I’ve been memorizing the second Psalm for the last little while.

I’m not usually very good at getting around to memorizing scripture, but I kept remembering a conversation I had with a friend.  She was sharing the idea that choosing to believe that God’s Word is our ”bread and water” spiritually, involves choosing to believe that scripture has fed us whether or not we feel fed.  In other words, just because I don’t feel refreshed or inspired after reading God’s Word doesn’t mean my time spent there was fruitless.  She talked about a Bible Study plan that was built on simply reading scripture.  Choose a passage and read that same passage over and over for weeks or even months.  Meditate on it…and believe that it is powerful, life transforming and healing…even if you don’t feel like it.

This idea was intriguing to me, so I decided to try this out.

I find it hard to maintain a healthy devotional life in the midst of my mothering.  Time is precious and limited.  Routines are unpredictable at times.  Stuff happens!

I have always found huge comfort in the fact that God knows and understands my days.  An hour spent reading scripture or praying is not always possible, and I do not need to beat myself up about that.  I can worship my Creator in many more ways than just sitting down with my Bible.  He can speak to me through a million other channels.  There are all kinds of little ways I can show Him my desire for Him and my commitment to transformation throughout the day.  Scripture to song, verses taped to the fridge, and an open Bible on my desk are all little ways I’ve tried to make sure I am still “eating” spiritually in those seasons of chaos which usually involve babies or demanding toddlers.

However, I also know that God’s Word is powerful.  There is nothing that can replace it in my life.  I go through seasons where I feel I am starving at times, but I also come out of those seasons.  The hard part is diving back into the Word at the first possible moment.  Hungering.  Thirsting.  Gasping for oxygen.

Sometimes I just have no idea where to start.

I read through one gospel or epistle, then go…what now?!

So the last time this happened, I decided to try my friend’s idea.  I chose the second Psalm because of verses 2-3.

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not whither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

This summed up so beautifully the desire I had for God’s Word to be written on my heart; engrained into the core of my being.  It’s been good.  I have a new passage memorized, I know what to read each day, and it’s an exercise that’s easy to do even when I’m exhausted or only have a few minutes.

What about you?

How do you make sure you are spending time in God’s Word and in prayer throughout your days?

Does it matter?

I’d love to hear your ideas 🙂

AF

Sick

The other day I had a grumpy Mama day.

I was lazy.

I was tired.

I didn’t feel like hopping up to get glasses of water, towels for dripping little bodies, snacks for hungry tummies or just walk those extra steps to see what was so exciting.  All I wanted to do was sit on the couch, enjoy the book I was reading and let everyone else fend for themselves.

Funny thing is…the longer I sat and ignored the needs around me, the worse I felt.

The more times I sighed heavily, let unkind tones slip from my lips and frowns crease my brow the more guilty, frustrated and exasperated I felt.

Then, suddenly, there was a little voice complaining,

“My tummy hurts.”

And before I had a chance to process this, there was vomit all over her jammies, the couch and me.

And you know what?

There, in that moment where I had more reason than ever to let myself catapult off the edge of the self pity cliff, I felt my heart kick into gear.

Gone were the weary muscles, the impatient tones and the self obsessed thoughts.

Suddenly, my mind became consumed with one thing.

My daughter.

She needed clean pajamas, a bath and some medicine.   She needed drinks and blankets.  She needed a bed made up closer to the bathroom and my own room where I would hear her immediately if she cried or threw up in the night.

She needed her Mommy.

It wasn’t until later that night, slipping into bed and leaving my door a crack so I would hear her, that I realized the transition that had occurred in a split second and had to smile.

It no longer mattered that I was tired…I knew I would be up multiple times that night and it was ok.  Instead of wishing I could hide in a corner and finish my book, I felt the irrational worries familiar to mothers playing tag in my mind.

What if she wakes and I don’t hear her?

What if she chokes on her own vomit?

What if her fever spikes while I sleep?

What if I’m missing something?

Does she have enough blankets?

Should I give her more liquids?

