Series 04: For the Love of Fall and Holidays | Episode 06
Open Homes & Open Hearts: A Christmas Story From The Tribe
To close out our “For the Love of Fall & Holidays” series, we have a story from one of our own from the Tribe. We asked you to tell us about someone you knew who was opening their hearts, homes and tables to others during the holidays in unique and amazing ways, and Jacob & Peggy Smith were the ones who came shining through. A young couple married for only 2 years, Jacob & Peggy had been raised in environments where fostering children was a huge priority. When they encountered a family of 9 siblings who needed their help, their family answered the call in an extraordinary way. They talk with Jen about the challenges and rewards of expanding their family as Jen shares her own family’s adoption experience. Stay tuned to hear how you can help this brand new big family with even bigger hearts by giving toward their Amazon Wish List this Christmas.
Narrator: Welcome to the “For the Love Podcast” with bestselling author Jen Hatmaker. Come on in, and join us for a chat with Jen and friends about all the things we love. Now, here’s Jen.
Jen: Hey everybody, it’s Jen Hatmaker. Welcome to the show. This is the For the Love podcast and we are wrapping a series that I have totally loved. I hope you’ve loved it too. It’s been “For the Love of Fall & Holidays” and we have had kind of every sort of interesting guest on that is either speaking into fall, or Thanksgiving and Christmas, relationships, fashion. We’ve kind of run the gamut here, everything related to this season of the year and as you know, if you’re a listener, we finish every series with a crowd-sourced episode because one thing that I know for sure is that from within our Tribe, this listening community, our social media community, we have enough amazing stories to last us the next 10,000 podcasts. So we always want to invite somebody in, that’s just kind of one of us out here in the community.
So today is the crowd-sourced episode, and listen, just kind of get your Kleenex out, that’s all I can tell you. Have your Kleenex ready because we have invited the two most amazing people. Let me tell you how we met them and you might remember this. When we did an episode in the last series, we had on the CEO of the company Shipt. You remember Shipt? Shipt is a grocery delivery company that has grown, and expanded, and essentially changed a bunch of our lives. So we decided that we wanted to nominate people, well actually you, you were gonna nominate people who were doing Thanksgiving in an amazing way. We were basically asking, “Guys, who’s awesome? Like, who’s building a table of, a welcoming table that we should know about? You know, who should we know about right now in this Thanksgiving season that’s doing this really well? And we’re gonna give them a $500.00 gift card to Shipt and Shipt is going to deliver everything they need to their home for the Thanksgiving feast.”
So that is how we found our guests today. You guys told us about Jacob and Peggy Smith, plus Jacob’s parents Thad and Loryn, who are right in the middle of writing the most incredible, outrageous, beautiful story with their lives that you’ve ever heard. So I’m not gonna give any of it away, because I want you to hear it as it unfolds, because these are truly extraordinary people.
So, we have on the podcast today Jacob and Peggy Smith. They live in the Tampa, Florida area and they are practically newlyweds. They just got married in 2015, they’re both in their mid-20s you guys and wait until you hear this sort of life that they have decided to build together. It is an absolutely gorgeous story and I just can’t think of anybody better to wrap up this series with than this young couple. When you hear what their home now looks like, and the sort of Christmas that they are going to enjoy together this year, I mean, you’re just gonna die.
So, without giving anything else away, I am thrilled to welcome to the podcast today Jacob and Peggy Smith.
So Jacob and Peggy, welcome to the show. I’m just so tickled that you’re on today. Thank you for making the time.
Jacob: Thank you. Thank you for having us.
Peggy: Thank you, yeah.
Jen: Our listeners are gonna find out here in just a minute why you are here and what’s so kind of special and unique about your story. Let it be said that probably carving out an hour of your day in the new life that you’re living in was not easy. I can only imagine what sort of wizardry you guys had to pull off to make this happen. It probably involved bribery, I cannot even know.
Jen: So I really, I really actually know what it’s taking for you to be on this podcast today and I’m so, so honored that you’ve done it.
So, I want my listeners to know a little bit about you, so before we sort of get into your story, you guys are basically newlyweds, practically. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, and how you met and when you decided to get married? What’s your connection specifically to Uganda? And everything, how you got engaged there, just tell us everything. Tell us who you are.
Peggy: Okay. Husband, why don’t you start and tell them how you were connected with Uganda, and then I’ll pick up on how we met.
Jen: That’s perfect.
Jacob: Great. So yeah, I have always had a strong desire for missions. It’s kind of just been ingrained in my life. Especially through my parents and their mission here in the states for the orphans; so I’ve just always had a strong desire. I always looked up to the famous missionary Jim Elliot and always wanted to experience, really just the missional life. So, I had a crazy big God story. I won’t go into a lot of detail. I found a great organization in Uganda by the name of One City Ministries and we had connections here in the Tampa Bay area and I found they actually launched through our church and I didn’t even know that.
Jen: Oh, no way.
