Fruit of the Spirit in Foster Care

Once I started to become invested in foster care, I began to see everything through a new lens. I did the same thing when I was a paramedic. Everything I watched, read, or heard was related back to EMS. Becoming truly immersed in a topic causes you to see everything differently. As I’ve been thinking about how to share the message of foster care, I started to think about classic passages and stories from the bible. It’s pretty easy to see that many popular passages can be used to encourage people who are considering foster care, or are in the middle of it. The fruit of the spirit is a great example.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)


Love: “That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.” Bob Goff wrote that in his book aptly titled Love Does. It’s impossible to be passive in foster care. Love is an action, and foster care is a very active ministry.

Joy: Children have an inherent joy about how they live their lives. The same is true for kids in foster care. It’s incredible how much joy our kids still possess even after the trauma’s they have experienced. We can learn a lot from them. Rend Collective says “Seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit, but joy is”

Peace: Peace can feel like a distant memory when you welcome a new child into your home, especially a child who has experienced trauma. John 16:33 says I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. You will undoubtedly face trials in foster care, but with the love and support of a strong foster care community, like Thornwell, you can find peace in the midst of the chaos.

Longsuffering: Most translations say patience, but the NKJV uses the word longsuffering, which I think is much more fitting when it comes to foster care. If you have kids, you know the truth to the saying that ‘patience is a virtue’. It can feel a lot like longsuffering.  Kids in foster care need you to be patient with them. They come from some pretty hard places, and need time to adjust to their new normal.

Kindness: Being kind to someone who isn’t being kind to you is a challenge. The children who you welcome into your home won’t always be kind. Sorry if I ruined that for anybody. Many times children express their past hurts through harsh words, because they don’t know how to handle all of the new emotions they are experiencing. Understanding that those hurtful words are not a personal attack can help you respond with the kindness that those kids need.

Goodness: God is good. We know this, but when we hear about some of the injustices and horrors that kids in foster care have lived through, it’s important to be reminded of His goodness. His goodness is greater than any badness that our kids experience. One of the great things about having the Bible is that we know the end of the story. We know that good defeats evil. We know that love wins every time.

Faithfulness: Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12 NLT) Whenever I’m talking to someone who is frustrated in the licensing process, I encourage them to keep fighting. Foster care truly is the good fight. Fighting for love, safety, and justice for children is always the right thing to do.

Gentleness: Kids in foster care are usually used to living in harsh environments. They’re used to harsh responses and harsh punishments. Providing calm and gentle responses can play a huge role in building trust and attachment with our foster kids. If you don’t believe me, it says so in the Bible: A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. (Proverbs 15:1 NLT)

Self-Control:  In the Teaching Family Model, this is called quality components. The ability to maintain your composure and remain kind and gentle in the face of a tantrum or hateful words from a child who is hurting, when all you want to do is yell back at them. Like many things, it’s a tough but invaluable skill when working with kids from hard places.


It’s easy to say “master these things and you’ll be perfect foster parents.” It’s true, but unattainable. The best we can do is to strive to be better than we were yesterday. As long as you’re trying, you’re headed in the right direction.

Why Foster Care

As of last week, I am officially a foster care recruiter. I say officially because I feel like ever since we became Family Teachers 2 and a half years ago, we have been advocating for foster care and have shared the joys and hardships with anyone who will listen. We’ve been unofficially recruiting people for years, but now I have a business card that says it’s my job. This has forced me to think about and answer the question of why foster care is important. 3 years ago, my answer was “because my wife said so.” Since then it has taken over my life in the craziest and best way.

We were at a conference this weekend, and the opening speaker, Jason Johnson, spent Friday night talking about why we do foster care. It boiled down to this – Why foster care? Because Jesus.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God, but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantage of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that – a crucifixion. (Philippians 2:5-8 MSG)

We can do hard things because Jesus did hard things. Foster care is hard, no doubt. But you can do it.

