We are fully aware that with 6 kids, 2 of them special needs, that it can be easy to overlook some kiddos, at least some of the time, the kiddos that might not need us as much at the time, perhaps the ones that are learning to spread their wings and are becoming more independant... the teenagers.
Also believing the same gender parent has the most influence on a child, the burden is largely left to me to continually guide and nurture my big girls during this difficult season, when teens are purposefully distancing themselves from both their parents and the lessons being taught to them.
One of the best ways we've found to keep an on eye on our big girls, while continuing to impart our value system, is to do lots of charity work together. So initially we set goals for ourselves to ensure that we would set aside time and make charity work with just the three of us happen. The first year, running April 1-April 1, we set our goal low to ensure success. Our goal was that the girls and I would each do 10 hours of charity work per year. Not surprisingly, our goal was met pretty easily, and not only did we enjoy spending time together, we had fun too! So we bumped our goal to 25 hours the following year. Now, 4 years into our plan, Sunny, Livy, and I make it a priority to do 100+ total hours of community service each year. Proudly, I will tell you that we easily met our goal this year, exceeding 110 hours together!
But of course it's about SO much more than the hours we put in. It's about the time we spend together and giving back to our community. It's about being thankful for what we already have, it's about serving the Lord through service to others, it's about humility and grace and stepping out of the priviledged Caucasian box that I often find ourselves in.
We work with an amazing organization, NCL, originally created in the 1950's that helps mothers and their teen daughters come together through philanthropy. If you're rasing daughters, look it up and see if there is one in your community. The organization's goal is to create strong and confident young women that will become life-long givers in their communities. The girls and I intentionally work with a variety of charities and discover through experience which philanthropies we enjoy and can help most. In the beginning, we started off working with rescued animals 'cause animals don't judge, or make funny noises, or slap your hand when you play bingo, (yes, that happened.) The girls and I have also worked with rescued animals, and seniors, and animals with seniors. We've had parities for underprivileged children, and individuals with mental and physical impairments. We've decorated the pediatric wing and the NICU of the hospital down the street and helped inner-city kiddos pick out donated back-to-school clothing. We've done Christmas shopping for needy families, peeled potatoes, walked dogs, played bingo at the senior center, and served tea and pizza at our neighborhood assisted living facility.
I shouldn't have waited until Livy was 13.
The day Sunny told me she wanted to return to a care facility (for residents with profound physical and mental disabilities) because she had found a new friend, was another day I praised God for allowing us to have the privilege of working with these remarkable individuals. (That's Sunny in the green jacket with her new friend. She spent over an hour talking with him.)
On a personal note, we met this little guy when we threw a holiday party at a full-time residential care facility. He stole my heart in an instant. He smiled and beamed and my heart was gone! Such beauty and perfection in all God's creations. And such an honor to be a part of putting this smile on his face.
Forgive the picture quality. Can't reveal residents images on the world wide web. Much of the time, we're in basements, and to be honest, picture taking isn't my priority during these times. It's taking me 4 years to get these few.