By Ralphine Major
I first began writing this story three years ago, just before Laura Simpson broke the devastating news at church one Sunday. Hannah Renee Vrandenburgh Julian’s father had been tragically killed on Friday afternoon coming home from work. We followed the local media’s extensive coverage of the head-on collision by a drunken driver. Hannah Renee’s mother passed away a few years earlier with cancer, and Hannah had continued home schooling her siblings.
Brian and Hannah Julian shared guardianship of the three youngest Vrandenburgh children with her sister, Heidi Bible, and her husband, Tony. Richard was 17 at the time and about to start at Tennessee Tech University. Robert was 15 and about to start his junior year in high school. Haley was 14 and had been home schooled through eighth grade; she was a freshman in high school. Hilary was 19 and at Walter State Community College; she went to live with Heidi and Tony. Hannah Renee described the blended family’s teenagers: “That first school year Robert and Haley were living here we had a senior (Caleb), junior (Robert), sophomore (Hannah Grace) and freshman (Haley) at the same high school!”
The Julian and Vrandenburgh families have each suffered heartbreaking loss, but they have seen joy as well. Through God’s amazing grace, these “three” families have been intertwined into a beautiful story. The four older children (whose biological mother was Rhonda Lawson Julian) have grown up. Andrew is a senior at East Tennessee State University; Caleb is a sophomore at The University of Tennessee; Hannah Grace graduated high school this year; and Faith is a high school freshman. Brian and Hannah’s three youngest are growing up, too. Deborah is now seven and home schooled, and Seth is four. Another bundle of Julian joy came only six months ago with the birth of little Nathan. (Look for the final column on the Julians and a special family picture in an upcoming Focus issue.)