Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Your life is amazing, you just have to look for it.

I was laying on the couch sleeping (probably snoring) after an exhausting weekend.  I fell asleep on the couch way before any of the kids went to bed and I was OUT.  This was no light nap.  I would have slept there all night and then been confused when I woke up in the morning if the following hadn't happened.

I felt something poking my face, specifically my lips.  Over and over this object was being jabbed into my lips trying to get into my mouth.

"I need to take your temperature.  You're sick."  - Issac

"I'm fine.  Let me sleep."

Back into a deep sleep..................................

"Wake up.  Here's some orange juice.  You need to drink it because it has vitamins that will make you better.  You're sick." - Issac

I set the glass of orange juice on my stomach and went back to sleep.  (I set a glass of orange juice on my stomach and went back to sleep....let that sentence sink in for a minute.) When I woke up several hours later the orange juice was on a stand across the room and everyone had gone to bed.

I wrote the above story about Issac several years ago and it has been sitting here waiting to be published for forever. I knew that it was a moment I didn't want to forget and so I wrote it down right away. It's easy to think about how much we do for our others, but how often do those small things that others do for us (like the above story) get overlooked? We want to think that we're not keeping track of those things, but is that true?  Is it ok to keep track? Are we failing as Christians if we keep a mental record of the things we do for others? What if it's not a mental note, but we're actually writing down (making a physical note of) our good deeds?

Failing - absolutely not!  It may not be our shining moment, but it sure doesn't make us failures.  But is it ok or should we be ashamed of ourselves for that little pat on the back?


We do Random Acts of Christmas Kindness every year and we never do it the same way. One year we sat down each night and wrote down each RACK on a piece of paper.  Another year we added tally marks to a piece of poster board and watched the number grow all month long. We were not only making mental notes about our kind acts, but we were putting pen to paper and creating a physical record. Many years we've completed the task and gone on with our day with no record of what we did.

It makes me feel good. It encourages me. It reminds me that I have the power to make a difference. I prefer the years that we have made a physical record of those good deeds. My favorite was the year we hung each act of kindness up on the Christmas tree. We filled our tree with people that we hoped we had made a positive impact on. Coming home each night and seeing that tree full of random acts of kindness was good for me. I did something for someone else and I wrote it down. I still look back on those cards every year...and I'm not ashamed of it at all. I give myself a pat on the back and think about who I'm going to give a R.A.C.K. to this year.

That is one time of year when I enjoy keeping track of my good deeds. And it works for me and my family. My kids are more motivated when we come together every night and share our stories. We get ideas from each other and it encourages us to go out and do more the next day.  I am not ashamed of this at all, and I will continue to encourage my kids to write down those acts of kindness if that helps them stay motivated.

What about the opposite?  Do we keep a record of the good things others do for us?  I can not even tell you how many times I have started a journal that I'm going to use exclusively for writing down the sweet little things Troy does. I have numerous notebooks laying around my house that are filled with good intentions, yet remain blank.  In fact I have one in my purse right now for that very purpose and it still does not have anything written in it. It's not because Troy hasn't done anything that deserves to be remembered, it's just because I suck at taking the time to write those things down.

It's so much easier to take some time out of our day to remember all the good things I did instead of spending that same time remembering what good things others did for me.  I'm ready to change that and this blog helps me. When I start making note of those moments of sweetness throughout the day it becomes easier and easier to spot all those little happy moments. And those little happy moments add up to one amazing life.

Let's take the time to realize how amazing our lives really are.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dear Walmart

Dear WalMart,

Yesterday I failed. The lady in line in front of me did not have enough money to pay for all of her groceries.  It could have been any of us.  It could have been me.  There have been times when I have said a silent prayer while stressing out over each item being rung up.  Maybe I could squeeze another week's worth of toothpaste out of the tube at home.  Should I put the Orange Juice back?  I stand there trying to mentally calculate how much more money the remaining items on the conveyor belt are going to cost me.

Yesterday I had enough money, but someone else did not.  I understood all too well how she felt as she realized she was going to have to put some stuff back.  I tried to give her my best "it's all going to be ok" smile as she made a phone call to find out why her card was denied.  I didn't know what to say to her, but I wanted to tell her that it was ok - I wasn't upset and I wasn't judging her.

