Sunday, October 28, 2012

Not Under My Heart, But In It

Leonard Ravenhill tells about a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village who walked by an old man sitting beside a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one tourist asked him, “Were any great men born in this village?” The old man replied, “ Nope, only babies”.

Four years ago, our family decided to become a foster family for newborns.  This is how that works: When a birth mom has coordinated with the our social services agency/social worker and decides that she would like to give her baby up for adoption, our job is to pick up the newborn from the hospital and take care of him/her until an adoptive family is found.  We are the transition home from birth mom to forever family. 

While I felt led by God to pursue the path to fostering, I truly had no idea how much it would change me

We met our first foster baby in June 2009 at USA Women and Children's Hospital in Mobile.  I remember meeting and talking with the birth mother as she tried to reassure herself (and us) that she was making the right choice for her baby.  Looking into her eyes, I could see her soul struggling with a mix of anguish, resolve and peace.  I stood amazed at her bravery and courage.

Meeting our family seemed to help calm her as well. She needed to know that she was giving all control and care over to someone who was capable and also excited about her baby. She made me reassure her that I had a car seat for the baby for the ride home and she wanted to know how many children of our own we had.

And then I got to hold him. Don't you love the way newborns are so limp and non-resistant and just mold to your arms? I immediately fell in love with this little innocent soul that I didn't yet know. The birth mom tearfully kissed him goodbye and we began our first adventure as foster parents. 

He was a typical newborn; crying when he was wet or hungry and sleeping for only two hours at a time. I was exhausted. But I never forgot for one moment how monumental my role in his life was, so I kept going.  I bonded with him in the same way I bonded with my own children.  I don't know if I could have loved him more if he had grown inside of me.   It really didn't matter. When he looked at me with those beautiful dark eyes, I was a goner. He will be a part of my heart forever.

The average time for a newborn placement in the transition home until the time they meet with their adoptive family is 2-3 weeks.  When we bring the babies home, we don't know the exact date the adoptive family will get them.  Our second foster baby was with us for six weeks; our third for two weeks, and our fourth for three months.  For Thomas, our first foster baby, I got a call from the social worker about two weeks later to tell me the adoptive family was ready to meet him, so the placement date was set for the following week.  

Despite my own impending sadness about no longer having him in our home, I knew that the adoptive family was absolutely giddy with excitement over meeting their new son. I sent them pictures via email and talked to them on the phone. I made a "Life Book" for them, with pictures and notes about his feeding patterns and his favorite ways to be held.  

When we took the baby down to meet his forever family for the first time---oh my goodness---the pure joy on the new parents' faces when they first held him!! Priceless!!! I didn’t know it was possible to cry that much in a moment of joy!  

So precious. So rewarding.  

Friends ask me all the time, "How can you do that? Give them up? I couldn't do that. I would be too attached to let them go."  Well, you know what? I do get attached. I cried for a week after our first foster baby left. Our latest foster baby was with us for three months and was seriously ill for most of that time.  Talk about bonding time. I held him more than I held my own when they were that small.  I still grieve for him.  I find myself listening for each baby after they leave, as I had become so tuned in to their every whimper and coo.  I go into every room of the house feeling like I forgot something.  But I also have perspective, and I know what my role is.  I know that we are giving the babies the absolute best start in life we can and that our love and care will make a difference in the success of these children.  It's not about me. It's not about my needs.  It is about the baby. It is about the joy that comes from being used by God. 

And fostering has opened my eyes to the role our earthly life has as well. Earth is our transition home. If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, then you are already adopted.  You just haven't had the placement date for meeting Him face to face announced yet. 

I believe our time here on earth is in preparation for that meeting; for our time and role in Heaven. Our earthly family is, in a way, our foster family, allowing us, if you are so blessed, to be loved and get the best possible start in life until we move on to our eternal home. 

What joy we are sure to see in His face when that "placement" day comes!

"His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!" Ephesians 1:5

Friday, October 26, 2012

Everything I Need to Know I Learned From My Granddaddy

Some things are not taught in schools. Some things are taught only by grandfathers, and boy, did mine teach me some valuable life lessons....

Your family matters

"I wouldn't take a plug nickel for her." I didn't know what a plug nickel was, but it sure sounded valuable.  My Grandaddy made me feel important. He would take me places and proudly tell anyone who would listen that I belonged to him. Regardless of the fact I was an illegitimate child of his only daughter and everyone in that small town knew it, he was not ashamed of me. I always felt a little taller when I was with him.

