17 November 2015

be brave, be light, be love

Friday night Brad and I went on a date!  {Hallelujah!}  But it wasn't an average date, we went out to dinner then went to a meeting with FaithBridge to talk about foster care issues.

It was reported that there are currently 524 kiddos in foster care in Muscogee County.  And there are 67 foster families.

That averages to approximately 7.8 foster kiddos per family.  And since we all know there is no such thing as .8 of a child we'd need to round up to 8. Obviously the numbers aren't working here.

Its a bit disheartening.  But at the same time its an exciting time to think the church can step up and fill this gap.  This is our time.

While we sat in that meeting I kept thinking we all need to "be brave, be light, be love" in our communities.  Jesus showed us the way.  He didn't tell us to hide from hard things, instead He promised that we wouldn't walk in darkness because He is the Light of the World. {John 8:12}

We let fear hold us back, yet our Bible repeatedly says "do not be afraid."  There comes a time when we have to decide to just let the Spirit guide us and trust that Jesus is with us.  Not unlike when he told the disciples not to be afraid in Matthew 14:27.  "But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."

All of these thoughts were swirling before I heard the news about the attacks in Paris.

Devastating.

Horrific.

Detestable.

Then on top of those horrors begins the ugliness the unfolds on the internet.

The you-pray-for-Paris-but-you-don't-pray-for-[fill in the blank with other horrific events in the world]-rants.

The outcries to stop refugees from coming here.

And I just want to shout, "will y'all just stop it!" Its just too much.  You know?  And I think my voice will add nothing to the conversation at this point.  So I doodle the phrases that have been on repeat.  I ask Jesus to lead me in His ways.  And I quietly invite you to join me -- in your corner of the world, with your people.  Let's just do these simple things.  Let's just ask Him to lead us in His ways.

There is enough fear in the world. Let's be brave.

There is enough darkness in the world.  Let's be light.

There is enough hate in the world.  Let's be love.


Let's tell a different story.  Let's sing a different song.  Let's ask questions and truly listen for the answers.  Let's make space for differing opinions, trusting that those differences will help us find balance.  Let's celebrate the giftings of one another, trusting that another's strength will counter my weakness. Let's believe that the body of Christ is made up of different parts; some that are hospitable and some that are organized; some that pray, some that give, some that go.  Let's trust that together we can offer Hope to the hurting without fear -- in our own communities and on distant shores.

Let's seek after Jesus and trust that His ways will never lead us astray.  We won't be here long.  So while we are here let's bear witness to His goodness, His truth, and His salvation.  Let's be brave. Let's be light, Let's be love.


06 November 2015

action required

Alright, y'all, I have been suffering from a bit of a writer's block for a hot minute.  The truth is, I am almost always carrying a story in my head that I can't be free of until it comes out on paper {or blog}.  But lately, things have been empty.  Until now.

Here's the thing, I am tired.  And I am angry.

I heard whispers yesterday about how hard foster care is.  AND IT IS. But the trouble is, those 'whispers of hard' tend to be the whole story that most people ever hear.  Especially in our churches, there's this underlying current of how horribly wrong things can go in foster care situations and this belief that we should protect ourselves from it at all costs.

I saw evidence of it first hand when we first waded into the system 5 years ago. People are eager to tell you the horror stories of their cousins' friends' mom who had a child torn from her after 12 years. Or the story about the terrible foster kid that raged uncontrollably for days on end.

I am not saying these stories aren't true, and I am not even saying these stories shouldn't be told.

The weird thing is, that these stories have somehow instilled enough fear to steer most folks directly away from any desire to be involved in foster care.

Let's be honest, we've all been with a newly pregnant friend who has to listen to awkward birth stories and we can't wait to get away from the ill-timed-narratives so we can reassure our friend that things will be OK.  Terrible things have happened to pregnant people and heartbreaking dramas have unfolded in delivery rooms.  However, the retelling of these stories hasn't turned our culture away from the idea of bearing children.

Yet, somehow these foster care stories build this fear that turns people away from the children.

These precious children that are so loved in the eyes of our Father.  And they are in a position of desperate need through no fault of their own.  AND OUR CHURCHES ARE FULL OF FOLKS THAT COULD SHARE SOME LOVE.

But its scary.  And hard.  But not impossible.  Not even close.



