the facebook group: FAQs

Recently, I announced a new series on supporting foster and adoptive families. You can find the first three posts here.

What is this Facebook group you speak of?
In September 2015, some friends of mine (Jenny and Elizabeth) were opening a foster pantry (read all the details here!) and I offered to try out some online fundraising to get some needed items stocked. 24 hours later, nearly $2000 had been raised. On Facebook. It was clear that momentum had built and that people were eager to do more to serve foster/adopt/kinship families, so I started a Facebook group to share ongoing needs.

What goes on in there?
– Raising money for foster pantry items
When Jenny or Elizabeth lets me know about an item that needs to be restocked in the foster pantry, I head to the Facebook group and do some fundraising. Depending on how things are going with people donated used items, sometimes we’ll decide to wait and do a big fundraiser for several items a few times a year. At times, we also learn of families who are at risk for CPS-intervention because of insecure housing who have obtained an apartment but have no furnishings, and we’ll do fundraisers for that as well.

The fundraisers, frankly, look a lot like me posting incessantly and convincing people that even giving $2 makes a difference. I’m silly, loud, and pep rally-ish, and people give either because they love it or because they want me to be quiet. I’m cool with either.

Here are some sample posts from fundraisers!

– Meal calendars
We regularly post meal calendars (favorite site is Meal Train) where people can directly sign up to take a meal to a family, post in the comments that they can cook but not deliver (or vice versa) and look for a partner, be prompted to donate toward take out, or sign up to cook and deliver a meal that they’ll be reimbursed for through our Monthly Meals program (post to come). Those posts look like this.

– Promoting adoption fundraisers
– Posting information on classes for becoming a certified foster babysitter
– Offering items that are no longer needed to other families
– Coordinating rides, pick-up/drop-off of items, etc.

How could I start a Facebook group?
– Talk to local foster/adoptive families and/or CPS workers to determine what would be truly supportive in your community and determine if a FB group could be a part of it.

– Consider if you want to be responsible for running the group, if you’d like to do it with a group of friends, or if you’re not comfortable with/capable of posting regularly, etc. Who do you know that may be?

– Get very familiar with unsplash.com. Unsplash has a great selection of free stock photos that I use constantly when posting meal calendars, a request for a ride or delivery, etc. Pictures make a huge difference in visibility and interaction on Facebook.

– Whoever is in charge of this little corner of the Internet must be comfortable posting frequently when the need warrants it. When there isn’t a pressing need, go quiet. When there is, or when it’s time to do a fundraiser, go crazy! The more excited you are, the more momentum builds.

– PayPal and Venmo make it easy for people to give, as well as offering the option for checks to be sent.

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I’m here for you! Comment with questions or shoot me an email.

the foster pantry: FAQs

Last week, I announced a new series on supporting foster and adoptive families. You can find the first post here, and the second post here.

What is the foster pantry?

Though it has “foster” in the title, the pantry also serves adoptive and kinship placement families, as well as families at risk for CPS intervention. The pantry is filled with clothes, car seats, strollers, baby swings, diapers, toys, toiletries, and more, all available at no cost to the families.

How did the foster pantry get started?

A few years ago, my friends Elizabeth Carter and Jenny Closner began dreaming about opening a foster pantry through a foster and adoption support group called Faithful to the Fatherless. When Elizabeth lived elsewhere, her church started one, and she had seen firsthand how helpful it was to families.

Elizabeth (a foster and adoptive mom), and Jenny (an adoptive mom), prayed about the pantry and eventually a family in our church provided space for it in a small side building on their property. The pantry now shares a storage unit space with another ministry of our church. The items all come through donations.

Who runs it?

Elizabeth and Jenny are the primary contacts, and a few other volunteers have keys for meeting families at the pantry to go shopping.

Why is the pantry needed?

Very often, foster families receive a phone call just a few hours before a child is coming into their home. CPS interventions vary widely, and children are often in immediate need of a place to spend the night tonight.

Imagine that you are going about your day and suddenly the phone rings with a placement opportunity. How comforting to know that your next phone call can be to set up an appointment at a pantry that is stocked with the items you’ll need for this new season of your life!

