HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

When you walk into Kelly Dyer’s home, you might be lured into thinking she is normal. At first glance, everything appears calm and orderly. Her relaxed smile suggests she just strolled in from enjoying a leisurely iced coffee on the porch. But a plethora of children of different ages and ethnicities lounging and laughing in the family room hints at a deeper story. Each of these kids’ journeys has uniquely intersected with Kelly’s.

As a young girl, Kelly and her family attended a little country church in Florence, Alabama. “The church was so small, my siblings and I were the children’s department,” she jokes. “And when we got older, we were the youth group.”

At the age of seven, Kelly began to sing, along with her dad who led hymns and her mom who played the piano. From a young age, she possessed a deep love for music — a love she inherited from her parents. Her family would play vinyl records of Bread and Karen Carpenter, throw open the windows on a nice Saturday, and sing along loudly.

Kelly’s desire was always to pursue a career in music, but encouraged by her mom to and something more “practical,” she earned a degree in business with a minor in music. She met her husband, Jason, in college music classes.

Food for the Soul

In 1997, the couple moved to Colorado Springs and in 2009, they made Woodmen their church home. Kelly soon joined the worship team as a vocalist, where she enjoys, “rousing the saints.” She loves making eye contact with people in the congregation while leading.“There’s something special about the body of Christ gathered in worship as we encourage one another in our faith. We can bring whatever circumstance — whatever brokenness or joy that we’ve walked through that week and lay it before God in worship.”

“I see more than just faces looking back at me,” she says. “These people are individuals with unique lives and experiences. I have a story, and they do too,” Kelly says. Serving on theworship team has proven to be life-giving for Kelly. She especially values the team comradery during practice and in the green room as she listens and responds to people’s stories and struggles.

When she joined the worship team, Kelly discovered a need. The team serves all weekend, including Saturdays from 2:45 to 7:30 PM. This means serving through dinner hour. So for the past seven years, Kelly has been a key part of the team that prepares meals for the worship teams. It’s one of those behind-the-scenes ministries few people even know exist. But the worship teams greatly appreciate the carefully prepared and delicious food.

Kelly believes sharing meals together brings about common ground. Anything she can do to facilitate that space is her passion. She loves creating new dishes and experimenting with new recipes. “I like to play with my food,” she laughs. “The worship teams are my guinea pigs.”

Casey Scheberl, one of Woodmen’s worship leaders, sees it a bit differently: “Kelly’s dinners are gourmet quality. When I know she’s bringing the food, I’ll just eat an apple for lunch and save all my calories for dinner. Special shout-outs to her guacamole and hippie bark.”

Bumpy Road

Kelly’s story hasn’t been without heartbreak. She and Jason endured a long struggle with infertility, a road lled with hurt and many tears. Ten years into their marriage, they adopted their daughter, Lily, from China. She had just turned one when they brought her home.

In July of 2007, they met with a Colorado woman who was pregnant and thinking about placing her baby with a family. A month later, Kelly assisted with the delivery, even cutting the cord as little Maggie took her first breath.

Jason and Kelly’s adoption journey unexpectedly stirred up some buried tension in her family. The same parents who had instilled in her a love for music had also been a source of pain.

At one point, Kelly and Jason felt a pull to move back to the south so the extended family could be closer to Lily. In the process of the Dyer’s second adoption, however, it became clear that Kelly’s parents and extended family did not approve of their staying in Colorado to follow God’s leading by proceeding with the adoption. The discord eventually led to a strained relationship between Kelly and her parents.

As the Dyers settled into a new chapter as a family of four, they believed this was the completion of their family. But God had other plans.

All in the Family

When Pastor Josh Lindstrom joined Woodmen as Lead Pastor of Teaching and Vision, Kelly experienced a turning point. When he began talking about “loving well,” it changed everything. Up to that point, she had learned a lot about the Bible, but it didn’t always translate into everyday life.

Kelly discovered that loving well involved living a life that was different, a life that was intentionally others-focused. She had accepted Christ at the age of 12, and over the years, hundreds of people had poured into her in big and small ways. She asked herself, “OK, what am I doing? I go to church, make meals for our family, take the kids to school. But there has to be more.” She asked God to show her what that “more” looked like for her and her family.

In the midst of these questions, Jason suggested finding a way to help people outside their family. Kelly offered the idea of becoming a foster family, a notion that took time for the rest of the family to embrace. One of their daughters said, “I like our family.” Kelly asked, “Don’t you want to share it with other kids, too?”

In January of this year, the Dyers went through classes to become certi ed as foster parents. And in May, they were approved. Unlike many foster homes, the Dyers chose to be open to sibling groups. Four days after their approval, they got a call about three siblings, a seven-year-old, a six- year-old and an infant. The children and their birth-parents were homeless, and had been squatting in an abandoned restaurant. The Dyers decided to open their home and picked the kids up that night at the emergency room.

The experience is rocking Kelly’s world. She says, “I have been stretched in every way you can imagine.” The three children clung to her immediately. “The affection a little stranger can freely give to you is amazing,” she adds.

New Ways to Love

During that first month with foster children in the home, Kelly was able to see them engage with many family experiences for the first time. Dinner looks different now with seven people around the table. They have established a tradition of each child sharing one high and one low from the day. When asked about the uncertainty of fostering, Kelly explains, “I like knowing things in advance and being prepared. I like to be organized. I like having a sense of control over my next steps, but the world of foster care is a world of absolute unknowns. For the first time in my life, I’m truly letting God lead me. He’s teaching me to let go.”

Because the goal of El Paso County is to reunite children with their biological parents, there is no guarantee the children will remain with the Dyers. I tell them, “I’m just your tour guide for a time,” Kelly says. “I hope to make proper introductions of them to Jesus. I love them, even knowing they may leave.”

It’s a big lesson in letting go. She says, “I’m going to put my heart out there. I’m willing to risk that.” Kelly says God has shown her in innumerable ways the rewards of the risk. A week into the foster kids’ stay, the oldest child came back down the stairs after being tucked into bed minutes before and said, “I just want you to know I love you.” The foster kids even have disagreements over who gets to say grace over their evening meal. The solution? Both get to pray along with whomever else feels led.

This road has been messy and hard, and some have questioned their sanity for pursuing it. But being a foster parent is the right choice for Kelly.

“Each person is God’s handiwork,” she says. “He invests in each one of us. If I’m worth it, then so are they.” This road of serving has been another mountain pass in the road of self- discovery for Kelly. She continues to see new horizons and to discover who God created her to be. She’s surrendering the journey to God each day. She says, “God is writing the story. I’m just trying not to pick up the pen.”

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