Pieces of an Adoption Puzzle: The Story Continues

For the first time in my life, I celebrated my November 14th birthday with 99% assurance of my birthmother’s identity. Thanks to the DNA testing results from Ancestry.com paired with the expertise and diligence of a kind-hearted genealogy geneticist and aided by the discovery of mine and my daughter’s detective skills, we have uncovered the secret of one side of my birth equation.  A member of this family—a presumed half-brother—kindly agreed to test his DNA, and the results substantiated our theory.

While the DNA findings are quite convincing, our digging for answers hasn’t uncovered one living person who can confirm that this woman gave birth to a daughter—or was even pregnant—in 1963. Because she died unexpectedly in 1990, her DNA can’t be tested nor can she corroborate the scenario. The lack of this absolute proof leaves a squiggle of doubt that we will try to erase in the coming days with one additional DNA test.

My newly discovered sibling not only agreed to share his DNA results with a stranger, he has been incredibly open to the possibility of a sister he never knew existed. I feel as if I’ve been on a tilt-a-whirl the past few months. He must feel as if a cyclone swooped him up and deposited him in an unfamiliar land. Yet his willingness to delve into this decades old mystery along with me has been such a blessing.

ancestry-2

Evidence is mounting that no one other than my birthmother had knowledge of the pregnancy or a “door step” baby. The more I think about how alone she was, how traumatic it must have been to go through all of that and then to wonder for years what became of the baby, a sadness swells inside me. My half-brother grieves over this as well.

The vague, back-burner wonderings I entertained each November about whether I’d ever meet my birthmother multiplied by tenfold when I learned of the door step detail. As I embarked on this quest, I hoped doors would open to the chance to say, “It all turned out okay.” But now that there will be no chance to announce, “I’m fine” or to ask, “How have you been?” I’m disappointed. But it’s not an I-wish-I’d-never-started-this-search kind of disappointment. Just a stab of remorse at the lack of closure.beth-3-weeks

And now the $64,000 question. Will I pursue the other side of the birth equation? The DNA results didn’t offer as many good clues on the paternal side, and frankly, I need to close the private investigator shop for some R & R. There’s always the chance I’ll wake up one morning to find a new DNA match, maybe a really close one, that will point in the direction of my birthfather. If that happens, I’m sure my curious nature will again shift into high gear. But for now, I think I’ll take a break from searching and focus on learning about my birth mom and her family with the gracious assistance of my new half-brother.

doorstep-announcement-angola

The newspaper account didn’t get all the details right. It was a DOG not a CAT the homeowner called to and I weighed 5 lbs. 12 oz. and was 19 inches long.

On a side note, a bit of “birth date mystery” trivia was resolved this year with the help of the official adoption file for “Susie Hope”. That’s the nickname bestowed on me by the nurses at the hospital and the name that was also used in the legal paperwork. A bit more personal than “baby Jane Doe,” isn’t it? Anyway, my parents celebrated my first birthday on November 20 as that’s the day the initial court documents said I had been born. Turns out that’s the day I officially became a ward of the state, three days after the November 17th discovery as an abandoned, estimated to be three-day-old infant. When my adoption was finalized a year later, those official documents pronounced my birth date as November 14.

It seems the official math went something like this. Day of discovery, November 17, minus the three days of my estimated age, equaled November 14th in the eyes of the court. My mom was none too happy about the clerical discrepancy as everyone who was anyone already knew her baby girl’s birthday to be November 20. However, at the court officials’ insistence, birthdays 2 and 3 and 4 and so on, were observed on the 14th.

A rather bumpy, uncertain beginning for me.  An unimaginably difficult situation for my birthmother. But life went on for both of us. And GOD watched over the little one she couldn’t care for.

I’m still watching and listening and waiting for an “Aha!” moment that will define why the puzzle pieces are coming together at this moment in time. I really hope that moment comes, if not here on earth, than someday in eternity. Regardless, I trust in GOD’s precise, perfect timing.

