Thursday, April 4, 2013

Restoration Is Your Song: Created for Care 2013

So, I'm trying a new thing- one day a week I'm going to dig something out of my drafts and finish it. Well, this was at the top. I've been meaning to blog in a little more detail about the adoption conference Ashley, Carrie and I went to back in March.

Sadly, I hardly took a single picture, so this post is going to feel a little "bare". Mostly, I just wanted to record some of the things I learned. Ashley did this last year and it was one of my favorite posts she's written. I actually bookmarked it for latter because I felt like it contained so much wisdom.

I'm being completely honest- some of the stuff I learned is stored away for later but there were a lot of things I learned that I realized I could implement with our biological children now. So that was cool and unexpected!

The Attachment Dance
The very first break-out session we went to was a different one than any of us were planning to go to. Carrie and I ended up running late and so it just worked out best to pick this one. I loved this session. It focused on attachment and creating a balance of structure and nurture. A lot of it had a "Love and Logic" type feel to it. Here were some of my big take-aways:

- God loves his children with a balance of nurture and structure (Romans 2:4).
- The focus of discipline in Scripture is training, not punishment.
- Compassion does not have an "expiration date" and we need to make sure we give voice to our children.
- We can embrace the privilege of saying "yes" to our kids- this builds trust (ask yourself why you are saying no).
- It's important for us, as parents, to practice making mistakes and repairing them.
- We learned a few strategies to help when correcting children:
   1. Playful engagement
   2. Giving choices
   3. Compromises (share the control)
   4. Re-Do's (give the child a chance to try again)-- I actually did this with AP at the park the other day.
      She didn't stop running toward another area of the park when I told her to and I just had her come
      back and practice the correct behavior. It wasn't a defiant thing, she was just caught up in what she
      was doing and wasn't listening. So we practiced the right way to do things. And you know what?
      The rest of the day she stopped when I called out to her!
   5. And ideal response has several characteristics- Immediate, Direct, Efficient, Action-Based, and
      Leveled at the Behavior

Main Session
Next, we heard from an adult Korean born adoptee named Carissa Woodwyk and man, her words were powerful. She just had a lot to share from an adoptee's point of view. I wasn't as surprised with how much I connected with the first break-out, but I was genuinely shocked by how much I took from this as far as how much I could relate to our family dynamic now.

- She asked us first if we listened to the stories behind our children's voices. I obviously one to really analyze things, but I think this is so important for parenting in general. I've really been making an effort to do this more with Annie recently partly because I'm so thankful that it was a huge part of the way my mom parented.
- She emphasized that we needed to shut out the noise and be present. I've kind of been thinking about that, too.
- [Here's where it got more focused on the future for our family.] She told us that adoptees want you to know that they feel like no on wanted to fight for their hearts and that adoptees are vulnerable but not voiceless. These children need love not because they weren't loved, but because they are lovable.
- She said that while we are anticipating adding a child to our families through adoption that child is about to begin their "relinquishment story". This was sort of hard to hear because you know, you don't want to think about that part- the part where you child has to grieve this loss. But it's there and I really can't put into words how thankful I am that I've been prepared for that ahead of time.
- She also made it clear that we can't protect our kids from their stories or fix their pain. I think that's a tough pill to swallow, too, but it's also freedom-giving in a strange way. What matters, Carissa said, is not how much we help our adopted kids move beyond their stories, but how we respond to their story and how we allowed it to be used in our story.
- She talked about sitting in the tension of conflicting stories and allowing a new story of redemption to occur. I thought that was really powerful and again it related back to a more universal message. She told us that we're *all* traveling the path to find more of our voice and what we were created for- and this is what relationships are for, to help us sort through that. As we've been reading this book, I've been thinking a lot about "calling" and about finding my voice and about what I was created to do in this season, so that was a neat connection.
- We have the privilege of letting an adopted child's story show us our own story. We are choosing, wishing, hoping wholeness for them...and for ourselves.

Choosing Joy Today
This was the second break-out I chose. It was also very relevant to mothering in general. Susan Hillis, the woman who lead it, has a large family and several adopted children and has also experienced the loss of a young child. She was really inspiring.

- Susan started by reminding us that God is a god who can do more immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.
- She told us that her mantra is "I choose joy today because I am a small woman who is loved by a big God who is for my family, for the world, for eternity".
- She told us that we're not our kids' lifeboats. We are called to love them and remind them of the treasure they are in Christ...NOT to save them.

What I Wasn't Expecting
This was the last break-out I went to and it was SO good. It was a panel discussion with three moms who had adopted and they just shared very transparently what they had experienced that they hadn't expected to. I'm just going to list them because I thought it was so neat to hear. [They each shared three unexpected challenges and one unexpected happy surprise.]

Unexpected Challenges:
- Grieving the family you lost (just like if you moved, you might grieve your old home/life, but that doesn't mean you don't love your new home/life).
- Admitting you need help (it feels different because people might think "Well, you CHOSE this.")
- The praise (you start wondering if you're making other people feel inadequate, but you learn to respond
  "I trust God, but sometimes I struggle just like you".)
- The fear of (forever) change.
- Adopting a BABY can be harder than people realize and it's harder than with a older child in some
  ways because the struggles are more unexpected. 
- The lack of understanding in the non-adoption world.
- Your health can suffer (lack of sleep, like with a newborn, but sometimes compounded).
- The clash of emotions (jealousy towards a spouse if the child bonds with him first, missing parts of other kids' lives like school plays, ect.)
- There can be a big struggle with anger.
- There will be a huge need for support.
Unexpected Blessings:
- The way it grows your other children. They have an increased awareness of need and in some cases, of diversity.
-  Having a child with special needs can help in bonding because of their dependence on you.
- It helps you trust in God more with your biological kids.
- How incredibly tender it feels when you do connect.

Main Session
For the last session, we heard from an adoptive mom. I loved this session, too. [Clearly, I loved EVERYTHING.] Amy Monroe has adopted four kids and she also works with adopted families helping them learn to connect.

- Amy said that there is a battle going on for connection with God and within our families. How true of all families and individuals! She gave us several tips on how to pursue greater connection:
 1. Value relationships and make them a priority (with God, with husbands, with kids)
 2. Fight barriers to connection [Shame (internal), Anger, Fear, Embarrassment (external)]
 3. Learn to love (it's impossible to love the way God calls us to love, but He makes the impossible

What a great place to end. The whole thing was just a great experience and I hope I can go again in the future.

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