Reunion: When You're Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride


Thanksgiving Day found me 32,000 feet in the air on my journey home from a missions trip to Africa. While we were traveling over the Atlantic, I received a Facebook message from a stranger. (Thank God for technology that enables one to be online on a long flight.) She said, "This may sound like a strange request, but I believe you may be related to my long lost cousin..."  She wanted to know if I could give her any insight to connect with him as they were close as children and she greatly missed him. 

I quickly realized, the woman's long lost cousin happens to be my step-father. He is the husband to my first mother (birth mother) who is now deceased. I could help her reconnect and was glad to. 

Knowing my stepfather well (those of you who read my blog know him as "Tom") I knew without even asking that he would be overjoyed at this connection and welcome her call even on a holiday. She proceeded to pick up the phone and call him and a few hours later, circled back with me. “We were on the phone for over an hour!” and said. “You have absolutely made my Thanksgiving! Thank you sooooo much!”

At the airport with my friends who accompanied me to Africa
I am more than glad to help people in this way.  I can’t even count the number of people I have helped by pointing the way to their family members through various means. Some of them were my own relatives whether birth or adopted. And others, I am not related to at all. However, I have connected many people with the right search angel who helped them, or someone in the adoption community who led to the discovery of their long lost family member. I have had a small part in so many people’s story who thank me for making their reunion possible. And I’m happy for that. I really and truly am.

And at the same time with each one of these situations I think to myself, “Will I always be the bridesmaid and never the bride?”


My traveling companions and I were on our next layover and so glad to be eating American food again when I decided to pop a question. I never shared what had just transpired with my facebook message on the plane but I simply asked them, “Did you have the experience for a long time of always being the bridesmaid and never the bride?”

“No,” each of them answered, “I didn’t have that experience." They all shared that they either hadn't ever been a bridesmaid or were rarely a bridesmaid -- or, they were a bride in the period of time when they wanted to be.

It reinforced what I was feeling.
And what I still feel.
Alone when it comes to this.

It seems like everyone else is finding and announcing their impending reunions. 

Every day on DNA Detectives I see another person with a breakthrough.

I check my DNA results on all the sites every week. 
Same thing, nothing new. (Sigh)  

I come to grips with the fact that I may never walk down the aisle of reunion on the paternal side.
I’m running out of time.
I may forever watch others reunite, while I never do.
I am happy to help others but I wonder, "will this ever happen for me or will I just help others and see their dream come true?"

Many people have helped me on my paternal search and for this I am grateful. I hesitated to even write this post for fear of making any of them sad. Because they have been so good! My friend Gayle has tried so hard to make this dream come true for me that sometimes I think her heart hurts worse over it than mine has.  I have also had several complete strangers have compassion on me and take DNA tests for me in hopes of helping me. And yes, that's amazing.

For as many who have helped me, many have also slammed the door. I am currently trying to get information from a man who may well be a paternal relative. There is so much that points to the possibility of us being related, but he is reluctant to tell me anything and has stopped talking to me altogether. I am sure it's because he knows if we are indeed related it's going to be extremely painful for at least one person in his family. I understand that but still want to know the truth. 

I wonder why the same grace and help I've given to others doesn't always come back to me. I keep holding on that some day, it will.

Another side of me chastises myself with, "You had a reunion on your maternal side. Thank God for that blessing and stop focusing on what you don't have."  I do that for a while but my heart still longs for the truth no matter how much I focus on my blessings.
One of the big keys for me while waiting is to keep a  good attitude. I remind myself to be happy for others. And to continue to be willing to help anyone I possibly can, even if I never get the desire of my heart. That’s what a loving person, a healthy – whole person, does.  Although the longing in my heart doesn't go away, it does do my heart good to see another person's dream fulfilled.

I want to be the person that continues to support others and keeps a good attitude about it even while my own need goes unfulfilled.   I know I’m not alone – there are many of us who are always the bridesmaid and never the bride. And we are surrounded by friends who were brides in the time frame of their dreams.

I ask God to help me me stay loving and supportive. To stay soft and sensitive, not hard and calloused. "Make me better, never bitter" is my prayer.  I want to love big and be happy for my friends, no matter what.  God help me.

The Goodness of God...Or Your Adoptive Parents' Bad and Inexcusable Behavior?



First let’s get this out of the way. 

