Within the last year, The Southern Mercantile has made so many new friends! We love that we are gaining new followers so that we can continue to share our love for the South. Since many of you are still getting to know us, we thought that we would repost our Coming Home stories--how we got to where we are today. Our usual blog posts give you a glimpse into who we are, but our coming home stories are so much more. We would love for you to take a minute (or two, or three!) to read Roxie, Jorjanne and Tara's stories of what brought them home.
Like Tara and Jorjanne, I grew up in this small Georgia town called Ocilla. The main difference in our stories is that I don’t have generations of family that lived here before me. I have mentioned before that my mother is from Virginia, and my father is from Colorado. They met at college in Tennessee and moved here in the 70’s. Lack of family ties can really make one feel like an outsider from time to time, but it can also show you the power of good friendships!
I grew up in a small town. Scratch that. I grew up in a rural community outside of a small town. Next door to my grandparents’ farm and within a mile of the county line, I was the first one on the school bus every morning and the last one off every afternoon. Keep in mind, we have one elementary school, while the middle and high schools share a campus, for the entire county!
I have been home now for two and a half years, and almost married a year. I can feel my roots beginning to sink again. Growing up in a small town and moving back to that small town as an adult are two very different experiences. I spent four vital years of my life in a different area where people see things differently, eat differently, speak differently, treat each other differently, dress differently and well, live differently.(Granted, I was only 3 hours away in Athens, GA, but there is no comparison.) I was allowed the freedom to experience other cultures and lifestyles—while taking note mentally and inwardly beginning to shape my own. I wouldn't trade those years for anything—because if nothing else, I learned to love differently.
Give me fruit, and I will make jam - I thoroughly enjoy taking berries, peaches, pears, figs, or whatever fruit I can find and turn it into jams, jellies, and preserves.
In the fall of 2015, a group of people from our community gathered to discuss the growing needs within and around foster care in our area. Led by a local pastor with a heart for foster care, we agreed to form a local chapter of an organization already in place,
Called to Care. Towards the end of the meeting, he asked if anyone felt called to be a part of the leadership team, and I felt my hand rising. Little did I know that my life would be forever changed by the information presented to me over the next few weeks.
Why is there a need for an organization like Called to Care?
Within Ben Hill, Irwin and Berrien counties, we have 160 children in foster care and only 10 local foster families. This great divide is bridged by foster families who live in other counties, as well as children's homes that are located hours away. This means that not only are children being uprooted from the only home they've ever known, but they're also being moved miles from their schools, communities, extended family members, and friends. The only remedy to this is to prevent children from coming into care (by supporting those families) and to recruit more local foster families!
Called to Care acts as a liaison between the Department of Family and Children Services and the community by communicating the needs at hand. We (with the help of our 884 Facebook friends) started a clothing and supply closet at Ocilla Baptist Church. Thanks to generous donations, we have clothing of all sizes, shoes of all sizes, undergarments, diapers, hygiene items, blankets, toys and books available to our foster children. Working closely with our local DFCS workers, we are able to meet most of the physical needs in our area.
Our brick-and-mortar retail store, The Shoppes at Fourth and Cherry, is a drop off location for donations. We have also hosted drives for specific items, which is conveinent considering that we are in the heart of downtown!
We had a local mom, Kirsten, recently bring in an overwhelming amount of donations. Kirsten's sweet baby girl, Lindy, just turned 1 year old. To celebrate her birthday, Kirsten asked if guests would bring a donation to Called to Care in lieu of a gift for her daughter. The donations poured in as family and friends gathered to celebrate Lindy. What a special way to celebrate her daughter's life! We have been so encouraged by this gift, and so many families are going to be blessed by her selflessness.
Called to Care hosts quarterly events in which the kids are provided opportunities to leave their worries at the door and to simply play. Snacks, bouncy houses, art projects, nail painting and one-on-one basketball games make for a fun afternoon. We love every minute of getting to know these kids and are thankful for the opportunity to encourage and serve them.
Here's a few examples of other projects we've completed in our area:
DFCS Visitation Room Before:
DFCS Visitation Room After:
From the very beginning, I became heavily involved in the needs presented to Called to Care. Not only was this an overwhelming undertaking--but also a heart-breaking one. With each request, with each need, the tears would come. I had this aching desire to do more than meet the physical needs of these families. I suddenly felt the very real call from Jesus to care for the widows and orphans. It didn't take long for my husband, Phillip, to feel the exact same way. We were faced with desperate needs on a weekly basis that broke our heart and changed our thought process. We knew fostering was where our family was being called, so we started making preparations.
In less than a year's time with Called to Care, Phillip and I felt the need to create a home for our future family--whatever that may look like. Our budget was small, but we wanted to purchase a home of our own and begin to settle in. We looked at homes that were "move-in ready" as well as fixer-uppers, but nothing felt just right. I was set on having at least three bedrooms (this would be necessary in foster care if you have children of the opposite sex in your home) which narrowed our search tremendously due to our budget. We made a list of pros and cons for some of our favorite homes, trying to make sense of it all. Finally, my mom asked if I'd be interested in looking at a home in town that wasn't listed, but she knew the owners tried to sell it a few years ago. I said yes, and she made the call. This couple was happy to show us the house that would soon become our home. Learn more about our home and the renovation process by checking out Beech Street Bungalow: Before.
After we began putting our home back together, I started dreaming up what the "girl room" and "boy room" should look like. I loved the idea of creating a comfortable and safe space that any child might love. Lots of thought and planning has gone into these two special rooms in our home, and my heart is anxiously awaiting the day when these rooms will be finished and full.
I have always loved children. I have always wanted to be a mom, and to have a family of my own. After coming to know the Lord, I realized I had a heart for adoption--but still wanted to birth children of my own. After maturing in the Lord, and seeing the unrelenting needs around me, my thoughts began to change and turn into what I believe to be His. This is what I know to be true: He has given me a deep desire to be a mother. He has given me a husband who shares my same desires. He is good. He is faithful. He will bring children into my life who need me at that exact time, whether I birth them or only have them in my home for a few months.
We are excited, and we are nervous. This process is slow, especially when you're in the middle of remodeling a home! We now have a group of 7 local families ready to complete training to have children in their homes. (Roxie, Jorjanne and I are three of those families!) What a blessing this journey has been and will continue to be.
If you are interested in being involved in Called to Care, please let us know! You can visit our Facebook page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don't live in South Georgia, look for ways to positively impact the foster care system in your area! We would love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have. I believe that we are indeed called to love, called to serve, and called to care. The beautiful thing is that everyone can do something.
As I continue to reflect on our wedding day, there is one more thing I wanted to make sure I shared with you. Although it may seem silly, I believe the details make the wedding. It is easy to just focus on the big picture, but it is the details that make everything so special. Sometimes, it can even be the details that help craft the whole feel and theme of the wedding. It is in the details where guests see your heart and style--along with the careful thought and planning you put into making it your special day. I have flipped through my pictures hundreds of times, and it is these that I keep coming back to. (The details.) Here you will find photographs that capture sweet details from my wedding day that I believe made it so special.