Attachment: We Serve, We Love, God Heals

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Well, that was quite a surprise. I didn’t expect yesterday’s post, Have We Made Attachment an Idol, to gain so much  attention; in fact when I clicked the “publish” button, I was nervous about how it would be received. Apparently it struck a chord with many of you who have pondered this as well.

I want to be clear about something. Secure attachment is beautiful – it is a good thing to desire for our children. God wired children’s brains to attach to their parents, but as we know, sometimes that wiring is damaged due to neglect, abuse, and trauma of all kinds.

In recent years, research has brought about deeper understanding of how trauma affects children and how we can help their brains and hearts heal. Karyn Purvis and Deborah Gray are my heroes. They have taught me so much and given me tools that continue to help my family. I am blessed to know both of them in real life and much of what I’ve shared in the My Learning Curve posts are my experiences of applying the knowledge I’ve gained from them.

I’m very thankful to say that our children have come a long way – and so have we. There was a time when I didn’t think our family would survive; those were very dark, desperate days. Yet here we are, 7 1/2 years later, and we’re on the road to healing. The difference is so dramatic – I still wake up every day in awe of what the Lord is doing.

Attachment is beautiful – it feels amazing. When I look in my child’s eyes and see love and trust reflected back at me, my heart melts. The hard moments slip away. I’m in love.

But the truth is, how I feel about my children, the joy they bring me, the satisfaction of knowing I’ve handled a situation well and drawn them closer – those things are all bonuses. Even when we are obedient to God and follow his will to the very best of our ability, we may not get the results we long for – we may not feel joy or satisfaction.  We are tools He uses to bring about healing in our children’s lives – we are not the healers. We serve, we love, God heals.

And sometimes He doesn’t.

Our oldest daughter, Hannah, graduated from medical school and is in her third year of residency.  She has had the best training, she is constantly learning new skills and logging hours and hours of experience.  She goes into the OR and actually does surgery on people – how crazy is that?  I like to tell her that she can thank me for teaching her to sew (which is completely false). But the truth is, she does not determine who lives and dies; she does not determine who is healed and who is not.  Hannah is a vessel through whom God works his will and his healing power in the lives of her patients.

The same is true for all of us who are parenting wounded children.  We seek education, we learn new skills, we do our very best – and we make many mistakes in the process.  Yet, we do not determine whether our children are healed or not – or how quickly that healing comes.  We are vessels through whom God works his will and his healing power in the lives of our children.

Attachment becomes an idol when achieving it becomes more important than being obedient to God. When we have given all we’ve got, tried every technique we know, and we are at the very end of our rope, it’s pretty hard not to be frustrated and resentful toward our children (or maybe it’s just me).  The suffering our family has endured due to trauma and lack of attachment is far more than I could ever write about.  I have begged God to bring healing; sometimes his answer has been “yes”, sometimes “no”, and sometimes “not yet.”

There were so many amazing comments to yesterday’s post; I want to share this one from Sophie,

Just thinking after reading this how Jesus doesn’t fret over our attachment to himself…..he just keeps on showing us who he is. Every open door we give him, he gives us a more intimate glimpse at his character and his pursuit of us. He is steady and composed, so fiercely adoring us and calling us his own, while so patient.

Healing and attachment are our journey; they are what we hope and pray for, but not what we worship. We worship the Healer, not the healing itself.

Thank you so much for sharing your hearts on this, please keep the conversation going. I love hearing from you.

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

21 Comments

  1. mainlinemom
    October 10, 2014

    I might love this post even better than yesterday's. We serve, we obey, God does the healing. So many people looking in at our family from the outside don't get this.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 10, 2014

      I'm glad to know that! It was important for me to write this follow-up – I wish it would be read as much as the first one because it fills out my thoughts. I'm hoping readers will share it. Thank you for commenting.

      Reply
  2. Foster momma
    October 10, 2014

    Thank you for such a beautiful post. Definitely something I'm pondering and praying through. We have an 11 year old who has attachment challenges, although not as severe as some. We are in the middle of making an adoption decision, and I have been wondering if attachment should be one of the things we require to be more in place before we make a final decision (he's been in our home over 2 years in foster care). But the comment from one of your readers hit me squarely between the eyes about Jesus not fretting over our attachment to Himself. Lots more to pray about. It is scary to know how to proceed, but God will be faithful. Thank you for starting these conversations. Well worth the read every time.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 10, 2014

      Thank you for commenting; you are in a weighty place right now. I pray for the Lord's wisdom and incredible peace to be yours.

