Volunteer and Service

Jaren and I have done a lot of service over the years.

I would say my passion for volunteering began when my employer asked me to help organize the United Way Campaign for the employees.  It was a week long event where we shared video’s, personal stories, and the many ways to give and serve.  I had benefited personally from United Way charities like the Good Will store that our mother shopped at from time to time for us kids, as a single mother of three.

I began to get more involved in service when I worked with WaMu. They were a very service oriented company and gave their employees 12 hours per quarter to volunteer during work hours.  It was a wonderful gift. It allowed me to do more, as a single mother. Its harder when you’re a single parent.  Time is so precious. Leave in the morning, drop off your child at school, head to work, put in at least an eight hour work day, plus lunch and then pick up your child and head home to cook dinner, homework, sports, spend time together, get them their bath and ready for bed and do it all over again the next day.

I loved volunteering and serving.  I always walked away feeling good.  So I began to look for service that I could do with my son.  I didn’t want for him to be home with a sitter while I was out volunteering.

We served in many different ways, from awareness/charity walks, to serving Thanksgiving dinners at a homeless shelter, to working with special needs kids and many other various events.  It really was so much fun serving side by side with my son.

However, I did do a few things without my son, like in 2006, Jaren’s school invited me to join their Campus Involvement Committee.  It was a one school year commitment.  I enjoyed that and learned a lot about how the schools work.  I also got to provide input.  It was a great group of professionals to work with.

From 2005-2007 I was invited to join the Community Involvement Team at WaMu and was the Secretary for one of those years.

And lastly, one of the employees of UnityDallas asked me to join their committee to help organize their family event, called Where’s the Beach, which I did in 2008 and in 2010.  I was the volunteer coordinator.  It was about a six month commitment for the planning of the event.

When I resigned from the bank in 2012, I volunteered at UnityDallas, my church, for about nine months, working one to two days in the office, answering phones and handling minor office duties.  It was a lot of fun.

Then, when Jaren got to high school, he began to go even further serving with our YOU youth program at church.  He already had the experience.  And he enjoyed serving.  Even when the folks at the church needed a hand, they knew they could ask him.  When they had Open Mic night for the YOUers, who took turns performing along with adults on a small stage, it was Jaren who worked the sound booth, taking a short break here and there to eat or perform his song.  And when he graduated, he was able to get his service recognition, thanks to his sponsors and UnityDallas.  I will tell you, that meant more to me than any academic or athletic award.

Giving service, whether we are thanked or not, whether we get an award or not, whether someone parades us on stage or not is really irrelevant.  In the end, when I walk before God and he ask me and my son, what we did for his people, we will be able to reply, “We did this and we did it humbly with a grateful heart.”

GPS – Plan B

I am in awe sometimes at how the universe works its way in and out of our lives.  I use “universe” as an all-inclusive way; Father-Mother God, angels, spirit guides, transcended loved ones.  I think they all move in and around us, guiding us, showing us, and speaking to us in unorthodox ways.  Sometimes some of us may get caught up in the literal and not fully comprehend when someone is being led by some unforeseen guide.  The spiritual words and lessons are more like codes and it is up to us to pay attention to the details.

Let me give you some examples.

I’ve had some pretty amazing synchronicity experiences or coincidences over the years.  And after I met Brian, my children’s father, things really began to kick up a notch.  I always felt as if we were being drawn to each other.  When we met the first time, I felt as if I knew him, as if we had shared worlds and lifetimes together.  When he looked at me it was as if he could read my every thought and feel every emotion inside my body.  I wasn’t always comfortable with that.  Out of that deep connection and passion we felt for each other, came my first born son, Jaren.

The first time I remember something extraordinary at work in the universe was about six months after Jaren was born.  We were still living in downtown Dallas at the time.  There were four malls that were about the same distance from us; one to the east, one to the west, one to the north, and one to the south.  We’d been to all of them.  This day, I drove to the one west of us which was in Irving.

It was close to the holidays so the mall had extra vendor booths set up in the center of the passageway selling their specialty items.  These booths are seasonal.  Some only come for a day or a weekend.  With Jaren on my hip, I strolled through the mall.  Soon, we came upon a booth that had four rectangular tables in a box formation with two ladies in the middle and binder folders with clear sleeves lying out on all the tables.  Their sign showed they had biblical names with poem meanings.  As I walked closer to look, one of the ladies asked me what my son’s name was.  I told her that I was pretty sure they would not have his name, especially since they were pre-printed inside the clear sleeves.  So she asked me again.  I told her, “Jaren.”  She smiled confidently and pointed to a binder book with the “J” names.  Then I told her she probably had the original spelling of his name.  So she asked me how I spelled it.  I spelled it for her.  J.A.R.E.N.  She again reassured me that they did in fact have it.

I was in awe for many reasons.  First, I didn’t know that Jaren’s name was biblical.  I had not seen it in any bible and when we think of biblical we think of names in the bible.  The second thing is the name Jaren was derived from Jaron, a Hebrew name meaning, he will sing, he will cry out.  And thirdly, I had not seen or heard anyone with the name Jaren or Jaron for that matter so it was an uncommon name.  How often does a person with an uncommon name find their name spelled the way they spell it on something that is already pre-printed or pre-made, not a specialty item made uniquely for them?  I can tell you that I have not since ever seen Jaren’s name pre-printed on anything in any store that I have shopped at.

