How Resting in Christ Freed Me from Bitterness

Growing up in the church, I was always told God was good and that He loves us, and I didn’t question it for a second. It wasn’t until I was an adult enduring infertility when I began wrestling with those concepts.

“God, are you good?”

“Do you see me?”

“Why does everyone get to move forward and I’m stuck here confused and hurting?”

I wanted answers. Answers from doctors and from God, and I wasn’t getting any from anyone. I found myself bitter, angry, and confused. All I wanted my entire life was to be a mother, and it didn’t look promising.

I searched scriptures. I prayed. I sobbed on my living room floor, grappling to understand what God could be doing. I couldn’t find peace and was resentful. In despair I watched friends and family share pregnancy and birth announcements. I found myself constantly frustrated wanting to control anything that I could, and avoided women’s gatherings not being able to bear any more talk about child rearing. It wasn’t until I did a study about abiding (resting) in Christ that I came to a place where I understood God’s heart regarding my suffering.

Keri Nikkel BitternessIn Andrew Murray’s book “Abide in Christ” he says: “Abide in Christ! This is indeed the Father’s object in sending the trial. In the storm the tree strikes deeper roots in the soil; in the hurricane the inhabitants of the house abide within, and rejoice in its shelter. So by suffering the Father would lead us to enter more deeply into the love of Christ.”

Oh. He wasn’t being spiteful or showing me that I had upset Him. He was asking me to come to Him, like a child running to their father for protection. I had been carrying my burdens and they were weighing me down. All the while thinking I was alone, He was actually walking with me, gently inviting me to bring Him my sorrows and rest in Him. I won’t pretend that my heart changed overnight, and that magically my bitterness and frustration disappeared. But with each day choosing to trust God with my deepest desires, He drew me deeper into peace with Him.

Bitterness Keri NikkelJesus says: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

After placing my hope in Christ instead of an answer, my heart was filled with joy in what had been the most painful time of my life. Our God is a God who redeems, He did have a plan for me to be a mother although it was not the way I initially anticipated. Our whole journey was preparing us for adoption, and I am so thankful for it. Had I held onto my pain and bitterness I would not have been open to what has become my greatest blessing. Yes, at times I do still mourn not bearing a child. But, now knowing I can trust God with my deepest desires, I know that His plan is greater than my own I have found peace in His will.

7c7d0-24955437073_d41206ac70_oKeri is a wife and stay at home mom. God has, and is, using many situations to teach her to abide in Him. She believes we are all given a story that can help encourage others and hopes to offer hers as an encouragement to you.


Fostering Change

Driving down the highway on auto-pilot, I spoke outloud to the little one gazing sleepily out the window as I breathed in the early morning air.

“Today you get to be with your mom and dad all day, and pretty soon you don’t have to leave them anymore. They are going to take care of you and I will miss you so much.” She babbled back, but she was too little to have real words.

Unbuckle. Deep Breath. The handoff. Go home. Come Back just in time for dinner. Meltdown. Bedtime with an extra song. Pray for her. For Mom. For Dad. Repeat.

foster care Holly Hawes changeUntil one day we packed everything up and restoration happened. A family was reunited. We prayed our way to the moment when we shook their hands, unpacked the boxes, and drove as far as we could. We drove to the Pacific Coast where the salty air mixed with our tears and we could be reminded of the very big God who made the ocean so vast. He was the one who had intertwined our story with this little girl and the many people who love her. He is the one who holds us together when changes in life are hard, because even good change can be difficult.

My days have changed since then. Life doesn’t revolve around naptime, visitation schedules,and playing peek-a-boo. Every child we have had over that last four years has changed us. For a season there were new schedules, taking apart the bunk bed and putting together the crib, new schools, moving the bedrooms around again, different snacks because the last child liked cheese sticks, and this one doesn’t.

Now the time has come for a harder change. We are no longer foster parents, by choice. Partly to rest from the chaos of a revolving door, and partly to eventually pursue adoption through another means.

Before I finally accepted the change, I dug in my heels. I thought we were called to this? Even if we come back in the future, how is it that now is not the right time? How can I say no to the phone calls, the stories, the children who wait in DHS offices for a family to give them shelter? God, what are you doing?! What does this change mean?

Then, I was reminded this weekend of a word I began to ponder almost a decade ago as I read Isaiah 58.



