Adoption Update!

Hello friends! It has been awhile since I updated our website/blog about the adoption and I wanted to take a moment tonight to share what’s been going on. As many of you who get our newsletter know, we went to Haiti in December to visit our two lovely Haitian daughters. We got our referral on May 29, 2015 after waiting (officially with dossier entered to IBESR) for 15 months. We took our socialization trip the last two weeks of June. We exited IBESR and received our Authorizations of Adoption at the end of October; we were so overjoyed! Then we entered Parquet Court on November  24th, and got our Adoption Decrees on December 22nd, 2015; actually we were in the airport on the way home when we got the email!

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I made 4 of these matching t-shirts right before our trip, they say: I love my sisters!

I have enjoyed working through the Beginner Haitian Creole book by Gloria Guignard Board. She is a blessing!! I studied August to December, and still need to study a LOT more, but on our trip in December I was able to communicate pretty decently! Grace, grace, God’s grace! Selah, our 10 year old, picked up a little, too, and began formed her own sentences as the trip went on. One of the best moments of the trip was when Yemi, our 7 year old, broke the ice in those first minutes of communication by shouting with a huge smile on her face: “Bonjou, tout moun!” (Hello, everybody!) No one expected her to know any Creole, and it was just perfect!

We were SO blessed to bring suitcases full of goodie bags, quite a few Razor scooters, tiny little teddy bears for all the little kids, and tons of games and toys for all the rooms to share. People gave and gave for this to happen. Here are some pics!

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Another Mama Blan (that what our kids call us) and I will be going to Haiti in about a month to visit, and we are praying to get our kids sometime this Spring or Summer. There are still several steps to go!

Currently, our dossiers are in Legalization after Parquet, then they will go to Ministry of Interior, then Passports, then USCIS, then the last serious step: Visa & Medical appointment with the Dept of State, ending with an exit letter a week or less later. Each step has a “predicted” time frame, but really everyone has had different experiences. We are truly in the Lord’s hands and thankful for His timing and sovereignty!

Here is a picture of our four daughters, finally all together for the first time:

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I’m just so excited, and trying to stay calm as I ride this long wave all the way home. God promised from Day One: My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest. And He has done that. It has been long, but it has not been anxious. And for one good reason only–the gift– the free, sweet, kind, loving gift–of communication with my Father in Heaven! When I lay all this at His feet (and often I know He’s like “You really don’t have to say those details again, sweetie, I’ve got this!”) every day, He displaces my worry and fear with peace and joy. He’s a good Father!

That’s one of the most wonderful things He has taught me this year…the peace enveloped in the privilege of being His daughter.

If I had to say what I long for the very most as a mother it would be that my daughters would have victory over any barriers that would keep them from reveling in the love and protection their family and their Heavenly Father provides them. I know that was a mouthful of a sentence there, but the reality is that adopted children often have a very hard time truly relaxing in the simple gift of love. Their hard past makes it a little (or even a lot) complicated to enjoy all that they now have.

And doesn’t that sound a little like me and you, too?

This summer the Lord allowed me to swallow a seed and it’s been growing…the seed of confidence that what He says about my being related to Him really is true! Let me share an excerpt from my journal…I’ve been waiting for just the right time.

(I wrote the following on June 26, 2015, in Haiti, after listening to Melissa’s Story, a podcast from Jonathan and Melissa Helser)

