Monday, July 30, 2012

MISSION Accomp...FAILED...well not really

This is an old writing I did on  Feb 2, 2012. as I am neck deep in the adoption process I will share some of my first writings! :)

I set off today in search of a homeless person. Long story short. Bryan got a GREAT jacket from the Beltline Railroad. He has too many jackets so this one was earmarked for PIN Ministries. I got a burr in my fur and decided that I would personally hand this to a homeless person. TODAY. At the beach. Off went Cora and I. with a carload of determination and donations.
first stop: Birdneck and Va. Bch Blvd. GREAT spot. plenty of homeless. they used to live in the woods right there. easy job right? WRONG. Lot's of people. but were they homeless? no. just standing at the bustop. well . shoot. now , How do you walk up and ask. hi, i have a free jacket. are you homeless? are you cold? moving on
second stop: Judeo Christian Outreach. many people milling around. but Cora had a great observation. Mom. they all have jackets.
onward: looking for someone with a shopping cart. or a bike filled with bags....rainy days are NOT good days to find homeless. they are hunkered down. hiding out. fading into corners. sliding in the library to stay warm.
third stop: boardwalk...I have not cruised the strip in years. but to cruise looking for a homeless person well now I have NEVER done that. Cora is a good lookout. I hear from the back seat: Look a worker man. No mom he has a vest. I tell her and remind myself that many homeless have jobs. shame on us for pigeon holing the homeless and saying they will be laying around all day waiting for the nice Christian Lady to drop a free jacket in their hands.
we move on...taking the back streets...crawling along near grocery stores. o there 's a a man. He is coming out of 7-11. Cora says but he has food. well you can still be homeless and have change for a Big Bite I explain.
Then we roll past two gentlemen on bikes. they are bundled up quite well. one smiles and waves to me. I wave back. wondering if I just missed my big chance to give the coat.
We approach Birdneck Rd and I turn left off Norfolk Ave. onward to P.I.N. Ministries...I am forlorn. I found no one to give the jacket. so I will take it to the Pros....Pin finds homeless, helps homeless, gives them medical attention, food , love, God. they will find the Jacket a great home. The perfect home.
As I drove home deflated by not accomplishing what I had set out to do I realized that I had accomplished more. I had taught Cora that the Homeless don't "LOOK" a certain way. Homeless have jobs, nice clothing and don't just hang out on corners. They don't stick out like a sore thumb. They are everywhere and we can't see them.
It could be the child at your school or the coworker at that fortune 500 company that sleeps in their car. Most of us are one paycheck away from bad times. I learned a lot while tooling around the oceanfront with a preschooler today. You are never too old to learn...keep your ears open and your eye peeled...there's a lesson right around the corner if you pay attention
Be thankful if you are warm tonight. Many are NOT!
 Blessings, Tracy

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A New Normal

The Time has Come  This song shall start this blog. It's by Hillsong United it's perfect for this season of the Niles Family.

It's time for a New Normal. Let me unpack the Old Normal for you....
  • Book Club
  • Small Group
  • Library on Thursdays with Cora
  • Parks with Cora
  • Nap times
  • Art Classes for Cora
  • Gym Classes for Cora
  • Dinners with friends
I just stole some of those from my planner (yes a paper calendar ) in the month of June. June rolled in lazy and slow. Cora and I planned to go to all 10 parks in our lovely city of Chesapeake. Free Movies on Wednesdays, Art on Tues, Gym on Saturdays...bucolic , lazy summer days.

Fast Forward to July. I have told many of you we are in the adoption process. We started this journey last September 2011. It's been long, slow and there have been ups and downs. But we were approved and immediately hit the ground running to find a child perfect for our family! After reviewing many case files we were actually introduced to a very awesome girl. It was love at first hop in the time machine.....Sept 2011 to July 16, 2012. We met her. We loved her.

