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This is part one of a four part series on a Restorative Sabbatical.  Please read the series – and be encouraged.

If I had to choose one thing that has had the greatest therapeutic value in our lives recently it is what I would call a “Restorative Sabbatical.”

I’m going to be honest here; we have had three long hard years.  Life is getting better, there is no doubt.  My children are showing signs of healing and we are hopeful, but the intensity of parenting at this level has taken a toll.  While I have sought out the support and help of my friends and family, Russ has been left much more isolated.

I can pick up the phone on a hard day and most likely I will find somebody to help me through a rough moment.  I have my Bible study on Thursday mornings with my friend Kathleen who also has kids from the “hard places”; we laugh and cry our way through our time — even if it is only on the phone.  Online I have blogs to read, friends to email, and a small list of women who have shared my life for the past three years.  If I want support, I can find it.

Russ carries a weight that is unimaginable to me.  I would find it very challenging to feed and care for our large family.  He works all day and then comes home to a house that needs repairs, 8 acres of property that need to be maintained, eleven children who need his attention, cars that are all on their last legs, a Boy Scout troop that he leads, and so many other responsibilities.  And as much as I try to hold back, I want his help, his time, his attention.

Think about it ladies, our husbands are spread thin as they love us and love our children.  Most of them do not have a bunch of buddies they can call and say, “Man, I’ve had a hard day.  The kids won’t stop crying, my wife is exhausted and needs my help, I haven’t had a good night of sleep in five months, and frankly, I’m not sure I can make it through another week.”

The past year has been particularly difficult and exhausting.   Therapy has brought my children (and our family) back from the brink, but it has taken a toll as well.  In twelve months we have made 24 trips to Seattle.  Nearly every other Sunday we pack for our kids and ourselves, load up the car and drive 300 miles.  We meet with Deborah from 10:00 – 12:00 Monday morning, grab lunch and drive 300 miles home.  If Russ goes with me, he misses a day of work on Monday.  If he stays behind, he manages the family at home while also trying to work on Monday.  He sees the credit card slips for gas piling up and envelopes from our insurance company coming in the mail.  I try not to think about the financial cost of it all; he doesn’t have that luxury.

I could keep writing about the way Russ has been impacted, but let me cut to the chase, my husband was not doing well.  He was exhausted, irritable, unhappy, and just not himself.  The daddy who used to come home and wrestle on the floor with our little guys, the daddy who used to read stories every night, had disappeared.  At first life was so challenging that I hardly noticed and honestly, I was in worse shape than he was.  We were constantly faced with decisions about our children’s care, the needs of the children who were being impacted by their struggling siblings, and the rest of life.  I leaned on Russ and we leaned together on the Lord.

Once we made significant changes, particularly getting Dimples in school, finding a team of friends to help us, and most of all, starting therapy with the kids, I began to have hope.  I could at least look up and see the blue sky from the bottom of the pit I was in and know that I was going to make it out.  Russ, on the other hand, couldn’t see it.  He could only think about putting one hand over the other, straining to climb upward, but not really believing we would ever make it.

We talked to Deborah and she encouraged him to take care of himself, get breaks, make time to enjoy life.  We nodded our heads and both thought, “Great ideas, but how will we do it?  We are barely making it through each day.”  Then it seemed that Russ was sinking more and I was worried.  At that point Deborah gave us a firm assignment.

[Read part 2 here.]


  1. Tisha (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    That can't be easy to share. I know many of us relate to your situation and our husbands certainly face the same challenges. Thank you for being honest and sharing your struggles so others may learn.

  2. Julie (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    Oh Lisa,

    I've seen that look on my husband. I've watched him swallow hard and face yet another obstacle bravely. But it does take it's toll. Praying for you and Russ. May God bless your efforts and may He bless ALL your dear kids.


  3. Laurel (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    Thanks for sharing. Oh my, how I can relate.

    My husband and I are both so exhausted (physically and emotionally) that we don't have much to give … to each other … to our dozen children … to the needs of our church (Jim is the pastor) … to our homeschooling … to the needs of our house …

    Our kids have been home for 2 years, and we continually see the needs as greater and greater. I think the first 6-12 months, we thought, "This too shall pass …" Then, the reality hit that "This could be forever …." It's hard, very, very hard, to see the needs of our adopted children and realize that this isn't "just a phase". No … the issues we are dealing with could very likely be lifelong issues (relating to RAD and to neurological issues).

    I look forward to seeing what Deborah recommended for you. Because we do not have any health insurance (and a VERY small church income) we cannot afford to go to counseling for our children. I have learned so very much from your "learning curve" posts. Thanks!


