I am a Daughter – The Story of my Inheritance

By Hilary Yeo

The Lord had pulled me in, securing my identity, position, and inheritance for eternity and no earthly inheritance can ever compare or diminish the faithfulness and provision of our heavenly father.

One of my earliest childhood memories is feeling certain that I was adopted. I wasn’t, but at the time it seemed to be the only plausible explanation for how I could have ended up in the family I was raised in. “I don’t fit with these people,” was a very consistent thought all through my childhood and adolescence. As a child, I sought an explanation. My mother produced a copy of my birth certificate to convince me of my biological identity, and I declared it “an obvious fake.”

The middle child, I was also labeled “the emotional one.” My older brother was very abusive to me, and my younger sister had no interest in a close relationship. It was a hard way to grow up. I realize now that my ability to feel things very deeply, a characteristic that was a constant source of criticism from my biological family, was part of God’s plan. My empathy helped me to understand what I was living through, protected me by allowing me to grieve when the time came, and eventually positioned me to be used to comfort others.

I grew up in a suburb of New York City, thirty miles north of Manhattan on the Hudson River. We lived on one of the best streets in the village and were members of the country club. My Dad, a proud graduate of Columbia and Yale, was a partner at a prominent Wall Street law firm. He was a two-term mayor of our village, and the governor appointed him as a County Court Judge. I spent my teenage years known as “the mayor’s daughter” and thankfully attended private school, shielding me during the week from local opinions on his tenure. My mother trained us in religion, requiring my siblings and me to attend mass every Sunday at the local Catholic church until we were eighteen and could then “decide for ourselves.” I knew when to sit, stand, and kneel, and had all of the Catholic liturgy memorized; I just didn’t know what any of it meant—or that I could and should know what it meant. I had no theological grid.

My family looked successful on the outside, but the façade fell apart when I was a senior in college and my Dad obtained a quick divorce in the Dominican Republic during my finals week, days before Christmas. By then I knew that my Dad was an alcoholic and a prescription drug addict; he was emotionally abusive, and an adulterer. But he was the only father I had and I loved him.

Five months after my graduation, I was working in the city and had my first date with the man who would become my husband, the first person I ever knew who read the Bible. Five months after that first date, sitting in the church that my soon-to-be father-in-law pastored, I picked up a Bible, read John 14, and I heard Jesus’ voice for the first time. I was so startled by the revelation that Jesus is real! that I turned in my seat, though no one was seated behind me. I was so overwhelmed that my first thought was, “Does everyone know this – because everyone needs to!” That day I became the only believer in my biological family.

Four months later, on August 24, 1985, my husband and I were married. We lived in New Jersey as newlyweds, and commuted to work in the city. I tried to maintain relationships with my unhealthy biological family, something I would try to do for years to no avail, while trying to build a healthy new family with my husband. As I grew in my faith, I finally began to understand why I had felt adopted from such a young age. God had been preparing me to be adopted into His family, where I am a beloved, cherished, and treasured daughter, where I am fully seen, fully known, and fully loved. The understanding that God is my real and true Father was an incredible relief to me. The more I experienced a healthy relationship through my marriage, the more I understood how unsafe my biological family was. I learned that just because someone is related to you doesn’t give them the right to try to destroy you. God was preparing me to make some hard choices.

God had been preparing me to be adopted into His family, where I am a beloved, cherished, and treasured daughter, where I am fully seen, fully known, and fully loved. The understanding that God is my real and true Father was an incredible relief to me.

In 1987, my husband and I relocated to North Carolina, moving 500 miles away from my biological family. Shortly after we arrived, my father was emotionally abusive to me once again, dripping poison onto my heart as he had done so many times before. I was twenty-four years old when I finally drew a line in the sand and told him that I was not able to continue to have a relationship with him, not realizing that we would never speak again. Over the next few decades, I never gave up hope that we would re-connect. I grieved the loss of a Dad, even one that was so toxic as mine. I prayed for him for years and asked God to reconcile us, and He eventually answered my prayer—though my father never reached out to me ever again—not on any birthday or Christmas, not after the birth of my son, his first grandchild, not after the birth of my daughter, never.

As the millennium dawned, my husband and I, by then successful pursuers of the American dream, lost a lot of money in a bad real estate deal, both our children needed surgery, and my husband was spending far too much time at work. Despite professing to be Christians, God revealed the idols we had put our trust in—our money, our success, our stuff, our dreams, and ourselves—all which proved to be completely untrustworthy. In our financial, spiritual, and emotional brokenness, we realized the mess we were making trusting in ourselves and turned over the control in every area of our lives to Christ. We would never be the same.

