Saturday, September 21, 2013


September 21, 2013




My friends, adoption is redemption.  It’s costly, exhaustive,  expensive, and outrageous.  Buying back lives costs so much.  When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him.


--Derek Loux


On September 9, 2011,  I wrote a blog post entitled “Heeding the Call.” At that time, I announced our plans to pursue adoption and detailed the circumstances that had lead Paul and I to believe that God was calling us to this particular journey.  Two days ago I sat in a court room with my family and listened as a judge declared that Elizabeth Lucy and Eleanor Claire were now Heywoods, solely my responsibility.  No more would I have to fear interference from the state.  I was free to care for these little girls as I saw fit.


The actual day of the adoption I just kind of floated along, lost in the importance of the moment and intent on getting done what needed to be done.  But in the last two days – wow!  It is really hitting me.  I have adopted children!  I am just in awe.  I remember so clearly sitting at my grandparents’ house as an 11 or 12 year old reading the story of little Kim, a Vietnamese orphan who was adopted by an American soldier and his family after the war.  It was then that God first stirred my heart towards adoption.  That moment was culminated this past Thursday with the flourish of the judge’s pen (ok, I’m being artistic here – she actually had a large computer on her desk that she typed away at and that was what finalized the adoption).


I am reminded of so much.  I never forgot that initial call to adoption.  I remember thinking over the years that if and when I adopted, I wanted non-white children.  I wanted it to be obvious to the whole world that I had adopted.  Although, I was so committed to taking the children that God wanted for us, that I told DHS I would take any race of child, even a white one.  I was even reluctant to specify that I would prefer a girl.  Because, what if God wanted us to have another son?  I think it was Paul who finally persuaded me that it was ok to indicate to them that a girl would be our preference.  If God wanted us to take a little boy, a check mark on a piece of paper wasn’t going to stop Him!


I’ll never forget the “vision” that God gave me about 10 years ago.  At the time I didn’t realize it was a vision, although it was one of those things that made me pause and wonder, “Now why did I think that?”  I wanted to write it off as one of the thousands of random thoughts that routinely worm its way into my brain, but something told me that this particular thought was significant.  I never forgot it.  God gave me a picture of two small lighter-skinned black girls, sitting in double-stroller as we strolled through Younkers Department store.  Why Younkers, I don’t know.  I do seem to spend a lot of time and money at that store, though!  And I’ve always had a particular affection for that store since my grandma (the same grandma whose book I read about the Vietnamese preschooler) worked there when I was young. And then last summer I picked up the girls.  It was just a few weeks later that I was in Younkers, pushing them in my newly-purchased stroller when it hit me – I was now living out the vision God had previously planted.  Talk about chills!


From the moment DHS called me on June 13 of last year wondering if I would be interested in these two, I had a certain assurance that these little girls were who God intended us to adopt all along.  Maybe that’s because we were told from the beginning that this would, more than likely, end up being an adoption situation – I don’t know for sure.  But then we went through seven weeks late last summer and into fall where we waited to see if the judge would terminate on the birth mom.  That was a real time for me of having to surrender my desire towards the girls and be willing to accept God’s will, no matter what it was.


One of the reasons I was so reluctant at first to pursue foster care adoption was that I had this certain knowledge that I was voluntarily walking into pain.  It was as though I was giving my hand to someone who I knew was going to place it on a hot burner at some point.  I didn’t want to do that!  I assumed that pain would come in the form of losing children that had been given to me for a short time.  But it didn’t.  DHS never once hinted that there was a probability of removing the girls.   I’ll never forget when one of Ben’s short-lived SCL workers found out what we were planning and looked at me and gasped, “Why would you want to do this?” and went on to tell me some horrible things that had happened in her house when she, herself was a foster mother.   But these little ones fit almost seamlessly into our household.  Yes, Lizzie has had some behavioral bumps, to the point that I have sought counseling for her.  But it isn’t like she has tried to burn down our house or threatened me with a butcher knife, either (I’ve heard of both scenarios happening in other foster homes before).  Ellie was “shut down” for her first four or five months with us but when she emerged she was a delightful toddler and continues to light up my world today.


