Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sign of the Times

Sign #264 that I need a nap:

Make casserole.
Turn oven on.
Place casserole in refrigerator.
Set timer for 30 minutes.
Go back in 30 minutes to find oven empty.
Order pizza.

Turns out that the fridge does not bake as well as the oven.
Plus side? Dinner is ready for tomorrow.

If only I'll remember to put it in the oven.

Don't mistake their cuteness. They are really brain-power sucking, energy-zapping, strength-stealing tiny minions!

And I'm kinda crazy about them anyway.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Heavenly Anniversary

One year ago today God called to His side the daughter of our dear friends. An entire year that those we love have not felt her tiny body in their arms. Her smell is lost. Her voice is a memory heard on videos. But she is not gone from our hearts. So much remains of sweet Paxten, that I treasure carrying each day. The lessons learned about prayer. The reminder that glory does not come without suffering. And, the added anticipation for those of us eagerly awaiting a world promised that is so much better than what we live now. Oh, what longing I have to join sweet Paxten in heaven.
In my Bible reading the other day I read this:
"For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."  2 Corinthians 5:1-10
Paxten has spent a year 'clothed in her heavenly dwelling'. She is 'away from the body and at home with the Lord'. We are left here to "groan and be burdened'. We long for the perfection that will be ours when we put on the glorious spiritual body and we do live by faith, not by sight. I believe in a God that loves to surprise his children. He delights in giving us more than we could ever imagine. Heaven is one of those things. I think that is part of the reason he gives so few clues in his Word. What joy He must take in ushering in each one of His children into this clothing of heavenly dwelling!

Oh Paxten, if I could tell you what this year has been I would tell you about your mommy. A woman so full of beauty and grace. Your mommy is so strong Paxten. And her strength isn't seen in a having it 'all-together' or in lack of weakness. It is seen in how she handles those moments of weakness. She seeks the Lord with all her heart. She wants to know the man whose hand you hold. She has a depth of faith and a spirit of wisdom brought on by deep hurt and surviving every mommy's worst fear. You got your fight from her, dear Paxten. She fights for her family. She fights for her God. You get to rest in the lap of Jesus each day and one day soon you'll get to lead your mommy by the hand to meet Jesus too.

I would tell you about your daddy. Paxten, you should see your daddy! A man who has endured more than should be asked of any man. To face the fears of not being able to protect his precious girl. But, with God's hand, I think he's beginning to see that he did protect you, in the only way any daddy can. By showing you Him. By striving to provide a home that loves and reflects Jesus. He let himself become open to not knowing all the answers. Your daddy knows that the truest gift of love that he can give you now is to seek Jesus wholeheartedly so that he will one day be reunited with you. You can be so proud of your daddy. He's fighting demons that satan is sending and he's brave, Paxten. He's coming to you.

And, Izzie! You're a sister Paxten and, oh my, is she perfection. A tiny bundle of hope and healing, future and joy. She gives us glimpses at you and a chance to relive your time here. To celebrate your sisterly similarities and to learn about your differences. What a gift she has in you. A big sister who embraced life with no fears in making her preferences known. Don't worry, sweet girl, we'll introduce her to Nutella and Cheetos. She'll watch Super Why and Backyardigans with mommy and do push-ups with daddy. She'll be crazy good at the ipad and be the worlds cutest cow and monkey on Halloween. We'll teach her to shriek at the top of her lungs and to make everyone who looks at her smile. We'll let her stand naked in the backyard sprinkler and run outside to watch the train each time we hear the whistle. Izzie will forever be changed because you came before her.

We miss you Paxten. We're sad for us. We wonder what you would look like, sound like, act like and we long to see you hold your baby sister. A year can be so long and so fast in the same moment. In the light of eternity it is but a blink. I pray the blinks continue so that we can all join you soon. We live by faith and not by sight.

And we're coming to you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Foster Care 101

The other day I ran across a really great list from the Child Welfare Blog. Connie has compiled a no-excuses allowed list for everyone to be able to find their niche in Christ's calling to care and help the orphan. I get it, not everyone is called to be a foster parent. BUT! -- There's still room for you and your gifts. I dare you to find a place here you can't be used.

