Today’s episode is about a topic that’s actually quite common, but doesn’t often get talked about: food trauma. This episode is so informative, practical, and inspiring. My guest is Christa Jordan, who is an adoptive mom. She and her husband also both have a background in social work before they began careers as full-time writers. Christa is passionate about natural health, and equipping and encouraging others along the journey.
There is nothing I love more than hearing about God’s faithfulness in the midst of difficult situations, and that’s exactly what today’s episode is all about. Shaq Hardy is a youth pastor in Chattanooga, TN who spent the first 10 years of his life in foster care. Today, he openly shares about his experience in multiple foster homes, the challenge of living with Reactive Attachment Disorder, the hope he so clearly found in Jesus, and so much more. And towards the end of our conversation, he even shares a piece of spoken word poetry he wrote to process his life experience. Shaq’s story alone is powerful, but his perspective is even more compelling. Listen in!
Today’s guest truly is an inspiration. Dani Brewer is a full-time wedding and family photographer, a single foster parent, as well as a transracial adoptee. She shares about how God prompted her to step in to foster care even though she didn't feel ready and she shares honestly about how she’s been able to effectively care for a now-16-month-old and 4-month-old as a single mom, the barriers she’s overcome, and the irreplaceable value of strong community. Her spirit is so encouraging, and I look forward to hearing what stands out to you in this conversation!
I am so excited to be sharing this episode! My guest today has such a powerful story that needs to be shared. Born in India, Shreya Ramachandran was brought to the U.S. at only two years old. She struggled with her identity and culture growing up. She lost her father when she was ten years old. After this, a series of events led her into foster care, where she ultimately had to testify against her mother and abuser in court. And through it all, God’s presence and His Word were the anchors that kept her grounded. Her story inspired me, and I look forward to hearing how it impacts you as well.
To kick off Season 10, meet Toni Collier. Toni experienced a lot of brokenness in her home life growing up and is now the Co-Lead Pastor of Hillsong Atlanta and the Founder of Broken Crayons Still Color. In today’s conversation, she shares openly about tending our own brokenness, finding hope in the midst of pain, learning to value excellence over perfectionism, the importance of community, and a whole lot more. I believe this conversation will encourage you today and remind you that hurt and hope truly can coexist.
Before we kick-off Season 10 of The Forgotten Podcast, I have something special for you! I recently brought one of our podcast guests from Season 8, Gaelin Elmore, to the stage at an event that is dear to me with our friends in ministry, Lifesong for Orphans. Gaelin gave us insight into his experience of foster care. Beyond sharing his experience, though, Gaelin has a passion for encouraging others! He threw out a challenge to the live audience at the end of our interview that was so good. I pray it's a challenge that you'll take to heart too. I don't want to tell you more now because I want you to hear it directly from him. So, listen in as Gaelin shares his story and his call to action for you.
Parenting is hard work, and sometimes we wish there was a perfect formula we could use to make it easier. We seek parenting hacks and different tips to help streamline our lives, and while some of those things are helpful, most of the time, we still feel there’s something missing. We’re left wondering, “What’s the formula for success in parenting?”
My guest, Julie Lowe, is here to tell us that there isn’t a formula for successful parenting. But don’t be discouraged. God has already given us everything we need to parent well in his Word. Julie explores this topic in her book, Child Proof: Parenting by Faith, Not Formula. In this episode, Julie shares with us what it means to parent by faith, describes how this can play out in our homes, and explains why parenting methods based on biblical principles always work.
Today, I get to introduce you to someone who means a lot to my family. Brayden has been a part of our extended family for a long time through his mentor relationship with my dad. And let me tell you—we love this young man. Brayden’s journey through the foster care system started when he was only eight years old. Recently, we sat down to talk through this experience, how his mentor impacted his life and his plans for the future. I am so thankful for Brayden’s willingness to share his story so that we can better understand what it’s like to walk through foster care. Learning from the experiences of others helps us grow and love one another better.
My guest, Vermon Pierre, understands foster care because not only does he live it as a foster parent, but he is leading his church and community to think about foster care through the lens of the gospel. And what is at the heart of the gospel message? Redemption and Restoration. In today’s conversation, we talk through the difference between foster care and adoption, why the church is uniquely equipped to support families in crisis, and practical ways the church can engage in this work. I pray it is an encouragement to you as you think through how to walk out your faith in caring for families in crisis. You can be an instrument that the Lord uses to bring healing and offer hope.
Working together towards a common goal can both be extremely rewarding and incredibly challenging! Like my husband said recently about parenting, "We are imperfect humans, raising imperfect humans; why are we surprised when it doesn't go well?!" It seems to apply to working with people too. This is why we must show up with humility and understanding.
Our children in foster care rely on us to work together as a team, and in the foster care space, this team is made up of foster parents, biological parents, and agency workers. My guest, foster dad, and ministry leader, Peter Greer, helps us understand how we can come together on behalf of our children and navigate the complexities of foster care as allies rather than adversaries. Ooh, this is going to be a good one!
