This clip from Bryan Post at The Post Institute is an excellent reminder of how we need to be aware of our own triggers and emotional state before trying to help our children’s mindfulness and regulation. It is a great taste of the teaching Mary Weber did in September for our Sioux Falls Katelyn’s Fund families.
My almost 8-year-old son never wants to pray out loud with me at bedtime. I know enough not to make it a big deal or make him go through the motions if his heart is not in it. But, it still bugs me that he is not interested in talking to God with me.
Tonight I took him with me to a high school FCA event I was speaking at (out of convenience mostly but with the hope he would enjoy it). He asked me to use his Bible and was excited to come along. He seemed to enjoy sitting in the living room with a room full of high school athletes watching the Rival short video he has seen a dozen times or more (as his dad helped make it) and listening to me talk about what motivations athletes in their sport and how to play in freedom knowing you are loved and accepted by God. Towards the end of the hour meeting, he passed out cards for athletes to check out his dad’s book The Assist and we drove home. He started to talk in the backseat of the van, “Mom how do you talk to people you don’t know like that? You didn’t seem scared or embarrassed. I was embarrassed handing out the cards.” “Mom, I learned something tonight, when that boy in the back talk about playing to win, that is what I think about in my soccer and basketball games.” Then he preceded to tell me about his favorite Bible stories and asked me about my favorites ones. He then starts talking about how his best friend Finn is a fast reader ( 1st graders are all about getting to the next level in reading) and how he wants to give Finn a bible since he doesn’t go to church and he could read it so fast.
This conversation warmed my heart but what happened when we got home and I asked, like I do every night, if he wanted to pray was even better for my heart! It reminded me of a very important lesson. He said YES he wanted to pray! He was inspired by our time doing ministry together. He prayed a beautiful prayer (as are all prayers) thanking God for creation and praying for safety for his friend whose moving, and for help for his sister with her temper! It was a priceless night with my boy!
I’m reminded that more is caught than taught! That the way I live my life and the way I let my children see me live my life is of utmost importance. I get frustrated that I can not keep a consistent family devotional time at dinner for Lent. I get discouraged that I am not reading the Bible with my children daily. I get discouraged that my prayers at bedtime often aren’t specific and become routine. There is always more I can do as a mother and I will never be the perfect mom. But, tonight I was reminded that my children will be shaped more by what they see me doing and not doing. My life and where and how I am investing my time will make a bigger impression on my children’s lives then how many times we read a family devotional together. I am grateful for this gentle reminder from Jesus that my obedience to Him is the greatest thing I can do for my children. Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.”
It has been too long since I have written a blog post (due to me forgetting to post when I am scheduled!) and I had every intention to post yesterday when I was scheduled! Ahh but life happens and my days are full, in the best way, with 3 small children, college athletes that need to hear the Gospel, a staff team that needs care, and neighbors and a church community to invest in.
As I slow down and sit to write I am thinking about how incredible it is that families not only consider adoption but actually wrestle with what God may be leading them to. I have two families in my life right now that are in this place. There is a sizable gap between the amount of people who say they want to adopt and how many actually adopt. What I am grateful for is that the two couples are wrestling with God about adoption, they are doing more then just considering it. They are open handed and willing to imagine what life would be like if they said yes to a call to adoption. They are imaging the costs involved, the blessings and the changes that will come if God leads and they follow obediently. I know many outsiders look at them and think they are crazy for even entertaining the idea of adoption, especially the one couple who are newly weds since the adoption need before them young siblings. But I don’t think they are crazy! I commend them for stretching themselves and expanding their view of what God might have for them. I am inspired by their faith that does not lead them to fear but to a place of trust in God and His ability to provide for them all they need.
With my full days and all the great things God has for me in this season of life I want to remain open handed, like these couples, and be willing to say yes to adoption again or any other surprise God might put in my families path.
In the last little while, some of my teen kids have said things like this: Can you imagine what life would be like if we hadn’t adopted…….if we had stopped with….(insert name). My teens are living interesting lives. More time away from home and with friends, focusing on leaving the nest rather than living in the nest, etc. Tonight it came up again. Our number 4 has significant ADHD and life with her is like living in a tornado. All the time. My 15yr old son tonight said, I think if we hadn’t adopted, life would have been…..cleaner.
