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) (email)

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


I am struggling to return to our series on poverty.  I’ve continued with my research over the summer, focusing on how our two main political parties approach this issue. On one hand, the Democrat’s approach seems so kind and in line with my values of helping the poor. But, when I read a Republican’s explanation on the economy and the damage done by ineptly conceived and deployed social programs, I find myself thinking that view makes sense too.

I’ve also spent some time talking with people who devote their lives to helping people overwhelmed by poverty, and once you really get them to tell you their story, it is like looking into the eyes of a volunteer in a catastrophic natural disaster.  The depth of their love and the extent of their exhaustion are at war within them.  The pain and the frustration, and the love and the commitment, are waging a battle each day.

It feels like a hopeless situation that one cannot escape.  We cannot quit, but we cannot go on.  What does one do with that?

Oh, but then I remember that anytime I look at things through the lens of politics, I am being deceived.  It is very hard to extract ourselves from the pervasive cultural programming of the media that divides us so clearly against one another.  Nearly impossible, really.

This is what I believe – we have been tricked, slowly and methodically, into throwing the baby out with the bath water.  In the name of tolerance and equality we have gotten rid of the one thing that could have provided both.  A common value system.

I ask my friends who do not believe in God to stick with me.  Can’t we all agree that one of the things that we are missing in our current society is a base, foundational set of values?  It is difficult to counter a culture that glamorizes celebrity and defines success, not by the content of character, but rather by amount of content you own.  Without a culturally agreed upon set of values, what do we teach our youth?

It feels like as we have moved away from the base Christian values that this country was built upon, we have also moved away from a healthy and vibrant culture.  I realize that there we have never been perfect, but I long for a future where civility is a default response and reaction.  And I realize that there is debate about whether or not our country was founded by Christians, but I believe the words etched in marble throughout our Capitol provide a compelling argument that whether or not every founding father would consider themselves an evangelical Christian, the character of Christ as laid out in the Bible was a driving force in their thinking.

As we look at the hurt and anger and division in our country today.  As we look at the disparity between the wealthy and the poor.  As we look at the divorce rates and single parents.  As we look at abortion rates and crime rates.  As we look at the prison population.  As we read the vitriol spewed out in almost any article on the internet.  As we feel the anger bubbling up…can’t we agree that something has gone terribly wrong?

I believe in good, and I believe in evil.  I have seen both in my life.  I have seen both in me.  I believe that evil has built a house in our political system.    It divides us and blinds us to the reality of our own responsibility no matter what side of the political fence you sit on.

We have to find a path back to a common set of values that we, as a culture, can expect from one another.  Values like taking care of the poor, holding yourself accountable to working and earning what you can, treating one another with respect.  We have to expect more from our companies, our families, our churches, and ourselves.

No matter your personal beliefs, can anyone deny that those in our society who live in moral poverty would not benefit from these values soaking into their very bones?  Can anyone deny that we must begin building a foundation for those in our society whose lives are lived on no foundation?

I have never believed quite so fervently that we have God inside us – that His spirit is what guides us to our best selves.  I believe that this is what makes me a better person than I would ever be on my own.  I believe that this is what drives an atheist to live a good and worthy life.   It is this driving force of creation in all of life that results in good.

On the flip side, I believe that to deny the pull of love is to choose evil.  I believe that, much like gravity, there is a law that allows one or the other to be present, but never both.  If you reject love, you choose hate.  Too many have chosen hate and don’t even realize it.  They have done this because they have never seen love…they are trapped in a cycle of hate that will continue until someone can break through and show them that another way is possible.

Believer or non-believer, it is the responsibility of those who live in love to help those who are trapped in hate.  It is exhausting work, and unless we all decide to participate there is no hope.  There is no government program that can instill a moral code.

We have lost something precious, and the more I delve into the pain and hurt and desperation of the least in our society, the more I believe that the answers lie in our ability to see past the talking heads and the rhetoric and find a common ground to stand on.

