When I was growing up, I learned home was wherever I made it. Sometimes that was in my Great Bend home with my parents. Sometimes, it was in a motel room because we couldn’t make rent. And sometimes, it was in a foreign room among sleeping strangers, because a woman from SRS thought it was more suitable than the alternative. ‘Home’ is different for each person, but it is many things to me.
I grew up in foster care the latter half of my childhood, going from one place to the next. I didn’t always live with my parents, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t home. I have been beyond blessed in my lifetime to collect people all across the marvelous state of Kansas who love me and provide for me, even now.
I didn’t always think that way. When I went to school with other children, and their moms and dads would come pick them up, I felt ashamed. Because the people who came to pick me up were people I called by their first names. And when I would sit among them and eat dinner, it didn’t always feel right. I felt like an intruder. Not because they made me feel that way, but because that’s what I thought I was supposed to feel. During this time in my life, I felt as if I were collecting addresses, not homes.
During the spring semester of my senior year of high school, I decided to make the best decision I would ever make with my life — enroll at Cowley County Community College. It was a double bonus, because in moving to Winfield, I was reunited with my father and my older brother, both recovering from their former lifestyles, and in the process of starting up one of the most formative contracting businesses in the county. I seized the opportunity to find “it,” to find the fabled ‘home’ I had searched for so longingly.
Out of all the places I had ever given the title “home,” I guess a college would be the strangest one. How does a place of learning, composed of concrete and classrooms, constitute being ‘home’ to anyone? That’s what I asked myself, too. But Cowley isn’t just a structure sitting on the100 block of 2nd St. It doesn’t just have walls and windows. Inside are some of the most amazing people I have ever had the privilege of calling friends, classmates, and mentors.
God is the great restorer. As it is written in the book of Job, He giveth and He taketh away. But because He is also merciful, He usually giveth back again. Going into foster care, it is often referred to as being ‘taken away.’ And when I loaded up in the back of the police cruiser that freezing January day almost nine years ago, that’s exactly what it felt like- I was being taken away. But from what? Well, from a place that was certainly no home by normal standards, but it had to be one, for me.
When I was in foster care, I would pray to God every night to send me home. Every single night, without fail: I would pray and say ‘Lord, take me home. I just want to go home. Please make it so.’ If there’s one lesson I’ve learned on this planet, that God takes our prayers and makes them work, sometimes in a way we don’t expect. Have you ever been in financial trouble, and prayed to God to help fix it? Well, He did, didn’t He? And when He did, He didn’t send money raining from the sky, did He? Maybe He did (because He most definitely could!) But I doubt that’s the way He got it done. God can be subtle.
God didn’t wave a magic wand. I went to bed each night with the expectation that when I awoke, maybe God would have miraculously transported me back to Great Bend with my parents. I’m not sure what day it happened, or how exactly, but I woke up one morning, and knew I was home—and I was in the very same bed in the very same room I had fallen asleep in. God didn’t change my location, He just changed my heart.
“A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.” – Proverbs 21:22
And as I prepare, and pack the last few items in my house, and get ready to have my going away party tonight, I initially face a lot of sadness. I can look around each room of my house and laugh, or cry, about something. Each memory is so special to me.
But God is at work again, changing my heart, turning it like a waterwheel. I know He isn’t taking away. I know He continues to restore. I have successfully graduated from Cowley College, which I am the first in my family to even have an associate’s degree. And now, I am going to K-State, where I plan to be the first in my family to have a bachelor’s degree. This isn’t to brag or bring shame, it’s to illustrate how God continues to restore and break generational chains, ones that have been shackled to my DNA for far too long.
I will forever praise the name of the Lord for what He has provided for me through the great people of Cowley College. For the Jesus I was able to receive through them, for the council, the guidance, and foundation they built for me—not only in my education, but in my faith. That’s why it’s so hard to leave, because it’s such a great place and beautiful reminder for me, of how wonderful God, and His creations, can be. But I know that as I take the next step, He’s got something new for me. I’m not sure what it is yet, because not only is God subtle, but He’s often mysterious. But I know that if it’s of God, it can do me no harm. He will care for me, guide me, and use me, I hope, to further His kingdom.