Children are people too

After Grandaddy retired from the paper mill, he was only 52, so he took a part-time job at the local Highway Patrol office as a janitor/maintenance man. If Granny and Mama were working, he took me with him to work. I was under his feet; I was in his lap; I was holding his hand; I was asking questions. Never once did he get aggravated. Instead, he shared his coworkers and friends with me. He taught me how things work. He answered all my questions. He taught me that children have a real place of importance in the world.

A nap a day keeps the doctor away

If Granddaddy was home during the day, he would always take time for an afternoon nap. He would let me crawl up in his lap and hold me in his chair until we both fell asleep. I still love taking naps. He taught me that sometimes rest is crucial to gain strength for the journey.   


Kindness matters

Granddaddy was a genuinely nice person and everybody loved to be around him. When he was talking to others, I remember how he would always ask about them first. He knew that to have a real relationship, you had to care more about others than you did yourself. From secretaries to state troopers to mayors and garbage men, he treated everyone the same. His sweet spirit was contagious and I remember the smiles and laughter he always drew out of others.

Bad things happen to good people

I stayed every day with my Granny and Granddaddy when I was little. One day we were all working in the garden and Granddaddy decided to go inside the garage to mix up some bug spray for the garden. As usual, he rarely went anywhere without my being his shadow, so I followed him. I watched as he put the insecticide solution in the metal can and screwed the lid with a built-in handle pump back on the container. As he leaned over and began pumping to mix up the solution and get it ready to spray out of the attached hose, the pressure began to build inside the can. Granddaddy unknowingly pumped one too many times and suddenly the metal lid violently exploded upwards, hitting him in the jaw and knocking him backwards and immediately unconscious.
I was only four years old. 

I was standing two feet away, and I remember the blood was everywhere.

I remember his glasses lying on the ground near his head.

I remember crying uncontrollably, and not knowing what else to do because I was in shock, so I just stayed by his side.

What seemed like an eternity later
(although it was only several minutes), he came to and whispered through his bloody mouth, "Go get Mary." I turned and ran as fast as I could out to the garden where Granny was still working. She must have seen my terror and wasted no time getting back to him and calling the ambulance. Granddaddy lost several teeth and broke his jaw that day.
About a week later, he returned from the hospital and I was scared to go near him. He looked different. His jaw was wired shut. His face was swollen. He finally convinced me that he was still my Granddaddy, and I ran to his open arms and let him hold me. He taught me bad things can happen, but not only does the human body heal from trauma, so does the human spirit.

It's okay to be different

As a child, I was a tomboy, through and through. My Granny wanted me to be prissy and put on dresses and play with dolls so much more than I did.  Year after year, I asked for a toy truck and a race track for Christmas. Instead I got dolls, socks and underwear.

A few weeks after my fifth Christmas, Granddaddy called me down to his house and said he had a surprise for me...he had made me--I mean, handmade with his own hands and scrap wood--a toy truck for me! It was the most beautiful toy I had ever seen. It had wooden wheels that really turned, a spacious cab and long bed perfect for hauling my daily nature finds. Granddaddy didn't care that I liked "boy" toys; he always encouraged me to be Me.

To this day it is my most treasured Christmas present. When I had children of my own, I begrudgingly let them play with it, knowing that Granddaddy would have wanted me to share and that he would love knowing how much they have enjoyed it. One day Hannah decided to color it with crayons and I was like, "Aaaaggghh!"  But I got over it pretty fast.  

 My youngest child Abbey now uses it to haul her favorite farm and jungle animals from room to room. It is a testament to the quality and durability of that handmade truck, some thirty five years later. When our grandson Cooper starts playing with it in a few years, I bet Granddaddy will be smiling as he watches from above. 

Never leave a man behind

As an adult with children of my own, I took them to see Granny and Granddaddy in Western North Carolina as often as possible. While visiting one summer, my then seven-year-old son Connor was playing on a local park playground and fell from the monkey bars and broke his arm. We rushed him to the emergency room and as is the case with most ER's, had to wait an excruciatingly long time for his arm to be set. Knowing they could do nothing but wait, my sisters and Granny decided to go home and come back and get me when we were done.

When the doctors sent me out of the suture room some two hours later so they could set Connor's broken arm, I walked into the waiting room to find that someone had decided to stay: Granddaddy. My Granddaddy offered his handkerchief and his strong shoulder for me the cry on as I listened to my little boy screaming in pain in the room next door. When we finally got Connor back home and settled in, I heard Granddaddy  scolding every single family member for leaving me at the ER alone. I still have the handkerchief he gave me that day. It reminds me that being strong for someone during a crisis is a beautiful gift.

