Thursday, August 29, 2013

Facing My Biggest Fear--Part 2

Bienvenido de nuevo, amigos or, welcome back, friends!  You've come back for Part Two of the story of, facing the fear of finding my biological father--and I thank you.  A few of you have spoken or written privately to me regarding this story, and I appreciate your kindnesses and sincerity.  The support and encouragement I have derived from you is monumental, and I pray a special blessing on you for this.  Sharing the guts of your life isn't easy, so it has been very helpful to know there are people reading this who appreciate it, support it, and aren't just "curious."

Deciding to share this particular story of my life posed some problems for me--the least of which was length.  If you are a remotely faithful reader of this blog (or know me personally), then you know firsthand that "pithy" would not be a fitting adjective for me.  But this story isn't a short one, even for someone with the gift of brevity.  Hence, the continuation.  So thanks again for sticking with me.

As I stated briefly in Part One of this story, talking about my life with others has been only a good thing and has brought a lot of healing in my life.  God calls and equips us all differently, and talking and writing are areas in which I feel very comfortable.  It's always a great thing to help others and give glory to God for the things through which He has brought us.  It's a natural out-pouring of a relationship with Christ to want to testify to His power and the strength you derive from knowing Him.  Speaking and writing have always been the avenues to which I've been naturally drawn for doing this.  But as great as sharing is, it has never seemed to bring full closure to this issue in my life--as much as I have always wanted to think it did. 

There is another part of this story that warrants addition.  After that night of meeting my daughter, Allie, for dinner, and making the decision together to begin searching for my father, I felt an immense amount of relief.  The weight that was lifted off me that night was unexpectedly huge.  Though I hadn't actually faced the fear of meeting my father yet, not making the decision to do so had been weighing me down more than I realized.  Oftentimes, the fear and avoidance we carry due to not wanting to deal with an issue is actually worse than dealing with it!  Being a middle-aged woman, having occasional sleepless nights is a common problem (as it is with many of us).  So I justified my restless nights those previous three months as just, "middle-aged" issues, when I know God was actually trying to get my attention many of those nights.  God often awakens us in our sleep to talk to us because it is sadly the best time for Him to do it--no one and nothing else is beckoning our call or distracting us at that time, and we are still.  I realized that God had been trying to get my attention many nights since my chat in March with my friend, JB.  After finally making the decision with Allie to find her grandfather (my father), I slept like a baby every night afterward.  Why do we fight God in areas where He just wants to help and guide us?  Fear.  It's always fear with me.

It was odd really--you would think making such an enormous decision would have created more anxiety for me.  Though making the decision and promising my daughter to search for my father did bring fears to the surface that I was trying to bury, it simultaneously gave me unexpected clarity and relief from the pain I was stuffing.  Just as sharing about my life in smaller settings has always forced me to process feelings and thoughts, making the decision to finally resolve the issue entirely brought purpose to the meaningless.  All the time I had seemingly wasted over the years thinking about doing something, and all the painful thoughts I had ever had, now seemed like stepping stones to a divine plan. The entire situation seemed hopeful instead of hopeless.  I felt like the, "big scary monster" in my life was being slowly put to death--and it gave me such empowerment and freedom.  I know and believe that God gave me the grace and peace I was going to need to deal with the situation on that night because I had FINALLY listened to Him and trusted Him to walk with me through it.  God just rolls like that--He gives us what we need when we need it most.  Even more than that, God has used that fact as a reminder in my life of His provision and trustworthiness many times since.  It has become yet another stone in my altar of faith in Him.  I pray it spurs me to act on faith and quick obedience to God in the future, knowing I can trust Him.  His character is such that He will provide for me regardless of how scary things seem.

