Foster Update: Horizontal Because Vertical

In the Ask Pastor John podcast this week, John Piper talks about adoption. He recounts his family’s own story of adopting a newborn African-American girl when he was 50 years old and had raised four boys. She is now graduating from high school, and he talks about how beautifully adoption has worked out for his family. It wasn’t without risk – adopting was pretty much the opposite of everything he had experience with, and he wasn’t sure how it would go.

He told his story in part to counteract some of the difficult stories that have surfaced about how hard adoption can be – adjustments might not happen, families can be devastated, kids can be disrupted, and more. That’s the reality of the broken world we live in.

But there’s beauty and joy in adoption too, because there’s beauty and joy in God’s adoption of us as sons and daughters. Think about that for a second – God could have saved us and left it at that. He didn’t have to make us part of his family. But not only did he declare us holy in the courtoom on the basis of Christ’s substitutionary death, he brought us into the living room and told us to make ourselves at home. He made us his children and promised us an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. The Father planned our adoption, the Son accomplished it and the Spirit applies it every day. Unbelievable.

And that’s why we can adopt earthly children no matter what may come. As Piper says:

Be encouraged that not only is it (adoption) a beautiful thing to imitate, but that your own experience of it is the guarantee that God your Father will be there for you in every single challenge you face in adoption. Because of our experience of the vertical, we can now take the massive risks of the horizontal, knowing that He’s going to be there for us in every way.

Because of the vertical, we can take the risk of the horizontal. Yes, it’s a risk. Anyone who has adopted knows that it feels like there’s no safety net sometimes. But the net is there, and it will hold.

That brings me to this update: it looks like our adoption of our two foster girls (Okay, are they really foster girls at this point? It’s been more than two years. Let’s just go ahead and call them family.) will finalize in late July or early August. They keep pushing it back, but no one ever accused the government of being efficient.

Our social worker brought us a massive stack of paperwork to read through, including all the medical records they have on the girls and their parents, and the chronology of how the girls ended up in foster care. We can’t share details in public, but if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance their lives were much different than yours and mine. God’s grace in plucking those girls out of the life they were in is indeed remarkable. (Where they ended up may be a little questionable …)

So, we’re on track. School is out now, so five kids at home every day will be a joyful (and some days not-so-joyful) challenge to navigate. And hopefully by the time school starts in August, two girls in the commonwealth of Kentucky will have a new last name.

[Listen to John Piper give counsel to couples considering adoption.]

Saltshaker Parenting

A few months ago, I started a new job doing marketing for a company called Dynamic Directions. We do coaching and consulting for financial advisors, but are reaching into other industries as well. One of the cool things about the job is being exposed to lots of new ideas and concepts about business, leadership, entrepreneurship, etc. Many of the things I hear apply to many areas of life, not just business.

As part of the job, I’m reading a book called Setting the Table by Danny Meyer, a successful restaurateur in New York City. It’s a fascinating read about his philosophies of how and why he runs his restaurants. I highly recommend it for anyone in business, but again, the principles apply to more than just the business world. One in particular struck me the other night as perfect for parenting.

He talks about learning to lead his staff and instill his own drive for excellence in them. When they didn’t live up to his high standards – for setting the table exactly the right way, for treating guests with his standard of hospitality, etc. – he kept getting frustrated and upset, until a mentor in the restaurant business gave him an  illustration:


“First” he said, “I want you to take everything off that table except for the saltshaker  … leave the saltshaker by itself in the middle.” I moved it … to what looked to be smack-dab in the center. As soon as I removed my hand, he pushed the saltshaker three inches off center.
“Now put it back where you want it,” he said. I returned it to dead center. This time he moved the saltshaker another six inches off center, again asking, “Now where do you want it?”

I slid it back. Then he explained his point. “Listen. Your staff and your guests are always moving your saltshaker off center. That’s their job. Is is the job of life. It’s the law of entropy! Until you understand that, you’re going to get mad every time someone moves the saltshaker off center. It is not your job to get upset. You just need to understand: that’s what they do. Your job is just to move the shaker back each time and let them know exactly what you stand for. Let them know what excellence looks like to you. And if you’re ever willing to let them decide where the center is, then I want you to give them the keys to the store. Just give away the restaurant.”


That’s exactly like parenting. I’ve been frustrated lately because my kids don’t seem to be getting it. They
don’t obey right away, their table manners are atrocious, they pee in the yard, for crying out loud (and I’m not just talking about the boys). Two seconds after I tell them not to talk in that crazy voice, they’re doing it again. Five minutes after I ask them to clean up the garage, it’s still a royal mess.

