What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Romeo and Juliet, II, ii, 1-2)

We had the sweetest conversation with our daughter tonight at bedtime. For a long time now, we’ve been regularly telling our little ones the story of when they “came home”. Even before we knew how the story would end, we began giving them this gift of hearing us recount those days that they were too young to remember. This idea to give them age-appropriate pieces of their story has been a PRICELESS way for us to be honest with our kids about their unique journey to our family and our home. (THANK YOU, Jennilee, for this amazing tip). When we first began this storytelling, our girl would ask us to tell the story every. single. night. She memorized every part she could, trying to make our memories her own.

As our case changed and we began the transition from foster care to adoption, we added in a few more details here and there about their story. We began to assure them that they had come home to stay – part of our family forever. During the time we’ve been telling them the story, we’ve taken turns sharing each of our perspectives and adding in little details here and there as we think of them. Tonight, I explained that it took a while for her to be comfortable with Daddy when she first met him. She didn’t want to talk to him or go to him for a while, so he took care of brother and let me handle her as she adjusted. “I was MEAN to DADDY??!!” she questioned. We laughed and explained that she just didn’t understand what was going on and she didn’t know him. We told her that our first trip to Grammy and Grampa’s for Thanksgiving changed everything. She adored Grampa and warmed up to the other men in our family and from that point on, she decided Daddy was okay too.

As I ventured off with these new pieces of the story, she would chime in with the details she remembered from our countless re-tellings. When we discussed how old she was the day they came home (not even two), she informed us that her birthday is coming up soon and she will be 4! She told us the correct month and date. She is learning and growing so quickly! For some reason, this realization prompted me to talk about another part of the story. I began with, “Do you know WHY we chose the names we chose for you?” As a family, we poured great thought, care, and prayer into the name changes that accompanied their adoption. We did not want to cause the kids confusion by changing their names, yet we had some ideas of what we would like to do. We discussed it with her and in her presence many times before adoption, and only opted to pursue the change because she seemed excited about both hers and baby brother’s names.

I detailed for her the sources of their names pointing out that both she and little man have the middle name of their first-dad in their names. She was all smiles. I then explained that the first part of her name is her birth-mom’s middle name. She gasped with excitement, “SHE has a K in her name TOO?!” As I smiled and confirmed, she squeezed my arm and looked at her Daddy and I exclaiming “Thank you!” I went on to explain the portion of her name connected to her birth-father and she again burst into excited thank yous. The gratitude continued (largely due to her love for drama and silliness) as we reminded her that her name means “Pure Grace, Jehovah is God” and that we believe it is HIS grace that has brought them to our family. It was such a sweet time of seeing her begin to understand this precious part of their story.

Though it has been understandably difficult for their biological families, the kids have embraced their name changes and have transitioned with ease. Many questions and tears accompanied our difficult naming decision. We didn’t have to change their names, but naming a child is a right of parenthood that is often taken for granted and it’s one we were able to act on since the kids were willing. We wanted to be intentional about including pieces of their first families, along with a meaning and significance that demonstrated what God had done in our “forever-family”. We rearranged portions of her given-name to accomplish this, and seeing her enthusiasm as we explained all of the connections again tonight made us overflow with joy.

Ultimately, what is in a name? Regardless of what they’re called, these children of ours are precious, priceless, and perfect for us. The gift of calling them ours is beyond our comprehension. We love them, we love their names, and while we realize that these children “by any other name” would be as sweet, we are still overjoyed that our treasured daughter showed so much enthusiasm tonight for the story of her name.

We will continue to share with them “their story” and celebrate the beauty of their meaningful names along the way. In spite of what they are called on a daily basis, our prayer for them is that they will become a daughter and son of the King and that their greatest joy will be in hearing Him say (as He did to the Israelites):

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine” (Isa 43:1).

Our Story

It all started with a deep love within each of us for children. We’d talked about it from the beginning, and after having three biological children, we still had thoughts of adoption tickling our minds periodically. It’s such a beautiful picture of Christ’s love for us.

Several years later, we found ourselves in an informational meeting about state-custody adoption.  We were there to learn more about adopting a waiting child. My “plan” was rocked.  My “ideal” was shattered. The “too good to be true” was revealed, as the truth sank in that most state-custody adoptions take place through foster families.  I knew about fostering.  I have friends who have served in this way, but they are stronger than me.  I did not sign up to have my heart, my husband’s heart, or my kids’ hearts shredded. “It’s not really about us at all. It’s not about what kind of child or situation WE want. It’s a question of what child needs us” the trainer encouraged…and his words ate at me for weeks.

