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.

14 September 2013

3 things about hope

When Brad deployed the first time, there was a heated discussion in my Sunday School class about hope. One man was convinced that "hope" was weakness. Of course, in my emotionally-exhausted-state I could barely offer a counter argument without tears. I remember trying to explain that Hope was the very thing carrying me through each day. This encounter caused me to reflect and study up on the word hope.

When the second Compassion International Blog Month blogging assignment came to my inbox, I was pretty sure hope would be the word I picked. After a few days of marinating in my head and heart, it was confirmed.

1. Hope floats but its also an anchor.  I know, its probably cheesy to allude to a Sandra Bullock movie in a post about Hope.  I can't help it, that movie title is a good one.  So often, hope is lighthearted and surrounded by happy thoughts.  Think of the hopeful atmosphere at a graduation ceremony or a wedding ceremony or even a redeployment ceremony.  Hope floats indeed.  But its also an anchor.  Its the thing that holds us steady when nothing in the world seems steady at all.  It tethers us to Truth when everything around is tumbling apart.

We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. - Hebrews 6:19-20 (HCSB)

2. Hope believes but it also expects.  I think we often interchange the word "hope" with the word "wish".  As Christians, though, Hope is so much more than wishing.  Perhaps that misunderstanding in my Sunday School class years ago had to do with confusing hoping for wishing.  They aren't the same.  Hope is grounded in belief, built upon expectation.  There is a precedence for the Hope we hold on to.

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. - Romans 8:24-25 (NASB)

3. Hope can be given but it cannot be taken.  This is perhaps the most exciting part about this little post today.  We can give Hope.  And this Hope we can give is the kind that changes lives forever and can never be taken away.  It is the richest of gifts, and we, as believers, are so privileged to be able to share it.  Compassion International is such an amazing organization to partner with because they not only meet basic needs, they introduce people to Jesus.  They don't just provide clean water, they also point to the Living Water.  They don't just serve healthy meals, they furnish spiritual nutrition through the Bread of Life.  They don't simply administer basic medical care but also grant access to the Great Physician.  They don't just rescue children from poverty, they do it Jesus' name.

There is a song by Bebo Norman called, "I'm Alright" the lyrics begin with this way ::

I have a little hope here in my pocket
Wanna share of it with you
Just be careful that you don't drop it
Don't worry if you do

We've got Hope in our pockets!  We can share our hope with those that need it desperately.  Its only $38 a month.  I know, you immediately think, "We don't have an extra $38 a month."  I get that.  But I would encourage you to think about what "extras" you currently spend $38 on a month (cell phone? internet? soda? donuts?).  Maybe you can find a way to move a couple items around in your budget to make room for giving some hope away.  You will never regret it.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. - Romans 12:11-13 (NIV)

If you aren't sure where to start, one fun way to find a child to sponsor is by narrowing it down by a meaningful date, like your birthday!  Go ahead and take a peek!


10 September 2013

the dog incident

As you {might} know.  Our big dog was attacked last week while I was jogging with her and the jogging stroller. 

{P.S. GMA did a segment this week on #petselfie pics, and I might be slightly addicted.  You can tell Koka is the least excited about this activity!}

Ok.  On to the story.

See, the four of us have settled into somewhat of a sweet spot in our weekly routine.  We would head out for a morning jog after the big boys are off to school. {Its important to add that I did try running before Brad left for work a couple times, and it was just crazy to be outside running before the sun came up.}  Its still super hot here, so Muskoka was usually just running 2 miles and I was slowly inching her up to the 3 mile mark. I'd loop close to home so I could bring her in for water when she got hot - and usually grabbed a snack for the babies. {I do still call them that sometimes!}

I set the goal to run the Callaway 10k and was following my training plan so carefully.  I ran over 60 miles in August.  SIXTY!  And it felt really good.  It was the one part of our routine that was predictable.

My friend, Jana, had asked me to consider running the soldier half marathon with her.  At first I laughed at the idea, but then as I looked over the training plans I realized it was totally doable.  Brad looked over the plans with me last weekend too.  He found the one he liked the best and I looked it over - pretty surprised that I was actually going to be able to train for a half marathon.

Last Monday, Labor Day, was my first official half-marathon training run.  I felt pretty pumped up.  Wilson and Walker were home from school, so I would be running my short loop up and down the nearby streets.  I had to run 4 miles, two of them were to be at a pretty fast pace.  I would be running 3 of my little loops.

