moment of unnaming

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Last week I had my “welcome to Holland” moment.  I have been living here for months, but my emotions finally caught up and I was broken.  It hit me like a wave of truth.  This is real.  I have been coping with our different-than-anticipated life for some time.  Years, actually.  This latest twist has been challenging but manageable, I thought.  We have a good routine (truly).  Yet, it’s hard — both physically and mentally.

You don’t have to be a parent of a child with disabilities to know what I’m talking about. It’s the human experience to find ourselves in foreign territory.

Dan Allender calls these “moments of unnaming”:

But the story we are to live and write doesn’t truly begin until we face what we have lost and then turn to see the horizon of uncertainty ahead. Our story will gain momentum and depth only to the degree that we honestly embrace both loss and fear. … If we enter our story’s heartache, we will hear the whisper of the name that will one day be ours. Because we live in a fallen world, we will encounter abandonment, betrayal, and shame. These experiences are inevitable, but they also provide the context necessary for coming to grips with how we will live our lives. In the midst of affliction, we become either our truest or our most false self.

In those moments of unnaming, when we have lost ourselves, we must remember to return to our past redemptions to find God’s marks of glory on our abandonment, betrayal, and shame. We wrongly believe that we will be happy if we can escape the past. But without our past are hollow and plastic beings who have only common names and conventional stories. When we enter into our story at the point we lost our name, we are most likely to hear the whisper of our new name. Remember, God is still writing.

We have often been witnesses to God’s mighty hand this last year.  I wish we could share more specifics but, in His sovereignty, God knew that being foster parents would isolate us.  We simply cannot talk about a BIG part of our lives.

Moreover, we have decided to set up to more barriers to keep our kids healthy the next six months, in particular.  Walls may help prevent exposure to sickness, but they are also confining.  For me, I felt trapped this week: no sunrise coming over the wall.  Just a long, lonely winter ahead.

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I had to mourn that shattering of shalom.  Again, Allender reminded me that “tragedy always moves our story forward in a way that shalom could never accomplish.”

What grace!  Just when I started to think I understood that my life isn’t my own, God took me deeper.  Showing me more of my own weakness.  Showing me His power.

This is His work of conforming me into His likeness.  I am a new creation, yet I am continually being renewed.  I don’t need to see everything to get there.  He is the Author and Sustainer.

I need more of Him.

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.

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two years

It is our delight to know this little sweetie.

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.

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Growing Family

We get to parent four wonderful kids right now. This summer we added two of them to our permanent family. Ai and Am have shared our home for 22 months and they now share our last name. M is a great big sis!

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The kids are growing so fast! These pictures were taken in last month and they have already changed a lot.

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above photos by Laney Mae Photography

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.

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First Day Jitters

M started pre-k today! This is her first year going all day.

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She was excited for school to start.  But she did ask questions like, “What if I can’t find the cafeteria?” and “What if I don’t know the other kids’ names?”  I’m glad we could talk through her fears.  And I’m sure she will catch on quickly.

It’s going to be a great year!  (She has grown a lot since last year.)

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.

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Twenty Sixteen – part one

The first half of this year has been full We have had a lot of challenges in our family.  But we are resting in the One who is orchestrating our life.  Recently, I was reminded that God is a God of order.  It brought comfort as I can feel circumstances are confusing and uncertain and, sometimes, a total mess.  But, by His grace, I know God has ordained each day for our family.  We take one day at a time, in the order God has chosen.

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I’m behind on sharing photos. Here’s a few of our growing girly!

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.

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April Eleventh

Eight years ago today, I was returning home after our rehearsal dinner. It was my last night as a single person. Our wedding was the next day! My heart was full of excitement and anticipation about what might lie ahead for me and Joey as a couple.

Five years ago today, we assembled a wooden bunkbed in one of our empty bedrooms. We had just completed our pre-service training and submitted an application to be foster parents. We would begin our home study process in the coming months. Our weary hearts clung to hope and trusted the Lord for what might lie ahead for our household.

Tonight, as my faithful husband studied for an exam in another part of the house, I drank hot tea with our three young kids. We sipped our peppermint drinks from mugs that Joey and I received as wedding presents. My 4-year-old reminded me that, earlier in the day, I had suggested we might bake a cake for what she called our “celebration day”. I agreed that should be on the agenda for tomorrow while Daddy is at work. Then, I helped the two oldest climb into the bunkbed and held their hands until they fell asleep. I prayed for all our kids, with my heart full.

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Lately, my heart is stirring. It’s nestled in a place between feeling “carefree in the care of God” while also restless for the Day our broken world will be made new.

As I wait, I look back on my adult life.

When one’s days are long and a dry season seems to linger, it’s good to step back and remember what God has done (and is doing). He is good! He is orchestrating our lives for His glory. The LORD is sovereign and holds all things in His hand.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

On this anniversary eve, I trust my life to the One who is directing it.

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.

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Halloween and Fall Fun

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Our little lady requested Tinker Bell for Halloween. (We found a cute option online.) This was her first year trick-or-treating, and she got to wear the costume two other times at parties. It’s so fun to watch her imagine at home in her fairy dress! 🙂

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All the kids have enjoyed playing outside this Fall as well!  I’ve noticed that I haven’t taken very many photos while we’re out so I captured a few yesterday while Dad was blowing leaves / cleaning up the yard.  Here’s a few of “M”:

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We also got portraits taken yesterday for the babies’ birthdays.  We got one shot of them together, which is adorable.  She loves her Bub and Sis so much!  I can’t share pictures of those cuties, though.  “M” is growing so fast!  She’s such a little lady, now.

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.

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fourth birthday

A few days ago, I was reminded what our life looked like before children.  It was quiet and mostly boring.  And filled with longings and hopes and anticipation.  It was a good reminder how much has changed in five years.

