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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.        
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When I was searching for my maternal family, I went by the saying, “There’s always something left to do!” Every time I thought I had exhausted all avenues and there was literally nothing left to do, I was wrong. There was always another stone left unturned and if I thought long and hard enough, I would discover it. I’ve taken to using this as my motto for the paternal search as well.  For any adoptee who is searching and feeling like you've come to the end -- you haven't. I promise. 

Keep going!

With my maternal search, "something left to do" was limited to the search itself. With my paternal search, DNA testing has changed things.

When my mother died, taking my father’s name to her grave, my first recourse was DNA testing at Ancestry, 23 and Me, Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and Gedmatch. (Soon I will also test with National Geographic DNA. I just found out about them. Supposedly they yield more international matches. We’ll see.) All the ethnicity mix came back mostly the same in that I am 38% -40% Greek. Some of the test say Greek and others list it as Balkan, but when you drill down on it many of my matches come from the Peloponnese region of Greece. My adoption file says that my father was partially Greek. The DNA tests confirm it. That was one thing I was never lied to about. Yay for truth. People who are very knowledgeable about DNA have reviewed my tests and say that it appears my father more than likely had one parent originating in Greece and another from the United States. 

Although I don’t know who my natural father is yet, it brings me comfort to know where I’m from even though I don’t know who I’m from.

With this confirmed, I have some other cool things besides searching that are left to do. For instance, Ancestry has a new feature that creates a Spotify playlist for you based on your DNA. I have been listening to the music of my people. It brings me some small sense of comfort to hear the sounds of a culture I am technically part of but have never been immersed in.

I have also been researching Balkan food and exploring and enjoying it more. (The Balkans include Greece, Albania, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey.) My DNA results pinpoint Greece however I’ve been branching out to the Balkans in general.

I ordered myself a gift to celebrate new year’s eve. I ordered a jar of ajvar which I am planning on enjoying with feta cheese and olives on some crusty wheat bread. My friend Gayle who I've written about many times here at AR will be there with me on New Year's Eve and I'm sure she'll try some. And, we'll talk about how we both believe that "this is the year." And one year, it will be. Because I'm going to keep going. And she's going to keep going. 

Tomorrow my husband is taking me to a Balkan restaurant in nearby St. Petersburg. I mentioned it to him and he was really excited about going there, so this should be an adventure. I'm hoping Gayle and her husband David will go with us. I’m particularly excited to try their salad and whatever dish the server tells me is the most popular. Usually when I go to a new place that's how I decide what to try.  

My husband has started researching cruises to Greece and we plan to take one in 2020. I am hopeful to actually know some of my Greek family members before we do that, but if not I will still enjoy it to the fullest.

I am so thankful for DNA testing and research. In the adoptee world of more questions than answers, the results provide me with something concrete to stand on as far as where I come from. There are some traditions like music and cuisine that I can participate in even while I wait for that DNA match that will hopefully unlock not just the where but the who.

If you are an adoptee who is still searching and experiencing the frustration that comes with waiting, what of your heritage can you celebrate while you are waiting? 
    
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Last week I received a Facebook friend request from a lady named Linda. I was so excited. She is Kenny’s wife!  (If you have no idea who Kenny is, you need to read my last post.) Kenny is not connected on social media, but Linda is. And she’s just the sweetest. Here is part of her first communication to me on a Facebook message:


Hey Deanna! It’s wonderful to hear from you. Kenny and I feel like you've become family.  Kenny has been checking with people in the family and people that might have graduated with your Momma. We haven't heard anything that would help you yet.  But as you know, God is great every day! I am praying for you that God will lead you to some answers and peace of mind in knowing about your Daddy and other family. That would be a blessing for you. I hope Kenny and I can meet you one day. I hope you and your family have a very blessed Christmas. 


This is the first of many messages with Linda and I am beyond grateful for this couple. For all the frustration I have in dealing with a few  idiots people with my search, I am reminded through people like Kenny and Linda that there are people who are willing to help a person who was once a stranger. There are people with heart, who do the extra mile without being asked. (I initially asked Kenny to help but now he and Linda do a lot of searching and talking to people without me even having to ask. They really care.)

It was a joy to mail Kenny and Linda a Christmas present yesterday and thank them for their kindness.   

