Wednesday, January 28, 2015

In Need of Community

 This picture brings back a lot of memories for me.  When I was younger our family played a LOT of games.  As in all the time!  Now we play games, but sometimes it gets crazy just because of the amount of people.  It is something we love to do. 

So we pulled out The Farming Game- which is one I played a lot with my brothers growing up.  Especially on those snow days or when we went to visit my grandparents and the adults were talking for what seemed like way too many hours ;).
 The other day I needed something notarized and we stopped by our friends home who lives down the road.  They are fellow church members.  When we stopped by it was almost as if what we did was strange.  Not to them however because they loved seeing us.  It was so casual and easy going. 

It reminded me of when I was a child as well.  A time when we would just stop by our friends house and not call ahead.  Times when we would say hey, wanna go somewhere with me even at the last minute.  Times when we just didn't care so much about having to be so formal.  Times when we just popped over at the neighbors. 
 Who remembers the last time they popped in at someone's house?  Even a good friend's house?
 When is the last time you picked up the phone and called someone just because with no real reason? 
 You know what I believe.  That we as a society have a really big issue.  Well let's be honest we have plenty ;).  But when it comes to needs I believe there are several every family and or person has- spiritual, relational, mental, and physical. 

The relational aspect I think has been something we used to concentrate on however with social media, with cars that we drive everywhere, with moving a lot more often, long work hours, and many other factors- we are missing out!!!
 2 things brought this to my attention lately- one of our pastors spoke about it last Sunday, and there was an interesting FB discussion as well where a friend asked about how much we share about our family online and why?  The reason that it cut me to the core is realizing the reason I started this blog.....because we used to live 45 minutes from the nearest town.  Which pretty much guaranteed that we didn't have friends. 

Oh we had wonderful co workers (one that lived on site and was a true friend, but the rest lived all over and were only seasonal), we had plenty of people we "knew", and we had each other, but that was it! 
 So it reminds me of why we left the camp ministry and moved here.  WE NEED COMMUNITY!!!!! 

 What does that look like?  May be different for everyone because let's face it we are all very different than each other.  Some are more introverted and some like myself are as extroverted as they come!  I am sure you are shocked now. 
 If any of you have longed for the past- or wished you lived in simpler times you are probably already nodding your head.  Was any time period perfect- no!  People died of diseases that are eradicated are very rare now.  They had to actually break a sweat to do laundry (well some of us still do, but that is because of the sheer piles we have in our home he he he). 
 It's about the community that we see in the movies that they had!!!  That is what we crave!!!  That is what our heart wants! 
 My heart wants that- which is why the retreat I went to OASIS was amazing because we broke into small groups and shared our hearts!!!  It gave us community!!!  Others cared and shared.  We cried and laughed with each other about our crazy, hard wonderful stories. 

Do you have someone like that- I mean really at least one person?  Do you have a handful of people like that?  People you do life with.  You talk to, text message any time of the day, ones that get you for real.  All of you- your imperfections as well as what you put on facebook.
 I think the worst part about doing life is when you are in need of community!  I am just saying that for us we had to leave our job at the camp because of it.  It HURT. 
(Thankfully God has given us jobs that we absolutely love now, but at the time it stunk!!!)
 Now your time with your hubby or wife is great, but I am talking friends outside your family!!! 
 I am praying for all of you who do not have this!  It is on my heart.  I know too many people who can't share those secrets deep down with anyone.  They can't share their real hurts because they don't have a deep enough relationship with anyone.  How can that be?  How can that be in the Body of Christ? 
 I am thinking that we all have growing to do.  To be more open!  To be more hospitable to strangers and friends.  To share more deeply.  To trust more.  To allow God to move in ways that sometimes feel impossible. 
 Because if we have felt that way, and many many many others feel that way then we have a relational issue. 
 What is the solution?  PRAY!  Pray first and ask God to show you people.  All the people around you.  Teachers of your children, co- workers, maybe even family members that are around (but still may not be a "friend" in the real sense of the word), people you meet at church, or in Walmart.  Show me people Lord!  Help me to see who I can connect with. 
 Give me words to speak to them.  Words of life.  Words like- come over for dinner tomorrow night!  :)  Words like we would love to go to the park with your family this Saturday. 
 Now, don't just say you will- follow through!!!  Come on you have texting, FB, and the phone- you can do it!!! 
 Ask God to really dig deep into your heart and show you how to be a friend.  Someone who cares and loves!  This was posted by a "virtual friend", but I love what it says: 

