It's been a great Christmas so far, and it's not even Christmas Eve yet!
My best Christmas present is a girl named Mariamu. I recently heard about this 14 year old from Tanzania who was waiting for a sponsor through Compassion International -- Australia. I don't live in Australia, so I couldn't sponsor her -- or could I?
I very much wanted to sponsor Mariamu. There are hundreds of kids waiting on the Compassion USA site, but Mariamu needed me. You see, she's been waiting six and a half years for a sponsor. Six and a half years.
That is mind-boggling. I can't even imagine how much she has hurt over the years, watching every other child receive letters and gifts and love from their sponsors, and month after month, year after year, nobody ever sends her anything. Nobody cares about her.
To make matters worse, Mariamu was recently orphaned. So not only has she had to sit more than six years waiting for someone to care about her enough to sponsor her, but she has watched both of her parents die -- and she has no siblings. She's all alone in the world now.
Or at least she was. I was able to obtain permission to have Mariamu transferred to the Compassion USA site so that I could sponsor her. Merry Christmas to me!!! I am so excited about adding this new sweet girl to my Compassion family, and only hope that I am up to the challenge of pouring enough love out to her to make up for the six and a half years of nothing.
There are many children like Mariamu waiting for a sponsor. Do you have some extra love to share with a child who desperately needs it this Christmas? I highly encourage you to sponsor a child. Compassion's programming is so successful at releasing children from poverty -- at truly making a difference. There are lots of good ministries out there feeding the hungry, putting shoes on bare feet, digging water wells, etc., and those are wonderful things to support. But Compassion takes a different approach. Rather than changing the child's circumstances and hoping for a change in the child, they believe if you change the child, then the child will change their circumstances. They use a child development model, to help children learn and grow and be loved and achieve their fullest potential, in spite of their circumstances.
There are children of all ages and countries waiting for you to change their world today, for a mere $38 a month and the time invested in your correspondence. Go now, and bring "home" a child for Christmas this year.
Besides Mariamu, my Christmas has been fun so far due to getting the opportunity to play Santa Claus -- and seeing God's hand work in that situation.
I asked my preschoolers at church to bring in birthday presents for Jesus. Some brought money, which I had not wanted them to do as I wanted it to be meaningful for the kids, and I don't think preschoolers really get the point when Mom or Dad forks over money, instead of them wrapping up a toy they'd really like to have themselves and giving it away. But what can you do?
As it turns out, God had a plan for that money. I learned of a 7 year old boy who wanted nothing for Christmas except a bicycle. His name went on a Salvation Army tree and was chosen... by a person who bought him a shirt, a hat and gloves, some Matchbox cars... and a bicycle helmet.
What a slap in the face, to give a child who wants nothing but a bike, a HELMET with no bike. I don't know what on earth they were thinking.
Well, as it turns out, my kids brought in $50. A boys' bicycle cost $49 at Walmart. Is that God or what? That little boy is getting his bicycle for Christmas, courtesy of my preschoolers. :o) I just had the fun of dropping it off, and was his grandmother ever grateful.
I also had the pleasure of dropping off all the toys the kids brought in to a family I just met last week -- after having asked the kids to bring in presents with no idea who I was going to give them to. I knew God would show me who needed them, and He did. This poor little boy had absolutely nothing for Christmas, and his parents are too concerned about saving up money to get the water turned back on to be able to spend anything on gifts. There's no stockings hanging up in that house, no tree of any kind. You wouldn't even know it's Christmas. At least, you wouldn't a couple of days ago. With the pile of brightly wrapped gifts I just dropped off to them this afternoon, chosen by my preschoolers as gifts they themselves would like to receive at Christmas, I think this little boy's Christmas is looking a lot merrier. :o)
And then a gift for me -- I unexpectedly received in the mail -- unexpectedly because after thinking things had finally fallen into place so that I could begin fostering, more red tape intervened and I thought right now I was just on hold again -- my certificate of approval for fostering/adopting. FINALLY!!
Now I just wait on a phone call to go pick me up some kids! :o) Hallelujah!
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I've refrained from writing about this for months and months but I'm mad enough now I can't keep from doing it any longer. Not that it matters that I write it. But at least I can vent. And have a record for myself of this ridiculously lengthy timeline to look back on someday when it's all over. Assuming that someday ever comes.
