Selfless Love and the Sea Dragon Drop

Yesterday’s trip to Sea World in San Diego gave me a warm feeling. It wasn’t the sun, which was out and was warm. It wasn’t the impressive animal shows, although they were impressive. It wasn’t watching my granddaughters delight in their experiences, which were thoroughly heartwarming. It was the joy on the faces of two little boys and their parents.

I was sitting on a bench in one of the kiddie-ride sections, waiting for my granddaughters, as they moved from the Sea Dragon Drop to the Aqua Scout. As they exited the Sea Dragon Drop, I noticed two wheelchairs at the exit door, each holding a young boy. A man (I assume their father) spoke to the attendant. After a short discussion, the parents of the boys started undoing all the restraints and safety features of the wheelchairs. They lifted the boys, probably around eight years old, out of the chairs and stood by the exit.

After the last group of Sea Dragon riders exited, the parents carried the two boys onto the ride. They buckled them in and then took their seats next to each boy. I have been on that ride with my granddaughter. I know those “adult” seats are not much bigger than the “kid” seats. These two parents squished themselves into those seats so their children could have fun, like every other kid at Sea World. The ride started. It shot up to the top and then began the incremental free-fall drops. With each drop the boys giggled. Their faces lit up in pure joy. Their smiles covered all the space between their ears, and they squealed with delight. The parents smiled too, although I’m sure they were thinking sixty seconds was longer than they anticipated, being scrunched into those seats.

The ride came to a stop. Mom and Dad unwedged themselves from the seats. Each lifted a boy out of their seat and carried them back to their wheelchairs. Their smiles were still stretched across their faces. For sixty seconds or less, they were free. No wheelchairs. No significant restraints. Just that feeling of free falling that causes your belly to catch in your throat. Their smiles didn’t fade, even as their parents replaced all the wraps and braces that kept them safe and secure. Then they were off to the next ride to repeat the same process over again.

I wondered about those parents. Were they as excited when they woke up yesterday as their children? Did they think about how much effort it would take to get those boys in and out of their wheelchairs for each ride they wanted to try? Did they consider how tired they would be at the end of the day, pushing wheelchairs for miles and lifting the boys over and over again? Or did they wake up only anticipating the joy their children would experience in a day at Sea World?

Those parents inspired me. Their selfless love for those boys warmed my heart. A few tears may have escaped my eyes. Or it could have just been a reaction to all the flower pollen that my Pennsylvania eyes aren’t used to in February. Whichever it was, it brought me back to Jesus, as acts of selfless love often do. The Bible tells us that “looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father.” Hebrews 12:2 ESV

Jesus endured the shame and agony on the cross that should have been ours. The joy that was set before him was our salvation. He did it all for us…for me. His pain brought about our peace with God. Now he sits on his throne, waiting to welcome us to the place he has prepared just for us. What selfless love!

Snow Day!

A snow day! I loved snow days when I was a kid. Mostly because I didn’t like school but also because I loved change. The routine of school, every day the same, was boring and drudgery to me. I liked anything that changed the routine, from field trips to film strips to snow days.

When I was a kid, we’d watch the news the night before the storm, hoping the meteorologist was right (or wrong, depending on his forecast). We’d awake in the morning and run to the window to check the snow amounts. Then came the moment of truth: listening to the radio for the magic words, “North Penn School District, closed.” The wait was excruciating. It went in alphabetical order. At least we weren’t in the Wissahickon School District. When the magic words were heard, there was a moment of glee, followed immediately by a return to a nice, warm bed.

After an extra hour or two of sleep, it was time to take advantage of the reason for the snow day, SNOW! We lived only a few blocks from the local park, which just happened to have the best sledding hills in town. Bundling up in long johns, extra socks, sweaters, snow pants, coats, hats, scarves, and gloves, it was a wonder we could walk the few blocks to the park, dragging our wooden Yankee Flyer sleds.

Arriving at the park, we found our friends, and the snow day shenanigans commenced. Our park had everything from gentle hills for the younger or less adventurous kids to some seriously steep hills for the older, crazier kids. And one notorious run dubbed “The Nutcracker” that had a jump between two trees. Only the craziest kids attempted that one. Sledding was the main event, but you could also expect to build a snowman and participate, however unwillingly, in a large-scale snowball fight. After several hours of playing in the snow, we would make our way back home, hang our wet clothes on the line in the basement and lay the gloves, hats, and scarves to sizzle on the dining room radiator. Finally, we would sit down in front of the TV with steaming cups of cocoa. That was a good snow day.

