Our Journey to Becoming Houseparents- The Spezzos

For many years, we tried to have children of our own. After four years of marriage, we had a miracle baby that we have thanked God for every day. Before his birth, we had struggled through four devastating miscarriages, wondering why we couldn’t have children. We prayed and prayed, asking God for answers. One morning during my quiet time the Lord spoke. He told me, “You will have many children!” At that time, I couldn’t comprehend the depth and fulfillment of that promise.

That marked the beginning of this journey to houseparenting. We felt it was time to make a change. My husband Tony had been working nights as a drug and alcohol counselor. He really enjoyed his work, but we rarely got to spend quality time together. I had been working as a caregiver to a wonderful elderly man. I loved my role, but he went to be with the Lord and I was left without a job. 

Tony and I understood broken homes and tough childhoods due to the struggles we both had while growing up. Just a bit about my background. I did not come from a home that felt safe. I grew up in a broken home; my parents divorced when I was 14. My family was very poor. At times the only way we ate was because of the local food pantry. I witnessed my stepmother struggle with drug addictions, leaving me to care for her two small children while I was still a child myself. There was a lot of hurt and pain and sadness in me. I became very depressed and refused to speak to anyone.

My mom eventually sent me to a school similar to Cookson Hills, but it was an all girls school. It was a place of healing for me. I was able to go through counseling and learned to cope with my sadness and anger. I attended a bible study and was able to connect with the Lord again, my true father! During my time there, I learned that even though my earthly father failed me in so many ways, my Heavenly Father would never fail me. I learned I needed to talk to him and rely on him every step of the way.

Tony and I knew that somehow, someway we would use all of our past experiences to be a light to students and families.  First, we started brainstorming ideas on things we could do as a family for a living. Then we spoke with some of the elders at our church, praying with them and asking the Lord to open the right door! We began researching different Christian children’s homes throughout the country. We prayed for God to close doors that weren’t for us and to clearly show us the path He wanted us to follow. As always, God answered our prayers. He led us here to Cookson Hills, all the way from New York. Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would be living in the midwest.

At Cookson Hills, we have the honor of serving as respite houseparents. This means that when the houseparents are on “days off” we get to play the role of Aunt and Uncle and love on the students for a few days at a time. Every couple of days we have a new family in our home and it is a blessing to get to know all of the students.

Growing up, the adults in my life were very conflicted and unstable. My parents’ divorce left me feeling insecure, scared, confused, sad and angry. I would have loved more structure, quality time with my parents and meaningful conversations. Unfortunately, they couldn’t give me any of that because they were going through so many of their own problems and/or they didn’t know how because their parents never taught them. But God’s promises amaze me every day.

Through this journey, we knew we wanted to become the people we so desperately needed growing up. We daily get to accomplish this goal by ministering to the students here and helping them break their family’s cycle.  I have the privilege of having many children here at Cookson Hills, just as God said I would during my quiet time several years ago. It’s a place of growth and healing for the students and us. Every day I wake up and I feel honored, proud, and truly blessed to be a part of this community.

I’d like to end with a verse that has been very helpful to me throughout the years and is one of my favorites.

Philippians 4:7-9: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Sarah Spezzo, respite houseparent, is from Poughkeepsie, New York. She enjoys nature, being active outdoors, traveling and she is a certified scuba diver!