It takes one day to change a life. At Palmer Home, we’ve seen it happen many times. Children come to us having lived through a history of trauma and difficult life circumstances.

It is our mission to ensure that the day a child arrives on our campus, they embark on a new journey of healing and restoration. We provide a caring family to children because we believe there is no one more committed than family when it comes to rescuing and restoring the individual dreams of a child.

Regions Bank also understands the impact one day can make. We are once again thrilled to be nominated for their What A Difference a Day Makes campaign.

Through this nomination, we receive 50 volunteer service hours and a $500 donation from our local Regions bank.

This already generous offer can be increased tremendously through the subsequent contest, beginning April 1. In order to help us succeed in this contest and gain 100 service hours and a $5000 prize from Regions bank, we are asking our supporters to vote for Palmer Home for Children in the What A Difference A Day Makes campaign.

Showing your support is easy to do- just head over to the Regions Doing More Today website beginning April 1 and cast your vote! Then, share your vote through social media and encourage your friends and family to join you in supporting our quest to make a difference in the lives of children in need. (Pro Tip: You can vote once every 24 hours!) Winners will be decided by votes, and announced in May.

We know what a difference a day can make, so we’re fighting to be sure that when a child comes to Palmer Home, every day is a new opportunity to grow, learn, and heal.

Help us make a difference by voting for Palmer Home for Children every day during the month of April in the Regions What a Difference A Day Makes campaign, as we work hand in hand to bring hope and healing to children in need.

Vote now!

Palmer Home for Children developed the Whole Child Initiative in 2016. As we continue to learn more, Whole Child continues to evolve. What started as a simple evaluative tool has become an organizational change model. In 2018, Palmer Home implemented Whole Child Initiative’s Model of Care.

This process requires training at every level, including board, staff, care-givers, and other adult figures in the lives of the children in our care. This cohesive, trauma-responsive approach recognizes that each child has unique needs and strengths, and places great importance upon creating a consistent culture of holistic care throughout the organization.

Whole Child was first considered when our leadership began asking a range of questions – wise and hard questions – about providing care tailored specifically to meet the needs of children who have experienced early life adversity. How can we affect change within the lives of children who have been traumatized? How can we measure that change? 

Once we understood that trauma deeply affects development and relationships, Palmer Home sought to shift the lens through which each child’s needs were addressed and met. The core principles of Whole Child Initiative address these needs in a fourfold manner.

Whole Story affirms the concept that children are best understood in relation to their history. Recognizing each child’s history allows caregivers to better understand the impact a child’s past has on his or her current functioning.

Whole Child focuses on four areas of development uniquely impacted by the experience of trauma: physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual. When needs in these areas are addressed in responsive, relational ways, children begin the healing process toward hope and restoration

Whole Caregiver includes any adult who engages with the children at Palmer Home. Whole Caregiver encourages and provides resources for self-awareness and self-care, recognizing that healthy relationships heal. When children are surrounded by safe, healthy, trustworthy adults, they thrive.

Whole Team is comprised of Whole Caregivers who care for children in a unified approach. This principle ensures that children receive cohesive, trauma-responsive care from every member of the Palmer Home team.

Every aspect of a child’s life is interconnected, and each aspect influences how we respond to the Whole Child. Palmer Home utilizes the Whole Child Initiative on a daily basis thus creating a restorative environment for children and families, allowing them to heal and thrive at home, school, and in the community.

 

One of the main goals of Palmer Home has always been growth. Growth for our children, growth for our campuses, and ultimately, growth of our mission. For more than 120 years, Palmer Home for Children has been rooted in one mission: To provide superior care for children while introducing the love of God through our service to each individual child.

If you’re reading this, it is because you believe in this mission. And for that, we are grateful. Over the years, you have contributed to our long, rich history of serving children. Because of you, our ability to provide superior care has grown every year and with every new child that steps through our doors.

You’ve been with us as we opened the doors of our Hernando campus. You’ve been with us as we adopted the Jonah’s Journey ministry. And now, we invite you to join us as we grow in a new way.

Join us this summer, as we unite our Columbus and Hernando campuses. Although this means we will no longer be housing children on the Columbus campus, we will continue to serve vulnerable children from Columbus and surrounding areas. We currently open our doors to children from across the state, and we will continue to do so on our Hernando campus.