As an adult, I still look forward to snow days. When my kids were young, snow days weren’t much different than the days of my youth. But now that my children are grown, snow days are very different. I woke up this morning to a snow day. My morning meeting was canceled because the local school district was closed. Nevermind the fact that there was no snow on the ground and only a few inches expected in the late morning, changing to rain before school would end. This would never have qualified as a snow day when I was a kid. But, whatever, it’s still a snow day.

Nowadays a snow day does not include sledding or snowball fights. For me, a snow day means no makeup, hair gets to do whatever it wants, sweat pants, and work (tapping away on a computer is not affected by snow—real or imagined). There is still something about not needing to go anywhere and changing the routine that appeals to me. I started my day with a hot, Epsom salt bath, while finishing up an online class. Good thing I can see them, but they can’t see me. I’ll get a lot of writing done today, which will make me happy. And my day will probably end with a cup of steaming hot cocoa—some things don’t change. It’s gonna be a good snow day, albeit, minus the snow.

Foam Glow, Bubbles, and Color Bombs??

What in the world is a Foam Glow 5K? Whatever it is, it shared space in my inbox today with a Blacklight Run, Bubble Run, and Terrain Race. Clearly, they are all 5K races with some crazy twist that the organizers hope will get me to sign up. I mean who doesn’t want to run through massive amounts of bubbles? Maybe they should combine the foam glow and blacklight runs. That could be cool. Real runners might think this kind of gimmicky running is stupid. But people like me need a reason to run—something other than being chased by an ax murderer.

I’ve never done a 5K that was a straight road race, running for the sake of running. I need the gimmick, something to make it fun. I won’t run if there’s no fun involved, and I question the mental health of those who do. So, I’ve done color runs and mud runs, had fun, and even brought home medals. The best part was doing them with friends. You hardly realize you’re running when you’re giggling with friends and helping each other conquer obstacles. If you go it alone, who will tell you there is a clean spot on your back that is begging for a purple color bomb? We didn’t care about technique or bettering our times. We were just there to have fun and complete a 5K covered in color or mud. In fact, we felt more accomplished by the amount of color or mud than our finish times.

I can’t run anymore. Part of me is sad about that and part is relieved. I never really liked running. I liked the accomplishment I felt as I met or exceeded personal goals. I liked the feeling of pushing my body beyond what I thought it could do. The actual training-type running (you know, out of bed early, just me, my iPod, and step counter), though, was not “fun.” It was hard work. Dodging color bombs with friends made it fun. Making an arduous task fun is worth the effort (and the entrance fee) every time.

The Bible often uses running as a picture of the Christian life. We are to run to God (Proverbs 18:10), run to win (1 Corinthians 9:24), run and not grow weary (Isaiah 40:31), and run unencumbered by sin (Hebrews 12:1). Paul says that because of Christ we do not run in vain. If Jesus Christ did not live and die and live again and save us, then our running would be in vain. Trudging through life’s mud and obstacles would serve no purpose, with nothing to exalt in at the finish line. But because Jesus does live, and we do have new life in him, we run this race as the best race of all—color, bubbles, crazy terrain, obstacles—all of that plus the help and fellowship of friends running with us. This life is the greatest race we could run, but the finish will be even better. Jesus will be there personally to put the medal around your neck and say, “Well done.”

Christmas Surprises

Kids, food, lights, music, gifts, glitter, princesses, toys, snow, decorations, surprises, more food. This Christmas had it all. One of the things I love about Christmas is the surprises revealed every time a gift is unwrapped. I love surprising others, and I love being surprised. This Christmas is without rival in the area of surprises.

While prepping our traditional Christmas brunch early Christmas morning, the doorbell rang. “Who could that be?” I asked out loud. My local children had already arrived. We were getting ready to sit down to brunch before Skyping with our son’s family in California. I thought the doorbell must be the next door neighbor.

But when I opened the door, the biggest and best surprise awaited me. There on my front porch on Christmas morning stood my California son with his wife and two little girls. My heart about burst. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My brain was trying to determine if what I saw was real or my imagination. How could this be? We had plans to Skype. Becky was working Christmas Eve. They would have had to put a lot of plans in place quite a while ago. No one let on at all, and I’m really good at sniffing out surprises. I picked up my granddaughter and hugged my son. They were real, and they were here.

