Monday, January 30, 2012

I Will Pass Over You

Amanda is my passionate girl.  She doesn't know about doing things half way.  When she's happy, the whole world smiles with her and it takes over her whole being.  When she's not, well...everyone is affected then, too.  She's always been able to pull out the old crocodile tears whenever she feels the need.  You know, the big huge ones that don't slide down the face, but just drop.

She's also a deep thinker and always asks the hard questions.  And she's asking because she truly wants to know.  Even on the hard topics, she'll stay with the conversation, and ask follow up questions until she's satisfied.

These questions are most often asked while riding in the car or going to bed.  This week:

Why did Jesus' followers celebrate Passover?

If you have children or teach Sunday School, then you are already well aware how many child-inapproriate things there are in the bible.  

For instance, in Aiden's class we've been talking about Moses and the Ten Commandments.  Have you ever thought about how many of those ten are appropriate for 2 & 3 year-olds?  Suffice to say, we've been talking a lot about obeying Mommy and Daddy.  :)

Anyway, a quick thought about Passover and I knew we'd have to get in pretty deep.

Well, I begin, Pharaoh put out a decree that all the first-born scratch that....God put out a decree....oops!   I got through the rest pretty accurately, of course tying it all in with the work that Jesus did on the cross but I realized how little time I spend in the Old Testament, other than Psalms and Proverbs.  I know there is good stuff in there, I just tend to hang out in the New Testament.  

Any guesses where I was reading this morning?  Yup...Exodus 12

The other car conversation this week was:

Mom, will we all be in the hospital before flying up to see Jesus?

Oh, me! :)

Once in a while Amanda is in the mood to let me take her picture.  Last week she was all into it...the following are all her poses in five minutes we were doing it.

 I didn't get this one in focus, but I still love her smile.

I will go through the land of Egypt on this night and strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, whether human or animal, and bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am God. The blood will serve as a sign on the houses where you live. When I see the blood I will pass over you—no disaster will touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.
Exodus 12:12-13

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Project 365, Week 4

Awesome week!  Its been so incredibly mild, the kids played outside everyday, usually ending up with their coats off.  LOVE it!  Really....SO happy!  

All of my life in every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

January 22
The kids had slept at Pop and Kiki's and when I went to pick them up they were anxious to show me their sledding/tubing tricks.

 January 23
More sledding after school in our yard.
 My little office buddy....I worked and he watched Daniel and the Lions while we waited for daddy to get home.  At 9 I finally gave up and put him to bed.
January 24
Snow is gone, temperatures in the 50s!
 Shaun spent his morning off working on his truck....lucky for him he had help!
January 25
Avery had a half day so we picked her up at noon and headed to RI to see cousins.  We played and had a nice visit and I took birthday pictures for three of my brother's four kids.  This is my youngest nephew, Wyatt, who just turned one and is running everywhere, bum shaking, arms pumping.  So funny!
 My loves!
January 26
Shaun's grandfather has always kept a big stash of cookies that the kids make sure to hit.  This time he had strawberry (?) filled Oreos.  Amanda said, have GOT to try these!
January 27
My sister and her husband went to Hawaii (lucky!!) so we get to help with the kids a couple of the days.  Nathanael helped me bring Avery to school and pick her up.
 The kids had a blast being together, as always.
 Shaun's team lost in a heart-breaker.
 Aiden was anxious to go tell daddy "good job"!  I was thinking, sadly, that it won't be very long at all until he knows the difference between winning and losing.
 This is just hilarious to me....Aiden and Alayna after the game...
January 28
Avery's school was having a fundraiser at a local restaurant.  It took forever and then was meager portions, but we had fun and it was for a good cause.  What a great group of kids!

While his sisters were playing basketball, Aiden noticed some electrical work needed to be done in the gym and thankfully he had his screwdriver and pliers with him (don't worry...they're just plastic:)).

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I realize its probably overkill to post basketball photos every week, but really they're mostly intended for Shaun.  He would so very much like to be there with us on Saturday mornings, but is unable to because of work....I figure this is the next best thing, so post I will!

I don't know much about anything basketball related, but I've been impressed with the girls' progress even in these three weeks.
 Accidental shot while trying to juggle a two year-old, but I like it.
There's another family there similar to ours.  Their oldest is in Avery's class at school and on the same basketball team, their youngest is a little guy, and their middle is in Kindergarten and on Amanda's team.  They all enjoyed hanging out together.
Amanda declared that they were BFF (it only takes an hour of sharing donuts, bubble gum and laughs for her to know) and begged for a playdate soon (big height difference!).

