Foster Dads,

Thank you for doing what you're doing. You are loving in some of the hardest and deepest and most complicated places. Places most men go to great lengths to avoid. Yet you, with arms open and hearts broken, have courageously stepped towards them for the sake of others. That is so counterintuitive, remarkable and beautiful. 

So, thank you. 

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The Bible speaks of God as a defender of the defenseless and a father to the fatherless. It says He goes to extravagant lengths to demonstrate the richness and fulness of His tangible love for His children. There is literally nothing that can stop Him, can stand in His way or can distract Him from the singular mission of continually pouring Himself out for the protection and provision of those He calls sons and daughters. He is the giver of all good gifts to them, and reserves only the best for them. He never withholds or hides and never shrinks back. He does this all at His great cost but for our great gain. This is who God is and what God does.

You, foster dad, are in no uncertain terms putting the heart of God on display as you work to stand for those who cannot stand on their own and speak for those who words have been stolen by the brokenness and loss that led them to you. You are putting a face to what God looks like and hands to what God does for these kids you are loving - a tender and affectionate and strong representation of God as our Abba, "Daddy". All at your great cost, but all for their great gain. That is remarkable. 

Thank you for the beautiful and sacrificial work you are doing - not just in loving these kids as your own but also in showing them what a picture of real manhood looks like - not necessarily in the gym or at the bar or on the field, but in the courtroom, the visitation room and the make-shift tent in the living room while drinking pretend tea from a plastic princess cup, playing with dolls or pretending like the floor is lava and the only safe place is on top of the couch or the coffee table or in the "cave" of sheets and blankets sprawled across the backs of chairs. Or at night, in their bedroom, when the grief gets especially heavy, loving them, comforting them, reading them books and praying over them - that their mind could find rest enough to sleep and their soul relief enough to begin healing from all they have seen and lost and experienced. In the car teaching them how to drive, or on the back porch counseling them on how to navigate the complicated social waters of junior high and high school. Guiding them with stability, constancy and steadiness in a world they’ve only known to be full of chaos and disruption. Protecting them as your own, taking the blows so they don’t have to - because you would give your life to protect your own kids from the trauma and brokenness these have experienced, so how could you not do the same for them? Why would you not? At least that part makes sense, despite all the other parts of this journey that sometimes don't.

This is the picture of manhood you are painting - a pure and undefiled reflection of the face of God as Abba. These kids are seeing Him through your care of them, your commitment to them and your willingness to go to great lengths in order to protect them, provide for them and broker hope for them into the deepest recesses of their hearts - a hope that says despite all that's been lost yesterday God is still good today, and despite the struggles of today they no longer have to be afraid of tomorrow. What a gift you are giving - grounds to rebel against the odds that what has been must always be and the courage to dream about what should be and ultimately could be now and forever. 

And throughout all of that, the models of manhood, sacrifice, leadership and love you are setting in place are producing ripple effects far beyond the lives of these kids and into the lives of others all around you as well - your neighbors, friends, family, your marriage and even your own kids. Imagine your daughters, because of you, now growing up to hold a standard of manhood in their hearts that will inform and help dictate who they spend time with in their dating years, who their potential future husband is and what their home together will look like one day. Imagine your sons growing up to appreciate having a dad that led with strength by serving and who was held high among others because he was willing to make himself low for them. Imagine your daughters growing up with that vision of manhood, and your sons growing up modeling that in their own lives and marriages and families and careers.

Imagine the residual impact your example is having on your friends, your co-workers, and even those sitting next to you in the pews at church who are spending their days pursuing comfort, convenience and isolation from hard things. And yet they see something in you that is different - setting those things aside to willingly and joyfully do quite the opposite. That rattles them to the core. They've seen something in you they can never unsee. They know something to be true now because of you they can never pretend is not true anymore.  

What you are doing is far more than caring for kids from hard places - you are impacting the future trajectories of all those around you in ways you simply cannot measure or quantify on this side of eternity. You may not see it now. You may not ever see it in this lifetime, but what are you doing is of eternal significance. That is remarkable.

So, thank you.

If you feel beaten it’s because you are a fighter.

If you feel bruised it’s because you are a protector.

If you feel empty it’s because you are a provider.

If you feel lonely it’s because you are a trailblazer.

If you feel tired it's because you are exhausting yourself on things that ultimately matter...

...and in the end you know there's really no better way to live.

So stay true to what you know is right, even when the world around you suggests that what you’re doing is all wrong. Not the act itself of caring for kids from hard places - they will praise that as noble and honorable. Yet they will subtly question your lack of conformity to what is ultimately expected of you - to protect and provide for your own at all costs, to insulate your family from all that might be hard and difficult, to let nothing interfere with you climbing the ladder of power and position and prestige while spending your days building the most comfortable life for yourself that you possibly can. This will be the tension loudly whispering in your ear at night - especially on those hard and heavy days - wanting you to question whether or not what you're doing is worth it.

Rest assured each night knowing it is. It absolutely is. 

So, thank you...for the sacrifices you make, for the many little things you do that may go largely unnoticed, for being more concerned with private faithfulness than you are with public fame, for being an earthly example of a loving heavenly father to your family. In the beautiful, sacrificial, redemptive work you are doing of laying yourself down for the sake of these kids, know that you are cultivating a harvest in the lives of those around you that is far greater and more bountiful than anything you could possibly imagine...including me. You inspire me and challenge me. You keep me and many others going. 

For that...I say thank you.

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