Now we have a new normal. Bye Bye June. July's  calendar boxes are full of scratches...scribbles and ink of all colors.
  • Social Services appointments
  • Reminders to call the girl's foster parents
  • call Insurance company
  • cancel book club
  • small group
  • Vacation Bible School for Cora
  • library day still stands! :)
  • free movies still stand
  • call "our girl" - I love these calls at night. it's just so sweet I really have no words to describe them
So. when you adopt life does not stand still. Summer is not lazy. There is a new sense of urgency. Many things must take place. Yets nothing can until someone completes paperwork, makes a call or says OK. So we wait and then we hurry up. It's the New Normal. Plans are cancelled. Vacations and visits with relatives don't happen. There are others to take into consideration. You become flexible. You smile when you want to cry. You trust GOD to do it all. I pray and wait for answers. I knew once we met her this would be a fast thing. I told my watch...summer will be the time. It will be fast and furious. He laughed at me. Guess who is laughing now?
We have many things to do. But God will help us. So yesterday God gave me the stregnth and held off the rain so I could begin to empty the room over the garage. I was able to pull our Kindergartner's big girl bed down and put it together(this sentence makes it look so simple)
She is still sleeping peacefully in it as I write this. scratch that off the list of things to get done! :)

I am a list maker. God is trying to break me of this. I am not in control. While we are in this process I beg for lists. Please tell us what to do. Our workers smile and say a few things and we do them...But there is no plan. There is no list. I am walking in faith RIGHT NOW. I am not walking by sight. That was the old Normal. This is the New Normal.

I like the New Normal. It feels kind of like new clothes for school good. Like brand new shoes good. Maybe even like a new hair color good. It will take some getting used to. But we will wear it well.

God Bless ya'll !

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Snow Balls in July

Just the other day I had to say NO...again! I despise saying NO all the time, in this case it was a NO , we cannot go to McDonald's drive thru. My daughter, 5, was starving...I assure you that she was not! She just could not stand to go home and eat lunch at our own table in our very own kitchen. Poor her...a victim. Of Dave Ramsey.

Let me back up. My husband and I have been married since 1995. Many of those years we have had double and triple incomes flowing into this house. We have had credit cards, personal loans, equity loans, car loans and loans from family members. We have indeed, tried to keep up with the Joneses...whoever in the heck they are.

New cars, new motorcycles, two car garage with apt over it, new clothing, vacations, they all were things WE HAD TO HAVE!
Haircuts, pedicures, manicures, tattoos, piercings, cellphones, computers, leather seats, heated seats....WE HAD TO HAVE THEM. they were necessary.

Well after many years of living like this it took one year of 3 layoffs to screeeeeeeeeeeech to a halt. I was pregnant with our youngest child and Bryan was working 2 full time jobs and we could NOT pay our mortgage, which in the coarse of 12 years went from a balance of 30,000 to 231,000.00. oh yeah...I am hanging out the dirty laundry today folks.

SO. what did we do? Well we started to turn that ship around. We took a simple finance class at church called Good Sense. it was a start. It gave us a direction and it sure was NOT where the Joneses were!

Another year passed with small improvement. IN my mind it was because in Good Sense we learned to TITHE. YEP. TITHE. big or small we tithed our 10%.

Next up in August 2011 we saw that our church was facilitating a Financial Peace University Class that fall. We started to get excited and "pregamed" a bit...We sold my NEW Jeep Liberty...with ....sigh....heated seats, warranty, power everything...RADIO...:) and I had NO car. Yes I was a stay at home MOM...but geez I did not want to stay at home all the time...doh! Luckily we worked it out to where my hubbie and I could share the car. I planned ahead A LOT and did not go places that were NOT necessary. We also had a neighbor who was deployed and let us use his truck on occasion. This helped out so much in emergency situations!

WE agreed to set aside a certain amount of money for a CAR. When we got enough SAVED-novel idea- we would search for a car and buy it with CASH. the horror! :) see one thing I picked up in these finance classes is this: We kids...yes at 40 we are still some one's kids think we should have everything our parents have right outta the gate. Newlyweds buying homes 3 times the size they need, New cars because they should NOT have to drive a beater...folks our parents have been working on getting these things for YEARS! THEY worked 40 years at a JOB to get these things...they started out in apartments, riding bikes OR PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION...way before it was cool to be green! WE do NOT deserve a lifestyle that WE cannot afford. and PRETENDING to be able to afford it does NOT help our children grow up and be financially fit.

So yes. for 6-8 months I had NO car. No one died. just saying. and guess what... I got a car! for 240.00 BUCKS. the exact amount that we had saved! :) God is GREAT. and that car works...well right now it needs some work...but's PAID FOR!

Then in October 2011 we started Financial Peace University. WE both attended classes and NO it will not work unless you do the work together, attend the classes together and as a family YOU both make decisions. This is my strong opinnion...and I have see it work and not work...the proof is in the puddin' ! YOU must be a TEAM. if you are single. THEN YOU MUST have an accountability partner....NOT a shopping Partner! :)

We started with $47,000.00 worth of debt.(NOT including the mortgage)  So since October 2011 We have paid off the CAR by selling it. Paid off a Visa Card. Paid off Home Depot. Paid off a personal loan through the credit union. We have paid off: $24,744.00 ....Folks that is a LOT of money. For two broke people. We have never starved. We have not been naked and the lights have stayed ON! This is not of OUR doing! this is GOD. Our God is an awesome God. He performs miracles and provides for those who Obey HIM. Amen!

