June 30, 2014

Trusting & Fully Loving Your Spouse or Significant Other
(10 Important Choices Adoptees Can Make)

During our one-year engagement, Larry and I had a long-distance relationship. I worked as a counselor at New Morning Ministries (NMM)  in Newark, New Jersey.   NMM was a home for trouble teen girls – mostly runaways. I loved serving there, although the separation from my fiance felt almost unbearable at times. 

Us...way back when.
Larry would visit once every few months, and as soon as he arrived, I would start crying. Puzzled, he would ask why and I would respond that it was because he was leaving in a few days. He would always say, “I just got here! Enjoy me while I’m here.” For reasons I would not understand until many years later, I always focused on the impending goodbye, and not the joy of the present.

 Like many adoptees, I feared goodbyes - and more than anything, loss in general.
    "Adoptees suffer from a fear of loss. They see loss all over the place. Even those adopted in infancy feel the loss…if it happened once, it can happen again."  

~ Dr. Marshall Schechter, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine and nationally recognized expert on adoption

In the beginning years of our marriage, I feared that Larry would leave me.  It was very difficult for me to trust him even though he never did anything to break my trust. Even if we had a small  fight, I feared he would leave. I didn’t respond by clinging tighter or becoming needy. Instead, I just never let him know I needed him. I became as self-sufficient as possible, always preparing for what I believed was his inevitable exit. I braced myself for life without him, convinced it was coming.

I told Larry I loved him, often. But it wasn’t until at least a decade or more of our marriage that I ever said the words, “I need you.” Those words scared me out of my mind, to let Larry or anyone think I needed them. Because in my mind, the more you need someone – the greater potential of their leaving. So in my mind, even subconsciously, that’s what I was preparing for all along life’s path.

I loved with reserve. Not needing people in the first place seemed so much easier than needing them and losing them.    

I never told Larry I was afraid, but he figured it out. And one day sat me down, looked into my eyes and said, “Deanna, I’m not leaving. Get it through your head, I am not leaving. I’m never leaving. Ever.”

I finally believed it. 
I relaxed a bit.

But a part of me knew although he could promise me that in an, "I'm not-leaving-this-marriage" sense, he couldn’t promise me that he wouldn’t leave this world. And so, I still worried.   

The better our marriage got, the more I feared losing him.

With all the choices we make in this life there are still a few we can’t make. We can't control when we come into this world and we can't totally control when we leave. We can increase or decrease our odds by taking care of our health and such, but sometimes things still happen.

I remember a particular birthday Larry planned for me that was almost other-worldly. The plan, or so I thought was to go to  Carrabbas. On our way, Larry said he had to swing by the church to pick something up. When we arrived at the church, a limo was there. When the chauffer opened the door, imagine my surprise that six of our friends were waiting inside!  From there we went together to Donatello's, a four star Italian restaurant. Just when I thought the chauffer was going to take us back to the church parking lot, he headed in another direction and pulled up at the Grand Hyatt, and thereafter pulled out my suitcase. I wondered how it got packed and my friends just giggled and said that Larry had taken care of everything and my amazing weekend had just begun! They said goodbye as we headed off for a romantic escape.

The next morning I woke up wrapped up in the sheets and staring at the ceiling thinking, “When am I going to lose all of this?”

I know…it doesn’t seem logical.

When experiencing perfectly wonderful moments, nothing used to scare me more than realizing it could all come to a screeching halt and there was nothing I could do about it but survive. 

Larry and I could have the most amazing times ever, and afterward it was like a black cloud descended on me. Things would go from elation to despair. It took me a long time to figure out why. Even after he promised me he would never leave. I was afraid of an “act of God”, the devil, a freak accident or whatever outside of my control-- might take Larry or the kids from me.

I finally realized why I had these fears and came to terms with them.   

I know this will not be much help to readers who aren’t people of faith. That’s one reason why, quite frankly, I don’t know what people do who don’t have faith in God.  I do believe with Him, anything is possible including overcoming the fear of loss.

Here’s what I’ve settled on…

Sooner or later we will lose everyone who means anything to us, from this world.  

Either we will leave, or they will.

Nobody gets to stay on this earth, indefinitely. This is a fact of life.

All of us say goodbye to this world and enter another one.

As wonderful as it can be, this world is not our final home.

Realizing this helps me make 10 important choices in regarding to loving and trusting my husband and others. These choices make it possible for me to enjoy life.

10 Choices

1) I choose to love without reserve.

2) I choose to let people in. Walls built to try to keep pain out just keep love from getting in. 

3) I choose to accept that I need others and they need me.

4) I choose to trust those who have proven themselves and give me no reason not to trust.

5) I choose to revel in memory-making moment and not fear the “what-if’s”…

6) I choose to appreciate every moment with my husband, children and loved ones.

7) I choose to live in the the joy of the present and not agonize over possible future losses, thereby stripping me of the joy of now.   