It’s true. Our house is a disaster all the time. Mostly it is because our number 4 moves through the house at lightning speed, playing, searching , living really fast. I cannot keep up. I clean my house, I do. I cannot clean it faster than she spills, creates, explores and explodes room after room……
Truth says that if we had just stopped before our adopted kiddos came to our family, things would have been much cleaner. We would be able to afford things we cannot afford. We would not be stressed. But, truth also says (and I shared this with my teen son tonight) that if we had not said “yes” to adoption, we would be much more focused on our sense of self. We may not care as much for the lost and broken, the fatherless, the orphan, the child in foster care, the hurting. We may just have been so proud of ourselves and our comfortable world that we didn’t notice. Our truth says that God lead us down a path that is less easy…..less comfortable…..less typical. We struggle here. We balance love and pain and loss and some regret and lots and lots of grace. We have a messy house and stained carpet and broken lamps and we have to share bedrooms and we don’t get to go on vacation every year. That is our truth. That is the life God called us to and that is who we are.
Teen son heard my heart and said, “yep” and sat down to help work on a 1000 piece puzzle that we set up on our dining room table this weekend. We have to eat our meals in the margins because we have decided to try fix this puzzle before Monday morning. In a quiet way, weekends are sacred here…..we do less, we stay home, we press in rather than out. Weekends are exhausting for this mama. I cannot wait for Mondays when everyone leaves again for high school, grade school, preschool, work, daycare……and I can reclaim some of my space here……but for now, on the weekend…..we see how crowded and chaotic it is. We move around each other. We tolerate each other. We love each other. We fix the puzzle. We strive to heal from the wounds of our week……..we share life here……..
Truth says that we are better because we chose a path of adoption. We are not calmer or richer or more settled. We are not even wiser….but we are a better sense of who we are….and we are open and willing to love and to open our door and our hearts whenever God knocks.
“How do meals help families returning home from adopting a new child?” One of my friends came to visit us after we had returned home from Thailand with our daughter and asked this sincere question. It’s true, I think most people don’t fully understand the stress that an adjustment period brings when a new child is added to a family through adoption. Most can identify with bringing home a new infant and how much work and weary that can be; but few really understand adoption unless they have walked the same road.
So let me just shout from the rooftops that adoptive families need you! They need grace , they need to be given time to focus on home and immediate family. They need your prayers. They need friends who send texts of encouraging words, notes saying they are being prayed for, meals they can put in the oven on challenging days, sidewalks scooped/lawns mowed, groceries delivered….they need friends and family who will simply let them know that they have their backs for… whatever. Judgement free, loving support.
Here are a couple reasons why:
1. Travel and Those They Left.
In the case of international adoption, families return home after upwards of 30+ hours of travel. They have ridden for hours on a plane over the ocean, with a child they barely know. They have spent hours in airport terminals, in security and immigration lines entertaining a tired, crabby, but somehow energetic toddler who most likely does not understand English. We are talking about jet-lag and exhaustion at its finest.
When they do arrive home, the children they have left behind will be needy. They have missed their mom and dad and will require full-energy attention. They have been out of routine and now will have to find where they fit in the midst of a changing family. They will test the limits again and some discipline issues that were nipped in the bud before will resurface. Life in the home will be challenging and it will take some time to settle into a new normal.
2. Who They Bring Home
The fact is, most adopted children have endured more pain and loss than you or I ever will. Being adopted into a family does not automatically make everything better. In fact, for a period of time things appear worse as they live through yet another disruption they have no control over. They have experienced things like abandonment, neglect, abuse, exploitation, institutionalization, and a level a fear and terror most of us cannot identify with.
The first weeks home are weeks of major adjustment. Even though the new child may not be an infant, nights will still be sleepless, full of rocking and crying that won’t be consoled with warm milk. An adopted child has no history or trust established with their parent to draw comfort from. They haven’t spent 9 months in a womb listening to their mom’s voice. They are surrounded by the unfamiliar, making trust and comfort something that will have to be earned. Not an easy task if they have tasted betrayal and abandonment in their short past.
In order to establish this trusting relationship, the parent must be available and able to respond to every need of the child immediately. Insecurities run deep, and they manifest in many ways–ways that are taxing. The new child might want nothing to do with the parent because they are afraid of being abandoned again. For the same reasons, it may manifest in the child clinging to the parents’. every. single. move. Adoptive parents have few moments where they are not aware and tending to their new child.