“And the LORD will guide you continually

and satisfy your desire in scorched places

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,

like a spring of water,

whose waters do not fail.

And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;

you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

you shall be called the repairer of the breach,

the restorer of streets to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:11-12


Holly Hawes Change Foster Care (1)I long to be a restorer in my community. I have had just a taste of seeing restoration first-hand, and I want to see more. I long for broken generations of people who are stuck in self-destructive lifestyles to find their footing in Christ—the only foundation that can bring true change and life.

The mission we have is timeless, but the specific application can change. There isn’t just one place where that restoration happens. It happens in foster care, in the women’s shelters, in my kid’s classroom, in my neighborhood, in the home, and within my soul. Wherever the people of God are, the Lord is guiding them, satisfying them, making them a spring of water able to overflow with the living water to people who are dying of thirst.

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

The Legacy of Adoption

Author: Kimberley Mulder

My daughter was born and abandoned. This is a fact I cannot change. It deeply affects her sense of the world and herself. She, nor I, can separate ourselves from this legacy—as painful as it is. In fact, disowning or denying it equates to putting a rock in a crack to create a path, only to find that the rock pushes the sides apart. Then we are left with a greater divide.

I too was born into a broken legacy. Adam and Eve brought forth this terrible break from the Provider of our needs, both physical and spiritual. We cannot separate ourselves from that which our forbearers passed on, nor can we change it, nor prevent continuing it, for that is a fact of the world until God’s kingdom comes fully.

Care and ConnectionWe are sure to leave a legacy of need. Even beyond our physical, cellular level which clamors for touch, food, water, and shelter, our spirits are born with a screaming cry for care and connection.

God sees. God foresees. God made a way to rescue us from our old legacy not by removing our needs, but by meeting them.  God changed our legacy by adopting us, giving us Himself, all His loving care, and all His delight.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” -Psalm 33:12

So Jesus came within our legacy of need and brokenness. Fully human and fully God, He experienced His spirit’s cry for connection. Each of his prayers a cord stretching across the gap connecting God and man. Each healing another cord of love drawing God and man together. Each teaching another cord of revelation of God’s heart to man. Then God wrenched those cords tight, drawing the sides together, closing the gap humanity’s fall had created. With the might of his self surrender and self sacrifice on the cross Jesus met our greatest need. The temple curtain ripped, the day turned to night, and God suffered so that we no longer had to. He gave us a new legacy.

Adoption LegacyTo live into our new legacy we must still walk honestly through the old legacy—with Jesus. The more I bring my needs to God, or allow him to excavate them in order to meet them, the more I am able to say with words and actions to my adopted daughter: “I see you. I want to meet your needs so that you can feel safe and worthy, to be with you in the legacy you find yourself.” As I do so, I am entering the legacy of Jesus—the legacy of love, healing, and connection, and I am, with every prayer and participation in every healing, drawing the cords of loving kindness across the crevice in my daughter’s heart so that she too can grab hold of the legacy Jesus holds out to her.

Readers, How has your legacy been redeemed? Tell us in the comments.

2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and records the reflections and connections Jesus gives her to share with others.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

Loving Obedience

“Wow. I could never do what you’re doing. I would get so attached, and never be able to let them go home.”

I have heard this, or variations of this, thought throughout the years from kind well-meaning people. This statement, that strokes my pride but forgets the work God has done in me, is the most common reaction I get as a foster parent. It comes in different tones. Astonishment. Admiration. Confusion. Perhaps a touch of guilt. I never know quite how to respond. Whether it comes up at the grocery store, through a message on Facebook, or while standing in the lobby of a church, we all agree on one thing It isn’t natural to love when there is nothing in it for us.

Attachment foster careI hear you. It’s true, it is hard to continue connecting. Pursuing the best for a child I won’t get to see grow up takes a whole lot of grace, and I can only describe this grace as not from me. My husband and I are not the heroes of this story, we love because God loved us.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. -1 John 4:7-11

Jesus loved sacrificially. We have grace, forgiveness, mercy, freedom, and abundant life not because of anything we’ve done, but because God loved us and wants to be known by us. But his love was poured out through great suffering. Why are we surprised then, that when we follow Jesus and obey his call to love the world, it comes at a cost, as Philippians 2:8 says, Jesus “…humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

I have resolved within my soul that I will love like my Savior, and if that means I must set myself in the path of heartache so that I may obey, so that  I may love, so be it.