During that time, we prayed that our home would be filled with children.  We asked for a family.  HOWEVER — although we knew there would be joy in store for us as parents — our focus was not solely on our gain.  We wanted to give a safe family to a child.

I was also optimistic and idealistic about our relationship with our future child’s original family.  Now, I know that open adoptions are hard. Closed adoptions are hard.  Adoption is complicated and no “cookie cutter” solution works for your child and her two families.  Even so, I am so grateful we get to raise “M”.  She is a beautiful little person.  We pray for her birth mother as we celebrate M’s birth and life.

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Necklace from Grandpa and Grandma that “M” received after her adoption.

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We have had a fun weekend celebrating her fourth birthday!  (And we look forward to more excitement this coming weekend.)  She received so much love expressed through gifts and guests and well wishes and texts and hugs.

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Birthday girl with her Hello Kitty cake.

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“M” took a special treat to preschool today for snack time.  She, of course, helped make Minion cups (so easy!) and fill them with popcorn (so inexpensive).  She was thrilled!  Win-win.

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After school, we spent the evening playing at a park and enjoying a picnic as a family! 🙂  We love our sweet four-year-old!

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.

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Peace in Transition

March-2015-bw“M” has grown and changed a lot this spring. Her legs are longer. Her face is slimmer. She is speaking more clearly (and confidently). She can keep her panties dry all day. These days are passing so quickly!

Two years ago today, we finalized M’s adoption.  We are thankful for her life and for the privilege to raise her.  I am reminded that children are a responsibility, and parenting them for God’s glory matters most.

We do not celebrate “Gotcha Day” in our home.  For some reason, though, I couldn’t get M’s adoption day off my mind today.  It was a wonderfully ordinary day.

In the last few years, I have matured in my understanding of adoption-related issues and its complexity.  It’s hard.  It’s heartbreaking in ways.  Yet, adoption is not about the parents.  It’s a promise to a child to provide, to nurture, to train, and to sacrifice ourselves by bringing her up in ways that honor God.  We also want to honor her birth family as much as we can.

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We don’t know what the future holds for our family.  Truthfully, we haven’t for a while.  Maybe it’s because we regularly have new children in our home, but we feel “in transition” all.the.time.  It’s okay.  At least we don’t have a false sense that we are in control!  That realization is a gift!

For now, Joey is planning to start grad school in January, and the online program takes two years.  He will be a great Nurse Practitioner.  From there, we’ll see where he gets a J-O-B.  We love where we live now.  Yet, we would like to be in an area with more racial diversity so our neighbors, church family, school peers, and friends look more like our home.

We trust the One who is orchestrating all the details.  God has formed our family and we lean into His plan.  We have hopes and desires that we believe line up with His, and we’re watching Him direct (and redirect) us inch by inch.  Oh, I am so glad He is patient!

Just as the previous two years have FLOWN by, we know the next two will as well.  Sure, day-to-day life will have ups and downs as we wade through it; but, we are firmly anchored to the Rock.  He is unchanging.  We have peace in transition.

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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio. 

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problematic Foster-to-Adopt mentalty

Foster-to-adopt is not a term that our agency uses. The licensing specialist who initially worked with us made a point to say, “That doesn’t really exist.”  She emphasized that, in Ohio, a family can be licensed to foster and also be licensed to adopt at the same time. Some people confuse this with fostering IN ORDER TO adopt. Motive aside, the foster parent is obligated to support reunification since the goal of state involvement is typically to reunify the child with birth parents.

To say that a case is “foster-to-adopt” (while the child is still a foster placement) is problematic. And, unfortunately, many less-than-ethical agencies use this term when marketing to potential foster families (hopeful adoptive families).

First, in my opinion, using this term sets up the foster parent (temporary caregiver) to make comparisons. Many caregivers will think, “Life is ‘better’ in my home because this child will have more ____ while here.” That type of thinking is a slippery slope. Realistically, a caseworker is not searching for a better home. She is connecting the birth family with resources so that THEIR home becomes safe, healthy, and stable and – therefore – the child can return home.

I believe kids need foster parents who love without hesitation, who pray for their first families, who dream and empower the children to reach their potential. They need cheerleaders. They need caregivers who focus on the children’s needs, not solely the adults’ desires for a permanent parenthood.

Second, it sets up perspective adoptive parents for “false hope” and heartache. Plain and simple: if you want to adopt, private adoption is the ideal route for you. Not foster care. A foster parent’s job is to support reunification. Foster families are always “Plan B” only AFTER every possible means of reunification (or kinship placement) is exhausted.

I understand those longings for children. And I understand the hurdles to adoption. But foster care is not merely the cheapest route to “forever” families. (I don’t like that term either.) The mission of state foster care is to help the whole family, not just the kids.

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Third, in my personal experience, when a birth parent learns that we are licensed to both foster and adopt, he or she feels insecure about our intent. They often think that we secretly hope they will fail. Our attempts to encourage and support reunification are sometimes met with skepticism. And I get it. I would hate it, too, if I felt like every slip up was quietly celebrated. No thanks!

This last point bothers me most. I know that many birth families WANT to do better. They may not know HOW to do better. They need help. And, for them, temporary foster care will likely do what it’s intended to do: To offer the support they need to change the course of their lives.

For these reasons, when we are asked if we are a “foster-to-adopt” family, I immediately say no. And yet we have adopted from foster care.

And we would like to adopt again, probably from foster care.

But we are NOT fostering in order to adopt only. I struggle to communicate that difference that when we talk about our family’s situation.

I absolutely support adoption if reunification is not possible. Nevertheless, the term “foster-to-adopt” can create division and misconception. And, sadly, it’s often misused for that reason.

This document does a good job explaining the role of a child welfare agency.

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– – – –

Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.

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