Thursday, October 30, 2014

We'll (Still) Love You Wherever You Live

One great thing about WSBR is that, though we ideally want boys to have a place to grow up and graduate high school and feel a part of a family, some boys really just need a temporary safe place, and the ranch can do that. MC left the ranch this morning, and seeing a boy leave after about three weeks is not fun for us; however, we trust that God is going with him where we can't. Please pray that the seeds planted while MC was here would miraculously take root and grow and produce fruit in the future, no matter where he goes in life. I firmly believe that the decades of fervent prayer that still cover the land of WSBR were just as much for the boys who were only here for a short time as they are for the boys that are and will be here for years--please join me in continuing the legacy of faith in God's hand in their lives by praying for all of the boys whose lives have been affected by their time at Willow Springs.

On a brighter (and slightly ironic) note, we actually have another boy moving in on Monday morning. LC is fourteen years old, and is in 8th grade. He likes to play basketball and he likes art. We met him on Tuesday, and he and his parents are awesome. We are so looking forward to him coming to the ranch; we think he will fit in perfectly around here!

Here are some things you can be praying for this week:

  • LC as he moves in and begins to adjust to life on the ranch starting Monday
  • For us to find effective (and possibly pretty creative) solutions for grades to stay where they need to be
  • When LC moves in on Monday, we will once again have three boys in each house. We still have room for five more boys per house, so please pray for any future boys that God brings to us!
  • For God to lead generous donors to give in order to keep up financially as our ranch families grow
Here are some things you may consider donating:
  • You may have seen me post on Facebook about a Christmas tree. Upon further examination of our budget, we really can't afford to buy a Christmas tree. However, if your family is buying a new tree and you need to get rid of your old one, please consider donating it to the ranch! I would be okay with cutting down and bringing in a real tree, but the carpet in the Liddell house is really new, and I'm afraid the sap of a tree would ruin it. Blake and I have a 7ft tree, but I am hoping to secure a larger tree that will stay with the Liddell house long after Blake and I are gone.
  • I don't have enough information at this point to know exactly what LC will be bringing with him on Monday, but once we figure out what he does need, we will let you know. 
Thank you for reading; we covet your prayers!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Grocery Shopping: Not for the Faint of Heart

I am often caught telling stories of my weekly grocery shopping experiences. Especially when Adeline comes with me, it is an hour(s) long ordeal. Partially because I get stopped in every aisle at WalMart so that someone can gawk over my daughter (and she loves it way too much), and partially because, oddly enough, people are very curious and confused as to why a young mom with a young daughter needs a cart stacked so full of food. When my first answer is, "I am also feeding three teenage boys and my husband," the looks only become more puzzled. Depending on the amount of interest each questioning passerby shows, I don't mind sharing the WSBR story. I once (or twice...or more) had to cut a conversation short because I was afraid the chicken in my cart would go bad before the 10 minute check-out process and the 30(ish) minute drive back to Chandler from Edmond.

One of my favorite stories from grocery shopping was a recent trip where Blake went with Adeline and me. I told him this would most likely be a perfect opportunity for him to see just how often I was stopped and why it takes me so long to get out of WalMart. After I was already stopped a few short times during the actual grocery shopping, Blake and I finally got into a checkout line. Between the two of us we managed to empty the cart pretty quickly, but the cashier noticed the name "Willow Springs Boys Ranch" on the tax exempt card and was immediately curious. After she had already spent five minutes trying to convince us to let her babysit Addie (flattering yet unsettling), she began to ask where the money for all of this food comes from--do we pay for it, and are compensated later? Do the boys actually live in our house and do we actually cook everything for them? Is this an alternative to foster care? How big is this whole operation? After a while, the cashiers in both checkout lanes next to us as well as their customers were in on this interview. How many boys do you have? What's the most boys you could have? How old can they be? Do you really trust them around your baby (how old is she? Oh, she is just so pretty!)? By the time we actually got all of our groceries back in the cart and everything paid for, we had spent close to half an hour in the line. It may have been shorter, but I'm pretty sure it was half an hour.

