photos by Caroline; taken during zoo trip last week
I still can't get that song "Lead Me" out of my head. There is one particular phrase that keeps lodging in my mind and challenging me in my spirit, and it's the lyric "give them the best of my life." On Saturday night, as I was on my knees in our kitchen cleaning up the latest apple juice spill, I complained to my husband, "Is this really my life right now?"
I know. I sound bitter, ungrateful, and whiny. It had just been a long day of cleaning, laundry, playing referee between my toddlers, tempering my tween's 'tude (as friend Elissa calls it), and using a toothpick to pry PlayDoh out of the soles of my shoes. What I really wanted to do was lounge on the couch with my suspenseful novel, sip on a glass of wine, and relax to my heart's content until I felt like heading to bed. But I felt guilty as soon as my complaint left my mouth.
So that lyric has been popping up in my thoughts, and I've struggled to figure out what that looks like in parenting my children. I felt very convicted because I certainly don't give my kids my best on a daily basis. And my incredible husband often just receives my leftovers. How do I give them my best? Especially when I feel so defeated and run-down? The answer came during my quiet time this morning.
I've been working through "Created to Connect," a bible study companion to the highly acclaimed Christian adoption book The Connected Child. Author Dr. Karyn Purvis provides so much wisdom and direction. In chapter one of the study, she reminds parents that we are to be "mindful of their child's 'heart, mind, soul and strength' even as they learn to fully embrace their child's past, present and future. By loving and nurturing our children in this holistic way we can give them the gift of 'real hope' - an opportunity to heal and become whole - even as we teach them about and point them toward the source of everlasting hope in Jesus Christ." She explains that just as the Hebrew fathers in Deuteronomy 6:5 reminded Israel to "Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength," we are to love our children in the same way...the same way that we were created to be loved by our Father. And we take this seemingly impossible approach by placing our hope in the One who helps us, sustains us, and leads us.
The study encouraged me to focus on the amazing qualities of my new daughter - gifts and traits that she has had long before we knew her name. I felt a connection to contributor Cheryl Macdonald who shared her experiences with the daughter they adopted at 12. I couldn't believe the similarities when I read this paragraph by Macdonald:
"As with my backyard garden, there are also other things in the garden of my daughter's heart and life that I did not plant but cannot ignore. There are hard things that do not give life and instead seem intent to steal the beauty and joy from her victories. There are the fast-growing vines of fear and loss that try to choke out the trust and sense of permanence that has blossomed between us. And then there is the stubborn root of self-reliance that impedes vulnerability and healthy attachment. Nurturing the beauty and healthy growth in my daughter's heart and life requires constant vigilance, regular work and the humility and willingness to call upon and utilize available resources (much like the 'weed man') when needed."
(Click here to access the full study guide. It is free!)
I've been so thankful to have some incredible resources placed in my life...especially other adoptive moms. I have loved talking to mom Elissa who brought home 12-year-old Hope two weeks before us. Hope and Caroline are so similar, and we even set up a phone call for them yesterday. Caroline was pretty hesitant (in fact, she flat out refused to talk on Friday), but they ended up talking for over half an hour! I think she loved having someone to speak Mandarin with. And Elissa and I joked that they were probably exchanging stories about their crazy mommas and the ridiculous food we serve them. (By the way, here is a link to Elissa's blog. She is one of the funniest bloggers I've ever read.)
On a totally random note...In the car this afternoon, Grace said with a huge smile and much enthusiasm, "I love purple and pink. Purple and pink make me happy!" Maybe God is trying to remind me that it's the little things that can bring a smile.
Anyway, it was a great lesson for me to put on paper the qualities in all my children that I adore. And the ones that need some "weeding,"....well those are ones that I am called by God, as a mother, to tend to. I have to be intentional and alert. He gives me grace and patience if I ask. I just have to remember to ask! (And yes, I may just have to stick some post-it notes around my house to remind me.) And as the bible study taught me, persistence in pruning and weeding will lead to blossoming. And I will have the joy of witnessing the work God will bring about. That's some motivation to keep me going, even when I don't feel like it.
Hope your Monday is going well. I'm off to tend the "gardens." :)