    Laurel :)

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

      Laurel, I hope to post more soon. The good news is that her solution cost us nothing financially!

  4. SRJ (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    Thank you so much for sharing. We are newly home with our third child and are experiencing a lot of growing pains and exhaustion. Your post today makes us feel not so alone. I cant' wait to hear what Deborah prescribed. It is true, men are so much more alone in this struggle. I want to help my husband, but also feel wiped out and depressed. I wish it weren't so.

  5. Amy (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    Boy, am I with you on this one.
    We were 4 years in and thought we were over the hump with our son from Russia. Then we adopted again…thinking China would not be a repeat of same trauma/drug-alcohol exposure issues. Wrong! We ended up with all the same problems again. Since our first adoption (oldest son, now almost 22 years old) was also a traumatized, drug/alcohol exposed baby, we have the other end of the journey staring us hard in the face while we are struggling to help our young children find their way through. As our oldest has completely crashed and now resists all our efforts to help him, it has added a new component of futility to everything we had been trying to do for our little ones. And the fact that our three healthy normal children in between have not gotten all the attention they need and deserve, just adds to the strain.
    It is a long hard road for sure.

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

      Amy, I am so sorry. I can imagine how discouraged you must be at times – some how we have to maintain hope for our sake and the sake of our children. We have to let ourselves grieve our losses of what we imagined life would look like and accept the life God has given us. I hope you have lots of support and help. Blessings to you.

  6. Kelli Couch (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    Lisa….I sure like you : ) Thankyou for being so transparent—so refreshing! I can't say that I completely understand your situation….I have only 4 children, one being adopted w/ special needs, but i can relate on the level that my husband, too, has much on his shoulders. Only most of his "kids" are the 900 or so in our church! I see him get beat up by people freely giving their negative opinion of things that have nothing to do w/ salvation or the well-being of the church. It eats at him, and unlike other jobs out there, he well never be able to leave his work "at the office." God's people are his heart and very much his life here on the Palouse. It's hard on me as the wife to watch that tear him apart. I just want you to know that I'm here for you if you need an ear, a shoulder, or some "me" time involving a latte : ) Kelli Couch

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

      Kelli, I like you too! Thank you for your kind comment. I can only imagine the challenges of being a pastor's wife — I think I am too think-skinned for that job. You all are doing a wonderful job here in our community. A latte with you is a great idea – let's do it.

  7. Robin (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    Lisa….I read your posts and glean so much helpful information. I talk about your blog to friends and other adoptive families..and really appreciate your gut-wretching honesty. This is some hard stuff….and so many people just don't "get" it. I find myself getting frustrated with people "judging" me when they really don't understand the day to day struggles that sometimes come with adoption. We too, found ourselves in a really tough spot in our marriage just a few months ago…Thankfully, God is the Great Physician, in more ways than we can imagine. Although I still struggle with one of our children, God is continuing to weave the tapestry of our family together.

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

      Robin, you are so right – this is hard stuff. I've realized over the four years I've been writing my blog that if I am not honest, I do a disservice to my readers. I do think we have to redefine what our marriages are going to "look like" – they just can't stay the same when our entire lives have shifted and changed the way they have. That being said, we have to preserve our marriages too, it just seems to take more creativity than it used to.

  8. Kurt (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    Thank you for this posting, and your mindful sharing. I'm writing for your permission to re-blog this posting on my fledgling website – I've blogged re:sabbaticals from the perspective of academics, clergy, nonprofit organizations, and corporate employers/employees, etc., but your perspective is vitally important to this community of "sabbaticalites" — it's a side of the story that has been missing…
    May I re-blog your story?
    And by the way, with all that love in that house — it'll be a never-ending story of happiness, no doubt about it.
    Thank you for you consideration.
    – Kurt

  9. barb (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    Thank you for being able to be honest. It really helps the rest of us risk being transparent as well. Our adoption has put a huge toll on my husband. Your post has reminded me that I need to tell him on a daily basis that I appreciate all he does for our family–he really holds us all together. Our grown children really admire him! I feel as though one of the things we "sacrificed" or "gave up" when we followed God into adoption was the kind of marriage we had before adoption–when life was more manageable and when we had time for each other. Maybe this "loss" will only be for a season. I have a hard time imagining that God would want you to give up this type of marriage. So, I am thinking that maybe our definition of marriage needs some changing. Maybe the best marriages aren't those in which you get to spend a lot of alone time as a couple. Maybe marriage isn't about getting to do everything that you wanted to do as a couple. Like many other situations in life, maybe obedience is more important than fulfilling what we thought would be "best." I am just thinking out loud here….trying to find some new ways of seeing. What do you think?
    barb (in Minnesota :)

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

      Barb, your comment was in my mind when I responded to Robin, who also wrote about marriage. I want to add that sometimes we have to grieve our losses and acknowledge that our marriages and lives are different now, but trust God that what He is giving us, although different, is also beautiful. Russ and I are right there with you.