A. I have space in my heart and/or home and I’m interested in getting actively involved in foster care now.

1. Become a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Volunteer
2. Become a Foster Parent
3. Become a Foster Grandparent
4. Provide Respite Foster Care
5. Serve as a Guardian for a Child/Youth in the Foster Care System
6. Become Licensed to Provide Care for a Child/Youth in Your Extended Family who is at Risk of Placement with a Non-Relative
7. Adopt a Child from the Foster Care System
8. Volunteer on a Local Foster Care Review Board
9. Become a “Grand-Friend” to Foster Child/Youth by Attending Their School Activities, Sporting Events, Concerts, Etc.

B. I have reliable transportation and am able to assist with getting around.

10. Transport Children for Sibling Visitations
11. Transport Parents/Children to Visits
12. Transport Families/Children to Court Hearings
13. Transport Families/Children to Medical Appointments
14. Transport Families/Children to Therapy Sessions
15. Transport a Child/Youth in Foster Care to School
16. Offer to Carpool with Foster Parents in Your Neighborhood
17. Transport a Child/Youth in Foster Care to and from Extra-Curricular Activities
18. Provide Transportation to Former Foster Youth in College to/from School

C. I have skills or talents to share with foster children, teens, or families.

19. Provide an Internship Opportunity to a Foster Youth at Your Employment
20. Mentor a Child/Youth in Foster Care
21. Proofread Papers/Help with Homework For a Youth in Foster Care
22. Chaperone/Assist with an Event (Picnic, Sledding) for Foster Families
23. Tutor a Child or Youth in Foster Care
24. Help a Foster Youth Prepare for ACT/College Entrance Exams
25. Teach Financial Literacy to Youth in Foster Care
26. Teach Independent Living Skills (such as Cooking, Shopping, and Using the Laundromat) to Youth in Foster Care
27. Hire and Teach a Foster Youth to do Household Maintenance, Yard Work, Snow Shoveling, etc.
28. Teach a Youth in Foster Care How to Drive

D. My resources are limited but I have time to devote to helping those in foster care.

29. Provide After-School Care for a Foster Family
30. Read to a Child in Foster Care
31. Assist a Foster Parent with Child Care
32. Call Your Local Child Welfare Office to Volunteer to Assist with Administrative Tasks
33. Volunteer to Serve as an Educational Advocate (Sometimes Called Surrogates) for Students Receiving Special Education Services
34. Invite a Foster Child/Youth New in Your Neighborhood to Play Basketball or Soccer, attend a Ball Game, or Other Community Event
35. Assist a Local Shelter or Residential Program By Supervising Outings or Group Activities
36. Ask Your Church or Other Social Organizations to Sponsor a Foster Family
37. Sponsor a Support Group for Foster Parents/Children (provide space, coffee, food, supplies)
38. Talk with Your Local School About Unmet Needs (Time or Resources) of Enrolled Foster Children
39. Encourage a Child/Youth in Foster Care to Participate in Community Events
40. Accompany Foster Child/Youth to Plays, Sports Events, Musical Performances
41. Prepare a Special Meal for a Foster Family

E. My time is limited but I have financial and other resources to share.

42. Buy Back-to-School Clothes for a Foster Child/Youth
43. Buy Back-to-School Supplies for a Foster Child/Youth
44. Pay Extra-Curricular Fees for a Child/Youth in Foster Care
45. Support a Local Angel Tree Program During the Holidays
46. Provide Prom Dress or Tuxedo for Foster Youth
47. Sponsor a Foster Child to Attend Pre-school or a Day Care Program
48. Sponsor a Foster Child/Youth to Take Part in a Community Summer Program
49. Pay Fees/Provide Spending Money for a Senior Trip/Vacation for a Youth in Foster Care
50. Donate New or Used Clothing in Good Condition to a Clothes Closet for Foster Care Providers
51. Donate New or Used Bicycles, Skateboards, and Other Recreational Equipment to a Foster Care Program
52. Donate Musical Instruments to Children/Youth in Foster Care
53. Donate to Local Foster Care Programs
54. Donate to Organizations Providing Advocacy for Children/Youth in Foster Care
55. Give a Baby Bed or Other Furniture to a New Foster Parent
56. Purchase Diapers, Formula, or Baby Food For a New Foster Parent
57. Provide Uniform to Foster Youth for Sports, Band, or Other Activities
58. Sponsor a Child/Youth to Attend Summer Camp
59. Buy Art Supplies for Children/Youth in Foster Care
60. Provide Membership Fees to Local YMCA/YWCA or Rec Center
61. Provide Membership to Local Museums, Zoos, Etc.
62. Buy Bus/Public Transit Passes for Foster Families

