I believe God was very intentional when He said we were adopted into His Kingdom. Depending on your life experience, many different images pop into your mind when you think of adoption. For me, it begins with my daughter. There is a side of adoption many choose to ignore, but I think is essential in understanding salvation and why God has adopted us. The truth is He created us, we are His. He could have chosen different imagery such as reunited, but He intentionally chose the word picture adoption to explain salvation.
The Ugly Side of Adoption
Usually, when people think about adoption, we think of happy tears and smiling families. We think of joy and love. Yes, that is a part of adoption, but the truth is every single adoption began out of pain. Even the happiest most ideal adoption would not have occurred had there not been pain. The pain of realizing another home was better/necessary. The pain of fear. The pain of loss. The pain of a million things that cause mother and child to separate.
Our adoption by God is much the same way. Take a look around. There is so much hurt, sorrow, fear, hate, pain in this world. This world is not a suitable mother. We are never going to be complete as long as this world is our guide, our leader, our parent. We need, desperately, a new parent whom is loving, patient, kind and whom will help us heal from our first home. Help us grow into who we were meant to be. But then, that doesn't mean we lose all touch with our old home. We still remember and care and love our old home.
The Beauty of Adoption
The five things I have found essential in being an adoptive mother is forgiveness, redemption, hope, faith, and love. We need to teach our children to forgive the past and redeem the future. Adoption is all about redemption and healing. We need to provide hope for our future, faith that the family is forever, and oh boy the greatest element is love - lots and lots of love.
God wants us join His family and to forgive others. He models it perfectly in the forgiveness he gives us. He redeems our soul and helps us to redeem our poor life choices. He gives us hope that someday we won't live in this world wrought with pain. He teaches us to have faith. He will never leave us nor forsake us. Then there is love - so much love. He is the author of love.
Biblical Clues on Earthly Adoption
The thing that always strikes me from the Bible is how God refers to Jesus's family. We know Mary gave birth to Him. We don't truly know what DNA God gave Him. Was it half Mary, half something/one else? Was it fully Mary with altered sex genes? Was it no genes from Mary, but a full new being with His own unique DNA? I don't think it matters. God made it clear Mary was his mother and Joseph, God recognized as His earthly father. Some refer to Joseph as his stepdad, foster dad, adoptive dad, but the Bible refers to him as his father and even uses Joseph's genealogy in Matthew.
Even in Luke, where it shows Mary's genealogical line, not Joseph's, Luke 2:33 references Joseph as his father. Not an adoptive father, not stepfather, there is no clarifier. Then again, I often hear people also refer to Jesus's brothers and sisters as his half/brothers and sisters, but in Mark 3, God clearly calls them brothers. Yet again there is no clarifier, it states just brothers.
As an adoptive mom, this is significant. It tells me that God does not look at the biology of Jesus when determining his line. He looked at the people He placed to raise Him as His true family. Just like when God adopts us into His family, he is not just our Father because He created us, but because He adopted us. He's not our adoptive father, He is our Father. We are family.
Recently I was reading Lifeonaire by by Steve Cook and Shaun McCloskey. My husband picked it up because he had heard the authors speaking at an RPOA meeting and really like what they had to say. When it came in the mail, I was instantly intrigued by what it said on the back, but set it aside. My husband, on the other hand, read it in a few days and told me I should read it, because it went along with our minimalist efforts. Since I always have five books going, I wasn't too quick to pick it up. I am so glad I did.
Trapped in A Cycle of Debt
Before I picked up this book, I felt like my life was being paved to be ready to really take in what this book had to say. My husband and I already began minimizing our things in order to experience more life. We already tried to be more conscientious about our spending and discussed ways to get out of debt... again. Because once was not enough for us, we had to learn the lesson twice, but this time we wanted to be mortgage free as well.
The book then talked about how when we graduate high school, we are expected to start college. To pay for college, we assume we should get student loans. To travel to school, we buy a car. Again taking out yet another loan. Then we graduate, buy a house - with a mortgage. We then start life hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt before we even turn twenty-five.
Due to all of that debt, we end up serving banks for 30+ years just to pay back what we already bought but don't yet truly own. Then we continue this cycle as we get bigger and better incomes, buy bigger and better things, with bigger and not better loans. Yet instead of more free and more fulfilled, we find we are more trapped and less content.
