Life for me mostly feels like an alien living on a strange planet. These are my ramblings…

IT’S HERE!!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, people of preschool ages, I bring you….

the Tiny Toy Box!!

As you may know, Bronson and I are on a foster care hiatus and have decided to close our home for now. We may try again in a few years if the Lord leads us, but for now we need to keep things intact here on the home front and keep me from jumping off a bridge while I deal with school. Probably a good idea that I stay alive for a while.  Soo….all that to say I was praying and asking the Lord what I could still do in order to help foster children in some small way, and VOILA..He gave me the greatest idea!! Here is a brief synopsis…

I know I’m weird but I LOVE toys.  (I thought everybody did and then found out it’s mostly me..oh well).

I love finding them dirty and without batteries for 50 cents or $1 at a yard sale  or thrift shop and then taking them home to my “hospital” to fix and clean and scrub them up good as new.

Maybe I read too much Courderoy or Velveteen Rabbit as I kid…

Anywhoo…It’s been a fun hobby for me ever since my kids were born.  And THAT’s the idea the Lord gave me to try…

Why not open a toy shop online that people can purchase gently used toys for their kids?

Kids honestly don’t know the difference between a toy that comes in packaging vs none. The packaging is actually the most frustrating part of getting a gift anyways! And why spend $35 on a toy when the same toy is $5 and the purchase can benefit others?

So without further ado, the Tiny Toy Box is OPEN for business!

Here’s how it works below. PLEASE tell your friends and “like” the shop on Facebook!

HOW DOES IT WORK?

-Shop ANYTIME on facebook. Monthly albums of pictures will be created with the toys that are available for sale. Simply look through the pictures and “comment” on any items you wish to purchase. I even deliver weekly and offer gift wrap.

-ALL proceeds go to help foster children in our area through Miracle Hill. Foster parents can shop for birthday or Christmas gifts for their foster children with FREE shopping vouchers.   Also, proceeds go to help them with essentials (such as underwear, socks, sippy cups, etc.). EVERY dollar you contribute goes to help foster children! How cool is that?

-All items are clean, sanitized, and in working condition.

-GREAT for kid’s birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, etc. Have a friend’s birthday coming up? Let me know and I will have it gift wrapped and ready for the party for you!

-Please comment with any suggestions, tips, or if anything else should be included so that it makes sense. It’s NEW so I welcome any feedback!

Fiercely protective.  The one who watches over us and protects us. The one who doesn’t sleep-who lies awake watching for predators in the darkness.  The one who’s roar alone echoes and silences all others.

He has no equal.

No harm shall befall you when He is near. You are safe. You are protected.

You are in the knowing presence of  greatness.

Chances are, if you have times of worry or fear (like I do), maybe it’s because we forget to see God in this way.  We forget he is not safe, but he is good (C.S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia).  We think of the sunday school Jesus, the humble servant, and we forget His majesty.  We forget his fierceness. His roar. The size of his paw. His majesty.  His committment to protecting us and watching everything with sovereign eyes.

So when you stumble to the coffee pot on a dreary morning, just remember…He is right there. Let Him fight your battles for you. Let Him handle your worry and your fears. He will never leave you or stop fighting for you. There is nothing about your sin that surprises Him. He knows everything and longs for you to know

that there is nothing to fear, not even Him.

So sit and stay awhile…soak in His mighty presence….

the Lion of Judah is before you.

Foster Care (Part Deux)

Yes, I’m still alive. Man life has slapped me upside the head lately for taking too much on. I really think I could sleep for a week straight! This post has been a long time coming…

In two weeks we are hosting a Q&A Foster Care Luncheon at our church. We are trying to make it an annual tradition just to get conversations started and answer any myths or roadblocks people may have about ever considering fostering a child.  So here are a few examples of the questions we, ourselves, had asked when we first started out, as well as some other questions I have been asked by others. Hope it helps! And hey, maybe at least you will learn something new! 🙂

HOW DO YOU BECOME A FOSTER PARENT?

We chose to go through Miracle Hill, as they act as a liason between you as a foster parent and DSS. They actually will supply you with the training you need, as well as resources (thrift store vouchers for needed items, etc), and most importantly, a listening ear when you need to vent about how ridiculous DSS is or how frustrated you are.  They are WONDERFUL people, and I would never recommend the alternative…which is just being licensed through DSS.

