I thought you were joking!

I’m a bit slow. It had been about two years, maybe three or four times a year; phrases like, “Shall we become foster carers?” “We could do fostering.” Only this time the thought stuck and the penny dropped: “You’re serious, aren’t you? I thought you were joking!”

And so began the exploration. I needed time. I walked. My usual walk along the beach, trying to make sense of the idea, trying to think through the implications, and trying to find where God was in all of this.

I have conversations with God. He is kind, invariably giving me a sense of his heart and purposes for me, but this was different. I remember clearly the day that I spoke with him and plunged myself into something so much deeper than the fostering. “But it’s not important enough for me!” As soon the words and the exclamation mark came out of my mouth I knew I was in trouble. “Really? Let me show you.”

And so I started a journey of discovering why fostering was God’s agenda for us as a couple and a family. From May through to August, He pursued me – newspaper articles, documentaries, films, music, books, conversations, all designed to open my eyes to why fostering was so important to God and, therefore to me. We went on holiday in August, and every day God woke me at 05.00 and showed me over and over why it made perfect sense for us to become foster carers. There were many tears as I grappled with the challenge. Now, don’t get too excited – I’m not a great sleeper and a regular “cryer” so neither were unusual, but this was different. God was on my case.

For many years previously, my passion had been the Father Heart of God. My own journey had led me into a revelation and an understanding of the power of knowing God as my Papa. And so I got to the point of asking myself the question… or was Holy Spirit whispering? “What greater way can you find to share the Father Heart of God than being a foster carer?” And the reality is I couldn’t. However hard I tried.

And so in December 2013 we were approved to be short-term foster-carers for our local authority. And in January 2014, the first two little ones arrived and we were crashing into a world of pain and darkness that I had never touched before. It is now August 2019. As I write at silly ‘o’ clock, our final placement, seven weeks old, is asleep in her pram. She is placement number 11, baby number 9. Three have returned home to birth parents, and we still see one occasionally; the first two are in long-term care; five have been adopted, with that being the plan for number 11. We still see the five who have been adopted. We are treated as family, and the unfolding of their stories continues to amaze us and fill us with awe at the grace and kindness of our God.

Being a foster carer is, without doubt, the hardest job I have ever done. But then it is so much more than a job. And it is, without doubt, the most rewarding thing I have ever done. To see little lives plucked from the darkness and the pain of their challenging starts, and see God heal them up as we try to love them with all that we have, has been such a privilege and a joy. To see adoptive parents take these little ones from our care and make themselves a family leaves me speechless and in tears most of the time.

And then I have to agree: being a foster-carer has been one of the most important things I have ever done. And it has changed me for ever.

Unforced Rhythms

It’s 4.45 in the morning. I’m already up. My sleep patterns are shot to pieces. I get a text from upstairs; the little one is awake and not going back to sleep. That’s not unusual. He is what we affectionately call our latest “drugs baby.” No one response works more than a couple of times, so I have to quickly decide what to do.

Fifteen minutes later and he is asleep in my arms and I am sat in my IKEA rocking chair. I am frustrated: I can’t reach my once hot, now lukewarm coffee; I can’t reach my iPad; I can’t reach my book; I can’t even reach the TV controls – bad planning.

I intermittently hum and “shh” the little one, while gently rocking in my chair. The very slight creak warns me I need to tighten the bolt, top left hand side, but for now it is part of the symphony. He then adds the gentle snoring sound to the rhythm that starts to emerge. And as I sit there, Papa emerges in the darkness. I sense he strokes the little one’s hair and then squeezes my shoulder. And then I get it. The power of rhythm.

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

28 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

And as I continue the rhythm that soothes the little one, offering him safety, security and love, the words of Yeshua the Christ come to mind. I love that phrase “the unforced rhythms of grace,” and on this morning, in the darkness, I discover the power of them all over again.

You will find rhythm wherever you go – the sea washing up on the shore, the gentle breeze rustling the leaves on the trees, the drone of the plane or the car. Little ones love the white noise of the washing machine or the hoover – there is a built-in rhythm that soothes their fractious hearts.

In the next forty-five minutes I enjoyed the stillness and the gentle rhythm along with the quiet joy of loving this little one back to life. But more than that, I enjoyed listening to the heartbeat and the gentle breathing in and out of my God, who knows me better than I know myself, and who knows that I flourish and live and love when I am living in the unforced rhythms of his grace.

It is part of the The Great Adventure that I find myself facing, a journey of discovering the vastness of my God’s heart and the endless oceans of his love for me. It is not what I expected; no, it is much better than that and learning to rest and settle into the rhythms that he provides for me is part of keeping myself mentally and emotionally safe while at the same time giving me more than enough to share with the next one.

Welcome to the Journey

I am a son, a husband, a father, a friend. I am, a recently retired, local authority foster carer, a member of a crazy, creative, frustration and joyous “church” family. I am a pilgrim, a traveller, an explorer, an avid reader and novice writer.

And I am wounded and scarred, broken and damaged. And yet healed and loved beyond recognition. On a good day, I am Papa’s Little Boy and Papa to “the next one.”

On a bad day… I am self-righteous, self-absorbed, religious, judgmental, critical, negative, determined to be right and let you know that I am right, at all costs. On these days, my scars have been prodded and poked enough for them to hurt all over again. And when I hurt… here comes another bad day.

Why am I writing?

I have always dreamed of writing. So, when somebody prays that past dreams be fulfilled, including writing, and then somebody comments on my writing skills, it felt like a nudge, a heavenly elbow in the ribs.

I am certainly not trying to persuade, convince, convict or put right. I have had more than enough of that in my life, both as a giver and a receiver. Neither am I claiming some superior revelation and experience; it is my journey and my story, not yours.

I do want to explore and discover, provoke and stimulate, encourage and support… fellow travellers and storytellers. I am not looking to force our paths together, but if we should bump into each other? Well, let’s walk and explore together for a while and see where it takes us.

My Own Secret Place