A Family's Unexpected Redemption

August 23, 2016

We arrived in Tulsa on a Thursday evening just a few short weeks ago. We were there to see Jasmine’s birth Aunts Haddie and Mary, Mary’s husband Thomas, and their children, Trae and Harper. We greeted them in the hotel lobby, then decided to go out to a local restaurant for dinner. As we sat and visited, shared about life and familiarized ourselves even more with one another, time
seemed to stop. It wasn’t until a worker kindly came and told us that they needed to close the restaurant that we realized everyone else had left and it was late. We went back to the hotel and sat in the lobby to visit for a while longer until the kids got too tired. We made plans to swim the next morning and, as we got off the elevator to go to our room, I was excited for what the weekend might hold, not yet knowing the profound effect it would not only have on my daughter Jasmine, but on me as well.

Jasmine is adopted and her birth mother passed away this last winter. We went to the funeral and made connections with many in her family. Since that time, we’ve exchanged letters and pictures, messages and Skype calls. When her Aunt Haddie mentioned they’d be having a stateside wedding reception in Tulsa, I told her to let us know the details, we’d love to try to make it.

It was for that reason that we found ourselves in Tulsa. As that Friday morning dawned, we took to the pool and continued conversations about growing up, family vacations, college years, marriage and everything else we could think of. Jasmine played with her cousin Trae and listened to him tell stories of his life in North Carolina. Jasmine had also brought two small gift bags for her aunts with necklaces she’d designed that she and I made before coming to Tulsa. We picked the scripture that God makes all things new as the statement that went along with our necklaces, a reminder of God’s promise to right all that is wrong, that he takes brokenness and makes it beautiful again. It’s a way for us to remember her birth mother, their sister. I had one made, too, just to let Jasmine know I won’t forget either.

The aunts looked at the necklaces, whispered thanks and gave hugs — a sweet moment for my daughter, an affirmation of our connection. Our place. Our family.

We spent the afternoon at a local aquarium and the evening at another local restaurant, laughed at Thomas’s jokes and shared more stories, gained a greater understanding of one another. There were hard stories told, mixed in with the good. Honest stories best left between our hearts.

Saturday morning we got ready for a brunch with more family now in town for the festivities that would happen that night. Jasmine was exuberantly welcomed with hugs and kisses, while pictures were taken and presents were given.

As we left, we made plans to get ready together. Mandy, a dear member of our family who had driven to Tulsa with Jasmine and I, had already done our hair. As our self-proclaimed hair stylist, she had agreed to do Mary and Haddie’s as well. She worked a braid into each of our hair, a similarity and a way to show our togetherness amongst the different styles, something that’s developed over the past few days. As we help Haddie into her wedding dress and ooh and ahhh over the pretty bride, Mary applied makeup while Jasmine watched from the bed in the new cream dress her aunt Haddie bought special for her to wear on this day. It’s while sitting there that I realize something: This is what families do. This is how they interact.

And I wondered, How did I get to this place? Even though I wasn’t quite sure, I felt so grateful to be there. As I watched my daughters face light up with laughter, I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that this is where we were supposed to be.

We walked out just before the happy couple came down the stairs to be announced to waiting friends and family members, anxious to share in this happy time with Haddie and her husband Leo. I took pictures of the couple with their guests, a way for Haddie to remember and cherish all who came to celebrate their marriage. And during a lull in the crowd, I walked over to her with a smile, and she said to me, “You know, Mary and I were talking, and we’ve decided that since you’ve adopted Jasmine as your daughter, we’d like to adopt you as our sister.”

Tears immediately sprang to my eyes as we embraced. But I felt it, too. This family connection. I’ve lost a sister too. They know it. And there is a shared grief amongst us. Does it remove the pain of our separate losses? No. Is heartache still a part of our stories? Yes.

But God has a way of weaving what has been hard, what has caused us grief, and using it to draw us to himself and each other. It’s as if redemption comes not just through his grace, but through the people he chooses to bring to us. 

Family is so much more than blood. I know this so firmly in my heart, it’s settled deep into my bones. I knew it the first time I saw my daughter Jasmine. And I knew it again, as I looked at these two sisters that I think I’ve always known and understood, yet only recently met: God really does redeem everything.

Today we are once again linking up with the lovely Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee.

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