And there's good news for our local community specifically.  Really. Good. News.

FaithBridge Foster Care is coming to Columbus.  Here's a little info from their website: {Click here to go to their website and learn more.}

We are a Christ-centered nonprofit that is changing the way America does foster care by mobilizing, organizing and equipping local churches to solve their community's foster care crisis. Together, we stand in the gap with children and families. Through Christian foster care ministries and the FaithBridge Community of Care, we provide unparalleled support to foster and birth families as we share God's life-changing love in the midst of crisis.



This organization has proven itself in Atlanta.  And Atlanta is a pretty big place.  It saw the need, and it saw the number of churches and it realized things could change.  I couldn't be more thrilled to have them come to town.  While there will still be struggles within the foster care space, there will be a community like there hasn't been before.  Families that bravely sign-up to foster will have the support of other families within their own churches to help them along the way.  Churches will be able to leverage their resources to make sure every foster parent has enough clothes, or beds, or toys, or books.  I don't want to make this sound too good to be true, but at the same time, I don't think I can overstate what a HUGE blessing it will be for Muscogee County and the children in crisis there.

This was stated by the Chattahoochee CASA two weeks ago on Facebook:
ATTENTION, ACTION NEEDED! There are now 520 children in foster care, only 168 served with 352 unserved! That is only 32% of the Muscogee County Foster Children. We need YOU, THEY need YOU! Training will begin Nov. 3rd. If you are interested in joining our class it isn't too late!
 And remember last week when I told y'all about the foster momma that had to tell one of her foster girls that she couldn't sign-up for cheerleading because they didn't have the money?

Y'all this is going to make a difference.  A big measurable difference.  And I am sure of it because they have already done it in Atlanta.

They are getting closer to opening their doors here.  They only need $40,000 to meet their goal.  It sounds like a lot but not for a community of our size.  Not really.

4000 people could give $10.
400 people could give $100.
40 people could give $1000.
4 people could give $10,000.

And I am guessing there are some community leaders that might be interested in being a part of this as well.  Perhaps there are some business owners that have been burdened to give back to our comminity but haven't been sure of where or how. You might even know them!

So what can you do?

1.  Pray.  Pray for the funding to come.  Pray for the leaders in Muscogee County.  And always, always pray for children in foster care and the families that are loving them the best they can.

2. Give.  Click this link, check the box next to Columbus and make a donation.  Today!

3. Share this information.  You likely know people that I don't and they might be able to give today too, essentially multiplying your impact!

4. Be brave.  When you hear foster care horror stories, acknowledge the pain if its a personal story; but if its about a friend's cousin's mom's situation from 1985 boldly speak Truth and stand up for these kiddos without a voice.  Make sure the conversation doesn't end in fear and despair.  These kiddos are worth the struggle.

03 September 2015

hard running

As we settle into our school routines, I am savoring a few moments of quiet on pre-k days.  I am trying hard not to fill up the time but rather to accept the quiet as a gift.  Today I was finally able to put this parenting lesson into words. Kids are such great teachers!

Walker recently brought this picture home from school.


Its kind of hard to see, but the title is "Things I like" and he drew a long road with two people running.  Its him + me running. Of all the things he could draw, he chose this.  It melted my heart a little bit.

Its funny because our runs together aren't always a great time.  We've had our fair share of "come-to-Jesus-meetings" while running.  Both of us are similar in that at times we believe we can't do it.  Our bodies are fully capable, but our brains are acting like we may die at any moment. I recognize it in him, because its my default running style. Of course, when I run with him I can't allow my default to take over.  If he is having a good day I have to chase him down, and when he is having a bad running day I have to persuade him to get over it. So there is no time for me to start panting and believing that I am near death.  So I do prefer running with him. I'm just not sure how much he likes running with me soemtimes.

When we ran the 5-miler in July, we had a goal to finish in under an hour.  That is a 12-min/mile pace.  Its not fast, but its not walking the whole thing either. We trained a little but probably not as much as we could have.  We planned to run a mile, walk a minute throughout the race. Just after the 1 mile marker there was a hill.  It wasn't a long hill, but it was fairly steep and at the top of it there was a long, gradual incline. I remember this part of the race like it was yesterday.  We walked up the hill and then Walker basically decided that he was done.  I started reminding him that we had just run 4.5 miles the previous Saturday.  I told him his body could do it he just had to convince his brain. He was not listening to any of it.  I told him we could walk the rest of the way.  I meant it as a threat. He accepted it and said "fine."  I was dumbfounded.  And a little mad. I think I threatened to leave him and run the rest of it myself.  As I said it, another runner gave me a glance, in my mind the glance was something like, "what kind of mother threatens to leave her 9-year-old on a race course alone?"

