You Can Run, But You Can't Hide!

Two things are turning the adoption industry upside down:

1) Social Media
2) DNA Testing

I for one could not be more grateful for both of these tools. Back when I started my maternal search, neither of these options were available. Now, they are both key to a search.  As time goes on, DNA testing is making sealed records obsolete. In time, a person will be able to find whatever they want, without ever having to get their records unsealed.   

Even with these two great tools, the resolution of my paternal search may happen too late to meet my natural father. He will probably be dead and may already be so. BUT, I firmly believe the information about my paternal family will be known in my lifetime. I hold on to hope that I will be able to connect with paternal relatives.

I have hope not only because I believe in God, but because the number of people who are DNA testing is exploding. The numbers are vastly beyond what anyone expected. Ancestry DNA alone doubled within a year and the same results are expected again. A friend of mine who is a DNA expert tells me that within the next few years they are predicting that everyone who tests will be guaranteed to have at least second cousin results right away, due to the number of people testing and the expected number of people in the DNA bank. That is a great improvement from when I tested for the first time in 2013.

I have tested at Ancestry DNA, 23 and Me, Family Tree DNA, My Heritage, and GedMatch. Since I took my first test, I have had amazing results. I have had close matches and secrets revealed that would never have been, had I not tested. Unfortunately those secrets revealed were just more on the maternal family side, although I always welcome a relative on either side. Nevertheless, it was information revealed that never would have been had DNA testing not been available. I was able to help a relative I never knew I had and give her the information she has always longed for.
I encourage every person I know, not just adoptees, to DNA test. I explain to them that not only will they find out more of their history, but they will help so many more people as they do.

My husband just tested with Ancestry and before he got his results I told him that no matter what came back, he needed to be prepared to help people who may be seeking the truth about their origins. I explained that no matter how difficult the information may be to digest that presents itself, he needed to do the right thing and give people their information. With what secrets I do know about in his family, I expected there were probably more that we didn't know about.  As I expected, a match came that was a result of a family secret. He was able to help someone figure out who their father is. And he has a new cousin he didn’t know about before he DNA tested.  It is so rewarding to help people and put to rest the restlessness in their soul that is present when they don't know who and where they come from. 
Christmas is approaching and now is a great time to give your friends and family DNA tests as a gift.  All of the companies usually have sales at this time. People will be more inclined to test if it’s provided for them. My prayer is that more people than ever get DNA tests for Christmas and that about eight weeks after Christmas, millions of people will get the gift of truth as they start the new year. 

Note: Whenever I write a post on DNA, people ask me a lot of questions I'm not prepared to answer. (I'm not an expert.) I highly recommend Richard Hill and his work. Check out the DNA Testing Advisor website and Facebook page, and read Richard's books. He is a wealth of information about DNA testing and has helped me personally. Also, once you DNA test, be sure to join the group DNA Detectives on facebook. 

With the help of DNA testing, friends and advisors, anything is possible!

Another year

Today’s my birthday.  

Over half a century has gone by. 

Yes, it's really been that long. 

I am still searching. 

And I wonder how many more birthdays will go by before I know, and if you are even still having birthdays.

9 Things I Learned in Search of the Perfect Life

I figure a lot of things out as I go along. I believe everyone does, and if they tell you otherwise they are just fooling themselves.  And furthermore, they aren't growing as a person. We didn’t know what we didn’t know, before we knew. 

Today I want to share something I have been trying to coming to terms with. 

I asked God why He allowed me to have anything less than a perfect life after relinquishment and adoption. To me, that was enough pain for a lifetime. I had the attitude, “Hey God, I did my time.” I really believed in my heart that this loss and living as "the different one" my whole life was enough for anybody to face, and that God should have understood that. And He should have acted accordingly. It never works well to tell God what He should have done.

I was mad about this for a long time. I was confused about the losses that just kept right on coming.  (The dysfunction and eventual breakup of my adoptive home, etc., the loss of our first baby after we got married, the pain of things not going the way I dreamed of in the first church we pastored, etc.)

One time I was being prayed for during an altar service. To my recollection I was 17 or 18 years old. I was still in bible college when this happened because I remember talking to my best friend Joanne Greer about this. And the pastor who prayed for me, having heard a bit of my situation made the statement that he was surprised I hadn’t committed suicide by that point in my life. He was saying he sympathized with what I had gone through in life and was surprised I hadn’t given up. Then he prayed for me to be healed of what I was feeling inside. It wasn’t a bad experience at the altar, in fact it was kind of healing in itself to just have someone validate what I was feeling when for so much of my life nobody affirmed any of these feelings.

