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

 

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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.”    

For.

Crying.

Out.

Loud.

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. =)

Mom, Dad, I Forgive You

Mom, Dad, I Forgive You

It’s so easy to blame things on my parents. To think back on the ways they hurt me… whether they meant to or not. To remember their weaknesses and how they left me wounded… whether they meant to or not. To see my own shortcomings and issues today and somehow find their origins in my parents’ history of mistakes. Of course they also did many things the right way, and I so appreciate all the good they taught me as well. But sometimes, the bad is so hard to erase when you are in the thick of things, especially as a parent now myself.

As a young adult, when I was single and had no kids, I envisioned myself being a great mom. No, the best mom. Focusing in on what I perceived to lack from my own parents drove me to subconsciously swear and believe that I could both do and be better than them.

In my mind, I pictured being the kind of mom who would love my kids so deeply, be present, discipline them just right, always show patience, be funny, warm, cool, collected, and never lose my temper. And, I would never fight with my husband… ever.

Then I had kids. And well, I was wrong. Dead wrong. On my best days, I can kinda be some of those things, but those days are far fewer than I ever imagined or can bring myself to admit.

Then when we began thinking about this whole orphan care thing, I also started off fantasizing the same grandiose thoughts about how I would care for these children. If I’m going to be honest, there were also subtle levels of underlying pride and judgment against these kids’ parents as well, just like I had towards my own parents.

I will NEVER treat those children badly, I thought. After what they’ve gone through, I will be the greatest picture of love for them. I will be their advocate, the one to help them heal, the one to love them so much that no matter what kind of terrible situations they came from, they will grow into awesome human beings who will CHANGE THE WORLD.  

Biological or not, I wanted the absolute very best for these ones who were entrusted into my care. All with good intention.

Yet the sad truth I quickly discovered was that good parenting is so much harder than I ever imagined. Not only is it a struggle because these kids push so many of my buttons, but we, parents, are also each battling with our own demons and personal issues as well. I battle with them daily. I know my parents did too. And so do the parents of these children being hosted in my home. We all struggle.

Consequently, the children almost always get the brunt end of this struggle. Slowly, our hearts forget the good we set out to do, and since our children are human as well, their flesh wars with ours. They disobey. I lash out. They turn into monsters. I turn into a greater monster. They crawl under my skin. My blood begins to boil. Back and forth, back and forth, and that picture-perfect mom I envisioned of myself fades quicker than I can help.

The scary thing is, before I know it, these little ones will be grown and have their own story to tell of what kind of parent I once was as well. I wince at the thought because whether I mean to or not, I make a lot of mistakes. 

Yes, every single day I fail. It is so easy for my heart to turn the wrong way, even against my own my flesh and blood. I hate it.

Then again and again, daily I come back to this thought, I need to do better.

While sometimes I try to think that God is okay with sloppy parenting as long as I’ve “tried”, that He understands my struggle, and that we’re all fine, I know deep inside that everything really is not fine.

Of course God does understand, but in no way does He ever tell me that doing wrong in the way I raise my children is okay. Just like sin is never okay with the Father although He loves the sinner.  

I need to do better. 

The harder it gets, the more God shows me that I cannot settle with, accept, or get comfortable with less than “better.” Instead, He constantly reminds me that we are meant to do better always. 

And He will help me because the way I parent the children in my care is of absolute critical importance. The entire next generation depends on it.

Lately, I’ve been reading the book of Malachi, the last book of the entire Old Testament which is basically a series of stories of people following God, then falling away from God. Generations turning to God, then generations falling away again. You see this constant back and forth and it finally ends with this very last verse which is the last prophecy we hear from God before the time of Jesus. And He ends with this:

“He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents.”

This is how God wanted to end the entire Old Testament? A word to children and parents? Yes. Absolutely. Because it is in this intimate, tender relationship between parent and child that the children will learn and hear of the Lord. Without that, we will face another godless generation.

We indeed need to be better.

Because God puts it inside of us to desire to be better, better everyday, for the sake of our children and for the sake of an entire generation of followers. Parents must turn their hearts to our children and the children must turn their hearts to their parents. For God longingly desires for this next generation to turn their hearts to Him.  

And while I want this for me and my house, that is not enough. I want it for the families around me, for the children who come into our home and for their families as well. To follow, to know, to love the Lord.

So I end by turning my heart back towards my parents with this note:

Mom, dad, I forgive you. I know you did the best that you knew how to do and I’m thankful that indeed you have grown “better” everyday. I saw your lives transform before my eyes and from that, I have grown to have the greatest hope and confidence in the Lord. Thank you for teaching me that with God, all things are possible and that I can be better always. 