So the question lies in how we get past the ‘evangelical right’ and the ‘liberal left’ that we are all told we belong to, and find a way to come together.  I have more in common with everyone I know than I have differences.  Atheist, believer, democrat, republican – most of my friends are just great, intelligent, caring people who want to see this world get better and move forward.  They want their kids to be a part of something good and hopeful.  They are not these labels of political parties or denominations – they are people.  Great people.  I love them.

How do we get past the labels?  How do we overcome differences to reach common ground?  What can you do to make this happen in your life?  Where can you stop judging and start loving?  Where can you start giving time to help lift someone up?

I was sitting at the table having just enjoyed a wonderful brunch when she hesitantly tapped the microphone and said, “Hello.” It was during a lull between speakers, and the women were all talking and visiting at the tables; the ballroom had a dull roar of conversation going, so at first no one heard her tentative hello. But then, one by one, each table quieted and expectantly peered at the beautiful young woman with the bright red hair standing shyly behind the podium. She was beautiful – young and vivacious – obviously full of courage. How else do you explain the bright red–primary red–hair that framed her face and fell below her shoulders?

We had seen her on the stage just twenty minutes prior. She had joined a friend of hers, an alumnus of Project Home Indy (PHI) who had given a small heartfelt speech. She was there for moral support, they had explained. She stood by her friend and held her hand, but she did not speak. Now she is ready.

Without preparation or prior intention, she has commanded our attention, and now, with a few words, she will capture our hearts. This beautiful young woman speaks eloquently as she tells us what it means to have a safe home with a caring family around her. As she shares so bravely, every eye weeps and every heart swells. This is what beauty looks like.

Beauty is a woman taking the stage to express her confidence in her future–confidence that she will need, for she is also pregnant. Due in July. This fearless young lady has not yet graduated high school and is in dire need of mothering herself, but she has decided to rise to this and try to do the next right thing…each day. When PHI found her, or she found PHI, she had nowhere to go. Sometimes courage is best expressed when we say, “Help me.”

I weep at my table as she speaks because I see in her a strength. I see in her a hope. And my hope rises to meet hers. I want her to succeed, I want that more than anything, but I know the odds are not in her favor. The systems we have put in place, the biases the media has offered us time and time again, the stigma that will follow her – they are not in her favor. And yet, there is our hope – meeting.

I have hope because I sit in a room of 250 women who have come together to rally around her and three other young women living at the home. I have hope because my car is laden with books and movies that women have given from two states away. I have hope because we are tangible evidence to her that she matters, that we do care. Her life is valuable. She is a warrior, and we are part of her clan -this clan of womanhood stands beside her.

I have hope because an author of a blog brought the attention of eighty-thousand women to PHI and raised $83,000 in six hours to give another young woman a home. I have hope because we really, really can do hard things.

At my table a board member discusses the challenge of raising funds for a charity that does for so few. They can only provide space for five mothers and five babies at one time. They focus specifically on pregnant or parenting teens who are homeless. Can you imagine? Being pregnant as a teen would have its set of seemingly insurmountable odds, but to be homeless as well? Nonetheless, the fact of the matter is that PHI can only do for a few and they worry, always, about funding their work – their holy work.

This is holy isn't it? This work they do for ten people at a time. As this board member and I talk, I recall the words of Andy Stanley, a pastor and highly respected leader/author, “Do for one, what you wish you could do for many.” The women here may not go wide – but they go deep. They provide not merely a safe shelter, but a home for these young ladies. They provide staffing 24/7 – so someone is there to help these new moms with a cranky baby in the middle of the night. They provide counseling to help them recognize and deal with the trauma that led them to this point in life. They allow them to get an education and employment. They teach these young girls how to be mothers when some may have never been mothered themselves.

And now, one of these brave young mothers-to-be has stepped up the microphone to say, in her own words, this is holy work. Message received.

