Dec 252013

He was a handsome young man, with eyes the color of dark chocolate.  I held his head while others tended to his bleeding body.  Watched the heart monitor slow then stop.  Whispered to him while he died.  “He made some bad choices,” I was told.

Haven’t we all, I thought.

He had a son.  A toddler.  I remember wondering if this wasn’t an opportunity for his life to go differently.  Hoping for him to find a family that would love and nurture him like their very own.  One that would write a different script for his life.  A dozen years later I saw those same chocolate brown eyes staring back at me.  They were filled with anger.  Sadness.  Hopelessness.  There had been no family.  No mentor.  No neighbor.  No one to show him grace.  No one to tell him he was loved.  So I did – the best I could in the brief interaction we had.  It wasn’t smooth at all.  In fact, it was kind of awkward.

I don’t know if he really understood.  I don’t know if he felt how much I believe he is on the planet for a purpose greater than just surviving and winding up dead or in prison.  But what I DO know is that he needs to meet Jesus.  And that Jesus shows up in the most unlikely places.

In a barn.

In shelters.

And jails.

Foster homes.

And mental health hospitals.

In the houses of those who are poor and those who are poor in spirit.

I don’t know where he is today, but my prayer for him is that he knows that being a part of God’s family isn’t anything about blood and it is everything about relationship – about being thought of and worried about and prayed over and loved and valued.  It is EVERYTHING about the great light that came into the darkness so long ago.  Merry Christmas, brown eyes.

Christ's Birth In A Stable

Jul 232013

Sometimes I’m like a bull in a china closet and I was on this day, barging into the room without any kind of notice.  It’s not that I was being rude; it’s just that I thought I knew what I would see.  But I was wrong.  The foster mom was there, and the little boy.  But so was his dad.

My mind raced back a couple of years, to the first day I met the boy.  Dirty.  Disheveled.  In need of a bath and a haircut.  Not too long after, I met the dad.  He looked about the same.  It was clear he cared about the boy; equally clear he wasn’t really able to take care of him.  But he tried, attending court, and visits, and parenting classes.  Working odd jobs in an attempt to find stability.  It didn’t really happen though, at least not in a way a little boy needs.  At some point the judge and the case worker gave up, and scheduled a trial to present the evidence and allow a jury to consider taking away the rights to his child.

I expected him to fight – he’d always been proud and a fighter.  Long after I thought he would give up.  Long after most parents would have.  But I had heard that in a meeting a few days earlier, he had surprised everyone with his humility and the most generous but also painful gift to his son that a parent could ever give – the opportunity to be in a better place than he could provide.

iStock_000002683730XSmallI didn’t expect to see him that day.  Or maybe ever.  Figured he would cut ties and be on with life.  So when I saw him lying quietly beside the sleeping boy, stroking his hair and whispering to him softly, I was stunned.  Stopped in my tracks.  And immediately, I was overwhelmed with the love it takes for a father to give up his son.

“This is how much God loved the world:  He gave his Son, his one and only Son…”  John 3:16 (MSG)

Nov 162012

She stood at the front of the room, feeling very small and conspicuous.  A half dozen people stood in a semicircle behind and beside her.  Most were unfamiliar, but she thought she recognized her case worker, although they had only met a couple of times.  A large wooden table separated them from the judge, and she could barely see him as he sat perched on the elevated platform behind it.  No one talked – the only sound was the shuffling of papers from behind the desk.  After what seemed like an eternity, the judge spoke, raining down questions on the group.  Was mom attending parenting classes?  What were the results of her psychological evaluation?  Did she have a reliable job yet?  One by one, the others in the room – attorneys, therapists, child advocates, case workers – shuffled through their own papers, attempting to capture in brief answers their opinions on who she was as a person and as a mom.






