Friday, May 27, 2016

FINISHING FIRST GRADE

The school year is wrapping up, and today was Lily's last day.  (though school does go through next Tuesday, and Lily wants to go, so she may indeed have one more day.  verdict is still out. 😂)  When it came time to take our "Last Day of School" picture, she was not exactly excited about the picture.

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So, we have an extremely forced smile.  She is also wearing a shirt that is several sizes too big, because I completely overlooked ordering her a field day shirt.  Thankfully, when I showed up at field day, someone was able to rustle up an extra so that she could blend in a bit more.  I am one of those moms that seems to fall apart a bit at the end of the year.  It just all seemed like so much work for us all.  😁🙈
(Here are the first day pics for comparison!)

First grade was a great year for Lily!  Her reading improved dramatically, and it was neat to see her learn what it looks like to work to meet goals.  And by "neat," I should actually say that both Lily and I learned a lot about working together and meeting deadlines and pacing ourselves.  Parenting our first child in school has definitely brought many conversations about what should be entirely that child's responsibility vs. what places parents need to push and help and teach.  Lily did step up to the plate and mostly took charge of her homework and projects, and I was glad to see her mature in time management.

After some of the drama of waking up the first week of school, we got Lily an alarm clock and put her in charge of getting herself up and dressed and fed breakfast.  For us, this worked so much better than having Mom help with those things.  First grade brought welcomed independence, new friends, missing teeth and lots of growth.

We had a great year with our teacher who'll be greatly missed.  She loved on Lily and taught her so much throughout the year, and we are so grateful.  And this morning found me heading to Target to get a teacher gift to drop off, since I seem to have totally forgotten that that was a thing I should do.

Here's to starting our summer off strong and hopefully continuing the learning and growth even in the midst of the fun!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

TRAIN RIDING WITH WILLIAM

Life is funny a lot of the time, and yesterday brought a sweet little unexpected surprise.  A while back, John met someone who helps run a company here in town that has access to trains.  He told John to get in touch with him if he ever wanted to bring his son to ride the train.  Here's a word to the wise: don't tell John something like that unless you mean it!

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So, Wednesday afternoon found us headed with just William to go ride a train.

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William loves trains, and John has always loved trains, and seeing them get to enjoy that together was really sweet.  Unfortunately, William was a little on the young side to really appreciate everything, but he did have a great time.  Pulling the horn was a favorite activity!

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We rode in the locomotive and went up and down the tracks for a couple of miles each way.  It was such a treat and unexpected surprise to have this experience all to ourselves!  The guys who run the train answered lots of questions and were incredibly friendly.

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Giving our children unique experiences and individual time are some of our big parenting goals, and this checked those boxes in big ways.  William had us all to himself with no sisters running around and jumping all over everything and talking non-stop.  Since he is by far our most "chill" child, it was almost relaxing, though he is just three.

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Here's to Wednesdays and trains and the sweet surprise of time spent together, this time on a train.

Monday, May 23, 2016

OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE

Life keeps ticking by, and while I am thrilled to say that most areas of our life have a lot of positive movement and growth, there are hard things that also happen.  I'm not at liberty to talk about some of the hard things, because it isn't always (or usually) appropriate to share things that happen with other people.  I try really hard to keep this blog transparently about our story, but the places where our story brushes up against other people often have to be kept to ourselves.

Which is perfectly okay, but I must say, I usually learn the most in the hard places.  Recently, I feel as if I keep getting hit over the head with the same lesson:  true humility does not come naturally.  I want life on my terms, and I want to be comfortable.  While it is easy for me to say that I want to serve and love others, at the end of the day, I find that I value my own comfort and ideas over other people.

To combat this latent and sometimes outright attitude, I've been reading Philippians 2 over and over again most mornings, hoping and praying that the words would sink through my spirit.