I had my music on, my super-fast-running-skirt and my babies strapped in.  I think Koka was picking up on my vibe and had her prance going pretty steady.  I had to slow myself down for the warm-up half mile, reminding myself that I was going to run a fast mile here pretty soon.  I think I was almost giddy.  I was at the furthest point of  my tiny loop when a lady was walking two dogs toward us - across the street from us.  I run in the street {have you ever run with a double-jogging stroller on a sidewalk?}, Koka runs between me and the grass.  I was about a quarter-mile in to my first fast mile.  I kept pace and Koka kept on prancing.  I vaguely remember hearing the lady calling her dog as we passed by.  I kept my eyes forward.

Then I heard a somewhat panic-y yell, "She's off her leash!"  And a big white dog ran from behind and stopped on the grass in front of Koka.  They sniffed each other.  I thought the owner was right behind me.  The white dog jumped - moving its body toward the stroller but keeping its face toward Koka.  Koka matched that jump putting herself squarely between the stroller and that dog.  There was a growl.  I grabbed closer onto the leash and scolded Koka.  As I tugged her back, the other dog attacked.

No nipping.  No barking.  Full-on clamped jaws on Koka's neck.  Then that dog would violently shake its head.  I had a flashback to an AFV episode with dogs spinning on the ends of suspended ropes and Brad had told me something about how strong their jaws were.  I screamed, "GET YOUR DOG!"  She tried.  She really did try to grab that dog. I think she may have even loosened its grip on Koka because the next time I looked it had its mouth on Koka's torso just behind her front leg instead of her neck. It was still violently shaking its head as it tore into my big dog's body.

I don't remember if Lincoln and Franklin were screaming.  I don't think they were.  I remember trying to steady the stroller because we were on a slight hill {and 60+ pounds on big wheels rolls super easy down a slight hill}.

I looked back at Koka. I remembered that Brad had always told me to just leave her if anything ever happened {I have encountered so many loose dogs in our neighborhood}.  I knew I had to leave her, but I couldn't think rationally, so I didn't think to unclip the jogging leash from around my waist.  As I looked at the jaws on her neck again, I knew I couldn't unclip her collar.  At this point I think I started screaming "HELP!"  I also think I screamed at the woman, "YOUR DOG IS KILLING MY DOG!"  I remember thinking if I screamed loudly enough a soldier would come out and shoot that dog in the head. 

I tipped the stroller backwards so it was resting on the brake and wouldn't roll anymore and I think I began to kick that dog.  But I don't know for sure.  I don't know if I closed my eyes, or if I am blocking it out.  I just know that moments later I was facing the stroller and I heard a man yell, "WHERE IS YOUR LEASH?" to the other woman.  His voice was steady but stern.  I looked behind me and he had pinned that dog down somehow.

Koka ran over to me, shook her head and her collar slipped off.  I pet her wet neck and told her to sit then slipped her collar back over her.  She was panting so hard.  I just wanted to fall over next to her, but somehow I didn't.  She sat right by the stroller while I got the woman's contact information.  I dropped my phone, my hands were shaking so badly.  I didn't know if I needed to call the police right then or not.  Brad was at work.  I texted him the dog owner's contact info. After the woman walked away, the soldier that pinned the dog down told me I needed to call the MP's.  I got his contact info too, just in case.

I called Brad.  Tears started falling before he even answered.  I honestly can't tell you what I said to him.  Likely, "Koka was just attacked.  I sent you the owner's contact info.  My leg is bleeding.  The boys are fine. Should I call the MP's?"

And his response was, "I'm on my way home, call the police.

I tried scrolling through my contacts on my phone and couldn't find the MP number.  My  hands were still shaking.  I could see that woman walking about a block ahead of us.  She kept bending over to deal with "that dog."  I called Brad back and he said he'd call the MP's, and told me to apply pressure to Koka's wounds when I got home.  I could see the bloody spots through her curly-cream hair.  She seemed to be limping and kept looking at me as I sobbed.

Lincoln and Franklin kept asking, "what happened?"  In stereo.  Very dramatically.

As we walked up the driveway, I realized Wilson and Walker were probably going to be pretty scared too.  I told them I needed their help.  I laid a blanket out on our beige carpet - if our girl was going to die, it was going to be on carpet and not on the hard floor.  {This is the sort of thing that rolls through my mind.}  I couldn't apply pressure to all the spots so I just applied pressure on the spots with the most blood
.  I didn't know who would arrive first - Brad or the cops.

I wasn't surprised that it was Brad.  He ran in with his aid bag and bandaged up our big dog.  He repeatedly said to me, "you did everything right.  you did the right thing."  Over and over.

The police came in asking "who got bit?"  While we were explaining everything to them, an ambulance rolled up and the paramedics ran in, "Who was bit?"

