Heart & Soul {by J.D. Wininger • Guest Post}

With each passing year, the concept of the “nuclear family” that my generation grew up in is becoming more and more frowned upon. In fact, earlier this year, I read an article in The Atlantic magazine calling the nuclear family “a catastrophic mistake.” As I read, I wondered if its author had ever experienced what that meant:

  • Had the author grown up outside of the nuclear family?
  • If so, how did that impact his worldview, value system, and morality? 
  • Had he not gained life lessons from watching his parents interact and work together to support a growing family?
  • Had he not witnessed how love and faith can overcome challenges?

We can all agree that our world has undergone significant changes in the past sixty years and that the family structure has adapted to these changes.

From my volunteer work with women’s shelters and in our community, I have seen many of these changes firsthand. And from my own experience of being adopted at fourteen, I have personally found how coming from a broken, dysfunctional “nuclear family” has impacted me and given me a very different baseline than most.

Even though my biological “nuclear family” included a father and mother and siblings (well, half-siblings, anyway), a key ingredient was missing: There was very little love. The pain, loneliness, and separation that came from being in that environment left me a distrusting, independent, hard-nosed, worldly young person focused on himself.

But with God’s help—and lots of patience and understanding on my adoptive family’s side—my world changed. Becoming a part of a genuine family taught me what a loving, nurturing, faith-driven family looks like. 


God moved my new dad and mom (Stewart and Theresa Adams), along with two of their sons, from Massachusetts to Florida—giving me a family. While becoming a valued family member resulted in “culture shock,” it was the answer to a young boy’s prayers to feel loved. As I matured, I understood how the love I so longed for wasn’t from my parents, siblings, or myself. The heart and soul of a loving family is God.

With His presence in the lives of my new family, the love He filled them with spilled over to me. I have long said, “Whatever good someone sees in me results from what my parents poured into me.” And while I mean this with utmost respect and admiration, I realize the fallacy in this statement.

The statement is accurate, but it ignores the source of all the lessons they poured into me: Had God’s love not made room for them to love one more wayward child, His plan for me may have gone unfulfilled. Had both my adopted parents not loved me, they would not have invested their time in molding me into the man God meant for me to become.

For example, my dad taught me many things. He instilled in me a work ethic, taught me the meaning of integrity, and helped develop many trade skills that have served me well for many years. Dad also showed me what it meant to be kind, generous, and loving toward others. I watched him give to others—with a smile—even when it meant he sometimes did without himself. He would always share, saying, “I’m just giving back a small portion of all the blessings God has given me.”

While dad was the leader of our family, Mom was without question our family’s spiritual influence. Both she and dad were devout Christians, whom I often found reading the Bible together when my brother and I came in from closing up the station. But it was Mrs. Theresa Marcella Adams, nee Legere, a feisty, raspy-voiced little woman of French descent, who had the biggest impact on our family.

Mom, who worked beside us each day in the family’s service station, gave me very different gifts. She taught me to read and study God’s word. She also showed me the results of a fervent and effective prayer life. I’ll always cherish those early mornings when I would come out of the bedroom to find Mom. She’d be sitting in her chair with a cup of coffee, her Bible, and a long list of prayer needs. It was she who taught me to cherish my “God time” each day.

I could write volumes about my parents and the blessings I received from the lessons they taught, but they can be summed up with one word: love. The love they had for each other; the love they shared with their family and the community they served, all came from the same source. First Corinthians 13:13 says it better than I ever could:

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

Whatever type of family you are a part of, please remember that its heart and soul is our loving God. Nothing shows this truth any better than the words of John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 

I pray you invite God to be at the center of your lives and home, so He becomes the heart and soul of your family. The results will be nothing short of miraculous.


J.D. Wininger is an award-winning writer and speaker who teaches compelling lessons in faith and writes heartfelt devotionals and books to glorify God. He has written for national magazines, CBN.com, Lighthouse Bible Studies, and contributed to several books. When not working his Texas ranch, he and his wife Diane share God’s love in surrounding communities.

Website: https://jdwininger.com/

in the Quiver

12 thoughts on “Heart & Soul {by J.D. Wininger • Guest Post}

  1. J.D., thank you for sharing this amazing story of how God provided for you on your journey. Your adoptive parents were truly God’s gift to you. I love the lessons taught of hard work, needed trade skills, kindness, giving, and most of all, prayer and study of God’s Word. You absorbed these lessons well, because you continue to honor God with your work, your writing, and with your gifts of encouragement. Thank you and may God continue to bless your life and work.

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  2. As always, J.D. excels at everything he writes. I am amazed when I consider how God has gifted him, and how he so willingly shares that gift with others.

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    1. You are too kind, but most appreciated Mr. Roger. As I sign in all my book dedications, “May all joy be yours; may all glory be God’s!” I add Romans 15:13 as a reference my friend. I share these same wishes with you and your lovely daughters today.

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  3. Wow, JD! What a beautiful description of what it means to be a family that chooses to honor and glorify God. Thank you for sharing. Praying God blesses this post by opening the eyes of the Dad’s and Moms, showing them the gift they’ve been given!

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  4. J.D., your well-written post paints a beautiful portrait of God’s love in a family setting. He enabled you to overcome the lack of love with His abundant blessings through your adoptive parents and His Word. My heart ached while reading about the days of your youth but rejoiced at God’s plan of adoption. Thank you for warming our hearts with the precious story of God’s work to mold you into a mighty man of faith.

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    1. You are too kind, as always, Ms. Jeannie. Thank you so much for your inspiring and encouraging words ma’am. I cherish how God has applied the lessons of Joseph in my life; and His lifetime of lessons, grace, mercy, and love have helped me understand a saying I carry in my heart always; “Overcoming the bad is what makes the good better!” I penned this to mean (to me anyway) that with God’s help, when we get through the valley seasons in our life, our mountaintop moments will be all the more grand and glorious. It’s because we’ll know the cost of the journey to reach them; and the cost He paid to help us get there. God’s blessings ma’am.

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  5. The heart and soul of your words touched me deep. Praise God for His love given in abundance. Your story is an amazing testimony to His love, and I stand with you regarding the “nuclear family”. Anyone who disparages the truth about God’s design for family simply hasn’t experienced the warmth and strength therein. The sorrow is that many have not had the benefit of what your parents bestowed. May your story travel without borders and bless many to be what only God is – true love.

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  6. Thank you Ms. Charla. I hope you’ll allow me to join you in that prayer ma’am. While I know this world can never be fully filled with God’s agape love; a love that puts others before ourselves, I know each of us can do more to show His love in whatever part of this darkened, fallen world we are blessed to be able to shine His light into. And yes, we all need to start with our families. God’s blessings ma’am.

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