Tobacco barns smell divine

Okay, so this is not a life lesson, but it is one of my most memorable smells of childhood. Do you have smell memories? Well, I do, and I remember going with Granddaddy up to the tobacco barn on the side of the mountain where we lived to check on the drying tobacco leaves. Granddaddy farmed tobacco as another form of income. We lived in the mountains of North Carolina, and tobacco farming is a staple of the state. The barn was dark and damp, but the sweet smell of tobacco permeated my senses when I walked in. I remember staring up at the huge leaves draped over the beams, reflecting the sun shining through the purposely separated slats in the barn walls. Did I mentioned how great it smelled in there?


As old as I am, I miss my Granddaddy with an ache that is deeper than words, but I feel his 'ministering spirit' around me and I live by his life lessons every single day...

"Are not the angels all ministering spirits sent out in the service of God for the assistance of those who are to inherit salvation?" Hebrews 1:14

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Beloved Books--Sugar Creek Gang (Review)

Have you ever seen the movie A Christmas Story? What was one of the most charming parts of that movie? The narrator, right? Well, the Sugar CreekGang audio series, based on a 1939 books series by Paul Hutchens, will immediately draw you in because of the narrator (Paul Ramseyer) and his old-fashioned voice. It is so great!  Abbey and I were instantly transported to another place and time when the narrator began the story.  The stories are being read straight from the original series of books, and each story flawlessly weaves what it means to be a true Christian throughout the adventures of a group of young boys—The Sugar Creek Gang.  

The stories are told from the perspective of young Bill Collins and he oh, so demonstratively describes all his fellow gang: Poetry, Circus, Dragonfly, Little Jim and Big Jim. Every emotion in every adventure is so well relayed to the listener, we felt like we were right there beside them! 

But here's the funny start to this review: Abbey’s reaction when I told her we were going to listen to audio tapes was, “Awww, Mama!. . . I don’t like just listening.  Why aren’t there videos?”  She was using her best whining voice so I assured her she was going to like it and I told her that after 15 minutes if she still didn’t want to listen any longer we would turn it off for the night.  After 15 minutes of listening, she was like, “I-I-I, I think I want to leave it on a little longer. You know, just until I hear this first part.”  And like that, she was hooked.  

And honestly, so was her mama.  

About two hours into listening to the series, I realized something. Today’s children are just so inundated with television, video games, iThis and iThat---they are no longer taught to use their imagination.  I am telling you, it is sadly a lost art in today’s younger generation.  My husband and I grew up reading books and listening to radio shows and we had to use our imaginations on a daily basis.  It made us hone our critical thinking skills and allowed us to have no preset limits on where the stories we read or heard could take us. I love, love, LOVE, that the folks at Beloved Books realize that using the imagination is a dying art, and have preserved the stories like Sugar Creek Gang, G.A Henty, Little BritchesAll-of-a-Kind Family and a lot more on high-quality audio CDs.  

These stories are an absolute, timeless treasure and I can’t really say enough about them.  If you’ve ever been the parent of a precocious little boy, you will totally relate to the mischief and adventures these Sugar Creek Gang boys get themselves into in each story.  Abbey was so proud when she figured out the mystery in The Swamp Robber, exclaiming, “I knew it!” when a certain discovery is made in the cabin in the woods.   

Ethics, morals, values, and Christian obedience are all woven seamlessly into each story without feeling preachy to the listener.  The boys in the gang all realize that even at a young age, they matter to God and they can make a difference in the world.  Even in the midst of their most exciting adventures, the boys would look at each other and say, "Uh-oh. It's 5:30. We gotta get home for supper or Mom and Dad will be mad."  See? Just good, wholesome stories that make you feel good knowing your children are listening. 

Every review I have done on my blog to date, I have had to reluctantly share something negative about each product because I feel compelled to be honest about each review I do.  Well, I honestly have nothing negative to say about these stories.   

We are trying to figure out a road trip we can take just so we can listen to all the CDs again.  

And I am very excited to offer, just for my blog readers, an exclusive discount code that will allow you to order anything off the Beloved Books site and take 20% off your order:  Just use the code: CCC-20.  

