By Joy A. Kennelly
I don't know what I want to write, but I know I have to. Listening to Alicia Keys new album is perfect for the mood I'm in. Her lyrics and voice speak to me. Always have, always will.
Especially this one.
Didn't realize when I attended my Bible Study tonight I would leave in tears, but it struck a chord deep in my heart that hasn't been touched for a very long time.
I think it's been building up ever since recently re-connecting with some of the girls from Harvest Home, a maternity home for unwed mothers, where I lived 14 years ago when I was pregnant, alone and scared for my future and my unborn child's too.
This time of year is always really hard for me. I wish it wasn't the case, but it is. Sometimes more than others. Don't know how this Christmas season will be, but hoping for the best. I totally relate to how lonely people can feel (even when you're surrounded by family and friends, or worse, when you're not.) It's also my birthday on New Year's Eve so pile on that with being single and you may have a tiny peek into how I feel every so often.
I realize it's why I try to fill my life with lots of activities. Easier to forget, ignore, or stuff down. It works normally and I'm fairly happy overall. But tonight's Bible lesson hit home and I couldn't avoid it any more.
The over-riding theme of our Bible Study is "Be Life Ready" and each week we learn a different spiritual application. Tonight Suzie, our women's ministry leader, was discussing the comparison between Eve and Mary's life which I had never heard before.
And I've been going to church since I was a child. Even studied for a year at a Bible College, attended a Christian Liberal Arts University, and yet never heard this before.
That's why I wasn't expecting any great deep spiritual application, but sometimes when you least expect it, get ready; God chooses the perfect timing to speak into our lives through others and his scriptures I've come to realize.
Suzie shared from Robert Lewis' book, The New Eve, "Eve's foolish chioices are used to introduce sin and death into the world. Conversely, Mary's courageous choices play a central role in helping bring forgiveness and life back to the world. Eve is the model of an outside-in lifestyle; Mary the model of an inside-out lifestyle."
She had a little graph to compare the two women in greater detail too and reading it is when I started crying.
Refused to believe God’s ways were best and tried to accomplish the impossible; a better life without God.
Chose to believe that God’s ways were best and accepted the impossible; a virgin birth (Luke 1:45)
Was enticed to seize control of her life
Was willing to release control of her life.
Became dissatisfied with all the good things God offered her and chose instead to focus on the one forbidden thing she couldn’t have.
Was willing to rejoice in the one hard thing God offered her and chose not to focus on all the difficult challenges it would bring to her life.
I realized right then and there I was both Eve and Mary back when I was pregnant. I had chosen to sin like Eve and slept with someone I shouldn't have, resulting in pregnancy. At that time, I had recently broken up with a man I had been seeing for three years and had slept with, never using protection and never got pregnant with him.
After our break-up, I didn't believe God would ever bring the right man into my life, this new guy was handsome, smart, and I succumbed to his charms. (Worst sex of my entire life, but perhaps that's T.M.I.:)
When I found out I was pregnant, secretly I thought I would raise my child in NYC away from everyone.
What a joke.
No, I didn't get to escape the humiliation, shame and pain. The guy did, but I had to live it on a daily basis. I lost my career in film and had to start over from the bottom. I remember picking up trash as a server at Paramount Pictures back lot during a party honoring Grease for some reason (anniversary? DVD release? Who knows...) and that was the very same studio I had produced a awards ceremony for my hugely successful online film festival, ME Fest, just a short time earlier.
Imagine seeing people you once were considered an equal to and then them seeing you picking up trash and dirty dishes. Talk about shame and pain. I gave up a lot to have my child. It's one of the reasons I couldn't watch independent films for years afterward. It was too much of a reminder of everything I had lost.
My son most of all.
I'm not writing this for pity. It would make me angry to feel you do so please know I have come a long way since then. Counseling, healing and peace go a long way. Love how Kelly Clarkson always also captures my mood perfectly.
Remember these ads too? That's how I feel sans the cancer stick.:) I've come a long way baby.
Back to Mary and Eve.
Luke 2:7 "And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."
I had never heard that the word "inn" in the Greek isn't referring to a hotel room in this translation, but actually a guest room in someone's home. Suzie laid it out like this.
Imagine a 15 year old girl, a virgin, pregnant, and traveling with her fiance and his family turns them away because the shame was too great.
I love my parents, but I know my being pregnant out of wedlock was extremely hard on them. It's one of the reasons I chose to go live in a maternity home rather than stay with them. The shame and pain I was causing them, as well as myself, was too much to bear.
So I ran away to Venice where I lived with some amazing women who became like sisters to me despite our different backgrounds, races, upbringings and life experiences (including some real ghetto ho's I didn't like. Just keeping it real people.:)
Renee aka Sunny was one of the cool girls I met at the home. She was also one of the girls who was instrumental in my choosing to place my son in adoption since she had been through her own adoption prior to this child, Max, she was carrying when we met.
So imagine my pain and heartbreak over learning her beautiful child, Max, was killed by a drunk driver over this past summer. You bond when you live with someone and I felt the loss of her son like he was my own even though it had been years since I'd seen or heard from either of them.
I've always warned my Harvest Home "sisters" I would write a book about my experiences living there and about my adoption because I want women to understand you can survive and actually thrive after an adoption. You're not stuck with either aborting your unplanned child or raising it as a single mother. I spoke on this very topic in DC during a conference and said if you say you're pro-choice, then make sure you offer all choices, not just those which are currently offered by Planned Parenthood.
But I digress. That's a whole other story and political discussion for another time.
Another girl, not living at Harvest Home, but who upon hearing of my situation through friends began volunteering as a massage therapist soon after, also helped me make my decision because she too, had chosen adoption for her son.
