An Ash Wednesday First

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Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

This week, I attended my very first Ash Wednesday service.

It was lovely. In fact, lovely doesn’t even begin to describe it. It was somber and serious and beautiful. There were prayers and readings and I’ve been in church all my life but it was a much different service than I’ve ever attended.

The church I grew up in and the church I attend now have never had a traditional Ash Wednesday service, so I never knew what I was missing.

Every year before Easter, I get into a weird spiritual funk. Not bad, necessarily, but I feel the weight of Easter all throughout the season of Lent.

I guess that’s kind of the point, though, right? Growing closer to Jesus by remembering and honoring the sacrifice He made for us?

Sarah Bessey wrote a post on Tuesday that I found Wednesday. Sitting at my desk, real life happening all around, I read her words and tears streamed down my face. She was saying all the same things I was feeling but could not articulate.

“I couldn’t seem to bring myself to go to the stadium-style church with light shows and happy-clappy choruses. I found myself craving a God who would meet me in lament and silence and darkness.”

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I go to a happy-clappy church like Sarah references. I love my church, but during Lent? I don’t want happy-clappy. I want white space. I want clarity. I crave silence and reverence and I find myself standing around screaming on the inside, “Don’t you people know what Christ did for us? He didn’t stand in the garden raising in hands in praise and worship singing, ‘Lead me where my trust is without borders.’ He fell on His face and begged, ‘Please don’t make me do this…’ and we’re all standing around singing about hope and not being shaken?”

Really mature, right?

I want to walk through Lent remembering the suffering of my Savior, because if I can hang my head in reverence and remember what he went through to take and drink the cup that had been given to him, then when the stone rolls away, when our Savior rises, when Resurrection Sunday is here, my suffering makes way for relief, my weariness turns to celebration, and my tears become beautiful songs! It’s only after the Resurrection that I can confidently sing about going out into the world and trusting and celebrating and having hope. It’s only after the 40 days of remembrance that I can fully live in the freedom and trust that my debt has been paid in full.

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Sarah goes on to say, “…there in the liturgy of Ash Wednesday, as we prayed and read and worshipped through the admission of our sin, I released a breath I didn’t know I had been holding.

Finally. Finally someone was acknowledging the shadows, the grief, the repentance, the sometimes inescapable sorrow of our existence.”

How poetic those words when inside I am only feeling trapped, confused, and desperate. When reading her post Wednesday, I finally felt like it was okay to feel these things, because, after all, we aren’t the ones who can save ourselves. I was jealous that she met Jesus in a quiet place of reverence, and relieved by the possibility that I might, too. In years past, I have felt wracked with guilt when going to any other church besides my own, even if just for a service, but in reading her words, I gave myself permission experience something new. And, y’all, it was beautiful.

Sidenote: The post by Sarah Bessey Wednesday is actually an excerpt from her book, Out of Sorts. I finished reading the post and promptly went straight to Amazon and ordered it. Thank to Prime, I’ll have it in my hands today when I get home. Sarah doesn’t know me from Adam, and this isn’t a plug for her book since I haven’t actually read it, but if the few words here resonate with you like they did with me, hop on over and get it for yourself. You can start reading it on your Kindle or Kindle app right away.

Another writer posted on her blog yesterday, and I do actually know her and can call her my friend. She posted about possibility among seeming impossibilities, nothing about Lent or Ash Wednesday, and I cried for the second time at my desk in one day. The parallels Marian drew between a beautiful, boho chic, DIY chandelier and my own spiritual funk were haunting, and she had no idea what was going on in my heart. Gifts from The Lord, I tell you. Jump over and let her words speak to you, too.

This Lenton season, I’m going to sit in the quiet, meditate on the Word, and remember what He’s done for us, all guilt-free.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

*Amazon links are affiliate. I’ll get a little bit (no extra cost to you!) if you purchase something through this link.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Stud.

Happy 31st birthday, boo.
Here are 31 things I love about you.

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  1. The funny faces you make when I try to take pictures of you.
  2. The way you love Jesus.
  3. You’re studly. :)
  4. The way you make me laugh.
  5. The way you encourage and support me.
  6. The way you parent our son. Best dad ever.
  7. How hard you work for something that is important to you.
  8. The way you impress me.
  9. We can trust you to lead our family.
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  10. The way you flirt with me. :)
  11. Your attention to detail.
  12. You’re a good, good person.
  13. Your commitment to our family.
  14. You’re a great cook.
  15. You’re a role model for our children.
  16. You’d rather be behind the scenes than the center of attention.
  17. Your compassion for other people.
  18. You love your job.
  19. You’re a fantastic leader, but you know how to follow when needed.
  20. You are respected by everyone who knows you.
  21. You keep your promises.
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  22. You’re a great travel buddy.
  23. You’re a great driver.
  24. You have great style.
  25. You try things that I like, even if you don’t like them at first.
  26. You’re organized.
  27. You don’t care how many times I watch You’ve Got Mail. You’ll even watch it with me sometimes!
  28. You’re passionate.
  29. You make me a better person.
  30. You’re not afraid to admit when you don’t know something, but you’ll go find the answer.
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  31. You’re my best friend.

