Monday, February 28, 2011

It Is Never Too Late

It is never too late ... to redeem the future. This is one of my personal tenets. I love when I have the chance to witness a redeeming moment. Let me share my recent experience ~

This photograph of my sister and I from the mid-1950s pretty much illustrates my childhood. I grew up in a home filled with love and joy. Life was good growing up in southern California!

Part of the story of my childhood includes how our family came to be. I honestly can't remember a time when I didn't know that my sister, Kathy, was adopted. It simply is part of our loving story ~ that God gave my parents a precious daughter when it appeared they would never have a child.

And I never tired of hearing our mother tell the story. How our father's cousin, Stewart Hiatt, was a doctor in California's central valley. How "Uncle Stewart" ~ as we called him ~ telephoned my parents in the spring of 1950 to see if they wanted to adopt the baby of one of his patients. How much joy they felt as they brought Kathy home from a Modesto hospital at the age of three days old.

Then ~ wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles ~ almost two years after adopting Kathy, my parents discovered they were expecting me! Bill and Adele Goodrell, who thought they would never have children, were soon to have two daughters to call their own. And, as they say, the rest is history!

Then last fall Kathy came for a weekend visit to our home. I showed her the family trees I created on If you have worked on this website or watched NBC's Who Do You Think You Are?, you know that Ancestry is a vast database of genealogical information. When the information you enter into your family tree matches something or someone in that database, a small, green, spinning leaf appears next to that name on your tree to tell you that there is information in the database about this individual.

As Kathy and I talked together there in my home office, she expressed her longing to find her birth mother. I decided to start another tree ~ one that contained what little bit of information we knew about her birth family from the certificate from the hospital, past conversations with Mom and non-identifying information which Kathy had received from the state. Then we sat there talking and waiting and watching the computer screen for a spinning leaf to pop up. Quite a while passed before we accepted the fact that there was not a match for her birth mother's name. For the next three months, each time I logged into my account on Ancestry, there was nothing new to help me find Kathy's birth family. That is until about three weeks ago.

After months of trying various spellings of the only names we knew, and researching leads that led nowhere, I decided to try a different search; to compare the names I knew with names that were part of other public trees stored on the website. Within a couple of minutes, I noticed a match. One particular tree contained a name that was on Kathy's unamended* birth certificate, although a subsequent marriage had changed the surname.

A public tree on Ancestry is exactly that ~ public, for any and all to see. Additionally, through the website, it is possible to message anonymously the creator of the public tree with questions regarding individuals or dates which are listed. I was quite nervous as I typed a well-thought-out question into the message box of someone I had never met. I even changed my User name to something less obvious and more obscure so if I was about to disturb a hornet's nest, I could not be easily identified. I thought to myself, What's the worst that could happen? 

Over the next 48 hours, the owner of this tree and I exchanged messages; each message I sent asking more questions that might provide proof that I had found the woman who gave birth to my sister sixty years ago. It was late on Sunday night when I received a message giving me the confirmation that I needed. I had indeed found Kathy's birth family. I stayed up till almost 3 a.m., just connecting the dots between all the facts that I now knew.

The following morning I shared all my findings with my husband to check the accuracy of my information before calling my sister with the news. I was blessed to make the initial telephone call to the birth sister who was four years old when Kathy was born. What an experience to know that, although her birth mother is no longer living, Kathy's birth family now includes five siblings.

The past three weeks have been an adventure as I dig through boxes of our family photos and compare pictures of Kathy with pictures of her birth mother and siblings. The resemblance is truly remarkable! There is so much to share from my perspective of watching this precious, long overdue reunion. I find great joy in the reality that the very process of redeeming the future is taking place before my very eyes.

Note: Since my wonderful experience with Kathy, I have had the opportunity to help two of our friends, also adoptees, begin the work of  redeeming the future. 

*Amended Birth Certificate: A term used to refer to the new birth certificate that is issued for an adopted child after an adoption becomes final, which shows the new name of the adopted child and the adoptive parents as the parents of the child, as though they are the biological parents. This new birth certificate is placed in the public records in place of the child's original birth certificate. The original birth certificate is then stored in a separate secure location that is not accessible to the public, and may be viewed only by court order. (From

***UPDATE: Kathy's sister, Connie, flew out from Texas this past week to meet all of the family.  We had a wonderful time welcoming her into the clan, and looking at pictures she brought along.  It was absolutely amazing to see the family resemblance even into the third generation!

The photo shows three generations of 
Redfern~Goodrell~Briggs~Robinson families, 
including the Hardwick~Doolittle~Warner families!

Top row: Tony, niece Kelly and her son, Tyler 
Middle row: the sisters ~ Kathy, Connie and Bonnie
Front row: our daughter, Amy, and her daughter, Kaitlyn; 
Niece Kara, and her daughters, Cameron and Brooklyn

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day 2011

While we were dating in college, Tony made me a beautiful wooden clock. Beside the fact that it was handmade ~ for me, by him ~ what melted my heart was the poem he decoupaged on the face of the clock.

It was then I knew I had found a safe place to love and be loved. The words of that poem are just as meaningful on this Valentine's Day as they were some 40 years ago ~
A friend is one to whom
you can pour out the contents of your heart ~
chaff and grain alike.
Knowing that the gentlest of hands
will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping,
and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.
So today, I celebrate love ~
~ A love that embraces and forgives.
~ A love that sacrifices for the highest good of the one loved.
~ A love that knows the past and chooses to stay around to redeem the future.
Happy Valentine's Day to all who know this transforming love!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Grief's Grip ~ God's Grace

Today I feel the grip of grief. No matter what I do, I cannot seem to escape its clutch upon my heart. And yet, my soul is not anxious to find a place far from this shadow of death. For it is truly in this dark place, in this wilderness of my soul, that I find God to be so near.

I am no stranger to grief's hold. I have known it now for fifteen years. And over this past decade and a half, I have come to realize that I must eventually surrender to my grief.

In one sense, I find myself asking this today ~ Has it really been 15 years?  And then I hear my heart ask ~  Has it really been ONLY 15 years?

I recall so vividly that phone call, fifteen years ago this very hour. I remember the thirty hours of waiting with hope only to be forced to reconcile my heart to the horrific reality of brain death.

Yet, as I reflect on my journey of grief, I can truly say that I am grateful for God's unlimited provision of comfort, grace and peace. He has remained faithful to His Word ~

He keeps count of my tossings and put my tears in His bottle.
Psalm 56:8

He draws near to my broken heart and saves my crushed spirit.
Psalm 34:18

I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, 
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  
He put a new song in my mouth,a song of praise to our God. 
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:1-3

How blessed I am when I mourn, for I will know God's comfort.
Matthew 5:4

I can rejoice that He does not waste my sorrow. That through the things He has taught me along this path of sorrow, I can say of Scott, as the author of Hebrews said of Abel ~

Though he be dead, he still speaks.
Hebrews 11:4b

And if I can trust Him with this great loss, I can have confidence in His promise of reunion ~

But I do not want you to be uninformed, Bonnie, 
about those who are asleep, 
that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 
For since you believe that Jesus died and rose again, 
even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him 
those who have fallen asleep. 
For this I declare to you by a word from the Lord, 
that you who are alive, 
who are left until the coming of the Lord, 
will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven 
with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, 
and with the sound of the trumpet of God. 
And the dead in Christ will rise first. 
Then you who are alive, who are left, 
will be caught up together with them ~ with Scott
in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, 
and so we will always be with the Lord. 
Therefore encourage one another with these words.
I Thess. 4:13-18
Photo: Christ in Agony by Michael O'Brien