Jacob: At the time, that wasGrace Family Church in Tampa, Florida and so when I found that out, I just emailed them. I said, “Hey guys, you know I’ve always felt a strong desire to do missions, especially in Africa specifically.” I got an email back, you know with the time difference, in like three days and they said, “Yes, we would love to have you.” So in early 2013, I was able to spend, I spent about 12 months there in Uganda and it was just absolutely amazing.
Jen: How old were you at the time?
Jacob: Oh, wow. I guess so I was, I want to say I was 21.
Jen: Yeah, yeah, so you’re just kind of like fresh out of the gate here.
Jacob: That’s right. That’s right.
Jen: What did you do in Uganda specifically?
Jacob: Well, we focused on sustainable missions, economic development. So although we were missionaries in the sense of teaching the Bible and preaching, we also implemented a bunch of programs to really attack certain systematic issues within third world countries. Such as deforestation, malnutrition, farming techniques. So we tried to cover all of it.
Jen: Yeah, I love that. We learned about deforestation a handful of years ago, and I remember the day that Brandon came home and you know, we are deeply connected to Ethiopia, which is a similar landscape. I remember the day he came home and said, “Listen, we’re gonna plant trees. We’re gonna plant millions of trees.” I’m like, “What are you talking about? We’re not planting trees. What are you doing, hippie?” Until I learned about deforestation and the effects it has on the land and ultimately sustainability.
Jen: It’s a huge issue, monumental.
Jacob: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Jen: So you’re in Uganda. You’re 21 years old. You’re over there living full time for a year, and then what? And this was in 2013? Is that what you said?
Jen: Yes, okay. All right, so take us to the next phase of this.
Peggy: This is where I should pick up, probably.
Jen: This is where you come in Peggy.
Peggy: This is where I come in, yes. So I was back here in the states, I was a full-time nanny at the time. I was just single and living with my sister and helping care for her kids as well as full-time nanny-ing.
And then it turns out my sister was pursuing adoption through Jake’s mom, Loryn Smith’s, Finally Home Adoptive Services. So she was pursuing adoption through her, and one day they were sitting in her office talking, and his mom was just joking around about Jake coming home from Africa with a bunch of African babies. My sister’s like “Oh my gosh, that’s so funny. That’s something my sister Peggy would do.” So they were laughing about it and they were like, “Wait, are they single?” So my sister came home and she’s like, “Oh my word.” You know, my sister’s a matchmaker, ’cause I’m the youngest of five. And she’s like, “We have the perfect guy for you.” And I’m like, “Okay.” I’ve heard this a lot of times. So, long story short, I went on Facebook and somehow we were already friends. You know, the Facebook world is vast and crazy.
Peggy: Yeah, it’s weird. So we were in a lot of the same circles, we had just never ran into each other, which was cool. We had a lot in common. So, I actually just sent him a quick message, just said, “Hey, my sister’s adopting through your mom.” I don’t even know how it happened, we just started chatting and he came home six months later on leave, and we started dating.
Jen: Yeah. And then?
Peggy: Yeah, and then he had to go back. So we had not been dating very long at that point. He wanted me to come visit, and we were older, not only in our relationship with Christ, but also in our walk, and we really knew what we wanted in a mate. So it’s not like a lot of people recommend dating for a long period of time, but I think we had the same mission–common goals–so he’s like, “I want you to fly over here and see what I’m doing.” So I was able to fly over there.
Jen: Oh, wow.
Peggy: And long story short, he proposed to me on my birthday underneath a waterfall in Uganda.
Jen: Quit it. Stop it.
Peggy: It’s what dreams are made of.
Jacob: Go big or go home.
Jen: Will you send us a picture of this, you guys?
Jen: We’ll put this up on the website everybody, because, come on, get serious.
Peggy: It was magical to say the least.
Peggy: So then, he came home six months later, and we had some ups and downs in our relationship from there, but God really just brought us to an awesome place and we ended up eloping, and here we are.
Peggy: I know. So here we are two and a half years later.
Jacob: Best decision ever.
Peggy: Best decision ever. Ever, ever.
Jen: Was it?
Jen: ‘Cause it was just zero stress, right?
Jen: You guys were like, “Let’s go get married today.”
Jen: Where’d you go?
Jacob: Well, we just, we decided instead of just like, doing something crazy and flying off to Vegas, not saying that’s wrong, we decided not to. My mom said, “Hey, if you want to keep some sanity in it, you know, ask our counselors to do it.” So we said, “You know what? Let’s go to downtown St. Pete’s.” It’s really beautiful down there. It’s on the water.
Jen: Love it.
Jacob: We all showed up, we looked around, we said, “All right. Where do you want to get married?” And we’re like, “Over there.”
Jen: Over there.
Jacob: Just literally.
Jacob: And before you know it, we were married.
Jen: Okay, that story’s amazing and I love it. My husband Brandon and I have been married for 24 years this month, and I think we’d both say if we could go back, that that’s absolutely what we would do. We would keep it fun and easy and low maintenance and like grab our best friends, everybody show up in your jeans, we’re gonna go just downtown St. Pete’s. That’s so great. I love that story. So when was that? You got married what year? 2015?
Peggy: 2015. Yeah, it’s been three years this month. Yeah, 2015.
