Much of my growth over the last year and a half has centered around this word. The other day at church, a dear friend of mine shared a humbling and convicting Truth with me. It speaks to a lot of the same things I have been learning this year, but it has also challenged me this week to think even more deeply about grace and about forgiveness. I thought I would share it here.
We often find ourselves in the difficult situation of waiting for someone to apologize for their wrong-doing. Sometimes it takes an hour. Sometimes it takes a day. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, years. Sometimes we may never hear that apology or see that remorse. My friend reminded me to remember the cross - specifically that when Jesus willingly died for me, I was not kneeling before him pleading for forgiveness. I was mocking, spitting, and hating the One who would save me from my sin.
"For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die - but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -Romans 5:8
This is where I can draw my strength to repeatedly and genuinely forgive children who display months of hateful behavior with no glimmer of remorse. This is where I can draw my strength to repeatedly and genuinely forgive biological mothers who have a lengthy criminal record, no sense of personal accountability, and no feeling of remorse for the trauma they inflict on their own children. I'm preaching to myself here, can you tell? Where I have difficulty forgiving, I need to put myself right back at the feet of the cross once again and reject the temptation to think of myself any more highly than those who wrong me or wrong those who are important to me. Apart from His grace, I was an enemy of God, hostile in mind, doing evil deeds (Colossians 1:21), and He died in my place on a cross while I laughed in His face.
Lord, help me to forgive those who do evil in this world while laughing in my face. Help me to trust You, the Sovereign Judge. Help me to be faithful in my job as a parent and as a believer. Use me to admonish others and to help weed out the evil that pervades the hearts of my kids and the hearts of those around me, but help me first to forgive them fully and love them sacrificially.
Saturday, October 6, 2012
OK...I'm really going to do it. I'm finally going to sit down and try to write a succinct blog encompassing all that's going on in our little home. Then, I'm really going to try to be more faithful about posting once a week or so. To those of you who have given me guilt trips and harassed me to the point of blogging, I thank you. It really has been a whirlwind, and I hate that the lack of time has forced me to neglect my blog! Here we go...
K-man's behaviorI have no words. I don't even know where to start. The growth we have seen is nothing short of miraculous. Let me take you back to July...After 7 months of getting to know this child, here's what we learned. K-man had one emotional response to all uncomfortable situations. Scared? Anger! Lack of confidence? Anger! Frustrated? Anger! Impatient? Anger! Sad? Anger! Nervous? Anger! Our challenge was trying to peel back those layers of anger and get to the heart of the issue which often was not anger at all. When his anger reared it's ugly head, at the moment, it did so in the form of disrespect, name calling, attitude, and the occasional acting out. We have come a long way since the very beginning when he was frequently prone to hitting, kicking, biting, or throwing. We started therapy, which was quite helpful. I also received some good advice from our agency as well as advice from dear friends - amazing Christian parents with wonderful kids who center their parenting entirely around the gospel. Sifting through all of this and deciding (with my husband) on which strategies to employ was challenging, but we moved forward, and God, in His grace, has shown us over and over and over again that He is in control and that He is moving in the heart of this precious boy. Please continue to pray for this process. For those who are in similar situations, here's what we found that worked:
- Strategy 1: Give as little attention as possible when an episode occurs. I would calmly say, "K-man, if you do _______ one more time, I'll have to __________." I'm becoming an expert at thinking of consequences on the spot...haha...it really is a skill that I've had to hone. Then, I often walk out of the room or at least turn my back and give him time to think about his choice without the attention. 90% of the time, he chooses wisely and we move on. In the other 10%, I calmly and quickly follow through with the consequence. If it sends him into a rage, I will follow with another calm consequence, "K-man, if you cannot calm down, we'll have to _____________." Usually, after a series of 2 or 3, he calms down, and we move on. We know this is nothing revolutionary, but for a while, we were requiring an apology before we would forgive and reconcile. We would punish him, then we would sit and talk with him about what had happened, expecting it to end with remorse and apologies. All of a sudden, we weren't getting that any more. We would punish, try to talk, and only get more and more and more anger. While we still longed for that remorse, we really had to abandon that expectation for a week or two. The great news is that with patience and perseverance, we have come back around to being able to expect remorse and apologies. This strategy, however, was a bridge to that end. In those days, he had emotions running wild that were spilling over in unacceptable, irrational ways. The kindest thing we could do was to give clear boundaries and a whole lot of grace.