Personally, I think, "what-ifs" totally suck.  Yes, there's risk involved in facing a fear of any kind--and yes, it doesn't always work out just as we expect or want.  But if you never take the leap, how will you ever know how it would have turned out?  That question can stifle and torture you in your life all on its own.  In my quest last year to remove all fear from my life, (and I'm still working to maintain this in my life, by the way), one of the visuals I gave myself was to think about lying on the side of the highway in a car wreck, alert and aware that my death is impending.  Of whom and what would I be thinking?  What would I regret?  What would I wish I had done or been less afraid of doing?  With whom would I regret not having a needed conversation?  Would there be anyone I had wronged on any level to whom I should have apologized?  Would there be anyone I'd regret never telling them I love them?  This visual not only drove me to face several fears last year, but it prompted me to make some needed changes and strive for some things in my life that were past due:  trusting God more and acting on my faith in Him for starters.  Being less of a, "people-pleaser," was another biggie.  Basically, living each day with more hope and way less fear!  The cool thing is that I can now answer all of those questions knowing full well that I've handled the business of my life (the good, the bad, and the ugly)!  With continued maintenance, there will be no regrets if I end up on the side of the road one day (and with my current driving behavior in my Mini Cooper, this isn't that far-fetched)!   It became clear to me by mid-summer last year that finding my father was the last item on my, "fear and regret" list.  It was a biggie, so I guess I saved the best for last.

Though I write of this story as if it were a "big deal," it's also important to state that I am well-aware that there are many others out there who do not know their real parent(s) and who never will.  There are precious children adopted every day who were left at orphanages and will never know much about the origins of their life.  Do I believe this will stifle and torture their future?  Only if they let it.  But I fully realize that this story is not rare or special at all--and that is actually one of the main reasons I chose to be transparent and write about this.  It is my strong desire to encourage anyone else out there who is carrying the same unknowns, guilt, questions, regret, fears, and pain to take the chance and face it all--or if that's not possible, to release it for good to the Lord.  He is your one true first origin anyway.  But I am convinced that putting missing puzzle pieces into place in one's life is only a healthy thing if you have the ability to do so. 

Let's see...so where did we leave off?  The search.  Allie and I made the decision to find my father (her grandfather) on June 19, 2012.  That week was a life-rocking week for a non-boat-rocker like me.  In my quest for fearless living, God had also urged me (okay, it was more like He had drug me) to make the decision to go to a friend with whom I'd suffered a broken relationship.  He had been prompting me to go apologize for my part in our misunderstanding for several months, even if only to free them and myself from the whole, "what-if" scenario.  So this was another cause for many restless nights that spring.  I obeyed God and went.  Let's just say it didn't go well.  As if that wasn't enough, we began the search for my father that week, too (it was a bit much for one week--pace yourself, Steph)!  Allie, being a good sleuth with Internet savvy skills, found a few addresses for him, as well as phone numbers.  She also found out information about other family members--some of which was pretty hard to discover.  My Aunt Dorothy (or Aunt "Socorro," as was her given Spanish name), had died several years ago.  So my dream of meeting-up with her again, getting to know her better, and eating her amazing Mexican food died right along with that knowledge.  It was a painful night.  Allie also discovered many other deaths in the family that day and we began to realize that there actually weren't many in our family left.  I grieved this a great deal that evening, realizing that I had only recently missed opportunities to know my grandfather, my grandmother, and several other relatives.  If only I had gotten my act together with this fear-thing ten years ago, I would have perhaps been able to meet and know all of them.   But this is what we get when we live with fear for too long--more regret.

I allowed my grief to swell that night, but realized the next morning that there was no point in it.  Thank God for mornings--things always look better in the morning.  It hit me that what was done was done.  At least I had the hope of meeting and finding my father.  My daughter, who is so level-headed and such an encouragement to me, reminded me that this was our initial desire anyway.  But being me, I then prayed fervently that we wouldn't find out that we were too late for that, as well.  I was tempted to fear about this for a few days, but each time I would cast it down in Christ's name and leave it at God's feet.  I knew that God would not have brought my friend, JB, and I, to the conversation we had in March, and Allie and I to the decision we had made that week, only to kill all my hopes entirely.  God knew this particular test in facing my fears was huge for me, and I believed that He wasn't going to allow His faithfulness to appear disproved in it.  The many recent deaths we had found in our biological family were a set-back (as was my grand apology with a former friend that week).  But I didn't allow any of that to completely destroy my faith in God in what I was seeking to do with this fear-thing.  That in and of itself was a huge victory over fear for me.  My grief faded and I was even filled with a strong feeling that this was going to be nothing but a great thing.

