Monday, April 29, 2013

WHEN YOU DREAM

Marriage Monday!
Great to hear from Brad Aldrich for our Marriage Monday post this month. Brad and his wife Kate are adoptive parents and live in Pennsylvania. They write regularly about marriage at their wonderful blog, One Flesh Marriage
Some day that darling little boy or sweet adorable baby girl will grow up. As parents, that distant future seems very far away and very close at the same time. It seems like just yesterday I was celebrating our first forever family day welcoming our little one home from Ethiopia, and yet I know that it won’t be long till my babies are moving out, getting married and maybe having babies of their own. 
Do you dream of those days? Do you wonder who your babies will become? What kind of careers they will have?
Who they will marry? 
Every parent dreams of these far off days with a hope that they will be able to give their kids all of the skills they will need to successfully navigate toward a happy future. If you think about it, most of our energies in raising kids are about helping them to develop the skills necessary for their future. 
You want them to have a great career, so you help them do their best in school. You want them to grow in their faith, so you help them get involved in great youth programs and teach them about Jesus. You want them to care for others, so you help them understand the world around them. 
So what are you doing to make sure they will have a great marriage? 
There is only one way to teach a child about marriage. It can’t be taught in books, or in theory; it is only taught by what they see. Your children will start with a model of marriage that is based on your marriage. 
So what are your kids learning?
Are they learning to prioritize marriage? 
Are they learning that sex in marriage is worth waiting for?
Are they learning that marriage takes work but it is so worth it?
Are they learning that love is so much more than a fuzzy feeling?
Are they learning that a one flesh marriage is an amazing lifelong journey?
Or are they learning the opposite?
If you dream of your kids having an amazing marriage one day, make sure you invest some time in your own marriage today to give them a good place to start!

Father God, I ask you now that you would breathe fresh life into my marriage. Where we are weak, strengthen us. I am trusting you to use my relationship with my wife/husband as a source of life for my child(ren). And even now, in faith I ask you for a godly husband for my daughter(s), a godly wife for my son(s). Thank you! Amen.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

AN ADOPTED CHILD SHARES HIS STORY: ALEX HILLIS

It is a special privilege for us to introduce you to Alex Hillis as he tell his story of adoption. At 22, Alex has much to say and his story is an encouragement to all of us parents to trust God to do in each of our children the same saving and freeing work he has done in this amazing son.


What God Told Me
I want to start off by saying that a couple of days ago I was going on a run and only planning to run three to six miles. Before I started the run, I was talking to The Lord and I told Him, that I wanted to hear from Him. I was not going to stop running until I heard his voice. My plan of running only three to six miles turned into 25 miles! It was then that The Lord spoke to me. This is what He told me, "Treat people the way you want him or her to become"-- and that's it. This quote got me thinking about my life. Looking back 14 years since I was adopted I know exactly why God was telling me this. 

A Second Chance at Living
At age seven I walked into a room when I saw a woman and a man and they had the biggest smiles I have ever seen in my whole life. Beside them they had a girl and a little boy, who was four at that time. I knew then that this was the family that was going to adopt me. I remember the lady coming to me without hesitation, giving me the biggest hug and putting me on her lap. She started talking and it seemed like forever.  She was asking me question after question. To tell you the truth I have never felt so love. When God introduced MY family, MY real family to My life, I now I had a second chance at living. 
Brian and Susan, Cristi and Trevor, with their new
family members-- Alex (next to Susan) and Anya.

My Parents Saw Me as Someone Who Had Hope
Let me tell you what I mean by this....
When you are in the orphanage, you only stay there until you are 18. After that if you are smart enough you go to college, but those who aren't go to the street. Then their life is most likely over. They start taking drugs, start getting in to gangs and before they turn 21 their future is not looking so bright. 
Alex (right) with sisters Ksusha and Lana Grace, running
to their new parents.
Right now I am 22 and I can not start to explain what my Lord has done in my life. From the first day my parents adopted me they started seeing me as someone who will succeed, someone who had a hope. They started seeing me as a beloved child of God. Even through all the pain they went through, their love never changed. They loved me unconditionally. Also, having a father figure for the first time was such a blessing, and honestly I could have never asked for a better dad. Just when I thought life could not get any better, it did!. Not only was I adopted into an amazing family I was introduced to my REAL Father: Jesus Christ. 