I realized a few days ago that it seems like the Christmas season is always the worst time I struggle with the issue of not knowing my natural father. Every holiday season my friend Gayle and I talk about it more than any other time. I drill down in working on the search during the month of December more than any other time even though it's a crazy busy month! I was ruminating on that this past week and tried to figure out what it is about Christmas that compels me to do this. 

I suddenly realized, it has nothing to do with Christmas. 

It's the fact that another year is almost over, and I don't know who he is yet. And if he's not dead, time is running out. 

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I’ve got to get this off my chest, so here goes.

Usually I do not use this blog to vent, but to share my journey, educate, and open people’s minds to another way of understanding life adopted. But today, I'm ready to rant.

So this week I met a man. His name is Kenny. He’s the nicest man in the world. I’ll take it further – he’s not just nice, he’s amazing. When I take my next trip to Virginia, I’ll be stopping off to have coffee with Kenny, for sure.

It’s amazing how in just a week’s time you can connect on a deep level with someone. I'm part of a Facebook group that is made up of people from my natural mother's hometown. I joined in hopes that someone there would know something and help me. These people have been so kind and generous to me, trying to do anything it takes to help me with my search. It was recommended by some of them that I talk to Kenny. His family lived only a few doors down from my natural mom's family and they are very well known in town. Not only that but his 94 year old mom is still alive and has a mind as sharp as a tack.  

Kenny doesn’t have a Facebook page, and he doesn’t even text! He’s one of those rare people in the world unconnected to social media of any kind. But, when I called he already knew who I was, because so many people on the Facebook page had told him my story.

Kenny immediately welcomed me into his life and his heart and wanted to help me. He wants so badly for me to find my natural father. He wants to do anything it takes to make that happen. So far on his own suggestion he has not called but driven to and stopped by several people’s homes to talk to them about the situation…people he feels certain know something. On Thursday night he actually went to the nursing home to talk to his mom about my situation. He implored her, "Mom, keep thinking about this. If you remember anything, no matter how small...please let me know so we can help Deanna."

“You deserve a Christmas miracle,” he says. “You deserve to find your Daddy…” he says. “I know if this was my Daddy, I’d want to find him. Who can’t understand that?” he says.

By now you are wondering what in the heck I am here to vent about. Here goes…

On my journey I have met several people who have been willing to help me at this level and in some cases beyond. Many people I have cold-called have actually taken DNA tests for me. They have immediately opened their hearts and their homes to me. Numerous people took my cold call, talked to me for weeks or months, and after meeting me said, “Oh my God! I hope you’re my sister!” or “I’m hanging on waiting for the DNA results hoping you’re my cousin!” or “We’re already planning a family reunion to introduce you!” I’ve been through this again and again…with people who just days or weeks ago were STRANGERS and are now among my cadre of friends!

What I’m venting about is that the people who DON’T have the information are most often the most amazing, loving, nicest people in the world. And the people that DO have the information? I can’t even say here what they are without losing my ministerial credentials!!! I can’t even describe them without God Almighty telling me to watch my language!!!

The people who DO have the information can be the nastiest people on the planet.

WHY? WHY? WHY?

One of the people in my natural (maternal) family who I am sure knows more than they are telling is always posting stuff on social media about kindness.  Stuff like this:




I wish they would stop posting stuff they really don't believe or practice. They aren't kind. If they withhold information about who and where people come from they are NOT KIND. They are not nice. 
Truthfully it’s starting to concern me a little bit that if my natural father’s family already knows about me, they may be included among the mean people who hoard information and don’t want to know their own flesh and blood.

Why are some people WITH information so mean? Why do they feel it is their right to withhold information from people who by all human rights should know where they come from? 

If you are reading this and you are holding information from anyone whose pain could be taken away by you sharing it, can I implore you to please give up your mean card and tell them what they need to know? What they deserve to know?


Kenny brought me to tears on Thursday. I was leaving work when he called. He had a phone number of somebody he felt it would be helpful for me to call. I let him know I was driving home from work and asked if he could text me the number. “Remember, I don’t text,” he said. Can you get a pen and pull over? I promptly pulled over into a church parking lot nearby…the “Church at the Mall” in Lakeland, Florida. Sitting there I took down the name and number of the person he wanted me to call that night. A few minutes later after I wrote down the information and was still talking to him, I pulled back out of the parking lot onto Memorial Boulevard and he said, “Deanna, when all this is over, will you call me sometimes, just to let me know you’re okay?” 

[Insert tears here.] 