My adoptive parents always told me from day one that I am adopted and gave me all the information they knew. This post has nothing to do with them. It’s a shame that I should even feel the need to make this disclaimer up front. But the truth is, when any adoptee writes about something like this (or speaks up in any way other than to speak of the institution of adoption in anything but glowing terms) we are branded as bitter, angry and ungrateful -- particularly toward our adoptive parents. Okay now with that out of the way…

What I am about to describe is not an isolated incident. I hear of this quite often among Christian adoptees, so today I am speaking to it. 


There are adoptees who find out the truth about their birth parents identity and their history only after their adoptive parents' death. The parents manage to carefully hide the truth from their son or daughter, for the duration of their life. And then, the adoptee begins the process of sorting through their parents' estate when they die. They sift through file cabinets, attic boxes and safe deposit boxes. Then once they find the holy grail of info about themselves that they formerly lacked, and are connected at last with birth relatives they and others around them exclaim, “How amazing! The goodness of God!”

No actually it’s not God.
It's not good.
It’s not sovereign. 

It's deplorable.

It's a horrible revelation of the true character of the parents who raised you and the degree to which they brainwashed you about God's character.
It's a tragedy that you did not know the truth of your origin sooner. 
And it wasn't God's fault or doing that you didn't know.

Please don’t blame this on God.
It’s not “a miracle.”

If this is God…if this is a "miracle" that you did not find out the truth until your adoptive parents died…if this is His goodness and sovereignty in action…

No wonder many people out there don’t want to know Him!

“I am so thankful to God,” reunited adoptee exclaims upon their adoptive parents death and their subsequent adoption reunion made possible. “He does all things well.”

Yes, He does. Your parents…not so much. They had the chance to tell the truth while they were alive and they didn’t. Oh I know. It was because they “loved” you so much.

No wonder so many adoptees say they find love to be strange, confusing…

Please for the sake of all that is honest and true – somebody tell me just one REAL reason any of this sort of thing is labeled sovereign, good or God?

Nobody should have to die for a person to find out the truth about themselves.

When You're Not Happy and Your Adoptive Family Members Say You Need to Be


This may be the strangest thing you've ever heard. Or it may be a key to a breakthrough for you as it was for me.

As recently as three years ago, no one in my adoptive family had ever seemed to care about my feelings about adoption let alone validate them. Heck, I would have settled for someone just listening -- really listening, minus the validation. But up to three years ago that hadn't happened. Now, I do believe I need to give some credit here to a few individuals who would have listened and validated. But I never started a conversation. Neither did they so I guess we are even.

My validators in my adoptive family are:

My sister, Kim. We are both adopted and have an understanding between us of all that it is to grow up, adopted.

Then there is my cousin Hank who I see or hear very little from - however - whenever I have - he has been supportive.

Then there is my cousin Grace who is a huge support. We have always had a great relationship and when she heard my feelings about adoption I was met with immediate understanding.

Then there is Grace's daughter Amy -- my second cousin, who is also extremely supportive.

 And then, there is my Dad.

Prior to me writing my story, Worthy To be Found, my father and I didn't have an understanding about this. When I got brave enough to share a few things, (usually on my blog) he would say something like, "I don't know what in the world you would be so upset about," or something of that nature. 

Hearing something like that right out of the gate gave me the message that going any further was a moot point. But then, I wrote my story for better or for worse. And some of both came. With some people in my world things became incredibly better and for others it turned worse and has never recovered. Am I sorry for that? No. If people are mad at me for telling the truth, so be it.

I wrote my story. And my Dad read it. And he didn't comment until the 14 day story was almost over. And when he did, it shocked me. He got it. He really, really got it. He put himself in my shoes for a moment and saw just a glimpse  of what it was like to grow up as me. And everything changed. Maybe he didn't really have the attitude prior to this that I just needed to put all my feelings of grief aside and be happy, but that's what I felt - that's what I perceived from him. But after I wrote my story, he no longer exuded whatever that was that I used to feel. Instead what I felt from him was, "It's okay to not be happy about this."

And you know the strangest thing that took place? Ready for this? This is crazy. But when my Dad validated my unhappiness and grief over so much of what happened, and had the attitude, "it's okay to not be happy about any of this..." I became happy!

Yes, you read that right. I became happy. 

(This doesn't mean I became happy with everything that had happened to me, or that I felt that everything within the institution of adoption was suddenly okay. What I refer to is personal happiness.)
That's the power of what just one parent or relative validating your pain can do for you.

Now keeping it real, I still have a lot of family who don't recognize, listen or validate a darn thing when it comes to loss, grief and challenges with adoption. And they probably won't ever. And that's okay.

