This Sunday our church joined with churches all over the country to remember our mission to love and care for orphans. Our own Joey Halbert shared this letter:
There’s a tattered manila envelope in the back of my desk. It’s ten years old. It contains a stack of papers from a military hospital, the state of Texas, a court, and an adoption agency. That envelope contains almost everything that I know about my biological family.
The contents of the envelope provide a lot of data. There’s the clinical record of a newborn who arrived early. There’s a doctor’s scribbled notes about jaundice. There’s a family medical history with some mildly concerning entries about heart disease. There’s the social worker’s typewritten report about a foster home.
While all of that is useful information, I rarely look at any of it. I set it aside in favor of a certain few pages from the packet. These particular pages aren’t from doctors, or lawyers, or state employees. What I look at the most are the adoption intake forms - nine pages of questions and answers. They’re handwritten written in a large, swooping print. The handwriting belongs to my biological mother.
I like to look at these pages to gather clues as to what she was like. The first time I saw her handwriting, I laughed out of joy. I love her handwriting. It’s bold and bubbly. That is always how I’ve imagined her. It’s fun to see what she was like when she was young. She described herself as outgoing. Her two favorite things to do were swimming and writing. She wanted to get a professional degree. She was left-handed, just like me, and just like my oldest son.
When prompted about what adoption meant to her, she said it meant “placing the baby where it can be well provided for and loved.” She wanted “to be sure the baby is placed in a happy home”.
When asked what kind of family she wanted to adopt me, she asked for a family that is very loving and supportive; one that would spend a lot of time together so that the baby felt secure and cared for. She wanted me to have a good education, a good life, and to be disciplined. She wanted me to be part of a happy family.
In the parts of the forms about me, which only consist of a couple of pages, she wrote loving, happy, and good at least dozen times. Typical mom!
Not all of the information in the packet is happy. Some of it is hard. There are some sections where it is clear she was a bit anxious and sad about the future. She mentions that it was a nice feeling to be pregnant, but that she just couldn’t provide for me. It couldn’t have been easy to be a pregnant high schooler in the 1980s. I wonder if people were mean to her, or if she felt alone or ostracized. I’m not sure how her own family felt about her situation. But, love bears all things, and my biological mother loved me. She took good care of me.
I have prayed tha t she knows and feels in her bones that she did provide for me. Even before I was born, she showed me what love looks like. She had choices, but she chose to put me first. She chose to keep me, to carry me to term through high school while God was knitting me together, and to have faith in my future family. Loves hopes all things. She put others ahead of herself. That’s love. That’s what I know about her that isn’t inside that manila envelope.
Through adoption, she also provided me with Garry and Sandy Halbert, two of the best parents that anyone could ever hope for. One of my biological mother’s concerns was that an adopted family be sure to love me just like they would love any other family member. She wanted the adopted family to be “very loving and supportive and helpful.” That is exactly what my parents provide for me. Even before they knew who I was or that I would be their son, they were pregnant with me - they had the same feelings of anticipation, the same joy in putting together a nursery, and the fun in picking a name. They were preparing a place for me already.
I got to be part of a family that was everything hoped for. We did spend a lot of time together. I did get to see a strong marriage modeled. While I might not have appreciated it as a teenager, I even got the discipline and manners that my biological mother, who was from a military family, wanted me to have. I did get to feel secure, and provided for, and loved. I felt it because it was true. I always have been loved by family, even before I was born.
I received the education my biological mother wanted. I followed in her dream to get a professional degree. More importantly, my parents modeled for me compassion, integrity, selflessness, grace, and generosity. They, like my biological mother, have passed along to me great examples of faith and love.
Maybe my family tree wasn’t always known to my biological parents, or to the Halberts, but it was always known to God. Without the love of family, my life could’ve gone several different ways. I could’ve never been born. I could’ve never had any parent that loved me and raised me, let alone three. Instead of being lost, I was found. Instead of being alone and helpless with no advocate, I was protected by a shield of love. When I asked my mom what she thought when she thought about adoption, that’s one of the first things she said:
“Adoption for me is a gift from God. He chose me to be your mom and you to be my son. God made something out of my reach become a reality. Adoption is God’s ultimate love. It’s not about about someone not loving, it’s all about everyone loving. We’re all so blessed.”
For me, adoption is about my story going one way when it could’ve gone another. Isn’t that the story that we tell every week in this building? The story that our lives could’ve gone way but it went another because of love? That’s adoption. That’s love. That’s abba Father and that’s his family.