Posted in Uncategorized

How (and Why) I Learned to Crochet

I have never been the least bit crafty.  I do not sew. I do not scrapbook. I am a very utilitarian baker. I buy my kids’ birthday party supplies.

You could say that I am the Queen of the Pinterest Project Fail, but really I’m more like the Queen of the Pinterest Project Did-Not-Even-Attempt.

And yet, here I sit, a few weeks before Christmas, staring at a pile of hand-crocheted Christmas gifts. If you’d told me last year at this time that I would be putting gifts under the tree that I had made myself,  I would have scoffed. Back when my son was a baby, someone even attempted to teach me to crochet at a MOPS meeting and let’s just say it did not end well.

But necessity is a surprisingly effective motivator and it was almost exactly a year ago that I felt a press on my heart, a need in my mom-life, that changed the game for me and turned me into a crocheting fiend with a burgeoning yarn stash and a Pinterest board overflowing with stitch patterns and project ideas.

Read more about my crochet journey on the Kindred Mom Blog:

https://www.kindredmom.com/2018/12/06/how-i-learned-to-crochet/

 

Posted in Faith, Family

Beating the “October Blues”

In my head, I absolutely love October.  The chaos of school starting has settled into a comfortable routine, football is in full swing (#watchallthesports), fall decor is out, pumpkin spice candles are burning, there are no stress-inducing dates that involve buying presents or calculating taxes, it’s sweats and sweater weather- what’s not to love?

But it seems like every year, the struggle bus picks me up around the start of October and refuses to drop me off until Halloweenish.  Maybe it’s the shortening of the days, maybe the let down from the fervor of September leaves me hollow, maybe it’s the fact that 17 years ago, October was the month my Neeno (grandmother) was sick and getting ready to go home to Jesus.  For whatever reason, the October Blues seem to be a thing for me every year.

I get anxious, lethargic, tired, stressed out, I find it hard to sleep, little things seem larger than life, and I happiness and contentment are nowhere to be found.   And it seems to happen every October.

This year, however. I’m saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH- or at least, I’m hoping I can.  This year, I tell you,  I’m going to try my darndest to head it off at the pass, tackle it head on, and see if I can’t use some intentional self-care skills to keep my head above water as October attempts to roll over me on its way through to November.

What follows is my pep talk and to-do list for myself.  The things on this list may seem obvious, but I’m surprised at how quickly they fall by the wayside and how often I need to be reminded.  I’m sharing them here for accountability and also because, just maybe, someone else needs to be reminded of them as well.

Dear Me and Also You,

  1.  LOOK IT IN THE FACE.  Don’t let it creep up on you. Know it’s coming and recognize it when it shows up.  Don’t let yourself get a week into feeling like someone you love died or like the walls are closing in before you realize something is up. If you have a time of year that gets to you, know when it’s coming and get ready to meet it head on like the BOSS that you are.
  2. TAKE YOUR MEDS.  I don’t care what they are: anti-depressants, seizure meds, diabetes meds, pain meds, supplements or naturopathic remedies- if someone has told you take something to make your body work better and you’ve agreed to do this, then you TAKE!  YOUR! FREAKING! MEDS! We need our bodies working at their full strength and capacity, this is not the time to mess around. I will toast you with my morning thyroid med and at night with the vitamins I too often neglect.
  3. SLEEP AND EAT.  Fatigue and low blood sugar amplify negative feels like a Yamaha subwoofer to a hip-hop beat.  Then, a vicious cycle kicks up in which depression and anxiety keep us up at night and squash our appetite, then everything seems  worse because we haven’t slept or eaten.  Plan your meals, plan your snacks, guard your bedtimes, and take a Unisom if you need it and if your doctor has prescribed you something for sleep, see item 2 above.
  4. MOVE YOUR BODY, even if you don’t feel like it.  When Mister Bummerman comes to visit, it zaps our energy and motivation and often the last thing we feel like doing is getting up and moving our bodies.  But it is ACTUAL SCIENCE that exercise releases endorphins that help us feel better, and there’s also the added feeling of accomplishment one gets from having exercised, ESPECIALLY if we didn’t want to. If you can’t hit the gym, take the stairs or go for a walk or do some jumping jacks or a crazy funny 80’s aerobics video on YouTube.  But whatever it looks like you,  get up, get up, get busy, do it like you’re Technotronic.
  5. CLING TO YOUR SPIRITUAL PRACTICES.  If I’m not anchored, I’m adrift.  I need Jesus at the center even to get through the good days.  And yet, when I’m struggling, I do not feel like waking up early and lifting my eyes to the hills where my help comes from.  I also do not feel like lifting my heart and voice in praise or even talking to God during the day, I’m usually rather sullen and cranky and would rather sulk in the shadows.  Can you relate?  Don’t let whatever spiritual practices have served you well fall by the wayside. If you don’t have a battery of spiritual practices to draw from, this is a great time to start.  Head over to my friend Julianne’s website and sign up for her newsletter and she will send you three of her favorites. Doing the things that lift us up, even when it’s hard, makes the rest that much easier.
  6. KNOW WHEN TO HOLLER FOR HELP.  Self-care is all well and good, we should all practice it. But there comes a time when our needs go beyond what some good cardio and a good night’s sleep are going to fix. Maybe you feel so overwhelmed by the bad things that tackling any item on this list seems insurmountable. Maybe you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, thinking everyone would be better off without you. Maybe you’re just sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Telling someone- ANYONE- and letting them push you in the right direction is a WARRIOR MOVE. For some of us, we may just need a partner, friend, or family member to step in and alleviate some of our workload to give us space to breathe. For others of us, a professional thoughts-and-feelings-sorter like a counselor or therapist can help start moving toward solutions. Still others may find our bodies need the provision of medication to regain their balance.  In any event, if you have a hunch this is bigger than just the seasonal blues, say something to someone and pat yourself on the back for doing it.