As she went through her cart and pulled out items to return I struggled, not knowing how to react.  As the items to be returned stacked up I offered to get an empty cart to put them in.  Did I just add to her embarrassment?  I didn't mean to.  I just wanted to help.

How much money do we have in our bank account?  Do we have enough to buy her groceries?  Her bill was larger than ours for the week.  Maybe I could afford to pay for part of it?  How do I do this?  What do I say?  What can I eliminate from my cart to help her pay for the items in hers?

I was frozen in place, wanting to help, but unsure of what I could do or say to make the situation better.   She kept pulling items out of her cart.  I watched her dig through the bags trying to make a decision on which items to keep and which ones to put back.  My heart broke as she tried to explain to her child why he couldn't have his favorite cereal this week.  Inside I was screaming at myself to do something, anything, just do something.  This woman needed help and I just stood there. 

Kenneth did what I did not have the guts to do.  He silently took out his own bank card and paid for her groceries.

Who is Kenneth?  The cashier - a Walmart employee.  He probably broke some rules in the employee handbook when he swiped his own card, but he is winning at life.  I had the privilege of talking to Kenneth a few weeks ago when I got lucky enough to get in his line for the first time.  He was kind and  patient and soft spoken.  He kept a conversation going with me, asking about my kids and what position my son played on the football team while he bagged my groceries and put them in the cart for me.  I went home that day and told my husband about the really kind cashier I had met at Walmart that day.  When I got in line yesterday I smiled as I recognized that same friendly face behind the register. 

The world needs more Kenneth's.  I need to be more like Kenneth.  I cried as I stood in the parking lot yesterday putting my groceries in the trunk and I promised myself that I would not let that moment happen again.  The very next time I came across an opportunity to help someone I would say yes without hesitating.  I would be more like Kenneth. 

Today I got my chance as I responded to a post on Facebook asking for help.  My family has adopted another family for Thanksgiving.  In the coming weeks I will sit down with my husband and children and make a list of all the yummy foods we enjoy eating on Thanksgiving Day.  We will go shopping together to purchase all the ingredients which will in turn be donated to a local food pantry to be given to our adopted family. This year we will do all of our shopping at Walmart and I will be looking for Kenneth when choosing a check-out lane so I can thank him for making a difference.

Thank you for hiring Kenneth.

Monday, October 12, 2015

We're adopting!!

- for all future time; for always

We have been a family for the past two years.  A family that has lived life one day at a time not knowing what the future held or how much time we would have together.  Soon we will have all the legal paperwork making us a Forever Family.  We will go to bed each night knowing that no matter what happened today, tomorrow we will still have each other and no one can take that away from us.

There are two moments in time I wish I could have captured to share with all of you.  First is the moment we sat down with the kids one-on-one and asked them what they wanted for the future.  We were prepared to help them get what they wanted, even if it meant their future wasn't with us.  Each one of them said they wanted us to adopt them, they wanted to stay here forever, they wanted to call us mom and dad.  Second is the day they realized that this adoption is really going to happen.  We had talked to the kids about what had to happen in order for the adoption to take place and when all those pieces started falling into place and the kids realized that this is really happening - oh that moment.  I will never forget that moment.  Kids try to play it cool, act all tough like nothing bothers them.  The moment they realized that this adoption is really going to happen there was no hiding their true feelings.  The way their faces lit up - I'm crying right now thinking about it.  One of the best moments of my life.

Now we are in the process of making those dreams come true, but you guys adoption is expensive. Adoption doesn't happen without lawyers and lawyers are not cheap.  Legal paperwork is expensive. It costs money to go to court.  We have to have our home, ourselves, our family approved by strangers.  We have to pay them money to come into our home, look around, talk to to us, and make a decision as to whether or not we are fit to continue being parents to these kids.

Now to answer some questions we are commonly asked.  Our kids are not foster kids and they have never been in the foster system.  They may tell you they are foster kids simply because it makes the explanation easier.  There are a few criteria that exclude us from many of the grants and fundraisers out there for adoption.  1. They are not foster kids. 2 They are not babies. 3. They are not from a foreign country. 4. They are already living with us. 5. We are not adopting through an adoption agency.  Not meeting some of those criteria means that we were able to keep the cost of our adoption to a smaller amount.  We have worked with our lawyer and done what we can to keep the costs to a minimum, but the fees are still adding up fast.