Now, to be fair, that wasn't a totally typical shopping day. What I want to help you all to picture is my weekly ritual, and what it takes to make it happen.

When I go grocery shopping each week, I am thoroughly prepared. I have my list of what is for dinner each night and what ingredients I need, plus exactly what snacks and how much I'm going to buy (as of now our snacks each week are apples, bananas, or clementines. When these are out, we have popcorn for special family nights, like a game night or movie night). I also buy those giant super-value bags of cereal and milk, which the boys have for breakfast every morning, and we do a special breakfast on Saturday mornings if we can budget for it that week. We have our family meals, and meals planned for Stephanie to cook when our relief parents are on call for us. Now, to give you an idea of how many people that is, on a typical weeknight dinner we are feeding two adults, three boys (which is really more than an adult appetite), and baby (who basically has an adult appetite). That's six people. When our relief parents are over, dinner feeds seven people. And, obviously, I include breakfast and lunch options for the whole week, which is usually sandwiches or ramen (guys, ramen is really awesome).

If you're a busy mom with a big family like me, you know how much work this is. Every Sunday afternoon I sit down for about an hour and a half and plan the meals, make the list, and also check the house for anything we're out of (trash bags, laundry detergent, dish detergent, paper towels, freezer bags, etc). After staff meeting on Monday, Blake, Adeline and I eat a quick lunch (usually whatever leftovers are left in the fridge, as Blake will typically clean them out of the fridge while I'm gone so we can have an empty fridge for when I get back), I get on a comfortable pair of shoes, and off I (or we) go.

Now, this was my shopping cart today. I had gotten most of what I needed, but it was actually a little more full by the time I got to the checkout. This is with three boys in the house. *taps the mic twice* Three. Our two houses have room for eight boys each to live here. I know what you're thinking--I'm going to have to move to two carts soon and Blake will HAVE to come with me. Wait, maybe that's what I'm thinking.

Maybe you are thinking any number or combination of these things:

  • That is a really full cart.
  • Doesn't that get really hard to push around WalMart? Answer: definitely. How do you think I've developed any resemblance of arm muscle for the first time in my life? 
  • My family's cart is usually fuller than this for just one week. 
  • The cart is a nice visual, but I'm also thinking of other expenses that go along with living life.
  • Who pays for all of this?
  • How can I help?

Willow Springs Boys Ranch is an organization run entirely on donor support. All of the things provided for our family--groceries, living expenses, school supplies, etc.--all comes from however much money is given to us. Also raised by donor support is the house parents' pay checks and health insurance. Now, before you think I'm holding out a beggar's cup here, I need you to know that I do not want anyone to feel obligated to donate money to the ranch. As I have said before and wholeheartedly believe, we need your prayers. We completely trust God to provide everything we need. I am merely responding to the one question that I hear from all who are invested in the WSBR ministry: "How can I help?" Make a commitment to pray for Willow Springs daily, weekly, monthly--whatever you can. If you feel like the Spirit is leading you to do something in addition to praying, please prayerfully consider giving a monthly donation. This can be small. For example, if ten families committed to give $25 a month, that would pay for a week of groceries for one of the houses.

If you're reading this, know that you are appreciated. Even just caring enough to read through this shows me that you care about what God is doing at Willow Springs, and I thank you.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ravings of a House Mom Who Can't Sleep Yet

Here are some of the things that are on my mind while I wait for the laundry to finish drying so I can take a well-earned bath, grab my favorite pajamas (otherwise known as the comfiest looking clothes in Blake's closet), and fall asleep.

