casa: why i signed up.

I've mentioned CASA a few times on this blog, but so far, I haven't actually talked too much about what it is, and why I volunteer. And since I have a lot to talk about over the next month, I want to spell all of that out here, especially because God has been teaching me so, so much through it.

About CASA

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) was started more than 30 years ago by a juvenile court judge who was concerned about making decisions with insufficient information. He found volunteers from the community to study the facts in a case, report to the court, and advocate for the best interests of the child.

A CASA is sometimes called guardian ad-litems in other areas, though here, that's the name for the lawyer appointed to the child. They're assigned to one case (which may involve multiple children, depending on the family), and remain assigned throughout the duration of the case (this can be a year, or even longer). Because of this, they can easily become the one constant in the child's life, in the middle of a lot of upheaval.

As a CASA, I spend time on a regular basis with the children I've been assigned. I get to know everyone involved in their case - there are often a lot of people! Parents and other family members, foster parents, lawyers, social workers, doctors and therapists, teachers and guidance counselors, mentors - and the list goes on. I provide a report to the judge at every court hearing, and work with the other adults and authorities involved to make sure each child can live in a safe, happy, and healthy environment.

Why I signed up

For years, I've been interested in orphans and adoption. Eventually, I'd like to adopt children of my own, or maybe foster them, but as I've sought God's leading, he's been clear that now is not the right time for those things (though I suspect that time is drawing nearer). Volunteering as a CASA was a way for me to be involved in that system.

Also, when I started this process, I was working from home. In my off-hours, I spent most of my time with friends from church. Nearly everyone I spent time with already knew Christ, and though I wanted to be able to share my faith with those around me, I didn't know how to go about meeting them. And even though I didn't begin volunteering as a CASA until after I started working for CBN, the same scenario was true there. I knew that if I wanted to tell people who didn't know Jesus about him, I had to find a way to go where they were.

And, lastly, a lot of the work I do for CASA is very administrative, so that fits pretty well with my gifts and interests. That isn't to say that its not incredibly hard at times, and that it hasn't stretched me outside of my comfort zone - it is, and it does, often. But there are so many things that God has taught me through doing this, so many ways that I've seen more of him, that it will take at least another entire post to explain them all - so I'll write about those things tomorrow.

the far-away aunt.

I have one niece (Ally) and two nephews (Cameron and Jake). One I've known since the day he was born, and two joined our family unofficially a few years ago, then officially in April when my sister Katie and her boyfriend Vince got married.

Katie and Vince decided to have (relatively) small ceremony in April, then celebrate with a big barbecue/reception in their backyard this weekend. Since I'll be in town for the party, and since I couldn't be home for his actual birthday, Jake and I have a breakfast date Saturday morning.

Its hard, being an aunt from far-away. I lived near Katie when Jake was born and for the first three years of his life, and leaving him was hardest thing about moving a few hours away. In fact, he's the only person I cried about missing. I loved being a part of his day-to-day life, and even though I see and talk to him often, its weird not being able to first-hand picture some of those milestones.

When Vince and Ally and Cam became part of our family, that was difficult in an entirely different way. With them, I had to try to get to know them, and let them know me, but only in a few snippets of time here and there. I'd often go months without seeing them, just because my trips home didn't line up with their weekends with their dad.

I make it a point to spend time with them when we're in the same place, when we're all there or here. Its the in-between times that are tricky. I'd love to pour into their lives every day, but it requires a lot more intention when our lives don't intersect on their own.

That's why I'm thinking about making this birthday-date thing a habit - a chance for one-on-one time with each of them, as close to their birthdays as we can make it work.

saying the good stuff.

One of the things I've learned from being the children's ministry director at the Bridge, is that its just as important to say the good stuff as it is to say the bad.

I'm a perfectionist by nature. Its one of those things that comes with the territory of being the first-born. Add to that my natural inclinations toward order and details, and you can bet that I am always much harder on myself than anyone else is. My guess is that most of us are. Its too easy to notice the bad.

Sure, there's a time and a place to deal with conflict. When something isn't working, its important to take the steps to make it right, and being afraid of the tough conversations doesn't really get us anywhere. But recognizing the good, and even more so, talking about it - that's important, too. Maybe even more so.

When a child is eager to meet and welcome new friends (something that, let's face it, most of us struggle with as adults!), I want to celebrate that. When a kis looks at a photo of a child in Africa, notices their bare feet, and asks if we can buy them shoes, I want to honor that. When I see something that touches my heart, that makes me smile, I want to share it.