To become licensed you attend two training classes (which means two saturdays), as well as a fire and health inspection, background checks, physicals, a home visit, and an interview. During this time they want to make sure everything is ready and help you find the best fit for your family. For instance, you may only want to foster infants or a 6 yr old girl, long term or short term, or whatever.  You can specify and they help to find a fit that best suits your family.  The entire licensing process takes about 3 months.

HELPFUL ASPECTS OF FOSTERING:

-If you are working, the state will provide daycare vouchers for the child in your care so that you can continue work.

-You receive a daily stipend  from the state to help towards the cost of clothes, food, housing expenses, etc. A clothes check will also be issued each season to help with clothes and school expenses.

-All foster children’s medical expenses are covered on medicaid.

-Case workers can aid in transportation to and from family visits, doctors appointments, etc.

-You can leave the state if you have permission for the foster child to travel with you.

-Respite care is provided if needed so you can have a break or attend weddings/funerals/special occaisions.

-Our church was an awesome encouragement to us while we were fostering. They prayed for us, supported us, loved the kids with us, and were sad with us when they left.

-The process to become a foster family is the same process as becoming an adoptive parent.  If a foster family ever wanted to adopt the foster child they would get first dibs as long as the child is free for adoption. Also, adoption through the state is FREE and costs nothing. Only private adoptions costs since they involve a private lawyer.

 

DIFFICULTIES OF FOSTERING:

-Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get. “Going with the flow” will become your new daily moto. Loving the child as much as you can from day to day.  Court dates, family visits, medical conditions, bad case workers, are all factors that could possibly be frustrating. You sometimes don’t even know how long the child will be staying. Sometimes weeks, sometimes months…

Another pain child care workers experience comes from the difficulty of letting our children go.  Some will return home to a family member, while others join their forever families through adoption.  Some children will keep in touch through phone calls or on Facebook.  Other children leave our home and we never see or hear from them again.  They come into our lives for brief moments, and while they are with us, they become a part of our family.  We laugh together.  We cry together.  We play together.  In the brief moments we have, we want our children to not only know Jesus as their personal Savior, but also learn that they can trust Him.  In this way, our Peace is turned to Joy and we can be at rest!  (written in an article by Tonya Wilson at miraclehill.org)

-Spanking is not allowed. The suggested forms of discipline involve time-out or loss of priviledges.  It was difficult for us to explain to our small kids that THEY got spankings but the foster child didn’t and WHY. Sometimes time-out didn’t work and we were frustrated as there didn’t seem to be any other options for curbing behavior.  We just had to try to be as creative and consistent as possible.

I believe that God calls a family to foster. It’s not for everyone. Even if you can’t be a foster family, there are other ways you can encourage and help foster children. Here are a few ideas…

-notes of encouragement to foster families or even case workers (scripture is great!!)

-items like underwear, sippy cups, diapers, socks, toothbrushes, car seats, shoes, suitcases (used but nice). Most children come into care with the clothes on their back. Some have the luxury of grabbing a trash bag to transport items from foster family or group home. Any of these items would be a blessing to a foster family you know of or even to Miracle Hill Childrens Home (or Helping Hands).

-Help out with Christmas gifts or birthday gifts. I love the idea of donating GC for fun places like the movies or Children’s Museum…places that normally wouldn’t be an option to go to.

-gifts to DSS (snack foods, notes, bucket of goodies-lotion, office supplies, starbucks GC). Case workers are ALWAYS the bad guys. Parents don’t like them since they took their children away and foster parents get frustrated with them because they are the bearer of sad/bad news.  Most case workers have 20-25 cases, so think of how much a word of encouragement would mean to them!

-Ask Miracle Hill to hold a Q&A session at your church. Even just getting information out there is helpful.

-take a meal to a foster parent or better yet pay for a babysitter for a night out!

 

I hope this helps some! Feel free to ask any questions YOU have if there’s anything you are curious about!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something bit me!!

“Oh, yes sir. Bit me directly in the buttocks. They said it was a million-dollar wound, but the Army must keep that money, ’cause I still ain’t seen a nickel of that million dollars.