We quickly set four more places at the table (and still had too much food). I kept glancing at them, not completely convinced they were really here. Following brunch, we passed out the presents. In the mayhem, I didn’t see every gift being opened and missed the looks on their faces. Did they like their surprises or not? But I did watch the four mobile grandchildren tear into theirs. From the delighted squeals, I’d say their surprises were good. But I still win for the best Christmas surprise of the year!

Walk and Not Grow Weary

Another door slammed shut. As it closed, hope slipped out with it, leaving only darkness. After a really good visit with my family doctor, I thought we were getting somewhere. I was full of hope before I made the call to a neurology specialist. But then came the news that the specialist might not take me on as a patient. If she did, it would be ten months until she could see me. Ah, the ups and downs of living with a rare and mysterious illness.

I forced myself to remember the things I have already learned: I like roller coasters; only a strong person could handle this; God has entrusted this to me, so I need to do my best with it. Yesterday was much the same as today. Lots of knocking on doors, only to hear that familiar slamming sound. But then a friend shared part of Isaiah 40. She didn’t share it to me specifically, rather in a group for another reason. But God used it to quiet my anxious heart.

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.

 He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.

Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;

They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

Encouragement swelled. Like the heart of the Grinch, my heart grew and changed, and hope moved back in. My circumstances did not change. Throughout the day, there was good news followed by devastating news, followed by hopeful news, and so on. But my perspective changed.

I may never literally run again or walk without becoming weary, but I know I can trust God who never becomes weary and gives strength to those who wait on him. While I wait, I will keep knocking on doors until one opens, whether that door is a doctor’s office or the gates of heaven.

A November to Remember

For two weeks I have started a blog post only to scrap it. I wanted to write something incredibly funny, and I had a few ideas in mind. Each time I started to write, though, I couldn’t stop thinking about November 2016. It was the worst November I can remember. The pain from my damaged tendons was at its peak. And my dear father-in-law was nearing the end of his life. Sharing a funny story just doesn’t seem right, so I decided to share an excerpt from my book, Hidden with Christ, about my father-in-law. Sometimes getting the pain out is the best way to move on from it.

C. Lloyd Radcliff was my father-in-law, but my first memories of him are as the “old ladies” Sunday School teacher at church. As a youngster, I was a little afraid of him. He was intimidating. Not a big, imposing figure, but he was someone who commanded respect.

I soon learned that he was a much softer man than I thought. My first realization came when I was at the Radcliff home for dinner. Every night, he came home at six p.m. He walked through the door and, before saying a word to anyone, beelined to his wife and gave her a kiss. Maybe he wasn’t so hard after all.

On the day I went to the police station to tell them my story, Doug’s mom watched our two-year-old son. I had told her what was going on, but I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it with Dad. I wasn’t sure how he would react. Men of his generation didn’t talk about such things. But that morning, he was there when I dropped off my son. He gave me a big hug and said, “I love you. I’m proud of you. Anything you need, I will be here for you.” I lost my own dad in 1998, and my father-in-law stepped up and became a father to me, fulfilling his promise.

It was such an honor for me to care for Mr. Radcliff in our home during the last six weeks of his life. As he grew weaker from metastatic lung cancer, we spent a lot of time together. Every morning I would wait at the side of his bed until he was ready to sit up. Then we did our “dance” where I pulled him to standing and rocked side to side, moving to the wheelchair. Every time I would thank him for the dance, and he would respond, “My pleasure.”

There were times during the day when I would check on him, and without fail, he was sitting in his recliner with his Bible opened on his knobby knees. He was a regimented man and always had his regular quiet time, using two different devotionals. But as his time on earth grew shorter, his time in God’s Word grew longer. He was prepared to meet his Savior and left us all quite a legacy.

It’s been 20 years since I lost my dad and 2 years since I lost my father-in-law. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, especially at this time of year. The pain is right there, swelling up, threatening to crash over me in a huge wave, knocking me off my feet. But God brings to mind the good memories of their love, and the waters of my heart become still again. He also reminds me that unlike my earthly fathers, nothing can separate me from his love or his presence. He is always right here with me, calming the storms of my life.

Psalm 107:28-30 (NIV)
28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.

There’s No Crying in Climbing

 

Sixty feet above the ground, tears welled up in my eyes. I literally shook them off while clinging to the rock face. “This is not the time, Radcliff.” I was just a few feet from the top of the cliff. I felt good during the climb, better and stronger than I had in years. Just one more pull from that finger-width ledge and a good push from the foothold just above my knee should put me over the top. If only I don’t cry.

The day had started out with a question, “What should we do to celebrate your anniversary?” It was the fifth anniversary of my bariatric surgery. Bari patients don’t celebrate with a special dinner or dessert. That’s when I came up with the idea to go rock climbing. It was a beautiful, crisp, fall day, a perfect day to be on the rocks.