So fast forward a few decades and even more loss, and with it a few friends gently spoke into my life, sharing with me that many people – adopted or not adopted, face hurts and losses. That pain is not unique to adoption. At first I got upset that they said it.  I felt dismissed. (And maybe I was.) I tried to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible. I wanted avoid more pain as well as preserve the relationships of people who I had this conversation with.  But I still thought about it all the time even though I didn't talk about it. Some things are hard to hear but we still need to unpack them, nevertheless.

This was something I needed to come to terms with, inside myself. Because with each loss that would come my confusion grew. Did God not understand that I now deserved something different? Maybe not more in life but something different than what I was getting?  

I'm careful to use the word deserve, because when it comes to work and outcomes, we typically get what we deserve. "You get what you put into it," we hear. I've found that true. The harder I hustle, the more the return. Success only comes before work in the dictionary. But on these random things like losses and pain and grief, I can't work my way out of them or control them. And I felt like I had already fulfilled the trauma quotient by birth. But God didn't feel the same. After about four years of thinking A LOT about this, for probably thousands of hours -- here’s what I have arrived at.

People face multiple traumas in their lives. No one is immune. I have many friends whose spouses have cheated, abandoned them, and then they have cancer. I have one friend who has been abandoned by her husband and has now faced cancer not once but twice. And the heck of a lot more. And she is NOT adopted. Is my loss worse than hers?   Truth be told in most of my friends who are not adopted I can name multiple traumatic circumstances in their lives -- children dying, cancer, abandonment of spouse, etc.

So how am I any different as an adoptee? This is what I’ve wrestled with.

Many of my non-adopted counterparts outnumber me in traumas. Nobody gets a guarantee of having only one trauma in life, even adoptees. And sometimes our non-adopted friends will outnumber us in the amount of things faced. I have come to understand that my loss feels worse because I have faced it longer than most of them will face theirs. 

My loss started before I was even born. 

Who else on earth can say that but an adoptee? Who literally felt their loss before they breathed their first breath? 

My mother knew she was giving me up even though she vacillated at times, and didn’t sign the papers for 47 days after I was born. She was at the maternity home four or five months after she got pregnant – because she had no where to go. She was homeless...having been kicked out of the house once her pregnancy was revealed. So from April of 1966 to August of that same year, she was living in a maternity home – moving toward relinquishment. Scientific studies show that stress that an expectant mother is under affects a child in the womb.

I was affected by all of that trauma before I exited my mother's body. Then, I continued to be impacted by it once I was born. I was a baby and couldn't control any of that. It was what it was. My mother and I never had contact while I was in the hospital. I was never laid on her chest – there was no warm contact of human being – no skin-to-skin nurture, for a long time. From as long as I can remember, I rub my feet on the sheets to soothe myself to go to sleep, even as a married fifty year old woman with a husband who is affectionate with me, and gives me all the skin to skin contact I could possibly want. 

I’ve arrived at a place of understanding that my loss feels so much more profound than my friends although it may not really be more profound, because I’ve experienced it for even longer than day one of my born life. I use the word feels because I’ve come to understand it’s a feeling, not necessarily reality though it is my reality it may not be reality for the rest of the world.  This trauma I have faced feels like the absolute worse thing anyone in the world can face. But is it? I've been grappling...

Perhaps my friend facing multiple cancers does have it worse. But then we are getting into comparing pain. Which never leads to anything productive. I’ve come to see that pain is pain and the person who faces it just feels that theirs is the worst because it’s their day-to-day reality. And here’s my point – this loss has been my reality and most any adoptee's reality for longer than we've been alive. And as soon as I came to be able to realize what happened I felt like enough was enough and I didn’t deserve any more loss in life. And, it’s not the way things work. Life isn’t fair. The fair is where you get cotton candy. 

What hurts the most at times isn’t that I believe my loss  is more profound than anyone else’s but that it is dismissed as nothing and unacknowledged and worst of all mocked or even praised by some. Yes, the praising kills you. That is what is so painful at times.   

