Last week I shared my thoughts on the importance of putting first things first.
I shared a graphic of a target which helps me focus on keeping my life in balance.
This post is how I began rebuilding the circle in my target with me and the kids.
Before school ended last year our children’s therapist suggested that I begin taking the kids on one-on-one overnight “vacations” to rebuild a bond with them after all the trauma our family has endured. She believed it would be extremely healing for them and was hoping it would be for me as well.
I agreed to give it a try. My husband set up five weeks of hotel reservations for one night each weekend. The rest was up to me.
I took our middle child first. He counted down the days and hours until we left on our adventure for weeks. Each child had their name on the calendar and they couldn’t hide their excitement waiting for their turn.
This was our selfie that I shared on Instagram right before we left our home. His smile and two thumbs up speak volumes of what was happening in his heart knowing he had me all to himself for 24 hours. My smile speaks of joy for him and a pleading with God to make it all he hopes it will be.
My thoughts went something like this for the entire day before I picked the kids up from school:
“Please God, don’t let me mess it up. Please help me to keep the conversation going. Please help me to be sincerely interested in all that he wants to do and share with me. Please give me a deep joy that overflows into his little heart.”
It was soooo much easier to bond with him before all the trials we faced. I could snuggle him up in my arms and keep him safe. Don’t mind my scary over zealous smile in the next photo. It was taken moments after he officially became our son. I was pretty excited after years of waiting for our adoptions to happen.
This next photo is when we landed back at home late in the evening almost 10 years ago. Our family has lived an entire lifetime in those ten years. We have walked through great joy and deep sorrow.
Here we were a few weeks after being home with him. Goodness look at the sweet face. I can’t believe our daughter in the photo below will be thirteen next week. Sigh, time sure flies by!
But I digress.
We began our time with a quick errand and us finding the perfect game to play while we were together. We went out for dinner and he ate an entire gluten free pizza from California Pizza Kitchen and talked the entire meal. By the time we returned to the hotel he was getting sleepy and it was almost bed time. We played a few rounds of the new card game we bought and then I tucked him into bed with his very own story. He was flying to a private island on the biggest bird chasing rainbow. I’d say our first few hours were a complete success. Thank you God!
After he fell asleep I sat quietly soaking in this view and my heart felt relief and joy all at the same time. I was thankful for the time we had so far. Oh yeah, I take my diffuser everywhere I go. Cleans the air and kills any yucky stuff in the room. It is a must for me. :-D
As he slept I watched the sunset come and go, while the city came alive beneath us. Here were my thoughts that I posted with this photo on instagram…
This view. This night. This moment. Perfection. #iluvbondingtime and how it is opening my eyes to see. Truly
#thankful for my precious husband who is supporting this idea and allowing me to get away with each of our children. Climbing into their world without the stress at home is refreshing and encouraging. #blessed #makingmemories and choosing to cherish every moment! #noregrets #momentliver #righthererightnow #buildingalegacy takes time.
The next morning we woke up early and went to Mass. When we were heading back to the hotel for breakfast we noticed a car show was in the parking lot next to us. He couldn’t wait to see all the cool cars and little did he know I used to love them when I was a little older then him now. We ate quickly and off we went to car show.
He pointed out his favorite cars and I was able to show him mine from the year I was born. It is right behind us on the bottom left. I always wanted one growing up. Funny, how life changes your wants and priorities. I could care less about the car I drive and don’t want anything that takes my eyes off what is most important. My relationship with God, my husband and children.
What you will see below is the next four weeks of me learning to reconnect heart and soul with each of our children. Some wanted to swim at the hotel, and others wanted to go exploring with me. But they all wanted to eat and eat and eat. Our kids love food! It’s NO joke around here.
I realized I had lost my joy in what is my greatest calling: motherhood. The years of trauma had broken me in ways I didn’t quite understand were as far reaching and painful to everyone in my life. I needed more than just one-on-one time with them. I needed to completely surrender to my calling and most important vocation: mother. I needed to completely allow them into my heart and risk everything to help them heal as well. It is not an overnight experience or get-away. It is a constant choice that I am making every single day. Some days it is very hard and totally overwhelming. But God, who does all things well. Is providing me with all that I need to do this His way every step I take towards Him and them. He is pouring grace into my heart now that I’m doing this in faith. I’m not trying to control the outcome or hoping to fix them. I’m 100% relying on Him to do it now. That was a HUGE lesson for me this summer. I had to give up ALL control. I couldn’t worry about their bad choices or behavior. I had to let it all go and press in during those moments and stay connected to them. Not shut down. Not push them away. Not desire to run away. Not react. Not my will, but THY will had to be done. I had to discipline them but in a new way.
Ladies, I can’t stress this enough. We are not in control. No matter how much we fight. No matter how much we convince ourselves that we are. We are not. We believe that lie that we can fix and even force our children into what we hope for them to be. But that is not the truth. That is a lie from the greatest liar of our soul. He wants us to be in direct opposition of God. He wants us to believe we can handle this parenting thing on our own, while trying to be a good wife, daughter, sister, and friend. We simply can’t do it on our own. It’s impossible. He is the only one that makes all things possible.
I also realized this summer that I must take care of me spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I eat very healthy and exercise daily. So that part for me is easy (which means I’m not relying on God for it). God, pointed out that I was trying to take care of my spiritual and emotional health too. I believed I was OK. Then week by week my life felt completely broken and my heart felt it couldn’t bare another day like this. My life was caving in on me and I couldn’t hold up the walls another second. I felt overwhelmed by the pain in our lives and home. I felt trapped by the very calling of motherhood to this many children who have been broken first by adoption and then the things we faced together. I felt heartsick that God was still not showing up like I wanted or believed I needed.