As C.S. Lewis said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” So I wake for midnight feedings that may never shift to midnight chats. I celebrate “first” experiences and offer wisdom when little ears are listening, praying it will stick. These children that enter into my home have experienced loss, and I cannot seek to comfort while remaining robotic and unconnected.

Yes, it hurts when they go, but love is worth the risk. It is the gift we can give to combat the suffering that presses into children just looking for a way.  At the beginning of our foster care  journey my husband and I talked about seeking to love every child like they would never leave. Simultaneously, we fight to remain open handed since we do not determine how long we have them. The ethos of love for our family is no longer as simple as an emotion.  It is a choice, deliberately made, to mirror the gospel.

HeroesTruthfully, I’ve said my own version of, “I couldn’t do what you’re doing,” when I see people love in wild, outlandish, and unconventional ways. Families who invite refugees to live with them while they acclimate to a new culture. Women who give friendship to the lonely and offer their presence in the midst of hard times.Single ladies who leave everyone they know and move across the country, or the world, to pursue a vocation where she will be able serve a hurting population. Mom’s who fill their van’s with neighborhood kids, building community amongst the noise.

All these pursuits may seem different, but they are the same at their core. Obedience. They are all a response to the call to love the person in front of you, so that the God who loved us first can be made known.

I wish that instead of “I could never” our narrative could turn to a celebration of obedience as our sisters participate in the different ways God asks us all to join Him in His work. It doesn’t have to be life altering. Perhaps it is as simple as asking God for the strength to view the person in front of us as he does. Reaching out to the other with the resolution that,  “I will love you, even if you don’t agree with me. Even if I don’t get anything out of it. Even if it hurts.”

Readers, How has God called you to obey him? 

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

The Thanksgiving Phone Call that Changed our Lives

Author: Keri Nikkel

It was Thanksgiving Day. My husband Matt and I were at my in-laws, busying ourselves with laughter, food prep, and good conversation. Finally, the time came to eat. All the smells that had been tempting us for hours were about to be enjoyed. The food was set out buffet style in the kitchen, and we lined up one by one, each person grabbing a plate and creating mountains of mashed potatoes and turkey. I took a plate and held it out for Matt, but he wasn’t looking, he was on his phone. I rolled my eyes, thinking he was playing a game or checking NFL scores. But no, he had a missed call from our adoption case worker. Confused, we snuck off to another room to call her back, and heard the most unbelievable news I ever heard.

We had been chosen by a birth mother.

Eighteen months before that our adoption process had started. And the three years prior were full of doctors visits and no explanations. This process was full of uncertainty and hard work, which meant this control freak had a hard time not being in the driver’s seat. We experienced multiple delayed training classes, desperate fundraising to make the next big payment, a home walk through on our anniversary, and being one of 18 families waiting for a child. By the time we got the Thanksgiving call, we had become accustomed to waiting. And during the wait, I learned what God already knew, that I needed to experience that burdening season so I could learn that only He had control. He is worthy of being trusted with my deepest desires.

Twelve weeks passed between that Thanksgiving call and the time of the birth. That may not seem like much, but the anticipation and uncertainty made it feel like eternity. We loved on and built a relationship with the sweet woman who chose us, and were honored to be invited to witness her pastor pray over the unborn babe. Although, I could feel God strengthening us and leading us forward, I still felt like I was holding my breath—waiting for something to go wrong. Each day the enemy was quick to tempt me to be swallowed up by fear, and each day I had to make the choice to trust that God was bigger.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 ESV

No matter the outcome, God knew what was best for the baby and for our family. My prayers turned from, “God, please let this baby come home with us” to “God, I know you have a will for this child. Please place him exactly where you want him, even if that isn’t in our home.”

Valentine’s Day was a Sunday. We went to church, holding secret that induction would be happening the next morning. Making small talk, all the while trying not to be constricted to death by uncertainty. Afterwards, we headed home, packed the car and drove to the town where she lived. Tossing and turning most of the night, we woke early and made the 10 minute drive to the hospital. The short drive felt like a never ending tunnel. I sat in the passenger’s seat, wringing my hands until we saw the tan brick building. We parked the car, slowly walked in and joined our case worker in the waiting room.

