The year was 1947, and I came into this world in a very unusual place--the spectacular Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State. Needless to say, my life has been both unusual and spectacular as a result!! I was raised amid the Cascade Mountains in the fruitful Wenatchee Valley, overlooking the banks of the Columbia River. (A hard place to beat for inspiration!) I lived in Seattle for a time, before moving to central Indiana. From there, I moved to Rhode Island and then back to Washington. In 1973, I took a big plunge and moved to the east coast of Florida. Eventually, I made my way to Northern Indiana in 1975, where I have been since.
My writing and artistic abilities appeared at an early age, and I was both praised and encouraged by my teachers and peers. Sadly, after graduation from High School, I all but cast my talents aside. Instead, I foolishly walked down a path of self-destruction for the better part of my life, until I was given an ultimatum by a merciful and forgiving Friend. When God turned my life around, my desire to create returned, and I've been blessed over and above my expectations! Now, I write to glorify the Lord and reveal His Truth to as many as I can.
Below is a summary of my life...may you be blessed as you read it.
Life in General-Mine in Particular
The romantic in me imagines my life fashioned in those final seconds before dawn, when the world holds its breath. Reality points out I was conceived in true soap opera fashion, and to this day I have no knowledge of the man who was my father.
Dark and obscure are most of the memories of my early childhood, which lurk just beyond my mind’s grasp. I let them be. The few I can remember are warm and poignant, though faded and sometimes confused with dreams that float through the twilight on a course of their own, whispering, “Who am I?” “Where did I come from?” “Where am I going?”
As human beings we are a privileged species blessed with the ability to reason, but we are beset with the complexity of our existence at every turn. From the moment when breathing initiates life, living becomes our goal. We endure excruciating pain with the first searing breath drawn into our lungs, and yet we struggle against overwhelming odds in an effort to defy the grasp of death and take that next breath. I believe it is a survivor code imprinted within the very essence of our being, one enabling us to persevere in the midst of the most devastating of situations. And survive I did.
Marriage to a man other than my birth father, lies to cover up my conception, the birth of a brother, and divorce by the time I was four, began my life. Strange visitors at night, another affair, another marriage, and moving into a home of his, hers, and their children, continued to be the tolerable norm of my existence, until I was forced to bear the shame of sexual abuse. This triggered that survivor instinct. Although too young and afraid to address the situation on my own, I went to my mother. The night visits stopped, until I was a teenager. When faced with the same situation, I found my own voice and conjured up the courage to resist. It never happened again.
I wasn’t cognizant of a reason for my being then, and I wasn’t driven by a desire to live, I simply did. But now, looking back over my life, I see a thread of continuity in the form of resilience. It gave me the ability to adapt--no matter what the circumstances.
Resilience and adaptation, however, only kept me in a state of existence. I made it through one day just to wake up to another. My life became a carbon copy of my mother’s, filled with lies, deception and the heartache of having five children, only to lose them to adoption. There were many factors leading to this tragic set of circumstances, but ultimately I held the blame in my own hands. My existence was self-serving and the result was disastrous.
Ideally, we should be nurtured and cared for, even if in the most basic sense, until we mature to a level of moral awareness. Then, no longer focused on our own selfish needs, we can begin to assimilate our surroundings and with our very first “why” set forth on a quest for answers. It’s at this point we subconsciously pursue finding the meaning of life and the part we play in its fulfillment.
There has to be a reason for us to go on, whether for our own advancement physically, emotionally or spiritually, or for someone or something else within our sphere of caring. We need a cause to fight for, a family to protect, a personal goal of achievement or a treasure to obtain. We are goal-oriented beings. Sometimes something as simplistic as seeing the dawn of a new day can create within us the desire to endure and press on. Without this innate sense of wonder and purpose, we don’t have an understanding of what it means to be alive. Some of us lose the will to live altogether.
This is exactly where I found myself after five years in a miserable marriage. Abandoned by an unfaithful husband, I could no longer cope and became abusive. Social Services stepped in and took my oldest daughter away. In order to keep the other three together, I gave them up voluntarily. I knew it was the right thing to do, for although I loved them, I was not fit to be a mother.
It was devastating to me; I didn’t want to exist anymore. I was on a collision course with despair, but every effort to end my life failed. I woke up in unfamiliar beds after wild parties and lived a life I had despised but a year earlier. Day and night blurred into one meaningless collage of light and dark, until I got a call from some friends asking me to move to Florida. At best, though, it only initiated a false sense of hope. The cycle of rejection I had experienced as a child and young adult came back around in my mid-twenties and left me pregnant and alone--until the miraculous happened.
I was left homeless, jobless and standing at the altar. Once again I was pressured into placing my baby for adoption, this time by the leaders of a church I attended. At first I resisted, but since I was living with the family of one of the leaders, their logic won out.