8) I choose to stand in faith and not fear.

9) I choose to believe that whatever loss I may face in the future, I do not face alone. The same God who was with me in my early losses will be with me through whatever I may face in the future.

10) I choose to cling fiercely to the One who has been with me since the beginning and has never left me, and never will.

You have the ability to make the same choices. 

June 16, 2014

Choosing Forgiveness on Father's Day, and Every Day

Yesterday, my adoptive Dad asked if I had heard anything else about my search for my natural father. He asked me when I called him for Father's Day, because he honestly cares.

Maybe he thought it was a hard day for me and gently took the time before we hung up, to ask if I was struggling. 

Truthfully, I wasn't. 
The day was no harder for me than any other day. 

I live with the realization of what is, but determine every day to forgive.

It's an act of my will, not something that is determined by my feelings.  

Feelings are terrible leaders.
So I choose to lead myself by facts, not feelings.

Bathtub Revelations

The most introspective thoughts and prayers seem to come to me as I'm soaking in my big tub. Maybe because it’s really a sanctuary for me. I arrived at the thought that most people who experience something traumatically life-altering have to make a choice daily to forgive.

Numerous people have hurt me over the span of twenty-seven years in ministry, but it doesn’t require me to wake up daily and forgive for the same offense. Godly and wise people loose things like that and let them go. Some people who caused harm to myself or my family years ago, I don't even remember the names of, at this point! But then, there are other things that affect your life profoundly whereby you are forever altered. Sitting in my tub pondering this, I had the thought -- it’s not so much about holding a grudge, it’s more about waking up so undeniably changed that you can’t avoid the obvious. It would be like waking up every day without your legs because they were blown off, and trying to ignore the fact.

After a life-altering act, you can move forward but life doesn't go back to the way it was. You wake up every day with the realization that things are different because of a choice someone made. That’s kind of where I reside daily, but I live victoriously despite having lived through the unthinkable. Every day I say,  “As an act of the will, I forgive…” and then keep moving forward.

Choosing Empowerment

I read a quote by T.D. Jakes recently:   “Forgiveness is about empowering yourself, rather than empowering your past.”   

That’s one of several reasons I choose it.

I was grateful that yesterday not one person felt the need to tell me that because of four great fathers in my life (my adoptive Dad, step-dad, father-in-love and the amazing father of my children) any other loss was utterly meaningless.  Yippee for trigger-free days!

As many adoptees know, yesterday was a day with much trigger potential for us.  Having the impact of significant losses dismissed is not only triggering, it’s exhausting. It was a good day for me to be thankful for all four of these men, yet at the same time live in the real world. Because that’s where I live - in reality.   


An adoptee friend made the point yesterday that all children have fathers. 
No child is fatherless.  Or motherless.

Every person in the world who has ever been born has a father, and that will never, ever change. 

The fact is simply, some fathers are involved and some aren’t.
Some are known to the child and others not. 
Some step up to their responsibilities and others don’t. 
But we all technically have fathers.
 It takes both a mother and a father to create a child. 
Whether they actually raise the child they conceive is another story.

So, I have another a natural father out there, I  just don’t know for sure who he is.  

Whether he’ll look into my eyes or vice versa, within my lifetime remains to be seen.   

Until then I’ll keep waking up every day -- empowered, choosing forgiveness and kicking the devil’s tail.

*Photo by Deanna Doss Shrodes

June 10, 2014

When Those Who Hurt You Try to Dictate the Terms of Your Healing

“You don't get to hurt someone and then outline the 'appropriate way for them to heal.' Perpetrators don't get to write the rules of healing.”

 Last night I wrote this quote on my Facebook, when the thought hit me that many times, those who hurt us try to dictate the terms of our healing. When the person who caused our hurt attempts to control the way we heal, it’s sometimes as painful as the initial injury.

When I’ve gone through the more traumatic times after losses incurred, I notice how some want to set a clock on my grief, or tell me the appropriate ways to go about seeking healing. This is accompanied by shame for seeking healing in ways they aren’t comfortable with.

The rules vary from person to person.

It may be everything from, “I don’t understand why you need counseling for this…” to “Is it really necessary to write about this?”

Well here’s the thing…if they caused the hurt they have no right to speak into the situation.

One of my heroes is Martha Tennison, a very well known evangelist in our denomination. I’ve listened to her preach since I was just a little girl and I still sit in awe of the many things she shares. One thing she often says is, “Those who hurt you cannot heal you.” What wisdom!

Not only can those who hurt you not heal you, but they aren’t the ones to turn to for wisdom or boundary setting on how to move forward. They may try to tell you what’s right and wrong, exactly how you should proceed to move forward or how you aren’t progressing quick enough for them. But that’s not their place.   

I have found it’s uncomfortable at best to deal with such individuals but for my health, developing healthy boundaries is important so I can actually move forward. 

At my pace.
And my rules.

*Photo by Deanna Doss Shrodes