It was five years ago when Susan Johnson and Liz Tyra were talking as they sat by the pool at Kevin and Polly Shingleton’s home. The discussion turned to the subject of adoption, and Susan said something that surprised Liz.
“I still remember her saying, ‘You would make good adoptive family,’” Liz recalls now. “At the time. We were dealing with two, and I kind of gave her a look to say ‘Do not go there.’
“I had no idea what was coming.”
She really didn’t. Neither did her husband Curt.
First, God led the Tyras to become foster parents, and, after being approved by the state, they almost immediately were introduced to Tyler, their now three-year old son.
Curt and Liz, along with their sons Jordan and Zach, experienced the joy of adding a new family member, the challenge of helping him deal with some physical issues, and the beautiful reminder of the status believers in Jesus Christ have as adopted sons of their heavenly Father.
Tyler has become a part of the Gray Road landscape and a recipient of more love and affection than most children could ever dream of. It would have been a great beginning, middle and ending of a heartwarming story.
But God is writing this story, for His glory.
The Tyras began praying to The Lord for another child to bring into their home. Then a few days after Christmas of last year, a call came to the house. Liz’s brother and sister-in-law had been contacted by Child Services about newborn twins at a north side hospital. The couple had adopted a brother and sister before the Tyras had adopted Tyler, something which had helped get Curt and Liz thinking more seriously about adoption. Now they were being asked about possibly caring for these twins and shared the opportunity with Curt and Liz.
The babies had been born prematurely, to the same birth parents who had Tyler. But nobody was staying with them or visiting them in the hospital. Could the Tyras come and at least hold them? And by the way, could this be a possible placement into their home?
“We will go hold them,” Liz recalls answering. “We’ll pray about the other.”
Truth is, they had no real chance to say no. Once the family went to the hospital, the bonding was immediate. By the next day, everyone was on board with bringing the twins, Aiden and Benjamin, into the family.
As many thoughts raced through his head at the time, Curt recalls one especially strong message going through his brain.
“I just couldn’t imagine someday looking at Tyler and saying ‘We had a chance to take your brothers, but walked away,’” he said.
While various technicalities have to be covered in administrative channels, a relatively fast track appears to be clear for the adoptions to become official, with no challenges pending to the move.
Jordan Tyra pointed his arm straight downward to describe the speed with which events unfolded and how rapid the family’s life was again changing. This all began near Liz and Curt’s 25th wedding anniversary.
“Some people go on cruises for their anniversary, we have twins,” Liz said.
The quick developments have also provided a great opportunity for the Gray Road family to show love to the Tyras and their new babies.
The boys have an issue with their esophagus and throat that made it impossible to swallow liquid without fluid entering the lungs, similar to a condition Tyler has just gotten over. As a result, feeding tubes were required, making meals a much more complicated affair.
A whole crew of women from the church, working in multiple shifts a day, every day, have been making the trek to the Tyra home to hold and feed babies and allow Liz to carry on the rest of her duties as well as just give her an occasional break. Others provided meals, prompting Liz to estimate she went a solid two months without having to cook.
The family had given away a lot of their baby things but report God is providing everything they have needed, sometimes without the need being expressed.
Curt and Liz give Zach and Jordan credit for chipping in big time, noting Jordan has been spending extra time with little brother Tyler, and Zach gave up his bedroom while he’s away at the U.S. Naval Academy, so there were nursery accommodations for the twins.
“God really has blessed us more than we could imagine,” Curt said. “Our neighbors have noticed it too. They’ve said we must have amazing friends.”
Liz noted that outpouring of love has reminded her something about the Gray Road family.
“Our church doesn’t just say they care about the orphan, they live it,” she said. “That’s something Pastor Toby and Susan have really encouraged in our church.”
Ah, that Susan Johnson lady. Pressed for details about that fateful conversation, the mother of five from Tennessee explained why she made the statement
“I think her boys were in junior high school then, but she just had such a mother’s heart. And I could sense how she loved children and loved Jesus,” Susan said. “Because of that, it struck me that she would be really good for adoption. But I also sensed that when I mentioned it, my sweet new friend was not all that fond of (what she had said), so I left it alone. Although we did pray for them a few more times, as we do for other people. I think once people see adoption in person, the Lord uses that to make people tender toward it.
“When I heard they had decided (to adopt) I about came out of my skin.”
Curt has learned a lot through the family’s experience about the need for parents to foster and adopt. He explained that the ongoing heroin epidemic is a major factor in the overwhelming shortfall of parents ready to take in orphaned and abandoned children.
He notes that while the emphasis on the biblical message of adoption is relatively recent in evangelical church circles, it’s not some kind of fad to be followed by all or without a true commitment.
“The biblical picture is clear, but God does not call everyone to do this,” he said. “But maybe some should consider it.”
Maybe we should.