 

So, are you with me or what?  Will you hold me accountable? Will you check in with me to see if I’m doing the things I told myself to do with this list?  Will you do those things as well?  Whether October is your “season,” or another season is your “October,” promise me you will do all of these things, take care of yourself, holler at me if you need an accountability buddy- and real loud if you need help.  We rise by lifting others, we are in this together.

Hugs,

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Posted in Uncategorized

“I’m Proud of You, Kid.” Praising the Little Big Things

One hazy, hot August evening, six-year-old Mister Cameron and I were walking hand in hand to the car after swim lessons. He had been cranky and out of sorts all day, as he tends to get when he’s tired (see pretty much ALL OTHER POSTS about Mister Cameron to know this is true).

During his swim lesson, he had overestimated his lung capacity and ended up with a snortful of water.  I had been on the edge of my chair, watching, expecting a meltdown of epic proportions…but it never came.  He just took a deep breath of actual air, shook the whole thing off, and moved on.  It had been a stunning and unexpected display of maturity and resilience and my heart had exploded.

“Dude,” I said tentatively as we walked, knowing that pretty much everything I had said to him that day seemed to rub him the wrong way, “I know I say this a lot and you’re probably tired of hearing it, but I’m super proud of you.”

He heaved a deep, pleasant sigh, squeezed my hand and said, “Mom, I could never ever get tired of hearing you say that. Like, never ever.  It makes my heart feel soft.  And cozy.”

Again, my heart exploded.  It makes his heart feel SOFT and COZY?  My goodness, sweet boy…

Even when he had been given an opportunity to grumble and gripe, I OPENED THE DOOR WIDE OPEN WITH MY WHOLE, “You probably get tired of hearing this, Dude,” bit, his heart felt soft and cozy and it even melted the cranky enough for him to say so.

All because I told him I was proud of him.

Maybe it wasn’t only the fact that I was proud of him that melted and filled up his heart, though. Maybe it also had something to do with why I was proud of him.

I’ve noticed that the times when my motherly pride (and Daddy’s fatherly pride) seems to delight and reward my kids the most are not necessarily the BIG MOMENTS, the successes and accomplishments.  Dance recitals, home runs,  great reports from a teacher-  OF COURSE we are proud when they succeed, when they accomplish, when they execute an obvious job-well-done.

But it really seems to fill their cups and touch their hearts in a special way when we notice the the “little things,” the ones that might seem small in the moment, but feel very big to them. The things that take courage, resilience, and strength. The things that don’t always result in immediate success, but the things that true success is really made of.

We are proud when they try hard.

Even if it doesn’t work, even if they don’t quite get there, when we see them PUTTING THE EFFORT IN, we should tell them it makes us proud.  Trying hard, even when it’s hard and things aren’t falling into place, is what success is made of.

We are proud when they improve.

They may not be the best on the team, they may be struggling to remember those sight words, but when they improve, when they do better than last time, that is something to be proud of.  We aren’t going to be good at everything in life, but improving and moving forward as much as we can- that is what success is made of.

We are proud when they show resilience.

When they fall down and get back up again.  When a toy breaks and they take a deep breath and ask for help rather than melting down in tears.  When they stop themselves from an impulsive decision. When they notice and name their feelings, fatigue, hunger, and seek solutions.  We are going to have trouble in life, we are going to struggle and we are going to fall- but taking care of ourselves and getting back in the game- that is what success is made of.

We are proud when they show strength of character.

