What does living with “at-risk” faith look like to you? I’m honored to share our story of what that looks like for our family.
My name is Michelle and I am married to my high school sweetheart (cliche, I know). I feel very blessed to be able to say that we have been married for 15 years. We have six kids: 3 girls and 3 boys.
Our journey to walking with faith started five years ago. We were your typical American family: Craftsman style home, golden lab, and three little girls. We had toys to use on the weekends and lived life very comfortably. Then we read a book called “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan. This book changed our lives. We knew something was missing. We felt the call to adopt.
Adoption can make you have many types of feelings. We had no clue what “at-risk” type of faith we were going to need. Everyone around us was very excited, a little hesitant, and worried what it might look like for our girls.
Regardless, we knew it was what we were supposed to do.
We sold all our toys and dedicated our lives to this new adventure towards adoption. In June of 2011 we got our first placement: a three-month-old, who was so cute and chubby. He could light up a room with his sweet face. We enjoyed him and thought, “Wow, this was easy.” The girls loved feeding him and playing with him. Five weeks later we were told he was going back. So naive, we couldn’t believe he was leaving. It was a very hard “goodbye” as we placed this sweet baby into the social worker’s car. “Ok God, What are you doing to our family? We just set out to love this sweet baby and you knew he would leave.” Our girls, then ages 8, 5, and 3, were crushed. Tyler and I thought, “we are never doing that again.” Adoption is and was hard work and we didn’t know if we were cut out for that.
Then, 5 months later, we got placement of two brothers: a five-year-old and a newborn, 4-pound baby, who was in the NICU. This was totally not in our plans of adoption since we had said we just wanted one baby and our daughter was also five at the time. Well, those two five-year-olds became best friends and Tyler and I nursed the little baby back to health. We had 11 months with these sweet boys who we thought we would be adopting. We never thought about them going back. Yet, in the back of our minds, we knew we were living with “at-risk” faith. We loved those boys hard and gave them a life they had never had before. We weren’t perfect, but we were a family full of love.
A phone call would change everything.
“The boys are going back to a Grandmother.” I fell to my knees sobbing and could hardly breathe. How am I going to tell this sweet boy who calls me “Mommy” he is going back? How am I going to tell my girls? By the grace of God I was able to tell them- but not without a lot of tears.
We had a goodbye party for the boys. Our church, family, and friends came and they knew why. It was a bittersweet day and we are still so grateful to everyone who came. These little boys were seeing everyone who loved them, even just for the short time they were with us.
That next day is one too hard to write about. Saying “goodbye” is never easy and how do you say it knowing you won’t see them anymore? Then, just like that, they were gone. Driving away in a white car with our social worker. We walked into the house, packed bags, and the five of us got in the car and left for the weekend. We couldn’t be home. There was anger, sadness, and disbelief. But, through it all, we knew God knew what he was doing better than us. That is what kept me going.
Six months later, in 2103, we were placed with our three boys, now adopted, and a major part of this family. They were going to be split up, but we said “yes” to taking all three, knowing, yet again, the “at-risk” faith we were going to have to live by. God knew this whole time our three boys were in waiting. It took major bumps in the road and hardship to get there, but he knew. God knew these three little boys, who were 1, 2, and 3, didn’t speak much English, and had long hair. Everyone around us thought we were crazy to add three more and go through the process again after all our family had been through.
We just knew we were called to adopt and we knew God has his hand in the whole thing.
I mean we had already been through the worst, right? A bit later that year, after having the boys for a while, we dealt with another compromising situation and we considered not going through with the adoption. During that time, our six-year-old said something to us that taught me more than she will ever know. She said, “I would rather them stay and love them than to have them leave and not have loved them at all.” I couldn’t believe it. She was so right. Our girls were learning about what it meant to love others and that this life wasn’t all about them. They have learned what most adults still don’t get.
Three years later, being a family of eight it hasn’t been all roses but here is what it has been: major counseling (to peel layers and layers for some of us), working through bonding- which didn’t happen right away, and missing out on a lot because we were trying to become a family even though we started as strangers. My boys didn’t ask to be orphans and to be in this situation and to have to have to deal with loss as they get older and understand their full stories. But God has put us in their lives to love them and guide them and break the cycle which was placed on their lives. The hardest days don’t even compare to the really great ones. Like, when I take cupcakes to my boys’ classes for their birthdays and see their tiny little faces light up. Or having their dad coach their sports teams, knowing he is their biggest cheerleader. They have three sisters who are their biggest supporters (and act like their older sisters, ha!). They are surrounded by friends and family who love them and want to get to know who these three little boys are, and who they will become. Never in my life did I think having “at-risk” faith would mean becoming “Mommy” to 6 and drive a 12 passenger van.
Just last week I was laying out in the pool with my baby boy, enjoying time with him while his brothers and sisters were enjoying school. We are all thriving because we said, “YES, God. We will live ‘at-risk’ for you.”
So, my dear, sweet friend, whatever your “at-risk” faith looks like, remember in those really hard moments and days, the really best ones are right around the corner. I know this because I am living it.