 You may be asking: How does this allow Palmer Home the ability to serve more children? A simplified organization allows us to invest in programs that will reach more children and serve them more effectively. This allows our foster care program to grow exponentially throughout Mississippi and Tennessee for our children prepared for a long-term family environment. We will also be able to focus on transitional services for our young adults to prepare for independent living and explore new services to holistically serve children.

Looking forward, we are eager to construct the Wellness Center in Hernando which will include classrooms, a full-size gymnasium, and a counseling suite with space for art and play therapy. We are excited to serve more children through this new direction.

 Throughout our growth, we have looked to strengthen our model of care. Within this new model there will be three focuses; evaluation, programs, and outcomes. All of these are supported by our Whole Child Initiative.

At Palmer Home, our number one goal is to provide the best possible care for our children, even if that means making some changes. This model will increase our ability to do that, and to serve more along the way.

Staying true to our values and our rich heritage requires us to make bold decisions to create the brightest future possible. We want to serve more children, serve them better, and always be good stewards of the trust placed in us. This new direction sets us up for growth, and I am confident this will enable us to serve more children while honoring the mission we have embraced for over 120 years.

 As we move forward in our plans we will continue to keep you well-informed. We are thankful for your continued support and trust and look forward to continuing to make a positive impact on the lives of children.

– Drake

 

Palmer Home celebrated Pam Abrams, Director of Education, as the 2019 recipient of the Charles Guest Service Award. The Charles Guest Service Award recognizes a staff member for his or her contributions to Palmer Home for Children, mirroring the pursuit of excellence demonstrated by Palmer Home Board member Charles Guest.

“This award represents a chance to recognize somebody that saw an opportunity and was able to execute what was needed for success in the lives of our children,” said Drake Bassett, President and CEO. “Pam’s passion, care for our children, personal skillset, and combination of love and service for our children made the choice for this award easy.”

Abrams met every criterion for the award and more.  Her fierce love for the children at Palmer School is evident to everyone around her. Abrams has been with Palmer Home since 2014, and her friendliness and humility are widely known. You would be hard pressed to find a single individual in our organization who does not enjoy working with Abrams. She is a wonderful example of Christian character to the students she cares for, demonstrating what it means to walk with God daily. Her servant-leadership is evident in the way she cares for others, always putting their needs ahead of her own as she leads by example. Palmer Home thanks Abrams for the pillar of strength, dignity, and love she is to the Palmer Home family.

Palmer Home opened Palmer School in 2014. Abrams has been at Palmer Home since the first year of the school opening. She first served as Educational Coordinator, lending her 30 years of teaching experience. The school started as a way to address specific educational needs some of the children at Palmer Home. Now, the school serves the entire Columbus campus. Palmer School added a STEM lab for the 2018-19 school year, and with Abrams at the helm, Palmer School will continue to grow.

“I’m very honored and shocked to receive this award,” said Abrams. “I just love the kids. I try to help them on a daily basis, not only with reading and writing, but help them when they feel rejected and unloved. That’s one thing about the school, they know that they are loved. I thank God every day for my Palmer Kids, and I love my job.”

Palmer Home houseparents are in many ways similar to other parents. They clean. They cook. They shuttle children to and from doctor’s appointments and sports practices.

The everyday hustle that comes with being a parent is often multiplied for our houseparents because of the unique needs of the children at Palmer Home. Not only are they caring for this group of children, but they are caring for children with histories of trauma.

Houseparents are trained through the Whole Child Initiative, a philosophy of care developed by the Palmer Home team to best serve the needs of children who have experienced trauma or children from difficult situations. The Whole Child model is designed to meet the unique needs of the whole child by equipping adults in their lives to better understand the impact of a child’s whole story.

This model also emphasizes the importance of supporting the whole team of caregivers engaged in their lives, ensuring that the adults serving them are healthy and whole, themselves. While Whole Child training equips our houseparents to best care for our children; we believe that one of the most impactful ways we support our houseparents is by ensuring they are able to rest!

Houseparents often say they have the best job in the world, but we also know they have one of the hardest. The national turnover rate for full-time houseparents is one to three years. Palmer Home houseparents well exceed this national average. We hope to continue this trend by offering respite and support.

One way to support houseparents is by offering respite care. Couples or individuals that volunteer have two options, – provide on-campus respite care or provide off-campus respite care. On-campus care provides overnight care to children on campus while off-campus care provides overnight care to children in their homes. These trustworthy adults provide much needed time away for full-time houseparents, allowing them to return rested and renewed to continue the ministry they have been called to do.

