Thanks, Mom! Thanks for the reminder that I am no accident but that I have been fashioned and formed with a purpose. Thanks for your sacrifice in carrying me to term, a sacrifice which was a major means in bringing me to that purpose, and thanks for praying that I would come to know the great sacrifice of Jesus – for in Him I have found my purpose and my peace. If I don’t meet you in this life, I look forward to greeting you in the next!
50 years ago this past April 28, a 31 year old single mother struggled all alone in a hospital delivery room ending a hard and difficult 9 month journey – a journey that had included hiding out in a rural hunting cabin in the woods outside of Sumter, SC in order to avoid the “shame” of her pregnancy. She almost died giving birth to the little girl whom only months earlier she had come so close to aborting – having gone so far as to spend quite a stretch of time in the waiting room of a local “chiropractic” clinic which was but a cover for an abortion mill. Her selfless sacrifice is why I’m here and on this, my birthday, I give thanks to the one who suffered and gave up her dreams that I might be able to have dreams. This post is one that I wrote several years ago after receiving a letter from that special lady. It contains my story, her story, and perhaps even some of your own.
I don’t know how many of you know my story. It is one that I didn’t know fully until about 12 years ago – and one that in many ways I will not know FULLY fully until I reach my eternal home. You see, I’m adopted. I’ve known that as a fact for as long as I can remember and it’s never been a big deal. It’s simply been a reality.
My adoptive parents never hid adoption from me. Instead they held it openly forth as a good thing – a very good thing and they repeatedly told me that I was chosen by them. (Now, I have to admit that the “chosen” mantra with which I grew up is not quite as precious to me as it once was. Several years ago my adoptive parents “chose” to end our relationship just as they had “chosen” to begin it 35 years earlier. They recanted on their adoption promise and left me sort of re-orphaned in the dust. No reason was given other than that they just didn’t want anything else to do with me. That kind of hurt – OK that’s an understatement, it was absolutely crushing- and their actions ended up putting a whole new twist on the fleshed out, rubber meeting the road definition of love and trust for me. But, I digress…)
12 years ago – many years before Mom and Dad bailed – my husband Phillip and I set out to find a little bit of info on my genetic heritage. It was simply out of curiosity and simply out of a desire to say “thanks” if that was possible.
We ordered the official South Carolina records regarding my adoption. The Palmetto State is a “closed” and non-identifying state where adoption is concerned, so the 25 page packet we received read something like this.
“Baby _____________ was born on _______ _______ in _________ county. Her biological mother was ________ ____________ who was born in _____________ county ________. She attended __________ Institute in ___________ where she received a degree in sacred music”
As you can see there was tons of helpful information there! Just T. O. N. S!!
Upon gazing at those pages, my incredibly wise (and also rather handsome) husband realized that this particular document had been typed on an old 1968ish brand typewriter.
“So what?” you may be asking.
“So everything!” I shall reply.
An old typewriter means that all of the spaces on the entire document were the exact same size and therefore we were able to determine precisely how many letters each and every single word in that document contained.
My mother’s first name had 5 letters.
Her last name had 4.
The town where she grew up had 9 and the college she attended had 7.
We were beginning an amazing investigative journey and were going to find out, Lord willing, how I came to be.
Now, long and amazing story made short and slightly less dramatic, we finally determined that there were 2 states mentioned in the document. South Carolina (my home state) and a second seven letter state where my mother had attended school and had worked for a number of years.
In God’s providence that other state still had the last letter partially remaining on our Xeroxed copy. That letter was an “a” and we now had the other state nailed down to Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, or Florida.
Now, what to do with that information?!
I decided to contact the Department of Social Services and see if my case worker could help in anyway at all. I knew she was limited due to the law, but I also knew she was about my only hope.
Once I had her on the phone I asked her, point blank, if she could possibly tell me the other state’s name.
“Nope. Sorry, that’s completely against protocol.”
“Sure,” I said, “no problem. May I ask you another question?”
“By all means, Lori. I’ll gladly help if I can.”
“This other state, if you were eating breakfast in one of its restaurants, would they serve grits?”
