One of the sweetest ways we have been guided is through the stories the Lord has woven with ours. We have had a different level of conversation with all of our kids because of the examples that have been set for us by those journeying a few steps ahead on this redemption road.
This school year one of our daughters has a little girl in her class whose adoption was finalized a few weeks ago. We do not even know the family well, but their story has become part of ours. At the beginning of the school year, our kiddos who knew that sweet girl came how asking, “did you know friend has a new name?”
From there, conversations about changing names evolved in the sweetest way. We’ve talked about adoption, new beginnings, name changes, God changing peoples names, how parents choose and give names, and about what names mean. These are conversations I could have never set-up, was honestly afraid of, didn’t even THINK to pray for. Amazingly, all of this started well before we even knew for sure that adoption would be our path.
RRL and I talked only very briefly a year ago about names. But had decided if adoption ever happened we wouldn’t change anything except their last names, because of their ages and our family situation. However, one of our bonus loves was adamant from the beginning of these conversations. He wanted to change his name. The idea of a new beginning resonated with him. He was desperate for something that reflected his whole story. More than anything he wanted a “C or K” to match his brothers. BROTHERS.
Slowly, slowly, slowly we all came to the same conclusion. Though it seemed a bit crazy. It also made perfect sense. Our bonus 3 would receive names that included something from their first parents, and something from their newest parents. One piece at birth and one piece at adoption. Both pieces so significant to their story. Birth AND adoption.
Our oldest bonus son has always gone by his middle name and will keep that name given to him at birth. AND will add a new first name. He’ll be named after a faith warrior in the Bible. Someone who “saw hard things and believed God anyway”. Maybe even more. Around DRRF he will be Cal.
Our bonus daughter will keep the part of her name that was given to her at birth in honor of her grandmother. AND will add a middle name for my grandmother. Together her names mean “Shining Joy” because she is one indeed. On this website she will be Joy.
Our youngest bonus treasure says “I already changed my name this summer”. In a super special way at camp he was given a new nickname and he clings to it mightily. As he should. So, he will keep his first name with that very special nickname AND will add a middle name from my grandfather, my mom’s maiden name which happens to be a “K” name. His new middle name that means proud and brave. Here he will be Benji.
Our new Christmas stockings. Hung with SO much care.
I already treasure these names and pray they will, too. Their names are not just words. The ANDS in their names are so important. Because while adoption comes with a lot of new beginnings, it does not erase what was before.
Our three bonus loves have blood and DNA and life and memories and joy from the birth parents who love them. There is zero percent of us that will ever ask them to forget that. Adoption IS NOT INSTEAD of birth. They were born. Born to a home other than this one. Named a name. And forever that is part of who they are.
AND they are beginning anew. They have parents in this home who adore them, who have cradled them and loved them and are committing to continue to raise them. Forever. 6 years ago they began to gather memories and joy from us. Adoption is an AND to birth. I hear my voice and see my mannerisms in them at times in ways that spook me- it shouldn’t be possible. Yet it is. Part of us is now part of them. They are welcomed into this home as our children. Named a name. And forever that is part of who they are.
There is freedom for me in recognizing that “before” us is part of us. 3 of our children did not come to our home as newborns. And there are differences because of that. When I started preparing 3 new canvases to hang where there had been only 4, I quit over and over because looking at their newborn pictures was H-A-R-D. And then one day I decided. I want pictures of when they began with us. Now 4 have canvases from one month after they were born. And 3 have canvases from one month after they joined our story. Their pictures are the intersection of their ANDs.
There are so many ways the Lord is teaching me through adoption, but maybe none more than this. We are AND not INSTEAD to Him. We are sinners, we are broken, we need H-E-L-P. AND Jesus. We will stumble through this earth, trying to do the best we can with the opportunities He give us. But he doesn’t take our feeble efforts and come up with an instead plan. He takes those efforts and gathers them, blows grace all over them AND makes beautiful things. We were given names at birth AND we will be called a new creation when all of this is redeemed to perfection.
We were born. AND we are adopted. Praise the Lord.