My Family Stood Their Ground
Alex with Susan, speaking together at
 Created for Care (retreat for adoptive moms)
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that that my life was so easy after that point because it wasn't. As a child I was so broken. But my wonderful family stood their ground and they rebuilt me into the man God wanted me to become. It was not easy, but I've never seen a faith as strong as my parents'. Yes! Physically they are not that strong, but I guarantee you that their faith and love is stronger than anyone I know. With that much power, they could move Mount Everest! Looking back now, knowing that if my parents loved me that much, how much more does my God love me! 

Want to hear more from the perspective of the adopted child? Check out the Adopted Children's Stories section of our blog.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

THE DANCE OF LIFE; THE SONG OF SONSHIP

From Beth:
I used to teach middle school right after Stephen and I got married. One of our most memorable times from that period in our lives was chaperoning the middle school dances. Oh my goodness! See if this doesn't sound familiar to you-- the boys all lined up on one side of the gym, the girls on the other. The music is playing, but only a few are actually dancing. The rest are hesitant, scared, painfully self-aware, or ashamed, embarrassed, unsure..... 



They want to dance-- desperately. But their fear is so real, so big. They doubt they belong in the crowd cool enough to get out on the dance floor. They fear they don't have what it takes, that they will fail in some way- so it is easier just to hang back and watch, acting as if in reality they don't actually want to dance. 

Stephen and I laugh when we remember the inevitable posse of girls moving in a chattering, giggling unit over to a friend, ready to drag him or her out on the floor. The friend would resist, of course, but no doubt was thrilled that the issue was being forced, relieved to have found a way to overcome the barrier. 

A dance is an intimate thing. It speaks of romance and partnership, and fun. There is a dance going on and sometimes I see the adopted children I know struggle like those middle school students. The best song is playing-- the one everyone loves. It is the SONG OF ALL SONGS! It is the music of adoption, of acceptance, of unconditional love. There is no better song to dance to! And the dance is happening right before their eyes, this DANCE OF LIFE

and yet, they hesitate
denying even the desire to dance
 covering their fear of the intimacy of it all with denials
declaring "that's just not who I am"
the voice of rejection whispering (or yelling) in their ear
you don't belong in that dance
rejected, dejected
not a son, not a daughter

and you and I KEEP DANCING
 for we can do nothing else with such a song 
we have been captivated by the tune-- it is beautiful and so very good 
we swing by our child
 extending our invitation to join in with abandon 
and some come with joy 
and some hesitate 
but all desire to join in, secretly loving it when we grab hold and pull them into the longed-for movement of life 
because this is what they are born to do, to dance to this
SONG OF SONSHIP 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

PICK YOUR B̶A̶T̶T̶L̶E̶S̶ OPPORTUNITIES

From Beth:
You've heard about the wisdom of picking your battles in parenting. It's good advice and I say absolutely! But I'd like to share some more practical parenting advice by expanding that concept a bit. Because adoptive and foster parenting is about as fertile a ground for this wisdom as you will find as far as I can tell! Take a minute and read something the Lord showed me early on in our adoptive parenting journey that was literally one of the most significant words I have ever received. It is revelation from God that Stephen and I put into play still on a daily basis. We are still learning to recognize what looks like a battle is often also an opportunity.  

