All The Colors of the Rainbow (An Unbiblical Marriage)

My husband and I have been married for 15 1/2 years.  We have a child together.  We disagree sometimes.  We make up again.  We have been through some real trials and tribulations, but we have weathered the course and I can say with all sincerity that I think our love and our commitment to each other is stronger than ever.

With the marriage equality issue squarely in the limelight right now, I have devoted a lot of thought to the issue of marriage.

I’ve been delving into the scriptures, and I realized that I have the privilege of being married to my wonderful husband only because the State does not put Biblical constraint on heterosexual marriages.  You see, I have been married before.  I was married at age 19 and divorced some 8 plus years later.  Both my first husband and I have moved on.  We are each married to new partners.  If, however, the State had taken the position that is consistent with the scripture, I could not have remarried.

 In 1 Corinthians 10-11, Paul stated, “10But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11(but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.”

My husband and I eloped.  The only “guests” at our wedding were the other people waiting at the little chapel for their turn to state their vows.  We did not have to seek approval of clergy.  We did not go through pastoral counseling (not that it would have been a bad idea), we just paid our money, said our vows and signed on the dotted line.

I have close friends in the gay and lesbian community.  I attend services at a church that has taken an “all are welcome” stance on the issue.  They have welcomed my divorced and remarried self with open arms.  Their love has shown me what I have been missing in my life as I worshiped in solitary.

I have witnessed first hand in both my personal and professional lives the havoc that can result when a gay person marries a straight person who is unaware of their sexuality.  Although those marriages are Biblical, they can leave broken hearts in their trail, and frequently do.

As a sinner, I leave the judgment to God.  I have never attended a gay wedding, but I will if invited.  Perhaps gay marriage is not sanctioned by the Bible.  Neither is remarriage after divorce.  Perhaps there are florists and bakers who would have refused to cater my wedding reception if I had planned one.  They’re not making the news, though.   I respect the right churches to refuse the rites of marriage to those couples whose unions are inconsistent with that church’s teachings.  I expect we will see more on that issue soon.

I thank God for my husband.  I thank my family, who may or may not have agreed with my decision to remarry, for accepting us and encouraging us.  I realize that on this issue, we may not agree.  I learn from them, and I am thankful for every opportunity for me to consider my stance on issues where law and faith intersect.  They have always been respectful when disagreeing with me, and I am confident that will continue on this issue.  I love them, and I know that they will continue to love me, just as they have in the past when we have disagreed.

I quietly celebrated yesterday.  I have many men and women in the LGBTQ community who I am honored to call “friend.”  They welcomed me with open arms into their circles.  They did not care that I was once divorced, an unwed mother, or a morbidly obese person.  They simply called me “friend.”

Just as they do not refer to me as their “obese, divorced and remarried heterosexual friend Betty,”  I do not think of any one of them as “My gay friend Max,” or “My lesbian friend Sally” – they are simply my friends.  I love them.  I will celebrate with them.

I am an Ally.  I am a welcoming Christian. I have chosen not to discriminate in my business or in my friendship.  I cannot personally use the scripture to deny the right to marry to anyone whose union doesn’t comport.  I gave up that right when I chose my own path.

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Count your Blessings

Prayer and meditation are important to me.  I’ll admit, though, that I am easily distracted.  I start praying and the dog barks or the neighbors’ kids laugh, and I’m instantly thinking about something else.  I’m one of those people who need tools to focus.

I began a new routine today, one that I hope to stick to. I began by writing in my journal – the one saved for positive thoughts and positive memories.  This act of recognizing peace, beauty and blessings in my life helped to get me into the proper mindset for part two, which was literally counting my blessings.

Some time ago I purchased a Mala, which is traditionally a Hindu or Buddhist tool for meditation.  I purchased it for its beauty, and it resides in my special space.  Today I picked up that Mala and tried it as a tool to focus for my prayer practice.  Holding the tassel, I began my prayer by thanking God for the many blessings in my life, including my family and my improved health.  I asked God to bless the people in my life and asked that as I said each name, that He would  bless that person with joy, hope, peace and health, and to bring into their life anything that they needed.

