God Brings Beauty From Ashes
About the Guest
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Heather DeJesus YatesHeather is a wife, mama, business owner, international speaker, blogger, an occasional lawyer/legislative advocate and two-timed author. Heather traded in her career in law and politics years ago to serve as the women’s leader at her local church. While her passion grew to see women experience new life in Christ, her focus shifted to home as her family grew through adoption and fostering. After several beautiful and challenging years of parenting, her childhood dream came true and Heather w...more
Heather DeJesus Yates talks openly about the steps she and her husband took to start a family of their own. Yates encourages believers to keep their hands open to what God may have for them.
God Brings Beauty From Ashes
Bob: When Heather DeJesus Yates and her husband learned that they would likely not be able to have children, Heather turned to Jesus, looking for comfort and peace. What she got from Him was a whole lot more.
Heather: I did believe that God was giving me a vision for something bigger than the story I was wanting Him to sit in with me; that I was wanting Him to just give me a baby, and He was wanting to give me more than that. He was wanting to rescue me from a small story and help me see this bigger family and this bigger dream that He had for His kingdom and for me in it, if I would be willing to trust Him.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, September 29th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Heather DeJesus Yates takes us with her on a journey today. We’ll get to see the front-row seat God had for her for something pretty incredible in her life. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We have, at FamilyLife®, for many years, been advocates of adoption. I remember Dennis Rainey many times would ask the question to people—he’d be in a ballroom; he’d say, “How many of you in the room are adopted?—raise your hand,”—and people would raise their hand. Then he’d say—
Dave: “You all are!”—right?
Bob: “Let me ask you again. [Laughter] How many of you are adopted?”
The metaphor of adoption is a biblical metaphor. Each of us, who is a follower of Christ, we’re adopted into the family of God; so it’s a powerful metaphor.
We’re talking this week about the pain of infertility and the choice of adoption. That’s not a fore drawn conclusion—that experiencing infertility means that God is calling you to adopt—those are two separate issues. We have Heather DeJesus Yates, who’s joining us to talk about this. Welcome back.
Heather: Thank you so much for having me.
Bob: Heather is a—you alluded to this, earlier, when we were talking about this—Heather’s an attorney.
Ann: Yes; let’s give her credentials.
Bob: We should! [Laughter]
Heather: No; please don’t.
Bob: She is a graduate of the University of Florida School of Law, practiced as an attorney for a number of years, was involved in adoption law and public policy, was involved with Alliance Defending Freedom for a period of time. Heather and her husband live in the corner of Virginia—where Virginia and Tennessee meet/in that area of Bristol, Tennessee—which, as we talked about earlier, is the home of country music.
Heather: That’s right.
Bob: Did you know that?
Dave: The home of—what do you mean?
Bob: Everybody thinks Nashville is the home of country music; but in Bristol, Tennessee, is where the Carter family first recorded and where Jimmy Rogers first recorded, and that’s where country music was born.
Dave: Oh really?
Ann: Only Bob Lepine would know this. Although you knew it, too, Heather.
Heather: Oh, yes; thank you for keeping our history alive.
Dave: But the best thing about Heather is that she drives a sweet pickup.
Heather: Yes, I do—
Dave: I mean—
Heather: —1953 Chevy, vintage ride, finalized x376 engine, Wild Pearl. [Laughter]
Ann: Wild Pearl.
Dave: What’s the name mean?
Heather: We found her. She was just rusty and rough, and I fell in love; I knew/I was like, “That’s my truck.” I thought, “She is shabby; she is falling apart; she has all these dings and scratches, and yet I know what she can become.” I felt, even in that moment—not to spiritualize a truck—but there was this moment; where I felt like God’s like, “That’s how I look at you! I see what you can become; and I’m so proud of you, and I’m so excited for what I’m going to do with these parts of your story that you feel like don’t fit.”
I bought her for $500, and we towed her off. As she was being pulled off in front of me, we were driving in the back, and I just wept. I just wept, picturing Him: “He bought me, He towed me into His kingdom, and He’s been rebuilding me and putting all these brand-new things into me along the way, and He’s clear-coated me; so now all of my scars and my stains, they just shine through!”
