Monday, March 30, 2015

Adoption: Renaming Our Children Part 3

Now the fun part.  I get to tell you the meaning behind all our children's names.  I wish I could actually share their names, but for their protection we've chosen not to do that.

Big Brother:

Big Brother's name means steadfast.  We desire for Big Brother to gain a confident heart.  We desire to learn that he is loved, desired.  We want him to remain strong in these things.  He has a lot of history  to overcome, a lot of bad cycles to break.  Our prayer for his life is that he would remain steadfast in who God created him to be.

Sweet Pea:

The first part of her name means "my witness" in Hebrew.  We chose to give her a strong name.  Our prayer is that for her life is that she will be a "world changer" and a "voice for the voiceless".  It's been amazing to see the gifts of both compassion and justice that God has put in her.  She has this way of drawing people to herself.  She is a leader to her core.  But she is also a justice seeker, often speaking up for the injustice of those around her (and herself at times).

Little Man:

Labelled non-verbal in our placement call, speaking is NOT this child's strong suit.  However, whether it's through words, actions, or just how he lives his life we desire this child to be a voice for God.  We named him after a prophet with a name that means mouth piece of God, or more specifically, "Who is God?"  May each hurdle this child overcome be a reflection of who God is and how he works!

Baby Girl:

Full of beauty, grace.  We stuck two names (with very specific meanings) together to create this child's name.  Scared and worthless was how this child's life made her feel.  She often degraded herself and struggled to accept any compliment, especially if she was told she was beautiful.  We wanted a reminder for her that she is indeed beautiful, especially in God's sight.  God's never ending grace is what we felt deeply as we have learned to care for this child.  We struggle, but God's grace overcomes our struggle in so many ways.  As God's beautiful, redemptive, grace poors into this child's life we get to see miraculous changes take place.

I would love to hear your story behind your child's name!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Getting Real: Standing At a Cross Roads.

Our first morning as a family of six.
Do you ever have those moments where you stand at a cross roads? A moment that changes what everything from here on out will be like? Holding your child for the first time, moving across the country for a new job, or walking across the stage for graduation. I feel like we are standing at one of those moments right now.

Recently, we made a decision that brought both sadness and relief in one fell swoop. We choose to surrender our Foster Care License. This means, that by our own free will we choose to give up the license that allows us to be foster parents. The license we took nine weeks of classes for. The license we did physical, background checks, and piles of paperwork for. The license that brought four children through our doors, three forever. 

So much of me feels like we have abandoned a community that we have come to deeply love and appreciate. Foster parents are some of the most incredible people I know.  I feel like we've turned our back on a community of children that desperately need people to love them. I feel like we are "giving up". 

I do know though that our hearts are still in the foster care world. We have been forever affected and changed by the last three plus years. These kids need a voice.  People need to hear their stories.  These parents need support and love. And there needs to be more done to keep these families together before it ever escalates to foster care. Once they reach that point it is hard for families to go back

We hope that God will allow us to speak up and speak out for these kids, these families. We hope God will allow us to come along beside them before it's too late. We hope that our time in foster care is not over, just different. What that looks like? We really don't know. Tony recently told a friend, "I feel like we are standing at a cross roads. We know we have to get somewhere. We know we have a deadline. We just don't know where we are going or how to get there." 

For now we wait. I've seen over and over and over again that the wait is hard, the wait is tiring. However, God always works in the wait. He always prepares, guides, and teaches. As much as I dislike the wait, it's what we need for what He has prepared on the other side.

Are we done having children, our family is "complete"? We don't know, we are open to adoption in the future. Will we foster again some day? Maybe, but we know it will be a long enough wait that it's not worth keeping out license open. This decision is NOT because our hands are "full".  This is because it is what is best for our family overall.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Adoption: Renaming Our Children Pt. 2

If you missed the why behind the decision to rename our children through adoption you can check it out here.

When we presented the idea of giving our kids new names to they were 7, 4, and 4.  We weren't changing an infant's name who never really knew their birth name.  I will say though, that our twins came in to our care with nicknames (naming your child one thing and then giving them a nickname is pretty common in the black community).  Because of this, they actually did not even really know their birth names until they were almost three.  However, their birth names had been used since the moment they walked into our homes-about a year and a half.

Before I get into how we did this I want to make a few things clear. 1. We do believe this is Biblical so we entered into this decision and change with a LOT of prayer!  This success of this is completely a God thing.  2. When Tony and I discussed renaming children we agreed that if that came with push back or a sense of defiance we would drop it.  We did not want to create a bitter child because we forced this on them.  We did this with our children's full agreement and excitement. 3. We did choose to move the children's birth names to their middle names so that if they ever want to go by their birth names, it will legally be pretty simple to do that.

So, here is what we did:

Prayer!!!: I can not emphasis this enough.  Pray, pray, pray, pray.  We discussed and prayed specifically about this issue for a good year before we presented it to our kids.  The success of this is completely a God thing.  He worked in their hearts and prepared the way.  We prayed over our kids, their new names, and the decision in general.  And God confirmed our choice with the response our kids gave.

Biblical Study: I will go over this more in part four.  A few months after the dust settled from termination we began studying God changing names in the Bible and the why behind that change during our family devotions.  Our kids did not know that we hoped to change their names before we got into this study. We took each character and addressed three things behind that name change: 1. God was making a clear distinction from their past, 2. he was giving them a new hope and future, 3. it was a reminder of the promises he was making to them, and 4. it was a promise of his love for them.  Our plan was to finish up this study talking about when a child is born and the gift they give them in a name.  However, before we even got to that point two of our three children were asking if they were getting new names (see....GOD THING!)

