Last week I wrote about the theme of Completion for the coming year.
What about Restoration?
With so much upheaval in our lives, relationships have also been neglected. We’ve been working so hard, for so long, we haven’t taken time to enjoy the people we love.
We plan to change that in 2017.
The most important relationship is our marriage.
I love Russ with all my heart, and I need to make sure he knows it, every day. I need to love him more than I love myself, which is easy to say, but not so easy to live.
Every morning before the kids leave for school, we pray,
Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And love your neighbor as yourself.
Those words have sunk deep into me – do I love my neighbor as myself? Do I love my husband as myself? When a task is inconvenient, will I do it anyway to make his life a little easier or better? Do I make sacrifices for him the way I want him to make them for me?
In addition to our marriage, we’re thinking about our kids, especially our older children.
We need to figure out new ways to love our adult kids and grow our relationships with them.
2016 brought many changes with our big kids and we expect 2017 to bring more.
This fall, both Samuel and Isaiah moved away, Isaiah to St. Louis, and Samuel to Portland. These were not, “I’m moving away for a year and I’ll be back,” moves, these were grown-up moves. They won’t live in our little town again. Mimi may be on the verge of moving away too.
Soon we will only have our youngest five living near, which bring us to a new season of life. We need to think about our big kids, how to connect with them, how to spend time with them.
We lost many years while pouring ourselves into their younger siblings. Those can’t be reclaimed, but we can intentionally build something new. It’s tempting to look back with regret, but we won’t gain a thing; we can only look forward and find a new way that brings something better.
Many other relationships were also set aside during those years. We want to restore some of those as well, as time allows, but first, our marriage and our children.
What else will the Lord lead us to restore? Our health, faith, traditions, joy? We don’t know yet, we only know this is our plan for 2017, and honestly, the glimpse we have right now feels full.
We’ll be praying over the long list of incomplete projects/dreams/tasks/commitments, asking God for wisdom about what to complete in all realms of our lives: personal, professional, family, home – everything.
I’m guessing a good number of tasks will be permanently crossed off our lists. We’ll likely wrestle through the remainder, asking each other good questions, prioritizing, figuring out how to help one another.
I will be Russ’ biggest supporter and assistant as he works to complete and restore in 2017, and my most restrained self as I hold back from beginning too many new things and focus on completing what I’ve begun (dare I whisper the word “book?”).
We’ll keep walking through trauma and grief. I met with our counselor yesterday and he told me we’re right where we should be in the grief process. Good to know, because I often feel I’m not handling it well at all.
Russ and I are doing this together – loving each other – trading ashes for beauty, and sorrow for joy, incomplete for complete, and broken for restored.
Lord, have mercy on us. Give us clarity of mind, grace for one another, hearts overflowing with love, and strength to complete the unfinished and restore the broken. Amen.
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As we enter the last two months of 2016, I’m looking toward 2017 with hope for completion and restoration.
In a moment of solitude, I was praying and thinking about Russ, our marriage, and the coming year. I was wondering how I could love and serve him better – how I could nurture our marriage more.
This wasn’t coming from a holy, “I’m an amazing, perfect, always thinking of my husband first” place, although I wish it had been. It was coming from a desperate, “We could have lost our marriage; now we’re coming out of a dark pit and want to heal and never go back there again” place.
I’ve seen multiple marriages crumble under the weight of parenting kids from “hard places,” and it’s widely accepted that traumatically losing a child is a tremendous stress on marriage as well.
We’re doing both.
Thankfully, we had twenty-three years of marriage before we entered the world of therapeutic parenting, and thirty years of marriage before we lost our daughter. We had a strong foundation.
We also aren’t recovering from the pain of addiction or unfaithfulness, both of which break hearts and lives. I can think of four marriages among my friends that have survived a spouse being unfaithful – it can be done. It takes a huge amount of forgiveness and determination to rebuild, and in some cases, the wounds cannot be healed.
By the grace and kindness of God, prayers of good friends, our own desperation, and the strength of the promises we made all those years ago, we’re beating back the darkness in our own hearts and asking Jesus to enter in. We’re clinging to each other.
There’s a whole story of the beautiful way Jesus broke through to us, which I’ll save for another day, but since that time, we’ve been very tender to each other. We’re turning toward each other and not away, even in the most stressful moments.
But I digress, let me get back to the coming year.
I was sitting in a beautiful house last month, looking out the window at choppy waves, and two words came to me very clearly: completion and restoration.
2017 is a year for Completion and Restoration.
I wrote these words in my journal and sat looking at them for a long time. What does God have in mind?
I like to get things done, so I often plow my way through projects, or drag Russ into my big ideas.