Thanks for walking with me through this “slice of my life.” Feel free to share my story with anyone who might benefit from the evidence of a mighty GOD at work. And stay tuned for more because I’m pretty sure GOD’s not done with the lessons to be learned through this amazing journey.

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Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

The Making of a Family: The Proof of GOD’s Intervention

ScribcolumnI have always known that I was adopted as an infant. Same with my three younger brothers.

Before  we could truly grasp what it meant to be “adopted”, we knew we had been adopted. Seriously, my youngest brother who endured surgery for a double hernia at the age of two and two-thirds months, thought his surgery scars were from being adopted. His older and wiser siblings who knew all about this adoption stuff tried to correct his faulty thinking but to no avail. We finally gave up, deciding he’d figure it out eventually.

Our understanding of adoption came from this book, read to us continuously from the day we became part of our adoptive parents’ family. I promise you, “read continuously” is not an exaggeration. I’m certain I could recite the book by a very young age.

chosen baby

When I searched for the book by title, the first books I found were not the familiar plain green cover I remembered so well. Knowing the book had to be on the elderly side, I feared I wouldn’t be able to find it. But I persevered and further digging uncovered an earlier edition that looked exactly as I remembered.

Talk about a trip down memory lane! The illustrations, the characters’ names, even the look of the print were all so familiar. In my mind I could see myself “reading” the story to the brother next in line behind me when we were something like 3 and 1 1/2 years of age.

By the time brother #2 came along, the book was in tatters and had to be replaced. One of the revised covers I discovered seems a little familiar so I’m wondering if the replacement book had that cover. But the copy I’ll always and forever remember is the one above.

While our parents’ chose to receive no information about our birth parents, they felt it was important that each of us be aware of our adoption, and the fact that they wanted us very, very, very much. Hence the reading of the “The Chosen Baby” time and again.

Four days after I penned my  last “slice of life” post, I discovered a rather intriguing fact about my past. A fact my adoptive parents’ knew all along but chose not to relay to me as a child who might not receive the news well. I understand that. A child’s ability to sift through information and to reason is unpredictable at best. I also get why they struggled with  the question, “So, when DO we tell her?” after I became an adult.

 It seems I was left on the doorstep of a residence in a small, Midwest town in the wee morning hours of a cold November day in 1963. Wrapped in a man’s black wool shirt and a blanket, I was approximately 3 days old, having not been born in a hospital. I was 20 in. long, weighed 5 lbs. 12 oz., and found to be in good health.

Talk about a “slice of real life”! In the less than three weeks I’ve known this bit of information, my mind has been spinning. I’ve already embarked on a journey to see what I can learn about my biological beginnings.

If this story doesn’t testify to GOD’s intervention in my life, I can’t imagine a more fitting example. I never had feelings of abandonment or shame concerning my adoption. I always assumed whomever gave birth to me didn’t feel capable of caring for me, so she/he/they chose to allow someone else to raise me.

GOD knew a young couple several counties away desperately wanted a family, and HE put the pieces of the puzzle together. And HE put the pieces together again three other times to create our family of six.

I’ll keep you updated on my journey in future columns.

UPDATE from last time. Remember how my early twenty-something son relayed news of a really-not-so-good-kind while I was writing the “They Need a Mom…” post–the one about letting young adults figure stuff out of on their own? While I’d love to report that things on that front have been resolved —you have no idea how much I’d love to be able to report that–alas, it is not so. Still, I know GOD is in control. This mama is continuing to pray GOD’s power and presence over the situation and to trust in HIS plan.

Call Beth a “cheerleader for abstinence”!  She’s passionate about saving sex for marriage and believes strongly in accountability and mentoring as crucial tools to success in postponing physical intimacy until marriage.  She’s equally as passionate about “renewed waiting”. Because SEX is worth waiting for. YOU are worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. And connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

God’s Purpose for Fiction

“Hey.”

