Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Gently entering into this space

So much has gone on in our country in the last two plus years.  Each time, my heart has responded.  I have not remained quiet, but neither have I known what to say.  How does one respond to a young man being gunned down in the streets simply because of his skin color?  What is one supposed to say when sexual assault is normalized?  Even laughed at?  And the names of the assailants are people I grew up watching on TV or hold positions I was raised to respect.  How does one wrap their minds around this devastation? 

How does one react?  With horror?  With speechlessness? 

What's the appropriate thing to do? 

Go to social media and argue?  No. 

Speak up when others are laughing?  Most definitely. 

But, how do we evoke change? 

The point is....SOMEthing must be said.  SOMEthing must be done.   SOMEthing must change.

I have always believed in respecting the office of the president...and I continue to hold that belief.  I am not here to debate whether he did or did not say something.  I am not here to debate whether you do or do not like him or his policies.  I'm not here to debate at all.

Instead, I want to introduce you to some friends. 

These smiling little girls are Ruth and Naomi.  I met them when I went to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

This is my friend, Zo.  He allowed the children in our group to be silly and cover him up with sand.  He drove us all over Jeremie, Haiti and did the hard work of hauling construction materials up a mountain so we could all work together to build a church.

And this is the beautiful view from the Jeremie, Haiti beach.  Isn't it gorgeous?  The water is clear blue and the beach is untouched.  For hours, we sat staring at the horizon and frolicked in the waves.

Haiti is a gorgeous country with a history for welcoming visitors, even before the United States of America was born.

Many of us take time in January to set goals.  We may choose a word to represent the coming year.  January is a time for renewal.  It is a time for reflection and a time to move forward.  That is something our country needs to do as well. 

Martin Luther King Jr wrote these words in "Letter from a Birmingham Jail". 

"I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

I don't want to be a part of the "white moderate".  I don't want to be someone who stands by and watches ANY person treated a certain way because of their skin color or their economic status.  I will NOT be silent.  I may not always say the right thing.  I will mess up and probably offend someone in the process.  I will learn from those mistakes and continue to speak out.

Because every child, woman and man deserve to be treated with dignity.  Why?  Because every single person, regardless of their skin color, was created by God and therefore worthy of His love.  If He loves them, then so do I.

Sunday, March 06, 2016


We had our Celebration service at church today.  We have this service quarterly and it is a time to Celebrate life: both physical and spiritual.  We celebrate the addition of children into a family, either through birth or adoption.  We also celebrate a person's decision to follow Jesus through baptism.  It is a sweet time for our church family to celebrate together.

Today we started with babies' pictures with birthdate and parents' names on the screens.  There is much ooing and ahhing. :)  Then, one of our pastors asked the parents to stand and people moved around them and laid hands on them in love and support and prayed for them to raise their babies to follow the Lord.  It is a sweet time of dedicating the little one to the Lord and praying specifically for fathers to lead well and mothers to seek the Lord for rest and wisdom.

As I looked around the room, tears came to my eyes.  I didn't know anyone dedicating their baby today, but it is such a space of unity.  Such a space of rejoicing as they are thrilled and proud to be holding their precious son or daughter.  It is also a space of heartache.  I saw men and women with empty arms wiping their eyes.  I saw husbands and wives clasping each others' hands tightly as a unified couple at the feet of Jesus and I knew they were begging him for the physical creation of life in their own home.

And, my own arms felt empty.  I long for the day I will hold a little one again.  I began to pray in earnest.  I began to seek His face for the exact moment.  The little one He has for me may be safe right this very moment.  Or, she may be dealing with neglect and an atmosphere of hurt.

Lord, thank you for your wisdom and timing.  Thank you for blessing each family today with new life.  Thank you for your love and your healing of those who are longing to hold a baby and you have said, "not yet".  Lord, I ask that you open wombs to conceive.  I ask that you open hearts to say yes to fostering and adoption.  I worship you, Lord, because you are worthy of worship and praise.  I thank you for who you are and what you are going to do.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Blessed Be Your Name

We sang this song in church today.

Take a few minutes and listen to it.

It's powerful, right?

It was a reminder to me.  A reminder of how good God is.  He is the Creator of the universe.  He is the Supreme Being.  He created me.  You created you.  He created ethnicities.  He created cultures.  And countries.  He is good.  He is with us in tough seasons and in joyful ones.

I wrote this blog post over a year ago on the day J left my home to return to her biological family after being in my home for 8 months.  It was a tough day.  It was a tough season.  He was with me.

I am looking forward towards being a foster mom again.  I'm not there yet.  Foster parenting is a hard road to walk, but the Lord has instilled this passion inside of me for the fatherless and even when tough, it is a sweet place of joy to know I'm doing what the Father has called me to do.

So, as we sang this song this morning, I pondered.

