Better Together

Better Together

“Hi there Ms. Kim. I’m sorry to bother you again, but we’ve run out of food stamps. If you have anything, even leftovers in the fridge, I’d really appreciate it just for my daughter. Sorry to bother, but I really don’t want her to be hungry when she gets home from school.”

For the last two years, we’ve volunteered as a host home through the Safe Families program where we temporarily house children from families that are in crisis so kids don’t have to be taken from their families into foster care. This call was from one of those families that needed support and the daughter had stayed at our house this past spring.

Thankfully, she was reunified with her mom and their case was closed, but we had grown so close to them that we continue to remain in contact. Every Sunday we pick her up for service at our church and every Friday night, we bring her to our church Awana program. Then in between, we have play dates and occasionally we get these calls when they just need a little bit more support.

When this particular call came, I was already in a frazzled state trying to get things ready for the busy holiday weekend ahead. However, I could not ignore this woman’s plea for help as she reminded me that this time of year is not so merry and bright for everyone. It is, in fact, the hardest time of year for many, and the hardship of life stung deeply as I thought of this struggling family on the other end of the line who had become like family to us.

Soon enough, I got into my car and headed over to their home to make a grocery run, my mind now sober from the holiday frenzy I had been caught up in. When the door opened, the girl who had stayed at our house wrapped her arms around my waist and I gave her a kiss on the head as mom also greeted me at the door with her newborn baby. They all smiled warmly but their faces could not hide their heavy spirits.

At the grocery story, we roamed down aisle after aisle as mom found food to stock up for the week. Some baby formula, packs of veggies, ground beef, etc. Although the reality had hit me hard of how tremendously difficult life can be, I also felt a warmth and peace from just seeing this family simply be together.

They were together, not separated or torn apart like many families are. And even in the midst of such dire need, they had countless inside jokes to tell as they chuckled back and forth with one another, shining the strength of their familial bond which could not be crushed by any lack or need.

It didn’t matter that they had to carefully scan the items to search for only the WIC approved food items on welfare because, well, the sparkling cider was also on sale and they were thrilled to be able to celebrate the holidays with a little something fancy and special. In fact, they got the 2 for 5 deal.

And looking at their clothes, you could quickly tell they were worn and dirty because they often don’t have the funds to do laundry. Still, they wrapped around one another snugly with an unshakable trust and love that was both fiercely beautiful and greatly respectable.

No, they don’t have much, but they do have each other. And that, to me, is the perfect way to spend the holidays no matter how crazy, unlovely, or even bleak the circumstances may be.  

Once I dropped them off back at home with their bags of groceries, I left their little apartment that had several blown out light bulbs, filth, and trails of rat droppings everywhere. While those things would normally bother me a great deal, I still felt good about their home because again, they were together.

But that is not the case for the little boy at my house who is currently apart from his family this Christmas. While we are a Safe Families home and love the ministry of keeping families together, we are also a newly certified foster home and take in the kids who have already been taken from their families by the state.

The holidays have not been easy for this boy, our foster child. Yes, he is being showered with love and gifts too many to count, but the sting and loss of being away from family is felt so much more this time of year. He’s too young to really verbalize what he’s feeling, but I can see it on his face.

Although he is now generally happy in our home with a peaceful disposition, there has been regression this time of year. He withdraws quietly away from us here and there. He occasionally stares out into nowhere and I wonder if his mind has wandered back to thinking of his own family. As we go around to see our own friends and family, I see he does not quite feel he belongs and likely longs for his own family and friends back home.

Whenever I see this sadness peer out of him, I wish so badly that he could be with his family–that they could be happy and cheerful and just simply together–just like the girl who was reunified with her mother. But they can’t, not now anyways. His mom isn’t ready, and we don’t know when or if she ever will be.

So for now, we are his family. Not perfect by any means, but we are together. And leading up to Christmas this year, we started the tradition of writing letters to Jesus for His birthday.  

When Christmas morning arrived, we decided to share all the letters we wrote. To our surprise, it was our foster son—who had mostly been down and despondent all week—who jumped up to be the first one to read. With a bashful smile on his face, he slowly read his letter aloud:

“I… I… Irene… is the best mom… ever.”