(Sidles onto stage.) “How are you? Ahem.

(Waves nervously.) “Hiya, my name is Kathrese McKee, and I’m the newest Scriblerian.”

Stage Fright

I was asked to introduce myself, and I came so close to complete writer’s block. Let’s call it stage fright. Should I write the standard Ten-Things-About-Me post? Should I just pick one thing, like Army brat or Texan?

A Message About Timing

Fortunately, I read a Facebook post by C.W. Briar (Chuck) in which he told the story of how he became an author. Specifically, he wrote about his journey to where he is today, “It wasn’t a crisis of faith, but rather a search to find where I belong and how to use my gifts and talents.”

Along the way, with prayer and the Spirit’s help, Chuck decided to take writing seriously and publish by age 33. He set to work, learning and practicing his craft until he finished his book. According to God’s perfect timing, then, he received the first proof copy of his book three hours before he turned 34.

Individualized, personalized timing is normal with God. My story is similar to Chuck’s. My search took longer, but all those years while I was doing other things, God was preparing me to write fiction (and other stuff).

God's Purpose for FictionOur Reason Why

In the parts of the world where technology is readily available, we are consumed by a thirst for entertainment. We binge watch programs on Netflix or YouTube or Amazon Prime. We read ebooks all day long; there’s a never-ending supply. We float on a sea of amusing infotainment, and we only return to shore for the kids’ soccer games and work. Even then, it’s hard to put the mobile devices away and just be human for a few hours. Don’t think I’m being self-righteous about this; I include myself in that number.

Based on what we see happening around us in the growth of Christian writing support groups like ACFW and Realm Makers, it seems that God is calling authors out from among believers in increasing numbers to write fiction. I think God is calling us to reach out with His message to our blind and deaf generation, a generation of people who won’t meet Him any other way than through the pages of an entertaining story.

Meeting This Generation on the Page (or the Screen)

In a few weeks, I get to join a group of other authors at the Realm Makers  conference. This isn’t your usual writing conference where lots of genres (and belief systems) are represented. This is a meeting of Christian authors who write speculative fiction. How oddly specific!

Here’s my theory: God wants us, the science fiction and fantasy authors He has called out, to meet speculative fiction lovers on the pages (and screens) where they spend their time. If they want entertainment, then our job is to (stay with me here) provide entertainment. To be present where they are. To hold out truth. To entertain—absolutely—and while we have their attention, to prompt them to blink out of their blind trance. To think for a moment. To consider Someone bigger. To know Him better.

I am a speculative fiction author who currently writes for young adults, so my assigned audience is young adults who enjoy epic fantasy adventure. Authors of other genres and sub-categories have different sets of readers to reach. Some audience overlap may occur. Personally, I enjoy reading a well-written Regency romance followed by a political thriller with a space opera for desert.

[Brace yourselves; we are entering personal opinion territory.]

Is there such a thing as Christian fiction?

In my opinion, the answer is no. A Christian is a person who is in Christ, and his or her message is Christ crucified. I know you want to argue for the existence of Christian fiction, but keep reading.

We have turned “Christian” into an adjective for the stuff we create, but the Scriptures only use the term in reference to believers. Go ahead, check out this search for “Christian” on BibleGateway.com . These days, “Christian” has become an imprecise shorthand for “a big ball of wibbly-wobbly . . . timey-wimey . . . stuff.”

My apologies, Dr. Who fans; I couldn’t resist. “Christian”—as a descriptor for stuff we create—is a dumbed-down, wishy-washy, amorphous concept that has little to do with God’s precious gift to mankind. To me, it makes more sense to label so-called “Christian art” as “Christ-inspired art.”

Can art be Christian?

Again, my answer is no. Art can be inspired by Christ. Art can point to Christ and glorify Him. Art can be offered to Christ in love, like the crayon drawings of a three-year-old. Such art, in God’s perfect time, can inspire non-believers to take Christ seriously, but only because God works on its audience through the Spirit by using the artist’s creation as a meeting point.