I like messy people!  People who don't fit in a box or stay between the lines.  But whose integrity is greater than any rule book and whose loyalty is stronger than blood. 
 Do you have any of those people?  I believe that if God's desire is for us to minister to each other than He will send you people to minister to.  I believe God wants us to have our needs met and give us community.  Sometimes that means leaving a job.  Sometimes that may mean stepping out of our comfort zone. 
 It means risking sharing your life with people - and it will get messy! 
 It may even sometimes hurt because someone says or does something.  But remember a true friend also will be loyal and have integrity as well!  They don't leave you because you may be crazy.  Or in our case extremely crazy. 
 They love you no matter what! 
Thanking God that I have people like that in my life that I text, call, or drop by.  I am always challenged though who else could I be in need of?  I know there are others who I could need as much as they need me!

Oh and if you are around - I will give you our address anytime- stop by.  Don't be afraid!  Well maybe of the dirt and toy explosion, but I promise we have a laughter and sincerity and big hearts! 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

You know you are an Empowered To Connect family when......

 You know you are an Empowered To Connect family when......
10- You plan extra time in your day just to help your children cope with things and it doesn't even phase you anymore.
9-  You are always reminding your children of any changes well ahead of time, have timers and give them the run down of the week and day by day. 
 8-  You know how to think on the spot to give choices and listen when your children ask for another choice. 
7-  You say in a sing songy way "Can we try that again with respect please?" 
 6-  You are used to time ins and at any point and time during the day (with your large family) have someone hanging out with you ;). 
5-  You know the levels of response by heart and what tools to use in each level that work with each individual child. 
 4-  You know about every possible sensory toy and activity there is and you have created or dreaming of creating a crash and bump room in your home!
3-  You are used to sucking it up as a parent- swallowing all your pride and patching and repairing your mistakes on a regular basis.  As well as looking at your own personal history asking yourself- where did this behavior in me come from?
 2-  You can have 2 kiddos screaming at each other one minute and asking them both sweetly for a redo the next minute. 
1-   You feel like you know Karen Purvis personally because you have read her book, gone to the conference, have watched her videos, and can quote her many sayings- like whoa Nelly.
 Seriously though- for us it has been 2 years basically since we started changing our parenting from "more traditional" to Empowered To Connect.  It has been a long road and as they say is not a sprint, but a marathon.  That is definitely true. 
 There are many days when we feel overwhelmed still.  Many days we feel like throwing in the towel or better yet running off to the Bahamas!!!  I wish I could say our lives are perfect, but I guess we have to wait until Jesus comes or we get called to heaven for that!
 What I can say is that we have grown as a family.  We have seen positive changes in our children.  We have seen it work for us as a family and that is a great feeling!  On the days we feel overwhelmed it isn't because we are not trying, but typically because there just seems to be no end to the hurt some of our children feel.  That can make you as a parent feel hurt as well. 
We often break out the "play therapy" because let's face it we need to laugh!!!  We need healing- both us and our children.  At the end of the day we all want to come to a place of being understood.  I love that our children know we will listen to them even when it feels like a 30 minute story.  Our children know that we are on their side and will do our best to make sure we are doing what we can to help them cope. 

We know that we have a long way to go, but seeing them offer love in return, say they are sorry, catch themselves starting to flip their lid- and stop themselves, to see them know what they need sensory wise to get back on track, to see them ask for a choice that is good for them- these are all WORTH EVERY MINUTE WE HAVE SPENT in time in's, walking with them, praying over them, listening to them, thinking of choices, praying some more, pacing the floor thinking of how to repair your relationship. 

***Want to learn more?  Here is the link!  We have gone to the conference- and HIGHLY RECOMMEND it for any foster and adoptive parent.  AND THE NEXT CONFERENCE there will be a simulcast available- check out the website for more details!! 

Also there is a Train the Trainer course that is available and it is amazing - and when you are done you can help teach a ETC parent class locally to help others in your community and church. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Heard, Known, and Loved

 Earlier in December I went to a retreat for adoptive and foster moms called OASIS Meeting.  When I signed up for it to be honest I had no idea exactly what it was going to be like.  I didn't know if any other people I knew were going to be there.  I didn't even know what we were going to be doing. 

Even if I had any preconceived notions about your typical retreat (I have been to Created 4 Care once last year, and our own local Loving God's Children last year too) this was nothing like it.  This retreat had the same premise as others in that it was meant for feeding your soul.  Meeting with other people who have walked all different kind of paths and yet all so differently. 

