There are four little girls that just can’t seem to get enough of each other. In their heads, they wish they could spend every moment together and live under the same roof. They don’t realize that sometimes being cousins can be even better than being sisters. Not all the time, but sometimes.

These cousins have such a sweet bond. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to watch them grow together…chasing chickens, making mud soup, putting on shows and jockeying to be the boss (oldest cousin usually wins that battle!)

50mm, ISO 100, 1/640, f/5.6

3.12cousins-0150mm, ISO 100, 1/4oo0,  f/2.53.12cousins-0250mm, ISO 100, 1/640,  f/5.63.12cousins-0350mm, ISO 100, 1/8o0, f/3.53.12cousins-0450mm, ISO 100, 1/5o0, f/3.53.12cousins-05

Sums these girls up. The younger two did not like my idea to stop what they were doing and take a picture:)

50mm, ISO 100, 1/4oo,  f/3.53.12cousins-0650mm, ISO 100, 1/4oo, f/3.53.12cousins-07They are all a year apart (5, 3, 6, 4)…the 4 year old was entertaining the others by being silly. I am hoping and praying for many more decades of watching these cousins experience life together…they sure have something extra wonderful.
50mm, ISO 100, 1/4oo, f/3.53.12cousins-08

Can’t forget this sweet boy…it is ridiculous how cute he is and how much he has every girl in the family completely wrapped around his tiny finger.

50mm, ISO 100, 1/32o, f/2.83.12cousins-09CLICKHEREphototips

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  • Shauna - Those girls are growing up so much the older pair look 6 and 7 not 5 and 6.
    Firecracker has legs for days.
    I love that they live so close, me and my cousins were separated when I was 9, my dad and 2 uncles got moved interstate and internationally.
    Sadly our relationship was never the same. Good but not close, fantastic like before.

  • Ethel White - I told your Mom when I saw her a couple weeks ago, she sure has beautiful grandchildren. She agreed.
    !

  • Rae - This is just so precious! <333

Living in a local girls’ home, she dreamed of getting a haircut to attend her first dance. Her Child Welfare worker shared this with Chris, who let his friends at churches close to the girls’ home know about the need. One church made sure she got her hair cut and fixed, while another provided her with a dress. The state and churches coming together to make a dream come true for a girl that probably doesn’t always feel like she can dream.

This is the good stuff in life.

There are a hundred different directions I could take this, but they all have one main point – exciting things are happening in Oklahoma in the foster care realm and I’m getting to watch Chris flourish in the midst of it all. For two years now, he has been working on a team (111Project & 111Tulsa), whose primary objective is to be part of the solution to the foster care crisis in our state.

Day in and day out his team is challenging others to join in:

  • Foster care prevention through coming alongside birth families
  • Foster family recruitment for kids in need of a safe, loving family
  • Foster family retention through support and respite care

Recently, they introduced CarePortal to Oklahoma. CarePortal is an online engagement tool between the State (Child Welfare workers) and local churches. Child Welfare workers uncover the needs and then submit a request for help online. Churches are made aware of the needs in the community (already vetted by state workers) and given the opportunity to meet the needs.

CarePortal has been in Tulsa County for 6 weeks.

87 churches have signed up.

52 needs have already been met!

“Care Portal is the best thing since sliced bread.

Before, we felt powerless, but now we have an option to help our families in need.”

~ OK DHS Supervisor

So, so good. Beds given. Bus passes provided so parents can visit kids. School uniforms. Washers. Dryers. Food. Basic needs met, but also not so basic needs met. Beyond the essentials, Child Welfare workers are able to advocate for other needs…needs that help kids not just survive, but begin to thrive. Needs that would not be met otherwise. It is so, so good!

“I have a 17 yr old boy who is a Jr. in High School.  He had to move to another foster home that was not located in his school district.  He would like to remain at his old school since he is in band and the ROTC program.  Transportation is an issue so we are asking for 4 – 30 day bus passes to get him through the year so he can continue to stay at his school.  Each pass cost $45 so the total amount will be $180.”