Respite caregivers receive Whole Child training to equip them with the necessary tools to step in and be a successful respite caregiver. Children do better and feel safer when there are steady routines and authority figures in their lives. Because of this, Palmer Home is recruiting adults who have the desire to provide regular respite care to a full-time houseparent couple.

“People who use the same language and parenting styles in environments that really don’t change a lot depending on who is in charge is best,” said Lauren Strickland, Whole Child Initiative Director. “It’s difficult to do that when there is little consistency in the respite caregiving support.”

Respite caregivers who commit to serving as often as once a month or every other month are better able to build relationships with the children in the cottage they are supporting or the child they have brought into their home. They come to understand the unique needs of individual children and how those needs are met by full-time staff. Additionally, they learn the culture and routines of the cottage and the parenting strategies used by the full-time houseparents houseparents. This helps our children feel they are truly cared for and it allows our full-time houseparents to feel confident that the needs of their children are met in their absence. This helps them to truly rest.

“The biggest predictor of success in a child’s life is the quality of their relationships,” Strickland said. “Relationships are transformational change agents. Children need trustworthy adults who are with them for the long haul. When we support full-time staff by providing regular rest and encouragement – burnout decreases, and they stay longer. Ultimately this increases the positive outcomes for children in our care.”

If you are interested in volunteering as a respite caregiver, please contact Jeremy Beavers at jbeavers@palmerhome.org.

You must be 25 or older. A background check and interview with the Residential Director is mandatory. Whole Child Training is provided, and if a child will be staying in your home, a home study must also be completed.

Houseparents play an integral role in the lives of children at Palmer Home. They are the loving arms that embrace each new child who enters our care. They ensure each child knows they are safe and that their needs will be met. Houseparents teach children how to love and be loved, how to have a strong relationship with parents, and how to thrive in a healthy family environment. It takes a special couple to fill the role of houseparents at Palmer Home and the way in which the Lord fills these positions is purposeful – just like Him.

Ideally, couples who are interested in becoming houseparents are dedicated to Christ and to the Palmer Home mission of serving vulnerable children. The process begins with an initial interview where couples answer questions related to their family life, their interest in pursuing the houseparent role, and then through sharing their testimony. Next, a team of staff members evaluates the couple’s potential fit within the ministry. After the evaluation, the couple completes the “Prepare Enrich” assessment with interviews with our Director of Whole Child, Lauren Strickland.

The Whole Child Initiative is part of the heartbeat of Palmer Home; it is trauma informed educational training that equips houseparents with a better understanding of the children in their care and provides tools to nurture the kids holistically. Initial houseparent training also includes shadowing other houseparents and building relationships with the children.

Following completion of “Prepare Enrich,” families participate in joint and individual assessment debriefs via virtual meeting designed to help us determine fit between prospective families and Palmer Home, as well as help guide families’ time and conversations during on-campus interviews.

Once a couple completes the “Prepare Enrich,” they are invited to the Palmer Home campus where they interview with the leadership team as well as current houseparents. The potential houseparents also have an opportunity to ask questions and to experience some aspects of everyday life on the campus.

The process of becoming a houseparent takes time. Palmer Home carefully assesses potential houseparents because we strive for the couple to stay long term and for Palmer Home to be the right fit for them. After a couple is hired as houseparents, they move into a very important training phase where they learn more about the Whole Child Initiative.

The Whole Child Initiative training is ongoing for the rest of the houseparents’ tenure at Palmer Home. Monthly training allows for houseparents to continue to grow in wisdom and grace as they serve the needs of their children. Since each child who enters Palmer Home has endured some form of trauma, the Whole Child Initiative training is a crucial piece in the healing and restoration process.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to finding houseparents; they range in ages and each come from different backgrounds. Each couple brings varied life experiences and perspectives which allow them to relate with their children individually and compassionately. Some houseparents already have biological children while others do not. Although there are many unique attributes that lend to uniqueness among the houseparents, one key trait unifies them: a desire to see children heal and grow mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

“I can’t say enough about our houseparents,” said Ashley Gray, Vice President of Children Services. “They are a phenomenal group of people. The kids become their kids. They see the kids’ successes, failures, and struggles. They are their biggest fans.”

Palmer Home’s ultimate goal is to give every child the opportunity to seek salvation in Jesus Christ. Houseparents get to demonstrate the love of Jesus on a daily basis through their ongoing patience, relentless love, humility, gentleness, and kindness.

If you or someone you know are interested in becoming a houseparent at Palmer Home for Children, don’t wait!  Apply now and see what the Lord might have in store for you.

