By Kara Shay Thomson
"Where were you born?" That is always an interesting question for me, because the answer holds so much more than a geographical location. I was born downtown at Christ Hospital but never lived in Cincinnati. I was born at a time when having a child out of wedlock was a family secret. So, I was adopted by my parents, who lived out of state, and I never returned to the Queen City. I lived in 10 different cities and seven different states until I moved 34 years later to live here with my husband and daughter. We promptly looked for the closest red doors and joined St. Barnabas in 2003.
My life has never been predictable, and this year was no exception. In January, I had the chance to be on a weekly radio program in Sarasota, Florida. I was to tell my story, sing a few songs and “entertain” a live audience with how I became an opera singer. I love having a chance to bring people into the world of opera and also make them feel at home. During the course of taping, the audience had the opportunity to ask questions about my career, my family, and my life on the road, which led me to tell them about being adopted. I told them how lucky I felt to have been given to my parents, and that I really felt deep down in my heart that I was meant to be with them from the very beginning.
The event came to an end, and I was making my way to the car, when a lovely woman approached me and asked if I had ever sought out my birth mother. I could tell by the look in her eyes, and her intent desire to have an answer, that this was a very personal question for her. I told her that I had not searched, but hoped that by sharing my story, anyone who had made the choice to give a child up to adoption would be comforted. I reassured her that I have had the most amazing life and that my birth parents' choice was the absolute right decision. I truly believe that I was meant to be with my parents, and they were the vessel that brought me to my Mom and Dad. We quietly acknowledged the moment and parted. I hope that day somehow brought her comfort in knowing that such a difficult decision can provide endless possibilities and joy to the child and their family.
I am sure that my parents were filled with other endless possibilities when I was delivered to their doorstep. How were they going to manage two kids under two, and make ends meet, on a pastor’s very small salary—but they did it, and I loved growing up as a preacher’s kid in small congregations. Every time we moved somewhere new, we were welcomed with open arms into that new parish. We never lived near our own family, so our congregation became our family. Parishioners became my adopted grandparents, aunts, uncles, and all the cousins I could wish for. My parents, as well as these congregations, nurtured my “shy” personality and encouraged my talent every step of the way. I was singing into a microphone before I could add 2+2, and my parents made sure I had every opportunity to live my dream.
As I was writing this, memories of my Mom came flooding back, and I remembered a necklace she once wore. It was a small mustard seed inside a glass vial that she had purchased on her first trip to Israel. Of all the memories of her, why did I remember that necklace? How did that tie into what I was writing? So, I Googled “Mustard Seed Scripture” and this came up...
Mark 4:30-32 says:
30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
I have always wanted to write a letter and thank my birth mom, to tell her all the fantastic places I’ve been and how I was given a beautiful life of love, laughter and music. I want to thank her for planting that small mustard seed of selfless giving that inspired me to share our story and plant a seed of healing for the woman in the audience--and in me.
When we walk through those St. Barnabas Red Doors, we are all adopted into this family of Christ where no one asks, “Where were you born?” They simply say, “Welcome home."
And now it is clear what my Mom was telling me—that the seed of faith, trust and love, that was given to us throughout our lives, is something we are to share with others, so they can grow and be firmly rooted in the church family. So simple—give so others can grow.