Somebody did. A few somebodies did. And it made the world of difference.

My friend Laura Dennis say that so many times in the adoptee community we are like a big echo chamber. We just sit around validating each other and embracing each other's pain because few others are out there doing it. And we long for that to change. And it seems to come so slow. And when it does so often it's one step forward, two steps back.  Sometimes it seems like we sit around validating each other and cheering one another on but no one else in the world is joining in. And it hurts. 

The thing is that our adoptive family's validation carries weight. They are the ones who raised us, the ones we grew up with, the ones whose culture we understand better than any other because we lived it all those years. And we long to hear, "We understand, and it's okay to not be happy about everything that happened to you." If they only understood how relationships improve when we just hear and feel that validation.

I enjoy talking to and being with my dad. I like hearing from him. I feel like I can be me with him and don't have to pretty everything up all the time if something makes me feel sad.

I truly wish all adoptive family members out there of adoptees would grasp this reality that their relationships would so change as they seek to understand and as they validate instead of shame, correct or minimize.

I was given a precious gift as my Dad sought to understand. My prayer is that more and more adoptees receive the gift of understanding from adoptive family members. Even just one makes a huge difference.


How Does Family Preservation Work?





We don’t have custody of Livvy anymore. But, she still lives with us. Her mom has custody again and she and Livvy's four year old brother have moved in and joined us in our home at our invitation. We have this arrangement for as long as they need, while she gets on her feet. It could be months or years and it matters not – the offer stands for her to live with us for as long as she needs to. 

Lexi completed the one year program she was in, a few weeks ago. She not only completed the program - she did it with excellence. She was an R.A. of her dormitory there, sang in the choir, and worked hard and got her GED. She is a transformed person. We are so proud of her.  

It has been awesome to see mother – daughter – son reunited. To see them laugh together, eat together, attend church together, play together and drift off to sleep together. It’s a beautiful thing.

Many great things have happened in the past week. Some of those things were nothing short of a miracle. To name a few things – Lexi got her driver’s license reinstated. She got a job! (Yes!!!) Enrolled Brody in school, (an A-rated school, close by), put Livvy on the  waiting list for Early Head Start and more.

In the past week Lexi went with me to a few places that I preached and at one of those places the pastor’s wife said that she was given $100 to help a single mom and God laid it on her heart to give the money to Lexi. (Actually, that is all she has to her name right now until she gets her first paycheck.)

Most of all, a very generous friend from a neighboring church stepped up and offered to pay for Lexi’s training to be certified nursing assistant. She’s wanted to get into the field of nursing, unbeknownst to the friend. She will start training for that in September.  This is just a first step.  We have so much to be thankful for, and none of what I’m about to say negates our gratefulness 

This past week is a  revelation.

It's a revelation about single moms and about family preservation.
 

Here it is:   


If a lot of people don’t want a single mom to succeed they will have a really hard time doing it. 


It really does take an advocate and a village.

 In one week’s time I have learned so much about Medicaid, Early Head Start, School Readiness, WIC, food stamps, and more.

On her third day here, Lexi got a job. (Praise God.) She will be starting at $8.07 an hour. The other night I spent a few hours with her filling out the Medicaid application. She and the kids don't have insurance and are desperately in need.  My husband checked the application over after we prepared it. We pressed “send” and she was immediately rejected.  Whaaaaaat? How the heck do you make $8.07 an hour with two children and get turned down for medical care?  (Yes, she will be working the required number of hours -- actually more.)

So I spent hours the next day while I was at work, trying to call these people while simultaneously working. I heard a recording to press this number, press that number, and then waited on hold on speaker phone while I worked for about two hours. Finally sick of this, I looked up my local Access Office (I didn’t even know what an Access office was before)  left work, got in my car and drove over there. Peeved about being on hold for two hours, I walked right up to the desk and said, “Hey, nobody’s answering the phone, so I’m here.” Yes, I truly did. Then I proceeded to ask them how the heck my niece who makes $8.07 an hour was just turned down for Medicaid. They were actually really nice to me, but explained that I must have filled the application out wrong. I have no idea what was wrong. They didn't give a reason for turning it down. But they said what would have to happen is that we would have to wait about 30 days to get turned down again and appeal it. And keep appealing no matter what. "You need to be relentless they said." No problem, Relentless is my middle name. 

What a system. Forget about making America great again. Make America answer the phone again.

So my husband called an insurance specialist and he said she and the children are  is definitely eligible for Medicaid but they will give us the runaround forevermore and we need to stay on them until they give in.  

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay. Your government dollars at work, my friends.
We pay all this tax money so folks in need can be provided for.  Then we who have paid these thousands of dollars in taxes have to CHASE the government down and try to force them  to cough up the money to the people who are in need? How crazy is that?  

The rejection letter from Medicaid said to check about Obama care. We did and those folks said she was not eligible either. Something about having to make $18 K a year. I don't understand this reasoning at all. The insurance specialist said that with her salary she would never have enough to pay the deductibles.  So much for hope and change.

With all the money we pay in taxes, I was thinking they may roll out a red carpet for Lexi and the children and even send a marching band to the house. I was wrong. They didn't even give us a set of coasters or a pen.

The government doesn’t do go out of their way for anybody, and it still takes people like me and you, family members, friends, non-profits and churches and the like who give a rip about people.    

At the end of the day it's not the government who helps people.
It's people who help people.

Government is just one big ball of red tape that you have to keep chasing .

I am soooooooooooooo grateful to all of the family and friends and the church (not just our church but many church folks from all over) who have reached out to help Lexi with everything from a package of diapers to clothes and shoes, to training to be a CNA. She couldn't move forward without this kind of help. It's the grace of God and this kind of help that has kept her alive! (One year ago she was literally on the verge of death!!!)

More than ever I believe in not only the hope and help of faith, family and friends, but in people like Carolyn Espina and the New Life Center for Family Preservation. They do amazing work. Day in and day out. I believe in them. I believe in what they do.  (By the way, I'm their speaker again at their annual fundraising banquet this year in November. If you live in Florida, maybe you can come! It's on Thursday night, November 3 at Harvest Assembly of God in Lakeland.)

We are praying that Medicaid’s decision will be reversed and will stay on them until it is.  Even if it’s until Jesus comes back they will have to put up with hearing  my relentless voice.

We are praying for a compassionate dentist to help her, pro bono. Do doctors do stuff pro bono or is that just lawyers? Well, you know what I mean.   At least one of her teeth are infected to the point where it has to be extracted. I have written emails to local dentists asking for help and asked friends if they know anyone who does this kind of work as charity.

We are praying provision for a car for her, to get her to work and Livvy to head start, and Brody to school and back.  (There is little to no public transportation in our area.) She will save what little bit she can each week toward it, and we know God is able.

We are praying that a spot with Early Head Start will open for Livvy. Until then we will keep up our juggling act. We could be in the circus by now. She is used to going to Uncle Larry and Aunt Deanna's office when we do not have child care, and traveling all over the state of Florida staying in hotels when I have to preach.

We are praying that with the provision of a job, her bills will be covered.

We are praying most of all that she and the children feel secure and loved in their new place here, and that they thrive and reach the destiny God has for them.

What’s the point of this post?

People talk about how the church isn’t pro-family preservation in many ways.

Sometimes that is true. Other times, it isn't.

Right now in addition to my sister (her mother) -- and our family -- it's the church who is helping Lexi.

I see that the government isn’t set up to promote family preservation.

Family preservation only works when people care.

Family preservation only works when people want it to. 

Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net

No Explanation Needed


Shifts are happening with people becoming greater educated about what adoptees face. Even so, the adoptee experience remains vastly misunderstood or not understood at all by many. Once I came out of the fog, I used to try so desperately to try to make the people around me understand.  Now I realize that not only can you not make someone understand but they have to have a desire to understand in the first place.  If something affected me, I would try to explain it. If I was going to do something or not do something, I would give a reason.  But that has changed.

In the past if my family asked me to go to a movie and I was apprehensive because I thought it may have a triggering theme, I would go into an explanation of why I’d rather not participate. Sometimes this led to my family trying to convince me to change my mind and go. This led to a heated discussion a few times as I didn’t want to be pressured to go through something that for them was pleasure and for me, pain. I just wanted to be at peace. And for me, peace in that instance meant staying home. Now I don't talk about triggers, I just say, "No, I don't want to go to the movies tonight."(By the way if you want to have a heads up about movies beforehand, go to Addison Cooper's Adoption at the Movies. He has given me perspective and saved me from a bad experience quite a few times.)