Asking for help is not my strong point.  I do not like asking for help.  Being a parent has taught me that I can't do it all on my own.  It really does take a village to raise kids.  You are part of our tribe, our village of people. When you pray for our family you are part of our tribe. When you open your arms and embrace us, you are part of our tribe.  When you ask my kids how school is going and really listen to their answer, you are part of our tribe.  When you buy a fundraiser item to support the kids extra curricular activities, you are part of our tribe.  When you send us an email letting us know you are thinking about our family, you are part of our tribe.  You all have given us so much already by just being there.  Our kids are surrounded by people who love them. We have been blessed by you so much over the past two years.  There are not words to express what a difference you have already made in our lives.

We have started a YouCaring page where donations can be made to assist with our legal fees. We would appreciate anything you can help with.  We are researching some additional fundraising ideas that we may be sharing with you in the future as well.  We are also looking into some ways that we can pay it forward.  We would like to thank you for generosity by paying it forward and blessing others.  Know that when you help us you are helping more than just this family.  More details to come!

Click here to read the story of how the kids came to live with us.

Click here to make a monetary donation that will help us achieve the goal of becoming a forever family.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers as we continue on this journey of becoming a forever family.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Finding solid ground

Troy and I have talked about adopting from the very beginning of our relationship.  In the beginning it was more on the to-do list of dreams for the future.  “I would love to adopt someday.”  In our minds “someday” was way down the road.  Over the years “someday” got closer and closer.  I had no doubt that adoption was the right choice for us, but I just wasn’t ready yet.  Troy was becoming less patient with each passing year, but I still couldn’t say yes.  For years I prayed for God to instill in me the desire to become a mom.  I wasn’t getting there on my own and I needed his help.  I still felt like we needed more time.  I didn’t know what we needed more time for, because it wasn’t like we were doing anything, or had plans to do anything in the future that would require us to put off becoming parents.  I just knew that I could not say yes, I could not become a parent yet. 

Pressure – so much pressure.  Troy was so patient and understanding, but I could see how much it hurt him every time I told him “not yet”.  Family, friends, complete strangers – all asking when we were going to start our family.  Me, crying myself to sleep over and over again because I wasn’t living up the expectations everyone had for me.  Please God, fill my heart with the need to be a parent. 

I had a huge dream of going on a mission trip someday and I knew if it was going to happen it would need to be before we became parents.  Then my dream came true and I went to Jamaica and loved every minute of it!  I kept praying that this was what I had been waiting for and now I would finally be able to say yes.  I think Troy was secretly praying the same thing.  After I returned we sent off for an adoption packet from the state, but I couldn’t bring myself to fill it out and send it back.  I still couldn’t say yes.  Lord, please, it’s been years….are you going to help me out here?  What are the plans you have for me?  

Last year on my birthday (August) I prayed.  "Lord, where do you need me?  What do you want me to do?  I truly believe that if I was meant to have kids right now you would have given them to me, but you haven't, and that's ok.  But where do you need me?  What are you plans for me?  What do you need me to do?  I'm putting this next year in your hands.  Guide me to where you need me most.  I am lost and need you to show me the way."

I had spent years on shaky ground -  not knowing what to do, or where I belonged.  

This past April some kids who are like family to us were temporarily placed into foster care.  They were safe, living with family, but a light bulb went off and we (ok, me) knew that our time was finally here.  We didn’t know what our future held or if those kids would ever end up in our home, but I knew God was finally telling me it was time.  We called the state to find out what we needed to do so we could adopt kids - any kids.  We had not really discussed being foster parents before, but we prayed about it and decided that we would do whatever God needed us to do for kids in need.  I was nervous, but I was moving forward with faith that I was traveling the path God had laid out for me. 

"When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand on, or you will be taught to fly."

In June we had our first meeting with a social worker and were told that due to some changes happening within the organization we would not be able to start our 9 weeks of mandatory classes until October.  That meant that by the time all the paperwork was done the earliest we would be seeing any kids in our home was January 2014. 