Ann: This is a book! It could even be a children’s book!
Heather: It was my first book title, All the Wild Pearls.
Dave: By the way, your husband does this; right?
Heather: He did. It was so sweet; this is a great marriage story. We had been through infertility, adoption, fostering; we had saved money for different things along the way for our family needs that my husband just hadn’t gotten to play very much. He’s just always loved trucks/old trucks. I started to pray for him to find a truck that he could work on and rebuild.
That prayer grew, and as I prayed for that, I felt like the Lord kind of opened up something bigger. I started to pray, not just for a truck, but for a friendship/for a brotherly friendship—that this would grow into somewhere—where they wouldn’t just rebuild trucks; they would actually build relationships, and they would be a part of restoring things that felt broken and without any future hope.
I started praying for that; and about a month later, my husband called. We have some offices all over the region; he was in one of our offices in another city. He said, “Babe, you won’t believe this! I stopped by this unmarked building, and the door was open. I could see some trucks inside, so I pulled over. I went inside to find out, ‘What are you doing in here? What are these old trucks doing in here?’” He meets this guy, and lo and behold, on the side, this guy was just rebuilding old trucks. His name was James. Jonathan and James became friends; they had so much in common—they had adoption in common; they had other things in common; they were both believers.
Jonathan partnered with James. I actually designed Wild Pearl, and James brought Wild Pearl home. When he brought Wild Pearl home, he [James] got a call that he had brain cancer; and it wasn’t going to be long. This journey was a really quick experience to be a part of this man’s life, and to come alongside him—and love him, and love his wife and his kids well—and be with him through the end. He got to see Wild Pearl finished. That was kind of a thing to keep him going—was to just finish this truck with my husband/finish it for us—then he passed away.
We actually came back from a Weekend to Remember®. On our way home, I asked my husband/I said, “If Jesus would answer one prayer for you right now, what would you ask Him?” He said, “I’d like a friend.” Well, that’s all he needed to say; because I got my big prayers. I started praying big again for him, and that desire for a friend. A couple weeks later, a lady from church—after a moms’ meeting—she said, “Can I ask you something really strange?” I said, “Go for it.” She said, “Can I get Jonathan’s number for my husband?” She said, “He just likes his trucks, and he likes them, and I think they’d get along, and he’d like to have lunch with him.” They’re both named Jon.
So they met for breakfast; this was almost three years ago. Every Tuesday morning, at six a.m., these guys have been meeting—praying together/enjoying being together. They’ve become like brothers. They share a love for trucks and restoration. That has come full circle now for them—this conversation—of, “What do we do with this passion, and how do we bring it to a community so that men can come and be a part of something that they need that points them to hope?”
Bob: You know, when we came in here today, we didn’t think we were going to be talking about—
Dave: I was just going to say—[Laughter]
Bob: —truck restoration, male friendships—that wasn’t the plan; was it?
Dave: But I will say this, before we jump in—
Heather: I know, every single time I go into a room, I know I’m going to talk about trucks. Don’t you worry. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes; but I mean, I did think—and we need to talk about your book—but I thought your husband’s answer to your question, I think, would be almost every guy I know: “I want a friend.” Many of us adult men don’t have friends like we did as kids or on teams. We’re 30, 40, 50, 60 years old—a lot of business partners—not a true friend.
Not only did you and your friend pray; but at some point, he had to say, “Yes,” to a breakfast. That’s where it started; so I’d say to guys/say, “Yes; there’s a friend for you, and you need him; but you have to go get it.”
Ann: What I’m thinking about is the power of a woman’s prayer and the influence she has in her home.
Bob: I have to believe somebody needed to hear that. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes, me; I need a truck, and now I know where to go! [Laughter]
Ann: I’m thinking a truck, too! [Laughter]
Bob: But we came to talk about a journey that God has had you on for many years. When you and your husband got married, you were in your early 30s. You decided to hold off a couple of years and then start your family, except the family did not start. You were dealing with infertility; you were seeing specialists. You were going back and forth between, “What do we do in terms of fertility treatment?” and “What about adoption?”—trying to come to a conclusion on that.