This is where I felt I related to Mary in tonight's lesson.
I am by no means as saintly as Mary in the Bible, but I could relate to the feeling of surrender once I made my decision to choose adoption and just trust in God that everything would turn out ok even despite all the challenges.
It didn't come easy. Believe you me.
I fought against the 10pm curfew, the cleaning, cooking and rules of the home. I railed against God for my loss of my old life for a long time while living at Harvest Home. I missed going to Hollywood red carpet parties, mingling with celebrites, attending Tim Story's Bible Study (remember those?!:)
But I also distinctly remember when I finally surrendered and gave up any thought of having my old Hollywood life, that's when God brought the perfect couple to raise my son into my life.
At the very last moment too.
I had searched for the right family ever since my film festival had ended and was becoming desolate I would never find a couple that fit my criteria.
I had met with a counselor who suggested I write out the ten qualities I wanted the couple to have. I did and called an attorney for help who told me I would never find a couple like that. I was devastated! I called him after my adoption to tell him he was wrong and he should NEVER speak to anyone like that again.
Made me feel good.:)
I did eventually find a Christian attorney who told me God had a perfect family out there for my child if adoption was what God had in mind and I began the process of reviewing family profiles. It was still futile and I was beginning to wonder if God wanted me to be a single parent after all.
It was while I was participating in the filming of a news feature promoting A Window Between Worlds, a charity supporting battered women where I was working off some community service, I began crying during the art exercise and couldn't stop. They stopped filming and the kind AWBW counselor took me aside and encouraged me to write out my feelings.
It was then I surrendered to God and told Him if he wanted me to raise my child, I would. I walked home after that and that's when the package was waiting for me from the couple I would eventually choose to raise my son. All the girls were as excited as I was because we were all in this together at that point.
I grilled the potential couple and really had to pray, get counseling and think about whether or not I would go through with it when it actually became a possible reality because I had grown to love my unborn son. But also knew I wasn't prepared to be a single mom. I could barely take care of myself at that time.
I remember laughing in recognition during the documentary, Kingdom Come, hearing one filmmaker share how he was so focused on creating his film he went on welfare with his wife and newborn child to keep working on his film.
I did the same thing.
I continued to produce my film festival from the shelter and put all thoughts of adoption, or what I was going to do with my unplanned pregnancy, on hold until after I had completed my festival. Looking back I can't believe I put the needs of the filmmakers and everyone else above my own, but hearing the other filmmaker did the same made me realize sometimes film takes over everything else like a mania.
I'm not like that any more.
I don't allow things to consume me above taking care of myself first. It's like the flight attendant's admonition to put the oxygen mask on your own face before putting it on anyone else. I remember having that same thought after producing a toy drive for Hungarian orphans for five years, putting their needs ahead of my own, until one day I saw an ad for some other needy group and realized I couldn't help them until I helped myself.
I don't know why I'm sharing all this, but it feels good to finally share. I produced my film festival for five years and had many high profile people in the industry participate, even Forrest Whittaker, among many others. It looked like my future would progress just like any other successful film festival director in town.
Until I became pregnant.
Then everything stopped.
I don't regret my child, or my decision. That's not the reason I'm sharing. It's just that hearing about the woman who was an alcohol counselor who went out on a binge, then hit a man and dragged him stuck in her windshield around for miles ultimately taking his life reminds me even though I've not raised my son, I still have the potential for a real relationship with him as he grows older.
My friend Sunny doesn't have that luxury. Her precious child was killed by a drunk driver this past summer and Sunny will never see Max again. She barely survived the accident herself and when I saw her I was shocked at her appearance. That drunk woman has caused so much havoc in Sunny's life and it was her 3rd DUI.
Sunny has most of her teeth missing in front, her jaw had to be wired to rebuild it, she had a tracheotomoy, her knee is busted up, and she lives in constant pain. She can't remember the accident, was in a coma for a long time, and in the hospital for two months afterwards.
She's not the same, but continues to move forward because she has another son she adopted soon after having Max she cares for. It breaks my heart to see her post on Facebook how much she misses Max. I can only imagine the depth of this pain.
All because of a drunk driver.
Now can you see why this made me emotional? Imagine someone you love being treated this way by someone who has complete disregard for human life when she chose to drive while drunk. I know alcoholism is a disease, but it still breaks my heart.
It just does. I still have my son. I spoke to him on his birthday and got pictures. I know he loves me. I know I love him. I did what I did out of love and always want him to know that. He's doing so well.
Makes me happy.
But little Max doesn't have that opportunity any more. I think that's why reading the story of that drunk driver hit me so hard. And why I fought so hard politically against all the drunkenness at the Six Man Volleyball Tournament in Manhattan Beach and the excessive drinking in Hermosa Beach.
I value human life. I know there's so much life people who drink excessively miss out on. They don't know it yet, and maybe never will, but there's a whole world out there that's fun and exciting that doesn't involve drinking.
I'm tired. I think I've written this all out of me now. Just know, I'm doing well. My son is doing well. It's Sunny I'm concerned about. If any of you are dentists and feel like helping out, please leave a comment or contact me via my bio where I list my email.
I just feel like helping her as she did me so long ago. Love that girl. Love my son.
May even love you if I get to know you. LOL
Hope this made sense and helped you understand adoption a little better. It's a deeply personal sacrifice I rarely if ever talk about because it's so misunderstood and still secretive, but I feel like it was a good choice for me and my son at that time in my life.
God was there for me then. He's there for me now. I have accomplished a lot in my life, but my biggest accomplishment is choosing a good family for my son and seeing my son succeed. Makes me very happy. Now I want to help Sunny find peace and healing too.
Maybe this Christmas season will be different after all.
And that's all she wrote. Night!