have a dedicated car seat in case they need to transport children. 

Also?  She mentioned that sometimes the difference in whether or not a child comes in to foster care is a car seat.  Some children come in to foster care in this community because their parents do not have a car seat.  Y'all.  She also mentioned that the same circumstance is true for pack-n-plays.  Babies need a safe place.   Not all parents have the cash to drop on a pack-n-play.  I have two pack-n-plays in a closet right now.  They were generously given to me.  Not everyone has generous people in their lives supporting them.  This is an opportunity to serve right here in this community.  If you have (or know someone that has) a car seat or pack-n-play that can be donated, let me know.  We'll get it to the right place.  Of course, these items should be in nice condition. We can buy new pack-n-play mattress pads or sheets if yours are stained due to the horrible Rotavirus. {Oh, that might just be ours.}

If you are far off {or close-by but would rather help far off}, I get you.  And because I get you, I am going to go ahead and link you up with Compassion International again.  You can do more than sponsor a child there, so go ahead and really click through the links on their website. 

If you are interested in giving, serving, and investing yourself in a way to bring hope to the poor, as Johnny Carr says above, I urge you to consider sponsoring a child.  It is one of the best decisions our family has made.  Our bigger boys know about Uganda because that is where Junior lives.  We often pray for his family and their needs.  We talk about some of the challenges Junior faces, and write him letters to encourage him.  I mentioned before that we also get letters back from Junior.  These are such treasure.  We get to reach across the ocean and serve a family in poverty.  We get so much out of our sponsorship that the cost is no longer an issue.

 Compassion International is the real deal, they work with a local church and serve the local community.  They are continually seeking ways to bring about sustainable change in the communities they serve. Compassion International did reach their goal for Blog Month, but there are still plenty of children in need of sponsors.

If you ever, ever, ever, have any questions about sponsoring a child, I'm your girl. 

One more thing, if you've been thinking that you would like to help our local foster care supply closet with donations (see yesterday's post), but the shipping seems outrageous.  Might I suggest you bravely call YOUR local office and see what needs they might have?  I'd be happy to bounce ideas around with you.

P.S. the quote is from Orphan Justice, you HAVE to read it.  You just really should. 

25 September 2013

a gift

Yesterday when I walked into the foster care closet, there were three bags of donations right inside the door.  This is always somewhat of a thrill for me to discover.  One bag had some used items that were not even a little bit useful but the other two bags were full of useful clothing - for toddlers and infants and for the biggest of boys (36/34 pants!).

{I made a video tour of the closet yesterday but I have no idea how to rotate it, so once I figure that out, I'll add it here.  Its dorky, but thought y'all might like a peek inside!}

After sorting through all of those donations, I began unloading what I had brought in as well.  While I was working a caseworker that I have seen frequently popped her head in to say thank you.  She asked where I get all the stuff that I bring in - which gave me a chance to brag on the generosity of you amazing people!  She mentioned again just how much she appreciates the work that has been done in there.

I decided to ask her a question, "If there's something you need, or something we've overlooked that you would like added to the closet, what would it be?"

And y'all.  She gave me such a great gift with her response.  I can't quote it word for word, but I want to give you an idea of what she had to say.
Well, we need more clothes for older girls.  Like pre-teen/teen.  When a child comes in, I like to bring them right in here.  The bags are so great (shout out to those of you that bought & donated 31 bags!!), I let them pick which one they want.  I then show them the toiletry shelves and let them put anything in there that they want.  I like them to have some things of their own to take with them.  If they are wearing shoes, I still let them take a pair if there is a pair that fits them.  If there are enough clothes, I like to let them pick out an outfit to wear.

Not that the baby things are bad, we just don't get that many babies, but when we do we usually are able to give them a couple outfits which is really helpful.   Also, if there are some toys or things to give them.  Its hard to imagine, but they might go to a home where someone will say, "you can't touch that, its not yours!"  So I like them to have at least one toy that belongs to them that they can take in the bag, you know, for like toddler age and up.  Just so they have one thing that goes with them.
In all honesty, at first I felt like I had messed it all up.  I'm not sure if this is going to read correctly or not, but for a moment, I was close to just shutting down and dismissing what she said because I had made a mistake.  All along I had been requesting fewer clothes for older kiddos, and more for the younger kiddos.  Add to that, over the summer I moved ALL of the toys/trinkets out of the closet to make room for all of the toiletries the church had collected during VBS.  I was under the impression that they were not used.  As I process what she had said,  I momentarily turned it all inward and started thinking about how I screwed it up.  But God.  Always, intervening, He prompted me to ask more questions. I asked her if she knew where I had moved the toys, and thankfully, she clarified...
Oh yes, I know where they are.  And I take the kids down there to pick them out.  But they are almost gone now, so more of those type items would be great.
Her reply about the toys helped me get back on track, she thanked me again for the work in the closet; and I got back to work. As I put things on hangers, I thought about what a gift it was to hear how this particular worker uses the closet.  I hadn't really imagined a child coming in there before and it shifted my thinking considerably.  After hanging up all the new donations, I went through and tallied all the sizes up.  (Brad has made me a high-speed spreadsheet to help me track what we have in the closet.  I'll add a column for bags and shoes too, so I can start tracking that better too.) The school-age-and-up girls' rack was pitiful. {IS pitiful!}  So that is this week's immediate need.

