Christianity Today: 2018 Award of Merit Christian Living/Dicipleship
In this compellingly readable book Kelley Nikondeha—adoptive mother and adopted child herself—thoughtfully explores the Christian concept of adoption. Her story and her biblically grounded reflections will give readers rich new insights into the mystery of belonging to God’s big family. The Academy of Parish Clergy’s 2018 Top Ten Books for Parish Ministry
Kelley Nikondeha offers us a beautiful and inspiring look at how adoption speaks to us of radical belonging and inclusion - something we could use a lot more of. Kelley and Claude practice what they preach - their home is a place of welcome and inclusion, and they are working in every sphere of their lives to extend Belonging to everyone they cross paths with.
I wondered before I read this, whether it would be as relevant to me, since I'm not adopted myself, and we have not adopted children like Kelley and Claude have. But I've been continuously underlining and scribbling down thoughts and lines as I read. This is about adoption as a way of life, a way of being, and that has so much to say to me as I seek to be a good neighbour in our East London community, and as we seek to be a family who always has room for one more around the table.
"This is how adoption works - like a sacrament, that visible sign of inner grace. It's a thin place where we see that we are different and yet not entirely foreign to one another. We are relatives not by blood, but by mystery. All that divides us as nations, ethnicities, and religious traditions is like a vapour quickly extinguished in light of our adoption into God's family." - Kelley Nikondeha.
**As part of the Adopted launch team, I received an advanced copy of this book. All opinions are my own.**
Kelley Nikondeha's theology of adoption adds new depth the to idea of living out a redemptive faith. From the story of Moses's adoption to Joseph as the adoptive father of Jesus to the fact that Paul calls us into the adoptive family of God, the idea of adoption - of belonging to a family - is part of our human identity. This book is a beautiful intertwining of biblical stories, modern social justice, and Kelley's own experience both as an adoptee and an adoptive mother. Through powerful storytelling, she invites the reader into a new perspective of what it means to be part of the family of God.
**As part of the Adopted launch team, I received an advanced copy of this book. All opinions are my own.**
This is a beautiful exploration of the theological and social meanings of adoption and how it can heal some of the wounds of this world. The idea of relinquishing and redemption and mutual choosing—so fantastic. I was teary-eyed at several moments while reading it.
The author awas adopted as an infant. She and her Burundian husband adopted two children from a Burundian orphanage. I loved this book, which presents adoption as an aspect of hospitality that goes much further than bringing a child not birthed into one’s family into a forever home. We practice adoption by making a bigger table for those around us, especially those who might be outcast or isolated. After reading Ben Daniel’s Neighbors: Christian Encounters with “Illegal” Immigration, I recognized that the Bible is one immigration story after another. After reading this book, I recognize that it is also one adoption story after another, these major themes being intertwined. One of her many illustrations is from one of my favorite Bible stories in the Hebrew scriptures, the book of Ruth. Ruth is not only tolerated and provided for as an immigrant to her mother in law’s land, but is adopted as a full member into her Hebrew community. Nikondeha’s point is that all of creation is of one family, and our broken world would be healed if we treated one another as such, assuring that all have enough to sustain life & are welcomed into family and into community. She points out toward the end of the book that asking adoptees, of any age, about their real or natural families, treating adoption as unnatural, hurts. She writes: “The supra-natural truth that adoption demonstrates is that any child could be mind if I welcome them ... any woman could be my mother, my sister .... the words of Jesus ring in my ears.”
An encouraging read if its theology is read with caution
Kelley Nikondeha is a brilliant writer. The ease with which she weaves life story, biblical narrative, lessons from Scripture, and theological implications is masterful. At points, I found myself passionately disagreeing with some of the projected theological implications. Still, I give it 4 stars because the moments of encouragement and edification outnumber those disagreeable moments.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book by Kelly Nikondeha. She is a wonderful writer. In this book that any adoptive family will benefit from, she weaves together her personal narrative with Biblical narrative and thoughts on theology. I didn't agree with everything in this book but I enjoyed hearing her opinions none the less. This book is encouraging and enjoyable, she hits her target audience perfectly.
The publisher provided an ARC through Netgalley. I have voluntarily decided to read and review, giving my personal opinions and thoughts
I was interested in reading this book as I had been looking for reflections on a theology of belonging. I heard (I can't remember where) a quote, perhaps a paraphrase, attributed to Kelley Nikondeha: "Adoption is God's plan for family." Which suggests that we may have an understanding of adoption which is less than ideal in terms of our understanding of family, but as Nikondeha enlightens us, adoption is the model in terms of the supernatural family of God, thus elevating our understanding of both spiritual and physical adoption. "We belong by believing, not biology."
