If you think back to my 6 month home update post (found here if you didn't read it yet), the place I was at a few weeks ago at my 7 month home date was very much the same place. A place of frustration and lack of answers as to what I needed to be doing to willingly suffer for Nora's sake now that she was home. A place of discouragement in myself for not being able to get a grip on how to better parent, better love, better listen, better invest, better "suffer". The daily life in our household did not change much over the course of this past month. I have all four kiddos home for summer break and I'm being pulled in four different directions for four different kids with four distinctively different needs. (This will be a post all of its own someday!) Tantrums were still being thrown (both from Nora and from my inner being), battles were still occurring, love tanks were still unmet, prayers were still prayed, gratefulness was still spoken, and fun times were still experienced in the midst of the pain.
To be honest, last week was the hardest week yet of a very long month. There were many outside situations also occurring that made it especially tough, but it was downright the hardest week yet in trying to do this "adoptive parenting" thing and yet feeling like a complete and utter failure. My emotions and reactions to Nora were out of control and every well-meaning word of advice I had been given from others to try to make this work better just fueled my sense of frustration because ALL of them would have made me do things that did not come naturally for me. I could not believe it. There was not ONE suggestion I heard where my first response was, "Oh, okay. I like that idea. I can do that. I want to give that one a try. I can totally see that one working/making a difference." Nope. Every single one was met with this response from me, "Uhhhh.....no. Are you kidding me? I hate doing that. That would never work--I don't like that. I don't enjoy doing that. I can't even imagine how much that will grate me. No way. Nope. No. Never. How on earth do you expect this to actually draw me and Nora closer and bond us when I will be hating every moment of these activities??? (Insert audible laughter at even the thought of me trying to do some of these ideas). I felt like I was down to my last bit of twine in the rope and as much as I wanted to cling on and start climbing upward out of this pit of discouragement, nothing suggested seemed to be the answer I wanted/liked/desired.
However, thankfully we serve a God who never lets us lose our grip of even that last little string in the rope. This past Sunday our pastor gave a great sermon on discipleship and what all goes into being a disciple of Christ. How practicing disciplines is not something our generation is very good at doing. I agree. Our culture is one of instant gratification and only participating in activities that grant yourself good feelings and successful outcomes. Practicing the art of discipline is not always exactly that. He reflected on how our mindset is often focused on "trying" and not necessarily "training". For example, we often will "try" something new with the intentions that if we don't like it, we will discontinue doing it. We will "try" harder to accomplish something, but if we don't succeed at it then we must be a failure so we walk away with a self-defeated attitude and an increased fear of tackling anything new, unfamiliar or unnatural to our current lifestyle or abilities. "Trying" seems to have an instant reward or loss attached to it...either we try it and like it or we try it and don't like it. We try it and succeed or we try it and we fail. There is no long-term commitment attached to "trying".
"Training", on the other hand, implies there is a larger goal to be focused on than just what is in front of us at the moment. Even though there are many things along our path in training for something that we will have to "try", even if we fail at them, we don't stop the training regimen because we know that what we are working towards is ultimately good and worth the effort. Our pastor brought up the idea of training to run a marathon. Well, that hit very close to home for our family because my hunk of a hubby is currently doing just that! Micah is not quite in the middle of his training schedule to be ready to run his very first marathon at the end of September. His training has not always been "fun". He has had to try new things like wearing a fuel belt while running, getting up earlier to avoid the hot sun, going for further distances than his legs have ever ran before. Each time he "tries" something new, he has to view it as all part of the "training" process to become a marathon finisher. If he views them all as just something he is "trying" without the larger picture or goal of what he wants to accomplish in the end, he could much easier opt out of the rest of the training program and never reach the desired outcome.
So too, with my journey in parenting Nora and learning to love her passionately. Thus far, I think I have fallen into the trap of viewing each of these suggestions people have given me as something I need to try in order to make this instantly better. I have viewed each suggestion as an entirety of itself instead of seeing it a part of a much larger goal I am training for. When I choose to see all of these littler steps as part of a training program instead of a "trying it out" idea, my attitude shifts from being discouraged about everything I'm failing at, to one that has hope. Even if I didn't do so great at it this first time, it still will play a critical role in the training process that will eventually, together with all these other things, develop and grow and strengthen me into a person who will and can parent and love Nora in a healthy way. I no longer feel like I have to keep "trying" new ideas until I find one that actually works, but instead, I have to participate in all of these different ideas in order to train myself well-roundly. And, just like Micah doesn't enjoy each and every part of the training process for his marathon, I'm not going to enjoy each and every part of the training process in my parenting of Nora either. Some of these steps will HAVE to be what I called in my 6 month home post--"places of suffering".
So, with my newfound direction and decision to change my way of looking at my situation from a place of "trying harder" and yet continuing to fail miserably to a place of "diligently training well", I have several different activities I plan on implementing over the course of the near future. I fully admit that almost all of these are things I really don't look forward to or am sad about giving up, but I believe that by doing so, the training steps will eventually get me to my desired place or goal and that will be worth the suffering steps along the way. To give you a taste of some of these activities for myself, I'll list a few, but remember that each person is completely different so if you need to do this for yourself, you will have to think about what your "discipleship training" should personally look like.