Then he flashed a smile again and quickly hid his face behind the green construction paper he had written on.

I know he misses his mom so much. I know it’s so hard for him to be away from home. I know he waits for the day he can go back. Yet he, too, seems to know how to make the best of his circumstances and can even be thankful and happy that he is together with us this Christmas. And we are too.

Even when things are hard and far from perfect, being together counts for a lot.

For this reason, we will continue to support the families through Safe Families so they can stay together, and we will continue to love the foster children who come into our home for as long as we are together as well.

Whoever you are with this holiday season, no matter how imperfect things may be, remember you are together and you can hold each other close and, together, celebrate the joy of the birth of Jesus Christ and the pure goodness and light He brings into all of our homes.

Merry Christmas everyone, from our family to yours.


“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6



Choose Kindness

Choose Kindness

I used to think I was a somewhat peaceful, gracious, and patient person.

Then I had kids. HA. And I realized, okay, I’m really not that patient after all.

Then we started foster care. HAHA. Well, that’s when I realized I’m actually a monster. Or at least I can be. Maybe not all the time, but there is definitely a monster somewhere there inside me that I have seen over and over again lash out.

Most people assume my family must be really nice, you know, for doing foster care and all. However, I kind of cringe anytime we get praised for it because I know what really goes down inside our home and it is often not very pretty.

In fact, we have many ugly moments. Then we have really ugly moments in between those.

Not to make excuses, but homeschooling three kids while also keeping up with my foster child and all that he is going through at school (and in life in general) has taken a toll on me.

On your average day, I am dashing from child to child, to math lesson to reading lesson, to calls from the social worker to calls from the principal (“Excuse me he did what again? Throw the desks and chairs across the room?), to therapist appointments to doctors appointments, to messy spills to meltdowns to fist fights. All the while, I cannot forget to throw some food on the table every few hours so we can all stay fed and hydrated and more importantly, not hangry.

That, in a nutshell, is a little bit of why monster Irene has been coming out as of late.

But then I look at my husband’s parents (my in-laws) who live with us, and they challenge me so much to be better.

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to get away from all the craziness for a long overdue date-night while his parents watched our kids. I’m always so grateful for their bravery and willingness to watch them even though they know very well how difficult they can be at times.

So off we went on our movie date and we had an amazing time. Yet just as soon as we got out of the movie, I checked my phone and saw a text from my 7-year-old son through my in-laws’ phone:

“This is Micah. Rell is not listening to me. And I kicked him in the head. I am sorry.”

Oh boy, I thought. What happened. Please let there be no injuries.

So immediately, my husband and I went to our phone and opened the Nest monitor app to see what the camera at home caught:


8:06 –
Grandma tells Micah and Rell to read together on their own while she gets the other two kids ready for bed.

8:10 –
Rell keeps screaming for grandma to come read to him.
Micah keeps telling him that they have to read together.

8:20 –
Rell begins rolling around on the floor still screaming for grandma to come read to him.

8:30 –
Micah says, “Stop acting like a baby.”


Did he say baby? Oh no, I thought. I then braced myself for what might be coming next.


8:31 –
Rell puts his fists up and starts yelling at the top of his lungs, “I AM NOT A BABY!!!!!”…
over and over again.
Rell gets in Micah’s face.
Micah jumps onto the bed.
Micah kicks Rell in the head Streetfighter style.
Rell falls down but immediately jumps up and slams Micah into the wall.
Boys are screaming and tackling each other full force.
Daughter stands frozen at the door and quietly says, “Um I think we should call mommy.”

8:33 –
Micah walks out of the room.
Rell is crying uncontrollably and shrieking so loud that I’m sure the police will come. Grandpa comes in.
Grandpa holds Rell and gently begins to rock him while saying in a soft, gentle voice,
“It’s ok. Good boy Rell. You’re a good boy. It’s ok. Good boy. You’re a good boy. Caaaalm down. It’s okay.”
Although still sobbing, immediately Rell begins to calm down.