Yes, some of it is simple discipline. But that doesn’t fix my attitude. I find myself getting frustrated and mad awfully quickly: Just do it the right way! I already told you! Why aren’t you listening to me?!?!?!?!

You know what? It’s not my job to get upset. I should expect things to not go well. They’re kids. They’re sinners. They’re going to disobey. They’re going to have accidents. They’re not going to listen.

Instead of getting upset (again), I need to move the salt shaker back to the middle.

It’s good to have high standards. God calls us to have expectations. But our kids are  not going to reach those standards the first time or the fifth time or even the tenth time. Meyer uses a technique he calls constant, gentle pressure to impart his standards for excellence, and I think it works for parenting too.

Constant, gentle pressure. Constant, because you can never give up – explain the standard every time. Gentle, because you don’t want to break them – don’t react from anger. Pressure, because you want them to reach the standards – excellence is obtainable.

Our kids are going to fail. So are we. (That’s why there’s a little thing called grace.) So next time, instead of getting mad, take a deep breath and move the saltshaker back to the center.

Spring Break: Flat Tires, Lost Kids and Rhyming

Were I to give you a blow-by-blow account of our weekend in Indianapolis with the kids, you would, with good reason, fall asleep. So, a few highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be):
– If you’re going to hit a pothole and blow out a tire, it’s best not to do it at almost midnight in the rain on a forsaken road outside a junkyard, the kind of place where a gun-toting proprietor might  investigate why a minivan is lingering outside his empire. On a related note, it’s great fun to watch a traffic light change three times ahead of you as you limp to your destination on the flat tire.

–  When you go to the neighborhood tire establishment the next day, it’s pretty funny when four of your five kids fall asleep on the way there and as you haul them one by one into the waiting area, the owner watches, wondering just how many more you’re going to bring in. Also, it’s good to have snacks for when they wake up.

– One more tire note: it’s pretty cool that your little girls think you’re a superhero who hung the moon because you fixed the tire. We could all use a little more of that kind of wonder and belief in our lives.

– Cousins are cool, especially new baby ones.

– April in Indianapolis apparently means that even though the thermometer says 82, it feels more like 102 at the Zoo. This will make your children whiny and tired and oh yeah, whiny. Five kids was about four too many. We did see lions and tigers and bears, but it was kinda underwhelming. Side note to the Zoo concession people: when it is 102 degrees outside, you might want to wait longer than “the ice cream is just barely frozen” before you serve it. Otherwise, you end up with disturbingly sticky ice cream goop EVERYWHERE.

– When your 4-year old foster daughter wanders away from the non-fenced-in playground in the middle of the Zoo, it takes a few minutes to realize that she’s gone, and then a few more minutes searching and thinking that surely, she’s just in a corner or underneath a slide or something. Then you have to accept that no, she’s really not there.Then the Zoo people have to radio each other to look for her.

When you see the spray park across the path and run to see if she’s over there and don’t find her, it’s nice when passers-by notice your face that says oh-no-where’s-my-kid-and not-just-my-kid-but-a-foster-kid-and-what’s-gonna-happen-when-the-state-of-Kentucky-finds-out-we-lost-her and say “Hey, are you looking for a little girl? She’s right down there with a security guard.”

It’s also nice when she’s sitting there shooting the breeze with the guard and he tells you that she had the wherewithal to go up to a nice lady and say, “I’m lost.” And then she told the guard that mommy was wearing a purple shirt – and she was right. She may be kind of a space cadet, but she handled herself really well – we were impressed. She’s got some street smarts.

– Those Zoo people know what they’re doing when they install a playground – you pay a truckload to get in, and then your kids just want to do what they can do for free anytime instead of taking advantage of actual Zoo resources. Okay, we did Zoo stuff most of the time. But still.

– Traipsing into the men’s room with four kids keeps you on your toes, especially when two decide they have to go stinky at the same time and someone has already left a souvenir on one of the toilets. Poop management deserves a high spot on any parent’s resume.

– Five kids, three of whom are within a little over a year of each other, don’t make for the easiest vacation. But you go make it happen anyway and they have fun – their favorite part was the Zoo, imagine that – and so do you and it’s even more fun to do it all with a partner who you love and have a great time with.

– One more: on the way home, the kids played a rhyming game where they had to find two words that rhyme. For one memorable set, the first word was truck. I’ll just let you imagine the second word. Yep, we’re fantastic parents!