All art communicates a spiritual message, whether for good or evil. The massive sculptures and friezes created at the direction of the USSR’s government sent a spiritual message. Atheists’ art sends a spiritual message, whether they wish it or not. The art created by Christians, then, is important for the spiritual messages it communicates. That is why it is important for a Christian’s work to agree with God’s Truth.

Okay, I know I’m fighting a losing battle on the whole Christian-as-an-adjective-for-stuff thing. The publishing industry is deeply entrenched with the idea of a secular, “mainstream” market versus a religious market, some of which is “Christian.” The labels Christian music, Christian books, Christian jewelry, and Christian so-forth are here to stay. I just wish that we had settled on the term “Christ-inspired” instead.

[That wasn’t too bad, was it? And now you know how convoluted my thinking gets.]

A Light in a Dark Place

Our stories are one of the mediums through which God acts. The funny part is that our books don’t have to preach about Christ or contain an “altar call.” Christian authors don’t have to write allegories in order to glorify Christ or communicate Truth. The book of Esther contains no mention of God, yet the story is all about God’s power to save His people.

I think it is important for Christians to write fiction if they are moved to do so. Our “job” is to attract an audience and offer our best, most thoughtful, stories written from a Christian perspective.

When we meet our readers and fans in person or on-line, we must wear the name of Christ proudly and without shame. We must not shy away from being His witnesses. We must be Christians and walk the walk that we talk. Christians who write fiction can be a light in a dark place, and God will do the rest.

Wrath and RuinOur search, to paraphrase Chuck, is to find where we belong and how to use our gifts and talents. Our mission is to work conscientiously at our craft and present our best work to the reading public. We are called to meet non-believers (and believers too) on the page and on the screen through the medium of storytelling.

Chuck wrote this:

“I won’t say this is some God-ordained book. I won’t say this is the greatest thing I will ever accomplish (in fact, I hope to write many books and to improve with each and every one). I don’t know where this writing journey is leading, what stories I will tell, and whose lives I will impact. But I do know this: tonight I received the first copy of a book I wrote, a tangible confirmation of a journey started in earnest 4 years ago.”

My thanks to C.W. Briar for giving me permission to hijack his Facebook post. His first book, Wrath and Ruin, is on schedule to be released by the end of July, 2016. Love the title, by the way.

Do you agree or disagree?

“The Best Day EVER!”

Don’t you just love it when the simplicity of a child’s thinking jolts your world?

It happened to me yesterday when a friend shared the extraordinary spin her five-year-old son placed upon a rather ordinary Saturday.child

The young lad awoke proclaiming the day was going to be “my best day ever!” He continued to announce it throughout the day finding joy in even the most routine of chores. At breakfast he orchestrated the family’s conversation, beaming and announcing again it was to be his best day ever. This continued as he helped his dad around the house, held the family guinea pig while his mom cleaned the cage and even while shopping at Costco. While being tucked in that night he said, “Thanks, Mom, that was the best day ever!”

The next morning he awoke and while snuggling with his mom on the couch, proclaimed, “This is going to be the best day ever!”

“What? I thought yesterday was the best day ever,” she responded.

“Yes, Mom, every day is the best day ever because I’m a kid and Kids’ Day is every day!” Smiling wide he continued, “Yep, it’s gonna be the best day ever until my brother and I are adults!”

Mom reflected on her sons optimism. As adults, wouldn’t it be nice to wake up each morning believing each day was going to be our best day ever?

Yes, my friend, it would be nice. No, actually, it would be amazing if we faced each and every day with such a positive approach.

I admit I often do not meet the challenges of each day with such a glowing attitude. My day can be progressing just fine and dandy and then wham! A phone call brings discouraging news. The mailman delivers unexpected turmoil. A sudden remembrance threatens peace of mind. A relationship clash saps enthusiasm.

