It’s wedding season and thoughts of my own wedding and marriage preparation, some 33 years ago now, came to mind this week. I vividly recall asking our pastor to forgo extended comments about children. It wasn’t that we didn’t want kids; we were simply not in the “having kids’s mindset.”
We had just graduated from college and our energies focused on building our careers, our marriage and our home. I distinctly recall thinking, “Someday we’ll have kids.”
Five years later, the first of three Klope babies arrived and our world changed for the better. We reworked and reordered our daily activities, placing her in the center, instead of careers demanding our complete attention. I don’t for a minute believe this is the only way to order life. It worked for us, however.
Interestingly, the joys of marriage grew deeper as it was infused by new friends, their kids and kid-raising adventures. Our faith grew as well, for a host of people stood beside us to pray, share their experiences, and support us. Time and again, in seasons of joy as well as great stress, worry and sorrow, we watched amazing situations unfold, all building on our belief that God hovered near us.
Throughout the years, Matt and I have watched each other grow and evolve as people. I could not have foreseen, looking into the eyes of 23-year-old Matt on the day of our wedding, that he would become a life partner who developed many creative venues to enthusiastically love and guide kids moving in and out of our lives.
Nor could I have understood how beautiful and deep it is to love your own kids and discover reserves of love for others.
It is a celebration of our life as a couple and our great love of kids that propelled us into the world of foster parenting.
We never planned to be foster parents, but we stepped into this world two years ago when we learned there are well over 100 identified teens living in tents, cars, and “surfing” the couches of friends here on Whidbey Island.
This population of kids are too old to be taken into a burdened foster care system but not yet legal adults. An astounding percentage of them get themselves to school and dream of hopeful futures because they have teachers who care and school schedules that offer them consistency and an educated path away from poverty. They find themselves in these circumstances because their family members have problems of their own that debilitate them.
We have shelters for pets but none for our children here on the island. For Whidbey kids who have been removed from their homes to ensure their safety, local options are limited.
There are almost no homes available for teens and they are routinely shipped off the island.
When Matt and I learned of this dire situation, we asked ourselves a simple question: If not us, then who will step up? At the time, we were watching two Klope kids build their professional and private lives while the third lived away at college. With empty bedrooms upstairs, good health and energy on our parts, we considered how it would feel to give up cherished privacy and complicate established family dynamics.
In the coming weeks I’ll introduce some key community players on Whidbey and challenge you with this idea: We can do hard things.
Joan Bay Klope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org