When we name our child, we want it to fit them.  It’s such a powerful thing to give your child a name.  It becomes a part of them and we want it to say something special about who they are.  I thought long and hard about the name I chose for my son.  This confirmation gave me reassurance that I had listened to my spirit guides and chose the name that was meant for my son.

A year later, our office moved from downtown Dallas to Irving, which I talked about in another post.  Jaren’s daycare was also located downtown a few miles from our downtown apartment.  I would drop Jaren off at daycare and then drive to work in Irving.  Well, about a year later, the downtown daycare closed at that location.  However, the teachers were moving to another location located in a large office building for a well-known, world-wide corporation.  This daycare was designed to serve their employees.  Want to guess where they moved?  Yup!  Irving.  Of all the cities this daycare facility could have been relocated to in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, they moved to Irving.  Sure, I could have found Jaren another daycare in downtown Dallas and had considered it but I thought if I moved him with his current daycare at their new location, he would at least have many of his same teachers.  I thought that would be better than having a new building, new teachers, and new classmates.

I began to see a trend.  Something was drawing us to Irving.  And while we didn’t move right away, it wasn’t long after we did move to Irving.  Now, while that is pretty awesome in itself, there is still more to the story.  I would later learn that Brian’s sister worked for that well-known corporation, in that very building that the daycare moved into.  Just to put that in a little perspective:

DallasFort Worth, by population, is the largest metropolitan area in Texas, the largest in the South, and the fourth-largest in the United States.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dallas%E2%80%93Fort_Worth_metroplex

These messages were clear to me and I was able to easily see the path.  All of these choices guided me and my family to our highest good.  I felt optimistic and confident after making these choices.  I didn’t doubt my decision nor felt regret or remorse because the way was clear.  I felt the universe guiding me.  However, I will tell you that has not always been the case.

Example, when I was pregnant with Noah.  My vision was clouded, my ears had a hard time deciphering the truth from all the noise, and my mind was filled with images of doubt.  It’s hard to make a clear choice in this environment.  It’s like sitting on a cliff and people are yelling at you to do this or do that and your mind is filled with chaos.  And any move could be dangerous.  Each person has their reason or motive for wanting you to make one choice over another.

People often simplify adoption and try to sum it up as better or worse, selfless or selfish, brave or weak.  The positives are focused on the relinquishment, implying your child will have a better life and the negatives are fixated on parenting with false unforeseen assumptions that your child’s future will be bleak or worse off.  So, what choice do you think a mother will lean towards?  Something negative or something positive?  Fear can lead a person down a dark path.

The choice that separated me from my second born son was a devastating one, one that I sometimes wondered if I would ever recover from.  I was not at peace, although I acted and thought I was and tried to convince others that I was good with that choice.  I believe it was the denial, the numbness that took over.

When we are no longer able to change the situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. – Viktor Frankl

So here is my take on divine intervention and what is meant to be will be.

Anything that God has intended… is for our highest good.  And I personally believe that if a choice or decision gives you doubt, despair or a negative impact, then it probably was not the path that God had planned for us.  That’s not to say that some choices won’t be challenging or have challenges.  Our daily life has challenges.  Work can be challenging.  The bible is filled with stories of people overcoming challenges.  But something that gives you a bad feeling inside is different than something being challenging.

Jaren and I were talking about this and I said it came to me like this.  God always has a Plan B.  When I mentioned this at a women’s group, one of the ladies said that God has the “Master Plan”.  Well, that’s true.  However, humans do not always follow the master plan.  It’s called free will.  I certainly would not think that God’s master plan is murder, or rape, or child abuse, or slavery.

After watching the movie Lion, it instilled this knowledge deeper within.  Saroo made some choices that separated him from his family.  After deep despair and the point of no return, he had to rely on his choices and fate.  At a very young age, he learned to follow his gut instincts along with his survival instincts.  He was listening to the voice within.  At the same time, God was putting His Plan B into place.

I have a Garmin GPS.  I put in the address and it is pretty good about getting me where I need to go.  Usually I follow it but there have been times when I chose another route.  And what happens when I do that?  It says, “Recalculating.”   The GPS then recalculates the next best direction from my altered direction.  Sometimes when it is really cloudy outside or there is a bad signal, the GPS will go blank and then recalculate.

When I think back to that time with Noah, I don’t believe it was God’s plan one way or the other for me to parent or relinquish my rights.  God gave me free will.  I also don’t believe it was God’s intention for my children’s father to abandon his kids and me during a time we needed him most.  But God gave Brian free will also.  However, I do believe that God was putting into place a family for Noah in the chance that circumstances and choices would prevent Noah from remaining with his original family.  God was preparing for Plan B.  I truly believe that God’s Master Plan is not designed to hurt one to benefit another.  That plays into the whole chosen one mentality.  God is much bigger than that.  Humans hurt.  God loves.  And love does not hurt, despite that old popular 70’s song.