I didn’t want to leave her side.  I wanted to be able to see her, feel her and hear her so I knew she was ok.

While I laid awake for an hour in the middle of the night with her fevered face tucked up beside mine, I wasn’t thinking about the lack of sleep I was getting.  I was only thinking…I guess this is what it feels like to be a Mommy.

To wish more than anything that I could take all the yucky, awful feelings away and make her happy and healthy again.

To realize I would do anything for this little life entrusted to my care.

To be overwhelmed with awe that I have been chosen to serve such a beautiful, wonderful, perfect little life.

To be snuggled up next to a smelly, sick little girl and know

I am where I belong.

Attachment 101 – Part 2

My last post, Attachment 101, was designed to introduce and explain the theory of attachment. As a short recap:

1. Bonding and attachment occurs as an infant’s needs are expressed and met, over and over and over again.

2. When children do not receive consistent, predictable nurturing the internal message becomes “I am responsible to keep myself safe.”

3. Children with interruptions or gaps in their attachment development are essentially brain-damaged. If you could see a picture of the child’s brain that has been nurtured and cared for consistently versus neglected, abused or moved frequently there would be a physical, noticeable difference in the number of connections formed. This is more than just an emotional problem!

4. The good news is that these missing connections CAN be formed later in life! However, it is much more difficult than beginning with an empty slate. There are deeply ingrained survival skills that need to be destroyed before new concepts can be established firmly.

So…

With all that behind us, let’s keep moving forward.  I’d like to talk about the rewiring process and what that can look like for kids and parents hoping to create a secure, loving environment where a child can thrive. There are many different things parents need to remember when parenting a child who has been hurt physically or emotionally.

I won’t be able to cover everything I’d like to share in one post, so I’ve broken it down into several categories to keep it clear and simple. For today, I’d like to focus on the control issue.

Most children who have experienced a past of abuse, neglect or bouncing through the foster care system will enter their adoptive families with their guards set high. They have been let down by many adults in the past and they have learned to rely only on themselves to survive. In the past, this was an essential survival skill for them. Learning how to keep a distance from people, read adult behaviour and predict major changes on the horizon helped them to cope with the incredible amount of losses they’ve had to endure. It made the inevitable goodbyes bearable, kept the fear at bay and taught their brains how to function under major stress.

Now that your child has entered a forever family, it is imperative that they learn how to let go of that control and hand it over to you. The very skill that made it possible for them to survive will now be their greatest obstacle. They cannot bond and attach to you until they are willing to rely on you as their parent and caregiver. Children cannot go through life depending only on themselves. No matter what they may have convinced themselves of, they are not invincible. They are children. They need adults to guide them, lead them, protect them and nurture them. As adoptive parents we desperately want to play that role in our children’s lives and help them overcome the paralyzing fears they grapple with but often times they will not allow us to get that close.

They are afraid of abandonment.

They are afraid of abuse.

They are afraid of feeling weak or powerless or vulnerable.

They are afraid of opening their hearts and then having them broken.

Unfortunately, there is no easy switch to flip. There are brain connections that have never been formed and deeply rooted instincts that will not be easy to change. Basically, it is up to you at this point to take control of your child’s world unapologetically and be the parent!

This will be the beginning of a war.

They will fight you ferociously on this.

They do not realize you are on their team. All they know is that they are in danger of losing the defences that have always kept them safe. They are terrified of losing control but they are even more fearful of someone else taking control.

Interestingly, we all know this feeling. As adults, control becomes a word that raises red flags in everyone’s minds. We do not feel comfortable submitting to authorities we do not trust. We want to remain in charge because we’ve seen or experienced abusive control in relationships around us. However, if we are to form deep, soul level relationships we will have to let down our guard at some point and allow someone to get close enough to potentially break our hearts.

Infants are dependent on their parents for everything. The only way they will feel loved, nurtured, safe; is if someone has complete control over their life. In this environment, they attach and they trust as their needs are consistently met.

This is what needs to be replicated in your adopted child’s life.

