header photo

A Spiritual Journey: Intuition, Faith, Tragedy & Gifts

Each anniversary of the most horrific event in our Nation’s history marks a very significant period of time in our family's history. Stepping outside the shadows of 9-11, we celebrate the light in our world.  This October 3rd marks the fifteenth anniversary of bringing Mason into our lives.

I open the book, and share the story of our journey. But this story doesn’t begin here, nor does it certainly end here. Our story began many, many years earlier as all stories do. It begins with the beginning.

July 2, 1963, Stevens Point, Wisconsin 

A baby boy, perfect in every way was born. He was child number three to the young, struggling couple. Life for this little boy would be filled with challenges. Abuse, alcoholism, a broken family; his mother left to raise six children on her own. She’d convert from Catholicism to Jehovah’s Witness and chart a course for her and her children towards their own spiritual truths. One particular, life-altering challenge for this little boy was when at the age of 13, he developed a tumor inside his brain. Doctor’s removed the tumor and this little boy came through, overcoming partial paralysis and other brain trauma. Against all odds, this little boy grew to be a strong and successful young man. He was determined to be the type of man, husband, and father he himself had lacked throughout his own childhood.

January 4, 1969 just 45 minutes north of Saugatuck in Muskegon 

I was born to a teenaged mother and young man; high school sweethearts, newly wed only months earlier. Just starting out in life and having very little, my parents did the very best they could. I grew up in an environment where the primary adults in my life were still growing up themselves. They did love me, in fact, I was the couple’s most loved treasure and I was loved by many others. But their love alone wouldn’t spare me from pain and life’s challenges.

My mother and her side of the family were deeply rooted in their Lutheran faith, my father and his side—not so much. I struggled as a child with this contrast in my life. You see, my maternal grandparents were staunch Lutherans, not Evangelical Lutherans of America but Lutheran’s belonging to the Missouri Synod—very much Catholic light, as I like to say. My grandparents raised all six of their children in the Lutheran Church. They all attended parochial, Lutheran school and I was given the very same elementary and middle school experience.

Six years into my life, my paternal grandfather passed away unexpectedly. It was around this time period, in first grade, I began to realize I was different. I talked different, acted differently. I was often teased and bullied by other, older kids for being somewhat of a sissy. Even Christian children, kids from good Christian homes would learn to use words like “faggot” to tease and taunt. It wasn’t until the fourth grade that I had learned what that word meant. How horrified and fearful I became. They taught us at school and at church that Jesus loves the little children; I began to believe this didn’t apply to all the children. This was the beginning of my hell as shame seeped into my heart and began to tear at my soul.

My teenaged years were exceptionally hard, dark and very lonely. Distancing myself further and further from my religious upbringing but I’d often find myself still praying at night to God for healing, negotiating a better deal. Cancer would be a much easier sentence. But He wasn’t listening to me; I was completely darkened from His view. And I honestly believed I just didn’t, just couldn’t believe enough in this Jesus as my Lord and Savior. By the time I left home at the age of 18 for the United States Navy, I had completely turned my back on God and set out to live my life apart from my family and my beginning.

It took me nearly four more years before I began to realize that it was I who wasn’t listening. I didn’t listen to that inner voice that told me every time I ever heard or witnessed something in my childhood that didn’t make sense, that didn’t feel right—that it wasn’t my truth. I didn’t listen to it because I was too busy hearing the stuff others were feeding me—everyone around me was telling me to believe in this God who was outside of myself. It was I that wasn’t listening when that inner voice would say, “there’s no changing one’s master piece; you are who you are meant to be; you are a Divine creation, gay is okay, it’s a part of who you are.

I started the process of coming out to my closest friends first and ultimately my family. My family still loved me. I started my journey back Home and reconciling my relationship with God, but the fear and shame had a tight grip and I struggled still. Alcoholism and drug abuse tried to swallow me but something within kept nagging, speaking to me, until I heard that inner voice say quite clearly, “you are so much more than your own circumstance.” The light of my soul was flickering but still lit. I nurtured this light to shine and for the first time in nearly a decade I picked up my bible and began reading it in this different light. I began to see things more clearly. And, for the first time ever, I felt the presence of God in my life. I allowed myself to feel the Spirit of God, to go with it and I realized that faith isn’t believing, it’s knowing. Remembering and knowing who you are and having the courage to believe in yourself. Jesus showed us the way, too many become stuck and held down.  I began to dream again and I realized and remembered I had dreams as a child, when I would allow myself to dream. I had big dreams. I dreamed of being someone important, of being important to others, I had dreams of not being poor, of living in a big house, having a dog or two. I dreamed of meeting someone special.  Of being a parent.  Of happiness and peace for my family. Destiny was leading, I was listening, I took action, began to follow. I believed.

