Twenty three years ago today, I was adopted by two people with the biggest hearts I’ve ever met. I want to pay homage to them, lovers who lost their world so it could be given it to those who didn’t have one.
He was a good ol’ boy with an outlaw temper and a heart bent toward Jesus. He was raised on a dairy farm with horses, calloused hands and the kind of muscles a country girl dreams about. His dark wavy hair and dark eyes were fixed on her from the start.
She was the opposite of him. A cheerleader in short skirts and long hair that matched her golden heart. Not even summers riding horses with a boy who later became Don Johnson could steal her heart away from him. When a girl loves a boy, she’ll do some crazy things. She never went to church until she went with him.
Horseback rides in the Ozark Mountains and basketball games were the terrain of high school sweethearts with hearts as big as their dreams.
Anyone who knew them back then would tell you they wanted six kids to raise between the farm and church. And there was no reason why this all American love affair couldn’t do just that.
They were married barely out of high school and started their family. It would have been a walk into the sunset if their babies had been healthy.
But they weren’t.
• • • • • •
I was born to a fifteen year old, mentally ill girl. All she knew was the streets and how a beautiful girl could survive on them. I was brought up in the trenches and no stranger to the decaying leftovers of existance. I was the oldest of four. My mom took the brass knuckles of life and the hollow haunting in her eyes told so much more than her busted open lips could. Me, my two brothers and sister moved around in separate foster homes for years. My siblings were too young to fend for themselves, but for whatever reason, I was born with two clenched fists and a set jaw. I took care of them the best I could, but evil men are more malicious than a smart mouthed kid from the city streets could maneuver.
We were tossed around like soiled clothes. The pain and abuse we endured raged an unpaid debt all the way into who we would become. My mom could take the beatings herself, but she couldn’t take watching them ripping into my body, too. She tried her best to make sure we were fed, but existing is a monster to those who can’t pay the price. We were the kids out the window who laughed with sunken eyes and hugged with jutting ribs.
I was nine when she put her signature to a piece of paper that said she couldn’t protect us anymore.
• • • • • •
Rowland and Donna started their lives with a plan, but then God stepped in with His plan. Their children were born with a disease that killed them. Donna tried to console her husband while she tried to console her aching womb. Her third pregnancy ended when she was twenty-two years old and seven months along. The baby was taken from her along with her ability to conceive again.
They had more love than they could give and when their two living babies started dying from a disease that only existed for them, they began looking outward for babies with no home. They’re simple people. When the city workers stuck a catalogue of broken hearts in front of them, they said yes to the first set of eyes they saw.
They never intended to adopt four kids at once, but couldn’t stomach the thought of siblings being torn away from each other. They knew they had enough love even when the rest of their family thought they were crazy for adopting a ten year old (me), a seven year old, a five year old and a four year old. They were thirty and thirty-one years old and had just buried their second baby. Seven years later, they had to bury their third. ‘To think that God would take a child from his mother while she prayed…’
I asked her, once, why she thought that God would allow her to suffer so much and take her babies from her. Her answer has shaped me and sings in harmony with the message of my life. She said that she believes God didn’t allow her to keep her own children because He knew that I needed a Mommy.
I remember taking a needle and poking holes in our fingers so we could put our blood together and make it official. A kid’s ritual to let her know I adopted her back.
Even after the hell I put them through (some street strays can’t be tamed), they never backed away from being my ‘blood.’ They never changed their minds, no matter how many times we’ve broken their heart.
They gave God their lives and He used them. They walked through things that destroy people.
And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job. -Acts 9:15
Giving your life to God should not come with a sense of entitlement. He never promised an easy road. He warns the opposite. But, somehow still, He manages to turn loss around and fuse it together into something that sweeps a lot wider than you could have reached had everything gone according to your plan.
I wanted a family, but was born to a woman who couldn’t take care of me. They wanted children, but weren’t able to make them healthy. The two little boys they adopted after us never asked to be born to a mother who loved drugs more than she loved them. God used the open arms of two high school sweethearts to gather the lost treasures of two broken families.
If you’re paying attention to this story and you’re counting, God was paying attention to the details because they got their six kids. We’re not all grown up yet, but we’ve already started filling their house with more. They’re only fifty-three and already have nine grandkids who come running into their arms when they come around.
I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11
Here’s to adding to your future out of the future you gave to me.