Fostering Update: Keep On Keepin’ On

So it’s been a while since my last update. Mostly because there hadn’t been much of an update until recently. We’ve just been trucking along, working through the small daily tasks that add up to more than the sum of their parts. Fostering and adopting sounds like a noble cause – and it is – but much of the time, it’s just day following day where you have to keep on moving.

There’s been a debate in recent months on doing big things for God vs. living your quiet, everyday ordinary Christian life. I have a few thoughts on that topic, but mostly, I think it’s more of a both/and than an either/or. The big things are often made up of the small, mundane, ordinary everyday things that add up to a life well-lived.

Fostering isn’t heroically dashing into a ramshackle house to snatch three filthy kids out from under their drug-addled father’s iron fist seconds before his meth lab explodes. Fostering is parenting — just more so because there are more kids. Fostering is getting up in the middle of the night when she wakes up sobbing for no discernible reason. Fostering is sweeping up the crumbs that somehow covered the floor in the 2.9 seconds since the last time you swept. Fostering is scaling the highest peak known to man – Mt. Laundry – every day. Fostering is peeling off the wet jeans because she didn’t want to take time to pee in the potty. Fostering is turning the house upside down looking for her glasses. Fostering is shoving the Tour-de-France style lineup of bikes out of the way (again) so you can get the van in the garage. Fostering is figuring out exactly when you can fit in another parent-teacher conference. Fostering is playing referee all day long. Fostering is hair dryers and rubber bands and hair bows and many other contraptions that a dad’s hands were not made to operate. Fostering is putting one foot in front of the other, day after day after day.

That’s basically been the last few months. But, a couple of weeks ago, a news flash: both parents have signed over their parental rights to the state. The process had stalled out because the dad was not responding to calls. He’s been out of circulation since November — not calling, texting, seeing his girls, anything. DCBS is understaffed and overworked, so they didn’t have time to pursue him. Supermom Kelsey finally got him to respond to a text.

So now, on April 15, a judge will officially terminate the parental rights of two twenty-something citizens. They will no longer have claim to their biological offspring. Our girls will legally have no parents other than the Commonwealth of Kentucky until the official adoption date can be set a couple of months later. Then, the judge’s gavel will fall and the girls will get a new last name.

The mom is due any day with her fourth child. None of her previous kids live with her. This one, we hope, will be different. She’s more stable. She’s older. She has our phone number and our offer of whatever advice we can give. Pray for her.

The dad is homeless, the last we heard. The cousin he was living with (where the girls used to spend the night) got back into drugs, so he moved out. Good call, but hard. Pray for him. 

And so, we keep on keepin’ on. Pray that we’re faithful, pray that in weakness we’re made strong, pray for grace. Five kids, full days, full hearts. God is good.

Hope in Life and Death

It all comes down to this: did Jesus Christ rise from the dead? Did the stone really roll away?

If the answer is no, we might as well quit. Death has won, and there’s no hope for life, now or in eternity. Sean Gauley’s parents can give up now, because who can bear it when their 18-year old son on his way home from college survives a horrific car accident, fights for a month and then is gone?
If the answer is yes, well, then we have something to work with. Then we know that death is beaten. It may yet have some sting, but in the end, it will be no match for the One who will return to banish it forever. There is hope for life, both now and in eternity.
So which is it?
The answer, most emphatically, is yes. Christ did rise from the dead. And because he did, Jim and RaeAnne Gauley can raise their hands in praise at their son’s funeral. They can smile when you walk up to hug them. They can comfort you. They can have a peace that passes the understanding of a disbelieving world. They can explain in sweet submission that the giant “WHY?” in all of our minds is not the right question because it presumes that we can understand God’s ways, and who can understand the mind of the One who laid the foundations of the earth? What we do know is God’s character, they say, and we must trust it.
The Gauleys are the best of the best. They wouldn’t tell you that, of course. But ask anyone who knows them, anyone whose children have spent time in Mr. Gauley’s classroom, anyone whose kids have been friends with their kids, anyone who has worked with them or gone to church with them or even simply known them. These are the people we look at and say, “I want to raise my kids like them. I want to point my family to Christ like them. I want to be humble like them. I want to be joyful like them. I want to love others like them. I want to know my Savior like them.”
All of that? It’s from God. It’s not the Gauleys. This grace, this faith, this character — they’re all free gifts from a loving Father. And so when their tsunami hit, they could not survive it alone, just like they couldn’t do any of those other things on their own. It was more than they could handle and they would have been washed away but for the grace in which they stand.
They are broken and hurting and raw and still running on emotion and adrenaline and hugs and support and prayers. They are just beginning a road that they will always walk. Dark days are ahead, days where they will wake up and for a split second won’t remember that their youngest son is farther away than just his dorm room. When the reality dawns, they will need all the faith and grace that God can give them.
During the funeral. Jim and Austin and Jeremiah all stood on stage, remembering their son and brother, laughing, crying, saying farewell. The Gauley men stood united, but there were only three where there used to be four. Until you raised your eyes a little and saw Sean’s smiling face on the big screen, just above his dad and brothers. All four Gauley men, together for 18 years, for a moment yesterday and — though separated for a little while — for eternity to come.
One day, we will witness the III reunited, will glimpse a sister’s tears of joy, will see a dad completed, will watch a mom fling her arms around her baby boy. Sean’s family will dance with him, soak in his smile, drink in his presence, feast with him for ages to come.
That will only happen because Christ’s death not only defeated death for him, but for all who believe in him. Our future is secure because the second Adam paid for the sins of the first with his death and resurrection.
Sean believed. His parents believe.
Do you?