There are 108 smaller beads on the mala.  As the string of beads slipped through my fingers one at a time, the names of 108 people in my life came to me, one after another.  108 blessings.  I know about the struggles in some of their lives, and as those names came to me, I prayed for those situations.  Others I simply prayed that their lives would be filled with the blessings that they bring into my life.

I had no mental “prayer list.” The names and faces came into my mind one after another.  I was somewhat surprised by some of the names that came to mind.  Some were people who had hurt me, and along with praying for blessings for them, I prayed for help to forgive long-ago hurts.

108 people, 108 prayers, 108 blessings.  As I closed my prayer, I thanked God for such a rich life.  I thought it would be hard to come up with 108 people to pray for, but as I write this, the names and faces keep coming.

My life is blessed – truly blessed.

The Destructive Power of Anger

I try very hard not to hold a grudge.  I know how much energy it wastes.  Worse yet, while I’m wasting energy and feeling miserable, the person on the other end of the grudge is blissfully unaware of it.  Someone dear to me once told me, “don’t let someone take up space in your head without paying the rent.”  I’ve remembered that and try to live by it.

Last year, someone who I had to deal with on a regular basis did some things that made me angry, then they said some things that hurt my feelings.  The result wasn’t pretty.  To his great credit, he has extended an olive branch and tried to mend fences on several occasions.  Although I said the words, “I accept your apology,” the truth is that I never really let go of the incident.

I went to the gym this morning to run a couple of miles on the indoor track.  I set my app to remind me to run for two minutes then walk for 60 seconds.  My favorite playlist was playing, I felt “fast” (for me), and I was having a great run. The first half of the 2 mile run was great.  I thought about what I would do when I finished my workout.  I thought about the fun I had over the weekend.  I could feel the grin on my face.  People were smiling and waving.

Then, at 1.27 miles in (I happened to look at my running app), last year’s “incident” popped into my head.  As soon as I thought about that person and what had happened, I got frustrated.  I mentally told myself, “you must forgive him.”  I tried to just say the words, “I forgive,” and I couldn’t do it. I felt I wasn’t ready to forgive him.  I somehow NEEDED to continue to be angry with this person. I felt my mood continue to darken, and realized that I had begun to scowl instead of smiling.

I continued to argue mentally with myself for a few more minutes, and grudgingly thought, “I forgive you.”  I continued to run/walk and soon I began to think of possible ways to not mend fences with this person (fences keep people out), but instead to build bridges.   I felt the bounce return to my step and the smile come back to my face.

I finished my run, got back home, and I got curious.  I pulled up the chart of today’s run and scrolled the bar to 1.27 miles.  While I was filled with anger, I was slower.  You can see it clearly. I went from “green” peaks to only “yellow” peaks as soon as I began harboring resentment. Stewing on old hurts slowed me down. I was 37 second slower on mile 2 than on mile 1.

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I couldn’t ask for a clearer demonstration of the power that negativity / anger has over me.  It kills our joy, saps our strength and robs us what we are working to achieve.

Thankfully, I feel much better.  It’s my turn to extend the olive branch.  I will never again underestimate the destructive power of internalized anger.

Ohana Means Family. Family Means Nobody Gets Left Behind or Forgotten

I spent the day with family today.  Legally, we have no relationship.  On paper, we are strangers.

I was born in 1967 and surrendered for adoption.  I grew up always knowing that I was adopted. I can’t remember learning the fact.  My Mom always told me that she and Dad picked me.  Some days that made me feel very wanted and very special.  Other days, it made me feel sad, because for my mom and dad to pick me, someone else had to leave me behind.

Like many teens and young adults, anything that made me “different” made me feel a little awkward and self-conscious.  Adoption was one of those issues.  I sometimes wondered what my birth family would think of me if they could see me at that time in my life.  Would they be proud when I won the lead role in the musical, or when I was accepted to the university of my choice?  Would they have come to the football games to watch me march with the band?

