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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what (and when) an adoptee should be told

If you have not read my entry titled adoption is a promise, you may want to start there for context.

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3-wks-old

Although each family will make its own decision regarding how to communicate about adoption, we firmly believe it is best to tell her early and to talk about it often. We do not want secrets. Healthy relationships are not built on secrets.

Joey and I plan to provide honest, accurate information as Moriah is developmentally ready. Notice that WE (her adoptive parents) want to be the main source of information. Primarily, we want to help her sort out reality because — quite frankly — we have heard some erroneous and incomplete stories (gossip) about her birth. We seldom correct people who make false statements because, until recently when we finalized Moriah’s adoption, we were not permitted to share her story. Now that she’s our forever daughter, we are concerned that she might be told (from a playmate or adult) something that is not true.

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WHAT SHE NEEDS TO KNOW (FOR NOW)

In The Whole Life Adoption Book, the author suggests that preschoolers should learn their own adoption story. In this stage, Moriah needs to sense the positive dimension of adoption. (When she’s older, she will come to understand that adoption involves both family building and family loss. And we will talk about both then.) For now — between the ages of 2-5 — we have 3 goals (as suggested by Lois Melina in Raising Adopted Children):

First, acquaint the child with adoption terms rather than adoption concepts. Second, use the time to create a positive environment where adoption can be discussed. Third, become comfortable with talking about it [as parents].

And we are doing that. Even as a toddler she hears us pray, thanking God for adoption and for how He formed our family. We read her age-appropriate books about adoption, too. Books we love include:

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 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW AS A FAMILY MEMBER OR FRIEND

We do not want to broadcast her personal story. It is HER story, and she gets to decide what and when she will share. We, however, feel we should clear some things up for those closest to us.

Moriah’s birth-mother decided that it was best to safely relinquish Moriah shortly after she gave birth. She told a case worker that she was not able to parent at that time. We know her name and some additional info.

“Our family is … blessed with the amazing child that adoption brought to us, NOT the other way around.” –Jackie Gillard

We tell people that her birth-mother chose adoption. Although that is true since a judge did not decide for her (like one does for other children who are in Children Services custody), I get the sense that she felt she had no other choice. I wish I could tell her that we think she’s courageous.

Moreover, we respect her. We pray for her. And we hope to meet her some day if that’s what Moriah wants. She became a mother that day and she made me a mother — all at the same time.

8-days-old

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HOW TO TALK TO KIDS ABOUT ADOPTION

These are just suggestions. If you are part of our lives, you will get questions from kids! So be ready.

Also, books are very helpful tools when talking with children (see suggestions above and below).

1. Be honest.

Always tell the truth. A child will likely ask: “Why does she have brown skin?” (Meaning, her skin is different than her mom’s skin.) This is an accurate observation. It’s natural for people to wonder. Moriah does have beautiful brown skin and I do not! You may choose to say,”Moriah grew in the belly of another woman; a woman with brown skin. When she was born, she came to live with her parents. She was adopted.”

2. Be concise.

There is absolutely no need to sensationalize a story.

A child might ask, “What is adoption?” or “Why was she adopted?” You might want to reply, “Adoption is when a person permanently joins a family that is different than his or her birth family” (or biological family or first family, whatever term you like). “Children are adopted for a lot of reasons. Moriah needed a safe home, and Joey and Elaine had one to offer.”

3. Be sensitive.

Again, it is not necessary to sensationalize a difficult story. Speak about her birth-family with respect. We do.

Please ask us sensitive questions when children are not around. I am not offended by questions but I do want to protect my child. So, please understand if we decide to keep some things private.

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In addition to the books noted above, you may gain insight from some of these. There are many other adoption books available; those selections speak closely to our situation..

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

 

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