After thirty minutes of nervous chatter a nurse walked in, “she would like you to come up now.” My stomach dropped. We took the elevator up, and in what seemed like slo-mo we walked past the nurses’ station. Each one of them staring at us, giving hesitant smiles. When we reached her room I knocked on the door. A friend of hers (whom we had met before) greeted us and brought us in. In that moment, peace washed over me and I knew. God would be glorified here, whether I go home as a mommy or not. What mattered was supporting this precious woman and her excruciating decision. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 NIV

After two days of feeling all the feels and caring for a sweet baby boy, we took the two hour drive home as parents. The selfless love of a mother was the way I became one, and the details leading up to us bringing our son home minister to my heart every day. God also gave me an overwhelming love for a woman who chose life for a child who calls me Mama. And a trust in Him, that gives me courage in uncertainty.

Our lives have changed, and so has my faith. Not because this time I got what I wanted, but because God helped me learn to trade in fear for peace, control for obedience, and sadness for joy.

“LORD, you establish peace for us;

all that we have accomplished you have done for us.”

Isaiah 26:12 NIV

Readers, Do you have a story of how God showed you hope in a tough circumstance. We would love to help you share it. Check out our submissionspage for details.

Keri is a wife and new mama, who loves Jesus and believes we are all given a story that can be used to encourage others.

Dear Adoptive Parents

Dear adoptive parents,

There is something I want you to know, and I am unashamedly going to steal a line from NBC’s Parenthood’s patriarch, Zeek Braverman, to do it.

“I hear you, and I see you.”

I hear you.

I hear your earnest, heart-filled desires to bring children into your homes. You pour out your hearts to God. You ask for wisdom, for guidance. Sometimes you are asking God for direction because you are unable to have children of your own. Sometimes, your families do not feel complete until your adopted son or daughter is busy growing up alongside your biological children, their siblings.

You are heard when you request prayers in pursuing which avenue of adoption to take: foster-to-adopt, infant adoption, overseas adoption. I hear your passionate voices when you speak of the children who are yet to join your home, or who already have. You are heard.

I see you.

I see you raising money by creative pursuits and unique inspiration. The t-shirts, the puzzle pieces, the jewelry, and the garage sales.

I have seen your friends sell their possessions to help you pay for your adoption.

I see how much it costs to adopt a child, and yet, you do not complain.

I see your trust in God’s provision.

I see the hope you have for bringing home your child.

I see you waiting years for your child, without hesitation.

I see you loving your adoptive son or daughter exactly as if they were your biological child. You are seen.

In Ephesians 1:3-10, Paul writes,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Sweet adoptive parents, the beauty of this passage is that God chose us He predestined us. We are adopted by God the Father, just like you adopt your son or daughter. As you persevere through the painstaking trials to adopt your child, to get to your child, you are a direct reflection of God the Father. I am a firm believer that the child you adopted is specifically hand-picked for your family.

So, adoptive parents, hear me. “I hear you, and I see you.”

I hear your prayer requests, and I will not stop praying until your child comes home to live with you.

I see your efforts in raising money to bring home your child, and I will support you in doing so with time and money.

I hear you share your challenges as you raise your son or daughter, and I have hope for you as your family begins to meld together.

I see you raising your sons and daughters. And I want you to know, I am on my knees asking God to care for you as you care for your child.  

Adoptive parents, my dear friends, you are precious. You are called. You echo the heart of God.

I hear you. I see you.

Readers, Do you see the needs of adoptive parents? Consider how you could help today.

Sarah believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog, and you can find her stories for Anchored Voices under the tag Sarah.

Temporary Dad

Author: Josh Hawes

I experienced something most fathers simultaneously dread, and consider one of their proudest moments in life. I took the arm of a young woman dressed in white and escorted her down the aisle to give her away to the man she loves. Though she wasn’t my daughter, and in actuality is slightly older than me, it was an honor and a privilege to usher her to the one she wed.

My wife and I desire to be hospitable as a way to show others the welcoming love of Christ. At various points throughout our marriage, even before becoming foster parents, we have had people live with us. Some stayed for a day or two to hide from an abusive ex, another for a year until she got married. One was the girl I walked down the aisle. We also long to care for the orphan. We have had 10 foster children, nine of which were in the last twelve months.