When they are kind, especially when it’s hard.  When they are honest, especially when the truth isn’t pretty.  When they are thoughtful of others. When they see someone who needs a friend and reach out.  When they are polite. When they are thoughtful.   Integrity and respect for themselves and others is the stuff that success- and a better world- is made of. 

In addition to the instincts of a mama’s heart that tell me that this particular brand of praise is important for our kids, it is also straight up behavioral science that positive reinforcement is one of if not THE SINGLE most powerful tool in shaping behavior.  The behaviors that get the most positive feedback are the behaviors that are most likely to be repeated. And do we want our kids showing effort, pursuing improvement, demonstrating resilience, and valuing strength of character in themselves and other? You betcha we do.

So watch your kids today- and every day.  Watch for the “little things” that are really BIG things. Big to them, big toward building successful humans, big toward making the world better.

And call those things out. Name them. Praise them. Tell your kids how PROUD you are of them.

It will make a difference- in the moment, in the future, to them, and to the world.

Posted in Food, Uncategorized

The Table on the Go: Grace When It’s Needed Most

The text message flashed up on the screen and took my breath away.

Cancer.

My precious friend, a mom of two little girls about the same age as my kids, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

First, I hit my knees. I pleaded with God to flood her body with healing and for the peace that passes understanding to flood their house.

Then, I hit the kitchen. Hands flying, pots and pans clattering. Chopping, stirring, sauteeing on pure instinct. I felt powerless to help her, but people have to eat, and food is something I could do for her family.

It’s a rhythm I learned from my mom: when the going gets tough, we get to cooking.

Growing up, I used to assume that everyone thought their mom was the best cook ever. It turns out; everyone actually thought my mom was the best cook ever.

Her food is detailed and delicious, but not fussy. Her table is always beautiful, but unpretentious. She is pure hospitality, making you feel warm and welcome. You leave her home so much more full than when you walked in—both in spirit and in stomach. I have yet to see anyone better than my mom at taking her special brand of gracious hospitality, warmth, and comfort to the people in her life who are experiencing a moment of need.

Over the years she has perfected and streamlined her methods, so she doesn’t even need much notice to get food to people. Someone can share their news with her, bad or good, and she can turn around and bless them with a meal in a matter of hours.

In those first moments, when the world has turned upside down, but people still need to eat, my mom slips in quietly, the hands and feet of Jesus, feeding His sheep with home cooking and grace.

She has passed on some of her tricks to me and, while I’ve nowhere near achieved her Maestro of Meal Delivery status, I have managed to get from bad news text message to delivered meal in a matter of hours a few times. Here are a few of the best practices I’ve gleaned from my mom that allow for the quick and easy sharing of meals with people in their moment of need.

Join me over at the Kindred Mom Blog to read my mom’s top tips (and if you happen to know my mom, you know you need these tips!

https://www.kindredmom.com/2018/09/11/the-table-on-the-go-grace-when-its-needed-most/

Posted in Faith

Self-Criticism: It’s Not Humility, It’s Pride

In my whole entire life, I’ve never had anyone be as hard on me as I am on myself.  Not my parents, not my coaches or music teachers, not my gym or math teachers (even though I struggled mightily with both), not my bosses, not my husband or my kids. Even in their most “tough love” moments, nobody in my life has even held a candle to me when it comes to being critical of myself.

It’s usually a surprise to people when I share that because, in general, I’m ooozing sweetness and light — especially when it comes to people’s challenges and struggles.

I’m quick to offer grace to others in their hard moments, to tell them they’re doing better than they think they are, to point out how hard their situation is and tell them that they’re doing an amazing job anyway, to highlight and elevate what they’re doing RIGHT.

For myself, there is exactly none of that. I’m constantly examining myself under a microscope, keeping an up-to-the-minute account of my mistakes and shortcomings (real, perceived, and potentially perceived by others) and doing a fun little matching exercise which involves drawing lines connecting the things that are wrong in my life (or even less-than-ideal) to the flaws in myself that could be causing them.

I’ve been convinced over the years that it’s the responsible and humble thing to do.  It’s my job to keep myself in check, I don’t want the people in my life having to deal with the results of my shortcomings. Also, I would hate to be one of those people who clearly thinks too much of herself even though everyone else can see she’s a hot mess, how embarrassing. The Bible even cautions against thinking too much of ourselves (Romans 12:3). Yes, I’m certainly just being realistic and walking in humility.

But that’s the thing about our sins: they frequently show up as things we think we need, but are actually taking up space in our lives that should belong to God, excluding and eclipsing His love and grace where we need it the very most.

Do you relate to this? Have you struggled with being way too hard on yourself? Head over to the Break the Mold Ministries blog to read what God has been speaking into my heart about this and what He is teaching me about  myself and His grace.

http://breakthemoldministries.org/torirask/

Posted in Uncategorized

Time for a Time Out

August is here.  The start of the school year is coming.  And there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on over here!