- Strategy 2: Offer healthy ways to express anger. A $5 Wal-Mart punching bag worked pretty well at our house. If he started to act angry, we would ask him if he needed to go hit the punching bag. He knew that he could do that with no negative consequence, or he could act out and be punished. It really was a good tool for him during those difficult days.
- Strategy 3: Give freedom to express emotions and put words to their feelings. We found a lot of success in getting him to come to one of us and tell us he was angry. Since then, we've even been able to help him sift through emotions by asking, "Are you sure you're angry? K-man, I think you might be a little nervous with all of these new people around. Do you want to come sit in my lap for a few minutes?" Now, he can distinguish the two, and he'll tell me, "Ms. E, I'm a little nervous." Or he'll come to me and hold out his arms to be picked up. We praise God for this on a daily basis.
I hope these are helpful to someone. Again, it's not rocket science, but these small adjustments helped us tremendously as we were trying to keep our heads above water. I'll also say this - do not try to be an island!!! Do not convince yourself that you're the only one who would ever get to the end of your rope and need help. I hit rock bottom a couple of times, and I was so thankful for my agency and for dear friends and family who talked with me, took my kids for a couple of hours, and more! If you are a foster parent, you will have some very ugly thoughts and feelings...do not hide them...be transparent and get some help!
So, how is K-man's behavior these days? (and more importantly, how is his heart?) He started school in August. Each Friday, they award the "Super Cape" to the Super Friend in the class. On the second week of school, K-man was given the Super Friend Cape. His teachers told me it was because he was kind to the other kids, great at sharing, very respectful, and just a joy to be around. At home, we've had no acting out behavior in the last 2 to 3 months. We're able to discipline for some deeper heart and attitude issues without fear of angry eruptions. He cries more often than he gets angry now!! We have no need for the punching bag. He has become quite the little greeter at church...greeting everyone with eye contact, standing still, answering questions, yes ma'am, no sir. Many of these things are just subjective behaviors, we realize. Whether he says "yes ma'am" or not, what we really care about is his heart, and I can tell you that God has brought him to an entirely different place these days. God has torn down fears that paralyzed K-man, he has built in trust of others, respect for authority, and a kind, gentle, compassionate spirit. We cannot say enough amazing things about God's work in his life.
Well, believe it or not, the little 5-month-old affectionately known as B-Boy has turned into a 16-month-old, who walks, runs, dances, talks, throws fits, and more! He is a busy boy, and just as full of joy as he always has been. If you don't come at dinner time, you'll probably leave thinking he's a complete angel...haha! Disciplining 2 children has definitely proved more challenging than disciplining 1, but play time with 2 has also proved to be infinitely sweeter. We love these boys more than we can say.
My Husband and I
My husband's back has been better lately. He's not had any flare-ups, and he received his second spinal cord injection on Friday. This week we should know whether that is going to provide relief or not. We finally got several home projects finished that were put on hold with his back issues and the boys' return. The house is less chaotic, and for that we are so grateful. Our schedule has also changed tremendously. K-man is in Pre-K every day from 8:30am-3pm. I was very wary of that transition and pretty convinced that it wasn't going to work. I was poised and ready to pull him out if things didn't go well, but thankfully, it has been such a sweet blessing in his life. He has thrived in this school setting, both socially and academically! He adores school. He loves his friends. He is facing fears every day and overcoming them. It's been a real blessing from the Lord, and I'm thankful He led us in that direction. B-boy is also in a MMO program one morning a week, so I'm just finding a bit more time to myself, and more time to focus on my little man. Those 4 hours in the evenings before bed time are all the sweeter, so life is just really in a sweet spot right now.
Blah...here's where it gets ugly. For the sake of honoring confidentiality agreements, I won't be able to share much here. Just suffice it to say that we're deeply discouraged by the tone of this court case. We're concerned about our judge's ideas of what should happen, and we're praying constantly that the Lord would protect these boys by not sending them home. You know that my husband and I are very pro-family, so it's taken us a lot to get to this point. Pray for their protection. Pray that we would continue to love their momma, but pray that she would be given responsibility and accountability. Pray that decisions made would be wise decisions that consider the health and well-being of these 4 precious boys.
The Older Brothers
We had our first opportunity last weekend to take all 4 boys out for a day trip. We went to the zoo and to a local (quite famous) burger place. We had such a great time! We are thankful that these boys are in what seems to be a great foster home. Their hearts, likewise, are being molded into kind, respectful, obedient young men. Pray for wisdom as we think through our involvement in their future as well. The Lord is really giving us more and more tenderness and love towards those 2 boys.