There are so many more things I could add to this list. You are the best person I know, am I’m blessed to get to celebrate your life!

One Million Thumbprints: Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

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If you were awake at all yesterday, you might have noticed that your Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest feeds were full of inspirational quotes by Martin Luther King Jr yesterday, in celebration of his birthday, and in memory of his life. He’s such an important man to remember. A man who stood up for injustice. A man who preached and lived an existence of equality, non-violence, peace, advocacy, and love for our fellow men and women. We are incredibly blessed to have such an example that has gone before us in the United States.

But I think it’s fair to say we have a long way to go before we can say that we live in the world of which he dreamed.

What’s even more unfortunate is that there are injustices down our streets, across our towns, on the other side of our countries, and in all parts of the world. Is it overwhelming to you? It sure is to me. Often, I’m paralyzed by what is to be done that could make a difference. I’m so thankful for people who are voices for the voiceless, and who are willing to move to action to make a change in the world.

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photo courtesy of 1MT

Some of my heroes in the world are the ones who risk comfort and convenience for the sake of others. Sixteen of these heroes are hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro at the beginning of March, reaching the summit on March 8th, International Women’s Day. Wow! Y’all, it’s five days of hiking!

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photo courtesy of 1MT

So why is this important?

This group is part of a larger organization called One Million Thumbprints, and is a grassroots movement to raise awareness and to stop sexual violence against women in war-torn parts of the world. You can read more about their story here. By hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, this group of sixteen regular people, just like you and me, and proclaiming that peace is more valuable than war, women are treasures, not possessions, and sexual violence is an reprehensible reality of war that should be stopped.

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Back in October, I had the privilege of learning about 1MT and adding my thumbprint to a banner, expressing my support and solidarity for this movement. Today, I ask that you will join also in praying for and supporting this operation.

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So will you join, too? Will you raise your voice for others suffering the unspeakable? Will you give your thumbprint? Maybe skip your cup of java at the drive-thru for a few days and give money to fund this incredible movement?

Come back to the blog this week to learn of more ways that you can support 1MT!

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photo courtesy of 1MT

For more information, check out onemillionthumbprints.org and check out this video below. (If you’re reading this in your email, you might have to click over to see the video.)

To follow along in the journey, check out 1MT on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks, Facebook.

So, Friday morning, I opened Facebook to find this little gem.

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Nine years! I’ve known my husband for approximately nine years! Of course, he hasn’t been my husband all of those nine years…

We met, officially, in the fall of 2006, and while I’ll share our whole story another day, I was reminded this morning of lots of memories between then and now.

Let’s recap what’s in the screenshot up there:
* Our foster parenting announcement – last year. Early in our marriage, we decided to become foster parents, and last summer, we got our license and have been fostering ever since.
* Buying our first car together – this happened shortly after we got married.
* Our wedding – May 2009. Such a great day.
* Cody’s master’s graduation – this past summer! So proud of him!
* Snow  – two winters ago…we love snow!

But let’s talk about all the things Facebook can’t remind us of.

Let’s talk about how awkward I was on the first date when I thought he’d never ask me out again. Let’s talk about the evenings watching movies and doing homework. How about the every-other-weekend 6-hour trips to come visit me when I was still in college? What about that tiny first apartment that we loved (and still remember fondly) where we bumped into each other around every corner because it had approximately 72 square feet?

Oh, I know. We can talk about the afternoons spent grocery shopping together and the nights staying up together when one (or both!) was sick, and the hours spent watching TV and talking and laughing until our sides hurt, and all the “conversations” we’ve had to help us love each other better. All the stretching and twisting and learning and the giving up of each of us, so that there can be an “us?” Let’s talk about the times after we said “I do” when maybe we really didn’t want to, and yet we’re so glad we have.

Let’s talk about the every morning we wake up next to the morning breath and messy hair and smile because we have another day together.

Y’all, it takes so much more than love to have a really great, fun marriage. It takes like. I like my husband so much, and he likes me.

The children, the pets, the houses, the meals, the friends, the life. So much has happened in 9 years of friendship and 6.5 years of marriage that social media can’t even touch.