Literally-- Pick Them!
So one thing Stephen and began to do years ago was to literally pick out some battles to fight-- on purpose! Rather than try to address every issue at once, ask the Holy Spirit what He is busy doing in your child and then partner up next to Him. It is hard to let bad behaviors go, but look at it this way-- what if Father God had required you to change every wrong thinking pattern and behavior when you became a Christian. All at once? How kind is He that he does not treat us that way?! With this perspective we have the freedom to disregard the judging looks and comments of others, and even our own fears of not being a "good Christian parent" knowing that we are doing just as Jesus did--"I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does." (John 5:19)

And take the opportunity to get your child in on the action. You (and your spouse if possible) sit down together with you son or daughter and say something like, "We have been praying for you! We are so excited about what God is doing in your life and all the wonderful things He has to say about who you are. And we feel that God is wanting us to work together on helping you with your anger (or lying, or attitude about chores, or doing your best work in school, or stealing, bedtimes, or sharing toys.......!). So, this is what we thought we would do...." By doing this you are inviting your child in as a team member. You are all on the same team working together with what God is doing. Now, no doubt many children will balk at some point. Certainly some of ours did. Once we actually followed through with whatever consequence we agreed upon we definitely got the normal push back. And if you have an oppositional child, then you know that they will fight you the whole way. But that does not mean that this process is not teaching them something. We are trusting God that every godly seed is being kept for our children for the right season of fruitfulness. 

I Am Not the Police
Once we have picked our battle, or what I would more accurately call Picking my Opportunity, then I am in the role of a coach rather than an officer of the law. I am no longer poised to catch my child in a bad behavior, but rather I am on her side, encouraging forward movement in the issue we are "battling." And when my child "loses" a battle, my role is not to exact punishment, but to come alongside to train and get him/her ready to try again.

Set Your Child Up for Success
Create opportunities to test out a new behavior or heart attitude. If you are working on not throwing a fit when your child doesn't get what he wants for instance, you might say something like, "This afternoon we are going to be out so you might not be able to watch TV until tomorrow. I know this is hard for you and it will take a lot of strength for you not to get angry and throw a fit. But I know you can do it! Do you think you can stay calm if it turns out we don't have time? What
could you do instead when you feel angry?" This warning ahead of time helps set your child up to break the negative habit pattern. We would sometimes try to create the most perfect situation so that our child could see that he/she could do it. A little success goes a long way in making a new pathway for when the situation is not so perfect in normal day-to-day life.

Pray Together
Along the way take time to actually pray with your child about the issue you are addressing. Let them know that Holy Spirit is called The Helper and that He loves to give us strength. Praying together is a wonderful way to train your child for a life of leaning on the Lord and trusting Him for what we cannot do for ourselves. 

Share Something You Had to Overcome
This is fresh out of the parenting oven for Stephen and me. We are learning with our older children how helpful and it is for them to see that we also struggle, that we also are working now on growing in some areas, that when we were children we behaved badly and needed to grow and change. For some children, seeing you as vulnerable and in need is key for them to feel connected to you. It may be that if they have dealt with trauma, which so many of our adopted children have, that the access point of need or pain is the one they are most familiar and comfortable with. We want to use everything we can to help our child!

Use Rewards to Celebrate Success
When your child has had a success in the battle, be sure to celebrate! Let them know how proud you are of them. How you know that took a lot of strength and courage and you are really impressed. Boast about them at the dinner table or with friends if that would not embarrass your child. Celebrate with an ice cream cone or some other treat. This is not a bribe; it is a party! We have sometimes picked out something ahead of time that we knew our child wanted or would enjoy and told them that when they were able to do, or not do, whatever it was we were working on, then we would give them the item. Sometimes it was an event-- going to see a movie perhaps. For some children this may not work as it may cause anxiety, but for some having a goal is an inspiration. Our daughter came home from Russia at 10 and would not speak English for the longest time. She did not want to make a mistake, so she just refused to try. We began to despair that she would ever learn it (silly I know, but hopefully you know that stretched/stressed overwhelmed season in those early months and understand!). So in her science class she had to make a simple machine and all the students were supposed to give an oral report. We knew that this would be the hardest thing in the world for our sweet girl. So we took the opportunity to tell her that if she got her nerve up to say 3 sentences, which we knew she could do at that point, then we would buy her the polly pockets she had admired at the toy store. For her it worked wonders. She said in the most adorable Russian accent right there in front of her class, "Thees ees my semple machine. Eet tourns on zee light. Eet uses a pooley andt leverrr." What a celebration we had! She had to overcome a lot to do that, having staked a lot of her energies in resisting speaking English-- a power struggle for sure. 