 Avery's first basket ever!!  She made a couple more after this, too....that's a couple more than I've ever made in my lifetime.  :)  Go Avery!

I'm so happy they look forward to it and enjoy it...its a good way to spend a winter Saturday morning.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Our Foster Care Journey, Part V

Thank you for reading along this week!  As I said, its been a very personal process and your support and encouragement mean so much.  You are also the group I will be coming back to saying this is SO hard...please pray!  :) means so much!

So onto the Q & A and the last post in this series.  :)

What age range are you licensed for?

Growing up, both my family and Shaun's family took in foster children.  Shaun's family did 0-8ish months and my family did 0-4 years.  I wanted the same thing...a fresh newborn to snuggle with, a baby to do all the firsts with, a two or three year-old to have little chats with....all the ages I've loved so far as a mom.  But...God's ways are not our ways and He actually placed a burden on both our hearts for older children, perhaps even teenagers.

The agency we are using provides theraputic foster homes for children ages 8-18.  Normally these kids have had severe abuse or neglect and they maybe have been tossed around from home to home.

What an incredible thought that we could be the last stop for a child before they enter the world on their own.  What a responsibilty to become someone's forever family even without adoption.

Are you open to adoption?

We have made it clear with the agency that we are not going into this looking to adopt.  However, we will not close that door in case God has different ideas.

Don't you already have enough going on?

Yes, we do!  We certainly weren't bored or looking for something else to add to our lives.  That is why every morning during my staff meeting with God I will be reminding Him that this was His idea while asking for an extra portion of love, grace, patience, etc.

I can sit here and tell you right now I...we...cannot do this in our own strength.  On paper, our shortcomings and weaknesses would seem enough to disqualify us...but God.  I'm just as curious as you to see what He intends with this.  :)

Where will the child sleep?

We are required to provide the children with their own bedroom.  This will be a little tricky because, although our house is large, we only have three bedrooms set for us, one that the girls share and one for Aiden/guests.

Most likely we will move the TV room downstairs into the pool room

and convert the TV room into a bedroom.  I lobbied to get the TV permanently removed from our house but it was a no-go.

Obviously we'll have some work to do when we get our first call....and some bedroom furniture to find!  We probably should be more practically prepared, but honestly its been so long it still feels like its never going to happen.

How will the child refer to us?

That is for us to decide.  Depending on the age, I think we'll offer a few suggestions and let them choose.  Probably Auntie Lisa and Uncle Shaun.  Momma Lisa?  Papa Shaun?  I don't know...I think its really going to depend on the child.  I'm open to suggestions!

What happens next?

Well, we have everything small feat!  We are awaiting the fingerprint results, which we did back in November.  And then...we wait for our perfect match!

Well, this is the final post in this series, but most likely not the last you will hear about foster care here.

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Our Foster Care Journey, Part IV

So, why are we doing this?

I could spend an entire week of posts talking about our reasons why we've decided to get into foster care.  (Incidentally, I could also spend that same week listing out all the reasons why we could not, should not, would not....yes, I have at least a week's worth of "buts")  However, the very simple answer is that God gave us this burden and spoke to our hearts.

We have enough history with Him to know it goes better for us when we do the things He's called us to do...we also know, from experience and based on His promises, that He only has the very best intended for us.

Five minutes on Yahoo News will leave you shaking your head, wondering what this world has come to. Reading statistics like 15 million children will die of hunger every year,  or in the U.S. in 2009 there were 3.3 million child abuse reports and allegations, involving about 6 million children....more than 5 of those children die every day as a result of child abuse.

Depressing, isn't it?  Overwhelming, right?

The truth is, there is simply no way we can help 6 million children.  But maybe, just maybe, one child at a time, we can make a difference.  We are ready to get our hands dirty in the process of loving the lost.

But when he heard it, he said, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.'  Matthew 9:12

I love my family, our life.  Its neat and simple and pretty.  I am comfortable with and happy about the tidiness of it.  Its manageable, fairly predictable.  I like things just the way they are.