Jen: It’s good. I want everybody to know this, because I want them to keep in mind that you’re both in your 20s and your marriage is young, because we’re gonna attach the rest of your story to it and it’s just gonna blow everybody’s minds. Before we get into it, Jacob, will you just–you’ve mentioned them a couple of times here–but tell everybody a little bit about your mom and dad and what their, their sort of their history of foster parenting and adoption and what your family was like growing up. Like, you kind of came from really strong roots in this conversation, right?
Jacob: Sure, absolutely a 100%. Yeah, just super ingrained adoption and fostering into my life and especially my family’s, and really it all starts with just my mom’s desire to do missions as well. When she went to college, she kind of realized that “Hey, there’s a mission here in the states.” For her, that was foster care and also adoption. In fact, her first child, she adopted, I believe when she was 19 years old. My first brother.
Jen: No way, wow.
Jacob: But she was just, you know, when she landed, she just went right for it and she knew her calling. And as time progressed, again, they just continued to foster and really out of all of it, we have eight legal adopted brothers and sisters.
We’re super diverse and so we grew up understanding culture and diversity, combating racism. Especially early on, where we lived, and we were raised in St. Pete. So we’ve just always had this unique understanding of what it means to care for the least of these, especially the orphan and even the widow. So really, that’s kind of our story and as you know, we’re now growing, legally. My parents are now adopting five more children.
Jen: I love it. Just keep going around the world. And in addition to adoption, your parents fostered too, right?
Jen: So do you know how many kids they fostered over the course of their life?
Jacob: Well, over a hundred kids they’ve fostered. What an experience. I mean I can tell you at one point, we had like 18 kids in the house at one point in a five-bedroom house.
Jen: Oh Gosh. Man.
Jacob: I lived in a room in Wesley Chapel, Florida at one point with eight boys. As you can imagine we were boys, but man, it was crazy, and you just you learned a lot of stuff. You learned how to sacrifice. You learned how to adapt to maybe not getting as much attention as you would want. So there’s a lot of great stuff that you learn through it, that I’ve learned through this whole process and fantastic.
Jen: Okay, well, thanks for bringing us up to speed because that’s good background information for everybody to understand. Talk to us a little bit, you guys, and whichever one of you wants to take this can start. But let’s talk about your family right now. Let’s talk about what happened. What’s going on. Literally, this monumental decision that you have now made with your parents, Jacob. So start kind of, if you don’t mind, at the beginning of this story and tell all of the listeners what your home and their home is about to look like.
Jacob: Okay, so I’ll kind of start and then I’ll let Peggy kind of conclude with it.
Jacob: So you know, it’s funny, my mom has one perspective of the story and then I have my own; Peggy and I do. You know, believe it or not, I was up at like, sometimes I just wake up super early in the morning. It’s allergies, whatever, just crazy stuff.
Jacob: Peggy and I had actually wanted to adopt prior to this, but those certain situations didn’t play out. So we just kind of moved on and really, you know I know that’s something to talk about, but we really never planned on having kids for a while.
Jacob: We did want to foster, but we just weren’t sure. We weren’t really, we were just kind of flirting around with it, I guess would be the word. I was up really early in the morning, I think it was like 2:00, 2:30 a.m. and I actually saw this photo shared of a family. We have the Tampa Bay Heart Gallery here.
Jacob: It’s phenomenal.
Jen: Yeah, we have that here too.
Jacob: So you know their idea is really just to expose kids, expose people to kids that need homes and forever families, and so I saw their photo and I just felt like the Lord just like said something to me. Like, something different. I can’t actually pinpoint exactly what He said, but I just felt a connection. Again, I’m on Facebook scrolling through. You know you got, we all get on our phones, we scroll through Facebook, and I saw their photo was shared. So that night, it was on my heart. I went to bed and I woke up and you know, nothing different. That same day, my mom ended up sharing on her Facebook, the photo. I didn’t share it on my Facebook.
Jen: No way.
Jacob: Yeah, I’m not a saint. I didn’t share it on my Facebook.
Jacob: So my mom shared it and I commented on it and I just said, “Man, if Peggy and I were in a different financial situation, we would definitely consider taking all of them.”
Jen: And will you explain real quick what all of them means? ‘Cause you didn’t exactly describe how many people were in that photo.
Jacob: Sure. There were eight, there was a family of eight. Eight children in this photo, just beautiful, beautiful children all the way around. Sure enough, I commented on my mom’s Facebook and I think the next morning she calls me and she goes, “So hey, you serious about the kids?” And I was like, “Well, honestly Mom, we just don’t think we could ever do eight kids.” She’s like, “Yeah, well, but I have a better idea. Why don’t we split them and keep them
within the same family?”
Jen: I can’t handle it.
Jacob: And then it clicked, I’m like, “Oh no, this is actually gonna go somewhere.”
Jen: Oh my gosh, I could cry. Like that put a lump in my throat. I just can’t even believe it.
Jacob: It’s just insane. It’s truly insane and I can let Peggy kind of just discuss a little bit more about the children and if she wants to add her details to the story as well.