We have $22,000 to go. We have an emergency fund in place. We are mad as h e double hockey sticks at where we got ourselves...but we are Halfway OUTTA this ditch! We are kickin' it. We are maintaining gazelle intensity!

To keep our momentum we actually went on to facilitate a class as leaders in our church. This truly helped us keep on "the path" to financial freedom!

Next up we will chase down a nursing home bill (don't ask) the IRS...ugh...another HUGE Visa Bill, another wonderful personal loan from the Railroad Credit Union and not one but two student loans...and um. we ain't even in College. that's right . WE CUT our kids off. sorry kids. Mom and Dad must put their oxygen masks on FIRST before we can help you!!!!!!
We tithe, we do grace giving and most of all we COMMUNICATE and PRAY together. We live a transparent life so others may learn and NOT make the mistakes we made. We thought we had it all...but really we were just two ships passing in the night. Never under the same roof at the same time. Today we parent as a team, every free moment is FAMILY time. NOT housecleaning/car fixing/yard cutting time. This is our season to sit and BE with our family. RAISE them....Not just keep em alive. The dust can wait. The yard can be messy. The time spent reading with a child can NEVER be recaptured....who cares if we have 89 dollars in the account. The bills are paid. The freezer is Full! God loves us and my car starts. Life is Good.

so our season of NO will be short lived. Will we return to our old lifestyle. probably NOT. We actually want to simplify MORE so we can GIVE and SERVE MORE! . Perhaps the Joneses will eventually want to keep UP with the Niles! what do you think?

Mad love for you all and God Bless you and your family,

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cold Feet & Cora's Wisdom

Cold Feet

Two days from now we will meet a child that we have prayed about, talked about and dreamed about. In the summer of 2011, Bryan and I started talking about adoption again. We have always thought it would be a grand thing to adopt ever since the beginning of our marriage. We just never thought we could afford it or even pull it off. Fast forward 16 years and here we are. Home study approved, back ground checks approved, family fingerprinted, shots up to date, fire extinguisher and first aid kits in house :) ! You name it we are ready. But are we?

After much thought we went and interviewed to be considered for a young lady who is 12. We get to meet her on Monday. O my gosh. This is for real. We have been told to show up at 10 am and bring a book that has info about our family , pictures of our house, local school and our church. We will be meeting a human being and she is probably just as scared as we are. However I find myself to be thinking....
  • will she like us?
  • what will we talk about?
  • will my heart just do a flip flop upon seeing her in the flesh

Are we ready to take on a new life, someone who is the true definition of survivor and introduce her to our crazy awesome family and totally surround her with love? YES. YES we are...but we are scared stiff about it! I have done a lot of crazy things in my life. Seriously dangerous stuff, wackadoo stuff and just plain dumb stuff. But this ...this is what I have been preparing for my whole life! And now it's EXAM time. Will I pass?

YES. I have a loving supportive husband, 2 superb, funny and smart young adult children and oh yes, Cora. Here was Cora's input: "We will just love the child for who they are. that's it. Mom. "
She makes it so simple...and a child shall lead them! :) Everything in my body ( and I am sure my husband would agree) screams....don't do this. It will be so much work. Life is relatively calm and wonderful and serene (well as serene as it can be with a wild 5 year old)
BUT...the LORD led us hear. We are standing right on the edge of our own Red Sea...he is about to part it but first he says. Stand Firm. Believe. so we shall.

Cora's Wisdom

Every now and then my daughter will spew forth some of the most intelligent words and I just sit there with my jaw on the ground.

The other day I was shaving my head...yes...shaving my head. I had started with the sides and I was leaving the top because...frankly I was scared!

Me: should I shave it all off?
Cora: yes. do it!
Me: what if it looks awful?
Cora: wear a HAT
so listening to the sound advice of a child that cannot read and falls down a lot...I shaved my head.
pssst. it feels great! just sayin!

We have kept all the children very informed of the adoption process and Cora is very very involved as well. WEll. she is just plain NOSEY!