A few weeks later I sat on the couch next to Troy and cried.  I couldn’t do this.  We had just wrapped up a camp where we had spent a significant amount of time working with kids and it went terribly, horribly wrong.  I felt like it was a test and I had failed…miserably.  I was still nervous about the thought of becoming foster parents – how would we ever be able to meet the many needs of those kids?  I sat on the couch, crying and praying, telling God I needed to know what to do next.  I was lost and I wanted to quit.  I asked him to please give me a sign – reassure me that it was ok to quit, or tell me to keep pushing forward.  Right then my phone dinged – I had a new voicemail.  (Why didn’t my phone ever ring?  It didn’t show a missed call.)  I wiped away my tears and punched in the number to check my new messages.   It was from our caseworker.

“Hi, Misty.  I just found an opening for you to take your classes in another county starting in 3 weeks.  Instead of 9 weeks of Tuesday evening classes you will be taking 2 classes a week, back to back on Saturdays, getting done in half the time”

We were mentally prepared to start classes in October.  Now our last class would be August third.  God not only gave me an (immediate) answer – he told me to go and do it now  - right now!  God had a specific plan for us, and he didn’t have time for me to sit around questioning him.

Over the next month I felt like I had a direct line to God.  Every single time I asked for his help he responded immediately. 

“God, are sure this is what you want me to do?”  He responded with a free bed. 

“God, are you sure I’m the right person for this?  Do you have me mixed up with someone else?”  He sent me some more beds -  bunk beds.

“God, I’m feeling overwhelmed.  Are we still doing this?”  Misty, I’m sending you kids and they will need a dresser.  Someone will deliver it later today. 

“God, today is the first day of class and I’m scared.  What if we walk in and realize we’re not like everyone else?  What if it’s obvious we don’t belong?”  We walked into class and saw familiar faces – friends who were also wanting to become foster parents.  We belonged….

 Class day was my favorite day of the week and I was sad when the classes ended.  

I could go on and on with examples of ways God reassured me and kept nudging me forward.  I started to get real comfortable on the path I was on.  I was excited and I felt like I had found my calling in life.   This is what I was meant to do – I was going to be a foster mom!
Those kids I mentioned earlier? Once again they needed a place to stay, this time for longer, and not as foster kids. My heart was torn because I felt like I needed (and wanted) to be there for those kids, but at the same time God had very much led (drugged, pushed, pulled) me down the path to become a foster parent. These kids were not foster kids. What was I supposed to do? Are these the kids he had in mind for me? He did a lot of work to make sure I became a foster parent – why would he put these kids in front of me? They were not foster kids. This was not the plan I had made with God.

We needed to make a decision pretty quick and I did a lot of praying in that short amount of time. I knew what the right decision was, but I needed God’s reassurance. I needed to know I was not abandoning the plan he had for me.  
 Our home just grew by three!

I know now the reason we ended up taking those classes in a different county, at the double the speed, 3 months ahead of schedule.  The knowledge we gained, the resources we obtained, and the people we met in those classes were all part of our preparation for these kids.  This is where God was leading me.  The kids moved into our house the day after our last class.  We completed our classes Tuesday night and moved the kids in Wednesday morning.  Talk about God's timing!  They have been in our home now for 8 weeks and I don’t know what the future holds, but if they were to leave tomorrow I would still say it was worth it. 

It was worth all the years of telling my husband “not yet”, because I know that God needed us to wait because he needed us in this place at this time. When my birthday came around this year the kids had been living with us for 3 weeks and as I reflected on the past year of my life I knew that it was no accident I was celebrating my birthday with these three. 

And I thanked God - for the many answered prayers, for the guidance, and for the wonderful path he laid out for me.  What an amazing life I am so lucky to be living!  Every day, no matter how hard it has been (or how tired I am), I am thankful that God made us wait so that we could be right here in this moment.  Each day is a gift.  

I don't know what the future holds.  I don't know how long we will be blessed with these kids, or if we will ever have more kids in our home, but I know we're not alone.  God has a plan and he will lead us to where he needs us most.  

Although this is the story of how we became parents for the first time, it is about so much more.  This is about me doing the work God has called me to do and having faith he will see me through.  I am standing on solid ground.  

Jesus, you're my firm foundation
I know I can stand secure.
Jesus you're my firm foundation. 
I put my hope in your holy word, 
I put my hope in your holy word.

I have a living hope.
I have a future.
God has a plan for me.
Of this I"m sure, of this I'm sure.

Jesus, you're my firm foundation.
I know I can I can stand secure.
Jesus, you're my firm foundation.
I put my hope in your holy word, 
I put my hope in your holy word.  