Jen: Oh, yeah I’m interested in your opinion here Peggy, because this is no joke. This isn’t like “Hey, let’s start our family with one human baby.” I mean this is a yard sale. Like, “There’s eight kids and we’re gonna split them between our two homes.” I mean this is almost unprecedented. Like I’d love to hear your thought when you wake up and Jacob was like, “Hey I was on Facebook at 2:00 in the morning looking at a family of eight.” Like, I want to know how this landed with you?
Peggy: I almost want to say that’s how it went down, though. He was, “I woke up last night.” Well, I did see, I was on Facebook the next day and I saw that he had commented on his mom’s post, and then, I don’t remember if I called you and just said, “Are you for real about this?” And he’s like, “Well, yeah, I kind of am.” And long story short, my sister was actually, we were going to her son’s finalization of his adoption, she’s adopted three, one of my sisters has. But they were kind of joking around like, “Oh, you guys would be the perfect couple. You know, take all eight.” Just joking around then I was kind of like, “Well, we had literally just talked about this the day before.” But I was keeping my mouth shut.
So I think that–I have been a nanny for a very long time. You know, I’ve been with the family I am with now for six years. And I’ve had the boys, they’re a family of three now, there’s twin boys. I have had them since three weeks old. So, I love kids, like I feel like my gifting is with children and raising them and I just I love it. I feel like God’s given me such a passion for children. I didn’t think that I wanted to be my own for a long time, just because I was afraid I’d be burned out.
Jen: Uh huh, that makes sense.
Peggy: You know I still, up until we got them, I still was and I still am nannying now. But Jake just brought that to my attention, and we started praying about it and I just, we looked at each other and we just said, “Why not us?” You know, first of all, God has put this in our hearts and it’s our calling and it would be an amazing mission for us to do together. And our home, we’re in a stable home with a lot of bedrooms and we have tons of energy. We’re really young, like why not us? I think it broke my heart because, I’m gonna cry talking about it, but they had been in foster care for over two and a half years. And I just know coming from a family of five girls, like if anyone, had taken me away from my sisters, and I was away from them, I just couldn’t imagine the turmoil I would be in. And then never knowing if I was ever going to be, you know, in contact with them or adopted with them. I just think my heart was so broken for this family. And that’s how, I think I’m answering too many questions, but-
Jen: No, I’m just, I’m fascinated and I would love, if you can, to tell us a little bit about the kids. Like, what the range here and what are their names and what are the ages? And tell us sort of, also, how did you two and then Jacob’s parents kind of decide, here are the two groups that make sense and “We’ll take this group and you guys take this group.”?
Peggy: Okay, so I think I’ll start with this one. So there is, it’s a family of eight as we said. Well, it was a funny story. It was a family of eight and as we are pursuing this adoption, getting our paperwork in, it’s a very lengthy process as you know.
Peggy: We get an email and all it says is, “By the way … Mom had number nine … It’s a boy.” So it became, it went from a family of eight to a family of nine.
Jen: Oh my gosh, you guys.
Peggy: So it is, I will go ahead, and the kids are beautiful. I mean, Nyelli is 14. Angel is 11. There’s the little girl Jaylene, who’s 10. Evan is eight, Jaden is seven, Brianna is three. There’s a little boy JJ who’s two. Heavenly is one. And then the baby is almost three months.
Jen: You guys. You guys. Oh, it’s like a classroom.
Peggy: It is.
Jen: It’s like a whole classroom.
Peggy: I don’t know, but I probably listed that all too quickly, but I could talk about them all day, so I tried not to, you know. I wanted to talk about them more.
Jacob: Yeah, we did have some birthdays recently too, so now Angel is now 12, Brianna is 4 and JJ is now three.
Jen: That is amazing. So you came to your social worker and said, “We have a proposal.” Because this is obviously very unusual, kind of a unique situation where you know, two different homes but under the same family umbrella want to adopt a sibling group. So was that hard? Did you get easy approval for this? Or did you kind of have to fight for it?
Jacob: So I’ll go ahead and make a note on that. So, my mom is very, obviously with her experience, she’s very well known in the system because my mom’s also has, was a social worker for a long time and now-
Jen: Got it.
Jacob: … As you know, she runs her own adoption agency and so I think it was a great proposal. Because for somebody to take nine children in one home, it’s not just financially hard, it’s emotionally hard.
Jen: That’s right. No doubt.
Jacob: How do you emotionally give to nine children at once? And so that alone is a very big task and so the idea of splitting them but keeping them within the same family, I think really fancied the hearts of the caseworkers and the state and when they heard it, I think they really jumped on board.
Jen: Yes, I mean, I can’t I think it’d probably be so rare to find a scenario that was healthy enough to place all nine kids in one place, positively. So you guys, you’ve got four children in your home, and which four are they?
Peggy: We have Brianna who is, we took the younger four, so we have Brianna, who is four. We have JJ who is three. We have Heavenly who is turning two in March, and then we have the baby Max, who is turning three months in a couple of days.
Jen: So you have got four children, four and under.
Peggy: Yes ma’am, we sure do.