The only good thing about being wounded in the buttocks is the ice cream.

They gave me all the ice cream I could eat.        (Forrest Gump)

“Zoey “reloading”

Somedays you just don’t see it coming…..the day starts like normal. The normal shuffle to the coffee pot. The normal bowl of oatmeal. The normal amount of ignoring the fact that your son is jumping on the couch at 7:25 in the morning while you can barely fathom having the energy to brush your teeth.

And then it happens…like an ambush on a quiet little quaint village. The rapid gunfire of requests and demands from your children pops and comes so quickly you are left bewildered and laying on the floor in your bathrobe. Here is just a sampling of actual “gunfire” that took place last week in the span of one hour…promise..it’s all true…

“I bit my tongue!!! (tears, sob, tears)…I ran into the wall (tears, snot, tears)..I stepped on a toy (tears AGAIN and wipe snot)…I peed in my bed…Zoey hit me!!…Zoey won’t dance with me…I don’t WANT chicken for lunch….ooo I like chicken for lunch!!….I need a glass of water!!….I need batteries for my car!!…where’s my whistle?….I can’t find my baby…I CAN’T clean up my room…it’s too hard..where’s my remote?…….you NEVER let me watch TV….

rat..tatt..ratt…tatt….tatt

BOOOM! (that’s a bazooka)

It hit me so fast I tried to hold on for about 30 seconds and then had to fight the urge not to just burst into tears. As I tried to process I heard a voice in the back of my mind reminding me that my husband wouldn’t be home for another  ELEVEN hours and that I was all alone, stranded, vulnerable, the only person who could read and make food and tie shoes…no calvary, no backup in sight…

I wish I could say I have a wonderful verse that cures all insanity in the midst of warfare. I wish I could say I prayed and my children suddenly floated around like angels and I brushed my teeth and ran the house like June Cleaver. As you may know already, most of my posts are about grace, because I am a MESS! And on this day, I was a complete disaster. Bathrobe and all I prayed and asked God to help me to see Him right there in the trenches with me. He’s really good at diffusing bombs but I am not. And so I survived simply because I could believe that He was right there with me.  And with him I would survive and live to fight another day.

But therefore, my curiousity reels and I need to know…what do YOU do when you come under fire? When no matter what you try your children don’t seem to be able to get along. No matter how nicely you explain or pray with them or pray to God for the rapture, nothing changes and you’re stuck…when the days seem so long and no human help on the horizon.  Do you call for backup? Do you turn into Mom-zilla and strike your children down with fire blasts from your nostrils? Do you shop online? HOW DO YOU SURVIVE?

For example, I have one friend (who I love very much) that hides in the corner with a glass of wine and plays Angry Birds until her kids find her. I personally choose to hide in the laundry room and eat chocolate or send the kids to their rooms and try to escape to the wonderful world of Pinterest..which sadly on my best day has only lasted about 4 minutes before my bunker was invaded.

Be honest if you dare. Chances are we all do similair things to cope when under fire and I really believe we can laugh and remember next time we’re at war that we are NOT alone.  Maybe we are so different that not everyone’s idea of retreat is the same. But how fun would it be to find out some survival tips, and then maybe crawl in the corner and play Angry Birds together….

(PS…Foster Care Part Deux coming next!! I haven’t forgotten..just slack!)

Our Foster Story…

I NEVER thought I would EVER be a foster parent. “It’s too sad, it’s too hard,” I’d think to myself.  I couldn’t imagine loving someone and then watching them leave without the  comfort of ever seeing them again or knowing they were safe and okay. I never wanted the pain I knew would be a part of the puzzle. I never wanted to be a foster parent.

Until one day it hit me. Those were MY excuses. It was about me. My heart. My emotions.  My pain.  I was not thinking of the child who had no choice, had no say, and meant no harm…they were just taken and thrown into a new strange place and told to swim.  They simple needed a loving place to play and be a kid, even if just for a little while.

When I am sad or in need of assurance, I have the privilege and amazing gift of being able to go to Jesus. I never come away without comfort.  When I am angry, I can dump it at His feet and know that He will take care of it. When I am scared of the future, I know He will be there. He is faithful. He is constant. He is true.

