Serenity and Jeff just left for their first ever father/daughter dance! And although my ‘dance team, dance all day til you drop’ daughter may be a bit surprised by the interesting dance moves of her ‘I was raised a Baptist-nuf said’ father, I know tonight will be such a great memory for both of them. (The irony is that the dance is hosted by her school-Arkansas Baptist!- in a facility that is named after her grandfather-my dad!)
As they headed out for dinner at a fancy restaurant, where the dad of one of Serenity’s good friends is the head chef, I couldn’t help but think about how blessed Jeff and I are to have six amazing children and a beautiful daughter-in-law. Not a day goes by that I don’t rejoice in the Lord’s blessing. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t difficult times, challenges, disappointments and stress, but even in the desert places, I am beyond grateful.
Seeing the pictures of Serenity and Jeff brought another thing to mind; kids in foster care who don’t have the ‘luxury’ of having a father. Nine years ago when Jeff and I made the switch from our ‘cushy’ foster care gig at an incredible agency to the state, we began to notice a disturbing trend; not one of the kids that came into our home had a father that was present, let alone engaged in the process. Jeff realized that for many of these kids, he might be the only father they would ever have. What a sobering thought and huge responsibility, that out of their entire lives, these kids might only have a father for 3 months or 6 months or a year. After each child left our home, Jeff would put a snapshot of them in the front of his Bible so that he could pray for them.
Many times, when I speak, I talk about the importance of men, of fathers, in the lives of kids in foster care. Women are often (not always) the initiators of the foster care process; we’re emotional, motherly and wrecked by the pictures, videos and statistics. We draw our husbands in and the Lord moves them to action as well. But it is critical for men to realize that they are not playing a passive role in this process of parenting children from ‘hard’ places. They are crucial in instilling love, strength and appropriate ‘father/child’ dynamics into the lives of foster children. They have the amazing opportunity to be a picture of the unconditional-loving heavenly Father; maybe the only picture.
Tonight, I’m grateful that like our other four children, Serenity and Edward have a daddy that loves them, provides for them, and pours himself into them. He sacrifices, encourages and presses them to be all that God wants them to be.