25 February 2014

more than a headline

You know we've all done it.  Read the headline, shook our heads with sorrow as our eyes welled with tears. . .  maybe even whispered a prayer for the family. . .  then went along with our day.



{For full article click here.}

This time its more than a headline for us, and I am praying you'll take a moment to read a little more about these friends of ours.

I suspect that anyone who has had a conversation with Alyssa would walk away feeling like they have made a new friend.  She is one of those rare, genuine souls that vibrantly connects with people.  I'm so grateful to know her.

I first met her a few summers ago during VBS.  I think she was the storyteller for the preschool age kiddos, and it was sort of funny because she was constantly having to "deal with" one of her sons in the class while she led the group.  She handled it so well, never shaming him or showing frustration, but also not ignoring the behavior either.  She flashed a smile as she joked, "of course, its the teacher's son!"

Sometime later, Alyssa and Josh started attending our small group bible study class on Sunday mornings.  Josh never seemed to be a fan of small talk, so it took a bit longer to get to know him.  Of course, eventually, we got to know him too.  Whenever he had something to say, you wanted to hear it.  Our class laughs a lot, but we also share deep hopes.   We'll cross the conversation chasm of guns + hogs to chasing lions in a matter of moments.  We've been able to see the love between Josh + Alyssa vividly as they shared their hearts with us during our times together.  Brad got to know Josh a little better too because he also went to the men's bible study at church.

Last spring, Alyssa finished her degree in counseling.  This fall, she began counseling in the chapel where PWOC meets to gain hours for her certificate.  When she found out the Esther class was being offered she decided to join us.  As is often the case in a PWOC small group, we shared our hearts and our tears and our hopes too.  Alyssa was authentic and caring whenever she spoke.  I think each of us in that class was blessed by her.  I keep thinking back to our discussions and the phrase "for such a time as this," keeps pounding in my ears.

They have six precious children.  SIX.

I got the text Friday night.  I think I nearly sucked all the air out of the room as I handed my phone to Brad.  He made a call to verify the news.  Everything in me wanted this to be a rumor.  I was desperate for this to be some misunderstanding.  Googling frantically.  Combing facebook for hints of the news.  Anything.  But the only hints we found were evidence of the reality.

Josh had been killed in a training accident.  He is gone from this earth.  And I can hardly type these words.   I wholeheartedly believe He is with Jesus.  But earth's loss is weighty and feels nearly unbearable.

Our hearts are so broken for them.  Whenever Brad and I find ourselves with a few moments of quiet, we begin praying through our tears - or maybe crying through our prayers.  I don't even know.  And I am not even going to pretend that we are their best friends, I just know that our experience is not isolated.  Hearts are busted all over the place with this loss.

Josh had 16 years of service with the Air Force.  He has brothers-in-arms all over the world that are missing him.  Alyssa has mil-spouse-sisters all over the world that are weeping for her.  Each of their six children have teachers or care-givers that are burdened with the sorrow.

So I am begging you friends, to pray often.

You probably wish there was more you could do.  There is one thing.  And I pray you'll do it.

They have a fundraising site established with the intent to set away some money for each of the kiddos.  I would love to see the total go right past the goal.

Please CLICK HERE to go to the fundraising page.



Any amount you give will be a blessing.  You can give anonymously or by name.

If you decide to give you can leave a comment and I think one day Alyssa will probably read them all -- so it might be nice to tell her what prompted you to give.  A military connection?  A momma-heart?   Maybe you can only give $7?  So what, tell her you wish you could take her out for a coffee and a donut.  Or if you are more health conscious than me, swap that out for a green smoothie and some quinoa.  Whatever. 

Give something.  Leave a comment for the family.  Keep praying. 

And if you feel lead to do so. . . pass this on.  Josh would probably hate all the fuss but I think he'd let it slide since it will benefit his family.


21 February 2014

five minute friday :: small

While talking with one of my "encouragers" last week, she asked if I was still thinking about doing five minute Fridays to help me get back at writing.  I hemmed + hawed.  (Is that how you spell that?)  Very non-committal.

