Anger & Grace

It was a classic moment.

I could feel my heart rate increase as I stared down at the defiant little eyes staring up at me; daring, taunting and luring me into the ring.  I felt my cheeks flush hot and my shoulders stiffen with anger.

A tiny voice in the back of my mind squeaked a warning, but my emotions screamed at me to just react!

I was the adult, after all!

How dare she talk to me this way?

Look at me this way?

Challenge me with a mere tilt of her head?

Out came the words, with the lash of sarcasm to make them powerful and biting.  I watched with satisfaction that quickly faded to shame as her spirit broke before me, in the worst of ways.  The angry, defiant eyes quickly covered in tears and her face crumpled at the tone in my voice.

I had done it.

I had cut to the bone.

Intentionally, I had hurt her.

Far surpassing my authority as a parent I had stooped to the level of a child giving slap for slap in a schoolyard tussle.

As she bent to my anger and my bidding, I felt only guilt and shame.  I had done it again.  In the very moment where she needed me to be the parent, in control of my emotions despite her behavior, I had fallen quickly and securely into the trap.  While she tested and resisted, scanning the boundary line for strength and safety, I had lunged in for the kill.

I knew I needed to apologize, but I had no idea where to even start and all I wanted to do was wallow in my anger, humiliation and frustration.

I have struggled with anger for as long as I can remember.

I have a temper that flares quickly and burns hot.  I’ve had to learn the hard way time and time again that giving it even a tiny dose of oxygen explodes into wildfires I regret deeply.

I need Jesus to deal with this ‘thorn in my flesh’ every day of my life.  Just when I think maybe I’ve kicked it once and for all, it comes out of nowhere and knocks me off my feet, leaving me bruised, humbled and broken before my God.

I need grace.

Grace for my own sinful heart and grace for my children’s sinful hearts.

I have read every verse I can find in the Bible about anger, for obvious reasons!  There is so much in there about anger, and how destructive and dangerous it can be.

“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Proverbs 16:32

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity for the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

In the few years I’ve been parenting and caring for little people, I’ve found a few good strategies to help curb that anger when it rears its ugly head.  Today I am writing this post mostly to remind myself of what I know to be true!  I need this today.

1) Take a time out…for Mom!  Go lock yourself in your bedroom for a few minutes, go use the bathroom, do the laundry…anything that can get you a few quiet moments to recalibrate.

2) Be honest with your child about your feelings, but not in a reactive way.  “Mommy is feeling really frustrated right now and I just need a minute with Jesus to figure out what I need to do right now.”

3) Force your body to physically relax.  Loosen those shoulder muscles, stretch your neck and massage your cheeks.  Close your eyes, breathe and count to 10.  If you’ve chosen the bathroom or the bedroom as your escape room, force yourself to smile into the mirror before you head back down to face the music.  It really works!

4) Carve out time in your days for quiet time, prayer and simple things you enjoy.  This will help prevent the anger!  I know this is not easy for busy Mamas, and don’t kid yourself into thinking that through every season you’re going to find 30 minutes a day of God time or me time!  You might only get 15 minutes to talk to God in the shower, a few glances at a Bible open on your desk throughout the day or a verse taped to your mirror.  You probably won’t get a novel read but you might get in a walk to the park or a minute sitting in the sunshine while the kids bike outside.  When things are really crazy, take a look at your entertainment diet.  Make sure you’re spending your down time listening to worship music, inspirational podcasts, etc.  Take a few seconds to read that blog that pops up on facebook about an issue that you’re struggling with currently in your spiritual life.  Pop onto Youtube and find a women’s devotional for the day.  Be honest in your next conversation with your girlfriend when she asks how you’re doing.

5) Take a nap!  Again, I know this isn’t easy, but if it’s at all possible in your day, a quick nap or rest in the afternoon can prevent all kinds of explosions through the supper hour when everyone is low on energy, carbs and patience!

6) Look at your failures as opportunities from God.  Then embrace His forgiveness and forgive yourself too!  You very well may deal with this your whole life long, but each time you can reach out and grasp the power that God longs to place in your hands, you are gaining ground!  Don’t give up or let yourself wallow in defeat and humiliation.  Buck up and own it!

7) Say sorry.  Just do it.  No excuses!  Those sticky, small arms around your neck are worth it.  Your apology speaks a thousand words of wisdom and offers tangible grace to your littles.

Every now and then I experience it.

Victory!