She chortled and then guffawed (perhaps at my utter audacity) and informed me “Why yes, Lori – you most certainly could get grits!”
BOOM!! We’d narrowed it down from 4 states to 3 – it was a state in the south!!
I continued, “Thanks so much for your help, may I ask you one other question?”
Probably wondering what was coming next she said: “Please do, Lori.”
“OK, in this other state – would my biological mom have been more likely to eat peaches, hang out on the beaches, or listen to civil rights speeches?”
I think she spewed her soda and then with much muffled phone etiquette I managed to hear her slowly utter (in the midst of LOL land) “Hang out on the beaches, eh?” Followed by “Lori, I don’t know that I should actually answer that!”
I let her off the hook, recognizing that she had graciously and cryptically answered my question through her stealthish “hang out on the beaches” laughter. I owe her a huge thank you because in her tittering she sent me to Florida – the land of beaches and the possible key to locating the woman whom God had ordained to grant me life!!
From there I headed to my trusty State Farm Atlas to track down a Florida town with the same number of letters as the town where her college was located. I found it – seeing it as a possibility because only a year before we had met a friend who had attended a college in this very community – perfectly timed providence! Though the name of his 1990’s college had changed slightly from the name of her 1950’s institute I knew there was a possibility that they were one and the same and that I might just be on my way to a major break in this marvelous mystery.
I picked up the phone, called the college alumni office and asked them a few questions about female students majoring in sacred music who were from South Carolina during the years she would have been there. At the time she would have attended, there were only 5 women in the program. Two of them had a South Carolina home town. One of them fit flawlessly into every single typed blank on that document.
We had her – name, birth date, home town, place of employment after graduation, and even her married name. Everything – EVERYTHING – fit perfectly like the pieces of a puzzle – precise, precious, and… providential!
At this point I contacted an adoption investigator whom I had attempted to use earlier – only to find out in that initial conversation that adoption investigators are VERY expensive and therefore were NOT an option for the poor seminary bound Sealy family!! When she found out all that we had uncovered on our own she was floored and volunteered to pull up the remaining info for us for free. That info was to include a phone number drawn off of my mother’s very own drivers license!!
There was, however, one catch – my mom did not have a driver’s license …
…BUT her father did.
Suddenly I found myself in quite a quandary. I had my biological grandfather’s home phone number. But stop and think with me, it is not like I can call up and say:
“Hey grandpa – how’s it going?! I know you don’t know me from Adam’s house cat, but I am your long lost granddaughter – you know, the one that you probably hadn’t even heard you had. Hello? You breathing ok there gramps?! Listen, do you think you could you tell me how to get in touch with mom?!”
No, that wouldn’t have been proper or prudent, and I realized it could have caused such great damage to her, to him, to anyone involved in the story that I still didn’t really know.
So, what to do?
WHAT to do?!
I wanted to be honest but not foolish. And after a lot of prayer, I picked up the phone and cautiously called my “grandaddy”.
A kind and ancient sounding voice answered the phone – like a voice I should have known but never got the chance to.
I paused and then said, “Hello!” back, telling him I was trying to track down his daughter.
“Oh sure sweetheart here’s her phone number. Would you like her street address too? She lives in Florida now.”
O K – that was just a bit too easy!!!
(Sidenote – my biological grandfather died 2 months later. As I recall this story, I find myself so thankful for God’s providence in having us seek out this information when we did, for it was within 60 days of being an utter impossibility.)
So…here I was, 29 years after my birth holding my biological mom’s name, address and phone number in my hands. It was utterly surreal!!
I called Phillip at work.
“You’re not going to believe this, babe… YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS!! I’ve got her. I’VE. GOT. HER.. .uhhh… now what do I do with her?”
Phillip’s response was straight forward, as it often is: “GO CALL HER!!!”
I think I will!!”
Now, just so you know – I wasn’t planning on simply blurting out a “Hey Mom!! Remember me? – I’m the little chick you gave up for adoption 29 years ago. I decided to look you up. How’s life been treating you? You wanna go grab a mocha and hang with your dear ol’ daught sometime?”