Jen: Like you are completely and fully in the weeds. There’s probably no other way to describe it. And when did the kids come, this is recent, when did they come home to your home?
Jacob: Very recent.
Peggy: October 14th, yeah.
Jacob: Yeah, tell them that story Peggy, how all this kind of played out.
Peggy: Okay, so I’ll make it, I can talk forever, but I’ll make short I promise.
Jen: That’s okay, we love hearing it. That’s why you’re on this program.
Peggy: So we got our home study done on a Thursday and a week later we got a call from our case manager and she just said, “Hey, the foster parents whom they’re with need to go out of town, because there was a death in the family can you have them at your house for four nights?” So we’re like, “Absolutely, that’d be great.” So I hang up the phone and two hours later, I get another call and she says, “Hey, we need to go ahead and just permanently transition them into your home.” And I was like, “Okay.”
Peggy: So I’m like, “Okay, that would be amazing. You know we want them with us as soon as possible.” So less trauma, you know, we can start forming relationships. Less bonding with anyone else but us, so we’re like, “Sure, let’s do this.” So I’m like, “When will you be bringing them?” So grant you, this is a Thursday. They were dropped off Saturday morning at 11.
Jen: No. No. I can’t even. And your home study was literally days old approved.
Peggy: Yeah. Yeah. A week old.
Jacob: A week old. Literally.
Jen: You guys, what did you do? Was it a mass scramble?
Peggy: Yes. It was like-
Jacob: We were running in circles.
Jen: I can’t even imagine it. I mean, what did you? Literally you’re not ready for this. You don’t have beds, you don’t have diapers.
Jacob: Yes. Nothing.
Jen: What, did you like put out the all call to your people and say, “All hands on deck.”?
Jacob: Oh, we did. We did. And we just had so many great people just get behind us and help us really. Especially our church and we’ve been just crazy, people we don’t even know pitched in and helped and did amazing things for us and yeah, we were ready by Saturday morning.
Jen: I cannot believe it.
Jacob: What’s funny too, just to mention is, you know, the week before October 14th, that was their move in date, when we completed our home study, our caseworker kind of just told us, “You know what guys, the best case scenario is we might hear something by December.” And in all honesty in our hearts, we were like, “Yeah, we’re looking at April or May for anything to happen.”
Jen: Right, totally.
Jacob: A week later, well. Four kids.
Jen: I just, that’s just so crazy and you’re right. Usually the delays are long and it always takes longer than they say. Certainly not a week later. So I mean you were preparing yourselves for respite care. And just like that, they’re like, “This is happening now in a permanent way.” I commend your, you are resilient to just kind of say, “All right that’s it. We’re gonna be flexible enough to make this happen.” So when the kids first got there, had you met them yet? Or was that like, “Hi, nice to meet you. You live here now.”?
Peggy: No, it was “Hi, nice to meet you. I’m your mom. This is your dad.”
Jen: Oh my. And so you knew right away that this was going to be a foster to adopt scenario? Was that clear at the time or not yet?
Peggy: Yes, we were actually so, yeah, right off the bat, we knew that they were gonna be making the transition to our home. We just now became finalized for adoptive placement, but yeah, from the beginning we knew, like okay.
Jen: Let me ask you, because we’ve been there too. Like most of my listeners know that our youngest two kids are adopted and we adopted them older as well. They came to us from
Ethiopia when they were five and eight. So we had a lot of transition, including language and culture and race.
Jacob: I can’t imagine.
Jen: Yeah, it was just everything kind of at once and I would say that those first few weeks, I’m gonna say that they’re not easy and that everybody is struggling to find what is normal and, “What’s my life here? And where do I fit here? And how is this gonna work?” And so obviously you are literally in the most fragile little new season of your family of six. How’s it going? How are you doing?
Jacob: I would say we would reiterate what you said, the first few weeks, we, let’s just say, we’re thankful they’re over.
Jen: I so deeply understand what you are saying. As you, it’s not just the kids, it’s you too. Everybody kind of, I mean, you literally took in four kids four and under. That is just no joke you guys.
Peggy: I think it was difficult, but like I said, we’d both seen adoptions and so we did not come into this with, you know, rainbows and unicorns. You know, we knew that there was gonna, it was gonna be hard. My sister, like I said, all my sisters have adopted, and then Jake’s family is obviously a big adoptive family. So we knew, you know it’s one thing to know something and then walk through it. So that was difficult, but we knew that it was going to be probably one of the tougher things we’ve ever done. But I can’t just, stress enough how beautiful the transition was. You know I had seen and heard horror stories and the kids, I just am so thankful for the attachments that were made so quickly and it was hard, but God has just been … You could just see him moving in their hearts and our hearts. And it happened so quickly the attachments and we are just beyond grateful for his grace on us.
Jen: I’m thrilled to hear that and I’ve seen God work miracles in adoption almost more than any other space I can think of. Where there’s just so much trauma written into the story. You know, there’s so much loss and abandonment and there’s such room for God to be a healer and he is. And he mends hearts back together and he puts families together in these wonky ways that somehow become so beautiful and so meaningful. Also are you sleeping? Is there any night that you are sleeping through the night?