F. My interest is in helping young adults with career preparation and transitioning to independence.

63. Donate Your Used Computer to a Foster Youth Attending College
64. Assist Former Foster Youth with Resume/Portfolio for Job Applications
65. Purchase an Interview Outfit for a Former Foster Youth
66. Provide a Cell Phone for a Former Foster Youth
67. Organize a Holiday Break Housing Program for Former Foster Youth
68. Buy Textbooks for a Former Foster Youth Attending College
69. Provide Lodging to a Former Foster Youth During College Holiday Breaks
70. Buy Restaurant Gift Cards for Former Foster Youth
71. Offer Apprenticeship to Former Foster Youth
72. Assist Youth Leaving Foster Care with Securing Housing, Managing Their Budget
73. Donate Furniture to Former Foster Youth
74. Hire Foster Youth for Summer Jobs
75. Buy Bus/Public Transit Passes for Youth Who Have Aged Out of Foster Care

G. I want to assist Biological Families who just need a helping hand to keep their family stable, safe, and secure.

76. Mentor a Struggling Biological Parent
77. Offer to Provide Respite Care to a Biological Parent Who Has Reunified with their Children
78. Provide Holiday Meal to Recently Reunified Family
79. Assist Biological Parents with Attending Necessary Support Groups (AA, NA, etc.)
80. Engage Biological Parents in Community Events and Activities
81. Mentor a New Parent Who is At-risk (Teen Parent, Former Foster Youth, Person with Limited Support System)
82. Help a Struggling Biological Parent with Meals, Household Tasks, etc.
83. Reach Out and Provide Encouragement to a Biological Parent
84. Assist a Biological Parent with Job Seeking/Success Skills
85. Assist a Biological Parent with Transportation to Appointments, Work, etc.

H. My time and resources are limited right now but I have lots of space in my heart for kids in foster care.

86. Talk to Your Kids About Reaching Out to Children/Youth in Foster Care at School/Neighborhood
87. Watch Programs like Home for the Holiday with Your Family and Encourage Friends and Family to Join You
88. Gather Information and Educate Yourself, Family, Co-workers and Friends About the Needs of Kids in Foster Care
89. Read Books About Foster Care (Like “I Beat the Odds” by Michael Oher) to Become Better Informed
90. Support Programs and the Work of Persons That Highlight Successes or Advocate on Behalf of Children/Youth in Foster Care (for example, Jimmy Wayne and Wayne Dyer, and by Watching Movies/Television Programs About Children/Youth/Families and Their Achievements After Foster Care)
91. Boycott Movies and Television Programs That Provide Negative Stereotypes or Vilify Children/Youth in Foster Care (Unfortunately, there have been a few…)
92. Write to Movie/Television Producers Asking Them to Stop Harming Children/Youth in Care by Promoting Negative Stereotypes
93. Ask Your Employer to Support Foster Care Through Employee/Company Donations of Time and/or Money
94. Belong to a Civic Organization? Invite a Youth in Foster Care to Share Their Experiences
95. Talk With Your Children About Foster Care, Empathy, and Bullying (kids in foster care are often ostracized by both kids and parents)
96. Learn About Pending Legislation Affecting Children/Youth in Foster Care at the State and National Level
97. Call or Write Your Elected Representatives to Encourage Their Support of Child Welfare Legislation
98. Vote for Candidates Who Have Demonstrated Leadership in Improving the Foster Care System (such as Senator Landrieu, Congressman McDermott)
99. Write “Letters to the Editor” Advocating for Children/Youth in Foster Care
100. Use Social Media and Blog/Tweet/Post To Engage and Inform Others About Foster Care
101. Share Information About Programs Doing Great Work in Foster Care

We have been blessed to be surrounded by so many supporting us through our calling to foster. Sometimes foster care can feel so lonely. But then, when I think of all that others have done for us, I realize how not alone I am and my heart is warmed and my energy is revived to tackle another day of loving those who the world has been un-lovely to.