Bad move – very bad move – and, by grace, I wasn’t going to make it!!
What I had planned was to make sure that she was alone so that we would be able to speak openly, freely and in complete privacy. I wanted to give a cautious and patient prelude to the BIG KERPOWEY that was about to blow! As a matter of fact, in the midst of striving to do so I had 3 printed pages of perfectly planned notes right there in front of my face as a help and guide through the possible mine field I might be about to step in.
(Now, please read the following section with great monotomatic nervousness and include some VERY pregnant pauses between each and every single syllable.)
“Hello, Mrs. _______.
My name is Lori Sealy and I’m calling you from Montgomery, Alabama.
Do you have a moment to talk? This phone call is of a rather private and confidential subject matter and I’d like to insure that it is a good time to speak with you. Are you originally from _______________, SC and did you attend ______________ Institute in ___________ Florida?”
I was hoping to s l o w l y prepare her for the upcoming bomb blast from the distant past.
That was my paper plan.
Here’s how it actually played out:
“Hello this is ___________ ___________, how may I help you?”
I momentarily froze –
– this could be my biological mom’s voice – the source of my own voice.
“Hello?” she said again.
“Uh, hi. My name is Lori Sealy and I’m calling you from Montgomery, Alabama. Do you have a moment to talk?”
“Oh no, I’m so sorry not right now. I’m teaching a piano lesson. Could you possibly call back on Monday?”
“Uh, yes ma’am, certainly, uh Monday. Yes… um … I’ll talk to you on uh Monday!”
Wait a minute!!
This is Friday—-that means I have a whole weekend to wait!!
You have GOT to be kidding me!!!”
Nope! No joking on that one – no joking at all – just the facts – the long over the course of 2 and 1/2 day facts!!
Shall I simply say: Longest. Weekend. Of. My. LIFE!!!!
Monday finally came and I finally was able to call again.
Here’s the gist of round two:
“Hello this is ___________ _________, how may I help you?”
“Um, yes, Ms. _____________, this is Lori Sealy calling again.”
“Oh yes – now, let me ask you something. Is your name Heather?!”
All right – I realize that this question means NOTHING to you as you read it, but let me say that it meant EVERYTHING to me as I listened on the other end of that phone.
Her question just about knocked me out of my chair.
Why? Well, here’s why: on my original birth certificate there was the original birth name of …
…”Heather.” Heather was the name given to me by my biological mother!
Yep – I had found her!
I HAD FOUND HER!!
And she knew I had found her even before I told her I had found her!
Now, back to the conversation:
“Well, I suppose my name is sort of Heather because that is the name that my birth mom gave to me.”
“Oh sweet child – I am who you are looking for!!!”
OK – I didn’t have that scenario anywhere in my three pages of carefully crafted notes!!
I couldn’t get a word out.
Truly I was speechless.
But, she had questions – lots and lots of questions, and I was about to enter into the very first conversation of my life with the very lady who gave me life!
There are no words to convey the emotions,
the surreal nature of the moment.
“Lori, do you play piano?”
“Why yes ma’am I do. I’ve been playing piano since I was 5. I was a music major, trained classically and now I’m a songwriter.”
“That is so wonderful to hear. Now, Lori, are you a Christian?”
“Oh, yes ma’am, by grace, indeed I am. It was quite a journey for me to get here, though. I was a rather stubborn skeptic and even an atheist for a season – but yes ma’am Christ has saved me from my sins. I am His and He is mine.”
She paused and I’m pretty sure I could hear tears beginning to drip from her cheeks onto the receiver.
And then I hear this:
“Lori, you wouldn’t know it, but when you were born I asked the nurse if I could hold you for just 5 minutes before they took you away. It was contrary to the hospital rules but the nurse made an exception for us. While I held you I stroked your fingers and asked my God to do two things for you. I asked Him to let you play the piano and I asked Him to save you.”
God heard my mother’s prayer and He answered my mother’s prayer!!
Specifically and salvifically He answered it!!
During that conversation I also found out from her a little bit of how God – in frowning providence – orchestrated my arrival into this world.