After letting all this percolate in my mind for so long one thought I have is that I don’t want to be someone who mocks a loss, especially one I haven’t endured. I pray I can be the healing hands of Jesus, not someone people avoid so as to not endure even more than they have already faced.  

A lot of things happen to all of us that we don't expect or deserve. Life is amazing AND life is hard.  

My thoughts today probably seem like one bit fat nonsensical rambling. Maybe people who read this will think I’ve seriously gone mad. But here’s what my takeaways are from today’s blog post…

  1. Everybody faces pain. 
  2. It does no good to compare pain. 
  3.  Relinquishment and adoption are some of the most complicated losses to  try to explain.
  4. Adoption loss feels the worst because we experienced the loss and were affected by it before we even got here.
  5. It will be hard for anyone else on the planet to understand the day-to-day reality of those who have known this particular loss that affected us even before birth. We can't expect those who haven't endured it to understand it. It's rather incomprehensible for those outside of it and all the more reason we need each other.
  6.  Our reality can feel like it’s the worst simply because we’ve faced it for so long and don’t know what it’s like to live any other way. 
  7.  To have your loss go unacknowledged or mocked may even be worse than the initial pain itself.
  8.  Life’s not fair. You can go through what you feel is the worst pain of all yet it may be far from the last loss you will ever face.
  9. Nobody has a perfect life. Yet, we can all strive to build a great one despite whatever losses we have faced.    

    All photos by me 

The Story of My Life: Waiting on Another DNA Test Result

I’m waiting on a DNA test! Again!

I’ve been doing a lot of advertising in the area of Highland Springs - Richmond, Virginia, where I come from.  I have reached out to former classmates of my mother's, and anyone in the neighborhood who may have known her. I have even had a phone call with a 91 year old man in the community who reached out to me to help! He was a delight. In sharing the details of my story in the neighborhood – I have gotten literally HUNDREDS of responses and leads as to who my father may be. 

I saw advertising - putting everything out there in the community with names, dates, locations that I do know - to be a last ditch effort. But maybe this should be the first thing we do in a search? Perhaps we hold back because of fear. It's fear of what people will think. But that shouldn't be a factor in simply trying to discover truth. Truth that belongs to you and me. And the fear is unfounded. It’s amazing the people who have written, emailed and called me who lived in the neighborhood at the time (or still do) and actually knew my mother and want to help me.

It was interesting certain last names that kept coming up again and again. One woman who is related to my maternal family saw one of the advertisements and reached out to me to try to help. We have never met before. I sensed right away that I could trust her. I mentioned to her about one of the last names that kept coming up repeatedly among the leads. She was so excited and said, “Oh my gosh, that’s my husband’s family!!!” I asked if she thought someone in the family would DNA test and she said, “absolutely!!!”  So, I paid for the test and had it sent and now we are just waiting. I am hoping for a cousin match.

There are multiple men in this particular family who could be my father, some dead – and some alive! If a first cousin match comes back on this test, then I would need to start going through the cousins and having them test to see which one might be a half-sibling match. The person who tested believes if it comes to that point, everyone in the family will cooperate. We will see!

The two cousins I have spoken to are very excited about this and think others will be too. Of course you never know when you get right up on the moment, but I have faith. There are caring people out there. I find this out in searching, all the time. As many roadblocks as you face, you also meet so many kind souls that are willing to do anything to help another person. Sadly, many of them will immediately reach out to do more than your own family!

So here's a word for those of you who are running into obstacles. We are all familiar with these challenges if we've been searching for very long. Obstacles are generally "secret keepers" who feel it is their mission to protect what should never be protected. (They protect/conceal truth of who you are and where you come from.) People who even go as far to try to protect the dead in some fashion. Have you ever heard of anything so bizarre? Well here's the thing -- for as many of those secret keepers that are out there, there are even more kind souls with open hearts who will do anything to help. Find them! Keep going. Whatever you do - do not quit!

I’ve been through this so many times before, so I am trying to guard my own heart and keep it from breaking again if it's not a DNA match. And yet it's hard to not be excited about the possibility. So I consider what I will do in the event that it's not a match...