As I may have mentioned before, I’m putting the finishing touches on MY FIRST MINI E-BOOK, which will be released in September!  It’s a short collection of seven bits of grace for the struggles of motherhood.

Also, I’m working on some writing to submit to a few OTHER websites, other than my own, which is a big and necessary step for all of us who wanna be writers when we grow up.

And I’m doing all of this…with kids in tow.  Kids who don’t start school for another month.  Kids who are fighting.  A lot. Soooo much fighting.

Anyway, it’s super important for us to know our limits, our priorities, and to know when to change our rhythms and shift our focus. You know, give ourselves GRACE.

So, I’m going to take a break from publishing new content on the blog in August so I can focus on finishing up the e-book (’cause I’m doing it all myself with help from my actual real life friends,  there’s no publisher or agent or anything driving this- oy) and get some content written to submit some other places so we can invite more people to our GRACE PARTY over here.

See y’all in SEPTEMBER with exciting new stuff to share!

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Posted in Family

Happy Anniversary to Us!

This is our anniversary week!  On August 1, we will have been married for nine years.

In honor of the occasion, this week’s post is a re-share of something I wrote two years ago in honor of our seventh anniversary.

It’s a post that tells a bit about Jeff, about our kids, and about our life together.  It’s funny looking back on it now, my kids were two years younger then, Kendall was literally half as old as she is now, but they are still those same little people on that same track.

And I still love our life.  Somedays I still have to pinch myself that all of this has actually come true, there was so long when I thought it might not…

You can read the post here, see you next week with some new content!

https://torirask.com/2016/08/01/meet-the-raskals-7-years-in/

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Posted in Faith, Family

Guest Post: A Letter to My Son At Camp

Last week, my friend Leah posted in our online moms’ group that she had written a letter to her son, who was away at camp, and wanted to share it.

I jumped at the chance to bring it here to y’all here because this letter is full of the real stuff of motherhood: the hopes, the dreams, the love, the pride, the heart-cracked-wide-open aches…I mean, if you can get through the last paragraph without crying, puh-LEEZE tell me how. 🙂

Here it is, and if you want to know more about Leah, check out her bio at the end!

Love,
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Dear Son,

Right now, at this very moment — yes, even as you’re reading this — your mom is praying for you. You’re at church camp and “unplugged” for the week. But I need you to know I am praying for you. And not just this week. I am constantly praying for you.

No, I’m not kneeled down by the side of my bed with my hands clasped. It’s not Sunday morning in church. In fact, we haven’t been to church since just after your baby sister was born. But one day we’ll find our way back. I miss the music. Your Step-Dad misses shaking hands. (Lol.)

We don’t talk about it much but ever since you were small, I’ve taught you how to look for God. In a “quiet woods listening walk,” and in your sweet baby kittens’ faces, even in the tears I’ve cried every year on your birthday as you blow out your candles. My point is, God is everywhere and you can pray anytime. When things are going great in your life and you feel like you’re on top of the world…take the time to shut your eyes and whisper “thank you, Lord.” When you’re sad and frustrated and you feel like everything is going wrong, just say “Help me, Jesus.” It’s that simple.

So tonight, as I’m waiting for the macaroni to boil…or maybe just after I’ve refilled sippy cups for your brother and sister and they’re scampering away…just know that I am praying for you. Just as I always do when I get a long enough moment to catch my breath and have a thought without interruption.

I hope this week is everything you want it to be. I hope your trust and faith in our Lord deepens. I hope you make lifelong friends. And I hope you’re praying too.

I pray for you as I see the little boy features leave your thirteen year old face, and I pray for the amazing young man you’re becoming. I pray for you as you throw an arm around me for a hug, and I notice how much taller than me you’ve become in the past year. I pray for you as I fold your laundry after you’ve left this home to spend a week with your dad and I can barely hold back the tears, I miss you so badly. I pray for you when you share your deepest secrets with me, because there will come a time when you will not. And I’m SO thankful for you. And you don’t see me do it, but I always whisper a “thank you, Jesus.”

Life isn’t always easy or fair, Buddy. But I hope no matter where you go or what you do that you will always remember this:

Right now, at this very moment,
Your mom is praying for you.