My mom had been married and divorced and then found herself in an adulterous affair with a married man – a married man who had 6 children. They went to have an abortion because there was NO way they were going to have child – particularly not THIS way.
He drove her to the abortion clinic. They went inside, she signed the register, and then sat down in the waiting room. She said they sat there for quite some time – it seemed like forever…
They called the names of others, but never her own. Other children’s lives were snuffed out as other women mysteriously passed her place on the roster.
The waiting continued.
As she waited, a Sunday School lesson on the 10 commandments popped into her head – a lesson from decades earlier – a lesson she just “happened” to sit in on because she just “happened” to be visiting her Aunt and Uncle that particular weekend and they just “happened” to take her to church – a place her parents never took her to. That one Sunday School lesson just “happened” to come to her mind in that very moment as she just “happened” to be strangely stuck waiting in that clinic lobby!!
The words of that lesson?
“Thou shalt not kill!”
She told me that it was as if a lightning bolt struck her soul, and she turned to my biological father and said, “This is wrong. There is no way that can I do this. I will find some way to bring this child to term but I will not take its life!”
She walked out of the clinic all alone, sparing my life, and she kept her word in carrying me to term.
She spent the next 8 months living in a one room hunting cabin somewhere in the woods just outside of Sumter, South Carolina.
She was alone,
She said she wanted to die but she was not about to die because she was going to see that I lived – no matter what it cost her! And I did live. And it did cost. But, by God’s intervening grace I was snatched out of the valley of the shadow of death, and you are reading these words because a single, suffering, soul chose to set herself aside for my sake. This lonely, loving lady brought me to full term, endured much travail, and graciously gave me up for adoption.
So, why am I telling you any of this? Well…here’s why:
Today I went to my mail box and in that mailbox was a birthday note from this precious woman…
…this woman who is still alone
– no family
– no husband
– no children
– A L O N E !
She gave everything up for me!
She watched dreams die because of me!
She could be bitter, despising the very thought of my existence, but bitterness is not what dripped from pen to paper.
Here is what I read in that letter:
“Lori, God made you on purpose. You’re not an afterthought, you’re not on earth ‘just because,’ and you’re not a random act of His creativity. You were given His 100% stamp of approval from head to toe before you were born – and the moment you were born He beamed with joy. I did too! Happy Birthday!”
So that you understand the context of this story, let me tell you that since making contact we swap letters and pictures fairly regularly and every now and then we even swap a phone call… but we have never met.
This past Christmas I called her and I got her answering machine. I left a message telling her that Phillip, I, and the kids would love to come down and meet her face to face if she was up to it.
I never heard back from her – well, not until today.
Her note continued…
“Lori, I loved receiving your call. As much as I would love to see you, I have become mostly blind and crippled so now is just not the time. God is helping me to keep working for Him! It’s a miracle. He is ever present with you and with me. Blessings from Him to you and Phillip and Joshua and Elizabeth. I love you. In Jesus name, ___________”
I am simply blown away.
Just yesterday, just moments before going to that mailbox, I told my husband, “You know, Mom and Dad have walked away from me and I’m starting to wonder if perhaps I may have lost another Mom. ____________ has not called or written back since I mentioned us going down to meet her and I think she may have bailed too.”
My heart was sad.
But my heart has been made glad and God has reminded me – through the dear lady who suffered so much that I might even be here – that I am not here by accident but by Divine appointment and foreordination.
He allowed a painfully crooked path to be the course by which Lori Sealy would enter the world – but He allowed it nonetheless – and He allowed it in His perfect wisdom and according to His perfect faithfulness (Isaiah 25:1).
My best birthday note ever ended with a reference to Psalm 139:13 -16 which says:
“For You did form my inward parts;
You did knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
wonderful are Your works,
and my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You
when I was made in the secret place.
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
and in Your book they were all written,
all the days that were ordained for me,
when as yet there was not one of them.”
Friends – that’s my story and honestly, in some ways it is all of your stories too.
You, as I, have been knitted and fashioned to be in this world at this time by the sovereign, wise, holy, righteous and merciful hands of the Creator God.
It is in Him that you and I “live and move and have our being.”