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  -Deuteronomy 11:18-19

Hosting Round 2, Homeschooling Round 1

Hosting Round 2, Homeschooling Round 1

I finally decided to take the plunge. I am going to do it. I am going to do what I thought I could never do and do what is perhaps one of the most difficult, daunting tasks ever recorded in the history of mankind.

YES. I AM GOING TO HOMESCHOOL.

Whenever I tell people this news, the immediate reaction is almost always shock, followed by questions of why and what happened?

Why homeschool?? Did something bad happen? Is the local public school not good enough? Are they not learning anything in their class? Are they learning things you don’t want them to learn? Are you afraid your kids will get left out, bullied, or maybe even shot?

While all of those things are sadly possible in today’s public school system, homeschooling was probably an even greater fear in my mind than most of those things. Keep all the kids homes with me and go crazy together every single day? No, thank you! I also used to think people only homeschooled these days if they absolutely had to because of some problem.

Homeschooling, to me, has always sounded completely overwhelming and at best, foreign and outdated.

Growing up, I did not know a single person who was homeschooled. If I ever heard of such a kid, I automatically imagined them to look like the children on Little House on the Prairie. They just seemed… different… and yes, unsocialized. I think this is the popular belief.

Yet in the last few years as a stay-at-home-mom, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting more and more people from this crazy, “different” population of homeschooling families. Different, but kind, intelligent, fun, witty, and actually, they look a lot like me!

The parents definitely don’t have it all together and their kids struggle with the same kind of issues as any other “normal” kid does. Yet what is really “different” is something extraordinary I see taking place in their homes through this journey of schooling their own children.

This is what I have observed:

Homeschooling is rubbing on each other the wrong way, gritting your teeth through sounding out words, and then learning that life is more than spelling lists and word problems. Homeschooling is trying to teach your kids everything they possibly need to learn from math to reading to Bible verses to character building (not to mention health, physical education, and so on), feeling like a complete failure, and then being able to just ditch the lesson for a moment to hug or cry or eat icecream together while learning grace. Homeschooling is overcoming countless obstacles, experiencing those precious and monumental ah-ha moments, and growing together yet another year. Homeschooling is bold, it is brave, it is bed-heads and pajamas all day long, it is pure awesomeness.

While some of those things I can honestly do without, I’m willing to endure those more difficult moments when I think about the thing I am most excited about when it comes to homeschooling.

It is this–homeschooling gives you the most precious and priceless gift of time, to really and TRULY do life and even ministry together, day in and day out with your children.

Yes, I know this might sound like absolute madness, and I’m sure that many days it will be. But I also know it will be amazing and so completely worth it. The best things in life are, and today I got to see a glimpse of this dream playing out before me.

Today, we accepted our second hosting assignment and brought home another little boy who will be staying with us for a short period of time. He is so reminiscent of our first hosted boy, Rell. They are both 3 years old, boys, and mixed half white/half black. He came in March during a snowstorm, just like Rell did, and he is just as sweet, fierce, and rambunctious as Rell. And just like Rell, one of the first things he did when he came into our home today was play on the piano.

And my kids. Again, I was amazed at the vital role each one played in bringing this one in. Even my 2-year-old, Moses! Without Moses coming with us to meet the boy, playing with him and warming him up at the office with his charm and smile, I don’t think he would’ve ever come home with us as willingly and joyfully as he did. It would’ve been another soap opera in the parking lot like last year.

Then when we got home, the new boy got to meet our two older kids and they have also hit it off ever since, playing like they’ve been friends for years. It is a gift my children carry, the gift of friendship, and they each are moving mountains in the spirit through their ministry.

Our children. Ministering. Learning about the problem of pain in the world through children coming from broken families. Learning to receive and extend the healing light of Christ. And together, witnessing Christ’s transformative and redemptive work. WHENever and WHEREver we go throughout the day, this is what we will be learning.

There’s nothing more I want them to know in this life and we are going to learn it together right in our home. In between math, reading, science, and the like, we are going to learn Christ and be able to not only be at home, but together, we will go out into the world to love those in the darkest of places. It’s going to be crazy, messy, beautiful.

Now I can finally say that I am no longer timid or scared or wary about homeschooling, but I am absolutely ecstatic to begin the most honorable and gratifying job I know I’ll ever have–training up my children full-time as their teacher, in every sense of the word.

And don’t worry, I’ll make sure they have a social life ;).

While I am completely uncertain how long we will go or if we will even make it through one year of homeschooling, I’ll take any amount of time we get with them as a gift!

I am ready to begin.

Hosting round 2 has begun. Homeschooling round 1 to begin fall of 2018.

…pray for us.

“Train up a child in the way he should go. And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Sheltered Children

Sheltered Children

After birth, leaving the hospital with my first was extremely nerve wracking. I recall looking into the nurse’s eyes as she went over discharge papers with us and feeling a sudden wave of fear and anxiety.