Jacob: Honestly, to be honest with you, the baby is amazing.
Peggy: He’s a dream.
Jen: Yay, baby.
Jacob: He, I don’t know, he maybe wakes up one time, usually either like 12:30, maybe sometimes around 2:00 and he’ll sleep until anywhere between 5:30 to 6:30.
Jen: God bless that baby.
Peggy: Yeah, he’s been a dream.
Jen: Yes. Are the kids, are they sharing rooms? How do you have them in your house?
Peggy: So it’s cute because Brianna, actually, the four-year old, we weren’t planning on having her in with the three-year old and the one year old, Heavenly–JJ and Heavenly–but then she wanted to be with them. I think we both agree that it’s good that she’s in with them, because she’s with her brother and sister and it’s comfort for her and yeah, they’re all in the same room, but it’s actually worked out great.
Peggy: I don’t know how long that will last, but right now it’s great. It’s beautiful, they go to bed, they are such good sleepers. Not that I wasn’t expecting them to sleep so well at night.
Jen: I’m thrilled to hear that. That’s the side of things that they forget.
Peggy: It’s been a huge blessing.
Jen: Yes, it absolutely is. When we brought our, when Ben and Remy first got here, Remy our daughter who was five, shared a room with our daughter Sydney who was 11. And our son Ben shared a room with Caleb and they were about two years apart. And it was so dear and that was so sweet and they actually loved that, and we used to laugh, you guys. I’ll see if I can find a picture, I’ll put it up on my webpage everybody listening, but Remy, every single morning, I mean, I’m telling you this probably went on for six months. The girls had bunk beds and in the morning she would wake up and she would crawl down into Sydney’s bed and Sydney has really soft, like super blond long hair, and she would, whatever side of Sydney’s hair was facing upward, Remy would braid it all. Just braid it.
Like her little tiny five-year old fingers could braid anything. And so Sydney would come downstairs every morning with half a head of French braids and we just died every single morning. And so there is something about that proximity to one another, just sleeping in the same room, that is special, it’s bonding and it’s healing. I love to hear it.
Let’s talk about the big kids, because the older five, now at this point, right? ‘Cause we’re at nine, not eight.
Jen: They are heading to your parents’ house. I think at the recording of this episode, it is, it’s less than two weeks away. Right?
Jacob: Right. Right.
Jen: They’re about to go?
Jacob: The 22nd, that’s right.
Jen: Yeah, that’s right. So how’s preparation going over at your parent’s house, Jacob? And what does it look like sort of on that half of the family?
Jacob: So sure, they’re getting rooms ready, and just a little bit about my parents is they’re, they adopted my niece, she’s five. And just let your listeners know, my parents are almost 60 years old. So this is a big leap for them. And they were actually, they almost had everyone out of the house. All they had was my niece who’s five, legally now my sister. And so they were actually looking to downsize.
Jen: Oh sure.
Jacob: To move and sell their home and so, you know, now that’s obviously not gonna happen, so they’re preparing rooms. They painted the other day. And really it’s just been cool to see the older kids, because that was the biggest scare of this, was how are the older kids gonna react about not staying within the same home with their siblings? This was a really big deal, especially for the older girls Jaylene and Nyelli, that they wanted to make sure that they still had, felt like they had some control over, “Hey, this is my family. Do I get to make decisions too?”
Jen: That’s good.
Jacob: So we’ve been really trying to do that for them. My parents have at least, and so it’s been really cool to see them. Now they’re visiting on the weekends every weekend. So they’re sleeping over every night, every weekend.
Jen: Got it.
Jacob: So my parents are just getting to learn about them, they’re getting to know each other and so it’s nice to see all the fears that they had kind of slow, like kind of just dim down.
Jacob: Like, one of the things that Nyelli said she was so scared about, the oldest, was that you know, “Oh well, you guys are just gonna kick me out once I move in. Or you guys aren’t gonna want me. Or you know, you guys are not gonna like my brother and you’re just gonna, you know, kick him out. Or you know, you guys aren’t gonna want me anymore.” That was like a common saying.
Jen: Of course.
Jacob: Like there’s a lot of fear there as you can imagine. And Nyelli was really, she watched over her family when you know, a lot of the kids were just babies. So she has that, that motherly side to her, so it’s been interesting to watch. It’s been really cool. My brother Sam, he actually lives in the house with my parents still. He’s about to go to the police academy, but they’ve really bonded with him in just such a beautiful way, and they all look up to him. He’s 21, or he’s 20 and it’s just been an amazing thing to see.
Jen: Right, because they’re inheriting an enormous family. I mean, they already are an enormous family, and they are getting another enormous family which is amazing. I learned really early on in our story, you know we went through all the same things that you know, that this is a part of the fabric of your actual whole life, but just training on connection and sort of trauma recovery, and all the things that are really important when you adopt kids from hard places. Just how to be a healing home for them.
