Created for Care: Reflections Part One

Last weekend I had the incredible opportunity to join 450 women at Lake Lanier, Georgia for an adoptive and foster mom retreat called Created for Care. For the past week, I have been dying to share about my experience, but as usual, it is not always easy to find time to write for a couple hours, especially after being away for 4 days. Registration for this retreat opened at midnight one day in August, and I think it sold out by 8 o' clock the next morning.
Last Thursday morning I kissed Ryan and the boys goodbye and drove to Cincinnati to meet up with my friend, Jennifer, who adopted a daughter from China last summer. We then drove to Cleveland, TN to pick up Lauren, who also adopted a daughter from China last summer. We drove the rest of the way to Lake Lanier where we met up with five more friends, Stephanie, Kelley, Ashlee, Whitney, and Amy, all moms who adopted children from China this past year. We all talk on Facebook nearly every day, but this was the first time many of us would meet face to face. I was SO sad that my China sister, Carroll Lane, who was in China with us for two weeks, got sick and was not able to attend this year. I guess that is all the more reason to sign up to go again next year! We rented a lake house for the duration of our trip and spent the first night laughing, eating chips and queso, homemade guacamole, salsa, and desserts, drinking delicious wine (and some STRONG limoncello), and having heart to hearts about our experiences bringing our children home. The bond that we share is so incredibly special, and to all be in one place was priceless. :)

The next morning I woke up just before 8 a.m. shocked to hear most everyone out in the living room chatting. I thought for sure we would sleep in, but I think the excitement of being together (or maybe the fact that our bodies are not used to sleeping in anymore) brought everyone together early that morning. We had a delicious breakfast and shared more laughs and great conversation. I opened up to my friend, Amy, about some struggles that I shared on a previous blog post. Amy is so wise and had lots of encouragement for my heart.

Amy, Lauren, and me on our back porch overlooking the lake
As we sat around the table having some leftovers from the night before, I remember thinking, "If this (the time with my friends) is as good as it gets, then this whole trip is worth it." The time together was really that rejuvenating! My heart felt so full.

We drove to the lodge to register for the retreat around 2:00 that afternoon. After picking up our packets, we made our way around the different booths for various organizations selling tshirts and other adoption/foster care merchandise. If there is something adoptive and foster moms love it is T-SHIRTS. :) I think I wear mine the majority of the week. We love orphan care so much that we want to be walking billboards! My favorite one I bought says, "Speak Up" with Proverbs 31:8 written on it. This verse states, "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed." LOVE IT. I feel like that verse helps describe what led me to a career as a school psychologist, where I advocate for children who are in need of special education services, as well in my role in the field of orphan care. I would wear this shirt everyday if I could. I'm not going to lie. I'm wearing it right now...haha!

After looking around, we went to a session for first time attenders to learn about different aspects of the retreat, and then we were released to attend our first break out session. About a month before the retreat, we had all registered for the 3 break out sessions we wanted to attend. There were about 8-10 choices for each session, and they covered a variety of topics such as...

Staying Sane While Raising a Large Family
Waiting: While You Wait, Learning to Wait on The Lord and His Timing
When Will Everything Return to Normal?
What African American Moms Want You To Know about Rasising Black Children in America Today
Foster Parenting: The Reality, Beauty, and Miracles in Foster Care

I ended up choosing the following three sessions:

Finding Me: Unveiling YOU so that Your Children Can Find You: Carissa Woodwyk led this session and made it so much fun! She was adopted from Korea and brings such a loving and honest voice to the retreat. 

Practical Realities of Connecting While Correcting: Tona Ottinger did such an amazing job explaining how to correct (i.e., discipline) our children while also connecting with them, as connection is what helps heal, trust, and grow, through strategies developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis. This session was a great refresher for me, as I had read Dr. Purvis' book The Connected Child during our homestudy process. 

Orphan Care Together: Joining C4C Adoptive Moms to Love Orphans Across the World: I learned about different organizations that exist to support orphans. I chose this session because I am trying to figure out how to continue my role in supporting and advocating for the fatherless. 

So back to Friday. We were released from our first time attenders' meeting and went straight to our first break out session. I had previously watched a video that was posted online of Carissa Woodwyk giving a talk, and I was excited to sit in on this session with her. Before she dove into her talk, Carissa reminded us to come into this weekend with no EXPECTATIONS but rather with ANTICIPATION. I loved that! She then began discussing the Enneagram, which is a 40 year old personality assessment to help people better understand themselves. I love any opportunity for self-exploration, so this was right up my alley. Carissa stated that our personal stories have impacted us and that our coping mechanisms have helped us create which "number" we are. 

Fortunately, I had taken this assessment a year ago thanks to a coworker who had given me the assessment. I am TYPE TWO: The Helper. The description of The Helper indicates that a Two has the gift of EMPATHY but an unconscious drive of PRIDE. It states: Twos have a natural ability to make empathic connections with others. Helpers actually feel what others feel or need. They are driven to connect with others emotionally and fill their needs. Helpers are talented networkers, making connections between other people. Twos may facilitate others in reaching their potential. They enjoy being in power behind the throne and enthusiatically supporting others. At their best, they are warm and caring. At times, Twos can be true altruists, where giving is as natural as breathing and free of expectation. In relationships, Twos look for emotional connection, intimacy, warmth, and affection. 

However, as with any personality type, there are both positive and negative aspects. On the upside, I can be helpful, affirming, caring, listening, accepting, praising, giving, serving, sensitive, supporting, complimenting, and compassionate. On the downside, I can be overprotective, possessive, complaining, martyr, guilt-inducing, demanding, and needy. A main struggle for a Two is that we do what we can to not have needs. We struggle with pride and make ourselves feel good about who we are by helping. A silly example that drives Ryan crazy is that I will ask him if he wants popcorn to eat while we watch a movie. If he says no, I won't make any even though I really want some. He is like, "Just make yourself some popcorn" while I'm like, "If you don't want popcorn, then I don't need it either." Twos don't want to need anything! However, by making Ryan popcorn, I would feel good by meeting his need. I wouldn't feel good about making it for myself, though. Interesting, huh?

So, for those of you who know me well, and for those of you who have never met me but read my blog, now you have a little more insight into my personality. I am so excited to learn more about myself so that I can become more of what God wants me to be. I am working to transfer my expectations and change them into grace. I have to remind myself to do this all day long because my expectations for myself and for others are much too high.

One very interesting part of this session is when Carissa had our groupd divide up into our number types. The majority (probably 90%) of the women in the room were numbers One or Two. A One strives for justice, equality, and fairness. Isn't that interesting that the majority of adoptive and foster moms were driven by JUSTICE and HELP? :)

After our first break out session, we all gathered together to eat dinner. The women who organize the retreat assign seating for dinner based on either which country you adopted from or a specific person with whom you want to sit. I sat with the women who were staying in our lakehouse and a couple other good friends, Laura and Jessica. We enjoyed a Mexican feast and some dessert and then left for the first Main Session with Beth Guckenberger. Before the session began, I remembered again thinking to myself, "If this is as good as this weekend gets, it will have been worth the trip." My cup was so full. Little did I know, it was just the beginning of one of the greatest weekends of my entire life.

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