Nikondeha beautifully weaves in her own story of adoption to lay out elements of spiritual adoption for our understanding of the depths of God's love and the lengths he goes to receive us into His family. Chapters are broken down into those elements, such as Roots, Relinquish, Receive, Reciprocate... with Nikondeha's generous personal and theological reflections.
I decided to read the book together with others - in keeping with the idea of belonging and inviting others in. It was interesting to hear what stood out for each member of our "book club" as we explored the themes of adoption in this book (and I would definitely recommend reading this with friends!). Interestingly, all of us in the book club are touched by adoption in some way. One friend's brother, another friend's husband, my nephew... We relate to the pain and hope of the stories of adoption and it added to the understanding that Nikondeha brought with her own story as both an adopted child and an adoptive mother - and compelled us to relate these stories when considering our own spiritual adoption stories.
The greatest insight and challenge that I received from this book is that "...belonging is a choice, a series of habits, and a way of life that cultivates healing." I've wanted to believe in a rose-coloured, low-effort version of belonging for a long time, but I am being charged to reconsider, through Nikondeha's words, to enter in more actively as an adopted child and as one (a sibling) who participates in the adoption story of others. It is hard work, the connections of belonging don't necessarily happen "naturally," but the process is redemptive.
From time to time I didn't land with Nikondeha in her theological or reflective process, but overall I'm grateful for her trustworthy guidance and challenge to believers to "appreciate the goodness of our family."
"Every time a family chooses to enfold, to adopt a child, or someone reaches out in friendship to someone unlike himself or herself, they are re-making the world, making a single stitch toward wholeness."
"Belonging mends the world."
"As we explore the metaphor and reality of adoption, we must care about preventing any injustice this side of heaven that creates the need for the repair work of adoption."
"We are all adopted ones, siblings by faith called to love one another, comfort one another, honour and help one another. We are all summoned to a sibling solidarity that is generous, inclusive, and laden with love."
*** I was lucky to receive an advanced copy from the publisher for an honest review.
It's not often that I come across authors who challenge and inspire me to re-examine my worldview and theological understanding with such grace and honesty. Kelley writes a compelling work threaded with beautiful stories from her rich experience and deep Scriptural truths to help her readers reimagine their adoption paradigm. Since she can speak both as an adopted daughter and mother to her own adopted children, her wisdom crosses both sides of the narrative. I finished this book with a rekindled excitement and anticipation for the ways Kingdom is being built here on earth through adoptive qualities like durable hospitality, redemption through interconnectedness, and partnering with God's Shalom initiative. I know I will be unpacking much of this book for years to come.
If you think this book is just for adopted persons or adoptive parents, think again. Even though I have limited experience with adoption, I found this book to be extremely relevant and challenging. I can't stop thinking about Kelley Nikondeha's assertion that anyone can be family, that Jesus himself was an adopted one, and Joseph the first adoptive father. What a fresh way of looking at the Gospel story and nativity! I highly recommend this book to all who seek to follow Jesus.
I love a book that explores a metaphor about God (think Keeping the Feast by Milton Brasher-Cunningham or Consider the Birds by Debbie Blue or Wearing God by Lauren Winner). This one talks about adoption in beautiful ways for everyone - welcome and belonging and hospitality. I will be thinking about it for a while.
Beautifully written with thoughtful theological exploration on the meanings and wounds and gifts of adoption. Adoption is God’s plan- the enfolding of each other into our lives despite the barriers we have made. It is God’s plan for us because it is God’s way of loving us, as Nikondeha has written with such care.
This was so beautiful, moving, and spoke so inclusively about what adoption involves and the heart of God in it. I am encouraged at the exploration she is brave enough to do here. As an adoptive mom myself. I found a call to something greater here. Beautiful, beautiful work!!
This is the book I've been looking for! As an adoptive mom and pastor I've reflected often on theological themes within adoption, but Nikondeha brought in entirely new elements I'd not even considered. I cannot recommend this highly enough!
Absolutely life-changing, in-depth look at all the aspects of adoption, whether physical or spiritual. Opened my eyes to God’s spirit of adoption at work in me, everyone around me & the world. Easily one of my favorite books ever, will be coming back to read again.
I really appreciated this book, though I think I would have appreciated even more of the author's lived experiences of adoption. Definitely a quality book about adoption but very informed by Christian tradition (though quite progressive).