For comparison's sake, here is a picture of the boys' racks and the girls' rack (same sizes).

Below you'll find an updated needs list.   Let me know if you would like to donate some items to help fill up the closet.

***Everything MUST be new.  This is not my standard, but the one that the office has set.  I totally understand why, even though I know y'all would only give the very best used stuff.***
    • Newborn - fulfilled
    • 3-6 months - fulfilled
    • 6-9 months - fulfilled
    • 12 months - fulfilled
    • 18 months - fulfilled
    • 24 months - need 2 outfits
    • 2T - need 3 outfits
    • 3T - need 3 outfits
    • 4T -need 3 outfits
    • XS - need 3 outfits
    • S - need 3 outfits (there are two nice tops there, but no bottoms!)
    • M- need 3 outfits
    • L - need 3 outfits
    • XL - need 3 outfits (there are a few bottoms (jeans, khakis, black pants, and 2 skirts[black + hot pink with polka dots])
  • BOYS
    • Newborn - fulfilled
    • 3-6 months - fulfilled
    • 6-9 months - fulfilled
    • 12 months - fulfilled
    • 18 months -fulfilled
    • 24 months - fulfilled
    • 2T - need 1 outfit
    • 3T - need 1 outfit
    • 4T - fulfilled
    • XS - fulfilled
    • S - fulfilled
    • M- need 2 outfits (there are three tops)
    • L - need 2 outfits (there are four tops)
    • XL - fulfilled

Toddler Sizes:
  • Boys 1, Girls 1
  •               Girls 2
  •               Girls 4
  • Boys 7, Girls 7
  • Boys 8, Girls 8
  • Boys 10
  • Boys 13 

Kid-Adult Sizes:
  • Boy 1
  • Boy 2
  • Boy 4, Girl 4
  • Boy 5, Girl 5
  • Boy 6, Girl 6
  • Boy 7, Girl 7
  • Boy8, Girl 8

towels, blankets, older child toiletries & trinkets; toys for younger kiddos to call their own.

As always::
QUESTIONS?  Ask away.  Please!
IDEAS?  Share them.  Please!

{Also? If you have a genius idea for how to get this list out in a better format, let me know. I am certain there is a better way... I just need you to tell me what it is ;)}

P.S.  I'll be back later with some other ideas for giving.  I was going to include it all here, but I am Miss Wordyvonwordswords and nobody has time to read all of the words at one time.  (ask Sweet Brown).  Just a hint, one is about car seats and pack and plays - can you believe that having those things vs. not having them could be the difference in a child coming in to foster care.  Y'all we can totally do this.  Post coming soon.  I will not give myself a deadline today.

24 September 2013


Is it getting too cliche for me to embed a song in every post?  Gah.  This morning when we were reading our Proverb for the day (you do that, right?  one proverb for each day of the month?), verses 11-12 jumped right off the page to me.  At the same time, they jogged my memory of a song I had heard, that I thought was called, "I am responsible."  {Its actually called, Albertine.}

I'm not sure if I was aware of verses that so blatantly tell us that pretending to not know does not get us off the hook for inaction.
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 24:10-11
 If that isn't compelling enough, you can always look it up in The Message.
Rescue the perishing; don't hesitate to step in and help.
If you say, "Hey, that's none of my business,"
will that get you off the hook?
Someone is watching you closely, you know-
Someone not impressed with weak excuses.
Ouch! I don't know why I don't have these verses posted all over my house.  They are such pointed reminders. I'm guessing that there are a few of you that would like to help in some way or another, but you wonder if what you have to offer is enough.

Am I right?

Let me remind you of some Truth.  Whatever you offer, if it is all you can offer, it is enough. {See: The widow and her mites. Luke 21:1-4}

I wish I could tell you how many times I fuss over not being able to do more.  In fact, sometimes I spend so much time fussing over not being able to do more, that I do nothing.

I have 3 hours of free childcare a week through our church's Mom's Morning Out program.   I am doing my best to offer that time to volunteer at the Department of Children + Family Services office.  If I'm honest, its closer to 2 hours and 15 minutes by the time you factor in my drive time and the predictable late-out-the-door-start.  (I've yet to leave the house without breaking into a sweat, we can leave on time with gnashing of teeth, or late with joy; most days I try to choose the joy.  Either way I am still a sweaty mess.)

I can easily see how 2 hours and 15 minutes is barely anything when the need is 40 hours.  That is not how God sees it though.  Somehow in His infinite power He is able to take my offering and multiply it.  Today I carried a loaded-down-bag full of donations in with me.  The money that purchased those items did not come from my pocket.  God provides through His people over and over again.