I stop and take a moment to curb the anger before it takes over.  I whisper a prayer, get down on my knees and suddenly see the hurt lurking behind her angry eyes.  I offer the hug instead of the biting retort.  I grasp the power, and oh is it sweet!  It is there!  With His help, I can have the victory, but I can’t do it alone.

So keep trying!

Keep surrendering your spirit to His will and some sweet day He will give you the Victory!

AF

We Are Home Schooling!

Yes, you read that right.

Me and my littlest A are homeschooling!  It’s been 2 weeks and maybe we are just honeymooning but it has been AWESOME!   I love it!

Now I can just about see some of you rolling your eyes, making that skeptical face and going…yeah whatever.

I get it.

I never wanted to home school, either.

In fact, until I read through my daughters’ adoption files I always said that I would never do it because I would have hated it as a child, myself!  I thought that home schooling was for really large families who like to hide away from the world or display their family on TV shows!  I thought children who were home schooled were all really smart, a little socially impaired and just not normal!  As you can see, I really hadn’t spent much time thinking about it or taking a look at people who actually did home school!  These were just my misguided perceptions, which I am thoroughly embarrassed of now.

But when special needs walks into the picture, everything changes.  Suddenly I could see that even though I loved school and it would have made me miserable to be at home, for some children it may be the exact opposite!

For some kids, school causes so much stress that they spend all their time just trying to cope!  This may be a result of trauma, attachment issues, learning disabilities or any number of other special needs.

There are tons of supports available, but you have to fight for them and it’ll take time.  I certainly don’t recommend that every parent experiencing difficulties with their child at school should just pull them out without exploring their options, but sometimes all the support and time in the world won’t meet the real needs of your child.   This is especially true in adoption.

For months, I had been saying…we’ll just give it some more time.  Or, I’m not ready yet so that’s just where she needs to be.

In truth I wasn’t confidant enough that I was ready to commit to this journey or that it was the right path for my daughter.  For some reason I was really afraid that I would pull her out of school and then fall flat on my face!  I was afraid she wouldn’t learn, that it would all be a mess and that we would all hate it!

But somehow God has a way of making things clear and as things got worse at school my mind lingered more and more on the idea of home schooling.  Part of me fought it…simply because I love school!  I love the specific school my daughters were attending, and where my oldest daughter still is.  I love the community.  I love the staff.  I love the atmosphere and all the kids.  I love the special projects and events that are connected to school.  I love the opportunities school brings to experience life alongside others and to have a broader view of the world.  I just love it.  I am a teacher, after all.

However, God began to speak to my heart and show me that my daughter needed something different.  My husband and I had always promised that we would make decisions about our children’s education according to what was best for each child, one year at a time.  We could no longer claim that we were doing that, and that bothered me!  Even worse, I was scared and discouraged as I watched my daughter start to fall back into behaviors and patterns that we hadn’t seen in a long time!  I felt like we were losing ground instead of gaining, and I missed my happy little girl.  Though we had a great team at school and communicated regularly, I realized that my daughter didn’t need a teacher.  She needed her Mommy.  She needed me.

So in some ways I chose to home school out of desperation and because school was not working…but even more I chose to home school because I realized that I wanted to!

I missed the first four and a half years of my daughter’s life.  I want to spend more time with her!  I want to be there all day, every day, even though it truly does drive me crazy sometimes!  I want to know every little thing that happened in her day, and to be the constant that she comes back to.   I want to be the one who laughs with her, gets frustrated with her, explores the world with her and watches her learn and grow.  Because even after 18 months together, I’m still getting to know her.  I’m still trying to figure out who she is and how she thinks.  I’m still learning her challenges, her strengths and her learning styles.  I am still figuring out her love language and her sense of humor.  I am still proving to her little heart that I am her Mommy and I will always love her; that even though others have come and gone I am here to stay.  There is nothing that can replace TIME.

So, here goes nothing!

The next half year is a bit of an experiment, but I am so excited.  I am excited to be able to focus on the things my little girl is good at, and remove some of the things she is not yet ready to handle.  I am excited to use the teaching skills I have to figure out how she learns and to make learning fun for her.  Choosing to home school a special needs child is completely different than choosing to home school a child who is gifted or even just average.  For the special needs child, you need to lay aside curriculum expectations, most typical teaching styles and any methods that conflict with your child’s exceptionalities.  I have to fight against the temptation to follow a book, accomplish too much in one day or copy other’s home school structures.  Home schooling is all about finding what works for your child and your family.  Once you embrace that, there is immense freedom!  It is wide open from there!  You get to decide what you study, how much, how long, where and when.  You get to decide everything.  This can feel scary, but chances are if you set out on this venture your gut will let you know the answers to these questions.

