What is it like being a houseparent? Imagine for a moment that you have been challenged to put together a million piece jigsaw puzzle. You have one to two years to complete it and help from all of the people you work with. Sounds easy enough, right? There’s one more catch…the picture side of the puzzle is facing down, and you can’t see it.
I was up late the other night talking about some hard things and heart things with one of my kids and this mental image of a puzzle came to mind. This is what it is like walking through life with our kids here at Cookson Hills. They come to you and you know little bits and pieces from their life puzzle. You might even be lucky enough to have a corner piece! Our children are with us sometimes a year or two, and in that time, we hope to at least begin to piece the puzzle together. As a houseparent, it is my job to cheer our kids on and pray them through the sifting of puzzle pieces. Some days and weeks our teamwork helps us accomplish a lot. Other times we wade through looking for even just one edge to hold on to.
My husband and I have been houseparents and/or foster parents for a little over five years. There are two questions people always ask: 1. Are they all yours!? 2. How do you do it? To the first question, my answer is always an emphatic, “Yes!” (I love to witness the confused looks after my answer.) From the moment a child comes into our home, we already love them. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done, we love them like our own. Living life with that perspective gives us the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. He gave His life for me as well as His unending grace and forgiveness, I think I can extend just as much to my children. To the latter question, my answer is always: Jesus. That’s so much deeper than just a “Sunday School” answer though. As a houseparent there are amazing days, really, really good days, and well, honestly, some really stinky days. We allow ourselves to daily draw our strength from God and make Him known as the shining star of the show.
During a particularly difficult season of house parenting the song, “Holy Spirit” by Francesca Battistelli was put on my heart. It says:
“Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord”
Those lyrics resonated with me. From that point on, we started prayer-walking our home. Every day, either before all the kids got up for school or after they all went to bed, I would go quietly stand outside their closed doors and ever so gently just put my hand on their door and just pray over them. I ask the Holy Spirit to be with them and in our home and to give me wisdom pertaining to what to do as their “mom.” Christ’s strength is how we do what we do. We answered the call on our hearts to help kids in crisis situations and when we said yes, we knew we could only do it through Him.
So what does being a houseparent look like? We do all the “normal” parent duties of cleaning, cooking, homework, leading devotions and having quality family time. We paint nails, watch movies, have lazy pajama days, surprise water fights, and go on vacations. We rely on Jesus to give us the strength and wisdom to get through every day. We build deep relationships with our children, and our hope is that one day we will get enough of the puzzle together that we can start to see God’s big picture plans for our children’s lives.