Here is her list of demands:
  1. no boys- she has her Zac-e already...duh
  2. a medium sized girl (not younger and not of driving age)
  3. a bunk bed
Ain't life easy. for Cora that is? WE will make every effort to appease her demands but have told her that the child we pick is not really picked by us...the child picked is chosen by God. She understands that...she does not mess with God. He's bigger and stronger. She understands that!

Last Cora funny for the day:

Sometimes most Mom's get....I feel overwhelmed and Cora can be a bit exasperating at times...So I will begin to pray...out loud!

Me: Lord...please help me and please place a guard on Cora's mouth so she won't use words like hate or jerk....amen
and honest as I can get I heard a voice down the hall say:

Cora: LORD...please don't listen to my Mom.

we are in a prayer war? seriously. I love this child. she is quick!

Hey ya'll have a safe and happy weekend and please! pray for our little family on Monday... we might enjoy a little growth spurt...if it is what the Big Man upstairs decide!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hot Lava and "End"dependence DAY

Do you remember being a child and playing a game called Hot Lava...maybe all the carpet in your home was HOT Lava...and the only way to survive was to jump from couch to chair to end table without touching the BAD STUFF! My daughter is now 5 and her favorite thing to say is oh...that part of your Bed is HOT she flings herself thru the air and lands next to me! I love her imagination.

However. Hot Lava exists...I avoid it every day. It's the snarky remarks about others, the eye rolls at a neighbors new car, the up and down looks at a "bit too tight" outfit, the "not so walking with Christ" moments that all Christians have.

These are my HOT LAVA moments. I try not to fall in. I skip from Small Group, to Service, to serving others...but there are days when the gap is too large. I fall right in. I get BURNED!

Let me break it down for ya...our family is going through the adoption process. We started back in September 2011. Fast forward to June 2012. We receive a call, we are chosen to be a child's family. We schedule to meet the child. There are whoops and hollers heard for miles! TWO days later we receive a call and blammo....the foster parents have decided that they now want to adopt. I will leave out ALL the drama that ensued after that...but I will admit this. I turned flat out HUMAN.

Can you believe it. I was hot. I wanted revenge. I felt cheated. blah, blah, blah.
But when I wanna get even I call in the intercessory prayer team at church. I bring in the heavy hitters.
 You make me mad. I am praying for ya! Got that?

Then , seriously will not believe this. They called 4 days later and said that the Foster Parents had changed their mind. Would we like to meet the child. Jaw. ON . Floor. Blessings...everywhere!

Now any REGULAR minded person would have said. Why Yes! of course we would love to come in, what time would you like us?  But the old grudge holdin' , mean natured alcholic in me gotta talk about this. Cuz by not adoptin this child...I'm gonna teach this here social worker a lesson. Puleeeeeez.

So after God Bible Slapped me around a bit I got some words from him. (he often has to do this with me) Tough love is all that works on this gal....
Here are the words that jumped OFF of the page at me:
First every single scripture/study/book I read had the same words.
Then I hit a home run reading : Your Destiny by Ivan & Isabel Allum pg 61 says: His mercies are new each morning and His love remains till the end. He keeps no record of when He has been wronged.

Snap. yep. got it. I am picking up what YOU are laying down Lord. If I am talking the talk...I best be walking the walk. Don't get me testifying up in here!
HOW can I point fingers and talk poo poo about DSS when the Lord has set this up for us and we are to walk it straight and narrow!

So, we swallowed our PRIDE this morning, wrote our worker and told her to schedule that meeting. WE are gonna get ourselves a new family member. Not a new social worker. A child. That needs us. And may not love us at all at first. But gosh darned it...people sure take a shine to us after a little bit! Just ask my friends! :)

Now on to Independence Day I mean "end"dependence DAY! (on credit cards)

We are celebrating our 10th month of working the Financial Peace Program by Dave Ramsey. We have paid off:
drum roll please:

$9194.26 in DEBT. Roll in the CAR we sold before the class started in Oct. 11 and we have paid off a grand total of : $22,194.26 in DEBT. Loans, CREDIT CARDS, Car Loans , IRS! argh! you name it. we are one payment away from killing another Credit CARD. we are a cash only household. No plastic in this house! Our current debt free date is Oct 2014. and the snowball is ROLLIN' . I suggest if you have a mortgage, credit cards, student loans that you check this class out. BEST 93.00 smackers I ever spent! :)

I personally can't wait to stop Livin' like no one else so we can GIVE like no one else!

God Bless ya'll  & stay safe out there on the 4th of JULY!
God Bless AMERICA!