Shelby Tolar has guest blogged for us before on fashion and how to look good on a shoe string budget. Being a youth pastor’s wife she is no stranger to needing to stretch a dime! But Shelby has even more to offer our readers than just how to get chic looks for cheap. She and her husband Matt have been on a sometimes painful and scary journey together striving to love the Lord and to love people, since they got married 4 years ago. They started their marriage only a short time after Shelby hadlost both of her parents in a car crash. Matt, his love for Shelby and her Jesus, and her own passion for the Lord were what gave her the strength to continue after being dealt such a devastating blow. Since then the Lord has continued to be near Shelby and Matt as they have sought to honor Him, even in the Valley.
Why We’ve Waited
I want to start off saying that Matt and I are not your average married couple. Much of what I write is going to be based mostly on our testimonies and the unique story that God has given us. I lay before you today the most raw and exposed parts of our hearts. May God use our story to bless you.
Our wedding was beautiful but more than that, it was the perfect picture of God following through on a promise He made to me two years prior. Not to take without giving back.
I had been an orphan for two years and Matt had been fatherless for ten, on the day we said, “I do.” We loved each other madly, deeply and quickly but more than anything, we desperately needed each other.
I had amazing parents and he had an incredible dad, and we knew we wanted to have a family one day. I had never had such a strong desire to become a mom until the second I said, “I do.” It was immediate and passionately wild. We had only been married a few minutes and I already wanted to become a mom. I’ve told very few people about this because how do you explain that, and justify waiting all this time to start a family? Let me try:
Matt and I are days away from celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary and I can hardly believe it. Looking back on four years is emotional. Our marriage in all honesty, has been blissful, but our lives have dealt us much heartbreak along the way. In the almost four years that we’ve been married, Matt and I had the honor of becoming kinship/foster parents to the same set of twin boys, twice. February of 2013, we brought them home from the hospital when they were just itty-bitty babies. We moved in with Matt’s mom (who signed as legal guardian of the boys) so that we could tag team and support each other 24/7. Matt and I shared a twin trundle bed in the boys’ nursery and were on baby duty for the next four weeks.
Our first taste of parenting was pretty intense. You, who have had children, know that the first four weeks are some of the hardest. We had no idea what we were doing but we owned up to that and learned along the way. During those weeks, our love for them grew strong but we knew that they would go back to their mom and so we tried to hold back some of our heartstrings. When that chapter ended, it was difficult. We didn’t know how to go back to just us and we heard phantom cries for weeks but ultimately, we managed to go back to the way things used to be and began to enjoy it just being the two of us again.
About a year later, we received a phone call that would completely rock our world in a way we never could have prepared for. The boys were in CPS’s custody and my mother-in-law was headed to pick them up. It was a Wednesday night and Matt had to go to church and preach to our students, so I met my mother-in-law at her house. I haven’t thought back on that night in a while but I just remember it being a whirlwind of emotions. We were holding the boys and sobbing through conversations on how we would make this work. Things would be different this time around. The boys needed a home anywhere from six months to a year.
We had to have our decision made quickly because our new CPS supervisor was on his way over and if we seemed unsure, he would take the boys back into CPS and ultimately into a foster home.
We discussed our house being perfect because we had a spare room and I wasn’t working so I would be able to stay at home with them but beyond that, I was numb. I wasn’t thinking with my heart at this time. My mind was racing and I was trying to figure out space and finances. These boys had nothing and I questioned how we would afford everything that they needed. Interrupting the internal dialogue, my phone rang and I stepped out to answer. It was our CPA. Enthusiastically, he told me that we would receive back double what he expected we’d get back on our taxes.
Silence. Chills. More tears.
God’s presence destroyed all doubt and was the warm hug that I so desperately needed. I knew what God wanted us to do but I desperately needed my husband there to talk to. He turned on to the street as I hung up. We stood there and talked for about two minutes before the supervisor’s car turned on the street. Weeping and terrified, we quickly said yes to a calling that only God could give us the strength for. Blurry eyed from the tears, we signed several papers at midnight that confirmed our decision. We didn’t have time to call family, friends or our church for support. This decision was solely through Christ’s guidance.
The boys stayed with Matt’s parents that night so we could spend the day getting a nursery set up for them. Between piecing together the nursery, we made phone calls to those we needed the most. My twin sister and I went and picked up the boys late the next night. Driving them back to our house, it all hit. We were responsible for these two precious lives again.
This time, we didn’t hold back any of our heartstrings. We dove in headfirst with reckless abandon. We watched them learn and grow and we grew and we learned right along side them. Every CPS visit. Every fever. Every sleepless night. We were there. We wore coordinating outfits for Easter and took family pictures. We splashed around in a blow up pool in our front yard. There were many times that we dreamed of keeping them forever and what our family would look like. It was a beautiful life…
Five months later, they left. It ended just as quickly as it began.
They each took half my heart with them and I can’t begin to describe it any other way. The quiet house we at times missed, was suddenly nauseating and we would have done anything to crunch leftover cheerios between our toes.
It was all God’s plan but I’ve lost count the times we’ve questioned Him. It’s been almost a year since that day and I’m catching many memories sliding down my cheeks as I write this. We miss them so much but we know that God has amazing things in store for them and for us, and so we await with great expectation. We allow our Comforter to comfort and our Healer to heal just like He’s done before.
I know that we are not ready to start a family right now because we don’t have a peace that surpasses all understanding. When that time comes for us, it will be incredible but there are going to be a lot of emotions that come with that. The obvious loss of our parents when we’re celebrating this new little life and the memories of the old life we shared with the boys, who changed and prepared us to be parents. Our God is a God of peace and love. When He speaks, we will hear Him but for now, we feel fear, doubt and guilt and those things are not of the Lord. He is still working in us and restoring our hearts. It’s all a lot to take in right now and so we rest in the arms of our Father and we wait.