February 7, 2009. I filled out an application to become a foster parent. The application stated that the process can take up to six months to complete.
About a week later. I received a packet of information on the process, as well as signup sheets for mandatory classes to become certified to foster and/or adopt. No problem. I signed up for the soonest class available. After all, I was ready to go. Immediately.
May 2, 2009. I completed the last of five full Saturdays in training. Fingerprints were taken in the first class, the first week of April. Next step -- and last one: Home Study. Someone would contact us to set that up, we were told. I specifically asked if there was anything else I needed to do in the meantime. Anything to fill out. Anyone to call. No. We're done with everything. We just need to wait on this phone call. It may take several months due to them being backed up. Court-appointed home studies must be completed first because they have a deadline. Kinship care comes next, because those children are already in the foster homes and they must hurry to do the home studies to ensure those children are safe. So "resource families" as they called people like me who just want to give a home to a needy child that is not a relative are last on the list. Fine. A few months. I can wait a few months.
August 2009. I begin calling the office to find out if they're going to schedule my home study soon. I call for over a month before I actually get to speak to a human being. Over a month. You can't imagine how many calls that is, or how many messages that is. Nor how frustrating it is to never be able to get ahold of anyone.
September 2009. At last, someone calls me. But not the person I've been trying to reach. Not that person's supervisor. Not anyone from my county at all. But a person from several counties away calls, because their supervisor told them to call me because he was too busy to do it and the person I've been trying to reach is out on maternity leave. At last, I get to speak to a human being, although it's not a human being who can help me. Except that said human being asks if I've submitted my home study information yet. What home study information? Why, a huge packet of information I'm supposed to fill out before they'll call me. Remember I specifically asked if there was anything I needed to do or fill out at that last class and was told no, nothing, just wait for a call? The call was never going to come, because if you don't fill out this packet of information then they assume you are no longer interested and don't call you. THANKS. I had her send me the packet. I filled it out that very day and sent it back in. And waited.
October 2009. I begin calling again. Maternity leave lady was supposed to be back in early September. I want to make sure they know I'm interested. And know I've been waiting. Since February. And trained since May 2. I'm very tired of waiting. Christmas is coming, and I want children in my home for Christmas. Can we please get this taken care of? I finally reach the lady who does the home studies, who tells me I need to come into the office to speak with her and take care of some things. Finally, I think! Progress. I make the appointment. I go in. Fingerprints... the ones taken SIX MONTHS AGO? They came back rejected. Not because I'm a criminal. Because the FBI was apparently unable to read the prints. She fingerprinted me again, then told me that this was her last week at this office so she won't be doing my home study. Someone else will and she'll be sure to let them know I've been waiting a long time and she's quite sure they'll get to me soon.
November 2009. I call the new lady. I ask her if she can give me an estimate of when she's going to be able to schedule my home study. She launches into the spiel I have now heard repeatedly, "We have to do the court-appointed studies first, and then we have to do the kinship care, and folks like you are at the bottom of the list..." I said, "I understand that, ma'am, but it's been 9 months since I got on the list... I was thinking surely my turn must be coming up soon." (Seeing as how the application states the process can take UP TO six months, if you'll recall.) In an annoyed tone, the new home study lady replies, "We never even get through all the kinship studies. You will ALWAYS be at the bottom of the list."
They could have told me that in MAY and saved all this hassle! Why even pretend like they're going to eventually come out and do my home study if they know good and well it's never going to happen? and WHY can't it happen?? What on earth are they DOING all day long five days a week 52 weeks a year that they can't come out to my house for an hour and get this done?? And then they complain that they don't have enough foster families, and that there are alllllll these children waiting for adoption that nobody will adopt. Well, gee, I wonder why???
So. I hung up the phone and called a private agency. If the department were doing their job, there would be no need for the private agency. Because the agency does foster care, as well -- they get the kids that the department is unable to find homes for. Why can the agency find homes when the department can't? Hmm, might it be because the agency will actually come out and do home studies!?!!? I called them in late November.
December 2009: The lady from the agency came out and did my initial home study, and two weeks later my follow-up home study. Fingerprints taken again. After the follow-up, I was informed that everything was great and ready to go, as soon as the fingerprints cleared, I was ready to start taking kids. It will take about 6 weeks, I'm told. Terrific! After this lengthy wait, the end is finally near!