As they joined us in ones, twos, and fours, I began to notice a trend.  Almost without fail, they entered our home partially due to an absent or failed father. Some of these men were too controlling, some were absent, one left by death, and many were weighed down by the consequences of poor life choices. While I was not a replacement for these individuals’ dads, God revealed the deep strength of his Father’s heart more each time. I will never be Dad to the woman I walked down the aisle, but for one fleeting moment, I stepped up as Temporary Dad.

Our most recent foster daughter recently went home. As she prepared to leave she questioned her mom about when she would get married so she could have a dad. A discussion ensued with her and her mother about marriage and wisdom, but one part stood out to me; our foster daughter said, “Well of course Josh will always be my dad, but…”

While incredibly cute on the surface, her statement magnified the pressing need for fathers. This child’s statement demonstrates  how great the effects of being willing to step into someone’s life and fill a role, even for a short while can be. It is always inconvenient, it always hurts, and it is always worth it.

God is the true father to the fatherless, and for those who call Him their own, they are often called to father others. Sometimes this looks like adding a member permanently through adoption, or maybe it is helping a person make a budget, shop for a car, break up with their boyfriend. In whatever way God may call us, being someone’s temporary dad can make an impact for life. Moreover, it shows the heart of God the Father when you do it in His name. For His is the name that lasts eternally.

Our names, our actions, they are but a blip on the radar of time. Even with my adopted daughter, I cannot promise to always be there. She will be graduating in two and a half years. When she is in college, I won’t be able to protect her. When I get to walk her down the aisle, I will be handing over her protection and leadership to another man. Tragedy could strike and I could go to be with Jesus, leaving my family here. We are, all of us, temporary. So I have to hope and trust in something bigger than myself, knowing I am not enough. I know that God is the  better dad, the better husband, and the best provider.

I can trust him with the prayers I have prayed for my temporary daughters, sisters, and sons. I can trust Him with the chaos of this ever changing world. I can trust Him with all that I am, have done, or will do. For He is the never failing eternal Father.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Ephesians 1:3-4

Readers, How can you help others to find wisdom, hope, and trust in our Heavenly Father?

Josh Hawes is our first male voice here at Anchored Voices, and it is an honor to have him. He is a hard worker, husband, father, and foster father who is trying to faithfully walk through life as he is made more like Christ.


When the Adoption Fell Through

The night before it all fell through my husband had a dream that skated on the edge between sleep and wakefulness. The kind where you think your dream-life actually happened, only to wake and find it never existed at all. He was holding her, a girl we planned to name Harper, sleeping on his chest. It felt so real; the warmth and weight of a tiny body snuggled up, safe, and peaceful in daddy’s arms.
Then the phone rang like a chill shivering up the spine of a silent September morning. It was over.
We’d raised money, poured over her pictures, completed an expedited home study, and talked to a myriad of lawyers. We had done anything we could to make the dream a reality. The flight was practically booked to bring our little girl home when we were told it wouldn’t be needed.
Something I was sure was ours turned out to only be vapor. Worse, a dream I was sure had been planted in my heart by God suddenly withered for reasons I could not fathom. Why this cruel, quiet reality? Why not this child? Would we ever become parents?
The following weeks were a rollercoaster. I was sad. I was angry. I was embarrassed. I thought I looked like a fool for hoping this adoption process would actually come through. I’d been so vocal about the path I thought God had placed us on. Had He failed? Or had I failed to hear?
Before we lost her officially, I had begun to lose hope. One day I opened the Bible to a random page, desperate to be reassured that all would be okay.
Romans 8:31 jumped off the page. “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
That was it. I posted on my personal blog and Facebook about the latest adoption challenge with the hashtags #ifgodisforuswhocanbeagainstus & #adoptionrocks.
The truth? I had equated God’s goodness with Him giving me what I want. In my eyes His faithfulness would ensure that the road would be smooth, and this circumstance would turn out in our favor. In reality, the theme of that chunk of scripture assures me that no trial or suffering could separate me from the love of Christ.
I had been reading the Bible like it was a crystal ball—all about me and my circumstances and the next step to take.  Not as it truly is, a story of God and what he’s done to rescue his people. My quick interpretation of one verse was entirely backwards.
But the truth gave so much freedom:
  • I could be weak, because the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. Romans 8:26
  • God is working for the good of those who love him, according to his own purpose. Which means He would lead us to His purpose and somehow it would be good (8:28). Even when, even though, we weren’t taking home this child.
  • God gave his only son on my behalf (8:32). He is not holding out on me. Nothing can separate me from His love.(8:35)
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult. I knew He had been leading us to adoption, and when it fell apart I couldn’t see why the path suddenly became a dead end.
A week later, we were told a heart-wrenching story of an older teen girl who desperately needed a place to stay.  She had been trafficked and needed to not go back to the area she was from.  I casually asked what it would take to become foster parents, since we already had a home study completed. I figured that since we had no other children, and we had been told, because of our young age, that we’d wait for up to three years for one we might be able to help. That situation ended up not being a good fit. We didn’t live in the right place.
A week later we received a life changing phone call. Could we be just foster parents? For up to a year? A 12 year old girl, who had been in an adoptive placement needed to move. Today. Everything in her life was falling apart, and we lived in the right town.
Three years later, she is our daughter. Rather than being in the potty training stage we are about to start driving lessons. I didn’t see that coming, but I’m so glad it did.
We’ve marveled over and over how God put us together. I can see the way He weaved our stories into one. How for her 5 years in foster care God’s people loved her, held her hand, and walked her right to our unlikely doorstep two weeks after we thought our adoption dreams had been decimated.
The dreams we held onto were far too small—we had no idea.  The destruction of one hope led to another being fulfilled. Our daughter was in need of us on the other side of that suffering and pain. God hadn’t failed; His promise stood true. He hadn’t told me that we wouldn’t suffer pain and loss, but reminded me that nothing could separate us from his love because He knew I would need the reminder.