Blake and I have been at Willow Springs for nine months. A year ago, I was spending every day doing laundry, dishes, watching daytime television, breastfeeding, and trying desperately to get Adeline to laugh so that I could distract myself from the fact that I was just...waiting. All the time. Waiting for Blake to get home from work; waiting for a phone call that said we could move in to the Liddell house or that we had a boy who was for sure coming; waiting for Adeline's next milestone so I could stop worrying when everyone mentioned how small she was (spoiler alert: she actually wasn't that small, and she is extremely healthy--wearing 18-24mo clothes, and seems like she will be closing in on 3 feet tall in no time); or, waiting to see whether or not I could afford to buy groceries soon. You see, nine months before we moved to Chandler, we were just starting this waiting game. In March we were candidates to become worship leaders at a church near Tulsa, and before that fell through, we waited for three months to hear anything after we were told they "wanted" to hire us. Obviously, in March, we were also waiting for baby Adeline to be born, as she was born May 31.

From March to January, those nine months honestly felt much longer than nine months of pregnancy. Sometimes, it really felt longer than four years of earning my degree in voice. It felt especially longer on the nights when Adeline had nothing to sleep in but her porta-crib, and on the really cold nights I would bring the only two space heaters we owned into her room, put her in her warmest pajamas, cover her with two blankets, and try to encourage myself that she still had far more than the majority of children in this world. Most of all, I repeated to myself over and over that this would pass, and that God is faithful.

This did pass, and, yes, God is more than faithful.

Tonight I am sitting in a house that is more than capable of standing through the thunderstorm that's on its way. My daughter is sleeping soundly in a crib with a mattress and everything in a room that is perfectly warm. I have three boys who, even at their worst, are the physical manifestation of months of prayers and hopes and dreams. Also, the difference in how long nine months has lasted is staggering--the nine months from January until now have gone by in the blink of an eye.

On days when being a house mom gets pretty hectic, and I feel like I am firing on all cylinders, I remember all that waiting. I remember that I much prefer feeling spent from pouring out everything in me than feeling restless.

If you feel you have been waiting for entirely too long, my heart breaks for you. I understand this feeling. My hope and prayer is that you could feel the Holy Spirit's nearness to you in this time, and that you would be strengthened by the assurance that this too shall pass, and God is faithful. Also, whatever you are waiting for, whatever vision or promise God has given you, is worth the wait. Future self, who will undoubtedly find herself waiting for something again, do you hear me? God did it, and He will do it again.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Growing Liddell House

This morning, our newest boy, MC, moved into the Liddell house. We are so excited to have him here! He will be fifteen years old in November, and he is a freshman. He plays football and basketball, but seems to prefer basketball. He starts school here in Chandler on Monday.

So far, MC has been pretty quiet. Considering how talkative our other two boys are, I don't foresee him getting many words in, anyway. I can't give a lot of details about MC, for his protection, but I can tell you that the parts of his story that I do know break my heart. When I came out of our apartment to meet him this morning, all I saw were two plastic sacks of clothes on the table. When Blake asked if there was anything else he needed to help get out of their car, those who were dropping him off said that was all he had.

Tomorrow we are going to Shawnee to get him some clothes and things he needs for school, and he needs a lot. If you want to donate anything for him, please go to the WSBR website or contact me via Facebook, and I can further direct you on how you can help. In addition to clothes and school supplies, some ideas for things you could make or give that might make him feel even more welcome at the ranch would be some things I have asked for the other boys in the past: monogrammed towels, a quilt or blanket, etc.

One thing we would ask for MC, as well as our other two boys, would be a Bible of their own. I think it would be really great if they could have a leatherbound NIV with their names, or even a really great teen boy study bible--anything that would be easy for them to read. I think they all have a Bible, but not one they find easy to read. If this is something you would like to give, please contact me via Facebook, or if you have my phone number, you can call or text me, and I will respond as quickly as possible.

More than all of these things, we covet your prayers for MC as he adjusts to life at the ranch. Pray for him to find peace and comfort here, and a growing relationship with Christ. We thank God for your prayers and support of our ministry at Willow Springs!