Sunday, September 1, 2013

Getting Through the Transition to Experience Joy

At church lately, the message is about renewing. The series starting out talking about wineskins. Not trying to put new wine into old wine skins - the old wine skins will break, they can't hold the new. Not trying to hold onto the old wine skins at all - which are often empty wine skins anyway. Today it was about transition and how there's that season - however long or short - we're in the in between. We often get stuck there - not sure we're ready to go forward but not totally sure we want to go back either. Sometimes we get paralyzed in this place. Sometimes we focus so much on looking back that we can't move forward. How often we romanticize the past - we look back and think about things that we miss. It's like the good ole days type of thinking - only in reality - sometimes we make them out to be better than they actually were at the time. Why do we do that? Honestly, I don't know except that where we've been is familiar. Where we are going is unknown and scary and exciting too - but still it's not clearly defined and that can be paralyzing at times.

As I got closer to bringing my son home - it was that "oh my gosh - my life is about to change more than I even know" feeling. It was excitement and a little bit of fear and here I go - I'm about to jump out of the airplane skydiving type of moment (not that I would totally know cause I have no desire to actually skydive:)  but, you know what I mean. I had spent a week in Ethiopia during court and my son was crying a lot, he was mad and throwing tantrums and kicking and couldn't decide what he wanted and nothing made him happy. It took me a few days to realize, thanks to another mom who was there, that he was not feeling well. I didn't know. I didn't know this child and his temperament. The nannies said he was fine. When I first met him a year earlier - those nannies told me he was ornery. I remember thinking "he just wants a family of his very own - I'd be ornery too". But a year later and a screaming, squirmy child who was not able to be pleased - those words replayed in my mind. It wasn't until this other mom who had done this before came to the care center and said - "he's acting like he's in pain (which I totally agreed) and you should just insist he go to the doctor". I didn't know I could even do that. So glad I did and she was there to suggest that - cause he certainly was sick with some sort of stomach bacterial infection and after a day on meds, he was like a different kid. But I tell ya - those first few days - I seriously was thinking "oh my gosh - I'm gonna have my hands full." It was this weird feeling of being overwhelmed and yet not for even a split second was I second guessing the decision. Honestly, looking back - all I can say is that God gave me such clarity about pursuing adoption of this child and all that it entailed - no matter how the journey turned out, no matter how ornery this child might turn out to be - there was no doubt in my mind that I was supposed to move forward. I just never looked back. It was a bit scary but I was determined. I was sure. No, I wasn't sure it would work out like I hoped. I knew at any time it could be halted and I could be told "you cannot adopt this child after all" but I also knew that if that happened - that God had another plan in mind. I'm so thankful that didn't happen cause that would have been devastating and I cannot imagine now a life without this little boy who is not ornery at all but who is funny and independent and helpful and affectionate and so full of life and joy.

The thing that shook me was not the process or the journey to becoming a mom or even the thought of bringing home a possibly ornery child:) - even though all of this process was filled with so many unknowns. Looking back, I'm surprised that it didn't scare me. Except that I know it was God who directed me. I know He orchestrated it for my team to even be there at that orphanage that day when I met my son. But the thing that took me by surprise in all of this was the emotions of becoming a mom once he was finally here. The things that got under my skin and about drove me crazy were things I thought I would love - like lots of affection and a child who wanted me close ALL THE TIME. I thought I would love that but at first - I resented it. I was so overwhelmed by it. I felt like my body was no longer my own. My life was certainly no longer my own. My house, my familiarity, my free time, my personal space, my comfortable great night of sleep - all had changed. I knew it was going to. I was even excited for it to change. But when it actually did - I was shocked at how awful and overwhelming it felt. And I felt horrible guilt for how I was feeling. I've heard so many moms talk about being so sad to go back to work after maternity leave. I was counting down the days. I literally felt like I could not handle being touched for one more second at times. I just never guessed this would be one of the biggest struggles I'd have. I thought I might have an ornery child or a child with rage or sensory issues or a whole slew of adoption attachment disorders. When I started to realize my child was mostly, from what I could tell, just having normal toddler type behavior for the most part and yet I was feeling so overwhelmed - I felt so awful about myself. "I'm so lucky and yet I'm struggling? What is wrong with me? What would I have done if I had brought home a child with severe issues? I'm struggling and my child is doing amazing? What in the world is wrong with me? I'm a horrible mom!" These are the things that went through my mind every day. These are the days when I started to romanticize the past, making it out in my mind to be far better than it actually was. Not that it was bad by any means. But I wanted to be a mom and during those months of waiting - it was hard being here and knowing my son was on the other side of the world. I wanted to be a mom - since I could remember. But in those first months, I started focusing so much on the past that I just kept replaying all the things I was missing now that I had this new responsibility - that I just felt so resentful. Not even necessarily of Mihretu himself but of the situation. I didn't feel like me at all. I'm usually an optimist. I felt like all I was doing is complaining. And honestly, I pretty much was. It was not the me I wanted to be. It totally sucked. I'm not going to lie. I didn't like that me but I couldn't seem to figure out how to stop being that me.