“This is the day God delivered me from a spirit of fear and made me to really understand what was standing in the way of my joy and peace. I was living from an orphan’s heart, a heart full of disappointments and fear of more, a heart of distrust. I was a daughter of the King I just wasn’t letting my heart feel and my mind think from that status. I thought and felt and acted like an orphan just not quite believing God was good. It’s the great lie whispered in every tragedy: God is not good.
When a child doesn’t trust their parent, all kinds of mental and emotional problems happen, and when that parent is actually wonderful, what a sad story that the child would miss out on enjoying that stability they could have had.
I decided I would not waste another minute of my life consciously doubting whether or not God was good.
If He loved me, and adopted me, it was time to let that carry its full weight and set me free. No more saying I believe it but it having no real effect on my feelings of dread.
This is the happiness of the believer–to let go of how your life has to be and ENJOY being His beloved, highly favored, cherished child, whatever He decides that should look like!
I’m ALL IN. I’m tired of being a worry wart. I’m tired of wondering if He’s good or if He makes mistakes. I need my Abba and I’m choosing to trust Him and know I’m not forgotten…know He is coming back for me, know He never stops thinking about me, know He weeps when I weep and rejoices when I rejoice, know He can see and orchestrate things in the future that I can’t comprehend, know He really is good and He really does love me, know I can be little me because He is Who He Is. If I know all of that, and I can honestly say that I do, then regardless of what He allows me to face, I really do not have anything to fear because He is the One Thing I must not–but could never–lose.
And every single sentence I just said about ME choosing to dwell with God AS A DAUGHTER NOT AN ORPHAN is happening before my very eyes in the seen realm…what will it take for these little girls to know they are no longer orphans? That there’s a room prepared for them like they’ve never imagined? That everyday half a dozen grandparents are whispering their names to the God they entrust their beloveds to? That their place at the table sits open and ready and no one else can fill it but them? That I dream of snuggling under covers and eating ice cream and helping them find their callings and really knowing them like only family does?
They don’t know these things…yet. It’s just words to them right now. And it really will take faith for them to believe it. And it really will take faith for me to believe He is speaking these same beautiful thoughts over me. I’m no longer an orphan; I’m in. Not even as a slave or a worker bee, but a precious child. There’s a room prepared, and a life to live until then carefully planned as well. In Heaven, the cloud of witnesses spur me on, the Holy Spirit intercedes with groans words cannot express on my behalf, and Jesus Himself, my dearest brother, goes to the Father for me and pray God’s will over my life. He says my name to the Father daily! I’ve a place at that table and His banner over me is love. He loves the story of my life, and revels in knowing me, behind the eyes.
My ability to speak it and write it is sadly inadequate, but just like with me and my Abba, my girls can either trust us and have a happy childhood…or not. They’re not gonna get everything they want or always be happy with us, but they can trust us and have a happy childhood…or not. There will be a huge transition of going from a disappointed, distrusting orphan to a content, relaxed DAUGHTER, but this is my prayer for us both. Healing matters, but you know what it really requires is faith. I’m choosing to accept that seed of daughtership, that seed of confidence to believe He is good, perfect in all of His ways, and worthy of my trust.
I pray that I will never be the same and that I will enjoy and relax and sink deeply into being my Daddy’s girl, and let Him fight my battles, write my story, and meet my needs. I pray I can LIVE that trust, seeing the fruits of joy, peace, security in who I am, and be that example by God’s grace to these girls, until they relax in our arms without a care in the world as all children should.”
I can honestly say in the months since I have truly been changed. Active petition and thanksgiving, with true surrender and excitement about what my Abba will do in His great love for me and others I am praying for, is the scene of my prayer life now. Worry is displaced by the choice to trust Him, and He makes me carefree when I come to Him and am renewed by His Word and truth. Trust has led to surrender, which has led to peace, which has led to joy, which has led to thanksgiving, which has led to having light even on the dark nights. And when I get lost again, it’s trust that I have to go back to. It’s square one.
That seed is the beginning and as Matthew 13 describes, the smallest of seeds can become strong arms, a plentiful home for the birds of the air to find refuge. May it be so in our lives, because the world is full of sparrows, looking to know their worth.

 

15 Years of Marriage…and the Lies That Add Up

(Ooh, I didn’t mean to make such a scandalous title but now that it’s there, I just can’t erase!) It’s okay, you’ll see where I’m heading as you read on…

Jack and I are celebrating our 15th Anniversary tomorrow, New Year’s Day! I can’t believe it’s been 15 years. I will never forget that snowy day in a packed church where we, with such hope in our eyes, said “I do.” No one could have told us what would come next, what trials we’d face, what mistakes we’d make…we just had to experience it for ourselves.

