March 4, 2014 by Renee Griffin
“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”
I love to draw.
Ever since I can remember, from a very early age, I was drawing everything and anything. Never one to enjoy coloring between the lines in a pre made coloring book, I was always drawn to a blank page.
Around middle school age, I drew up a set of house plans. Since having a family of my very own, of my own blood, was my whole goal in life, I decided that a picture of my future house was in order. So, I set to work on a house plan on paper to match the plan in my heart. This dream house my family would live in was a white, two-story house with lots of windows, and a big front porch. My drawings included what the house looked like on the outside, but I also drew the inside floor plan. So much thought went into every little detail right down to the bay window in the kitchen with a built-in banquette around the round kitchen table. I spent many hours working on these plans, and even made a cover sheet that read in large, capital letters, HOUSE PLANS.
All through this adoption search and rescue I had plans, too. I constructed in my mind a plan of how all this would go down. As a Christ follower, I was growing, on the path He had placed me and allowed me to follow, but yet still barreling full speed ahead with my plans.
I was building my own “house” using my own plans.
I can trace it clearly now as I read back through my notes and journals. Every step of this search is marked by words hidden in private writings. From time to time, I have considered destroying the pages holding my guts, but the time has not come. These writings shine a light on the one who thought she knew how all this would unfold. Never in a million years, could I have imagined how God would build this story. He had plans. While I had made all of this completely about me, He was building something so amazing. I’m so thankful that no matter what I do to mess things up, He is faithful.
When I ended writing my story, I had been given, finally, the summary of non-identifying information which was once lost then found. Only Jesus knows exactly why those papers were hidden, but I know a couple of reasons.
One reason they remained hidden was me.
I did have to learn that just because I demand or deserve information, doesn’t guarantee I am ready to hear it or need it at that moment. God was training me to wait.
When I want something, I don’t really want to wait. Our culture doesn’t help this issue of impatience either as most things can be accomplished with a mere click. In the waiting time, I learned for sure that Jesus is in charge and not me.
It was HARD!
Yielding to circumstances outside of my control did not come easy, and I fought it every step. I wish I could say I learned how to be patient, got a gold star on my chart, and can model it for you if needed. I can’t say that much less type that with a straight face. I still struggle learning to wait. The only difference now is that I know that I know that I know…Jesus is in charge.
Second reason I needed to wait was there were others out there who didn’t know I was coming. I found out after the fact that some family members didn’t know I existed yet, but were told during the time I was waiting.
Some were making peace with the past.
Some could even feel me coming.
Stuff was happening people!!!
Big, important, necessary stuff was going on and I didn’t have a clue.
Had I charged in months earlier, I would have been early. My house plan would have failed because God was laying the foundation and it needed time to set.
The next events in my timeline still amaze me.
It took a bit of time to let the new details I’d learned in those papers from the state settle in, but my goal was still not complete. I was facing a deadline. I had to decide whether to continue with my request in TN or I would lose my place in line. I was at a standstill. TN said they had no file on me, and now that a file was found in GA, that part was done. The only part TN could provide was my birth certificate. They would give me a copy of my birth certificate if I could give them the name of my birth mother since these documents were organized this way in their system. I didn’t know any names.
So, what to do?
I kept calling, of course.
One girl in the GA office got to know me so well that I no longer said my name when I called. When I called her and she answered I just said, “Hey, it’s me”. I still have her name and number in my phone today. Come to think of it, I need to call and see if she is still there. She’s probably missed me.
Anyway, I kept calling and harassing, I mean questioning,GA and TN over and over looking for a loophole. Somehow, some way, there had to be an answer. I got pretty well versed in the rights of adoptees in both states. As I kept up the conversations with my BFF in GA, I asked her one day “wouldn’t you be able to tell me what is on my birth certificate if you had a copy in my sealed file?”
Well, of course.
And the only reason you don’t have the birth certificate in your file is because somehow instead of getting destroyed it got filed in TN?
So, couldn’t you request that birth certificate in the interest of me, who needs to know everything on there that you can tell me???
Well, yes. Ah-ha! LOOPHOLE!
So, could you just put me on hold right now and call TN on the other line and have them send a jet to the gold dome and get that right now? I will just wait patiently here on the other line. Thank you.
I bet my buddy was rolling her eyes all the way back in her head. I would have. Poor thing.
Eye rolls aside, she did it. She placed the call, made the request, and called me when it arrived.
I told her that day as she read to me from my birth certificate that I had xray eyes and could see through the phone. Yes, I did. Say that. Once I tried to trick her into saying the last name, and she almost did, but no dice. She just laughed at me as she usually did because what else can you do with such a crazy gal as your BFF?
On this day, I listened as she told me the city, hospital, and time that I was born. For the first time in my life, I knew the time I was born. In the middle of a hot summer night, I made my grand entrance into the planet. Finally, I could say with certainty as a grown up, the time that I was born. Every medical form I have filled out in my adult life has had blanks. Every time a doctor asked about my medical history I have had to say, “I don’t know”. Finally the blanks were being filled. Details like the time a person is born may seem like such a small thing, but to me it was everything.
I wrote it down. 3:45a.m. Three numbers in sequential order. Middle of the night birth. One step closer. I could feel them getting closer, too.
Around this time, I knew In needed to tell some immediate family members about my search. So far I had not told them what I was doing. I didn’t want to hurt them by my actions. Nothing would change who they were to me. Nothing. But, I was certain that there would be initial pain. Honestly, I couldn’t until this point deal with anyone else’s emotions other than my own. Mine were more than I could take some moments. I was set on my course and had to see where this would go before letting them in to my secret search.