Yet...I want what God wants.  I want to lay down my life to do the work He has for me.  Will this bring pain into my life?  To be sure.  Will I miss life as we now know it?  Probably.  Our life may get messy and lose some of its prettiness but my prayer is that it is beautiful to the One who matters most.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”  CS Lewis

I've talked extensively with another foster mom in our church.  She has told me to be prepared for people's reaction...She said, they'll either say you are a saint or crazy.  :)  We are neither...just trying to be obedient, doing what we feel compelled to do.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:16

The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation. ~ Corrie Ten Boom

Tomorrow is Q & A...if you have any questions let me know and I'll do my best to answer them for you.  :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Our Foster Care Journey, Part III

Once training was over, it was time to begin the home study piece.  We gave the agency about a two- week window...after Christmas (please!!) but before tax season...and they were most accommodating.

The home-study is comprised of several parts that need to be spread out over three different days: an interview with me, an interview with Shaun and a walk through/inspection of our home.

The interviews lasted a couple hours each.  We talked, in depth, about our childhoods, our families, how we met, other relationships we've had, our marriage, how we parent, what our children are like, what our day to day lives are like.  It was very...comprehensive.  :)

All this was in addition to the essays we each had to write on the same topics.  I've got to say, its a little strange to put your entire life on paper like that, all contained within 8-10 pages.

The actual home inspection part was what we were most concerned with, since that is the part that's been giving us trouble all along.  I thought it was going to be more like a tour of our house, while checking for flaking paint and working smoke detectors.

In reality, it was much more exhaustive than that.  Our worker checked every single part of our house, including the basement (yuck!) and the third floor.  I had no idea she'd be going to the far reaches....had I known, I would have cleared a walking path on the third floor!

I think she sensed my surprise because she said, we need to check every part of the house to make sure no one else is living here.  We've discovered basement dwellers before.  Oh....creepy!!

You better believe that day has motivated me to do something (finally, and again!) about our third floor/laundry room/everything storage.  I'm pretty much the only one who goes up there (re: laundry) and its just a dumping ground.  But now...I'm resolved to pick at it every week, while dreaming about the day its transformed into our master bedroom suite.  :)

I debated posting pictures here for accountability, but I think I won't.  If I find I'm having trouble staying motivated, then I'll consider it.  :)

Because of the few changes we'd made and the little bit of work we did AND God's favor, our home passed the inspection without any trouble.  Big sigh of relief!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Our Foster Care Journey, Part II

At the end of October we received a postcard from the agency.  It was simple with just a couple options to check.  Were we still interested?  Did we want our names taken off the list? etc.  I checked, "yes, we are still interested" and added a little note that our lead paint situation hadn't really changed but had any of the regulations about it.

Two days later I got a phone call from Cindy.  She said she'd gotten our response and asked me to refresh her memory on the lead paint issues.

Well, our entire front porch is in severe disrepair and is covered with lead paint, our third floor is yet untouched, there is hallway trim that is half striped.  She took notes then said she'd talk to so and so higher up and get back to me and she did.

In the time since February, many regulations had been relaxed and they'd slowly started to peel back the layers of the blanket laws that had once been put into place. 

The new requirements?  Put a lock on the door going to the third floor, finish striping the trim in the hall and paint a strip of paint on the porch floor going from the stairs to the door.  None of this would cost us any money and could be completed in less than a days work. felt like the parting of the Red Sea!  What had seemed impossible was suddenly very easy and doable. least the home inspection part!

There was to be a training class starting up in a week and could we commit to that?  Ummm...ok!  So, twice a week I went to training and Shaun also came when he could.  To be quite honest, I expected the training to be a typical state-mandated thing...lots of "fluff" and useless information to fill a requirement.

Quite the contrary, it was very informative.  The facilitators were direct and honest about what we'd be getting ourselves into.  There was no sugar-coating and very little of the information was "frilly".  The training sessions were intense, heart-breaking, rigorous.

They also left me questioning God a little.  Why us?  We're not equipped for this.  What effects will this have on our own children?  Can we handle one more thing?

But with all the questioning and pondering we did during this process, the questions that came out on top were How can we not?  If not us, who?  If not now, when?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Our Foster Care Journey, Part I

Phew...deep breath.  I have stalled on doing this post long enough.  Why have I stalled?  I don't know.  Partly because this journey has been deeply personal, partly because I don't want to run the risk of offending or being judged.  And, very practically, I knew it would take me a while to put it all on paper.

Lastly, we wanted to wait until we'd completed the last hurdle, which happened this past Thursday.  Though we are not officially licensed, its looking pretty good.  :)

Are you ready for lengthy story?  I'm going to take some or all of this week to write about our road (thus far) to foster care.  (I was going to use flower photos, but for fun I think I'll use newborn photos, because really...can you ever get enough of that?)

