This past Monday, our Safe Families son, Rell, was returned to his home. On many levels, letting him go was extremely difficult because our entire family had come to love him so much. Still, his going home was by far one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.

On Monday morning, my husband and I enjoyed a peaceful hour drive through scenic roads and rolling hills with Rell in the back. With many thoughts running through my mind, I sat quietly in the passenger seat looking out the window. It was finally time for him to return to his family where his mom and siblings had been waiting for him for so long.

As we drove, all three of us began to reminisce about the crazy day we first met and how he cried and screamed at the top of his lungs the whole way home. He giggled thinking about his former self because he was now such a big boy. Now almost an entire year later, it really felt like we were returning a completely different boy. Behind us, this handsome, bright, young man sat swinging his legs playfully, bobbing his head to the music, and asking us curious questions of all sorts.

Then as we drew closer to his home, the area must have looked familiar to him because he sat up a bit taller in his seat and I could feel the excitement within him stirring. Then suddenly, he looked around and told us with such confidence, “umma, appa, this is my neighborhood!” I smiled at the sweet introduction to his home and felt pleasure in being able to see his world for a change.

For months, he had adapted to our world, ate our food, played our games, and had gotten used to all the different ways we lived, all while being separated from his entire family and everything he knew. It never hit me like this before just how hard all of that really must have been for him. Now being back, it must’ve felt so good to see places he knew, and I got to see a whole new side of him I had never seen before emerge.

He was home.

It was also in this car ride, in that very moment, that I finally felt myself truly surrender. Surrender had been a key theme for me this past year, but I think without knowing it, I had been holding on to many things–to him, to control, to my ideas of what is best, to my place and position in his heart, to what I wanted for his life and ours. Although there were many times God had asked me to surrender before (and I thought I really had), I suppose surrendering is a process that takes time.

Even in the days leading up to his departure, Rell expressed so much excitement about going home, so much to the point that I wondered if he would even remember us, let alone miss us, and that honestly hurt.

But finally, by the grace of God, with every mile we drove deeper into his world and closer to his home, I felt closure begin to really take place in my heart as I let go and surrendered to the Lord. I felt strangely at peace and could even share in Rell’s joy and excitement in leaving us as I let go of what I willed and accepted God’s will for us all instead.

Then finally, we pulled into a gravel driveway where not even a minute later, his mom appeared right beside us. Right away he darted toward her and she swept him up into her arms, kissing him all over and relishing the sweet moment of finally having her baby back at home. His brother, too, was there and the two of them together exploded with excitement, racing to catch up on all the time they lost. And the smile on Rell’s face…

That was everything.

I had imagined what this moment might feel like many times before, maybe sad and even perhaps a certain level of rejection. But now that it was actually happening, I was surprised to find I felt my own burst of exhilaration and joy, a kind of high I’ve never felt before. There were no tears of sadness but only of joy. In that moment, I remembered this was why we did this–for God, for him, for her, for them–and it felt not only great…

It felt right.

Watching them, I was overwhelmed with praise to God for how He kept this family together. To witness God’s restorative work and to see a miracle like that take place, I was completely humbled to have been even a small part of something so magnificent and beyond me.

Now being back at home with one gone, things of course feel a bit different…

For example, my older son no longer has his go-to hockey buddy. My 4 year-old daughter is sad she no longer has someone who willingly plays “dad” in her game of “family.” My 2 year-old baby keeps calling out “hyungah,” which means big brother, because he is so used to being home with just Rell during the day. My husband still blurts out Rell’s name while calling out to all the kids, and I keep taking out four sets of kid plates when all we need now are three.

In those ways, there is a sense of something missing. And I won’t lie, it was the sweetest sound when Rell unexpectedly called me the next day to say hello and that he missed us. Yet in these moments of missing Rell, I just picture his sweet face and where he is now, back at home, safe and sound, and most importantly, in God’s arms and in God’s perfect plan for his life. Then I smile and find that perfect peace once again.

To not only be part of God’s plan, but to truly surrender to it, there is nothing sweeter and there is no greater freedom or joy.

My husband and I along with all the kids have loved this opportunity to care for this one child, and we are excited to do it again.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ”
Psalm 139:14

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