The humid Friday morning broke like all those that had come before it for one hundred six weeks. Five children tucked in their own beds awaiting their father and I to wake them from sleep that had engulfed them in a way that had eluded us. Outfits hung on doors ready to be brought to life by little forms that anticipated the day with limited understanding. We would go before a judge. There would be a change of names. Everything would be completely different while at the same time nothing would seem changed. It was adoption day for a five year old girl with raven hair and a boy with caramel curls who was just one day shy of being four.
The excited nerves that are only known on days of public declaration of commitment animated my body before the sun rose. In July of 2010, we had received the call to come and meet Emma and Jordon, freshly entered into a system meant to save them, but limited in its ability to take on the task. For two years we had been committed to parent them while they bore the name of other parents. The journey of parenting someone else’s children proved to be more challenging than we could have ever known. In the two years of their being wards of the state of Kentucky, we went from holding crying babies who we held to our hearts as they cried for their mother, to hearing the strange declaration of, “Mommy, when will I be going to see my Mommy?”, to dropping them off with their mother as they cried, “Don’t leave us Mommy.” Each visitation ripping the scabs off hearts scraped by hurts too heavy to comprehend. Feeling at times like “the other woman” who lived in the discomfort of knowing that pieces of her heart could at any moment return to the life they were born into, it would only be at the drop of a gavel that the constant conflict between a conscious desire to stay, at least in theory, carefully distant and the reality of being fully and wholeheartedly devoted to children that were as a part of my heart as the three I conceived and birthed. I often failed at the practice of the distance. As the sun flooded the windows of my home, I felt rushed to get to that gavel. For as it sounded against the bench of Judge Huddleston, I could let go of any reserve that I might be fighting. I would be, as I had felt since the moment I scooped them in my arms two years prior, their Mommy, unconditionally, without reservation, forever.
Jordon, tiny in build, stood upon the folded chair joining the circle of our church’s worship configuration and declared, at the request for announcements, “I’m going to be adopted this Friday!” Just as I longed for the calm of resolution, both children struggled for two years to feel security in who they were and where they belonged. Two years of floating in the unknowing is significant when those two years equates to more than half your life. The declaration of a tiny voice from a child barely out of toddler-hood declaring a truth significant to all humanity, “I will belong!” Concepts of heart in comparison to legalities as the idea of Noah being their legal brother held an unknown significance. The legalities would not change how they felt nor the ins and outs of the day, but in a very real way it was important to these little siblings. It meant forever. For humans with no concept of time, the term forever held clear value.
We walked through the security of the courthouses, meeting both sets of the grandparents who awaited our arrival. Just down the hall we met our case worker and the children’s worker, our attorney and the kids advocate. A small audience of our family and friends walked in as we sat before the judge. The questions, simple to answer. Yes, we are committed to these children as our own. Yes, we recognize they are to have the same rights to our legacy as any children born into our family. And in just fifteen minutes–772 days and 15 minutes Emma and Jordon took new names.
In our ride home, Phillip Phillips’ voice filled the air,
“Hold on, to me as we go. As we roll down this unfamiliar road. And although the wave is stringing us along, just know you are not alone ’cause I’m going to make this place your home. Settle down, it’ll all be clear. Don’t pay no mind to the demons that fill you with fear. The trouble it might drag you down, if you get lost, you can always be found. Just know you’re not alone. ‘Cause I’m going to make this place your home.”
The words encapsulating the journey we had traversed to become a family of seven. As we pulled into the driveway of our home, we knew the subtle truth of change. We swung open the double front doors as 150 of our loved ones came and celebrated in the beauty of family. Upon a platter, a stack of Poppers (PopTarts) joined a spread of brunch, the sweet reminder of simple joys that sprinkled difficult days. Gifts of Bibles, pillows and luggage imprinted with the names EMMA and JORDON JONES spread across the tables.
As the day came to a close, we tucked the children into bed, just like we had done since July 2010. We snapped a picture of the two of our tired faces, to remember the day from our perspective. When I see that picture I remember the feeling of being held in the hand of God and resting from the exhaustion that comes from a long journey. We had adopted these beautiful children on August 24th, a day we will celebrate every year of our lives. It is the day our family became complete, but more importantly, it is a day that in His perfect providence, we as a family are reminded that God whispered that day, “Gotcha!”