I asked a friend of mine for her thoughts on this.  While her situation is a little different, I thought she could add real perspective.  Kim, her best friend and twin brothers were in a fatal car accident while on a double date during our freshman year in high school, leaving one twin and one friend alive, and one twin and one friend dead.  It was a very traumatic event that shook our small town.  This is what Kim said:

Well you know I’ve thought a lot about that. And of course people told me that I was spared to go on and do great things…which of course didn’t turn out that way. My life is wonderful, but quite ordinary. But I’ve wondered why God spared Ricky and I and how different the world might have been had the outcome been reversed. And you know what? I’ve come up with zilch, nada, nothing. When I think about it from God’s perspective it seems like a Sophie’s Choice. I don’t know why I lived and Linda didn’t. My gut feeling is that she would’ve gotten married and had kids and grandkids just like I have. But who really knows. But I do know that God is omnipotent. Perhaps God saw in that brief moment something in the future that made a difference to the world. Perhaps one of my descendants will work on something that alters the course of humanity. Or maybe one of Ricky’s descendants does something game changing. I have to have that faith, because anything else just seems too random. And given the complexity of life on this little Rock of ours, I just cannot believe in serendipity. I have to believe that God’s purpose for the outcome of that accident wasn’t just chance, even if it remains a mystery to me.

 These are the great mysteries of life.  But one thing that I am certain of, is that God and the universe are truly active in my life and whether I am following the Master Plan or God needs to put Plan B in place to recalculate my trip, I am glad I have God and my guides to navigate my journey and guide me to my highest purpose and good.

Dear Sissy

Dear Sissy,

It has been almost six months and I do miss you dearly.  I think of you often.  I wonder how things are where you are.  How is Ray?  We sure do miss him too.  And Jeanna.  And Patti.  And your family?  I am sure they were so happy to see you.

I wanted to catch you up on what is going on.  I can just picture us sitting in your living room and talking.  You always were a great listener and story teller.

Jaren and I are well.  We found a nice apartment and I am almost certain you guided me to it; so many coincidences.  The best part about our new apartment is I am only 4.8 miles from work.  I know you would be happy to know that.  You always worried about my long drive.

Work is going well.  I really like my new department and coworkers.  You know how nervous I was at first.  I started my new position a couple weeks after you passed.

Jaren’s graduation went well.  I know how proud of him you would have been.  He is taking online college courses and he hopes to be in a dorm soon.  He really wants to experience the college life.  I am glad he is with me a little longer.  With your passing, my new job position, Jaren graduating high school, moving out of the house and into our new apartment, I think it would have been difficult to be without Jaren too.  So thankfully, he is with me a little longer.  But I know he is ready to explore.  And I am just about getting used to the idea of him leaving home.  I can hear you giving me advice in your kind and gentle tone, reassuring me that everything will be alright.  And you are right.

So many changes in such a short time, Sissy, but considering everything, I am doing well.

Noah and his family came down for Jaren’s graduation and they stayed with us at the house.  I told Noah that he was there shortly after he was born for Christmas Eve.  Of course he doesn’t remember but maybe somewhere subconsciously it is in him.  It did feel like we came full circle.  It meant a great deal to have them stay at that house.  Noah’s parents felt right at home too.  The only thing missing was you and Ray.  But somehow, I think you both were there.  Everything in that house reminds me of you two.

The kids all seem to be doing well.  It’s hard because everyone is scattered but we do talk or txt now and then.  I know you would be very happy to know that most everything you had went to the kids or close family and friends.  I know how much you treasured your belongings.  We had fun going through your things and sharing some stories to go along the way.  Of course, you know I have many of those to share.

Sissy, you would be so proud of how your kids handled your estate.  They were so generous to Jaren and me and honored your final wishes and request.  I really got to know Danny more in those last few months then I did over the twenty plus years of knowing him.  I see what made him special to you.

Tell Ray that Jaren did his best to keep the yard looking good and he took good care of your flowers too.  We all worked together to get the house ready for market.  Danny and Judy labored hard getting the house ready for the estate sale.  And ready for the new buyers.  I even got to meet of few of the neighbors.  I guess having a garage sale is a good way to get to know the community.  One lady bought a book shelf and she said her son would come get it later.  When he came, I saw he was wearing a hearing aid.  He is in his early twenties.  I told him I was hearing impaired and we got to talking about it.  I just thought, “Wow, what are the odds.”  They were a nice family.  It made me realize why you loved your home and your neighborhood so much.

Well, today Sis, is your birthday.  And in your honor, Jaren and I are going to meet Karen at BJ’s.  I hadn’t thought about doing this until mid-day today.   I can’t think of better way to honor you and your memory on this special day.  We will be sure to put a glass of tea on the table for you, with extra ice and lemons.

Happy Birthday, Sissy.  We love you and miss you dearly.

The Final Bow

Tonight was the Final Bow performance for my son’s high school choir.  This is the highlight of the year.  It is where the seniors get solo’s and get to show off their seasoned talent.  This is our sports event, our playoffs, our final round.  Harmony is the name of the game here and on our team, everyone can participate.  And just like sports, we have some that are naturally more talented than others, some that have worked really hard to gain access to their talent and others who have the attitude of commitment and continue to rise to the challenge, knowing that they may never be as good as some of their teammates but still they show up, they sing, and they support their team.

