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Unlikely Overcomer: Tori Hope & Jacob Petersen

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
May 9, 2023 5:15 am

Unlikely Overcomer: Tori Hope & Jacob Petersen

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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May 9, 2023 5:15 am

Abandonment. Foster care. Juvenile hall: Tori Hope Petersen's life was looking bleak. But God had a different story in mind for this unlikely overcomer.

Show Notes and Resources

Visit Tori's website at and check out her instagram

You can purchase Tori's book at Fostered: One Woman's Powerful Story of Finding Faith and Family through Foster Care

Tori's organization: Beloved Initiative

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Hey there, David Robbins, President of Family Life. If you are moved and have been helped by the program you're listening to today or any over these past weeks and months, as a donor-supported ministry, we want you to know that it was made possible by generous listeners just like you. Our Family Life partners who partner with us monthly help provide all the resources we share here every day, and they are a vital part of our mission. Did you know that as a monthly Family Life partner, if you join with us, you'll not only get a gift card to attend one of our 80 Weekend to Remember Marriage Getaways, but you also get special invitations to live behind-the-scenes online events with some of our very gifted team of voices.

Becoming a Family Life partner now in the month of May is even more impactful as some generous people have come alongside this vision and mission and set up a matching gift to double your commitment for a year. So thank you for listening. Thank you for engaging with us. Thank you for your comments.

Gracious those, and thank you for partnering with us and seeing every home become a Godly home. Thank you for your kindness, but there's something really special about you. And I had never heard anything like that before. And so when she said that, I don't know why those worlds connected a little bit. Like, is there a God?

Could He have made me with something unique for something? No, she was right. You are competitive. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at or on the Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. You remember when we first got married, and I would say, you're just so beautiful. And you'd say, no, I'm not. I used to think you were kidding. And then I realized you really didn't think that. I had so many lies going on. And it was all that baggage from the past. But when somebody speaks the words of God and life to you, it changes you. Identity.

It draws you. And you can hear her over there. You can hear Tori Hope Peterson going.

She's back in the studio with her husband, Jacob. Man, your book, Fostered, talks about this. But we've got to say welcome back to Family Life again.

Thank you. You know, your first time on Family Life. And yesterday, we got a little bit of your story.

So if you missed it, go back and listen to it. But I'll give you a cliff-nosed version. You know, Tori, you ended up in how many? Twelve different foster homes. Amazing story.

You and Jacob and your kids now. And four-time Allstate, whatever, track star. Yes, exactly. And you didn't even mention Mrs. Universe. Oh, yeah.

We didn't even mention it. She's a speaker. Yeah, author, speaker.

Spin on. Good morning, America. You know, our son, Austin.

I mean, what else is there to say? But you mentioned a little bit yesterday, and I'd love to hear more about that, what Anne was just saying about your high school track coach. What was his name? Scott?

Scott. Yeah. Yeah. When I was reading about it, I thought, man, he changed your life. Just hit that again. Because you mentioned it yesterday, but sort of like Mrs. Brown for Anne, is that what he did when he spoke into you?

Absolutely. There was people who kind of just believe the stereotypes of foster care, that I was a bad kid. When I was in high school, I wanted to go to a friend's house. I wanted her to come to my house.

And she went, you know, we didn't have phones then. So she went and asked her dad, and then she came and gave me her answer the next day. And she said, my dad said that we can't hang out because you're in foster care. And that was just like, okay, I understand what people think about me being in care.

And I was kind of labeled like this bad kid. Is that typical, Tori, for kids in foster care? I would say it's becoming less typical, right? Because we're having a lot of conversation about prejudice and stereotypes more than we were, you know, I was in foster care now, that was nine years ago. And I don't think we were having conversations as often as we are now.

And so yeah, I think it was pretty typical then. And I do think that it can be pretty typical now, like people, especially teens in foster care, like people just think they're kind of difficult or they're trouble kids. And so when my track coach, I didn't know this then, but I know now, people were telling him, like, if you associate yourself with her, you're gonna get in trouble. And she's trouble. And he said, like, I think she's a good kid.

Like, I think she has a lot of potential. I think you can see that God had a plan and purpose for my life. And he told me, Tori, I think that you can go on to the state track meet, I think you can win it. And I did. And that's what allowed me to get a full ride scholarship to college and only 3% of youth who've experienced the foster care system go on to get a bachelor's degree or higher. And so he really did change the trajectory of my life.

Let me ask you, Tori, take yourself back to 14, 15 year old Tori. If we played the recorder of what was going on in your head of your self talk on a bad day, what did you hear? I can very easily like know those thoughts because I still battle them today.