My husband and I had been rock climbers since our teen years. It started with him. Doug and a few of his friends learned the sport, and then I tagged along just to be close to him. It was terrifying. We started out rappelling down the sixty-foot sheer cliff. I hooked into the safety line and walked along the edge, heart pounding. Doug said, “I’ve got you. Lean back.” With a death grip on the rope, I started to lean back. “Who does this?” I wondered. Apparently, a girl who wants to impress a boy. Taking a deep breath and peeking over my shoulder at the ground, almost sixty feet away, I thought, “He’s got me on the safety line. Nothing bad will happen.” But that didn’t calm my heart. There was no turning back. I slowly let out rope until my body was in an “L” shape, feet flat against the rock wall. I inched my way down a few feet, then a few more. “Good job. Now let go of the rope.”

“What! Are you crazy? Why would I let go of the rope?”

“I want you to bounce around a little to get comfortable with being on the rock and to learn to trust the rope and your belayer.”

“OK. Don’t drop me.” The things we do to impress a boy! I released my top hand first, then the bottom, which was my braking hand. The rope jerked a little. My life flashed before my eyes. But it was just the slack coming out an inch or so. Once I gathered my courage, I started moving my feet right, then left, then I pushed off. Cool. I was dangling forty feet in the air, bouncing around without a care in the world. I retook control of the rope, and before my feet hit the ground, I was hooked. And we hadn’t even done any climbing yet.

Climbing was more of a challenge. It took more strength and planning moves. I wasn’t confident my fingers could hold my weight. And my short frame didn’t help any, some footholds were just out of reach. But after a few falls, battling “sewing machines,” (the shaking of fatigued muscles), and overcoming my own doubts, I reached the top. The sense of accomplishment was exhilarating. I loved rock climbing.

But then came illness and weight gain. The last time I tried climbing that same cliff, I failed, miserably. My stomach was too big. It was in the way. I couldn’t get my leg high enough to reach the very first foothold, so I never got off the ground. I had never been so embarrassed, and my spirit was crushed. I thought I’d never climb again.

Then surgery cured my illness and took the weight off. I was able to work out and build muscle. And five years later, I was about to conquer the cliff. The rocks are a lot more crowded than they were back when I first climbed. There were scout troops and college climbing teams on cliffs next to us. I hoped I wouldn’t embarrass myself again. On our ride there, remembering the last time I attempted a climb, I asked Doug, “What if I can’t do it?” He said, “You’re in the best shape you’ve been since your twenties. You’ll do it. And if you can’t today, we’ll try again.”

Doug set up the rope. I strapped on my harness and studied the cliff, looking for a good route. The first ten feet were like steps. Then came the sheer face. I searched for cracks and tiny ledges. It was when I neared the top that I heard one of the college boys say to Doug, “She’s got a good climb going.” He replied, “Yeah. Pretty amazing. She hasn’t climbed in about 15 years. Five years ago, we weren’t sure she would live. But look at her now.” That’s when the tears welled up. I shook them off, moved my foot up to a small crack at my hip and pushed. My hand reached up and grabbed the top of the cliff. Success. I had done it! I leaned back, letting Doug hold me there. Then he eased the rope as I hopped down the rock face. He met me at the bottom with a hug. I never felt so good.

That was six years ago last week. We didn’t go rock climbing this year, although I’d like to. I would have to pick a “good” day, one free of pain. There aren’t many of those. The last two years have taken away my strength and physical abilities but not my spirit. I still think “I could climb that” when I pass a rock face along the highway. And I know that my sufferings are just momentary, light afflictions.

Although my spirit has been redeemed, I await the redemption of my body. That day is coming, and I look forward to it. Like the top of that cliff, it may be a long climb and more challenging than I anticipated, but with perseverance, the reward will be great.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17 ESV)

 

Hidden Scars

“Where is your scar?” It seems like an odd question. A friend was comparing our appendectomy stories. She thought it strange that she had a scar on the left side of her abdomen if her appendix had been on the right side. My operating-room-nurse husband explained why surgeons go across rather than down to retrieve the little bugger.

That led to a discussion on scars. It was more of a monologue—me complaining about my abdomen full of scars, which I keep hidden from the public. I’ve had at least five abdominal surgeries. We decided that since my largest scar looks like railroad tracks running from my sternum to my bellybutton, I should get a little railroad-gate tattoo. And I could top it off with a bellybutton piercing with a little bell to signal the gate. Maybe add a train – the engine on my belly and the caboose on my…caboose. My scars could be something that would make me smile and maybe even wear a bikini—NOT.