A Different Way of Thinking
It made me realize when my husband and I made a quarter of the income we make now, our life was freer and more joyful. We fell into the same trap as many others have fallen. We need to change what we are doing, because what we are doing and the way we are thinking just is not working. We want to enjoy our kids, each other, our life. The way we kept thinking was if we made more money, things would be easier. What we needed to think was if we spend less, then life will be easier, we will feel freer, and we would feel more fulfilled. It caused us to reevaluate our wants, our needs, and our choices. That's why we decided to sell our 2,700 square foot, 5 bedroom house for a smaller three bedroom house. One we could pay off in a short time, not thirty years.
Achieving Our Goals
We are still trying to figure out what changes we need to make to achieve our goal, and still trying to figure out what it all means, how we are going to become debt free (again); this time mortgage and all. At least we have a plan or a semblance of a plan. We know we want my husband to stop working 80 hours a week. We don't know exactly how their goals will be achieved but through our minimalist lifestyle, paying off our debt, we hope we can achieve the life we want sooner. I do know the changes we have already made has led to happier daughters, a more joyful life, and a more relaxed husband. If you have ever thought I wish I made more money or I wish I had more time, I strongly recommend you read Lifeonaire. (Included is an affiliate link to buy the book.)
As I was driving home today from a friend's house my fourteen-year-old daughter reiterated words that I have heard my own heart say, "I don't feel like I am enough." I confessed my own heart's yearning and explained that is a lie so many women believe.
Why do we live in a society that feels like we are not enough? Enough of what I will never understand.
I have been reading Jennie Allen's book Restless, and I see how this "not enough" feeling is our own heart's restlessness. We want to have a purpose. We want to matter. We want to make a difference, yet we are a society driven by fear.
The Pain of Being Judged
For me I fear the judgement of others. I have all these big dreams that I am afraid to fulfill because I am afraid of what others will think. I have very conservative Christian beliefs, which is widely rejected by many, especially as our society becomes more divisive. What I want more than anything is to have an impact on the world around me. I think we all do.
Though I have these plans in my heart and in my mind, some since I was a little girl, I hesitate out of fear that I will be criticized. Fear that I will be told I'm wrong, even when I know I'm right. Fear that my abilities will not stack up to those who are more gifted and my failings will be pointed out. When it comes down to it, I fear man's opinion more than I fear God's.
There is a danger in that. I am also missing out on what God has planned for me if only I took those steps. As Jennie Allen stated, I end up feeling restless because I am not doing what I was born to do.
#1 Man Makes His Plans, But the Lord Determines His Steps
My life verse has always been Proverbs 16:9, "A man's heart plans his course, but Yahweh directs his steps." I knew from the time I was a little girl that I wanted two things more than anything; to be a mommy of a big family and to be a writer.
Life didn't quite go as planned. I spent six years trying to get pregnant, before I was given the great privilege of raising my oldest daughter, whom also happened to be my cousin's daughter, who passed away. (We were blessed in being able to adopt her 8 years ago today, on my 29th birthday!)
I then gave up the idea of naturally conceiving and we decided to adopt. Along the way I met 8 more beautiful children, 2 lifelong friends (two of their moms), and I wouldn't change a moment of it. Yet, God didn't choose adoption again for me. We tried IVF, only to learn my eggs were not suitable for procreation. Then after several more tries, my youngest babe was conceived through IVF (donated eggs). I planned to be a mom... God chose how I would get there.
Have you ever thought about how people seem to have become more polarized in their views? Today I was listening to a guy who knows a lot about security and technology speak in The Edge series from Life Leadership. He pointed out the dangers of social media. This one was unlike any danger I had ever heard. He said that social media is narrowing our political/spiritual/social view on life. We only "like" what we like. We only "follow" certain people. The advertisements are geared towards our personal computer/search habits. We are putting ourselves in a bubble, but so are search engines.
A Dangerous Cycle of Reaffirmation
Basically what we are doing is reaffirming to ourselves that we are right. Few people reach out and look for varying views. Most choose to find things that either affirm their own belief, or are so kooky that they make those with varying beliefs seem ridiculous.
This made me think about a few days ago when I went on YouTube. I intentionally wanted to see what people felt about a particular hot topic. I have a certain leaning, and YouTube has gathered this due to my searches. The problem is, I could only find things that I particularly agreed with. When I did find things that appeared to support the opposite point of view, it mocked that point of view.
