The Herren Family Story

January 15, 2015

Lisa Herren is mother to three, including her youngest, Maddie Grace, who joined the family through the ministry that has long since captured Lisa’s heart.

Lisa recognizes that she grew up in what she calls “a Jonah’s Journey family” even though she didn’t realize it at the time. She was an only child for 10 years. But then her parents had a second daughter, fostered and took guardianship of her brother, and assumed custody of her three cousins when her aunt and uncle died in a car wreck. In a very short period of time, she was the oldest in a mixed family of six.

“Growing up, our family philosophy was to step in and do what can do,” she says.

When the Herrens brought Maddie Grace into their home, Lisa began praying for God to help guard her heart and to remember her role in the little girl’s life. After all, the ministry aims to reunify children with their biological families.

Nevertheless, Lisa loved the little girl fiercely. Anyone who has met Maddie Grace knows it’s hard not to. But Lisa asked God to let her know beyond the shadow of a doubt if she should ever feel like Maddie Grace’s mother.

For months, Lisa felt like her nurse and caregiver—until she sensed the child wasn’t developing on par with the rest of her age group. While she couldn’t put her finger on any tangible red flags, something in her gut told her there was a problem. Several doctor visits later and it was confirmed: Maddie Grace would need extensive surgery to deconstruct and rebuild her skull.

“God gave me absolute peace that I was her mother at that point,” Lisa says. She didn’t know how it was going to happen. Or when. More than anything, she didn’t want Maddie Grace’s biological mother to fail. “That was difficult for me,” she confesses. “I was having a hard time thinking her mom wouldn’t succeed.”

It wasn’t long before Maddie Grace’s biological mother asked the Herren family if they would consider adopting her daughter.

Today, Maddie Grace is fully recovered—her family even jokes that she has a bionic brain.

Now this social butterfly can’t go anywhere without being spotted. “I can barely get down an aisle in Target or the grocery store without people hollering her name.” Vibrant and full of personality, Maddie Grace keeps up with her older brothers at home, who adore her, and serves as a peer model to children with special needs in her preschool.

“A lot of people don’t get it,” Lisa says. “I just tell them that you have to get to a place where you’re willing to be obedient to whatever God’s plan is. There were times we were scared and paralyzed by fear… and all we could do was trust Him. It was so liberating to reach a point where we could understand we aren’t in control of anything. All you can do is give it to God and let Him work out the details.”

Jonah’s Journey is a ministry of Christian caregivers who provide temporary or long-term care for children of mothers who are incarcerated or unable to care for them for any number of reasons. Palmer Home for Children is pleased to partner with this ministry.