(...and other Moms like me) ~
When all is said and done and you pack up your child’s belongings to fly from your nest, it won’t matter much what you’ve taught them, how you’ve made them feel or the sweet relationship you’ve shared, if they do not leave with the tools they need to be passionate, devoted followers of Christ. Period. End of story. (continue reading Part 2...)
This letter would not be complete to you, especially as an adoptive mom, if I didn't have a heart to heart with you about your emotions. It saddens me to think that you have struggled with your emotions, or lack there of, for so many years, without discovering the real truth. It is time to settle the matter once and for all.
Nowhere in scripture are you instructed to control your emotions. But you should not mistakenly believe that because it does not, that you have zero control over them and are a victim to the havoc they wreak on your life as a mother. Can you even count the times you've uttered the words, "I can't change how I feel!"? You were wrong! You can change how you feel! And God tells you how in His Word! If you read it you will find that He tells us again and again that we are to take full control over our thoughts. "Take every thought captive", it says. Don't miss the most important word in that passage.... "every"! More detailed information on the subject is available if we spend the time to take a deeper look... Philippians 4:8 says, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--- think about such things."
Don't be too quick to move on from here! You'll miss the answers that have alluded you for so long! When you take authority over the thoughts you allow to take up space in your mind, you will take authority over your emotions! Look deeply into almost every important relationship in your life and see if it isn't so. This is, of course, true for almost every aspect of life- like the emotions of worry; fear; bitterness; etc... but here's an up close and personal example that applies to the people we love and want to feel the emotion of "love" for! Decide tonight, in your thoughts, that you no longer "love" your husband. Entertain every single thought about his personality that drives you crazy. Make a note to notice the habits you hate when he comes home from work tonight. Allow yourself to replay some of his offenses toward you from the past. Remind yourself that you could have done so much better and should have never married him to begin with. Now tell me how you are feeling "emotionally" toward him right now! Not oozing with those loving feelings, huh?
Now let's try it again! But this time, let's think about all the reasons you fell in love with him in the first place; how he pursued you and made you feel so special! Remember the first time you kissed and how you got butterflies! Think about the ways he works so hard to take care of you and the kids and how he faithfully gets up every single morning to read his Bible and seeks to live a life that honors the Lord. When he walks through that door tonight- look at him and notice the things about him that you've always loved. Maybe even that gray hair in his sideburns will remind you how he's been faithfully by your side for so many years and thank God for giving you those years together. How are you feeling now? You're ready to "jump his bones", aren't you? ;-) That's what I thought!
Now it's time to apply this somewhat simple truth to motherhood and finally figure out how to get that "loving feeling" for those kids God has given you! But, I have to warn you... this will take a LOT of practice and you will need to do this for the rest of your Mommy years or until all your emotions are completely under control! Might be a while, huh? Better get started....
Child #1 walks in the room. You're irritated already. You notice in your thoughts that they are so rude and can't even say "good morning" properly. You notice their unbrushed hair and can see the entire section they took a pair of scissors to. Again your thoughts go wild. Why does every one else have little girls with beautiful, long hair that will keep their bows in? Before she walks out the door to school, you have told your thoughts a million times already that she is driving you crazy and you've even entertained the thoughts that are telling your emotions that you wished you had never adopted her. Maybe if you hadn't, you'd still be "happy"! Now your thoughts begin to condemn you! What kind of mother would even think such things??? You are evil! You could never admit to anyone that you feel absolutely zero emotion for this child you are suppose to love! You can't help but calculate in your mind how many more years until this emotional wreck of a relationship will be over. And homeschool???? Never! You're not "good" enough for that!!!! Only mothers that "love" their children do that! Feelings of depression and helplessness creep in. The thoughts you allow to take over your mind every time you think of that child throughout the day, drive you even deeper into feelings of despair. You are convinced that there is something terribly wrong with YOU and there is nothing you can do about it! To make yourself feel better, you decide that maybe there is just something terribly wrong with this child that MAKES you feel the way you do! If they could straighten up and behave; get a new attitude and learn to show some respect and gratefulness, then MAYBE you could have a positive emotion toward them. That's not gonna happen! Everything seems lost.....
You, my friend, have been caught in a vicious, downward spiral of emotions as a direct result of your independent, strong-willed thought life!!!! Put a leash on your thoughts and your emotions might start following too! It's time to rewind and start over. Better yet- let's just erase those awful thoughts and begin with a brand new recording....
