June 22, 2015

A Father's Day with Answers
An Adoptee's Dream

 Yesterday I was leading worship at church and one of the songs we did was, “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons and Daughters. I couldn’t help but think to myself even as we were singing it, “Yes, it's true. Great are you Lord!  And I know You can do anything. I am still trusting you for the answers..."

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

And through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And through it all, through it all
It is well
And through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And it is well with me

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see
And this mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well it is well with my soul   


As we sang, my thoughts roamed to…will this mountain, this 48 year old mountain in front of me EVER be thrown into the midst of the sea? Because sometimes, keeping it real…I doubt. 

Time really is running out. And yet, I do trust that I will not wait until heaven for these answers.

I wish God wasn't waiting until the midnight hour to answer, but it appears that's what He's going to do. 

Because I am no spring chicken.
And neither is my natural father.

In fact, unless a miracle occurs, I'm going to find a grave. 

It's all so unnecessary. No, not unnecessary for me to care about, or unnecessary for me to focus on. That's not the unnecessary part at all. The unnecessary thing is that we have an archaic system in our country whereby people don't readily know their own history.

Of course here I need to give the obligatory, "I'm thankful for my adoptive dad, my step dad, and my father-in-love..." because if I don't say it, I'm fixing to get an admonition in the comment section to focus on them, or on my husband who is a great father. Please, tell me something I don't know for once.

My eyes are on God.

I do trust.

And I really hope that by the time I am 50 years old, I will have a Father’s Day where I actually know who my original father is.

My thoughts will not wander during worship to, "When God, when?"  

A girl can dream.  

June 8, 2015

Adoptee Marriage: The Trigger Free Home

Recently I let my husband know that I needed our home to be a trigger free zone. I really wish I would have done this sooner!

Maybe you are an adoptee who lives in a trigger free home, but I wasn’t one until recently. 

My husband and I have had conversations about many issues we don't agree on. Adoption-related issues we disagree on are rare, as I would estimate we agree on 95% of the issues. Still there is that 5%. And sometimes the conversations about those rare things can be heated and hurtful.

Larry has lived with me for 27 years of marriage, and understands as much as a non-adoptee can, about what it’s like to be me. When we have disagreed regarding something about adoption, it would usually trigger me terribly, sending me to an emotionally low place. Even though our disagreement about adoption was rare, the fact that my spouse believed the opposite of me on something that went to the very core of my very being was hard. Sometimes I would be triggered simply because he didn't get what I was triggered by and I felt dismissed.

After 27 years of marriage, he is still surprised at certain things that trigger me.

 In the past we would talk through these issues, hash them out, and ultimately agree to disagree. But something has changed. It was my job.

A year ago I went from working in the church as co-pastor, (where I've been our entire marriage) to serving as director of women's ministries in our state denominational office.  When serving in this role, triggers come a lot more than they did when I was working in the church. I meet so many more people, many of them adoptees and adoptive parents. I handle triggers well in the context of my work, and am successful at my job. But at times, it's a lot to hold in until I get home.

I compartmentalize well in order to be successful. Holding it in forever isn't good, and I don't hold it in -- even for a few days. Processing my feelings with other adoptees in order to stay emotionally healthy is essential.

Because I am triggered so much more in the role in which I now serve, I’ve requested that our home be a safe zone. Coming home to more triggers than I already face would be overwhelming. I need my home as a place of refuge. I used to be able to handle the occasional debate or disagreement with him regarding adoption but that is not the case anymore.  Though we may have only dissented on 5% of the issues, even 5% is too much for me at this time as I have no more emotional bandwidth for triggers other than the ones I already deal with.

This means Larry and I don’t discuss the 5% anymore and he is also understanding of my need to bow out of watching certain shows or movies with the family. Before we watch a show, I ask them if there's anything in it that will affect me.

So how this works is, anytime I am feeling triggered by a conversation, I inform Larry that we need to change the topic and then we do. Of course I do not abuse this and cry “trigger” when it has nothing to do with adoption. Ha ha!

