Created for Care: Final Reflections

Last night I shared my fourth post about finally experiencing true forgiveness during my Date with God Session. I felt like I was floating on a cloud when walked out of that session. The burden and weight had been lifted, and my heart was overflowing with love.

My next break out session was called Connecting While Correcting lead by Tona Ottinger. Tona talked about Dr. Karyn Purvis' techniques for creating healthy attachment while also correcting behavior. The whole idea is that discipline is executed in the context of love and relationship. Tona discussed how the majority of our time is spent correcting our children's behavior. A smaller amount of time is spent empowering our children (e.g., helping them achieve rest, eat food, drink fluids, brush teeth, etc.). Parents tend to spend the least amount of time connecting with their children, squeezing it in if there is time. The goal is to reverse that pattern by spending the most time connecting and the least amount of time correcting behavior. In order to create a strong foundation...

1. We must have compassion for our children that never expires.
2. We must give our children a voice (otherwise they will fight, flight, freeze)
3. Embrace the privilege of saying "yes" because it shows our children that they are seen, heard, valued, and considered when told yes. Many of our "no's" are selfishly driven.
4. Keep a balance between structure (saying no) and nurture (saying yes) from both parents.
5. Practice repairing mistakes that we make along the way.

Tona shared several strategies to correct behavior while also connecting with our children. These include:

1. Playful Engagement (e.g., You better put your shoes on before I tickle you)
2. Choices (e.g., You can put on your shoes, or Mommy can do it with you)
3. Compromises (e.g., Ask, "Would you like a compromise?" or "Can we make a deal?" because it gives them a voice and some power)
4. Re-Dos (e.g., "Can you try that again with more respect/kindness?")
5. Time-In (e.g., Help our children regulate their emotional reactions by using sensory tools in a time out area that is still close to the parent).

I was so happy to get a refresher on these points and additional information, as we learned most of it during our home study process. I was also reading 123 Magic when I went to the retreat. Since coming home, I am trying to use both 123 Magic techniques and the ones learned at the retreat. The kids respond well when we use them correctly! The most trouble I have is when my compassion expires or when selfishly I don't want to take the time to use them.

My third break out session was about orphan care organizations around the world. I decided to attend this session because I am searching for ways to stay involved in orphan care. I am pretty confident we will adopt again, and sometimes I wonder how we will ever stop. Seeing how much Tucker has thrived and grown since coming home makes it hard for me to ever deny this to another child. My own heart has grown in ways that it never would have had we not adopted, and I don't want to ever live a life apart from God. So, I am searching for opportunities to stay in this dependence on God while serving orphans...not because I have to but because I get to.

After my last break out session, I went to visit my friends who were all painting in a session led by my friend, Laura Kirkland, who is an artist for Glory Haus. The painting I'm holding below was actually painted by Laura, and she let me keep it since I went to a different session. Love it (thanks again, friend)!!

Once the girls finished their paintings, we had dinner, had another incredible time of worship, and went to Beth Guckenberger's third session. Beth spoke all throughout the evening about how Satan is at the center of loss, conflict, and condemnation but that God's heart is to reconcile, redeem, repair, and rescue. She spoke of relational conflicts and how badly we need to forgive others. After having finally experienced forgiveness and healing, her whole talk had me on the edge of my seat. At one point, she said, "I'm not waiting for you to come to me. I am coming to reconcile with you," and she spoke of a public display of love and forgiveness. She later said, "We will do more for orphans once we reconcile our relationships." I mean, was God speaking to me through Beth or what?!

I knew then that when I got home, I wanted to experience that public display for forgiveness for this person. About three weeks ago, I wrote him a 7 page letter sharing much of what I learned and experienced at the retreat and let him know that I forgave him. I took this letter to his house and handed it to him in front of his family. I was nervous, but it was so good for me to see him with his family and remember that he is just a person who made mistakes, but he is also a person who is everything to his family. This was my public display of forgiveness. I have never heard back from him since, and maybe I never will. My love for him is not dependent on his actions because I am choosing love.

After Beth's third session, a panel of women gathered to answer our questions about adoption, family, foster care, marriage, etc. One woman had been a foster parent for many years. Another woman has experienced three open adoptions with three different birth mothers. The third woman was adopted from Korea as a baby. The next woman has adopted several children with special needs, and the last woman has a large family created by both children who are biological and adopted. The questions and answers were SO good!! I learned a lot during that session. I'm pretty sure we experienced the perfect mixture of serious, funny, sad, and happy. We laughed. We cried. We listened. We celebrated. It was good.

We all went back to the lake house, but it was after midnight at that point. I think we finally fell asleep after 1:30 a.m. and woke up early the next morning for breakfast, one last time of worship together, and Beth's final session. She talked a lot about our families...both our marriages and our children. My favorite thing Beth talked about that morning was about the V-Wire Activity found on various ropes courses. You can see in the picture below how the wire begins close together and then spreads further and further apart. Two people must lean into one another in order to stay on the wire all the way on the other end.

Picture compliments of http://www.bar717.com/programs/
Beth shared that they set up a ropes course, and the first time some business men were trying the V-Wire activity, she thought that maybe they set it up incorrectly because the men kept falling off the wire. The consultant who helped them create the ropes course told her that the men were in a posture of self-preservation, positioning themselves in a way that if they fell, they would be able to catch themselves. He told her that the only way to accomplish the V-Wire was for each person to posture themselves in a way that is totally invested in the other person's success. They must put themselves in a position that if the other person moves that they might fall.

She used that to draw a parallel to how we need to posture ourselves in marriage. If Ryan and I are going to stay on the wire, we are going to have to give each other everything we have and stop worrying about our own needs. By removing our selfishness, we can fully invest in the success of each other. I LOVE THAT.

Beth encouraged us to let God see all the dark parts of our hearts and allow Him to fill them. The whole idea is that when we achieve healing, we can provide a space for healing for our children.

When we forgive, we can heal our wounds.
When we heal, we can love better.
When we love, the people around us can flourish.
When people flourish, they find ways to impact the world around them.
And it is then that people can be the hands and feet of Jesus.
And living out their purpose to bring glory to God.
After enjoying a meal of Hot Pot outside of Atlanta, we drove home, stopping in Tennessee to drop off Lauren. I got to meet her daughter, Lucy, for the first time. It was incredible! Jen and I then made the journey to Cincinnati, shared a hug goodbye, and drove our separate ways. I made it home just after 10:30 p.m. My house was clean. My boys were sleeping happily in their beds, and my heart was overflowing with love for my husband happily let me go away for four days to experience the Created for Care Retreat. I still tell him thank you for letting me go. It was honestly one of the very best weekends of my entire life.

Hot Pot (famous in Chongqing) with the girls after the retreat!
Meeting Sweet Lucy Lu on the way home

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