I kind of knew that there was more to adoption than just redemption, but I had never faced it in quite this way. Besides the beauty, there is another painful side to adoption.  There is loss – GREAT loss – for both parents and children. There is hurt.  The words from our meeting challenged my selfishness – my desire for a “pretty” adoption – my desire for my desire.  To me, the idea of adoption was much more ideal than fostering. For my husband, adoption was not yet something he was ready to commit to, but fostering did not scare him. We were on different paths with the same destination.

When our paths merged at the corner of YES and What Are We THINKING, we began foster training classes and tried to prepare for what was ahead. We grieved and prayed and cried as we learned of the plight of so many kids in care, and we resolved ourselves to agree that “the goal is always reunification”. We knew we must set our minds and hearts towards ministry to the children first, but also to the whole family.

We could never have imagined that the Lord would bring us not one, but TWO babies. When the call came, I contacted my husband at work, eager to hear his perspective…truthfully, I was eager to hear his “yes”. He knew his work schedule would prevent him from helping as much as he wanted, so he asked “Well, can you do it?” Tears fill my eyes even as I type this because the answer was no.

No. I cannot do this on my own. Still, I have no doubt that my God CAN, and I’m willing to go with Him. So, with complete unity and trembling hands, we called back to say YES.

The worker explained that the placement would be brief. Within a month, we were told to be prepared for their departure “next month,” but “next month” was as fleeting as the horizon. We moved toward it. We expected to reach it. Yet, it moved. Again and again, it moved, but God didn’t. He held us TIGHTLY and there’s no doubt He repeatedly set us back on our feet when our strength gave out. Prior to this, the longest rollercoaster we had been on lasted about a minute and a half. Foster care has been, by far, the most difficult rollercoaster we have ridden. The ups and downs are indescribable, and our stomachs have plummeted so many times we’ve lost count. So what’s the solution? Just. Hold. On.

Home-studies, reunification plans, court cases, paternity tests, incarceration, extended family, failure, success, failure again….on and on went the ups and downs, and we sheltered two precious children carefully to ensure that they would be as unaware as possible of the storm they were in. We also committed to pray for their parents daily and to find ways to show them love. We did our best to reserve judgement and to allow the team and the courts to take care of the correction while we sought to build bridges and establish relationships with the biological parents of the children we loved so much. The way we saw it, whether the kids were to return home or stay with us forever, the greatest way we could love them would be to love the parents from whom they came.

The road was hard. It was ugly, it was heartbreaking, and it was exhausting. As the case moved on, we became fully convinced that we were simply waiting for the state to give us the children that God had already given us. We continued to pray and work to foster good relationships with the family, while the support team sought the best permanency plan for the kids. For months, we clung to a passage of scripture in Exodus (14:14) that reminded us that even when we could not see a way of escape, it was GOD who would fight for us.

Against all odds, and completely contrary to what we were told from day one, both the team and the court agreed that these beautiful babies had, in fact, come home “forever.” Praise the Lord He brought us through the sea (Psa 117) and on September 2, 2016, we pledged our love and our lives to OUR beautiful daughter and son, forever.

Post-adoption, we continue to pray for their biological families daily and seek ways to show them love and honor. Even though the state says our adoption is closed, we want our children to know their original family as an extension of our own. We frequently tell the kids the story of when they came “home,” and we celebrate the way the Lord has brought our family together. We have been amazed by the Lord’s work through imperfect people in a broken system, and we stand in awe and gratitude of His work in our family. We would not be here, but by His grace

What Adoption IS

Knowing What Adoption ISN’T helps us more clearly understand what adoption IS. Adoption is such a juxtaposition of adversity and victory, and that fact alone can leave people feeling unsure of what to say or think about it. Adoptive families are “real” families and though no two adoptions look exactly the same, there are a few truths that apply to all.

Adoption IS:

A gift to celebrate

Just as the birth of a baby is a joyous occasion, so is the finalization of a child’s adoption. Adoption may not always hold the same fanfare and receive the same level of understanding from others, but it is none-the-less, the delivery of a child into a grateful family. Often times the adopted child has already resided in the home of his adoptive family prior to the official day of adoption, leaving friends and family unsure of how to mark this occasion. Whatever the circumstances, adoption is a gift to celebrate. The packaging of this “gift” may not look as pretty or as perfect as some would prefer, but the treasure of a child is immeasurable regardless of the packaging or delivery method. If you know an adoptive family, shower them with love, and share in their joy. If you are an adoptive family, don’t hesitate to celebrate this miraculous occasion in your family’s life!