“The foster child is a 14 year old girl in need of a clarinet to be part of the band program at her school.  Since being in her foster home the child has excelled in school, and has begun to find hobbies and interest to help express herself as a person. This young lady is in need of a clarinet, so that she can perform in band along side her sister. Music has allowed this child to find structure, open up, bond with her sister, and be able to express herself and her feelings. Having a clarinet and playing with her sister in the band would mean the world to her. The foster mother has requested support from the community. To help her obtain a clarinet for the foster child to pursue her interest in music and maintain a super close relationship to her sibling.”

“11 year old needs a computer so that he can enroll in Oklahoma Virtual School.  He has a disability and suffers form Asperger’s.  Because of his disability he is constantly bullied and harassed by older children at his school.  This is affecting his mental health and giving him anxiety which results in him skipping school.  He is very intelligent and needs to be able to learn in an environment free from fear and intimidation.”

Chris spends many Sunday mornings at local churches – encouraging others to join in. It is a change for our family (we attend church as a family on Sunday nights now). Earlier this month I snapped a few photos of the kids painting while we watched Chris live streamed from a local church. In that moment, I was so thankful for technology. Thankful – for the strange new beauty of our Sunday mornings. Thankful – he is in a job where he is thriving and able to use all his gifts and talents in the most perfect ways.

careportal-01careportal-02(not an actual TED talk, that was just the sermon series theme at that particular church)

We miss him when he is gone, but it sure is exciting to watch big things happening in our state. It is inspiring and beautiful to watch so many people come together to make a difference in the lives of children that too often fall through the cracks. Churches spanning denominations and joining together to collectively be a part of something truly significant – impacting a child. A family. A community.

flourish

111Project is currently working to raise an additional $35,000 to launch CarePortal to Oklahoma County. If you are interested in joining that effort, you can click here to donate.

If you would like more information on CarePortal in Oklahoma – contact 111Project

If you would like more information on CarePortal in other states – contact CarePortal

The CarePortal from The Global Orphan Project on Vimeo.

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  • Danielle - What a great project! So glad that churches are advocating for these families. Foster care needs reformed and good people stepping up is just the way for that to happen! Thank you!

  • Tiffany - So so good is right.

  • Tanya - Beautiful, thank you for sharing about this very important topic.

  • Holly - This is awesome! We need it in St. Louis! As a licensed foster parent, it’s always great to see people in the church use their gifts to help our kids. So many say, “I could never be a foster parent,” but there are other ways to support kids in care, and this highlights the need.

  • Holly - Apparently it is in St. Louis, I had just never heard of it. Thanks for letting us know about it!

  • c - Truly, truly inspirational. Good people doing great things. This is something every part of the world could use!

  • Heather - Ashley, this post touched my heart. Do you know if this kind of work is also being done in other states. I live in Ohio and my husband is a mental health counselor for children so we see this kind of need often. We want to foster someday and to see this kind of work and support being developed is so inspiring. I find it is also so much easier to give when you see such a specific need to be filled. It is so easy to say “I can do that!” Thank you for this today

  • Sarah A - My eyes are filled with tears… what a blessing for Chris and others to get to do this work! And for you all to be able and willing to rearrange your lives to make it happen. I live in Ohio as well (hi, Heather!) and would love to see a program like this. I especially love the idea of pulling alongside birth families to help them avoid some of the pitfalls that necessitate foster care. Donating now, and prayerfully considering my role and my family’s role in this sort of work. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  • Carrie Campbell - This is so awesome!! I need to look to see if we have something similar in my area in Florida. :)

  • Cheryl Millican - We are foster parents in Oklahoma county! I love this idea!!!! There is Facebook support groups but what a blessing it would be for churches to know and have a place to go help out foster families!!!!!!

  • iamcart - This article is helping restore some of my faith in humanity — it’s been slowly chipped away at with these recent political debates. Please tell your husband thank you from Nebraska!

  • Libbe - Simply amazing! You all must be so proud of Chris!

  • Brady Wilhelm - Would Chris ever come speak in Kansas? I’ve been thinking about introducing Care Portal to my small church and would love to have a thorough presentation on it! Totally understand if that’s not a possibility, but we’re just a little bit northeast of Wichita. Let me know if he’d be interested! Such an awesome program to have set up!