The judge terminated on the birth mom last October and I spent the next 11 months waiting out the appeals process and waiting for an adoption date.  At times I found myself wondering, “Where’s the pain?”  Well, it came, of course, this past June 6th, in a way I never, ever could have imagined.  I never dreamed that when God placed the seed of adoption into my heart as a child and when that dream began to grow to maturity, watered by Paul’s mutual desire, that it would blossom when I had to be a single mother.  I would have never pursued adoption if I had known Paul would die.  But when he did die, I also knew that I could never give the girls back.  They were mine.


And now they are, in every aspect possible.  The day was beautiful.  I had a number of people show up to support us at the court house.  My parents drove down to see their number 2 and number 3 granddaughters officially added to the family.  My pastor and his wife came.  My friend Julie, a professional photographer, captured the day on film (or an sd card, I guess) for us.  Everyone there spoke for me, offering their encouragement and support of the adoption.  Each of the boys gave a short statement on how much they loved their sisters.  When asked why my home was the best for the girls (a question I had not anticipated) I simply told the court room that while the girls had been born to a different woman, they were created to be my children.  Later, the judge told me that she wished I could take even more children, which was very humbling for me to hear.  Most of the time, I don’t consider myself to be that great of a mother – ok, I guess (I haven’t drowned any of them yet) but a long way from the “great” category.


After signing reams of paperwork with my attorney, I took the kids out to the mall and went to Build-a-Bear for the Littles.  That’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, let me tell you!  I thought it would be a nice way, though, for them to commemorate Adoption Day.  They can look at their new stuffed animal and remember the day they built it.  As they clerk was cheerfully debiting my card for $94 she commented that I have “lots of build-a-bear years left!”  I thought to myself, “Fat chance, Lady!”


Then we picked up a chicken meal at Hy-Vee and my parents got an ice-cream cake I had ordered from Dairy Queen and we had a nice family celebration.  That evening a few friends from church came over and we had cupcakes and snacks and celebrated even more.  I had intended to take all the kids out to eat but this terrible storm rolled in around 5.  Will was concerned about the basement addition that is still partially open and was actually out in the rain, digging a dam to keep the water out (it worked).  We decided we were still all too full from lunch, anyway, to eat again.  Instead, we went to the Checkerboard last night where the kids squabbled, had to go potty at inopportune moments, and our waitresses’ attitude bordered on surly (wonder how cranky she got when she saw the $3 tip I left?).


Of course, the biggest part of this adoption is Paul’s absence.  This was never how I planned this special day to be.  It hurt when I was filling out the paperwork and had to check “single-parent adoption” under Adoption Type.  It hurt when I had to leave the Adoptive Father’s Information blank.  But later, my friend Tammy told me that while the proceedings occurred, she could just “see” Paul in the court room with us.  My mom said the same thing, even speculating as to how Paul would have been dressed for the occasion!  And I do believe he was there with us.  No, I didn’t “feel” him in any way, but I am quite sure that God opened the floor of Heaven to give Paul a glimpse on this momentous day.  If it had not been for Paul’s gentle, continual encouragement, I doubt I would have pursued adoption at all.  I was scared to death to step out in faith like that.  Just this morning, I re-read the letter that Paul wrote me for Mother’s Day 2011 where he expressed his absolute belief that God was leading us to expand our family through adoption.  If God is the loving, all-caring Father that I know Him to be, then I have no doubt in my mind that He made sure Paul was a witness to the adoption of his daughters.


I get tears in my eyes when I think of where Lizzie and Ellie came from.  They are the youngest in a biological sibling group of six.  Their birth parents chose to repeat generational sins of neglect and worldliness with their children, which resulted in their removal.  These six children, aside from God, didn’t stand a chance.  But God’s grace swooped in.  My girls are now adopted.  Their brother, James, was adopted into a wonderful Christian home last March.  And I just found out that their three older brothers are to be adopted by their Christian foster family later this fall.  God saved them all!


I’ve heard it said before that adoption is a picture of God’s relationship with us.  Before we were redeemed, we had no foreseeable future.  We were at the mercy of a cold world that had no love for us.  But God paid a terrible price for our lives and in doing so, grafted us into His family.  We became His children with every right right of inheritance.  Suddenly, our pasts no longer mattered.  Our only significance was now in our new name.


My daughters have a new name.  And someday, by God’s grace and my faithfulness, they will take on another new name – Christian.


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