I think of our families who have gone above and beyond to care for our temporary charges through babysitting, buying clothes and toys, praying and loving on our kids. They accept and love our placements without question for who they are in Christ, precious and chosen. When we became foster parents we basically asked them to become foster grand-parents, great-grand parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. And, boy have they rose to the challenge! A daily joy for me to watch and experience.

My dear close girl friends who are there for me to vent frustrations, fears, tears, and to pray for our kids individually and for Derek and I. To cheer lead for us as we continue in our mission. They aren't afraid to tell me when enough is enough with what I say "yes" to or to recognize when I'm overwhelmed. They provide breaks in a challenging day by opening their homes to our children. They pray over them on the way to school and for me as I question techniques and methods of child-rearing. And they may have talked me down off of more that one threat to run far, far away to some beach island at nap time. What a true gift that I never want to take for granted.

Our precious church family who has called meetings before services to tackle how best to serve our foster children, who have prayed countless prayers, who have brought clothes practically immediately when we get a child that we don't have a "clothes stock" prepared for. Who have brought in professionals to a Sunday school class to observe our more troubled placements to see what steps might be taken to provide a more comfortable environment of learning for them. They send notes of encouragement and share successes and breakthroughs with us joyfully. They continually reassess if they are meeting our needs and how they can better serve us as a family with constant transitions and changes in children. They never see my foster children as a bother or an interruption. Never as undisciplined or unruly. Only as God's created, fearfully and wonderfully made. They show them Jesus when these children may never have before and they embrace the calling to love on them each hour that we have them. They are TRULY acting out what it means to love and support a member of the body. I've never felt so loved by a church family.

Please see if there is somewhere in those 101 options that you fit. And to those who have faithfully served me, I'm so grateful. You are making a difference. To me and to the children that go through our house.

101 Ways To Get Involved In Foster Care shamelessly borrowed from here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Choose Joy {Sometimes}

Some facts:
  • 1 year and 6 months have passed since we mailed our application to our adoption agency.
  • 1 year and 1 month have passed since we finished our dossier and mailed it in.
  • 13 e-mails have gone out as each month passed by, checking to see if we were any closer to seeing our son.
  • Hundreds of hours have been spent working late into the night to raise money to redeem our son from his orphanage.
  • Thousands of prayers have gone up, whispered and written, cried and pleaded.
  • Our homestudy has expired losing $1,000.
  • Our USICS fingerprints have expired losing $850.
  • My heart has grown weary.
Christmas of 2011 had a feeling of expectation and hope. Yes, I felt our family was incomplete without him there but I was still feeling the high of having just sent in our dossier. I just thought there was no way that we wouldn't hold our son in our arms in 2012. No way. Yet here we are into 2013 and we still do not even have his picture. I felt his absence greatly this Christmas. I know that may not be something that anyone but a mother who has dreamed of her child in a far away place and longed to rescue him can understand. I know I risk sounding crazy. But the wait is so suffocating. I feel helpless and even like a failure. This discontentment, frustration, feeling of loss has been seeping into other areas of my life. I've been shorter with my kids and husband. My thoughts are pessimistic when I hear of other's struggles. Instead of joy I feel bitter when I hear of other families and their international adoption successes.

And I didn't like it. I had turned what God has designed for redemption and joy into a burden and bitterness. So, as I thought about 2013 and what word I want to define me this year, the word JOY was an easy choice. I choose joy.

Joy in the wait.
Joy in the lessons of waiting.
Joy in the raising of 5 children.
Joy in the care of our home.
Joy in loving my husband the way he deserves.

As a reminder I hastily typed up choose joy and slapped it on the fridge.