Ashes Into Beauty

We’re not at the finish line yet, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel of this fostering journey we’ve been on for the last year and a half. (Quick recap: we have two foster girls, just turned 4 and 3, been with us for almost 18 months, the dad has been trying to get them back.)

The girls’ dad called a few weeks ago and said he can’t do it. He can’t make enough money, can’t figure out – or pay for – daycare, doesn’t have his own place to live, has no car, doesn’t have enough gas money for the dilapidated van he shares with his cousin – he just can’t do it. Of course, this opinion has been subject to change. Understandable, given such a monumental decision.
A couple weeks after that, we met with the parents (who are no longer together) and the social workers to update the case plan. The social workers told the parents they are asking the court to change the goal of this case from “return to parent” to adoption.
While they realistically knew this was coming, the tears trickling down the mom’s face were a stark reminder of how gut-wrenching it must be to be told your children are not going to be yours anymore, to know that the weekly time you spend with them is only just confusing their little hearts because you’re basically asking them to break an 18-month bond they’ve formed with this other family you don’t even really know. You know that much of your failure as a mother stems from your mother’s own failure, from your own years bouncing around foster care, from the messed-up relationship you still have with your cancer-stricken, dope-smoking mom.
Her pain is real. His pain is real. They both have changed, have come a long ways from where they were a year and a half ago. But it’s not enough and now they’re out of time.
The court agrees. Out of the seeming chaos that is the juvenile court system in our county, one incontrovertible fact emerged last week: the goal of this case was officially changed to adoption. Now we wait for a date for the hearing that will legally terminate the birth parents’ rights.
There are several months still to go, but it’s looking more and more like we might actually be able to adopt these two little girls who have wiggled their way into our hearts and lives.
You would think we would feel elated. This is what we wanted. This is what we’ve been striving and praying for, what this has all been about, what you’ve followed this experience for.
And sure, there’s a deep level of joy that will surface more and more over time. But right now, the dominant emotion is sadness.
I remember the look on the girls’ dad’s face at a previous court date, when he thought it might all be over. Deep sadness, pain, hurt, confusion, longing and disgust at himself. It was all there, written against the backdrop of two little girls.
That’s the face I see when I think about his girls getting taken away – literally taken away – by the state. They will no longer be his daughters. They’ll have his blood, but they won’t have his last name.  With regard to the law, he won’t exist in relation to them.
He loves them deeply. He wants to be around them. He wants them to know their dad. He wants to raise them, wants to be there for them.
But he can’t. He can’t do it because he messed up repeatedly, because the momentary affections of this world held greater allure for him than the eternal affections of God and the needs of his daughters.
We celebrate adoption, and we should. It’s an amazing thing, that a family can take in and love children born outside their own bloodline. It’s as close a picture to God’s redeeming love as we’re going to find on earth.
But for every joyful adoption celebration, there’s a flip side that’s dark and cold and lonely and awful. Something terrible had to happen for a boy not to be with his parents. Something heart-rending had to take place for a girl not to know her mother. Death, disease, drugs, depression, despair – take your pick. You can sum it up in a word: sin.
The longer I live, the more I long for Christ to redeem this world broken by sin. The girls’ dad is broken because he’s facing the consequences of his actions. That can’t be undone. But, I want to tell him – have told him, will tell him – there is hope. You’re 24. Your whole life is ahead of you. You can become a man. You can fall in love and get married and have more little girls and love them the right way. That won’t replace these girls, but it will give you hope.
So take heart, young man. Come out of the shadows and into the light. Breathe the clean morning air. Taste mercies anew. Turn ashes into beauty. Turn mourning into dancing. Turn tragedy into triumph.
But you can’t do it alone. You’re at the end of yourself, and there’s nowhere to go. Look up. Look to the One who made you, who sustains you, who is taking care of your girls even now.  Find forgiveness. Find redemption.
We’ll take care of your girls. We’ll love them and raise them and hold them and one day, God-willing, we’ll walk them down the aisle. And maybe in eternity, in that distant future when the already meets the not-yet, you’ll recognize them and get to know them again and they’ll understand how much you truly love them. That’s our prayer. Make it yours too.