37677302_10215519629399193_198471800252792832_nLeah Moore resides in Eastern NC with her amazing family: her husband, David, and her three children, Liam (13), Laurel (5), and Sam (2.5). Between juggling SAHM duties, multiple pets, and an at-home bookkeeping business, she occasionally finds the time (late at night) to write a bit. She loves music (especially playing piano and singing), cooking, coffee, wine, and Candy Crush. Check her out on Instagram for WAY too many kid, pet, and food pics.
Posted in Family

End-Of-Our Rope Mom Moments

I was getting ready for my daughter’s 4th birthday party when a message came through to our group text from one of my besties.  Her two-year-old daughter had dumped an entire bottle of shampoo out on their bathroom floor.  The frustration and desperation in her voice were palpable.  She was officially at the end of her rope and not even sure how to clean up the mess she was left with- both the shampoo mess and the feelings mess.

It would have been easy enough to just say, “HA-HA!  Aren’t toddlers the BEST?  Enjoy those silly moments, blink and she’ll be in high school and then you’ll miss it!”

And it’s true. It goes by so fast and soon, bottles of shampoo on the floor will be just a memory- heck, we would probably prefer cleaning up shampoo to waiting up on a kid who has broken curfew AGAIN.

But that is NOT the reality when you’re the mom in the moment.

When you are the mom of the kid in a tough season, ANY season, it’s not just a bottle of shampoo that needs to be cleaned up.  It’s not just a vegetable they refuse to eat. It’s not just a meltdown in the grocery store or a forgotten homework assignment or a broken curfew. It’s the latest in a string of major messes and malfunctions you’ve had to mitigate and resolve. You’re exhausted, you’re worn out,  you’re a little worried, and you’re starting to feel like there is something wrong either with you or with your kid and that you are STILL going to be working through this when they graduate high school- if you both make it that far.

When I read my friend’s text and felt her desperation, my brain immediately flashed back to a time when my daughter had just turned three and she colored in marker on someone else’s carpet at a birthday party. Fortunately, it was the home of a close friend and she was totally beyond gracious about it.  Looking back at it now, I can just roll my eyes and think, “Oh my gosh, remember that? Haha, what a memory. Preschoolers, man.”

But back in the actual moment, in that place and time, when my son came downstairs and told me what had happened, when I raced up the stairs and around the corner to see that IT WAS TRUE AND HAD ACTUALLY HAPPENED, it felt like being thrown into an actual pit of despair, frustration, and helplessness.

Baby Girl had been coloring on stuff at home for MONTHS.  We had done everything we could think of- we had given consequences, we had given her a sketchpad for her room and bath crayons for the tub so she could go to town in appropriate ways, she had helped clean the messes, we had hidden the coloring supplies (which isn’t easy to do with an older child in the house), and it would get better for a spell. But then, just when one of us would say, “Hey, Kendall hasn’t colored on the wall in awhile,” purple streaks (her signature color) would appear on a window- and always when she was tired or frustrated, it was a total stress behavior/lashing out thing by this time.

And now, it was THE CARPET at SOMEONE ELSE’S HOUSE in MARKER! I mean- REALLY!?!?!?!?!?!?! 

I remember snatching her up and carrying her home in tears (me, not her.  She was showing zero remorse), depositing her on her bed, flopping down on my own and sobbing. In that moment, it felt to the tips of my very toes like I would not only be cleaning coloring off of walls and carpet for the rest of my life, I would ALSO be cleaning up other types of much bigger, badder, and more disastrous messes in her life because I was CLEARLY failing at raising a responsible, functional, NORMAL human being.  GAH!!!!!

Now, not even a year later, we are in a much different place.  She hasn’t colored on the wall in recent memory (she let go of that vice shortly after this incident) and as she grows, responsibility and maturity are slowly creeping in, just enough that I’m starting to think maybe I’m not totally failing her.

I mean, we have other struggles right now to be sure. We have traded wall coloring for epic meltdowns and refusals to eat dinner.  Whatever season YOU happen to be in with your kids, whatever it is that KEEPS HAPPENING and has you exhausted and discouraged, here are three tips to  hold on to when you’re barely holding on.

  • Go easy on yourself. The frustration and desperation you feel comes with the territory. You’re exhausted and you’re worn down.  It’s ok to have the big feels right now, this mommin’ business is hard stuff.
  • Take care of yourself.  Take deep breaths, make a cup of tea, get out for a walk later if you can get coverage for the kids.  Take space however you can get it- things will feel more manageable after you’ve had some distance.
  • Keep your perspective.   I mean,  it is kinda funny when you think about it. And it will get better eventually.  Doesn’t mean it’s not hard as heck in the moment, but some day this moment will have passed.  I promise.

My prayer for you, for all of us, is that God will give us His grace and mercy to get through the tough moments.  That He will give us the wisdom and strength to do what our kids need to help them through whatever’s going on. That He will give us patience and peace as our kids slowly learn and mature.  That He will surprise and delight us with the little moments of joy that only this very season in our babies’ lives can bring.  May He help us to not miss a moment, even though we may wish the moments away sometimes.  And may we come out the other side glad to be through it, but grateful for having been there.