The paramedics did clean up my leg - at that point I didn't know why it was bleeding.  {Later, I figured out that I cut it open while trying to prop the stroller on my foot to keep it from rolling.} They decided it did not look like a bite, but offered me a ride to the hospital in the ambulance.  I declined.

I won't continue with the play-by-play.  I'll tell you that the dog owner's contact information was correct, her husband also came home from work.  The dog was up to date on its shot and had no history of aggression.  Muskoka got 14 staples in about 5 different spots along with a few smaller puncture wounds.  The owners have paid her initial vet bill and have promised to pay the next bill as well {when she gets the staples out}.

I figured out a day or two later that my right arm felt like it had been wrung around a tree a few times.  I went for a run last Wednesday morning.  My arm was sore, but it really hurt whenever I tried to actually push the stroller.  I thought I should get it checked out after that.  My doctor thought it was related to past shoulder problems so she gave me a sling, a bag of medicine, and referred me to physical therapy.  I went back this week because my fingers had been swelling and the pain is not isolated to my shoulder even though I am taking all my meds regularly.  She sent me for a bunch of xrays and gave me a wrist brace as well.  It basically hurts if I use my right arm for anything.  But it is improving {no word on the xrays which tells me they are probably normal}.  Today, I was actually hopeful that I might be able to run again soon.  Not train-for-a-half-marathon soon, but possibly-reach-that-10-k-goal soon

I've replayed this so many times.  I've wondered what I could've or should've done differently.  I've pondered what the scene must have looked like to the two soldiers that came and helped.  I've rehashed the story with Lincoln and Franklin every morning since and often after naptime too - every time they notice Koka's sores again.   I've babied our dumb dog more than ever before.  {And I mean dumb in a super loving way}.  {See?  She's all tucked in at the foot of our bed. Super loving.}

I wonder what the lesson is in this for me.

I think I might know.  "That dog" lives behind us.  We can see its yard from our kitchen and dining room.  For days, whenever I looked out and saw it, I was filled with anger.  I'm just so mad that the whole thing happened.  I am so mad that my arm hurts so badly.  Meanwhile, "that dog" just plays in its yard, while we keep ours inside to heal.

Wilson told me I can't hold a grudge against a dog.  I kind of laughed it off.  I don't think there is anything in the bible about not holding a grudge against a dog.

But the thing is, a grudge is a grudge.  Its like that expression that says "unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies."  The bible actually does have a lot to say about unforgiveness - and definitely a lot to say about anger too.

"Be angry and yet do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity."  -Ephesians 4:26-27

So, wait?  I can't just be angry about this day after day?

The ugly feelings that keep erupting when I see that dog need to go.  Yesterday, I felt a nudge to think of something I am grateful for every time I see "that dog."

Today, I realize that I need to also think of something I am grateful for every time I use my arm - because the deep ache in it is a doorway to those ugly thoughts too.

Do you have a "that dog" or a deep ache that serves as a gateway to ugly thoughts? Let's kick them out with gratefulness!  We can do this, and it would be so much better to do it together!

08 September 2013

note to {my childhood} self

I am participating in Compassion International's Blog Month.  The goal is to have 3,160 new children sponsored this month.  Feel free to click through any of the links to find out more about sponsoring a child.  You aren't committing to anything by checking it out.  Promise! 

The first assignment was to write a blog post to my childhood self.  I wanted to think it over a day or so... then we had "the dog incident" and my arm has been a mess ever since.  But this afternoon, I realized what my childhood self needs to hear.  {And likely my adult self needs to hear it too, maybe you too?}

Listen up, Mandy.  I need to tell you something.  It comes from a place of adoration.  So I'm going to whisper it to your little girl heart. 

Not everything in your world will make sense.  Things will happen that your little head cannot understand and your little heart won't have a clue what to do with all the feelings.  You'll try to figure you out.  You'll try to shove it away.  Its OK.  The good news is, God will work it all out for good.  

I know that sounds a little too simple.  But I am looking at it from this side -from 30 years down the road.  And I can tell you that God has woven such a beautiful life for you out of those hard things you didn't understand.  He brings peace to places you wouldn't guess, and heals hurts you were afraid to talk about.  He really does work all things out for good.  Often its the things we really have a hard time understanding that turn out to be such a beautiful piece of the picture. 

The thing about this Truth, is that it keeps building throughout your life.  So I, Amanda, can look back at you, Mandy; and be encouraged even now.  I've seen all the good work God has done up to this point, I've seen how He has worked out details that no one could have predicted.  So I know looking forward that He will continue this good work of His now.

Even when things happen that my head cannot understand and my heart doesn't have a clue what to do with all the feelings.

He is always good.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

P.S.  I feel its important to add, though, that the matching outfits with your sister don't last much longer.  Keep smiling, its not forever kiddo! 

