April 28, 2014

Your Response to a Child's Cry May Be LIFE CHANGING!
The Story of Mrs. Blagg

For many years I struggled with anxiety and fear. I now know that much of my struggle was related to post-adoption issues. 

During all of my growing up years, I attended church camp at Potomac Park Assemblies of God Camp in Falling Waters, West Virginia.   My first experience with camp was quite a memorable one. I went on to attend every year and ultimately received a confirmation of my call to ministry there. But if my first experience hadn’t been handled correctly, perhaps I wouldn’t have ever wanted to return. And, even if I did, I might not have received the amazing blessings God had for me, because of my fears.  I share this story partly to underscore the impact adults make on children's lives forever. How we respond to children matters...A LOT. 

Goodbyes and separation always made me anxious though I didn’t manifest it by tantrums or such. I was always quiet about these matters but would became extremely anxious inside, bit my nails down to the quick, wet the bed, or obsessively worked on things or organized. 

 My first year of camp as a very young child  I became fearful that my parents weren’t going to come back for me, or that they wouldn’t be able to find me at the camp when they returned. They never gave me a reason to believe they wouldn’t return. They were good, faithful parents in this regard. Nevertheless, I remember lying awake late into the night, worried sick about their return. Would they come back to get me on Saturday when camp was over? And, would they be able to find me? 

With all of the reading I have done to educate myself on post-adoption issues the past few years, I have discovered this is not an uncommon response for adoptees at all. Some research I have read suggests that many children who are adoptees can become extremely anxious if their parents are even a few moments late picking them up from school or another activity. There is a great fear that they may not return. 

So during this, my first camp experience, I would pack and repack my suitcase, before lights out. My nightly self-assigned chore was organizing and reorganizing it to get it "just right." I now see that this was probably an effort to try to have some sense of control.

As the week of camp progressed, I would lie in bed and quietly cry because amidst all the fun and chaos of lots of little girls staying together, my washcloth had gone missing. Suddenly, I had lost a piece of what control I thought I had. 

One of the girls in the cabin heard me crying and asked, “What’s wrong, Deanna?” I couldn’t explain it but just said I had lost the washcloth, and was afraid I wouldn’t have everything in perfect order. I told her that I was afraid my parents weren’t coming back, or that they wouldn’t be able to find me if they did return. Noticing my distress, she said, “Let’s go get Mrs. Blagg.”

Mrs. Blagg was our counselor for the week. I attended camp dozens of other times after that, but interestingly, I don’t remember even one counselor’s name besides Mrs. Blagg. Thankfully it’s for a good reason. 

Mrs. Blagg was the hands and feet of Jesus. A few of the girls ran and got her. She came over to my bunk bed and put an arm around me, asking what was wrong. When I told her my fears, she gently pushed my long brown hair out of my eyes, and wiped my tears. In a soft, comforting voice she said, “Deanna, everything is going to be alright.  We will find your washcloth and your parents will find you on Saturday. I promise you -- they are coming back for you, and I will be right here with you when they return. It’s going to be okay.” Then she prayed with me and I was able to be at peace and go to sleep.

She didn’t tell me I was silly.
Didn't laugh at me.
Didn’t dismiss my fears.
Didn’t tell me to suck it up.

I stopped worrying about the washcloth and my parents’ return.
I trusted what Mrs. Blagg told me and from that moment, I was able to concentrate on receiving what God had for me at camp. 

Mrs. Blagg was Jesus to a little girl at camp who was scared out of her mind, that her parents were never going to find her again.

I never forgot Mrs. Blagg. And I sure did love camp! I couldn't wait to go back, again and again!

This story became much more special this past Saturday.

I was doing the edits for my upcoming book, the story that many of you have read here on my blog. (Before we had to take it down from the blog, because the book is being published.) I have been asked to expand the original story by about 10,000 words. One of the stories from my life that I decided to include in the memoir is this story about Mrs. Blagg. As I was writing on Saturday, the tears just flowed as I recalled the experience.

Suddenly I remembered that we have an Assemblies of God minister that Larry and I serve with here in Tampa, who also has the last name, Blagg. The AG is a small world even though there are millions of adherents. So, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if Pastor Bruce Blagg is related to Mrs. Blagg?”  So... I Facebook messaged him and said, “Hey Bruce, by any chance did your mother ever serve as a camp counselor at Potomac Park Camp? And does your mother have red hair?”  To my utter shock, he answered, “Yes!” 

Pastor Bruce’s mother is Mrs. Joan Blagg, now in her eighties, and is STILL teaching a girls class in her local Assemblies of God church, in West Virginia.