The Lions May Grow Weak and Hungry

Psalm 34:10: “The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
The lions may grow weak and hungry …
Four young voices, raised in exuberant song in the back seats. Guitar and drums bringing to life words straight from Scripture. These voices are young and innocent and unstained by the world. They don’t know yet that there are times when even the young strong lions of the world go hungry, and when those who aren’t young and strong anymore aren’t sure how they’re going to make it — there’s not enough money or wisdom or medicine or power or mercy to make possible this thing that they want so badly: the bills to be paid, the hard decision made, the sickness driven back, the pain removed, the relationship restored.

But those who seek the Lord lack no good thing …

Voices still excited, little bodies still bouncing to the rhythm, little hands playing air guitar. Don’t seek the power, the money, the easy resolution at the expense of principle. Seek the Lord. Call on him. Leave all to follow after him. And you know what? You’ll have every good thing that you need.

All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord

The chorus line kicks in — more straight Scripture — and the kids are still excited to be singing their favorite song on the cd. There’s hope and joy in their voices. There’s purity. There’s belief.
I want to remember that when times are hard, when I have no idea how events are going to turn out, when it looks as if darkness will triumph.
I want to remember that when times are good, when it’s easy to forget that everything hangs not on our own abilities, but on a divine thread.
I want to remember that when I’m tempted to trade the truth for a lie.
I want to remember that when I see Miley Cyrus. I want to remember that when our kids are blasted with media that glorifies sex and compromise and the lack of self-control. I want to remember that the hope and joy and purity and belief doesn’t have to go away. I want it in my life. I want to keep it in my kids’ lives as long as possible.
The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who see the Lord lack no good thing. Sing on, kids. Sing on.
[Listen here, Song 7, The Good Song: Highly recommend the whole cd. Kids love it and learn it and sing it.]

Failing on the First Day of School?

So the first day of school is tomorrow. Backpacks are ready, clothes and shoes are laid out, kids are finally asleep. For two of them, it’s their first day of school ever. For our third grader, it’s old hat. For mom, watching her baby boy march off to preschool, it’s relief (woohoo, a break!) mixed with sadness. Her baby is growing up.
Of course, there are still two more at home. One of the girls starts next week and the other starts next year. But having four out of the house most days will be a chance to breathe, to catch up, to settle into the routine of homework and folders and papers to sign and lunches to pack and clothes to get ready.
Then there are the less tangible things to keep up with. Do they know enough? Are they keeping up in class? Do they have friends? Do they annoy their friends? Wait, how do I make sure they’re not annoying their friends? Are they learning the facts they need? Can I cram it all into their heads right now so I don’t miss anything? Are they developing character? Are they becoming the kinds of boys and girls that will grow into the kinds of men and women this world needs? What if they mess up? Are they emotionally okay? Do they have the right shoes? How can we make sure they don’t fail?
If you think about it all, you’ll be overwhelmed. But here’s the deal. Parenting is a process, not an overnight project like that science poster your kid is going to forget to tell you about at some point this year. There’s no way we can teach them everything we want today or tomorrow or even this school year. That’s why God gives them to us for at least 18 years, in most cases.
There’s time for them to fail — and they’re going to fail. It’s okay. In fact, if they don’t fail, if they never figure out how to try something and then pick themselves back up and try again when it doesn’t work out, then we’ve failed as parents. (Although we should try to avoid letting them fail an entire grade.)
And when we fail, because that’s gonna happen every day too? Well, God works all things for good for those who love him — including parenting mistakes. There’s no condemnation because Christ already took that for us. Instead, there’s freedom to go be the best parents we can be for the glory of God.
Our goal isn’t to protect our kids from everything. Our goal isn’t to be the cool parents in the classroom. (As someone tweeted the other day, “As you get older, you realize that the cool parents were really just bad parents.”) Our goal isn’t to spur our kids to leave a string of impressive accomplishments in their wake.
Our goal is to plow up our kids’ hearts so that when they finish this school year, when they finish their time in our homes, they can leave trusting Jesus, ready to serve him. Yes, they’ll learn reading and writing and math and all the rest. But as we prepare these arrows to be launched into the world with a purpose and a target, we do so with an eternal weight of glory in mind, looking to the things that are unseen.
First day of school? Let’s get after it.
Credit where it’s due — several of these thoughts came from a parenting class we just started at church. Thanks to @jpaulhatfield for pointing our minds in a stimulating direction. I’m planning to try to write a little more consistently as we move through the class.