This was based on need that was seen among fellow adoptive and foster moms.  A need to be heard, to be known, to be loved!!  You see although there are many many many similarities in parenting any child there are some differences when parenting a child through foster care or adoption.  There is always a sadness to their story and then to yours as well. 

It may come from loss of a dream to have biological children, it comes from the child's loss of their first family, it comes from parenting a child that has experienced such loss, it comes from a world shattering decision that a family can no longer parent a child for at least a time and possibly forever for safety, it comes and it hits the adoptive family sometimes upside the head.  What that does to a family can rock them to the core.  It challenges everything you thought you knew about parenting.  It challenges your past and brings up all the junk you have tried to hide away for years!  It can rock your marriage!  It can put dividers up in your home! 
 So where do you turn if/when that happens?  Who will understand your world?  Who will understand how much you love your children and yet are hurt by their hurt?  What if it all becomes too much?  Who can you tell - after all those around you helped you fundraise, they supported you when you brought them home and had that gathering at the airport, they have seen your life from the outside, but who sees your life from the inside? 
 If you have ever felt this way- YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!!!  NEVER NEVER NEVER BELIEVE THE LIE THAT YOU ARE ALONE!!!!  That is straight from the enemy!  IT IS NOT TRUE!!!  But what if you believed it was?  What if you felt like you were drowning and it felt as if not one person heard you crying out for help? 

My friends this has happened in the adoption and foster care world and when it did...... a life ended, a beautiful and amazing life..... gone.  This tragedy ROCKED so many to the core!  It ROCKED US because.....what if that were us?  Could we drown so much that we too would think that there was no who would see us.....maybe not even God? 
This is what the purpose of the weekend was.  TO HEAR, KNOW, AND LOVE our sisters in Christ.  We had worship together, we listened to our brave leader be bold and honest about her own story.  She shared all- and through that allowed us to feel the safety of the space. 

This retreat was to focus on small groups with leaders who just knew they were to guide discussions and yet let the Lord take over.  To allow each individual to be heard!!  To let the stories- good, bad, and ugly to roll off their tongue.  To allow crying, healing, and prayers to be answered.  To just be!  As in for real ourselves!  How many times have you had a whole weekend to seriously just be yourself- no barriers, no fakeness, no pretending your life is perfect!  You can seriously feel free to allow yourself to be REAL! 

In return your sisters became real too!  They became your pillars that supported you and held you up and there was no judgement because we ALL HAD JUNK TOGETHER AND WE LAID IT BEFORE THE LORD TOGETHER!!!  There was an afternoon of choosing something you struggle with (I am honest pretty much every one of those would fit me), but I chose one.  Turns out I was NOT ALONE in my struggles!!!  There were others LIKE ME - ok not exactly like me ;), but they had struggles.  They understood and encouraged me!!  They got me!!  My small group got me!!  They understood!! 

You know part of carrying burdens is learning how to deal with them, sometimes how to heal, and sometimes how to live with pain and let it change  us into God's beautiful masterpiece.  We may even share them with the Lord, but having Jesus with skin on to share them with is amazing!  It is a way for us to truly be HEARD, KNOWN, and LOVED! 

Not sure what the future of OASIS Meeting is?  I am praying like crazy that in the coming years there are many all over the country!  Why?  Because I want my sisters to know- all of my sisters!!  Because that lie that satan tries to tell us that we aren't good enough, look what we did to our family, look how we are so bad at handling it, look how no one else are a failure and there is no way out- is just that- a lie.  THE TRUTH IS WE ARE LOVED SO DEEP WE SOMETIMES CAN'T SEE IT!  This retreat helped me SEE IT CLEARLY!

A huge shout out to all who helped with the retreat!  You are in my heart and special to me in a way that is hard to describe.  Thank you to all the wonderful ladies that came!  To all those that couldn't come, but prayed for us!  For all the husbands including mine that helped with the children back home and allowed their wives to get some much needed time.  You are all wonderful!!

***Side note about the pictures- the decor in the first picture was made for me by a friend Sara Friendshuh who I met at OASIS.  She had made one for a giveaway at the retreat- that I didn't win, but she chose to make one for me.  No strings attached just because she wanted to!  THANK YOU!!

The bracelet was a prize I won - and of course it was from 147 Ministries with Gwen Oatsvall and Susan Mayernick :) whom I love and have met!  I love it because it reminds me to pray for them and the missions they are doing. 

