By / Mar 30

At the very core of who we are exists a deep desire and fundamental need for connection, belonging, and security found only within relationships. This eternal truth can be traced back to the very beginning of time.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:26-27).

God’s design for connection

The community between the Father, Son, and Spirit is imprinted on the human soul—we bear the imago Dei, “image of God.” As the creation narrative unfolds, God reflects on his creation of Adam, remarking, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). God’s response to Adam’s solitude is the creation of Eve, Adam’s partner. The height of joy and depth of trust experienced through loving relationships and secure attachment are fundamentally God’s idea and God’s design. 

More than 2,000 years later, we take our place in history longing for connection—remembering this foundational truth and holding onto this eternal hope for ourselves, our neighbors, our communities, and perhaps most importantly for our children. Yes, God created us to be in relationship—at peace with him, with others, and in our hearts. And yet, with the fall of mankind into sin, we now experience the pain of broken relationships and the vulnerability of isolation. This is the painful reality for many of the children Show Hope seeks to serve—children who have been orphaned. 

It is not uncommon for children who come home through adoption and foster care to have had exposure to adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, trauma, loss, and/or neglect. As these children enter our families and our stories intertwine with theirs, tensions may surface. We must ask ourselves, How do we effectively communicate the truth of the gospel—an invitation into a forever relationship with Christ—to our children who may carry attachment injuries and associate belonging and connection with fear?

As scientific research expounds, our understanding of the human brain is only beginning to grasp the fullness and complexities of God’s design. And as only God could design, the human brain is pliable and can be rewired. Developmental psychologist and advocate for children Dr. Karyn Purvis once said, “Our children were harmed in relationship, and they will experience healing through nurturing relationships.” When we step into the journey of caring for children who have been affected by early loss and trauma, an incredible invitation is extended. We have the opportunity to help rewrite the narrative—to help lead our children to places of emotional, physical, and neurological healing by being the hands and feet of Christ. 

Furthermore, by choosing to love children from difficult beginnings, we are afforded a front-row seat as God’s miraculous work unfolds. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the sacredness, beauty, and peace of imago Dei is reimagined and reaffirmed as our children become at home with our love. 

Surely, no one person could do this work alone or without the encouragement and support of a wider community. This is why Show Hope’s Pre+Post Adoption Support exists. We understand—as many of you do—that the adoption journey doesn’t end the day a child is welcomed home. Because of the difficult beginnings many of our children have experienced, we must work diligently to help them reimagine home and experience belonging and connection.  

Learn how to build trust and connection with vulnerable children

Families affected by adoption and/or foster care can benefit from Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®) methods developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross from the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at TCU, which exists to bring attachment and connection in families. TBRI “is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children.” At its core, TBRI works to promote trust and connection between caregivers and children by addressing physical and emotional needs while also disarming fear-based behavior. 

And, so, while TBRI may be perceived as clinical in nature as it involves the complexities of science, at Show Hope, we believe that at its core, TBRI is an expression of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Created to Connect: A Christian’s Guide to The Connected Child, Dr. Karyn Purvis, with Michael and Amy Monroe, wrote, 

The longing of the human heart is to connect and belong. We long to connect with our Creator, in whose image we have been made, and by God’s grace such a connection is possible. As relational beings, we also have a deep need and desire to connect with those around us. One of the most important and meaningful human conditions is undoubtedly between a parent and child.

Build a community of support

Another practical step in serving and equipping families and caregivers is launching a support or small group for individuals and parents affected by adoption and/or foster care within your church or faith community. Perhaps you can begin meeting weekly or monthly in prayer, study, and conversation. A great resource to walk through is Created to Connect. This study guide sheds light and goes deeper into the biblical principles that serve as the foundation for the philosophy and interventions detailed in The Connected Child by Drs. Purvis and Cross. 

As part of that support or small group, recruit volunteers who can be on-call to help meet the everyday needs of adoptive and/or foster care families. It can be as simple as setting up a meal train for heavy, busy seasons of life or offering childcare for parents to have a night out for reconnecting. The adoption and/or foster care journey is not meant to be traveled alone. As a local church or individuals, we have the opportunity to come alongside children and families in service and support. 

Find hope for the journey

Show Hope’s new Hope for the Journey Conference will premiere on Friday, April 9, with a broadcast period through Mon., May 31. The conference includes training in TBRI, a new teaching component called The Gospel + TBRI, and Practical Perspectives videos featuring the voices of adult adoptees and foster youth alumni as well as adoptive and foster families. The conference targets parents and caregivers meeting the everyday needs of children impacted by adoption and/or foster care, and remains a resource for churches, agencies, and other organizations as they support and equip the families, caregivers, and the communities they serve. It can be a great opportunity to educate volunteers on the needs of children and families affected by adoption and/or foster care. 

Will you join with us in showing up and showing hope?

By / Jan 26

Matt Henslee, a pastor in southern New Mexico, encourages pastors to trust God during the pandemic.

By / Jan 11

On January 6, travelers gathered around the baggage claim of the Fort Lauderdale airport awaiting their luggage and not knowing that their lives were to be taken or changed forever. Esteban Santiago had a sinister plan, one that callously ignored the value of the lives of those people. A security guard and Iraq veteran, he opened gunfire, killing five individuals and injuring many others.

It’s yet another event of unimaginable carnage at the hands of one of our own. Families have been destroyed, and the rest of us are left to pray and fight against fear. Flying leaves many in fear, but I imagine it never once crossed their minds that entering the baggage claim area might mean they would never exit.

I don’t know the type of terror they experienced. I’ve never experienced someone ambushing me or been in close proximity to the sudden loss of life by the hands of another. I imagine those who survived this tragedy must struggle with something like post traumatic shock. It would be difficult not to fear public places. They are also grieving the loss of loved ones, friends, and—in one case—grandparents. Many were affected by one man’s evil act. Tragic events like this one make us aware of our need for faith in these troubling days.