Let me just ask you about the whole infertility path you were on. There are ethical choices that people have to make as they’re thinking about fertility treatment. How did you guys process those ethical issues, and what was going to be okay and what wouldn’t be okay?
Heather: You’re absolutely right. There is a big conversation being had about some of the more advanced technologies that are out there. I think it’s an important conversation to have; I do think those things matter, maybe more than we’re comfortable with.
But even before you hit moral questions, there are going to be questions even of sensitivity or comfort. You’re going to have dynamics that maybe the wife is more comfortable with than the husband. There is this important place of complexity with both the infertility journey and adoption, that if you are not comfortable having these really delicate conversations with your husband, then it might not be the place to go. You might not be ready to go down that path; because you don’t want to go down that path, and then come back later and find out, “Oh, he was not comfortable with that,” or “I wasn’t comfortable with that,” and then we both have this uncomfortable dynamic that’s permanent.
I would meet with a pastor/meet with a Christian therapist counselor to kind of work through some of those bioethical issues, if you’re not familiar with it. There are some wonderful resources out there to kind of go through each of those paths, and give some specific information about exactly when the egg is fertilized—when this, in biblical terms, is considered a life—so handling those things carefully.
We didn’t go that far down the journey to really wrestle with some of the bioethical concerns. The concerns that we had—you know, my husband weighs in on the book as well; he likes to tell people he wrote a book, which he did—[Laughter]—we are one, and he actually has his words in the book as well—because it was a very different experience for him than it was for me. That’s, most of the time, the case in just about every area of our life; right?—we kind of weigh in on it differently.
For him, it was a challenge; because a lot of the things were physically happening to my body and not to his body: “Is it okay to alter something in my physical body that is not natural to my physical body?” Those are things that you’re going to have to wrestle through for some of the decisions that you have with the path that you take. I think that that’s a personal conviction for each couple, how far down the road they want to go. Like you alluded to, there are some questions when you go further down the road.
Bob: I think you’re so smart to say, “Get wise counsel/get godly counsel; really wrestle with these issues well; read the pros and the cons; read the people who say, ‘No,’ and the people who say, ‘Yes’; and take this before the Lord.”
I would just say, “Don’t allow your desire to be biological parents to be so strong that it overrules something that your conscience may be saying, ‘I’m not comfortable here.’” I think there can be that moment, where it’s such a strong desire to want to conceive/to want to give birth to your biological son or daughter, that you might say, “Well, maybe we’ll let this slide.” You could regret that decision later on. Just be tender in your conscience as you go through all of this.
You came to a point, with your husband, where you guys had a clear sense that God was saying, “We need to pursue adoption,” and that’s the path He put you on.
Heather: We did. April of 2013, we had taken a two-week hiatus/a two-week break from not talking about that question. At the end of that two weeks—when we came back together and were able to affirm, without a shadow of a doubt, “This is what we did know,”—so we came back with, “Okay, what do we know then? We know we’re called to marriage. We know we’re called to parent, but we don’t know if we’re called to bear children.”
Taking the things that we did know, we knew that God was leading us down the path of adoption. We knew that He had called us to marriage; that we never wanted the kids to divide us, even before they were born. We wanted to be unified in this journey with adoption. We wanted to have these gut checks, regularly, along the way: “Has anything changed for you? Has anything become too scary or overwhelming? Do we need to slow it down?” Communication was just such a huge deal.
Had we not been single for so long—and really kind of read all the marriage books to try and be prepared for marriage—that was such a healthy foundation for us to just choose each other/keep choosing each other—keep the main thing being our marriage as we went along the journey. I do see adoption, and infertility, and fostering unravel that unity between a husband and wife so often; because a lot of times, that desire for a child—usually a wife desires that child so greatly that she’s wanting it maybe more than he’s comfortable—but neither of them feel like they can really put the fullness of their desires out there.
Dave: Did your marriage ever get to the brink, where, “Wow; this is really pushing it”?