When I gave birth to my first child and felt that bond like no other, I wondered what it must have felt like to leave the hospital without me.  My birth mother didn’t have a face for me then, but she was not forgotten.  She was a part of me, and I was sad for her.

I didn’t know much about my birth family.  My Mom always told me that the adoption caseworker had told her that my birthmother wanted me.  I hoped it was true.

I found my birthmother in 1997. In-home internet access was a relatively new thing.  I was bored one evening, and I put the details that I knew about my birth into a database on AOL, never thinking it would lead anywhere.  After all, adoptees often searched for years and spent lots of money on investigators to try to find their birth families.  I was shocked when, a few short minutes later, I received a phone call advising me that someone in the database matched me, and asking if I wanted to speak with my birthmother.

I called off work and drove 30 minutes from home the next day to meet her.  I was terrified, but as I stepped through her door, the fear melted instantaneously.  She and I were wearing the same earrings.  She gave me a glass of water in the same drinking glasses that i had in my kitchen cupboard.  We had some of the same artwork hanging in our respective homes.  The meeting convinced me that nature plays a strong role in development.

As our friendship grew, we began finishing one another’s sentences.  My mom would always be my mom – she, my “mum” felt more like a big sister.  Like many sisters, we had a falling out one day over something silly, and we didn’t connect again for years.  Neither of us was still angry, but both of us were afraid of reaching out – afraid of rejection.

We connected several more times over the years.  There was no anger, no hard feelings.  There was only love.  Somehow, years would pass between visits.  Life got in the way.  It’s funny how life does that.

This week, she asked me to lunch.  I was delighted to accept, and excited that my grandparents, too, would be available.  we spent hours and hours today talking.  We didn’t talk about adoption.  We didn’t talk about what it felt like to grow up somewhere else.  Instead, we talked as parents or grandparents and the younger generation would talk.  We talked about pets and experiences.  We talked about travel and hotels and antique stores. We talked about first jobs and cooking.

My adoptive family is my family.  My birth family is my family.  My husband’s family is my family.  “Family” is that affinity we have for others when we are tied together by blood, shared culture, or the bonds of marriage.  Family is Ohana.  I like the concept of Ohana – it is much broader than a mommy, a daddy and the children who reside in the same residence.  Ohana signifies the respect and cooperation that family members should have for and with one another.

Finding my birth family forced me to reconcile some feelings.  I still remember looking at my “new” family’s pictures and seeing faces that really looked an awful lot like mine looking back.  I remember some of my adoptive family – the only family I knew – questioning whether I would still want to be a part of that family now that I had found my “real” family.

I took the search farther a few years later and found the other side of my adoptive family living in another part of the country.  We haven’t met face to face, but they are a part of my Facebook world.  They, too, are Ohana.

I was adopted into a big, big family.  My concept of family already included ten aunts and uncles, their spouses, and a whole slew of cousins.  It wasn’t difficult to mentally expand that arrangement to include a few more.  Somehow, life kept the birth family from becoming a close-knit part of my family, but we were, and remain “Ohana.”

Although we didn’t discuss my adoption or the facts and feelings surrounding it on this particular occasion, we discussed it enough in the past that I knew that I was never forgotten.  Although I was elsewhere, I was safe and loved.  I was never truly left behind.  Likewise, the family I grew up with remains my family.  I love them dearly, and although I don’t see many of them often, either, when we talk face to face, it’s like we are picking up where we left off a month or a decade ago.  Ohana means nobody gets forgotten.

Yesterday was a special day for adopted persons in Ohio.  For the first time, thousands of Ohioans who were adopted between 1964 and 1996 can apply to receive a copy of their original birth certificate and adoption files.  For over 400,000 of us, finding lost family is a viable possibility.

