If you've ever read my picture book 'The Other Brother' you'll know I have a soft spot for families who open their homes to flexible arrangements and have malleable definitions of what makes family. I'm a firm believer in foster care and open adoption. Yes, I'm one of those people who believes Christians can make a tangible difference offer foster care to kids in need. I've seen the difference it makes to kids, I've experienced the blessing of being involved, but I'm in no way blind to the hardship and heartache that come with the foster care journey. And I guess that's why, when I saw this book - 'A carer's devotional journal: for carers of kids from tough places', I wanted a closer look.
The journal is published by ARK (Aussies Responding to Kids), a Christian organisation whose mission is 'to be extended family, living out the gospel of Jesus, by inviting vulnerable kids into our hearts, homes and families through adoption and foster care' (from the ARK website). The journal itself is a simple paperback book that alternates fillable journal pages with Scripture verses and a devotional reflection. There are three double page journal spaces for each devotion. Most of the devotions were written by Heather Packett, but there are also some by Stephanie Reedman, Louise Pekan, Trudie Atkinson and Terri Thomas.
I sat down with the book one morning at breakfast to get an overview of how the devotions worked and to decide whether I felt the journal was one I'd recommend. I didn't have my pencil ready and I wasn't prepped for a proper devotional time. I was just curious, so I started reading. I wasn't even three devotions in before I was holding back tears. I pushed on, got half way and then stopped, resuming my read through a couple of days later only to be even more impacted than I was the first time. Why? Because I had not read devotions like this before.
Here was a book that offered gentle reminders that the heart of God is for the vulnerable AND the carer in the same moment. It spoke to the unspoken stories, whispered of tremendous grace, and acknowledged the hard parts.
Because being a foster carer is hard. It takes more strength than you think you have. It stretches you to breaking, then breaks your heart. And not just once, but over and over and over again. So often, carers feel unseen, invisible. They are misunderstood, glorified, pitied, avoided or begrudged. This devotional acknowledged all of this and wrapped it all up in the reminder of Christ's all sufficient grace.
I appreciated Stephanie Reedman's words in one of her reflections when she said, 'Fostering is not a journey that many outsiders understand' and yet 'nothing I face is ever missed by God, and that when we make mistakes or pay for the mistakes of others, we have a Redeemer who is always for us and always with us'.
If you are a foster carer, or you know someone who is, this devotional journal is worth buying. It's an honest, real and faithful encouragement for those who care.
All the details you need:
Title: A carer's devotional journal: for carers of kids from tough places.
Written by: Heather Packett and leaders from ARK Australia
Publisher: Aussies Responding to Kids (ARK) Ltd.
Available from the ARK website.
The Penny Drops
In high school I used to write what I'd call 'thinks' - little bits of writing about whatever topic or issue I was mulling over at the time. I still write these little pieces.
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