What does it mean to be adopted? That is the question that Kelley Nikondeha explores in this wonderful thought provoking book. Nikondeha is adopted, and she and her husband have two adopted children. That means she knows what it means to be adopted. While some suggest taht to be adopted is somehow a second class family situation, that is not the case. Writing as a Christian, she reminds the reader that to be in Christ is to be adopted into the family of God. That is, while Jesus might be the only begotten son of God, we are, as Christians, adopted children of God.
This book is about adoption, both familial and spiritual. It is also about healing a fractured world. She speaks here to the need we all have to belong. The subtitle of the book reminds us of this need and this reality. The use of the word sacrament to describe adoption, is to suggest that adoption is, in all its forms, a means of grace. What she hopes to accomplish in this book is to encourage those who have been adopted and those exploring adoption to claim this status as one of grace. To all of us, she wants to offer insights that can help us move toward a sense of belonging.
The interplay in this book between memoir and scripture is quite well done. This is not easy to do. Sometimes it seems forced, but not in this case. With this in mind, she offers us a way of looking at life in God's presence. She notes that "the everyday experience of adopted living teaches us about belonging beyond boundaries" (p. 5). I like that concept -- belonging beyond boundaries, whether they be familial, religious, national. To be a member of the family of God is to transcend all human boundaries. The sacramental side of adoption is seen in the way "it shows us that adoption is a visible sign to the world that God continues to transform widows into mothers, orphans into daughters and sons, making all of us kin" (p. 5).
The book is composed of eight chapters. She begins with roots or origins. But then moves on to the concept of "relinquish." This is a beautiful chapter that explores why a mother relinquishes a child. Too often we condemn a mother for this action, but its difficult to relinquish, but it can be powerful. Understanding why this happens is important to the child who has been relinquished. If a child is relinquished, the child is also received. In these two chapters, Nikondeha incorporates the story of Moses, whose own life illustrates this transition, as one mother must let go of her child, even as another brings him into her own family as her own.
From Receive we move to reciprocate. I had never thought of it this way, but even as adoptive parents adopt, so does the adoptive child. There is a reciprocity here that is not always easy to accomplish, but is necessary if a child is to move toward belonging. Using the story of Ruth and Naomi, Nikondeha invites us to consider what it means to be redeemed, and who might be the redeemers in our lives, those who provide a place of belonging, as Boaz did for Naomi and Ruth.
The chapter on repair invites us to consider the connection between tikkun olam and shalom, where repair connects with equity. This chapter explores the idea of jubilee and what it means to have one's life repaired or restored. With adoption in mind, she suggests that "adoption enacts shalom for all of us" (p. 122). Adoption is, she suggests, "one way to strengthen the neighborhood" (p. 123). Adoption is ultimately about inclusion and welcome. This is a vision we truly need at this moment!
Repair leads to return, that search for our first home or mother. This is not, she suggests, lack of gratitude to adoptive parents, it is simply a recognition that we all long to know our roots. Those might be spiritual roots, or familial, but we have this desire, this longing for answers. But ultimately, there is the longing for the world that God envisions for us, that holy mountain or new city envisioned by Isaiah. Finally, we come to the concluding chapter, titled "relatives." We bring to a close the conversation by reflecting on what it means to be a "real family." Here belonging is as strong as biology. What she believes is that we can, whether adopted or not, we can learn from those adopted about what it means to be family, what it means to belong in a way that transcends boundaries. She writes in the concluding paragraph that Jesus is the "Gathering God, the Adopted One who crosses boundaries to show us that we are all kin despite the ways we differe from each other and even from him. In this fractured world, we belong -- that's the truth that binds us to him, Our Father, who art in heaven" (p. 176).
Again, this is a beautifully written book that is revealing of a life lived as adopted child and adopted parent, but also of the potential for the world if we understand what it means to be adopted by God. This is God's desire, but there is need for reciprocity, for adopting God, and then maybe we'll be ready to be restored to wholeness.
Really interesting book from many different angles.
I appreciate how Nikondeha takes so many Bible passages and applies them to the plight of the dispossessed throughout the world--whether by being orphaned, losing a homeland, missing community or even simply feeling abandoned.
I learned new insight into familiar Bible passages and was left with lots to think about.
For those who are in the company of the adopted, the knowledge that they belong is a need that runs throughout their lives. Richly theological and with lovely narrative threads, adoptee and adoptive mom Nikondeha shows us that actually, we all need and long to belong. And those who are touched by adoption, like Nikondeha and her children, have so much to show us of God's reconciling embrace.