      Reply
      1. Foster momma
        October 11, 2014

        Thank you, Lisa. He is much more attached to my husband (and men/boys for that matter) than to me or any other women/girls. He goes to my husband for everything. We are slowing making progress in attachment ( practicing rocking, feeding, hugs, tickles, and more) but it will be a long road – especially as he will be heading to middle school next year.

        Reply
  3. Jennifer
    October 10, 2014

    This has been heavy on my heart of late and I’ve been processing your post from yesterday because it made me feel released in a way. The song with the line “Your love is relentless” connected in my heart as I realized that if my goal is to love my kids in the relentless way that God loves me then I am free from the guilt and anxiety of “creating” attachment, especially with my trauma kids. I feel like you wrapped up exactly what I was trying to get at in todays post. Thank you! Thank you for being brave and opening a door to discussing something SO hard for us.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 10, 2014

      Jennifer, that was my hope in writing these posts – that we can be free to love and care for our children and let go of the anxiety and stress. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

      Reply
  4. Sophie Hartman
    October 10, 2014

    Such a liberating word for those of us who are parenting wounded and traumatized children. Fighting for our children's attachment is hugely important, but not so big as to mistakenly be placed on the throne.

    Instead of hiding in deep, dark corners of discouragement when our children fail to meet our zealous hope for attachment, let's respond to our Father who aches so truly for us to grow in a deeper attachment to him. Let's run into his arms, look deep into his eyes, let him see us so wholly, and stay there for a while.

    Thanks for posting Lisa! So much hope for all of us 🙂

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 10, 2014

      Thank you, Sophie. And thank you so much for letting me include your beautiful quote from earlier this week. Blessings to you.

      Reply
  5. KMT
    October 10, 2014

    I came to this conclusions a few months ago and it's so validating to see your post and the comments. I adopted my girls at nearly 14 and nearly 12, 7 and 19 months. It's impossible to take them back in time and fill in all they are missing and fix all the hurt and damaged parts in side them. I whole-heartedly agree with Earned Secure Attachment. After having many step-fathers myself, I completely understand this even in my own heart. Separating what our abilities and capabilities are vs. things that are not and were not our fault in our earliest childhood will give us the peace and proper perspective needed to form healthy attachments later in life.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 10, 2014

      I'm so glad that I was able to validate your thoughts. Healthy attachments in the future may be the best gift we give some of our children. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  6. Sarah Gilcrist
    October 10, 2014

    Lisa, Thank you so much!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 10, 2014

      You're welcome, Sarah.

      Reply
  7. Courtney
    October 11, 2014

    Lisa, we are foster parents to a 12 year old girl, who will be waiting for some time on an answer about where she will be living as she awaits the court appeals process. I found both posts incredibly freeing. I consider her our child, but there is a chance she won't stay in our home… Or that she will move "home" at 18. (She loves us, but doesn't want to be adopted–that would be betrayal to her first family.) Your posts strike such a chord because I have to love this child and potentially let her go…as easy and as difficult as that is on some days. Thank goodness that God is her ultimate healer; I would have no hope without it being his fight for her life! My feelings of failure have been so immense because their are parts of her heart that are untouchable (at least at the present time.)

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 11, 2014

      What a gift you are giving her to love and care for her through her teen years. Did you read the guest post I mentioned in the earlier post, Have We Made Attachment and Idol? It might be helpful to you.

      Reply
  8. Laine
    October 11, 2014

    Thank you for writing about this. Struggling with this issue with several of our children. It is hard not to feel discouraged. Your words, and the others' words, help me put my worries in perspective, and remind me my eyes need to be on our Savior, and remember His healing power. I've been reading a book called The Peter Potential. Here is an excerpt: Don't let your doubt keep you from your potential. When the Lord extends and invitation to act, He will not lead you into a situation that will destroy you. He will reach your reaching. He will be there to make sure you don't drown. As the storm rages around you, He will speak of little faith and remind you of the power of doubt. He will whisper words that instill confidence: With me you are bigger than this. Trust me. Focus on me. I know your potential. And then, He will calm the wind.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 11, 2014

      Such good thoughts, Laine. If we're looking to ourselves to accomplish healing, we'll likely be disappointed.

      Reply
  9. Luann Yarrow Doman
    October 11, 2014

    I love Sophie's comment. Does she have a blog?

    Reply
  10. Jodi Pizzuto
    October 12, 2014

    Thank you for this!! I will have to go back and read your other post as well. This one was exactly what I need to hear. Sometimes in this messy life I have such trouble just hanging on. Obviously, what I need is a serious attitude adjustment! 🙂 Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 12, 2014

      I'm glad it was helpful – blessings to you, Jodi.

      Reply

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