And along the way, along with the surprises, doesn’t the enemy of our souls just enjoy coming in and devouring that hope, those promises?

The lies do begin to add up as he whispers fears and blame…and after 15 years, I’ve finally learned to call him out and let him know I’m not afraid of these words. They have no hold on me. My choice is made because I bend my thoughts and will and desires to another whisper. Do these lies seem familiar at all to you?

Lie #1…”We have nothing in common.” For me and Jack, this “lie” has lots of truth in it. We are hilariously opposite in truly almost every way. Extrovert, introvert. Hot all the time, cold all the time. Owns seven screens, happy with one. Steak, salad. Small talk, heart talk. Jokes, blogs. Midnight, 9:30. So guess what? This doesn’t have to be a problem. It’s all about perspective. 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us there are different kinds of gifts, and that the Body of Christ is made up of many parts–and no one could do their part well without the other members doing their part well. That’s how it can be in a marriage, too. We can appreciate the way our spouse thinks whether we understand it or not. They are an individual first before they can be a member of a partnership. I like myself, and I like being an individual first. I have every intention of hanging onto what makes me ME. So, in the same spirit, I have been learning to value Jack and his opinions, strengths, and even weaknesses, as I want mine to be considered and accepted. I don’t want to put my convictions on anyone anymore. I get my one life, and so does everyone else! The only thing we need in common is loving Jesus, each other, and our family. That’s the truth to cancel out this lie!

Lie #2…”He’s changed.” Well…yeah. That happens to people over a decade and a half. The only way I could recognize Princess Leia in the most recent Star Wars movie was by her eyes. And she’s just as beautiful…but obviously she’s changed through the years. Someday that’ll be us. And not just our physical appearances, but we all evolve through time mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially. We aren’t always going to like what we’ve become or what our spouse has become. But here are three things I’m learning to do to combat this lie.

First, we go to God’s Word, which reminds: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive what grievances you may have…” (Colossians 3:12-13) We are MUTUALLY accepting, having compassion, being patient, with ONE ANOTHER. Do I really think he’s the only one who has changed, who has built up a mound of grievances and idiosyncrasies? Whether I see it or not, I am being loved and accepted as I myself work to love and accept. As we love and accept even things we don’t like (I’m obviously not talking about sin, evil, abuse, etc) people tend to unfold, and their layers come off. They let go of defenses and you connect. It’s a beautiful thing to see someone free to become who they really were meant to be, and they will never become that if someone is pressing them. It’s scary, it feels risky, but it’s really good. It’s offering to someone what you would hope they would offer you as you grow into the best version of yourself.

Second, we pray! When we pray for our spouses, no matter how long it takes for fruition, our perspective and heart toward them changes very quickly. I have seen so many times where I chose to not start a difficult conversation, but prayed for several days or weeks instead, only to see my husband’s countenance change and he himself bring up the problem for us to discuss. We can trust the Lord, He’s a good Father! He knows what we need, and He loves our spouses and is quite capable of speaking to them! (I love and recommend the book The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian!!)

Third, we set our hearts to serve and obey the Lord with our own lives first. I can’t live Jack’s life for him and I’m not supposed to. He has duties that are not mine to perform. I can support him by doing what is on my plate faithfully and joyfully, and trust him and the Lord with what is really not mine to worry about or accomplish.

And last but not least, Lie #3…”If I had married so-n-so, I’d have…” Ugh. This one’s really a sad and desperate attempt of the enemy to get us when we’re down, because we rationally know there’s no way to know what would have happened if we had chosen a different path. We never know what someone else’s home life is truly like either. This thought, this lie, is a mirage in the desert. I think I could have been happy with several different guys that I liked in college and Jack could have been happy with several different girls he liked, too. Why? Because we CHOOSE to be happy. “God’s will” for our lives wasn’t one choice 15 years ago, His will for our lives is right now, every single day. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us what God’s will is for us: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This is God’s will for us. In what we chose, or in whatever situation we find ourselves in somehow, this is God’s will for us. Our active stance is to take joy, pray, and give thanks.