But today the prompt just fits with how I am feeling.  Small. 

***

Brad sent the text with "call me ASAP"  So I parked the cart off to the side and made the call.

There had been a shooting in the parking lot downtown.  At the DFCS office.  I think it took me at least 30 seconds to figure out what had just been spoken.

Then I remembered my friend was making a delivery down there today.  She had collected clothing from schools and day care centers around town as a special way to love on Foster Care kiddos for Valentine's. {She works with an organization called Live Your Love Loud, please check them out if you would like.}

I sent her a text.  She was there, but she was ok. 

I fumbled around the commissary with our double-steering-wheel cart.  My heart was broken for the workers that had lost one of their own. 

I felt small.  Helpless. 

I exchanged a few more texts with my friend that was in the office and with the caseworker I know best.  What I really wanted to do was curl up in a corner of the commissary and sob.

This broken world.  These heartaches. 

But I had that double cart overflowing with elbows and giggles and some shoving and reaching.  So I just kept pushing my cart through the commissary and praying God's presence and peace to be mighty in the offices downtown today. 

The real prayer of my heart is "come Lord Jesus."  I just want Him to come pick me up and hold me close and wipe away all of these tears and fix all of the broken pieces.  My own hurt is so very small in comparison to what others are carrying today.  Yet He sees my small.  And He doesn't dismiss it.

***

I don't feel right linking this up to the five-minute-Friday-party today, so I'm just going to quietly post it here.

Here is a link to the story.  Click here.

Please pray with me for the family members and friends of the victim. 

20 February 2014

celebrating small.

I think I mentioned sometime last fall that I wanted to be more intentional about celebrating the little things.   
 
  • Today, I am celebrating four (!) mornings-in-a-row with a quiet moment for a cup of coffee and some Jesus time before four boys are up.  If I am being honest, I think some mornings it's the coffee that pulls me out of bed -- Brad brews it before he leaves.  But I meet Jesus then too, so its a win-win. {Brad gave me a mug and some decals for Valentine's Day.  He bought them at Midtown Coffee House which serves Land of A Thousand Hills coffee. Now we have a local source for purchasing coffee that we feel good about!}


  • I'm also celebrating that the little dudes slept until "the furby" turned on.  Which is technically an owl, but it reminds them of Walker's furby, so that is how we all refer to it.  Its an alarm clock of sorts and it lights up at 7am signaling its time to wake-up.  Most mornings there are a few reminders about staying in bed until "the furby comes on."  L + F are so much happier when they sleep until 7.  Its weird but true.  So this morning was just all around lovely! I couldn't help but giggle at how this picture of the owl turned out.  I'm celebrating that too :)

  • I'm also celebrating the spring-like weather this week.  I know it won't last but it is just so delightful.   We are outside people.  Every last one of us is happier with some outside time. 
  • Another little thing, which is actually pretty huge, is this lightness and rightness that I sensed as I walked out of church last night.  It is a feeling of unity and single purpose, and I would be foolish to take that for granted. I love what God is doing through Cascade Hills Church -- and I'm grateful to be a part of it.
  • Finally, I am celebrating my scream journal.  I updated it with some verses so when I have to make an entry I'll be staring down some truth.  This is helping immensely.


How about you?  Do you have some small things worth celebrating today?  Do you have a routine for regularly celebrating the small?

18 February 2014

overflow

Years ago, my sister made a ridiculously huge + fabulous Martha Stewart cheesecake for a family event.  I knew I'd love it and found a happy coincidence that Brad loved it too.  Since then my sister has made it for Brad a few times.  Once she even made it at our house in Oklahoma right before he deployed.  I remember buying the ingredients at the commissary that time and finding out that this is a pretty-pricey dessert.  Thankfully, my sister and  my step-mom kindly continued to make The Cheesecake for Brad on special occasions so I never did.

Until this year.