I was chosen to review the first six CDs (Volume I) of the The Sugar Creek Gang, which contains the following stories (about 2 hours each story):

The Swamp Robber
The Killer Bear
The Winter Rescue
The Lost Campers
Chicago Adventure
The Secret Hideout

There are a total of 72 CDs in the Sugar Creek Gang series and they are $54.95 for six audio CDs, or $279.70 for all 72 CDs.  (Remember, use the coupon code “CCC-20” for a 20% discount, no expiration date).   I plan to order the other volumes and I plan to get the All-of-a-Kind Family series as a Christmas gift, as that was a favorite book series of mine when I was a little girl and I can't wait to share them with Abbey.

Want to listen without purchasing an entire volume? You can actually order the entire story of The Swamp Robber for only $4.95 if you want to get a good feel and listen before purchasing the entire set. I promise, you'll want to order the entire set!

Want to hear what other Schoolhouse Crew Members thought about Beloved Books and their products?  Click the banner below! 

Disclaimer: I was provided Volume I of the Sugar Creek Gang Series from Beloved Books in exchange for my honest opinion about the product. The opinions are my own and no other compensation was given.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

100 Things About Me???

A friend of mine wrote a 100 Things blog post on her blog and I really enjoyed learning more about her.  It became a challenge to write my own 100 Things post and still glorify God in doing so. If you're reading this, you probably already know these things about me. Regardless, here you go:

