Remaining more curious than certain

My church has a problem familiar to many inner-city mainline denominational churches. With a large, beautiful facility and a membership that is a fraction of what it once was, we have struggled to learn what we need to be in order to serve God's people in our neighborhood, in our city, and in our region.

A small group of us have taken on the task of reimagining how we interact with ourselves and our surrounding community. It has been a long but necessary process, because the neighborhood surrounding our church is changing rapidly, and not always for the better. While the new investment in many of the buildings and homes nearby has been great to see, it has also meant many who have called Detroit's North End home for decades no longer live nearby, all for the sake of progress.

Our facilitator for this journey had us read an excerpt of Margaret Wheatley's book, Turning to One Another (link is to my Amazon affiliate account). It is powerful in the context of my church, but it…

Looking for a book to start an age-appropriate talk about adoption with you pre-schooler?

Growing your family through adoption can be a heart-wrenching process. The countless meetings with social workers, the endless paperwork, the carrying around of papers for “your child” because they are technically still a ward of the state. It can be emotionally draining, but I found that it helped us be more intentional when it came to how we want to parent.
One thing we were both clear on was letting The Kid know in age appropriate ways that she was adopted. The decision was partially made for us, as we knew it would become obvious as she grew older that she wasn’t Caucasian or Latina. But it was a decision heavily influenced by the pain and confusion I felt learning who my birth father was as an adult. To us, it was better for her to grow up knowing and helping her understand than pretending the adoption did not happen and letting other people define the story for us.
We accomplished this in a few ways. One, we keep in touch with her foster family (although not as well as we shou…

The one question you can ask that is guaranteed to offend an adoptee

The more I open up about my personal experience trying to find my birth father, the more convinced I become that people talk about adoptee experiences from the wrong lens. There is an implicit bias toward the adoptive parent perspective that can, and often does, negate the experience of the adoptee.
I started really paying attention when people were asking me why I waited so long to reach out to my birth father. That is a legitimate question for his family to ask me, especially when considering he was in the last stages of his life. For the general public, I have a different standard and I would hope they would also ask me a second question, but few ever do. Did your birth family ever come looking for you? The only people that ask are my dearest friends.
For the most part, I try to answer the first question sincerely and directly. Usually, I land on something like it took a long time to make the decision because I did not want to hurt anyone but eventually I realized I was only hur…

There is no blueprint to building relationships with family you never knew you had

As I am working to build relationships with some of my birth father’s family, I have come to realize there is no blueprint for how to do this. Some in the family are quite comfortable with me being in their lives, others still wonder why I came around in the first place.
Each visit is emotionally draining. I have come to learn that I come across as a calm, collected person even when my thoughts are racing, making it vital for me to take time after each visit to process what I am learning. Aside from my first visit with my grandmother, there haven’t been a lot of tears shed when we are together. Instead, a lot of laughter has been shared, stories exchanged and a growing knowledge that our paths needed to cross for me to feel whole.
Meeting after he passed away adds a layer of complexity to our conversations. They are all learning how to live in a world without their beloved son, husband, brother and uncle. The family secret that everyone knew but did not talk about is out in the ope…

A parent's perspective on RTT's episode about transracial adoption

Regardless of what you think about race in America, my experience as a white man is undoubtedly different than the experience my daughter has, and will continue to have, growing up. I never feel like I understand quite enough, and I always want my daughter to feel like she can come to me for help, so I always push myself to learn more. Her experience growing up will be vastly different than mine in part because we are a transracial family.
To try understanding what The Kid might face growing up, I follow several transracial adoptees and their journeys online, including Angela Tucker and her series, The Adopted Life. Watching the series and reading any of the interviews she shares online has helped me confront fears that I have as an adoptive parent and to better understand my own history having never met my birth father.
When Angela took to Twitter to announce that the episode of Red Table Talk featuring her story was going to air soon, I was nervous about how they would portray he…

What adoptive parents don't tell you during National Adoption Month

This post originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press as an op-ed in November 2014. 

When my wife Gladys and I were going through the mandated screening needed to adopt our daughter, our social worker joked that there is a no-return policy on adopted kids. I am sure she intended it to be our final reminder that adopting a child is a permanent lifestyle change. I heard her and immediately assumed that someone she worked with must have changed their mind at some point, and she wanted to make sure that never happened to another child.
I do not know if my assumption was right, but I was reminded of it reading some of the comments on the hashtag for National Adoption Month, which is happening right now. There is very little “real talk” in recruiting potential adoptive parents, and that needs to change.
The reality for adoptive parents is that for you to have a family, another family has experienced a tragic loss and the child you are adopting knows it, even the little ones. Once your a…

It’s been almost a year since my birth father died. I’m still grieving.

The day I found out he died started no differently than any other Monday. I started my day running into a meeting just a few minutes late because I wanted to make sure I walked my daughter into her classroom and we hardly ever got to school right on time. For the past few years, that was the one time I each day I knew I would have uninterrupted time with her, so I held that time as sacrosanct, even if it meant being late to a meeting or two.
My two meetings wrapped up by 9:45 and I was at my desk, downloading the data I needed to complete my part of a report that went to our vice president each Monday afternoon. As I was waiting for a spreadsheet to download from Twitter, I decided to sneak a peek at my Facebook account. Scrolling down my timeline, I was dumbfounded by the post I saw from my birth father’s cousin, the cousin I had connected with a few months earlier in an effort to contact him.
Honestly, I cannot remember what the post said except that my birth father had died from …