Consumed by joy
Lived in the moment
Expressed in the presence of the Father
May you delight yourself in Him this Thanksgiving week.
I visited with a delightful adoptive couple after church last Sunday. Although their 17 year journey has been challenging they remain hopeful. Like many of us they have struggled to understand their son and his unique needs while acknowledging the toll it has taken on their family.
“Hey, before you leave I have a question for you,” Sam said. “Have you heard of…” and he rattled off the names of well-known individuals who specialize in helping children with challenges.
“Yes, I have.”
“Well, what do you think about them?”
I said they were credible and well respected. “But no one has all the answers,” I continued. “You know your child better than anyone else. Take from each professional what fits for you. You don’t have to believe everything they teach to benefit from them. No one gets it right for all kids and families. As adoptive parents we need lots of tools in our parenting toolboxes.”
Coping strategies, life lessons, parenting theories, scriptural truths, and more fill our toolboxes. Some of us regularly tidy up our boxes while others manage with disheveled ones. Whatever their state, we need to know what tools we have, rid ourselves of ineffective ones and add new ones.
Many toolboxes overflow with tools we’ve secured for our children: therapists, counselors, medication, school and church programs, etc. And that’s great. But what helpful tools do you have for your journey? And have you given yourself permission to use them?
Here are three you might find useful:
Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray present learning to forgive as a process in their book The Worn Out Woman. They note, “…the failure to deal with hurts is one of the primary reasons women feel exhausted and weary. Carrying a load of resentment or guilt takes a terrible toll-physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”
It’s OK to love your hammer, that go-to-tool on which you rely. But ask God to help you embrace adoption challenges as opportunities to acquire new ones. We need lots of tools, for our children and ourselves.
Many adoptive moms are hurting. Perhaps this journey and our children have not turned out like we expected. We question our self-worth and adequacy as moms. Sometimes we get lost amidst the demands of everyday life or drown in the sludge of our blame-and-shame self-talk. Isolation or busyness masks our fear. Depression lurks. I know because I’ve been there.
But it’s not a final destination! We can be OK even when our children are not. We can love them, pray for them and guide them on their journey…but their journey is their journey. And we don’t have to go on all of it with them.
I offer tools for emotional healing and spiritual renewal in my book A Place I Didn’t Belong: Hope for Adoptive Moms. One journaling question asks moms to remember who they were before they began the adoption process and then to write a letter to themselves, something they’d like to tell their pre-adoptive self.
One precious mom recently wrote and shared her letter with the women in her healing support group. And I’m sharing it, with her permission, because it offers hope and grace to adoptive moms in all stages at all ages.
For some reason you still believe that the fate of your children is all up to you. If you say the right things, do the right things, look the right way, love hard enough, laugh often enough, control your temper 24/7, respond with unending patience, pray enough, study the Bible enough, hug enough, teach them enough…somehow all of those things will heal your children, will keep them from being lost, will stop them from going over the deep-end, will make them upstanding citizens of society…will save them. But all God asked you to do was say “yes.”
He knew you would grieve and mourn the loss of your hopes and dreams. He knew you would respond with fits of anger, impatience, compassionless selfishness, and distrust toward both Him and the children. He even knew you would brand yourself a failure, wracked with guilt over your imagined inadequacies. But He didn’t ask you to be anyone you couldn’t be. He just asked for your obedience…and you gave it. Your work is done…now it’s up to Him. Quite frankly, His plans are none of your business…and you may never see the big picture this side of heaven. But you really are right where He wants you to be. You really are the perfect mom for them.
Throw away your definition of what a “good mom” is. It simply doesn’t matter. Every mom in your group was and is a good mom. None of their efforts changed how their kids reacted to their own Five Story Fall. They just did their best and continue to do so. They said “yes” and that is all that matters. Rest knowing that your “yes” is enough.