04 September 2013

foster care supply closet update

Ok, I have been volunteering at the front desk in our foster care office for a few Tuesdays now. I would be lying if I said its easy or that I am awesome at it. But it has been good.

As you know, this opportunity came from my repeated "showing up" to help organize the supply closet there.  Naturally, this has exposed me to more of the story in that office.  I see how the closet is used, and I see more clearly how it lacks.  Also?  I feel more determined than ever to share the needs with others so there isn't this big blank space between foster parents and not foster parents.

If you don't know, you can't help.  Right? 

I still don't want to tell too many details of private stories during their most difficult chapters.  I've seen their faces, I've heard bits and pieces of their stories.  I've seen how the caseworkers are repeatedly pulled in an impossible number of directions within moments.  All the while staying on task with the most urgent cases.  There are just not enough people in that office to do everything that needs to be done.  This might be a budget issue, this might be a management issue, this might even be a political issue.  I don't know.  What I do know, though, is that these are children and they need to be loved, they need to know they are loved.  So wherever the issue stems from, it ends with children in need. 

And we can help.  There are so many ways we can help.
One quick story before I get on with the current needs and the help you can provide.

I've been keeping a tally-sheet of clothing items trying to keep track of clothing needs in each size range.  I have made notes in some cases for outfits that are "questionable" or "sorta an outfit."  My tally sheet is often a scrap of paper that gets shuffled around and smudged.  When I get around to typing up the needs, I don't add my notes.  Therefore those questionable outfits get overlooked.  But yesterday.  There was only one "outfit" in the size that was needed.  It was one I had cringed over before.  Too short shorts, with a cropped shirt of some sort.  My stomach was sick over it.  I have no idea how the child felt about the outfit, it was probably just nice to have clean clothes to put on.  But how I wish it had been something that was less "sorta an outfit." I also found out that the child had to wait to shower for a caseworker to return with a towel she went out to buy. 

Y'all.  I need your help.

Everything needs to be new.  If you are crafty and make things, that still counts as new.  I need to say this up front because I know it is a bit disappointing for the thrifty folks out there that have the gift for finding THE BEST previously-owned items.  I know.  But this is a standard that the office has in place to prevent a pile of junky stuff being brought in.  I have sorted through some items that eluded that standard which made me respect the standard even more. 

Immediate needs: 
  • towels (for children that need a bath/shower when they come in to care.)
  • boys' toddler size underwear through size small (we have none!)
  • blankets (children often have to sit a long time in the AC in those offices)
  • shelf-stable kid-friendly snacks (see above)
Clothing needs:
  • The goal is three outfits for each size range for boys & girls through 4T; and two outfits for each size range for boys & girls in larger sizes.
  • They also need shoes.  All sizes.  The goal would be a pair of shoes in every size.  
  • Here is a list of what is currently needed to fulfill the clothing goals:
    • GIRLS
      • Newborn - fulfilled
      • 3-6 months - need 1 outfit
      • 6-9 months - fulfilled
      • 12 months - fulfilled
      • 18 months - fulfilled
      • 24 months - need 1 outfit
      • 2T - need 2 outfits
      • 3T - need 2 outfits
      • 4T - need 2 outfits
      • XS - need 1 outfit
      • S - need 1 outfit
      • M- need 2 outfits
      • L - need 2 outfits
      • XL - need 2 outfits
    • 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 2 outfits
      • 4T - need 2 outfits
      • XS - fulfilled
      • S - fulfilled
      • M- need 2 outfits
      • L - need 2 outfits
      • XL - need 2 outfits
QUESTIONS?  Ask away.  Please!
IDEAS?  Share them.  Please!

If you want to donate something, would you mind saying a prayer over the item(s)?  A prayer for the child that will receive it.  If you can't donate right now (I so get it) would you mind saying a prayer for the caseworkers as they go about their days with too much work and not enough time?

I believe we have a great opportunity to make a huge difference in this little space.  Prayer is no small part of it, so please keep on praying.  It is a challenge every time I walk in there, but I never feel alone.  You all go with me.  When I tally up the clothes in the closet, it just makes me smile to see the ones that you all have given.  It's like you are in there with me. Its a special place.  And just on the other side of the door is so much heartbreak and hurt, but we, my friends, we carry the hope.  We get to share it.  You are doing this with me.  And I am so grateful.  Thank you for loving well. 

"Learn to do what is good.
Seek justice.
Correct the oppressor.
Defend the rights of the fatherless.
Plead the widow’s cause."  
Isaiah 1:17 HCSB

* volunteering at the front desk requires a background check.  for obvious reasons.