My best friend since the day she was born, my sister, was the first to be told. It wasn’t a new topic between us, but she didn’t know I was actually doing what I had said I would do for all these years. She was as always my supporter and encourager. She’s helped me through life and we have a bond that goes beyond blood. She was the one who directed me to the final chapter of my search.
She had a friend who liked to do private investigator-ish type work for fun. She introduced me to Laura. Instant friends, Laura took on my case as if it were her own. She and I worked side by side from every angle we could come up with to get more information. After 11 days, if I remember correctly, we were both exhausted. We had tried everything we knew. GA had done all they could. TN insisted on a name. In a last ditch effort, we faxed a birth certificate request to TN stating all that we knew. When they denied my request, Laura and I got on a conference call with the records office. It was like a messed up version of good cop, bad cop. We took turns playing the bad cop role, but there was no good cop, only me playing a starring role as the crazy cop. This role cast me as being the crying, somewhat wailing screamer who kept losing her grip and jumping back into bad cop mode.
For every person we talked to that didn’t say, “why sure I will get that for you right away,” I would end with…Who is your supervisor? Put her on the phone. This pattern repeated a few times. We finally got the lady on the line that actually signed the birth certificates. She said the same thing, we need to know a name. That is how they are organized. Yes, they are in a file by month and year and date, and yes someone could get up off their lazy tail and go look but that is not how it is done. Something like that… Okay, miss “I sign the birth certificates”…who is YOUR supervisor? And while you are giving me phone numbers, I am going to need the Governor’s number too. Yes, that is correct. I took down the number for the Governor. When said my farewells to the birth certificate endorser, I said this. “Listen closely to the sound of my voice because you will be hearing it every day until you give me what I want.”
The next office up the chain of command was the Health and Human Resources office. While I didn’t get the opportunity to tell my tale to Dr. Somebody, his secretary got an earful between Laura and me. We laid out our case based on the laws between the states. That birth certificate, that “accidentally” got filed in TN meant that the law was in my favor. She was so nice to us and promised to talk with the Dr. at lunch and she’d call me back.
Okay, right. I did not expect to hear from her after lunch. I was ready with my number to the Governor, but I didn’t get my chance to call him, but I am sure he is sad that he missed talking to me. Not. After lunch, the secretary did call back. Just like she said she would. She and Dr. Somebody decided over lunch to see to it that what was rightly mine be delivered. She had already contacted the birth certificate office. Somehow they’d found the strength to go look…and they found it. This dear lady said she was overnighting it to me courtesy of the state. No charge. I wanted to jump through that phone and hug her so tight!!! Tears and happy screams erupted as two women, who’d been strangers just a few weeks earlier, jumped and hugged all around the room.
My birth certificate was on its way back to GA, and it was coming straight to my door.
24 hours more…
From that day in fall at Papa’s graveside until this point in my story, 28 months had passed. I live in the same house where I waited out those 24 hours. It’s an old house, but it has a strong foundation. I am writing this beside the door of that house. The house plans for this place were drawn out by the family that built it. I know this because the sweet lady who lived here came by years after we bought it for a tour. She wanted to see what we had done to the house she loved. She knew every corner and nook. She told me how the builder had argued with her over certain details, but she had insisted because she knew what her family needed in a house. She drew the house plan to meet the needs of her family.
You know that Jesus has a “house plan” for our lives. While this dear woman didn’t build this house, she made the plan. On this brief span we have been given to live our one life, God already formed a plan for what our lives should be. He designed it at the foundation of the world. If we take His Plan and build a life, things will turn out solid. There may be struggles along the way and you may not get the details the way you want, but in the end you will have everything you need. He has it all worked out.
Just like my teenage house plans, it’s our nature to plan. He created us to dream and plan and build, but He never intended us to write the plans. He already did that. God has a better plan, the best plan, and if we let him, He will take our lives, our “houses” and do something incredible.
Keep seeking His plan for your life in the only place you will find it…The Word of God. And, while you’re searching, don’t spend more than a quick glance at the past. That old house plan of my teenage past isn’t part of my future. God has done a new thing.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18, 19 NIV)
Under my bed, I kept a box with all the paper and documents I used in my search. The covering of dust marks the years of stillness since finding my birth family. The funny thing I discovered is that in the short span of almost 8 years, the details of my search have become blurred. Old age aside, there were a few things I hadn’t forgotten, per se, I just didn’t remember correctly. I’ve been reading through them as I follow God’s prompting to write. One thing I see…
Who I was then, praise God, I am not today.
He has done a new work in my life.
I can’t use the old words or the old plans of yesterday.
When I was in driver’s ed in high school, my teacher said something memorable to me while practicing with the driving simulator. I remembered his words this morning as I drove to work. I was changing lanes and glanced back over my shoulder to check for cars before I shifted lanes and The Lord reminded me of that day in high school.
“Don’t look back so long, Renee, just glance back. If you take too long looking behind you, you won’t see where you are going or what you are facing.”
I was safe while practicing with the driving simulator and was in no real danger as I kept looking back, but had I been driving a real vehicle this would have been a problem. My teacher saw a bad habit in me and wanted to be sure I didn’t do this on the road where it mattered.
This life that we are here building matters.
The lessons of the past are important, but don’t turn around and set your gaze on them. Look ahead. Use what you learned and move forward. We all have an individual, specific, detailed plan that God Almighty designed just for us.
He’s the One Who built the universe in 7 days. He built man. He built woman. He’s been building babies ever since. He gave Noah plans to build an ark, and Solomon plans to build the Temple. God even sent His Son to be raised by a carpenter. All through the pages of scripture He tells us of His plans. You can trust Him with your life. Stop building castles on the sand and seek His Plan for You. You will be in for the ride of your life, and He will get all the Glory.
That’s been the Plan all along.