A Story of Unconditional Love, Hope, and Healing
By Julie Walker
I grew up at Prince of Peace. I received all my sacraments, first reconciliation, first communion, confirmation and got married in the Church 15 years ago. I was what you would call a “good Catholic.” I went to church and went through the motions. However, I was not really living my faith until I opened my heart to Jesus’ call.
My faith story really began many years ago with the adoption of three beautiful children from foster care. I admit it was a bit of a whirlwind and most people probably thought we were crazy. It was so simple to my husband, Steven, and I; all children deserve loving homes. We knew God placed this on our hearts and we needed to say yes to the call. As a social worker and physician, we figured we got this; we could handle it; whatever he had in store for us.
We were wrong. These children came with scars and wounds so deep that even all the love we could give could not erase the years of abuse and neglect they had endured. Many days they would fight against the love, patience, and understanding we were offering. It seemed at times an impossible task, trying to parent, until we looked to Jesus. Who knows what it is like to love those who do not love back? Who knows how to be patient and kind in the mist of anger? Who knows how to have the strength to give and give until it hurts? JESUS. When we started to look to Jesus and ask him how to move forward, every day with his guidance and strength, we were able to.
Prince of Peace became not a place we went to just for Mass, but a place of being close to our teacher, our guide, and our support. Many days, I would just sit at church just to be close to the love of Jesus. Those moments in the stillness of the church gave me the hope to move on. I had faith that God “had” my situation, understood my struggles, and was with me through it all. I felt his unconditional love of me, grace, and mercy, the same things I needed to show my children. It was not about me, my feelings, or how hard this was for me. It was about them, what they had been through and are going through. I needed to be Jesus - I needed to point them to Jesus by being more like him.
When I opened my heart, I really began to look at the brokenness of my own life, the scars that life’s challenges placed on my heart. I knew why we all need a savior. I saw my scars just like my children’s scars as one that tells a story of God’s love and faithfulness. It was then that I let go of my need to control things, and I gave up my life to God, to his will, and his perfect plan. As future struggles came with my children and a very painful event happened with my oldest child, I was able to see God’s will and plan in it all. I have hope in God that whatever he places in my life is for a reason, and though I might not understand it all at the time, it is a part of his bigger picture.
Though my life is not perfect, you can say I am a work in progress. God is continually working on me, molding me into a better version of myself. Every day I pray for God to reveal his will for that day. I began volunteering at the Mercy Ministry and allowed God to speak through me to help others. Most days I provide food or financial assistance for those who come looking for assistance, but what really means the most is being able to pray and express God’s unconditional love.
I see Jesus every day at Prince of Peace. I encounter Jesus in the people I meet at the Mercy Ministry who come needing our help; in the volunteers who give their time to help others; in the tremendous outpouring of love to the agencies who receive donations through the Brown Bag Project or the gifts given to families through Adopt-a-Family; in the children who joyously sing the songs of Jesus’s love; and, in the priests, deacons, and all the staff who ensure that each Mass flows with such beauty and grace.
I see Jesus in my children who are fighters and survivors, whose story points to Jesus’ beautiful plan and love. In the middle of the abuse, Jesus was there; in the middle of our pain, he is there. He never leaves us or abandons us. I know without a doubt that I did not save my children, they saved me. They taught me unconditional love, acceptance, forgiveness, and hope. My children are the biggest gift from God and watching them grow and learn is a privilege.
They all know their story and often share it with others, because they know their story is a testimony to God’s love. It is a story of hope. As I write this, my husband and I begin the journey of foster care and adoption once again. I truly cannot wait to see what God has in store. For when you open up your heart to the gifts of God and his plan, it becomes an amazing adventure that is worth taking.