Choice: Kids thrive under choice.  And as parents we need to balance giving them choice while still maintaining our position as the parent.  We decided to give Big Brother a choice of names.  We presented him with two options that we liked.  He came up with a third.  While we listened to him and his reasoning on this we ultimately decided that his choice was not one we were comfortable with.  (He wanted to do a shortened version of his former last name.)  We told him that if he had another idea we would be happy to consider it.  Ultimately he chose one of the two names.

Slow introduction: Once our kids fully accepted that they were getting new names we slowly started to introduce those names.  All of us needed to get used to them.  First, we started using them at bed time and then intentionally throughout our day.  One day Tony declared it was the day and he and I make the full switch into their birth names (about three months after we first introduced them to the names).  When first doing their names we made sure we ALWAYS used it in a positive manner.  We NEVER used it to discipline them.  We wanted to make sure that their first associations were good associations.  So a quick: "I love you...."

Any questions for how we renamed?  Feel free to leave a comment and I will try to address those the best I can.  Have a story behind your choice to rename you child or not rename your child?  I would love to hear it, each family's choice is so beautiful.  Plan to adopt in the future?  Have you put any thought to this issue?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Getting Real: Her Loss, My Joy

This blog post was orginally written just after we went through TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) with our kids (October 2013) and saved for a more appropriate time to share.  It was written at a time when we were getting many "congratulations" and "oh that's great" from people.  Yet, our hearts and our children's hearts where still very broken over what had just taken place.

The questions began flowing from her mouth....

"Will the kids keep their names?"  "Can you send me Little Man's braids?" 

She knew what was coming.  That today would be the day that she lost the rights to her children.

A little over an hour later I saw her sit on the stand, tears rolling down her face, declaring her love for her children.  As a mother my heart was ripped in two.  I could only begin to imagine knowing that soon you were going to be told that you were loosing all rights to your children. Never to see them again, never to talk to them again.  Just gone.

That day she was handed her greatest loss.  She was told she would not get to hear her children say "Mommy" as they clamored onto her lap.  She won't see her kids excitement as they tie their shoes for the first time.  She won't giggle with them as she tickles their toes.  She won't hold them when they cry.  She won't sit in the ER for the first stitches or cheer as they round the plate to home for the first time. 

Her greatest loss brings one of my greatest joy.

I will get to be the one to hear the "mommy"'s and have kids climbing on my lap.  I get all the laughs, the giggles, the secret whispers, and the cries.  There is so much of me that is filled with joy because of this.  However, there is also a sadness and pain.  I never want to forget those moments, as hard as they were to go through.  I never want to forget the joy that was born out of deep loss.  I never want to take for granted what it cost for me to be their mommy.

And if there is one thing I want my children to forever know about their birth mother, it is that she deeply loves them!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Adoption: Renaming Our Children Pt. 1

If you know us in real life then you know that when we adopted our children we choose to legally change not only their last name, but also their first names.  Those who know us only through blog world would not have realized that because we still code our kiddos names or open social medias and networks.  Questions about the why and how behind the name change is one I get in the foster care community a lot.

If you pay any attention to foster and adoption blogs you will find that the choice to change a child's name is both very personal and very individual.  Our choice is not the right one for every situation or every child.  I love learning why a family makes the choice they do because it shows so much of their heart.  I'm also baffled by the lack of support for families who do choose to change their child's name.  We have experienced everything from annoyance to confusion to being lectured about our decision, and usually these responses are outside the foster/adoption community.

The WHY behind our decision has a lot of different layers:

A Past History and Fresh Start:
Our kids come with a lengthy and complicated history.  Their names are part of that.  One of our children was named after his birth father, anothers middle name was after a different relative.  When their birth names are spoken their is a strong tie to their past.  We wanted to in a way, cut that tie and give them a fresh start with a new name.

A Gift:
Do you have biological children?  When you delivered those children in the hospital and the doctor handed you them for the first time he/she did not declare, "It's a boy and his name is Fred."  You got the privilege and honor to choose a name for you child.  People chose names for many reasons: they like it, the child is named after a family member, it's Biblical, or they are going for a certain meaning.  When a child is born one of the first gifts a parent gives is that child's name.  It will stay with them their entire lives.  We wanted to do the same thing for our kids.  In our case we searched for names with a certain meaning behind them.  Something we could speak over them for the rest of their lives.

When you foster a child you interact with their birth parents quit a bit.  As much as you try to keep your lives private  much of it is exposed to them.  They will most likely know your last name.  They will probably know the town you live in.  They may know where you work, where you kids attend school, or even your address.  Changing a child's name gives you a bit of distance between all of that.  It also protects your children long term.  I have heard on multiple occasions where a birth parent uses a child's name to obtain debt for a house or credit card.  

A Biblical Perspective:
Tony and I are firm believers that renaming your child when adopted is Biblical.  God renamed several people.  When you study that process you see a pattern to his choice of renaming.  God always does it as a way to make a bold statement that their past lives are ending.  They are getting a new and fresh start.  He does it in order to remind them of the promises that he has made to them.  And he does it remind them of his deep love for them.  He always does it as a blessing and a gift.  I'm going to talk at a later date about the Biblical Characters we focused on and why.

This is the WHY behind our choice for a name change.  Again, each family will make a different choice based on their family and their child's needs.  I respect and appreciate the thought and prayer these families put behind their decision.

Are you an adoptive or foster family?  Did you choose to change your child's name?  Why or why not?  What do you think of that decision now?