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March 10, 2014 by Renee Griffin
The retelling of my story has been a struggle.
I have wrestled with every word.
When I said yes to God’s plan for me to write my story, I knew exactly how it would all begin. Once you say yes to a call of obedience, the first steps may be hard, but you start moving because you know you cannot stay where you are. What I never counted on, but should have, is the beautiful grace-filled struggle that happens whenever you move.
When God allowed me to go search and find my birth family, I went through all kinds of struggle. As I read back through my journals from those years, my heart hurts for that girl who poured out her raw feelings there on the safety of the page. Wow, did she struggle. She was a hot mess. Some of my journal entries sound like great scenes from a movie. I have laughed and cried at the words of a broken girl. Over ten years have passed since I was reunited with my birth family and wrote my way through the emotions. As I write today, I am struggling yet again. My struggle now is nothing like that of the past.
I am not struggling from pain or heartache or sadness.
Today I struggle because I feel like dirt.
Before a farmer can plant a crop, he has to go and turn the soil so that there will be a healthy place for the seeds. If dirt had feelings, I wonder what it would say to being cut through and shifted and turned upside down? One can only suppose, but dirt may not have enjoyed the experience.
Thus, I feel like dirt.
Going back through the journey has been exhausting, and yet I am filled with an energy and joy and peace right here in the midst of getting turned inside out. That’s Jesus. Each time I begin to write and the words keep coming, I know only He could put all this together.
He is the One leading me with each word, and I have to make sure you know that. I have to stop right here on this line and give Him the credit. And since He is the boss of this blog, I can smile and laugh right here smack dab in the middle of my struggle.
Writing this out for the world to read is waaaaay too far over the edge for this ole girl, but you know what? I am loving it. I have never felt closer to Jesus than I feel out here on the edge. So, here we go again…
I have two names.
Yes, I have two legal names. Isn’t that funny? In my personal baby book, there are two active legal birth certificates. On paper I have two separate identities. One holds the name my birth mother gave me. The other holds the name my mama gave me. And I am both.
In my last post, when my BFF from the state read to me all those important details off my birth certificate, she also told me the name I was given at birth. It was actually three names instead of the normal two. I knew as soon as I learned this that my birth mother was not a normal person. Neither am I. She’d given me two first names and one middle name. I wouldn’t learn why she did this until several months later, but I knew there was a reason.
Names hold great meaning. From the giver of the name, great personal significance is rendered to the recipient of the name. Your name is a gift to you from your family. I’m sure they put lots of thought into it. Once you have a name, what you do with it is up to you. The legacy of your name is based on the actions you choose. The name becomes your identity.
In my study Bible that is so precious to me, I keep many important papers. Like a scrapbook, there are pictures of loved ones, articles from newspapers, and letters written to me among other documents kept there.
One letter I keep is from my grandmother. She’s the one we called GG. She was a saint. Raised on a farm and later to become a farmer’s wife, she wasn’t one to mince words. A strict primitive Baptist, she never wore pants and kept her long hair in a bun. This lady loved The Lord. She didn’t own much in this life as far as possessions go, but she was rich in Jesus and lived her life for Him. On the porch of her old clapboard house, sitting in a rocking chair, she taught me many lessons. I keep a letter from her in my Bible because she understood the significance of a name. There isn’t a date attached, but from the context of her note I am guessing that I was young. Mama always taught us to write thank you notes for gifts we received so I must have written G.G. one and this was her reply.
It was so sweet of you to remember to write all the nice things about me. I am trying to live up to it all. You are such a sweet granddaughter. Want you to keep your good name and don’t let the devil steal it from you. He will put lots of temptations along the way for you, but stay strong in The Lord. He can whip the devil, You’ll always be glad of it. Come see me.
I love you,
GG understood the importance of a name.
In all the years that I wondered about my birth family, I never gave them an imaginary name. I just realized this, too. Of course, I had plenty of ideas how they may look, what their personalities were like, did they crave chocolate and coffee? You know…important stuff. But never once did I give them a name.
How do you label someone you don’t know?
Isn’t that what your name does? It labels you with an identity. Since their identity had been hidden, maybe I just didn’t see the need to give it a label. I don’t really know.
Well, finally, the day arrived when the name I’d been searching for would be known.
My best friend was with me that afternoon since the hubs was working out of town. She knew I didn’t need to be alone. When the package arrived, overnighted just like the lady from the state had promised, time slowed.
Silence covered me.
The time for words had passed. No more arguing, fussing, begging, or conversing was left to do.
Inside the stiff cardboard container carried without pageantry or flair to my doorstep, was the name that would change everything.
I signed for my package and went straight into my closet. My friend took the kids outside to play while I ran as far back into my house as I could possibly get. My closet was the farthest point. As deep into the closet as I could go, I took the papers with me.
Together the mystery and I sat on the floor in complete silence.
I react in times of great stress completely opposite of my normal self. After all I had been through, I am not sure why I didn’t run screaming to the Fed Ex truck and snatch the package open right there in the street.
But, I just couldn’t.
This moment, when questions would be answered because miracles had happened, was a moment of reverence. I wanted to get small and hide as the enormity of what was happening swallowed me whole. Ever so slowly and gently, I opened the seal and pulled out the birth certificate. There in my hands on a sheet of plain paper bearing the seal of the state of TN was my name and her name. Right there…
I kept repeating it over and over.
Inside I was saying, “I know your name.”
The dream that lived inside a little girl’s heart, the one that didn’t have a chance in the eyes of the world, had at last come true.