Writing a quick email, posting something on Facebook, even sending a short text message only takes a few seconds of our time, but when you combine our moment of obedience with the work of the Holy Spirit, those words can encourage someone, challenge them, even turn their whole day around.

I'm trying to make a habit of not just noticing the good stuff, but talking about it. I think it really is a habit, and like any habit, the more you do it, the more naturally it comes. It really just comes down to time - taking the time to notice what's going on around you, and then taking the time to put it into words.

africa video.

My dad created the video below for me to use in my presentation at church yesterday:


This morning in church, I shared about my trip to Africa. I also shared about some of the things that God has been teaching me over the last couple years.

Here is what a lot of it boils down to for me - why are so many of us content to settle for a mediocre life? Jesus said he claimed so we could have full abundant life (John 10:10). Scripture is filled with those who, though not perfect, surrendered everything to God and saw him doing amazing and supernatural things. Jesus endured so many things (torture, humiliation, death) to save us from the pit we dug ourselves into - do we really believe that he did that so we could merely exist? Or are we meant to live a grand adventure?

And if we are meant for something bigger, how do we get there? How do we experience it? There isn't, at least as far as I can tell, a formula, a step by step list of things we do to get from point A to point B. There's no list called "Things To Do To Live An Adventurous Life."

The only solution, if you can call it that, is to forget the stuff that doesn't matter and fix our eyes on the only thing that does - Jesus. Get rid of everything that gets in the way, that pulls us down, whether it be sin, habits, material possessions, or our own plans for our life (Hebrews 12:1-2). He demands everything, because he knows what he has for us is better.

every day for a month.

One of my goals for this year was to blog once a day for a month. And since there are only three more months in the year, I figured I better stop waiting for life to slow down, and just do it already. Starting tomorrow.

To be honest, I have no idea what I'm going to talk about for 30 days in a row, but I'm hoping that the commitment to do will motivate me to just start putting some of my thoughts down in words. And who knows? Maybe I'll even learn more in the process.

this sunday.

This Sunday morning, I'm going to talk at our church worship service. I'll share about Africa, including some photos, and try to find a way to articulate what I think God is doing in me and showing me as a result of that time.

But I'm also going to talk about some of the things that God has been teaching me over the last couple years, some things that he has laid on my heart in regards to the great adventure we've been called to. I've written out what I'm saying, but I'm still tweaking it, praying that God somehow uses my words to speak to those who will listen.

Its a bit nerve-wracking, to be honest with you. There are these things that I feel are so true, so vital, and I'm not sure that I have the words to take what's in my heart and say it out loud. I worry that I won't communicate well, that I'll say something that unintentionally hinders the work of God in someone's life.

Even as these thoughts arise, I'm aware of their arrogance. I understand all too well that it is the work of the Holy Spirit that teaches, encourages, and convicts us. Still, I think about it - and so I'm letting these thoughts push me right back to the feet of Christ, to be him to keep refining me and my words and to maybe somehow use them.

It's an interesting experience, to be sure. And its given me a new appreciation for the people who do this every week.

africa photos.

I said, "It doesn't count if you don't get a stamp in your passport."

She said, "Well, I got rained on in Germany. Does that count?"

Africa photos are up on Facebook.


I'm home, and glad to finally be here. It felt so wonderful to sleep in my own bed last night. Even if I did wake up in the middle of the night and think I was still in Africa.

I'm still processing the things that God taught me, the things he wants to me learn from my time there. I suspect I will be for a while. And unfortunately, I don't have a lot of down-time available to do it, as I'll be driving back to Frederick the day after tomorrow (Friday) for Kelli's graduation party. And of course, in between then and now, there are all the little details that come after a trip - unpacking, laundry, catching up on the things I've missed while I've been away, re-stocking my refrigerator, etc.

Sometimes I think that God gives us an experience because there is something in particular he wants us to do as a result. I'm thinking through some of those possibilities, trying to discern what next step I need to take. To be honest, I kind of expected to have a huge a-ha moment while I was there, where God would clearly speak and tell me to do something big and scary and wonderful. Since he didn't, I'm trying to listen for the still, small voice, even as the noise of "normal life" tries to cloud up my senses.

But sometimes, I think that God gives us an experience just to prepare us for an opportunity that he is sending our way. There really isn't anything to do, any specific next step to take, but instead just a need to be ready for what comes. And so maybe that is what God is doing in me, too.