Approval

 

approved_red_stampWell, it’s been nine months since we attended the foster to adopt classes here in Kentucky. We hit a little snag a couple of months ago, which you can read about here.

Things do seem to be looking up in the Toy household, though. Pixie is recovering nicely from her surgery, and began walking almost immediately (mostly because nothing will stop her from getting to Sarabeth). It’s the next 7 1/2 weeks of recovery (A.K.A. crate confinement) which will be difficult, especially when her little sister Prim is allowed to frolic free around the loft.

And the better news is that we got an email from our case-worker saying that all of our paperwork has been approved and we are finally approved by the state of Kentucky to be foster to adopt parents. Whew!

Nine months.

Like a pregnancy without all the morning sickness and hot flashes (or is that just with menopause?).

So what does that mean, now that we’re approved? Well, it means that we could get a call from the state at any minute, being today or sometime next summer – who knows – and they’ll say, “We’ve got a two-year-old boy here who’s dad is missing and his mom is in rehab…” or “We have a brother and sister here, both under three-years-old who need a home…”

They’ll tell us the situation and any problems that are on record for the kids and ask if we are interested in taking them in.

Before we agree to picking them up, we will ask if they are eligible for possibly being adopted.

By accepting a placement, no matter what the answer to that question may be, we knowingly run the risk of that child being placed back with his or her parents or a relative stepping into the picture to take them in.

But some kids aren’t eligible for adoption for varying reasons. We want to take a child in with the hope that he or she could be ours forever.

So who knows what the future holds for us.

Personally, I’m terrified, as I’ve never had a child before. And it’s not like there’s a due-date. I won’t have six-to-eight hours of labor to let it sink in that I’m having a baby. I won’t get to hand out cigars in the lobby (thankfully this isn’t a 1950s movie, either).

We don’t want to buy toys for Christmas because we don’t know if we’ll have a child with us that morning or not. We don’t know if we need to reserve an extra seat or two at our Thanksgiving table. We don’t even know if we can go see Catching Fire next week because we wouldn’t dare take a two-year-old to such a loud and violent movie.

All we know is that everything is up in the air. And everything is unsure.

But nothing is undecided.

We take comfort in the fact that God knows the exact kid (or kids) that will be placed with us, and when. He knows their temperaments, and He knows ours. He knows whether they’ll be with us for a few months, a couple of years, or forever. He already knows the outcome of the court proceedings that are likely to follow.

We don’t; but He does. And I’m fine with that.

All we can do is have the house ready, warm, and welcoming for whoever we may bring through the door at any hour.

Waiting

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So an update on our adoption process.

We completed the mandatory classes back in February and March, in which time we completed all the paperwork and turned in the information to have our background checks sent to the state of Kentucky. We had to have them sent in from three different states to provide our background checks: California, Florida, and Washington State. (Marriage and the recession had us moving around a lot.)

After two home-studies which we passed with flying colors (even with three dogs living with us at the time), lots of trips to the baby section at Target, and seven months of waiting on our approval, we got the disconcerting  news that one of Sarabeth’s background checks didn’t make it back to the foster care office before the 90-day expiration date.

On the one hand, I’m glad that the state is being so careful to weed out the ineligible people applying to become foster parents. But on the other hand – come on! We’ve done everything they’ve asked us to the T, even though we didn’t like doing most of it, and much of it just seemed like busywork, plus, there’s so much evidence before them that we’re good-standing, honest, law-abiding citizens, completely competent to welcome and care for a child in our house.

This isn’t me ranting, but these are thoughts that I’ve had the last couple of weeks. It’s hard, sometimes, watching other people raise their kids and often complain what a hassle it is when they don’t nap or potty when they’re supposed to, when we’d be happy to have a kid at all.

But then, weirdly enough, I feel the best about it when I slip into what I call, “cliche mode”. We’ve all heard it hundreds of times in our lives, and I almost regret saying it now, but, “It’s all in God’s timing.”

God isn’t surprised that we don’t have a kid yet. Since the Fall, God never ever planned on us having a kid by this point, otherwise we’d have one now. It really is (cliche mode) all in His timing. And the reassuring thing about that is, there’s a reason for the delay. And what’s even more reassuring about that is that the reason very well may be simply because our kid isn’t born yet. Or it could be something completely different that we’ll never know until we get to Heaven.

We’re all waiting for something in life, aren’t we? Maybe a promotion, a degree, redemption in the life of a loved one. It’s funny because it seems like no one’s in the spring of their life. Everyone seems to be wading through the winter waiting for the ice of despair to melt away forever. Heck, look at all the famous rich people who continually get pulled over for driving, who check into rehab, who kill themselves. We all think they’ve reached the ultimate goal, that they’ve got everything we could ever want, but clearly they’re just as depressed, or worse, than we are.