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It's so easy to look at a situation and feel "right" and "misunderstood" and "offended."  And even if any of those words ring true, it does not change what God is asking of me.  He asks me to lower myself and imitate Christ's humility which included going to death on the cross, even though he had all the power of heaven and earth and perfection on his side.  But in my flesh, I want someone to come to me and for myself not to  have to do anything differently.  At the beginning of the year, one of the phrases that I wanted to follow in 2016 was "Live Lower."  Reading Philippians 2 and being reminded of what real love and humility looks like is the only hope I have of being able to actually live lower and essentially love better.

Another situation where this is playing out in our lives is in trying to really understand race in the context of our own city.  Yesterday, we took our family to a predominately African American church near our restaurant.  We have relationships there because of CFA and because our church has partnered with them, and we knew it would be a good opportunity to start to engage more people of color in the life of our family.

Yet, as we got ready for church yesterday morning - I've got to be honest here - we were nervous.  We knew we would have some of the only white faces there, and we felt uncomfortable thinking about how different things might feel from what we are used to.

And right then, it hit me: I'm perfectly happy for my own environment to diversify, but it is much harder to go into someone else's environment entirely.  I've almost never been a minority in my own city or country, but I need that experience.  We explained to the girls that William and Violet are often in the race minority in our lives and that we want to create opportunities for them to be in the majority.  We have so much to learn, and instead of just bringing people into our world, we realized that we need to broaden our world so we can better understand the African American culture in Little Rock.

Attending church there was a great experience, and we were graciously welcomed.  We are hoping to be able to attend there every so often and build some relationships and learn more.  But, it is going outside of our comfort zone, and I hope and pray that God give us the grace to do it well.  Sometimes things like this sound good in theory, but the actual reality of them is much harder.

I don't have a nifty little bow to wrap up this blog post, but I do know that I am a continual work in progress and that I often get it wrong.  I want more of Christ and less of me, and I have a long way to go.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

EATING SOUP WITH A FORK

Serving on the board of Immerse AR really is such a privilege, because it allows me to be constantly reminded of the real needs around me.  Of the crisis.  Of the heartache.  Of the children and young adults who loose their families and never find a new one.

Wednesday took me to my own church for a luncheon celebrating graduating seniors who are in foster care.  I got to help set up and serve the food, and I got to observe with my eyes and ears and heart.  It was beautiful and heartbreaking all at once.  Each of these kids had already reached a major milestone that, statistically speaking, they were less likely to achieve than their peers who have never brushed up against the foster care system.  Celebrating and honoring that achievement took front and center at the luncheon.

The room was filled with advocates for them, and in some cases, foster families who have helped see them through.  There were tears and joy and lots of extra rolls passed around those tables.  In many ways, it echoed an average graduation experience.

But, then the keynote speaker took the stage, and she stopped me in the middle of my extra creamy, mass-produced mashed potatoes.  She was 24.  She grew up in foster care.  She is now working in the system and advocating on behalf of children.  She started her time on stage with slam poetry, and I wish that I had video of it, because her voice rising and falling in that unusual cadence sent chills straight through me.

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As she spoke of her life and her experiences, one of the quotes that stuck with me was, "I was given soup, but I was given no spoon.  So I ate my soup with a fork."

She figured out a way to do something that should be impossible.  After the poetry concluded, she addressed this idea again.  "I ate my soup with a fork, and you will too."  As she pointed out, most kids are given spoons and some are even given silver spoons.  The way of life is paved for them by a loving family who set them up for success.  That did not exist in her life with her many foster placements, so she found her metaphorical fork and made a way.

She spoke of God and love and finding a support system to help bolster her journey, but she had to find her way to those things.  No one led the way.

I was given a spoon and then some on my journey, and I am certainly trying to do the same for my own children.  This week has been a good reminder that parenting is challenging, and I get it wrong seemingly all the time.  But I'm engaged and trying, and by God's grace, I love my children and get the chance to raise them.  I'm so thankful.

But I'm also so thankful to go and be reminded that so many children do not receive such benefits, and they are just as precious in God's sight as my own.  Serving in a tiny way on Wednesday showed me more of how God loves each person he creates and wants so much for them and how it is a joy and privilege to play a little role in that.

(If you want to support the work that Immerse does with former foster youth, click here!)