Bruce immediately got on the phone with her, and his father as well, and read them the story you have just read above, that I also sent to him on Facebook. All three of them wept!

Mrs. Blagg said, “Bruce, there’s more…I served for four years at that camp, but only counseled the first year. The remaining years they placed me in different areas of ministry besides camp counselor. My only time serving as counselor with the girls was the first year -- the year with Deanna. It seems God may have had me there just for her sake!”

Bruce asked if I could call him Saturday night and said he had something special to tell me. Voice breaking with tears, he relayed this story to me and said, “Deanna, that’s how much God loves you! He had mom there that year, just for you!”

Mr. and Mrs. Blagg will be visiting Bruce and his wife Pam later this year in Tampa and they have expressed a desire to come visit us at our church, and reconnect. I can hardly wait! I will have the opportunity to thank Mrs. Joan Blagg in person, forty years later, for the loving, caring, Holy Spirit directed way in which she ministered to me, so many years ago.

Thank you God, for loving me so much. And thank you, Mrs. Blagg. I am a life that was changed.

April 25, 2014

Adoptees and a Broken God-Concept


Many adoptees don’t turn to God to heal them because they’re convinced He caused the separation from their first family. After all, it’s what they are so often told…

“God had a plan…”
“God always ordained this for you…”

Do I believe God has a plan for my life? Absolutely.
Do I believe God ordains my steps? Yes.
Do I believe God is responsible for the separation of my first family? No.

I don’t believe God causes everything that happens. To allow and to cause are two different things.

I do believe He works all things together for our good, if we let Him. A huge part of that is our own wise choices. I can't control everything that happens to me in life but I can choose how I respond to it.

Everything that has happened to me in life hasn’t been good or God.

But God was always there through it all, and when life dealt some harsh blows, God was an ever present help – time and time and time again.

Recently I’ve been reading a book my sister gave me called, “Overwhelmed” by her pastor, Perry Noble. One of the key points Perry makes is, “In a world that is bad, God is still good.”

I understood this truth from the time I was really young. By God’s grace I was able to grasp the goodness of God early on and didn’t allow anyone to talk me out of it. 

I find it easy to reach for God to heal me because I don’t  believe He hurt me.   
I wish all adoptees could know this.

God loves you.
There’s nothing He won’t help you through. You can trust Him.

*Photo by Deanna Doss Shrodes

April 23, 2014

Questions to Ask About Secondary Rejection

The institution of adoption is complicated by it’s very nature. Even so, there are times I ask myself simple questions about various aspects of it and can quickly come to a conclusion.

Take secondary rejection in reunion, for example…

I see no positive value in it. Ever.

I can’t find even one positive reason for a secondary rejection.

Is there anyone who can give me a valid, God-honoring reason for making that choice?

I ask these questions:

What good comes from exclusion?
What good comes from inclusion?
What’s not to like about enlarging your circle of love? 

Okay readers, what do YOU think?

Can you think of even one good reason for a secondary rejection?

I honestly invite you to give it your best shot and try to change my mind if you have a differing opinion. I'm truly open to hearing your point of view. 

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net 

April 21, 2014

Yes, You CAN Get Through Secondary Rejection!

I know about what is known in the adoption world as "secondary rejection" from first-hand experience. It happened to me and was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to overcome.

There are a lot of things I want to say about this, but today, my thought for those of you who face this is:

You CAN get through this.

“Well Deanna, you got through it because your mother changed her mind.”

No, she didn’t.

Yes, we were in reunion 20 years before she died this past August. 

But that didn’t happen first because she changed her mind.   

It changed because I showed up on her doorstep anyway.
And then, she made the decision to stay connected.

Don’t think it wasn’t hard, or isn’t still hard now at times, for that matter – to know that she would have never changed her mind and gone back for me if I hadn’t shown up.

How do I know that?

I asked. You're crazy to ask this stuff, Deanna...

What I have never seemed to be able to handle is the not knowing.

So I ask the hard questions.
And, sometimes still don't get the answers.

There’s still plenty of unknowns to be had, even 47 years later.

I can’t say that those things ever get easier.
But I can tell you that I get stronger.

I'm not the same person even though many of my circumstances have stayed the same. 

I've learned my situation can change because I make the decision to change. (One variable changes it. That variable has most often been me.) 

I've also learned this:

Getting through it is INTENTIONAL. 

There’s nothing accidental about getting through a secondary rejection. Please, if you have any inkling that time alone is going to heal it, or that you are just going to wake up one day and miraculously feel different, dispel that myth right now.

The after-affects of secondary rejection don't just fade away with time. You MUST address them and go to the hard places to get to the healed places. 