What will I do? PRESS ON. I will never give up and will advertise even more.  A few months ago I was so discouraged and said I didn’t know if I could do this again. My heart was shattered in pieces when the last DNA test came back not a match. There was a family in Virginia who sent me pictures at Christmas and said the only thing missing was me. They were already planning our vacation together in Gatlinburg. (No, I am not kidding.) They cried as hard as I did when the test came back not a match. In my lowest moment of bawling over this non-match, my husband looked at me and said, “You don't mean this that you are quitting. I know you. You will keep on. That’s who you are." He was right.

And I say this to any of you who are waiting for breakthrough in your own search and discouraged – I understand. But don’t give up. Press on. People are finding their truth all the time. And DNA is yielding more results every single day. Millions more are testing and every day holds the possibility of a match! And by the way, if you haven't already tested or uploaded your raw DNA to, do it today! I did and have many new matches I am working through. So far I don't have any close ones, but nevertheless I have some new ones.

Everybody pray hard! I may just have a reunion coming up, after 50 (count ‘em 50) years!!! In a few months I could be taking a train to meet family. 

I will never lose hope. 
Don't you lose hope, either. 
We got this.

When This Adoptee Faces More Than She Can Bear

I have an incredible life. I admit it.  

I have a fabulous family.

Loving and loyal friends.

A job I love that is more than a job - a ministry, a passion that sets me on fire.

A beautiful place to live.

And at the same time I have gone through so many changes in the past six months it felt like it would kill me at times. 

Where does it show the most? In my dress size. Just keeping it real. 

I can remain stable in loving my managing my job like a pro, in leading a team...but trying to lose five pounds? Yeah, it's up there with asking me to be the one responsible to find the cure for cancer.  Or solve immigration. Or something equally as lofty.

I tell myself if I made it through the past six months of big changes, what else can’t I do?

Change is so hard for me as a person and as an adoptee it is at a whole ‘nother level.

Some people say they thrive on change. The truth is, absolutely no one I know thrives on change unless they are the one making it.  Who do you know that thrives on change that is completely out of their control?

For an adoptee change not of your own making can feel like the world is ending.

It’s not just uncomfortable, it’s terrifying.

Like you wonder if you will survive.

Or if you want to.

So here’s what I know about this. Sometimes we do have more on us than we can bear. 

Did you know the Bible never says we won’t have more on us than we can bear?

Yes,  I know Gospel singers say differently. I know lots of old wives tales and sermons down through the years say the opposite. But the truth is, the Bible never promises, “He will never put more on you than you can bear.” It says you will never be tempted beyond what you can bear. There is a difference between temptation and hardship, or trauma.

I often have more on me than I can bear and you know what? That’s why I need Jesus.

I am thankful for the power of the Holy Spirit that helps me every day through challenges and changes that I could not bear otherwise. 

There have been a lot of them over the past six months and every one of them He is helping me through. 

Now if He can only help me lose a few dress sizes. It will just take time but through a power greater than my own, I can do this. For a while there, I didn't even care. At all. The fact that my dress sizes were going up was inconsequential compared to the loss and pain I was feeling and the insane desire to feel better if only for three to five minutes while a piece of cake went down my throat. 

So here's to caring again.

I pray that while I'm starting to care again, big changes can just stop for a while.

Just stop.
Unless I like you...
Unless I asked for you...
Unless I welcome you...
just stop it already.    

Photo credits: All photos by me  

Adoptees: It's Not Your Imagination! Loss IS Harder the Older You Get.

Loss is profoundly worse for adoptees as we age, and by stating this I am not pessimistic nor dramatic. I speak reality.

Last weekend was one of our two yearly conferences that I lead for the ministry I serve with. I was talking with one of our speakers and mentioned a missionary who recently died and asked if she knew him. She said yes and then noted that the older she gets, she hears of more friends she knows who have died, and it’s hard. The comment she made triggered a thought for me. Here goes…

One reason loss never gets easier for adoptees is that it gets worse the longer we live. This is not supposition, but fact. The longer you live, the more people you meet and the more experiences you have.  Therefore the more opportunity you have for loss, as well as blessing.

When we are relinquished, we face the biggest and worse loss most of us will ever face. But from there, we experience losses for the rest of our lives with greater quantity and intensity because our circle of people expands as well as our experiences.    

I wish I could say that the blessings always out number the losses, but in any given season that may not be true.  Some seasons are just full of loss and this is entirely out of our control. If we could control it, we surely would. But we can't.