 

The lies have a way of adding up if we listen to them, but so does God’s Word. We can go from strength to strength, building precept upon precept, living out the love He gives, without condition.

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These Days…

One of my best friends came over the other day to sing and record (a cover), and after telling her what a beautiful voice she has (REALLY, I enjoy listening to her more than the original singer any day), she said, “I just have to sing.” I totally feel the same way. I just have to sing. But maybe even more so, believe it or not, I just have to write. And as I had that thought, my next thought was, “Oh yeah, right, there’s this thing called a blog and I think I actually have one of those, thanks to my awesome husband who knows I just have to write.” 🙂

I tend to only write when I have majorly serious things to say. I want to stop that. I want to believe that my normal might be encouraging or relevant to you, it may make someone laugh or think or be in their moment a little more and even if no one reads, well, that’s actually okay, too, because it did that for me.

So here’s what is on my mind these days…

I wonder if I’m the only one who loves their to-do list but also despises their to-do list. Now I don’t mean the kind of to-do list that is random and temporary, like make a dentist appointment, pick up someone at the airport, etc. I mean the list that is an almost every day kind of list, the necessities. Okay, here’s mine:

*Spend time with the Lord, having my heart and mind renewed in worship, the Word, and prayer (While it’s a discipline that I can’t live without and wouldn’t want to live without, it is still a discipline to settle down my soul with Him.)

*Spend time interceding for whoever He puts on my heart, especially and usually adopting families, countries, people with cancer, marriages, and missionaries (I’m totally fired up about this one…except when I’m not.)

*Study Haitian Creole (I LOVE THIS! I am on Lesson Nine, and I’m just so excited to get to speak with my girls in December!!!)

*Exercise (15 minutes, tops. Don’t be impressed)

*Teach music lessons here at home (Loving my students like crazy by the way)

*Study TBRI/The Connected Child & resources to prepare us for adopting older children

*Tidy the house (And if tidying was all that was necessary I’d be golden, but quite frankly that theory has led me to a very dirty house. This place needs some major elbow grease, but there’s no time for that with all my other daily necessities!)

*Make sure I take my supplements, eat the right foods, stay away from the wrong foods, rest when I’m tired, journal when I’m overwhelmed (Recovering from adrenal fatigue is a life-long process, and I’d rather stay in the aftermath than the math if you know what I mean)

*Somedays, like maybe just a few a month: Blog & song write (& decide if I want to share it on social media or not)

*Oh and I can’t forget a weekly trip to the grocery & hopefully seeing a friend or two for a cup of coffee or better yet some fro-yo

This is all before 2:30.

 

I love all of these things…

but somedays I want to stay in bed and watch Netflix instead.

There, I said it!

But for the most part, this is where you can find me these days. This is a major time of preparation for me. Some of what I’m doing in this season I will not be doing one year from now at all when my girls are here. I am convinced that my daily stuff (even if I do spend a day here and there in bed watching Netflix) is adding up to making me who I am called to be for such a time as this. I feel so blessed to be a homemaker and a stay at home mom (even though I know a lot of working moms who do all this PLUS a 40 hour work week or homeschool and when they come around, I hear angels sing, let us give them a moment of silence…because they need it…okay, carry on now) because it just feels like somebody needs to keep everybody on an even keel and how can I do that if I myself am not on one most of the time?

Opening the doors to myself–emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, creatively, and socially– with this to-do list shows me and my kids that we have a lot of power to bring into our every day. We aren’t slaves to the way we feel when we wake up. We can inch by inch work toward big things that will bless others and help us reach our potential.

Amen to that!

(And amen to at least one day a week of forgetting about most of this and staying in pajamas all day with your people!)

 

 

 

Doing Good in the Enemy’s Territory

I was asking the Lord today–why is it so hard to do something good? Why are the things that would save lives so incredibly hard to accomplish? I was specifically praying about things like adoption, foster care, and you know, world peace. 😉

And He gave me a very simple answer.

We are trying to do good in the enemy’s territory.