 So far, it has been the best decision I’ve ever made.

I have my little girl back.

I’m seeing peace where I saw frustration and agitation.  I’m seeing happiness where I saw a constant edginess.  I’m seeing success where I saw failure academically.  I’m seeing gentleness where I saw anger.  I’m seeing a glowing pride in her bright blue eyes where I saw confusion.

It’s not all perfect, and I’m still figuring out how we’re going to handle all this.  I don’t know how long we’ll be doing this, but for right now it’s the right thing.  I am sure of that.

I was given some great advice from another home schooling mom.

Pray.

Pray over everything you do.  Pray over the math, the spelling, the reading books and the colouring.  Pray for wisdom, pray for patience, pray for grace and perseverence.  Pray for courage and a sense of humor.  Pray for yourself, your child, your husband and your other children.  Pray blessings over your child and their school work.  Pray blessings over your home and family.

Know that this work you have chosen to do…been called to do…is valuable and important in the eyes of God.  At the end of the day, you are Kingdom building, not just teaching ABC’s.

This is the perspective I want to embrace as we dive into this new venture.  I want to teach my daughter out of a sense of gratitude, and hand all the work of our hands over to the One who can make it beautiful and valuable.

 

 

5 Rules to Enjoying the First 6 Weeks With Baby

So, now that Karter is 6 weeks old, I have a few little tips for new moms to make the first 6 weeks with baby as smooth as possible.  Some of these were given to me by other people, some I learned the hard way and some on retrospect would have been a good idea 🙂  For those loving a little one with colic, sleep issues or feeding issues these will be doubly important!

1. Say no to extras.

This is not the time to commit to another committee at church, throw a Christmas party for your coworkers or invite friends over for a five course dinner.  For 6 weeks, say no.  Just do it.  NO.  You and your baby will be happier, healthier and more rested.

2. Stay home.

Right alongside rule #1 is stay at home.  Send someone else to get the groceries, pick up the kids or run errands.  Clear your calendar of any ‘going away’ activities.  Unless you really feel like you need a breath of fresh air, just stay at home in your p.j.’s and enjoy it!  You’ll be surprised how exhausting it will be for you mentally and physically just to go to the store for a few minutes.  So don’t.  Just stay home.  Though I would say, if you’re feeling up to it a walk outside is a wonderful way to get some air and feel like a human again!  But no pressure 🙂

3. Accept help.

There will be people at every turn offering to bring you meals, run some errands, babysit your other children or clean your house for you.  Say yes!  Even though you know you haven’t done well in the past offering help to others, or you feel like that person deserves help more than you do…say yes!  People don’t offer unless they genuinely want to help, so just accept it.  Before you know it the tables will be turned and you will get a chance to return the favor.  This is part of the beauty of being a part of a community.  It takes a village to raise a child…starting in the first 6 weeks!

4. Hold your baby.

Whenever you get the chance, every time you want to…hold your baby.  Just sit and stare down at that little face, the perfect little fingers and toes and the tiny turned up nose.  Stroke that soft head and kiss those sweet cheeks.  Before you know it your baby will be kicking and giggling, but right now all she wants in the world is to be close to you.  The world feels big and strange to her and your arms are her safe place.  So don’t be afraid to just sit and hold your baby.  It’s satisfying, peaceful and bonding.

5. Take naps.

Schedules will come later.  Right now both you and baby are just figuring out the new world you live in so don’t expect to have a predictable sleep schedule yet.  Throw the clock out the window and just follow your baby’s lead.  If 3 am is his awake time, then unfortunately there is very little you can do to change that!  So sleep when he sleeps and be ready to chat when he’s awake.  If it’s almost dinner time but baby is falling asleep and you’re exhausted…grab a quick bite and then head for your bed or the couch.  Soon enough baby will get onto some type of schedule but for now just sleep whenever you can 🙂

So that’s what I learned…any thing to add all you moms out there?

I’d love to hear what things helped you get through those first 6 weeks or what things you wish you would’ve done!

AF

A Pile of Toys and a Grumpy Mom

I knew we had a problem as I lay in bed staring at the ceiling this morning.  The unwelcome thought that had just flitted through my brain was:

“I don’t want to go down there to that mess!”