Readers, What hope helps you to trust God with your deepest desires?
Holly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.

Running From Love

“Worst case, if she runs, just call the police.”

Did I hear that right? I had taken this phone call in the safety of my living room, and I was glad. For the cell connection hid the shock painted upon my face. Those words gave me a quick and hard reality check, and I was choking on it. Now, three years removed from the eve of our first experience with foster parenting, I’ve only had to follow this advice once.

Nine children have gone in and out of our home, and one came in to become our own. Through these experiences, I’ve learned much of how we as humans try to protect ourselves. Many times, in trying to do so, we run from exactly what we need most. I had no idea how difficult it can be for some to receive love, or how much I run from being loved myself.

We all do it. Fear causes us to run from love. As we attempt to get through the walls we ourselves and others put up we must realize that it may take extraordinary measures of persistence and sacrifice.

In children who have experienced trauma, it can come out in running, screaming, or slammed doors. They push people away before they get close enough to hurt, because that is what they have experienced. After enduring profound emotional and physical pain at the hands of those who are closest, the very people who should keep them safe, they learn to protect themselves from vulnerability. Which can cause a domino effect to those reaching out. Our natural response to being given the cold shoulder or being lashed out in episodes of explosive anger—Get away. What the child actually is asking for as they try to make you turn is closeness, connection, and safety. Their overtop reaction is a pleading for love.

I haven’t always translated this chaotic disconnect very well. As Dr. Russel Barkley said, “The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways.”

Sometimes they have the words to ask aloud, “Why should I trust you? Do you really care?” Other times the same question comes out in their actions, “Will you still be nice to me if I break your stuff? If I throw a fit, will you still tuck me in and read a bedtime story?”

Love gives both grace and truth in the midst of failure. This love takes perseverance that is completely beyond humanity’s grasp. When love freely given is not returned, or the recipient looks you in the face and spews vinegar for your honey, you are reminded real love is hard.

Real love is worth it.

I see this worth it in the child who packed a bag in anger. It’s contents: a teddy bear, warm clothes and the Jesus Storybook Bible we read at night . One moment raging and running, the next asking for reassurance. A hug. A sandwich. Completely against me one moment, but wanting me to stay close by later. My presence allowing sleep to come quickly.

I see myself in the runners. How I want my own way. How I avoid being near to God when I’m upset instead of collapsing into his open arms. I throw the same fits on a different plane. Moments of unbelief cause me to question if God really loves me, even though I know he has shown his love over and over again. I see now, I am running just to see if he chases me.