So even though my book isn’t a New York Times best seller yet, or our crib remains empty, I stop and think about the good things that have happened: We’ve completed all the requirements to become foster parents, we have two awesome dogs that we love so much, we have each other, whom we are madly in love with. And we’re two very blessed people to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, to whom we can bring our petitions and stand confident that they are heard and being considered with love and grace.

So with all that in perspective, what’s a little more waiting?

God and Bigfoot

FINDING BIGFOOT

There’s this show on Animal Planet that Sarabeth and I get a kick out of every once in a while. In Finding Bigfoot, a ragtag team of amateur “scientists”, led by “Bobo” explore the United States in search of the legendary Bigfoot.

I put the word scientists in finger quotes because these guys really don’t use any scientific tools or methods to find his quiet creature. (And, according to the show, there are thousands upon thousands of “squaches” scattered throughout North America.) Instead of scientific methods, the team relies solely on estimations and hypotheticals.

For instance, in one episode, Bobo decides that squaches are attracted to the sound of crying infants. So they get a baby doll with a voice-box that plays the sound of a crying baby, and place it in the middle of the woods late at night while the team camps out and waits for the squatches to come rescue it.

When talking to “witnesses”, the team will attempt to recreate the alleged scenario by playacting what the witness saw on location. So if the witness says he was standing by the oak tree thirty yards away from his backdoor, they’ll have him stand exactly there, and then they’ll run across the glade or valley or road and attempt to walk and act just like a squatch might. They’ll even raise their hand in the air until the witness says, “Yup. That there’s about right. That’s ’bout how tall the feller was when I seen ‘im three yers ago. And he just picked an apple an’ ate it right off muh tree.”

It really is a humorous show, whether you subscribe to the existence of Bigfoot or not. Bobo has a saying that Sarabeth and I use quite frequently around the house: “I’m not a believer. I’m a knower.”

I wonder sometimes if we Christians seem as cooky to the world as these squelch hunters seem to us. I know the Bible says we entertain angels, but I wonder if our neighbors and unbelieving friends just look to us for laughs.

I get a lot of looks and stares from my coworkers when I decline their offer of a cigarette, or pass on a drink. Even my work ethic, because it’s centered around the Gospel leaves many of them scratching their heads in confusion.

And really, even though science points and yells and screams at the existence of God, our unbelieving friends have a hard time seeing beyond the great discoverers and inventions who take all the credit for the universe’s phenomenons.

And just like the squatch hunters, we’re left with an ancient Book and our own personal testimonies to convince people that, though they can’t see Him and He rarely shows up when He’s expected, God does in fact exist.

So Christians, you may be laughed at or mocked or spited, but don’t let that deter you from sharing your faith anyway. Live out the Gospel in everything you do. Show love, mercy, kindness, just as Jesus does.

And maybe – just maybe – our friends and family members will become believers – or “knowers”.

Those Sweet Moments

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to announce the arrival of the newest addition to our family, Primrose Ever Toy! (Her middle name is still uncertain.) I’m guessing she weighs in at 1.8 pounds, and is about 9 ” long – shorter than a ruler. No, it’s not James, or Katherine Anne – we’re still waiting on our background checks from other states – but she is our second puppy. Pixie’s cousins will be leaving her in just a couple of weeks, and I finally caved and let Sarabeth pick out a little sister for Pix, so she won’t be so lonely. Plus, what kid wouldn’t feel instantly at home in a house with not one, but two dogs?Photo on 7-17-13 at 9.37 AM

We picked Prim up yesterday evening at 7:00 pm. We drove two hours deep into the heart of Kentucky, so Prim is certainly a good ol’ country girl. Kinda like that old folk song, Old Blue – and Prim is indeed blue and tan. Cutest – and smallest – puppy I’ve ever seen. (Seriously, she barely even comes up to my ankle.) And do you want to know the crazy thing? She slept all night long! We were prepared for a long wakeful night, but Prim was gracious to us (or just exhausted).

So here’s the story behind her name. You Hunger Games fans will appreciate this. She is indeed named after Katniss’ young sister, Primrose Everdeen, who was a symbol of life and love and peace. After all, that’s what all puppies represent, right? Newness of life, unconditional love, and a stubborn refusal to show any hostility toward anyone or anything.