How Can We Ever Learn Others Perspective?
The problem is, I sincerely wanted to hear what others are saying. I ended up giving up, turning off my computer, and going to bed. I didn't think too much of why this happened at the time. Instead I thought it was odd, since I knew there had to be hundreds, possibly thousands of videos that opposed my point of view. I just accepted it an didn't question it.
Then as this man spoke, I was struck at why that had happened. I had trained my computer to only see that point of view, because it's something I am passionate about. Then I got to think about how since the internet learns our behaviors, it has not allowed for true healthy conversation on the topics. I then realized, two people can search the same thing, and based on tendencies, searches will come up that support what that person would typically want to hear. Had many of my friends typed the same search in YouTube, it is likely different videos would have shown up.
Maybe We Shouldn't Be So Eager for Tech Advancements
On a deeper side of this, it is making me realize that our technology, though very great and helpful, has many very far-reaching issues that should cause us to be hesitant even when typing in a search or looking up "facts." I love technology, but we definitely need to use with caution.
Toddler Induced Insanity [tod-ler in-doost in-san-i-tee] noun, plural - a derangement of the mind led by, influenced by, or produced by a small child who has an insatiable hunger for love and affection with rapid irratic changes in mood and temperament.
If you have ever lived with a toddler, you have probably succumbed to the horrors of toddler induced insanity. To know if you have this disease, it is important to understand both the symptoms and causes.
Unfortunately, there are no treatments, but there are ways to help cope with your new found disease. Here are the top five, which I learned after my years of thorough research through babysitting, nannying, doing foster care, and raising my own toddler.
Recently the New York Times posted a well written article by a girl who tried to befriend the Florida shooter years before the shooting happened. It caused me to reflect on how we so often are quick to try to fix the problems by putting band-aids on them and not looking to the root of the problem. Let's ban assault rifles they say. Let's crack down on bullying! Let's have tighter gun laws!
Now, yes, I do believe that we need to keep guns out of the hands of known criminals and have background checks on all gun owners, and yes I do believe that we need to stop bullying, but the root problem is not about the gun laws or the guns themselves. It is not even about bullying.
Many kids get bullied, many contemplate suicide because of the bullying, many commit suicide as a result, but in school shootings there are deeper issues going on than JUST being bullied. The kids are not just seeking out revenge on those who have picked on them, they are taking revenge on innocent and guilty alike. There are many factors that go far beyond the things that happen at school. I am not implying their problems have arisen at home, but I am sure there are factors there as well that played apart.
For someone to go to such extremes in reaction to whatever triggered them to take this course of action was not just a single issue the child had. That child was hurting, and hurting for a very long time.
So how do we stop school shootings?
Well, I think it begins long before they are in high school or middle school. It begins when they are little. Yes, a good friend may change the course of that child's life, but often a child who is deeply hurt will reject friendship even if someone reaches out to them. We need to reach that child before their heart has hardened and evil has set root.
Our society is very individualistic as far as families go. Each family lives in a house with closed doors and blinds on the windows. We like our privacy and we like our alone time. We do not want to be inconvenienced with other's problems, for we each have enough problems of our own.
We want to rest when we get home from work and veg out watching TV. Someone has to feed the kids, someone has to do the laundry, someone has to drive the kids to their extra curriculars. We just don't have time for others.
Where the problem does lie is that we are so busy with our own lives and our own families that the families that are struggling often get overlooked. The problem kid at school may get extra services during school hours, but when they are home things get worse and worse. Maybe their mom is an addict. Maybe their dad is in prison. Maybe they were physically or sexually abused. Maybe they get very little adult attention due to long work days a parent works in order to pay the bills. Maybe they have a mental illness that has gone undiagnosed because people dismiss them as being that "bad" kid.
The kids struggle at home and at school and have no where else to turn. They feel helpless and hopeless and lost faith in any kind of good in the world. They have been hurt and violated. They feel alone and their hearts harden. They lose sight of their own value and eventually the value of other people.
So again, I ask what can we do?
The bottom line is every single one of us needs other people. More importantly, we need people to help guide us and encourage us. Of course we need God and to follow His word, but He designed us to need each other. Us who know God, can turn to God, but who are those who do not know Him supposed to turn to.