I began to work on myself—both inside and out. Sobriety, health and fitness were my new drugs of choice. The universe was responding—my career was taking off, now with the United States government. Six months into this new lease on life, I met him. The man in my dreams. It was three days after Christmas, 1993 and he walked into my life and I into his. And from there we journeyed together. The universe continued to respond. We had a beautiful home, a dog or two, more peace, more happiness. But there was still more to come.

February 9, 2000 in a tiny town on the Eastern border of Ukraine 

She bore a gift unto the world that would bring great joy and light to all the hearts that would know him. A precious gift given with love and now loved so deeply by many; we are so very grateful to her.

Fifteen years ago, Greg and I had been preparing for the day we’d bring Mason home. The preparations were many, paperwork, interviews, tests, prepping and painting his room, shopping for our baby. We bought so many books from nursery rhymes to Harry Potter, somehow knowing they’d be such a part of his life. Our anticipation grew stronger with each passing day; it would be a long nine months before we’d see his face. Each passing day we’d think of him, dream of him. Does some loving person hold him in their arms; do they rock him to sleep? Do they sing to him, read to him? Is he warm? Safe? He needs us, but we need him more. Oh what gifts he’ll bring. Oh little one, sleeping in a tiny crib, in a tiny town, miles and miles away from home. We anticipate his many presents and presence, our son, Mason.

When we started the adoption journey, we started by attending adoption seminars; they were informational gathering sessions often free to those thinking of adopting. We had decided we wanted to adopt a child and initially were seeking information on the Guatemalan programs. We must have been to a half dozen of these seminars. We’d stay and listen and afterwards gather the limited information available to men. There were very few agencies and fewer programs yet that worked with men planning to adopt internationally. One program was offered at every adoption agency seminar we attended—and that was the Ukrainian program. Now, I looked at the eligibility criteria and fact sheet and when I read that foreigners didn’t get a referral of a child but rather an invitation to the country to meet the children first hand that were eligible to be adopted by foreigners…well, this sounded too much like visiting a dog pound. Anyone that knows me—knows that I’d want to take them all home. And so initially we didn’t give this any more attention. But something kept nagging at me, speaking to me, intuition was telling me to look further, to listen, to have an open mind. And so, I allowed myself to feel this and dream on it. And it became clear, I believed that if we traveled to find this child, our child—that my ability to actually connect with the spirit of the child would be realized. And so Greg and I talked about it, made the decision that Ukraine was right for us and we began the process. Destiny was leading, we were listening, taking action and following.

The preparation that took nearly a year brought us to the end of August 2001 when Greg and I received the long-awaited, good news. We received the official invitation to the country of Ukraine to meet with the National Adoption Center; the Ukrainian Federal agency that controls all adoptions of its children within and abroad. We were anxious but oh so happy, we were floating high knowing that the final stage of our adoption journey was just weeks away. We’d see Mason soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 8:55AM Downtown Washington, DC 

I’m at work inside a federal building for the US Department of Education, just one block from our Nation’s Capital. That week, I had already begun preparing for a rather lengthy absence. Most of my coworkers were at work by now and just starting their day. I could hear a radio softly broadcasting its noise from my coworker’s cubicle next to mine when she exclaimed out loud, “oh my God. There was an explosion at one of the Twin Towers in New York!” I joined her at her side. She turned it up. They then announced that a large passenger commercial jet was seen to hit the World Trade Center. Moments later it was announced that another commercial jet hit the South Tower and that it didn’t appear to be an accident. What did that mean; it didn’t appear to be an accident? I was feeling sick in my stomach and fear began to seep inside. Our whole office was buzzing now as the story spread. Our managers were in an upper management meeting and no one seemed to know what to do, nobody could comprehend what was happening. I had to call someone, just hearing the voice of a loved one would somehow make things okay. I tried calling Greg but couldn’t get through to his cell phone, there seemed to be no service. It seemed everyone was trying to do the same thing; it had quieted down some in the office with the exception of the radio which seemed to echo with words and phrases like, “act of terrorism”, and “America is under attack”. The radio was turned up when the President began to speak from an elementary school in Sarasota, Florida.

I heard my other coworker’s phone ring, she exclaimed, “the Pentagon? Oh my God, the Pentagon was hit!” This got everyone back up. I started gathering my things into my bag and headed towards the hallway. I met my supervisor; I saw the fear in his eyes. He told us all to leave and head home, our country was under attack.

I walked outside with many of my coworkers; the sidewalks quickly became crowded as people were spilling into the streets. We were walking in mass towards the Metro. I stopped my coworkers and asked, “is this safe? Should we be going underground?” The Metro was the only way out of the city for some. I said goodbye and decided to make my way across town towards DuPont Circle. People were everywhere, sirens and car alarms were going off, it was Mayhem. As I was walking-nearly running across the National Mall, there stood this older couple, tourists, dazed and confused. They asked me, “what is happening?” Now I was using these words, “we’ve been attacked, America is under attack.” As I looked into their faces, I saw the thick, black smoke just beyond them rolling from the Pentagon. I turned and started picking up my pace. I heard people shouting, crying, someone yelling "the White House was on fire!” The Capitol was to my right, the White House to my left. I was afraid. I was still trying to reach Greg on his cell phone—cell service was gone. I met this young woman, a yoga teacher; she was heading for home in the same direction. She was crying. I tried to comfort her. Then we heard a loud sonic boom. We ducked down near a car. I was a veteran, I had been in the Naval Air side of the Navy and it took a minute before it registered that the boom was fighter jets flying overhead—flying over Washington air space, a no-fly zone. I began to pray as I continued home.

