No Longer Orphans…but Daughters

One of the most wonderful things God has shown me this year is 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.

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.

Quitting & Learning

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I have been a nutcase lately. Seriously! I’ve been sick for a few days and in bed a lot and while having some alone time is fun, I’ve hardly been able to enjoy it because I’m such a nut.

Here’s what I mean.

Being sick, even though it is for such short periods of time these days, praise the Lord, brings to the surface all kinds of junk that I wasn’t thinking about before. I knew my schedule, or actually how I was feeling about and handling my roles, was about to be a train wreck. I knew something had to give. Staying in bed actually sounded wonderful by Thursday morning of last week. I was constantly wracking my brain trying to figure it out, figure it out, figure it out! It seemed all up to me, I had to fix things, I had to make a plan that could run smoothly and keep every facet of the lives of my people going nicely. Finances, food, wellness, devotions, homeschooling, sleep, friends, extended family events, paperwork, jobs, not to mention the items on a “yeah, right” mental to-do list that just made me feel guilty for never getting around to them. Are you exhausted just by reading that? I am, and I was!

Several of these days in bed I was stewing over things I couldn’t control, and God gave me lots of time to figure out that wasn’t productive. The discontent and anger floating to the surface had roots. I began to journal and pray and ask God for help! He is so good to meet us in our confusion and need. Once again, it was time to quit.

Quit trying to be known or acknowledged or amazing at something. 

Quit trying to get more than God wants to give me.

Quit thinking that my family’s life, success, and happiness all depends on me.

You see, it’s not that I needed to quit all, or even some necessarily, of that list above. That would have been the easy answer it seemed. But instead God wanted me to acknowledge and let go of what was making those callings, those gifts and opportunities to serve, a burden. It wasn’t the daily life that was wearing me out. It was the way I was living, feeling that everything had to reach a stellar standard, something others would want to emulate, something I could find accomplishment in. Ugh! Such pride! Oh good grief, I just want to remember the peaceful, joyful way of life in the Spirit. A focus on these things:

Learning to live in the Sabbath rest and my identity as the Beloved; my life is a success because I have an under-the-blood-of-Jesus personal and living relationship with God! The desire for being special, being great, needs to be satisfied first in the adoration of the Father…then we can go on with our lives, letting the chips fall where they may, it won’t matter much anymore. I think people who have become well known authors or speakers or whatever it is we look up to are either in turmoil for more OR they barely notice their status because they are fully satisfied in what HE says about them. I don’t think you can have it both ways.

Learn to dwell in gratefulness for what is; God gave me what He wants me to have, whether that is a lot or a little, whether it is an easy thing or a challenging thing. He gave it. It passed through His hand to me for a reason. He’ll change it when He chooses. He really does care about the details and He really hasn’t overlooked a thing. Worry should have no place in my life as a child of God, overcomer, and co-heir with Jesus!

Learn to make LOVE my number one priority. Receiving His love–truly making time to embrace it–and slowing down and loving every person God sends my way is such a beautiful thing when I don’t let my ideas of success get in the way. Praying for people that God puts on my mind, listening to whoever needs to talk, making time for relationship repair. This rings in my ears: “Did you learn to love?” from the Misty Edwards song, “The Measure of a Man”. Oh my goodness,  those three things I am “quitting” have so very little to do with love, at least not love for God and others.

Jesus, Thank You for showing us the way to live life. No, Your story doesn’t say a lot about houses and jobs and money and kids, and the right way to prioritize or go about all of those things. But Your story tells us all those things will fall into a beautiful order as we let go of demands and live to know You. You deposit in us all we need for life, abundant life, a life that would actually draw others to You.  Amen.