So, friends, I am telling you today -- your offering is not too small.  Your donations are nothing to be ashamed of; God will multiply what you give away.  He sees your heart.

I'm guessing you already have some ideas of where you would like to give.  Start there! 

And if you aren't quite sure where you want to give, good news, I've got some ideas for you.  {And I hope to post them soon, but probably not until after bedtime. When I'm done with that post, I'll link it here too.}

And now, Albertine.  The video is sort of weird, but I really like to see lyrics when I listen to a new song, so that's why I embedded this one.

20 September 2013

high-fiving trees

I posted this little tidbit on Facebook last night:
Went out for a couch-to-5K run with Walker tonight. It was a big milestone - 5 min warm-up, RUN 20 MIN. Up until now he has had walk breaks, so this was tough. He was fading around the 13 minute mark so I was trying my best to encourage him. He started reaching up & touching tree branches as we ran by... He says, "you know why I like to touch the trees?" Me: (no idea) "it cools you off?" guessing. He replies, "No, I imagine they're my fans giving me high fives along the way."
Man, I love that kid. And yes, he did run his 20 minutes. Like a boss - with lots of fans.
My friend, Lisa, responded first, and her words made me get tears in my eyes and a catch in my throat almost immediately.  And I wasn't quite sure why.  She said, "Keep making sure you have trees in his path and he will run long distances."

I'm thinking she said it tongue in cheek, my heart immediately thought about the importance of marking his path with encouragement.  Last night, he imagined the encouragement himself, and I pray that deep down he will always be able to find that encouragement within, from the Spirit that lives in him.  I want him to run long distances, and I want him to know he is being cheered along the way.  Always.  Whether he's actually running or just living all out for Jesus.  My heart wants him to run far.

It got me thinking about the 3rd assignment for Compassion International's blog month.  (Remember the goal is to sponsor 3160 kiddos this month!) I picked this photo of this little boy because I think his timid expression speaks volumes.

This boy with the dirty, sideways shirt and the penetrating eyes.  In so many ways, he is not unlike my boys.  Or your children either.  He just happens to have been born in a country that is stricken with poverty.  The thing about poverty, this kind of poverty, is that it is hard to imagine for us North American folks.  We prefer to kind of pretend like it doesn't exist, or worse, like its no big deal to "those people."  Or you know, like its not our responsibility.  Gross.

Here's the thing, though.  That little guy, he is in need.  Just look up at his face for a moment.  Really look at him. He represents so many other little ones just like him.  His parents love him desperately.  They do what they can to provide for their family.  He knows his parents love him, but the challenges he faces on a daily basis are difficult for him to bear.

He needs to know he can run long distances.  He needs to know that he can set goals.  He needs to imagine those high fives from his fans as he presses on toward his goals.  

By choosing to sponsor a child, a world of hope is opened up to them.  They receive medical care, healthy food + clean water, and an education.  They also get introduced to Jesus.  It is only $38 a month.  Compassion International will provide the child you sponsor with enough to get through each day, and by doing so the whole family will benefit.

One of the absolute coolest things about sponsoring a child through Compassion International is the access you get to your sponsored child.  You get to send him/her letters.  You can send family photos and let your child know you are praying for him.  Your words will be the branches his fingertips brush through as he runs the race marked out for him.  Your letters offer hope in a very tangible way. 

(If you follow along on a Compassion Bloggers trip, you find out how the children treasure these notes from their sponsors.  You can read through past trip posts if you want to do some research.  Click here.  Grab a box of tissues if you do!)

The cool part?  The children write you too.  And you get pictures!  We have seen the boy we sponsor grow up so much over the last-almost-4 years.  His timid stare in the first photo has disappeared into a beaming smile.  He has begun writing his letters himself and we watch his handwriting improve with each new letter.  I still can't say for sure who is getting the most blessing out of this deal, us or him.  We keep our notes and photos in a notebook, because they have become treasure to us as well. 

I promise you, this is the best $38 a month you can spend.  If you take your family out to dinner, you will likely spend close to this amount.  Do your kids light up with hope as you walk out of the restaurant?  Not usually, its just another meal.  What about if you go to some sort of attraction and spend $38 on trinkets and souvenirs (or elephant ears, whatever), do these items become treasures for your children?  Not likely.

I'm not saying going out to eat, or buying our kids trinkets is a bad thing.  I'm just asking you to consider redirecting some of your funds in your budget from the-not-that-big-of-a-deal-column to the-awesomely-amazing-hope-giving-column.  I'm telling you, you will not regret it.

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

I'm leaving you with a song.  Because this is how I am wired and songs tangle-up in my thoughts ALL THE TIME.  As I considered Walker high-fiving the trees, and my responsibility to make sure there are more trees along his path; as that morphed into thinking about our opportunity to "be the trees" that high-five Compassion kiddos, this song came to mind.