At this point I said a little prayer.  There's nothing like being judged by someone to make you rethink your strategy, right?  The weird thing is that I felt peace.  God assured my heart that I knew my son and I knew what he was capable of.  I even had a sense of solidarity with God.  Not to sound flippant, but it was almost like He acknowledged that He gets those side-eye glances all the time in His parenting.  I thought about all the times I've heard the questions that start with, "if God is so good why would He allow...[fill in the blank with bad things]?"

So I told Walker I was going to start running and he could keep walking or run with me.  He ran. He decided to believe me and not himself and he ran.

photo credit: Mike Haskey/Ledger Enquirer

We finished the race just a minute over our goal. It was hot and hard but we finished.

And when Walker is asked to draw a picture of "things" he likes, he draws us running. He sees the big picture and enjoys the time together even when its hard sometimes.

This blows my mind. And also speaks to my heart. This morning when we read our proverb at breakfast these verses resonated with me.

"Do not despise the Lord's instruction, my son, and do not loathe His discipline; for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in."  Proverbs 3:11-12

I thought about that moment out on the 5-miler course.  I thought about this picture Walker drew of our time together running. I thought about how desperately I want to be a child that doesn't despise instruction but rather accepts it.  Even when its hard and I don't think I can do it.  I want to be a child that trusts my Father, that believes He knows best even when my faith feels weak.

My kids are continually teaching me so much about myself.





18 August 2015

rescue

Seven weeks ago while Brad and Wilson were at camp, we met friends at their neighborhood pool for a cook-out. The kids swam while the food was cooking. We all got out out of the pool to eat, the little dudes needed their puddle jumpers taken off because they couldn't get their hot dogs to their mouths otherwise.  Lincoln finished eating first and forgot that he didn't have his puddle jumper on -- he jumped in without it.  My friend Amber saw him go in and jumped in just after him. I turned around to see the last few seconds before she grabbed him. In reality, it was less than a 30-second incident; it did shake us up a good bit though.


We talked about never jumping into the pool without a puddle jumper on.  Lincoln got right back in the pool -- with his puddle jumper on -- and swam around as if nothing happened.

But a week or so ago, he saw something on TV that reminded him.  And he said, "when I was in Miss Amber's pool and I was drowning, you didn't come get me."  I was so surprised that he brought this up after five weeks had passed, and the way he stated it caught me off guard.   I replied, "I know, honey, but Miss Amber got you right away, didn't she?"  And he sadly whispered, "why didn't you come get me?" My heart was breaking.  He was tearful.  We went back and forth on this a bit and then I realized something -- Lincoln could see me the whole time.  He couldn't see Amber because she was behind him.  He called out for me. By the time I heard him and turned around, I could see Amber on her way in to the pool.  The whole event was less than a minute, likely less than 30 seconds.  I turned toward him, screamed his name, and moved toward the pool as Amber grabbed him.  I don't know how long he saw me before I turned around.  I can only imagine what it looked like from his perspective as he went under the water and saw me standing there.

I tried to explain that I could see Miss Amber coming for him, that I knew she was on her way.  But it didn't matter to him.  He was devastated that I didn't come get him.  As we discussed it, he hit my arm a few times emphatically puncuating his questions, "why didn't you come?" "why didn't you get me?" It was all I could do to hold back my own tears.  I assured him over and over that I could see what he couldn't see.  My words didn't seem to offer much comfort, so I just snuggled him close.  I asked him if he wanted to talk to daddy about it and he shook his head no as he cried into my shoulder for a good long time.  I held him tight. I kissed his head.  I felt his little heartbreak down deep.

I am still reeling from that conversation with my precious boy. I struggled with whether or not it was a story to share.  I hurt for Lincoln's heart that was so puzzled because I didn't come to his rescue.  So I find myself praying that Jesus would reassure his little heart.  I am asking God to make his heart brave, and fearless and certain; that if someday Lincoln finds himself in a mess and can't see me coming, that he would always know the Rescue is on its way.  In a way, I am praying God would do the same for my heart too.  And yours.

