The Loudmouth Protestant

July 22, 2010

On Being Adopted: The Story of Two Births and the Afterlife

Filed under: faith,God,life — nickisym @ 8:00 am
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As I said I would in my last post, I am now sharing the personal essay I wrote for my application to seminary. I’ve always carefully guarded this information feeling that first it made me strange or weird, then I guarded it because I didn’t trust many with knowing about this very personal part of my life and now, finally, I recognize this as a story not for me to keep to myself but to share with as many who would read this so that some might be blessed.

The Birth

Like many traditional families, my family has a gigantic keepsake Bible. I remember seeing it throughout my childhood and watching it go from completely composed, to falling to pieces. I used to look at that Bible every so often, not necessarily to read it, but just to flip through its large-print pages. But one day I felt compelled to start from the beginning of the Bible where the family milestones were documented. I read the recording of the family marriages, which were many, and then I turned to the page listing the family births, which were much fewer. There on the page of family births, in a list of five names, mine showed up third and read as follows, “Nicole was born to adopted by _________ and ________ born on December 26, 1980.” I nearly dropped the massive Bible when I read those words. “Adopted?” I said to myself. I immediately ran into the kitchen and interrupted my mom, who at the moment was preparing breakfast. With tears in my eyes, I said, “Why didn’t you tell me I was adopted? How could you just let me read it in a book without telling me yourself?” With tears in her eyes, she said, “I was going to tell you, but I wanted to wait for the right time.”

Right then and there became the right time for her to tell me:

My biological mother, a teenager about the age of 16, who conceived me in a chance meeting with a military man at a party, gave me up for adoption on the day of my birth. I would go from this young woman’s arms to the foster care system for about six months while various couples in search of the perfect little girl would come in and out of my life. My adoptive parents were initially offered twin girls, but it fell through when it was discovered that the parents of those children lied on their application. My parents discovered me in my seventh month of foster care. My mother told me that when her and my father came to see me, I ran directly to them as if I already knew that they were to be my parents, and that was enough for them. What they saw was a child, who despite her circumstances, had love in her heart and desired to be loved. My parents adopted me when I was eight months old and went forward with giving me the life that I could only be given by the grace of God.

I didn’t think that finding out about my adoption would change my life—since I didn’t know about it in the first place—but it did. Finding out that I was adopted brought with it many questions. “Why didn’t my biological mother want me? How could she give a child up and never come back for it? Should I look for her?” It was like a little fox in my life, creeping up at the most inopportune times. It wreaked havoc on my self-confidence, my friendships, and on any relationships that were in formation because I was always afraid of people letting me go and never turning back. It was both the gift and the curse. The gift being that it allowed me the freedom to not feel pressured to find my biological mother because she gave me up so early in life, and the curse being that I existed between a tension of wondering about her and the life I might have had had she never decided to give me up. Opening that Bible on that ordinary day affected my identity, but soon enough everything would change.

After opening that Bible to find out about my identity in the world, I began to open it up to find out about my identity in God. It was a process that took about 10 years and within those years I would go from being active in a large Southern Baptist church in high school, move on to be a sporadic attendee of various Baptist churches in college and then I would take a hiatus from church altogether and decide that I wasn’t ready for a committed relationship with God. But, like Jonah, I couldn’t escape God’s call on my life for long before He called me a second time.

I received his second call when I moved to New York to pursue a career in journalism. While I thought I was on the fast track to becoming a fashion and entertainment journalist, God was bidding me to draw near to Him. He gave me a thirst and a hunger for His righteousness instead of for worldly success and critical acclaim.  He changed my appetite for the things of the world and began to awaken within me a real desire to know Him. I knew then that I had to search for a church home and it didn’t take long before I found that home in the Greater Allen Cathedral of New York, an African Methodist Episcopal church. (It helps to mention that I had come full circle when I arrived at the Greater Allen Cathedral because when I was a child, I attended The Allen Christian School, the school owned by the church.) It was there that my spiritual formation really began and God revealed to me the information about my spiritual adoption.

The Rebirth

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Friday night young adult Bible study and I was sitting on the right side of the chapel being attentive to the minister’s teaching about spiritual adoption. In the midst of his lesson he told us to turn to Ephesians 1:4-6 and he read the scripture aloud, “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” As he read this, tears welled up in my eyes at the thought that not only had God planned my earthly adoption, He adopted me into the family of Christ and secured my place with Him for eternity before I was even knitted in my biological mother’s womb. It was preordained for me to be given up and adopted so that I could eventually understand the significance of my spiritual adoption and the fact that I was always kept. I had already considered myself a “born-again Christian” from my Southern Baptist days, but that night, I was given a true spiritual rebirth. I came to see my physical adoption as a small part of a bigger portrait that God was painting of me. I began to live, not just exist, in this new identity of spiritual adoption and God put me on a fast track to spiritual maturity through my involvement in various ministries in my church and most recently my work.

The Afterlife

My fast track to becoming a fashion and entertainment journalist was derailed shortly after that Bible study. It was confirmed for me that it would be as I awaited the start of the 2005 Watchnight service at my church. I was given a revelation that I would be in the number of people who were to be laid-off at Time Inc. early in 2006. Despite this news, a certain peace fell over me. Peace was with me when my boss gave me the fated news in late January 2006. Ironically, the news of my job consolidation was delivered to me exactly how the news of my physical adoption was delivered, on a fluke. I received a call from human resources about another job within the company and I immediately rushed to my boss—without tears in my eyes—to ask her why I was being offered another job. She told me my job was being consolidated but I was given four months to look for a job before my layoff would go into effect. During that time, I looked and interviewed for several jobs in fashion and entertainment journalism, but they all fell through.  In the fourth month, a job came looking for me. It was a multi-faith website started by a former Newsweek editor who wanted people to “find and walk a spiritual path that will bring comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness to their lives.” I had never heard of the site before, nor was I looking to become a religion reporter, but somehow I was compelled to send a cover letter and resume. In a few weeks time, I was contacted for an interview. Three interviews later, I was offered the job and became an editor at the world’s largest multi-faith and spirituality website. To many, it was a questionable career move that would throw my career off track. To others it was a strange move for a Christian to make because the site wasn’t solely Christian. But, to me, I had to believe that God positioned me there for a reason.

