I’ve known Nina Hendee a long time. I’ve known the warmth that radiates from her big, beautiful blue eyes. I’ve known the joy that emanates from every cell of her body even when, and especially when, life is hard. I’ve known the comfort of being a part of her family in some of my most difficult days. I’ve known her as a mentor, mom, role model, and friend.
But I’ve never known her as a fellow mom whose life had been touched by adoption until several months ago.
Jason and I were eating dinner at her family’s famous steakhouse restaurant, The Taste of Texas, when Nina came over to visit. As she pulled out her chair and sat down, she began to tell us a story. A story of herself as a seventeen-year-old girl who was pregnant and unmarried yet who made the courageous and inconvenient decision to carry her baby full term and surrender him to adoption.
She told us the story of holding him in her arms just once, only once, and telling him everything that was on her heart to say – all of her prayers, all of her hopes, and all of her dreams for his life. As she handed him over to the nurse, she handed him over to God with fervent, heartfelt prayers that he would be raised by a family who feared God and loved Him with all their hearts as she did.
And then she never saw him again.
Until the day a letter showed up in her mailbox forty-eight years later from the son she had surrendered long ago.
The letter was from a man named Kyle Poulson who had gone on the long, arduous, and vulnerable journey to find his birth mother, only to discover Nina Hendee at the end as his destination.
Their reunion over the past few months has been sweet and rich and redemptive – redemptive for several reasons.
One, all of Nina’s prayers for her son were realized and confirmed when Kyle walked into the room. He was adopted by parents who raised him as their beloved son with a strong and nurturing love for the Lord and for other people. They helped Kyle grow into a man any woman would be proud to call her son.
Two, I don’t know who Kyle imagined would be at the end of his journey to find the woman who gave him life, but my guess is never in his wildest dreams would he have thought that woman would be anyone as close in character and kindness and excellence as Nina Hendee. It was like he hit the jackpot of all jackpots in moms and in families.
But three, ten years ago, on February 13, 2010, Nina lost her son, Edd K. Hendee, in a tragic skiing accident. He left behind a grieving wife, children, parents, and two beautiful sisters. And I thought Nina had lost her only son.
But God has a strange and miraculous, almost incomprehensible, way of redeeming every story.
And when Kyle walked back into Nina’s life and into her family’s life forty-eight years later, Nina got back a son. No one can replace Edd, and that’s definitely not what I am suggesting.
But what I am saying is that when I watched a video this past Sunday about their story and the beauty of their reunion, my hope in a God who holds the power to redeem was renewed.
When Kyle’s face showed up on that screen and I saw Edd K’s eyes looking back at me, I wept at the ability of God to give us back here on this earth, in small part, what we have lost, with the sure promise of all He will restore and redeem one day in the future.
I was reminded anew that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).
I was reminded that the worst the enemy can do in our lives, God undoes (Genesis 50:20).
I was reminded that every decision we make to honor God and choose life never goes unnoticed or forgotten. It is like precious seed that is buried in the ground, and just when we think it is dead without any hope of resurrection, God speaks, and it blooms (Psalm 126:5-6; John 12:24).
And I was reminded that in the Kingdom of God, our greatest deaths and deepest surrenders end in life when we surrender them into God’s hands. They do so not because we are so good or so wise. They do because God is so good and so wise, and He holds the promise of our full redemption in His nail-pierced hands.
Nina, thank you for choosing life. Thank you for making the hard and gutsy decision to carry a baby only to entrust him to another. Thank you for loving life and loving adoption.
Thank you for walking through all of your trials with the hope of heaven in your heart. Thank you for reminding me that with every loss, with every surrender, and with every death, there is a God behind it all who holds hope, redemption, and life in His Hands.
You have painted a beautiful picture of the goodness of God with the choices you have made in your life, even when those choices have cost you something big. As I look at that picture, you have helped me love God and know God more. And for that, I speak for many who say, “Thank you.”
I can’t wait to be in heaven and see the fullness of His redemption with you one day.
To watch Kyle and Nina’s powerful and beautiful story, click on the link below: