If God could have reached down and planned a retreat tailored specifically to the needs of my soul, this retreat would have been His creation. Actually, I am pretty sure this retreat was His creation. And His gift to me.
Created for Care is a retreat put on for adoptive moms, by adoptive moms. There are main sessions filled with encouragement and worship, breakout sessions containing practical tips and advice for the struggles we face, spaces and places carved out for personal reflection and time with God, and coffee and chocolate with other moms who are walking the same road as I.
There are so many areas where I felt conviction and found room for improvement, but over it all was grace. I felt God’s grace for me and I found more grace for my children. I won’t share every dark area that God cast His light upon, but I will share a couple of special things.
I need to listen to my children.
More than that, I need to hear what they are saying. Really hear them.
I need to look in their eyes, watch their body language, hear the pain that is motivating their behavior, and listen to their stories.
Isn’t it true that so often, the loudest voice in the home is our own? We determine the flow of our family’s day. We set the tone. We are teaching our children with every single thing that we do and say. And I don’t want my children to learn that my voice is more important than theirs.
Here is the harsh truth – I value my schedule more than I value listening to my children.
“No, (insert any one of 6 children’s names here), I can’t hold you right now. Stop crying (or yelling, or whining, or asking questions). It is 9:55. Look at my schedule. Right here on my neatly printed out home school chart. 9:55 is obviously time for math. So let’s get on with it. Bottle up your emotions, let’s focus on your fractions.”
Maybe I don’t say those exact words, but is this what my children hear? Is this what my actions are saying to them?
If my schedule is so busy that I can’t stop what I am doing, sit down on the floor, and spend time with my child – than my schedule is too busy. This is true for all of us! But, it hit me in my heart this weekend. I am so focused on reading, writing and arithmetic that I often miss the opportunity to teach life lessons.
Which dovetails nicely with the second lesson that God had for me.
I am not responsible for the outcome of my children’s lives. I am not responsible for their healing. He is.
How often do we as mothers find our value in our children’s behavior? I would venture a guess that I am not the only mother who struggles with this. If our children are well-behaved, if they obey the rules, if they don’t talk back (especially in front of other people), then we must be doing a good job.
“Look at my lovely child. Isn’t she so sweet? Isn’t he so kind? They always speak in a well-modulated, soft, indoor voice. He helps old ladies across the street. She cleans the floor with a toothbrush simply to bless me. He volunteers every weekend in the soup kitchen. She gets straight A’s. And, of course, they are always clean and they never have holes in their jeans. Look at me! I must be doing something right to have such angelic children!”
Ladies – it isn’t about us. It is about our children. It is about God.
I need to stop worrying about what other people think about us – my children, their behavior, my parenting, their choices – all of it! God sees. He knows. And that is all that matters.
I confess, I worry about the outcome of my children’s lives. ALL of my children. Will they make the right choices? Will they be successful adults? Will they love the Lord?
I don’t know. I don’t know what decisions they will make or how their life will look. But, their life story is not mine to write.
I am called to love. To nurture. To mother. I am called to create a safe space for them to grow, and learn, and blossom. I am not asked to make their choices. I am not asked to heal their hearts.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9
Oh, God. Help me not to grow weary. Let me find my strength in you. Let me find my rest in you. Let me find joy that flows from you.
For in the proper time, you will make all things new.
(I wrote this post while on the airplane heading home from the conference. By this morning, I had already blown it, again! I jumped back into my life and set about finishing school assignments with vigor. I snapped at my husband who deserved nothing of the sort. He not only sent me away for refreshment, he also cleaned, he did laundry, he cleaned up vomit, he calmed a minor storm, he bathed, he loved, and he played with our children. I had to apologize. This verse came to mind – For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. ~ Romans 7:15. I am so thankful for God’s grace. Isn’t it an amazing gift? And I am so thankful that I married Scott Putnam! He deserves an award of some kind.)