I joined my neighbors in front of the television; we watched the horror of New York City unfold. We saw the collapse of the Twin Towers. I continued to try and call my loved ones from the land line, to reach anyone..a few hours later, my father finally reached me. I could hear the fear in his voice even though he tried his best to use humor to lighten things up—it’s something we Gerrans’ do even when it might not be appropriate. There was silence. Then he said what I had been quietly thinking, “I don’t know about next week, bud.” I didn’t know either, we were to leave for Ukraine in a little over a week.  Before we said goodbye, he told me he loved me, and I told him I loved him. We’d talk soon, mom would surely be calling back.

Greg arrived home. He had been in Alexandria, stuck in Crystal City just blocks away from the Pentagon. We embraced.

September 22, 2001 

They just lifted the air restrictions a couple of days earlier. My mother arrived the evening before; my mom would be traveling with me to bring Mason home. We were advised that it would be best that Greg not go and considering the circumstances, Greg remained in the U.S. Both Greg and my father had reservations about our traveling. My mother and I talked…intuition once again was speaking to me. We had to go, we believed, we had faith. So, we headed to Eastern Europe, taking a leap of faith towards the unknown.

Everyone that was flying during that time period seemed to be very aware and watchful. Things had dramatically changed in the routine of flying. My mother and I both used humor to calm our fears. We’d nudge each other, “what about him over there, now he looks kind of suspicious.” We’d often think of our partners back home and wonder how they would cope with any given foreign situation we'd encounter and we’d end up laughing at their expense. But we had to. Humor, it can heal and feed the soul. My mother and I do have a special bond and that bond grew stronger during those days.

We arrived in Kiev, Ukraine and were met at the airport by our interpreter, Olga. We went directly to the Adoption Center it was early morning in that region of the world. Once inside at the Adoption Center, we waited and waited in line with many other families—families from North America and other parts of Europe. We were finally assigned a director to work with. Already exhausted from the day’s travel, we began the emotionally exhausting search for Mason. We were shown case upon case of waiting children—pictures with bio sheets. Most of these children were much older children and many severely handicapped. It was almost more than I could take. We did this for what seemed like hours. We broke for lunch. I couldn’t eat; I sipped on a Diet Coke. I started to break down. My mom hugged me. "Do you want to stop, son?" I slowly shook my head no.  We went back and I told the director through my interpreter that I did not want to see another severely handicapped child. We had an approved dossier; they knew what we were there for—we were there to find Mason. But honestly at that point, I didn’t know what to think, what I should feel. How would I know? How could I choose? I prayed. We continued with the process and I was becoming numb inside. Then another director came into our room, she had in her hand two more cases that just made their system. The director showed me the bio sheets and I saw Mason’s face, ironically, just a picture of Mason was all it took. Something inside of me began to thaw, Someone was speaking to me. The flame flickered and grew strong; I felt excited and anxious to meet this little baby boy. I had found our Mason. There was no time to rest yet, we had to move quickly. It would take another flight across the country that evening and taxi ride through the night to reach the town of Kramatorsk and the orphanage that held our baby (Visit post Born From My Heart February 9, 2015).

Thursday, September 27th, 2001taken from my journal on that date

Today Mason is ours. The court decision came through in our favor—urgent and immediate [as Mason could get the medical attention he needed back in the United States]. A big victory. I was so frightened by the court date. Going to court and facing a judge in another country was truly a unique experience.

This has been a very happy day. Tomorrow we have another busy day. More paperwork, more running around in this town to prepare—we had to shop for things like diapers, baby food, juice, cereal, clothes—finding clothes has been a challenge, I can’t wait to get back to the USA and Old Navy and Baby GAP! Tomorrow we arrive at the orphanage to pick up our son for good. This time we don’t leave him there again—he’s ours. I am so happy and so blessed.

It would be another six days before we’d arrive home on October 3, 2001. These were happy times. We returned to our new normal routine. Adjusting to parenthood was one thing, adjusting to living and working downtown Post 9-11 was tough and it began to wear on us. Anthrax.  DC Snipers—held hostage to a small radius of the city for weeks. I often said,  when things fall into place easily, that it was meant to be. It was God in action, the universe responding. But when the idea of moving back to the Midwest arrived, it was met with the possibility and I allowed myself to feel this and dream on it.

And Greg and I talked about it, made the decision that Saugatuck was right for us and we began the process. Destiny was leading; we were listening, taking action and following.  We believed.

Go Back