I decided that Valentine's Day this year was the perfect time to give it a try.  I told my sister via FB that I was going to try it.  I also called her at least twice for advice.  I unwrapped all SEVEN blocks of cream cheese and measured out a cup of sour cream and set out FIVE eggs so they could all come to room temperature.  I posted a giddy little picture on instagram of all my ingredients un-chilling on the counter.  

I talked to my sister on Valentine's morning for moral support.  She was also making The Cheesecake for her husband.  We compared recipe notes; she was using an online version and I still had a splattered copy in my binder from the pre-pinterest days.  We talked through the steps and I prepared my crust while I heard her kitchen-aid whipping up her cream cheese.  She had to hustle out to my nephew's Valentine's Day party so I was left to finish the steps on my own.

I poured the creamy deliciousness into my spring form pan all the way up to the brim.  I delighted the kiddos with plentiful samples of leftover batter.  {I know, FIVE eggs. They're fine.}

As The Cheesecake began to bake, I noticed it was rising right out of the pan.  I texted my step-mom to see if this was normal and she assured me it was.  Crisis averted.

Until about 10 minutes later... when I posted this photo.


I texted my step-mom again and she said, "mine does that too.  I started not using all the batter."  I texted her this lovely picture and she replied, "that's how my first couple turned out.  it will taste good."

Meanwhile, my sister confessed via FB message that she almost called me to tell me not to fill my pan up all the way...but she was running late to a very important Valentine party.  

I was reassured repeatedly that it would still taste fine.  

{and it did}

I thought it was funny that both my sister and my step-mom have made this cheesecake so many times, yet both forgot to tell me the part about all the excess batter and the overflow.

It reminded me of how often we make a mess and forget later that we did.  

Thankfully, my sister and my step-mom, reassured me in my mess. 

Sometimes when we find ourselves in a mess, the best news of all is knowing we aren't alone.  One of the most generous things we can do for each other is share our messes.  Almost every mess has a lesson.  Sharing those lessons we've learned can help someone else avoid a mess.  Or if the mess is unavoidable at least we can say, "I've been there too."

"Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived." Galatians 6:1-3

I'm guessing the second time I make The Cheesecake the mess will be avoided.  But I hope it will always be a reminder for me about the messes I have forgotten.

11 February 2014

play your one note

When our boys came in to foster care their first placement was with an older foster mom lovingly called "Grandmother."  They were there for a week or so. It was too hard for Grandmother though, so they called the woman that became their foster mama for 8 months.  She told us the story of how she was in Florida when they called to see if she could possibly take them.  She recalled speeding back up to Columbus while on the phone telling the caseworker, "don't you separate those babies! I'll be there as fast as I can, don't you dare send them to separate homes!"

I remember feeling so grateful for her determination for our boys -- before she even met them.  I thought about this story all over again today.

I went to the foster care supply closet with a small agenda.  I wanted to take a quick inventory and hang up some happy words.  The closet was actually a bit of a wreck... a few things were shoved in random places, lots of empty hangers lying around.  Which tells me it must have been a busy week for kids coming in to care. It didn't take long to get things back in order (by God's grace, there is order in that space!).  I took an inventory but I haven't yet compared it to last week's list or really even pondered it at all.  After I hung the little buntings, I talked with one of the caseworkers.

She told me about a sibling set of four -- the oldest is 7 the youngest is 6 months or so.  {I have to break this down for you, because each line is heavy and deserves some space around it.}

Last night they spent the night in four separate full-to-capacity foster homes.

They are awaiting placement in a county an hour away.

There are ZERO available foster homes in our county today. 

Y'all, can you even imagine?  Four kiddos, 7 and under - separated from one another.  I pray they are placed together even if it is far off.

Right now in our county, EVERY child that comes in to care will have to go to another county.  EVERY foster home is full.  Every sibling set will likely spend at least a night apart while the caseworkers scramble to find a foster home to take all of them.

I got to my car and bawled and prayed.   What else could I do?  I tried not to let the instagram picture of the little buntings sting too much, as those tiny, felt words seemed so so small.

I remembered this quote from Jen Hatmaker, "You play your one note & I'll play mine; and together we'll be a song that sounds like freedom for the captives."