8:36 –
Grandma comes in with Micah.
Grandma says in the kindest voice,
“Okay boys. Say sorry. Good boys. You are good boys. You are brothers. You love each other, right? Give each other a big hug.”
Micah and Rell slowly look at each other, snot still dripping down the face, and they say sorry.


Shocked at the grandparents’ ability to maintain composure, I thought, that’s it? I would’ve gone ballistic, psycho mom, on them if I were there. But that is always their choice of response–kindness.


8:40 –
Micah and Rell sit closely together on Micah’s bed and Micah reads Rell a story.
even laugh together at the funny parts.


And that was it. I then turned off the camera recording, hugged my husband, buried my head into his chest, and let out a huge sigh of relief because we have come such a long way.

That fight might have appeared to be really intense to an outsider, but to us, that was great progress. And actually, incidents like that were already getting less and less frequent. Sure they fight sometimes, but through the struggle, they are also growing and learning to genuinely love and enjoy each other these days more than ever. We have many more moments of laughter, drawing, playing legos, having fun, etc., more than anything else.

The reason for this? I know it is largely due to what we are learning from my in-laws.

I’ve been growing too. In the day to day grind, I really make an effort now to respond with patience and kindness. For example, rather than to enter into a screaming match with a kid (and believe me I always win in volume and fierceness), I force myself to dig deep, deep, deep inside to reach in and find any trace of gentleness I can find. To hold back snappy responses and punitive consequences and to extend grace and patience instead, just as I have always seen my in-laws doing.

Their example alone challenges me to want to do better.

To choose patience, to choose grace, to choose kindness as often and as generously as I can. The world needs more ones like my in-laws, and my kids and I, for one, are tremendously blessed to be their children and witness how they live out their faith and love this way on a daily, moment by moment basis.

*And for the record, no one was seriously hurt from the little brawl mentioned above or any other brawl in our home. No form of abuse has been inflicted upon these children. Also, you have been given fair warning: never call a 5 year-old, “baby”… it is of the highest offense. 



“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Proverbs 16:24

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”
Isaiah 44:4


First Day of Kindergarten for Our Foster Kid

First Day of Kindergarten for Our Foster Kid

Our foster kid, Rell, just turned five over the summer and is now Kindergarten age. Since I recently made the decision to homeschool my own kids, I figured I would just homeschool him as well. Afterall, I had already done so much work with him not only academically, but behaviorally as well, and I couldn’t imagine a teacher at a school being able to tend to him and his special needs amongst a sea of other children.

His needs, I have come to see, are truly great, especially since he has come back to us after being taken away from his family for the second time. The mounting traumas he has experienced and the negative behaviors that have resulted from them are both great, and it has been difficult for even us to deal with it.

He is a different person since he was with us last year as a three-year-old. He was practically a baby then who knew little of what was happening back at home and innocently embraced us as his family. He quickly adapted to our lifestyle and learned what we taught to be right and wrong.

This year, now at the whopping age of five years old, he is already so much more aware of the crisis that have transpired. His emotions are infinitely more complex and therefore so is his pain. The resulting behaviors are more severe, and I, for one, am often at a complete loss as to how to respond to him. Really, it takes everything in me to simply remain calm and to not get all riled up myself when it seems as if every other minute there is something that sets this kid off into a rage.

It has become a daily battle to keep both his and my cool intact and to keep us from spiraling down into the snare of gritting anger and frustration… day after day, night after night.

But we’re not the only ones struggling. My oldest son (now seven years old) also has his fair share of grievances and a growing resentment which my husband and I have been desperately trying to keep at bay.

We’ve done everything we can to try to make them get along, to see the other’s perspective, and to empathize with one another. After all, the two were like best friends last year, inseparable really, and Rell had especially looked up to my son the most. Now, they have become like arch enemies, hostile and cold towards one another much of the time.

Well recently I was told that foster kids are required to go to public school, so I would not be able to homeschool Rell like I had planned.

Oh no, I thought. He’s not ready. I’m not ready.

You would think that we would all be relieved to have a break from having to address behavior after behavior, but instead, I became scared and even more stressed out thinking about how Rell would fare in school by himself. All my motherly instincts came out in full force.

Will they know how to talk him off the ledge when he gets all upset?

Will they take time to understand where he is coming from rather than just punish the behavior?