Child #1 wakes up and stumbles to the breakfast table. You remember all those years you sat alone at this table and are grateful to have a child to share it with. You decide that you like the way her short hair frames her big eyes - the same ones you fell in love with in her referral photo. You start to feel irritated by the way she is shoving food in her mouth- but then you remind your thoughts that she went without food for so long, that she's afraid there won't be enough. You feel compassion instead of irritation and you remind her to slow down- there will always be enough here! She says she wants to stay home with you today- she doesn't like school anymore. You panic because you had a lot planned today. Selfish thoughts start boiling to the surface of your brain. But you catch your "self" and put it back in it's place. You are a mother- your child feels insecure and God has called you to nurture her and help her to feel safe. You are willing to let go of your day if you need to. You calmly and lovingly tell her that she needs to go to school, but you'll be here for her the minute she gets off that bus this afternoon. Maybe then you could do something special together. She agrees and you walk her to the bus. The day has only begun and you feel weary. You instruct your thoughts to remember that you signed up for the long haul and in the end, you wouldn't want it any other way. You smile and wave as the bus pulls away. You are not perfect. Neither is she. But you love her and you love being a mom. Your emotions are following your thoughts in the right direction. Maybe the two of you will make it after all!
What changed? Same child, same mom, same circumstances.... The only thing that has changed is the thoughts that you allowed to occupy your mind. Do you want to feel irritated? Good- then think about everything that irritates you about your child! You want to feel angry? Then make a note in your thinking about everything wrong your child does from the moment their head lifts off their pillow until they put it back down! But if you'd rather feel loving emotions, then think loving thoughts! You want to feel compassion? Then think compassionate thoughts! Remind yourself moment to moment... breath to breath... to "take every thought captive"! Doing so will literally change your life and it has the power to change the lives of the children in your home too!
One of the greatest gifts you could give your children as a mother is to model exactly how we are to control our thoughts as laid out in Philippians 4:8. It's easier than you might imagine, but it must begin in your thought life and then be spilled out through your lips for all to hear! This benefits everyone, as you get to hear thoughts that honor the Lord, as you speak them; your child is allowed to hear beautiful words of affirmation as they leave your lips; and your other children are filled with positive thoughts for their siblings at the same time! That is what I would call a WIN-WIN-WIN, wouldn't you? This simple practice will do wonders for your soul, especially as you sense your emotions beginning to move in the right direction!
In case you are tempted to believe that this idea of captivating your thoughts is encouraging you to think falsehoods to fool your emotions, you are wrong! Every single human being has immeasurable value to offer the world around them. Look deep enough and allow yourself to see... Look for the positive- direct your thoughts to "think" about them- then open your mouth and say them out loud! I mean, really Lori,... how hard is it to look at your child, notice the way her eyes sparkle when she smiles, and then tell her how much you love that about her? Does she have a tender heart that you are tempted to find irritating? Tell her that God loves the tender heart she has and that you have a feeling He will use her in a very special way in the lives of many... Maybe her bossy ways are getting the best of you and driving you mad. Force your thoughts to remember that she has never had any control over the smallest details of her life and this is her way to take charge. Tell her that there is a great leader inside of her that God will use for great things one day! Your thoughts will find their way past the irritating, to the beauty, and will ultimately encourage her to be all God made her to be. You might need some practice to get the hang of this godly form of mind control, but it will change your own heart as you master it, and it has the power to change the hearts of the little ones close enough to hear it too!
Do NOT "Follow Your Heart" as you are so foolishly directed to do on plaques and bumper stickers around this great country of ours. The truth is that your heart will lead you to places you absolutely do NOT want to go. The Bible actually says that your heart is incredibly deceitful and prone to wander! I'd advise you to steer clear of following your heart unless you know it's direction is headed straight into the will of God and to places that will honor Him! Instead, you would do well to mold your thoughts into God's way of thinking as laid out in His Word, and let them direct your emotions based upon that Truth. Jesus called out to everyone who would listen... "Follow Me", He said. No where is it recorded that He encouraged His followers to "follow their hearts" instead. Do yourself a life-time favor and tell your emotions to get in line! They are going with you in your pursuit of Christ!
You have another "Gotcha Day" coming up, Lori, and for you this will make #4! Make a decision before you even get on that plane... Will your emotions be dictated by her response to you; by her response to leaving the only home she's known; by her behavior and attitudes; by her disabilities and delays? If she's not everything you expect, will your emotions plummet as they have before? They don't have to! You can choose, instead, to be responsible for your thoughts and where you allow them to go. If the future is at all like the past, I think you'll find that your emotions might just follow along!!! You can walk in victory when you follow God's way and take every thought captive for the glory of Christ!!!! You can hardly contain the love you feel, can you? That a' girl!!!!