 

 

Elizabeth Heiskell is a household name throughout the South. The author of several cookbooks, including her newest release in November, The Southern Living Party Cookbook: A Modern Guide to Gathering, connects with people through her fuss-free recipes, flare for style, and hilarious storytelling.

Love for children, food, and entertaining are evident in everything Elizabeth does. Whether she’s harvesting tomatoes in the garden on her family farm, Woodson Ridge Farm in Oxford, Mississippi, catering a wedding reception, or demonstrating how to make ice cream layer cake on the set of the “Today” show, the Debutante Farmer is bound to be infusing laughter and fun into every moment. Elizabeth’s spirit for family, service, and Palmer Home for Children exudes her trademark passion as well.

Elizabeth was first introduced to Palmer Home when she was a student at Presbyterian Day School in Cleveland, Mississippi. At the end of her sixth-grade year she and her classmates spent the day on the Columbus campus. They cooked supper, played games, and enjoyed activities together with the children at Palmer Home.

“It was our biggest event of the year,” she said. “It was just magical. I thought we might be sad and need to cheer up the children living there, but what was so amazing to me was how happy all of the kids were. They were so filled with joy, love, and hope. They were amazing kids.”

Elizabeth left Palmer Home with an invaluable life lesson written on her heart.

“We are not stuck,” she said. “Regardless of the situation, you can always find peace and hope when you are rooted in God. When He is at the core you can be joy-filled.”

The children at Palmer Home made a lasting impression on Elizabeth; one she would never forget.

After moving to her farm in Oxford, Elizabeth reconnected with Palmer Home and became involved with supporting the ministry that has held a special connection since childhood. She hosted a Farm-to-Table event at her farm, where the Treblemakers, Palmer Home’s children’s choir, sang for the dinner guests. She also catered the inaugural Tailgate for Palmer event on the Ole Miss campus in 2016, and has participated in our annual Radiothon over the years as well.

Elizabeth visited the Columbus campus toward the end of the summer this year where she spent time with the children at the greenhouses. She was thoroughly impressed with the brilliant agriculture program, but what captivated her most were the hearts of the children. After harvesting all of the watermelons, the students donated them to the children at the local Boys and Girls Club.

“Regardless of trials, we still have to remember to give back, to take care of others,” Elizabeth said. “This is ingrained in these kids. Not only is Palmer Home growing wonderful produce on their land, but they are also growing kids who are learning to work and to be accountable; kids who are learning to take care of the land and themselves. They are raising children who will be amazing citizens, who will know how to impact the communities in this state or wherever they choose to live.

“The reason why Palmer Home works so beautifully is because at the core of everything there, it all goes back to God. God is evident everywhere! Magic happens there. It’s miraculous.”

At Palmer Home, cottages typically include 6-8 children. Finding a recipe that everyone loves (and is easy!) can be a tough task for houseparents. But, Elizabeth knows a thing or two about cooking for a crowd. She shared one of her favorite recipes that is sure to make a houseparent’s (or anyone’s, for that matter!) night a little easier: The Yoste Roast – simple, delicious, and a tried and true crowd-pleaser. Enjoy!

Yoste Roast

If my friend Julie Yoste hears you are sick, sad, or have an ingrown toenail, she is sure to show up with her Yoste Roast. When I shared this recipe on the “Today” show, friends from all over the country sent me pictures of the grocery store aisle where the shelf of pepperoncini peppers was completely empty. This roast is perfect as it is, but there is an epic sandwich just waiting to be built from the leftovers. Cut a crusty French bread loaf lengthwise down the center. Pile the roast on the bottom piece, cover with sliced provolone cheese, and broil until the cheese melts. Spread horseradish mayo on the top piece of bread and cover the sandwich. Forget Philly, call it a Delta cheesesteak. If your principles will not allow you to add a stick of butter, this recipe is just as delicious without it.

                                  Yoste Roast | Alison Miksch – Photographer | Kay Clarke – Prop Stylist | Anna Hampton – Food Stylist

Serves 8  Hands-on 15 minutes Total 8 hours, 15 minutes

1 (4-pound) boneless chuck roast

2 teaspoons table salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 (0.6-ounce) envelope zesty Italian salad dressing and seasoning mix

1 (16-ounce) jar pepperoncini peppers, undrained

4 ounces (1⁄2 cup) salted butter, softened (optional)

Garnish: fresh thyme

  1. Pat the roast dry with paper towels; sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high; add the roast, and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Place the roast in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker; sprinkle the seasoning mix over the roast. Pour the pepperoncini peppers and liquid over the roast. Top with the  butter, if desired.
  3. Cover and cook on LOW until roast is very tender, about 8 hours, or on HIGH, about 5 hours.
  4. Remove the roast from the slow cooker with a slotted spoon. Serve with roasted root vegetables. Garnish, if desired.