So thanks, Facebook, but the memories you offer me are only the beginning.

Post-#write31days Blues

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Do any of my bloggy friends have the blues after writing every day for a month and then not having anything write about? I mean, I have plenty to write about, but it seems sudden and abrasive to just jump into something else right away…

This was my third year of #write31days, so it’s not necessarily new to me. However, something was different this time around. Something about my writing changed during this series. Not necessarily from a reading perspective, but from a creating perspective. Maybe I should say something changed in ME during this series. For the first time in my LIFE, I enjoy writing. Just ask my college professors. I was the worst, most stubborn writer. I would write a paper, but only the night before, and only if I were kicking and screaming. And complaining. Always complaining. I’ve always hated it. Truthfully, I never felt like I was good at it. It was painful and uncomfortable. I never felt connected to any of that writing. It was never serious.

Even after writing this blog for however many years, I have tried to stay away from actual “writing” and stick with recipes or tutorials or whatever, because I *knew* I didn’t like to write. Writing’s not my thing. That’s not me.

Until, one day, it was. It is.

I went to Allume again this year. (And I promise, as long as my wallet will allow, I’ll keep going.) I went last year to check it out because I knew famous people would be there (and they totally were, and they were totally awesome) but I really wasn’t sure what else to expect from it.

Y’all, life change. That’s what I should have expected from it. So I went again this year, somewhat expectantly, because I knew that Allume people were my people. I knew that there would be a hotel full of women like me, women not like me, women who loved to write (I admired those so much!), and women who were just figuring out if writing fit into their lives. I knew, on some zoomed-out, large-scale level, that these women would be kindred spirits. What I didn’t expect as much, was to put real-life names and faces to those women. I made connections this year at Allume that I hope to carry with me for a long time.

Consider going to Allume next year? It really is that awesome.

My heart is full. My hands are writing. Friends, I hope you’ll stay with me on this journey. I hope that there are some words here that resonate with you.

Much love, Kindel.

#write31days: Day 31

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I’m hesitant to even write this post today because I’ve enjoyed this series so much. I’ve always said tha I’m not a writer, but throughout this series, I have found a writing stride. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer and as a foster parent.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this series as much as I have writing it. You can always go back and read each post in any order you’d like.

I also hope that I’ve helped shed some light on what real-life foster care looks like. It’s just identifying a need in our community and meeting that need to the best of our ability. It’s that simple.

If being a foster parent isn’t something you’d think you’d like to do, there are other ways to be involved in these kids’ lives. At Christmas, foster children need a sponsor that will take a wish list and buy gifts for the children. I can personally say that this is a big help to foster parents, as well as kids who are in group homes.

I’m so thankful that foster care has been a part of our family’s journey. It just wouldn’t seem normal otherwise. As hard as it is on the hardest days, it is absolutely worth it. It has changed me in ways that I never expected, and it has changed the whole world of one very special Little Man that I know. :)

So thanks, friends, for following along this month. And if you’re interested more in what this crazy life is like, let’s grab coffee, real or digital, and chat.

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#write31days: Day 30

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Additional Q&A

Throughout this series, I have received other questions in addition to the ones that I’ve posted here this month.

(If you’d like to go back and read the other questions, click here and check out the list. You can click on each question and it will take you to the corresponding post.)

Can my foster child and my biological children share a bedroom?

In our state of South Carolina, mixed gender children can share a room as long as they are under 4  years old. Children 4 and over must share a room with other children of the same gender or be in a room of their own. Children of the same gender can share a room no matter the age.

Can I just do respite care?

Absolutely! Providing respite care or emergency placements is a great way to get started in foster care. It especially allows children who are already in the home to get used to the idea of welcoming in other kids!

I’m single. Can I still be a foster parent?

Yes, yes, yes! Single people and married people alike have so much to offer kids in need of a foster home. Being single does not disqualify anyone from being a foster parent.

Can I be a foster parent and work full time or do I have to be a stay-at-home-parent?

My husband and I both work full time. Many foster families are fortunate to have one parent stay at home, but it is not a requirement.

Do I get to choose the age/gender of my foster children?

Yes. You can set the parameters for the kinds of kids who will come in to your home. When we started, we asked for either gender, ages 0-2. Now that we have our son who will soon be 4, we will only accept boys younger than 4, because they will have to share a room. Also, we have two cribs that convert to toddler beds, so taking a child older than 4 would mean moving a big bed into the room and right now, there’s just not enough space! Our home is two-bedroom, so until we move into a house with more bedrooms, we will be living with this arrangement.

What’s the one trick to making a child feel welcome in your home in the first few minutes?