In the midst of many faiths and spiritual traditions, Beliefnet became the test of my spiritual maturity. I learned how to engage in interfaith dialogue in personal and professional relationships; I cultivated a love for classic theologians such as John Calvin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther; it stimulated my desire to go deeper into Biblical texts not only for my sake but for the sake of those whom I worked with so that I may be an effective minister; and it nurtured and sharpened the only gift that I am certain God has granted me—for the moment—writing. It is my experience at Beliefnet that has helped me apply the knowledge of my identity in God and has even challenged my knowledge of Him. And, for the purposes of my current pursuit of a theological education, it is Beliefnet that has stirred within me the desire to become a student of the word of God and theology so that I may become a credible leader who will effectively bridge the gap between the world and the kingdom of God.

It is my belief that I have lead a full life thus far, but there is yet more in me that I believe I must now turn over to God so that He may be glorified. He spared my life when I could have been another casualty of the foster care system or even aborted. It was Him who ensured that the strikethrough of my arrival in the family Bible was not a deletion of my importance, but a catalyst to understanding my spiritual placement in the book of life.

If I was pre-destined, then the Creator already mapped out my family, my talent, and my life’s journey.  What could have been a soul-crushing experience resulted in a deeper appreciation of God’s love for me and in turn my love for Him.  I do not know what my “natural” life would have provided.  Would I have even known the Lord the way I do now?  Who’s to say?  But I can say that I live as a whole woman, living on the benefits of my adoption—both of them, and preparing to be a vessel for other souls looking for the love that can only come from the Father above.

April 15, 2010

“Everybody Gets Theirs Except Me”

Filed under: God,life,love,work — nickisym @ 4:44 pm
Tags: , ,

I went through a rough patch in life during the first quarter of this year. I experienced the highs of a new man in my life and then the lows of his departure. The highs of coming close to a realization of my purpose in God and the lows of the uncertainties about how to walk forward. The highs of being happy and the lows of being sad. What has taken me from these highs to the lows is a central theme that has been pervading my life, “Everyone gets theirs except me.” A dear friend pointed out to me that she has seen that theme persist in my life. She told me that I’m always talking about someone getting theirs except me. She shared this on the heels of a breakdown I had last night because I felt that everyone was getting theirs except for me. The man I met earlier this year got his when he started seeing someone else not too long after deciding things wouldn’t work with me. Someone else (multiple someone elses) got theirs at work when they got promotions and not me. As it pertains to my purpose, someone got more resources to move forward than I did. This feeling got the best of me last night and reared its ugly head, sending me into a place filled with tears of sorrow and crippling me to the point where I couldn’t even pray. I just turned out the lights and went to sleep.

I’ve always felt passed over in life. It started at a very early age when I was given up for adoption. Later in life this notion of being given up would manifest itself into “never feeling good enough” and  “always being left behind” by people in life. I felt everyone was getting theirs except me. The marriage, the job, the money, the success, the acknowledgment, etc, etc. But I’ve had this feeling for far too long and now I realize, thanks to my dear friend, that I can no longer walk through life holding this against others, myself and most importantly, my God. The more I complain about others getting theirs except me, the more I discount what God is doing in my life and how He is doing it.

Someone else may get the guy while I remain single, but I have no idea whether God is preparing me for something better than what I had or if I was even ready for that man in particular. Maybe that is just not what God had for me but He needed to show me what isn’t for me so that when He sends what is for me I would know better. God protects us and He prepares us.

Someone else may get promoted before me but maybe it’s not for me to be promoted. Maybe there is more that is required of me in my current role before I am promoted. Maybe if I get a promotion I’d get too comfortable or lose the humility I had when I was in a lower position. Maybe giving me a promotion wouldn’t allow me to truly step out on faith in other areas of my life because I’d just be too comfortable in my new position. Maybe God just needs to show me that promotion doesn’t come from the east or the west but from above. He knows what’s best for us.

Someone gives me up for adoption but what I don’t realize is that being given up is the best thing that has ever happened in my life–after Jesus of course. If I wasn’t given up, I might not have the life and love I have right now for the parents who raised me in a very natural way. Being given up was not about my biological mother getting hers. Well, in a way it was. It was about her getting her life in a better place and getting her priorities in line enough to know she wasn’t ready to take care of me. She couldn’t give me her best, but she knew that if she gave me up, I could be better positioned to get the best. God knows all about giving things up to make things better. He gave His only begotten son so that we would not perish and have everlasting life. Of course He knew that my being given up would only lead to a better life. My not getting the man would leave me open to receive His best man. My not getting the promotion positions me for a greater opportunity beyond what a job can offer.

“Everyone gets theirs except for me”, will no longer be the theme of my life. Instead it will be how I remember to give thanks to God. It will be how I remember that in other people getting theirs, I must take note of the fact that God has given each of us a separate path to reach our goals in Him. It will be how I remember that in being passed over for a promotion my patience is being perfected in God for what He wants to promote me to. It will be how I will remember not to hold grudges against those who gave me up because in giving me up they have left me open to receive something better. It will be how I remember to give God all the honor, the praise and the glory for withholding things from me because only He knows when I’ll be ready for the man, for the promotion and for His purpose. Only then will I be able to say, “Everyone got theirs, but I got mine, in God’s time.”

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