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A Heart Broken

I have recently been thinking about the trajectory of my life and how it has changed since meeting my wife.  To reflect on the many ways would lead to a very scattered and broad post, so I am going to focus on just one.  Fostering.

When Sarah and I were engaged, we talked about our visions of the future and the family we hoped to have together.  Very early on, Sarah expressed her openness, and even desire, to adopt or even foster.  I did not share the same desire, but I did say that I was open, even if a part of my brain thought it would never be an actual possibility.  It is easier to be open to something when you can rationalize it never happening.

Fast forward a couple of years.  We had married and our daughter was just over a year old when we suffered from the loss of our second child in a miscarriage.  Sarah has already reflected beautifully on this, so I will not dwell on it here.  Suffice it to say, we have had difficultly conceiving since, but while the road has been long and difficult, I can already see some of its purpose and its fruit.

We had many appointments with doctors during this time and many treatments.  Each month brought more disappointment.  It seemed to pile on.  It was easy slip into pessimism disguised as realism.  Underneath the surface though, God was at work on something.  It was difficult to recognize, but it was there.

We reached a point where Sarah and I realized that maybe we were not called to have any more children, but we still had a desire to grow our family.  What would we do with that desire?  I did not have an answer for that, or rather, my brain still would not let me recognize the possibilities.  Fortunately, I married Sarah, and not only did she have an answer, she was completely open to it.

We enrolled in classes through St. Francis Community Services to begin the road to fostering.  For me, it was to help discern if this was something that I could do.  I was honest with Sarah that it would be an uphill battle against my natural inclinations and feelings on the matter.  At no point in my life do I remember thinking that I would want to be a foster parent or adopt a child. It was never really on my radar. At this point, it was, albeit a small blip.

The classes went for ten weeks. I went into them trying to be open to learn more about what fostering meant, not just for our family, but for me. Week by week, my hesitation was chipped away. Some of the classes were overlong and not as informative as we would have preferred, but there was always one thing that struck us that we could take home and discuss. Little by little, my heart was broken, so that the idea of becoming a foster parent could take root.

There were two key moments in the class for me. One was an activity. We were asked to write down five or so support groups in our life (family, friends, co-workers) on separate pieces of paper. One by one we had to decide which one we could live without. Naturally, by the end, we were all left with family. They made the point that with foster children, the first one they have to lose is family. It was a simple exercise and maybe a little cheesy, but it struck me. My heart ached for those kids who, despite their circumstances, had to leave those who loved them first, even if they did not love them well. It made me really discern whether or not I could step in to help show these kids love.

The other moment was a discussion we had concerning taking in particular kids. From the beginning, Sarah and I were a little concerned that there would be pressure on us to take in kids, regardless of history or behaviors. This concerned us, because we have a toddler at home, and there are some things that we cannot allow in our home for her safety. When we raised this concern (a very common one), we were relieved by the response. We were told that we are always free to say no to a child. It sounds harsh, but the reality is that if we do not feel equipped or comfortable with a child, then saying no is in the best interest of the child. Saying no allows for the possibility of someone else saying yes. Yes, because they can love and take care of them in ways we cannot.

There were plenty of other moments in the class that served to move my heart and open me up to the possibilities, but those two were key pieces. Sarah and I finished the class and began work to have our home certified by the agency and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). We ran into some problems with the layout of our house, but that would be a whole other story. We persevered and put it all into God’s hands, knowing that we were doing everything in our power.

I am happy to say that a couple of weeks ago, the agency approved our house and will be issuing us our temporary license to foster. We are waiting to have KDHE go through our home to get a permanent license. It is exciting but also a little scary.

This brings me back to the beginning of this post. I am very blessed to have met Sarah. The Ryan of four years ago was not open to saying this yes. Yes to uncertainty and pain. Yes to difficulty. But also yes to those who need love, to those who need a supportive family. I owe so much of this conversion of heart to Sarah and her witness. Without her in my life, I would not be aware of the love of which I could be capable.


About ryanunfiltered

I am a husband and father. My life is very blessed. I seek out what is true and beautiful. I try not to get too distracted.

9 responses to “A Heart Broken

  1. jackiea12

    Joel here. As I finish this excellent post, I’m thinking, “This is the best post I’ve ever read about fostering. Wait, this is the ONLY post I think I’ve ever read about fostering.” It is such an underexplored calling, and I think you have begun to remedy that by simply illuminating a little for the rest of us. Perhaps as Sarah opened your heart to it, your post will open others’ hearts.

    • Thanks, Joel. It is my hope that if there are people who may be called to foster and do not know it or do not want it will be moved to discern it. I only wanted to tell my story. What people take from it is certainly not in my hands.

  2. karenbonar ⋅

    Many blessings to you both! What a wonderful journey — my maternal grandparents fostered many kids before they finally adopted my mom.

    I wish I’d have known about their journey while they were living, because I’m sure their wisdom would have enriched my life so much … thank you for sharing this!


    • Thanks, Karen. I think Sarah had mentioned that to me at one point, but I forgot.

      I have a feeling, between me and Sarah, our journey will be shared at least among our circle of friends. It will aid in the hardships and make it that much more rewarding in the triumphs.

  3. This is incredibly beautiful, Ryan. It has been cool to watch how we have all developed and grown in our lives and faith journeys together. I will continue praying for peace and clarity as you go further into this path.

  4. Michelle Goetz ⋅

    thanks for sharing. I am working at a school now that is for kids that the foster system can’t place. it’s residential and all of them have had traumatic childhoods. in some ways my work here is more heartbreaking than my work at the psych hospital, because too many of them have absolutely no one that has been constant, trust-worthy and loving. I am still beginning, we’ll see how I develop with this as the months go by. I am the only art therapist on staff, so in some ways I am so glad to be here, to bring some joy in their day ( and some art!).

    I can say first hand how much of a need there is for loving foster parents. there are too many that just add to the pain and suffering that these kids have already gone through. it is also quite the endeavor. the first few years of a child’s life it is critical that they can establish a secure bond with a care-giver. when abuse prevents this from happening, these kids are never the same, even if they are taken from the abusive parents at a very young age. you will learn the true meaning of unconditional love, because it is often very hard for foster kids to show love in the ways you are used to.

    your post reminds me why I respect and admire you. for many years I have been thinking about becoming a foster parent. my hope is that in a few years I will have a home and be established somewhere that I could actually do this.

    so, my phone imploded and erased all of my phone numbers. I had yours written down, and forgot that you guys now have a combined phone using sarah’s number (which I don’t have written down). anyways, I sent a few text messages to a girl named Hannah who now has your phone number. when you didn’t reply I called one day, and found out that I had been sending messages to Hannah and not you.
    send me a text or call me sometime. it’d be nice to catch up.

  5. Pingback: “The” Surgery: Part One | sarahunfiltered

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