What are some battles/opportunities you are fighting alongside your child now? Do you have some advice on how to help your child move forward, a winner? Leave us a comment! 

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Monday, April 15, 2013

YOUR ADOPTION; YOUR MARRIAGE

Marriage Monday!
From Beth:
There is no greater blessing we can give our children than a strong marriage. It is dangerous I think to disregard the existence of the covenant relationship of marriage in adoption discussions. Dangerous for our marriages, and dangerous for our children. Adoption does not happen in a vacuum like that. As a matter of fact, for married parents, it is the existence of the marriage itself that has stirred hearts to adopt! It has been a joy for us at Hope at Home to encourage you in your marriage through our Marriage Monday series. 

Urgent and Important?
It is so easy to become completely absorbed by the needs of your adopted child, and the siblings, and the whole adoption dynamic, that we can forget the needs of our own husband or wife, of the joy and priority of our marriage covenant. Author Stephen Covey speaks about the distinction between urgent and important. Some things are both urgent and important, aren't they? Getting your paperwork completed for your adoption or helping your newly adopted or foster child adjust to his new family are both urgent and important I would say. And some things are urgent, but they aren't that important in the big scheme of things-- like getting to the grocery store so there is something healthy for dinner, or cleaning up a mess. Of course, there are always those things that are neither urgent nor important too--I love a good game of fruit ninja!


I think one of the reasons it is easy for us to neglect our marriages is because for most of us, we easily recognize our relationship with our spouse is important, but it does not often present itself as urgent, especially in the comparison with the in-your-face needs of our children. The needs of our
children are very important of course, however you will find that they are almost always presented to us as Urgent. And because the needs of an adopted child feel so intense, both to our child and to us, it really seems like these needs are always both important and urgent! After 12 years of adoptive parenting one thing I know for sure, the needs of my children are extremely important to me, and they will be there waiting for me when I get home from a date with Stephen, or a weekend away. 

The Needs of Our Children
There is such a strong pull on us parents to meet the needs of our children. We often feel this pull more than any other demand in our lives. And our adopted child's needs can be huge, like a gaping hole that can suck us in with it's urgency.
So, I know for some of us, especially my fellow mommies, this can be counterintuitive to make our marriage relationship a priority. Yet it is a higher priority than most adoption books will tell you. If the foundations of a building are being eaten away, over time the whole building will be wobbly and compromised. And it is clear to me that my marriage is the very foundation of our adoptions.

Your Marriage: An Effective Healing Agent
It is your marriage, your love relationship with your husband or wife, that is the context for your adoption. The environment of your marriage is like a greenhouse-- a divine ecosystem that yields life. But like any greenhouse, it must be maintained. The temperature, light and humidity levels, etc., all create this environment that is perfect for the plants to thrive. Our marriages have the possibility of being a life-giving atmosphere needed for our children to grow. 

A healthy, strong, vibrant marriage is a more effective healing agent than we realize, more effective than focusing  primarily on meeting the needs of your child I believe. Take a look at this inspiring list of benefits from Scott Means--

Benefits of a Strong Marriage:

  • It models for your children what a sacrificial love looks like
  • It gives them insight into the way God loves us
  • It gives your children a greater sense of security--physical, emotional and spiritual
  • It shifts the atmosphere of your home
  • It demonstrates what healthy, loving relationships look like
  • It influences the future of your children's marriages
  • It strengthens husband and wife as individuals so they are better able to help their children. 
Your relationship with your spouse is the constant in this adoption journey, friends. Our youngest of seven children just turned 18 last week, so I am here to tell you dear friends that when your children are grown and gone from your house, your husband or wife will still be there. And this covenant relationship you have together is worthy of the priority of our time and effort!

