We drove a million miles from Utah to Texas in a semi-reliable U-Haul, where prayer frequently overtook the tiny engine and saved us from breaking down.
I honestly thought that after graduating from Kingwood High School, I'd never come back. I was a Texan but my roots in Houston were shallow; I'd only lived there a year and a half before leaving for college. But there we were, pulling into my parents' driveway amidst the pine trees and opressive humidity.
Bryce started school and immediately found his niche with a great group of friends in Lane, Rhonda, and Stella. I found a job--with a salary!--as an insurance administrator at a barge transportation company, proving that enduring six horrible months at the insurance agency in Utah had not been in vain. With school and work sorted out, we left the suburbs and moved into an apartment in the city.
I felt proud that my salary supported us. I felt proud that Bryce was doing so well in school. For a year or so, we were content to push forward and throw ourselves into work, study, and church. (Our first callings in the ward were unconventional: Scheduling Secretary for me; Building Czar for Bryce.)
Eventually we felt ready to add volunteer work to the mix. I searched the newspaper under "Volunteer Opportunities" and circled the ones that interested me. I called on a few, but they were too far away or didn't fit our schedules. Finally I called on a great match--Casa de Esperanza, not too far from where we lived. We began to volunteer on Thursday evenings.
The home had six children living there: brothers named Christopher, James, and Jimmy; a baby named Lynette; a preschooler named Brian; and the most adorable little boy we'd ever seen, named Tyce.
Bryce and I walked in that first day, knowing we were to help the house parents (two recently college-graduated young ladies) do things like fold laundry, play with kids, and read bedtime stories. Shannon called from the kitchen, "You can come back here! We're just finishing up dinner. We have two in high chairs, and they're ready to get out."
First I released 11-month-old Christopher. "Just put him on his tummy," Shannon instructed. I did, then moved down the line to Tyce. I released him and did the same thing. But to my surprise, he got up off the floor, stood up and smiled--and walked away!
Bryce and I loved coming each week. As volunteers we weren't allowed to know the children's situations but we could sense some of their issues; one was medically fragile, one was dangerously violent, one was developmentally delayed. But they were so much more than their issues and they all had a special place in our hearts.
At night after the kids were all in bed, we helped with chores and chatted with the house parents. One night as Bryce and I were packing up, Teleia said, out of the blue, "You guys should become foster parents."
We laughed. Was she kidding?
"Foster parents? We live in an apartment. Bryce is in school. I work. We're not experienced--we don't even have kids. Foster parents are older, stable, mature parents with a history of success when it comes to raising children. No, that just wouldn't work!" I scoffed.
"Here's how it could work, " Teleia explained. "Child care would be provided, support services would be available to you as parents. You'd go to monthly foster parent trainings and have a caseworker working closely with you. Most importantly, you would be providing a child with the stability needed to grow emotionally and socially. I know you could do it. Casa would support you every step of the way."
We left that night with a lot to think about. In the car I said, "Can you believe that? Pretty weird, huh?"
Bryce replied, "Yeah . . . "
"But it kinda sounds doable . . . if we wanted to do it, that is," I said.
It was a crazy idea that wouldn't go away. We agreed to pray about it.
That night, it was as if divine hands took us by the shoulders and literally steered us right instead of left. We felt compelled to change courses. We felt a burning, clear answer that we could not deny.
Yes, we got an answer. Yes. Yes. YES. We didn't know how or why, or for how long, but the answer was YES.
With the ball set in motion, there was no stopping it. In a matter of weeks we left our volunteer positions, said goodbye to our houseparent friends. Bryce quietly gave each child a blessing before leaving.
And then one evening in December, we packed up bags of toys and clothes for a 17-month-old, curly-headed toddler about to join our family, if only for a while.
The drive seemed to take forever. In fact, our little backseat passenger fell asleep. Upon arriving at our apartment, Bryce and I looked at each other, nervous and excited--and took a deep breath.
"Wake up, Tyce, " Bryce whispered. "You're home."
P.S. If you click the word "volunteer" here or above, the third video on the Casa website (by Cheryl K.) is about our twins and our family! You're awesome, Cheryl!