A complex covenant

Adoption court is where a judge, with the power of the state, officially declares a child to belong to parents to whom he or she was not born. The judge explains to the parents that the child IS theirs as if born to them in lawful wedded union, with all of the rights and responsibilities that accompany such a relationship. With natural birth, it is assumed that parents understand these rights and responsibilities. No one asks parents to take an oath or sign an agreement before taking their biological child home from the hospital. With adoption, these natural or biological rights are being transferred to the adoptive parents who express a commitment to carry them through. Most times, adoption is preceded by intense struggles and “labor pains” to rival the most intense natural birth. Unfortunately, these days, weeks, and sometimes years of labor can take a toll on the child and leave him or her in need of “intensive care.” Adoption is not the “end” of a journey as many people think of it. Instead, it is the beginning of a lifetime of love and care for a child who may continue to need intensive care. Though the legal connection to biological parents and family is severed upon completion of adoption, the reality remains that nothing ever completely separates a child from his or her biology. Adoptive parents navigate a complex parenting task to help their child celebrate his origins while embracing the God-given family that is his forever. Some adoptions are open, and families are in a constant state of learning how to maintain balance and tranquility in their relationships. Others may be closed or have little background information available for parents to offer a child. In either case, there will always be more in the heart and mind of an adopted child and her parents than the outside world will see or understand. It is not simple, and it is not easy, but adoption results in a very real and permanent bond between parents and child.  A covenant is a binding agreement, promise, pledge and this complex covenant of adoption is equal to biological birth, resulting in a lifelong commitment to parenting.

A worthwhile pursuit

In an imperfect world, one can spend his days questioning the injustice he sees around him, or he can focus his time on doing something about it. The starfish story is a great picture of orphan care on any level. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the incredible need for foster and adoptive parents across the United States and around the world. Not everyone can or will be able to foster or adopt, but everyone can do SOMEthing. Take the time to determine what your “something” can be. However cliché’ it may sound, the reality is, the children are the future (cue Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All”). You may not be able to impact every child in need of a forever home, but you will most certainly make a difference in the life of the one you invest in.

In celebration of National Adoption month, please share this post with everyone you know. Even if you are not in a position to foster or adopt, you may know someone who is. Helping spread the word just might be your “something.” The need is real, and urgent, and everyone can have a part.

What Adoption ISN’T

November is National Adoption Month (thanks to Presidents Reagan and Clinton) and I thought this would be a key opportunity to take a closer look at adoption. Maybe you’ve found yourself perplexed, intrigued, or confused by adoption. Maybe you are skeptical, or maybe you are a passionate proponent of adoption. Regardless of where you stand. Here are a few truths to consider.

Adoption is NOT:

A secondary way to build a family

While many people do come to adoption by way of infertility struggles or other significant loss, this does not mean adoption is an inferior option for building a family. Unexpected or surprise gifts are no less valuable than gifts that are requested or planned for, and the same is true with regard to children. Some people start their families with adoption and others adopt to add to their already growing families. Some people plan for adoption and others find themselves receiving the gift unexpectedly. Regardless of the road that brings a family to consider it, adoption is a crucial component of many modern family units and is an overwhelming need both domestically and internationally. Open your heart to the needs of waiting children around the world.

A secret to hide –

Great care should be taken to honor and respect the biological families and children who are adoptees, but this does not mean that adoption is something to hide. Adoption can be a beautiful picture of love from both biological and adoptive parents. Sometimes adoption is the final chapter of a story filled with tragedy and trauma, but even in these circumstances, redemption can be seen. Adoption should be celebrated and cherished as an integral part of a child’s story. Tell them their story with honesty and love, as it lays the foundation for who they will become.

