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.