Heather: You know, we never had an “I want this, and you want that” kind of a fight; it wasn’t that. It was more of: “I feel so much of something, and I don’t know how to communicate it”; and he was, “I don’t know what do with that.” He didn’t know what to do with me, and I didn’t know what to do with me and my emotion. His lack of emotion felt like a disinterest, so I felt alone in my grief/I felt alone in my desire. He would say he wanted it, but then he would go on to work and he wouldn’t even bring it up. I’d think, “How can you not bring it up?!”
It wasn’t ever that we just collided in our conflicting interests. It was just that we were experiencing grief differently, and we were experiencing longing differently; and we were having to learn a language together for this journey. We didn’t have anybody around us, at that time, who could help model language and help us figure out how to walk through that together.
Bob: I’ve heard you say that adoption is something you need to go into with your eyes really wide open and not be caught up in a romanticized ideal of adoption, because there are some hard realities that come with it.
Heather: Yes; and you know, my sensitivity comes from an infertility journey. I came into adoption with a background as a professional: I had practiced adoption law; I had placed babies with families; I had also removed babies from families after we had placed them, because of biological mothers or fathers changing their mind. I knew this is not an easy road; this is a very complex road, with a lot of moving pieces in it that you don’t get to control. This is not going to be something that you want someone coming in—with their soul is like a mushy banana—you know, they’re so vulnerable; everything sticks to them.
For me, coming into adoption with infertility background, I felt like I had done the work—I felt like we had had the conversations; and I had laid the groundwork, emotionally/spiritually, to be prepared for what adoption would bring—but I had no idea/nothing can prepare you for what it feels like, to come from an infertility journey, and then be in a room with an ultrasound looking at what your child is doing inside of a belly that’s not your belly. Those spaces—they stick to you—and you don’t know how to prepare for that until you’re in it.
To think about women, or even just as couples, coming in, with infertility background, to go into an adoption story: you are dealing with another woman—you have a woman, who can give birth and is giving birth to this child, and has the control, and has the choices, and has all the power over this child that may or may not be yours—so keeping your hands open to trusting God with your family. That would be the big caution.
Our story is a bit of a cautionary tale, even though we would live it a thousand times over for our little girl. We would give everything to just continue to have her as our daughter. But if you go in—white-knuckling, demanding outcomes, and putting your hope in a child to fill your desires and to make your dreams come true—this will be a brutal journey. Keeping your hands open—and trusting that God sees you; He is sovereign; He is in control; He can bring gifts out of nothing; He can resurrect the dead—so He can bring you children if this is what’s best for you. That’s how we even pray as a family: “Father, we ask for this; and we thank You that You know what’s best for us, and we give it back to You.”
If you can walk into adoption, or fostering, or wherever you’re going—knowing that this child could come into you life and go out of your life; come into your life and go out of your life—if you’re willing to keep that soft hand before God and let Him, like elastic, kind of stretch you and bend you back again, then you have a front-row seat to a really exciting adventure with God; but it really needs to be a conversation with your spouse and an experience that you have support in community.
Dave: I think/I mean, your image of the clenched fist/open hand is not just for adoption; it’s for any situation. I’m thinking of someone right now—right now, holding onto their plan—a job situation, a family, their marriage—you name it; I mean, we all do it—it’s like, “I have to have this, God. This has to go this way.” The only way to find any peace in life is you have to open your hands and say, “Okay, I have to trust a God I know; but I don’t know what He’s going to do.” You had to do it.
Dave: You’re sitting here. There’s a sense of peace we can feel coming from your soul, that wasn’t easy; but it’s real.
Heather: But it’s real. To follow up, Ann, you asked earlier, “Where was God in all of this?” He scripted the whole thing. This was His Plan “A.” I didn’t get His leftovers; this wasn’t a manufacturing defect, and He had to go back and start all over because, “Oh, Heather can’t have kids. Now we have to figure out Plan ‘B.’” He saw me before He created the heavens and the earth, and He knew what our family dynamic would be. He knew everything that was going to happen and not happen for us.