The pantry is also open to families who are adopting, as they are often facing major costs. We want to celebrate the bringing of a child into a home, whether temporarily or permanently. So, the same way that we throw baby showers for friends who are pregnant (even when they have the ability to buy some items themselves), we want to show our support through the pantry.

Don’t foster families get reimbursed by the state? Don’t the kids bring things with them?

The pantry primarily provides items immediately needed at the time of placement (as opposed to ongoing needs months after a child has been placed, though we are happy for families to trade out clothing sizes, for example).

Foster parents are reimbursed by the state, but the reimbursements take a while to come in, and they’re not a high amount.

Children often come with nothing, or maybe a few belongings in a trash bag. So, for example, if the child is a baby, immediate needs would include a car seat, stroller, bottles, etc. – items that add up very quickly and can’t wait to be purchased when the reimbursement comes. The pantry removes the stress of those large initial costs.

How do families learn about the pantry?

Many of the foster and adoptive families in our community are a part of the Faithful to the Fatherless, so the word spreads easily there. Jenny and Elizabeth also have good relationships with caseworkers at our local CPS office who inform foster families that the pantry is available to them.

How do families set up an appointment?

Foster parents (and sometimes caseworkers) call Elizabeth or Jenny who arrange a time to meet the parent at the pantry. Sometimes, if the child is coming right this minute, a volunteer will go gather items for the family and deliver them. Ideally, though, the parent gets to shop and choose things they especially like and need.

How much can families take? How do you know you’re not being taken advantage of?

The vast majority of the time, Elizabeth and Jenny are imploring foster parents to take more. Rarely, almost never, have they felt that the pantry was taken advantage of.

In general, foster families are so thankful and overwhelmed by the offer of assistance during those crazy first days of transition that they restrain themselves a great deal when choosing items. (So Elizabeth and Jenny just add things to their bags :).)

Faithful to the Fatherless wants to steward donations well while honoring the dignity of each foster parent and child by giving generously and not being trapped by the fear of misuse. There will be times when the pantry or items from it are misused. But overall, abundant giving has been reciprocated with abundant gratitude.

Families are never expected to return the items that they take, though we’re certainly happy to take back items that are no longer needed (a crib, for example). The foster families are also encouraged to send items with foster children who leave their care to wherever they are going.

If resources were limited, it would be easy to come up with a checklist that is given to the foster parent (x number of outfits, etc.) to refer to as he or she shops.

How do you solicit donations?

When the pantry first opened, Jenny and Elizabeth spread the word through Faithful to the Fatherless and on social media that excellent used condition (this is really important – we want the families to receive items that communicate dignity) clothes and items were needed. Our community stepped up to the plate big time with clothes, and by the time I made it to the drop-off day, the only things still needed were bigger items like car seats and strollers.

I suggested to Jenny that I post on Facebook and see if anyone wanted to contribute toward the “grand opening” of the pantry. 24 hours later, the wild world of Facebook had blown me away by raising around $2000 toward needed items (read about it here).

Building on the momentum of that fundraiser, I started a Facebook group where supporters of Faithful to the Fatherless could stay in touch with ongoing needs. I’ll do a separate post on the Facebook group, but for now, it’s where we share a lot of information about items that are needed and fundraise for them.

How could I do something like this in my community?

You’ll need:

Space, which could be as small as part of someone’s garage (maybe with attic space for car seats, etc.), or as large as a storage unit. You may start small and get bigger! Ideally, the space needs to be accessible by multiple volunteers who will have keys to take families shopping, so keep that in mind as you’re considering spaces (aka do you want to give 4 people keys to your garage?).

Volunteers to maintain inventory, fundraise/solicit used items, meet families at the pantry. Time commitments will vary based on the size of your city’s foster/adopt needs and how often new placements are made (you could learn this by contacting your local CPS office). Jenny and Elizabeth average about 3-5 hours per week meeting families at the pantry and maintaining inventory, and I average around the same with raising money for needed items, etc.

Keep in mind that this is an average. Some weeks, Elizabeth, Jenny, and/or I may spend 15 hours on the pantry, some weeks none at all. Largely, this is because some weeks the community may have no new placements, and some weeks it may have 10.

If you’re limited on volunteers/time, you could have a schedule of weekly availability for each volunteer and only allow appointments during those times. A lot of this will depend on season of life/other commitments for your volunteers, so I encourage you to all be very honest with each other about your schedules/capacity and set up the pantry in a way that will be sustainable for your volunteers.