Some of the answers were accurate.  She did struggle with depression and loneliness.  We all do at times.  It had been hard for her to find work.  She hadn’t ever finished high school, and most of the jobs she could land wouldn’t come close to paying the bills.  The one job she found that paid well put her in a spot to be taken advantage of by others – not exactly a career you are proud of or want to tell your case worker about.   But many of the words spoken in that court room seemed to carry a different kind of judgment.  The kind that comes when you are looked down on.  When others don’t think you have any value as a human being.  The kind that make you realize you are disposable – that no one would even notice if you didn’t exist any more.  Or maybe they would even think the world was better off.

She felt paralyzed.  Suffocated.  Unable to speak or to defend herself.  Humiliated.  Worthless.  Uncertain.  She loved her kids, but maybe these experts were right.  Maybe she was a terrible parent.  A terrible person.  As quickly as it started the hearing was over.  Head down, she shuffled out of the room.

It is extremely difficult to weigh the needs of a child against the ability of a parent to meet those needs.  But as we do it, we must be careful not to judge the heart.  To lift up and not to crush.  To recognize that every single one of us was made by the same creator.  Made in the image of God.  Realizing that changes our own hearts towards a broken mom, and provides an opportunity to show her who she was really meant to be.






“So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God…”  Genesis 1:27 (Amp)




Nov 092011

Her eyes were wide as I opened my trunk lid.  The van was filled to the roof with Christmas presents – toys for the kids, new pillows and blankets, groceries, and a few nice things for mom too.  She stood still, as if she was afraid to believe it was all for them – for her little family. 

My mind flashed to the day in clinic when another family caught my attention.  They were part of a small Bible study group and wanted to take on a family for Christmas.  Wanted to provide for someone who didn’t have much.  I agreed to watch out for the right opportunity, and within 24 hours I had found a match.  A single mom who had arm-wrestled a meth addiction.  Who had lost everything – her kids, her job, her home – but who along the way had found herself.  Had scratched and clawed to become a mom again.  But it wasn’t easy, and the full-time job she held barely paid the bills.  There wasn’t much left over for Christmas. 

Until she crashed headlong into a small Bible study group.

It took 18 trips up the apartment stairs to carry everything in.  The little Christmas tree could barely be seen.  The living room floor was half-covered.  And in the middle of  the mess, I held onto a sobbing, sweet, beautiful mom who experienced, maybe for the very first time in her life, grace and love that were extravagant. 

Who will you love extravagantly?

“Mostly what God does is love you.  Keep company with Him and learn a life of love.  Observe how Christ loved us.  His love was not cautious but extravagant…Love like that.”  Ephesians 5:2 (MSG)

Dec 252010

He was a big man, with a full beard and broad shoulders and calloused hands that looked like they knew a good day’s work.  He didn’t say much, just listened to my questions and nodded as his wife supplied the answers.  “We think he was born on time, and he seems pretty healthy, but we don’t know much else.  We heard that his mom was very young, and that she wasn’t in a very good position to take care of him.”  This baby was lucky, moving from the hospital straight to their home.  I knew that a half dozen other newborns were laying in the foster shelter as we spoke, waiting for a place to go. 

He edged closer to the table, watching my every move as I examined the infant, as if he was concerned I might miss something or be too rough.  Only when the boy was wrapped snug in a blanket and back in the safety of his wife’s arms did he relax a little.  “How long have you been foster parents?” I asked.  “Four years,” he answered.  “Seven kids.  I miss them all.  I wonder what they will grow up to be.  If  somehow I was able to have an impact on them.  Never knew I could love someone else’s child like that.” 

It is a special thing to be a dad.  But it is a divine calling to be the dad of someone else’s child.  A holy opportunity.  Are you up for it?

…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save people from their sins” … when Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him.   Matthew 1:20-24 (NIV)

Sep 172010

It had been two years since our first encounter, when she came to foster care as a victim of years of sexual abuse by a close family member.  My mind flashed back to that day, to that kid.  To the anger, fear, and depression, the desire to leave this world far behind, with no hope at all that the next would be any better.  Flashed back to the fresh carving on her stomach.