We trust, ultimately, that if God wants our genetic DNA in order to build His kingdom, wild horses couldn’t keep it from happening. I mean, we could have every roadblock and every obstacle natural to us keep us from having children, but we have confidence that He can overcome all those obstacles if it’s best for us. He knows the story He’s writing, and it’s so much better than any story I could have written, and I’m an author! [Laughter]
Bob: Tell us about the day you became parents.
Heather: April 2013 was when we decided adoption was the journey we were going on. I jumped in the shower/was just wailing in the shower; I was so excited. He said, “Why are you crying?” I said, “Because I feel like I just found out we’re expecting!”
It was just a sweet month for us, April 2013. We made the phone call to the agency and started down the road. We had really expected it to take years. We were doing a simultaneous journey; we were going to be an international to China as well as a domestic. We had heard that the wait list for domestic was over two years, so we had really no expectations of this being quick at all. We went through the paperwork; we submitted everything, and we turned it in later that fall.
The day after we turned it in, we set off for the Bahamas for our five-year anniversary; we were there. It was a little bittersweet, because I was expecting there, at five years, to be celebrating a baby bump—it was going to be our baby-moon—we were going to be able to get excited about coming back and having our first child. We were there at the beach; and instead, we were celebrating being done with our adoption process—at least, for the first half—and turning in stuff enough to get activated into the system.
We came back from that, and we got a call. I thought, “Oh, our home study’s done; and we can move onto the next phase for the international adoption process.” They said, “Yes, your home study’s done; and we would like to show your profile to a birth mother this week. Are you open to it?” My jaw just hit the floor; I said, “What are you talking about? I thought there was this big long two-and-a-half year wait list!”
They said, “Well, this profile fits you all really well; and it doesn’t fit other families. If you would be open to it…” We said, “Yes, yes! We’re open to it!” Long story short: a week-and-a-half later, we were meeting the woman, carrying our daughter. Nine months from the month [emotion in voice]/nine months from the month that we believed God told us we were expecting a daughter, our daughter was born.
Heather: April 2013, she was conceived in our hearts; but she was also conceived in flesh—so just the grace of God—His ways are higher than our ways. We could have never, in a million years, planned a little girl as beautiful and as lovely, who fits us so well. I couldn’t have birthed anything any more beautiful than this little girl.
We got to see her a couple of days after she was born—and that was its own long story—but we got to bring her home. It’s going to forever be one of our highest privileges to be able to be her parents.
Dave: As I’m sitting over here, teary-eyed, thank you! Not knowing I was going to cry today, I thought of Psalm 34:18, that you just sort of expressed: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” You just said He had this whole thing, the whole time, and you were brokenhearted.
So many of us—there are people, right now, listening—they’re just so crushed in spirit and thinking God’s far away, and He’s right there. He’s right there! We don’t know what His plan is; but we know He’s here, and He has you; so trust Him. Right now, get on your knees, surrender again—
Ann: Open your hands.
Dave: —and say, “I’m Yours, and I will trust whatever You have for me. Whatever that is, I’m Yours.”
Bob: If what that is for you, right now, is issues related to infertility, or challenges with adoption on either side of the process, let me encourage you—we want to send you a copy of Heather’s book, A Mother of Thousands, to help you get a bigger vision for the story God has for you. We’re making this book available this week to any of you, who can support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation.
Your donations are the lifeblood of this ministry. You make it possible for hundreds of thousands of people every day to connect with FamilyLife® and to receive practical biblical help and hope for their marriage and their family, every time you make a donation. If you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and donate online, or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate, we’re happy to send you, when you request it, a copy of Heather DeJesus Yates’ book, A Mother of Thousands: From Barren to Revolutionary.
This may not be your story, but you may know someone who is in the midst of a journey like this. Get a copy of this book, and give it as a gift to them. Again, donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. We look forward to hearing from you.
We hope you can join us, again, tomorrow when we’re going to hear more about what is required in terms of ongoing dependence upon God through every step of the journey when it comes to infertility and adoption. Heather DeJesus Yates will be with us again; I hope you can be as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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