Did you know that one of the top fears that people have is getting up and speaking (or singing) in front of people?  Some list put this fear as the number one fear.  But most will have this fear listed in the top five.  That is major.  It takes guts to get up and speak or sing in front of people.  Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and subject to praise or criticism, it could go either way, is a very courageous act to do.  Add the fact that these kids are teenagers, which places another layer of apprehension.

I talk from experience.  I too was a choir student.  I joined my concert choir freshman year and perfected my choir voice for four years.  I was at ease while standing on stage with my comrades as we sang our choir songs; but singing alone gave me great stage fright.  During my senior year I sang a duet with a friend to help ease my fears.  We sang Snow Bird.  Even with her by my side, I still got nervous.  It started off good but by mid song my throat slowly closed up which made it almost impossible to release a solid note.

And like me, I saw tonight those students who reminded me of myself, singing duets to help ease their fears.  Some who were nervous but faced their fear and sang a solo on stage as their fellow choir members cheered them on from the crowd.  Some who are learning to trust themselves and their talent so they held back a little.  Then, there were the others, like my son, who appear confident, the ones who command the stage with a gracefulness, some bold and dazzling like they were born on the stage, some humble and secure with a pureness that flows effortlessly.  And then there are the special needs students who add the special touch to this high school choir.

I’ve seen many special needs kids on stage over the years, some with Down syndrome, some in wheelchairs, and some with physical or learning disabilities-even some with hearing impediments.  I love that our high school is not only diverse in ethnicity and culture but also in abilities.  I especially love how our district and the choir teacher, Ms. Wright embraces all these differences.  And as much as I love watching my son on stage, I never tire of seeing these kids perform.

This year, there was one choir student that stood out among them all.  And the rest of the choir kids didn’t seem to mind sharing the spotlight.  They all love to see him shine.  His name is Zuri.

I remember Zuri from middle school.  He went to a different middle school then my son but once a year the middle school choirs would join with the high school choir kids for a combined concert.  It was a treat to see the high school students performing.  What a difference a few more years makes.  Seeing how the students had matured into their own style and expressing their unique talents gave us parents a sneak peak of what our kids might be doing in their near future.  What parent doesn’t want to see their child performing?  On a stage, on a field, academically, athletically, or creatively, we hope that our child will find his niche and show off his or her unique skill and talent.  I am sure Zuri’s mom felt the same.

I met Zuri’s mom and his younger brother by chance at our local CiCi’s Buffet one evening.  I recognized Zuri from the concert and had this urge to tell her how Zuri stood out to me from that concert.  Not because he is special needs but because he allows his spirit to shine.  His bright smile, his infectious presence and his child-like ways makes one feel as if they are staring into the face of God.  He appears to have no stage freight, nor is he fearful to sing, in fact, he seems to not fear anything.

Tonight I was overcome with emotion as I watched Zuri sing Say Something on stage among his choir classmates, including my son Jaren.  Zuri is front and center.  He claps his hands and has memorized the song.  I know this because I am pretty good at reading lips and I could see his lips were moving to match the words.  I can’t help but think how blessed his family is and how special his mother is.  She looks at him with possibilities and supports his achievements and she has done an amazing job.  She makes parenting look easy.

Zuri smiles and brings this song to life with his hand gestures; I think some of it was sign language.

At the end of the evening, Ms. Wright begins to call each senior’s name.  She skips over Zuri’s name purposefully.  She leaves him for last.  As she calls his name, the choir cheers.  Zuri steps down from the choir stands, walks over to Ms. Wright and they hug.  Then as Zuri walks back, he pauses mid-stage and turns to look out into the audience.  We stand applauding.  Zuri raises both arms, cheering, and beaming from ear to ear.  As he steps back onto the bleachers and returns to his spot, he is overcome with emotions.  His head drops and he begins to cry.  His comrades all gather close to him.

Tears of joy begin to flow.

I can’t help but think how proud his mother must be.

Melancholy Christmas

Last week, our church had a family friendly Christmas service mid-week.  There was a short Christmas play, Jesus There’s an App For That, performed by the kids, which included my sixteen year old son, Jaren.  And, we had a Christmas sing-a-long throughout the service.  When the congregation began to sing Silent Night, tears unexpectedly filled my eyes.  My soul wanted to weep and I strongly held back a cry that my spirit wanted to release.  I was remembering a time from my childhood.  It’s the one time of the year that was almost always good and pure.

Each Christmas Eve we gathered over to my grandparents’ house.  This was a tradition that had been going on for many years, which started with my mother, her siblings and cousins at my great grandparents’ home.  Because they were chicken farmers, they had to get up early in the am to collect the eggs from the hens.  So they gathered with their families, celebrated the spirit of Christmas with good food, delicious, traditional German sweets and schnapps, opening their Christmas gifts on the Eve of Christmas.  Long after they retired from the chicken farming, this very special Christmas Eve tradition continued for the next several generations, with four and five generations all gathering in one very small country home.  As children, we always wondered how Santa made it to our grandparents home so early.  Santa didn’t drop by our home until sometime in the middle of the night.  Our grandmother secretly disclosed that she had a special arrangement with Santa Claus.