Getting through it is A PROCESS.   

Please, remove the clock from this process. And remove comparisons as well. You’re not in a rush or a race. You will get through it if you are intentional and it will be in your own unique timing.

Caution: "Getting through it" does not mean you will never have another sad thought. Or that you won't have to determine to forgive again. And again. Getting through it and living an overcoming life doesn't mean things are perfect and you will never have a sad moment. Know what that's called? HEAVEN. And we're not there yet.

Getting through it is POSSIBLE.

There’s nothing you will ever face that God can’t and won’t help you get through. One thing I do know is that God won’t do anything with something you are unwilling to give to Him. Over and over again I’ve had to give him the broken areas of my life. He didn’t cause my secondary rejection. But He did work it for my good as I kept giving the pain to Him.  

Do. Not. Give. Up.

Refuse to let secondary rejection kill you, physically – emotionally – spiritually.

You CAN overcome that which you are convinced will be the death of you, I promise. 

If you have just experienced it, you are finding it hard to breathe.

Every part of you hurts.

And you are trying to hold your life together the best you can and not spill out emotionally all over the place while you get your work done each day.

I remember it like it was yesterday...

How it Happened for Me

My secondary rejection took place when I was pregnant with my second son. My boys are just a year apart. Having them so close, I got a double dose of the magnificence that is motherhood. Experiencing motherhood for the first time and then so rapidly in succession while also experiencing secondary rejection made me ask, "HOW IN THE WORLD DID THIS HAPPEN TO ME?????????????" 

It was too overwhelming for me to even comprehend.

More than once, trying to wrap my head around it sent me to a sobbing heap on the kitchen floor, crying out to God to please help me.

Usually this happened while Dustin was napping in his crib and I (pregnant with Jordan) was standing at the sink doing the dishes. There were times I was so overwhelmed with the thought of how I could possibly let go of my babies  and why someone ever let go of me...25 years prior and then the previous year AGAIN...that I just dropped to the floor and wailed until I was as limp as the dishrag in my hand. 
"God, please help me," I prayed. "I can't face the magnitude of this realization, alone."

"You're never alone," He always spoke back, in the still small voice in my heart.

I wasn't alone then and I'm not alone now. 

Neither are you, my friend. 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

April 18, 2014

One Reason Why I Totally Reject Secondary Rejection

My sister Shari arrived late last night, and is visiting through the weekend for Easter.   We started out the day yesterday by enjoying pedicures together with my daughter Savanna.

Shari mentioned again how hard things would be right now, had I not found her back in 1993, pressing forward after I experienced what is known in the adoption world as, "secondary rejection."

We talked about why we think secondary rejections happen – the biggest reasons in our mind being unresolved pain and the shame.

One of the frustrating things for me as I meet people who experience secondary rejection is that it is utterly needless.

I have yet to meet even one person whose secondary rejection was rooted in a good reason. And yet, it is a decision that is made countless times, affecting so many in it’s wake.

If I wouldn’t have pressed on to find my brother and sister, Shari would not be laying in the next room over, sleeping in my house right now as I type this.

She wouldn't have sat in Pipo's and eaten a Cuban sandwich with us for lunch today.

She wouldn't have attended Zumba class with me at the church and jumped around high fiving me afterwards.

She wouldn’t enjoyed ice cream with me after Zumba (negating all the sweating we did in class).

She wouldn't have laughed so hard with me over inside jokes that all of the passersby wondered what got into us. 

She wouldn’t have gone on a long walk and had a heart to heart talk with me, after we got home.

None of that would have happened. 

Instead, she probably would have been back at her place in Charleston, SC…laying in bed thinking about how all of her family members are gone now except our brother.

Had I accepted our mother’s needless decision of a secondary rejection in 1991, that would have been the reality of my sister’s life right now.

Why do I reject secondary rejection, outright?

Because there's never a good reason for it.  Every time I've heard a woman's reason for it, it's rooted in a cover up, lie, secret, shame, or unresolved pain.

If someone can give me even ONE good reason for secondary rejection, I'd consider it as a viable option but as of yet no one has been able to do that.

I’ve been admonished at times to accept the things I can’t change.

But sometimes you just have to decide to change the things you can’t accept.   

April 16, 2014

Why Pursue Siblings After Secondary Rejection?
(Is It Really So Crazy?)

My sister Shari is coming to visit today, for a few days. She wanted to be with us for the Easter weekend. (We are both believers and this weekend is extremely important to us as women of faith.) It will be the first time we’ve seen each other since our mother passed away this past August.
As far as immediate family, my brother and I are all that my sister has left in this world.