DSCN0020It’s taken me a while to turn this corner, but the more I’m with dogs, the more I’m convinced that they’ll be in Heaven. I know, I know – in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t matter, and animals don’t have souls, Jesus didn’t die for dogs or cats and blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard all the theological arguments against it, and my mind can’t argue it, but my heart can care less what they all say.

The aisle is split, it seems, perfectly in half. You’re either a Dobsonian on the issue, like James Dobson (who our son will be named after), and promote the idea of heavenly dog houses, or you’re a Mooronian and side with Dr. Russell Moore, in that people shouldn’t even bother to own pets, as they are a waste of time and energy.

DSCN0034Some things just aren’t written in stone.

Bottom line is, there are some moments in life that remind us all just how miraculous life is. I think we need to ferociously hunt down those moments, and share them with all we love, whether they involve puppies, or babies, or the elderly, or mentorship/discipleship.

I urge you, to invite a sweet moment into your life this week. Just for a moment, shed the burden of monotony and seek out a sweet moment to remember in dimmer days ahead.get-attachment.aspx

Our sweet moment came as a family last night when Pixie and Prim bonded for the first time and fell completely in love with each other. We literally witnessed the birth of an unbreakable, lifelong friendship.

Those are sweet moments that are Toy Story-sad, and Gospel-sweet. Those are the moments we should be chasing – even if it sets you back a few hundred dollars. Those are the priceless moments that change our lives for the better.

Be sure to check out Sarabeth’s dachshund blog for more Prim pictures (I assure you there’ll be plenty more to follow, so be sure to subscribe for updates). As well as her and her sister’s decorating/lifestyle blog, From Flats to Lofts.

We got Prim from an outstanding breeder. Every dachshund was absolutely beautiful. If you’re looking for a place to get a dachshund, check out this site: Legend’s Dachshunds. We couldn’t be any happier with the service and care they gave us.

Photo on 7-17-13 at 7.31 AM #2

5+1 = …4?

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Well, tomorrow night our family will be growing. Not in the way that you might think. We’re still waiting on background checks from all the states we’ve lived in in the past five years (California, Florida, Washington State…). The state of Kentucky, like any state, won’t approve anyone to foster-to-adopt until they have proof of a clean criminal record. The process can take up to six months.

That’s frustrating for law-abiding citizens to hear, when all we want to to do is foster children and give them a warm and loving house to live in.

You’d think by this time they’d be able to just pull up your information, see if there’s any red lines, and either clear you or deny you. Simple as that. But I guess the government just isn’t as progressive as they’ve like us to think.

So, for the time being, I finally caved and agreed to get Sarabeth another puppy, and we’re picking her up tomorrow night. We will now be having not two, not three, but four dachshunds living in the Toy house.

But we’re not as crazy as it seems. We’ll actually be losing two of them in a few weeks. One of them, Pixie, is ours. We got her as a wee 10 week old. Sydney and Roxy have just been staying with us for the last two years and their parents – Sarabeth’s sister and brother-in-law, are returning from their overseas mission in just a couple of weeks and they’ll be taking Rox and Syd back.

We’ve been anticipating this reunion for quite some time, and honestly, I had been looking forward to shrinking back down to just one dog again. But I love my wife too much to deny her another puppy – really, she doesn’t ask for much.

Anyway, I guess I’ve been growing excited to pick up the little prim. I’ll post some pictures of her on Wednesday. But I’ve been thinking: Just how crazy is it that this little puppy we’ve picked out has absolutely no idea who we are, or what she’s about to get into, or what sort of nice home she’s about to live in? It’s sad, in a way, that her entire 8-week life is about to change and her whole world will cease to exist.

Tomorrow night, nothing will be the same for her.

But, it’s like us. God watches us, and I’m sure He’s anticipating the day He preordained for us to come home to Him. (Though, since He’s omnipresent, He can experience that day anytime He’d like, but you get the idea.) And I’m sure He’s saying to Himself, “You have no idea what’s in store for you here, and you’re going to love  it!”

We’re to have faith like a child, and maybe sometimes it’s okay to be as naive and curious as a puppy.

Check Out Singer/Songwriter Andrew Peterson

11921230-largeMay I be a little unorthodox?

Christian music can get on my nerves. Sometimes I have to take a hiatus from listening to it. And a lot of times, other music – *gasp* secular music – speaks to my soul. Sometimes the right note from Sister Hazel lifts me up. A piano solo from Elton John awakens me. A chorus from Fun. inspires me.

One reason is because they’re all different. They all sound different from each other. They’re all unique in their own way. And that’s a big reason why Christian music can get on my nerves – because you can’t tell one band from another. And oftentimes it’s hard to tell the lyrics of one song written in 1995 apart from the lyrics of another song released last week.

