Read Part 1 here.
Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And let everything you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
On January 16, 2006, our family traveled the 1,600 miles back to Tennessee to begin the trial to terminate the rights of my oldest son’s biological father and in turn allow my husband to officially adopt him.
The judge had ordered the courtroom to be private, only allowing the witnesses who were testifying to be inside. This decision kept stories from being manipulated. Only a couple days into it and our witnesses were finished. Our side of the story was over.
Lord, if it’s OK, please confuse their speech. Please prevent them from lying. Lord, thank you for my husband’s confidence today. He was out of my league! So devoted, so strong.
Another couple days passed and the judge had to defer the remainder of the trial until the 2nd of February. My husband traveled back home to South Dakota to work. I stayed and constantly thought of the impending decision that would be coming our way. During that separation, I picked up the local paper one day. One the front page was a picture of the judge who was overseeing our case. The headline read something like: "The Judge Who Takes a Stand for Child Support."
We returned to trial on schedule. As promised, witnesses from the other side took the stand. Stories unraveled as the words departed their lips. One witness would testify only to be undermined by the next witness’s account of events. My husband said they poked holes in one another’s stories until they looked like Swiss cheese.
Medical charts had been subpoenaed. These charts showed only a simple sprain, leaving the patient walking unassisted out of the emergency room. Gone was the excuse for not paying child support. It was amazing to watch.
Toward the final hours of the trial, the guardian ad litem even pulled me aside to say she had changed her mind. Her recommendation would be in our favor.
I was in awe. I was overwhelmed. I was still nervous.
As I sat in the courtroom on the very last hour of testimony, my eyes skimmed across the top of our table, until they rested on that little sheet of paper my friend had given me when I entered the courtroom. On it was Isaiah 55:11-13: “So is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.”
We had to wait a month before receiving the trial judge’s ruling. I was eating cereal in front of the computer when I received the after-hours email from our attorney. The bowl was resting on top of my overgrown belly. I dropped the spoon and jerked my head over toward my husband who was sprawled out on the bed watching a show.
"WE WON!!!!!!!!!" I cried, with cheerios and milk spewing out of my mouth.
I dropped the spoon in my bowl and ran outside in the direction of the church.
"WE WON! WE WON! HE’S OURS! HE’S OURS!” I screamed into a classroom full of ladies, forgetting to explain. However, their teacher knew, and a smile overtook the entirety of her face.
My whale of a figure and I barreled back over to the house to find Nathan on the phone, already making phone calls like a proud papa.
I wish I could say the story ended there. But it doesn’t. The decision was appealed. One of my sons can still remember the day his mommy checked the mail and went screaming to the bathroom as though in agonizing pain and anger. I didn’t speak to God for almost 6 months. I lost my sheet of scriptures that I had used as armor in the courtroom. Until one day Psalm 146:13 set me straight.
The Lord is faithful in all He says.
In the year that it took for the appeal to finalize, I agonized over the brazen ability of this man to squeeze every penny out of our pockets. At the same time I was so thankful for the thousands of dollars in support our community seemed to drop in our mailbox at just the right moment.
Summer was approaching and my husband was about to head for the woods, leading groups of students into the back country of creation in hopes that they would see a glimpse of God. Again, I was headed to Tennessee for three weeks. This time for a fun visit. I had been praying for months that we would get an final answer for this appeal before we were separated so that we could leave each other in peace, knowing it was finally over.
The night before my flight out of Denver, we had tucked the boys in so that their hotel covers kissed their freshly bathed chins. I cleaned up the remains of one healthy Taco Bell dinner. As we slipped under the covers, grasping for sleep before that 5 a.m. wake-up call and 6 a.m. good-bye, I realized I had forgotten to complete a work assignment I had agreed to finish online.
I headed toward the second floor elevator. I didn’t even realize I was talking to God out loud until a gentleman exited the sliding doors and glanced at me with pity. I had just been telling God how sweet it would’ve been had He let me know an answer before we left. I was demanding that He keep the appeal under wraps until my return three weeks from now, and that even then, He needed to remember there was only a three day window before my husband headed back to the Tetons for a week.
I reached the first floor and had to wait at the business conference center for an empty computer. As I logged into my email a certain sender caught my eye. It was from our attorney and the subject heading was labeled "Appeal." In short, he said, it was over. We were done. My child was ours.
How? How does God orchestrate conversations and events in the way that He does? How is He that amazing?
I sprinted up the stairs this time back up to the second floor, had a little trouble getting the key to turn the light green so that I could burst open the door. I grabbed a hold of my husband and this time I whispered, still with tears in my eyes, "It’s over."
They said ‘Yes!’ The order stands. Lord, we are so undeserving, and You are so good and so faithful. We are in awe. Speechless and yet we desire to shout from the hilltops of all the great things You have done in our lives.
Joy, peace, song, and an everlasting sign. Just as the Lord had promised me on that little sheet of paper that last day of the trial.