And I still have to like, remind myself of God's truth. But it's that I'm a sabotager. I ruin everything I touch. I'm not worthy of love. I don't know how to love. And I'm not capable of love. And other people are not able to love me because I'm just too much. I always thought that I was just too much.

Wow. Are those things you were told and you sort of internalized or was that your own mind? Sabotager, manipulator, those are things that were spoken over me like by caseworkers when I moved from home to home. And I think when you're a kid, who do you look to? Who do you look to to speak over your identity? It's the adults in your life and it's usually your parents and I have parents. So I just looked at the adults and manipulator, sabotager.

Yeah, those were ones that were like explicitly spoken over me. And then I think, you know, just not worthy of love and not being capable of love. I think that just was what I felt like I was seeing when I was moving from home to home to home. I would get to a home. And I, you know, try and fit like I would try almost like a chameleon. I wanted to blend in and I wanted to be whoever my foster parents wanted me to be because I did want every foster home I was in. I really did want to stay. I wanted them to be my family. And I always felt like I was searching for my forever family when I was in the system, even though I did have my biological mom, our relationship can't really be like mother and daughter. And so I was always felt like I was looking for that forever family. And when it just kept not coming, I was like, there has to be something deeply wrong with me. I'm so sorry for that.

I feel like that can be something a lot of us feel and even listeners like I identify with that and yet we don't always share it. So you guys end up meeting senior year in college. You fall in love.

We talked about this yesterday. You get pregnant, felt bad about it, but you also loved each other and God blessed you with this amazing little boy, got married. So Jacob, did you have any idea when you guys got married that this was some of the things that Tori was battling with?

Because she had given her life to Jesus and surrendered everything. There was this one time, I think it was Valentine's Day, and I went to the store to get flowers and I think it was a steak. Are you married yet? No, no, we were dating at this time. And so unbeknownst to me, I pulled out my car out of the driveway of the house I was living in and I started going down and I went to the store. But apparently Tori had walked to my house and she saw me leave and she thought I was leaving forever.

I had no idea. Which was a common experience in your life. It was very strange. It was a very strange day.

Yeah. And I think that we hadn't talked like the whole day, which was very unusual. I think you just had like a heavy class load and then like I was supposed to come to your house at that time. Like you were supposed to be there, but I think you're just running behind and you went to go to the store. And to me, I was like, he's done. Like he's just done with me. He's leaving me like everybody else. He's leaving me forever.

He has different plans today and he's never coming back because that's what everyone else is doing. And because I'm not worthy. Because yeah, like I'm not worthy of love. So how'd you tell him or how'd you find out? Yeah, how'd that end up? I think you called me. Did you call me and you were like crying?

How did that happen? I don't even remember. I just remember that like I was distraught. I think I just went to go hang out with friends, but I was still like internally distraught. And I was like texting and I was like, you at least tell me you were going to leave or like something.

Yeah. And then I went back to my house and there was like a card and a steak and he was like, I went to go get you. It was guacamole.

You're like, I want to go get you guacamole because guacamole is my favorite. And I was like, I think that that was all my issue. Whatever happened, I was like, I think that was all.

That was a Tory moment. And I'm guessing because every married couple brings in baggage and I'm sure Jacob had his own baggage. I still have my own baggage. But I'm guessing you both have seen like, oh, I didn't know that was there.

Oh, yeah. How do you guys deal with that and how, let me ask you, I'll do a two question. How do you deal with that? But also how do you speak the truth to each other?

The good identity, the truth? We have, like when you say, how do you handle it? I wouldn't say we handle it perfectly or even well.

I think we're still navigating it. We haven't even been married five years. And so I always feel like we are like the last people anybody wants marriage advice from truly. But I think something that we've always tried really hard to do is keeping people around us that have good marriages. And then we ask people a lot of questions like, you know, how do you have a good marriage? Why do you feel like you have a good marriage? What do you think you guys do? And a lot of times people just have the same answers. And so you just need like to do those things like going on date nights and being intentional.

There's like that quote or idea that you become like the top five people you hang around. I think we take that very seriously. And we really care to surround ourselves with people who have good marriages, who have strong faith, who are raising their kids like we want to raise our children, who have good character. That's probably I think how we primarily get through hard things is we have amazing people. It has probably very little to do with us and everything to do with the people in our lives. That's very fair.

We definitely probably model ourselves after what we're seeing and our role models more than we are maybe identifying in each other. I think that can get kind of bumpy, you know, because I know that in our argument it can get picky really fast. Well, you do this.

