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My wife, Karen, and I had only been married for two years when we took a job as houseparents for a group of 10 middle and high school girls. Basically, we became their surrogate parents.
Sure, we were still essentially newlyweds at the time, but knew this place and this home was where God wanted us. For the next nine years, we had more 72 girls go through the different homes we supervised.
Many of the girls came from living situations broken by divorce, physical or emotional abuse, extreme poverty, fatherlessness, parental drug abuse and criminal activity. Many of them never experienced the safety of an intact family, the involvement of a father, or even healthy behaviors and relationships.
I like to think that we were able to help many of these girls during those nine years, but I can say with confidence that Karen and I also learned some valuable lessons – lessons that made a lasting impression on us as both spouses and parents:
Care for your spouse. Karen and I learned very early in our time as houseparents that if we didn’t care for each other, we were useless to the children in our home. We came to this realization when our relationship with each other became very stressful and we ended up in counseling.
I will never forget a conversation we had with one of the older teen girls in our home whose family had experienced multiple divorces and brokenness. She told us that even though we tried to keep our personal difficulties behind closed doors, she and the other girls were very aware of what was going on. She expressed appreciation that we fought for our marriage and each other and that it gave her hope. In the course of that conversation, Karen and I walked away with another key lesson …
God uses us despite ourselves. God knew exactly the kinds of parents your kids would need. You! He chose you – with all of your weaknesses and shortcomings. I am reminded of the passage in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
Parenting is about holding fast to God in the joys and challenges, the ups and downs of parenting; knowing that every day we have Him to guide and direct us. We don’t need to be perfect parents … we just need to be broken and conformed to His will and plan.
Stay the course. Be consistent in your expectations and love for your children. Help them process life and with their decisions and choices. A weekly family meeting is a great way to stay consistent and connected with what is happening in the family. It is also a great way to affirm your children while holding them accountable.
Have regular time together. In his book Sparks, Dr. Peter Benson writes that only 37 percent of teens say their parents know and nourish their "spark" – what Benson defines as your child's skill, talent or special interest. Benson goes further in describing a spark as “a prime source of meaning, self-directed action, and purpose in our lives.”
Psalm 139 tells us that not only were we intimately created and formed, but that our days are ordained before one of them came to be. We have been created for a purpose. Our role as parents is to help our children come to understand who they are in Christ, and to know and nourish their gifts. This requires regular time together. Go out for breakfast or coffee and just talk about what is going on in their world. Look for opportunities to bless and affirm them.
Karen and I were forever changed by our early experiences together. As parents, how we live out our faith and life will leave a lasting impression on our children and even future generations. My hope is that as you engage the hearts of your children, they and you will be forever changed as well.
What lasting impressions are you leaving for your children?
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I am a Pastor whose passion is men - mentoring them. I am presently mentoring 11 men in various ways and find them to be very open and accepting of advice given in humility. All they need is encouragement and direction and they will step up to be the warriors God created them to be! Keep up the good work Focus!! If you ever need some materials....
You two were brave to take that on after only 2 years of marriage. God Bless!
Thanks Janna. I am not sure who changed more...those girls or us. We definitely walked away from that experienced change...and we gained some pretty incredible "daughters" along the way. :)
@BKemper...that is awesome that you mentor other men. It is so needed in our culture today. Thanks for following us...let us know how we can encourage and inspire the work you do each and every day. Keep up the great work...Blessings
I can honestly I would not be the person or mother I am today with out you guys in my life. You were the best thing that ever happened to me at MHS. We surly walked away so blessed thanks to you. Still to this day you are an awesome Dad to me and I continually thank God for you and all you teach me. Mrs. B has been the greatest mom and friend over the years. I am so thankful to always have you guys to come to with all my mom and wife questions. Thank you and know even through everything you guys were great and taught me and all of us soooo much. I love you!
As a "daughter" to Mr. and Mrs. B...I can proudly say they left a lasting impression in my life. At first I didn't think I needed another "Father" in my life but it was Mr and Mrs.B who directed me to the best Father of a lifetime....our Heavenly Father. Don't get me wrong I had an amazing earthly Father who had his share of struggles but still loved his children and cared for them NO MATTER what was thrown at him.
I still thank God to this day for bringing the Baldwins into my life. When that great day comes and I have a family of my own, I will keep the teachings I learned and lived with from the Baldwins in mind and hopefully raise a family like they did with us 10 girls (the first set of girls who were dancing and singing on living room end tables to the Spice Girls their first night on duty).
I hope one day I can make an impacting difference in a child's life just as they did mine :)
What a sweet time of sharing by Mr. B and the others, how our lives lived out; do make such an impact on those around us. I grew up with my mom, my parents divorced when I was young, my mom married many times after that and I experienced a lot of change, some hard times, but I also appreciated the father's who were in my life; if even for a short time.
When I became a Christian, God the Holy Father put his arms around me in love and I knew it, and know it with all my heart. It still amazes me how the one who knows me better than anyone else, my heart, wicked thoughts and deeds, every single one God knows and loves me more than any earthly father could, or husband or friend could ever. Thank you sweet Lord. My mom also helped me realize that I wanted to stay married, and I have for 30 years to the same guy, not saying its been perfect, but hopefully God uses our struggles to encourage others to hang on.
You and Karen were amazing houseparents because you had those special qualities of both honesty and humility. You were never afraid to admit that you didn't know everything. You loved God rather than trying to act like God. You gave from your heart, even when you didn't think you the had the strength to carry on.
I was always very proud of you guys and the example you set for others. You stepped up to the plate and fought for what you believed in, even when it wasn't the popular thing to do. You challenge when appropriate, provided insight and guidance when necessary, but above all else, you always put your girls best interest first ... even when they didn't know, understand or like what you were doing.
God bless you guys ... Continue the good work! Go in Peace ... --Rick--