And so I began to think, “if Christians can’t handle the pain of fostering then WHO can?” After all, don’t we have the eternal hope of God’s sovereignty to lean on?  Aren’t we called to shine our flashlights down the darkest corridor?  (WARNING: don’t take this as guilt, I’m simply talking about if He calls you then He equips you!!)

I prayed and prayed because my desire was eating at me and my husband was still on the fence about whether or not we should get our license. And in a matter of weeks the Lord spoke to him and changed his heart in an amazing way!  We would give it a shot, the ol’ college try, and see where the road leads….HOORAY!!!

The first child we had was an adorable little boy. J’s eyes were so big and even though he barely spoke you knew he was always observing, watching.  He loved to run around in his diaper after my kids. It took days until we finally saw him smile and laugh. I like to hope that our home was a place where he found something to laugh about again.  He introduced some much needed diversity into our home. One night while taking a bath Noah was very upset because “J got to color himself black and I never got  to pick MY color and I want to be GREEN!!!” 😉

J was exposed to so many new things and we spoiled him as best we could, but nevertheless his needs were far to great for us. He later hopped from foster home to foster home until he could finally reach an official diagnosis and enter into therapeutic care that he needed.  We pray for him still just about every day.

Bronson and I thought that maybe an older child would be a better fit for us since the younger child like to bite and beat up on Zoey a little. So we went took in a five year old boy next. He was a very large five year old that came from a very sad situation. I was told there were wild chickens in his home.  I don’t think he had ever slept in a real bed.  Even a week later he still never smelled good. I couldn’t seem to get him clean which baffled me. He could not hold a crayon and even though he was five he didn’t know a single letter of the alphabet.  We were told he was possible ADD when he was dropped at our doorstep.  He was our “Jeckyll and Hyde” child. He could be sweet as an angel in public and then turn on the hellion side at home.  He taught my kids certain words and tried to hit me constantly. It was a battle that was over very soon and it broke my heart to have to throw the towel in so quickly. He clearly needed a different environment and went on to stay at a boys home that came highly recommended.  We pray for him as well.

Exhausted and wide eyed we decided to re-evaluate things.  Had we heard the Lord wrong? What are we DOING?

Then before we could call and tell them “we quit” a call came in for a little girl. We prayed and decided to give things one last try….and she arrived two hours later. A dirty teddy bear, a crusty bottle, 1 diaper, and a head full of lice was all she came with.  She looked like a little pixie and I fell in love with her so quickly. I wanted to show her off like a new baby to all my friends. The kids loved her and she quickly became a part of our family.  We were assured that it was going to be a long-term stay and we were happy to hear that. I toyed with the idea in my head that maybe she could be Smith #3, only to find out a few weeks later that she would be returning home the next day. I was so shocked as nothing had changed and was told DSS was dropping the case entirely.

And just like that she was gone. She came with nothing, and left with Gymboree clothes (thanks to my sis) and three bags of toys and belongings.   My only hope was that she would look at some of the things and remember us and the fun we had together. My kids still ask about her and if she can come to their birthday parties. I pray for her everyday.

Months went by and Bronson and I were not ready to move on.  We were going to take a break as we evaluated all of the children we had and what our family could endure. We did a few respite needs for our friends (aka taking care of children of other foster parents so they could have a break) and really enjoyed that. And we realized that even with sweet, well behaved foster children, we just couldn’t do it. It stretched us too thin.  Our two young children plus other children just equaled a product that wasn’t fair to anybody. So, for now, we have ground to a halt.

We look at other foster parents and notice that they have older or grown children, and I’m pretty sure I understand their reasoning. I would LOVE to try again in a few years when my kids are to the point where they can understand WHY they are getting spankings and the foster child doesn’t, and WHY these children have no clothes or no toys and NEED love. I want us to love as a family and really hope that in a few years we will be able to try again.  In the meantime, I have an idea that the Lord has given me to still help and contribute in a small small way (more to come on that soon).