Will they wait for what can feel like an eternity when he is unable to gather his words and express how he is feeling?

Will they see how he is just a scared kid with a hurt heart and that his screaming and kicking and fighting is his defense?

I worried for this kid for his first day of Kindergarten just as much as, if not more, than my own kids.

The night before, I cuddled in bed with him a little closer and explained to him this and that, like how I would pack his lunch and also put a separate snack in the front pocket for his afternoon snack.

After a quiet pause, he asked in a timid voice, “but what if I forget?” He then buried his head into my arms.

That’s when my son chimed in from his bed on the other side of their room. He explained things to Rell that I didn’t even think to tell him.

In true big brother fashion, he said, “I’ll introduce you to my friends at the bus stop. It’s bus 777. I’ll walk you there too. But when you’re coming home on the bus, don’t forget to get off at the SECOND stop. One. TWO. Don’t get off at the first stop. Just look out the window and look for me. We’ll be there.”

I guess for my son, too, his brotherly instincts kicked in. No matter what qualms they had against each other, he would be there for him when in need.

So there we stood that bright and hot morning on the street corner waiting for the bus on the first day of school. My forehead was already glistening with sweat even though the morning had barely even started. Nervously, I stumbled around trying to think of what final words of wisdom I could say to Rell before the bus would arrive and tow him off to his first day of Kindergarten.

But it was too late. Before I could really say anything at all, the bus turned the corner and pulled up right in front of us.

All the other kids quickly crowded the curb, and a wave of hesitation and fear crept up on me as I’m sure it did to Rell as well.

Big brother, however, did not skip a beat. My eldest son immediately took Rell’s hand into his own and boldly paved a path to the door of the bus. He motioned him up the big gigantic bus steps and soon Rell’s little frame could be seen sitting through one of the windows towards the middle of the bus. I waved frantically to him and even ran with the bus several steps as he drove off and left the rest of us. I wanted him to know that no matter what happened at school that we were for him.

When the bus was no longer in sight, I turned back around to look at my children. It was then that I realized how much we all truly loved Rell despite all the difficulties as of late. I didn’t know what school would be like or if they’d know how to handle him well there. I also didn’t know if we really knew what we were doing at home either. But one thing was for sure and that was that deep inside, Rell is dearly and truly loved by each and every one of us.

My daughter whispered how she already missed him and wished he didn’t have to go. My youngest cried and hollered for the next half hour that Rell was gone.

And my eldest… well he quietly patted the little one’s head and tenderly said, “You love Rell? I know. I do too.”

I Am Not His Mom

I Am Not His Mom

One day last week I got a call from an unknown number in Westminster.

Westminster, I thought. This can’t be good.

The only time I ever got calls from Westminster was when we were going through the whole custody ordeal with the first little boy whom we hosted in our home last year. The one who stayed with us for 10+ months, became like part of our family, but then went back to his home in hopes that things would be better.

As soon as I answered, I could recognize the voice—it was the social worker who had worked on the boy’s case last year. Without any details, she asked me urgently if we could take the youngest boy again…and as soon as possible. He and his siblings had been taken the day before and were currently being sheltered.

There were a million things to consider of course, but I knew that in the end, our answer would be yes. So I agreed. But before we hung up, I asked her to please just tell me how he was doing. How did he look.

After a momentary pause, she responded with a soberness in her voice.

“Sad,” she said. “Dirty and sad. But as soon as CPS got him, he was crying out for you… and he wouldn’t stop saying your name all night.”

The very next morning, I got in the car and found myself taking that one-hour drive back down the same roads I had taken so many times before during that roller coaster of a time with him last year. We came for court cases, parental visitations, mediations, and more.

And now here I was again. So many emotions. So many thoughts. In a lot of ways, I felt really helpless and unsure, not knowing what was happening. Yet something drove me to keep going and told me I just had to go get him. Nothing else mattered.

After all, it’s not like he ever fully left us anyways.

Since his departure seven months ago, his pictures have yet to come down from our walls and he is still talked about just about everyday, if not by one of the kids, by me or my husband.

