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March 20, 2014 by Renee Griffin
When my kids first learned to ride a bike, they started off sporting training wheels. Not having any experience with riding bicycles, we certainly didn’t put them on a bike and say, “Good Luck”. We knew they needed training and instructions before they could ever ride proficiently. In fact, I took the time to show them all the parts of the bike and explain how it all worked together, before I ever let them get on the seat.
There is a lot to learn about a bicycle.
You have to understand the function of the pedals, speed control, how the handle bars work, and the importance of proper steering. Of course, there were necessary safety devices to wear: helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and proper shoes. Plus, you need to be capable of balancing yourself on the bike when putting all the other skills to work.
As my kids practiced all these new riding skills, one thing became very clear early on. They needed the balance support of the training wheels.
Who knew riding a bike was so intense? All my kids wanted to do was ride!
When I rode my bike growing up out in the country, there was no such thing as all this safety stuff. You got a bike for Christmas or your birthday, and you went out in the yard to learn. It was a long time before we had a paved driveway so I knew how to ride in the grass. I learned pretty fast that if my bike started to fall, I better stick out my foot. Balance is key. I got pretty good at riding and was ready to take my show on the road…the paved road in front of our house.
My goal was to learn to ride without holding on to the handle bars. I wanted to ride down the road from our house as fast as I could, face in the wind, and arms hanging loose letting go of the handle bars. Sometimes I would even close my eyes. It was amazing.
I don’t remember learning to ride or who taught me, but I am sure I faced the same struggles as any new rider faces. You have to learn and learning takes time. You don’t learn it all on your first day, and flying in the wind comes after learning.
When we made contact with my birthmother that afternoon, I raced into her life without training wheels.
A crash was bound to happen.
After my hubby left my birthmother’s office that day we found her, the clock in my head began to tick.
How many minutes would pass before she used the phone number he gave her?
As the hours and days started to collect, the ticking got louder.
I don’t know how long I was planning to give her before she called me, but with each passing hour, that limit began to shrink, and I did what I shouldn’t have done.
I began to evaluate what was going on over in her world, based on my perspective.
Not a good idea.
I was trying to ride a relationship bike without any experience. My heart was not wearing any safety gear either.
It was a perfect storm.
The truth is I was already disappointed by the time she called. It had only been a few days, and I had no right to be, but I was.
While I waited and worried and analyzed, she was having a storm of her own.
Her family was so wonderful and supportive when she came home from work that day and shared the news of her unexpected visitor. They loved on her just like they always have, but there wasn’t much they could do for her.
She was in shock.
All these years she’d carried a picture of me with her. It was a picture of me taken by a nurse at the hospital I think. She’d begged this woman to take a picture of me even though it was against policy. She needed to keep me with her. She held tightly to this picture ever since the day we parted up until about a year or so before I found her.
It was like she could sense my getting closer even though she had no idea I was coming.
She’d given the picture to her sister to keep while I was searching. In some ways, she had found a peace about me. God was already working in her life, getting her ready for the real deal to come walking back in. Remember when I wrote about being so impatient as this process was taking such a long time? Well, this is one of the reasons I needed to wait. God was doing stuff in her life. It was stuff that needed to happen. I needed to wait while God worked.
Even though she knew I was a grown woman in 2003, in her mind, I was still that baby girl. Hearing the news that I had found her, bringing the past into the present, was too much for her to digest and process. I hate that she had to go through so much. Looking back, it really should have been much longer of a time between my hubby giving her the number and her actually using it.
She is a strong, strong woman.
Finally, after the ten millionth time my poor husband checked his voice mail for a message, there was one on the line.
Amidst all the tears of joy were big breaths of relief. Emotionally, I had been holding my breath. I was so afraid that she’d never call.
We had given her the choice, knowing full well she may choose to keep the door closed between us.
I had read about birth families who refused to connect. For many reasons, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Some birth mothers keep the secret of giving up a child for adoption all their lives. They move forward, have new families, and just can’t handle this secret being known. There are many reasons why some stories don’t have a happy ending. My heart breaks for the women who never have the chance to make peace with the past. My heart aches for their children, too. So when my birthmother called me, I was beyond thrilled.
I couldn’t wait to talk to her.
Scared out of my mind, I dialed the number she had left for her office. I must’ve been completely nuts at this point because it was a stupid idea to call her at her job. Geez…
Fair or not, kind or not, this stubborn person made the call anyway.
It was her private line at work and her voicemail picked up. I opened my mouth to speak, but all that came out were ridiculous sounds in the midst of ugly, deep sobs.
Yes, I just cried into her voicemail.
Seems fitting though. The last time she heard my voice was the day we parted ways. She was in a wheelchair at the hospital as she watched me being wheeled away, and she listened to my cries.
We were both crying as she said goodbye to her baby girl.
My first hello to her was crying, too.
