told by Shannon:
Brian and I met while working at Chick-fil-A. Brian started working at Chick-fil-A when he was 15 years old and over the next 10 years had worked at over 5 Chick-fil-As in FL, GA, NC, and TN. When I was 14 years old I was hired at the Chick-fil-A he was managing. At that time, that was all he was to me, a manager. Brian and I dated different people but were friends through our group of co-workers and when he moved several hours away we lost contact. A couple days before my 17th birthday, in May 2004, Brian came to visit an old co-worker's graduation party. I also attended that party and surprised myself by how much I had missed the calm and fun atmosphere he brought with him wherever he was. We exchanged phone numbers and AIM accounts and began to keep in contact daily. We would each come up with 3 questions a day to ask the other and quickly became best friends. I confided in him about all the guys I wanted to date yet was "too young" for and all the ones I did date that never worked out. He confided in me about his struggle in always being a girl's best friend but rarely the boyfriend. We were tired of dating. We knew everything there was to know about each other, the good and the flawed and began to come to the realization that we could get over this crazy 11 year age gap if my mom didn't kill me first (and she didn't! She was actually very understanding after the initial shock).
Friendship, quickly, turned into marriage and we were engaged in August 2004, yep only 3 months after we begun our relationship as friends. After 4 months of a long distance relationship I moved away from home and in with my fiance. At the time we were both very moral and as temptations rose we felt it would be better if we sealed the deal, on October 18th, 2004 we ran off to the courthouse and were married. We continued planning and saving up money for our wedding ceremony as planned and it was held March 9th, 2005, 2 months before I turned 18.
Our first years of marriage had some struggling moments but most of the time we had a blast! We truly are soul mates! We are the complete opposite of each other. I am an uptight, scheduled, super organized perfectionist and Brian is a laid-back, spontaneous, fun and goofy free-spirit. We complete one another!
Although we don't live close by either family, Brian and I try to visit as often as possible. Brian grew up in a home with parents who have been married for over 40 years and he has one younger brother who married our sister-in-law. I grew up in a home with parents who have been married for over 20 years and I am the oldest of my 3 siblings.
Brian and I have grown closer with every obstacle we have overcome together! In 2007 after years of getting into debt (we bought 2 new cars, a house, and had credit cards and other loans) we were in over our heads and close to drowning. We thankfully found Dave Ramsey's teachings and after a couple years of Brian working over-time, me working 2-3 jobs at a time and selling TONS of stuff we were able to pay off over $50,000 in debt and the only debt we had left was our mortgage.
In a hotel room, on one of our vacations Brian saw a special on TV about Kirk Cameron and began to do research on this man who up and left all the glory of Hollywood for God. That research led him to Way of the Master where he was convicted of his own sin against a holy and just God. In October 2008 Brian surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. Now, I thought I was a good person, I was very moral. I didn't like this God that called me a sinner. I challenged Brian's new faith, I refused to go to church or watch his silly sermons online. It was the biggest struggle our marriage has endured. Brian was changed, though he was always kind to me, this new Brian didn't allow me to push his buttons, he loved me through my fighting. I wanted that overwhelming peace and constant joy that began to flow out of my husband. In January 2009, God called me and like my husband I surrendered all and followed Jesus.
God instantly called Brian to evangelism. Brian would tell everyone he came in contact with about Jesus, he even went to the Ambassador's Alliance Academy in CA to train as an open-air preacher. Throughout 2009 God began to put on my heart and later Brian's His call to care for the orphans. Now, I truly thought I wouldn't ever have children, well, maybe 2, MAX, when I was older, I was only 22 years old, I had time. God made it clear to us His will in December 2009 when we visited a local children's home which housed several children without parents in foster care. Although hidden away in a "home" instead of an "orphanage" it didn't make their plight any different. They were in need of parents.
In January 2010 we stopped planning our future and gave our family planning forever to God, we stopped any form of contraceptive for good. That same month, we also signed up with our local agency to attend the MAPP class, which is the first requirement of any foster or adoptive parents. The next available MAPP class wasn't until September 2010, nine agonizing months away. That is when we entered the waiting game, aka "adoption pregnancy", and I don't wait well, but while waiting I learned I can PAINT (click here for my page of artwork on FB), who knew!?!
We prayed for God to open whatever door He willed, whether through natural birth or foster care. Through some grief and no pregnancy we continued forward with our calling, filled out miles of paperwork, jumped through a dozen hoops and became licensed as foster parents on June 3rd, 2011. Our family grew quickly from June to December 2011, as we didn't just welcome 2 foster children into our home, as planned, but 5!
Now let me tell you the reality of our lives. Yes, we knew foster care was God's plan for us, yes, we were willing to follow that path, but, no, we did NOT know how difficult and challenging it would be. We are human and realized through this journey how weak and frail we were. I cried in secret for weeks after our first arrival of 3 children. I met with our pastor's wife. I begged close friends to not let me send them away no matter how hard it got or how tempted I was. It wasn't the children per se, just the overwhelming life change, and the constant, ongoing needs to be met as a new parent. In the same month I quit my full-time job, started a new part-time job, and traded in my first, beloved, car for a minivan. As the children's case progressed and changed behavior problems began to arise. In that first year I was yelled at, lied to, stolen from, called names, and hit. We had the police out to our house to bring back runaways and talk to thieves on several occasions. I was called to the school Principal's office to pick up a child and was at the doctor's office with a sick infant at least once a week. Parenting proved to be difficult, draining, and even tempting to quit at times.
The greatest part? It taught me to rely heavily on God's strength and pray without ceasing. My faith has tremendously increased through that year of storms. I begged God to give me a love like Jesus, to truly love and sacrifice myself for these children despite their behavior. God proved to be faithful time and time again, He strengthened me and healed my hurting children!
Now, Brian and I are the happy parents of 5 beautiful children! We are no longer parenting hurting children, but healing children. We are just normal parents with the normal challenges of parenting.
We love God, we love each other, and we LOVE our family!
Posted by Shannon
Soli Deo gloria - Glory to God alone