And while the circumstances that were bringing us back together again were not good (and I so, so, so wished he never had to go through this nightmare again), I still looked forward to seeing him again. To see him, to hug him, to look into his eyes. I’ve wondered so much about him almost every single day.

However, the reunion between he and I was far from what I imagined it to be–no huge smiles or bursting flowers and butterflies as we hugged. No, as soon as I arrived and spotted him at the social services office, he only glanced at me a quick second to register who I was. And although his eyes said he knew me, his posture told me to stay away.

What had happened to him.

When the paperwork was taken care of, we all walked back down the hall, and I was instructed to escort him to my car. That’s when I saw his fear escalate as I’m sure the place was familiar to him as well. It was where we had taken him from his mother the first time, screaming and kicking through the doors. And now we were doing it again.

His breathing grew heavier, tears welled up in his eyes, and he started to scream. With everything he had, he fought to get away, digging his nails into my arms, spitting, and wailing.

Back to square one, I thought, as I used everything I had to hold him down and buckle him in. A boy I knew so well now seemed like a stranger running away from his kidnapper. When I finally got him in, he continued to let out the loudest, most heart wrenching, soul trembling shrieks I have ever heard. Over and over and over again, all he could do was scream.

Against his will, he was being taken away, further and further, mile by mile. His life spinning completely out of his control… again. What else could he do?

Thankfully, he did calm down, and he warmed up pretty quickly to everyone back at home, remembering all the Korean names he picked up during his stay with us. Instantly, he called my husband “appa” for dad, my son “hyungah” for big brother, “halmuhnee and halabuhjee” for grandma and grandpa, and gave everyone big hugs.

But slowly, I noticed he was very different with me.

For starters, he told me that I am not “umma,” which is what he used to call me. He made it clear that I am not his mommy and that I was not his family.

At first, I couldn’t understand why he was singling me out. Was it because I was the one who had to take him from his home again? Was he mad at me for something I did when he was with us? Was he just older now and less comfortable with me as a mom, albeit a foster mom? Why only me?

As each day passed, I discovered more and more that for whatever reason, he had absolutely resolved not to let me get too close to him this time around.

The other day, for example, he sat happily drawing a picture of his family. At the very end, I saw him draw one more person and looked up at me to say, “and that’s you!” Yet just as those words left his mouth, a look of terror came over his face, and he told me I couldn’t be in the picture. He tried to find ways to take me out but eventually drew a new one altogether with me omitted.

“My mommy going to see it! You can’t be in there.”

Then, I knew. It was his mom. He wanted to be loyal to her and eventually even shared that he was put in the corner for calling me “umma.”

Of course. It all made sense.  

I don’t blame his mom for making that distinction for him. I am not his real mom after all and she has every right to be clear on that point. But what kills me is that at this moment, he is a broken boy who needs the comfort and warmth and love of a mom but he won’t let me fully in. He’s afraid, and my ache is not a personal offense, but it is that he has to deal with all of this brokenness in the first place in this fractured world.  

Sometimes at night when he is teary eyed over what has happened, he asks me to lay with him (next to him but not touching him), and I close my eyes to encourage him to sleep as well. Then just when he thinks I am asleep, I can feel him gently touch my hands and stroke my hair. I peek and I can see it in his eyes, even in the day, that he wants so much to be close and have that nearness, but he can’t show me.  

So I have let him take the lead. I tell him he can call me anything he wants to call me. He can hug me when and if he ever wants to. He doesn’t have to take any pictures with me or anything else, but I do stay close enough in case he ever does want to let me in. Whenever he’s ready.

In the meantime, we pray. There is a war in the spirit and we are still contending for this boy’s mom to be healed, freed, transformed, and well-equipped to raise her children. Both for her own sake and for the sake of her children. And while I am not a mom to him by name, I know God has called me to be so in this season. So until they are reunified, I will quietly play the part and pray that a healing process occurs in this boy’s heart as he stays with us.

Children, You Are Not Garbage

Children, You Are Not Garbage

Part of my decision to homeschool my children also meant (by nature of the job) that I am committing to remain a stay-at-home-mom, a position I quietly wrestle with from time to time. I think almost every American woman feels that tension between child rearing and going back to work because we are, in some sense, expected to do both or else we feel like we are not doing enough. Yet at the same time, trying to do both almost always makes us feel like we are not doing well in one or both areas. It is never an easy decision.