Which led me to cry out to God for a break. Please Father, “help me find myself in all of this and You!”
I’ve been friends with my bestie for over twenty years. She knew all last Spring that I needed time alone with her. She could hear it in my voice and text messages that I was beyond lonely. She knew I needed a true friend who I could just be me with and allow my broken parts to spill all over the place with. So our husbands flew us to North Carolina for a long weekend. Let’s just say time with her is one of my favorite things to do on this Earth and is always a healing balm to my soul. It is so hard living almost seven hours away from one another. She is a part of me. She is my Sister in Christ and walked with me every step of the way to my conversion. She never judged me along the way and trust me she had good reason to do so a few times over the years. Instead, she loved me. She has been the hands and feet of Jesus to me way too many times to even count. She has shown me what grace, mercy, and love really look like. I was so blind along the way to recognize it. But not now. I am forever grateful for this precious woman and my friend for all eternity.
I came home from that trip refreshed and missing her more then ever before. She tried to convince me to move back to Pennsylvania. But that wouldn’t really solve anything except for us to be closer together. Wonderful, but not the answer or putting first things first in my life.
I had to work through all that my heart was feeling and the spiritual battle raging around me as I tried to figure this all out. The more I sought God, the more I felt the enemy was putting a choke hold on me and the progress I so desperately wanted to make with developing a deep bond with each of our children. Every day felt like I was going up and down a never ending escalator. I was becoming hopeless. I found myself going to bed in a puddle of tears and waking up in them knowing I had to face another day just like yesterday. I was living the literal ground hogs day, or at least that is what it felt like.
On top of all of that, deeply traumatic memories were revealed to me about my own childhood. I didn’t understand why I needed to know them now. But looking back with a clear mind today it all makes sense. I needed to heal from my own pain by being what I was never given to me back then, for our children today. This time I wasn’t walking through it alone. I had Jesus there with me every step of the way. He wanted to go straight into my deepest pain and walk me through the cross so that He could then carry it for me forever. He took it all upon Him the moment He said, “not my will but Thy will be done, Father.” It was finished for all of us upon The Cross. Not one single thing we have or will endure has not passed through that cross at the moment He gave his life for all mankind.
Some days that is too big and hard for me to wrap my mind around. Some days it doesn’t even make sense. But I have learned not to ask, “why?” and instead ask, “what?”. What do You want me to learn from this life experience? What do You want me to learn from this pain? What do You want me to learn from this suffering all around me and my own personal brokenness because of it?
I would love to say that He answers those questions immediately when I ask. But He has been faithful to use my husband, our children, and many people from our parish family, especially our priests to bring me peace in seeking the answers.
In putting first things first with Him, the answers don’t seem to matter as much anymore. I’m learning to surrender more of myself from all that once held me in bondage of seeking control. I’m learning that the letting go and let God thing is not simply a cliché or wise words to through around when trials come. They are the very breath of life and peace that surpasses all understanding. Letting go and letting God is how we walk upon the water and reach out into our communities. It is how we love those hardest to love. It is how we have eyes to see and hands to do the hard things in life. It is how we are able to carry on no matter what we face. Because He does the impossible. He makes ALL things new.
But here is the catch friends, it’s in His timing and His way.
That is how I’m keeping the bond alive with our children. They aren’t any easier now then they were six months ago. They haven’t really changed. I’m consciously choosing to change and allowing the grace God is giving me to pass onto them. I’m not doing this whole motherhood thing the way I was taught or believed would work. I’m completely letting go and letting God. And when I begin to mess up, instead of going down a long rabbit trail…I quickly recognize old habits and surrender them over to God. That is when I receive an immediate answer.
In an instant I can feel my breathing change and slowing down. I can feel my body relax and embrace the moment to let grace flow in me and through me. But it’s a daily and moment by moment choice. Every day He offers us new mercies. Every single person receives the same offer. We have to be willing to accept them and then use them. We all get twenty-four hours to work with.
We can either live our entire life feeling deep regrets or we can come alive with His love empowering us to become who He created us to be. The choice is ours.
The only question is, what legacy are your building with your husband and children?
Will your children remember you as an unhappy mother, who served but never enjoyed it and grumbled the entire time? Will they remember a mother who did the laundry, cooked, and cleaned, but complained about how they don’t appreciate it? Will they remember a mother who drove them to school and their events, but spent the entire time talking to others on the phone? Will they remember a mother who spent more time with friends and hobbies over them? Will they remember a mother who spent so much time on their phone, that they choose to misbehave just to get your attention? Will they remember a mother who put everything else before them?
Sadly, if I didn’t change many of those questions would have been answered with a yes from our children. I allowed my own selfish needs and pain to be more important than them. But not anymore. I brushed myself off. I took a really hard look in the mirror and made the choice to fully engage in my life and own it. All of it. The parts I hate and everything in between. It’s not easy. But it’s His will. It’s why I’m here. It’s what I was created for and nothing should ever stop me from doing all that I can with the help of His grace to do it well!
This next graphic is my daily reminder. If I truly want to live out my calling and ensure my target stays in total balance, then I am without excuse in doing so.
It’s my privilege and honor to serve them. And the more I live that out the greater the amount of grace that is poured deep into my own hurts and heart cries. That is just how wonderful and faithful our God is.
As I enter into raising our next teenager, I covet your prayers. Know that I am praying for all of you too. This is not easy, but any worth doing and having never is. My eyes are set on Kingdom life and that takes living out my true heritage. I’m an heir to the throne and a daughter of the King of Kings. I’m not working for that title, I’m living from it! AMEN?
Now it’s me looking forward to the next round of mommy and me #iluvbondingtime with the kids over the next few months!
May God bless each of you and give you the grace to fully embrace your calling no matter what it is!