It seems as if the world has flipped upside down with the Corona crisis. What makes this a doubly- critical time for adoptees and foster kids is that this crisis reflects one of our basic losses–from the time our first, or second, or third parents relinquished parental rights–everything familiar was lost.
More than anything right now, adopted and foster kids need to be reminded that even though the world changes, the love of their parents never does.
I’m sharing a month of devotionals from my devotional book, in hopes that they may bless you as a family. I’ll include link for purchasing entire book at the end of this letter to you. You may want to use thoughts to prompt creative activity (making a braid bracelet, discussing at dinnertime as a family, chalk art on your sidewalk).
Imagine this! Your doorbell rings. Quickly, you open the door. On your porch step is a large, square gift box wrapped in white paper and tied with black ribbons.
The box and white wrapping is representative of your child’s life, given to her by the Gift-Giver himself. The black ribbons are the pre-adoption losses you must help your child process in order to find and experience all God has planned.
As you work through the twelve months of this book, you’ll see the black ribbons transformed into sparkling white as your child’s emotions are healed by the Lord.
You can expect to:
Move to the Next Level of Parenting
I love the verse that talks about God making our feet into hinds feet that can traverse high places. That is what I envision for you. You might:
- Embrace your vital role and not be nervous about the birth parents
- Prepare realistically for adoption and not be frightened during the first days
- Become your child’s number-one cheerleader by understanding special needs
- Teach your child how to have healthy relationships
- Know how to gain entrance into your child’s world
- Help your child let go of misplaced anger
- See the flip side of the profound wound
- Show your child how to grieve loss
- Diminish defenses of your strong-willed child
- Comfort your child in a way he can receive
- Parent like Jesus so that your child see herself through God’s eyes
- Launch your child into the incredible future God has planned for her
Now, imagine that inside the box are twelve envelopes, one for each month. Each has the name of a metaphor. The twelve metaphors will help you remember the inspirations, Scriptures, truths from the book Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, and insights from one adoptee…me!
Share Metaphors with Story Telling
The metaphors (the first reading from each month) can be used as a base for story telling with your children. It’s always more effective to tell the story, rather than read it. Read the metaphors and ask God to energize you as you share with your children before bed or at the supper table.
The twelve metaphors are:
- The Beautiful Braid
- The Grafted Tree
- The Invisible Race
- The Pearl of Intimacy
- The Sandcastles of the Heart
- The Red Lizard
- The Song in the Night
- The Butterfly
- The Tortoise
- The Good Shepherd
- The Child of the King
- The Eagle
Create Family Projects
Creativity will flow between you and your children as you begin applying what you are reading to everyday life. You might:
- Discuss the project as a family
- Make the box and celebrate who gives life
- Get white paper, black ribbons, white ribbons, and twelve envelopes which your child can label.
In my book closet, the top shelf contains well-worn books that are my favorites because they’ve helped me know Jesus more. I pray this book may be on your top shelf.
With warm regards,
With a keen awareness of what the adoptee’s original parents should be called, I chosen to call them “birth parents” in this work. “First” sounds so impersonal and birth is honoring the gift they gave.
January (The metaphor to share with the children is “the beautiful braid of adoption.”
“The Lord reigns, the Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength…you are from all eternity.”(Psalm 93:1-2, NIV)
Long, long ago, in eternity past, the Lord God created a beautiful braid and named it “Adoption.” The braid wasn’t a second thought or plan B for families. It was his idea before you and I ever drew a breath on planet earth.
Can’t you just see him smiling as he created each cord in the braid?
He chose you to be a part of his braid.
I’m an adoptee…all grown up…at least physically!
My late mom and dad experienced challenges similar to yours. I was a handful, to say the least.
If they were alive, they’d love meeting you.
I’ll be writing in the first person, as an adoptee, but not presuming to speak for all adoptees.
Just one voice, praying this book will bless you like crazy.
Let’s get started by learning where you are in the beautiful braid!