After what has felt like a long journey to foster care, I think we are finally almost there.  And I'm excited, albeit hesitant, to share our story here.  We've gotten quite a few questions in talking with the few people we've shared with.  If you have any questions shoot me an email or leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer those in a Q & A on Friday. did all this come about?

Honestly, I don't even remember our first conversations about doing foster care.  It was shortly before or after Amanda was born and I don't even think it was much of a discussion....more like one of those times when we did little more than look at each other and we both knew.  God had already spoken to both of us individually.

When Amanda was about one, so four years ago, we went to a Department of Children & Families (DCF) open house to begin the licensing process.  That meeting went well so we took the next step and had a social worker come out to our house to begin the home study piece.

We talked for 15 minutes and then she took a quick walk around the house.  Her message: when you have removed every speck of lead paint from your (1895) home then you can give us a call.  We'd been so ready to dive in and felt like we'd gotten the wind knocked out of our sails.

Remove ALL traces of lead paint in a house this old?  Impossible!

So...we did a quick eyebrow raise to God as if to say, What's up with that?  We thought we'd heard from you!  and then moved on.

Once Aiden was here and more than a year old, we decided to step our toe in the foster care water again.  This time I made contact with what I thought was a private agency (turns out they are separate but still a state agency), thinking the rules & regs on lead paint would be different.

Afterall, we are raising three small children in this house who get tested regularly for lead and they are fine.  Plus, nearly all of our community is comprised of pre-1970s homes.

The worker, Cindy came out to our house for an initial meeting in February 2011.  She met me and the kids, talked about their program and then did a walk-through of the house.  The outcome was somewhat expected though still disappointing: all flaking lead paint would need to be removed inside and out.  That meant the wrap-around porch would need to be taken down and rebuilt.  Something that clearly needed to be done...oh, about 10 years ago.

Its been on the to-do list for years, but time, money and circumstances have prevented it from happening.  Just when Shaun was getting ready to finally do it, an apartment would become vacant and be in desperate need of a major remodel, for example.

Again, we had to wonder why we felt so called to this, but seemed to be so far away from ever making it a reality.

I'll share some snippets from my prayer journal on July 31:

Last night at church Eliezer (our amazing youth pastor) talked about living the "i" Life, as in lowercase "i", not capital...that your life does not have meaning until you're living it for others.  I thought, yes, I desperately do not want to live the "I" Life.

As he was giving the alter call, one of the scenarios he gave was that maybe there were circumstances at this point in life that are beyond your control prohibiting you from helping others....the porch, the apartments, all seem like big circumstances right now...

....I know you've spoken to us about it and I'm frustrated we are not "being about Your business" right now....

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Project 365, Week 3

Sometimes it takes me by surprise when I'm looking back through the pictures from earlier in the week. Wow...that was only six or seven days ago??  I'm not sure what causes that, but this was one of those weeks.

My heart was filled to overflowing this week.  God is so very good!

You may want to tune in this week as I share about our foster care journey (finally :)).

January 15
I enjoyed a wonderful birthday, being spoiled by my family.
January 16
We enjoyed having Avery home for the holiday.  Freezing cold or not the dog still needed exercise, so we took a walk/bike ride to the highschool.  Aiden's usually pretty content to chill in the stroller tucked under his blanket and I can't say I blame him.
 January 17
Because of the pretty snow we'd gotten, I thought to bring my camera on our walk to school.  We have a pretty steep hill to go down (and come up!) so sometimes Avery just likes to run down.

This is the field directly across the street from school where I throw the tennis ball for Trot every morning.  Though the birds try to steer clear of the dog, I feel its inevitable that I'll get pooped on one of these days. :)
 TWO super fun packages today!  Birthday flowers and handmade hats.  So much fun!
 January 18
Just the everyday around here...Amanda all dressed up unloading the silverware.
 She got Aiden dressed all by herself, too....starting him young on how to put his shoes on backwards. :)
Silly girls.
 January 20
The view from our second floor as the sun came up.
 Sweet girls who woke up being "best friends".

 More snow...(and her new hat)!
 I went to a lovely dinner party, celebrating a friend's birthday.  Some of the finest people you could ever meet around that table.
January 21
The kids were anxious to go sledding so my dad came and got them in the middle of the storm, giving Shaun and I the opportunity to have a final "pre-tax season" date.  We kicked it off by plowing once he got out of work.  Once a common occurrence, it had been years since I'd ridden in the pick-up the middle, right next to him.   Good times.