What if you don’t love Jesus? Why should you do foster care? I believe whole heartedly that everyone should know and love the Jesus that I know and love, but I’m also wise enough to know that not everybody thinks like me. There are plenty of reasons to do foster care that aren’t spiritual. Foster care is a chance to love someone who has never felt loved. It’s the opportunity to meet a need in your community and show love to neighbors and coworkers by caring for their kids when they’re struggling. Being a foster parent exposes your children to a life of service and teaches them to live for others, not just for themselves. Maybe your childhood wasn’t great, you can use that experience to help a child who has gone through some of the same things, and to provide a positive, loving, home environment that you may have never had.

It’s said that if you can help a child, you don’t have to spend years repairing an adult. Regardless of your motivation, whether it’s spiritual or not, you have the chance to make the world a better place. Helping kids now will reduce the likelihood of serious issues when they’re adults. Teen pregnancy, violence, homelessness, and many other societal problems can be reduced or avoided if we can give kids the best start we can. If they experience appropriate love and acceptance from birth, they will have better views of themselves and others, which will make the world a better place.

Long story short – You should be involved in foster care. As me how.

Love Wins

Yesterday was Stand Sunday, an extension of Orphan Care Sunday that is organized by the Christian Alliance for Orphans. Orphan Sunday shines a spotlight on the global orphan crisis. Stand Sunday puts the focus on foster care in the United States. In case you weren’t aware, we care a lot about foster care. It’s impossible to be involved in foster care and not be forever impacted by it. Find out more about Stand Sunday here.

Many people this past week have expressed feelings of disappointment, fear, and uncertainty. While those feelings are justified given current events, those are the same feelings that hundreds of thousands of foster kids feel every day. I’m not knowledgeable or experienced enough to comment on anything political, but I know foster care. If you want to talk about a population that has been stereotyped, marginalized, ignored, and traumatized by a damaged system, lets talk about foster care.

400,000(ish) kids that have been abused, neglected, experienced the death of a parent, or something equally horrible. Kids in foster care live every day with uncertainty and fear about their future. They are distrustful and angry at the system that is supposed to be helping them. They have to handle daily disappointments, like parents not showing up for a visit or being away from their family for a holiday. Foster care is a broken system. There are many people working really hard to make it better, but like most things, only the negatives get publicized.

So what can we do? The answer is equally simple and challenging. Love others like Jesus loves them. 1 John 4 is my favorite passage on love. Verse 11 says Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. Verse 18 says 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. Kids often live in fear prior to entering foster care. Being taken from their families is a very scary experience. They’re scared of the uncertainty of where they’re going to live or if they will ever see their families again. They need to be loved like Jesus loves them. Foster kids are scared. Many Americans are scared. We need to respond with love. We know that perfect love drives out fear.

1 Corinthians 13 says If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. (v 1-3, NLT) 

I don’t know how to fix fear, but I know how to love people. I know how to be patient and kind. I try not to envy or boast. I don’t think I’m self seeking. I try (unsuccessfully at times) to not be easily angered. I don’t keep a record of wrongs. I don’t delight in evil but I do delight in truth. I do my best to always protect, trust, hope, and persevere. I’m pretty far from perfect, but love never fails. Love wins.

Foster Care is Messy

How He Loves is one of my favorite worship songs. I love the imagery of “Love’s like a hurricane I am a tree” and “If His grace is an ocean we’re all sinking.” God’s love is an overpowering love. His grace is an all-consuming grace. But often times, especially in foster care, that grace and love manifest themselves in pretty messy ways. John Mark McMillan, writer of the song, says this about it’s most controversial lyric:

HEAVEN meets EARTH like a sloppy wet kiss

The idea behind the lyric is that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth converge in a way that is both beautiful and awkwardly messy. Think about the birth of a child, or even the death of Jesus himself. These miracles are both incredibly beautiful and incredibly sloppy (“gory” may be more realistic, but “Heaven meets earth like a gory mess” didn’t seem to have the same ring). Why does the church have such a problem with things being sloppy? Do we really think we’re fooling anyone on Sunday morning, especially God? Are we going to offend him? I mean, he’s seen us naked in the shower all week and knows our worst thoughts, and still thinks we’re awesome. What if we took all the energy we spent faking and used that energy to enjoy the Lord instead? That could be revolutionary!