Both of her parents are now dead, and there are no other siblings but my brother and I.

Our brother is loving but extremely quiet and to himself. Connecting with him is a challenge at times – not because he’s uncaring (he isn’t) he’s just not a communicator.

If I hadn't pursued my natural family (including the siblings I knew about from the adoption agency) with wholehearted determination, back in 1991…my sister would be a lot more “alone” in this world, as far as immediate family. 

I kept going with the search, even after experiencing what is known as, "secondary rejection."

Judy (my natural mother) was consistent over the years in being happy about mine and Shari's relationship. She told me all throughout our 20 years together, and reaffirmed it right before she passed away, that she was so grateful Shari and I had each other. She often said she hoped our bond would increase. (Judy was so blessed throughout her whole life to have such a close bond with Aunt Jeri. She wanted that for us.)

It's a weird paradox how she didn't want to be found and yet was so glad to be found at times. (It's best when I just don't try to figure it out. LOL)

It’s times like today,that I’m really, really glad I didn’t give up, even when all the powers that be said it was over.

It’s never over til’ God says it’s over.
Don’t give up.

April 14, 2014

Different is No Cause for Dismissal of a Person or Story

There are times I meet an adoptee whether in person or online and they say, “Oh my gosh, it’s like we are living parallel lives! My head might fall off from nodding so much while I read your story…”

Then, there are those who say, “My situation is nothing like yours. At all." 

And isn’t that entirely NORMAL?

When did not living as a cookie cutter become a crime?

Why are some intent on dismissing a person or story because it's not anything similar to their own?

We meet people whose journey is so much like ours, it’s uncanny.
We also meet those with whom we have little in common.

Two adoptees raised in the same house have two different stories. 

That doesn’t mean there’s a problem with my story.
Or yours.
 Or theirs.

It simply means we’re different.

Different is no cause for dismissal.
It’s just…different.

Different is good.

April 11, 2014

Adult Adoptees: We Are The Grown Ups Now

Yesterday was National Sibling Day.

I was once again reminded of the fact that had I not pressed forward after my natural mother’s initial refusal to reunite, I would not know two of my three siblings. (I have two natural siblings that I met in reunion in 1993 - a brother and sister, and one adopted sister that I grew up with.) 

As many of you who regularly read this blog already know, my natural mother initially said no to reunion -- through an intermediary. Two years later, I showed up on her doorstep to give her opportunity to accept me or reject me, with no one in between us. I thought two adults deserved the chance to talk to one another unhindered. She made the decision to reunite once she met me personally.(The story will be released as a book, later this year.)

I got the feeling right up to her death last year, that my natural mom felt she should be in charge. Enter Deanna, who was born in charge. Comin’ out of the womb with a briefcase in one hand and a microphone in the other. At least, that’s what my good friends say.   

Needless to say this was an oil and water mix at times. Two women who both thought they were in charge. And one who thought the other woman was still a baby! Add to that an adoptive mom who thought she should be in charge at times because, "I'm the one who raised you!" and ka-BOOM! Call a SWAT Team, now. Adoption bombs raining down...

April 9, 2014

Shaming Adoptee Pain is Never Effective

“Here’s a woman with rheumatoid arthritis, and she looks happy to me!”

Would you purposely post a photo and story of a woman who has rheumatoid arthritis so friends who have RA could see it, and say something like this? Would you attempt to “shame” your struggling friends for not keeping smiles on their faces 24/7? Would you question the character of your friends for admitting they have difficult days?

No.  If you answered yes, I know a lot of good therapists I can refer you to. Nobody with all their marbles is going to exhibit this appalling behavior, but it happens to adoptees all the time.

It happened to me yesterday. Someone who openly questions the trauma aspect of adoption posted what I would consider a “slam” on Facebook.  A photo of a young adoptee along with their story was posted and in response the person wrote, “Here’s an adoptee, and he looks happy to me!”

Dear sweet Lord baby Jesus, where do I even begin? I struggle that people like this hold critical jobs in our society.

April 7, 2014

When Is Closed Adoption the Best Option for a Child?

What reason, aside from a child's safety, would a closed adoption (versus an open adoption) ever be the best option for a child?

I do not ask this question for the sake of argument.

I am genuinely wondering.

This question popped into my mind the other night and won’t get out.

 I have racked my brain in wondering why a closed adoption would EVER be the best option for a child, unless his or her safety were at stake.   

Aside from safety, I struggle to find a compelling reason.

Please, share with me your reasons, if any -- that a closed adoption would be in the child's best interest.

I'm listening... 

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net