In case nobody has told you today, you’re a great mom.

 

Posted in Faith, Family

“How Can We Help?” How You Can Help Vulnerable Children and Families, Today and Every Day

 

“…the call to be involved in creating justice for the poor is just as essential and non-negotiable within the spiritual life as is Jesus’s commandment to pray and keep our private lives in order.”
Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing: A Search for Christian Spirituality

“Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours”
Casting Crowns

“‘God, why don’t you do something?’  He said, ‘I did, I created you.'”
Matthew West

“What can we do?  I feel so helpless…”

The text came from my husband as I was sitting in the shade of a green, breezy park, watching our own kids swing and run and jump and play, not a care in the world.

The pictures and video and audio of the cries of immigrant and refugee children being separated from their parents at the US border as part of immigration protocol shook us all to our core.

Regardless of our feelings about immigration and the politics at play in this situation, something about seeing all of this happening IN OUR OWN COUNTRY, ON OUR OWN SOIL, for some of us IN OUR OWN COMMUNITIES, has hit home like nothing we’ve seen before.

The reality is that this is nothing new under the sun.  Children and families face trauma in our own country and around the world every day, having to walk through things in this fallen and broken world for which the children of God were never intended.

But SEEING IT AT HOME, live and in living color, has stirred us- and that, my friends, is SOMETHING.

Make no mistake, my people, God is moving here.  He is ALWAYS moving, if only we know where to look, and right now we need only to look into our own hearts and the hearts of those around us to see His power at work, shaking our foundations and calling us to more.

The reason we feel the ache in our very souls for the vulnerable is because it’s woven into our DNA. We were made in the image of a Father for whom the needs of His children are paramount.  This call to action in our hearts, that “What can we do?” feeling, that represents the very BEST of the nature God created in us.

The fact is that there ARE things we can do- there is SO MUCH we can do for needy children and families, if only we know where to look.

There are organizations all across our country and around the world that are addressing the needs of the most vulnerable among God’s children every single day.  Some are focused on needs like the ones we are currently seeing in the national news, providing for and advocating for immigrants and refugees, both here and abroad.  Others are fighting modern day slavery and human trafficking. Some are working on job creation and food insecurity, others are serving homeless youth, orphans, and foster care.

We can harness the power of this moment, the call to action we feel in our heart, not only to take action in this situation, but to inform ourselves about ways we can KEEP taking action and CONTINUE providing for and advocating and for vulnerable children and families at home and around the world every single day.

I’m beyond blessed to have friends and family who are SHOWER UPPERS, boots-on-the-ground, plugged-in kind of people who are involved in serving every day. So I reached out on Facebook and asked my people to provide me with a list of organizations they know of that are serving vulnerable children and families so that I could pass the info on to others who are feeling the urgency of the moment.

This list is unedited, I didn’t make any decisions about what to include and what to leave out because this isn’t about what I feel is valuable and important.  God knit each of us together uniquely, with a calling on our hearts different from everyone else’s, knowing that TOGETHER we create His vision for wholeness and justice in our world.   His call on your heart to serve is different than mine

This list also isn’t by any means complete or exhaustive, it was compiled on the fly and in response to an urgent need so my crowd-sourcing time was limited. If you know of a resource organization you’d like to share, leave it in the comments.  My only guideline is that this post is focusing on serving vulnerable children and families, so any suggestions should fit under that umbrella somehow.

And my directive for you as you read this list is as follows:

  1. Find one way to give of your time.  Some of these organizations may not be local for you, but I’ll bet you could find one if you Googled.
  2. Find at least one organization to share with others.  Either post about them on social media, text message the link to someone you think might be interested
  3. Find one to donate to- even $5.  If EVERYONE gave $5 to one of these organizations, how  much more POWER would they have to affect change and serve these babies and families?

Also, as always, do your homework.  You can use Charity Navigator or a similar “charity checker” website to find out more about how these organizations use your dollars, ask around, comb the websites, and, of course, pray.


