It’s 13 minutes. actually, 12:47.

Just watch this.

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“You never really know a man till you walk a mile in his shoes” – Atticus Finch

     You’ve seen these children; you’ve interacted with these adults, whether you realized it or not. Remember, oh please remember, not to judge a person by their exterior or by their offensive actions, but see their value as a Child of God.

     Or maybe this is you. Not a kid in foster care, but lost, lonely, needing someone to care, wanting to be heard. The Church may not be paying attention, your friends and family may not see it. But God does. He hears, sees, feels, knows, and LOVES.

(Great are You, Lord. All Sons and Daughters)

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

All the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, Lord

     May you pour out praise to Jesus alone – for the answers and the questions, for the lessons in the journey, for His provision, and for His deep, unending love. May you sing to Him with every fiber of your being, and may you experience His love without conditions. Your past does not define you. Great are You, Lord.

Living Love

     The more I think about the issues from my last post, the more I’m sure my job, and my life, boils down to one simple, yet exceedingly complex word: Love. My job as a man, husband, friend, and family teacher is simply to love. In my theologically untrained opinion, the overarching theme of the New Testament is love. According to The Man himself, if we don’t do anything else, we are commanded to love God, love each other, and love ourself. Of all the things we are commanded to do, if we love God and love those around us, everything else will fall into place (paraphrase of Matthew 22:37-40). One of my favorite passages about love is in 1 John 4. It’s a little lengthy, but worth it.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (‭1 John‬ ‭4‬:‭7-21‬ NIV)

There is so much good stuff in that passage that I could’ve just posted it on it’s own and been confident in this weeks blog. 

     There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (‭v. 18). When we get new kids into our cottage, they have often been taken into emergency protective custody, or EPC, by the state of South Carolina. This means that there was a report, and the powers that be determined that the child or children are in imminent danger and therefore must be taken without warning, and often without any of their belongings. Some of our kids had a swat team storm into their house and were taken by police with their parents being held at gunpoint. Some of our kids were called into the office at school and told that they weren’t going home after school and they had to go with a DSS worker. We very commonly encounter kids who are very fearful when we first meet them. Our job as family teachers, especially in an assessment cottage, is to make sure the kids know they are in a safe place. Anytime we get new kids, we tell them that our goal is to make sure they are happy and they feel safe. It is 100% ok that they are scared and unsure about their new surroundings, but we want to demonstrate the perfect love of Jesus, because we know that it drives out fear. We don’t immediately evangelize to them, and it’s usually a few days or weeks before we ever talk to them about Jesus, but we strive to love on them in very practical ways, by providing consistent food, shelter, and comfort that they may have never experienced. 

     I was going to do a post about the similarities between my current job, working in  foster care, and my previous job as a paramedic, but then I started typing and this happened. I’ll still do that at some point, but know that the biggest thing that the 2 professions have in common is love. Caring for those who need it most, when they need it most.

     I’ll be honest, I didn’t do a good job of this on our last shift. One of the things our kids need most is consistency, and I failed at that. I wasn’t sleeping well, which, combined with an early morning run in with a 5 year olds diarrhea made for a very grumpy Mr. Jon. I was nowhere near as patient as I normally am, which led to some interactions that, long story short, should have gone better. I am very thankful for a strong and patient wife, who was able to keep me in line, and for a gracious God who never stopped loving me. Listening to a sermon on grace yesterday really hit me hard. I am no different than the kids that are in my care. I am flawed and human, I’m annoying and defiant, but I am loved most when I deserve it the least. 

–Mr. Jon

The Emotional One

So, I’m a crier. This should not be news to anyone who knows me, and it’s mostly thanks to my mom’s genes. But it’s undeniable, I cry a lot. This job, working with hurting children, hardly seems to be a great place for such an emotional person.  Yet, here I am.

I’ve told many stories about the kids in our home, and too many of them involve me crying or explaining how hard I cried in the moment. Tears fill my eyes often as I hear personal accounts of abuse and neglect. The kids we care for are experiencing something that God never intended for them. Many days, as I struggle to keep my emotions in check, it’s hard not to see them as a weakness. It’s very common for me to come back from bedtime prayers to ask my husband through my tears, “Jonathon, why is it so hard? Why do I just cry? I just bawled my eyes out with them.” While a personal struggle with depression along with genetics can put my emotions close to the surface, I always wonder why it’s so hard to control the tears. One day, God opened my eyes and answered my questions.

As I was cleaning that big ‘ol, beautiful house we live in, I was thinking and praying for the kids that were currently in our care. It is very busy and chaotic when there are 8-10 children in one place, as you can imagine. So, while I would like to think that I use each interaction to be a spiritual presence or to impart wisdom or listen to every thought, I learned from week one that it’s nearly impossible! I’ve learned to be reflective and prayerful as I clean, without the children around. As I check their rooms, finish their forgotten laundry, and wipe their darling handprints from EVERYTHING, I think of how precious each life is that runs through the hallway with their dirty shoes on. It’s in those moments I pray for God to bring them peace and understanding, for Him to calm their anxious thoughts, and to keep them safe from the toxic memories they hold. One particular day, I was praying and crying (obviously). I had a moment of annoyance for my tears, but God brought to mind a prayer I have prayed, written, and sang many times over: “Break my heart for what breaks Yours.’ He silenced me. Right there. Boom. He has answered my prayer. He has called me to it. He provided such a humbling job to live it. My heart breaks for each life under our roof, and I follow my human nature to be aggravated by the inconvenience of my emotions. I see my gift of empathy as a fault. I complain about my uncomfortability. But why? I care for God’s own children that have been overlooked and abandoned and mistreated. THAT BREAKS GOD’S HEART. The injustice, the drugs, the strangers, the poverty, the trauma that these kids have endured truly is heartbreaking. He wants to rescue them from the hell that they live in. He wants to bring them to a safe place. He wants to show them what redemption looks like. So He starts with me. God begins by opening my eyes to see what He sees. From what I know of God, there is no doubt He weeps when He sees what my kids have lived through.

Since we began our time at Thornwell, Jonathon and I have both felt honored that God would place us in such a position to practically and daily be His hands and feet. Why then do I let my insecurity of easily triggered emotions and empathy interfere with the job God has clearly called me to? Before I realized, yet again, that God knew what He was doing when He placed us as Family Teachers, my emotions were an insecurity. It only took 7 months for me to finally see that His heart is at the core of my tears. He has allowed my heart to break, chosen me to carry His burden for the voiceless.

Since I have embraced my empathetic tendencies and tears, I have seen His healing power work through me. He has shown me how helpful it can be to kids who are so scared in a new place and so overwhelmed to be away from familiar surroundings to have someone cry with them. I can give comfort through my hugs and tears as they struggle with thoughts like ‘I just wanna see Mom’ or ‘Can’t I just talk to my mom? Does she know where I am?’ or ‘Do I have to go to another new school? I don’t want to meet more new people.’ I easily picture myself in their situation, and then I’m gone. I cry for the things they don’t understand and the things they do. I cry about the loss they feel and for the changes they’re about to experience. I weep for them because God is weeping. I am humbled that God would call me to nurture, cry with, and mother kids that need it most.

To God be the Glory.