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

Adoption and Purposeful Triggers
(People really do this, I promise!)

I guard against being paranoid.

I used to think I was the crazy one for thinking this was happening, but now I realize it’s reality

This is not my imagination.

The position I serve in demands I keep it together and refrain from flipping out on anyone. If I want to pay my mortgage. Eat. Stay ordained. Stuff like that. I guess this is the case with most people unless they are a professional wrestler, a mob boss or something like that. But the fact is, long term good behavior is expected of a minister. 

Being effective in ministry, particularly the more responsibility you are given -- means you have to be diplomatic in the way you say things. I guess unbelievers would say "diplomatic" and Christians would say "Christlike." The bottom line is, you have to handle people with utmost care or it will cost you.  The price could be a loss of people from your church, your team, your ministry. Or it might be respect, influence, opportunities, even your very livelihood. 

Needless to say you can't just say and do whatever you feel like doing. And honestly, my desire is to be Christlike. I don't ever want to hurt others, even if they do hurt me.

So here it is…

Sometimes this thing I'm about to tell you happens with people who I know don’t like me. Yes, these people really do exist.

Or, it may happen with someone I sense is “testing me” for whatever reason. 

They will say something that they know I do not agree with regarding adoption to see what my reaction will be.  

With people I already know don’t like me, I believe it’s that they just want to get under my skin. 

With others, maybe they want to see if I will respond in an “acceptable” way.  Acceptable to them, of course.

One day I was in a meeting with a woman who holds influence in the circles I work in and she made a sarcastic remark that, “there are a lot of crazy people out there today getting their DNA tested…trying to figure out who their daddy is...” 

She knows I have had my DNA tested. 
She knows why. 
She knows I'm trying to find my birth father.

We have been in group conversations before about it.

This was not a remark made unknowingly

She wanted it to be known to me and to others in the room that she thinks I am crazy and what I am doing is crazy.

She is one of those people who believes there is no need to search, and your parents are the ones who changed your diapers, end of story.

After saying this, she smugly looked at me, waiting to see how I would respond.

Why didn’t I say everything I longed to say? Why did I not tell her off? Because I refuse to lose everything I have worked so hard for because I went ballistic over a snide remark. Managing one’s emotions are key to effectiveness in the workplace 

Another time I was in a lunch meeting where most everyone in the room knows I'm adopted and knows my story. An adoptive mother in the room said that the adoption of her daughter had become official over the weekend and she and her husband were explaining to their newly adopted child than she had "transitioned from a Puerto Rican to an Italian."  They were really telling this child she is no longer Puerto Rican. I could hardly believe my ears. This person literally believes God changed her child’s DNA to match hers.  Help me dear sweet Lord baby Jesus....

Some adoptees want nothing to do with God or religion because of what they've experienced. As for me, I can't imagine life without God. I can’t navigate this on my own.  Without Him in my life, I could not cope with these type of ridiculous moments for even two seconds.  

After the woman said this about the DNA of her daughter changing, I felt all eyes in the room on me to see what I would say.  I calmly sat there eating my sandwich, staring right back at her. Everyone else nodded and affirmed her like, "Praise God! He changes things!" Never mind that He has never changed anyone's race or ethnicity in the scriptures or anywhere else we are aware of.   

I kept the conversation inside my head where it so often is when I’m triggered, or hurt by what someone says.  What those in the room saw was a woman eating a chicken salad sandwich, having no idea the thoughts in my head were:

“Okay lady, first of all, get ready because the teen years with your daughter are probably going to be a nightmare.  Because no matter what you tell her she gets up every day and looks at a Puerto Rican face in the mirror.  The confusion and pain you bring to her by denying outright who God has biologically made her to be is enormous. You believe I know nothing about adoption, or that I'm off base for what I think about it. But guess what -- I'm actually an expert on adoption because I have nearly a half a century's experience at actually being adopted. That's right, I AM ADOPTED. Something you are not. But never mind the facts. And when you come back to me in a few years profusely crying because your daughter is going off the rails, has run away, is cutting herself, or wants absolutely nothing to do with you - church or God, or is having some other post-adoption issue and you want to ask my advice as someone who is adopted and a Christian,  it will be the hardest thing in the world for me to not tell you I already knew this would happen But I won’t because at that time I will still have to act like a professional not to mention a Christian and a minister even when I want to do something to you like Negan would from The Walking Dead lash out."