Later that day, I had a moment to order this print that I had meant to order for a while from Echoes of Mercy Etsy site. In her e-mail to me following my purchase she mentioned her instagram account and so I looked it up. The second it opened my breath caught. The very first post listed was her CHOOSE JOY print. Ok, God, I hear ya. Shocked, I quickly told her my story of how my un-joy was settling into my life and how I had decided to Choose Joy for 2013. And, because I'm fairly certain that God sent me to Mandie just for this reminder, she sent me that print too. One for my phone screen and one to place in (i.e. all over) my house.

What a surprise for this struggling heart! What a gift to know that God knows the weight I'm carrying to bring our son home. And What a reminder that He goes before me. That He is orchestrating our family. Let got and let God, Lindsey.

So, I'm still failing daily but, when I feel that yucky feeling start to seep in I now have a visual reminder to choose joy.

In another not-so-surprising-when-God-works coincidence, Mandie Joy is a fellow foster parent. 100% of the sales from her art go to help her stay home and foster. So, if you've got some time and heart to support those following God's calling to love the least of these please stop by her shop. 

You can find her blog here.
You can find her etsy shop here

She has blessed me and I know she'll bless you too!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Day It Snowed

So, if you're from around here you know it has been a pretty lame winter snow-wise. Last year was the same. And, honestly, I like snow almost as much as I like a root canal but, now that I've got kids I can appreciate their excitement and desire for it so, for their sake, I wouldn't mind if we'd get maybe one big snow.

We did get a little snow over Christms break so we took full advantage.

The kids has such a great time and the hot chocolate following the fun was so yummy. So, I guess I give this winter permission for one more good snow. As long as my fridge is stocked. And it goes away after 2 days and brings on spring.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Family That Bowls Together...

...uses lots of hand disinfectant together.

Oh oops. I mean, has lots of fun together.

We've been getting pretty good at Wii Bowling lately. And so, it only made sense that we would take our incredible *athletic* abilities to the general public and put our virtual skills to the test.

No surprise, we were spectacular inspiring pro-level average.
We did have fun and even pulled a couple strikes out.

This one did a lot of practice walking.

This one thought every turn should be her roll.

Have you ever watched a child's ball go down the alley?
I'm pretty sure we could have done an entire 10 frames of wii bowling in the time it took her ball to get down there.

Z bowls with a lot of flair. Read: spastic actions.

Great way to spend an evening.
Although, I will continue to claim my wii high score as my real bowling high.
You know, the next time I'm in a bowling score bragging conversation.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Candy Houses

Last late Christmas post, I promise.

The kids wanted to do gingerbread houses and I knew we'd need something to pass the afternoon of Christmas Eve when the little girls took a nap and the big kids waited (im)patiently to head to grandma and grandpa's. So, we gathered up supplies and got to work.

I cheated and used graham crackers. I totally planned on making gingerbread and using the templates from a friend but (as usual) time got away from me. So, I made these the evening before so they'd be good and dry on Christmas Eve.



Pretty inspiring little village, right?
Well, it passed an afternoon full of Christmas anticipation anyway! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

It Came. We Opened. I Need A Nap.

Whew! So, I'm going to pretend this is still December. Let's call it December 27 because that's when I intended to write about Christmas. : ) Until life got in the way. I still want to post this stuff for memory's sake so here we go!

Christmas Eve we went to Derek's parents for food and family and unwrapping. We were sad that two sweet cousins and an uncle had to stay home due to illness. We celebrated Jesus' birth hard for them though. : )

Grandpa always starts the festivities by reading the Christmas story from his Bible.

Then it was time for gifts. We were super spoiled.

And there's the traditional grandkids photo with grandma and grandpa.
8 of the 10 grandchildren....

Christmas morning we had our family Christmas just the 6 of us.

(that was a kid's toy. I'm sure he was just "testing" it out for them.)
The little girls got mini-me baby dolls. I get a kick out of them.

Then, it was off to my parent's house. We celebrated with just them then had more fun family join us for lunch and a day of eating, opening, games and catching up. I loved it all. Here comes a lot of pictures. You've been warned.

Girls rule in this family!

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
Star and angels gave the sign.
- Christina Rossetti