Set up a clear line of communication between the people who are hands on at the pantry taking families shopping and maintaining inventory, and the person or people who fundraise for needed items. In our case, Jenny or Elizabeth will send me a text of what’s running low and I’ll get to work hassling people on Facebook for baby swings. Talk through it with your people to see what works and helps everyone stay on the same page.

A connection to foster families so they can learn about the pantry, such as an existing ministry or the local CPS office

A strategy for soliciting donations of new and/or excellent used condition items (post to come on some of our fundraising tips and tricks)

You may want:

A Facebook group (post to come!)

Someone who is comfortable manically posting in said Facebook group to solicit donations (in our case, this is me)
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I am here for you as you determine if this is something your church, community group, or friends could get started. Please feel free to comment on this post or contact me with any questions!

Orphan Care: Calling and Creativity

Last week, I announced a new series on supporting foster and adoptive families. You can find the first post here.

For this series to be helpful to you, we’re going to need to be on the same page about something: orphan care is for everyone. Extra bedrooms or not, disposable income or not, specific spiritual gifting/love for children/heart for the marginalized or not, orphan care is for you, both in terms of calling and creativity. Let’s explore that a bit.

Calling
Scripture is explicit that, for the Christian, caring for widows and orphans is a mandate. At the time those words were written, widows and orphans were some of the most vulnerable members of society, and in many ways, this remains true. In America, the orphans who are often the nearest to us are children in foster care.

According to Children’s Rights, “on any given day, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States. In 2015, over 670,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care.

Hundreds of thousands of children, right here at home, are undergoing the traumatic event of being removed from their families of origin and are in need of love and safety. For many people, the best way to respond to this reality is to become a licensed foster parent. If you are maybe-a-little-tiny-itty-bitty-Abby-I-kind-of-want-to-slap-you-because-you’re-making-me think-about-this level of interested in pursuing a foster care license, I highly commend my friend, and author, speaker, and foster/adoption advocate, Jason Johnson, to you. His blog will be a gift as you pray through God’s call on your life as it pertains to orphan care.

For those who cannot pursue a foster care license right now, or who are praying through it but want to begin moving toward the foster/adopt world in the meantime, I want to help us answer this question: for those of us who believe that we are both called to care for orphans and that we cannot bring foster children into our homes today, what can we do?

Creativity
Here’s a truth about God that I can’t get over: He never leaves us ill-equipped for that which He has called us to fulfill. Since God has called us to care for orphans, there must be ways in our lives right now that we can do so.

It may very well be the case that our lives will need to adjust or be reprioritized so that we can follow God’s call. Oftentimes, what’s required of us will include sacrifice. But, we are not locked into lives incapable of accommodating some form of orphan care. The God of the universe has placed this calling on our lives, and He has set His Spirit, with great creativity and passion, within us as we seek to obey.

As you begin to think creatively about engaging orphan care, keep the imagery of the body of Christ in mind. Everyone plays a part, right? No part more valuable than the other? So, consider what body part, building block or concentric circle you may be a part of.

In the case of foster care, the center of the circle is the foster child (or the child being adopted, or the family at risk for losing their children to foster care, etc.). The circle just outside of him or her is the foster family. Just outside of them are case workers, CASA advocates, etc. Then extended family and close friends, then their church community, then the community at large, and so on.

Consider where you fit right at this moment. Do you know anyone who is fostering or adopting? Do you know anyone whose financial or family circumstances may be putting their children at risk for being taken into care? Think about your workplace, child’s school, church, neighborhood, city buildings you drive past, and community’s services.

You do have a place to start. It may be a call to your church to ask if anyone in the congregation fosters, adopts, works with families at risk for removal, or is involved with those who do/are. It may be an appointment with the local CPS office to see what the pressing needs are. Send an email or make a phone call. Move toward one person, just to get to know their story. 

So, about the next post: One way that God’s call to care for the orphan intersected with my life at an unexpected time was through our community’s foster pantry. Next week, I’ll write about what it is, how it was started, and the logistical details in a way that will help you figure out if something similar may be doable in your community. Please comment with any questions about how the pantry works and I’ll make sure to address them!