Foster care is messy. It’s a hand and feet, in the trenches ministry that looks sin and brokenness in the face and stands tall with the confidence that If God is for us,who can be against us? (Romans 8:31b). The foster care system is a mess. Working with kids from hard places can be a mess (literally and figuratively. This picture was taken after a 3 year old got so mad playing with moon sand that he took all his clothes off, underwear included) Foster care is hard and frustrating and messy, but through it all, God is present and working miracles in the lives of our children.

As messy as it is, and as dramatic as that last paragraph was, foster care really is a beautiful mess. It’s also a pretty fun one. Jon Acuff said “Messy is a lot more fun than perfect.” It’s such a privilege to provide a secure and loving family for a boy or girl who has spent their childhood  living in uncertainty and fear. We have so much fun with our boys, especially when it’s messy, and it’s always amazing to see a group of strangers turn into a big (mostly) happy family, if only for a short time. The opportunity to serve kids in foster care has changed our lives for the better, and it will be forever changed. Once you enter the messy world of hurting and needy children, It’s impossible for things to remain the same.

We see and hear an unfortunate amount of stories about how children are mistreated, neglected, and abused. These little kids have experienced lifetimes of traumas that would give adults nightmares. It’s our job to find the beauty in the mess. To show them God in the middle of the darkness and teach them that in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37 emphasis added) 

Our kids come with baggage from past hurts and experiences that is incredibly complicated, but the changes that we see in kids over days, weeks, and months of showing them consistent love and support is remarkable, and there’s only one answer for it. We like to think that it’s our systems and our love, but in reality it’s much more like the song. Heaven is meeting earth like a sloppy wet kiss. Except in our case it’s more like a 2 year old eating spaghetti or multiple conversations about why flushing the toilet is important. Messy and dirty and sometimes pretty gross, but beautiful and redeemed.

Foster

May was National Foster Care Month, so this post is a few days late, but we just got back from vacation and have been quickly reacquainted with cottage life. In my last post I talked about some of the whys and hows of foster and orphan care. I talked about some of the more simple things that you can do and I referenced some other ways you can help. What are those other things? What are some of the practical things that we can do to benefit kids in foster care?

The first thing you could do is become a foster parent. Take the courageous risk to open your home to children who have never experienced appropriate love and affection. Dare to get too attached. Some of you have thought about it. Maybe had some serious conversations. Usually it’s the wife’s idea and she has to convince the husband. Jason Johnson (one of my favorite foster care bloggers. Read all his stuff here) says “If you keep thinking, talking and praying about it you’d probably be great at it, and just need to do it.” You’re the type of people who would be incredible foster parents. You’re the couple who understands the weight of the decision and the vulnerability and humility that it takes. Praying is awesome, and it’s the right thing to do especially when you’re unsure about a big decision. But sometimes you have to stop praying and just do it. Actions speak louder than words.

What are the next steps if you are considering becoming foster parents? Do some research into foster care in your area. Google [your state] foster care to see what the system is like in your area. Read blogs or books about foster care. Find foster parents in your church and talk to them about their experience. Talk about it with friends and family. Pray about it. Get information from your local foster care association. Fill out an application and attend an orientation class.

What if you can’t become a foster parent? You can support a foster parent. If you know a foster family in your church or in the community, find out what they need and do you best to provide that for them. It might be babysitting, making frozen meals, mentoring, academic support, or any number of things. The key is to go to them and ask how you can be of service. Speaking from personal experience, foster parents are very reluctant to ask for help, but they will usually accept help if it is offered. Foster kids often arrive with very few clothes. Hand-me-downs and gift cards for random late night Walmart trips are huge. It’s very helpful to have a freezer meal ready for those nights when the schedule is crazy or you get a new foster placement unexpectedly. Gift cards for restaurants are great because with some extra mouths to feed it can get pricey, and nobody is in foster care for the money. Respite care is another way to support foster parents. You’ll go through the same process and get the same training as foster parents, but you can use that training to help assist foster families by providing a place for their foster kids to go if they need a few nights off. It could be a couple hours for date night or a weekend getaway. For foster parents, breaks like that are essential to longevity and effectiveness. In order to be the most successful, foster parents need support just as much as the children they are caring for. The old adage ‘It takes a village’ rings just as true in foster care as it does in so many other areas.