So I remember really early on there’s so much emphasis, at least in the training material, put on the parents. You know on you guys and on your parents, and also like on us as adoptive parents and what systems we’re gonna put in place and the language that we’re gonna use. But one thing that I learned early on that I found largely absent in the material, but incredibly present in real life is that the kid’s new siblings, our children that we had in the home already, are also an incredible healing agent. And their proximity to one another, we couldn’t duplicate it, it was so special. And the bond that the kids forged with one another, not just with us as parents, was every bit as important, every bit as nurturing and nourishing and healing as anything we ever provided as well.
So, when I think about these nine kids coming into your family, well, my gosh, they’re getting a whole tribe. I mean, these kids will never be alone a day in their life. It’s beautiful. It’s gorgeous. So we’re excited to come around you, this tribe of listeners is really strong, really connected. We have a really amazing community. And I mean, obviously, this is how we found you. We found you because we were looking for great families who were doing Thanksgiving in a way that was going to be meaningful and your story rose straight to the top.
So one thing that I want everybody listening to know is that we have asked you to provide for us an Amazon wishlist of things that you need; because you need stuff.
This is an enormous undertaking. I mean, and so do your parents, and so, I want everybody listening to know that we are going to put links up over on my site, on my social media pages too, where if you want to come around Jacob and Peggy and also, obviously now, Jacob’s parents as well who are getting the big kids in a matter of days, we can just ship to their door, the specific and exact things that they need.
I cannot tell you how excited we are to do that. It’s gonna be our real joy to support you and surround your family right now as you’re just building something so beautiful and so amazing.
So let’s talk about your holidays real quick before we wrap this up. This is not the same kind of Christmas as you had last year. This is a different Christmas.
Jacob: A little strange.
Jen: It’s a little, what do you have in play here? What do you, are you thinking, what kind of Christmas are you gonna have? Do you do this all together? Are you gonna keep it quiet? Is it gonna be bananas? Are you going like full on? Or what’s your approach here to your Christmas this year?
Peggy: Well, I think as far as our small family goes, you know, obviously not the whole sibling group, but our four in our home, we are gonna keep it simple and with kids that have already experienced so much transition and change, you just want to keep it very low key. The most exciting thing about this Christmas I think, is that when these kids came into our home, they had never heard the name of Jesus. They only knew two songs, ABC and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. So it’s been amazing to teach them about Jesus and about it’s gonna be his birthday. And we’re singing songs about it. Now instead of singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, you know, they’re singing Jesus Loves Me and they’re running around the house singing Away In a Manger and I just think it’s the coolest Christmas present I could have ever received is being able to introduce my kids to Jesus for the first time.
Jen: So beautiful.
Peggy: You know. Just to worship Jesus in it. We’re gonna do it in such a simple way this year with them.
Jen: I think that is so wise and it’s still, it’s gonna be magic. It’s gonna be just absolutely magical. I’m like grinning from ear to ear thinking about your Christmas morning.
Peggy: Yeah, we’re excited.
Jacob: My mom also is well known for making sure, my mom is a gift giver.
Jacob: So on Christmas Eve, the entire family and when I say the entire family, the entire family will be packed away in our living room to open up all of Grandma’s presents.
Jen: Oh my gosh, and so she has no chill. Like it’s just she’s gonna do whatever she wants
Jacob: She has like, she has like, I think she has how many grandchildren does she have? I guess like over 20. So it’s up there.
Peggy: That’ll be–that is the tradition that we will never change.
Jacob: Yeah, that’s a special day.
Jen: Well, and the big kids will be in their home by then. They’ll be like two days in the home on a permanent basis on Christmas Eve.
Jacob: That’s right.
Jen: This is really a special Christmas. You’ll just never forget it as long as you live. Like it’s gonna be fun to think about you guys in 15 years, saying, “Hey guys, remember that first Christmas? When everybody was just packed into our living room and everything was just so, you guys were so little and then nobody knew what was happening.” It’s gonna be a great memory. We still look back with our kids now, it’s been six and a half years they’ve lived with us and we laugh and laugh and laugh at that first year and the things that we said and the things that we thought and the pictures that we have and we kind of all feel like we survived it together and we’ve grown up together.
So listen, we are so into you. We love you both and I am so proud to know you. I’m so proud of your family. I love this story so much. It’s gonna be our great joy, not only to come around you, sort of this year, and really, we are so thrilled to send you the things that you need as you’re sort of building a home where everybody’s needs are met, but to keep following up with you two because we’d love to hear an update next Christmas. Like all right guys, it’s been a year, people are potty-trained. Like it’s gonna be good news. Someone’s gonna be out of diapers.
Jen: Let it be, baby Jesus. So let me, let’s close with this question I ask all my guests and it can be as big or as small or as meaningful or as silly as you want it to be. But this is what we finish by asking and it’s this, and you can both answer and maybe Jacob you can start and then Peggy you can answer too.
Jen: What is saving your life right now?
Jacob: What is saving my life right now? Hmm. That’s an interesting question. I would say, what’s saving my life right now is really a combination of my faith, my wife, my church and just really a renewed vision and a renewed purpose of what mission is and that you don’t have to travel the world to find missions.
Jen: That’s right.