  • amber - This is so awesome. What an inspiration to watch as your husband went from his job, followed his passion (& Jesus), took a huge leap & to see what God has done! Just humbling. Also. Thank you for sharing this! Can’t wait to share care portal with my church:).

  • Abby - This is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Katie - Everything your family does is absolutely inspiring. May God’s blessings flow through Chris and everyone he works with in this great foster care mission!

  • mandi@herbanhomestead - I’m catching up on your blog this morning (an unexpected freed day from our CC campus). I am so jazzed about this idea of the portal. What an incredible tool! It has me wondering what more we can do over here in Texas. To stand in the gap between the state and the church- what a beautiful thing for these children! Also- what you said about watching your husband thrive in a job he loves and was seemingly created for- i loved that. Isn’t it incredible how God directed your steps in setting up this little blog which in turn created opportunity and income to free up your family to dream bigger and bolder for Him? Man, I’m in awe of what God does on behalf of His children!!!! It’s been a blessing (really- I mean that) to watch you all step out in obedience to Him.

  • Carson - I work as a student attorney ad litem in the Austin area. I just shared Care Portal with some caseworkers today. We were discussing needs of a child returning home and it made me think of this. They had never heard of it. So I found the site again through your post and shared it with them! Thanks for advocating so well for the children in the system from your blog!

  • AshleyAnn - Carson – Awesome! Thank you for letting me know that!

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” ~ (source is complicated)

In most things, I am always looking to simplify, purge and reduce. I tend to lean towards the idea that less is more. Of course, there are always exceptions. Laughter is one thing I am constantly looking to increase.  Some days laughter comes easy. Kids are getting along, funny things happen, laughter is the music in our home. Other days are hard. Fighting. Arguing. Selfishness.

I want laughter…more and more and more of it. Fill my home to the brim. Let it overflow and spill out.

While I am proactive about simplifying most things in our home, I am proactive about searching for ways to bring in more laughter. I look for funny videos, jokes my kids will be tickled by, and just trying to loosen up and be goofy alongside them. Last week I introduced them to a face swapping app. We spent a ridiculous amount of time swapping faces. We took up way too much memory on my phone. We laughed. Loud. Hard. Together.  And it was so good.

3.12faceswap-013.12faceswap-023.12faceswap-033.12faceswap-043.12faceswap-053.12faceswap-06

One kiddo was gone during our face swapping and live filter antics. I’ll be sure to introduce her to its disturbing wonderfulness. I bet you can’t guess which boy was most excited about the app…faceswap

I mean, how can you not laugh at this goodness? My face. My son’s head. Laughter is the best. I think Ellen would agree.EllensTwin

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  • Debbie C - These are hilarious! I’ll have to try with my kids. Thanks for giving this sleep-deprived mom a good laugh. Btw…any tips on how to keep a 2year old in his toddler bed in the middle of the night would be most appreciated! Sigh.

  • Byron - That’s just scary! LoL! But obviously a ton of fun!

  • Brady W. - Hilarious! That one in the top middle kind of looks like Leonardo Dicaprio!

  • Debbie H - Hysterical. That app does a better job blending than some I’ve seen. And Little One is still rockin’ the bandaids. I’m sooo glad. Most things with kids change too fast. Glad she is holdin’ on there, but she looks very tall here. They are sure all growing up, as they are supposed to, but hard to watch for this person adverse to change. :) I so appreciate you letting us watch the antics of your family and learn with you along the way.

  • Rae - LOL! Love it! face swap so creeps me out 😀

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Ellen would LOVE this. Just sayin’

  • Tanya - Hilarious!!! Thanks for sharing.

  • Charlotte Buckle - This is such a lovely and hilarious post! What a great way to get the whole family involved and laughing!

    C | http://atlantic-c.blogspot.ca/

  • Maureen - Our 19 year old was home on college spring break last week and made us all do it. Hysterical, some of them were truly frightening!!! My husband did it with our dog and we couldn’t stop laughing. Love these moments together as a family.

  • mandi@herbanhomestead - LOLOLOLOLOLOL!!! Oh man- that Ellen side by side made me laugh so hard! This app is a favorite in our home too. It’s pretty much the best.