Well, you do that. And now it's hard to identify and really speak encouragement into each other. I think in the future I would love for us as maturing Christ followers for us to be able to do that for each other. But I think in this early stage of our marriage, yeah, right now it's just relying on the body and the people that God has put in front of us to help us see each other. I mean, do you guys feel, do you feel safe now with each other, Tori? I mean, when he pulls out, do you ever have thoughts anymore or do you feel like we're secure?

No, we're secure. Like I know Jacob will never leave me and I know that I will never leave Jacob. And I think that's actually because in our very short time of being married, we've been through a lot of hard things.

And I would say we've actually taken each other through the wringer. We're like, our marriage is not pretty, it's not perfect, but we love each other. And I know that like we'll never give up on each other. One of the things that we've noticed, so both of our love languages is words of affirmation. And I know there's like no science behind the love languages, but I do think that stuff is real.

Like it is legit. And I think something that we've noticed and that actually we're talking about and working on right now is that when both of your love language is words of affirmation, what you do is you wonder, why didn't this person affirm me? And he's wondering, why didn't Tori affirm me? And instead, it's like when you speak life into the other, then they're built up and then they start speaking life into you rather than continuing to look at yourself and be like, hello, like, did you see my good works? That's something that...

I have something to say to that. I think what's interesting is because both of our love languages is words of affirmation. What's funny is that Tori will affirm me in the ways that she wants to be affirmed. So she'll come to me softly and quietly and say, hi honey, you did a really good job. And I just want a good pat on the back. What's that sound like? Just a good, you know, I just want to take the job, man.

Like that's what I want, which is totally different. They're both words of affirmation, but the approaches that we bring to each other. So like when I give you a word of affirmation, it's usually kind of loud and in the form of a song. But no, no, no, but that's what, I would say that's what you used to do, but he started to write me letters.

Yes. Because I love, I love words and like tangible words that I can go back to mean a lot to me. And so he writes me letters like every week. And before I go on trips a lot, right, for traveling and speaking, and he'll always put a letter in the book that I'm reading or in my Bible that I take with me. And that's been something that it's really meant a lot to me.

That's really beautiful because that is, that's meeting her need. And then I'm thinking through too, like in terms of your relationship with God, you've given your life to Jesus. How old were you when that happened?

I was 17. And I would say, you know, I know that throughout my life, God was there like a lot. I spent some time in a juvenile detention center, like in juvie. And the only thing that you could have in your jail cell was a Bible. And so I didn't know anything about the Lord, but I'm reading the Bible. And I'm reading the book of Colossians and like Paul's in jail. And I'm like, well, I'm in jail. I must be like Paul. And I'm like encouraged.

And then I remember there was a scripture that said, be a joyful giver. And I don't know, you know, a lot of people listening to this, they can't see me, but I am mixed. And so my hair is frizzy. And when we were in juvie, we couldn't have any conditioner.

We could only have these like little ketchup cups, like the little ketchup cups we used to be able to get from McDonald's of shampoo. And like that didn't work for my hair. So my mom was like calling people. This is how my mom can be really cool. She was calling people and she was like, if you don't get my daughter conditioner, it's going to be medical neglect. And so I ended up getting conditioner. And I was like, I'm going to be a joyful giver.

And so when the guards weren't looking, I would like squeeze little like conditioner and the other girls, like, you know, shampoo. And I know that's like silly, but I really do feel like God was present in those moments. And he was encouraging me.

And I was like, if Paul can encourage the church of Colossi, I'm going to encourage these girls. But I didn't know, like I didn't give my life to Jesus until I was 17. What did you do to get in juvie? So my mom and I- Gee whiz, honey, you're getting pretty.

I know. No, you can ask that. My mom was hitting me and I hit her back for the first time. And she called the cops and I went to juvie for a domestic violence and I spent 18 days there. And then we went to court. So we went to court for that. And every kid, when they're going to court for something, they get, get what's called a gardening and LIDEM. You're probably familiar with that.

Or a GAL. Foster kids get them or kids that, you know, their parents are going through a divorce. And they had kind of seen that there was something wrong in the home through this experience. And then I had actually went into foster care. I was kind of in and out of foster care since the age of 12.

And so this was one of the moments that I went back for a very short stint, ended up in juvie. And my GAL was trying to take me to like these private rooms and my mom was like banging on the door. She's like, you are not allowed to talk to my daughter alone. And we would go move to another room and my mom was screaming and making just a scene at the courthouse where, you know, there's like cops and judges and people in law enforcement. And she was afraid. That I would tell them. And we were, we already had an open case at this time. And so she was afraid that if everything came out, then I would go into foster care. She would go to jail. And my GAL was just like, you can tell me everything. And so I did. And that was the day that I went into foster care for good. And it was actually not because of what I said, but because the judge was like, there's something else going on here if my mom didn't want me to talk to someone by myself. Like if she was that upset about it. So it is amazing that there you are.