With joy,

Abby

P.S. Want to do some further research in the meantime?

And Then There Were Five by Emily Attaway for Respite Redefined
Wrapping around Foster and Adoptive Families by Jason Johnson
Three Things Foster Parents Don’t Have to Be by Jason Johnson
Pure and Undefiled Religion by Jared Perry (a sermon my husband gave last year)

on serving foster & adoptive families. 

When Jared was in seminary and we were just beginning our journey into parenthood, I was overwhelmed with a desire to foster and/or adopt. We met with friends who were licensed, who were welcoming children and filling out paperwork and attending classes, and we decided to work toward our fostering certification once Jared graduated. In May 2014, we became licensed, and over the summer we cared for two sets of siblings for a long weekend each (known as respite care).

After Gabriel was born and the unknowns of his medical needs stacked high, it became clear that our plans for foster care needed to shift. Nothing, not one thing, about our passion for the orphan shifted, but our circumstances required that passion to manifest differently.

By God’s grace, our church and community made possible creative ways for us to engage. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a series of blog posts with ideas for supporting foster, adoptive, and kinship placement families. If you’ve ever felt like there’s only a binary between fostering/adopting or not actively engaging orphan care, if you’ve never thought about orphan care before, or if you’re itching to rally your community around supporting children (and their immediate caregivers), this series is for you.

I plan to explain the ins and outs of:

  • The concentric circles of care for children and families
  • Our community’s “foster pantry”
  • The Facebook group where we share needs
  • Programs for providing meals when families welcome new children
  • How we help families at risk for Child Protective Services intervention stay together
  • Ways we support teens aging out of care

I would love to know if there are other topics related to supporting foster, adoptive, kinship, or otherwise CPS-adjacent families you’d like for me to address. You can on this post, send me an email, or come find me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. This series exists entirely to illustrate what has worked in our community so that you are informed and inspired to try similar things right where you are.

So, what are the barriers you perceive in your community when it comes to effective orphan care?

What feels unknown or scary or intimidating?

Most simply, what can I share that may help you take a step forward?

I’m delighted to start this conversation with each of you!

With joy,

Abby

first fosters.

where in the world to begin…

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three little birds flew into our home wednesday morning. into the car, more specifically, where we spent our first hour together, where I realized that they were foster kids yes, but at the root, just kids. copious amounts of “are we there yet?” asks and knock-knock jokes will remind one of that.

the next four days were a continual reminder of that kid-ness at the core, a whirlwind of mothering four, an exercise in growing immeasurable respect for moms of many and the recognition of a growing desire to be one myself. they ran us ragged in my favorite way, every night leaving that “camp tired” sensation coursing through me. i loved it. i miss it. i want my phone to ring and more sweet faces to walk through our door.

we did art projects and put together Legos and read books. we swam and ran and squealed and laughed. we lived like a family.

is all of this so very obvious, full of recognitions I should have had before the three came? I didn’t know that they would feel like part of us, even assumed they wouldn’t since their leaving time was always known. but maybe that’s just it, maybe the knowledge that their lives are full of coming and going, hellos and goodbyes unwelcome, maybe that’s what bonded them to me in a way unimaginable. maybe I’m just pregnant and sappy and idealistic. maybe I’m not going to worry about the reason and just ride this wave of first-time emotions, so sad to see them go, so glad that they live with a wonderful foster family, so begging God to bring them stability. they knew how to pack their bags far too well for children their age.

I’m so thankful as I think on the way the three were loved during their few days with us, the way our church family embraced them and friends came over to play and our families praised their drawings over FaceTime. I’m becoming okay with the fact that I’ve evolved into the pregnant, weeping, worshipping mama in the second row at church, lips quivering through lyrics of God’s sovereignty, love, protection, Fatherliness. those marks of Him cover every part of my life, do the three see it too? they articulated the gospel clearly to me, knew the truth of the body and blood and resurrection. I’m begging for the faith to believe that the Spirit will testify to them exactly Whose children they are when the answer to that question on earth only breeds confusion.