If you’re still here, I hope you have been able to get a glimpse of what fostering is like in a sense. I hope to follow up with another post on logistics and common questions/myths.  But in a nutshell it’s not for everyone. You love as much as you can, pray for them as much as you can, and know that the Lord is King over all.  Only He can heal  our hearts and bandage them up over and over again.  He is everything that we need in this life.  God’s word says “if the willingness is there then the gift is acceptable.” And although Bronson and I were very pathetic foster parents, I know that the Lord watches over the six children who came through this home and has now specifically assigned us as their personal prayer people. 😉


This is something I wrote below when we were praying about being foster parents….

 

 I have a little secret

trying hard inside to keep it

from bursting forth

out of my bones, and eyes, and words.

My heart says go ahead and steal it

squash it, push it, break it

for it knows the sacrifice is worth it

on this side of heavens shore.

Is this not what you did Lord?

offered up your heart to the sword?

the Great Rescuer of love

the Great Physician of the heart

came and gave up His own.

My once fragile heart says “bring it”

for once I think I can trade it

to become bandaged up and limping

til I cross the shores of home.

 

I would love for you to leave a comment. I love your encouragement, but please comment if you have questions you would like answered about fostering. Please don’t make my head swell with your sweetness because I am no foster mom saint and all it does it make my head grow! Leave your sweetness for the REAL foster moms out there because they are the ones that deserve every bit of it! 🙂

A Plethora??

 

Sometimes I seriously need a slap in the head. Moments when I sigh and feel greed just rise up within me. It rises and clouds my moods and my thoughts until I just wish someone would slap me and then show me a slideshow of memories (like the following).

Allow me to explain. Several years ago I was blessed and sent by some wonderful people to spend a summer in Romania. I was an 18 year old on a plane with dreams of holding orphans and helping others, and instead I returned with a brain full of wonderful lessons that the Lord so carefully taught me and I was never the same.

Meet the Roman family. Me and my two American roomates were invited to their home for supper. They were members of the church that hosted us while we were in Romania, and they warmly invited us for supper and to “share our testimonies.” 🙂

We showed up to an 10th floor apartment and happily sat down to a GREAT meal. My friend Jodie was offered a beer with a head on it three inches wide, to which we burst into giggles.   We were on a MISSIONS TRIP people!! haha! She politely opted for COLA instead. 🙂

The Romans had 2 children. Notice the table is in their living room.  I believe their entire apartment could have fit inside of my parents master bath and closet back home.  The daughter slept in the kitchen on a bench that she pulled out, and the brother slept on the living room couch. One bathroom and no yard. But you would think they were RICH by the way they acted and constantly offered us more food and drink.  The dad was eager to know our stories and how God had worked in our lives. It was such a refreshing time and I treasure that memory with them, as they had taken three American girls (especially one freakishly tall hungry one) in and lavished us with such hospitality.

Another single mother welcomed us into her home.  Yes that’s 5 children…five! She was a single mother and shared her bed with two children while the other three slept in another bed.  Her house was clean, warm, and she too lavished us with a warm meal and hospitality.

 

While in Romania we saw so much poverty. I also saw poverty in Ecuador and Bosnia.  Families literally living in cardboard and boxcars. Poverty that can’t be described but opened my naive eyes and left me laying in my bed so thankful for a warm place to sleep.  But then you take a plane home and you are surrounded again with hot showers and Suburbans, oversized recliners and flat screens, big gulps of Dr. Pepper. And you slowly forget…and the greed returns (at least I’m speaking for myself).

Sometimes I wish for new dishes, new clothes, cute shoes, or a bigger bathroom. I get frustrated and feel sub-par to my friends houses and cars.  I think my minivan smells and has no gas hatch (oh the humanity!! not a GAS HATCH!!) I complain that we have TWO older cars…not stopping at the fact that we have TWO cars!! Andy Stanley has said once that we are the only country that keeps change (aka money) in our cars and in our couches as if it’s  disposable and insignificant.

So sometimes I need a slap. I need fresh eyes to walk through my house and just marvel at the SPACE I DO have. Even an average American’s house would be viewed as a CASTLE in other countries. I go to my pantry and it’s FULL. I go to the grocery and it’s FULL of food. I turn on the faucet and the water is HOT!! My kids have so many toys we have to PURGE constantly to keep from being able to get to their bed at night.  I can hop in a car and go wherever I want.  I have a closet full of clothes…I could go on and on…and don’t even get my started on my coffee snobbery.

