Talking with Owen was like a breath of fresh air. Her eyes radiated love, her joy was evident and unhindered. As I listened to her story of foster to adoption, one thing became very clear to me. While there is great discomfort in the waiting and in the uncertainty within this process, we are not the only ones waiting. There are too many children waiting for our help. In Owen’s case, a 3-day-old baby with chubby cheeks and sideburns was waiting on the other side of her "yes."
This past October, our team rejoiced with Owen Johnson as she celebrated the adoption of that sweet baby with chubby cheeks, her son. Owen is one of our Church Ministry leaders and has been faithfully serving the foster and adoptive families of Fremont Presbyterian church for the past 2 years.
Unlike most people, Owen made the decision to adopt in grade school. A family friend adopted internationally and, when her mother explained to Owen what adoption was, she knew immediately that it was something she wanted to do. As a young lady she made a commitment to herself that if she was not married by the age of 30, she would adopt.
Thirty came and went and Owen was still not married. While she recalled the promise – she was not quite ready for adoption but took a step of faith and signed up to do respite care for other foster/adoptive families. Over the next 5 years she took children and teens into her home and loved them as her own. Some teens would come regularly on weekends and she developed meaningful relationships with them.
At the age of 42, after moving to the west coast, Owen made good on her promise to her younger self and began the process to adopt. On October 23rd she finalized the adoption of Neil Ezra Johnson III. “Burnsie” as he is lovingly called, due to his adorable sideburns as a newborn, is now 22 months old.
When I asked Owen what advice she would give others, she said, “I wish I would have started a few years earlier. If you are thinking about it, start taking steps to do it now. Rather than sitting around and waiting for doors to open, walk through them, trusting God to close them if that isn’t His plan for you.
Owen made it clear that the key to her success as a single adoptive mom is her trust in God and her community of support. For example - “One time”, she said, “I came home from church, looked around the house and said, ‘Lord, please send someone to help me today.’ The phone rang and it was a woman from church who said that she, along with two others, wanted to come and clean the house that day!”
While it would be easy to focus solely on the adoption of Burnsie, he is not the only child in this story. Before Burnsie entered Owen’s home she had two other children placed with her. The first was a baby girl who stayed for 5 months. Owen said she “fell hard and fast” for this little one. She said that the reality of what foster care truly is about did not hit her until she met the birth mom. Upon meeting, she looked at Owen and said “Oh, you are the one who is taking care of my little girl until I get her back.” Owen said it took her by surprise and, honestly, it stung. But, it also rang true. As days, weeks and months passed – Owen and this birth mother formed a long-lasting relationship. Though years have passed since the birth mother’s reunification with her beautiful little one -Owen remains a source of love and support for her and her family. When referring to the journey of reunification Owen said, “It gave me empathy for people I am not familiar with. The mom herself spent time in the system and had trauma. It helped me to understand how she got to this point and helped me to grow in love and compassion.”
I guess that is the thing about this whole journey. It’s messy. It’s complicated. It’s broken and it’s beautiful. It requires grace to navigate and surrender to sustain. Owen’s journey to adoption began with taking in teens for the weekend to give much needed respite for families. Then, almost unknowingly, she became an agent of reconciliation and beacon of hope for not one but two birth mothers seeking desperately to find healing for their families. And most recently she provided a forever family for a little boy with adorable sideburns and a bright future.
When speaking about the process she said that the hardest part was the uncertainty in the waiting. Waiting for a placement, waiting for a judge’s decision, waiting 6 months to go to court again. She paused as she reflected and stated confidently, “That is where I find comfort in God. That He is sovereign over all decisions and if He wanted to change circumstances He could. So, I have to trust that He is using it for His good purposes.”
As our conversation came to an end, I found a fresh conviction in my soul. It is so easy to wait for “perfect timing.” A husband. A bigger house. Financial stability. But the reality is that God can do more with our trust than our preparation, and He is often waiting on us to make the first move.