There are three colored cords that comprise the beautiful braid of adoption. The cords themselves are made from the finest of silk. To the eye of faith, they are shining, gleaming, and lustrous. The green cord represents the birth parents, the purple, adoptive parents, and the red, the adoptee. Around the three cords is a thicker, wider cord, woven within, around, up and down. This is representative of our Sovereign God who controls all things for his glory and the good of those who love him.
Your life has been touched by adoption for a purpose…his purpose.
“When she saw that he was a fine child…” (Exodus 2:2)
The red cord is the adoptee–a unique weaving together of nature and nurture into one marvelous human being, with unlimited potential. Each loss experienced is an invitation from the Creator to grow. You longed to parent this child more than life itself. You loved him long before his face ever appeared. You delight in his uniqueness. You anticipate that God-given speck of potential in his eyes becoming a reality. Revel in the fact that you are instrumental.
“Then she placed the child (Moses) in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.” (Exodus 2:3)
Green represents the first parents, like Moses’, who protected his life both in and after the womb. First parents sacrificially let go of the parenting role, trusting God with the bigger plan for their child’s life. Like Moses’ mother, who asked God how to save her son’s life, first parents voluntarily embrace bitter grief and loss for the good of the child.
“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.(Samuel 1:27)
Purple is for royalty, distinction, eminence, greatness and nobility. Did you realize on adoption day that you were stepping into the throne room of the King instead of a hospital room? Did you realize the social worker who held your battered child’s hand as she was removed from abusive parents was the hand of God? You couldn’t sense God’s presence? That’ okay. He abides even in numbness.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” (Psalm 139:7,9, 12)
The gold cord represents God Almighty–strong, unconquerable. He will never leave or forsake you. After all, this is his braid. Even when we blow it, when we think thoughts that we’ve determined no good parent ever has, he hears yet doesn’t condemn. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Lengthening the braid requires speaking truth about adoption from day one. It may feel uncomfortable, but this is the way to provide an environment for child and family growth. As you tell the truth at age-appropriate times, her once-shattered trust will mend and she’ll grow closer to you. Remember…you were made for this.
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25)
If the green in your braid is stained with negative and shameful birth history, the first parents need your forgiveness. Only through your forgiveness will your heart be an unshackled conduit of unconditional love for your child. We all must forgive because we were the ones who pounded the nails into our Savior’s hands and feet. He forgave the unforgivable in us. Dare we do less?
“Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:20)
The green cord, the choices the first parents made, may be twisted. Assure your child everyone has the privilege of choice and that the tendency to make unhealthy choices is not genetic. With a big hug, remind her that she is her own person and separate from her first parents’ choices. Tell her that you will help her make great choices. Give hope that her first parents may learn to make good choices in the future. God has a great life ahead for your child.
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:4)
The red cord, your child’s sense of worth, may be hanging by a thread. He may secretly believe that his life is a mistake because of circumstances and/or secrecy surrounding conception, removal when older by child protective services, or adoption disruption. It’s not prudent for parents to openly discuss, but extremely wise to have awareness of the possibility of this secret shame. Repeat often that his life is God’s idea.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever….” (Deuteronomy 29:29)
Your braid’s green cord may be missing due to international adoption or secrecy. A certificate of abandonment is your only document? Your child can still develop a healthy identity, for there’s information available. Encourage her to put the unknown things in God’s big, loving hands, and assure her that the green cord isn’t missing to him. He sees it all, even though she can’t.
“…I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.…” (I Corinthians 13:9-11)
Braiding the cords with your child has diminished your stress. Openness and honesty always do that! You’ve learned to weave the reality of adoption into your family’s braid. Not every parent has your boldness and authenticity. No quivering lips or tears when your child’s first family is mentioned. No nervousness from keeping secrets, either. Your child loves you for that.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
Celebrating your child’s differences makes your family’s braid grow like crazy. “If your birth mom hadn’t given you that talent for playing the piano, this would be a boring place.” To a teen in open adoption, you might say, “I wonder when your birth dad looked in the mirror and saw pimples on his face. You’re going to see him this weekend and can ask him!” Kudos to you, savvy parents.