Many of us have been in those deep waters.  And we've looked for the rescue to come. We can't see the bigger picture, we just see the part where we thought we'd be pulled from the depths.  And we wonder why it isn't happening the way we thought it would. Sometimes its a small thing and we shake it off, and say, "well God has His reasons" and move on.  Other times, its hard to even breath, hard to even have complete thoughts, harder still to try and whisper prayers asking God to come rescue us -- begging Him to pull us through. So I decided to share this story for you, my friends, in those depths today. I am telling you that Rescue is coming.  It may not come the way you are hoping and it may take longer than you would like, but I promise you that Rescue is coming. Our Savior sees you and knows every detail, He is with you always. Even in your biggest mess, even if you've made the mess yourself.  He will never leave you.  He will lift you up.  You will not always flounder, your weariness will one day subside.  He will restore you.  Hold firm, dear one, Rescue is coming.  If you cannot see it from where you are, I pray you believe me when I say I can see the Rescue coming.

"Israel, The Lord who created you says, "Do not be afraid - I will save you.  I have called you by name - you are mine. When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you.  When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you."  Isaiah 43:1-2 GNT

07 August 2015

twelve









I just cannot believe you are twelve.  Today you are wearing pads and getting hit for the first time this year at football practice, so it seemed like a good time to be all nostalgic about my baby growing up.  And also because your birthday was three weeks ago.

When I met one of your teacher's last night, and she put her hand over her heart and gestured toward you and said, "he's just...{big content sigh}... well, you know."  It made my heart happy.  It never gets old hearing a teacher compliment you and your hard work.  I am so proud of how well you transitioned to middle school.  You repeatedly astound me with your confidence to go after things -- football included. You work hard, you play hard, you give your best.

You continue to surprise me with your big brother skills.  I know you mostly hear me critique you and remind you that you are setting an example.  But sometimes I see such tender moments unfolding between you and your brothers {I rarely say anything about it because it might just wreck the moment], just know it makes me feel all mushy inside when I see it.  You are tenderhearted toward your brothers most of the time and generally try to help them out when you can.  I especially realized what a big helper you are when you were at camp.  Its fair to say that I had taken your helpfulness for granted up to that point!

As you get older I see new parts of your personality emerging.  You have a snarky sense of humor.  You make me laugh pretty easily, occasionally at the wrong time.  We've seen some hard things unfold this past year.  When the tears come easy for me, you are comfortable to just sit with me in the quiet.  This takes a special kind of maturity.   Its been delightful having you with us in church service this year, I love looking over at your notes in your notebook -- even if you won't let me take pictures of your doodles. I hear growth in your prayers and trust that your faith will continue to grow as you do.

You probably don't know this because you aren't a parent, but in some circles there is a lot of dread about children getting older and turning into horrible creatures.  The teen years are characterized as something you brace yourself for and hope to make it to the other side.  I want you to know that I hope for more.  We are just on the edge of those years, and we've hit some attitude bumps for sure.  I am guessing there will be more. But the truth is, I still like you and you still like us.  I love that last hour of the day when you are the last one awake. Sometimes I want to start on a sewing project or get the laundry folded, but mostly the idea of sitting on the couch with you wins.  Its a joy to be your momma, son.

I hope time and again you will go after life with confidence; trusting that God has big plans for you and believing that He will lead you well.  Always.


21 July 2015

NINE!







Walker!  You are nine {+ 3 weeks} old!  You continue to amaze me with your free-spirited attitude.  You don't even mind if I write your birthday post 3 weeks late.  You've never been one to get hung-up on whether everything is fair.  You give grace easily and forgive quickly.  At least to your daddy and I, at times it takes a little encouragement to do the same with your brothers.

Speaking of your brothers, you continue to rock the big brother roll and have settled into a more balanced approach to pestering your big brother.  You love to laugh and make others laugh too.  You are usually quick to help a brother in need, and I am so proud of you for that.

At school this year, you walked into a new building with new teachers and new kids. You handled the transition well, and shined your light all over the place.  You excelled in the classroom and as a friend.  One parent even told me that you were an outstanding young man.  It made me get teary-eyed.  I feel a little bad that you are starting a brand new school again this year, but as well as last year went, I am confident that you will flourish.  And I am really excited for all the extra time we'll have with you at home.  Woo hoo!