Six years later my husband and I entered full time ministry and were preparing to go to the mission field and move our family to Southeast Asia. The missionary sending agency encouraged us to “take care of any unfinished business” before we left the country. I’m so thankful for that wise advice. It was time.

I sat down and wrote a letter to my Dad, which I then mailed. Having forgiven him years before, I told him how often I had thought of him over the years, how much I missed having a Dad, how much I had hoped for reconciliation, and that now that I was a parent it was hard for me to understand why he had never reached out to me. I told him if something wasn’t right between my kids and me, that I would go to the ends of the earth to make things right. I thanked him for the great education he provided for me, for the memories I had of some good family vacations, and I told him that I hoped he would find peace with God. He never responded to my letter.

I told him if something wasn’t right between my kids and me, that I would go to the ends of the earth to make things right. I thanked him for the great education he provided for me, for the memories I had of some good family vacations, and I told him that I hoped he would find peace with God. He never responded to my letter.

In 2011, I was back in the States when I learned from my sibling that my Dad was dying. Unable to sleep that night, I picked up my Bible and started reading. I was in Deuteronomy and the Lord gave me this verse:

For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows you’re going through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.” – Deuteronomy 2:7

I felt so seen, so known, and so loved when I read that. It was truth I needed to hear and at exactly the right time.

In the days that followed, I wasn’t invited to a funeral and I wasn’t included in anything other than being left a voicemail message that he had in fact died. It was over. I had my answer—the reconciliation I had prayed for and entrusted to God was answered “no.” Though I was disappointed, I knew from His Word that God is faithful, He is trustworthy, that He is good in what He gives, and He is good in what He takes away. It was not God’s will that I be reconciled to my biological father and although that is sad, I can trust that my loving Father made that decision for my good. I accept that and I am at peace.

In pruning me from the unhealthy tree of my biological family, God took a little seed and grew a new tree, a healthy tree by giving me my own loving marriage, two believing kids who follow Jesus, adore one another, and love and enjoy their parents. Glory to God, we are a happy and healthy family, something that I had no model for growing up, but was given to me as a gift from my Father. He is good. He is generous. He works miracles. My family is a miracle of grace.

I know today that I spent many years of my life trying to have relationships with abusive family members just because they were related to me. I only ever wanted them to love me, and I tried repeatedly to get them to do that. It was like trying to pay a debt that I didn’t owe. Finally, a wise friend told me to stop going to a dry well expecting to find water. Forgiveness takes one, but reconciliation and relationship takes two.

The last chapter of the story of my biological family happened in the summer of 2015. After a thirty year absence, God called my husband and me back to the city where we fell in love, to ministry positions in our native New York. I knew it was time to resolve the remaining questions surrounding my Dad’s death.

Still trying to appear a success to the world until his dying day, I was named as a survivor in my Dad’s obituary, as were my children who he chose to never acknowledge nor meet while alive. And then in the privacy of his last Will and Testament, I received the final rejection, the final punishment that only a narcissist would give to one who will not worship them. He disinherited me.

“At the time of the execution of this Will my immediate family consists of my spouse, <name of my Dad’s second wife>, and my children, <name of my biological sibling>, <name of my biological sibling>, and HILARY REED YEO. As it is not anticipated I will have any other children, any reference to any future children is hereby intentionally omitted, and all references to children in my will shall refer to the above named children.  It is my specific intent and directive that no distribution of real or personal property be made from this Will to my daughter, HILARY REED YEO and her lineal descendants, if any.”

This paragraph appears three times throughout the Will. I am assuming that is for the purposes of declaring a very specific intention. It hurt. And then my daughter pointed something out that brought tears to my eyes. The Will was dated just a few months after my husband and I had relinquished control of our lives to the Lord, the day we know we truly became His children. Before my biological Dad pushed me out by disinheriting me, the Lord had pulled me in, securing my identity, position, and inheritance for eternity.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,“ – 1 Peter 1:3-4

In losing a Dad, I gained a Father. In being disinherited, I am reminded of my true inheritance, one that is imperishable, undefiled and kept in heaven, waiting for me.

In losing a Dad, I gained a Father. In being disinherited, I am reminded of my true inheritance, one that is imperishable, undefiled and kept in heaven, waiting for me.

My name is Hilary Reed Yeo and no last Will and Testament could ever change that. More importantly, and for all eternity, I am the daughter of the King. I have my inheritance, and I lack nothing.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
– Isaiah 40:28-31

“But to the tribe of Levi Moses gave no inheritance; the Lord God of Israel is their inheritance, just as he said to them.” – Joshua 13:33

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