One of the most treasured memories of the evening was singing Christmas carols.  The last song was always the same.  Silent Night.  After singing all the holly jolly and jingle bells songs, this one always settled us kids and somehow magically transformed us from “Santa’s gifts” to “Jesus’s birth”.  We lit the German tapers on the tree, turned the lights out and sang Silent Night.  Then we would sit silently as the elders would sing it once more in German.  As we gathered to go home, the children would gaze up to the evening sky and try to get a glimpse of Santa on his sleigh.  Surely we saw him a time or two over the years.  Then we would stop off at the Catholic Church for their midnight service; kneeling, praying and paying tribute by honoring Mary and her precious baby boy, Jesus while giving thanks to God and all His glory.

Of all the times in my youth, this one night is what I miss most about my childhood.  If I could relive one moment or one day, I would surely choose this night just so I could experience the magic and our family tradition and listen to my grandparents sing Silent Night in their native language one more time.

Most people equate this time of the year with goodness, happy, treasured, and cherished moments.  But sometimes the holidays can bring somberness and sorrow as well.  It seems this year, many of my loved ones are experiencing this holiday in a way they have not experienced it before.  And I cannot remember another year where so many of my extended family and friends have experienced such great losses.

Parents have lost sons; siblings have lost brothers, wives have lost husbands, and children have lost parents.

My son’s godfather lost the love of his life, Jose earlier this year.  Jose was someone who loved life and he especially loved Christmas.  But Jose’s health had been failing him over the past several years.  My son’s godfather had cared dearly for his partner of nineteen years as he witnessed his partner’s health decline.  This year, our dear Robert will spend Christmas for the first time without his loving partner, Jose.

For my son’s grandmother, she lost her soul-mate; her husband earlier this year.  For the first time in forty plus years, she will not have her husband by her side Christmas morning.

For my dear friend, Sissy while her husband is still with us, he is suffering with severe Alzheimer’s; she has lost the man that she fell in love with more than thirty years ago.  His loved ones have all become unrecognizable to him.  Seeing him deteriorate every day is a struggle for us all.  This may very well be the last holiday that he will spend in his home among family and friends on Christmas Eve.

For me, this time of the year is filled with mixed emotions.  While I’ve enjoyed being able to see Christmas through Jaren’s childlike eyes through the years, this is also the time of the year when my second son, Noah was born and I said goodbye to my infant boy.  While I have a wonderful relationship with Noah and his family, it seems every year I unconsciously still re-live that moment and loss to some extent.  I feel guilty sometimes because I think about the mothers who will never be able to see their children again or share another Christmas holiday because their children are gone forever.  And I think of the birthmothers who never get see their child, and the ones who wonder if their child is alive and well.

But the most heart wrenching of all was yesterday as I heard my coworker fall to her knees and cry out with disbelief that her husband of many, many years had just died unexpectedly.  One of our very own, my cube neighbor, just got the hardest news only three days before Christmas.  Her cries echoed throughout the third floor among hundreds of workers and there wasn’t anything anyone could do.  With every cry she released, another person felt her pain until just about every eye in our office had tears.  I realized today more than ever before how one does not have to directly experience hurt to feel pain.  Pain can be seen. Pain can be heard.  Her cries lingered on in my mind long after she left the building to be with her loved ones.  Her life changed in one moment.  This year and every year hereafter, she will take this experience with her for the remainder of her years here on earth.

I love Christmas.  I love the lights, the songs, and the jolly atmosphere.  I love giving more than receiving.  And I love the true Christmas story.  But I also know the truth; not everyone experiences the Christmas holiday the same.

So as you jingle through your holiday, and ho, ho, ho through this Christmas, please be kind to those who have experienced a great loss and help those in need find their way back to the spirit of Christmas.  You might not need to say anything.  All you may need to do is look compassionately into their eyes and give them a warm, comforting hug.

May God richly bless each and every one of you and may you have a very Merry Christmas!

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.    Luke 2:14

The Land of OZ

wicked_witch

I’ve been contemplating writing this blog about the story of the Wizard of Oz and how it relates to adoption for over a year now.  I just didn’t know how I could correlate the symbolism in the movie and verbally express the metaphysical aspects of the deeper meaning.  I will admit, I am not the first person to take this movie and create my own unique theoretical version.  I’ll explain more.

I’m sure like all of you; I’ve seen this movie many times over the years.  I’ve matured with Dorothy and her child-like ways and began to see deeper meanings every time I watched it year after year.  And each time Dorothy wakes up, I wonder again, was it all real or was it only a dream.  That’s creative writing and film making at its best.

A few years back, I was introduced to a new Wizard of Oz story by a Unity Minister, Rev Ellen Debenport.  A friend of mine, Tori, who I knew from another Unity church, had told me about the OZ series that Rev. Ellen, the associate minister at the time, was doing at our sister church in Dallas.  It sounded very interesting and I had a thirst for more.

After the first night, I was hooked.  Rev Ellen explained the Wizard of Oz movie and each character in a way I had never contemplated before, which left me with a number of “ah-ha” moments.  Of all the sermons I have heard over the years from the many different ministers, this is by far my favorite.  Here is the link, if anyone would like to hear more about Rev Ellen’s series. OZ: Over the Rainbow

They’re really so many ways to interpret the Wizard of Oz.  While my version is quite different from Rev Ellen’s, who I truly believe is far more talented and skilled in the field of writing and speaking for that matter, I found my own theories with uncanny similarities between this movie and adoption.  Ones that kept creeping into my mind.