I will not throw away everything I have worked so hard for over things so  asinine I don't even have the words to describe. 

I write openly about my beliefs here on my blog, but it is necessary/wise to keep it separate from my work life.  As one adoptee blogger friend once told me, "You still have to put food on your table."  I agree with that, and more importantly, to fulfill what God has called me to do in all the different ways He has asked me to do.

Purposeful triggers as I call them, are tough. But God is faithful to help me through any trigger or situation I face.  I am still a minister, by His grace. See what I did there? It rhymes.

Adoption: Sealed Records is Abuse

Sealed records in adoption is abuse.

Keeping a person’s origin a secret when the information is known by someone – by anyone – is abuse.

I can hear the dissenters now...

“Well, what about in cases of abuse or neglect where it’s best that an adopted child not know their origins for their own safety?”

Then release the information to them when they are 18 years old.

No exceptions.

Relegating a human being to live without the knowledge of their origin is cruel.

The lack of this information has the potential to affect you in every way possible. It has physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual ramifications.

Why is this okay in our society? Even spiritualized?

Opponents of what I am saying will counter with, “Without sealed records in place an adoptee might be dead which is worse than abuse.”

It's vital to not only care about someone’s birth but their LIFE. And furthermore - no child, woman or man will die because a change is made, to abolish sealed records. But some will lose control, which is the crux of the matter.

Putting human beings through the physical and emotional anguish of sealed records especially when it is entirely unnecessary is torture.

Why are millions of adoptees turning to DNA companies for answers? They are desperate for the not-knowing to come to an end. They will do most anything to get it to end. They will spit in as many cups as necessary and make as many cold calls to strangers to ask questions and write as many letters and put advertisements out on Facebook begging for strangers' help to share...all in hopes that it will come to an end for them.  

Some can’t take it anymore and they do die…at their own hands.  That’s a FACT.  Did you know adoptees are four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-adoptees? If you’re not schooled about the fact that adoptees are well over-represented in mental health treatment, educate yourself. And so much of their anguish is the not-knowing of this critical information.

All of the pain is entirely unnecessary when those who hold the information could just tell them and end the struggle.

Who inflicts pain on people when there is absolutely no reason for it?

A sick person.
A sick society.
Sadly, in many cases a sick religious institution.

Many inflict this pain in the name of God. And Christians like me want to scream, "This is not my God! This is not the God that I know!"

There is no acceptable or wise reason for the truth of a person's origin to be withheld from them.  I dream of a time the world is void of this abuse. 

And yes, it is abuse. 

Please, call it what it is.   

Paternal Search: Maybe God Doesn't Want You To Know

It’s not a match.

We tested with both Ancestry and 23 and Me.

The man presumed to be my paternal father - the man listed in the adoption agency files -- is dead. So I tested with his brother who is still alive.

I received the result weeks ago but haven’t written about it yet because I’ve needed to process things by myself. This was a bigger blow to me than any other because it didn’t just hurt me, but a family that very much wanted me to be theirs. They were so excited that their brother had a daughter they never knew about. I would have been his only child.

But I wasn't a match with his brother.

They didn't accept the results of the DNA tests.
They still don’t.

They want me to test with other companies, just between myself and one of their family members, preferably one of his sisters who are also still alive.

I am reluctant to do that because I can’t imagine that both Ancestry and 23andMe could be wrong. 

I trust the results. Two DNA companies of such reputation can't possibly be wrong.