For me, I’ve really, really enjoyed being able to stay at home with the kids thus far, seven years in and counting. However, the thought of continuing to do so now for the next 10-15 years while homeschooling has me coming to terms with burying any possible hopes of a real career in the sand.

That is somewhat difficult to swallow.

Well anyways, this week, my children and I attended our summer homeschooling practicum (a sort of training week) to get ready for the year, and one day, the car was in the shop. Thankfully, the practicum happened to be less than a mile away from our house and it was a beautiful day, so the kids and I decided to walk.

We strapped on backpacks and lunch boxes, and on the way, I had lots of time to think about this whole being a stay-at-home-mom gig.

With the three kids skipping, running, prancing in front of me, I tried to envision my life moving forward and the questions kept coming.

Was I really ready to commit to this?

Then one kid stopped and threw off her shoes, fussing about the dirt that got in.

Could I really do this everyday?

Two began to bicker about who was faster.

Can’t I be more useful somewhere else at a more sophisticated job?

Another tripped and fell, causing a little blood to appear on his knee.

Yes, applying band-aid after band-aid and diffusing fight after fight, this is my life.

Then we turned a corner, and I looked up to see each little walking miracle continue on before me. The older so naturally took the younger one’s hand when getting close to an intersection and the other child hummed one of their favorite songs. They looked so big all of a sudden, so much older in a blink of an eye.

I couldn’t help but to marvel, and right away, I began to repent for downplaying the most beautiful job I have ever been given.

To be honest, I’ve recently come to dread the question of, “So what do you do for a living?”

An innocent and standard inquiry, I know. Yet somehow over the years, I have subconsciously taken this question to be a measure of how much value and worth I carry (maybe because of my insecurities) and it frustrated me. I know no one is trying to size me up by asking me what I do, but somehow I have always walked away feeling a little less-than for “just” being a stay-at-home-mom.… (although ever since I started working as a doula, I can say, “Oh I’m a doula!” and feel a little better about myself than being “just” a stay-at-home-mom).  

Well, I just want to take a moment to publicly repent (and also apologize to my children) for ever feeling any sort of shame or inferiority about staying home with my kids. I confess that I have subtly felt that way many times, but I only realized this while at the homeschooling practicum where I was surrounded by tons of other stay-at-home-moms who are so passionate about what they do.

It was absolutely freeing to be there, and by feeling this way, that’s when I realized it. I felt how relaxed I was, how I did not feel the need to prove or defend myself, or how I was not ashamed of not having a paid job or some “real” profession recognized by society or my kids’ friends or I don’t even know who else.

More than anyone, however, I knew it had been my own voice telling myself that I couldn’t be THAT proud of “just” staying at home. Sure, many people praise me and genuinely affirm me about what a noble task mothering is. Yet somehow, it has always felt a bit like lip service–almost like how one might feel for being praised for being the garbage man or the person who cleans dirty toilets. Sure, they get credit for doing the dirty work, but are they truly respected?

Well, since I’ve realized how distorted this way of thinking is, I just want to say…


I’m sorry for feeling like spending my days with you was not good enough for the world, and I’m sorry I couldn’t always be so proud of the magnificent honor of simply being with you, and I’m sorry I ever wondered if what I was doing was worth it to anyone else. That doesn’t even matter.

My children are my TREASURE… they are pure GOLD to me. I am thankful that I even have the option to be with them everyday. Not everyone does. Not everyone has that choice. But I do. I get to choose being with them and I am SO PROUD of this high honor. It will forever be my greatest “job”… to put my hands to the plow and plant seeds all day and every day in their lives, in their minds, in their hearts and to be able to see them all grow before my eyes. I really don’t know if it will be one more year or 15 more years (God willing), but for as long as I am given the time, they will be the most magnificent work I have everhad.

Now excuse me as I begin my first steps to climb this huge rugged mountain called homeschool. I’ve counted the cost and I know it will be one of the hardest things I will ever do. But I also know that when I reach the top, that I will look back on life and behold the most breath-taking, wonderful views of memories so precious and rich that it will have all been so absolutely worth it.