I’ll end with a guilt trip question. Why not? If you’re not doing something to help kids in need, what is stopping you? Some of you may have very valid reasons, but I’m sure there are some of you who have been thinking and praying about it, but have been fearful to take the leap. I’m here to encourage you. Do it. You don’t have to jump right into high level therapeutic foster care, but you can learn about the foster care system in your area. It won’t always be easy, but it’s worth it to be a part of something with such eternal implications.

And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

Foster Care is hard

For my Family Teacher colleagues and anyone else involved in the foster care world, that title is an understatement. Especially today, especially in our cottage. There are many parts of foster care that could win the title of worst part, but saying goodbye is very near the top of the list. Often when we are talking to people about our jobs we hear things like “I could never do what you do. I would get too attached. It would be too hard to say goodbye.” Guess what folks, we get attached to the kids in our care. I don’t think it’s possible to become ‘too attached’ but if it is, we get too attached. It’s hard to say goodbye. Really hard. Too hard sometimes. But we do it.

Foster care is such a bittersweet ministry. Ideally, foster care would never be needed. In a perfect world, all children would be able to experience a safe, consistent, unconditionally loving family. Kids should always have adequate food, water, and shelter. They deserve the opportunity to get an education and have access to appropriate entertainment and recreation. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. Children experience things they never should, and need systems and people in place to provide what they need when their family can’t or won’t. We love being those people and we are happy to be part of that system. It doesn’t mean we are glad when a child is abused or neglected, but we are glad to be there when they are. I would tell patients on the ambulance that I’m not happy that they got sick or injured, but I’m happy I could be the one to help them. I tell kids the same thing. I’m not happy that you got taken away from your family, but I’m happy that you are here with us now.

Foster care is hard. All Heidi and I know is foster care in a group setting. I’m sure there are a lot of differences between what we do and private foster families, but there’s also many commonalities. We take care of good kids going through really hard stuff. In our house, we have of 8 kids going through 8 different traumas. That means 8 different reactions and opinions, 8 different parenting styles and attachments. It’s hard to manage. Each child is so different and it requires so much time and energy to develop and maintain positive relationships with each of them. We’re lucky to have 24/7 support if needed and scheduled time off, which is something foster families don’t always get. That has to be hard. Foster care is exhausting.

Saying goodbye is the worst. Especially when you’re ‘too attached’ to them. Especially when you’re not sure what they’re going back to. When people say “It would be too hard for me to say goodbye to them” they imply that it’s easy for us. Nope. Not even close. We had to say goodbye today to a boy who cried inconsolably when he first moved in with us because he wanted so badly to go home. Last night when he was told that he was going home he cried because he didn’t want to leave all of his friends. To quote our teammate who was charged with telling him the plan: “What do you say to a little guy being discharged tomorrow who is crying in his bed because he may never see everyone here again?” There’s no good answer. You tell him how much you love him and that you won’t stop loving him even after he’s gone. You fake excitement that he’s being reunited with his family, even when you’re screaming on the inside because you know it’s a bad idea. You sit and cry with him, telling him how thankful you are for your time together and for the impact he’s had on your life. You pray with him and ask God to protect him and for him to feel God’s love. You give him your contact information and tell him to call you whenever he needs something. You don’t know what to say or what to think. You want to be optimistic and hope that everything works out for the family. Sometimes though, horrible and selfish as it is, you secretly hope that something else happens and they come back into foster care so they can live with you again. You feel like that’s their only chance to be properly loved and provided for. Then that actually happens, and all over again you don’t know what to say or how to feel.

