Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Trusting in the Mystery and Love

It is the last day of the year and also the Christmas season. The decorations are still out and we still marvel at the word made flesh in a baby. Baby Jesus.

How lovely it is to have both a year end and start with Christmas. This is my end of year reflection that I started a few days ago and can finally tweak and publish today.  I am hoping that what I share inspires you to be bold and persevere. Sometimes things don't work out the way we hope but more often than not things do eventually work out in a time and in a way you simply can not see in the present.

We plant seeds that bloom in a year or 10 or some may take a lifetime. I know nothing that tests faith for me like waiting for a long anticipated event to happen...sometimes it seems it may not be meant to be.

This year was an explosion for me of fun firsts and many long anticipated firsts. It also has its challenges that caused good growth in December.

Chronologically reflecting..it did seem like I knew this year would be good. I just never realized how good.

It started with a NYE party. I went to a similar venue but had a unique..never before experience.  After dancing with friends for about an hour or two...I noticed a gentleman walk in who riveted me.  I noticed his persona immediately.

He seemed very at ease with himself and then saw him begin dancing on the dance floor after a little while.

This went on for an hour or so. Long story short..he made his way to me and we danced and talked the rest of the night. 
At midnight we kissed and then danced and talked some more. I don't think I had ever had anything that magical. Although his life stage at that time I found out later would preclude "dating".  I did appreciate the experience.

In March, we disconnected as I took a trip to New Zealand. Something I had been talking about wanting to do for at least 10 years. It was as beautiful and a desirable place as I had imagined.

I had anticipated that I would have to cut down trees that lined the property line between my neighbor and myself prior to embarking on this project. I tried to negotiate this with my neighbor and the city with little luck. I had wanted to do this project about 15 years prior.  When I discovered I did not have to do this..I could embark on this project.

After New Zealand, I  came back and soon obtained bids and design plans to begin a new driveway and front walkway remodel. In late May we broke ground and the 2 month project completed and I was finally able to comfortably park my car in the driveway. It was a mere 15 year wait.

Around the same time, I also booked a trip to Chicago around this time for early August to visit a friend and catch a couple of Cubs games in the interim. That was not a first but what follows is amazing.

After my project was ending..I thought I should cancel my trip as my best friend was being pulled out of town and would not be there in early August...and then
in the midst of this on July 1, I decided my happenstance to check Ancestry DNA. I had taken this test a few years ago in the hopes of finding my biological father and his side of the family.

I discovered that a first cousin on my fathers side had tested on Ancestry DNA. This turned out to be the most significant discovery and life change of my entire year and certainly one of the tops of my life.

As background, I was adopted by my stepfather when I was 5. I did not remember my father but knew that my step father was not my father. I heard some stories my mom had told me about my real dad but it was limited as my adopted dad became upset when she talked about him. She said he had passed. I was not sure if this was true or not but did not question it.

I was curious about who he might have been but just shelved it for the most part. Then the biggest life change happened. My mom fell ill and passed when I was 16 just shy of 17. My world turned upside down...I was soon living with my older cousin who became my legal guardian and the father figure had became even more lacking.

After I recovered enough with the help of an incredible friend and some kind teachers..I landed in college after graduation. Out in the farm land,  U of I provided the space and the quiet I needed to just think and study. At 20 I began to try to find my search for my biological father. I wrote to the AMA to get the number and address of the doctor that delivered me. I got a letter back saying the doctor had passed a few years back.

I thought about hiring a private detective but with a name and that's all..I just thought it too improbable. Part of my curiosity was my mom had me at 42. Doubtful my dad had no prior life before..deceased or not. I could have half siblings..being an only child that possibility drew me in.

As I navigated my way through young adulthood and moved to California. My search and curiosity was sidelined. Goals took front and center..the concrete I attained..buying a house, remodeling it..while finding someone I would feel comfortable marrying eluded me. 

In my early 30's I changed my name back to my mothers maiden name as my adoptive father had disappeared from my life for over a decade now.