Check out this 5-minute video that proves my point in a humorous way at some point when you have the time. Regular churchgoers will love this video.

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t have my favorite Christian musicians lined up on my itunes playlist. The reason they’re on my playlist to begin with is because they’ve really tapped into their musical gifts and they stretch themselves out and go against the tired Christian sound.

Andrew Peterson is one such Christian artist who has dared to break out of the conventional Christian barrier. His lyrics alone are sheer poetry that speak to the heart  of any person in any walk of life.

Sarabeth and I had the privilege of attending his concert last night which was put on to support our church’s orphanage program, Rosalynn’s Hope.

Not since Keith and Kristyn Getty have I been so moved by the sound of music. Now, I’m not you’re typical music-listener. I tend to ignore the lyrics in many songs and am moved by the tune. This can oftentimes be to my disadvantage because Sarabeth has been known to ask, out of sheer shock, “What in the world are you listening to??”

My case of “It’s beautiful music” is often shattered when I look up the lyrics to that particular song and see that it’s all about young girls sunbathing on the beach and booty calls.

Oops.

But with Andrew Peterson, the real magic of his music lies in the lyrics, so I have to actually work at enjoying his art – but it’s so worth it! Each song tells a story, or captures a snapshot of an ofttimes overlooked Bible passage, and brings it to life.

His songs encircle the themes of paradise lost, and our longing for hope and redemption and a savior to come and finally rescue us from this hell we call earth. (Much like the themes in my book, The Man in the Box. I feel like he and I would get along.)

Just look over the opening lyrics capturing Abraham and Sarah’s sojourn to Canaan taken out of the book of Genesis:

Sarah, take me by my arm
Tomorrow we are Canaan bound
Where westward sails the golden sun
And Hebron’s hills are amber crowned

So bid your troubled heart be still
The grass, they say, is soft and green
The trees are tall and honey-filled
So, Sarah, come and walk with me

An artist with a paintbrush could do the scene no better. (The song is “Canaan Bound” if you want to look it up on itunes.)

And really, most, if not all of his songs are like this. Beautiful. Emotional. Flawless. I would also like to pay special tribute to his backup guys, who each performed just as well as Peterson. Look up Ben Shive and Andy Gullahorn on itunes and enjoy their music as well.

Check out Andrew Peterson’s tour schedule and be sure to book your ticket if he’s coming to your town. Otherwise, get his music on itunes or through his website (he also writes awesome fantasy books!). Listen to it. Love it. And let it open up your mind and heart to the Creator of all that’s good and wonderful.

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A Reminder From the Queen

 

 

kneelQueen Elizabeth showed her devotion by kneeling to pray each night, a practice her daughter was said to continue. “She comes from a generation in which kneeling by the side of the bed is quite natural,” said Carey. “Attitude helps you to pray, and if you are on your knees it creates a mood of submission before the Almighty.”

 

So says Sally Bedell Smith in her 2012 New York Times Bestseller, Elizabeth the Queen. I’m one chapter into this wonderful biography, and you can expect a positive review on its entirety within the next several weeks.

 

But as I read the above passage in bed this morning, it got me thinking that I rarely – if ever – kneel in prayer. I’ve knelt in times of desperation, as though God would hear me more clearly. But my prayers are usually half-heartedly said while I’m washing dishes (that is, if I’m not singing Fun. songs at the top of my lungs or thinking up plots for my next book).

 

My mind being drawn back to the primal act of kneeling during prayer and Lord Carey’s remark that, “…if you are on your knees it creates a mood of submission,” I thought about how other acts affect what we’re doing.

 

Drawing your eyes across the pages of a book insinuates reading.

 

Stroking your arms and kicking your feet to any degree enables you to swim.

 

Staring at the TV communicates that you are engaged with it.

Similarly, what must it look like to God when we show Him a physical form of communicating with Him? After all, we can’t look into His eyes, or we would die. So it makes sense to fit our knees into the hollowed out dents made by our patriarchs, and begin to reevaluate our form (and attitude) of prayer.

I can’t promise that kneeling in private for prayer is going to enhance your prayer life, since I haven’t made it a practice yet myself. But I’m willing to give it a try. And I hope you are too.

After all, God lifts high the humble, and how much more can we put feet to our humility than to bow down out of reverence before the Supreme Being who gave us breath?

I admire the Queen for her continued discipline, and others who do this as well. I want to join the ranks of those on their knees if not just for one more act of obedience and submission to my Lord. Don’t you?

[Image Credit]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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