“Daddy John would like to adopt you,” the email read.
Adopt me, at 35…really! I thought. With great anticipation I wondered what that actually meant.
“It means we would rightly acknowledge Daddy John as your father, the role he has played for 30 years now,” my mom explained.
Tears of overwhelming emotions pricked my eyes and spilled down my cheeks. I have never felt so loved.
The whole thing caught me off guard. I had never thought about being adopted. I knew my stepdad loved me and thought of me as his daughter. He demonstrated his commitment to me by standing with my mom and me through the tough years. So my stepdad didn’t have to do this. He wanted to.
Weeks after I read mom’s email, I continued to process the significance of what this would mean to me. It lingered in the back of my mind while I washed dishes and folded the laundry. Adoption. I’m going to be adopted!
I learned that after the court date, I would be issued a new birth certificate presenting my new maiden name. It would be as if my original last name never existed.
I thought about my middle and high school years. My mom taught art at the school I attended, so I continually had to explain why my last name was different than hers. Even kids in the same situation didn’t connect the dots and would ask, “Why is your mom’s last name different than yours? Is she your real mom?”
I would roll my eyes and remind them if she wasn’t my real mom, but my stepmom, I would share her last name, for she would have married my dad and his name wouldn’t have changed.
“Oh, yeah,” they would say. Then I would recount the story of how my parents divorced when I was one, and my mom remarried when I was almost five.
Wow! This adoption means I don’t have to explain the story of my mom’s divorce anymore. Now, there’s closure. Daddy John isn’t my stepdad. He is my dad.
Before this adoption, it was like I wore a torn garment – a shirt with a tear at the sleeve seam as evidence of our broken family. I didn’t ask to wear this shirt. It was handed to me that way. When I met a new friend, shared my testimony or introduced my parents to someone, I felt the need to explain the tear. For why would I wear a torn shirt?
The problem with a torn shirt is that unless the tear is mended quickly, the fragile, threadbare strings will widen into a gaping hole, making it unfit to wear.
So it was with my torn sleeve. Entering into a second marriage with a stepparent relationship puts you automatically behind the figurative eight ball. That was something my five-year-old maturity didn’t understand.
This blended family wasn’t easy. God designed my stepdad and me with unique differences. Over the years, these pulled and stretched the fabric of our relationship in ways that caused the rip to widen further.
I left home at eighteen, marrying the boy I met at the nearby swimming pool a few years before. The day we said “I do,” I exchanged my torn garment for his last name. Now, in place of my stepdad, stood my new husband. When I boxed up my belongings, I packed away the sleeve torn garment as well.
Now that I wasn’t living under the same roof as my stepdad, our differences stopped dividing us. We found similarities to marvel in and as children were added to our family, Daddy John slipped easily into the role of grandfather. I loved watching him form relationships with my children.
Miraculously through time, tears, humility, apologies, prayers, love and grace, God has not only stopped the continual tearing, but actually patched over the areas that were once gaping holes.
Still, when I bring out that garment to tell my story, now I feel the need to explain the patches.
Out of nowhere, that Sunday evening, just as we finished watching a family movie, I opened my mom’s email asking me to consider letting Daddy John adopt me. The words blurred on the screen because of my tears and I immediately knew my answer.
Yes! Yes, Daddy John can adopt me because really, after all these years I know that he has been my dad.
Through this adoption I see redemption. My patched up sleeve has been gathered and woven into a seam by the red thread of His redemption.
In the process, God didn’t remove the patches. Like a master weaver, He smoothly wove His thread in, around and through all the piled up, messy layers. He closed the gap. He mended the tear. He soothed the hurt. He forgave the mistakes. Ultimately, He redeemed the story.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15
On Monday, January 25, 2016, He Redeemed my story. One that began thirty years ago when John James Kuster married Deborah Ann Fletcher and with her, acquired Julia Christine Fletcher as his step-daughter. I don’t carry the maiden name of Fletcher anymore, but now, the record reads Julia Christine Kuster. In the physical world, my name has changed to Kuster. What a beautiful representation of what also happens through Jesus Christ in the spiritual world. For through Him, my name is also changed to Redeemed. Daughter. His.