So next time you hear me whine or complain, I give you full permission to slap me! The Lord has been SO good to me and I don’t want to miss it.   He is the one who opens my eyes, and I pray he does the same for my children because I am 100% sure He doesn’t force feed lessons like that. He opens our eyes at just the right time.

So I would love to end this post with a urge to “be thankful” but maybe…..we should just ask Him for new eyeballs or glasses…or wherever the heck I’m going for with this metaphor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the Poor Get Creative

If 25 years of walking with the Lord has taught me anything it’s that He has the BEST ideas and finds the BEST deals!! All you have to do is ASK Him! In May of this year I spotted an old record player outside of our local thrift store. Every time I drove by for about two days it was sitting there…forlorn…alone..dirty…looking at me with puppy eyes calling to me as I zoomed by in my minivan. It was in HORRIBLE shape, but as my mom says it had “great lines!” I couldn’t stop thinking about it and finally stopped in just to ask how much they would sell it for. The ladies looked at me blankly like I didn’t get the memo that the piece was about to RIP at Pickens County landfill if only they could find a man to lift it, but they squeeked out  “$10??? and I yelled “SOLD!!!” a little too loudly.  The thing was SO heavy and SO gross that Bronson gave me “the look” when he had to go pick it up in his truck. He did NOT see the “lines” and thought that the fact that I wouldn’t allow it in the house yet until all spider eggs and dirt had been eliminated should’ve been a MAJOR CLUE to let this item PASS. It was summer. It was hot. And it had no future…yet.

NEVERTHELESS (WHY are you still reading???), I had absolutely NO plan what I was going to do with it.  So it sat and I waited and prayed (yes prayed-hence my comment about HIS awesome ideas above).  Two months later the idea came to me as sweetly as dew on the grass of Liberty…God said “Amy. why not make it a bakery for Zoey for Christmas?”  TRALAAA!! The angels sang! It was September and four months seemed like just enough time to squeeze in 15 minute paint stripping sessions while the kids were watching SpongeBob, trudging up to the attic at 11:00pm instead of watching the news to put ANOTHER coat of paint on it, having trouble falling asleep because you just didn’t quite know what color would look best on the trim, etc.

I do have to say my awesome husband was VERY sweet and helped make it even cooler than intended with his touches. Christmas morning he even turned to me and complimented the victory (aka God’s idea). SCORE!! It’s always good when your husband doesn’t think you’re a complete retard…

The point of the lesson, children, is to ask Him (aka God) for good ideas. If your kids are small and don’t know that Baby Alive is supposed to come in a box, then get creative and ask God to help you find a good deal next time you drop off at the Goodwill or pass a yardsale. He truly is the best shopping partner. You may not be into sweet shops, but I should have my mom do a guest post on all the comforters and perfect pillows He’s found for her..whatever your vice may be, He’s the best!

So without further ado (if you’re still reading), here is the Sweet Shop of 2011! Thank you God for such a creative, fun idea!! Best thing is that Zoey is running her first non-profit business and she’s only 3!! The sky is the limit!!

BEFORE….(and PS…sorry I’m not one of THOSE bloggers who takes 100 pictures with a super nice camera). These are the best I could do..you get the idea though..

 

GUTTED and WHITEWASHED…this could be a sermon illustration…or a devotional for decorators! 🙂

PS. if anyone wanted dibs on the 1970’s record player with gold trim…sorry. it’s a goner…

 

TAADAA!! The final product! Everything refurbished except for the cupcakes!

 

Found a WHOLE box of push lights at a yard sale for $2.00…great lighting featuring an apple pie will bring in customers don’t you think??

ABOVE:  Zoey’s happy little face on Christmas morning.

BELOW: coolest thing is the oven (thanks to Bronson for making it happen). Just switch on and bake (aka red light bulb)!!

 

 

The total cost= $10 for record player + $20 for materials (wires, plexiglass, spraypaint, red lightbulb, apron/hat) + $10 for adorable vintage fisher price cupcakes off Ebay that I just had to have so I could relive my childhood…all other items were given to her for her bday or from her play kitchen. All paint and scrap wood were leftovers which brings the grand total to $40!!