We are trying to do good in the enemy’s territory and the enemy hates it. He’ll do everything he can to keep families from healing orphaned hearts. He’ll put roadblock after roadblock in the way of help organizations actually helping. He’ll make sure there’s just enough corruption and hopelessness and risk to stop God’s people from giving and going.

God has given the enemy the territory of the world for this time, and so we see the effects of that in every place on the planet. And although we are the underdog, we are the foreigners here, we are the sheep among wolves, we have a power in us and a backing from God that undermines the power of the enemy. He cannot touch our souls! And God has the final say of what the enemy can allow in the life of a Christian (read Job!) so we are not afraid.

So we are not afraid.

We have to remember this until His Kingdom comes (a word on that in a minute):

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13

We’re praying for His Kingdom to come here, but it won’t come as a regime change…not yet anyway. It’ll come in hearts pioneering and pressing on in one calling, one act of obedience, one selfless act of love at a time. The Kingdom will come in one heart at a time like it did when Jesus walked on the earth, talking and healing and loving…not rolling heads in the government like He was expected to do. Thousands of ah-ha moments, one heart at a time, because of Someone’s love and perseverance and sacrifice, and now we follow in those footsteps. It happened then and it’s happening now, not in a sweeping widespread coup but in prayer and living our lives not for ourselves.

Jesus wasn’t afraid of doing good in the enemy’s territory because He knew God’s plans for His life could not be changed or thwarted by the enemy. We have that same assurance. We know Who is ultimately in charge, Who can shrink the territory of the enemy, and Who can heal the inner man of whomever we are interceding, advocating, and loving.

 

Prayer…What’s the Point?

Today is a day of prayer and fasting for Haitian adoption. It brings me such joy to know I am in community today praying with so many other families. We are praying for miracles in the process, paperwork, governments, and as always, praying for the children we know there and have become personally attached to!

What does God’s Word tell us about prayer?

*Prayer is for us. God gives us peace when we pray because we are entrusting all things to Him, remembering how He loves us, remembering He always hears us, remembering He has good intentions toward us, therefore resulting in thanks and peace. (Philippians 4:6-7)

*Prayer is developing a relationship between us and God. There is no relationship without fellowship, talking, listening, and even an exchange of emotions. Our relationship with God is absolutely as close as we will let it be. He lives inside of us! He is near to all who call on Him (Ps. 145:18) and says to call to Him and He will answer (Jeremiah 33:3).

*Prayer is for God. He delights in His children coming to Him with every thing. He’s a Father who can see way ahead, who disciplines us for our good, and who loves to meet our needs. But I think when we get past all we are asking for, and settle in His arms as a daughter or son who lives in quiet trust of who He is, that is utter sweetness to Him.

*Prayer is for the world. It’s for others. We absolutely are called to enter into other’s sufferings in prayer and many other ways as well. We can take God’s Word right back to Him and say:

God, Your Word says- “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but He frustrates the ways of the wicked.” Ps. 146:7-9 Therefore I know that whatever You are doing, in whatever way You do it, in whatever timing You choose, You are all about this.

I am too small to understand the intricacies of governments, war, terror, poverty, and adoption law, but I can pray to my God who is not intimidated by anything or anyone, and I can spur on His actions (“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective!” James 5:16) in courtrooms, countries, orphanages, villages, and schools. And I truly believe that prayer isn’t about getting the results we desire as much as it is about submitting to God, trusting He has got this, and becoming long-term seekers of feeling what He feels and feeling it with Him.

Praying and fasting isn’t about getting what we want, it’s about crying out to God from right where we are spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally, and having Him bring us closer and higher…all the while, believing we can move the mountains He chooses to move right alongside Him.

 

 

For Adoptive Parents & Those Who Want To Be, Part 1: Passion

Our first adoption journey began in 2007, when our bio daughter was just 2 years old. I had been a missionary in Africa when I was younger, but I can’t say my desire to adopt began them. It truly began when my bio daughter was born. The moment I had a mother’s heart, I was broken, moved, and wrecked for all time toward children! It became my heart’s desire to adopt the rest of my children, however many God would call us to have.