The books- I won for having the most children and the most adopted children ;). 

The bracelets were ones given during the retreat.... it's a long story of why I have 2, but let's just say I feel extra loved by 2 amazing women who gave them to me!!!  Thank you Amy Levy and Esty Downes :).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What is my legacy?

 I love the New Year!  I love thinking of new possibilities, new ideas, changing things a little, thinking of new things to do, and just the dreaminess of it all.  Can you tell I am not a realist?  I am a dreamer!  I am an optimist!  I have a confession.  If you give me paper to doodle I will soon come up with something to dream on:  a list of things that I think would be fun for them home, or a list of things I saw on Pinterest that look really fun, or how we can rearrange a room to maybe make it work better.  It's true I love it! 
 I love all the details at theme parks because it sparks imagination.  I love the start of a new school year, or a new term because of new pencils and books.  I love going to the library and getting new books to learn and dream about new things. 
 So this year as we started out the new year I didn't make any promises.  But I love having goals.  Goals like:  God show me where you can help me grow more.  Goals like - how can I rearrange my schedule a little so I can spend time doing fun things with the kids, have time for my wonderful hubby, as well as blog which I love to do! 
 Not beat yourself up kind of things because I don't believe that is what God wants from us.  I believe HE wants US!  Plain and simple!  How can we share more of ourselves with HIM?  How can we dig deeper into who HE IS?  Those are goals worth having.  They are worth taking the time to review and reflect on- daily. 
 We are in a season now where we have been in our home a year and even though there are huge repairs we have yet to face in this year we are settled.  It feels great to be settled.  To know that this home is our home- our place that we hope to raise our children and have our grandchildren over too. 

We have found a pattern of life and even though that changes often ;) we still know where everything is, where we shop, doctors, therapists, and are getting to know our neighbors. 
 We have found what works for us for home school times.  It changes a little bit sure, but we have a pattern for things that work and a routine.  We have found what works for couponing, buying in bulk, etc. for our family.  We have a routine for meeting Micheal's needs and trying to make sure he gets all that he needs. 
 We have our days out that we take seriously as a family time.  Time to relax together and enjoy the crazy fun rides, riding with different family members, waiting in line chatting and being silly, eating our picnic meals together.  We have a routine for date nights so Jason and I can have time together.  We have times of playing games and times of watching movies. 
 So my question to myself this year has been- what are we leaving behind?  What is our legacy? 
Who benefits from our legacy?  Is our legacy bringing God glory? 
Can we change what we do to give more to God?
 It is a thought process for me.  Something I want to think about a lot more.  Something that is important to me as well as our family!  I want our family to have a spiritual legacy that is worth something.  I don't want our spiritual heritage to stall out.  I want it to be thriving!  I want to pass on something that is alive and ongoing! 
 So how do you do that?  You have to be intentional!  You have to work!  And let's be honest sometimes it goes by the wayside.  Not because you want it to, but maybe your personal walk with God is in a dry place.  That's when you have to dig deeper and although that sounds nice and fluffy it doesn't always happen. 
 So back to the New Year and new beginnings.  Our church typically does some kind of fasting in the new year.  So I will be honest I have done the fasting of various things in the past, but this year we are fasting the same thing as a family! 

Now I am not sharing what we are doing right this moment because my goal isn't to have people say anything to me about it or focus on that part.  What we are focusing on- is our spiritual welfare and warfare.  It is important! 
 But just like this cute video of Michael pulling and working hard (pj day at therapy) we have to think of our goals as a family and move forward pulling to get to the goals we have!  This is serious work!  This takes intentionality and teamwork! 
 Some days those goals seem pretty simple and sometimes around here they seem like we are crawling to try to make it through the day.  What we want is to try to get to the place where our whole family can be at the next level!  Where we can all reach for that next huge step!  Where together we can say we are holding each other accountable and helping each other onward. 
 This is where we say no more everyday is ok!  This is where we say we want an extraordinary life one that pleases God!  One that may not look like everyone else's and that is ok because that is pretty much a given anyway for us ;). 
What can I say- it wouldn't happen without this man!  This man that I am so blessed to have in my life.  My one and only who knows and loves the Lord with all his heart!  Who loves me and our family and is our spiritual leader!  I am thankful that we have each other!!! 

What is your legacy?  Do you have goals for the year?  Do you feel God putting something specific on your heart?  Have you ever thought about fasting?  Just some thoughts to share- would love to hear from you if you would like :).