FOOD! Haha! We try to feed the kids when they first come into our home. It doesn’t matter what time of day or if they just “ate” or not. Some kids have a really hard time eating on the road with a caseworker after they’ve been removed from their homes. Once they get to a house and are trying to get settled, feeding them a yummy meal will usually make them feel very secure.

 

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#write31days: Day 29

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I’ve decided foster care is something I want to do. Moving forward, what are three of the first things that should be on my list?

It’s a really exciting time in life when a family starts having children, whether they foster first or have biological children first. There are some important things to remember when you’re ready to take the leap into foster care.

*Share the news with your family and friends. We told our family years ago that we were going to foster. Once we were in the licensing process, we took a picture out in front of our house, and when we were finally licensed, we shared the picture!

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It was a fun way to announce our family growth on social media!

*Have coffee with someone who has been a foster parent. When we decided to be foster parents, it was so important for me to ask real, specific, and some hard questions for those who had walked the road before me. I remember grabbing lunch with a friend. We had already decided to be foster parents long before this lunch, so I intended to just ask those practical questions about how to get licenses, etc. but we wound up talking about that and so much more! She shared with me her journey and she shared so much insight about aspects of foster care that I did not even anticipate! It was so encouraging and I’m so glad we were able to share that time together.

*Research and choose your licensing agency. Here’s a place to ask a lot more questions of someone who has done this. There are lots of agencies (many are state- or region-specific) and Child Protective Services or the Department of Social Services, depending on what it’s called in your state.

I’m sure other foster parents may advise differently about the first three steps to take after making the final decision, but this is what makes sense most to us in our experience.

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#write31days: Day 28

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How can you share your love and conviction about foster care and adoption without being “preachy?”

While I love to talk about foster care and what that looks like for our family, I certainly hope I never sound “preachy!” (I’m sure I do at times…)

I went to a conference a couple of weeks ago and there were about 400 women there, so you can imagine all the first-meeting conversations that happened. At each meal, I would find myself sitting at a table with six other women I didn’t know, sharing elevator pitches about our lives and blogs. We all share that we’re married (or not), have kids (or not), where we’re from, and what we blog about.

“I’m Kindel. Married to Cody. We have one son and we are hoping to finalize his adoption soon. We have a dog and a cat…blah blah blah.”

This always opens the door for more questions about Little Man. Are you foster parents? How old is he? How long have you had him? And on and on.

Here’s a secret: I LOVE these questions. It gives me a chance to talk about my kid because HELLO! He’s adorable! But is also gives me the chance to normalize being a foster parent. I’m not some super hero out to save all the children. I’m not some weirdo who takes in kids like stray cats. I’m just a normal person who has lots of love in her heart and room in her home.

That weekend at the conference, I met so many other people who either are foster parents or who are interested in foster care. I sat with a new sweet friend and answered questions about foster care (many like the ones in this series!) for the entire meal. It was so wonderful! If I hadn’t opened the door for the conversation, we may never have mentioned it at all and I would have missed out on such sweet community and kindred spirit-ness.

I hope that by making myself available to talk about foster care and being honest about the structure of our family, I am making a way for others to see that normal people are foster parents. Normal people with normal kids that are in such need of love and attention. Doesn’t that sound like a normal kid to you?

Here’s the thing: foster parenting is hard because parenting is hard, not because fostering is hard. Yes, there are difficult aspects, but they are so far outweighed by the good!

So how do I not sound “preachy” when sharing about foster care? It’s all about sharing honestly, without putting any expectation on anyone else, and living openly. It’s a beautiful way that God has chosen to grow our family. Currently, we have 9 kids in our family. We get to welcome one (so far) forever, and eight have moved on to other chapters of their stories. I hope that it’s inspiring without being preachy, normal without sounding strange, and loving freely without obligation.

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#write31days: Day 27

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What is your favorite part about being a foster parent?

There are a lot of things to not like about the foster system. It’s filled with over-worked case workers, slow paperwork, and lots of waiting. However, it is also filled with children who need loving homes, if even for a short time.

Those kids come to stay with us. And that’s my favorite part.

My favorite part is having the kind of home that has room for one more. Having the kind of hearts that have room for one more.

When a child is brought into our home, something changes. Our house becomes a reprieve for a child. Two days of what we consider to be normal meals, normal bath times, normal sleep habits, normal play time. Some kids need normal for just a few days. And if I can be that normal for them, I welcome that. That makes it all worth it.

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On Thursday, I’ll be answering a few more questions that I’ve gotten throughout this series. If you have a question you’d like for me to answer, leave it in the comments or send me an email!

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