So what does the Wizard of Oz have to do with adoption?  Well, we know Dorothy is an adoptee.  That’s the obvious.  But here are some other things you may not have thought about while viewing this epic movie.  Let’s take a journey into OZ…

At the very beginning of the movie, Dorothy seems to be in trouble.  After a brief spat, Dorothy runs away from the people who love her.  She senses their disappointed.  After she cools off a bit, she tries to return home but now a storm (turmoil) has ascended upon their tiny town and Dorothy along with Toto are whisked away and transported into an alternate universe.   When she awakens in the Land of OZ, the munchkins, who are singing with great joy, are very pleased with Dorothy.  Her house has landed on the Wicked Witch of the East who had apparently wreaked havoc on their community.  They feel as though Dorothy has just saved them.

Symbolically, the munchkins could represent children in an orphanage who were used for labor or trafficked for money.

Within a few minutes, we have a good witch, a dead witch and a wicked witch.  One witch is there to help Dorothy and one is there to destroy her.  The Wicked Witch of the West looks wrathfully at Dorothy and asks, “Who killed the Witch of the East?”

If we look at unplanned pregnancies during the time of this movie (the beginning of the Baby Scoop Era) we see the innocence of the young Dorothy as she tries to explain, “It was an accident.”  She did not intend for this to happen.  The Wicked Witch of the West is unsympathetic towards Dorothy and tries to shame her for what has happened.  But interesting enough, not everyone agrees that this incident is a bad or shameful event.

Doesn’t that sound like life in general?  Especially when an unexpected pregnancy occurs?  I can tell you from personal experience, I had both fans and foes when my unplanned pregnancy was made known.

After the accident, Glenda, the Good Witch, quickly places the ruby slippers on Dorothy’s feet.  Dorothy has been given a precious gift.  Metaphorically, the ruby slippers could represent a conceived child.

Now even angrier, the Wicked Witch of the West tries to take the slippers but the shoes zap her.  She is unable to forcefully remove the slippers from Dorothy’s feet.  This is the part of freewill and choice.  Dorothy has to freely give up the shoes.  Coercion is not far behind, as we listen to the Wicked Witch of the West impart fear and doubt into Dorothy’s mind when she tells Dorothy to give her the ruby slippers because she is the only one who truly knows how to use them.

If you listen closely, you can hear how similar that sounds like an adoption agency rep telling a frightened pregnant woman that the agency is better equipped to decide the future of this expectant child or that someone else is better equipped to parent her child then she is.

What’s interesting to me, that I never really noticed before writing this, is how neutral the Good Witch, Glenda is.  She is neither happy nor angry.  She shows little emotion of approval or disapproval of what has occurred.  She is almost God-like.  She acknowledges the power of the ruby slippers and tells Dorothy how special they must be.

Isn’t every child truly special, no matter the circumstance?

When the Wicked Witch of the West tries to threaten Glenda, she quickly responds without fear, “Rubbish, you have no power here.  Be gone before somebody drops a house on you.”  That statement always made me feel good.  She was fearless.

Dorothy must have felt safe standing by her side.  Wouldn’t it be great if we all could tell anyone who tried to bully or threaten us to “be gone, you have no power here.”

However, the mood quickly changes just before the Wicked Witch of the West leaves, as she threatens Dorothy one more time and tells her that she will get Dorothy and her little dog too.  She makes it clear that she will not stop until she has possession of those ruby slippers.

I wonder how Dorothy would have made out if she didn’t have Toto or Glenda when all that occurred.  Would the story have turned out the same?  We’re pretty certain that the munchkins wouldn’t have been much help since they were cowering down the whole time the Wicked Witch of the West was there.  Would Dorothy have been strong enough to fight against the Wicked Witch of the West alone?

Dorothy makes her plea to Glenda that her only wish is to get back home to Kansas.

The story takes a very interesting turn and becomes focused on two primary things; the ruby slippers and getting back home to Kansas.  Everything else is based around those two primary themes.  Dorothy wants to get back home and the Wicked Witch of the West desperately wants the ruby slippers.  The Wicked Witch of the West has to get those slippers before Dorothy leaves OZ and returns to her loved ones because she knows that once Dorothy leaves OZ, she will have no more chances of getting those ruby slippers.

Likewise, an adoption agency’s goal is to get the mother to relinquish before she leaves the hospital because they know that once a mother leaves the hospital with her child, she is less likely to willingly relinquish her parental rights.

Let’s face it.  While most adoption agencies claim their clients are the vulnerable women who come to them with an unplanned pregnancy, their real clients are the paying customers.  Really.  Who are you going to accommodate in your business; the non-paying customer who also gets free services or the paying customer?

