God’s Retirement Plan Never Looked So Big
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“I'd already told Terry when we started keeping foster kids that we were not going to adopt any. ‘Our kids are almost grown, we were at a point that if we want to travel or, you know, take some trips, whatever we want to do, we can do it.’ And I kind of ate my words right there,” says Michael Hawthorn
Michael and Terry Hawthorn had four grown children of their own, and were thinking about retirement. Throughout their marriage, they had fostered several children.
“We got a little boy that is six now," Terri says. “He came to us at three weeks old weighing five pounds, and we almost lost him a couple times. He had some respiratory issues and things like that that we were not aware of. And I can remember being up in ICU with him, and I think God really dealt with me then. I knew then that it was going to be a battle, for anyone to try to take him from us.”
To the doctor’s amazement, his health began improving rapidly. Soon, the Hawthorns were also fostering his sister Haizlee. The Hawthorns then found out about a sibling group of seven that also needed foster care. Michael and Terri say God began changing their hearts.
“The children came from a very rough upbringing," Terri says. “They were also physically abused and neglected. Their education level was so low. They were not at the grade level that they were in. I think that's when God started working on us, and He definitely had different plans for our lives than what we thought.”
“When you hear the stories of what some of these kids have already been through, you think, you know, just maybe we can make a difference in their lives,” Michael adds.
The Hawthorns fell in love with them and initiated plans to adopt them all. “When we opened our foster home, we were only open as a foster home," Terri says. And you have to either be opened as a foster to adopt or an adoptive home. And so we had to do a little bit of changes with that, and then we have to meet all the criteria: enough square footage for the rooms, and it seemed like it was constantly a battle."
After a long wait, the hawthorns finally adopted the children. “That process--it took us till December 3rd of 2018 in order to adopt them, right before Christmastime.” Terri adds. “And that was such a rewarding thing for us and a blessing for the children to be able to be placed in a home permanently through the holidays. And so it's just been, trying to make all those Christmas traditions and memories for the children. It was special. It was very special.”
“These kids had never had present wrapped,” Michael says. “All their presents that they'd ever gotten were in Walmart bags or trash bags. The look on their faces whenever they got to get their gifts--and their eyes were lighting up and then to open them.”
The couple is also trying to teach their new family the true meaning of Christmas. Terri says, “We do sit down and read about the birth of Jesus, what the real meaning of Christmas is.”
After their adoption, many of the children began expressing the desire to commemorate their new life by taking on new names. Terri recalls, “The judge had mentioned to us that one of the very first decisions that they would be able to make is to choose their new name if they wanted to. So we left it open to them and my oldest daughter helped them choose their first and middle names.”
Although the process has been incredibly rewarding, it has not been without challenges. “We had to learn a lot of patience,” Michael says. “It takes a lot of prayer to be able to--when you go from a house that is almost empty of kids to a house that's overflowing, it’s a big, big challenge.”
Kyndal, the second oldest sibling, says, “I didn’t have people who were in my life who actually loved me. And it was tough. Until I met my parents now. They have done so much for me. They were always there for me when I needed them. They were caring, understanding, nice, thoughtful. They were everything everyone wanted in a parent. They may not have given birth to me but they are who I see as parents.”
“They’re still learning and we’re still learning, but every day it’s something new,” the oldest sibling, Dawson says. “We love each other and it’s as if we are their own. No one would have known that we were adopted.”
The Hawthorn children have adapted well to their new home and school, and are all busy with extracurricular activities.
“Dawson is in high school cheer, and then the three eighth graders are in cheer, volleyball, and two of them are in basketball, and so that's five nights a week that they have practices they need to be at,” Terri says. “Then we allowed Addiley and Arria our two sixth graders, they decided they wanted to play peewee basketball.”
Michael and Terri say they can’t imagine life without their new nine new children.
“The kids' grades have all gone up. Their reading levels have got to where they're supposed to be, or if not above. This could not have happened if it wouldn’t have been, you know, the Lord's help in all of this, His hand, and His direction in our decisions that we made,” says Terri.
“People say they can't do it, but I think God opens your heart and your mind and your ability to be able to take care of them. God works in mysterious ways. And so if they have the heart and the ability or the space to offer that, I would definitely highly encourage people to give it a try because just that little bit of difference that they can make in one of these children's lives will live with them forever.”
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