It might take months, years or decades but this process cannot begin until you as a parent take control from your child. They will not hand it to you on a silver platter. They do not know what they need. You do.

Hurting children desperately need to be shown that parents are more powerful than they are. They have terrorizing trauma, deep grief, and overwhelming challenges looming before them, and they need to know there is someone strong enough to handle all that. They need to know that they are not too much for you. They need to know that you are big enough to protect them and help them heal. They need to know that with you in control of their lives they will be safe. You will not lead them into chaos and danger as others have.

This does not mean that we march into our children’s lives and take over every little choice they have. This does not mean we abuse our authority over them or become someone they fear. This is what many of them have experienced in the past.

Instead, our primary goal should be to look for every opportunity possible to lovingly send the message,

You do not have to decide that.”

I will take care of you.”

“I will keep you safe.”

You do not have to fight so hard to survive, baby.”

At the beginning, you will need to move into the parent role before you really feel like your child’s parent. Realistically, you are strangers, but this should not stop you from acting like you are in charge.

Set boundaries.

Be active in your child’s life. Know what is going on and show you will handle the big stuff.

Don’t allow another adult to step into the role that is only yours as a parent.

Give choices, but make sure your child is choosing between a few good choices that you have come up with.

Help them with every little thing you possibly can.

Do things for them that they can do themselves.

Make your expectations as clear and simple as possible, with consequences that are logical and simple.

When they cross a line, be matter of fact about consequences but not harsh or angry.

Don’t pick battles you can’t win.

Every time you act or speak in a way that tells your child you are comfortably in charge, you are cementing a feeling of safety in them. This authority establishment is not up for grabs. You are not asking for their permission to be the parent. Instead, you are lifting a huge load off their small shoulders and placing it on your own without a flinch. As they fight to take it back, be firm but gentle. Never forget their fight is really fear.

Many children go through this same stage of testing authority, and much of this will sound familiar. Children who have been hurt, however, have much more at stake in their minds. This is not just testing, this is tearing down the structure by which they have survived so far. Their future depends on you getting this message across to them. It’s not really about eating peas, it’s about being in charge of their life.

The best way for parents to go about taking charge of their children’s lives and sending these safe messages is to parent in a way that is focused on plenty of nurture and plenty of structure.

While children are adjusting to their forever families and attempting to attach, they are under a lot of stress. As most children, they will do best in a home where their days are predictable and structured. This does not mean you need to run your home like a boot camp, but you will need to be prepared to change your lifestyle to accommodate your children’s needs. While they are trying to attach and bond with their new family, children are not going to be able to cope with the flexibility of most children their age. Plan to spend lots of time at home, get lots of sleep and say no to some events or social engagements. As parents, you need to set a pace and rhythm to your home that both you and your children can thrive on. Put up a big calendar that your child can see and let them know what to expect as much as possible. Though you are stepping in to take control of your child’s life, you are not entitled to run it with only yourself in mind. Don’t let your children decide what and how much you do, but make sure you are making the best decision for them. It will take some trial and error at the beginning, but soon you will know how much your child can truly handle.

Making sure your child knows what to expect, is getting enough sleep and is supported by you through each day sets him up for success! It also sets him up to count on you to create an atmosphere he can thrive in. Structure does not mean less fun or less loving. Instead, a structured life for your children will help them to be able to have more fun and it will help your fearful child realize you know what is best for him and will do it!

Explaining decisions you make to your child can be a great way to show them you are dedicated to being a great parent. Let them know that they need to go to bed at the usual time because you know they need sleep to feel good and enjoy the day tomorrow. Let them know that you require them to eat nutritious food because you want them to have healthy bodies and feed good. Let them know they are not allowed to play near the road because it is not safe and you need them to be safe. Let them know that they cannot be left with a babysitter yet because they are still learning how to be a family and they are not ready for that step yet. Though most children tend to roll their eyes or sigh at these parental ‘lectures’, you may be surprised at your adopted child’s reactions. Even though they may not like your decision, they are hearing an important message from you.