He does chase me. Like the Storybook Bible that is once again on the bedside table says, his “Never ending, never giving up, unstopping, always and forever love,” continues to persevere no matter what I throw his way.

His love is relentless, and somehow by God’s great plan there are people in my life who need to be chased down with the same kind of love. A love that does not depend on whether or not it is received or reciprocated. We go to extraordinary lengths to persevere in love because, “We love because He first loved us.” 1John 4:19

So today, I remember the persistence of God’s love for me, and from it I can persevere in loving the people in front of me. Even those who aren’t always easy to catch.


Readers, Are you running from the love of God? What keeps you from seeking him?

ff717-holly2bsquareHolly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.

Dreams Remodeled

About five years ago, after paperwork, paint samples, and hurried home inspections a nearly 90 year old, less-than-900 square foot cottage received its new resident dreamers. Few people had visited the old charmer, despite it’s “character”, because time had taken it’s toll. Toll that would require a whole lot of work. Goldenrod Formica, that oh so dated layered plastic, not only graced the counter-tops but somehow had managed to make it over to the windowsill as well. Let us not forget, the mountain scene mural complete with covered wagon that was sketched into the aging shower tile. The list of defects was long, but we saw endless possibilities.
Walking through the rooms we hoped to fill with love and laughter, we didn’t only see the present, but the potential. How many people could we squeeze into the living room? Which vantage point in the kitchen allowed for full view of the yard where our future children would play?
As we dreamed of our life in the cottage, there was a subtle feeling that for once we were in control. Goodbye apartments and awful management companies who were always cramping my style! I was free. Time to renovate. We lugged gallons of paint into our new home that should have been labeled “most difficult color to paint over.” If we wanted to paint the door blue(or orange, or purple) we could! Deep red in the kitchen provided a coffee shop vibe. Slate blue and gray to offer a soothing atmosphere in the living room. Trendy teal in the bathroom to highlight my husband’s hard work tiling over where the oregon trail landscape had taunted us. Life was open-handed, progress was possible, and change was expected. Little did I know that the highest hopes I held for that new home were merely a shadow of the ways God would work. The maker of the universe wasn’t only interested in the big dreams we had for this home, for our life, but for the moments we could never have anticipated.
People don’t often move into their house envisioning the ways their heart will be broken, or enter into marriage predicting how the highs and lows of extended family will be what you live out together.  They look at the walls and paint the pictures of joy, peace, and togetherness instead of looking at the doors that might be slammed, the pillows that will be cried on, the rooms that will hold deafening silence. I want to laugh when I see quippy statements that insinuate that all there is to achieving your dream is making goals, and taking small steps towards them. Sure, no one gets far by not dreaming, but life happens. And life, well, life can be full of nightmares.
Our cottage is where God began to teach me Psalm 34:18; The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
Just a few days after the house became ours I knelt in the living room and prayed fervently for my grandpa. He was on life support as I painted the walls. On my knees, on the ladder, to my knees again. Waiting for the phone to ring. Praying. Layer after layer of paint. Question after question.
A few months later, that cottage with the painted walls was the last place I saw my other grandpa. He and my grandma had stopped by to see our gardening progress. Then shortly after that afternoon visit, I was sitting in the living room when I got the call that he had passed away suddenly. Grief is another one of those places in which God meets us in ways different than anticipated.
Late at night, when others were asleep,  the 90 year old house witnessed my tears as I confronted infertility month after month. I was fiercely aware of how opposite this was to our plans and dreams. Yet brokenness drew me to Jesus again and again.
God’s dream for me wasn’t a Pinterest perfect life or a great Christmas card, but it was nearness to him.Had life continued just as I had designed, I would have tempted me to believe the lie that I was doing fine on my own. Instead, from my shabby chic chairs to His glorious throne, He drew me. From my thoughts of perfection to His promises, He transformed me.

“…let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”~Romans 12:2b

From my will to His will, He carried me. I did not want to walk the paths in front of me, and I did not lay the stones for the ones behind me. But my God never left me to walk alone. In fact, I can see now that his plans were crafted from deep love and redemption, but I was only able to find them when I began to let Him remodel my dreams.
Readers, How has God remodeled your dreams so that you may fully see the potential He wanted to reveal?
Holly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.