Join us #atthetable this Christmas season and help hope grow! Donate online. Your donation allows Palmer Home to continue providing superior care to children in need. Share you moments #atthetable with us on Facebook, @PalmerHome. 

 

When was the last time you overheard a first grader mention Sir Isaac Newton and his Laws of Motion? Or when was the last time a third grader demonstrated Newton’s cradle with a basic understanding of the conservation of energy and kinetic energy? If it’s been a while, then head over to the Palmer School to witness students of all ages soaking up new information through the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program.

Palmer School introduced its new STEM program to the curriculum this year and as a result, kindergartners to high school seniors are being exposed to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in new and practical ways. STEM programs are shown to help develop communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and data analysis skills in students as well as creating a solid foundation for understanding the ever-evolving technological world in which we live.

Lisa Rooker, the STEM teacher, taught middle school science in the public school system for 28 years. She was intrigued by the challenge of teaching the STEM objectives to the academic spectrum of students in elementary school through high school, but she was unsure of the younger students’ ability to grasp the concepts. Much to her joy and surprise, it has proven to be easier than she anticipated. She teaches the same concepts to all of the students, but simplifies the content for the younger students and enriches the content for the older students.

“The young kids love it,” she said. “After learning about Newton’s Laws and having hands-on time with Newton’s Cradle, one of the children brought me a book about Sir Isaac Newton and asked me to read it to the class. They are making connections about scientific laws and how they affect and contribute to the world around us.”

As students brainstorm and collaborate together, their critical thinking skills are honed and they develop practical problem-solving practices. They ask themselves exploratory questions such as “How or why does this process work?” They also learn to reassess situations based on trial and error, prompting more exploratory questions such as “Why didn’t this work?” and “What can we change to make this more effective?”

The students learn about the STEM objectives using a very hands-on approach. They utilize a Promethean Interactive Board, Lego Mindstorm kits and iPads to deepen their understanding of science, technology and computer programming. The students are learning about robotics with Legos and can even control the robotic pieces through online software. Students also learn the basics of writing and utilizing software code through the use of Sphero Balls.

“Overall, we want the students to have a positive attitude toward science,” Rooker said. “The STEM background will allow our students to pursue interests in these fields and have greater career opportunities down the road.”

Recently the students learned about Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every action, there is an equal or opposite action. Simply stated, the law might seem difficult to understand or vaguely applicable. The students created balloon racers using Matchbox race cars, straws, balloons and CDs for wheels. Newton’s Third Law came to life before their eyes and they understood the concept in a tangible, meaningful way.

Students have also learned the principles behind other hands-on experiments and projects; building bridges out of popsicle sticks and using hot glue and masking tape to withstand the weight of one hundred pennies. They also created towers out of marshmallows and skewers demonstrating the engineering principles that pertain to seismic plates and activity. 

“The students come into class brimming with new ideas and ways they have seen science and technology at work around them,” she said. “I often hear things like, ‘I saw this story on the news and it reminded me of…’ The students are so enthusiastic about the practical applications of the STEM program. They are more aware of the world around them. They have taken these concepts and are running full speed ahead.”

Next up, Potential Kinetic Energy and a trip to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. If your memory of non-Newtonian fluids and the effects of polymers feels a little fuzzy, ask one of our students for an explanation and some practical application in the world today. You’ll be amazed at what you hear.

 

 

When you sit down with your family for a meal on Thanksgiving, what do you anticipate more –feast or family?

At Palmer Home the answer is easy – family. (Although we enjoy the feast as well!)

For many, Thanksgiving and Christmas are opportunities people have to slow down and spend time with their families. For our Palmer Home children and houseparents, the opportunity to sit at the table and enjoy a meal together comes daily.

Breaking bread together is not the only thing that happens while at the table – stories are shared, laughs are had, and games are played. Quite simply – life happens when our families enjoy each other’s company at the table.

When you reflect on Thanksgiving with your family, consider joining our Palmer Home family on Giving Tuesday. Join us at the table on November 27 and make a difference in children’s lives.