One of my scars is the reminder of my C-section. Of course, the outcome of that scar was my precious baby boy. But, through that, I learned I don’t heal right. I didn’t know there was a right way to heal, but there is. Bodies are supposed to heal from the inside out. As the inside heals, it pushes out fluid and other junk. The unhealed outer layer allows the inside junk to drain. But I heal from the outside in. Since the skin healed before the inside, the fluid and junk got trapped and ended up infected. To get it to drain, the scar had to be reopened, twice. My doctor basically popped it open with an overgrown Q-tip. It hurt, but it did the trick. Once the inside stopped draining, it was safe to allow the outside scar to form.

I spent this week at an intense conference on Child Sexual Abuse. I realized through this conference that I have scars no one sees, even more than I knew were there. They are very deep inside. Sometimes they get reopened, ripped open, and the junk they keep inside spills out. But most of the time, they stay hidden deep within. On the outside, I look great. I smile and laugh and live life large. Like the scars on my “squishy belly” (as my granddaughter calls it), you will probably never see my deep emotional and spiritual scars. But I know they are there, constant reminders of the trauma I suffered.

There’s no dressing up these scars, no tattoos for comic relief. But they have a purpose. They have made me not just who I am but a better version of who I am. Because of my scars, I am a more compassionate, empathetic person. I am able to walk with others who have similar scars and understand their pain. At times I even know exactly what salve to apply to those scars to help them heal. None of this came easily or quickly. My scars were formed and reopened many times over decades. Every time they caused trouble and needed attention, I learned more about healing. Most importantly, I learned that God sent his Son to comfort the brokenhearted. He was pleased to crush his own Son so that I could be healed through his wounds (Isaiah 53).

At Jesus’ resurrection, his scars were still visible, even touchable, had Thomas taken him up on the offer. They had accomplished their purpose. While still evident, their time of being in the forefront was over. At the times that I wish Child Sexual Abuse was not the thing, the scar, that he called me to, I remember that Jesus agonized over God’s will for him but obeyed. Because he did, the world has hope and a future. What if he wants to take my suffering, my scars, and use them to bring hope and a future to just a few. It will all be worth it.

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captive and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1b NIV)

Project Jetway

Last week’s trip to California took me through four different airports. What a great opportunity for people-watching, one of my favorite activities. I don’t understand some travelers. Kudos to those who wear comfortable clothing, easy-on/off shoes, and are ready for the security check point. The problem is there is a fairly large number of travelers who make me wonder what they were thinking. Did they forget they were going to the airport when they got dressed that morning? Did they not think about getting through security and sitting on a plane? I just don’t get it.

This week, I am offering some travel advice. No life lessons, just a little advice (and maybe a few laughs).

I saw a deluge of women wearing very short skirts. I don’t get it. You are going to spend the majority of your time sitting down. I wear skirts, so I know that when you sit, the skirt rides up. And it seems the shorter and tighter, the more it rises. And when you stand up after a long flight, it’s not exactly a piece of cake to pull that skirt back into its original position, especially if you can’t stand up straight until you are in the aisle. Besides the impracticality, some were just wrong. A fashion faux pas at best. One of those extra-short, super-tight skirts was a yellow plaid with matching cap. Maybe she was on her way to work at one of those Irish pubs…by plane. Poor choice.

Lace-up, knee-high boots. You have to take them off to go through security. I don’t get it. To make matters worse, you wore them with very tight pants, making it much more difficult to bend over far enough to get the boots off. I hate to see you struggle. It brings back bad memories from the ‘70s.

Metal hair clips. Dozens of them. Yes, it’s very colorful and a nice style for you, but really, you didn’t think about security, did you? Yes, you have to take them out. Yes, that holds up the line. I don’t get it. Again, where did you think you were going? And the jewelry, too. Not to be outdone by the amount of metal in your hair, the bling hanging on every part of your body may make our plane overweight, delaying our flight. Not cool.

Heavy coats. I often fly in the winter from Philly. I leave my winter coat in the car and run into the terminal before being flash frozen. I can understand taking your winter coat with you if you are flying to another wintery climate (don’t do that—go somewhere warm). But last week I flew through Phoenix. Arizona. In September. It was the people leaving Phoenix wearing the parkas. Wearing them, not carrying them. I don’t get it. Are they already freezing? If they are freezing in Phoenix, their only destination should be Death Valley.

