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.

 

Respecting Our Kids (Part One: The Struggle)

Okay, let me paint a picture for you and then you can see if you’re reading the right blog 🙂

One or more of your children seems to need more attention than you think they should require at their age. They have one or more of these characteristics: They tend to be destructive. They lose, break, cut, and color on things. They tend to whine or fall apart at instruction. They are opinionated and don’t go with the flow. They lie sometimes, and their response to being found out is one of confusion. They have a hard time looking you in the eye and staying focused on more than one sentence at a time. Certain things really bug them, like socks being too big or noise or even hugs.  They don’t remember something they seemed to have grasped last week. They get anxious about learning new things. They aren’t compliant sometimes with simple things like putting on shoes or finishing their drink. They seem to disregard instructions, either forgetting or not prioritizing them. They’re often in a bad mood even when their lives seem quite fun and easy.

Even if these aren’t characteristics of any of your children, do you recognize any of the following characteristics in yourself?

You don’t know how to respond when your child did something irresponsible or flat out disobedient or is throwing a loud fit. Your first move is to give a lecture and a punishment. Your main priority is that they simply never do that behavior again. You ask “What were you thinking?” a lot. You holler from across the house what they need to be doing. You threaten time-outs and spankings without actually getting up from your chair. You feel angry, aggravated, and powerless. You give mean looks. Your expectations are rarely met.

Well, I’ve been there, I admit it. In fact, in order to implement the changes I have been learning about, I needed to grow in humility and have a major heart change. Here are just a few pieces to the heart-change puzzle for me:

  1. I had to recognize I don’t show love and acceptance to my children just as they are, right smack in the middle of their problems, and that’s not okay. I had to realize I was holding back smiles and warm, kind eyes from them when they disappointed me, and that’s not okay.  I was saying, “We’re your forever family, you belong with us, we love you!” but acting like “You better shape up, kid, and I’ll be keeping you at arm’s length until you do.” I truly had to repent.
  2. I had to let go of my expectations of them based on their age or what “should be” their maturity level. So many of my angry moments were spurred by this thought: “You should know better. You should do better.” I had to let go of the “shoulds” and accept what is, choosing to rise to the challenge. (P.S. None of us like to be “shoulded”…either we achieve something or we don’t, “shoulding” just makes people feel less.)
  3. I had to realize children are unique little people with quirks, idiosyncrasies, struggles, habits, and opinions, just like me, and they deserve the same acceptance and unconditional kindness and respect that I expect from others. They’re complex! They aren’t my canvas to paint on, they are their own, and we don’t really even know them until we make the effort to stop changing them.
  4. I had to understand there are real biological or psychological reasons behind some of those behaviors and difficulties, and grow in knowledge and compassion.
  5. I had to accept that it was my responsibility to set a new tone, make a new plan, and bring healing through our interactions instead of hurt and distance.

 

Respecting Our Kids (Intro)

Wow, my thoughts about this topic are completely commandeering my morning. If I sound especially passionate in my writing today it’s because God is digging deep in the garden of my heart…and because of my spiritual gifts of teaching and encouraging, I feel like I have to share.

First of all, my ideas of parenting changed completely through attending an Empowered to Connect seminar in April 2015 and then continuing to study and practice their teaching all summer. This training is specifically for parents and caretakers of children from hard places, whether that’s a foster care situation, trauma at an early age, or adoption. It’s for families who are raising kids who have experienced loss at a time they needed attachment and someone they could trust the most. But as I listened and as I have learned this summer, I have grown to believe this way of relating is for EVERYONE! It has revolutionized my home and now is revolutionizing my heart, affecting every relationship, beyond my children…and the real key to it all is respect. Yes, love, of course. But one of the ways love is shown is through the multi-faceted concept of respect.

Every person wants to feel respected, like they matter, like they are an equal, and like their voice is worthy of being heard. Every person needs to be able to share how they are feeling without fear of punishment. Every person deserves this and innately desires this, because we’re made in the image of God and by the hands of God! Whether we struggle at times with this concept of self image or not, something inside of us is always pushing us to know we are special and precious.

Is it possible that we teach our kids they are fearfully and wonderfully made, as Psalm 139 tells us, and expect them to grow up to have a great self-esteem, but then talk to them on a daily basis like we would talk to no other human being on this planet? I say every child needs respect whether they come from hard places or not, whether they’re fragile in the area of feeling like they belong or not, because it doesn’t matter how steady and strong your foundation is, none of us appreciate a lack of respect being shown to us and when there is a lack of respect we struggle to respond correctly in that moment. When the cashier says in an exhausted, sarcastic tone, “Are you gonna swipe your card or what?” When your spouse says, “I know I told you I would do this, but I did this instead…I’ll do your thing later.” When the person you were in a fender bender with yells, “What is wrong with you?” The three attitudes behind these examples…I have had them all with my children at times and that makes me sad.

It is possible to raise children with respect without them thinking they are in control and equal in regard to running the household. Here’s the good news: They don’t want to be in control and they don’t want to run the household. They simply want their ideas and words to be listened to, their feelings and desires considered, and to be spoken to and treated with unconditional positive regard.

This week I’ll be sharing blogs about this topic and will give examples of how we can change disrespectful habits into life giving, connecting interactions with our kids. I hope I can relay to you how imperfect I am at this, yet how much reward I already am receiving — I can see it in their eyes.

Being respected is being loved.

Learning to Trust

As I have talked about to pretty much anyone who has spent more than five minutes with me this summer, God is doing a major work in my life and that work is all about learning to trust Him!

 

First, I had to find out that I didn’t really trust Him…

then I had to find out why not…

then I had to seek His Word to reconcile how I felt with what I say I believe…

and now I get up every morning to face the situations that will drive those truths deeper and deeper into my inner being.

 

This is what is on my mind as I think about a situation I am having to face right now! I want to share this because I think it’s a good example of how truth can meet us in the middle of suffering.

Last year around this time, I had to have a medical procedure. I am not a wimp at all when it comes to pain, but this was a bad situation, and it took me awhile to get over it emotionally and physically. Yesterday, I went back to the surgeon and I have to have another similar surgery. It isn’t going to be in an emergency setting like last time, so I am grateful for that, but still, I’m really having a hard time accepting that I have to “go there” again. All of a sudden, I physically feel tired and like I want to cry all the time. It’s really affecting me!

 

But part of what I’ve been learning in this “trust process” is that a large amount of the pain we feel in suffering is our fear of it. This is the part that gets me pretty fired up. See, the enemy wants us to get caught up in being angry at God when we suffer, but the truth is that fear comes from Satan and it does not have to be a part of our suffering experience.  The part of suffering we can have power over, the part of suffering God is cheering us on to take power over, is here in our inner man. A spirit of fear does not have to accompany us in the trials of life; we can resist against his lies, and walk in freedom in the middle of the circumstance.

So that’s the part of suffering we can do battle against…but I believe there’s also a part of suffering we are encouraged to accept.

A large part of the pain we feel in suffering is our rejection of it.

Think of Job. Think of Jesus. Think of John. Think of Paul. They all understood that their suffering was allowed very purposefully and strategically by God, and while they were real and honest about the pain, they accepted it. They took the cup and drank it. They weren’t shocked by it, and they didn’t act like they were somehow too good for it. They wanted their suffering to achieve every high purpose God had in mind for it.

Amen?

Amen.