Foster care is hard. I’ve used 755 words to scratch the surface of the difficulty and unfairness of the foster care system. So why do we do it? Why do people like us choose to be a part of a system that often ends up harming the ones they long to protect? Why would anyone willingly enter the brokenness, frustration, and exhaustion that comes with caring for foster kids? Because that’s what Jesus did. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8).” We can do hard things (like foster care) because Jesus did hard things. We choose brokenness, frustration, and exhaustion because that’s what Jesus chose. We love because we are loved.

It’s very easy to get burned out working in foster care. It’s a calling that’s incredibly physically, emotionally, and spiritually taxing. But, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). Sometimes that harvest is a kid knowing what it means to be safe. When a kid says yes when you ask ‘do you know that I love you’, that’s the harvest. It’s easy to become weary, but a random hug from a kid who’s had a bad day gives you hope that your work is not in vain. Foster care really is a beautiful ministry. It’s a system that both meets a short term need and has long term benefits. It’s the hands and feet of Jesus in the trenches of an eternal battle. It’s not glamorous or popular, but it’s needed and rewarding.

I’ll end on an upbeat note. 1 John 4:19 says that we love because He first loved us. We are so loved, beyond anything we can comprehend. Know that you are loved, and there is nothing quite like the love of God. Listen to this song and be happy because of how loved you are.

First Birthday!

Our little blog is turning 1! Heidi made the first post one year ago and we could not be happier with the response we have gotten from friends, family, and colleagues. A lot has happened in this past year, and blogging has helped us share our joy, our struggles, our challenges, and our ever changing family with you guys. “Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” (Swedish Proverb) It has helped us cope with losses and it has helped us become better foster parents. I have been able to think through a lot of things and figure stuff out while writing that I probably wouldn’t have figured out on my own.

Some fun facts about our first year: We published 26 blog posts (27 counting this one) that were read 2,869 times by 1,934 people. Our blog has been viewed by people in 14 countries. The most popular post has been Uncomfortable, followed closely by Loving When It Hurts. Since we started this blog we have had about 35 kids come through Bryan Mac. Heidi and I had the chance to attend a great orphan care conference that continues to stick with us and inspire new ideas and ventures. We’ve started the process of obtaining our foster care/adoption license, and have moved from an apartment into a house closer to campus.

To celebrate our first year, we’re changing up the look of the blog. New year, new look. New look, same great blog. Heidi and I are so glad that you have enjoyed hearing from us, and we are excited to see what will happen in the coming year. Feel free to let us know if there is anything about our lives or jobs that you’d like to read more about. We’d love to hear from you!

An Attempt 

It’s been a while since I’ve written out my thoughts. Jonathon has done such a great job of putting his emotions on our blog, so I’ve let him 🙂  A lot has gone on the last several months that I’m still just processing. My silence has been on purpose. We’ve had a lot of new, raw trauma – first and secondhand.

One of our sweet boys had a major surgery. We’ve seen many leave our home and campus that we weren’t prepared for. Going through our own adoption license training. All of this causes me a continuous heartache and tension. I’m a person who needs closure. I need a definitive end to something. I know that the deep meaning of foster care is just the opposite of that. There’s no closure. Kids are always in transition. There are sudden changes. Nothing is predictable. The nature even of my own cottage is to assess kids and move them. This is where I wonder exactly what God was thinking, calling me to this job and this home. I live without closure. It has, no doubt, been a journey of sanctification and trust.

Right now I think God is just keeping me here, in the thoughts of trust and sanctification. Daily I sink into the fact that I’m not in control, that I can’t really change anything, that I don’t measure up, that I can try at this job, but I don’t make a difference. I get so angry and frustrated at the things that should be simple, but for some reason they can’t be. It drives me crazy to not have the final say about my kids most days. I’m in charge, but I’m not in control. There’s a difference, and it feels as wide as an ocean.

My upbringing and ‘Good Christian’ side tell me to combat this by trusting in God and giving it to Him because it’s Him who does it all. He makes me measure up. He prompts the change. He makes the difference. He is just.