The normal up and downs happened. Then late 2009 another shift occurred, I found out my stepfather had passed two years earlier in a horrible way. Without getting into those details..that journey of righting a wrong also lead me in earnest to try and find the story of my real father and that side of the family. With the internet I began searching his name, talking to organizations but I kept coming up with zero. Angelo Lazo was nowhere to be found. I kept at it until DNA became popular and in mid 2015..I tested. 

I kept looking up matches but all I found were distant matches that led nowhere and a second cousin on my moms side.
It was easy to tell who was who. Greece and the balkans/ Eastern European and Native American, Spanish, French.

I hired an investigator in 2017 and tried to reach out to a second cousin who finally tested on my dads side. Nothing.

I kept checking and thought maybe this was just not meant to be..an entire lifetime looking. Then..a first male cousin tested in May of this year 2019..and I discovered it July 1. I reached out and nothing. But now I was armed with his name.

I researched online voraciously. Lazaro was the last name. I found a deceased aunts obituary..but she was Albanian..huh? My mom said my dad was Greek.  But I had to follow the threads. Her brother, my father, Angelo Lazaro was mentioned and..his two sons Michael and Matthew. Gulp..I have two half brothers.

I kept on and realized my biological father died in 2013. I saw that the family business warehouse was only 6 blocks away from where I grew up.

So much to process...so many mysteries answered. My huge step was calling my brother Matthew. I decided to call him instead of Michael. As it turns out he would not have been available as he is in the beginning stages of dementia and his wife would ultimately not be open at this time.

I finally mustered the courage and called. He answered the phone and the conversation went much better than expected. He told me things that made sense..that Angelo had always wanted to be Greek..that they attended a Greek Orthodox Church. And things that surprised me..that he was an alcoholic. 

The second conversation was bumpy..but I wanted to meet him since I was already coming to Chicago. As fate would have it..I never canceled the trip and it came at just the right time after this life changing discovery.  So he agreed and we met.  Matthew should me pictures of my dad and even videos. It was surreal. 

I could not have planned this. And the long anticipated discovery happened. 

After this..the rest of the year saw me bolder. I attended the first retreat with my Catholic group end of August...and in September began hosting people at my home for dinners.

In the interim, I had been leading prayers for a friend battling ovarian cancer. She pulled through a huge rough patch and made it her birthday celebration in October.  This was the first time I was so intimately involved in praying, visiting and supporting someone who was battling an illness that only a miracle would cure. 

November saw me cook my first Turkey ever and host my first Thanksgiving ever. 

December came and my firsts were much more challenging. At first the fun continued by joining a winery with a friend( first time).

But I was sensing something was not right with my friend battling the ovarian cancer. I instinctively checked the obituaries and then came word she was in hospice and now we prayed for peace and comfort. She passed the next night. 

The first surrender of a long fight and the first visitation since my mothers death. During the visitation and funeral a challenging friend was making unreasonable demands. It was an exhausting time.

A brief repose Christmas Eve as a couple of friends and I booked a trip to Ireland for next May 2020...God willing celebrating our bdays there..a definite first.:-)

Christmas came with its own challenges as a guest got sick whom I had over. Before I could rap my head around that..the news came that an Airbnb guest who had been staying at my home for almost two weeks had unexpectedly passed. He was booked the room through mid January.

Such an intense miraculous year was ending with a reminder that it is a fleeting and unpredictable journey we are on.
That graces happen when you least expect them and even sad and challenging times bring out sides of you that are beneficial to you and everyone who crosses your path.

And on this NYE..I am still grateful. Things don't always work out as you hope and pray..but they do work out.  The Author of Life embraces our heartbreak and journeys with us in our redemption. 

Tonight we celebrate another year passing and another beginning. I am grateful for this temporary journey and open to what lies ahead. Trusting, listening, and learning more.  Acting with more prudence and more awareness. Where the road leads in 2020..I am not sure.

But the miracles of this year for me..I am soo grateful for. May God bless you and yours as we embark on a new year and decade. Trusting in the mystery and love.


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