Is she really letting this baby come home with us?

The reality of bringing home a straight-out-of-the-womb newborn began to sink in, and I secretly hoped she could read my mind to hear what I could not bring myself to say.

We are NOT qualified. We don’t know what we’re doing. Can we just stay here where it’s safe?

Bringing the nurse home with us was not an option either, so we were immediately thrown into the deep end of this thing called parenting. That first month was grueling of course, and I felt discouraged thinking this was just the beginning. Then I started hearing crazy things like parenting only gets harder. With a smile, seasoned parents would assure me that the easy part was now.

Well that’s a cruel thing to say to a puffy eyed, sleep deprived, hormonally imbalanced new mom, I thought. But six years later, I now realize that what they were saying was true.

Today, I have three children, and while the oldest is now already six, I still sometimes find myself feeling just as unsure as the day we first brought him home. I sometimes wish he could still be in my womb where he was safe and warm or even be that newborn I held all those sleepless nights. He is growing faster than I can keep up with and there are always more questions than I have answers.

And what if the ways I am parenting my children and the decisions I am making are not actually good for them?

When I was a little girl, I almost killed my pets so many times, all with good intentions. Like my fish that almost died in just a few days when I tried to clean its tank out. Without the slightest clue as to what I was doing, I very carefully grabbed the fish with my slippery, tight fists and then ever so gently placed it down on the dry, fuzzy carpet beside me. I thought surely it would be safe on the nice soft ground.

And so, there it flipped and flopped through all the lint and dust while I spent the next half hour or so diligently scrubbing its tank. In my mind, I was hoping to do something good for the fish, but by the time I was done and finally looked down, I found it half dead.

A little extreme I know, but this is one of my fears. That even when doing my best, I inadvertently harm my children or scar them in some way without knowing it. That even in my best efforts and greatest intentions, I would somehow mess them up and one day they will walk away from me hurt, bitter, and/or disappointed.

This past year, this has been on my mind constantly as our family has been trying to make some big decisions. For example, the question of whether to homeschool our children or not has been a hot topic. I know the idea of homeschooling raises a lot of eyebrows, but I personally love the idea for many reasons. Even still, is that the right path for our family or am I just afraid, and will our kids be too “sheltered”?

Then on the flip side, I also wonder if I’m not sheltering my children enough because this was also one of our main concerns while contemplating orphan care and having other kids stay at our home. How will our own children fare? Will they grow to hate us for allowing a stranger into our home? Will they feel jipped of the time and energy and love they would have to share? Will they see and learn too much at too young a age?

Within just the first hosting alone, we already had to talk to our two-, four-, and six-year-olds about messy divorces, scary jails, bloody suicides, and broken families that sometimes fall apart. I remember the terror in my kids’ eyes as he described the details of some of the horrific things he went through. It shocked us all, but this was the reality that the little boy in our home dealt with and shared with us on a regular basis. We also saw the product of such trauma in the form of physical aggression, angry outbursts, and emotional instability starting from the second or third night when he lashed out at me with teeth, spit, and nails.

All this and more our kids were exposed to, and I could see their minds and their eyes widen in seeing this other world they never knew existed before. My motherly instincts of course kicked in many times, and I wanted to quickly assure them that such things would never happen to them. Nope, not in our family. I wanted to tell them that they were safe and we would be fine. There was nothing to worry about.

I could never really come to say those words, however.

No, as my children’s worlds collided with that of this little boy’s, we were all stripped of any false, flowery, fluffy illusions of safety. This was the reality of not just this kid’s life, but of life, period, in a fallen world. I could no longer fall back on empty promises of a life free of pain or suffering or even that mommies and daddies would always be there for them and protect them. That would all be a lie.

Yet what the beautiful part about these intense and raw interactions was the amazing truth that still remained. Whenever these moments occurred and we really had nothing left to say or do, we held each other close and huddled together in prayer.

We prayed to the only one who is pure, and good, and righteous, and just, and sovereign–Jesus Christ–and we thank God we had access to Him in every single moment of need. As a parent, I have never felt more vulnerable than in these times where I could not promise my children good in their life, but I also felt all the freedom in the world to know and to be able to tell them that the Lord God who has overcome this world is for us and with us.

And again, I saw their eyes light up and twinkle and mature as they witnessed our prayers being answered. They saw for themselves not only the darkness in this boy’s life, but they saw his life being transformed in Christ. They experienced God’s faithfulness in the midst of tragedy and they clearly saw that although mommies and daddies are not perfect and do not have all the answers, healing, provision, restoration, and the like, all come from God.

We prayed and He answered.