Never Fatherless

Never Fatherless

Father’s Day, to me, is a joy-filled day. Every father I’ve ever known has been amazing including my own dad, my husband, and many other male figures in my life. However, this past Father’s Day, I was reminded that this is not the case for everyone. There are many who have not had such good experiences with their dads and others who have never known their dads before at all—they have always been fatherless. An example of one such person sat with us in our living room this past Father’s Day morning.

It was another emergency hosting and this 10-year-old girl was seeking safety and shelter for the weekend. We didn’t think about how her stay with us would overlap with Father’s Day, how she didn’t have a dad, or how this day might be difficult for her. At least not at first.

But the moment we all woke up and I whispered into the kids’ ears to go give daddy a big hug for Father’s Day, I saw this girl’s momentary smile fade away while the rest of the kids continued to squeal and laugh as they took turns jumping on daddy’s back.

That’s when it dawned on me.

Right. She doesn’t have a dad. Think fast. What do I do.

For the next minute or so, I paused and drowned out the laughter in the background. I looked at her as she withdrew and tried to think about what was going through her mind.

What was she feeling? Was she sad? Was she angry? Was she numb, perhaps? After all, she had never even met her dad before.

I could not tell what she was thinking, but her blank stare simply told me that Father’s Day, to her, was not as joyous an occasion as it was to the rest of us.

So as covertly as possible, I nudged my husband’s arm. Very quickly, he caught on to the somber mood in the room. Immediately, both our eyes dropped down low as we frantically searched for the proper words to say, as if they were hidden somewhere on the floor.

Then at the same time, we briefly looked up at one another before moving into action, doing what I think we both would’ve naturally done if this was our own child who was suddenly sinking into the quicksand of sorrow.

Our bodies swiftly gravitated towards her, not allowing isolation and loneliness to accompany her a second longer. My husband joined her on the couch and wrapped his big arms around her. I sat at her feet on the floor and looked into her eyes. For a second, no one spoke, but it felt like a million words were exchanged in that silence as she finally allowed her tears to stream down and my husband held her tight.

She had already told us how she never met her father before, that he left when she was a little baby. At the time, however, she said it so matter of factly that I didn’t catch onto the hurt inside. But of course it was all in there somewhere. It had to be.

This was her dad we were talking about. The man who was her very own flesh and blood. The man who was meant to protect her, provide for her, and tell her how precious and beautiful she is. The man whom she was supposed to be able to safely come home to each day, even when everything else was falling apart. No matter what happened out there, she should have been able to find value in herself and the strength to face the world again, simply because her father told her everything was going to be okay.

This is the man who should have been here this day and every single day before. But he wasn’t there and he never was–not once. From birth until now, he has missed out on a million moments that beckoned his presence.

And whether she ever mentally knew this or not, her heart, her soul, her spirit knew it, and her entire being deeply and longingly missed all of that and more in this moment.

So there she was, bearing witness to our happy little moment on Father’s Day. For a minute there, I felt so badly for her that I was tempted to feel guilty and sorry that my children were given the fortune of having such an awesome dad. It just didn’t seem fair.

Where was her dad??

Nobody knew, but one thing was for sure. All those things that she had missed throughout her life from the absence of a father, she still desperately needed now.

And right there—in that need—was the hope.

Yes, her heart still needed and yearned for it. When that yearning is still alive and kicking and crying out, there is hope for a response, hope for life.

And on this day, my husband was there to answer her cry as she let it be known to us. He heard her unspoken questions, hurts, and longings, and he spoke to them warmly, telling her she was beautiful, that she was loved, that her pain was acknowledged, that she was seen, and that everything was going to be okay. In that exchange, I could visibly see some glimmer of hope and life being restored, even through just her eyes.

Although not from her real father, my husband was the messenger of the words, the strength, the validation she needed to receive. This is how God has used my husband, not only for our children, but also for the fatherless. To strengthen them in the knowledge that they are loved.