I’m just going to sit here in this moment of reflecting on our first fosters. I’m so prone to running ahead, ignoring the gnawing inside that asks me to just take a minute, just let this be important, weighty, sad. it is sad. it’s sad to say goodbye, and it’s infinitely sadder for little babies to be shuffled from one place to the next, lives shrouded in uncertainty.

remember how I was reminded that the three were kids long before they were foster kids, children just like Owen is, just like I was? this is a truth that burrows deep and demands my attention. just like one with a handicap is not defined by it, these children are not defined by their status in the system. all that that status means matters greatly, but it is not all there is. they do not have to be children of the system forever, defined by paperwork and packed bags. that we could be some minuscule part of showing them possibility, showing them Jesus and hope and life beyond is a calling above my pay grade, a mission fulfilled only by the Spirit’s empowerment. I cling to Him. I thank Him for letting us join Him in caring for souls. I feel sad and let it be so. I wait for the phone to ring.

on being ourselves.

our foster care home study is on thursday. 

those eight words carry so much weight and meaning that i’m tempted to just leave them alone and hit “publish.”

a home study contractor will come to our home at 5 pm, a list of questions and time for “observing” our family prepared. in other words, this is one of those situations where “just be yourself” is simultaneously the best and most obnoxious advice one could give.

just be yourself

just be ourselves…just try not to explode with passion and hope while we attempt to explain how burdened we are to care for the orphan in a way unbelievably minuscule when compared to the breadth of the crisis.

just be ourselves…just smile and start over when we’re halfway through the response to a challenging question and Owen demands our attention (it is dinnertime, after all) and we can’t remember where that answer was going or why.

just be ourselves…just let the imperfect and messy show. we are young, we are learning, we are zealous and naive yet asking for wisdom to fall like water to our tongues. we are serious about this.

just be ourselves…just let myself speak in metaphor and theory and drips of poetry because my mind swims with language and its unification is how the world makes sense to me. just let jared speak in stories because he makes them come to life, in explanations because he finds truth at their conclusions.

just be ourselves…just play with the plastic farm on the floor while explaining our philosophy on attachment with interjections of “moo” and “baa” and “oink.” just offer dinner and dessert and coffee and a spot on the couch, because we love simple hosting and why should this be any different? just be okay saying “we don’t know, but we want to learn.”

just be ourselves…i am introverted. i am an obsessive achiever. i am a strategist and planner and all those other things that sound like “perfectionist” but aren’t because the standard isn’t perfection, it’s worse. the standard is whatever personal goal i’ve concocted in my mind, conscious or not, attainable or not, healthy or not. thursday will be quite an exercise in laying down my expectations, in surrendering the weaknesses of my personality, in letting our true colors show because (glory to God) our truest colors are the red of Christ’s blood shed over us and the white of the robes He clothed us in and the green of the life all around us that calls our hearts to continue celebrating Sunday’s Easter holiday – the resurrection that means we are new in Him.

just be ourselves…rescued and redeemed, justified, being sanctified, awaiting the day we are glorified. His banner waves over us, His mercy patiently guides us, His sovereignty strongly upholds us. we were first loved and now we love, first chosen and now we choose, first shown compassion and now we work out how to show it ourselves.

just be yourself is starting to sound a little better when i remember Who goes before and behind me, Who gave me a new identity, Who stamped “debt paid” on my soul. may His Spirit speak through us and mingle about us on Thursday night, finding glory, honor, praise in the words uttered. that is, after all, the true meaning underlying each step in this process, the true purpose propelling our love for the least of these. all glory, all honor, all praise to You.

[we appreciate your prayers for us this week! thank you all for loving and caring for our family.]

these days.

as springtime speeds rapidly by, activities and change and newness abounding, a little update on the goings-on of our family seems to be in order.

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we are expecting Baby #2 in early October!
we are completely elated, amazed at God’s goodness in giving us another little one to love. i was extremely sick in the beginning but have felt better much more quickly than i did during my pregnancy with Owen. the fatigue is much stronger this time around, but i’m betting that there is some sort of correlation between pregnancy, chasing a toddler and exhaustion. Jared has been a total superhero in terms of taking care of both Owen and me while i’m at less than full-capacity. (side note: ladies, marry men who rise to the challenges that will come, because they will come.)

we have reached the home study phase of our foster care license (which is another way of saying, “yes, we are still pursuing our license even though i am pregnant.”).
if my health during pregnancy allows, we will provide respite care for other foster families prior to baby arriving and determine the best time for a long-term placement after he or she (any guesses?) is here. we are excited to see what happens and trusting that the Lord will give us the wisdom to determine what we can handle/what will be best for our family and every child in our care.

