Small Town Heroes


It’s been a while since my last blog post. I often pride myself in being ahead of the game, always planning months ahead. The reality is that things like blog posts take a back seat. Always. But, I hope to be spending more time writing over the course of the coming months because, when I’m writing about something I’m passionate about, it does me soooo much good.

At the time I’m writing this, I am traveling back from a vacation and felt inspired to write about the unsung small town heroes – those men and women who may not have rescued people from a burning building – but they are real, living, breathing, life-saving people who live down just down the street. They are everywhere. And in Laurel, one of these heroes is my friend, Lauren Gebauer.

When Jay and I moved to Laurel, Lauren and her husband Ben were living just down the street from the home we bought. We both had moved to Laurel for the same reason, to be a part of Agape Church in Laurel. The Gebauers, however, moved much farther that we did with a team from California to help the church get started. When we moved to Laurel in 2015, Ben and Lauren had no children and neither did we. We made breakfast feasts and back porch dinner hangouts a regular occurrence. We were expecting our first son, and they were completing the process to begin fostering.

In my life, Lauren has been a hero in the form of morning walks with coffee, checking on me when my kid is throwing up everywhere, bringing me desserts for no reason, and watering my plants or caring for my dog when we are out of town. And in the lives of many children, she been a hero in the form of serving as a foster mom. 

Laura Johns and Lauren Gebauer

I asked Lauren to share her story on my blog not only to help promote her new book (shameless plug…go buy it here), but also because I wanted you to be blessed by reading her story. I have seen firsthand how Lauren and Ben handle the joys and challenges of fostering. And it’s amazing to me that in between fostering up to seven children in her home (four at one time), she has found the time to write a book to give children in foster care hope and encouragement.

So, without further ado, here is Lauren’s story and how her book Come to Find Out came to be.

I ended up in Laurel because I was in love with a guy and followed him out here. I still believe my mom was speaking with wisdom when she told me, “You should never move across the country for a man!” But I guess you could say it worked out for us because that guy is now my husband, and we’re still very much in love.

Ben moved out here as part of the original team to help launch Agape Church in downtown Laurel. He had been living at his parent’s house in California when we started dating, and the guy was ready for a new adventure. He heard about a group of crazy folks moving to The Bible Belt to launch a church, and he thought that would be his opportunity to be part of something bigger than himself. He actually signed up as part of the team at the last minute, which only left him two weeks to pack his stuff and get on the road. Although I had only known him for a couple months, I had fallen hard for this guy and was ready to pursue a real relationship with him, only for him to up and leave to Mississippi. I was bummed.

The team moved to Laurel in January 2010. I wasn’t on track to graduate from my university until December 2011, so as soon as I received my diploma, I hit the road and moved myself to Mississippi.

Even as kids, Ben and I have both always planned to adopt. I remember having a conversation with my parents at just seven or eight years old about orphans and adoption. I made somewhat of a promise to myself that I would adopt because I couldn’t fathom the idea that some children had to grow up without parents.

Lauren and Ben Gebauer

After we were married, we often had conversations about family planning. We both felt strongly that we would adopt before we attempted to have biological children, if we ever did decide to have biological children. I started researching adoption (cost, timelines, etc.). In my research, I learned how truly expensive it is to adopt through traditional channels. I also learned that adoption through foster care is, essentially, free.

The deeper I dug into learning about foster care, the more I felt called to start fostering. We went into it thinking we would just be foster parents without necessarily looking for a child to adopt. Our goal was to take children that need a home and do our best to be good parents to them.

Going through the process to get a license, we were able to choose the age, gender and race of children that we were willing to accept. We were open to fostering children of any race and gender between the ages of 0-8. We assumed we would likely be placed with children on the older side of our age range since it is known to be most difficult to find homes for older children. We were ready to accept the difficult cases. After all, we didn’t have any children already living in our home we needed to protect. We went to the training classes, completed our home study, bought a fire extinguisher and some outlet protectors, got our license, then began waiting.  

We received a call asking us to take a newborn from the hospital. Today, we are on track to adopt that newborn, who is now two years old. Since receiving our son in 2016, we have had seven other children come in and out of our home.

 Throughout our foster care journey, I have spent time connecting with other foster parents through social media to share advice and resources. Every few weeks or so, someone posts on a foster parent support group asking, “What are some good foster care books for foster children?” The answer to that question is that there are a handful of books for kids in foster care, but they could be so much better, and there really should be more. On any given day, there are 438,000 children in US foster care. There should be more books made specifically for them, especially if those books can be used therapeutically to help them through a difficult life situation.

So I set out to write a book for kids in foster care. I compiled a list to help me get started on my first book, Come To Find Out. This was the first thing I wrote in my journal: 

What do I want to leave the kids with?

·      hope

·      excitement for their future

·      a feeling of empowerment

·      a reminder that they don’t have to follow in their parents footsteps

·      the confidence that their life has value

·      a reminder that the best is yet to come

·      a success story

Reflecting on that list, I definitely feel like I accomplished what I set out to achieve. Now, I am actively seeking the best way to get this story into the hands of kids in foster care.

There is still a lot of work to do. Ideally, I’d like to have a whole series of books created for children in foster care. Come To Find Out focuses on the perseverance of a young girl, and I’d like to have a similar book for boys. After that, I want to create a book focusing on TPR (Termination of Parental Rights). Nearly half of all children in foster care will have to experience TPR, and it’s a confusing and painful thing to navigate. We need a book to help kids navigate that difficult transition.

 There are so many parts of the foster care journey that need to be discussed and explored for the benefit of the kids living through it, so I might as well be the one to do it.

I hope by reading this, you were as encouraged as I am. Help me support Lauren in her goal to get more books like Come to Find Out available to children in foster care. Purchase the book here. And to connect with Lauren, find her on Instagram at @lauren_._margaret