I must say, I like things much better this way. It’s really not necessary for me to discuss the 5% with him, nor do I need to subject myself to entertainment that creates negative emotions for me but makes my family feel good that I’m sitting on the couch next to them. 

What do you think about home being a trigger free zone at home? Would you specifically ask your family for this like I did? Why or why not? 

June 3, 2015

Interview with Soojung Jo (Part 2)
Author of Ghost of Sangju

Today, Laura Dennis and I are so blessed to be able to interview the amazing Soojung Jo, author of Ghost of Sangju. If you haven't read Ghost of Sang Ju, oh my lands!!! Get the book today! I promise, you will want to read it all in one sitting. There's so much to unpack. Wherever shall we start? Well, if you've come here from Laura's blog -- here's part 2 to enjoy and if you're reading here first, please hop over to her blog for part one. And without further adieu, we give you, Soojung...

Both of your reunion stories in the book—of your trip to Korea, and your Korean family’s trip to America—are riveting. As anyone who is in reunion knows well, it’s an ongoing journey and rollercoaster of emotions. What is the greatest challenge in reunion for you now, aside from the obvious one that Omma and family live so far away? 

There’s so much injustice in this story, and yet so much love and redemption.  I call it “A Memoir of Reconciliation,” but I don’t think that’s quite accurate.  Maybe it’s the hope or the dream of reconciliation, the crazy idea that all these experiences, emotions, and contradictions can reside in one lifetime.  It’s still incredibly difficult to reconcile these parts of myself and my life, to be true to both Soojung and Raina, and to be the daughter of both of my families.  I still feel so much anger and disbelief about it all. But I don’t consider reunion to be a great challenge, even in its difficulty.  I know the truth now, while so many separated families and lost children never get the truth.  They never have the chance to deal with these “challenges” that I have in reuniting with my Korean family.  Worse, some adoptees have terrible reunion experiences.  They are rejected by their birth families or their adoptive families, and sometimes they are treated as shameful secrets or worse.  It’s trauma all over again.

So yes, there have been challenges, but I’ve come out of it with the truth and with two families.  The blessings are far greater than the challenges for me.  Not everyone is so fortunate.

While your experience as an international adoptee differs from mine as a domestic adoptee, I can definitely relate to, and empathize with, the emotions. The complex blending of anger and acceptance; the sadness and incredulity all mix into a roiling cocktail that we must live with every day, in addition to “regular life.” Your perspective on your adoption and reunion has obviously progressed through stages, but I wonder if you could articulate one or two pathways that worked for you in terms of recognizing the blessings and being able to see how far they outweigh the challenges.

Part 2 of this question speaks to what I would summarize as your amazing adoptee resilience. It allowed you to survive and thrive in the armed forces, to create a beautiful family, to succeed in your career. I’m wondering if you could talk about how much of this is due to your inherent personality (drive to succeed) vs. your “adoptedness” … or is it both or neither?

The first thing is to accept that we can’t go back in time.  I can’t change anything that has already happened.  So, while many terrible things happened, many other wonderful things came from the good in the people of my story and life.  But it would be irresponsible to acknowledge only the blessings without recognizing the tragedies and injustices—many of which are institutionalized and sanctioned by both the Korean and US governments.  I can’t relieve my Korean or American families of their complicity in our story, but I don’t have to blame them either.  The blessings outweigh the challenges, but in this complex life I could not have had one without the other.

Resilience has really come to the forefront of psychology these days.  In a world of inevitable failures and heartbreak, resilience is now recognized as that quality that allows us to remain solid and true, that allows us to grow from the hard places of life.  Where my resilience come from?  I hope that readers will recognize that I had two families who did their absolute best to love and nurture me in their own ways, and that is invaluable in early childhood development.  I also believe that one must be tested in order to develop resilience, and there have certainly been plenty of chances in my life to be shaped by adversity.  Some—like adjusting to a new family, country, and language at age 3—were involuntary.  Those are traumas that some people never fully emerge from, and I think they fundamentally forged my character beyond my natural disposition.  Others—like going to West Point and choosing an Army assignment in Korea—are self-imposed.  Those are experiences that refined me.