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Jesus Didn’t Call Me to Raise a Nice Christian Family

Family camping: build memories and campfires.

This post was hard to write. God is pushing me to deeper levels of faith that have me searching the scripture and clinging to His words.What if Jesus didn't call me to raise a Nice Christian Family but to show His love instead?

Nice, Christian Platitudes Aren’t Enough

When Chuck and I set out to adopt in 2001 we had one objective only, to offer a home to a child who needed one. We looked at our five children, six years old and under, our home, our love, and knew we needed to offer that to a child in need. Neither of us would say we fell “called” to adopt. But I can tell you this, there was no way for me to ignore these verses and still hold on to my faith:

James 2:14-16
 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Our faith drove us to action.

Chuck and Jubilee on visitors day at summer camp.

What if Raising a Good Christian Family Isn’t in My Job Description?

If you have ever visited the about me page on this blog you will see that all I ever wanted was the perfect family.

A house full (and I mean really full) of little feet, days spent homeschooling, living and learning together. A peaceful home on a lovely piece of property with free-range chickens and a few cows (for milk and meat). A big, beautiful, lush organic garden to supply our family’s needs. Instead, I ended up with real, live children who often interrupt me, a black thumb, and a chunk of property that no one has time to keep up with.

And all of that is true. What is left out of my about me page and its attempt at humor, is that I never dreamed my Nice Christian Family would include calls to the police, a child in a locked psych unit (more than once), and a family stretched to its very limits by behaviors we never even dreamed possible.

My dream of a perfect family never included behaviors that would be seen as so very “unchristian”. My dream, when we adopted drug and alcohol affected babies, never included feeling so very isolated from the very Christians who had faith that our “love and structure” would change the lives of these children. But here we are and I have finally realized that just as God never asked me to wear dresses, he also never asked me to have a nice Christian family.

Apollo and Jubilee reunited on visitor's day at summer camp.

What if My Children’s Salvation Isn’t Dependent On Me?

As a young mom, it seemed possible to grab onto the promises of the Bible. You know, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lordtrain up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.

But here’s the thing…none of those are a promise of salvation. On a more pragmatic level, I can see so very clearly that none of us can bring others to salvation.

That is God’s job and always has been.

Apollo visits his brother at summer camp.

What if Following Jesus Doesn’t Look Very Christian?

Friends, our family doesn’t always look “Christian”.  We have children who swear. Children who get suspended from school. Children who are rude (hello, fight or flight) and disrespectful. For years (and in the years we adopted two babies) we attended a church that put a lot of emphasis on appearances. I have no doubt they would deny that statement, but the reality is, we were taught to dress, look, and act a certain way as Christians. To be an example to others so we could draw them to Jesus. Anything out of that box that was frowned upon. And judged.

But you know what? Jesus himself says He came to seek and save the lost. Our life is unbelievably messy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t place our faith in God.

Children who struggle with attachment need to be shown they are loved over and over. This is more important than first-time obedience and going to Sunday school.

If there is one thing I have learned in a decade and a half of raising adopted, special needs kids, it’s that it is impossible (and often harmful) to try to force these kids into a mold they were never meant to be in.

If my children were blind or in a wheelchair, we would not be judged by other Christians for their lack of sight or walking. But the behaviors they display due to trauma to their brains?

There is no room in (most) churches for that.

Chuck and Apollo on visitors day at summer camp.

What if advocating for my kids doesn’t look, Christian?

What if my job is to show the gritty, messy, reckless love of Jesus to my children every. single. day?

What if I am called to show the love of Jesus to my children over and over and over again even as they reject it? And reject me? What if I return their hurtful actions with love instead of discipline? Connection before correction.

Day after day, week after week, year after year.

What if advocating means running after my children to bring them home when have lost their way? Or waiting at home with open arms time after time again. Jesus gives us more than one example of this. The shepherd leaving the ninety-nine to go after his one lost sheep. The story of the prodigal son. I love my children fiercely, even when it is the most difficult thing I have ever done.

You might think they “walk all over me”. You might see me “enabling” my children.

In reality, I am being their external brain because they need one. I am loving them over and over like Jesus commanded us to.

Prepping for the church campout 2018.

What If Showing the Love of Jesus Means We Don’t Go to Church on Sundays?

I have one child who has sensory issues that make church very, very difficult for him. I have another child whose unique brain means she just doesn’t fit in with the other girls. As a result, she has been rejected time and time again by girls at church. I don’t blame the girls. They are just kids. They are not trauma-informed. My point is that attending church is a painful experience for my daughter. An experience filled with rejection. And my typical children? They have failed to connect with the other kids at our church. We fill an entire pew with our family and still feel alone.

Is forcing our child to go to a church where they don’t “fit in” going to bring them closer to Jesus?

Family camping: build memories and campfires.

What if I Come to the End of This and Realize I haven’t Made a Difference? How Do We Define Success?

Made a difference? Been successful? We followed God’s call, we opened our home, we lived out the gospel.

In that, our work is complete.

You may also want to read:

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

When Church is Hard But Your Faith is Strong

Trusting God When Life Unravels

Practical Ways to Help Foster and Adoptive Families



  1. Lucía

    Disclaimer: I am not a Christian.

    I, too, have children with special needs (disability and mental illness) adopted from the system. We adopted them because we believe *every single person* is valuable and needed in the world, and *every single child* deserves a loving forever home. And, we wanted to be parents.