I believe God is doing a great work in our community.  I am humbled to be allowed to glimpse it from my current place.  I am praying for the ones He is calling up to become foster parents, for the ones that will support them, for the ones that are praying for the children-in-crisis. 

I'm going to keep playing my one note.  I'm so grateful that I get to.

05 February 2014

supply closet Februray update

Do you remember when I posted this:

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.}  [Click here for full post.]

Shortly after that post, we cleaned up our pack-n-plays and donated them to the supply closet.  Last week, I was talking with one of the caseworkers about some of their current needs.  She mentioned that they were able to give away the pack-n-plays that we had donated right away.  She said some children were about to come in to care but they had a grandmother that could take them instead... however, the grandmother didn't have any beds for the children (or funds).  A phone call was made and the caseworker was able to pass along the pack-n-plays. 

I don't have all the details and don't understand all of the circumstances, all I know is that donations in that closet help children in crisis immensely.  And immediately. 

Those pack-n-plays were the first place our babies slept in our home.  I had posted on FB to see if anyone had some we could borrow and the next day my friend, Teresa, drove from Atlanta to deliver two brand-new-top-of-the-line pack-n-plays (along with a bunch of other stuff!)  Those pack-n-plays made the rounds with us to Florida and Michigan and Alabama and a few other places too.  But our boys outgrew them.  I wanted to pass them along to someone so I could be a blessing the way Teresa was to us.  I wouldn't have guessed that they would be used in a placement plan that kept children with family members instead of coming into a stranger's home. 

I know many of you like to keep up with the needs of the office so I am going to share a list right now.  When I did the inventory this week, I only marked complete-winter-appropriate-outfits for each size.  If you should find a deal on jeans or yoga pants or long sleeve tees or whatever, feel free to pick some up - even if you can't make a complete outfit.  The pink sparkly shoe story taught me that God makes outfits from all over the place.


Of course, we need shoes as well.  All sizes.  There are currently 12 pairs of shoes total for all ages so feel free to buy any size. 

Other items that are also needed:
towels
blankets
underwear
undershirts
bras
socks
bags (for children to carry their items along with them)
small stuffed animals or other "lovey"-type items

All items should be new {with or without tags is fine}.  The exception to new items would be car seats or pack-n-plays that are in good condition.  

As always, if you have ANY questions, please let me know!

Thanks, friends, for being so generous!  You look a whole lot like Jesus when you love like this!

03 February 2014

birthday boys!

I just read you "Oh the Places You'll Go" before your nap time.  It's a favorite of mine on birthdays.  You'll see. 

It's hard to believe you are already three.


You are both so independent.  You like to let us know your opinions. Often.

Franklin, you are two minutes older than Lincoln - I'm guessing one day you'll rub that in.  You can be a serious snuggle-bug when you are in the mood.  You love to listen to books being read to you.

You are still a-bit-picky when it comes to trying new foods, but you generally give it your best shot {often including dramatic gagging}.  You are definitely motivated by sweets and would likely eat sweets exclusively if that were an option.  You l-o-v-e to go.  All out.



Lincoln, you are our youngest {for now}, although its not easy to tell.  You like new adventures and you are generally eager to greet anyone that is kind to you.  You flash your smile and melt hearts immediately.
You love to sing along to whatever songs you hear - although there are times you put in requests for specific favorites too.  You l-o-v-e to be outside.  You would be out there all-day-every-day if we let you.



The two of you together are each others' biggest fans.  One of my favorite parts of the day is when you are both awake giggling at each other behind your closed door.  Your delight in one another is just so obvious.  You sometimes do these silly little chants that no one understands but the two of you.

You have branched out to different classes at church and you are thriving in your own space.  But you do love seeing one another again afterwards.  It's almost too adorable.


I keep catching myself all teary-eyed today because I am just so blessed to be your momma.  I have lots of big thoughts about your birth momma today too.  I can't figure out a way to put those thoughts into words, other than that I am so so grateful that she gave you boys your birthday.