We need to seek out the families that need an extra hand. We need to seek out the kid who needs a positive adult role model in their life. We need to stop labeling a kid as bad, but as needing love. We need to stop blaming parents, but encouraging them to live healthier lives. We need to not give up on those who make loving them hard. We need to not let kids or parents or families slip through the cracks, because we are so busy looking at our own lives and making sure our kids lives are great that we sacrifice the community. We need to be a community who loves and supports one another. But above all else, we need to see this need as urgent. We need to find the families that need the extra love and help before hearts are hardened.
No this will not stop all school shootings or violence or suicide, but it certainly would help. I believe the true root cause is that these children have no faith, no love, and no hope. Years and years of hurt have caused these three things to have no value to them. We cannot give someone faith, we cannot give someone hope. These are two things they can only find by seeking God. But what we CAN do is give them love. The younger they are when they see that love, the easier it is for them to accept it.
I was recently writing an article about Adolf Hitler. I'm sure I don't need to explain who this man is. He's probably the most infamous person that ever was. More well-known than Nero, more hated than Stalin. Yet, people liked him.
I was going through photos that were free to use, because let's face it, I'm too cheap to purchase photos. When I came across this photo, I was struck that this too was Hitler. He had smile lines, not the straight-faced stern look too often portrayed. He was touching his friend Joseph Goebbel's daughter's chin ever so lightly, rather than shouting fiercely at the crowd. The woman in the background looks pleased at what she saw, not scared or stricken. He looked likable.
This made me realize something. To many, he was likable. People willingly followed him. Not because he was so evil they feared him, although I am sure that happened as well, but because people sincerely wanted to please him.
So why would the likability of Hitler have anything to do with a parenting blog.
Honestly, it's because it reminded me to be careful. Be careful who you trust, be careful who you allow your children to be alone with. Just because someone seems friendly, does not mean you can trust them. According to the United States Department of Justice NSOPW, 75 percent of sexual perpetrators are people the victim knows, although I have heard that number is as high as 90 percent. What that means is most likely, these were people that were trusted.
Now, I am not urging parents to never allow their kids to have sleepovers or be alone with another adult or to scare them. That being said, I have respect for parents who have made that decision. I heard once Ozzy Osborne's kids were never allowed to go to a sleepover. Not that they are the pillar of all that is good, but it shows that if that's how you feel, you are not alone.
What I am saying is, be careful. Get to know the people who are in your child's life. Really know them.
Unfortunately, some are too late. Some feel like failures, because in their eyes, they failed to protect their children from a person they trusted. I am hear to say, forgive yourself. Do not take the blame.
The NSOPW also cited that, "Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18." You are not alone; your child is not alone. We can not protect our children from every danger, every person, every thing that is out there.
So please, forgive yourself. Do not blame yourself. It was one person's fault and one person's fault only, and it was not yours. Then remember to "cast... all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7) Then be there for your sweet child. Listen to them. Nurture them. Seek help from people more qualified than yourself. But most of all, love them.
I will say a quick prayer for you moms enduring this.
Dear Lord, you alone know the pain in this mom's heart. You alone know her child's pain. Thank you Lord that you do love us, more than we love ourselves. Thank you Lord that you love our children more than we could possibly love them. Help us to trust you. Help us to set our anger, our disappointment, our grief aside. Give these sweet mom's wisdom in how and when to talk to their children. Guide them on how to seek justice. Be with their children, help their children to use this horrible experience as a reason to grow, not to crumple. Lord, give these victims and their family members comfort. Give them peace. Give them joy, despite the heartache. Lord please stop the men or women who did this, so they can never do this again. Lord, protect all your children, young and old, from this devastating abuse. In Jesus name. - Amen.
Dear Mommy Who Feels Like They Are Failing,
You are not alone! I am currently writing this as my 20 month old spends yet another night in her room screaming because she does not want to go to bed. I have scoured the Internet, asked Facebook friends, picked experienced mom's brains and tried all the methods I could find. I was consistent with each method for weeks in hopes that I could sleep train this sweet baby. Twenty months later and she is still not sleep trained.
My mom friends are often like, "Just stick with it, it will get better." Seriously does it? I do imagine that she will not be screaming in her bed as a teenager, so yes, I imagine it will get better at some point. But are they meaning next week, next month, next year. How long will this "stage" last?