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring…” (Isaiah 44:3)
Sometimes, braids need mending. The silk required for mending can’t be bought. It is heaven-sent and God promises to mend your braid with his Spirit. He delights in taking broken things and making them beautiful. Like Elijah under the broomstick tree, he wants you to take good care of yourself because many good things await you. Eat healthy. Don’t live on a tight schedule. Lean hard into him. He won’t fail you.
“My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king….” (Psalm 45:1)
Someday, your braid may be ultra-shiny. Your child may have an opportunity to tell about adoption! With God-given confidence, she might say, “Nobody knew I was alive, except God. He planned my life before the world began. Like a potter with clay, he knew he’d need a little bit of this and a little bit of that to make me into exactly the person he had in mind.”
Pray for that wonderful day.
“….you are familiar with all my ways.” (Psalm 139: 3)
The red cord, your teen, will pull away and leave home for university, a job, or independent living. What will you yell as he pulls out of the driveway? “I love you….take good care of yourself!” Children learn self-care from their parents. They’ve been taking notes on how you care for yourself under pressure, change, conflict, and challenges. Thank God for grace.
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…” (Joel 2:25)
There may be tear stains on your child’s red cord due to negative, painful, or missing birth history. Assure her that God redeems loss and will make up more than she could ever imagine. There are no lost years or experiences in God’s economy! He uses everything and everybody to make us into the people he wants us to be. There is no loss without a gain. Focus on gains.
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” (Ephesians 3:14-15)
The red cord sometimes feels torn between the green and purple cords. Which parents should she be close to? How can she be close to both? This is a loyalty issue. Your child doesn’t want to hurt you or imply ungratefulness. Yet, her love for her first family is bone deep. Whatever set of parents she is with, she will likely avoid talking about the other parents. Express your love about her other parents often. Applaud the extended family.
“Honor your father and your mother….” (Exodus 20:12)
Both the green and purple cords, the adoptive and first parents, must honor one another’s lives. This is the key to entering the world of your adopted child. You can honor their position even if their performance isn’t commendable. “God knew that he needed the influences of all four of your parents to make you into the incredible person you are today.” By honoring each member of the extended family, the adoptee will experience unconditional love.
“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 40:28)
Before the world began,
You had me in your hand.
Created to be loved,
My purpose is in you.
Everything, absolutely everything
Above and below its purpose you know
The visible and invisible
Everything was started in you.
I found my purpose in you, Jesus,
Created to worship you forever.
I’ll worship you my Savior,
My life is yours forever.
(Copyright 2013, Heartland Church, Indianapolis, IN)
“Love is patient, love is kind… it does not dishonor others..”. (I Corinthians 13:4,6)
Which parent is real–green or purple? Eventually, the “real parent” question surfaces. The real parent puts the child’s needs first. The first mother and father are real because they chose life for the adoptee. If your adoption is open, they continue to be real, for there is an ongoing relationship. Adoptive moms and dads, you’re real. Oh, yes, you’re as real as can be… in the trenches every day.
“…the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
A torn red cord is clearly the result of trauma prior to adoption. Unresolved past trauma triggers infant screaming, teenage rants, and school-age tantrums. If you tense up, your child will pull away, go within, run away, or pout. However, if you speak truth about the current event that is triggering a painful memory, she will calm down. Assure her it won’t always hurt so much and that you’ll always be there for her.
“Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3)
The red cord wants to be close to the green. Your child may scream one day, “I am not like you.” He may be crying out for a reunion or more time with his first family and for deeper closeness with you. Your child wants close connections with both but probably doesn’t understand how to integrate his dual identity (nature and nurture). Pray, celebrate differences, and get counseling.
The description of the beautiful braid is adoption from God’s perspective. Wouldn’t we love to be perfect and to live up to its description? In reality, our cords are torn, tattered, stained, frayed, and sometimes ready to break. Where is God, the author of adoption, in all the hurt and challenges? In the prison sentences, the disruptions, the arguments, insecurities, dashed dreams, special needs,and broken promises? He’s in it with you. Remember…he said he’d never leave us?
“Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” (I Kings 19:5)
If your cord or braid is well-worn, you may feel like the great prophet, Elijah. He had been greatly used in God’s kingdom and chased by wicked queen Jezebel. After blessing comes battle. Are you battling discouragement, like Elijah?
Satan would be delighted if you are because it’s one of his favorite tools. Ponder all you’ve been through lately. You haven’t failed in your faith walk. Even the greats get exhausted. Be like Elijah. Rest, eat well, and expect a touch from God.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15)
Some red cords, adoptees searching for first parents, often are met with rejection. We’d like to think that all mothers want their babies or children, but God tells us the painful reality. First mothers have the choice of working through post-adoption loss and becoming healthy or taking the well-worn path of self-protection. God makes his presence known in special ways to these adoptees, proving that the love of Jesus is deeper than any of life’s rejections. Your child may experience this. Let it happen and remain available.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16)
Both green and purple cords are vital! Not sure? According to your child and God, there is no need for competition or comparison between parents. There’s no such thing as the “preferred parent.” Each time you are tempted to doubt your worth, return to the Cross. The ground is level there. Remember you were chosen for this.
“I have revealed you to those you gave me out of the world…I pray for them…for those you have given me…” (John 17: 6, 9)
Who holds your family’s braid? God himself. Our pastor reflects God’s care for his own by rising early to make daily breakfast for his kids. He talks with them about their day and how difficult it is to live a Christ-honoring life in this fallen world. He reminds them that they are leaders, not followers. His last words to them: “Remember who you are.” High fives and they’re off. Remember whose you are today…and then remind your children that they are God’s kids.
“His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart.” (Psalm 55:21)
Red cords, adopted children, can get slammed through bullying. It can happen at school, a sleepover, or with a comment from a well-intentioned relative or friend. Words like “illegitimate” hurt adoptees deeply. Consider purchasing The WISE-UP Power Workbook, by Marilyn Schoetle. Your child needn’t be victimized by bullies. She can take her power back and you can be integral in helping this happen.
“Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world…why do you submit to its rules? (Colossians 2:20,22)
Rules have their place, but for the child who’s been traumatized, he may believe that the only way to know God or be accepted by him is by rule-keeping.
Help him steer away from a performance-based faith. He may not know what it means to have a personal relationship with God. You are the key person to live that reality out. What an awesome privilege. You go, parents! Grace trumps rules.
“…I have made you, you are my servant; Israel, I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 44:21)
Knots in the red cord…your child and his beginnings. Adoptees raised in the closed adoption system were usually not told their birth stories. Some say, “I feel like an alien who was dropped out of the sky into my parents’ home.” To help your child discover when his true identity began, take him back to eternity past, to the heart of Father God. This is the place of shameless beginnings. The lifeline begins here and continues consistently even in the broken places. Peace to you, friends.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” (Psalm 68:5)
If the red cord is searching for the green, unexpected and painful things may occur. One adoptee entered a counselor’s office for the first time and was asked if her mother tried to abort her. Years later this adoptee was reunited with her first mother who boldly announced that she would have aborted her if possible. Many adoptees have this story. This is when we must turn to the legacy Jesus left for orphans. A father to the fatherless.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:12)
I envision a huge Maypole with your children each holding onto different colored cords in the braid, and it is beautiful. They are celebrating that their lives were touched by adoption. However, for now, praise God that he gives grace to see the finished picture. Someday, in heaven, your braid will be perfect. No knots, no tear stains, no rips or tears, no missing cords. Until then, we walk by faith in the Son of God who loves us and gave his life for us.
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TWENTY THINGS ADOPTED KIDS WISH–Daily Meditations for First and Adoptive Parents: https://sherrieeldridgeadoption.blog/shop
Parents, the kindle book is highly recommended. Read it in carpool lines and while waiting for the kids in the dr.’s office..