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Finding Respite From the Storm


Sandra Stanley and her family volunteered to provide respite care for foster families in need. Turns out it was just the first step in what became a family ministry.

Sandra Stanley stood in her closet, embracing the moment of quiet and orderliness. She said a quick prayer – expressing gratitude and asking for grace – before returning to the chaos.

Sandra’s life was filled with blessings, but she also knew that God’s good gifts didn’t always mean life would be convenient or orderly — especially after she and her family chose to begin providing respite care for foster families.

From the time Sandra’s three children could write, they sent monthly letters to the children the family sponsored overseas. Through this and other service activities, the entire Stanley family developed a heart for helping kids in hard places. And by the time her children were teenagers, respite care — and, eventually, foster care — had become their family’s ministry.

Sandra’s Plan

The Stanley family volunteered to care for a sibling group of three young girls. Because Andy Stanley, the founder and pastor of North Point Ministries, had a very busy work schedule, Sandra knew much of the hands-on care would fall to her.

“I was OK with that,” she says.

The three girls arrived with lots of bags … and a little bit of nervousness.

“It was the first time they actually stayed overnight with us,” Sandra explained. She had the week all planned, so she wasn’t really worried. The girls, along with the Stanleys’ children, would be in school during that first day, and Sandra had created a list of evening activities.

Sandra thought she had it all worked out.

God’s Plan

That’s when the snow started. Sandra watched the falling flakes with a sinking heart. By the next morning, she was panicking. A freak Georgia snowstorm had ruined all her plans. Because of icy roads, the school buses couldn’t run, and all six children were stuck at home — for the entire week.

Sandra’s first step was to lean into God’s grace. Although she admits that she might have retreated to her closet a time or two to escape the high energy, constant movement and continual chatter, that week of snow days turned out to be both valuable and fun.

“We did a lot of cooking, baking and eating,” she recalls. “We spent time playing in the snow, played board games and watched movies.”

By the time the snow had melted, the Stanleys and the three sisters had created memories that will last a lifetime.

Building Relationships

At first, that snow week felt like a disaster. Looking back, though, Sandra says the time her family spent with those three precious girls helped develop a deeper relationship between them and her family.

They not only had quality time together, but they also had quantity time. In addition to playing and working in the kitchen together, they took time to pray for the girls’ biological mother and father, uniting their hearts in a unique way. It was a rich time of relationship-building.

This was more important than Sandra knew.

Not too long afterward, these same siblings needed temporary foster parents. Sandra, Andy and their children were not only open to the idea; they wholeheartedly welcomed these girls into their home.

Turns out that a Georgian snowstorm had woven this group’s lives together, and what seemed like God’s “inconvenient” weather plans actually brought unexpected blessings to Sandra and her family.

Marie Isom is a freelance writer.

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