Monday, September 5, 2016

It Sounds So Easy

I've been thinking a lot about our adoption journey and what I would do differently. The girls and I talk about it from time to time.

I can only go forward, not back.

But looking back, evaluating what went well and what went not-so-well is still important. It has value because it can make me better, more effective, and, most importantly, more like Jesus.

And that's always my goal.

Ashley asked me this morning what I would do differently if I had it all to do over again. I told her I wish I have been more pleasant. That would have solved a lot of my problems.

It sounds so easy. We're pleasant to waitresses who serve us meals and folks we run into at school and coworkers who grate on our nerves. It probably makes you wonder why I couldn't be more pleasant to the new little one who moves in.

Because there's a big difference between the two. You see, the meal eventually ends, at some point we walk out of school and most of our co-workers are only with us 8 hours a day Monday through Friday.

But when you move someone into your home, it's every minute of every day. It's weekends and holidays and middle-of-the-nights. It's mornings filled with calls from teachers who can't control her and meetings with principals who want her moved. It's evenings of screaming and and door slamming and wishing for just a moment of quiet. It's mealtimes that resemble battlefields and bedtimes that never seem to come fast enough.

This is when I pipe in and remind everyone, including myself, that all of that lasts only for a season. The screaming and fits and long days are only a part of the beginning, even if the beginning seems to last a really long time.

All that eventually ends. One day you wake up and it's different. She's changed and you've changed. Smiles and hugs are no longer forced. Conversations aren't awkward and you don't dread waking her up in the mornings.

And when that time came for me and I looked back, I wished I had been more pleasant during those hard days.

Because now I like her. Because she was mine from the moment she walked in the door, but now I'm actually glad that's true.

Looking back becomes hard. Looking back reminds me that some days I was motivated by anger. Some days I was motivated by selfishness. Some days I didn't consider her at all.

Regret creeps in - followed closely by his friends, guilt and shame.

And I end up kicking myself for not handling it all well.

So what do I do? I do what I can to make it right.

I offer apologies and seek forgiveness from both God and from my girls and then I allow the grace of God to help me learn from it and move on.

I don't want them to watch me wallow in guilt and shame. I want them to watch me seek forgiveness and accept the grace that can only be found in the One who knows me best and loves me most.

We're all learning. We're all growing. Thankful for girls willing to forgive and move forward. Thankful for a fresh start every morning.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Importance of Mealtime

It's never what you thought it would be. I think that's true about many aspects of life, but I think it's especially true about adoption.

You had a picture in your mind. Even though you heard others say it was going to be hard, you never thought it would be that hard.  

But it is. And you're miserable.

Anyone who has ever taken the journey into foster care or adoption has been there.  There are adjustments.  No matter the age.  It's just not as easy as you thought it would be.

That doesn't mean it won't be worth it or that one day it won't be the best part of your life.

It can be the best part. It just takes time.  

But not all time is created equal.

Waiting your hard-to-handle child out by leaving them to themselves will not produce the character and relationship you're looking for.  It won't reap anything you were hoping for when you started on this journey.  This is not idle time I am talking about.

I'm talking about meaningful time and meaningful time is no walk in the park during those early years.

Sometimes, in the drudgery of the early days, meaningful time is hard to find.  All you do is correct and teach and wait for bedtime. You don't want to look at her, let alone have to speak to her or listen to her.  

You aren't really searching out ways to spend more time with her.  Actually, you're scouring the internet looking for vacation Bible schools and summer camps in your area so you can spend less.  

I know.  I've been there.

That's why I'm so thankful for the automatic, built-in time that I am given every single day to interact with my children.

It's mealtime and it is the backbone of our day.

The girls and I spend most meals around our table. Eating out is a rare occasion, unless we are on the road. 

At that table I listen as they talk about the books they are reading or the chemistry chapter that's dragging on or what they found in their latest trip to the garden.  They laugh over words used incorrectly or stories about fun times with friends or my newest recipe that went awry.  They build relationships with each other at that table.

And they build relationships with me.

Not only do they talk at that table, they listen, too.  At that table I have a captive audience. This is when we read the Bible together.  This is when we talk about what went right and what went wrong in our day. This is when they hear me tell stories from my own childhood and they learn that I was a kid once, too.  This is where character is introduced, through stories and lessons and examples. This is where apologies are made, some by them, but some by me, too.

When I think back on our journey, I'm thankful for all those meals we shared, all the stories they told, even the book summaries that lasted longer than they needed to. Those times are precious and they are fleeting. Don't ever pass up an opportunity to sit down at the table surrounded by your children - even the hard-to-handle ones.  

Maybe meal times are hard to orchestrate in your family. Maybe you don't want to spend that time with them.  

Do it anyway. Find the time. Make a meal. Sit everyone down together.

If you haven't made a practice of eating together, it might be awkward at first, but keep at it. The awkward silence will fade. Young voices will join older ones. Laughter might make an appearance. 

Gather your children around you every single day. Listen to what they have to say. Teach them what they need to know. Enjoy the part that each one plays. Relationships are built with meaningful time spent together. 

It is worth the investment.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tomorrow is a New Day

No matter what happens today, tomorrow gets to be a fresh start.

That's just how we roll around here. It's how we have to roll because a whole lot can go wrong on any given day.

I wasn't good at this the first time around.  I wanted some sort of consequence for every little thing. This kid was not going to get away with anything. Not on my watch.

But that was unrealistic and tiresome. I'm only one person. She could do a bunch of stuff in a day. She was busy.

So I had to take a step back. I had to extend some grace, both for her growth and my sanity.

Not every problem will get ironed out today.

You'll want it to. You'll have trouble letting some of it go. It might even feel like you're losing and she's winning - and that will bother you more than you even want to admit.

But stop and think this through. Is she really winning? Is her out of control behavior really winning her anything?

No. She's losing and she knows it. She just doesn't know how to stop.

That's where you come in. You have to teach her how to stop, but you can't teach her how to stop everything all at once. She just won't be able to do it. She needs time to build self-control and trust and a whole bunch of other stuff.

It's hard to give her that time - believe me, I know it.

But she needs it.

Every day gets to be a new day. Every day. Even the ones that follow the worst day ever.

That day, too.

Keep short accounts with the new one. Use a gentle voice. And try again tomorrow.

It won't always be this hard. One day, these days will be hard to remember.

One of my girls told me once that this, more than anything else, was how they felt love when they first joined our family.

Let tomorrow be a new day.

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