"And each one of them shall be like a hiding place from the wind and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land." (Isaiah 32:2)

What ways have you found that work to help nurture your marriage in the context of your adoptive/foster family? I am always looking for new ideas! Leave us a comment!




Thursday, April 11, 2013

MORE PRACTICAL PARENTING IDEAS

From Beth:
You may have read last week's post sharing some practical strategies to train your child in healthy and godly ways of thinking and behavior. This post is a follow up to that one, with more ideas to try with your children. For when we parent in grace, we realize there is no place for punishment, but endless opportunity for discipline and training, and the sowing of many seeds awaits us in our day-to-day relationship with our child!


~ Here is a little disclaimer before I go forward: Susan and I are hesitant sometimes to share practical parenting advice. There are a few reasons for this. One is that there are so many wonderful ministries doing and excellent job already. Another is that we want to be very careful not to dishonor our children in any way when sharing the things we have struggled with that involve our kids--we desire to protect their privacy . And we in no way want to imply that there is one way to parent, or that we or anyone for that matter have the answers you need. Certainly we have received wisdom and we love to share it; we ourselves have learned a ton about parenting simply by copying others! But we always want to point you to the One who is the best Counselor and Helper, the One who Loves like no other and is the Light in my Darkness --and yours, and theirs, and everyone's.

But the main reason we may hesitate to share practical parenting advice is we are so convinced that all the best parenting in the world can not heal your child, nor can it give you what you most need in order to love them well. It is a very short step from being an avid student of parenting to actually placing my trust in my own parenting, in essence, trusting in myself. Good parenting is helpful and will make a signifiant difference in your family life and even in the life of your child, but it is only a container for the healing work of the Holy Spirit, not the healing itself. We never want to place our hope in our parenting, even though both of us thought at the beginning of our adoption journeys that if we read the right books, went to the right conferences, and put into practice all of that wonderful wisdom, that all of this would produce the godly children we were pouring our lives into raising.  It is clear to us that our hope is in Christ alone for salvation, healing, joy, purpose, connection, identity, inspiration, unity and wholeness.

So, back to the topic at hand! As we said last time, we don't want to stop at simply telling our children what not to do; we are looking for ways to equip them--to parent them forward into their identity in Christ. A very effective strategy Stephen and I have found to do this is to take the time to have some sort of follow up, or an affirming resolution to whatever the issue was that required discipline. 

Ask Questions
The use of questions is a great help in encouraging your child to enter into a true discussion with you. Remember, relationship is the heart of GRACE, so everything we do to nurture relationship and connection with our child, especially in the context of discipline, will bear eternal fruit. Some well thought out questions will guide your child to discover some realities for themselves. I don't know if you have the same problem that I do, but it is so easy for me to go into "lecture mode" when I want to correct my child. And what makes it worse is that our teens often felt that the stringing of two or three words together in a row constituted a lecture! So, asking questions is helpful in eliciting your child's involvement in the training process. And it has the added benefit of helping them learn to be a thinker.

Ask, What Went Wrong?
It has been fascinating for Stephen and me to see how often our children did not actually know why they were "in trouble," as they would put it. I remember one fairly typical scenario when our son had a spelling test. We had been working with him on getting his homework done with some degree of
excellence. His only goal in doing school work was to finish it as fast as possible. And I mean only--the idea that he would actually learn something or try to have correct answers was so not in his mindset! So, we had asked him if he had any homework or quizzes and he confidently said that he had nothing. You probably know where this is going, right? Later that week a failed spelling test comes home and so of course, we speak with him about it. As a natural consequence, he was not able to go out to play that afternoon so that he could learn to spell the words he had not studied earlier in the week. But when we had our follow up later that night and asked him, "Do you know why you weren't able to go out to play today?" his response was, "Because I got a bad grade on my spelling test." 
It was so good that we asked him, because in no way did we want to communicate that a bad grade would bring the "punishment" (which is how it felt to him) of not playing outside. If he had told the truth and studied, and then done poorly, we would not have responded that way at all. We were then able to go over what happened so that he could understand the real issue, and begin to help him make adjustments to his approach to homework. 
Over time, and with this child this did take some years for him to learn not to let the goal of finishing fast be his only objective, we are empowering our child to take responsibility for his/her actions and to learn new ways to do things. Asking the question helps define the problem, training your child not to see himself as a victim of circumstance (or of his mean parents!), nor to blame others in an attempt to avoid taking responsibility. 