So that’s the first definition of the word passion: a strong, almost uncontrollable emotion. Exciting, powerful, inspirational! We share it: WE ARE ADOPTING! We get a bazillion likes on Facebook. Yay!

But the second definition of passion…this one refers to Jesus on the Cross. It refers to Jesus laying His own life down even unto the worst of deaths, choosing obedience and love, stopping for the one, in a world He didn’t “have” to lower Himself to enter. That kind of passion is also a big part of the adoption process. This is the part that adoptive families tend to keep to themselves or only share with close friends. It’s the day-in day-out what this really looks like part. It’s painful. It’s scary. It can be disappointing. It reveals our fear & control issues, and our faithlessness. It creates a dependence on God and sets us close to the brokenhearted, where He dwells.

Adoption is an unmeasured mountain.

To make it through the years following the  “yes” we uttered to Him, we have to expect both forms of this passion and all the while know Who is ultimately in control of how long we will have to endure. Just like Jesus, who knew it was not the Romans’ nails keeping Him on that cross, we look to our Father, not the governments of the countries involved in our adoption, to say when certain seasons can end. I will boldly say to the end: There is no wisdom, no plan, and no insight that can succeed against the Lord. (Proverbs 21:30)

Fellow adoptive parents, or those who want to be, whether you knew it in the beginning or not, you chose a life that would be painted with strokes of joy and grief, and all things out of your well-intended control. You chose to take what was not meant to be, what God never intended for the world–such great loss, such neglect and lack, such pain–and bring it, along with a precious child, right into your living room, your kitchen table, your lap, your mind, and your heart. You chose a suffering you didn’t actually have to choose. You entered in and will never come back out. It was someone else’s heartbreak. And you made it your own. 

Let’s not take this lightly. This is a miracle and this is beautiful; but this is hard. Walking in His footsteps will leave behind a trail of blood and tears. But let’s not forget His promise! We are sisters and brothers to Jesus, who went before us, and we have an Abba Father who hears every cry, who gave us this heart in the first place. He promises that those who will share in His suffering will share in His glory. 

Right now is the time for crosses.

The time for crowns is coming.

5 Ways to Help Prevent the Dreaded Meltdown

I like this statement: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

It’s so true in so many areas of our lives, but it’s hard to think ahead, get ahead of the game, and take steps to prevent whatever problem we’re trying to avoid.

I’m learning with my little one–and let me tell you, I’ve gotten loads of opportunities in the past few months to learn and practice–how important preventative measures can be against meltdowns. And don’t get me wrong. There are things going on that preventative measures can’t always fix! But I do believe them to be very restorative and connecting, and some days that is going to have to be enough.

Here are a few things I am trying to add into my day, a mental check list if you will, of intentional steps:

1. We give hugs, back rubs, holding hands, and quick little back scratches. Even laying down and snuggling, looking into each others eyes. All of these physical touches calm the brain, bring happiness, and say without words that we love and are there for them.

2. A lot of our kids are –it’s okay if you don’t agree with this of course, or if you call it something different — under the attack of the enemy. Particularly adopted children have silent whispers in their ears of “you weren’t really wanted and you aren’t now either” and “there’s going to come a time that they won’t forgive you or love you anymore”. Our battle is not with the child when they are acting out due to these lies! Our battle is with the enemy of their souls. We are fighting for them, friends! So we PRAY God’s Word for them and over them, silently, out loud, whisper it, yell it! Before the crisis of the day happens, we pray. Then we pray through it. Then we pray after it.

3. We also speak truths to counteract the lies they are hearing. All day, before there’s a problem or during a problem, we’re saying: “You are such a gift.” “I can’t imagine my life without you!” “You are so special and so precious.” I may tell my little one the story, in just 5 sentences or so, of how she came to be in our family. I tell her God has a wonderful plan for her life and that HE rescued her for a high purpose. I tell her she is dearly loved and chosen. I remind her of all the families she is a part of: Ethiopian, ours, and Gods!  I ask for discernment from the Lord about what truth she needs to hear, and then I speak it out loud to her every time I think of it, which needs to be more and more often.

