John and Joy Brillante lead the typical suburban, upper middle class lifestyle. In the summer of 2012, they both had full-time careers and three biological children—two in high school and one in college. Two years previously, they decided to open their home to foster children. After one difficult and one rewarding placement, the Brillantes decided to become an inactive foster family.
Joy tells the rest of their adoption story:
In early June, 2012, we received a call from an agency worker who had come to know our family well through the previous foster placement. I’ll never forget the simplicity of that conversation. I was working, and I received this call. “This is Meagan from Angelheart. I know you are inactive, but we are calling anyway to ask if you would be willing to take an adoptive placement of a sibling group of 4 sisters, ages 4-9, by 5 o’clock today.” My immediately response was, “There is no way!.”
We were not only inactive, but we weren’t looking to adopt anyone at that point. We were happy with things the way they were. We had full-time careers and great flexibility with our kids being older. Still, I couldn’t help call John at work to tell him about this unexpected call and request. That conversation led to our offer to provide a weekend “break” (called “respite”) to the current foster family.
When were first met the girls, we were so taken back by them. They were incredibly sweet and loving and bonded together as sisters. That visit struck a chord in us. What followed was a two-month-long, agonizing decision-making process. We felt stuck between an answer of “no” which we couldn’t seem to rest at, and “yes” which seemed completely overwhelming.
Never in my life had I struggled so much with such a monumental life-changing decision. Every time I would even think about it, my stomach would be in knots. About 1 month after the first visit, the next court date was coming up, and the state needed a final answer (by 5 pm on a Monday).
We couldn’t get to that answer in their timeline. So that evening, we told them we weren’t there yet. Without a final yes, the door basically closed. The next day we were told a couple who had never met them stepped forward to say they would take them. I expected to feel relief with that door being closed, but for the next few days I felt sad. Was this really the end of it?
The days that followed, John and I separately felt something wasn’t right. We felt things weren’t going to go through but I couldn’t explain it and never mentioned it to each other. By Friday, we found out the other couple had changed their minds. Once again, we went into a gut-wrenching process of facing such a monumental decision.
There was so much to consider. With the state moving to have them quickly placed in an adoptive placement (the biological parents’ rights had already been terminated), it was highly likely they would get split up as most people aren’t willing to take in multiple children, and much less a sibling group of 4. We had to consider our work-life, our own biological children, the cost, the lifetime commitment and basically a million other unknowns.
During that time, as I was driving, I would hear one particular song on the radio: Proof of Your Love by King and Country. Basically it says we can say and do all these wonderful things (talk like we are Christians, act like we are Christians), but without love, do any of those things really matter? Love is sacrifice. Jesus life and death were the greatest sacrifices of all.
The words of this song resonated deeply with me. Jesus’ life was sacrifice, as was his death. John and I were both feeling led that we were supposed to do this, but the weight and size of such a decision was overwhelming and scary. One night, we sat down and looked at each other and said, “We could go around in circles forever with the “what if’s.” Despite the fear and the endless unknowns, we both agreed it was time to take a leap of faith. And so with that, we said yes. We felt God was calling us to this purpose, and we knew it was time to walk in obedience to that calling.
The next morning, I felt a sense of peace. A week before school started, in August 2012, the girls were placed with us. We had no idea that God was about to open the floodgates. It was incredible. So many people came forward offering help and support, and things just clicked into place in ways I can’t explain. God provided all the help and resources we needed but couldn’t even think of at that time as we leapt into our new “normal.”
What also transpired is an even bigger part of this story. The previous foster family was an older couple who were so bonded and in love with these girls, but when the judge ordered adoptive placement, they felt they couldn’t make that lifetime commitment responsibly because the foster-father had heart and cancer issues at that time. However, they were heartbroken to lose them.
The agency worker also loved them and had fought to make sure they would be okay and find a good home. We knew it was crucial that these little girls continue these relationships and the previous foster parents officially became “PopMom” and “PopPop,” and their own biological son became Uncle Paul. The agency case worker became their Aunt Meagan.
What we didn’t realize is how these same people would actually come to be a tremendous blessing to our entire family. PopMom and PopPop have truly become grandparents to our own biological children and Meagan has become like a big sister to our biological high school daughters. Meagan was an only child and suddenly she gained two younger sisters and younger brother. It’s like God took all these missing puzzle pieces and filled a void in everyone’s heart. It’s a love and a bond that is beyond explanation and was a special gift given to us in this process. God created the most beautiful tapestry of relationships woven together in ways we never imagined.
This depth of this story is beyond words and has been an incredible journey, and we are still walking through this transition. It was never about us. It was an act of obedience and a leap of faith. I heard someone say recently, “Sacrifice isn’t really sacrifice unless it hurts.” Love is sacrifice, and this was and is an act of love.
As beautiful and amazing as this journey has been, it’s also one of suffering. We don’t want to create this false perception that it’s a fairy tale. We have given up a lot of freedom and flexibility. We’ve traded quiet for chaos and our house has been taken over by lip gloss, nail polish and hello kitty purses. We have had to let go of many of our own wants along the way and get less sleep. We have shared in the pain of the sacrifice (loss of attention from us, frequent interruptions, etc.) that our biological children have experienced as a result. In an instant, they gained four younger siblings!
We are learning to be intentional in making sure that our own biological kids don’t get lost in the background. The truth is, it can be very hard and exhausting sometimes. We are completely dependent on God in this journey, especially during the hard times. It’s been over two years now, and we have truly settled into our new life and have watched these girls blossom and our older siblings embrace them.
We are thankful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of such a life-changing act of love for the sake of others. In a way, we have experienced the death of our own life as we knew it. Despite the challenges and times of suffering, there is no greater joy than stepping out in obedience, walking by faith led by a God-given purpose and plan that extends beyond yourself.
Let My Life Be the Proof of Your Love by for King and Country