It is He “who made us and not we ourselves.”
It is He who has ordered our steps even though we think we have planned our ways.
It is for His glory that we are here – whether we want to admit it or not. His glory is our perfect purpose and our greatest good, and it is only when we begin to live in that light that we will ever truly find the peace, contentment, lasting love, and real joy that we so deeply long for.
I’ve walked through a dark valley or two … or ten … during my time on this planet.
I know what it is to hurt and to hate.
I know what it is to be hurt and to be hated.
I’ve lived long seasons of seeking my own comfort and protection at any cost.
And I’ve been astonished as I’ve gotten to know a Savior who set aside His own comfort and protection at such a great cost in order to provide me with comfort and protection that is eternal and imperishable, that never spoils or fades!
Jesus entered this world and gave His all for me. He sacrificed everything for me and He did it knowing everything about me. Knowing the good and the bad; knowing everything I’d ever done and ever thought and ever felt; knowing everything I am yet to do and think and feel.
Knowing all of these things (the good, the bad, the awfully ugly), Jesus loved me and gave Himself for me, taking my sins upon Himself and placing His righteousness upon me!
He didn’t have to do it, but He did!
I did nothing to deserve His love.
He did everything prove His love!
The thought of this love is more than amazing to me. On the cross of Calvary I see the ultimate sacrifice of love! Much, much greater than my mom’s sacrifice for me is Christ’s sacrifice for me!
Dear one, you who are amazed at what my birth mom did for me, do you see how much greater is that which Christ has done for you? No human sacrifice compares to His.
God became man. He who was rich beyond all splendor for our sinful sake became poor beyond all imagination. He who is life endured our death. He who knew no sin bore our sin.
“Amazing love, how can it be, that Christ, my God, hath died for me?!”
Do you know Him?
Do you know this One who has given you your physical life?
You are here because He has created you – and He has created you with purpose.
Do you know Him?
Do you know this One – this Jesus – who is the Author not only of life temporal but of life eternal?
You can know Him and you can be intimately known by Him.
There is none so bad that they are beyond being brought into friendship, fellowship, and familial relationship with Jesus if they’ll but turn to Him. “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
I have been an orphan. I have been adopted. I have had my physical adoption nullified and have found myself physically re-orphaned in this fallen world.
This day, I have been reminded by the very soul who suffered for me as a biological human life giver, that I am here by Divine design and that my adoption in Christ has been eternally secured by the One who suffered for me as the everlasting spiritual life Giver.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
You know, my spiritual adoption is nothing like the earthly adoption of my adoptive parents. They may have left me, but Jesus never will for: “though my father and my mother have forsaken me, the LORD will take me up” (Ps 27:10).
They may no longer listen to the cry of their child, but in Christ I have “received a spirit of adoption by which I cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ (Romans 8:15) and He hears my cry and stores each of my tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8).
My adoptive parents may have un-heired me but “He has caused me to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith….” (1 Peter 1:3-5)
The Lord Jesus Christ has sacrificed and suffered for me as the greatest life giver of all… and He who cannot lie has sworn to me that “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.”
He swears it to you as well!
Do you know Him? How I pray that you do, that you know this life giving, life preserving, life enhancing One – Jesus Christ.
You were made by Him and you were made for Him, and you’ll never discover that allusive peace that you ache for until you know this One who is Himself the very Prince of Peace. Dear one, I urge you to flee to Him in faith and repentance. It matters not who you are nor where you’ve been. I am a testimony to that marvelous mercy. Come to the Giver of life that you might find life!
Thanks, Mom! Thanks for the reminder that I am no accident but that I have been fashioned and formed with a purpose. Thanks for your sacrifice in carrying me to term, a sacrifice which was a major means in bringing me to that purpose, and thanks for praying that I would come to know the great sacrifice of Jesus – for in Him I have found my purpose and my peace.
If I don’t meet you in this life, I look forward to greeting you in the next!
Until that day, I am humbled by your grace but much more by His,
Lori Sealy lives on the Mississippi Gulf coast, and is married Philip Sealy, who is serving as a church planter with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in that area.