The Bible says there’s nothing new under the sun. Although this particular case has yet to be officially named “an act of terror,” I will use the term “terror,” not as a political or distinction of the law, but rather because Santiago’s actions indeed caused terror. Terror has been a part of our world since Genesis 3. But what’s new is our nearly instantaneous awareness of such events due to breaking news and information from the Internet.

Awareness can be a gift and a curse. If we dwell on the evil of this world, we run into the danger of mourning as a people without hope. But because we have the hope of the gospel and the hope of a new heaven and earth, we can instead learn about these hard stories in order to comfort the mourning or fearful around us, prepare our own hearts for the possibility of terror and also to pray. Each year brings with it stories of terror and destruction. There’s never been a year that has been perfect since that dreadful day sin came into the world. So, how are we to respond to these facts?

Know truth

When faced with the reality of the terror in this world, we need to remind ourselves of the hope revealed to us through God’s Word. We know that one day death will be swallowed up, and terror will no longer exist. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, and the old will pass away (Rev. 21:1). God is making all things new, in time. Even now, we have a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3). We don’t live in the reality of the resurrection just on Easter—Jesus has risen and lives now to intercede for his own. We should cling to this truth in our uncertain days and set our minds on the God who gives us perfect peace (Isa. 26:3). This is how we mourn as those with hope.

Lament

And what if we turned our fears and anxieties into prayer? What if we took our sorrow and sadness before the Lord, rather than keep it bottled up inside?

We can join the Psalmist and pray prayers of lament, grieving at the pain of this broken world. We can plead with the Lord for mercy and pray for our own hearts to trust and rest in the ever-present arms of Christ. We can ask for justice. And we can know that God wants us to ask these things in faith, knowing that he, and he alone, can do the impossible (Matt. 21:22).  

I long for the day when we no longer see terror and dreadful pain. But until that day, I’m going to cling to truth, lament before our Father and pray for his help. Let’s all run to him—our hope and our redeemer. This tragedy happened at the beginning of 2017, and more terrible things will happen this year. I don’t share that hopelessly—we want to be ready in our hearts for what’s to come, but we need not worry about tomorrow (Matt. 6:34). I want to set my heart and mind on God, who has promised: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isa. 26:3).

By / Jan 27

Toddlers are an interesting bunch. They have their own plans about what they want to do and when they want to do it. And they will pick their attitude while they are doing it, thank you very much!

So, what do you do when you have a toddler who’s a picky eater?

Three basic strategies

  1. You will eat what we are eating, or you will eat nothing.
  2. You will eat what we are eating until I get worried enough, and then I will give you what you want.
  3. You will eat what you want to eat (I will make you your own meals).

Because picky eating (or at least, refusing to eat) is almost always a phase, children will survive with all three. I have seen about 1000 different strategies for handling this situation—some work for one child but would never work for another.

Ultimately, picky eating is not about eating…it’s really a matter of trust and control.

A matter of trust and control

TRUST: So, why should your toddler trust you? They’ve only known you two years.

Your child is still learning to trust that you are someone who has his or her best interest in mind. They do not know that the awful broccoli you are forcing them to try is actually good for their body in the long run. Their minds simply cannot see the big picture the way we can.

Sound familiar? Do we ever have trouble trusting that God has our best interest in mind? I know I do. Growing up I memorized that I should “trust in the Lord with all my heart (Prov 3:5),” but that’s not so easy in the moment. I know that “God works everything for good for those who love (Him) (Rom 8:28),” but when things are not going my way, it doesn’t exactly make sense.

CONTROL: In addition, every toddler desires control. At this same stage of learning to trust you, your toddler is also learning that they don’t have control over their lives. You tell them where to go and when. Oh, and before we leave, you have them sit on this huge toilet and go potty first. They will push back in some areas.

Maybe they will become a touch more defiant. Maybe they will refuse to be potty trained or have stool withholding and constipation. But, picky eating is probably the most common area that toddlers attempt to regain some control. It’s a good choice for them because you cannot forcibly cause them to chew with a hand on their forehead and chin. (Even if you could, how would you force them to swallow?)

Does this sound familiar? Do we ever have trouble letting go of control? Guilty. As someone who managed medical school and maintains a busy schedule as a full-time pediatrician and a part-time writer, surely I have some measure of control over my schedule, right? Yes, until, I’m overdue on a deadline, supposed to round on newborns at two hospitals, and need to take my son to school (On a snack week. Thanks for the heads’ up!).

Choosing a strategy

So, what do you do with your picky eater? I think you pick one of the three strategies and go with it. Don’t fret over what everyone else will think or if you are doing the right thing. The strategy is not the important part.

The main goal is avoid turning mealtimes into a battle ground. Yelling and screaming probably will not encourage your child to eat, and in the long run, might backfire. Fortunately, we have a God that doesn’t bully us into trusting Him. He comes alongside us and acts trustworthy (Psa 111:7). He doesn’t force us to give up control, but he shows us that in doing so, we will actually be more at peace (Isa 26:3).

At the same time, you can and should talk with your toddler about the heart issue surrounding their eating habits. Their hearts are ripe for the harvest. Some helpful phrases are:

“Did you know that mommy loves to give you good things? That she wants what is best for you? I know it is hard to understand now but I want you to eat because it is good for you to help you grow big and strong.”

“Remember how daddy wants to give you good things? That’s how God is. He wants to give us the best for us also.”

At this age, you are setting the framework for how you and your child will interact for years to come. I think it’s a great time to establish a relationship of trust and love despite the stress involved. Having trouble? Look to the example of how your Father loves you through your picky tendencies, eating included.