I remember lying in the hospital bed the day after giving birth and staring out the window at the aftermath of a Floridian storm. I felt like a cast off shirt, too tattered and torn for even a ragbag, let alone a second hand shop. Tears were of little comfort, for I felt beyond forgiveness. That's when the unusual tone of the sky outside caught my attention.
It was late afternoon. Mid point at my window, the sun overpowered the clouds that were just beginning to break apart. Backlit by a brilliant silver-gold light, they took on an ethereal dimension. As I stared at them, God spoke to my heart. He issued this clear, concise, ultimatum: “It’s now or never.” The decision was mine. I took a deep breath; it was time to cast away the excuses and face my destiny.
This was a defining moment, which allowed me to walk out from under the dark clouds that had overshadowed my every move since childhood. A spiritual awareness and commitment set in motion a plan for my life I had been too self-centered to see. In the spring of the next year, I moved to the state of Indiana. Two years later, I was married and about to embark on a remarkable journey.
Like most starry-eyed couples, however, my husband and I soon learned life carries with it a set of balances. We endured the loss of two babies who died at birth. The first one, a daughter, was born at home, and we found ourselves facing a Grand Jury Investigation, from which we were acquitted. We suffered times of near poverty, but by God's grace, we always managed to find a light hidden away in the darkness. Faith played a major part in helping us discover laughter in the midst of tears, and it brought us to the knowledge that wealth comes in many forms.
Soon after we were married, we moved to the 85-acre family farm, which we now own. Established in 1833 by Benjamin Stutsman, it is the oldest family owned farm in our county. We raised four beautiful daughters and three exceptional sons here. They enrich our lives daily with their incredible personalities, their talents and accomplishments, and now, families of their own--blessed be grandchildren! But this is only part of my story.
Though busy with a new life and children, I still ached for the ones I had given up for adoption. I thought about them and talked about them, even as I stared at a dead end in the road to finding them--until that road took some startling twists and turns.
It was late 1990; our country was about to engage in the first Gulf War. One of my sisters called to say she had learned my sons were in the Navy. I was beside myself, first with joy, and then with fear. What if they were sent to battle, and I never had the chance to be reunited with them? Desperate, I tried initiating a search. Eventually, it was my sister who manipulated circumstances and found addresses and phone numbers for me.
In 1991, after eighteen years, I was finally in contact with three of my first four children, but it didn't all turn out as I had hoped. My two sons were forgiving--my youngest daughter was not. It's never an easy feat to walk along the edge of the fantasy, which borders our lives, and keep a balance. I know. This was one time I took a tumble and had to find my way back to reality. My daughter's rejection taught me a valuable lesson: every life holds within the potential for mystery and intrigue. Sometimes the past is the key to unlocking the secrets--just remember to be careful when you use it. For now, I let faith and prayer guard my hope for her and her older sister, for whom I am still searching.
As we continued to watch our own children grow and mature, I also wondered about the baby I'd given up for adoption in Florida. I caught myself searching for him in crowds, trying to imagine what he looked like and how he was doing. Then, in the midst of celebrating our oldest daughter’s wedding, I received a phone call saying he had married on the same day and was trying to find me. The circumstances leading up to that moment were infused with Divine intervention.
Three years earlier, one of my daughters was returning from a mission trip to Haiti. Since she was coming back through Florida, I decided to drive down and get her, instead of having her fly home. I had been away for twenty years, but a series of connections opened up a way for her to stay with an old friend of mine, who was elated to be in touch again. Our time was limited, but before we left, I found the phone number of the woman I had once lived with and gave her mine. Little did I know this would be the contact my son would need to find me.
Our actions in life bring to birth consequences--some good, some bad. I dealt with both in this case. My lack of moral judgment resulted in having to give up my little boy, but out of love, I crocheted a blanket for him before he was born and wrote a letter to his adopted parents. Both were given to him when he turned ten and provided the bond, instrumental in bringing us together again.
I have always championed happy-ever-after endings, but there was a time when it looked as though my life would end up on the whispered side of despair--Dr. Zivago style. What once was, however, no longer haunts me. Replacing the heartache and disappointment, is the knowledge I am loved, fulfilled and at the center of an ever increasing family.
With my dreams of becoming a published artist, craft designer and author realized, I can now say life in general has been good to me. But it is my life, in particular, which leaves me amazed at how one so undeserving could become so rich in blessings. It is humbling, but that’s what enables me to breathe in each new sunrise with expectation, and to exhale the sunsets in thankfulness.
Some say life is beyond understanding. I say, take an honest look at your heart...you may be surprised at what you find within.
© Mid Stutsman 2006