Glenda sends Dorothy on a new path alone down the yellow brick road,  Although Glenda remains mostly out of site, she appears to watch over Dorothy while at the same time allowing Dorothy to make her own choices.  She knows it will be Dorothy’s determination and faith that leads her back home to Kansas.  But before Dorothy leaves, Glenda warns Dorothy to never let those ruby slippers off her feet or she “will be at the mercy” of the Wicked Witch of the West.  That’s a powerful statement.  Why would Dorothy be at the mercy of the Wicked Witch of the West when the only thing the Wicked Witch wanted was the ruby slippers in the first place?

That sounds like a warning to a birth mother to me.  Ask a birth mother what happens after she relinquishes her parental rights.  She is at the mercy of the adoption agency, sometimes the adoptive parents and of her choice.  Most often she is at the mercy of her secrets, her emotions, and a lifetime of stages in grief and possibly regret.

At this point, young Dorothy with her ruby slippers is all alone with the exception of her dog, Toto.  She is without her family’s support.  And she is lost.  But…the story has only just begun.

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Closure, a documentary about adoption

Tickets are selling but we still have a ways to go. We need to sell 65 tickets for the film to be shown at the Angelika Film Center, We have nine days left. Please support this independent movie and film maker. Buy your tickets online (only $11.00 per ticket) and come be a part of this special screening right here in Dallas, Texas. This film will speak to your heart and soul whether you have been touched or effected by adoption or not. This is a film about the human spirit and how we are all connected.

 

Click on this link to reserve your tickets now!  Closure

Mother’s Day Prayer

Written by my son…

 

PRAYER:  Father-Mother God, this Sunday may we bless all the mothers in this world; for the things they give up and give us, for everything they do to better their children no matter the circumstance.  Let mothers feel the joy that they bring to the world, and to others.  Show them the endless love that everyone feels for them and wrap them in warmth and bliss.  Let us realize there is good in every circumstance, and positivity in every cause.  It’s not the end if we don’t feel true inner happiness.  Nothing in our life happens without reason and it’s apart of divine order.  Guide us and let us be whole.  Amen

Divine Intervention

Do you believe in divine intervention?

I learned about divine intervention many years ago.  Silent Unity talks about divine intervention in great lengths and detail.  It is one of the most important aspects of the Silent Unity teachings.

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have experienced divine intervention.  And every time, it blows my mind.  Sometimes I giggle with amusement, wondering who really is in charge of our life, like there are angels up there guiding our path, sometimes almost puppet like.

Today was a fine example of just that.

My son left early this morning.  He is volunteering with his youth group for a Silent Unity Prayer breakfast.  Unity of Dallas has hosted this event for the last few years.  We come together with Unity churches around the Southwest region.  Ministers, Licensed Unity Teachers, Members and Guest visit, and a keynote speaker comes down from Silent Unity.  There is prayer, fellowship and to be honest, a spiritual awakening that occurs both within and around.

I didn’t attend the Prayer Breakfast this year because I needed to take my car into the shop and have my side mirror replaced that had gotten broken.  Ken from Midas ordered the part and called me yesterday to tell me I could bring in my car today to have it fixed.  So I got ready this morning and went down to Midas.

One of the gentlemen, Binoy, behind the front desk asked me if I was leaving my car with them.  I told him that I hadn’t planned on it.  Getting my car serviced is usually a great opportunity for me to just relax and catch up on my reading.  Today, I brought Heaven Is For Real.  Binoy said they were shorthanded and I may have a long wait, two or more hours.  I informed him that I was by myself and I had no way of getting a ride back home.  He tells me, “No problem, I will give you a ride.”  Now I have been going to this Midas for at least five years.  I really do love these guys.  They are friendly, honest and respectful.  And they never try to sell me anything additional.  Whenever I need to take a long trip out of town or state, I take my car to them.  I trust them to service my car.  They’ve even given me a coupon credit when I didn’t have the coupon with me.  They are just that kind of shop.  But never before have they ever offered to give me a ride.  Then I explained that I’m a single mom (from out of state) and don’t know of anyone who can bring me back to the shop to pick up my car later.  Binoy said, “I will come pick you up.”

Really?”

We get in the car; have a nice conversation and Binoy drops me off at the apartments.  Just as he is leaving, I realize that I have no key to get into my apartment.  I left my car keys with the guys at the shop.  Since I always wait, it never crossed my mind to remove my apartment key.  I chuckle at myself and my predicament for a moment.  Then I decided to call the leasing office.  I explained my situation and asked them if I could borrow a key to get in my apartment.  They said sure and told me to stop by the office to pick it up.  I said, “I’m walking that way right now.”

As I am walking inside the apartment complex down to the front leasing office, I see a lady in a van slow down and lean forward to look at me, as if the person recognizes me.  The passenger window rolls down and it is Allison and her daughter who I just happen to know from our Unity Church for the past seven years or longer.  She looks about as surprised to randomly see me as I am to see her.  Especially since our church is about twenty-five miles away from where I live.  I asked her what is she doing in our area.  She said her daughter had a birthday party to attend.  Allison got lost inside the apartment complex trying to find the building and apartment that was hosting the birthday party.  We have a large apartment community with 18 buildings and 415 units.  It is very easy to get lost.

I tell her my story (why I just happen to be walking around in the apartment complex) and tell her I can get in and help her find the building.  We drove towards the front and find the building she is looking for; which, by the way just happens to be right next to the leasing office.  How about that?  It was a win-win for both of us.