And perhaps because they have been fatherless on this earth, maybe their hearts’ yearning will continue to cry out that much stronger and that much louder and persist and never settle until they are found and answered by the perfect love of their true Father in heaven.

That is our greatest hope. Because when their yearning is met by God alone, the ultimate Father, Provider, Encourager, and Lover of their souls, they will be absolutely healed, transformed, and able to walk out the fullness of life that was intended for them.

Until then, we will continue to speak that truth on behalf of our Father.

Husband, you are an amazing dad and I am amazed at how you welcome the Lord to use you. Without striving and just by being you, you are being that father to both our children and to the fatherless on behalf of our mighty God.

Happy Father’s Day, to you and to our God!

Because of You, Lord, we are never truly fatherless.


“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”
Psalm 68:5

Okay, the Guinea Pig Can Come

Okay, the Guinea Pig Can Come

Today was full of surprises. For one, we were called to take in a last minute emergency hosting for a 10-year-old girl. Her mom had to unexpectedly go to the hospital, and I was instructed to meet the little girl at her house when she got home from school. Well, when I got to her apartment, I expected this girl to be home alone, but surprise, surprise, that was not the case at all.

As soon as the door opened, I saw two sets of eyes staring back at me, both a little alarmed, timid, and confused.

First, I greeted the girl and explained to her what was going on. Yet before I could even finish, I was immediately introduced to Ms. Dewberry, the guinea pig, whose beady little eyes were still locked into mine. Not being very big on animals (especially ones that in any way resemble rodents), I tiptoed around the cage and cringed at the smell and all of the flaky bedding that had fallen on the floor.

I, then, tried to avoid Dewberry as much as I could while getting the girl to quickly gather all her belongings. I really wanted to leave the premises on the double, but everything took much longer because every other sentence the girl said was about this guinea pig.

Dewberry of course was the least of my concerns at the moment and starting to feel a little itchy all over, I thought to myself, I did not sign up for this! I just signed up for the girl… the human girl.

Nonetheless, it became undeniable that human-girl really cared about this guinea pig. For all I knew, this guinea pig might have been a great source of comfort for her, her best friend, perhaps her confidant, her family.

And in her sweet, soft voice, I could hear her sadly whispering to herself,  

“I wonder who’s going to feed her. Who will give her water. Who will change her bedding and hold her and take care of her if no one’s home. I don’t know who will. I think she might die while I’m gone.”    





Was this really happening. I don’t like pets in my house!

Before I knew it, we were driving home with human-girl happily holding Dewberry in the back seat and Dewberry’s oversized cage clanking around in the back trunk. I just hoped the poop was not popping out everywhere and that there were no diseases spreading amongst us.

Then just as we approached our once pet-free-zone-home, it was found that Dewberry had a runny nose and was sneezing. Knowing nothing about guinea pigs, I tried to tell the girl that it would probably pass in a day or two. That’s when she told me her last guinea pig died after having a runny nose. Google, of course, confirmed to us as well that runny noses and sneezing could be fatal for guinea pigs if left untreated. Goodness gracious.

So there you have it. The entire night turned into the Dewberry fiasco. I was online researching while on the phone with emergency vets and any animal lover I could think of, seeking medical advice for this guinea pig that I could hardly stop myself from cringing at. I even began praying for her in between shaking my head in disbelief of what was happening.

Yet as the evening progressed, I also noticed how bright and sweet human-girl was. I saw how she warmed up to us and our home so quick and was no longer quiet and despondent as she was at first. Suddenly, she was full of life, cracking corny jokes and showcasing silly dance moves along with the rest of us. I felt her walls had come down before I even knew it and her heart was warm and open. For that, I’m positive that a big reason why is because we had allowed Dewberry to come with us and we were trying to care for her as well.

To end the day, we spent some time out on the lawn with all the kids playing with Dewberry as she roamed around nibbling on blades of grass. Thankfully, she seemed to be feeling a bit better as well. Thanks to Dewberry, all the kids, especially human-girl, were so happy.

Even I began to warm up to the little critter myself, although it will definitely still take some time for all my walls to come down. I’m just glad human-girl is doing well on her first night with us.

Thank you Dewberry for the comfort you provide this precious girl. You are welcome in our home… for now. =)