My husband and I have always loved children. His love for and skill with children were the first qualities that drew me to him. The passages in the Bible commanding us to care for orphans always seemed to leap from the page and into my heart. So we told God that we would be willing to be obedient to His commands. That is, so long as the “orphans” were sweet, cuddly babies with no special needs or scarring backgrounds.
After we were married for a short time, two of our own little blessings entered our lives, and becoming foster parents was put on the back burner as we tended to the little ones God had already given us. The desire and the calling was still there, but the timing was never quite right.
About a year ago, we agreed that it was time to pursue foster care again. We were both working full time, making a comfortable salary, and planning on moving to a larger home in the near future. We reached out to a foster care agency and restarted the process to become licensed foster parents. We were informed that with our son’s young age, they would place only infants with us. With infants, the agency preferred for a parent to stay at home or hire a consistent nanny. We could not find a way to make one of those options work financially. It was extremely disheartening, and I was very confused. Why had God placed this urgency on my heart if He wasn’t going to make the way clear?
Around the same time, we both attended a training with our small group from church.The plan was for our small group to “adopt” a group home to love on and spend time with. At that training, God opened my eyes and radically changed my heart. I cried over my previous lack of understanding and care for older children who were out of the “cute and cuddly” time of their lives. I was heartbroken at the lack of adults who make themselves available to be God’s hands and feet for older children.
At that point, my husband and I both felt that a change was coming. Even though he was thankful for his job, he felt a lack of peace with his career and frequently expressed to me how he hated that we were away from our children for around 50 hours a week. We felt stuck and lost.
Our pastor began counseling us on several issues and he encouraged my husband to write a list of what he wanted for our family in the next five years. I read over his list and learned three core things he desired; his career to have an eternal impact, to be together more as a family, and to care for children that were not biologically ours. After reading those items, I felt a memory hit me like a lightning bolt. I remembered a children’s home I had initially been placed at for a summer-long mission trip in college. Before I was reassigned to spend my summer elsewhere, I researched this children’s home and learned all about “houseparents.” I’d all but forgotten about this type of ministry until this moment. The more I thought about it, every single item on my husband’s list would be checked off if we became houseparents. I immediately started researching online for houseparent positions. I asked my husband to hear me out before thinking I was crazy. To my surprise, he didn’t think that becoming houseparents was crazy, he actually smiled and said that it sounded exactly right!
Over the next couple of days, we narrowed the search down to two children’s homes in Arizona (where we are from) and Cookson Hills. To be perfectly honest, Cookson Hills was last on my list. My family and life were in Arizona; I didn’t want God to tell us to move to Oklahoma. We first pursued the more local options, but neither were great fits. However, when we got to Cookson Hills for the tour and interview, God’s leading was pretty evident. The students we met touched our hearts. We were impressed by the genuine love for God and children of those who are houseparents, administrators, teachers, social workers, and even maintenance staff! We loved how much support is existing for both the staff and the students. There seemed to be a place carved out specifically for our family. My husband was excited about the opportunity to jump in with the IT department for his secondary position. Although there would be an obvious pay cut, there would be enough to provide for our needs, while allowing us more time together as a family.
Even so, we didn’t say yes right away when we were offered the position of respite houseparents. We were afraid of our own inadequacies and inexperience. I didn’t want to leave my family; I’d never lived more than three hours away from them. After nearly two weeks of prayer, conversations, counsel-seeking, and further exploring all options, my husband and I came to the same conclusion; God was calling us to Oklahoma to serve Him and to make our lives available to the students of Cookson Hills.
Since arriving here, God has richly blessed our lives. God has made a way for us financially, and more importantly, we are very thankful for more time together as a family. Although it’s been strange for us to adjust to life in such a small, close-knit community, I’m slowly learning not to panic when someone comes to my door without calling first! Additionally, it is so comforting to know that my husband finally feels at peace with where we are and what we are doing. The training and resources that have been provided for us have calmed our fears and given us a newfound confidence.
We truly love serving in the capacity of respite houseparents, because we get to be “aunt and uncle” to all of the kids on campus. Our goal is to provide for our “nieces and nephews” in such a way that they feel loved and refreshed to return home to their primary houseparents. We seek to show them God’s love while their primary houseparents have some much-needed time to rejuvenate so they are ready to pour into their kids’ lives when they return home. The students continue to bless us and bring so much laughter and joy to our home. When I compare our current reality to the season we felt “stuck” in, I can’t help but stand in awe of His awesome provision and timing.