  10. Lori (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    Thanks Lisa!
    We are in the same boat….it is a hard place to be! Life just keeps happening while we are trying to salvage the broken lives of our children. My husband is tired like Russ. I plan on sharing this post with him so that he can see that their are others "in the boat with us."

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

      Lori, I'll try to get the rest of the story up next week. I hope it is an encouragement to you and your husband. Hang in there – God is so much greater than we can ever imagine. He will never leave us or forsake us.

  11. Wendy (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    This is both an encouragement and a challenge to us at this point. My husband has such a heavy load with managing being a pastor, being employed full-time bi-vocationally, our farm, family, etc, etc…and we haven't even brought home our adopted daughter from Ethiopia yet! I'm headed to your 2nd post on this topic! Blessings upon your family….

  12. Given Much Mom (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    Wow. I relate, I relate, I relate. Bless you for being so REAL. (((hug)))

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

      So much love, so much joy, so much work! Try to take care of one another. Your blog is looking beautiful!

  13. charity (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    thank you for your blog…i hope you will consider someday gathering all these posts into a book, we are still at the beginning of the process to bring home an older boy from the other side of the world…and i feel great relief when i see you are making it…we have 7 children already, the last still a toddler, and have homeschooled them all until recently. i wondered some days if anyone could really relate to what it feels like to be in this time of life and living the life we do, when the call comes from God. I know He is cutting the path, and we will walk it, joyfully…but I really feel much more at peace knowing this call is neither unique nor impossible…:) I was just telling my children that I know God answers their prayers and will help them find lost things, usually toys, or shoes…but I also know He helps us find lost things, like lost hope, lost faith, lost joy, lost pieces of ourselves, and the longer i live, the more i realize He has laid out the path before us to include restoration of all those lost things when we follow Him. So happy to hear the Light is returning to your family, you have been a lighthouse for me.

  14. Hilda (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    Thank you Lisa. This posting has left me in tears. I can so relate. I am so tired. We are back in therapy, but things are bad again. Five years is a long time. I need a sabbatical and I really need it with my husband. We have not had a night away in 12 years. Yes, 12 years. Too long especially for a couple who is dealing with a RAD child all the time. While I have two kids off at camp next week including my hard child, my mom has offered to come watch the others while my husband and I go away for a couple of nights. Yes, it is only in Kennewick and yes, he will have to work part of the time. But, I don't have to be mom for a few days and focus on getting myself and my hubby back to a good mindset and back to where we need to be as a strong couple. Parenting a RAD child is truly exhausting.

    • OneThankfulmom (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

      Hilda, I can hear the fatigue in your words and I'm so thankful that you are going to get away with your husband. We had plans for a break last May, but one of our little ones wasn't doing well and we couldn't go away. We were so sad, but it was very clear that we couldn't leave. We are hoping for this fall. I hope you get wonderful sleep, solitude while your husband works, and lots of meaningful time with him. May the Lord bless your time and bring hope and healing to you.

  15. Andrea (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    I can't believe how timely this post is…. as I read it weeks after you posted it. :) I needed it today. My hubby and I are in this place…him in particular as he does not have the support group that I do…and even having it, after a while I just feel like a broken record of whine whine whine….
    My hubby just said yesterday that we needed a break just us for a short time. Perhaps I will see what we can do to get that.
    Thank you for posting, thank you for being you, thank you for sharing your thoughts and your heart. So even when I can't get here daily to read, when I do, it's exactly what I need. Praying for you.

  16. Chris (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

    I'm new to reading your blog…..but it was timely to see the link to this post. We're in this space also, where it is really hard to enjoy not only parenting, but each other. In fact, if feels like I sometimes need to put the brakes off of "trying" to love everyone else so much, and pour all of that into myself for a time. Kids with attachment issues REALLY take their toll on us. I find myself with a lot of "if only's." The bottom line is that we do need to find the strength to keep on. I grew up with a strong spirituality, but my husband did not. He comes from a very "rational" family. This can be a rift at times (in addition to my mother-in-law, but that's another can of worms!)

    Thanks for the post….it's always good to know that we aren't alone.


    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Thursday 24, 2010

      Chris, I'm so glad you found my blog and now know another family that can understand your struggles. It is often lonely. I hope you and your husband can each get some sabbatical time and be restored. Thank you for leaving a comment.