January 2010: My fingerprints from the state came back clear, but the fingerprints from the FBI have not yet arrived. Waiting. Waiting.
March 2010: I've heard nothing. I call the agency. "No, those prints aren't back yet, they've been taking a long time. There's nothing we can do about it but just wait."
Notice the agency did their part rapidly. The government dawdled for months upon months and got nothing done and in less than a month, the agency's part was done. Fingerprints? Back to the government. And so we wait.
April 2010: I call again about the fingerprints. They still aren't in. I express great concern. It could not possibly take this long, I say. Please check into this. They check into it. Apparently the FBI has LOST my prints because they don't have them sitting on their desk and apparently have no way to TRACK whether they've done prints or not. Wonderful. I get another set of prints done. This time they have me send in two sets. That way if one set can't be read, surely the other one can. No more delays... no more delays.
July 2010: I call again. It's been three months with no word. "Oh," they say. "Your prints came back last week, but it's not good... they couldn't read them." WHAT? BOTH sets they couldn't read?
At this point, I was beyond furious. And so frustrated I just wanted to scream. I could do this for the rest of my life! Here I've been waiting since CHRISTMAS on absolutely NOTHING but this one stupid set of prints. Stupid especially because my state prints cleared no problem, and I've never lived in another state! Why is this even necessary?? And yet it is. I begin to feel like I could do this the rest of my life and never get anywhere. If you've ever been in a car that's stuck in the mud, so frustrated and desperate to get out that you'll do anything and yet nothing works, your wheels just spin and spin, that's where I'm at. I call them to express my great frustration and my desperation to just get this done. I will drive TO the FBI office, I offer, several hours away to get this DONE. No, I can't do that, it does no good. The only way to get cleared is to send in the prints again, and wait another three months. Maybe my prints I did for the government in October came through okay -- if I could get ahold of them, and if they would send the info.... no, we can't do that.
The only thing that gives me any hope at all is that I am now told that the FBI requires three attempts, and if this third attempt also fails and can't be read, they will do a name search instead. So it WILL eventually be over. But when? Another three months to read these prints -- if they can keep from losing them this time!!! -- and then if they can't read them, another three months to do a name search?
Something has to be done about this. There are children waiting for homes, and ridiculous things like this going on to prevent those homes from being available to them. I have been willing to jump through any hoop they give me, and I do it immediately each time. And here I am a year and a half down the road and still months away from having any hope of getting through those hoops. How does anyone do it?? I've never been so frustrated in my life.
And people wonder why I'm becoming more libertarian (in principle, not in party) every day. The private agency has done its job quickly and successfully in every way. But every step that involves any governmental party has dragged along and been full of hassles and red tape. Something has got to change.
So for now, I wait again. For a third set of prints. And yet another Christmas which will likely come and go with no children in this home.
Did I mention the two beautiful rooms that just sit empty and collect dust month after month after month while hundreds of children in this state sit wishing desperately for a home?
Monday, July 5, 2010
Sometimes it can be discouraging when it seems the entire rest of the world has children and year after year goes by and you still do not. Sometimes it can.
But then sometimes I remember.
6 sponsored children through Compassion International. (Two of them call me mom.)
25 children in the preschool ministry I'm director of at church. (Doesn't hurt when one excitedly drags her mother across an amphitheatre because, "I SAW MY TEACHER AND WE MUST GO SEE HER!!!!")
35 infants and toddlers I see day in and day out for therapy (which of course means play for infants and toddlers, and hey, how many people get paid to play all day?)
20 foster children at the summer camp I'm getting ready to volunteer at
A niece and a nephew who glue themselves to me whenever possible. And another nephew who's too young to do it yet but almost certainly will before long. And another foster nephew to play with, on top of all that.
By my calculations, that's 90 children I have the opportunity to influence in this present season of my life. That doesn't count the hundreds who have come and gone (and come and GROWN!) over the years.
And I call myself childless??
“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord. ~Isaiah 54:1
Monday, April 5, 2010
Last week in the preschool class I work in at church, our memory verse was, "He is not here; He has risen." When book time arrived, one of my little girls excitedly announced, "Oh, you don't have to tell me my verse, I already know it!" and proceeded to recite: "He is not here; He is in prison."
(This is the same little girl who at Christmas shared that you have to believe in Jesus and ask Him into your heart or else He won't bring you any Christmas presents. She's so close... and yet so far away.)
