This Job . . .

It was one year ago this week that Heidi and I accepted the offer to become family teachers at Thornwell. We never could’ve guessed how this place and this job would impact our lives. We feel exceedingly blessed to have found such a wonderful place full of wonderful people. We love every day we work with these kids. Ok, maybe not every day, but most days. This job is a lot of things. This job has taught us a lot of things. It’s been incredible and terrifying. It’s been fun and sad. Often in the same day. I love doing this job. I’m doing what God wants me to do. I’m not much of a list person, but here’s some more things about this job.

This job is:

Stressful. Heartbreaking. Frustrating. Emotional. Difficult. Exhausting. Exciting. Fun. Inspiring. Important. Rewarding. A calling. Needed.

This job has taught me:

Most “bad” kids are good kids who are struggling with something big. But there is such a thing a truly bad kid.

Even the bad kids can be sweet.

I’m not as patient as I thought I was.

I’m more emotional than I thought I was.

I’m selfish.

Some parents just don’t care about their kids. Some parents work really hard for their kids.

Regardless of what they say or do, all kids are still just kids.

Kids need choices.

Kids are smart, funny, clever, and have good memories.

Kids are unbelievably resilient.

No matter how bad parents are, kids still miss their mommy and daddy.

Age is just a number. Kids who are the same age can be very different developmentally, behaviorally, and socially.

I understand kids better than I thought I did. I still love working with kids.

I am overwhelmingly blessed to be married to and working with such an amazing woman.

     It’s coming to the end of National Foster Care month. This job has opened my eyes to a world I knew very little about. Foster care is a world that I am now passionate about, that I feel called to. It’s a world that changes lives, and makes things better for a kid who has never known what good can be.  This job has been a blessing to me, and I hope and pray that I have been able to bless these kids as much as I have been blessed.

     Just because National Foster Care month is ending, and soon we’ll stop posting daily pictures and articles about foster care and helping kids, the importance of this job doesn’t diminish on June 1. I know residential foster care is different that fostering in your own home, but the principles are the same. You use what you have been given to help kids who need it. Blessed people bless people. So what are you doing to bless? How have you been blessed? You don’t need to do what we did; we know it’s not for everyone. You need to be kind of crazy to work in residential care, and a whole different kind of crazy to work in assessment. If it’s not helping kids by opening your home, help out those who have been called to foster care. Collect clothes, toiletries, toys, and other things that these families will need. God calls us all to action. Here are some more things you can do.

This job is incredible. I’m so happy that Heidi and I answered God’s call to do this job.

-Mr. Jon


My Little Buddy

I have this little buddy. He is so close to my heart. I know what he thinks and how he thinks and why he thinks it.

I remember the day he came. The private home he went to couldn’t handle him. We were still a days away from being ready, but there he was. So adorable. So defiant. So misunderstood. He wasted no time testing limits and revealing abuse. And then there was a connection. I don’t know why he picked me to cling to, but he did. No matter how great, loving, helpful, or friendly other adults have been, it’s me he wants. It has been a journey FAR from easy. His anxiety levels are constantly high, but he’s learned how he’s supposed to manage it. It’s still very difficult for him to do, but the knowledge is there. His story is the epitome of a misunderstood child. A child who doesn’t know how to communicate what is going on in his mind. Life has been a roller coaster with him in our care. Family teachers, school teachers, consultants, doctors, and therapists can see the troubled mind behind that cute face.

But the time has come. I’ve always known that he wasn’t staying. It’s something I’ve avoided in my mind because there’s so much more he needs to be successful. I haven’t had the strength to think of how he’ll function outside of our environment. But God is his Provider, his Defender, his Peace. God has used me to be those things. Until now.

I’m learning that letting go is a part of parenthood. But not like this. This is a dark place of the unconventional call to parenthood. We know these kids are not our own. We understand they move back with family. We truly want their ‘real’ parents to work things out to be a family once again. But my standards for getting kids back are not the same as the Court.

On Sunday, I was holding my buddy while we sang. He is just gaining enough confidence to sing along with me. And on this, his last time at church with me, he sings loud and clear ‘You make beautiful things/You make beautiful things out of us’. That is what I’m holding to. That is what my heart must cling to. God, and only God, makes beautiful things out of us – out of our brokenness, our sorrow, our anxieties, our craziness, our mistrust, our efforts. He makes it His.

(Spoiler: Our last date together, the night before he went home, he fell out of a tree at our house and broke his arm. I like to add insult to injury to most big emotional events in my life, usually involving the ER)

The Daily Grind

In the book of Nehemiah, God’s people follow a call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah gathers, directs, and works alongside the Isrealites to restore the physical and also the mental/emotional state of their city. While I’m no theologian, when reading through Nehemiah I noticed that Nehemiah wasn’t specifically, audibly called by God for this job. God burdened his heart for these people. He begs God for His leading. He prays earnestly that God would open doors to restore His people. Nehemiah sees himself as willing and capable to respond to the need of God’s people. This is sometimes how I feel. God has burdened my heart with injustice. There is a problem that is near to God’s heart, just like in Nehemiah. I am a willing and capable servant answering a call.

But this is not the point. There is another element to this story of Nehemiah.

To be honest, the biblical narrative is kinda boring. There’s many lists of materials and names that are hard to pronounce. It’s not an epic tale with action, wars, and valiant bravery like David and Goliath. It’s about a fairly mundane task of repairing a broken down city, dealing with politics of kings and money, and finishing a necessary job. Specifically in chapter 3, it becomes very redundant in the explanation of how they rebuilt each piece of the wall.

 “The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs.”

Frankly, these are hard thoughts to connect, but stay with me.

A servant of God was burdened when he saw a need. He then took on a tedious, mundane job, and it was documented. The book of Nehemiah does a thorough job of explaining the materials and procedures of fixing a wall. To me it seemed boring, but looking into it, there must be a reason God wanted it put in His Word. It’s makes sense, though, when you look at the importance of this ‘boring task’ of rebuilding the wall. A wall around their city was vital to establish boundaries, provide protection, and restore the people who had been in exile. It wasn’t a sought-after job, but it was needed. It wasn’t glorious, but it was necessary.

This is where I am.

Being a Family Teacher can be very mundane. Hitting a certain level of comfortability with our job has brought on a new need to be intentional about what we do. I found myself thinking of the verse ‘do not grow weary in doing good’ frequently this week as I completed many technical parts of this job – paperwork, meal planning, laundry, bedtimes, grocery shopping. I’m fairly certain that others feel this same way whether it be about their job, family, or anything one does on a regular basis. This is the Daily Grind. But we have to look past the practical into the importance of the job. If there is anything I’ve learned from a tough month in this job, it is how essential this task is. I think this is mirrored in the book of Nehemiah, in the life of Nehemiah. I have found much encouragement from reading through the small, mundane, daily role of the workers on that wall. They didn’t give up. They worked together. They had many obstacles, but overcame.

It seemed like a simple order to rebuild a wall. Yet, I can’t imagine it was easy to keep at it every day. It had to be hard to keep looking toward the end goal. Not many jobs are extraordinary, there is always a part of our lives that is mundane. But God has called us to it. He has called us to be faithful to Him, to see a need and meet it, to work to the best of our ability for His glory. He doesn’t ask us to change the whole world. He wants us to change OUR world, sometimes by faithfully completing everyday tasks with His love.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9