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Friday, February 25, 2011

Medicine to My Soul

I think J-Man may take after Superman and find solace and inspiration while in the shower. He often just stands there, not washing himself, while I wring my hands hoping the hot water doesn't run out. Last night, J-Man happened to be the first one in the shower, which meant there were four other little ones who would need hot water. After about five minutes, I went to check on him and noticed his back was the only thing wet. I reminded him to "hurry up" since everyone else still had to take showers. Five minutes later, I checked on him, and guess what? He still hadn't washed himself! I was a bit irritated, and said in a stern "mom voice," "J-Man! Hurry UP! There are FOUR OTHER PEOPLE who need to take showers!" and walked out of the bathroom. As soon as my foot got out the door, I realized I shouldn't have used that tone. I went back and forth in my mind on whether I needed to go back in and apologize. The "old" Shanti (before conscious parenting!) would have just left it at that. After all, I had already reminded him. I was justified in the way I spoke to him. But, the "new" Shanti thought, "How would I like it if somebody talked to me that way?" And I marched myself right back in there. I said, "J-Man, I'm sorry I used that tone with you. I should have asked you to hurry in a nicer way." To which he replied, "It's okay, mommy. It was my fault--I should have listened to you the first time!" And he was done with his shower in less than a minute. He came out, hugged me, and said, "Thank you for saying sorry." 

Medicine to my soul, I say. Medicine to my soul! 

Being honest with my kids, and letting them know I am working on myself has been such a blessing. I feel as though they are carrying the burden with me, and are much more likely to be on my team instead of feeling like they have to play defense. Had I not apologized, J-Man would have taken another 10 minutes to get out of the shower, we would have run out of hot water, I would have still been irritated, and he most likely would have had an "off" night. Instead, we had a moment of connection, which led to reading library books, snuggling on the couch, and baking chewy chocolate cookies together. I like Option B much better!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I'm so excited to be doing a giveaway for this book! As I mentioned, it changed my parenting, and in turn, my life.

The Connected Child, co-authored by Karen Purvis, David Cross and Wendy Sunshine, is specifically written for adoptive parents, but has so many wonderful insights for biological parents as well. If you're a parent or know someone who is, you should read this book! You will learn many things about yourself and your children, biological and adopted.

Here's the rundown: 

*Leave a comment here saying what your favorite thing about being a parent is. You'll automatically be entered! 
*For an additional entry, share my blog on your Facebook, Twitter or other social networking site, and link back to here!

You won't be disappointed! 
The giveaway will take place on Friday, March 4th. 

Happy entries! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How a Book Changed My Life

As I mentioned in my last post, I just read the book, "The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family." If you are an adoptive parent, read it! If you are just a "regular" parent who feels you could stand to improve, read it! I bought the book more out of curiosity than anything else. Last week, we featured a therapist specializing in adoption at a seminar we put on at our church. She said she should get a commission for referring clients to this book. I figured it wouldn't hurt to read what these authors had to say. 

I have the book on my Kindle, and as I am sitting here typing this, I am looking through the fifty notes I made while reading it. How do I pick the most important? I'm not going to summarize the book, because I can't do it justice. If you want to know more about it, you can check it out here

You're probably thinking, "C'mon! Get ON with it already!" Ok, so here it is. Here's what I found out about myself while reading this book (I thought this book was supposed to be about adopted kids??): 

I am an emotionally distant, avoidant parent.

Remember my post about "Conscious Parenting?" I'm getting better. The Lord has woven this intricate tapestry of my life, and He has had all these things come together to work amazingly well together: the retreat, my desire to change, planting this book in front of me...they're all connected. This book wouldn't have had near the same effect had I read it a year ago, or even a few months ago. But even with my improvement, there were things I didn't know about myself. Towards the end of the book there is a "parenting style" quiz for parents. There were two options for each question. One answer would be considered "avoidant" (A) and one would be considered "nurturing." (N) Here's one example: 

"When you're talking to your child across the table, you comfortably reach out and touch her cheek or stroke her hair, and gently look into her eyes."(N) OR "When you're talking to your child across the table, your interactions are reserved and it's uncomfortable for you to make warm eye contact or reach out and touch her." (A)

Can you guess what my answer was? I am so devastated to admit that my answers were all (A)'s except for two. 

I don't think people on the outside would ever consider me an avoidant, disconnected, detached parent. But I am. It does not come naturally to snuggle my kids, to gaze into their eyes, to give them a warm hug "just because." I don't naturally give them a hug in the morning when they get up or smother their little faces with kisses at night. It is not natural for me. I, as awful and horrible and shameful as it is, am an uncomfortable, distant parent. 