Kay Warren in her book, Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’tEnough, says:
"We tend to think that life comes in hills and valleys. In reality, it’s much more like train tracks. Every day of your life, wonderful, good things happen that bring pleasure and contentment and beauty to you. At the exact same time, painful things happen to you or those you love that disappoint you, hurt you, and fill you with sorrow. These two tracks — both joy and sorrow — run parallel to each other every single moment of your life."
I am grateful for the blessings in my life and at the same time I deeply feel the pain of loss. Sometimes losses momentarily slay me. And adopting a happy-go-lucky mindset of, “I’m so blessed I won't even think about anything I've lost" doesn't work. (That’s called denial.) In order to move forward after a loss we do have to actually acknowledge it. Consider the Five Stages of Grief. Until we go through all of the stages, we can't overcome a profound loss.

The losses in my life are increased as I become acquainted with more individuals. One day I remarked to my husband, “Everyone is getting cancer!” I was really freaked out about it and thought it was inevitable that everyone I know will get cancer based on the number of people I now know with it. Larry wisely pointed out to me that everyone I know is not getting cancer but my circle of influence has grown where I know so many more people. I am not just leading a church but a ministry that is state wide. At our office, it's a rare day when we don't hear the news of someone who is sick or some other kind of tragedy has happened. I also now know many more people on a national and international level and that brings more opportunity for both loss and gain. Those of you who are reading this who have more people in your circle of acquaintance will experience more losses simply because you are meeting more people and expanding your circle.

As I grow older, more people I know are passing away. Some of my friends from high school and college have died. Many of my friends in ministry have passed away or fallen away from faith. I am going through changes in my life as a result of life transitions of those around me.  People move away, people resign. Children go to college or they get married and move out. DNA results come back and they are not a match. I know this is "just life" however LIFE for us is different. It is observed and lived through the lens of one who faced profound loss from DAY ONE and is highly sensitive to it, for what should be obvious reasons. Everyone faces loss, but adoptees can be triggered by loss in such a way that takes us to a dark place none of us wants to be in. We would do anything not to be in it.  So many times I have asked God, "Why have you allowed me to be in it?" Thankfully God isn't afraid of questions.

The changes and disappointments in my life over the past six months have been many and profound. They have brought me to a dark place.

I took this photo a few years ago when we were on a cruise. A storm was brewing and the clouds hovered right above our boat right before the torrential downpour. When I look at this picture, it's how my life feels right now.  I could almost reach up and touch the dark clouds that hover over me. 

In just three months time, I’ve gained fifteen more pounds when I was already overweight to begin with. My doctor started me on a wellness program and I go on Thursday nights.  I don't sit here accepting this darkness as a final reality. I want to take steps to move forward with any challenge I face. So far I have had an appointment with my doctor, decided aside from my job to not expect so much of myself (being extra kind to me), gotten extra rest, and I've started walking outside an hour a day. 

Waking up is when things feel the worst. I usually start my day in tears and end it the same. Yesterday I busted out crying when I got out of bed and put my feet in my slippers. As my feet slid into the shoes I said to myself, “I don’t want to walk in my own shoes anymore…” and started bawling. But I know I won’t always feel this way…it’s a season.

I keep telling myself, as Janet Paschal sings, “It won’t rain always…”

I feel like I’m trying to run through peanut butter. My goals for the day are to connect with Jesus, do my job and do it well. That’s it. It’s all I have the energy for. 

 Kay Warren goes on to say:

“One day, our parallel tracks of joy and sorrow will merge into one. The day we meet Jesus Christ in person and see the brightness of who he is, it will all come together for us. Then it will all make complete sense.”

That day isn’t here for me yet. And it’s not here for you either.

Losses sometimes they bring me to a place where the black clouds above my head are almost so tangible I can reach out and touch them. BUT I refuse to give up on the life God has destined me to live.  I refuse to quit.  I will continue to pursue even when everything in my cries out to just stay in my bed. I will move forward even when I have fantasies of selling my house and buying a little shack in the middle of Appalachia and losing contact with the world.

I will keep moving forward even if it’s slower than I would like.
I will press on through the black clouds to find clarity and peace.

I will learn.
I will grow.
I will become a stronger woman.

I can do this through God’s help, and so can you.

As I connect with Jesus today, I also say a prayer for any of you who find yourself in this place of darkness. For some of us, darkness may be our present reality but it is not our future.

I love you all.

Photo credits: Deanna Doss Shrodes