I could hear my daughters playing downstairs and I could just tell by the tones of their chattering and shrieking that it was going to be one of those mornings where they had completely demolished any sense of order accomplished the night before.  It seems to be especially bad on weekends, when my husband and I stay in bed a little longer and relax.  Something about the combination of morning and no supervision ends up with me coming down to random items scattered all over the house.  Dolls, clothes and play food dumped all over the floor in the search for that one item desired.  Papers and crayons left on the couch where someone was playing school.  Hair clips and elastics on the floor inside the door.  A blue bathrobe laying beside the coat rack.  Coats and shoes dropped halfway through the house.  Books everywhere!

Do you ever feel like you’re in a constant battle with your children’s toys?  No matter how many times you reorganize, sort and pack bags for the Goodwill you just can’t manage to keep ahead!

Getting up with this thought and coming down to the expected chaos hardly had us starting off on the best foot this morning.  I was a grumpy, growling bear prowling around in her pink pajamas barking out comments like,

“What is this doing here?!”

“Didn’t I tell you to put this away?

“How many times do I have to tell you to put things where they belong!?”

It was less than a 5-star-Mom moment.

Ok, it lasted longer than just a moment, too!

Somehow, we did manage to get some things sorted out and once again I am packing bags, selling items on the Buy and Sell site and reorganizing toys.  My daughters joined me and made a pile of stuff they don’t want to keep, which turns out to be pretty substantial!

We are cutting back to the basics.

But I know, I just know, that a month from now I’m going to feel exactly the same way I did this morning!

So HELP!

I need some ideas here.

How do I manage this ongoing battle?

I also know that these are incredibly minor, first-world problems!  Really nothing to get your knickers in knots about, right?  But somehow, that seems to be just the kind of aggravating feeling that drags me down.

Maybe I just need fresh perspective.

Either way, if you’re a mom, tell me what you’ve discovered that works!!

AF

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

Let it Snow

It’s snowing outside! 🙂

First snowfall of the season on October 31.

This girl is happy.

In fact…this morning has been just about perfect.  My husband didn’t have to leave for work until 9:00, so we slept in.

Woke up to big, beautiful flakes of snow falling outside the window,

the girls happily playing downstairs by the fire,

and a warm kiss beside me.

Ah.

Fluffy slippers,

all of us meandering through breakfast and morning routines together

and then rushing the girls out the door at the last minute because…surprise…we’re late!

Checked out the Christmas sales starting in the flyers,

lit some candles,

and turned on the Christmas songs

all as the flurries continued to fall.

My daughters prayed for snow, so they were delighted to bundle up in their winter coats, mittens and hats this morning and go out into the cold.

What about you?

Are you ready for the Christmas season creeping up on us?  What do you love about the next two months?  Don’t tell me what you hate, because those are all listed off thousands of times every year and we really don’t need to review those! 🙂

Some side notes…

We’re heading out tonight on our “alternative to Halloween” activity…collecting food for the local food bank.

We’ll walk the streets with all the ghosts, princesses, zombies and fairies until we’re too cold,

our wagon is full of canned soup

or Daddy shuts us down,

and then we’ll go warm up with some pizza!

It’s an early to bed night here since tomorrow is a BIG day.  We’re going to go visit the girls’ foster families for the very first time since placement four months ago.  I’m excited, but nervous and trying to prepare for the emotional disruptions next week is likely to bring.  It’s 2 steps forward and 1.9 steps backward as we stumble through this maze called attachment together.

To be honest, I’ve been having a rough few weeks.  It’s just such hard work some days, and the stakes are so high.  So much depends on me and half the time I don’t have a clue what’s really going on.  Our mornings are shaky at best, and one wrong move on my part can send us all spiralling into anxiety, fear, anger and power struggles.  I try to do it on my own too often.  I let myself fall into the easy, muddy ruts that bring us all down.

Too tired.

Too grumpy.

Too overwhelmed.

Too busy.

But good friends and God reminded me this week that I am called to so much more than this.  There is a power available for me if I will only submit my heart to the path it takes to get there.  I must be willing to let go of my irritation, my pride, my fear and my frown.  One step in front of the other, I can choose to be the kind of woman He longs for me to be.  Not perfect, but eager to serve.  Not superwoman, but flexible and cheerful even when mittens are lost and the night was too short.  Three quarters of the battle is won when I kick that big stubborn will of mine into gear!  I know better than to let myself off the hook too easily because I know just how much I can really change with a positive attitude and a heart ready to bow to the Spirit’s gentle nudges.  That decision on Wednesday made the last half of this week so much better than the first!

It’s still snowing! 🙂  Better pull out those layers for tonight.

Cheers!

AF