I can have fun with my kids. I love going places and having picnics and making memories and baking desserts. I love to go on hikes and watch them learn and listen to them have deep conversations in their bedroom at night. But I never realized I was perpetuating a cycle of arms distance between parent and child. The authors wrote, 

"...Avoidant parents sometimes have the mistaken assumption that they're teaching independence by keeping their distance." Yes! That was me. I never wanted to "coddle" my kids. I didn't want them to grow up to be "sissies" or "weak" or "needy." I wanted them to be strong, courageous, confident and independent. And I thought the way to do that was to stretch out my arms and {not embrace} them, but keep them away. If I got too close, they would be too connected. They would need me too much. They would see my weakness. 

Please don't think I did this on purpose. I have always longed to be that cuddly mommy. I've enviously watched other moms who easily nurture their children and want nothing more than to hold them close to their heart. It's just that I've failed. Seven years have gone by since Mr. C came into our lives. And 7 years I have failed. Not in everything, but in something. Something so important, the Lord finally stopped me in my tracks while retreating from my daily life just a few weeks ago. He planted that seed of conscious parenting in me. And it sprouted. Then, it grew. It blossomed more than I ever imagined it would. But, still, seven years...I cannot allow myself to be suffocated by the past. I can only keep my eyes on what lies ahead.

The Lord has once before taken a burden from me overnight. There are many things that I've struggled with over the years, continually praying for help in overcoming. But 12 years ago, when I asked the Lord to take my bitterness away, He did. Immediately. And just a few days ago, I sat at the feet of Him who loves me and desperately asked Him to take this from me. Take away this hole in my heart, this unconscionable plague in my soul. Take away my need to be distant and fill it with your love so deep, so wide, that it fills me to overflowing. Fill me in a way that can only be credited to you. And He did. I felt that burden lifted just as I did 12 years ago when I asked the Lord to take away the bitterness of my youth. 

You know what I did yesterday? I hugged my kids. I read them books before bed. I complimented them. I told them how much I loved them and what I love about them. And it was phenomenal. 

There are so many things this book gave me. It described M-Dog to a "T." It filled my heart with compassion for these children I often forget come from traumatic, awful, hurtful pasts. It reminded me. And its words changed my life. And because of that, it changed my kids' lives. The Lord spoke to me through this book. Maybe He'll speak to you, too. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Grace and Mercy: Give a Little, Get a Lot!

This weekend in church I almost fell asleep. I'm normally a "in bed at 9:00" kind of gal, but the last few nights I had been up late (like 11 p.m. late!) reading a book called, "The Connected Child." Probably the best book I've read in years. It is written specifically for adoptive parents, but many of the described techniques can be applied to bio kids as well. I'll be talking more about this book in the next few weeks. I've gleaned some life-changing insights and can't wait to share them! But, I want to finish the book first. 

I digress. So, I was almost falling asleep in church and I hear the pastor say something (I'm a woman--I can do more than one thing at once!). He shared a definition of grace: "GETTING what you DON'T deserve," and mercy: "NOT getting what you DO deserve." Wow. Maybe some of you have heard this definition before, but I sure hadn't. It was like cold water got splashed in my face, and I woke up. I'm a little embarrassed to admit I don't know what the rest of the sermon was about, because I was focused so much on that little gold nugget. At first, I was just thinking how amazing it is that the Lord of the whole universe, the Creator, has mercy on me. I am not getting what I deserve, for He has forgiven me of my sins. The thought of Jesus dying on the cross for me (and you) was real in that moment. It wasn't just a far-off thought, or a gentle admiration for what He had done for me. It was real

And grace? I practically swooned right there in my seat. "Getting what you DON'T deserve." I don't deserve his forgiveness. I don't deserve to be in His presence eternally after I die. I am a sinner. I make mistakes every day, and then I apologize and make the same mistake again the next day. I don't deserve what I'm getting. 

And then it came to me. This is probably not an "ah-ha" moment to many of you, but for me it was. I am called to be "like Christ." I am called have grace and mercy on my kids; even on perfect strangers. That person who cut me off on the freeway and then proceeded to point their tallest finger at me? That's right. Don't give them what they DO deserve, and GIVE THEM what they DON'T deserve. The bitter person in the checkout line? Yup, you got it. Grace. Mercy. The kid who keeps making the same mistakes? Yes, ma'am (or sir...)! You know it! Why should I expect my kids to make a mistake once and never return to that blunder, when I seem to make the same mistakes over and over again? I shouldn't. I should give them just what the Lord has given me: Grace and mercy. Giving them what they don't deserve, and not giving them what the DO deserve.

