beth willis miller, M.Ed., author of Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ with Illustrator, Krista Hamrick; contributing author of Under His Wings: Truths to Heal Adopted Children's Hearts; 21 Stories of Generosity: Real Stories to Inspire a Full Life; A New Song: Glimpses of the Grace Journey; married with two adult children, and two adorable grandsons.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
How I Came To Be--Expect A Mystery
Ellis Island Interior
Ellis Island Exterior
In many ways, it’s still a mystery…how I came to be. During a visit to Ellis Island's American Family Immigration History Center, I was delightfully surprised to be able to locate and obtain an authentic copy of the ship manifest page from the ship, Princess Irene, which brought my maternal birth grandparents, Olympio and Vincenza from their home in Scontrone, Italy, through the port of departure in Naples to Ellis Island on August 30, 1906.
Just seeing their two names listed one underneath the other on the ship manifest page gave the mystery such a tangible basis in reality. She was only 16 years old, he was just 24, and they were on their way to live with cousins in Chicago.
What compels a 16 year old girl to board a ship in Italy, facing days on the ocean in most likely uncomfortable, even dangerous, conditions for a destination yet unknown to her?
Somehow she and her fiancé, Olympio, were so motivated to start a new life in a new country that they left their home in Scontrone, Italy, and traveled to New York City, eventually settling in Chicago. They married and had a daughter, Lydia, in 1911.
How I Came To Be
Lydia & Vincenza on Mother's Day 1953
I met my birthmother, Lydia, in 1983, when I was 30 years old, and Lydia was 72. Lydia explained to me the circumstances of my conception, birth, and adoption. During a Memorial Day holiday get-away weekend with a gentleman in 1952, Lydia, at age 41, became pregnant with me. When she realized she was pregnant, she told the gentleman with whom she had spent the weekend and he was unwilling to help her. Her mother, Vincenza, did not want her daughter, a single mother at age 41, to disgrace her family with an illegitimate child, so Lydia left Chicago to live with a relative in Miami, Florida. In October, around the time of Columbus Day, she went to a back-alley abortionist to abort me, but when the abortionist examined her and realized she was over four months pregnant, he told her the abortion might kill her, and he refused to do it. Lydia made arrangements with the Salvation Army hospital in Jacksonville to give me up for adoption. On Friday the 13th she gave birth to me, and signed the papers giving me up for adoption on Valentine’s Day 1953.
Plans to Give Me Hope and a Future
Beth, July 1953
I was adopted a few months later by loving Christian parents. I grew up in church, active in Sunday School and missions organizations. I prayed to receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at the age of 10, and was baptized by immersion following my salvation. I married Jack Miller on Mother’s Day 1973 and finished my bachelor’s degree in education in 1975, and my master’s degree in education in 1977. Our daughter, Tracy, was born in 1979, and our son, Jason, was born in 1991. After serving in various teaching and supervisory positions, I was selected as the state consultant for gifted education programs by the Florida Department of Education in Tallahassee, and other leadership roles, now serving as a ministry assistant at Lakes Church, my home church.
Every Moment Was Laid Out Before a Single Day Had Passed
During an awe-inspiring trip to Israel in March 2000, I was baptized in the Jordan River as a recommitment of my faith. I grow closer to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ every day through prayer, worship, and the study of His Word. I believe there are no “accidents” and every conception and every birth is part of God’s Sovereign Plan. I rest and find comfort in these life verses: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:13-16)
My prayer, the desire of my heart is, “Lord, I want to delight in you! Center my heart in knowing you more and loving you more day by day. Help me to discover that there is fullness of joy in your presence and to take great delight in my relationship with you. May my heart desire you above everything else.” It’s been many years since I first began to pray this prayer in March 2000 after returning from my trip to Israel in which I walked beside the Sea of Galilee and on the Mount of Olives, to all the historical sites in Jerusalem, Capernaum, and Bethlehem. During this time in my study of the Scriptures, I came to a place in my life where I wanted, more than anything else, to love God more. I began to pray, “Lord, I want to delight in you!” God is so inconceivably good. He’s not looking for perfection. He already saw it in Christ. He’s looking for affection. That’s why every lasting change will invariably be a change of heart. He’ll even supply the heart, if we’ll ask him.
My daily prayer continues to this day, “Lord Jesus, give me a heart which yearns for Your Presence, a yearning for You that draws me over and over into Your Presence, a yearning that makes only a few days without time in prayer and Your Word seem like an eternity. Give me a heart which is motivated first and foremost by a desire for You, not for what You can do for me, but a yearning for Your Presence. Give me a heart that wants You more than anything else You could give, to love You and know You more than anything in life. Give me a heart that takes what You have made known to me and makes You re-known to everyone else, a heart that makes Your name and renown the desire of my heart. Give me a heart to feel Your Holy Spirit woo me once again to the place where I meet You. In the simplicity of my prayer time, give me a heart to be suddenly confronted by the majesty of my Redeemer—the One Who is responsible for any good in me. Lord, each morning, give me a heart that seeks Your forgiveness for past sins, and welcomes Your fresh mercies which fall like manna from Heaven, and once again move my heart. I surrender all. Morning after morning.”
My daily relationship with our living Lord Jesus reinforces my belief in the sovereignty of God, that nothing comes into my life that is not filtered through God's hands of love. I believe there are no “accidents.” I believe God planned who my birth parents would be and who my Mom and Dad would be, and both influences, plus His, are needed to help me become all that He created me to be. I believe that God sees the end from the beginning. He knows me intimately, He knit me together in my mother's womb, one day I will see Him face-to-face and I will know as I am known...until then, I will expect a mystery. It is His plan that’s important, not my desire.
I didn't bring myself into this world, and I can’t take myself into heaven. I really don’t know what is best for me or for those I love. I ask God to make me sensitive to the reality that He is in control, and that He is using this--even this--to conform me to the image of His Son. I want that most of all. I train my mind to acknowledge God’s hand in whatever it is I'm living with. I practice words like, “I don’t know,” “I will trust,” “I can’t explain,” “I release it all,” because God is sovereign. He is the beginning, He will be the ending, and in between, by His grace, He lets us be part of His perfect plan, for His glory and for our good. In the meantime, I will expect a mystery.