You get some conditioner, you know, and you're trying to give it away. That's what I'm saying. But you felt like God was wooing you. Oh, absolutely. You might not have known him to the point you are now, but he knew you. I love that word.

I really do feel like that is that I've never used that word, but that's how I feel. I feel like God was just wooing me like my whole life. And it wasn't until I was 17 that I was able to look back and see like, oh, he was there all along. And I could see him in these moments over and over again where he was protecting me and preparing me and where he was caring for me and where he really was like paving the way for me to be where I am today. I think of all of our listeners, we've talked to so many that have kids that have gone astray or that are prodigals. And I think it's encouraging to hear stories like that of knowing like, oh, God sees my kids, God sees my spouse, God knows where they are and he will woo them and bring them.

And he might give them a little extra conditioner. You know, that could be the way that he's saying, I see you, I see what you need. Well, how is it that I'm sitting here listening to you going, there's so many others that you know more than I know that have gone through a similar experience and they're not sitting here saying God was there, God was wooing, they're saying the opposite. You know, God abandoned me and their lives are just fractured, you know, better than anybody. And yours could have been as well. And here you are saying the opposite.

With a great husband with two kids. I said that, like that is what I said for a really long time. And one of the questions I have and one of the questions I think people feel that way ask is how can we experience this egregious suffering? How can innocent children experience such pain if God is so good and so loving?

And when my foster mom kept taking me to church and kept being faithful, I learned and it's like a hard truth and some people don't like it. But we are made in the image of God and we are called to reflect Christ. And if that's the case, right, like our suffering is going to bring about glory and we are going to experience suffering as Christ experienced suffering.

Like that's what it means to reflect him. But the hope is like we can look at Jesus suffering and see that there is glory in it, that it was not wasted. And so when we're suffering, when we're going through this pain, we know that God will not waste it, that he's going to be faithful through it. But we have to hold on and we have to hold on to that hope that God is going to finish what he started.

Yeah, it is interesting too. We said yesterday, you know, your mom, I didn't know some of the details you revealed about your mom today, but even in that she names you with a name that defines your life, hope. Jeremiah 29, 11, I have plans and a hope for you.

And Victoria. It's this messy, negative, hurtful, and in the middle of that there's this grace of the thread of God's love coming through, even in a name where she blessed you, even in the middle of all that. Yeah, and I think that I really do believe that God can work through unbelievers, God can work through broken people. And my mom was very broken, but I feel like it's almost like God gave her a prophecy and said, this is what you are going to speak over your daughter. And it rang true.

And I think that that's another way I could look back on what God was doing and who he said I was and just like knowing, okay, he is faithful. He was always there. And that impacted you guys naming your own kids. So, you have a four-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter.

Tell us their names and what they mean. You want to say Leander and I'll say Ezra. And that was important to both of you? Yes. Yeah, absolutely.

Do you remember when we first named Leander? I feel like it was very, very important to me. I don't know how important it was to you, to be honest. Yeah, it was pretty important to me.

I think he's appalled that you're saying that. And I think Jacob is a pretty strong biblical name. Yes, yes it is. Yeah, okay, so we came to Leander.

He's four and a couple months now. And we were looking through names and there was a couple that were close to it and we wanted to be kind of unique. So we kind of came upon the name Leander, L-E-A-N-D-E-R.

But Tori, you brought up a good point. You were like, L-E-A, that's like, E-A can be kind of the feminine form in a lot of... Like in like romantic languages? Like A is feminine but O is masculine?

Right. So we were like, okay, let's, you know, we're smart academic kind of people. Let's move some letters around.

So we were like, let's drop the A. Y is kind of, Y-O, there we go, Leander. And so obviously the name, not obviously, but the name, you know, means lion and courageous. I usually defer to it as also regal and royal.

I don't know, that's something that I like. I like Proverbs 30, 30 which says that lions have the heart of God and they turn from nothing. And so I feel like it kind of means like he's a man of God or lion man. And then his middle name is Edward, which is Jacob's middle name and my adoptive dad's middle name. And then Amadeus, which means the love of God.

Jacob has two middle names, so we thought lion or should have two middle names. And then Esri, I felt like God had always, like I said, like been there. People I was growing up always told me that I was anointed and I didn't know what that meant. But it was really probably like three years ago where we could see that God was calling me into spaces of ministry and advocacy.

