It's been a while between posts and I'm rededicating myself to weekly blogs (again). Sometimes I just feel a little overwhelmed by life – ever feel that way? Between the weather this winter, the continuing polarization of our country, or the horrendous crimes that occur right in our backyard, it can all just get to be too much.

This is the second post in a mini-series looking at ways that we can make a difference in our communities. Specifically in the lives of the children in our communities. I am woefully ill equipped to address this. I'm researching as we go and I pray for your grace and assistance. The foster care system and child advocacy is not an area in which I am well versed. And that is the point of the series, to familiarize myself with the avenues available to get engaged and make a difference, and to share those findings with you.

Last time I posted was about respite care and you can find that post here. The genesis of that post was the tragedy that occurred here in Springfield when a young girl was kidnapped and murdered. Incidents like this leave us feeling so helpless and angry. I wanted to find a way to channel that energy into something that would make a difference. Two of the members of The Chapel are foster parents, and a close friend has spent the last year working diligently with neglected children in Georgia, they inspired the last post talking about respite care – and really, this series. As a reminder, respite care is a way of giving foster families a break and also connecting with a child that is currently in a foster care environment. While foster families can have babysitter's in their home for temporary breaks, respite care allows you to bring a foster child into your home for up to 72 hours, giving the foster families time to re-focus. Respite care is an important way that you can support foster families to avoid burn out, while also impacting the life of a child in foster care.

Tonight I want to highlight CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates. CASA Volunteers are ordinary people who have gone through about 30 hours of training and are appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. Based on the information available on the CASA Website advocates are typically assigned one to two cases at a time. Each case would require approximately 10 hours or research prior to the court date and the 10-15 hours per month until the case is closed. The special advocate does not replace the attorney or the social worker's in a case, but are specifically appointed to represent the children's best interest.

I would love to have a guest post from someone who is an active advocate today. Please send me a note via the contact me link on the blog or messag me via facebook if you are interested in helping us out, or know someone who is. I'm looking to either have someone write a post for us, or I can do an interview and write the post from that.

Fair warning – I'm going to be asking for a lot of help in this series. This is so important and I'm amazed by how little I know about how an ordinary citizen can work to protect a child. But – I have an awesome net of friends who do amazing things for our kids and I'm counting on you to help educate the rest of us.

So calling all social workers, CASA volunteers, foster parents, adoptive parents, and anyone else who wants to highlight how we can help our hurting kids – help me get the word out!

And finally – I would encourage everyone to check out this blog post about foster care. I know I've thought, and still do, “I just don't think I have it in me to do this. I just don't think I could handle it.” This is a gentle post that confronts that thinking. Take a few minutes, it's worth it.

As a christian I can be disheartened by the lack of unity in the body – but this is something we can all do together. This is a place where we can stand as directed by Jesus and take care of the least. This is my heartfelt hope and prayer. Thanks for walking with me.

Here is the information for the Greene county CASA program:

CASA of Southwest MO

Director: Pat Reiser

1111 S. Glenstone Ave. Ste. 2-100 Springfield, MO 65804

(417) 864-6202 x 252

(417) 864-6280 (fax)

preiser@casaswmo.org (email)

www.casaswmo.org

In honor of my own littles.
I wish all were loved as these two are.

 

I was traveling away from my family yesterday when I heard the news about the abduction in Springfield. I, along with so many others, kept refreshing my facebook page and checking news sources to see if anyone had located her. Just before going to sleep I saw that they had arrested a suspect…but they had not found the cherished little girl. I went to bed with a heavy heart but still hoping for a miracle. When I woke this morning, the first thing on my mind was Hailey. I said a prayer and reached for my phone, hoping beyond hope to see a happy ending. But there was no happy ending to this unfolding drama.

I've thought all day about her family, the witnesses, the police, the schools, and the hundreds of people directly touched by this event. I've prayed for all those 'what if' scenarious to be silenced. I've prayed for peace and comfort. This is unimaginable. It's a blessedly rare thing, a stranger abduction. But statistics are cold comfort in the light of fresh grief and tangible fear.

These tragedies leave us all feeling so helpless. They invoke our fear, our anger, but also our desire to reach out to help. I take some comfort in the fact that when one person commits such atrocious evil, thousands more respond with such amazing and profound love.

But despite that comfort, if I am honest, I am mostly overcome by anger and fear. It is in situations such as these that we can become overwhelmed by our more base desires, and crippled by our fears. I needed to find some way to channel all of this emotion and energy away from the cause of revenge, and into the cause of restoration.