Ask, Why Was That A Problem?
This provides an opportunity to talk with your child about the character and values your family honors. It helps get past the behavior as the main issue, so that you can access the heart attitude. When your child won't share her dolls, helping her imagine how that feels for her friend will open her heart past her primary drive to protect her belongings. Asking questions like, "how do you think Jenny felt when you wouldn't let her play with your dolls too?" or "remember when your brother didn't let you build with his legos yesterday? What did that feel like?" will begin to expand your child's ability to understand values like honor, kindness, generosity, hospitality, etc. 

This is an ideal to time train your child in forgiveness-- both the asking for and the giving of. It was helpful for us to teach our children to say, "I am sorry I _________. Will you please forgive me?" and "Yes, I forgive you." This took some time (we often had to do "re-dos" and give them the time they needed to be able to say these things with authenticity), but it helped by pass the angry/hurt and never effective, "I'm soooooorrrrrryyyyyy!"

I would also add here that it is a powerful thing to model this for your child. Don't miss an opportunity to ask your child for forgiveness when you've yelled at them, or ignored them, or any of the things we all do on occasion. Asking for and receiving their forgiveness empowers them to do the same, and will strengthen your relationship like nothing else. 

Speak Identity Into Your Child
Before you end your follow up time, allow the Holy Spirit to give you something positive to say about your child, especially looking forward into their future. Parenting in Grace is always forward looking and filled with hope. So no matter how bad things are at the moment, even if your child has opposed you every step of the way and resisted your efforts to train, you will find the Lord always has something good to say about him/her. Always. One of our children was terribly clever at getting things his way (notice the use of the word terribly!) so it was easy for me to say something like, "You are going to be such a wonderful employee when you are older. You are so good at solving problems and getting things done. Your boss is going to love you!" Or maybe you can say, "What a tender heart you have. You really do feel it when something is not right, don't you? I can tell you will be such a wonderful husband/wife one day. The best!"

So, how about you? Would you leave a comment here and share some things that are working in your home? I know God is at work in our families and He has shared some strategies with you that we all would love to hear! 

Monday, April 8, 2013

3 OPEN DOORS


From Susan:
Several years ago I went to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit Retreat Center in Conyers, Georgia, for some time alone with the Lord, simply enjoying His presence and the splendor of His creation. For those of us who have busy lives and are constantly with children, being intentional about getting away into the Lord's presence is so very refreshing and restorative (I recommend it!) I was only there 24 hours, yet while there, was awakened three times in my sleep (just like Samuel! - the only time in my life this has ever happened!), with this sentence in my mind:  "I have not called you only to the literal orphans, but to all the orphans."  I understood clearly what this meant: there are many children and adults with living parents, yet they feel dead inside because they feel alone, lonely, worthless, hopeless. God's new call for me was way beyond the literal 153 million orphans, and it included all those who were figurative orphans and needed their view of themselves transformed -- transformed to see themselves as daughters and sons of the King of kings, of infinite value, untold worth, and with eternal hope. On a number of occasions since, when I am talking with someone, regardless of their age, I find myself wondering, 'are you one of them?'  By this, I mean, 'are you perhaps a figurative orphan whom the Lord wants to encourage? If they are, Lord, please encourage them in Your love.' 