Now I see a greater confidence in my children than I’ve seen before. Little by little, their faith is growing, and I realize more and more this is my greatest job. Not to try to protect them myself from the elements of this life, but to simply lead them straight through all the clouds and rain to the God who is the only true shelter from the storm. This is the way I want my children sheltered…in His grace.

We still don’t have all the answers like if homeschooling will be in the cards for us or what our next placement will be like. But together, we are learning to trust God in all things.

When we ask our children now if they would like to have another kid come into our home, they immediately jump up and scream yes! They are excited, and so am I, to be on this adventure and journey of faith together.

Sweetness in the Letting Go

Sweetness in the Letting Go

This past Monday, our Safe Families son, Rell, was returned to his home. On many levels, letting him go was extremely difficult because our entire family had come to love him so much. Still, his going home was by far one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.

On Monday morning, my husband and I enjoyed a peaceful hour drive through scenic roads and rolling hills with Rell in the back. With many thoughts running through my mind, I sat quietly in the passenger seat looking out the window. It was finally time for him to return to his family where his mom and siblings had been waiting for him for so long.

As we drove, all three of us began to reminisce about the crazy day we first met and how he cried and screamed at the top of his lungs the whole way home. He giggled thinking about his former self because he was now such a big boy. Now almost an entire year later, it really felt like we were returning a completely different boy. Behind us, this handsome, bright, young man sat swinging his legs playfully, bobbing his head to the music, and asking us curious questions of all sorts.

Then as we drew closer to his home, the area must have looked familiar to him because he sat up a bit taller in his seat and I could feel the excitement within him stirring. Then suddenly, he looked around and told us with such confidence, “umma, appa, this is my neighborhood!” I smiled at the sweet introduction to his home and felt pleasure in being able to see his world for a change.

For months, he had adapted to our world, ate our food, played our games, and had gotten used to all the different ways we lived, all while being separated from his entire family and everything he knew. It never hit me like this before just how hard all of that really must have been for him. Now being back, it must’ve felt so good to see places he knew, and I got to see a whole new side of him I had never seen before emerge.

He was home.

It was also in this car ride, in that very moment, that I finally felt myself truly surrender. Surrender had been a key theme for me this past year, but I think without knowing it, I had been holding on to many things–to him, to control, to my ideas of what is best, to my place and position in his heart, to what I wanted for his life and ours. Although there were many times God had asked me to surrender before (and I thought I really had), I suppose surrendering is a process that takes time.

Even in the days leading up to his departure, Rell expressed so much excitement about going home, so much to the point that I wondered if he would even remember us, let alone miss us, and that honestly hurt.

But finally, by the grace of God, with every mile we drove deeper into his world and closer to his home, I felt closure begin to really take place in my heart as I let go and surrendered to the Lord. I felt strangely at peace and could even share in Rell’s joy and excitement in leaving us as I let go of what I willed and accepted God’s will for us all instead.

Then finally, we pulled into a gravel driveway where not even a minute later, his mom appeared right beside us. Right away he darted toward her and she swept him up into her arms, kissing him all over and relishing the sweet moment of finally having her baby back at home. His brother, too, was there and the two of them together exploded with excitement, racing to catch up on all the time they lost. And the smile on Rell’s face…

That was everything.

I had imagined what this moment might feel like many times before, maybe sad and even perhaps a certain level of rejection. But now that it was actually happening, I was surprised to find I felt my own burst of exhilaration and joy, a kind of high I’ve never felt before. There were no tears of sadness but only of joy. In that moment, I remembered this was why we did this–for God, for him, for her, for them–and it felt not only great…

It felt right.

Watching them, I was overwhelmed with praise to God for how He kept this family together. To witness God’s restorative work and to see a miracle like that take place, I was completely humbled to have been even a small part of something so magnificent and beyond me.

Now being back at home with one gone, things of course feel a bit different…

For example, my older son no longer has his go-to hockey buddy. My 4 year-old daughter is sad she no longer has someone who willingly plays “dad” in her game of “family.” My 2 year-old baby keeps calling out “hyungah,” which means big brother, because he is so used to being home with just Rell during the day. My husband still blurts out Rell’s name while calling out to all the kids, and I keep taking out four sets of kid plates when all we need now are three.

In those ways, there is a sense of something missing. And I won’t lie, it was the sweetest sound when Rell unexpectedly called me the next day to say hello and that he missed us. Yet in these moments of missing Rell, I just picture his sweet face and where he is now, back at home, safe and sound, and most importantly, in God’s arms and in God’s perfect plan for his life. Then I smile and find that perfect peace once again.

To not only be part of God’s plan, but to truly surrender to it, there is nothing sweeter and there is no greater freedom or joy.

My husband and I along with all the kids have loved this opportunity to care for this one child, and we are excited to do it again.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ”
Psalm 139:14