That’s divine intervention.

The next time you are in a situation where things seem to be going wrong; take a deep breath, wait on divine guidance and allow divine intervention to take place.

 

All things work together for good…  – Romans 8:28Image

All Things Work Together For Good

Have you ever had an immediate urge to help someone you didn’t know?  Without even thinking about it, you saw a need and boom, you responded.  I have been both on the giving and receiving end of these spur of the moment occurrences.

Here are a few that stand out in my mind.

The first one was when I decided to take my bed comforter to the laundry mat so I could use one of their over-sized washers.  I got my quarters, rolled up my comforter and off to the washateria I went.  I get out of the car, take my belonging and head inside.  Then I patiently wait for an available front load washer.  I sit next to a woman around my age.  She is of Latino ethnicity.  I ask her a question about what size I need as they have several front loader sizes, depending on how large your wash load is.  She speaks very little English (I speak poquito Espanol), but she manages to tell me that I can use the smaller front loader (as she points to them), which is good because it’s also less expensive.

When the time comes, I place my comforter in the washer, and add my quarters.  I have just enough quarters.  Then I realize something.  I couldn’t believe it!  I forgot the laundry detergent!  I had plenty at home.  Here I am, quarters inserted, comforter loaded and I don’t have any laundry detergent.  I also do not have enough cash or quarters on me to purchase some from the vending machine.  After realizing the predicament I was in, this same lady comes over to me and points to her laundry detergent box and allows me to scoop out what I need to wash my comforter.

Now to some this may sound menial.  But for me, at that moment, it meant the world to me.  In addition, many people in this area work very hard for their money and do not have extra to spare.  So that fact that she was willing to generously share her laundry detergent with me, a complete stranger meant a great deal to me.

Another time was when my son and I drove back from Missouri.  I forgot to print out return directions before heading back to Texas.  So instead, I just used my directions for driving up there (in reverse) in hopes that it would be simple.  All went fairly well until we got to one section.  I stopped several times and then got turned back around.  Then we came to an intersection where there were two signs with the same route number.  One went straight ahead and the other turned left.  I had no idea which way to go.  I had pulled over in the middle section (turning lane area) and was looking at the map trying to figure out which road to take.  After sitting there for nearly five minutes while my son urges me to make up my mind, a black shiny SUV pulls up.  The passenger’s side window rolls down.  The man in the driver’s seat leans forward and asks if we’re okay.  I’m guessing our out-of-state Texas license plates and the open map must have given us away.  I informed him that we left Branson and were heading back to Texas.  I told him about my map situation and my confusion over the two signs with the same number.  He confirms that both roads meet up at the same place but that one route was quicker than the other.  He says that he and his family, wife (I’m assuming) in front seat and kids in the back, were heading in the same direction that we were and said we could follow him.  He tells me that he can lead us to the major interstate that I need to get us back to Texas.

I knew that once we got there, I was good to go for getting us the rest of the way home to Texas.

Now the interesting part was the man is black; his “wife” is white.  And to top it off, he tells us that he is originally from Texas.  Jaren and I spoke about the coincidence of it all.  I mean really.  What are the chances of us, being a mixed race family ourselves, meeting up with this mixed race family who also has a Texas connection out in the middle of nowhere on some country road somewhere in Arkansas?   I felt like God had placed this earthly angel to help guide us home.  We followed him faithfully for about twenty-five to thirty miles down winding back roads and sloping hills until we finally entered a fairly small town.  This generous man and his family, with a wave of the hand, lead me right to the interstate highway that I needed to get us back home.  We tooted our horns and waved and I hope he knew just how very thankful we were.

I can only assume that these people, the lady at the laundry mat and the family in the SUV felt some urge to just act without thinking.  I know this because I had a similar experience one very hot summer day.  Jaren and I used to collect aluminum cans for recycling.  On Saturday mornings, once we had enough, I’d drive us down to the recycling center and turn them in for cash.  I usually let Jaren have the money.  As we were heading home on this one very hot, muggy day, I saw a lady walking with a bag.  I assumed since we were a mile or so from the recycling center that she was walking there.  Now a mile may not seem like a lot.  But on extreme hot days or cold days, it can seem like a long road to travel.  And on this day, it was extremely hot, so much so that it even made breathing difficult.  As I slowly passed her, I quickly made a U-turn.  Jaren, who was sitting in his car seat in the back, asks me what I was doing.  I tell him that I think this lady is taken her cans to the recycling center and I want to give her a ride.  I pulled up and confirmed that that is where she was headed.  I offered her a ride.  As she gets in, I could tell that she was most likely a homeless person, by her dirty appearance, tattered clothes and slight odor.   We have a short conversation and she thanks me for giving her a ride.

I explain to my son that I don’t even know why I did it.  It wasn’t like I thought about it.  Something inside me compelled me to make a U-turn and give this lady a ride.  I tell my son that this is not a normal situation and that we have to be careful about picking up strangers, especially with him in the car because it’s my job to protect him but that sometimes we are called to help someone and this was one of those times.  My son says, “Mama, that was really nice what you did.”

My heart melted.  That is what parental moments are made of.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  – Romans 8:28

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