For reasons such as travel schedules, vacations, and other commitments, Allie and I decided to wait until Labor Day weekend to call my father.  We wanted to do it at a time when we could be together and do it together, and our schedules were such that Labor Day weekend was the first time we could make that happen.  In considering the feelings of my father and what this knowledge might do to him and his life, we also wanted to call him on a long weekend.  This way if he weren't retired, he would have some extra time to process receiving such a phone call before having to return to work.  Our plan for Labor Day seemed perfect.  We would call first thing on Saturday morning and pray in the interim.

The remainder of summer seemed endless.  I pondered over and over in my mind what I would say to my father.  I rehearsed--a lot.  I sought counsel from wise friends who knew my story and whose opinions I trusted (God bless you--you know who you are).  I asked them for prayer support and I know they gave it.  I asked them for precise wording advice on how I should handle the conversation.  I took lots of notes, mental and actual, from those friends.  I practiced differing versions from their advice for various scenarios that could occur in my conversation with my father.  I went over and over it while driving in my car, working out at the gym, running my trails, swimming laps, laying at the pool, you name it--I rehearsed.  I was going to be prepared and ready for anything.  And I prayed.  Boy, did I pray.  I prayed for my father--for God to soften and prepare his heart for my call and my entry into his life, even if the one phone call was all that happened.  I prayed for myself--that God would at least allow me to meet my father, even if it was a one-time deal.  I prayed that God would bring healing, peace, and fearless love to us both regardless of how it all turned-out.  I prayed for my mother--that God would prepare her heart for the knowledge that I had found and met my father.  I asked God to help her understand the reasons why Allie and I needed to do this, and that she would never question our love and loyalty.  I asked God to shelter her from fear (there's that word again) and that He'd give me the exact words and perfect timing to tell her and my dad (her husband). 

Labor Day weekend came.  Matt and I headed to spend it with Allie and our son in-law, Kale.  When we arrived, the four of us went out for a fabulous dinner that Friday night, and Allie and I discussed our plan more.  We prayed about it, let it go, and just enjoyed our evening together.  The next morning, we ate a nice breakfast and prepared for the big moment.  Allie and I had our notes in front of us and the four of us prayed.  Then I placed the first call to the first phone number.  It was disconnected.  So we moved on to phone number #2.  No answer.  Upon calling the last number we had for my father, a woman with a Latina accent answered.  I said, "Hello.  My name is, Stephanie Teagarden, and I am trying to reach, [insert my father's name here]."  I told her I was the daughter of, [insert my mother's name here].  She replied, "I don't know her," and hung up.  I was dumbfounded.  That was it.  That was the last number for him that we had.  Did this lady live with my dad, and just didn't want to let me speak with him?  Was it a wrong number?  Was she pretending to not recognize my mother's name in an effort to avoid me and keep me from my father?  I had no way of knowing.  I was so discouraged that we had built this up all summer and now we were hitting all these dead-ends.  Allie immediately said, "Mom, we have other family phone numbers.  Let's just move on to someone else."  But I didn't want to ignore the number with no answer because I felt it was better to not involve other family members if we could possibly reach my father directly first (in order to alleviate more worms in the already big can of worms).  So we made many attempts to reach him at the one remaining number.  But each time it was the same thing--no answer and no voicemail message.

By Labor Day (Monday), we decided it was time to go ahead and call another family member.  I placed the call to what ended up being my uncle's house--my dad's half-brother.  His wife (my aunt) answered the phone and we spoke for nearly two hours.  She was very kind.  She listened to my story and shared the details of the family history with me.  She filled me in on the recent deaths and on many other matters of interest.  It was a hard but good conversation.  I enjoyed speaking with her greatly, but she sadly shared that her husband and my father were somewhat estranged (though she didn't share many details as to why).  She did say that they could get a hold of him for me if I wanted to go that route.  She basically offered to kindly play, "mediator," in the situation to lessen the stress on both ends.  I felt this was perhaps her way of hinting that my dad would prefer this method.  So at the end of our conversation, I felt comfortable enough to give her all my contact information and tell her to let him know I was trying to reach him.  I told her to tell my father that if he felt comfortable doing so, he could call me anytime, and that I didn't want anything except to talk to him and/or meet him.  I added, "If he doesn't want to talk or meet, I completely understand.  I just needed to try."  She agreed to do all this and to also tell my uncle (her husband) about my call when he returned home that night.  I hung up feeling total relief and peace.  The ball was in my father's court and I had done what I had set out to do.  Now it was up to my aunt, my father, and God.