And I didn't know if women were allowed to do that, to be honest with you, especially if women had kids. And so I started reading books and I started reading about women's role in the faith and in marriage and in life and in ministry. And I came across this book that talked about the word Ezer or Ezer, some people pronounce it E-Z-E-R. And it's the word that God uses when he gives Eve to Adam as helper. But throughout the rest of the Old Testament, it's translated as like mighty defender. And I just felt like it embodied the complexities of being a woman of God and how it's not like straight and narrow or like one size fits all or black and white, but it's complex and beautiful.

It's mighty defender, but it's also a soft helper. And that's what I wanted to speak over my daughter. I really wanted to speak this complex womanhood over her identity, what being a woman of God is. And then her middle name is Hope, like my middle name. So her name is not Ezer, it's Ezer-Re.

So we added the Re to it and then her middle name is Hope. As we close, you're talking about your love language being words of affirmation. So let me just say to you, Tori, like it's been pretty amazing to see God's hand on you. Like it's inspiring. And I think part of it, as I look at you, not all of our listeners will be able to see you, but you are a woman of beauty and grace. Like you're petite, but there's a strength inside of you that is beautiful. I feel like God's hand has always been on you.

There's been a protection about you and continues to be. And I feel like you listen to him and you'll go wherever he calls you to go. And it's really beautiful to see the impact you're having now, the impact you guys will both have together.

And then as a family too, it's powerful. Yeah, I would say, you know, when Scott, your coach said, I see greatness in you, it was more than track. Track was obviously a part of it, but he saw resiliency. You're a fighter. And Jacob, you're a tender warrior. I see the strength of this warrior in there. But a humble.

Even the beard man, it just makes you look like a strong. But you're tender the way you've cared for Tori and embraced her and even led through the messiness of, you know, pregnancy before you were actually married. You guys fought to do the right thing in the middle of that mess.

And here you are. Yeah, you're a dynamic couple. It's really cool to have you in here. I would say, too, for you, Jacob, I just see this quiet strength like a steady rock that's really sweet, too, because it's probably exactly what you need, Tori, and what you haven't had a lot of your life. So God bringing you guys together is amazing. And thank you for what you're doing for foster care and being an advocate for kids and families that are fostering. It's been inspiring. Thank you guys so much for having us. It's an honor. You know, I really grew to love Jacob and Tori Peterson.

Me too. We should have said this during the program, but it just reminds me of Genesis 5020, where Joseph said what they intended for evil, God intended for good. And, you know, there's so much evil and heartbreak that took place in Tori's life. And yet she sits over here across from us and she's full of hope. That's her middle name and inspiration that God can still do a miracle even out of the muck. He brings, you know, marvelous truths and lives. Yeah.

And their legacy will be totally different. And I just, I love their heart for fostering. I love their heart for family and for life. It's beautiful.

Yeah. And I would say to you that our partners praying for this ministry and even giving financially, thank you. You know, you enable us to bring stories like this to people. And it's going to, there's somebody that heard that story today and thought their life is too broken.

Their past is too messed up. And today they got hope to say, hey, maybe God could use me. Maybe my future is bright. And you help that program get into their soul and they're going to change the world because of hearing this story. So thanks for letting us get that out.

Yeah. Thank you so much for your partnership. And now such a great time to become a Family Life partner because of how the Lord has specifically provided. All of this month, any gift that you give to Family Life is going to be matched dollar for dollar for the next 12 months to help families strengthen their relationship with God and with each other. Can you imagine the impact that you can make when your gift is doubled over the next year?

I mean, when you walk out your front door or witness what's going on with so many people, you don't have to look very hard to see that there's a significant need amongst marriages and families. And your gift to Family Life helps to reach people who need the hope of the gospel right where God has placed you. So your recurring donation, doubled through the matching gift, will help guide people to God's plan for marriage and family through things like our radio broadcasts, our podcasts, events like the Weekend to Remember, small group resources, website tools, and additional life-changing resources. So you can go online to to give your gift, or you could give us a call at 800-358-6329.

Again, that could be a one-time gift or it could be a recurring monthly gift and have that gift doubled dollar for dollar for the next 12 months. Again, the number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. So I mentioned additional life-changing resources. Well, we've been listening to Tori Hope Peterson and Jacob Peterson here on Family Life Today. And Tori has written a book called Fostered, one woman's powerful story of finding faith and family through foster care.

You can head over to to pick up a copy there. Now tomorrow on Family Life Today, Dave and Ann Wilson are in the studio with Jen Wilkin. She's going to be talking to us about what it means to be a woman, how to thrive as a biblical woman, and all the different specifics that come with that and the confusion that can often be around that topic. It's going to be a great one tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-09 07:37:35 / 2023-05-09 07:51:05 / 14

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