In the past if I made a leadership decision based upon a trigger or potential trigger, I felt the need to talk to somebody about it even if just one close friend. Perhaps this was to unburden myself more than anything - I'm not sure.  A while back, I sat in a room with a group of leaders who were all encouraged to host a speaker who had just given a presentation about their organization. The short talk itself was unsettling for me and I couldn’t wait until it was over. However many of the leaders around me were already pulling out their calendars to see when they could schedule the person. I just smiled and went to the coffee station for a few minutes and then went about my day, continuing on with the rest of the meetings. No need to talk to anyone about it. I just made a choice and that was that.

In retrospect, I have come to see that a lot of my stress came in the times where I tried to explain my decisions. Why I chose something or why I did not.  Why I go to certain places or not, why I participate in different things or I don’t…why I host various people or I don’t…why I support specific people, causes or organizations or I don’t. I now see that a boatload of my stress came because I didn’t just give a simple no and let it go at that.

There’s a popular meme that says, “You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.” I have come to realize that explaining my feelings or experience is often nothing but an invitation to an argument.  I refrain from commenting on some people’s posts on social media because it’s not worth the emotional energy that it takes to share the truth, although it is…the truth. It will still be the truth whether they believe it or not. And sometimes as an adoptee I find I am alone in the room with the truth. And, it’s okay. Although it wasn't okay a few years ago. In fact I felt like I would explode if I didn't say something. But I’ve had to make peace with it being okay because if not I would have driven myself to the nuthouse trying to change people who are not open to thinking new thoughts.

I can sense when people are open to education, or not. And particularly in the time when I sense they are not, greater peace comes when I realize that no is a whole sentence.    
  
      

When Adoptees Have to Take a Step Back




In my travels, I found this book in a used book store.  "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Adoption."

Truth be told there is no such thing. There's nothing easy or uncomplicated about adoption. And sometimes it all becomes too much and you have to take a step back.

I haven’t met an adoptee yet who hasn’t told me that they take periodic breaks from reading or writing adoption related things. Emotional overload can take a toll on you --  body, mind and soul.

I’ve been in that mode for a while.

Staying away completely and having a 100% respite in your mind isn't possible because of all the questions, comments and triggers in the world.  For me the topic comes up at least once a day most of the time, and a lot of that has to do with my line of work.

Some adoptees tell me they don’t experience adoption related talk daily, and maybe the question should be reframed, “How often do you experience talk in any form that intersects with the subject of adoption?"

Daily, I get questions that I have to stop and think carefully about before answering.  And sometimes I don’t answer. Confession: sometimes I pretend I didn’t hear the question. As crazy as it sounds, sometimes I'm not up to answering a basic question.


“Does your mom or dad have brownish green eyes like yours?"

“Did you hear Eddie and Stacey are adopting from foster care? It might be a sibling group, not sure yet…”   

“Where are you from?”

“Does anyone in your family have a history of breast cancer?"
 

Questions like these come on a daily basis. They aren't mean spirited...they are simply questions people ask in the normal course of conversation. Far too often than not I’ve answered them the way the person asking me wants them to be answered versus the way I want to answer, just so I don’t have to listen to an unwanted speech.

I travel and speak a lot at churches and when I arrive I’m often hit with a trigger before I even set up my things in the lobby.  It’s not uncommon for children to be running around and someone will introduce him or herself and their adopted child and give me their story. Many of them have absolutely no idea I’m adopted. They just want to share. I understand. It's their world and what's happening in it - and what's important to them. I nod my head a lot and smile. I even receive a lot of requests to pray for people who are trying to adopt. And from people whose adopted children are acting out in some way.

Adoption is so complicated. I am never going to gain real understanding or come to an agreement on such deep issues with someone on something so complex in a few minutes of foyer conversation.  So I let it roll and go peaceably to the Green Room to sit in a comfortable chair with a cup of coffee and go over my notes one more time and breathe.

Breathing is good.
Peace is good.

I hate that so often we adoptees have to be silent to get it, but it's the way it goes.

I don’t always share with people that I’m adopted, or anything that is inside of me on that subject because quite frankly, it’s easier for me. Especially before I have to get up and speak and need every speck of physical and emotional energy I have.

Over the past few years I’ve discovered there are a lot of things in this complicated world that an adoptee can only share with another adoptee. And even so, you have to be careful about what adoptee you share with, depending on their level of awareness.

I know it’s not always the best thing to do if you want to change the world. But sometimes, for my own sake, I need to step back. Some days it’s not about changing the world, it’s about my health.

(Before I get a bunch of mail asking if I'm quitting...NO. This doesn't mean I'm not writing or reading about adoption anymore. Simply making the observation that we all need a break from time to time or our own peace of mind, especially regarding something this complicated and never-ending.)