My parents introduced me to Christ, or maybe it is more accurate for me to say, they helped me find Him in churches, in work, in friendships, in family. I am and will always be forever grateful for the introduction.
My dad grew up in a small town in Northern Michigan where everybody knew everybody. Our family made at least yearly visits to this tiny town to visit my Grandma O who still lived there. We went when other family members went for our Osterbaan reunion and other times we went by ourselves. If we stayed through Sunday, we went to church with my Grandma O. and anyone else who met us there. God mattered to my father. He still does matter a whole lot to both of my parents.
Wednesday night catechism classes at church were attended by myself and my brothers and my parents were also always active in church. They helped with Sunday School, they lead small group bible studies, they sang in choir, and they invited families over for Sunday dinner. Church was part of who we were and we were what helped make up church. Later, when we moved “up north” to Trufant, we still went to church, but I sensed a bit of loss and sadness as there were no Christian Reformed or Reformed churches nearby. Our family found a local church down the road with no denomination tied to its name nor large organization to be connected to. Nevertheless, my parents jumped in, got busy, and by default, that meant we kids did too. (I met my future husband and his family there, but that is a story for another day.) A rural life was started and what was lost in church for my father was found in renewed connection to farm, land, and open spaces. From a child’s view; It looked like my dad could breathe again.
We found rhythm in work and worship and fellowship with neighbors and church families. My brothers began driving, dating, and getting paid for their work outside the home. Work prior to that was expected and done often. We planted a garden, picked blasted beans that never seemed to quit, snapped beans, and then canned the results. Wood was cut and wood was split into smaller chunks, and we hauled those awful scratching branches away. Grass was cut, clothes were washed and hung outside, dishes were cleaned, supper was made and walls got painted. Bathrooms were scrubbed and so was the kitchen; along with heavy cast iron pots and pans. Some years there were chickens and feeding them twice a day was added to list, as well as, avoiding their pecking beaks when collecting eggs. My dad always had another job, sometimes two other jobs when he was laid off from his primary job. My mom sometimes worked too outside the home. They did what they needed to do to provide for their family of 6. Sundays were rest days and so we did just that.
My parents introduced me to the value of work, or maybe it is more accurate to say, they helped me discover, practice, and later see the value of working hard. I am and will forever be grateful for the introduction.
People often ask me about what it is like to be adopted. This is a hard question. A really hard question. The older I get the more complex I believe the life of an adoptee is. While we learn more about our unique genetics; we also know much is given to us through the environments we live in. Genes give us on the surface; eye, skin and hair color, but genes are also called the “blueprints for life”. We are learning that our DNA influences risk taking, handedness, obesity, ADHD, diabetes, cancer, sleep cycles, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and openness to name a few. One woman wrote that pulling out that which is genetic and that which is environment is like mixing red and blue paints to create purple and then trying to separate blue and red back out again.
Once I found out who my birth parents were; I learned that some of the environment I grew up in supported my genetic makeup. There are many more gifts other than work and faith; that my parents gave to me. My parents supported me by giving me what they could and what they knew to be valuable. However, so did my first parents through their gifts of heredity. As an adopted person, You end up with a hopefully well matched group of gifts from all parents. Some people have suggested to me at this point of the conversation, that this is no different from any other family dynamic. That is, everyone hopes for a good mix of genetics and environment thrown into who they are and who they ultimately will be. This is true too. I believe though, that the complexity, albeit the challenge of it all as an adoptee, is in not knowing the genetic pieces. So, if I go back to the paint color analogy; it is like mixing red and hopefully, maybe blue together, in a cross your fingers, hope to die, pray it is going to be purple paint color. But what if the genetic pieces are white, not blue at all; the environment is still red and you end up with orange? This will be a.o.k. if everyone was expecting orange or can be ok with orange. However, if the promise, the guarantee, the hopes and the dreams were all laid down on getting purple; then seriously hard work has to happen in all kinds of shapes, sizes and ways for everyone to be happy with orange and not purple.