Saying goodbye to the child you've been caring for is one of the most heart-wrenching times as a foster parent. Every foster parent knows to prepare for this time, but that doesn't make the reality easy or the pain less.
As you prepare for them to make this transition well, it can be overwhelming to know what or how to do it. What are the right words to say? How do I help them navigate their feelings?
And then, if there are other children in the house who are staying—whether they are biological, adopted, or have a different case in foster care—they, too, have to navigate the hard goodbye.
So many hearts to care for, not to mention, your own.
Jenn has some incredible insight and practical tools to guide us towards these hard goodbyes with honor and intentionality.
The journey to reunification is never an easy road. The emotional toll of the process is draining, yet there is beauty in the restoration of families. Today, I get the honor of introducing you to a dad who has walked a very difficult road but has been an overcomer in many ways, including working through the foster care system to reunite with his precious little girl. Jay's story is incredible. He shares what his life was like growing up and how he found himself involved with the foster care system. And as a special treat, Liz, the foster mom who cared for his little girl, joined us in the conversation too! She shares what it was like to meet Jay for the first time, and what their relationship looks like today. This conversation was an encouragement to my soul, and I know it will be for you too.
I love being in the host seat week after week. Each conversation and story is an invitation toward growth and understanding! Today is no different, as my guest, Peter Reeves, shares his perspective. Peter is a pastor, leader, husband, and dad. He and his wife stepped into foster care over a year ago after battling years of heartbreaking infertility. Peter recognizes that his perspective is uncommon; he's a black man raising white children. He shares what that's like with us, but he also isn't defined by this. I can't wait for you to hear him talk about how he intentionally navigates being part of a multiracial family in 2020.
There is a lot of pain and turmoil throughout our nation for our black and brown brothers and sisters. I've been wrestling with it, trying to be still and listen as I continue to learn. I've been having conversations with friends who are gracious to share their experiences with me. As a white adoptive mom of brown and black kids, I know that I have an added responsibility to prepare my kids for what culture may say to them. I realize that I can't speak to them from my personal experience on this specific issue, which is difficult for me. I already hurt for them with the pain and loss they experience surrounding their adoptions, and knowing that they may also be affected by racism hurts. I'm thankful for tools like Trillia Newbell's children's book, God's Very Good Idea, that help me frame our conversations around God's truth. In our conversation together, and in her book, Trillia centers her thoughts about race and diversity around God, his good designs for people, where it all went wrong, and why there is still hope.
Today we're diving into foster parenting expectations! Austin and Larisa Savage, a great young couple, joined me in the studio to talk about what their foster parenting experience has been so far. They are one year in, and their story comes with a unique twist, but one thing is for sure, foster parenting has not been what they expected! Preparing for the unknown is hard, but I think this conversation is a great step in the right direction. I often say about adoption, "Expect the unexpected." The same is true for foster care. Refining expectations is the name of the game! Austin and Larisa have walked where you are going, or maybe already are, and they're ready to share their experience with you!
Two hearts moving towards the same end goal at the same speed isn't always the way it works itself out in marriage. God has wired each of us differently, and there is beauty in that. And yet, when one spouse has a deep passion that the other doesn't share to the same degree, it's challenging to know how to move forward. We see this in the decision of whether or not to become foster parents. Sometimes, both spouses agree, but more often than not, God nudges one spouse forward before the other. What do you do then? Jason Johnson and I have some thoughts that will help you navigate this windy road. It never feels good to be the nagging spouse, and it also isn't fun to be the one being nagged. We can actually come out stronger and more united as a couple if we're willing to slowly take steps forward in this important decision, and we're ready to share more about what those steps are.
Today's conversation is hard. I just need to tell you that from the get-go. Foster care always comes with some level of brokenness—that I've come to recognize. I wish that brokenness wasn't a thing. I wish we were living in a world that didn't know sadness or pain. As I listened to Bianca tell her story of enduring sexual abuse and then entering foster care, I felt the heaviness with her. She suffered at the hands of those meant to protect her, and her story doesn't have the ending that I wish it did. Yes, Bianca has gone on to do incredible things, to achieve in ways that showcase her commitment and drive. I wanted more closure for her. I wanted justice to work itself out in her story. I wanted Bianca to tell me that though she experienced incredible pain and shame because of sexual abuse, that she has been vindicated under the law. I am thankful for Jesus working in her life. I am thankful for the therapy she received. I am thankful that she sees the purpose in her pain, that God showed her she had to keep going, to be a beacon of light to others. I am thankful for the education and success she has had. And I grieve that she suffered. I need you to listen with me, to sit with me in her story, so that we can walk away with a better understanding of how we might be able to step in, to identify warning signs for other children, and to know how to walk with victims.
The last few months of various levels of isolation and quarantine have been a challenge for all of us, I know. For my family, the additional time together hasn’t always yielded the best results. We’ve been more impatient with one another, struggled through some conflict, and had to problem solve in new ways that we didn’t have to before quarantine. Yet, ultimately, we all feel safe and loved.