You keep making me a better runner.  I am so glad we get to do this together.  I will be sad if you decide you don't want to run anymore.  For now, though, I will just enjoy our time together.  Sometimes you have to encourage me to pick up the pace and sometimes its me telling you to get moving.  Either way, its always a good feeling when we finish a run side by side.

You are growing up so fast, so strong, so healthy.  You are compassionate and energetic.  You have moxie and you enjoy spreading it around to others.  You are a joy to parent and fun to hang out with.  Keep being YOU, Super Walker, you are loved and cherished and just exactly the way God intends you to be.  Keep trusting Him to show you the way. 

16 July 2015

summer + some needs

Wow!  This summer is zipping by, not in a bad way, just a quick way.  We've had lots of visitors and lots of fun, so I am not complaining.  Its just weird that we haven't had a minute to be bored yet!

I think I have mentally written about 5 or 6 blog posts over the last few weeks.  But I just keep carrying them around in my brain.  I am convinced this makes me more distracted, so I am going to try and put a solid effort in to getting some of the words out of my head and onto the screen.

I am starting with perhaps the easiest of the in-my-head-posts.  This one is about the foster care emergency clothing closet.  I went there in June with a few boxes of donations to unload.

It was a bittersweet visit.  Our church is switching up how the preschool department works which means I probably won't have free childcare every Tuesday morning anymore.  This has been my go-to volunteer time slot so its hard to think about not doing it anymore.  Of course, I know God will send someone else along to do the job, and is actually already doing so.  I have had a lady from our church come with me a few times and she has also gone on her own a few times too.  I have no doubt that the space will be well-organized and will continue to serve the children and caseworkers well. 

It'll just be a little hard for me to not be in there so often.

More times than I can count I have walked into that closet feeling down or rushed or irritated.  You name it.  But I walk out refreshed, renewed, and reminded that a glimpse outside my own little world is an excellent perspective shifter. 


I walked in feeling a little heavy and dumped those boxes out on the floor.  As I began unwrapping the clothing and finding hangers for it my heart felt grateful. I thought about how often I have been privileged to carry in donations from my generous friends. I thought how special it has been to be the middle-man in this place.  Time and time again I have been blessed to see generous hearts pour out goodness for children they will never meet.  People that heard of the need and decided they could do something to help.  I'm not sure I will ever adequately be able to express what an extraordinary gift this has been to my weary soul.  When the need seemed just too big to me, y'all just offered your part and it added up to enough over and over again.  It was fun to spend a few moments reminiscing on where the place started and where it is now.

As I finished hanging all the new items up, I cleared off another cart.  It had an open suitcase spilled out on top of it.  The clothes looked as if they had been scooped off the floor and shoved inside, then half-dumped out on the cart.  I wasn't sure why they were there.  I found a file folder with an award certificate inside of it.  The name on the certificate matched the name on the tag on the suitcase.  I wondered if anyone had congratulated the child on the certificate.  I wondered if anyone kept a file of his best school work or past awards.  I tucked everything back into the suitcase the best I could.  As is often the case, though, I couldn't stop thinking about that award and its recipient.  I prayed that he would feel valued and celebrated wherever he was.

I did a quick inventory and wasn't too surprised to find that we were lacking in some areas quite substantially.  I know some of y'all will want to help again, so here is the current list of needs.

  • Shelf-stable individually wrapped snacks
  • shelf-stable single serving drinks {or water bottles}
  • underwear ALL sizes {and sports bras for girls}
  • diapers size 2, size 3, size 4, size 5
  • socks for both boys + girls




11 May 2015

a present parent

Oh nap time.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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




05 May 2015

He is Good

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

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

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

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

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

"Jesus, please come"

"Lord, have mercy."

"Dear God, please!"

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

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

But He didn't come back.  Not yet.

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

But God.

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

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


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

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

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

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




03 April 2015

Good Friday

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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




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

27 March 2015

#ThemeParkTherapy

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


23 March 2015

run your race

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

Today, its "run your race."



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

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

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

Good Truth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 March 2015

Emergency Clothing Closet Needs

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I am finally getting it done.

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



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



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

04 February 2015

four

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

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