After something this monumental happens -- like God clearly unfolding part of His calling -- it helps me to discuss it and get prayer from my husband and our pastors and elders, so that is what I did.  As we prayed that night one of our elders shared with us this truth:  "Behold I have set before you an open door." (Rev 3:8), and encouraged me that the Lord was showing me the door He had opened, and that I would know, by His Spirit and direction, when and how to walk through it.  This 'OPEN DOOR' passage, since, has been very meaningful to me personally. In the past week the joy of the OPEN DOORS has multiplied, and gone from 1 to 3!  I would love to pass along to you what has blessed me!

3 Open Doors!
Today, for you and for me, there are 3 Open Doors!  And all in the space of the two open pages for Revelation 3:5 thrugh 4:5 in my ESV Bibble!

1) God's Open Door (Revelation 3:7-8)

"The words of the holy one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one can shut....behold I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut."  
Whatever God's promised land is for you, NO ONE can shut the door to His good purposes in your life today, or tomorrow, for the rest of your life on earth, or for eternity.  Beth and Stephen tell the story of being in Russia and being denied the needed documents for their adoption, of going back to the place they were staying and seeking the Lord in prayer, and of the Lord speaking words of life back into their deflated hearts through this assuring verse of His calling and His intent to open the doors needed for their adoption.

2) Your Open Door (Rev 3:20)

"Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me."  So, what I see of about this second door is this. Anyone who has visited a Russian flat knows that there is the outer steel door which must be opened first;  so, it is like the husband coming home and opening that heavy first outer door, and then knocking and tenderly calling his wife by name..."Honey, it's me (knock, knock)."  She must open that second door in order for him to come inside the home and for them to enjoy time in each other's company. It is this same way for us. The Lord is like that
bridegroom/husband, who holds the first door wide open, determined no one can shut the door on His deep and eternal and unconditional and sufficient love and delight in you and me; and then He politely, gentleman that He is, knocks on the second while calling our names, waiting for us to open this second door of our hearts and invite Him in, to spend time together in each other's presence, listening and speaking in intimate conversation.

3) Heaven's Open Door (Rev 4:1)

"And after this I looked and behold, a door standing open in heaven..Come up here, and I will show you what must take place. At once I was in the Spirit and behold, one seated on the throne...." (read aloud what comes next to your children today an spend some time drawing or painting THAT together....we have done it and they love it!). When we keep reading, expecting to see a series of events unfolding on earth;  instead, what we immediately see, is that what 'must take place' is just this: After God opens DOOR ONE, and then we open DOOR TWO, His Spirit opens DOOR THREE for you and me to see, in a glorious way, Jesus, the Lion and the Lamb, seated on Heaven's throne! We walk into heaven's Open Door to worship the One who is seated on the throne and who lives forever and ever, as we and they cast our crowns (proof of our service) before the throne (we don't need those crowns!) saying, "...worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power." It is as unlikely as entering Narnia through the open door of the wardrobe.  And it is ours, available, today.

So today, for you, dear soulmate, our prayer is this....that you have eyes to see THREE OPEN DOORS! 
- DOOR ONE, which the God of heaven is holding open just for you and your family, so that your part in His Story will be unstoppable...un-shutable!
- DOOR TWO, which you yourself open up so that you and your Friend can spend some time in conversation
- DOOR THREE, which the Spirit Himself reveals, in the intimacy of worship.
And after all this, we cannot help being filled with joy....the kind of joy that is like Peter's:  joy inexpressible and full of glory!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

REAL LIFE PARENTING IN GRACE: PRACTICAL IDEAS

From Beth:
Whenever we speak about Parenting in Grace we get responses from parents asking for examples-- how does this look in "real life" you wonder? I love those questions because it seems to me that if we can't flesh out the gospel of grace in the day to day lives of our homes, if it is constrained to
sermons, bible studies, and the occasional outreach event or mission trip, then we are surely missing something! So, I am with you on wanting examples and practical help. We've shared some about the helpful idea of Time In and Taking a Break (rather than the traditional Time Out), and explored Parenting in Grace from many different angles, so today I thought we would take a look at practical ways we can train our child in Grace, bringing an affirming resolution to our discipline.

