A Pathways Testimony: Experiencing the Grace of God
A PATHWAYS TESTIMONY: EXPERIENCING THE GRACE OF GOD
At a conference a few years ago, Whitney Reidinger was posed with the question, “If you asked God to turn up the volume in your life, what would you hear?” Quickly scribbling it down, she decided to revisit that question once she had a moment to truly meditate and bring this question to God.
About a week later, Whitney opened up her notebook and started sifting through the materials. There she saw the big question again on the page. “Before I asked myself that question, or asked God that question, I determined that the answer was ‘yes,’ to whatever He said.” God answered with two words—foster care.
Though not an answer she expected, it wasn’t something that was completely foreign to her, either. “I remember back in 2000, I read an article about the need for foster families,” Whitney said. “Josh and I had only been married for six months at the time, but looking back on it, I know God was pricking my heart and laying the groundwork.” Over the years, Josh and Whitney have been involved in orphan and foster care in some way or another, especially by sponsoring children through Compassion International and Children’s HopeChest. “I realized that God was wanting us to go deeper and be more committed to the cause of the orphan.”
Whitney began to internalize those two words, foster care, over the following months. She didn’t share this with anyone, since she wanted to pray this through. “It’s not just a calling on my life—it’s a calling for my husband, my children, my neighborhood, my church, my extended family, and so on,” Whitney said. After feeling confirmation to move forward in this journey, Whitney sat with Josh and shared her heart and what she believed God was calling them to do. Though it wasn’t what he was expecting to hear, Josh committed with Whitney to follow the call to foster care.
ANSWERING THE CALL
The Reidingers then began the process of fostering with us. After months of training, background checks, and home studies, they were finally approved to foster. They opened up their home to their first placement, Samantha.* Even though Whitney, Josh, and their two kids, Ellen and Camille, said “yes” to foster care, they had not fully realized the journey of fostering isn’t always easy. “You can never fully prepare for actually being a foster parent,” Whitney shared. “It’s hard to know what it’s like until you walk through it.”
It turned out that Samantha had a difficult time processing everything that was going on. She had many uncontrollable behaviors that stemmed from going through difficult circumstances, and that’s the only way she knew how to express her emotions. At the time, though, it was hard for Whitney and Josh to understand why she was acting this way, since they just started fostering. It was even more difficult for their oldest child, Ellen, because Samantha rejected Ellen. “Ellen has a very maternal side to her, and she loves children. She was so excited to help with fostering . . . and for Samantha to reject her on every level, it truly crushed Ellen’s spirit.”
They initially started going to counseling through Pathways Professional Counseling, a sister ministry of ABCH, to help Samantha work through her past hurts. Pathways provides counseling to children in our care and ABCH foster families to help them walk through the journey of fostering at no cost to the family. Little did Whitney know that when she said “yes” to fostering, God wasn’t just planning on reaching the children coming into their home. “It wasn’t very long into fostering that God brought things to the surface, in me personally, that He needed to refine.” It was then that Whitney decided to yield to God and go to counseling for herself.
EXPERIENCING GRACE THROUGH COUNSELING
After Samantha left their home, Whitney started seeing Emily, one of the counselors with Pathways, on an individual basis to work through the journey of fostering, and talk through things outside of foster care. “It really impacted my journey,” Whitney said. “Emily guided me to a better understanding of grace. That’s huge! I understood grace, but Emily guided me to a fuller and deeper experience of the gospel of grace in my life.”
Not only did Emily help Whitney work through things personally, but other Pathways counselors worked with her family—including her children—to help them work through the good, the bad, and the ugly of foster care. “It was hard for my daughter, Ellen, when she felt so rejected by Samantha while she was in our care . . . counseling really helped Ellen to process that.”
CONNECTING THROUGH COUNSELING
A few months later, the Reidingers opened their home to another child who came into foster care—Ben*, who has now been in their care for over a year. Like Samantha, Ben also came into their home with some uncontrollable behaviors, so Whitney and Josh went back to Pathways in hopes of connecting with Ben. Emily used play therapy, which helps healing to occur by connecting children relationally with their caregivers, to help Ben build an attachment to Whitney and Josh. “Emily has helped us get into the mind of a child from a hard place . . . when Ben would flip his lid, you couldn’t reason with him in the moment, but Emily helped me understand why he responds this way, what’s going on in his mind, and how to help.”
It is miraculous to see how God has used the resources at Pathways to help Ben and the Reidinger family. “Ben came into our home a completely different child than he is today,” shared Whitney. “Emily really helped us continue in the foster care journey, because she’s helped me truly learn to connect and have compassion for a child going through hard times. I’m not sure we would continue fostering if it weren’t for Pathways.”
If there’s one word to describe the Reidinger family, it’s “committed.” When the journey of fostering was difficult for them, they continued to push through and did whatever it took to help connect with Ben and form an attachment with him. Even if they were dealing with difficult situations unrelated to fostering, they still utilized Pathways in order to create a better home for their family and for children coming into their care.
“I’m so grateful for the resources Pathways provides through ABCH, because they are there for your family’s well-being, and for the child’s well-being. It’s worth having a peaceful home, and for our children and the children in our care to be in a better place, and ultimately to experience the grace of God.”
*Names have been changed to protect identities.