I'm not walking a tough season right now.  Oh, sure.  I'm starting a new job.  I'm changing schools and grade levels and managing a side business and jump-starting a foster mom support group,  But, I'm not walking a tough season.  Yet, I'm not walking my purpose either.  Not yet.  I'm working towards it.  I'm exactly where the Lord has me to be.  He's preparing me for something bigger.  He's preparing my heart for my season of purpose as a foster mom again.  But, I'm not there yet.  This song still applies.  Blessed be His name.  Whether I'm walking a season of suffering or I'm walking a season of abundance flowing or even if I'm walking a season of in-between.  Blessed be His name.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Dream

I attended Launch Out this weekend.  If you don't follow Jon Acuff on Twitter and Facebook, you should.  He wrote Quitter and Start and from those books and the conferences and Start Experiments he led, birthed a community of people that encourage dreams.  Sometimes our dreams run parallel to each other and sometimes they intersect, but nonetheless they are dreams and we are chasing them.  This community of people provide encouragement via Fb groups and Google hangouts and throughout these platforms, friendships are born.

This weekend, we met IRL for a conference like no other I've attended.  We didn't know the speakers until months after we purchased our tickets because only attenders could present.  We didn't know the details or the schedule until we arrived.  And that was 100% okay.  We were coming to meet friends.  We were coming to dream dreams.  We were gathering in Music City, USA to Launch Out into the Deep.  As David Dollar said this weekend, "Jumping is easy.  Leaping is scary."  We are all leaping.  Different directions.  Distinct pursuits.  Similar emotions.

My dream is to foster again.  I turned 35 this month and that number was a tad hard to swallow.  (Blah.)  I'll admit to being conservative and traditional and sometimes that means boring.  Well, being a single foster mom is NOT boring.  (I assure you.)

And, there you have it folks. That is my dream!

I've done it.  Well, part of it.  I've lived the dream of fostering.  It's hard and heart breaking and amazing and my heartbeat and disgusting and sordid and sorrowful and beautiful and loving.

I want to do it again.  But a little differently this time.  I want to be able to work at home and foster children and be all present when they need speech therapy and occupational therapy and homework help and outside tutoring and play therapy and doctors' appointments and....Kiddos from hard places need support, Y'all!  It takes a village in so many means and fashions, and I want to be fully present.  I want to be fully available; not just emotionally supportive but physically supportive with enough energy, too.  Well, as a single and as a teacher, this has not been possible.  It still isn't, yet.  But, one day.  My dream is to foster again, as a WAHM (work-at-home-mom.)  I am pursuing a network marketing business with Young Living Essential Oils to be able to do that.

I've always been on the low-end of the self-esteem spectrum.  I have a friend that tells me, "Well of course you're a single foster mom.  You're Alyssa Ross.  You can do anything."  She said "You're Alyssa Ross" like that meant something.  Like I was a somebody.  I've never felt like a somebody.  I'm the face that people don't remember meeting.  I'm the one that listens and works in the background with logistics and schedules and plans, but is never on stage.  I'm the one that organizes and gathers and instigates and then lets the extroverts help everyone to have fun and enjoy themselves.   But I'm learning that is okay.  I can be the gather-er and not the main act.  I'm still somebody.  I can be single and also be a foster mom.  Those life stages are not mutually exclusive.

So, that's my dream.  To be a foster mom.  In my own home.  Close to my family.  While working a job I love with a group of people I adore to serve the God who created me.

What's your dream?  Are you chasing it?  Join us.  We'll encourage you along the way!

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Foster Care: My "Burning Building Why"

As many of you know, I have recently started my own business, Alyssa's Drop Shop.  It has been an exciting time full of learning and building friendships and watching my health and my family's health improve.

I first got into Young Living Essential Oils because J, my foster daughter, was not a good sleeper.  It typically took her an hour and a half to fall asleep and we were up 4-5 times each night anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour.  A friend gave me a bottle of Lavender and told me to put it on J's feet.  I have never liked the smell of Lavender and had no clue how much to use (and felt stupid asking) so I put it in my spice cabinet and practically forgot about it.  (And continued NOT sleeping).  Fast forward about six weeks, it's 1:00a.  We haven't been to sleep yet.  I stumble downstairs and grab the bottle of lavender, willing to try anything at this point.  I put some in my hands and rubbed them on her feet.  She fell asleep a few minutes later, but I was skeptical.  Was it because it was now 1:30 in the morning?  Or was it really the Lavender?  So, the next night I put some more on her feet.  She was asleep in five minutes.  FIVE MINUTES, Y'ALL!  And we were awake only once that night for about 10 minutes.  Um, yes!  YES!  This I can handle!  Lavender is now my favorite smell EVER!  (Not really, but you get the point.)

When I found out that Young Living Essential Oils could also help with my seasonal allergies, I was hooked!  We had some ice days, and I headed over to Chrissy's house.  J played out in the yard with her kiddos while we talked oils.  I enrolled as a wholesale member to get my Premium Starter Kit and enrolled in Essential Rewards to get cheaper shipping and points back for free product.  I was thrilled!  We could start sleeping!  We could have some calmer evenings!  This was huge!

I didn't start pursuing the business avenue of Young Living for another 7 months.  I mean, extra money is great, but I didn't see myself as anyone that could possibly remember enough of how these products work or what to use them for or anything like that.  Our family hadn't been naturally minded previously and this whole new world was opening up and frankly....it was overwhelming to the extreme!