I’m not talking about “death in the family” phone calls or “your home is being foreclosed on” notices. That type of news is truly devastating.

It’s the more mundane things that we allow to rob us of joy that this youngster’s chipper attitude spoke to, at least for me. You know, the annoyances, the frustrations, the he/she “gets on my last nerve” situations. The waiting for circumstances to fall into place. The needing-to-make-a-decision-but-can’t-quite-decide-what-to-do scenarios. The stuff of day-to-day living on this earth.

In a moment’s time, any number of things can threaten to ruin what only moments before had been a great day. Worry and anxiety and unrest reign where only minutes ago, everything was fine. And suddenly I want nothing more than to crawl under the covers and escape.have a great day

I think I’ll post a “this is the best day ever!” prompt on my refrigerator… and on the bathroom mirrors… and on the dash of my minivan… and on the computer screen. As a reminder not to let the minor bumps in the road steal the joy from my day. Even the instead-of-a-refund-we-owe-$600-in-taxes revelation does not have to ruin an entire day.

Thanks for the inspiring lesson, my five-year-old friend.

 

 

 

 

The Best Pain

“No Mike.” I smiled at my older brother. “You don’t toss away your daily devotionals at the end of the year. You merely turn back to the first page again.”

Mike has had about 35 years of debilitating health issues, including deteriorating liver, liver transplant, stroke and more recently, constant seizures. Even though his faith has remained strong, Mike has become like a confused child again. But nonetheless, he is my spiritual inspiration and the reason I kick my own butt when I feel life gets tough.

I showed him my devotionals that had a few pencilled stars beside the text where I’d found some particularly appropriate points or scriptures. I explained that each year different things popped out at me depending on what I was going through.

“Oh… whoops!” He grinned at his own dog-eared leather-bound books that had parts completely highlighted and underlined, with notes written in pen in the margins.

“No worries, Mike. You can still use them. And here’s another I think you’ll enjoy! Merry Christmas!”

His devotion to his devotionals was inspiring. Every day he started out communing with God. No matter what he was doing or what day it was, he still made the time.

My devotionals had a conspicuously reduced number of pencilled stars from about November on to the beginning of January. Even though Christmas was the time I should be drawing closer to Jesus, I seemed to drift from my routine of pulling Him into my day.

But here I am once again, humbled, and seeking strength and guidance for upcoming projects and family issues for 2016. As much as I hate to admit, most of my growth doesn’t come from when I’m on the mountain tops where everything is going well, it’s in the valleys where I’m struggling.

My brother’s constant health issues have been the reason for his spiritual walk. He knows he can’t do it alone, and he knows God is between him and his problems.

Of course, this morning I put a star on my devotional that reminded me that my path will be of multiple failures and stresses along with some hopeful successes. But each failure is followed by a spiritual growth spurt and my increased reliance on Him.

So, the best pain? That’s easy, it’s when I am overwhelmed and at a loss of where to turn next. And I find Him there waiting for me as always. In addition, I seek out quiet places, turn on music, jump in my hot tub, go for a walk, and just rest in His grace.

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Can you tell me what you do when life dumps on you?

 

 

Reading for Inspiration

 

rays from heaven

As a senior in high school, I took an English elective titled “Reading for Pleasure.” Every day in class, I was required to spend forty-five minutes reading fiction. This would be my favorite class of all time!
The catch? Over a ten-week period, I had to read thirty-six books from a general reading list or fifteen books from the classical literature list to get an A. Eager and ambitious, I signed up for the classics. How hard could it be? Less than two books per week, and I could just keep reading at night for homework. Oh, and I had to take a test over each book. Piece of cake.

Success in College

from the book, Success in College

I read the books – Anna Karenina, War and Peace, The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, The Count of Monte Cristo, Madame Bovary, Animal Farm, to name a few. I got my A.

