Adoption and Coming to a Place of Peace

“The odds are that everyone sitting in this classroom today will not make it through this course. Some of you will drop out because it will become  uncomfortable to deal with the issues that will be brought up in this class.” 

This was said by my professor this past semester in a Christian counseling course I took as part of my bridge work toward my doctorate.

The professor was right. I recall three people who dropped out mid-way through the course. And among those who didn’t, it became emotional at times. I cried during two of the lectures and I remember glancing over at my colleague who is another minister about my age – a big strong man. There he sat at his desk with his head in his hands, handkerchief up to his eyes, weeping.

What was going on? A considerable amount of processing our past. 

It isn't always easy for adoptees to come to a place of peace regarding our past, or even our present, when it comes to our adoption. For some adoptees, they can't imagine it. Until recently I would have been among that number.  I experienced what is known among adoptees as "coming out of the fog" in 2012.  Thanks to a lot of counseling and support I've come a long way since then. I would characterize myself as having peace in my life in general, but as far as having peace regarding my life circumstances surrounding my adoption, not so much. Recently though, things have shifted and I'm ready to share. Warning: this is going to be a long post. :)
In times past, I couldn’t imagine myself getting to the fifth step of what is known as the Adoption-Reconstruction Phase Theory. Here is a graphic created by Amanda at the Declassified Adoptee that helps to understand what it is:

I remember first glancing at this theory years ago and thinking, “Yeah…right.” I spent a lot of time the past seven years between steps three and four, teetering toward five but never getting there. As much as I wanted to believe I would someday be at peace regarding my adoption journey it did seem elusive. I couldn't reconcile the actions of some people and where God was in all of it. Going there in mind at all would take me to a very dark place. 

I now find myself on the fifth step, most days. I say most days because I believe there are times, taking triggers into consideration, that it's common to flux between the steps on occasion.

There are three things in addition to the eight months of Christian counseling I initially underwent that helped me in getting from step three to step five. The first thing that helped was two Christian counseling classes I took this summer. Adoption was never mentioned in the classes. But I gleaned a lot that I applied to my struggles. 

I realize a lot of people have no interest in taking continuing education courses or they may not be able to afford it. That is understandable. I anticipated receiving knowledge but was surprised at coming to a place of peace regarding adoption. Being a student in the Christian Counseling class and gleaning insight on helping others, helped me too in my own personal life. 

The second thing that was beneficial was a theology class where the professor asked all of us what theological concept we struggled with the most. We were permitted to choose our own topic for a final research paper and I purposely based mine on my greatest theological struggle.  Working on that for a few months helped me wrestle with a lot of the “whys” I never thought I would be able to fully reconcile. Questions like, "Where was God in all this?" "Did He feel pain?" and "Was he sad too, over my losses?" 

I consoled myself many times with what I thought were the answers to these questions, but honestly I had never drilled down to answer the questions theologically once and for all. I told myself what I wanted to hear a lot of the time, to stay sane. Believing that God could have "planned this for me from the very foundations of the world" as I had been told more than once, and that he may have no feelings for my losses in the matter was unthinkable to me. I set out to find out the truth. My final paper was on The Doctrine of the  Impassibility of God: God Can Have Feelings Without Freaking Out. (I didn't write the title until I completed my research.)  My faith was greatly bolstered, in what I discovered.  

As I studied, I was reminded: God is not a human being. He is spirit. (John 4:24) Almighty God is not limited in his attributes as mankind is. The fact that God can feel grief or sadness does not mean he is also subject to emotional instability. First, not every human being becomes emotionally unstable when he or she is sad or grieved. Surely the God of the universe can feel without becoming unstable. Second, God is not limited in his attributes as humans are. We are not measured on the same scale. Scripture says of God: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV)

God is a spirit and yet he has thoughts. It is not required for him to have a physical body to have a thought. This lends itself to the notion that a spirit who can have a thought would also have capability to have a feeling. God has ability to do anything but contradict his own laws. It is no contradiction of his laws that he possesses the ability to feel.   God’s capability to feel does not mean that he is subject to out-of-control mood swings. God has the capacity to be sad but not shaken. People sometimes have a difficult time picturing one who is sad but not shaken, but God is beyond what our minds cannot conceive and can do what we could never do.

Scripture reveals that he is touched when observing our sufferings, yet still holds the power to redeem all. “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” (Isaiah 63:9 KJV)

I have come to terms that God allows things in our broken, fallen world that sometimes make Him very sad. And all along, He carries us.  I learned so much in my counseling courses as well as in writing my theo paper about the love of God -- a new level than what I had known before. 

Pastor Linda & Me

The third thing that helped me was having some talks with my friend, Pastor Linda Klippenstein, who is one of the pastors at our church. 

From time to time we meet for coffee and talk things over about life and ministry. One day I was processing some things with her about seeing the very dark side of leadership and how to move through that and she gave me thoughts on coming face to face with the dark side of humanity in general. Our talks were not about adoption, but as she spoke wisdom into my life about the topic of the dark side of humanity, I began to consider it regarding my own family both biological and adopted and my situation as a whole and it gave me some new perspective. 