Well, I started seeing the benefits of YLEOs and I started seeing a little bit of income come in and I started learning about network marketing.  One of the things I started talking about with my team is a "burning building why".  WHY am I pursuing this business?  If I was standing on a rooftop of a building and my children were on a burning building across the way and I only had a small beam to use to get to them, I would not hesitate to save my children.  What is my motivation to grow my YLEO business?  WHY am I pursuing this as a business?

Yes, I love the products.  Yes, I believe in this company and the integrity they stand behind.  Yes, these products have helped my family and me with headaches, sore throats, sinus infections, cramps, sleeping, stress, emotional balance, memory, focusing, weight management, bug bites, scalp psoraisis, cuts, scrapes and so much more.  But, why am I pursuing it as a business?

Well, here's my burning building why.  I want to be a foster mom again.  My entire life I have wanted to be a Stay-At-Home-Mom.  I would love the grocery shopping, meal prep, laundry and homework help.  I would enjoy having a garden and going for bike rides after school.  Of course, traditionally being a SAHM means one is married and one's spouse earns enough income for this to be financially feasible.  Cue the background, in case you don't know, I'm single.  SO.  That's kinda always been a moot point  Not married, so no other income coming in.  And, not married, so no kids.  I mean...dur!

Except, I've been a foster mom as a single and while it was HARD, I now very much know it is possible.

And now a whole new world has opened up to me.  I can be a work at home mom.  I can earn enough income to cover my expenses and those of little ones that the Lord blesses me to know and love for however long they're in my home.  I'm not there yet.  I'm growing my business right now.  But it's coming.  My burning building why is to buy a home, go through the rigor-moral to get licensed again and open up my home to little ones that need love.  Yes, two parents is ideal.  But as a lovingly honest friend once told me: "One healthy parent is better than two abusive ones."  Truth!

So, if you're super skeptical about essential oils, that is A-OK!  I was, too!  If you're interested and have questions, I'd love to help you find answers!  If you're already naturally minded, then great!  But it's okay if you've never even heard the words "essential oil" and have no clue what they're for or how to use them!  I was the same way!

Maybe you also love foster care or adoption and would like to help support that.  I would love to talk to you more about that, too!  I believe the Lord has called us to help the widows and the orphans.  I take that call very seriously and Young Living Essential Oils are helping me to answer it!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Smiling through tears

Her precious laugh still rings in my ears.

I remember one day.  I had a meeting at the admin building after work and came back to school to pick her up from after school care.  I walked in the front doors and smiled at the worker letting parents in.  We were in the beginning stages of exchanging pleasantries when I hear "ALYSSSSSSSSSSA!" and turn to watch her run the last ten yards or so to fling herself into my arms.  I swung her around and we laughed at the joy of being reunited at the end of our days.  It was a day I will always remember.  Always.  The overflowing joy that she brought to my life.  The heart-smiles I was blessed to experience because she was there.

Her picture is in several places around my  home.  Throwing leaves up in the air when we went to Lake Ouachita last November.  Her school Kindergarten picture.  A precious, sweet one a fellow teacher made for me in secret on the playground at school when we knew she was leaving.  Her hand-prints in red paint for last year's Valentine's Day.  Her presence is every where.  Kindergarten had their nursery rhyme parade recently.  As these precious little ones walked in, I remember how hard she worked to practice Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and how proud she was to dress up in a pretty white dress with sparkles and put silver glitter in her hair.  I roll my eyes and laugh with Sara because her daughter and J poured glitter on each other and all over my classroom the morning of the parade while Sara and I were in a parent conference next door in Sara's room.

She left last year about 9:00a on Valentine's Day.  The transporter came to school to pick her up.  We had all of her belongings in my car and loaded all the boxes and precious items into the transporter's car and she chattered with her brothers after giving me butterfly kisses and Eskimo noses.  Then I waved, walked back into my classroom and away from my heart.

Valentine's Day is a day to love.  A day to laugh.  A day to remember the blessing the Lord has bestowed.  This year, I remember her and my heart smiles through tears at the memories we made.    

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

People Affect Us

Poof!  A cloud of flour and sugar puffed into the air when I turned on the mixer, and I was immediately transported back to a time, just a week or so together, that J and I were baking Lemon Squares.  I'd someone forgotten to raise the mixing bowl and the entire box of powdered sugar, it seemed, flew all over me, her and the kitchen.  Her eyes flew to mine, because she thought I'd be mad.  I laughed and tickled her and she ended up practically taking a bath in the sink since she'd been sitting on the counter to be able to see into the mixer and therefore was absolutely covered.  It was a fun, light-hearted moment for us, but a telling one for me, too.

She's on my mind all the time.  I'll see a Hello Kitty jacket and smile knowing how much she would like that.  I'll be walking around the creek by our house and see a little girl learning how to ride a bike with her dad and remember times we did the same thing.  She was in my life for 8 months, and she's been gone from me for 10 months now.  Longer than she was with me.  But she will be in my heart forever.  Her impact on my life was enormous, to say the least.  

We all impact the lives of the people we touch.  It makes me want to be sure I'm leaving the kind of lasting impression I want to be remembered by.