    I believe that every person has their own unique path in life. I believe we were entrusted with our children (by birth, adoption, foster care or whatever) because we have something to teach them and they have something to teach us. I don’t believe in obedience, keeping up with the Joneses in any way, or sacrificying health to appearances.

    Our priority is learning. Learning how to be better parents from professionals, books, other parents and, mostly, our own children. Our priority is to have a loving, respectful, open relationship with them. That they know we always have a light on for them, *no matter what*.

    This doesn’t mean we accept disruptive behavior. It means we understand where it comes from and work with our children, as a team, to improve it, by adressing the origin of the behavior, not the behavior itself, because it is only a symptom of something much, much deeper that you cannot see unless you’ve lived with us since the beggining.

    My child is not spoiled. My child is broken. Some moving parts don’t work. Your rules don’t apply. You can use this opportunity to learn, grow and be a better person, or to retrench in your “truths” and feel all smug and superior. Your choice.

    From the outside, looking in at Christianity, and with limited knowledge of it, salvation looks more as a curse than as a blessing. Salvations seems a way to condemn to infinite, painful, endless torture to everyone that doesn’t conform to certain standards. Even if standards vary among denominations, and even if we take a loose stand, how can a god that is love condemn the vast mayority of people in the world to hell? I think there is a contradiction here.

    If what my Christian friends tell me is true and Jesus loves everyone, I think you can rest assured that your children *are saved*. (From what, is a nother thing entirely).


    • Vickie Haynes

      I think it’s great that you have adopted and I believe every single person is valuable, created and loved by God. However, God does not condemn anyone. His salvation is there for everyone. We need only to ask. God Bless

  2. Marianne

    As we say, in our church, when Jesus came down to earth, He called the poor, the prostitutes, the sinners to come with Him, to follow him! He even befriended the Publican! So, I what you did with your family, that’s the true meaning of following the Gospel…. It’s very optimistic and moving to think that Jesus is hidden in every person in need near us, yhat means He is hidden in your autistic son, in your daughter, in every single one of YOU !

    Greetings from Greece!

    • Renee

      Thank you so much. I think I have struggling to get past 40 plus years of church attendance to learn this lesson…

  3. Becca

    Yes! Jesus and organized religion are often at odds, despite the best of intentions. Inviting the broken, sick and misfortunate into your home with open, loving arms again and again is the most Christlike behavior I’ve ever seen in a Christian family blogger. That among many other reasons is why I always come back to you. Thank you for living and sharing what Christ’s love truly is.

  4. maximethearcher

    I tottaly agree with you and support you from afar, praying for you and your family.
    Also, you probably don’t know it, but i think you kust described the core of the theology of the Orthodox church.
    Keep up the good work 🙂

  5. Hana

    My mother was raised a deeply conservative Jew. Taught from the moment she was born that it was her sacred duty to marry Jewish and raise a gaggle of good Jewish kids who would carry the torch for the millions who were robbed of the chance a generation before. She ended up married to a lapsed Catholic (and raising their kids as Episcopalians — from which we have all departed into various shades of Unitarian Universalism and agnosticism) and her mother didn’t speak to her for many years over it. Just before her wedding, her father sent her a letter apologizing for her mother’s and siblings’ absence, but finished with the words,

    “Do it for love, because love was there before all the synagogues and the churches and the Rabbis, and the Priests, and the rules. Love is what you will leave when you do.”

    You were called to love. And that’s what you’re giving your kids. Whether and what they believe, and how they practice it, is important to you I am sure, but whatever they do and whoever they become, you’ll leave them with love, and with luck, they’ll do the same.

    • Renee

      It is very challenging to me as well…it pretty much challenges everything I have believed about being a “good Christian”. But Jesus wasn’t a “good Jew”. He sought out the lost, the hated. He ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. Who despised Him the most in His day? The religious leaders. It is one thing to read about it in the Bible and another thing entirely to be challenged in your own life. Love you too!!!

  6. Rachel R.

    “We fill an entire pew with our family and still feel alone.”

    Wow. This resonates. And we don’t even have the trauma in our past. The Church can really stink sometimes at loving people (both inside and outside its walls). And all too often I think we are more concerned with being “set apart” by externals that have no internal (or Eternal!) purpose than with being “set apart” from the inside in ways that make us different where it MATTERS.

  7. Leisa Wilson

    “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” is the truth, hence why we should teach them to dress appropriately, and how to be Christians and act accordingly. Jesus tells us to bring lost/non-believers to Him and to help them learn about Him…to be Godly role models and set Christian examples so that they’ll want to be Christians, asking Jesus into their hearts, and repenting from sin. Unfortunately we all sin from time to time, but Jesus still loves us hence Him dying on the cross for all of us, all we have to do is confess or sins and ask Him for forgiveness. Children are not accountable for their actions and deemed to hell, especially special needs kids, God tells us that in the bible. I do think it’s important and necessary to take kids to church, even if the other kids don’t accept them. They’re not there to gain acceptance from their peers, they’re there to learn about Jesus

  8. Donna Neufeld

    Thanks for loosening chains. I’ve never actually commented on a blog post before -but I feel such a kindred spirit! The great goodness of God lays behind both the making and the UNmaking in our lives. You may not be (physically) close to others learning the same hard truths, but you’re not alone , Dear Heart – there are many others whom the Spirit is walking, hand in hand, down this dirt road to truer truth. Thank you for speaking what’s real, and being a light along the way.

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