More than 400 people waited outside of the Bureau of Vital Statistics yesterday to apply in person to see where they came from.  My birth family and I have never petitioned the court for an order unsealing the records to confirm that we are “Ohana.”  I haven’t decided whether I will apply to open that record.  Having found Ohana, there is a fear that when opened, the family I lost and then found again might not be on that piece of paper.  I don’t think that’s the case, but it’s possible.

As was stated in the Disney Film, “Lilo and Stitch,” “Ohana means family.  Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”  In my world, it doesn’t take blood to make you family.  It doesn’t take marriage.  Ohana, to me, are those people who are a part of me.  Ohana is stronger than friendship.  Family are the people who care about you even when you mess up.  They are the people who love you even when you say hurtful things or turn your back on them.  We may be separated from family for a time, but they are not left behind.  They are not forgotten.

As thousands of adoptees apply for their birth records, there will attempts to contact people separated for years – for decades.  Some of those people will have happy reunions.  Some will meet and be glad that they were able to fill in the blanks on their medical history forms.  Some will have doors slammed in their faces and phone calls ended abruptly.  I pray that those who don’t have a happy reunion will be able to cope with the fact that the rejection isn’t about them – it’s about facts and feelings over which they had no control.

My husband has finally figured out much of my complicated family tree.  I had to draw him a picture.  It’s okay.  My tree branches like crazy.  Some branches die off, and new ones grow.  The ones that aren’t with us leave a mark.  Nobody gets left behind or forgotten.

Ohana.

A Clean Heart (and the Cone of Shame)

Once upon a time, I had a little cat and a little dog.  They were sworn enemies.  One day the little dog gave chase to the little cat and caught her.  Little dog created two tiny punctures in the little cat’s side.  We washed them and treated them with antibiotic.  They scabbed over and nearly healed, but they must have begun to itch.  Little cat ripped off the scabs and the little holes became a little bigger.

We cleaned them again and they began to heal.  They were looking great when little cat once again ripped the scabs off and the holes became even larger.  This happened once again, and the two holes became one large gaping wound.  There was still no infection, but it was a scary looking wound.  We took little cat to the vet and he said that he couldn’t stitch it because the risk of infection would be too great.  Instead, he fitted her with the cone of shame.

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The cone of shame worked its trick.  She stopped picking at her wound, and the wound got smaller and smaller until it healed once and for all.

Yesterday I spent a lot of mental energy dwelling on something someone said to someone else that wasn’t even directed at me. My child brought home an illustration from class that I thought was inappropriate.  I posted it on Facebook and garnered support from my friends and began to feel self-righteous.  I presented my point of view in an email to the person who originated the distasteful example and went to my “zen den” to try to let it go.

The joy of sitting in a darkened room lit only by candles, listening to soft sounds and wrapped in the warm embrace of a soft blanket is that in the stillness, God can speak to our busy minds.  Last night I had such an experience.  As I watched the thoughts drift in and out of my mind, a bit of scripture turned into song came into view and stayed long enough to stick.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

-Psalm 51:10

I did not dwell on that thought last night, but the subtle experience made its impression.  My husband came to find me and we watched some television together and slept peacefully.

This morning I received an email in reply to my message.  The person who used the example that upset me failed to understand where I was coming from.  The peace I had found in my private sanctuary last night dissolved, and I experienced, once again, the sting of perceived rejection.

I got ready for work, leashed Jimi the Wonderdog and drove to the office.  My office is in disarray right now.  I’ve been trying to fit too many things into too little time while worrying about too many things.  I realized that no meaningful work could happen until I took care of the piles and restored proper order.

As I tidied piles and washed dirty mugs, the psalm/song came back into my mind.  Sometimes we need to take a moment to clean our heart so that we can get back to work, too.  Holding onto resentment allows us to go back to it time after time, picking and picking until the wound becomes larger and larger.   I asked God for help to forgive and forget and to renew a spirit of tolerance, kindness and forgiveness within my heart.

 I really don’t want to wear the Cone of Shame.

Love and Light,

*Be*