     
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I used to see this in my inbox and get terribly excited. My heart would race and my fingers couldn’t log in fast enough.

Now I see this notification and sometimes I don’t even log in right away.

Everyone says, “Don’t stop believing…” Honestly some days I do, and some days I don’t.
My faith is high for other people, and other things, but when it comes to having faith for myself, it’s often low. Maybe it’s that adoptee curse of always feeling like you will be the one who is different. 

I logged in yesterday to see my matches and none of them even made the front page. They weren't close enough....like 5th-8th cousins.

Unless my father lives to be an extremely old man of Biblical proportions, time is running out.

I continue to hold on to all of my many blessings in life, and accept the fact that this may not be one of them.
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The wedding is over, and it was absolutely beautiful. Our kids are married now and headed off to their honeymoon cruise.   

Last night I looked into that beautiful face of the first blood relative I ever laid eyes on, and danced to “What a Wonderful World.” He truly is the most amazing young man on the planet.  I am so happy that he and Taylor have one another to love for a lifetime.



I always dreamed of this…starting a family. Raising a family. Doing it the way I always imagined. Now they will start and raise a family of their own. 

Some dreams do come true even when other ones don’t.


You have to hold on to the ones that do.

Last week while I was at school, part of what we studied about was being fully present. I decided to do that on the wedding day. Once the wedding started, I left my phone in the car on purpose. When I got back to the car late at night there were a zillion messages. Even people asking me questions about the wedding day, or needing help with this or that. (For example, “Where should I park???) I had ignored all these messages and just focused on Dustin and Taylor.

It was a great decision. I fully experienced the day.

My phone becomes my slave at times. I want to change that.



I want to experience the wonders of the world unhindered.


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Today the first blood relative that I ever laid eyes on is getting married.

Going through my pregnancy with Dustin, delivering him and parenting him rocked my world. And not just in the way that it happens with most parents! When an adoptee has a kid, it’s indescribable how it affects you. With many adoptees it is the catalyst for their search. It definitely impacted me that way and in many more ways beyond that.


Looking into his little face, I realized it was the first time I had ever seen anyone who looked like me.

Genetic mirroring!

I wept and wept. 

My life was never the same.

I will never get tired of looking at that face. No matter how old he gets – no matter how many new seasons in life come for him or for me -- he will always have the distinction of being the first blood relative I ever looked at, held, and saw myself in.

Everything in life changed for the better when he was born.

 Today his Dad and I both have the honor of doing performing the wedding ceremony. 

I want all the happiness for him in the world, and I’m so glad he and Taylor have found it, together.
  
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I said I was going to blog every day during NAAM, and although it was my goal, I’ve failed to meet it.  My son gets married tomorrow and I’ve been in a master’s class all week that has taken me on a journey to deep levels thinking about the past, present and future. I feel like I’ve been wrung out, but that’s not a bad thing. It's kind of like when you exercise and are all sweaty afterwards. You're a mess, but it was needed.

So what I want to say today is, I have more questions than answers. It’s funny how life is that way. I woke up this morning doing what I normally do…praying while I lay there with my eyes closed for a while before I actually get up. Usually my prayers center around whatever is rolling around in my head.

This morning the first thought in my mind as I awoke was, “Why are people born into such pain? Why are they born straight into rejection, abandonment, hunger, thirst and poverty? Why is there so much suffering in the world?” I am weeks away from a masters in ministerial leadership and it won’t be too terribly long before I have a doctorate. I should know the answers to these questions by now. I’m 52. And I’ve been a student for a long time in the school of life. But at this point I have more questions than I do answers. The more I learn the more I realize I have yet to learn. I know that God is with us through all of what goes on in the world. I just don’t know WHY.  Some people say, “You’re not supposed to know why!” But why gnaws at me. Not only about myself but about the whole human race.

This past week for my masters class we had to write a paper chronicling our spiritual journey before we arrived at our live session. The professor said she was overwhelmed reading our stories, of where we have come from and the things we, the students, have walked through. Then she proceeded to tell us her story. She asked us to brace ourselves because it would be difficult to hear what followed. It was a story of her abduction and assault, and nearly dying because of what she faced at the hands of her captor. And then, the story of her healing journey and triumph over what almost destroyed her.  I sat there in my seat with my hand covering my mouth, trying to process the horror of what she went through. 