So you see, adoption is no easy thing. Come to think of it, most things that are worth doing aren’t. Adoptive families make many sacrifices and experience many trials when they open their hearts and homes to an orphan. As brothers and sisters, let us bear one another’s burdens. Let us tell them they are not alone but can draw strength from the support of you and I. Can you lighten the load for a returning adoptive family? They need you.
My sweet husband and I were able to leave town overnight yesterday. My mom could help, and one kiddo had a birthday party sleepover….the older kids all had plans. We left town shortly after lunch time yesterday and were home by 4pm today. In theory, this is a manageable thing. In reality….we managed. The kids did great. They had fun on their sleep-overs. They behaved great….until we all got home. My husband and I had a blast. We laughed, we held hands, we relaxed. We ate really great food and saw a movie and slept well in the hotel……until we got home.
Tantrums, acting out, screaming and crying and being disobedient…..telling me I am the worst mom ever…..and generally just releasing the pressure valve of the 24 hour steam tank. It just sucks. It was like the entire unwinding, relaxing get-away just blew up in my face and unraveled all night long. Doggon it. I took the trash out to the garage and literally beat the garbage bag against the can in frustration. No harm, no foul…….
I knew this would come as a response to being away for 26 hours but I did not have the armor to shield against the attack. 4 hours later, the kids are asleep and I am exhausted. Its just so hard, isn’t it?
And then we remember that there is grace. Grace to wake up tomorrow and smile at my children and make breakfast and sing songs and get ready for church. Grace to spend much-needed quality time with the little people here, and to make sure that their cups are filled up again before we start a new week. Grace to not feel bitter or resentful for how much work it is to raise up children to be good human beings…..Grace to find Sabboth rest and not be mad at God Almighty for making it so hard.
Grace to remember that He feels the same way about loving me on many days…..but He loves me in spite of my difficult nature, my complaining, my tantrums and my troubles……Grace to accept His unconditional love and to beg Him to pour it out into me as well on these hard days.
In adoption, Grace can mean so many things. Grace to accept prayers as a family waits. Grace to ask for prayer when a family struggles. Grace to know when we need bigger help…….Grace to say that even when it is hard, it can also be right.
We need grace to wrestle with whether to start the journey again, when to lay it down, when to set it aside. We need grace to walk with other families on the hard journey of adoption. We need grace to ask the Lord…….what is next for us.
Grace says that moving forward is good. Falling down hurts but is not the end of the world. Failing once in awhile is ok. Reaching for Jesus helps. Mercies are new every single morning.
Grace is the key for me in this walk with Christ. Grace is my fuel, my prayer, my hope and my strength in this broken world…..again and again I am so thankful for Grace.
Two days ago, I returned from my fourth trip to Congo to spend time with the incredible and humble ministry, Mwana Villages. Among many other purposes for this trip, what will stick with me about this particular trip is that I got to take a front row seat to one of the biggest days in any family’s life: the day they meet their child. And as I reflect on what we experienced, I think on the concept of Grace. It’s what characterized each interaction and is the only word that could perfectly capture every broad emotion and experience of this wonderful time.
As I watched children come to know their parents, I marveled at the grace which had been shown to them by the consistent, warm love of the mama caregivers at Mwana Villages. This grace allowed these children to have a sense of “self” that did not balk, fly or freeze in fear at meeting their new parents. This grace allowed them to have a sense of confidence that they are loved, important, and cherished. This grace also allowed them the safety to process a deep and difficult experience unfolding before their eyes: becoming someone’s child.
But the grace was also evident in the parents’ love. It was a love of action (though certainly not without emotion), shown in the patience called for as families come to know each other; shown in the attempts at crossing language barriers; shown in the quiet persistence of breaking through the newness to establish precious familiarity. These parents took in stride their children’s trauma and where many would buckle under the fear of a past of hurt or the anxiety of what’s to come, grace steeled their determination to be part of the story of healing.
There was grace in talking with the maman who has known the depths of poverty, and because of the grace shown to her through a little ministry seeking to help, she now opens her home to women in crisis. There was grace in the humor and relationship building between people of two languages, starkly different cultures, near opposite educational backgrounds. There was grace in the small gifts of mercy from a Heavenly Father who orchestrates every detail from logistics to travel to interactions to farewells for some and no more farewells for others.
