At Hillcrest Platte County, most of us know Tanya Pulliam as a friend, Christ follower, volunteer, and register lead at Picture Hills Thrift.
For five years Tanya has faithfully served the ministry, fueled by her belief that everyone needs to feel heard, appreciated, and significant. A short, “Hi, how are you” can have a resounding impact on a person battling depression, isolation, and a plethora of negative emotions. Tanya has a genuine love for serving others and a reputation that reflects her heart posture in this.
However, Tanya’s story doesn’t begin at the Thrift Shop, it doesn’t even begin the way that most stories start.
Tanya wasn’t born and raised in her biological parents’ home, there wasn’t a full-blooded brother she wrestled with or a full-blooded sister available to steal clothes from. Tanya was adopted by Karen Quested and her adoptive father at just three days old through the Lutheran Children’s Foundation. To Tanya, Karen Quested, who has been home with The Lord for six years now, was her everything. Karen was the woman who taught Tanya all that she knows about Christ and was truly her mom, in every way a woman could be. Alongside Karen, Tanya was raised by her stepfather Garry; her adoptive father was not in the picture. Reunited with Karen, Garry went home to be with The Lord two years ago. To Tayna, these incredible people were her true parents and the family she got to choose.
Tanya, throughout her life, found herself faced with many questions about her biological lineage.
She was thirty years old when she discovered and met her birth mother and birth brother in Kansas. As a shock, she learned that her birth mother had given up another baby girl for adoption a year prior to her. As a result, her birth mother suffered great depression that affected her brother Rod, who was not given up. Tanya was able to provide peace to her birth mother through this connection and for Rod, peace would mean meeting both of his sisters.
Rod began investigating for himself and learned that their sister was named Jenae and had been living in New Mexico. Rod reached out to Jenae who then expressed that she was not ready to meet either him or Tanya. When she was ready, Jenae said that she would reach out. Six months ago, after decades of waiting, she contacted Rod to meet. Tanya and Rod, with Rod’s wife, traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico to meet their sister.
From Tanya’s perspective, Christ flooded the room when all three siblings were reunited, “I felt devoured in a beautiful way with God’s love, He was everywhere.”
In this beautiful and spiritual moment, Tanya felt what could only be expressed as the peace of their birth mother whose suffering was now over, her birth mother was finally free. Taking a step back, Tanya couldn’t help but recognize that Rod and Jenae resembled one another yet she herself resembled neither, nor did she resemble her birth mother.
Tanya wondered who she, her son, and her grandchildren looked like and decided she was ready to find her biological father.
Jan Long, who Tanya met while volunteering at Picture Hills and became one of Tanya’s best friends, helped her in this search. Tanya took a DNA test and Jan analyzed her ancestry; what she found was remarkable.
The rumor had been that Tanya’s birth father was put up for adoption and raised by a Jewish couple in Chicago. This claim was discredited. On the basis of knowing there was shared blood through her DNA results, Tanya connected with her grandfather’s daughter Yvonne. Through this, Tanya learned that her birth father was named Warren and while he had been adopted, it was by his aunt. Yvonne found that her father had been unfaithful to her mother and Warren, born of an affair, was raised as a cousin to Yvonne and her brother; in actuality, they were all half-siblings.
In light of this information, Tanya wondered how Warren came to meet her birth mother, far from his home and in Kansas. It turned out that he had been stationed at an airforce base in Kansas while at the time, he was married with a child. He did not pursue a relationship with Tanya’s birth mother due to the nature of their encounter. Tanya was not able to recover a photo of her father, but she was able to recover a photo of her grandfather, who she does resemble.
Through this journey, Tanya discovered that she has two sisters on her birth father’s side.
Rather than contacting them, through much prayer and in doing what God is calling her to, she has chosen to let this story rest. Tanya hopes that her experiences encourage others to embody strength and perseverance through their individual battles. She has been able to recognize that with Christ her identity is not in her family lineage but in her relationship with Jesus. As an image bearer of Christ, He is the one she truly resembles.
God, being so intentional, led Tanya to become a dedicated Hillcrest volunteer. Her friendship with Jan which was forged over their shared interest in fellowship and serving their community had a life-changing impact.
The Lord was faithful to use the Thrift Shop for His work and was faithful to pour out His spirit in Tanya’s life, Rod’s life, and Jenae’s life. All three children were raised under uniquely different circumstances yet still became devout believers. Christ offered each one rebirth into His Kingdom in this great story of healing and redemption.
From Tanya, “There are new beginnings in Christ. This is part of the journey, not the conclusion. It’s not time for a new chapter, it’s time for a new book where Christ gets to be the author.”
While Tanya could never have imagined everything she would discover, Ephesians 5:13 reminds us that “Everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light”. Karen, her true mother would always say to her “Be the light, light always shines brightest in a dark room.”
“Christ relentlessly pursued me. While I was searching for my birth father, I saw in a new way how Christ had been my Father all along.” -Tanya Pulliam
Pictured above: Tanya, Rod, and Janae.
Pictured above: Tanya’s birth father, 2nd man to the left.
Pictured above: Tanya’s birth mother and Tanya; first meeting.