4. We praise them separately for doing things right. “Look how you obeyed so quickly! Wow!! Great job!” “Give me a high five, look how well you finished that homework!” There’s a difference between statements of worth (#3) and statements of praise for accomplishing tasks (#4). They need BOTH.

5. We make sure their needs are met before they get too cranky and bent out of shape. Some kids are just not as flexible as others. Keeping blood sugar stable by eating a healthy snack every 2-3 hours is helpful. Having a built-into-the-schedule nap/quiet time in beds even if they are already in school (so we do it after school) can ward off disaster. (We are still working on this one!) We may have to say no to certain things if it means they are out too late and are not getting enough sleep, or if they are just busy and pressured to fit into a tight schedule. It probably won’t always be this way, and it’s hard on both the parent and the kid, but they will need us to sacrifice the wants sometimes in order to fulfill the needs.

Respecting Our Kids (Part Four: Sensitive Kids and Lying)

I’m going to get personal with this one.

I am an introvert and I get tired easily if I’m around a lot of people. I also get freaked out when I’m in a situation where someone is cornering me, like asking me a direct question for which I do not have a well thought out answer. I need time. I’m not good on the spot. I have always had a hard time asking anyone for anything; I don’t want to be a bother. I do not want to be in the spotlight or be thrown into hectic situations where I have no control or escape. If someone feels something negative toward me, I can’t wait to get it sorted out…I just don’t have complete peace until I’ve done all I can. Certain places and things bother me that don’t bother other people.

Well, all of this was true of me as a little girl and teenager, too, of course.

My parents are very kind and reasonable people, and they did several things to take my personality into consideration! But nobody, not even I, knew the toll some circumstances were taking on me. Here’s one thing that my mom probably never knew about. When she asked me a leading question, I was afraid of disappointing her and my brain couldn’t react quickly enough to say what was true. As I said, I wasn’t good on the spot, and often feel intimidated. However, not connecting my personality with my experiences, I would live in guilt for “lying”.

This little tidbit of my life, both my innate characteristics and this detail about lying, is meant to kill two birds with one stone.

One, we need to get to know our kids and make room for their needs. We need to realize how they may be feeling about their lives, their schedules, and themselves because being ignored or unaccepted will either lead to difficulty on the outside or the inside, and I don’t know which is worse.

Two, we need to understand what may be going on behind the scenes when a kid is lying.

Here are a couple of thoughts that may be helpful for families with sensitive kids, or kids who have a tendency to lie.

We must understand that the need to be acceptable to parents is so incredibly strong that some kids will say anything to get that need met. Especially in kids from hard places, because they have built-in-doubt that they are truly wanted, but this could apply to kids (and adults!) in general.

We need to examine how volatile and hostile our reactions and questions are when our kids aren’t behaving in the way we expect. This is why we have to create an environment where we slow down and listen better, and build their belief that they are accepted no matter what.

There are consequences for lying and behaviors like it (deliberate choices to do something harmful), but if we only give consequences and not address the root behind the behavior, with many children we won’t get very far. Our goal is to train them to handle their feelings and fears in a respectful, healthy, authentic way, and that means we have to listen, get creative, see the need/desire underneath their choices, be compassionate, teach & train them with alternative behaviors, and practice, practice, practice!

 

Respecting Our Kids (Part Three: How)

As God’s Word says, out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. If our hearts are full of frustration, no matter what words we say, the emotion will seep out, too. Our respectful behavior will only come from a genuine heart change and daily renewal from the Lord. I just wanted to remind you of these truths before I jump into these examples of what I am learning respect looks like!

Here we go…

1. Listening well. If we don’t have time for this, what are we doing? And sometimes our listening isn’t even about hearing actual words…sometimes the listening is more like discerning what needs and feelings their behavior is communicating.

2. Getting to know them and not assuming we already do. Letting them have their own thoughts and opinions and realizing they’re equal to ours.  Make some room. It’s disrespectful to interrupt, interrogate, jump to conclusions, think we’re better, and give swift judgments.