GRACE defined our trip. It’s only grace that captures the inexpressible joy, humble spirits, solemn commitments and promise of hope. And as we walk forward from there, we profess that it’s grace that sustains us, grace that guides us.
We all need a tribe. A tribe consists of your people, your family and friends and teachers and neighbors…..and we need a tribe to raise our children. One important person in my tribe is my friend Jen. We were having babies in the same season, in a women’s bible study together. About the time we adopted our daughter Precious, our bible study was disbanding because of busy lives and young children…..My only sibling had recently divorced the only one I ever called sister….and I was in need of a tribe. Precious came home and all of our friends brought meals and baby gifts, as you do to welcome a new addition to the family. We were loved and lavished and supported. Precious was a hard baby. She was jumpy and jittery and did not sleep. Therefore we did not sleep. In those first months with her, we were exhausted and overwhelmed….and my friend Jen came over. In fact, she came over at 11pm on night, after putting her own kids to bed, and gently picked Precious up from my chest. You see, the only way she slept was on our chests….so we split the night and each slept 4 hours and held her the other 4…..I had just fallen asleep and Jen came in and picked her up and said to me, “sleep. I will take her down to the basement and just hold her and pray for a few hours. when I am ready to leave I will bring her back to you.” And she did. That is what a tribe does.
This week has been a hard week with Precious, too. The changes that come with the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year are hard. She turns 8 on Monday and although birthdays are fun the are also stressful. She and I have been butting heads all week…..we both know it is time for the kids to go back to school and for me to have my time back to work, rest, exercise……it is time for structure and routine again. Jen was over last night after our older boys played football against each other ( so weird) and we had a glass of wine together. I mentioned that it had been a long week with P. Today, she called at noon and invited her over to play with her daughter and she has been there for almost 8 hours! Having fun. Doing great. I got a break that I needed…..and was able to clean the carpets, pull lots of weeds, work in the yard, and spend time with other kids. She got a break that she needed too, a distraction from home and family life. The tribe is important.
If you don’t have a tribe, pray for one. Find one. Ask for help to be part of one. If you are able….be part of the tribe for another family, especially an adoptive family. Tribes rock.
We can’t do everything right. We seriously just can’t. Some families try harder than others, but I think we can all agree that we mostly want to get it right. Tonight I got to read a paper my oldest daughter wrote for her final speech of her junior year of high school. It was timely for me to read it now. She was finally purging her backpack which she avoided most of the summer. We have been discussing plans for after high school graduation. These are bittersweet days for me, helping my oldest child find her way out into the world……
And then there was that paper. It was about a driving force in her life and she wrote about her family tree. Reading her thoughts and perceptions and memories was an amazing thing for me. I am a “mostly good enough” mama…..definitely not a great one. Here is the thing. She got it. She got the best of it……so when we pray that God will help our kids to forget the bad stuff and remember the good…..it works people. She wrote about the positive things we did to help influence her, and the image of Christ she saw in us, and in her grandparents…and I was overwhelmed by the miracle it took for God to show her that in our flawed daily life experience.
Here is just one thing we got right. I want to share it to give hope to others, and to remember it as well. Sunday dinners. We do Sunday dinners well in this family and she noticed and she wrote about it. We make sure we are all here for Sunday dinner. As you mamas know, it is not an easy thing to have Sunday dinner success after a busy weekend and rushing to church and such…..but we have been doing it for 20 years now and we will keep doing it. We make comfort food for Sunday dinner. We set the table. We all sit together. We talk. Sometimes we invite other people and occasionally we are not all home but mostly, we are “good enough” at Sunday dinner for it to matter.
Ironically, tomorrow this child will not be at the table for Sunday dinner. She will be headed out to serve at the foster care camp called Royal Family Kids Camp for her second time. She will be gone a week. I will pray for her and believe in God’s best for her as she serves and loves on the kids who come to camp. We plan to grill burgers for Sunday dinner this week……but for breakfast, since it is her last one in our house for a week…..I have cinnamon rolls ready to thaw and bake, and all the ingredients for a nice egg scramble with sausage and cheese…..and orange juice….and coffee. If we can’t do Sunday dinner this week, than Sunday breakfast will have to do.