I love you. I am taking care of you. I will do what is best for you even if you don’t like it.”

Often children who are starting to feel a shift in their control will try very hard to control all kinds of little details in life. They might ask questions or chatter incessantly. They might follow-up all your decisions for them with comments like, “Yes, that’s what I was going to do.” They will often try to control decision-making, play the parent to a sibling or come up with an idea just a tad different from yours. Though this can be frustrating, try to remember they are feeling nervous and anxious about the feelings of love growing inside of them. I often say things like,

That’s ok, you don’t need to be in charge of that.”

I’ll let you know if you need to know.”

I’ll think about it.”

With a smile and a gentle tone, this clearly conveys the message that you are in control and you will take care of things. It doesn’t have to be a reprimand or lecture, which will most likely throw you onto the battlefield, but your child will get the clear message they do not get to decide or be in charge.

My daughters will often later quote back to me the reasons I have given them for decisions that they didn’t necessarily appreciate in the moment. There is a measure of awe and joy in their voices as they say,

You want us to be safe, right?”

You tell us to eat healthy food ’cause you don’t want us to be sick, right?”

You’re afraid we’ll get hurt if we do that!”

Unfortunately, for an older child parenting in a highly structured manner may cause misunderstanding in other parents. Don’t let this stop you from doing what you know your child needs. While another child may be ready to walk to school on their own, tuck themselves in each night, get a drink or use the bathroom on their own, comb their hair or have a play date at a friend’s house…you need to realize that your child has not come through a chaotic life unscathed. Be sensitive to your child’s feelings, but don’t let what other people are thinking stop you from giving your child the structure they depend on to cope or the boundaries they need to attach to you securely.

While you are pouring in all this structure, however, you need to be spending just as much time giving your child nurturing…but that is a whole new, exciting topic that I will cover next time 🙂

For today, remember:

*Be the parent!

*Hurting children desperately need to be shown that parents are more powerful than they are.

*Take charge of your child’s life confidently and gently.

As I was writing this, I couldn’t help thinking of the many times I struggle and writhe in my Heavenly Father’s loving care. I can look back and see times in my life where I fought against His control, terrified that if I lost control of my life it would result in devastation. But when I finally give up and surrender to those big hands, that strong voice, that enduring love…I feel so safe. To know that He is in control of my life, orchestrating my every move, is such an incredible feeling. There is nowhere I could be safer than in the centre of His will for me.

When I see the especially bright eyes, the relieved tones and the purely joyful words of my daughter after an especially tough battle…I know that it is the same for her. In my love, she will be safe. And someday, she will experience a perfect love that is so much greater than mine. A love that is truly powerful beyond all measure and wider than imagination.

This song by Westlife reaches my soul and makes me weep. To know that this is my Father’s heart cry alongside my own small Mommy desire is breathtaking.

“Safe”

Hard to find a way to get through
It’s a tragedy
Pulling at me like the stars do
You’re like gravity
Even if the wind blows
It makes it hard to believe

How you gonna love?
How you gonna feel?
How you gonna live your life like the dream you have is real?
And if you lost your way
I will keep you safe
We’ll open up all the world inside
I see it come alive tonight
I will keep you safe

Doesn’t even matter to you
To see what I can see
I’m crawling on the floor to reach you
I’m a wreck you see
When you’re far from home now
Makes it hard to believe

So how you gonna love?
How you gonna feel?
How you gonna live your life like the dream you have is real?
And if you’ve lost your way
I will keep you safe
We’ll open up all your world inside
Till you come alive tonight
I will keep you safe

We all fall down
We all feel down
Cause rainy days and summer highs
The more we pray the more we feel alive

How you gonna love?
How you gonna feel?
How you gonna live your life like the dream you have is real?
How you gonna love?
How you gonna feel?
How you gonna live your life like the dream you have is real?

And if you’ve lost your way
I will keep you safe
We’ll open up all your world inside
So you come alive tonight
I will keep you safe

I will keep you safe
I will keep you safe