3. Thinking before we talk. Thinking about where our words will take the conversation. Our words can give them hope that they can come to a workable solution in every single instance, whether they are 3 or 13 or 33. Our words can show we believe in them, that they have what it takes to do this hard thing! It is disrespectful to lecture thoughtlessly until we run out of words and it’ll only make us more aggravated as they lose attention anyway.

4. Staying calm and kind. Not making an enormous deal out of everything. It’s disrespectful not to mention frightening to have this big person (who is driven by the thoughts “It’s the principle of the matter” and “They should know better!) glaring at you, talking at you in an aggravated tone, and handing out punishments until their sense of justice is satisfied.

5. Having a plan for discipline that they understand and can expect is respectful. It’s disrespectful to surprise kids with a random disconnected punishment that doesn’t make sense and wasn’t ever mentioned before, like “You got a clip down at school again so you aren’t going to that sleepover tonight.” Punishments are necessary sometimes! But we can be a part of helping our children dig to the core of the problem and work it out instead of just punishing it. For example, what was the clip down for? It may be that we need to have a pretend class room at home and practice whatever the situation was that brought about the clip down. Now, it may happen that the only time to do that is during the family tv show time before bed, sadly, because school night evenings are pretty busy. That may seem like a punishment, to miss the show, and it is, technically, but it’s more of a natural consequence showing that fun is often squeezed out when we have to take the time to re-do something we did not handle well our first chance. Punishments that don’t fit the crime, that distance kids from parents, that are harsh and not well thought out, and that are surprising, are disrespectful.

6. There are so many more examples, but I’m over my 500 words big-time! Last but not least, we show respect by enjoying our kids and letting them know we enjoy them, by highlighting the good, and amplifying it like we hope others in our lives will do for us.

 

Respecting Your Kids (Part Two: Why)

So in the past two blogs, we have talked about how respect is one of the most important ways we can put action to the words “I love you”, what types of behaviors we see in our kids, how we tend to respond, and some of the ways our hearts need to change for better relationships.

It’s not easy and it may feel uncomfortable. It may feel like you’re focusing on the wrong thing and letting bad behavior slide. But here’s why parenting with respect is so vital:

1. They’re human beings. If you’re a boss of an office full of adults, there are certain ways you go about getting them to comply and certain ways you don’t, and those “ways” have everything to do with general courtesy and respect. If you’re the boss, you set the tone in the office for how people are going to interact. Same for a parent. If we want a house with no yelling, no muttering mean things under breath, no hurtful sarcasm, no interrupting and talking over each other, no harsh judgment or interrogation, and no heightened negative emotions brimming over in our speech, it’ll start with us. We live in a world right now where being a human being isn’t enough reason to show love and respect to one another. We have to change that! We will see respect if we set the tone for it with our own words and actions.

2. We need to learn to show respect to our kids because respect opens up their heart and mind. Lectures and punishments literally shut down parts of their brains, and we can see it in their eyes! They either lash out or retreat in, but either way, we see it, and we keep going because we don’t know what else to do to make a bad behavior stop. Respect, shown by listening, gentleness, affection, and other efforts to show unconditional positive regard, relax their mind and heart (literally!) and give us a way in. The heart is where the real change happens, and respect is an open door into their heart.

3. Respect raises a child’s self-image and what they think of themselves. When we show them and say out loud to them, “You’re worth my time and attention, you are not a problem”, that becomes a part of their identity. We want others in their lives to see their worth, right? When they are grown we will expect them to even demand that from their spouse or co-workers, right? We have to recognize their worth ourselves and teach it to them now.

4.  Respect builds trust. They begin to believe that whether they’ve messed up or not, whether they’ve done something acceptable or the opposite this time, they still belong. Instead of always feeling like they have to strain to achieve that secure spot, they begin to believe they are already living in it. Then their choices and actions will reflect that status.

Kids (and adults) hear a lot of lies in their heads about not being good enough, not being loved, not belonging. In so many people, that’s just there…a sense of it always there. It really breaks my heart. We have the chance and the power to speak against those lies with everyone we come in contact with, and especially our children, through showing them respect that is unrelated to what they do or don’t do.