Then there was the guy dressed in shorts, some sort of character crew socks, loafers, a brightly colored golf shirt, and a fake-straw bowler-style hat. This guy had done a lot right, even though he has clearly never watched a single episode of “What Not To Wear.” He looked comfortable. He wore easy-on, easy-off shoes. He wasn’t carrying anything that looked suspicious, which might cause a hold-up in security. The problem here is that his kids aren’t going to pick him up. They will see him at the curb, waving and jumping, and they will keep moving, circling around and around. They will ignore him until no one is left and no one can see that this man is with them. Guaranteed his checked bag has some identifying mark, like his initials printed in red on an 8×11 laminated sheet of paper, attached with bright orange camo duct tape. Trust me. Parents visiting your children, dress not to embarrass.

There were many more that made me laugh, question, shake my head, and wonder aloud. Sometimes I am in such awe, words fall out of my mouth without me realizing until they hit the air. Oops. I used to get mad at these people who would hold up the security line with their coats and laced boots and hair clips. But not anymore. I paid for TSA Precheck—no removing jackets, shoes, hair clips, or even laptops. Just get in the short line and go. Best travel purchase I have ever made! Come on over, you travel-fashion nightmares. For $85, you can wear whatever you want for the next five years and not hold up anyone else. Happy travels.

Amazed by God (and DNA)

DNA is a funny thing. Spit into a little tube and drop your spit in the mail.  In just a few weeks, you can know more about who you are and where you came from than you ever thought possible. I know because it happened to me.

As an adoptee in PA, I had the opportunity last year to request my original birth certificate. I’m sure it was a money-making venture for the budget in Harrisburg. There were no promises made. Birth parents names could be listed but may not be. No guarantees, but for twenty dollars, it was worth finding out. I bet their little venture brought in millions of dollars. If nothing else, it was a good fundraising effort.

For twenty-five years or so, I have known my birth name. When I first heard it and then read it in my adoption records, I had trouble processing it. I felt like two different people. It was all very strange. But I got used to it and even made my birth name my alter ego–the one who did things I didn’t want to own up to, the one you didn’t want to make angry. I never thought I would know any more about the family I came from. But then my birth certificate arrived in the mail with my mother’s name on it (she was deceased). Over the past nine months, I have had the incredible opportunity to meet several members of my mother’s family. My father’s name wasn’t on the birth certificate, but my mother’s family knew who it was.

I reached out to his sister (my father was deceased). When she replied that she didn’t think he could be my father, I thought any further discovery of that side of the family would be a dead end. Enter DNA. It bothered her and her family enough that they decided to do a DNA test. Why not? Ancestry was having a sale (first clue we are related). I was shocked when my family tree suddenly had more leaves on it. So were they! But DNA doesn’t lie–it may confuse siblings with first cousins, but it knows they are family.

This weekend, I had the privilege of meeting some of my father’s family. I was so nervous. Knowing their initial skepticism, would they be happy about meeting me? Would they accept me? Was this a good idea? My fears were quickly allayed when introductions went straight to hugs. What a joy it was! What delightful family members. One thing about DNA, you find out who you are related to, but you might not be too happy about it. Not the case here. The family members I met are fantastic and beautiful (not that there is any family resemblance to me)! They are warm and loving and obviously have close ties to one another. They took the time to make a photo album for me, which I will always cherish.

Like my mother’s family, this one also has strange coincidences. My paternal birth-grandparents lived on Columbia Avenue. My paternal grandmother lived on Columbia Avenue in a different town. My birth father had heart disease and underwent bypass surgery in 1987. My dad had heart disease and underwent bypass surgery in 1988. Both fathers died within days of their birthdays. My birth family lost my father at age 54, a few days after his birthday. I learned of their DNA results at age 54, a few days after my birthday. They are Italian. I always wanted to be Italian (anything that has to do with pizza and spaghetti is for me).

This has been an amazing journey. I truly believe God removed me from one family and placed me in another for a purpose. I am confident it was the best thing for me. To now have the opportunity to know my birth families is an added blessing. As I have always told my children, life is all about relationships. Just as God had a purpose in taking me out of my birth families 54 years ago, he has a purpose for putting them back in my life now. I wonder what he has in store. I’m sure it will be amazing. Amazement is one of his specialties.

The context of the following verse is the crowd’s reaction after Jesus healed a paralytic. Although taken out of context here, It conveys exactly how I am feeling. “And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen extraordinary things today.'” (Luke 5:26)