I know who to turn to in pain, many times I just don’t understand the reason for the pain in the first place. Some say you should never ask why, but I believe there has to be a meaning.

Lately the Lord has been giving me a few (just a glimpse) of some answers as to the why of my story. I look at the chain of events and realize, had I not been in certain places, I wouldn’t have experienced various things that are key to who I have become. However, I still don’t have the answer to world hunger, or many things about my own life.

I wonder if years from now, I might know my natural father or his family (who are also my family) and show them pictures of our son’s wedding that is happening tomorrow. I wonder why I didn’t find my Greek family in time. These are just the things I think of at times, the things that keep me up at night, or are floating through my mind as the sun comes up. 

  
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“More than happiness or joy or lower blood pressure, the practice of God’s presence gives us meaning. Through this practice we become more closely aligned with Jesus and we learn His desire for us more completely. Life can be hard. The Practice of The Presence of God makes it easier. As Brother Lawrence said, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.”
― David Paul Kirkpatrick, Breakfast in the Temple

Yesterday I sat in class and the professor asked about how we experience prayer as far as it being a constant in our lives. After the question was asked, I zoned out thinking to myself about it and didn’t answer out loud. I stared out at the water and thought about it for a while.

I can’t really explain how or why but for me a continual conversation has gone on between God and me as long as I can remember.  It's like breathing to me. From day one of my recollection we have talked. All day long. I don't say that to sound spiritual. There's plenty of spiritual things I struggle with. Take fasting for instance.

When people ask how I get through things, adoption-related or not, that’s really it. It's the presence of God.  Life is hard. There is no one else – no other human being, with me 24/7. Only God. He is the person I not only bounce everything off of, but look to for meaning and answers. Many times my daily conversation with Him goes something like this…

Me: WHAT THE HECK???????????!!!!!

God:   

A lot of times He has quietly waited until I’m ready to hear something.
Every day for me is an exercise in trying to find meaning in the painful places, and a way to use my story to in some way help others.



Yesterday as I was staring out the windows at the beautiful waters of Cedar Key, my professor, Dr. Chris Corbett said the following: 


“Many times we have a deep-seated belief that our relationship with God is just about God and us. But it’s always for the sake of others.” 


I believe that.

There is no speck of this story that will be wasted.
     
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I’ve been reading Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton, and in the book she uses Moses as a case study. She says:


“Even though this was a fairly happy ending and one that contains much evidence of God’s grace, it still made for a convoluted childhood by today’s therapeutic standards! While it is good to be careful not to go too far in imposing contemporary meanings on ancient texts, we might at least acknowledge that Moses’ early childhood experiences were quite traumatic by any standard.”[1] 


I totally agree. And, I believe these type of early childhood experiences are quite traumatic for all adoptees by any standard in any time, ancient or present day . Everyone doesn’t share that opinion of course.

I have had people mock me for saying that there is trauma present in adoption. I have had this experience with family members as well as strangers. Two adoptive parents visited the Adoptee Restoration facebook page a while back and were making fun in the comments, saying, “Trauma Schwauma!!!” and other equally distasteful things.

I have heard it said, “Never mock a pain you haven’t endured.” I believe no one should mock a pain, period. People have to be sick to laugh at someone’s pain whether they agree with them or not. Whether they even like them or not.

On the issue of trauma and adoption, author Mirah Riben shares: 


 “For the adoptee, adoption is a trauma of loss and separation that can result in PTSD.”[2] 


Some people find this laughable. They just can’t wrap their heads around the fact that you can have PTSD from being adopted.  

I do believe adoptees can move forward. (I have. I am not a believer in “getting over” but I am a strong believer in “moving forward.”) Part of moving forward is to actually be able to acknowledge and grieve a loss.  You can't move forward without defining reality and dealing with it.

I can’t understand why so many people have a hard time recognizing that adoptees have a loss to grieve. Until that is validated it is very hard to move forward. I am blessed that while I have had some people scoff at my beliefs on this, I’ve found so many more (especially in the adoptee community) who affirm and encourage.   

Many adoptive parents will scratch their heads and wonder why and how in the world their kid went off the rails. Maybe they haven’t yet. But I’d bet my bottom dollar they will at some point. And maybe, just maybe, Trauma Schwauma has something to do with it.

[1] Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 35.
[2] Mirah Riben, “Adoption-Related Trauma and Moral Injury,” Huffpost, June 27, 2016.

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