i am now a Wellness Advocate for doTerra Essential Oils.
this endeavor appeals to so much of what i care about and is a great fit for the priorities our family has already established. i love taking care of our family in a natural, healthy way, it’s important to me to continue growing in my knowledge of how God created our bodies and the world around us, and i want to honor God with our finances and resources. doTerra provides me the opportunity to do each of those things, as well as the chance to potentially educate others as i’m learning, which is something i love to do.

occasionally, i will share a testimony or two of how essential oils have helped our friends and family, but that will be about it in terms of oils and this blog. in the same way that i write about friends having babies, foster care, or any of the other adventures in our life, i will write about this pursuit as it naturally comes up. if essential oils intrigue you or you would like to learn more, email me at abbyjoyperry(at)gmail(dot)com.


there are several more things i could write about today – our fabulous trip to visit dear friends in Louisville last week, our upcoming Jared-and-Abby-only vacation to Antigua, my continued bliss over so many babies being born among our friends, mom life, work life, church life, etc. i suspect each of these things will show up in a post or two in the weeks to come. life is rapid yet peaceful, full in the way of rich harmonies and the abundance found in priorities aligned and pursued. we’re thankful, above all else.

thanks for caring about our family enough to read this little update. we value each of you! 

2014: one word 365.

i’m a little geeked up right now. i’m coming off the high of an influence net class by rachael kincaid on women at work (meaning all women. because we all work. whatever we’re doing.). it rang so true and sweet and challenging and harmonious within, calling to mind the OneWord365 post that keeps slipping through the cracks, unwritten.

so here it is, maybe raw, maybe unfinished because it’s almost 10pm and i can feel myself melting into the sofa, but it’s time to spell it out.

my 2014 word is persevere.

Imagethis is probably not a huge shocker to those who know me in person. i’m big on accomplishment and achievement. i’m all about sucking it up and putting your head down (both of which Rachael spoke to so eloquently in the class tonight!), ignoring distractions, learning how to say “no,” and forging a clear path. every year, our family, our marriage, has faced trials both expected and unexpected, and onward we went, refusing defeat, despair, devastation. we’ve learned so much about choosing joy, slaying expectations and fighting for fun when it just felt so far away. like i tweeted a few weeks ago, persevere has been a silent anthem rising like a wave for years past, and this year, it’s reaching a crest.

this is the year we’re choosing (at least some of) the hardest moments we will have ever faced. sure, we picked young marriage and a four year seminary program and a baby amidst a sea of schoolwork and small paychecks and, for heaven’s sake, life in ministry. but this is the year we take classes, fill out paperwork, let professionals scrutinize our home and pray for the end of the seemingly endless checklist to come so that we can bring children we’ve never met from parents we’ve never known from neighborhoods we’ve never seen to live in our home. in other words, this is the year we’ve lost our minds, and friends, i think it’s the best place we’ve ever been.

persevere takes on a whole new meaning when we’re not only choosing to respond with joy to the hardships that rise up on their own, but when we look at something with heartbreak written all over it and say yes, we choose this. this amidst the already constant calls to persevere in parenthood and jobs and church life and family relationships and community and first time homeownership and dreams that are clawing their way to the surface of our hearts. we’re choosing this. we’re choosing hard. we’re choosing to dig our heels in deep. we’re choosing to put our hands to the plow and to let Him put our feet on solid ground. we’re choosing to set our affections on the unloved and to set our eyes on things above, by Jesus’ grace alone. we’re choosing to say yes and to persevere.

i’ve felt all of this rumbling inside for so very long, lived and believed it more fully in the recent weeks and months. today is really just the day that i’m putting a name on it and grasping onto what this really is. today is the day that i’m determined to come out of 2014 with a deeper understanding of how the thoughts make it happen and Christ’s grace is enough work together, with a reconciliation of sweaty work and healing rest, with an overwhelming sense of confidence and joy. this tree has had its roots in me for years now; the branches are coming along, slow, sure, budding, blossoming.

soon enough, i’ll share a post with some of the tools i’m using to set myself up for living with persevere as my anthem. these aren’t just rambling, empty words, y’all, they’re a battle plan. like i’ve said before2014, we’re coming for you.