Jacob: You can wake up right there in your community and you can find those who are hurting, those who are lost and in suffering and you can provide temporary yet meaningful relief. The idea, the concept of that is definitely is what is quote unquote, saving my life.
Jen: That’s beautiful, I love it. Thank you Jacob. How about you Peggy?
Peggy: Coffee. No, just kidding.
Jen: No, I thought one of them has to drink coffee.
Jen: Somebody’s gonna tell the truth and say coffee.
Peggy: Well obviously, the supernatural power of Jesus. I mean in all areas of my life, emotionally, physically, spiritually. Just, it’s amazing, like you said, the miracles that you see in adoption. I’ve never seen them anywhere else. And then, yet our marriage has just, God’s really blessed us and I think just having each other. We are each other’s best friends and we’re on each other’s team and at the end of the day, that’s what we just keep leaning into and yeah, it’s been, we’ve been winning every night together. Laying in bed, high-fiving each other. We did it again.
Jen: We did it. We did it. We made it to 8:30. Okay listen, thank you both for being on the show today. Thank you for sharing your story.
Jacob: Thank you.
Jen: Thank you for living big and brave beautiful lives that we’re all getting to peek in on, it’s just so moving. It’s so meaningful. Will you also give your parents all of our love? We’re proud of them too. I mean starting back over when you’re 60 and almost an empty-nester?
Jen: That’s a really, really big deal. Like, this is a really beautiful family and we are so, so glad to know you. So you guys, thank you again for being on. We are going to be so glad to pray for you and support you through Christmas and beyond. Appreciate you so much.
Peggy: Thank you, and we just want to thank you as well for supporting us through
Thanksgiving and just all your support and prayers. They’re felt and we are just thrilled to be on here and to win that Shipt $500.00 gift card. That was amazing. So thank you.
Jen: Listen, with a family your size, that’s barely gonna put a dent in your grocery bill, but we were thrilled to send it. And then, thank you so much because you didn’t know you were gonna be on the podcast. ‘Cause we were like, “You know what? We need to know them. We gotta have them on, we’re gonna have to talk to them.” So thanks for-
Jacob: We’re very thankful.
Jen: Doubling down with us. Okay, you guys, Merry Christmas to you and to the kids and thanks again for being on.
Peggy: Merry Christmas.
Jacob: You too, thank you.
Jen: Aren’t they fabulous? I just, I smiled through that whole podcast just thinking about this young couple living so courageously and beautifully. I mean, we do not have to ever look far for wonderful people living in ways that are inspiring and important and meaningful, just building the world that we are all hoping to live in. And so, Jacob and Peggy, and then also obviously also, their amazing parents, Thad and Loryn, are to be just so commended.
And, so you guys, I’m not joking…if you’ll go over to my web page,jenhatmaker.com on the podcast page, we will have a link to Amazon and this is their wish list; these are the things that they need. I mean, can you imagine going from zero to four overnight, I mean, from zero to five overnight? There’s some stuff here. You know we all get baby showers when we just have just one living baby. These two families are now taking in nine kids and so there’s no doubt that there are things that they need or want. And, what a joy to come alongside of them in this community and provide some of it. So, you can go over there. You’re also going to want to see over there the picture of Peggy and Jacob getting engaged under a waterfall in Uganda because, good grief!
Anyway, thank you for being such a generous community. I just love this. I love you. I love this podcast. I love how many amazing people we keep getting to meet. I love giving free things away all the time. I love our nominations. I love the crowd-sourced episode. It’s all just so life-giving to me so thank you for being a listener, thank you for coming in. You guys, every week you listen, every week you download, every week you give us amazing feedback on our guests and I just can’t get over it. I’m so here for it.
I hope that you loved this series, For the Love of Fall and Holidays. You are absolutely gonna love the next one. Our next series, and we’ve packed it with amazing guests that are really, really gonna serve you well. Our next series that we start next week is For the Love of New Beginnings. For the Love of New Beginnings – and we are running the gamut on content, on material, on ideas. It’s not just one note. We’ve got a lot of different notes in this series and I’m so excited to bring it to you. You’re gonna really, really love it.
So, thanks for tuning in. Hey listen, Merry Christmas to you! Merry Christmas to this beautiful community, to you, to your families, your communities, your churches, your children. You are very precious to me and my team here at the For the Love Podcast and it just, it really is our joy to serve you. It really is. So, thanks for being who you are, thanks for being with us week in and week out and we can’t wait to see you right back here for the new year and for For the Love of New Begninnings.
Narrator: Thanks for joining us today on the For the Love Podcast. Tune in next week, when we sit down again with Jen and friends to chat about all the things we love.
We love you, our listeners, so we want to be sure you subscribe to “For the Love,” with Jen Hatmaker, via iTunes or your favorite podcast provider, so you don’t miss a thing. And if you have a minute, please leave us a review. To become a part of Jen’s online community, visit JenHatmaker.com and sign up for her newsletter. It’s full of all the things you love, including free stuff. We love free stuff! Thanks for listening, and see you next time on For the Love, With Jen Hatmaker.