But let’s please remember that I’m a feelings person. Please. I need the feelings! But the fact is, they aren’t there. Trusting in God with my children doesn’t feel great. So I have to get a grip. Even when every part of my flesh is pulling me to control as much as I can, Jesus died so that I could be free of that temptation and desire.

Oh how easily I forget that God also knows my kids. I am more and more protective of each child the longer I am a mother. I learn how to love each one in a unique way. I love doing that. I feel like I’m made to do that. I was made to do that. I deeply value the relationship I have with each of our kiddos, but there are a plethora of people who make more important decisions or have more opinions than me when it comes to each kid’s situation. Many days being the actual foster parents feels like the least heard or valued opinion within a sea of other voices. Now, I understand that we are all working together to keep the child safe, but it just hasn’t felt that way. I feel bitterness and frustration creeping in on me.

I have to breathe. I have to tell myself that God is in control. I have to be confident that He has guided our steps to this specific job, even on days that I want to quit. He reassures me that even in the chaos, miscommunication, and factors of a broken system, God knows my kids. He can protect them better than I can. I have found a way on Earth to connect and relate to them, but He knows what their every thought is! He created them.

So I live in limbo. I live without the closure, ever attempting to trust a wise, all-knowing God with my most treasured earthly possessions. Writing is out makes it seem so simple. Getting past myself brings the complication.

July 7th

July 7th is a pretty big day for Heidi and I. This year on July 7th, we celebrate 3 years of marriage as well as 1 year as employees at Thornwell. I have been blessed beyond comprehension by my wife, and we have both been blessed by Thornwell more than we could’ve imagined.

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (‭Ruth‬ ‭1‬:‭16‬ NIV)

This verse was read at our wedding. Ever since I’ve known Heidi, I’ve known that she has a passion for traveling. She has always talked about going crazy places to do crazy things. That’s reason #1438 why I love her: She is always thinking about what is next, where we can go, and what we can do to advance God’s kingdom here on earth. She has incredible vision, and as much as I want her to just settle down and take a breath sometimes, our marriage is better, and I am better because she is constantly pushing us to be better.

When Trenton Livingston read that verse to our family and friends, I don’t think I took it seriously. I’ve been around enough to know that change is one of the only constants in this life. But I was a paramedic and she was a teacher. We were starting the process of buying a house. We had family and friends that we cared about. We were serving at our church locally and internationally. We were in a good place. But God being God, He called us out. He said “Hey, remember that verse that you picked for your wedding? Did you mean it? Will you really go where I go?” I guess for some reason I assumed that if we were going to move somewhere, it was going to be internationally. I figured that all of our family and friends were in Michigan and New York, and if we were going to follow God somewhere else, it would be to serve him in a different country. I was wrong. Really wrong.

This led us to Thornwell. Selling the house we had owned for less than a year, quitting jobs, having to tell family and friends that we were moving. There was a lot of confusion from others and uncertainty from us. There were a lot of questions and doubts about where we were going and what we were going to be doing and why.

July 7th is the day we began our Family Teacher training in Clinton, South Carolina. There is never enough training to prepare you for this job. This is primarily a ‘learn by doing’ job, and I feel like we have been mostly successful in doing that (another advantage to an EMS background.) Music is a big part of our lives, and during our transition down here, Oceans by Hillsong meant a lot to us, or at least to me. “You called me out upon the water. The great unknown, where feet may fail.” Taking this job felt very much like stepping out of a boat in the middle of a lake. We had no idea where we were going, what we would be doing, or if we would even survive down here (thanks to fire ants, I almost didn’t!) But, as per usual, God was faithful. There were plenty of times early on, and even still, that we felt like we were drowning, but he was always there to make sure we didn’t die. “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.” We’re in deep. We’re doing nitty gritty, hands and feet of God stuff. It’s not glamorous, not prosperous, often it’s not fun, but we’re doing it. We’re definitely deeper than our feet could ever wander. I didn’t even know that this job existed a year and a half ago, but now I’m in way over my head.