So I reached out tonight to a couple of my friends that work with abused children. I knew that they would be processing this situation differently than those of us who are not used to confronting evil so directly. There is a heroic segment of our population who confront horrific stories on a daily basis. They step into the chaos and work tirelessly to restore order for children. One child at a time, day after day. So I asked them – what can we do? What is a tangible, concrete way that I and other's who are struggling with this tragedy, can make a difference in the life of a child? They had several suggestions but I'll focus on just one of their suggestions this evening – respite care for foster families.

Respite care is designed to provide relief from the stresses of the constant responsibilities that foster families face. Maybe you are not able to be a full time foster family but you have a heart to help kids. Respite care allows you to connect with children in a more temporary setting and not only provide them with healthy relationships, but also give some relief to those amazing families who are fostering full time. You do have to be licensed which means you have to submit an application and go through the different background checks. That process is described in full (for Missouri) here. What a fantastic way to support children and families! Do take note though, the process to get licensed takes some time and you need to be tenacious in the process, but what a wonderful way to channel all of our need and desire to help!

If you feel like respite care is also more than you are able to provide right now, you can reach out to the various organizations that support foster kids. I'll provide a link to several of them below. They are always on the lookout for new and used items, and monetary support is always needed as well.

Family Matters Resourse Center: Strengthening families, children, and youth touched by foster care or adoption through training, support, community collaboration and advocacy. This is a local organization providing support for our great foster and adoptive families.

AdoptUsKids.org is a great resource for both adopting and fostering families.

GreatCircle.org is the new site for Boys & Girls Town of Missouri – another great organization that helps our at risk kids.

The impact that we could have, as a community, to positively impact the lives of children cannot be under estimated. I will find a way to connect with the foster and adoption community in Springfield and I will do this in honor of that young life taken so tragically. I hope you will, too.

 

I think my brain is frozen. My will is frozen. My ability to effect change in my life is frozen. Even my little dog is frozen.

I have never, ever, been so sick and tired of winter in my ever, loving, life. Ever. Seriously. I am totally serious.

And I work for a company in the south – where it will be in the 50's all week and they will think THAT is cold. I could go live there you know….like today.

42 days til Spring, 42 days til Spring, 42 days til Spring.

Greg said he thought it was my thyroid. Maybe. My thyroid died and one of its jobs is to regulate my temperature and give me energy. While I take medication to synthetically replace what it does, I seriously doubt the medical community has it all figured out. They are practicing medicine you know. Oh, to find a Thyriod doctor that has mastered medicine. But alas….I'm freezing and lethargic.

(Disclaimer, I think my thyroid doctor is awesome. I'm just really tired, and really cold, and those are two things my thyroid would help me out with if it were still with us, so I complain. It's probably an endearing trait of mine, but Greg hasn't mentioned it as one.)

So, to recap, I'm cold and I'm tired.

AND the kids are really confused with all this snow and cancelled school. They (read I) really like structure and schedules. While it is true that they have never once, in the five million snow days that we have endured enjoyed together, claimed that their issue is a lack of structure and schedule – I know. When they are pulling each other's hair out and sneaking candy under the kitchen table like stark raving lunatics – I know. When they are screaming because the other one is breathing on them – I know. What they are really saying is, “How are we EVER GOING TO LEARN? We need to be in school more than two days in a row to remember anything. What is happening to my education?!?!”

But I don't answer, because I'm cold and weary…

That 42 days til Spring thing was not helpful. That's forever! There are some animals that can make a whole 'nother group of animals in less than 42 days. Between now and spring a mouse family could have two litters, done and done!

I'm cold.

I really pray that God will remind me of this day in the spring when it is beautiful and the temperature is perfect and I sit inside my house and do something totally stupid like reading. I hope that a divine cattle prod goads me outside and that I take a nice long walk with Greg and the littles. Sure, the littles will still be pushing, and shoving, and complaining, and what-not, but sound disperses so much better outdoors than in not-solitary-enough confinement our home.

Bless.

How are you all enjoying this fine season? (If you love it, and you wish it would never end, don't tell me that. I can't handle it.)

 

A little throwback of the Littles :), 2 years and lottsa hair ago…

There are just some parenting moments that shine such a bright and clear light on a subject. These moments can illiminate from an angle that is fresh and revealing. We had just such a moment this week.

After dinner one night Grace began telling us what she had learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in school this week. She told us that he tried to “help black and white people be together.” And she also explained that “black people couldn't drink out of water fountains and they couldn't go to the park.” She was very incredulous about all this – like “Can you believe that?” Then she explained that some people hated him for trying to get people together and they shot him and he died. So I asked her what she thought of all that, just curious to understand how she would process such a grown up story.

