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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Every morning, a little after 6 a.m., Grace Tegtmeier starts her day.

She feeds her kids breakfast and gets them dressed so they’re on the bus to school right at 7:10 a.m., the Lincoln Journal Star reported . Then she goes to work at the church down the street from their south Lincoln home.

When the kids come home after school, she gives them a snack and puts them to rest for a nap. Later, the family eats supper together and ends the night reading a children’s book of biblical stories in their pajamas, all five of them squeezed on the couch.

Grace credits her husband, Chris, for instilling this daily routine.

“I’m a bit of a free bird,” she said. “I had a hard time keeping a routine before him.”

Routine is important for the Tegtmeier children — all three children in the home have special needs and are completely dependent on others. Tony, the oldest, will be 18 this month. His sisters Hannah and Samantha are 15 and 12, respectively. Madi, a friend the Tegtmeiers consider to be “like one of their own,” also lives at the house during the months she’s not at school at Concordia University.

Parenting under these terms can be a tough job — one that wouldn’t seem possible for a person to tackle on their own.

But for three years, it was.

Grace, then Grace Knuth, adopted Samantha in August 2012 after seeing the conditions the little girl was living in at an orphanage in Pleven, Bulgaria.

Samantha, who was 7 at the time, had spent nearly her entire life in a crib. Most children at the orphanage live in squalor, are malnourished and their disabilities aren’t taken care of properly.

“I have a heavy heart for all the kids there,” Grace said.

A year later, she would adopt Tony from the same orphanage. Grace was raising him, Samantha and Madi on her own when Chris Tegtmeier came into the picture in 2015.

A farmer and longtime member of Calvary Lutheran Church, Chris caught Tony’s eye before Grace ever really considered dating him.

“Chris would play box drum in the church band and Tony would just gravitate toward him and sit in his lap,” Grace said. “Tony was a pretty grumpy dude at the time but he just connected with Chris in a really special way.”

Chris and Grace say that from day one, there wasn’t going to be any “casual dating” with the knowledge that Grace had three kids at home, two that needed her full-time.

Before, Chris was living alone and “didn’t really have a whole lot of responsibility.” When he started dating Grace, this lifestyle was disrupted.

“It was a big change,” Chris said. “But something that was great to share with her. We have really good team chemistry.”

The couple dated for only three months before becoming engaged. After just one month, they were married on August 25, 2015. Tony, Samantha and Madi were all in attendance at the ceremony. Hannah was just about to enter their lives.

“We knew we would adopt again,” Grace said. “We were fresh into marriage when the opportunity to adopt Hannah came along. We just felt called to.”

After months of fundraising to cover adoption fees, getting advice from those whose opinions they respected the most and praying together as a family, the Tegtmeiers officially adopted Hannah this May.

Chris and Grace say that though there are tough times, their faith plays a large role in getting them through.

“Life is hard,” Grace said. “And we have a lot of obstacles thrown our way, but we just have to lean on our faith. Chris really leads the way with that and reminds us of what is true.”

As for the future, the family plans on delving deeper into their involvement with the Pleven Project, which was started to raise funds to improve conditions at the orphanage in Bulgaria. Grace says that the biggest step in getting people to help is to tell the community the stories of the kids who live there, a lot of which she does on her blog,

“I believe there’s a lot of good people out there and if they knew there were kids living in those circumstances, they would feel led to help,” she said. “We can tangibly change their lives for the better.”


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,