I don't really even know how it happened except that I knew that I had to be as transparent as possible with others, especially those close to me. I know the enemy would love to keep me feeling so inadequate and hopeless and negative and ashamed - that I wouldn't want anyone to know and would keep it all inside. But I've learned in life that the very things you don't really want people to know are the most important things to share - because there's freedom that comes when darkness is brought into the light. When people can know where you are and what you're going through and be praying with you and for you and speaking encouraging words to your soul - that's when healing comes. Those are the times when God speaks through those around you to say the things He's been saying to you all along, only you were so focused on the past and how hard the present transition is - that you can't even hear him. I'm so glad I knew to be real, to be honest and to share the darkest parts of my feelings with those around me. I seriously think that was a huge reason why I finally was able to crawl out of the pit. That and a video series bible study called Counseled by God. Our staff went through it a few months ago and we watched a video every week with a workbook and then spent 20-30 minutes in a spot by ourselves praying and asking God to speak to us and then journaling what we felt like He said. We would then come back together and read what God had said and it was so neat to hear how God spoke so uniquely to each one of us. Oh my goodness - this was life changing. It carved out time to be intentional to hear from God. And you know what - God spoke to me so clearly during these times. I started to hear him speak those encouragements to my heart instead of only being able to hear it through others around me who were speaking it to me. I started hearing directly from God what He had for me and who He created me to be and How much He loves me and Mihretu. He spoke to me with specific things about motherhood and specific struggles I was having. He spoke to me about work. He even spoke to me about the decision to surrender my dog back to the animal rescue agency. I remember the second to last session - I was just bawling and said "I don't know how I would have gotten through this season without this". I really don't. And it's not because it was some study - but it's because it was God himself speaking to my heart and guiding me back. Almost every single week - He said "I want you to experience joy". I hadn't experienced it in awhile. And I wanted my joy back.

Today is Sept 1st and I am happy to say that joy has returned. It's not every single second but it's becoming more and more the majority of what I'm feeling and experiencing in motherhood. As joy returns, patience and grace is increasing too. I'm being more silly with my son and we're laughing more. We're both coming alive even more.

We went through a transition - both of us. Life is completely different than it was 10 months ago when I got on an airplane to go bring my boy home. Motherhood is a gift, a huge blessing. But I had to get through a hard season of transition to come into the fullness of enjoying that blessing. And what I'm realizing now is - that's ok. It's part of our journey. I can't change the past but I can look forward to the future with excitement. I can take each day and choose joy in it.

Today, I am so thankful for this little person that God entrusted to me. I am so blessed. He brings laughter and joy to my life. He teaches me. And God is most certainly growing me through motherhood and all that it brings. I'm learning to let go of more of my selfishness. I'm learning to let go of trying to control things or worrying about what other people think. I believe everything in life is an opportunity to learn and grow. And in the process, to become more Christ-like. And that involves a constant process of dying to ourselves. I think that's why those first months of motherhood seemed so intense - cause I had a lot of me that still needed to die. And a whole lot more selfishness than I ever would have guessed. I'm thankful for the journey - even the hard parts - because that's what makes you stronger and more mature. And that's why my favorite scripture has been this one for quite some time now. I've still got a lot to learn but I want to always be willing to do the work, to embrace these new seasons so that I can be mature and complete - not lacking anything.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  -James 1: 2-5

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your uplifting story! single parent adoption can be difficult, but your words are inspiring.



By definition Perseverance is: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, o...