She crinkled her brow and said, “Do you mean what did they teach me?” And I explained that I really wanted to know what she was thinking when she found out that black kids used to not be allowed in the parks. She said that she thought that was “really bad.” She went on to say that we are all the same on the inside and that everyone should be able to go to the park!

By this time we had been talking for a while. She was explaining such a grown up concept and doing a good job of processing it for a five year old. I am amazed at how capable they are to take in the harshness of the world without being overwhelmed. And then she asked me something that just stopped me in my tracks. She said, “So mommy, what is it that makes a black person black? Is it black hair?”

I asked her then, “Honey, are you asking me what we mean when we say black people? Are you saying you don't know?” To which she replied, “Well, it's black hair, right?”

All my baby knew is that there was some random characteristic that we picked out and her first thought was hair? Maybe?

I talked to her about some of our friends that are black, friends she has known her entire life. We talked about how there are so many shades of skin, and black can mean a whole lot of shades, just like white can mean different shades. She went on from there to inquire about green people, and I knew the teachable moment had passed and she was moving on.

But I couldn't move on. “Is it black hair? It's black hair, right?”

And all I could think is, “It could have been.”

Because it could have been, right? Prejudice shows up in so many random and vicious ways, but it always boils down to some arbitrary characteristic that we just decide is the difference.

And when I look at my beautiful, innocent five year old explaining evil to me, but then fall short of understanding something none of us truly understands…I weep.

Honey, I pray you grow up in a world that continues to try to move away from intolerance, prejudice, and hate. I pray that you always look at this part of our past in disbelief. I pray that you vow to be better than we are. Because this dream of Dr. King is not realized. It is progressed and it is progressing, but it is not realized. I pray that your generation takes majestic steps forward, where we have crept. I pray you all have breakthroughs that alter the course of history, where ours have only shifted it, sometimes forward.

I pray that you can talk openly with your black friends about the past in healthy ways that move you both forward. I pray that we raise you to acknowledge you are afforded a pervasive and systematic privilege that is still today, denied to many – and I pray that you help expose and spread that privilege. I pray that you are forgiven when you fall short and that you extend forgiveness when others fall short. Because that will happen – such a subject as race in our country, it is rife with hurt.

I pray that your generation can find forgiveness for all that is left to be done. Forgive us all of our failings and false attempts. I pray that you can find the path to run forward together and realize all that Dr. King dreamed of, all of it. Resolve our racial differences and then carry his torch to impact poverty in our country. This is what I pray.

Mostly though – I pray you never reach a point of understanding when it comes to evil. Evil understood is evil consumed. May you always, always be baffled by it.

May your innocence grow into compassion, empathy, and kindness.

 

I'm reading Hands Free MaMa by Rachel Macy Stafford- and it's going to be a game changer. The concept is simple – we need to pay more attention to our life if we want to have a joy-filled, strong life. Well, of course. But she uses stories from her own shortcomings to really open your eyes, gently and with love, to your own shortcomings. You never feel berated, just encouraged to do better.

I am a technology geek, big time. I read my bible and devotions on my ipad, all my books are on the ipad, I'm on social media on my phone or the ipad, and I have good 'ol solitaire on there for distraction when I don't have time to get into a book. I log all my exercise and eating (since the first of the year that is) on my phone or the ipad. I have a tendency to have my nose in a screen more than I should. I knew it, but I also felt like it was all really productive stuff. None the less, I knew I needed to change it and something about this book is helping me better appreciate the cost of distraction.

It will be a process – and I'm not totally sure how it will go, but so far, it is fantastic.

Just today, I've made a fort for the kids in the living room, they have had a great bubble bath in the big tub and Grace learned how to put her head under water – and I was there to see it! We had a distraction free lunch and went through our Table Topics for Kids and had the most interesting conversation because there is nothing like the answers a five year old and a three year old will give you to random questions. Without argument or cajoling, both kids ate their lunch as we talked. Then we shared some ice cream and finger painted together. It was one of the least productive and most rewarding weekend mornings I have had in a long time.

And it's all part of this quest to remember my identity. I want to be a mom that my kids cherish. I don't want to miss out on those smiles or be a mom that just gets things done. I don't want our relationship to center around discipline – although that obviously remains. By teaching them that I value them and they are worth my undivided attention, I hope to teach them to love other's with that same gift.

Part of my identity is – I'm a mom that cherishes my children and my children cherish me.

I think I'm going to love 2014.

 

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