do you have a word for the year?

an attempt to savor & believe & celebrate.

it’s the most wonderful, busy, heart-pricking, thought-provoking, tidings of comfort and joy time of the year. i started decorating today, playing Christmas music and letting Owen stomp on bubble wrap as i fluffed garland and thought about who will celebrate in our home this year as we host Christmas dinner for the first time. just moments ago, Owen crawled into my lap with his two stuffed puppies and fell asleep, the sign of a morning well spent.

i suppose i’m feeling a bit sentimental today, although it feels like it’s something a little stronger than that. a need to recognize these days as fleeting, and a desire to savor this snoring 16 month old in all his sweat and sweetness. just yesterday, he handed our foster care application to the postman and stared at his wide-eyed mama as she took the moment in, the official beginning to a countdown, a decision further solidified, a craving and longing and hope and fear mingled and released. i snapped a picture of him holding the envelope before mailing it, a picture that will be sealed in my heart forever as one both precious and presumptuous as we ask our unknowing son to begin an adventure with us that will have immeasurable impact on how he sees his childhood, his parents, others, Jesus, the world.

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are we doing right by him? my timid flesh asks occasionally, and without hesitation the Spirit affirms, yes. teach him to love the least, to steward not own, to care not control, to give not grasp. oh that i could impart to my child that which i daily struggle to learn myself.

we’re walking hand in hand, Owen, Jared and i, and we’re begging the Three in One to knit the three of us more closely together with Him as we open doors and make beds and say hello and goodbye and ask why and shout yes.

Immanuel. God with us.

i’m intent on recording my awareness of just how very near He is this year. how very meaningful His presence on this earth, in a form like yours and mine, was to all eternity and reality, how very comforted i am by the Spirit’s testimony to me daily, hourly, moment by moment of Who God is and what that means about me and for me and in me and through me. a friend reminded me recently that God will continue to call us “further up and further in” [C.S. Lewis] as we follow His voice. perhaps that captures all of these jumbled thoughts best of all. what a fitting season to ponder that truth.

tidings of comfort and joy, indeed.

much has been given.

i think i’m getting back in the saddle again.

we’ve moved into our lovely home. i’m so blessed by its beauty and overcome by all the meaning it holds inside that i’m not sure i’ll ever be able to express my gratitude. God has seen fit to give us more than we need, He’s tapped into desires and comforts and personal preferences far beyond what we deserve or require or have earned ourselves, and i’m all the more motivated to glorify Him with these rooms and this refrigerator and that rocking chair as i wake up within these walls each day. 

ImageImage

ImageHe’s just so good.

these bedrooms beckon me to pull out our foster care application, to leave it out until the pages are filled with all there is to share, honest and willing and wanting and as ready as we know how to be. this living room coaxes me into opening up the laptop, tentatively clicking over to wordpress and letting the words come as they may. the kitchen asks for mouths to feed and the dining room sits ready to host and fulfill and cultivate relationship. i’ve never been so aware of what it is to be a vessel, to hold this home with hands & doors wide open, welcoming those on the outside into the fold. i’ve also never been so conscious of caring for those who dwell within the walls each day, recognizing this space as sacred and the container of so much that matters, a marriage, a child, three individuals and one inseparable union.

it’s a whirlwind of holy and common, floors to be swept and hearts to be cherished. 

and i’d say it’s the cry of many mothers’ hearts to love the unloved, to welcome inside, to protect the brood while teaching them to protect the unprotected, to value the valuable, to believe the seemingly unbelievable

it doesn’t take a beautiful, spacious home to do all of this. Lord knows we tried to give it our best within 700 square feet of seminary housing, and my memory lacks a night with dear friends that was crammed or uncomfortable, offering in its stead a drove of remembrances that speak of full and precious and together moments. yet now He’s seen fit to give us much, and i’ve never known so clearly that for everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.

it’s a beautiful, humbling, life-giving much, and it is joy to explore within.

there’s so much i’m anxious to return to. there were books to read and social justice issues to discuss and if writing is therapy then i’ve been skipping some appointments. margin has found its way back into my life and i’m so eager to indulge its grace. i’ll be back soon, friends. i mean it this time.