How to Lose a Child

The nightmare all parents never want to face is the death of their child. Parents aren’t supposed to outlive their children. But because we live in a fallen world, full of sin and death and ruin, it happens every day. How do people handle that? How would you handle it?

Most of us thankfully can’t answer that question, but my friends Justin and Rebekah can. A year ago today, they lost their 54-day old little boy, Ezra Blaize. Their response over the last year has been beautiful to see. Of course they are hurting, full of pain and sorrow, but there’s an undeniable peace and deep-rooted joy that flows from them. This is possible only through the gospel of Jesus Christ, as they explain here:

And here’s the video of their testimony at Ezra’s funeral:

You can find more at Love you, Justin and Rebekah.

Light from Darkness: A Foster Update

So, the foster system stinks.
Yeah, it does, but then, a lot of life does. Sin does that to you. When you think about it, the foster system is only here because of sin. Why do kids have to be taken away from their parents? Because the parents make bad choices, do ugly things, pursue their own desires, mess things up.
In other words, they sin. Just like Adam and Eve, just like you and me. They exchange the glory of God for a lie. Their twisted desires are their gods. They worship the creation rather than the creator.
And who gets left behind in the smoking rubble of their lives? Their kids. Kids who didn’t ask for this, kids who didn’t want to be abandoned, kids who are confused and hurt and angry, kids who have a hole in their soul that just a few months in a loving home doesn’t fix.
So the government tries to help. It’s a noble cause and they try, but it’s overwhelming. Their perspective is not quite right. They think you can motivate someone to change without changing their heart. They think that meetings and classes and phone calls and hand holding and lectures will change people’s lives.
And to be fair, sometimes it does work. They still don’t get to the heart, but they can change behaviors. They’re doing it right now with our girls’ dad. For now, he’s on track to get the girls back. He’s had a job for a month or two, has a car, is sober, is working on housing, thinks he has it all together.
It took him a while, but it’s fantastic that he seems to be turning his life around. How can you really wish someone would keep screwing up? You can’t. Unless, of course, that means you’ll get to adopt the girls that have been part of your life for 14 months. Then you kinda want him to mess up.
But then, of course, you feel bad about that. But then you think, “Can he really handle this? He’s 23 and looks 12 and has never lived on his own. Can he juggle two girls and a job and an apartment and food and bills and sickness and clothes and a girlfriend (don’t even get me started) and all the parenting angst that afflicts even those who seem to have every advantage and aren’t battling addiction?”
And then you  have to remember that through all the junk, through all the brokenness of the system that says it’s about kids but is really about biological parents even to the detriment of the kids, through all the appointments and forms and meetings and phone calls and forms and more phone calls and doctor visits and oh yeah, more appointments that suck away your time and your energy and your drive, God is working.
He’s always working. Maybe not the way you want right now. But maybe this time the girls have had, this time where they have brothers who play with them and love them for who they are, where they hear Jesus’ name and sing Jesus Loves Me and just started to thank Jesus for dying on the cross for their sins when they pray and yeah, it’s just repeating words right now, but those are awfully powerful words – maybe that will all stay in their minds until they can’t hold it in anymore and even if it’s years from now, maybe God will descend and walk with them and their dad and their family.
Maybe. We don’t know. Yes, it feels cruddy that they might go back. But we worship a God who has proven to be fairly adept at bringing light out of darkness. (See: Abraham, Joseph, Jesus, to name a few.) He already knows what will happen. He just hasn’t told us yet. I want to promise the girls the future, that their bellies will be full and their hair combed and their hearts held safe, but it’s not mine to promise.
So, all that to say this: pray. Pray that the girls stay. Pray that their dad will know Him. I know, it’s confusing. Just do it anyway. We’ll be over here doing the same.