The sound of a baby crying in the next room snapped my attention back to the present.  To the confident, half-smiling young lady sitting on my exam table.  “I remember you from when I was here before,” she said.  She was so different.  I was speechless, didn’t know what to say or how to even ask what the difference was, so I stalled.  Listened to her heartbeat, looked in her ears, that sort of thing.  Finally, the words came. 

“How are you doing?  Or maybe the real question I want answered is how are you doing so well?”

She smiled even wider, and told me about the family that had taken care of her after she left the shelter.  How they had treated her like one of their own kids.  Had taught her about family and trust and relationships and value.  Her answer to my question?

“I have been with someone who loves me.” 

Simple.  Powerful.  Life-changing. 

Will someone say that about you or me?  That being in OUR presence meant that they were with someone who loved them?  I hope so.  With all my heart, I hope so.

May 132010

She sat quietly, blinking away tears, as she read again the mother’s day poem.  Next to her lay a stack of construction paper cards and colorful trinkets made by her kids to honor the day.  But this gift – it was different.  It was straight from the heart of her daughter. 

Her mind drifted back four years to the day the girl came to live in their home.  They had interacted at the occasional family gathering, but this was a whole new kind of relationship.  The nearly 13 year-old brought very few physical possessions, but the emotional baggage that tagged along could have filled up the house. 

Abuse.  Brokenness.  Anger.  Sadness.  Distrust.  Rage. 

There had been many good days, that was sure.  But many struggles as well.  Often the relationship between the two was like being beaten by the wind and rain of a hurricane.  Yet somehow they struggled together against the storm – held on to each other. 

Survived.  Cared.  Healed.  Redeemed.  Loved. 

The storm isn’t over, but on Mother’s Day, they were able to rest for a little while.  As words from a chosen daughter filled the heart of an adoptive mom.


You pulled me

Out of the


You saved me

From could’ve


You’ve been

Here with me


Good and bad

Thick and thin


Haven’t given up

You’re strong

When I’m weak

You’re peaceful

When I’m out of


You’re my mom

My role-model

And my hero

I love you and

I wanna be

Just like you!

I love you mom



May 032010

So I have this friend.  Actually we have only been friends for a few months.  But it turns out that we have something unusual in common.  We both love foster kids, but that isn’t the uncommon part.  What sets my friend apart is that she loves the birth parent of her foster kids.  In case you blew past that, let me say it again.

She loves the birth parent of her foster kids.

She believes that she is called to do that – to create opportunities for a mom that has never had anything.  To offer relationship that doesn’t have strings attached.  Her husband believes it too.  And her friends are starting to.  In fact, she is rounding up a whole army of people who are willing to go deep with her. 

 To get dirty.  To work hard.  To hurt.  To get frustrated.  To pray.  To encourage.  To support. To hope.  And most of all?  To love. 

It’s really what we should be about. 

For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.  Galatians 5:6 (MSG)

Apr 142010

I pulled a muscle in my back a few days ago. Wish I could say I was doing something exciting, but the truth is, I was just getting out of the car. That’s all. I spent much of the weekend taking handfuls of ibuprofen and trying to find a comfortable position, all the while dealing with the nagging, gnawing pain that was physically and mentally exhausting. While it was present most of the time, occasionally it would let up and for just a second I would forget about the injury. For a very short time. And then when I moved, the pain would come back, worse than ever.

She was 17, and counting the days until her birthday so she could be “out on her own”. She was going to move in with a friend, she told me, and try to get a job, although she had only completed the 9th grade so far, and thought that being employed at a fast food restaurant was her best option. She answered my questions in a somewhat robotic, monotonous voice, and she seemed almost able to predict what the question was before I had asked it. Until I asked about family. Then the robot vanished. Her voice shook, and her eyes filled with pain.

Lots of it.

First in foster care at age 2. Back and forth between the system and home until she was school-age. Parents rights terminated. In several foster homes. Then adopted. Until it got hard. Then back into foster care. Now, almost on her own. But with no hope, no future, no life. Just pain. Chronic, long-standing pain.

Ibuprofen won’t fix that. Only one thing will. Love. Massive, overwhelming, unconditional love. And she hasn’t found that yet.