I don’t write here to just share what’s swirling around in my mind but to encourage others. So, here’s the takeaway…

Don’t be afraid to wrestle. Go to the hard places and share your feelings, thoughts, fears, questions with God. Purposely go to the challenging area sand grapple with the most distressing parts of your life and beliefs. Staying in the fog is so much easier in the short-run and that’s why millions of adoptees do it. It’s harder to force yourself to examine every angle there is and come to grips with what you really believe.

It helps to stay connected and open. Neither my professor or my pastor-friend are adopted or have any close connections to adoption. But they have both impacted my thinking about walking through the most troublesome parts of life and arriving at a place of peace. 

This post is not a how-to. We all have our own journey. My encouragement today is simply to keep your heart open and press on.

So, with all of this...long-term readers may wonder -- do I still long to discover the paternal side of my family? Yes, of course. But it is no longer robbing my peace.   

Adoptees: Go Where the Light and Love Are

Adoptees often face proverbial brick walls within their birth or adoptive family. These walls are fortified by misplaced loyalty, secrets, lies, (many of  being lies by omission) and the like.  Many times well-meaning people will take up the cause of those who are committed to live in secrets and lies. Sometimes they are even loyal to the dead, which is the most bizarre of all. 

If you keep secrets, you don’t love.   

If you lie, you don’t love.

If you build a wall with people who have done nothing but seek the truth and are committed to live in truth, that’s not love.

Why don't we go where the light is...where the love is? It' because we may not think we deserve it. That's how I felt until very recently. 

I am determined to a fault. Giving up is not my strong suit. And, for so long I did not want to let go of toxic people just because  I went through hell and back to find them. 

My walking path yesterday

Sometimes we have spent so much time walking in the wrong direction, we keep doing it just because we are so committed to it. We started out on this road, and by God we're gonna finish on it! We feel like we have to keep walking down that same path because we’ve invested so much.  Do we really expect the wrong direction to suddenly become right?  I did. For a long time, I did. I'm also a believer in miracles, and in people's ability to change. God knows I've changed. I believe other people can too. But sometimes, they don't. And there we are on the same broken down God-forsaken path that we are hoping beyond hope will change. The difficult truth is that everyone is not committed to truth, change and growth.

Life with toxic people is a one-way street. It won’t lead you back to where you belong. And it prevents you from spending all the time you can with the people who really care about you. If they lie to you, keep secrets from you or expect you to play along in any kind of make-believe world, that is NOT OKAY. 

It's not normal.
It's not healthy.
It's not love.

Through some close friends who have walked with me on this journey, I finally have it through to my head that people who treat me this way do not deserve me. Life is too short to pursue people who don’t have enough respect to tell you the truth and to live in the truth.

Someone who has to hide their relationship with you doesn’t deserve you. Someone who tells people you are a “friend” when you are really their son or daughter doesn’t deserve you. Someone who tells people they have two children when they really have three doesn’t deserve you. Someone who says they have one sibling and not two doesn’t deserve you. Someone who takes up for their secretive lying family member to preserve their "dignity" pride doesn’t deserve you. Someone who lies to you about who your father is, they do not love you. Someone who gives you false clues about who your father is to throw you off track and preserve your mother's secret doesn't love you. If someone says they do not know who your father is, but they really do, they do not love you. If they say they know absolutely nothing about him or the situation but they know even a shred of truth, they do not deserve the blessing of you.

Life is too short to live in their fantasy world!!!  This is not as complicated as some people make it out to be. If they do not speak the truth and if they do not support you knowing the truth, they are not kind. They do not love you.  They are not a nice person. They are not a good person. It’s as simple as that. God has more for you than this. You do not have to be a suffering saint on behalf of your birth family, your adoptive family, or anyone in this world!! No one has been given the destiny of a doormat and you were not created to be anyone’s dirty little secret!   

I have finally realized that there are pure-hearted people who actually care, who love me or have the potential to truly love me (and vice versa) who have been begging me to meet for coffee and the like but I just haven’t made the time yet. Guess what, I’m making time!!

I’m so sorry to all the friends who told me, “you deserve more than this” while I kept banging my head against the proverbial wall trying to keep a connection with toxic people. 

Welcome to 2019 and a gal who finally knows her value.

My friends and I are still hard at work on my father-search. I go into any potential paternal reunion a different person. This search WILL ultimately result in success at some point. The DNA databases are exploding. They say it’s only a matter of time before everyone on the planet has a first or second cousin on both sides. And more people are testing internationally every day. More Greek matches are coming for me, for sure. I am going into my paternal reunion in a different head space. My father may be dead by that time my case is solved, but the rules will apply for any family member I meet. I will go into this future reunion knowing my value. That will make for a very different scenario than it did with my maternal reunion. I’m entering this from a place of strength, not weakness.

Join me, my friend. Let go of what is toxic in 2019. Live in truth and love and make room for all the goodness God has for you. Wonderful people will line up to meet you for coffee, I promise.