I had her name.
This figment of my imagination took on a real identity and I reached to her in my heart that day. She may not have felt a thing, but I touched her. Arms heavy from reaching out for 32 years made contact and words just fail me to describe the touch. Truly, I cannot explain the tidal wave that crashed over me as I reached out to the page and touched the space where this name was written.
It was a common name. It was a beautiful name. My birth mother had a name.
I stayed there in my closet for a bit. Sitting in the quiet holding the name. As the reality settled in, my life shifted. I knew. I knew without a single doubt, I would find her. This awakening brought me out of the hidden place. As I walked out, God turned a page in my story.
My first call as always was to my husband. He was out of town working. Guess what city he was working in?
All good stories need a happy ending.
He was in the very city where she once lived. The birthcertificate gave me her name and old address. Now, the address was so old that it was listed as a route number and box number. It was the addresses used before the implementation of 911. He and I wasted barely a moment celebrating before we went to work.
We had to find her.
First place he went was to the post office to see if they could tell us what the new address was for this old one. They could not. Next he went to the library to see if they had an old phone book so we could look up the name. That didn’t pan out either. While I was burning up the search on my computer, my brilliant husband took a new approach. He decided to just grab a phone book and start calling everybody in the city with that same last name. Super. Can you imagine a better plan? Well, you would have to know my husband the salesman.
This man took out a phone book and started calling alphabetically and asking for this name. The first person he called didn’t know her. The second call was her cousin! This wonderful lady told him my birthmother’s married name and what street she lived on.
You know, you can always count on your family to tell your business. Thanks, cuz.
Now we had her married name so I could look this up online. Simple, right? Wrong. Of course, at the time, they were not listed in the phone book. This may seem like another dead end, a roadblock, an inconvenience. Nope. It was God’s plan. See, we weren’t supposed to get to her first. There was someone else.
My husband tried to find her house and get her number, but couldn’t. So, he went back to the plan. He called her cousin again. This time he asked for my birth mother’s parents’ names. Cousin came through a 2nd time. She gave him the names and addresses.
He asked me what did I want him to do… I said call.
He called and a precious lady answered the phone. It was my grandmother. He asked her about her daughter. Did she have a daughter with this name and she said yes. She was a little bit confused as to why he was calling, and kept asking him who he was and who he was with. I am laughing now thinking about this day. He should’ve told her he was with Jesus on Kingdom Business. She told him he needed to call back later in the evening after she was finished with dinner so he could talk to her husband, my grandfather. He agreed. Before he hung up, he told her he just couldn’t end the call without one final question.
Then my wonderful husband said this. “I have to ask you something and I don’t mean any disrepect, but I just can’t hang up this phone without asking you this question. Did your daughter give up a baby for adoption in 1970?” She said, “Yes, she did. A baby girl.” He replied, “Well, that baby girl is my wife.” She said, “Oh…Lord Jesus…we’ve been praying for this day for years.”
When he called me to tell me about his conversation with my grandmother, I was standing in the kitchen. As he reiterated their conversation, I fell on the ground, face down on the rug and cried like a baby. The page had turned and a new chapter had begun and all I could do was sob. My grandmother had been praying for this day.
My hubby let me cry for a while and then he added this. Your grandmother told me where your birthmother works.
What do you want me to do?
No hesitation…. GO GET HER!
He was a bit hesitant. Him being the clear headed one, knowing the risks he was facing walking into a place of business unannounced to meet a person who didn’t know he was coming. He knew she may have gotten a call from her mother and fled the scene. He knew she may refuse me. He knew all of these risks and more, so he made sure that it was what I wanted to face.
I knew them all, too. But I didn’t care.
You see, when you are adopted there are two things that are the utmost of importance to you.
The name and a face.
You want and need to know their names and see their faces.
I had battled all this time while I searched the possibility that she may refuse me. Of course I didn’t want that. I prayed she’d meet me, but I knew she may not. However, I couldn’t be this close after all this time, and wait one single second more. Today was the day.
So, off he drove to her building. We talked before he walked in the door and then he was off. I just stayed on the kitchen rug with my tear puddle. In those waiting moments I walked in my mind the steps he was taking. Each passing minute proving that he’d made contact. And then, the hair on my neck stood up. Literally, the hairs on the back of my neck began to tingle and rise and I knew I had touched the past.
The impossible had become possible.
The name I’d been given only hours earlier became a real person. A transformation had occured. A nameless, faceless dream took on a real identity. My current name was tied to an old name and two lives merged. A new identity formed.
In scriptures, many people got new names. When God did a new thing in Abram’s life, he became Abraham. and Sarai became Sarah. After Jacob wrestled with the angel of God, he renamed him Israel. Esther didn’t begin in the palace, she was Haddesah, adopted by her uncle Mordecai and later became Esther. Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus and became Paul. When God showed up, some folks got new names. When God changed their names, their identity changed. He shows us in His Word the transformation process these great people of God went through. Where they started was not the final word on who they were in Him. What I learned in the years to come after my search was over, is that my identity was not found in either of my earthly names. My identity is in Jesus. His Name is the only name that matters.
Who He says I am is who I really am.
Who He says you are is who you really are, too.
His Chosen…John 15:16
God’s Child…Romans 8:16
An Heir and a Joint Heir…Romans 8:17
A New Creature…II Cor 5:17
Son/Daughter of God…II Cor 6:18
Beloved of God… Jude 17,20
Over the next few months, I would cling to the Name of Jesus more than ever before as the dirt was being turned in both of our lives.