By the way, these ideas are simply that, ideas. Let the Holy Spirit lead you as you face a negative behavior or habit pattern. He is speaking to you and will give you insight and revelation as you need it. How faithful He is to us parents! 
We have really appreciated the folks at Biblical Parenting for practical strategies to try in your home. They speak about the Positive Conclusion, some of which I am sharing with you in this post. 

Follow Up and Resolution:
We all want to train our children and help them mature in godly behavior. We all want to get the the heart issues, don't we? As we move past the consequence to address the heart issue, then we are parenting in grace I think. Having a time of follow up, or Resolution, is key to training and maturity. It brings clarity for your child while strengthening your relationship. We don't want to stop at simply correcting a bad behavior; we want to take the opportunity to train in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). 

Not Just Don't, but Do!
We are all pretty quick at knowing what to tell our children NOT to do-- that's easy! "Don't run in the house," "Stop hitting your sister," "Don't talk to me in that tone of voice," etc, etc, etc!! Stephen and I learned (even before our adoptions with our three birth daughters, but especially after we brought home our 5, 7 and 10 year olds who learned behavior in a Russian orphanage) to focus more on what we wanted our children to do than on what we wanted them not to do. When trying to put an end to a bad behavior or habit, it is most effective to replace it with a good behavior, which hopefully will develop into a good habit. We are equipping our children with tools for life when we do this. 
So, "don't run in the house" can be followed by, "but you can walk like this" (showing a brisk walk), or "if you'd like to hop on one foot though, that is great!" And rather than simply saying your son's tone of voice is not ok, follow up with an example of what the same sentence would sound like in an appropriate tone of voice. 

Let's Pretend You are the Mommy and I am the Child!
When you are talking about an incident, using role play is a great way to train in righteousness. Ask your child what it would look like if things had gone differently? If your child is in a playful mood, it can actually help to play act her behavior from earlier in the day. "Let's pretend you are the mommy and I am the child!" You might, for instance, let her play mommy and you be the one who speaks disrespectfully. Sometimes the shock factor in this approach is really effective. I remember once throwing myself on the kitchen floor in a mock fit to the great astonishment of my girls. We were able to talk about another way to handle not getting the snack they wanted at the time after that! Play acting the scenario empowers your child when the next inevitable situation arises. You are replacing the bad habit with a good one. 

Time and Place is Key:
I feel pretty confident in saying that the "heat of the moment" is never the best time to deal with the heart issues behind an action. I've tried it and it doesn't work! I like to see things resolved right away and find it very hard to let an issue go unaddressed, but I've had to get over that for sure. A child who is anxious, angry, hurt or ashamed is simply not able to receive training, much less have a helpful conversation. This is true with any child, but we have seen that with many adopted children there are deep places of fear that get "triggered" by what would normally be an easily dealt with behavior or heart adjustment. Much has been written about how past trauma affects our children so I will just say that, bottom line, wait to work on this type of resolution and training when your child is no longer in fight/flight/freeze mode.
So, here are a few ideas regarding the when and where of your follow up and resolution that have worked in our family:
  • Bed times are wonderful times to connect. The tender moments when you sense the Lord's peace is ideal to say something like, "Sweetie, do you remember when you got so angry yesterday when I said you couldn't watch a movie......?"
  • Similarly, first thing in the morning is also a good time. Crawl in bed and snuggle, or just sit on the side and rub her back or put your hand on his head as you talk. 
  • For older children try going for a drive and talking. As important as eye contact is, your teen may be less defensive if you are not looking right at her/him.
  • We have found that taking a walk is also an effective time to bring up heart issues. Stephen has used this many times and literally always had good results in connecting. And don't let your child's initial negative response throw you! Ours often said something like, "It's too hot," or "I just started this game," etc. Press on and see if this works for you!
  • Avoid addressing an issue in front of others. If your child feels self-conscious or embarrassed, your window of opportunity will slam shut most likely.  
Stay tuned-- next time we'll talk about using this follow up time to help your child understand what he/she did wrong, why it was wrong, and to ask for and give forgiveness.