Another one of my favorite worship songs is How He Loves. I see God’s love every day when I look at my wife of 3 years. I see His love in the faces of the innocent lives He has called us to care for. If we can comprehend the tiniest sliver of how loved we are, then we don’t have a choice but to love others. I think the second verse of Oceans sums it all up really well, so I’ll end with that.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

–Mr. Jon

Loving When It Hurts

Not that I haven’t been honest before, but I need to be honest. The last month has been a struggle for me. We have an especially young group of kids. This makes things fun, more energetic, a little more chaotic, but lots more hugs and kisses. Ms. Heidi is completely okay with that! But when the fun, cute part of ‘six kids 6 and under’ starts to become realistic, it can be pretty overwhelming. Not only is that a large number of car seats, tons of water for baths, lots of food to cut up at dinner, and many spills and tears; in this job, it means six kids who don’t comprehend what is happening in their family. Six little minds that are confused, lonely, and scared with no answers to soothe them. Six most precious babies that don’t want a strange lady to hold them, but only their mom. They don’t yet realize how much they cannot control their lives; that they are at the mercy of the Courts. All of these small people who need so much take a toll on this heart.

Being the empathetic person that I am, this has been particularly tough. When we had more middle school boys, the stories and trauma weren’t any simpler, but they could process it better. We could sit down and listen to their fears and questions and provide some source of comfort. They understand why their house isn’t safe or why they need to be removed. Not that age and the ability to reason helps anyone understand why people they love make bad choices, but there is some consolation in seeing why things aren’t safe. We can’t do that with our current group. We have some third graders who grasp much more than they should have to, but all the others, they don’t get it. They want their parents, their bed, their school, their familiar surroundings. All they understand is that they can’t have those. With my experience as a teacher, working with kids, and my own health issues at a young age, I’m pretty good at simplifying something in order to explain it. Give me the inter-workings of the cell membrane, the importance of thiamin and niacin in your diet, or why I don’t work right without insulin, and I can tell you. I can break it down, say it without the complexities, only tell you what is truly important to know. I would LOVE to figure that out and explain it to you! But this month we’ve had to explain why Mom didn’t call when she promised, why they didn’t have water in their house, why he wants to hurt himself at age 7, why his Dad put handcuffs on him. With older kids, they realize through our conversations that drugs make people do bad things or that being loved when there’s not money to feed them means they can’t live at home. Small children don’t get that. You can’t explain that to young kids. My non-emotional husband tried to explain to a child just yesterday that he experienced things at home that no one should ever experience. He couldn’t get it out. Jonathon couldn’t even say it without his voice cracking.

We feel the weight of their situation even when they don’t. We are so sad that we could not have stopped those horrible things or prevented the tragedy they lived through. I have always told the kids in our home that they are loved, that no matter what they do that we will be there for them. This month, this week even, I have offered myself as their Mom until they can live at home again. I’m learning that they just need to attach. They don’t need or understand the reasons. They just need someone to love them, unconditionally.

It’s all so hard to explain, but I have this great, wonderful gift from God to see His children for who they are. I rarely see our kids as the misbehaved, annoying children others see, but I see them as hurting and forgotten. I see them with great potential. I look into their lives and personalities, not just things on the surface. Hence, there are heavy burdens. It would make my job easier to be annoyed with them, to not truly love, to simply fulfill the daily tasks of parenthood. My heart would be lighter, but I would not be living out the call God has placed on my life, on our life. It sounds all very loaded and overwhelming, but it’s not. Some weeks, this week, it was. This month has been especially hard. But each day I feel absolutely and completely that we’re doing what we are supposed to be doing. Casting Crowns says it the best in their song “Love Them Like Jesus”

You’re holding her hand, you’re straining for words
You’re trying to make sense of it all
They’re desperate for hope, darkness clouding their view
They’re looking to you

Just love them like Jesus, carry them to Him
His yoke is easy, His burden is light
You don’t need the answers to all of life’s questions
Just know that He loves them and stay by their side
Love them like Jesus

Lord of all creation holds our lives in His hands
The God of all the nations holds our lives in His hands
The Rock of our salvation holds our lives in His hands
He cares for them just as He cares for you