You're word is faithful.
Mighty in power.
God will deliver me.
Of this I'm sure, of this I'm sure.  

Jesus, you're my firm foundation.
I know I can stand secure.
Jesus, you're my firm foundation.
I put my hope in your holy word.
I put my hope in your holy word.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Looking for that pot of gold

Pot of gold coins. isolated on white. Stock Photo - 9834235

Six months ago we went on the Dave Ramsey diet...financial diet.  At least that's how I look at it. When we started I was hopeful, yet somewhat pessimistic about the whole process.  I wanted it to work, but it didn't seem like something that was realistic for us.  If we were 10 years younger with about 75% less debt then we would have been perfect candidates for the Dave Ramsey plan...or at least that's how it felt.  

One of the first tasks we were given was to get $1000 into savings, and Dave seemed to think we could do this in a month's time.  I believe he even said something to the effect that we probably already had $1000 laying around, we just needed to move some money around or have a yard sale.  What world does he live in that a yard sale brings in that kind of cash? Not in my world, that's for sure.  

I remember standing in the parking lot after that particular class and laughing at Dave because he thought I could come up with $1000.  We currently had $27 in our savings account, and we were honestly proud of ourselves for having something (anything!) in there.  We knew it wasn't much, but if we had $1000 in there we wouldn't be taking the class.  If we had $1000 we would be financially responsible people who didn't need to take a class about how to manage our money.  (feel free to laugh at us for that statement.  Sorry, laugh WITH us.)

I may have been making jokes about the the millionaire in the video who thought I could come up with that kind of money (so much money), but inside I was terrified.  I was worried that this first step was going to be the end of us.  I was scared to death that this program wouldn't work for us and we would be back into our old routine before we knew it.

It took us around 5 months to get that $1000.  Every time we got close enough to see the finish line something happened and we were forced to spend some of that money.  We were torn between being amazed that we had enough money to pay for whatever needed fixed and feeling that we were never going to  finish what was supposed to be accomplished so easily according to Dave.  The amazed feeling won out and we kept pushing ahead. 

Lesson learned: it feels good, really good to have money to pay for something in case of emergency.  $1000 now feels like it's not enough.  It's hard to believe that just 6 months ago having $1000 in savings felt about as likely has finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

You've got mail

I spotted these cute little mailboxes for just 30¢ each on clearance at Target recently.  They were too cute (and too cheap) to pass up!  Currently they reside in our living room, but I imagine they will move around the house as time passes.  

I added a bowl of markers, note cards, and little slips of paper next to the mailboxes.  The goal is to leave notes for each other inside the mailboxes (we each have our own) and raise the flag to let the other person know.  

Troy's love language is "words of affirmation" and because of that he is a natural at saying sweet things to me.  I need help speaking his love language, so the cute mailboxes, markers, and fun striped cards are for me.  I hope he will use them as well, but this bright bowl and those adorable mailboxes sitting in our living room are a constant reminder for me to speak my husbands love language.  

Don't forget to do random acts of kindness for the people you live with!  

Monday, February 18, 2013

RAK Week

Watching a video of kids doing RAK's.  

Today is the first day of Random Acts of Kindness week.  You know I couldn't let that one go by without shouting it from the rooftops.  Random acts of kindness are kind of my thing.  

We kicked the week off a day early with our Sunday school class yesterday.  We talked about RAK's, watched a video of other kids their age performing RAK's, and thought of ways Jesus started the whole RAK movement himself.  And then it was time for them to do their first RAK of the week - pass out candy to the whole congregation!  As I watched those kids pounce on the adult class as soon as that door was opened, search the bathrooms to make sure everyone in there got a piece of candy, and welcome every single person to church that morning with the message "God loves you" I knew this was the beginning of a good week.

Bringing a smile to someone's face is contagious.  Those kids were smiling the whole time they passed out candy.  This week I'm going to create some smiles for myself - for my own face - by giving others a reason to smile.

I have a few things planned for this week - a few not-so-random acts of kindness.  I'm also going to be on the lookout for some truly RANDOM acts I can do.   Will you join me in spreading a little kindness around?

Side note: Troy pointed out every (unintentional) random act of kindness the kids did in class yesterday.  What a great way to start the movement - thank others for being kind to you.  They may not even realize what they've done, but your thank you will stick with them and encourage them to do it again.