A form of rejection –

Adoptees often wrestle with questions and a plethora of emotions from one extreme to the other. The question most often asked by adoptees and the general population is some form of Why? The reasons and explanations are as varied and unique as the people impacted by adoption.  Often times, people assume that an adoptee was “not wanted” by his or her biological parents. This is a sad and inaccurate assumption, as the vast majority of parents who choose adoption do so sacrificially and with the utmost love for their child. Children who come to adoption through the foster care system are also “wanted” by their biological families even if those families end up being unable to meet the child’s needs. There is no way to know the back-story of countless orphans awaiting adoption internationally, but it is safe to say that many parents find themselves forced to give up their children because of poverty, politics, or other reasons we can only imagine. Regardless of the feelings or beliefs of the biological parents, and no matter the reason a child is placed for adoption, adoptees are chosen, sought out, and embraced by their adoptive/forever parents. Some synonyms for adoption are acceptance, embracing, approval, and agreement. Let the language of adoption reflect truth: adoptees are loved and wanted beyond measure.

Knowing what adoption is NOT helps us more clearly understand what adoption IS. In celebration of National Adoption month, share this post with everyone you know and watch for the next one: What Adoption IS

I’m Sorry I Can’t Remember the Day You Were Born

It’s not because I don’t want to, but no matter how hard I try, Sweet Babies, I cannot remember the day you were born.

I wonder if it was an EARLY morning delivery like your oldest brother and if the nursing staff gathered to celebrate your arrival. I wonder if there was subtle uneasiness or eagerness for you to come quickly, like we experienced with that red-headed brother of yours. I don’t even know if you came faster than the doctor could expect, like your youngest older brother. I don’t know these things because I wasn’t there.

I remember Grammy’s disappointment that she wasn’t able to make it in time to see her fifth grandchild born. “It’s okay, Mom,” I teased. “The doctor didn’t make it in time either.” We all laughed at the truth that was beyond our control because the joy of that baby boy’s arrival was greater, but the sting of disappointment still lingered a bit. I’ve come to understand that in a whole new way recently.

I don’t even know what I was doing that day. Was I rushing your brothers to school when labor began? Was I focused on work or attending meetings the moment you gave your first cry? How could I have carried on with my daily routine so completely unaware of the miracle taking place? Is there a chance…ANY chance that I was thinking of you…and the dream of you…on that day? I’m sorry I don’t remember, Sweeties. I’m sorry I can’t tell you all about the day you were born.

Today, your birth certificates arrived. What an overwhelming thought. It says that I am your mother and Daddy is your father, and it tells how old we were, and where you were born, and all of the things that birth certificates are supposed to say. Except it doesn’t tell the rest of the story.

Tears pricked at my eyes this week when Daddy opened the mail and held the freshly printed certificates before me. I wasn’t sure whether to do a happy dance at yet another confirmation that God gave us you, or to weep at the loss…the tremendous loss that is so far from your understanding right now. And then it occurred to me that even though the certificate says it’s so, the reality is, I don’t remember the day you were born.

I’ll never be able to fix that, my precious children. I’ll never be able to tell you all of the details about that day (though I’m so thankful for the people who love you dearly who can help us fill in those gaps). I’ll probably always feel a lingering sting at the thought that I wasn’t there, but there is no doubt that the joy of your arrival is greater.

Even though I can’t remember the day of your birth, I will never forget the day you came home.

If unbuckling you from your seat didn’t wake you, Sweet Daughter, the pounding of my heart against yours probably did, as I lifted you into my arms for the first time. I hoped the softness of my clothing, so carefully selected for your comfort, might make you feel at ease. I prayed that you would be warmed by the sweet smell of our home and the loving arms that were so eager to envelope you. You were 20 ½ months old.

After settling sister in a bit, the first whimper from you, my handsome son, sent me right to your side. Hands shaking, I lifted you and began the shushing and swaying that seemed second-nature in spite of how far out of practice I was. I worried that I would be clumsy with bottles and formula, as I had never really used either one. I wondered if I would be able to comfort you and be all that you needed me to be. You were 2 ½ months old.

Your birth certificates were issued exactly two years and one day after our fostering license arrived. The day our license arrived, we announced to the Facebook world that we were EXPECTING. We didn’t know how many or what gender, but we knew we would welcome in whatever children the Lord brought us. We could not have predicted, could not have imagined, and could not have handled knowing all that the past two years would involve, but now with hindsight, we can look back and see how God was working.

God gave us you, Sweet Babies, and He isn’t worried that I can’t remember the day you were born. He doesn’t need me to know all about that. He was there, and He took care of you. The path was different, and difficult, and the labor much longer and in some ways more intense than the babies before you, but the end result is the same. I am your Mommy and you are my precious children, and the gift of that is beautifully overwhelming. By His Grace, God gave us you, and that, Sweet Babies, I will never forget.