Your Shopping Dollars.  There are hundreds of companies here in the US and abroad who are harnessing the power of commerce to create economic opportunity in vulnerable communities around the world, creating stability and jobs so that families don’t have to make the hard choices.  Here are links to a couple of directories where you can find all sorts of wonderful places to use your dollars to make the lives of families across the world better:

https://www.stillbeingmolly.com/fair-trade-usa-made-ethical-brands-list-directory/

https://therootcollective.com/pages/the-ethical-list

https://shopbeautifuluprising.com/

Adorned in Grace Bridal and Formalwear Shops sell new and gently used wedding gowns, formals, petticoats, veils, and accessories. All proceeds are used to promote awareness and prevention of sex trafficking as well as crisis prevention for trafficked victims.
http://www.adornedingrace.org/



Become a Foster Family OR respite care provider for Foster Families
–  A quick internet search for “YOUR CITY foster care” or “YOUR COUNTY foster care respite”  should point you in the right direction.  It varies by state, city, and county the exact place you’ll need to look, but a search should do the trick

International Justice Mission. IJM’s mission is to protect the poor from violence by rescuing victims, bringing the criminals to justice, restoring survivors to safety and strength, and helping local law enforcement build a safe future that lasts. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems. We combat slavery, sex trafficking, property grabbing, police abuse of power and sexual violence in nearly 20 communities throughout Africa, Latin America and South and Southeast Asia. Our vision is to rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible.
https://ijm.org

Preemptive Love Coalition. We’re a coalition stretching across Iraq, Syria, the United States, and beyond, working together to unmake violence and create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. We meet families on the frontlines of conflict, providing them lifesaving food, water, and medical care. We give them what they need to hold on and hold out. We create jobs for those victimized by ISIS. We provide small business grants, tools, and coaching so they can start again and so their families can flourish.
https://preemptivelove.org

Together Rising. Whether it’s pulling children out of the sea outside the refugee camps in Greece, helping abandoned kids on the streets in Indianapolis, establishing the first opioid recovery home for pregnant teens in New Hampshire, building a maternal health wing in Port-au-Prince, providing a single mother access to breast cancer treatment, or keeping a foster family’s heat on in Texas — Together Rising identifies what is breaking the hearts of our givers as they look around their world and their community, and then we connect our givers’ generosity with the people and organizations who are effectively addressing that critical need. Here is how they have been addressing the issue of families separated at the border.
https://togetherrising.org

RAICES. The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas. RAICES is the largest immigration non-profit in Texas with offices in Austin, Corpus, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio.
https://actionnetwork.org/groups/raices-refugee-and-immigrant-center-for-education-and-legal-services

Catholic Charities offers a wide variety of support and assistance for children and families in need around the world,  including advocacy outreach, and provides immigration information and legal translation help. Many refugee/immigrants identify as Catholic so they often reach out to Catholic Charities for help.
https://www.catholiccharitiesoregon.org/offices-programs/

World Concern is a Christian global relief and development agency extending opportunity and hope to people facing extreme poverty.
https://worldconcern.org/

Mennonite Central Committee is a global, nonprofit organization that strives to share God’s love and compassion for all through relief, development and peace.
https://mcc.org/

IRCO: Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization.  IRCO’s mission is to promote the integration of refugees, immigrants and the community at large into a self-sufficient, healthy and inclusive multi-ethnic society. Founded in 1976 by refugees for refugees, IRCO has over 40 years of history and experience working with Portland’s refugee and immigrant community.
https://irco.org

Carry the Future. Be a force for action and hope and join our international community of volunteers as we unite to bring humanitarian aid in the form of child carriers, baby beds and survival items to refugee families.
https://carrythefuture.org

Southwest Key. Southwest Key is committed to keeping kids out of institutions and home with their families, in their communities. We do this through three areas of programming: youth justice alternatives, immigrant children’s shelters, and education. Southwest Key also seeks to create opportunities for families to become self-sufficient by offering programming in adult education, community building and workforce development. The inspiring kids and families we work with are seeking the American dream—equality, education, and a healthier quality of life. At Southwest Key, we simply open the doors to opportunity so they can achieve these dreams.
https://swkey.org

The Florence Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit legal service organization providing free legal services to men, women, and unaccompanied children in immigration custody in Arizona. Although the government assists indigent criminal defendants and civil litigants through public defenders and legal aid attorneys, it does not provide attorneys for people in immigration removal proceedings. As a result, an estimated 86 percent of the detained people go unrepresented due to poverty. The Florence Project strives to address this inequity both locally and nationally through direct service, partnerships with the community, and advocacy and outreach efforts.
https://firrp.org

KIND: Kids in Need of Defense. KIND staff and our pro bono attorney partners at law firms, corporations, and law schools nationwide represent unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in their deportation proceedings. Together, we ensure that no child stands in court alone.
https://supportkind.org

The Women’s Refugee Commission improves the lives and protects the rights of women, children and youth displaced by conflict and crisis. We research their needs, identify solutions and advocate for programs and policies to strengthen their resilience and drive change in humanitarian practice. Since our founding in 1989, we have been a leading expert on the needs of refugee women and children, and the policies that can protect and empower them.
https://womensrefugeecommission.org

Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) lives the call of welcome by supporting refugees, immigrants, and the communities that embrace them as they walk together in The Episcopal Church’s movement to create loving, liberating, and life-giving relationships rooted in compassion. EMM’s desire to honor the inherent value of human connection brings communities together to love their neighbors as themselves.
https://episcopalmigrationministries.org

Safe Families for Children hosts vulnerable children and creates extended family–like supports for desperate families through a community of devoted volunteers who are motivated by compassion to keep children safe and families intact.