Honestly though, I am tired. I am overwhelmed. I feel like life shouldn't always be this hard! And this sleep thing, it is small beans compared to the other life events that are not appropriate for a blog post. I strive so hard to be doing the right thing, say the right thing, and be the perfect mom. Yet, days are long, and sometimes I just want to check out.
Then I do. I get on Facebook or bury myself in my phone or computer and just mentally clock out. Thankfully I have wonderful parents who dote on my children. Yet, despite having wonderful people to fill in the gaps of my parenting I am reminded by the verse.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
The Bible actually says "do not become weary in doing good." It's like he is specifically talking to the weary mom who packs the lunches, wipes the noses, kisses the boo boos. He knew we were going to get weary. He knew that life was going to be exhausting. Yet, these small things we do for our children are good. He does not just end it with the command to not become weary, but adds that if we do not give up there will be a harvest.
Too often I think we forget how important looking at our future goal is when raising our children. It's much easier to endure the two hour long tantrum when you know that the future has better things in store.
Now I know this verse has much farther reaches than a mom who is struggling with a fussy toddler, who is trying to make the right choices for her family and not succumb to bad habits or attitudes. But right now, this verse is what I need. I need to know that as long as I keep striving to raise her in the way she should go, no matter how difficult the challenges might be, that someday I will "reap a harvest."
So I will try not to check out as often, though I know I will. I will try to continue to raise my children in the way that is good and I will try to remember not to become overwhelmed with weariness because eventually there will be fruits of my labor. I will try to keep my eye on the harvest that awaits.
I will never forget the realization that my oldest daughter was not who I thought she should be. I had this vision of who I was raising, and yet she never quite fit that mold. Of course, in my head, she was a better version of myself. All the qualities that I liked about myself, I wanted her to have, as well as all the qualities I hated about myself, she shouldn't have.
Little did I know, she was a girl who would become better than I imagined.
My oldest came to live with us when she was five years old. I had never been a parent and had a vision of what it meant to be. I wanted to mold her into this obedient, submissive, quiet girl.
That was not the girl I got.
My first clue should have been when I learned she preferred jumping in puddles to playing with baby dolls. Or maybe when all the cute girly clothes I bought, she thought made her look "stupid." Don't get me wrong, she was a sweet girl, but she was fierce and bold. Neither qualities that I possessed.
I would get frustrated when I'd go to school and instead of hearing that she did her schoolwork quietly and helped people complete their work as I did in school, they would say, "She loves to talk." Looking back, this should not have frustrated me, as they all said it with the same grin, not disappointment or anger. They could see the greatness in her, despite her mischievous ways. They saw the potential in her.
As I continued to try to mold her into this person who was a better version of me, one day it occurred to me, she is not me, nor will she ever be me. In fact, she is as outgoing as I am quiet. She was a leader, where I tended to fall back in the shadows. She was bold, while I was meek.
Now please understand, I always adored her and saw potential in her, but I ran into a mistake that I see many other moms make. I was trying to change who she was rather than help shape the beautiful girl she already was and is today. Suddenly, a verse I had heard made so much more sense. Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go..." I wasn't supposed to train her to go in the way I was supposed to go, I was to train her to be a better version of herself.
Today, I strive to encourage her in her natural born ability to lead by reminding her that gift is meant to encourage others, not to boss or belittle. I strive to teach her that her ability to talk to anyone should be used on those who may need a friend. I strive to teach her that her ability to make others laugh should be tempered with a sensitivity towards others. I no longer try to change her, but encourage the positive attributes that she already possesses.
What I learned with her is going to serve me well with my youngest. I will accept her personality as unique and strive to bring out the good that is already there rather than mold her into something she is not. I will say as a mother I am proud of my oldest as I see glimpses of the adult she will be. I adore that she is so refreshingly not me, and has made our family richer, because she brings so much to our family that neither my husband nor I can. Once I finally realized that raising our children is not molding them into our idea of perfect, but rather teaching them to enhance their natural gifts, it has allowed me to truly see how wonderfully beautiful she is.
This Christian mom is far from perfect, but continually strives to grow and develop. She is an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction and focuses a lot on personal growth. She loves to share what she has learned through her studies and her own failures, as well as walks alongside other mothers as they learn together the ins and outs of parenting.