Thanks to help from several family members, my partner from (Cover)ed, my husband's support, and some unexpected financial provision from God, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a conference specifically created for those who are adoptive moms, as well as women who are passionate about serving and ministering to orphans, adoptees, foster and adoptive families, and at-risk children both in the United States and around the world. Created for Care is in its second year and is a truly incredible event. I heard about it last year, but there was no way that I could leave Anderson during that season of our lives. This year, when the conference spots filled up so quickly for the January event, I guessed that I would have to wait until 2013 for my chance to attend. But then, the organizers announced they had decided to host a second conference this year (since the first one filled up quickly and there was a large waiting list). When everything worked out so that I could go, I could not believe it! As I told the three ladies who went with me, I have not been on a ladies overnight trip since my days in college (which is much more than a decade ago). To say it was a gift and blessing in my life to be able to experience Created for Care is a gross understatement.
I am still processing so much of what I learned, heard, and experienced during the event. It was apparent that thought and prayer went into every single component of the conference--from the location to the speakers, from the specific topics covered in breakout sessions to the worship, and from the multiple sponsors and ministries represented to the opportunities to spend time with God and like-minded ladies. There is truly no possible way that I can summarize what God taught me at Created for Care in one blog post, and I am not sure bullet points could do justice to the rich experience I had. But I will share with you two fairly simple, but really BIG truths that God spoke to my heart during those days in the hope that He will encourage and strengthen you!
Parenting out of FEAR and GUILT not only suppresses joy, but is counter to everything I am trying to accomplish as a mom.
Let that one sink in and think of all the times that thoughts along these lines come to your mind or out of your mouth: "Am I messing up my children?" "I am a terrible Mom because I don't have matching birthday party printable labels or teach my kids Latin before they are 5 or _______________ (fill in the blank with the things a friend or family member does that you don't do and feel badly about) "Oh no, I haven't been doing _________________ (fill in the blank with whatever latest parenting method or special activity you have read about in an article, book, or blog, but have never done). Does this mean that I have caused irreparable damage" "Why is my child ___________________ (fill in with one of your child's or children's areas of weakness) and other children I see are not struggling with this? Is this something I have done?"
Any of those sound familiar? They are in my life, but they are not the right questions to ask, because they come from a place of guilt and fear. Yes, we must ask hard questions of ourselves as moms who love God and want to be the moms He has called us to be. We must evaluate and improve our parenting and ask God for wisdom to be the parents He made us to be. But living with the fear that if we don't have it all together we are failing our children creates a cycle of guilt and frustration. A cycle that honestly causes us to center more upon ourselves rather than upon the God who created our children, who loves us all, and who promises to provide everything we need to parent these precious treasures He has given us.
I must learn to trust God and allow Him to be my Father, to love on me, to parent me as His child, in order to become a Mom who can love and parent my children in a way that leads them to know, love, and be passionate about following Him.
It is important to separate character building from correction of behavior.
This is another seemingly obvious nugget of wisdom, but one that I really needed to hear and view my parenting through its lens. When I spend the majority of my time correcting bad or unwise behavior after it has taken place, I am wasting opportunities to address specific character traits that may be missing or undeveloped (when often it is the lack of those character components that leads to the behavior that needs correcting). And when I am doling out discipline after the behavior has been corrected, speeches and lectures about character traits are a waste of my effort. At that point in time, my children are not learning about their underlying character, but are focused on the method of discipline and its consequences (i.e., being grounded or being put in time out) for the moment. One of my favorite speakers at the conference (who is a mom to 10 children, both biological and adopted) pointed out how our parenting should become primarily about calling out the treasure in each of our children rather than continually correcting their negative behaviors. This is not something that happens overnight, and obviously there are times that we must correct severe or dangerous behaviors. However, this "treasure principle" of parenting can become the focus of how we parent. It is born out of consistency to use teachable moments, to find and promote activities and jobs in which your child "fits" and excels, to speak words of encouragement 10 times more than you speak words of criticism, and to at all times, through your words and actions, build a definition for your children of themselves that is founded upon who God says they are in His word. (This last one is very similar to the principle I talked about in this post from a few weeks ago).
I must learn to always define and label my children as their Creator does, living the example of what I teach and speaking truth into their lives based on the truth of God's love and how He defines them as His children. By knowing who they are in Christ and walking in His truth, it is my prayer that they will grow a humble confidence and a deep trust in who God created them to be and the plans He has for their lives.
These two truths only scratch the surface of what God taught me and revealed to me during Created for Care, but they are BIG truths, so I wanted to share! On a lighter note, I think I drank more coffee and ate more dessert over that 2 1/2 day time period than I have at any one time since college (again)! But I think I cried and laughed enough to burn off a few of those desserts (at least I hope so)!
I will end this post with a few random, recent pictures and of course, a song.
|Anderson and his cousin love to play!|
The pictures below are from a family field trip we took to study history and do a nature walk!
|Sign near the zip line, "Be Courageous! Have Faith! Go Forward"|
|View from back of the lodge|
Loving and Learning,