The three objectives of Safe Families for Children are:

  1. Keep children safe during a family crisis such as homelessness, hospitalization, or domestic violence in an effort to prevent child abuse and/or neglect.
  2. Support, and stabilize families in crisis by surrounding them with caring, compassionate community.
  3. Reunite families and reduce the number of children entering the child welfare system.

https://safe-families.org/

We Belong Together aims to mobilize women in support of common sense immigration policies that will keep families together and empower women. Immigration reform is rarely thought of as a women’s issue, but in fact it is central to the fight for women’s equality. Millions of immigrant women who are part of the fabric of our communities, workplaces, and schools are blocked from achieving their full potential because of a broken immigration system. They perform essential jobs, like taking care of our children and our aging parents, and are central to family and community well-being.
https://webelongtogether.org

Feedmore. Central Virginia’s core hunger relief organization.
https://feedmore.org

Communities in Schools. Working directly in 2,300 schools in 25 states and the District of Columbia, Communities In Schools builds relationships that empower students to stay in school and succeed in life.  Our school-based staff partner with teachers to identify challenges students face in class or at home and coordinate with community partners to bring outside resources inside schools. From immediate needs like food or clothing to more complex ones like counseling or emotional support, we do whatever it takes to help students succeed.
https://communitiesinschools.org

YWCA. YWCA USA is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen communities. We are one of the oldest and largest women’s organizations in the nation, serving over 2 million women, girls, and their families.
https://ywca.org

#HashtagLunchbag is a humanity service movement dedicated to empowering and inspiring humanity to reap the benefits of giving through the use of social media. We create and use bagged lunches, complete with love messages, as a vessel to spread this love and share our experiences to inspire others.
https://hashtaglunchbag.org

 

Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities works with schools, businesses, and communities to achieve success by addressing prejudices, in all forms, in order to improve academic achievement, increase workplace productivity, and enhance local trust.
https://inclusiveva.org

CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocates.  CASA/GAL volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA/GAL volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives.
https://www.casaforchildren.org

No Kid Hungry. When you become part of No Kid Hungry, you’re joining a movement of teachers, chefs, community leaders, parents, lawmakers and CEOs with a shared belief: no kid in America should go hungry.
https://nokidhungry.org

KaBOOM! is the national non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.
https://kaboom.org

Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.
https://reachoutandread.org

Faithful Friends is a community-based mentoring program in Portland, OR, that provides children support and stability through relationships that encourage personal growth and inspire hope. The program matches volunteer individuals, couples and families with children ages 6 through 9 for mentoring relationships. The mentor/mentee matches meet 3-4 times each month for at least one year.
https://faithfulfriendspdx.org

Big Brothers Big Sisters.  As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“littles”), ages 6 through young adulthood, in communities across the country.
http://www.bbbs.org

Saving Grace Maternity Home (I am blessed enough to get to serve as a volunteer and on the board here). Saving Grace Maternity Home is a residential home experience in Hillsboro, OR, for single young homeless women in an unplanned or crisis pregnancy, between the ages of 13-25. We welcome women of all cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds who currently live in the state of Oregon. We have the capacity to assist and house up to four women full time and there are two beds for temporary short-term stays.
https://savinggracematernityhome.org

Union Gospel Mission’s LifeChange for Women and Their Children provides a safe, healing home for women and women with children to transform their lives.  If you are struggling with abuse, addiction or homelessness, we can help. LifeChange is a safe environment to heal from past traumas and to learn how to break free of destructive choices. LifeChange is not a clinical treatment “program” or a series of steps. It is an intentional Christian community where people help and support each other to break cycles of addiction, abuse and homelessness and live a transformed and abundant life in Jesus.
https://ugmportland.org/help-for-women/

True Colors Fund. Up to 40% of the 1.6 million youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ.  Communities and youth homelessness service providers want to be safe and welcoming for LGBTQ youth, but often don’t have the knowledge or resources to do so – creating barriers for these youth to get the support they need. The True Colors Fund fills that space by offering free training and resources on how to meet the needs of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. We also advocate in government and media to help ensure critical funding and services for all youth, and create opportunities for youth who have experienced homelessness to be key leaders in the effort to end the problem.
https://truecolorsfund.org

Door to Grace.  At Door to Grace, we are bringing safe and loving family to sexually exploited children in the Portland, OR, area.
https://www.doortograce.org/