- Give up 99% of my time on facebook. I love connecting with people. I love encouraging others. I found facebook is a place I can do those two things incredibly well. I also found that facebook scrolling is incredibly addictive. Before I know it, I got on there to see how my close friend is doing and find myself watching a video about how the latest animal got themselves out of their own cage without any human help. It's ridiculous. I am wasting so much of my day with mindless activity on facebook when I have four kids who need me to be more present with them, a house that needs me physically cleaning it, food that needs me cooking it on time, a husband who needs me talking with him on the couch instead of sitting on one end of it with my computer with him on the other end with his iPad, and I have a soul that needs to be reading my Bible, worshiping God, and thanking Him for what all is going on around me because I am living purposefully and intentionally enough to even know what it going on around me. Giving up majority of my time on facebook is NOT something I look forward to because I also know it will come with the price of not being as "in-the-know" of what is happening with others near and far from me, however, with one week under my belt here, I have accomplished more off my "to-do list" than I have in months of time and it has been very freeing and refreshing.
- Reading and playing more with Nora. This one is a tough one for any mom (and especially as stay-at-home mom) to admit, but it's true...I don't actually super enjoy playing things with my kids. I think, to some degree, that's why God has us have them all close together--they play with each other and I don't have to as much (ha!). Seriously, I would LOVE to sit down and talk with them for countless hours or go and do things with them like the park or shopping, but getting my body down on the floor and actually playing with their toys with them is not something that comes naturally or easily for me. I need to do this more with Nora, however, and it has to become part of my "training" whether I enjoy it or not.
- Reading a book about adoptive parenting. Another shocker to many who know me is that I'm not a reader. I love to journal, write, blog, and talk, but sitting down with a book in my hand is a very, very, very rare sighting. I like to read short things--blog post lengths--not thick books with tiny words and lots of chapters. They are overwhelming to me. I fall asleep so quickly after picking them up and wake up feeling like I have once again failed because I couldn't stay awake for it once again. I also like to get things done quickly, check it off my list, and move on to the next thing. The idea of having a book that is just sitting there not completely read yet unnerves me so I just don't like doing it. However, a counselor and fellow adoptive mama I went to a few weeks back insisted I NEEDED to read this one so, reluctantly, I bought it and started it today. Again...part of the training process that a much as I roll my eyes in beginning it, I also know it will help me reach my desired goal.
There are many other things I could put into this list but it would turn into a huge list very quickly and I basically just wanted to give you a taste of what my "training" is looking like. I fully expect there to be challenges along this road, but I do have a renewed sense of direction and excitement as I look ahead instead of seeing things as dismal and hopeless to change. I know that God is also running this race beside me and I will NEED Him to be my Encourager every step of the way or I will fail miserably. That would probably be the one thing I've taken away from the past two months--I really can not do anything good and pleasing and heaven-rewarded without Him. We need Him for everything. I'm so blessed and thankful for His unconditional love and unwavering commitment to see me through to the end. Please continue your prayers for me and all of our family. We appreciate them and know God uses them to sustain, empower, support, encourage, and change us into the likeness of Him.
Several verses I've found inspiring/encouraging/helpful/hopeful in my last month:
- God is Present: Psalm 139: 7-12/ Psalm 31:19/ Psalm 91
- God is Ever-sustaining: Heb. 1:3, 10-12/ Ps. 18:35/ Psalm 147:5-6/ Is. 50: 4-5
- God is Infusing: 1 Sam. 2:2-4 (The Message)/ 1 Thess. 3:11-13 (The Message)
- God is Empowering: 1 Sam. 16:13 (The Message)/ 1 Cor. 4:20-21 (The Message)
- God is Transforming: Phil 3:20-21/ Rom. 12:1-2/ 2 Cor. 3:17-18
- God is the Alpha, Omega, and "the Middle" (side note: I wanted to reflect on the fact that God began something with this adoption and would be there till the end as well, but found my heart saying, "what about the middle?" I wanted a Word that also said God was in the middle. Oh, yes, did He answer!): Rev. 1:8/ Ex. 3:14-15
- God is Sufficient: 2 Cor. 12:9
- God is Protecting: Ps. 32:6-8/ Jn 17:11/ 1 Cor. 13:6-7
- God is Everything we need: Is. 58:11-12/ Mt. 6:8/ Phil 4:19
- God is Miraculous: Lk. 8:47/ Acts 3:7
- God is Fresh and Living Water: Is. 49:8-10/ Jn 4:10/ Jn 7:37-39/ Rev. 21:6-7
- Importance of "training" to see the end of the race: Acts 20:22-24/ 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
And, as always, I love sending you off with some photos from our month. This post will have some pretty special ones for you to see. Another amazing photographer gifted us with a session as her way of giving back to our community and supporting our desire to adopt. We could not have been more blessed or thankful for her willingness to capture our family in these beautiful photos. Her work is top-notch and her attitude towards working with our four kids was impeccable. If you are in our area, please, please, please, look her up and give her a try for your next family, baby, maternity, etc. photo session. Here is the link to her website: Chika Sunoto Photgraphy.