But this is not the case for so many in my community and around our world. For many families, the level of stress has soared to its highest levels. With employment changes—either forcing parents home or leaving parents unemployed—the toll on family life has been hard. Combined with fewer outlets for childcare and extra activities, families are at risk and have fewer eyes on them to make sure everyone is safe.
As we move towards the school year—whatever that looks like in your area—more kids will be seen and heard. With that lens, my friend and today’s guest, Molly Evans, talks about how to spot warning signs of abuse and neglect. It’s not easy to talk about, but if we’re going to care for families, it means speaking up so that more support can be given.
We became a big family suddenly through foster care—growing by 3 kids in 5 months and doubling the number of children in our home. Not long after, we added one more to our crew through our second international adoption, rounding out the total to 7 children. Growing up, I wanted to be a mom, but I didn't anticipate I'd be a mom to 7! Parenting has its unique challenges. Parenting children who have experienced trauma has its challenges. And parenting 7 children comes with its own level of chaos. I can say for certain that I don't do it perfectly; I've learned some tips and tricks along the way. So, if you're like me and trying to create order in your home and need new strategies, this one is for you. You don't have to be a mom of 7 to implement these tips. Choose what's right for you and your family. I had the chance to share this message at The Replanted Conference last fall, but I want to let you in on it, too. We are better when we share with one another.
Since his very first memory, life for my guest, Gaelin Elmore, has been about the struggle for control. He couldn't control his parents' addictions. He couldn't control whether he went into foster care. He couldn't control where and with whom he was placed. He couldn't control what happened inside the home. He could only control his own behaviors, so that's what he held onto tightly. It was a way to cope, to temporarily ease the pain. What Gaelin didn't anticipate was that there were people, and far greater, a God who was worthy of his trust. He didn't have to be the one to muster up the strength on his own, but God in his kindness was there, holding him through all the hard. His trauma displays itself in relationships with people still, but Gaelin is not without hope, and he's running hard after the one who was in control the whole time.
I don't know what it's like to struggle with infertility, and it may or may not intersect with your story, but here's what I do know, the emotional, physical and spiritual pain that comes with infertility is worthy of our conversation. We have to go there. We have to talk about it, because it's a reality for so many foster and adoptive parents or those considering it. We have to be givers of grace to each other, willing to sit with each other in the pain without trying to solve the problem. It could be easy for those of us who are passionate about foster care to jump to a fix of "you should become a foster parent" for our friends struggling with infertility, but that may or may not be their best option. So, hear me in this—that’s not our intent. Today, we're diving into Caroline's story of infertility simply to open the conversation of how to determine if that is the right next step for you and how we can compassionately walk with our friends through infertility.
With the demands of parenting, time spent connecting with your spouse can easily be moved to the back-burner. It's a slow progression of choices and unintended consequences of decisions made. You intend to have that conversation with your husband, but with the caseworker coming over for a home visit today, it gets pushed lower on the priority list. Interruptions bring a change in plans, and suddenly, you haven't been able to have a date night in months. In our foster parenting journey, and now, raising a big family, I know my time with my husband, Clint, is so valuable. I am so thankful for our time together when it comes every other Tuesday night, but early on, I wasn't as good at protecting that time on the calendar. I allowed it to be moved, thinking we could make it up at some other time and then another week would pass without an intentional time to connect. I recently talked with Jill Savage about this, and why it's actually good for our children for us to invest in our marriages.
Abuse is not okay. As I listened to my guest, Desiree Moore, share her story, saying, "I'm sorry" didn't feel like enough. Adopted at the age of three, she suffered at the hands of those who were supposed to be her protector. She wanted to escape but didn't dare speak up. Foster care entered into her story at the age of seventeen as a welcomed relief. Throughout her journey, though, she longed to meet her biological mother. Years spent fantasizing about her and what that relationship would be like left her feeling confused and disappointed when the time finally did come for them to meet. I was so proud of Desiree for sharing, and I know that what she learned in meeting her mom will help us too.
I loved summer growing up! It was a break from the typical day to day structure of school—full of new adventures and opportunities that there wasn't time for during the school year. Sure, it wasn't all perfect, but overall, I loved the possibility that each summer brought. There were so many things to look forward to. This year, our summer has started early, and it's not feeling quite the same—for me or for our kids. Summer has started, well, with stress. It's started with a lack of stability and security as we look towards the unknown. For our kiddos who have experienced trauma, summer, and particularly, this summer brings fear. My friend, Kristin Berry, and I talk through what this season is like for our children who have experienced great loss in their lives. We can have a great summer; it might take a little more planning and a whole lot of grace.
Today's conversation with my guest, Monica Hunter, was a gift. We talked about hair and skincare, and in that, we explored how to help our children feel valued and loved. There is beauty in coming together to care for one another. As a foster and adoptive mom of a multi-racial family, I've had to ask so many questions, and I'm thankful for people like Monica who are willing to jump in and share their knowledge. We need spaces where we don't have to fear making a mistake but can simply learn with others together. I want my children to know I care about them, and part of that is showing them that I care about the hair and skin that God uniquely gave each of us.