I was so depressed.
Didn’t these writers believe in happy endings?? I’ll give Dickens a little credit. At least Oliver Twist got a new and better family after he’d been abused for the entire novel. And Louisa May Alcott proved an exception to all the gloom.
For the second ten weeks, I contracted for the thirty-six general books. My teacher was not pleased.

credit to rallythereaders.com

credit to rallythereaders.com

Yet, even after that intense semester, I love literary fiction. While I often read cozy mysteries, fun chicklit, and some spec fiction, I prefer highly complex stories of mainstream literary fiction. Someday, I hope to write complicated stories of my own. Only I want Jesus as the central theme when generations of my characters weave a tapestry of tragedies, adventures, and daily living.
I’ve provided a list below of Christian authors who create wonderful, many-layered novels. While no one pens a story as heavy as Tolstoy, these authors write in a literary style filled with hope in the midst of their characters’ trials, and they bring the reader, and their protagonists, safely ashore by Finis. They don’t sugarcoat the reader’s world, but they offer far more hope and joy than the most lighthearted works of Jane Austen.

Pinterest.com

Pinterest.com

Wouldn’t it be great if high schools had required reading lists with these authors?

Ann Tatlock

Gene Stratton Porter

Elizabeth Musser

Madeleine Engle

Lisa Wingate

J.R.R. Tolkien

C.S. Lewis

John Bunyan

Francine Rivers

 

Who would you add for Christian literary fiction?

 

Lessons From a Seventy-Five-Year-Old Musher

… And a top skiing instructor, and an extreme landscaper, and a backcountry horseman (in the 1940’s when most women did NOT do that).

Yes, of course, this is one and the same person – my mom!

As mentioned, in the 1940’s, when most of my mom’s friends were learning the fine art of sewing, doing kitchen duties and catering to their husband’s every need, Mom was kicking around on her horse in the B.C. backcountry when she wasn’t teaching gym to kids. She wanted to visit family in Vancouver 300 miles away approximately, so off she went (in her twenties) on her horse without a second thought, with some grain for her and her horse to eat, beef jerky, and a general idea of how to get there. Did I mention there were no roads? Seven days later she and her horse wandered into Vancouver no worse for wear, visited for a few days, then turned around and went home again. No problem!

mom and horse

As a small child, I assumed that every kid’s mom was able to man-handle 100 pound slabs of rock from the hills surrounding our place to put into landscaping. (She was only about 5’4 ) We lived on three acres that contained barns, horse pastures, fish ponds, huge multilevelled barbecue areas, ravines, and lake frontage to romp around in. Normal stuff, I thought.

Then, I remember, when I was about seven, skiing with family while mom taught others to ski. She’d started skiing when she was about 50, but as her indomitable nature dictated, she excelled quickly then was hired to teach at our local mountain. She has been hailed as one of the best teachers to have hit the mountain, even to this day!

Later, my parents, in their seventies, lived in a cabin by a small lake above our town. No running water, outdoor biffy, and bears for neighbours. My kids’ earliest memories were of tobogganing by the cabin in the winter, and fishing on the lake in the summer. Mom owned two siberian huskies that pulled her around on a sleigh in the winter. These dogs were obstinate pullers by nature, but were as calm and obedient on the leash as any citified dog.

How?

Mom twisted their leashes over their backs, around their middles and through their hind legs. So… uhm, pulling for these male dogs was not an option on the leash. Ingenious, right? This allowed mom to take them on lengthy strolls through the woods by herself.

mom and dogs

Mom has always had a quiet, get-things-done nature with no negative thoughts on her situation or other people. Don’t think for a second that our family has always been blessed with good health and prosperity. We have had our share of tragedies with finances, health and relationships, but with everything she showed a humble determination to simply work through obstacles, and when you couldn’t, you worked with what you had left. Let go and let God, was her steadfast motto. She introduced me to my faith and showed me where her strength comes from.

She is now celebrating her 97th birthday and is going strong.
Elsie Wilson is the ultimate hard act to follow!!

Love you to the moon and back, Mom!!!

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