When you donate to Palmer Home, you are allowing children to experience family and community for the first time. You are providing children a life that allows them to grow and mature in a Christ-center homed filled with love, support and peace. Your gift will change the life of a child.

Donate early. 

Fifteen years ago, after an awkward blind date, if someone had told Michael and Lacey Conaway that one day they would be sitting on their front porch in Columbus, Mississippi at 7:45 a.m., drinking coffee and discussing the logistics of the day for life with eight children – they would have laughed out loud and said, “No way! That’s crazy…” but it’s funny how the Lord has a way of shaking things up and turning chaos into beauty.

Thankfully, Michael and Lacey’s second date went much better than their first, and eventually the two seminary students fell in love, got married, settled down in a small town in Oklahoma and were blessed with three children.

Michael worked as a youth minister for 13 years and Lacey as a Nurse Practitioner. They became involved in the lives of the children in their youth group and discovered that many of them had difficult home lives. Lacey would tell Michael, only half-joking, that she wanted to take all the kids home and provide a happier, healthier life of stability for them.

In May of 2017, Lacey received what she considered, a humorous email from her sister saying she had found the perfect new job for Lacey and Michael as houseparents at Palmer Home. One of the perks of the job was that it came with an enormous house in a beautiful gated community…and potentially six to eight additional children!  Although the Conaways were looking for career changes at the time, the opportunity seemed like a bit of a stretch, given that it was two states and 530 miles away from their home in Oklahoma.

For the next several months, the Conaways continued looking for new career opportunities, but everything that appeared promising eventually fell through. The couple continued to pray for the Lord to guide and lead them in their next steps, and although He remained quiet, they waited patiently on Him and His timing.

In February of 2018 Lacey gave a second thought to the houseparent opportunity.

“What if we actually did this?” she asked Michael.

He was open to the idea and they sent in their resumes two days later. They heard back from Palmer Home within 24 hours, had a phone interview a week later, and flew out to Columbus for an in-person interview a month later.

“God opens doors and closes doors,” Lacey said. “There was a time when He was awfully quiet, but when He closes all the doors and then one opens, you pay attention.”

After their interviews, it became clear to the Conaways that the Lord was indeed leading them to become houseparents at Palmer Home for Children.

“When God calls you to do something, you can either move into it even though it’s scary and unknown, and in doing so you can move into the fullness of it and enjoy being in His will – or you can choose not to listen and stay where things are safe and known, but miss out on all that He has for you,” said Lacey.

The Conaways didn’t want to miss out on the fullness of being in God’s will for them, so they answered His call, packed up a U-Haul with their belongings, three kids, and their dog, and moved into a cottage at Palmer Home for Children in June of 2018.

It’s been an amazing adventure of learning, loving, praying, and growing. The Conaway family has grown significantly since moving to Palmer Home – gaining five new children once arriving on campus. Michael and Lacey love and cherish the five teenage boys in their home and delight in nurturing them, teaching them, and most of all, loving them on a daily basis in a hundred little ways.

Lacey laughs as she talks about her new normal of cooking for five growing teenage boys.

“They sure know how to eat,” she said. “I basically double every recipe and still end up making grilled cheese or quesadillas for kids at the end of the night.”

All of the cooking isn’t entirely her responsibility though. There are certain aspects of cooking the boys enjoy and she appreciates their willingness to help in the kitchen from time to time.

“They like to grill and they want to be the ones to prep the meat, season it, and grill it,” Lacey said. “One night I received a call asking if we could take in a baby girl for a few nights, and within 30 minutes someone was carrying a crib into my house. I asked the boys if they would be willing to help with dinner and before I knew it, they whipped up burgers to grill for dinner that night.”

Michael and Lacey are finding their rhythm and building relationships with their new teenagers on a daily basis. They marvel at how quickly their family and their hearts have expanded to include five new children.

“We understand that we have a shorter time frame with these boys under our roof given that they are all high school and college-aged,” Michael said. “We want to prepare them for the real world with practical skills like cooking, laundry, budgeting, and the importance of a good work ethic, but more than that, like any parent, we want them to be successful and to know they are deeply loved and valued.”

Michael leads a weekly Bible study with the boys on Thursday nights; they are currently doing a study on purity and invited some older girls from other cottages to join them.

“Our goal isn’t so much to affect how our children, all eight of them, behave; we want to affect who they are,” said Michael. “Just like how our relationship with God isn’t about following a set of rules, but instead it’s about really knowing Him and allowing Him to change us from the inside out – that’s what we’re about.”