The hallway started to feel a little toasty on that December afternoon at the Fresno County Courthouse as forty friends and family packed in for the momentous occasion. The joy in the air was palpable for the official adoption ceremony of my three daughters by my husband Shawn.
Shawn and I married seven years ago after my first husband Ericlee died of cancer. Of course, Shawn has already been a faithful father to the girls all these years. He has helped them with homework, taught them how to ride a bike, worked to put food on our table, and held them when tears of grief streaked their cheeks.
This ceremony was an official declaration of his heart to support them forever. Before the judge and this cloud of witnesses, Shawn pledged to support and care for the girls.
In the car on the way to the courthouse, I got choked up as I heard him tell the girls they were chosen. We don’t choose our children as biological parents, but Shawn had the privilege of intentionally and willingly choosing my three daughters to be his own. Shawn honored his dear friend Ericlee in heaven when he signed those papers to become their legal father.
I remember the early days of my grief and how heavy I felt thinking about my girls growing up without their gregarious and loving daddy. The weight of that reality almost felt heavier than thinking about my own future without my beloved.
But God in His sovereignty had other plans I couldn’t even dream up or imagine for my girls and for me.
Deuteronomy 10:18 reminds us of God’s heart for the vulnerable: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.”
I never imagined that verse and others like it would apply to me and my children — until it did. I was widowed at age 37 and my girls were suddenly fatherless. Part of God’s redemptive plan for our family was bringing my husband Shawn to defend, love, and support us.
As I sat inside the courtroom watching my girls sign the papers taking on a new name, I couldn’t help but marvel at my heavenly Father’s lovingkindness toward us. We are all “Gilmore Youngs” now. We carry the name of their daddy Ericlee Gilmore in heaven and the name of Shawn Young, their daddy here on earth.
In our hearts, we are daughters of Yahweh. He is our Abba Father, who chose to adopt us as His own children. When we take on our Daddy God’s name, it changes everything.
The Apostle Paul explains this in his letter to the church in Galatia:
“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.”
Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT)
Paul’s adoption imagery here is poignant and powerful. He reminds us that God sent His son Jesus to buy back our freedom. We were once slaves, but He purchased our liberty. Jesus redeemed us by choosing to die on the cross and then rising from the dead. We are no longer slaves, but adopted as daughters into God’s family.
God chose us, according to Ephesians 1:5, in much the same way Shawn chose my daughters. When Shawn stood before the judge, she asked him if he promised to provide financially for the girls and to care for their needs. As God’s chosen children, we are also invited to enjoy His daily provision and inheritance, which is eternal life.
Many of us know this to be true, but we have a kind of soul amnesia and do not live like we are heirs in God’s family. We strive to earn our keep. We question our callings. We fret about the future.
Friend, what would it look like for you to live like you are a beloved daughter of the King? What behaviors and attitudes would you leave behind?
Here’s the heart of the matter: His love for us is unconditional. He signed the papers for our adoption with the precious blood of His Son Jesus. Now we are all invited to be branches of His family tree.
After the adoption ceremony of my girls, our friends, and family joined us for coffee and ice cream at one of our favorite local spots. We marked the moment. We publicly rejoiced in the redemption of our story that only God, the author of Love, could have written.