Deep breath. Prepare for the aahhhh. We are high school sweethearts. After only dating for a few months we both new that we didn't want to be apart. Before I had even graduated, Chris completed Marine Corps boot camp and several days later we became man and wife. Eventually I graduated and Chris finished his job training as a helicopter mechanic. They were looking for volunteers to fill spots at a squadron in Hawaii and Chris's hand quickly went up. He hadn't join the Marines to stay put! Within a few months we had a house on base and I moved from my home in Maryland to the island of Oahu. I'm sure at this point you aren't exactly feeling sorry for us, hold your pity party just a moment. These were the biggest changes of my entire life. As a pastor's daughter I was accustomed to moving, but this was different.
In the span of one year I got married, graduated high school, got my license, and moved half way around the world! For Chris this small town in Maryland had been the only home he ever knew. We were no longer surrounded by family or anyone we knew. We had no church home. We were the minority on a very diverse island. I will admit this was much harder of a transition for me than it was for Chris, but we had each other and for this I am grateful. It was sink or swim baby! Together we figured it out. We learned how to manage a household, how NOT to spend money, we worked hard and had fun. Whatever we learned, we learned together. It was a lot of trial and error with finances, with how we spent our time, even "church shopping".
A chance meeting in a shoe store that I worked in God used to lead us to a church that will forever be a part of us, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. We became active in the church family, joined a small group, I sang in the worship band and I even got a job working for the church's preschool. Through this community of believers and the working of the Holy Spirit, Chris was baptized and welcomed into the family of God! It was an awesome day to not only celebrate the beginning of a new life for him, but a new chapter for us as a couple. This was the start of us journeying together in our faith.
We came to this island as a couple and four years later we left as a family. 7 weeks before getting orders to Virginia our first son, Ty Riddick Robbins was born. The day we became parents was a day that changed the rest of our lives. I cried all the way home from the hospital, so unsure of myself as a mother and so fearful of not getting it right and still even more moved by the blessing God had given us in this child. He choose US to be Ty's parents. He picked US to teach this child to love, respect and to honor the God who had made him. What greater privilege is there?
It was a long and difficult road as first time parents. Many days Chris was not home as he had to travel extensively with his job as a Marine and I was home alone with the responsibility of house and child. Now it wasn't all bad, it was just a big adjustment. There was more learning for Chris and I on how to juggle the new responsibilities, how to be a couple with a kid, how to deal with constant travel, how to honor God in how we lived each day. Our new church family was a huge support and now only being 3 hours from both sets of parents, we began to settle into this new life.
Growing our family became a big priority for me. I had the hang of things now, we were getting better at our finances and we were growing in our faith. You see I had big plans, I just didn't know where it would take us or how long. It was a journey that led us through two miscarriages and finally to the birth of our second son, Levi Christopher Robbins.
Before Levi came along we purchased our first home, a cute little rambler in need of love and updating. I tell you we are still giving it love and still trying to update it. Even today Chris and I were working on the bathroom to prepare for our homestudy visit. Sorry back to the story......
At different points we discussed the idea of adoption. For one I felt like we were never going to be able to get pregnant again or stay that way. My mom was adopted so it was not an unfamiliar option, it simply wasn't the time. It was however time for Chris to decide if the Marine Corps was going to be a career or whether it was time to move on. We prayed and weighed the pros and cons of both, dare I say there may be cons to the Marine Corps. Turning down a signing bonus for the option of the unknown was probably one of the bigger leaps of faiths Chris had taken to this point. We believed God was leading us to plant roots and settle down in this wonderful town in VA, that we still call home today.
It wasn't until days before Chris's separation pay was to end that he finally got confirmation on a job working with the Marines he had just been serving with. Nothing like God's perfect provision.
This new job came with the opportunity of tuition assistance and with a change in policy on the horizon it was time to take another leap into the unknown. So in October of 2009 Chris was officially enrolled as a full-time student at American Military University. Working a full-time job, keeping up with the heavy demands of school and managing to spend a little time with the family, he had more than his share of a full plate.
By this time our oldest was reaching school age and we had survived a few test years of homeschooling with preschool and I was ready to commit to the more challenging stuff of the early elementary years. Let me just say that I was terrified to teach Ty to read! What a task with such great pressure! Everything else he will do and learn in his academic career hinges on him being able to read. I am happy to report we made it through this with only a few bumps and bruises.
Like a really, really long movie college continued to roll on, but somehow we made it work. Chris had to devote much of his time at home to include weekends on homework and studying and I held down the fort. On occasional weekends we would sneak off as a family and camp. This has been a our little escape from the crazy and real life.
Within a year we went through an extreme of emotions with the passing of my mom and the unexpected pregnancy of our 3rd son. In March of the following year I gave birth to our youngest son, Seth. We had three boys and it just felt right. Thinking back on that time I am not even sure where it went. It truly feels like a blur! We were in survival mode. And there is nothing like a major change in life to bring on another change in life. We decided, through much prayer to leave our church and seek a new place of worship. I never thought I would find a church in a stack of coupons, but I did. Included in an envelope for Valu Pak was a flyer for a church and an invitation to visit.
We did not want to "church shop", we wanted God to make it clear where we should be. I didn't want this to be about us and just what would be best for our family, but I really wanted to be where God wanted us. I remember praying that there might be someone I knew there and as it turned out there were several. Chris left the service that day certain that this was where we should be. Being the curious one I wanted to see what else was out there, but I trusted him and I trusted the direction God was taking our family.
Remember how I said God's provision and timing is perfect? Well it really is! In January of 2012 Chris's VA payment was late and you may be thinking that it is not that odd for government money to be late, but I assure you it was part of the plan. The idea of adoption was still something I could not let go of. I love children, I know how many are orphaned and I knew what the Bible says about our responsibilities to those in need. I also knew that there are different seasons in our lives and many different ways that we care for those in need, but my heart was so heavy. I asked Chris to commit to praying with me for a few weeks about some of the children I had seen on Reece's Rainbow. And so we prayed and we also prayed about a possibility of him changing positions at work. It was an interesting time. I knew how I wanted things to go, but I also did not want to be in control. You can guess when the deposit came from the VA. We took this delay as a sign of God's leading and provision because before this that extra money was going into the house or paying off debt. We had big plans for that money, God had bigger!
Did I mention Chris was still in school, and we had 3 boys ages 7, 3 and 1? What on earth were we thinking? It sounds insane, but when was the last time you heard God call you to something that seemed rational by earthly standards? God's glory shines the brightest when we are the most in need of his power! He proved himself time and time again to be enough and to be all we needed.
In January 2013 we traveled half way around the world to complete the adoption of our 4th son, Toby Benjamin. It was not through our own strength that we have made it this far. It is not because we are awesome people, a perfect couple with perfect kids that we stand on this side of a great adventure with joy on our faces. We serve an awesome God who chooses to work through those who are willing to let him lead.
These days ahead are scary. I don't know how it will all work out or how the rest of the story goes for us, but I know the one who is the Author.
To be continued..........
PS. Chris finished school and the diploma is in the mail!!