So, this Easter season, I've been reflecting. A series of coincidences have occurred in my life surrounding death and loss, interesting timing for this holiday in which we celebrate victory over death.
You see, yesterday I reconnected with the daughter of an old friend who passed away several years ago. Sharing memories and looking through old pictures just made me miss her all the more.
At the same time, my great-aunt just died. The visitation was today. How strange, to be going to a funeral home on Easter. And yet, how fitting. After all, what better reminder of what Easter is all about? She's celebrating new life, eternal life, in heaven today -- because of what happened on the very first Easter Sunday.
It was still a strange experience, because the relative was on my father's side of the family. While my mother's side is mostly present and very close, my father's side of the family is very nearly gone. But for a couple uncles now, his entire family is gone. I was reminded of that as I walked through the doors of the funeral home, as I've done so many times to bid farewell to his father, his stepmother, his aunt and uncle who raised him, his brother, and others. When I saw the brother of my great-uncle who raised my father, so was much like a grandfather to me, it was like seeing my great-uncle again, though he's been gone for thirteen years. My grandfather's two remaining brothers bear a strong resemblance to him, as well... gone for more than twenty years. The familiar faces from my childhood scrolled through my memory and as I realized those times are gone, those people are gone, I can never have another moment with any of them again (on earth), I felt much sorrow.
What if the little girl was right? What if death had imprisoned Jesus, as it could do to each of us without Him? What if He didn't conquer death, what if He didn't rise again? Life as we know it would be so different -- it wouldn't even feel like life at all. It would feel like death. Death would pervade our entire existence. We'd be robbed of all hope, and filled with constant sadness.
But He did overcome the grave, and He is alive today, and because He is, we have not only the hope, but the assurance of eternal life. Eternity is set in our hearts, you know... and I realize now that this is why I miss my friend... my family members, so much. Because it feels wrong to me to think of them as being gone forever, to think of them as nothing more now but a memory, I find myself longing to see them again, to have more time together, to make new memories.
And we will. The reason it feels so wrong to think of them as gone forever is that they aren't gone forever. They've just moved away, and someday I'll move there too, and we'll all be reunited, never to be separated again.
So the song in my heart this year reflects my thoughts upon death and lost loved ones...
"For everything must die to rise again." (Matt Maher)
Monday, March 8, 2010
I haven't blogged since before Christmas -- mainly because there wasn't anything pressing to blog about. It's been a fun few months, a busy few months, but nothing earth shattering has occurred.
Well, except one wee thing. The birth of our precious little Michael Darling in January was pretty earth shattering. I'd had a cold the few days before he was born but was feeling much better the actual day of his birth and had gone to work. I had decided not to go to the hospital because I didn't want to spread my germs to a newborn baby, but I was feeling so much better and I was so sad about not getting to see him that finally after he was born, I asked if I could come over if I promised to stay back from him and not touch him or breathe on him. His parents said sure, come on over, so off I sped toward the hospital.
Unfortunately, just as I got on the elevator to go up to Delivery, my brother called. "They just took him to the nursery, and they said it'll be hours before he's back." My immediate dismay quickly turned to hope, as I recalled following the nurses to the nursery and watching through the window when John was born, so I changed my direction and went straight to the nursery.
When I reached the window, I saw two newborns in the incubators and they were bringing one in. Which one might he be? As soon as the nurse came to the window and laid the new one they were bringing in on the scale, I had no doubt. This was our Michael Darling. Had to be, he looked exactly like John did when he was born! I was thrilled that I could recognize a baby I'd never met.
I watched them weigh him, bathe him, incubate him, and all the other things they put the poor little darlings through, and was pleased that I got to see him for such a long time at no risk to him, due to the nice glass window between us keeping any germs away. And by the next evening, I was still feeling totally healthy and felt the germ risk had passed, so got to hold him and cuddle him and coo at him all I wanted.
John was born allergic to everything, and sure enough, little Michael started out the same way. Fortunately, his parents already knew the ropes from going through it all with John, and removed everything that John was eventually found to be allergic to from the baby, and he's having a GREAT infancy so far! (Poor little John was miserable the first 6-8 months of life, until they finally worked out what all he was allergic to so they could remove it all!) He's a smiley little guy already and sweet as sweet can be.
Nothing much else to report. But I'll stop in when there is. :) 'Til then -- ta ta.