I tried to get myself together, and I think I said something.
I don’t really remember.
It was a mess.
I was a mess.
When I hung up, I told my hubby that her recorded voice on the voicemail sounded so familiar. It was the sweetest, kindest sounding voice. She sounded like an angel.
Well, before you go…awwww…turns out it wasn’t her voice.
As in so many important times in my life, God provides humor. It cracks me up thinking about it. I wanted to hear her voice so badly that I believed this random voice was her and decided it sounded like me, too. At that point I would have believed anything.
In a bit, we finally had the moment I had been waiting for. I heard her voice, her real voice.
Now, she is very sweet and has a huge, kind heart, but ain’t nobody ever described her voice as angelic. Mine either for that matter. We both have a big, strong, deep voice.
Our first phone call finally happened. I was shaking so hard and yes, still boo-hooing like a baby.
It was surreal.
I did make some notes of our first words that day, but I don’t remember them. The emotional impact of knowing who was on the other line made a sound in my ears like a roaring. I do remember her saying that I had guts to call her at work. Guts, yeah, I got lots of those. They make me do stupid stuff… like call you at work because I am too impatient to wait until 5:00.
Anyway, we talked a little bit that day since she was obviously at work. It was a good talk considering the magnitude of the situation.
She made it very clear that she was not ready to see me yet. That was okay with me at first.
I was getting to hear her voice and talk to her. She was IN my life.
She even emailed over some pictures.
Besides seeing her in person, getting pictures was huge. I almost puked while the email opened and the faces emerged.
When the photos were opening, it was another one of those moments that gets frozen in your mind.
My computer was so slow and the image was huge so it opened like the unrolling of wrapping paper. When the picture’s image made it to her eyes, I could hardly take it.
Her eyes looked right through me.
There she was.
My birth mother had a face.
I still get chills when I see that picture today. It takes me back to that first look.
She was real.
She sent me other pictures too. Some of them included her wonderful husband. From the very first moment he found out about me coming back into her life, he was so amazing. He is a good man. He told her that night she came home after my hubby’s visit, “Get in the truck. Let’s go get her.” He has always held his arms wide open to me and my family, and I will forever be grateful.
We spent a lot of time getting to know each other over the next days and weeks. There were lots of phone calls and many emails.
In some ways, I knew her.
We both love to cook and are all kinds of crazy about our families. She loves a clean organized house, and I do too. (Not that I have seen my house in this condition lately, but that is a totally different story.) She has this dry, sarcastic sense of humor and well…I got that gene as well. She loves to laugh and enjoy life. If you don’t want to know what we think, don’t ask. If we weren’t tied by blood, I know we’d be great friends.
Here is the hard part.
As much as I knew her, in many ways we were strangers.
We had lived separate lives. I had made peace years before with being adopted. The moment I looked into my own baby girl’s eyes for the first time, I knew that my birthmother’s sacrifice for me came as a result of how much she loved me.
I was okay with being adpoted.
For a time, she wasn’t sure that I was really okay. She was reliving things that I didn’t understand, and I couldn’t help her. Her past had come back, and even in her love for me, it was a huge upheaval in her life. I wanted this reunion to be incredible. I wanted to make it all better for her. She was going through so much, and I felt helpless. I tried to make it all be okay, but I only made a mess.
You can’t jump on a bike and ride like a pro if you have never learned how to ride in the first place.
I needed relationship training wheels.
God used this time to teach me several lessons.
First, He reminded me, yet again, that He was in charge.
Here I was driving this relationship bike way too fast. I had searched, I had found her, now let’s get going with our new life.
Slow down girl…
God also taught me that the direction we were going was along a path that I had mapped out and not Him.
Where are you headed girl?
Between my impatience and wrong direction, I started losing my balance.
This bike was about to fall over.
I was about to get hurt.
When I fell, I was going to hurt her, too.
You cannot get ahead of God. I had trusted Him to find her, but then I took control.
God is so loving and full of grace and mercy. He wasn’t at all suprised by the mess I was making.
Instead He used it.
Romans 8:28 says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
I did crash.
We hit a rough patch in our getting reaquainted. Only a few weeks in, and it seemed like we were over.
I broke apart. It was awful.
All my dreams seemed to vanish, but God knew they needed to.
He had something big to show me about myself. And there was another chapter in my story that He had written.
This new chapter had an urgent timeline of its own.
A new character was about to emerge.
When I was empty, He filled me with someone who needed me right then.
This time around I didn’t tear off on a relationship bicylce unprepared.
I let God put on the training wheels.
When you’re broken, it is easy to let God be God in your life.
When you have made a mess out of everything and the walls have crashed down around you, it is a whole lot easier to let Him take control If that is where you are right now…don’t give up hope.
You are positioned perfectly for His best work. See, “His power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9
My weakness made room for His Power to work and move.
Boy, did He ever move.