Don't you just want do dance a little jig? It's not our job to judge our kids (or anyone else)! We just need to give them a little grace and mercy, and let the Lord do the rest. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Unconditional Gratitude

Last week while in the car, I heard the DJ on Air One say something that really stuck in my brain. He was telling a story (which I'm ashamed to say I don't remember), and in the end, he said, "Now that's unconditional gratitude!" Hmmm. I wished I could rewind the radio so I could hear exactly what was his definition of "unconditional gratitude," but of course, that wasn't possible. So, I mulled it over in my mind. The kids were amazingly silent in their seats. It was like they sensed mommy must be thinking. Yay, kids! 

So, I turned the radio down a bit and really thought about unconditional gratitude. Of course, we all know what "unconditional love" is. I have it for my kids. Even when they leave the gate open so the sheep gets out, or leave the bathroom sink running all night, or lick the top of the tube of toothpaste. I think I have unconditional love for chocolate, too. But most of all, our incredible Lord has it for us. Even if we choose not to accept it. But unconditional gratitude? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." I've heard it dozens of times, and probably said it dozens of times to our kids. But I think adding the term "unconditional" made it really resonate with me. 

How many times have I been grateful for the good things the Lord has blessed me with, while wondering what I've done wrong when a challenge comes my way? How often have I wallowed in self-pity over something I should have been unconditionally grateful for? Often, probably. I love that term: Unconditional Gratitude. No matter what. "Not limited," is the definition. I am so often limited in my gratefulness. I have much to be thankful for, and find it easy to tell the Lord "thank you" for those blessings. But it's harder to say "thank you" when a child of mine is consistently making bad choices, even with constant reminders. Thankfulness doesn't come naturally when one of our kids has issues relating to his or her traumatic life before being placed in our home, but I feel no one else will truly understand. It's hard to be thankful when I see my kids' behaviors as reflections of me and allow my pride to dictate how good of a parent I think I am (or am not). It's completely selfish, I know. And I don't say that flippantly. I'll say it again: it's completely selfish. 

I should be grateful in every circumstance; unconditionally. I should be praising the Lord amidst trials, and even amongst the monotony of everyday life. I should approach gratefulness as I do love. I would never love my kids "on condition of..." And so I should never be thanking the Lord "on condition of...". So, thank you, God. Thank you for everything. Thank you for the trials, the pain, the anxiety, the obstacles. Thank you for it all! 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Conscious Parenting

This weekend I went to a Bev Bradley women's retreat. I had never heard of her until a few months ago, and when I did, there was a flood of positive praise. "She's so authentic." "She truly shares her heart." "You'll be amazed at how the Spirit speaks through her." So, needless to say, I went with high expectations. I wasn't disappointed. 

I'm not really a charismatic worshiper. I often see people around me during worship at church (and at retreats) with their hands raised, echoing sounds of agreement during prayers. I used to feel uncomfortable, coming from a traditional background, but I've come to realize that we each have different ways of worshiping our Creator. Some of us sit quietly and ponder our relationship with God, while others love to shout their praise from the rooftops (or in a church service). Or some may enjoy both. How boring it would be if we all worshiped the same way! 

Amidst moments of deep connection with the Lord this weekend, I discovered something about myself. I am rarely a conscious parent. I don't think I'm a bad parent, but I tend to "check out" a lot in order to get through my day. "What do you mean?", you may ask. Well, my "unconscious" parenting can manifest itself in a number of ways: 

*Saying "uh-huh" when I really have no clue what my child just said to me.
*Jumping the gun on discipline since I often don't want to sit and listen to a long explanation for behavior.
*Dismissing crying and getting irritated when the kids aren't molding into the little box I've created.
*Spouting off a response quickly when I should pause and ask the Lord to reveal to me what may be the best way to respond to a situation.

These are just a few, and the first three weren't even brought up at the retreat. The last one, though, was one of the most important nuggets of truth I learned over the weekend. 

I also learned that the Lord never shames us, and that if I am hearing those "guilty voices" in my head: "You're going to fail." "You're just like your dad." "Your kids are going to go astray," etc. (which, by the way, I hear all the time) I'm not hearing the voice of my Father in Heaven. That means I'm hearing the voice of my enemy; God's enemy: Satan himself. When I hear those things I need to flee from those lies and run to His truth. By the way, I really don't hear voices. I'm no Schizophrenic, I just don't know a better way of saying what I want to say.

It's a short summary of a truly life-changing realization: I can't parent successfully without continually asking the Lord for wisdom throughout the day. I am a broken person, and if I were to think I can raise whole children on my own, I would be sorely mistaken. And so, I am now a conscious parent. I'm still a work-in-progress, but a conscious work-in-progress, nonetheless. I'll still have the "uh-huh" response sometimes, I'm sure. I'll still be quick to judge my kids' behaviors at times. But I am now consciously attempting to be their mom instead of hurrying through my day, trying to get to bedtime.

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