1.       I am pro-Jesus. (That means I believe there is only one way to Heaven).
2.       I accepted Jesus when I was four years old.
3.       I am anti-religiosity. I strongly dislike when rules and regulations get in the way of a real relationship with God.
4.       I am pro-life.
5.       I am pro-marriage. Even though I have not always been successful at it.
6.       I am married to my best friend--he keeps me from taking myself too seriously and makes me laugh every day.
7.       I take myself too seriously.
8.       I gave birth to three children.
9.       My son was a twin, but I didn’t know it until birth because I had no ultrasounds with him. Two sacks; only one baby survived. It has always made me wonder if that is why Connor is so comfortable about death and attending funerals. Seriously.
10.   I am a stepmom to one daughter, but she feels like my own and I always think of her as mine.
11.   I am very saddened by the pain that my stepdaughter is currently putting us through. It couldn’t hurt more if she had my blood in her veins. It couldn’t.
12.   I have fostered four newborn babies.
13.   Fostering has changed my life forever, in a very positive way.
14.   I am a grandmother! He is such a precious soul and brings so much joy to my life. It is so fun watching my daughter be a mama to him. 
15.   I am considered a young grandmother, but an older mother to my 9 yr old. I love the looks we get when we’re all together.  People are just trying to figure it out.
16.   I make even simple tasks complicated all the time sometimes.
17.   I over-analyze pretty much everything.
18.   I love to cook but rarely have the time.
19.   I have only been to two music concerts in my whole life.  Both were Christian artists.
20.   I can play piano a little bit and I admire those who do it well.
21.   I believe music and art education are important to develop a well-rounded student.
22.   I am a speed reader, but sometimes I miss important details.
23.   I have six sisters, but grew up with only two of them.
24.   I did get the privilege of knowing my biological father for a short time.
25.   I don’t believe God makes mistakes, especially when it comes to unplanned pregnancies.
26.   I love talking to the older generation and gleaning wisdom from those who have gone before me. 
27.   I am pro-homeschooling, but I don’t judge those who aren’t. I homeschool my 9-year-old daughter.
28.   I am a homeschool curriculum junkie and I love finding new stuff from great minds out there.
29.   Homeschooling only one child is a bigger challenge than I ever thought it would be; she can push many, MANY buttons of a 44-yr old mama.
30.   I am learning that even nine-year-olds can absorb a LOT of info in one day’s time.  Amazing. 
31.   I love playing competitive, indoor volleyball.
32.   I coached volleyball at the community college level and at the high school level.
33.   I attended eight different U.S. schools before graduating from high school.
34.   I attended second grade at the Grand Canyon Village. Yes, that Grand Canyon.
35.   I have an AA degree in General Studies from Alabama Southern.
36.   I have a BA degree in Business from Faulkner University.
37.   I have a MA degree in Management from the University of Phoenix.
38.   I love to read, but rarely have the time to go as deep as want into some subjects.
39.   I believe my spiritual gifts are discernment and intercession.
40.   I was born in North Carolina.
41.   I live in Alabama.
42.   I survived Hurricane Ivan.
43.   I wasn’t able to get to my sick and dying grandfather in NC before he died, and had to leave NC before his funeral because of Hurricane Ivan damage to our home and community.
44.   I am a forgiven sinner.
45.   In my twenties, I was bulimic and addicted to exercise.
46.   I now have severe fibromyalgia and strongly believe it is connected to the abuse I put my body through in my twenties.
47.   I believe chronic pain forces you to your knees before the Lord on a daily basis.
48.   I believe God allows thorns in our flesh to keep us close to Him.
49.   I am forever amazed by Amazing Grace, in my life and in others’.
50.   I work for the publisher of a national homeschooling magazine.
51.   I feel so blessed to be able to work from home and make a contribution to our household income.
52.   I went Christmas caroling last year and got to hold Harper Lee’s hand after singing for her. Yes, that Harper Lee.
53.   I love my church family. It is the sweetest-spirited church I have ever attended.
54.   I am a better writer than I am a speaker.
55.   I always think of a good comeback two hours after the moment is past.
56.   I prefer real books to e-books.
57.   I still read bedtime stories to my youngest.
58.   I learn something new every day, especially during schoolwork with Abbey.
59.   I was a timid, shy, little girl.
60.   Now I am a stronger, shy, big girl.
61.   David Letterman still makes me laugh.
62.   Tom Selleck still makes me swoon.
63.   I miss my grandparents every single day of my life.
64.   I am homesick for heaven, but don’t want to die yet. My heart is ready if I should.
65.   I hate the bias in American media.
66.   I wish American soldiers got more credit.
67.   I wish the death of American soldiers got more press.
68.   I think teachers, cops and EMT’s don’t get paid enough.
69.   I am pro-coffee.
70.   I have been drinking coffee since I was 14 years old.
71.   I am thankful but not nearly enough.
72.   I still believe in fairies, angels, Santa Claus and miracles. Well, at least two of those.
73.   The Sound of Music was my favorite movie when I was little. When my dad crashed his airplane the same night I watched it one year, I stopped watching it. He survived (barely), but I thought the two events were connected somehow.  I was 16, so that may have something to do with that line of thinking.
74.   The Princess Bride then became my new favorite movie.
75.   I was sexually abused as a little girl by an older family member.  
76.   I was healed from that hurt by a very loving God and some wonderful angels He placed in my life to help me, although I didn’t tell anyone about it until I was an adult.
77.   I used to be ashamed of my body and my less than perfect frame.
78.   I now am proud of my curves, but I sure would like to lose about 10 pounds.
79.   I prefer sweet over savory or salty. Perhaps that explains why I still need to lose 10 pounds.
80.   I pray every day all day.  About big stuff and little stuff. Like the upcoming election and close parking places at Walmart.
81.   I miss snail mail and wish people still wrote real letters.
82.   I was living in Germany when the Berlin Wall came down. Very neat experience.
83.   I want to learn how to work on a car, you know, like a mechanic.
84.   I want to visit Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Colorado and Wyoming, in that order.
85.   I want to visit every National Park in the United States, even the ones I have already been to.
86.   If I won the lottery (which I never will, because I never play) I would pay off all my debts and then all my family members’ debts and then build as many homeless and women’s shelters and boys’ and girls’ homes as I possibly could. 
87.   If money was not an object, I would give it out randomly to strangers on a daily basis, just for fun.
88.   I love to go fishing, but mainly because the water calms my soul—not because I enjoy worm spit on my hands.
89.   I am getting close, but I am unsure if I can think of 100 things to write.
90.   I like a lot of different kinds of music--but I strongly dislike opera, jazz, and anything from the 70s.
91.   I love the smell of gas, but hate the smell of exhaust fumes.
92.    I love tuna cold but hate it warm. Tuna is the only fish I will eat. 
93.   I recently witnessed (I heard it happen and then saw the aftermath) a fatal motorcycle wreck and it may never leave my mind. I have to drive by the scene almost every day, so that doesn’t help much.
94.   I have experienced horrific nightmares since I was 16--like, horror-movie stuff kind of nightmares. Crazy stuff.
95.   I have come to the conclusion that most people you meet really are great people.
96.   I believe that giving to others is one of the main points that God is trying to get through our thick skulls. In giving, we live. We are just wired that way.
97.   I have learned this one the hard way: if God doesn’t get the glory, I don’t get the blessing.
98.   I love to write but don’t for a minute think someone would still be reading what I have written here.
99.   I can’t tell you how many weeks I have worked to make this list, but I have enjoyed the challenge of keeping it real and yet still bringing honor to God.
100.  I love finding new bloggers to follow, so if you have a blog, please post a link to it in the comments!                    
If you're still reading at this point, you are probably related to me, but thank you anyway!     



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