The family has assured me there is no NPE in the family that would affect these test results. They would not be lying to me. They so badly want me to be one of them. They aren't afraid of family secrets and would do anything to get to the bottom of this. 

They rejoiced at my entrance into their lives, and they embraced me. 

At the Christmas holidays I received texts with photos of them at their family gatherings saying they were thinking of me. They are Christians as I am, and on Christmas morning they were in church just like I was. They texted afterwards to say that during church the pastor told everyone to get in little circles and hold hands and before they prayed share something each of them were thankful for. They said, "We shared that we are thankful for you." They couldn’t wait til’ my first visit…and for us to share many more things. They were planning a visit to Tampa to see me the first week of March.  Every one of them accepted me from the youngest to oldest family members. It seemed a match made in heaven. 

But ultimately we were not a match, although were brought together in life for some reason. And we still keep in touch. (And they continue to want me to test more. I am still thinking about it.)

One thing we do know…my mother had a relationship with this man. He is the man listed in my adoption agency file. He worked with my mother at the drug store in Richmond, VA. (White Cross drugs in 1965. Do you know anyone who worked there? I'm looking for people who did, as they may tell me who the Greek man is that we can't find.) She named me after this man who was not a match. He was "Mel" and so am I. Melvin and Melanie but she often called me Mel and my stepfather still refers to me as Mel. The social worker at the adoption agency said without a doubt she named me after him. But, Mel is not my biological father according to these DNA tests. So…this means that if she was in relationship with Mel in November of 1965, she was also with another man at the same time.  Or had a one night stand. Or something.  I don't know.

It seems maybe this (multiple men) was what she didn’t want to tell me about. There was more than one man, possibly even in the same month.  So somewhere in all this mix there is a Greek man. My DNA tests also indicate Balkan heritage. Specifically it points to the area of Tripolis and the Peloponnese area.   

So I am looking for a Greek/Balkan man who at some point worked at or at least hung around White Cross Drugs in Richmond in 1965.  That store no longer exists as I am told it became Rexall at some point.

He’s out there.

I just don’t know who he is.


When I first got the results, I wanted to stop searching. It hurt so much. And it all gets too overwhelming at times to deal with anymore.  

My sister and her husband were visiting at the time I got the results. I excused myself for about an hour and went into my room to cry alone. While I was in there, my niece Lexi and my sister Kim headed off to Publix. They got a Marie Callender's Razzleberry Pie for me because Lex knows it's my favorite. They started baking it and when I came out of the room, gave me a slice because they knew it would cheer me up. (Food always does. I've used it like a drug since I was born.) I was depressed a lot the first few days after getting results and ate all the things that usually help me feel better, at first. Now I'm back on a plan and exercising and trying to get it under control.

 My resolve to quit searching was short lived, as my husband said it would be. On the first day I said, “I quit!” but my friend Gayle told me she wouldn’t give up no matter what. Gayle rocks.

One thing that this situation shows me is that a lot of people can want you but it doesn’t stop you from wanting to know the truth. 

My husband and children want me.
My adoptive family wants me. 
My friends want me. 
This family I thought was my paternal family wants me…and still does. 

And all of that means the world. But I still want to know the truth.

 I want to know who He is. 

I want to know where I originally came from. 

And that doesn’t mean the love of all these other people means any less. 

It just means that my heart longs to know. 

Recently a friend said to me, “Maybe God doesn’t want you to know.” 

Is that how God works?

Would we say to a friend whose legs were amputated, “Maybe God doesn't want you to have legs?"

Surely not. 

But people say this kind of thing all the time related to adoption.

Even good friends.

Because they just don't know.

Adoption is in a category all it's own, a world all it's own that many people even in it don't understand.

But back to my question...

Does God work like that? 

Does He not want some people to know who their original parents are?  

It’s a question I ask myself often.  

And I also ask Him..."God, do you really not want me to know?"