The date, June 13, 2021, will forever be branded in my memory.
I was at church getting ready to teach our littles when a Messenger Video began ringing on my phone. Within seconds I was looking into the eyes of my brother, Tony, for the first time. It was surreal. The realization of what had been transpiring over the last few months began to sink in. It was like a movie rolling out in real life.
Worship was taking place in the sanctuary, and all my life You have been faithful was the background music for the scene playing out before me. Through this video, I was looking into the eyes of our aunt, uncle and cousins all living in Germany. Tears ran down our faces. We knew our lives were forever changed.
Earlier in 2021, my other brother, Kelly, had completed a DNA test. He encouraged me to do the same. From an early age, Kelly and I were raised by our grandparents. Our father, who passed away six years ago, was a career soldier and our parents separated when I was eight-years-old; Kelly was five. And even though Kelly and I live in different states now we have remained close. We knew our mother had remarried and we had a half-brother, Tony, but we had never met him or had contact with him. Our mother was from Germany. Kelly and I were born there, and Kelly wanted to find relatives on his next trip to Germany.
The surprise came when Kelly had a hit on his DNA results. Tony, our half-brother, had also completed a DNA test looking for relatives on his father's side. He wasn't expecting anything on his mother's side. To say he was shocked is an understatement. Here he had stumbled upon a family secret that went back to post WWII. Within two days, he talked with my brother, Kelly. And Kelly revealed he had a sister --- ME.
For days, conversations went back and forth as Tony grappled with the fact, he had two siblings. And we marveled that something we thought would never happen, happened!
Over the next few months, we connected and shared our lives and life stories. Sometimes after hanging up the phone, I would stare at the screen with jumbled and intertwined feelings of awe, anxiety, joy, grief, sadness, and excitement. There were tears of joy, pain, and loss. And even more tears, as we each worked through processing this major event in our lives. The realization sunk in even deeper when we experienced rippling effects from these connections, as our families learned the news.
Kelly and I discovered our mom, whom we hadn’t connect with for years, was living only two miles from Tony. Deep personal conversations took place between my brother, Kelly, and I as we grappled with wounds of childhood and discussed some things for the very first time. Jesus' presence was so sweet and tender as He gently led us through this time. We came to realize we each had "worked" through pain, in our own way, over the years. We laughed at our young stubborn pride to prove ourselves and readily embraced the wonderful grace our newfound brother, Tony, extended to us, along with God's timing in the unfolding of our entwined stories.
Phone calls, texts and video chats were good but now we were ready to meet face-to-face. We chose Baltimore, Maryland in August of 2021.
Throughout the summer, the Holy Spirit kept whispering to me, "I am the God who sees you. You may have thought your past was forgotten but I am the God who redeems even those things you lost hope in or thought impossible. I am the God who sees you". (El Roi – Genesis 16:13)
This truth opened my heart to see that:
· It’s okay to acknowledge the mixed emotions coming and going. I can talk with God about them.
· There are areas in my life I now feel I can explore and confront because I know God has orchestrated this whole thing.
· I have a desire for genuine connection with God: a deep revelation that He's here and won't leave me.
· I am able to talk with someone I trust to navigate this vulnerability.
· I can ask the hard questions that come out of nowhere.
Through this whole time, my husband and family have been wonderful and so supportive. God gently showed me how He saw me as a child, as a young mom, and through every chapter of my life. He beckoned me to see Him in these seasons as well.
I left for Baltimore that weekend with hope and more importantly peace. As we gathered with our spouses in the hotel lobby, the tears and joy were incredible. The ease and comfort we had with each other was huge. We spent a wonderful weekend discovering things we had in common, sharing histories, pictures, meals, laughs, and dreams. We bonded in such powerful ways. We learned more about Tony's life and our mom, who is in the early stages of dementia.
I came home with fresh perspectives.
· Kelly and I weren't the only ones with childhood wounds.
· We wanted to love and respect each other over just seeing our own painful perspective.
· Although we knew about Tony, we didn't KNOW Tony.
· Tony, who had just found us, was now working through the whys, how's and what ifs. He was getting to KNOW us.
· Tony was an only child who never knew his grandparents.
· Kelly & I had the security and love of grandparents but absent parents.
· I can't fix the past or how we evolve through this connection with our separate experiences and relationships, but I can pray for us as the Lord leads and directs.
Recently our mom suffered a stroke. This March, we are planning a trip to meet her for the first time in 52 years! This blows my mind.
As the God who sees me: I am now seeing Him in our stories. There is no question he is writing this and using it for His glory.