I went to Indy to support PHI and to hear Glennon Melton speak. Glennon, as you know ‘cause I talk about it so much, is the author of Momastery. She is a shameless truth teller, and she is fierce. To meet her and hear her speak in person was so inspiring, it really was.

But those two minutes of that young mother‘ speech…that was beyond words.

She is being healed because there are woman who are building a relationship with her. She has hope because she has healthy relationships.

Do you see? No organization can do this for every person in need. No government can do this.

But we can.

I am creating a list of organizations that are going deep – here in Missouri or wherever they may be found. I am also working with my beautiful sister-in-law on something. Something that will make a difference in the lives of those who struggle in poverty.

In the meantime, I encourage you to forge relationships whenever you identify poverty—be it of spirit, mind or money. Find one person that you will invest in, and begin.

Do for one, what you wish you could do for many.




“….because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”

The Velveteen Rabbit

I pray that's right.


I am really excited – the Project Home Indy trip is just one week away!

I sent a message letting them know that we were trying to organize a little mini fundraiser for them. I included a question for them after some of you noticed that there were no baby clothes on their Amazon wish list. Here is their response:

Hi Julie!

That's so nice of you all! Yes! We accept new or gently used baby clothes up to 2T.

Our teens are often more in need of clothing- anything soft and stretchy is best- yoga pants, sweats, PJ's and soft tees suit everyone!

Thanks again!!

Project Home Indy

So if any of you have any gently used or new baby clothes, or comfy clothes for the momma's, they would be very appreciated.

Here is the link again to the Amazon Wish List. If you haven't used an Amazon Wish List before – you can click and purchase any of the items listed – they have amounts needed and the list updates as you buy so you can be certain that you aren't getting duplicate items. Amazon will ship the items direct to Project Home Indy.

If the shipping costs are at issue – feel free to pick the things up locally (Springfield/Crocker areas). Mom and I will arrange to get them from you and take them with us! Just leave us a comment on the blog or facebook.

Let's take a moment to pray for Project Home Indy and for those young mom's. Let's just shower them with prayer on this beautiful Sunday.

The best part of donating is the underlying message to those young mom's that they matter, and we care. We donate small, but they feel big. Sometimes all it takes to make the next right choice is knowing that people care if you do.

Please message me or comment with any questions you may have and thank you for participating!

Much love and Happy Sunday!

To learn more about Project Home Indy click here.

Here is how I learned about them.


Introducing the 'Let's DO something' section of our blog!!!

This is our first official event. It is 'official' because we are calling it official – criteria is very high around here.

In early March a blog I follow called Momastery introduced her readers to Project Home Indy. This is an amazing organization that goes deep to impact the lives of teen mom's. They give these girls a home, therapy, childcare – real tools to make a real difference.

Click here to see the story the founder wrote to Momastery about their organization. It's powerful stuff.

My mom and I are making a roadtrip to Indianapolis next weekend, May 4/5, to attend a charity event for Project Home Indy. The author of Momastery will be speaking at the event – I am so excited!

We are also hoping to take a car full of stuff to these girls – or at least a nice list of things that have been sent! I am personally loading up all my DVD's and a ton of books – the girls need things to do and a call out on facebook asked for DVD's.

But they have lots of needs. That's where we will come in.

Click HERE to go to their website and see their Amazon wish list – there are all kinds of items, big and small. You can order right from Amazon and they will ship the stuff direct to Project Home Indy.

All I ask is you leave a little note saying that you are going to DO this with us. You don't have to list what you donated, it isn't about how much, it's about the DO! If you are like me this process of looking at poverty differently has been a hard road – and this is our reward. A moment to give to an organization that goes deep to resolve the full scope of needs, and a chance to be a part of a group that is really investing in the lives of these girls.

If you have movies or books to donate and you live in the Springfield or Crocker area you can leave a comment and we will arrange a way to pick them up before we leave.

Thank you so much! We will be looking at how to best get involved with organizations addressing poverty going forward in the series, but this is a little chance to stop talking and start Do'ing :).



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