Russ is an engineer – an engineering professor, no less. You women who are married to engineers know what I’m talking about. He is detail-oriented, research-minded, and meticulous.
I, on the other hand, like to see quick results and check projects off my list, even if the results aren’t quite perfect, which means this is a source of pretty significant conflict for us.
We had been tripping over this stumbling block for many years when we met our ultimate challenge.
Ten years ago, we adopted four children in sixteen months and our world fell apart.
All at once we had eleven children, three of whom had significant needs. Within a short time, their trauma resulted in trauma for the rest of our children, giving us a family of traumatized children.
We were shaken to our core, knocked to our knees in desperation, crying out to God for help.
The next years were consumed with seeking healing for our children. If you’ve been reading long, you know we spent two years traveling to Seattle every other week for therapy for kids. We traveled to Nebraska and Montana. Russ and I completed TBRI training and spent a week in Texas taking classes with Dr. Karyn Purvis and David Cross at TCU.
We’ve been all in – giving it everything we have; now life is changing and opening up a little. We’re breathing a little more easily.
We’re still doing therapy with a couple of our kids and pursuing educational support. We’re immersed in sports because it’s so good for them.
And we’re working our way through grief, which is a long, winding road for our family.
All that to say, there are many unfinished projects in our lives, some of them going back many years.
I’m not only talking about home projects, although there are plenty of those, but all kinds of important things that have been left undone, like updating our will (why yes, we do have more than six children, we have eleven, but, oh wait it’s been so long that only four of them are now under 18).
There are projects we started before the kids came home that have been left undone ever since. We need to decide if we should return to them. Perhaps they are dreams from a former life that no longer fit who we are and what matters to us now.
There is a lot to talk and pray about.
And that leads me to the next part of what I think God is speaking to us – Restoration, which I’ll write about Wednesday.
If you are in a hard season in your marriage, please hold on. Get help. Marriage can be hard – and you can do hard things.
Find a long-married couple to mentor you. Seek out a good counselor. One reader told me Relationship Lifeline save her marriage. Check it out.
There are many good books available.
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The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work was recommended by our counselor. I recently heard an interview with the author of Very Married and enjoyed her candor and thoughts on marriage. It’s on my list. Lastly, the authors of How We Love offered a pre-conference workshop at the Refresh Conference a couple of years ago. Their book is also used by Relationship Lifeline.
What do you hear the Lord speaking to you about 2017?
Friends, thank you for reading; I hope my words serve and bless you.
Words are like food – I need words to speak life over me, words to remind me of what is true, words of worship and obedience, trust and faith.
I wear emblems on my body to remind me of who I am – and whose I am.
My wedding ring never comes off – my heart belongs to Russ and I wear this visual reminder every day. I often wear a cross, usually an Ethiopian cross, and I find myself holding it as I read, and especially when I speak. I belong to Jesus, I am His.
Last summer Cate and I began talking about jewelry for my little Etsy store. She’s an adoptive mama like me. She was a blog reader who became a friend and then became a partner of sorts. She works from home making jewelry and I work from home writing.
We both love Jesus, our families, coffee, and the Northwest. We have long rambling phone conversations and laugh a lot when we’re trying to get things done.
I told Cate about a phrase that means so much to me – “Courage, dear heart.”
If you know Narnia, you’ll recognize it as something Aslan speaks to Lucy in response to her cry for help. She is on the ship, the Dawn Treader, which has sailed into a great and dreadful darkness.
Lucy leaned her head on the edge of the fighting top and whispered “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.” C.S. Lewis
In response, an albatross appears to lead them out of the darkness and as it circles the ship, it whispers to Lucy, “Courage, dear heart.” She knows it is Aslan’s voice.
I’ve had moments of great darkness, of needing God to show up and help me. He has given me courage when I had none, strength when I was weak, and peace in times of extreme trial.
Our professional photos will be ready soon, but I couldn’t wait any longer to show these to you. This is how Cate arranged the cuffs to take them to the photographer. Hopefully, it’s not a huge marketing faux pas to show them to you early, but I’m not much of a business person anyhow.
Necklaces are coming very soon and they are beautiful too! You’ll have your choice of the same phrases with other lovely things like arrows, essential oil diffusers, beads, keys, and more.
My foster daughter, Zoe, wore a “be brave” necklace the day she spoke in front of hundreds of people about the need for more foster parents.
There will be beautiful necklaces already made for you, and build-your-own options. Cate is quite creative. Me? I only think of words.
Christmas will be here before we know it – it’s not too early to get some shopping done, and handcrafted gifts are extra wonderful. To make life even easier, Cate sends each cuff tucked in a cloth drawstring bag ready for gift-giving.
I don’t have to tell you I’m kind of hanging by a thread this week as Kalkidan’s birthday approaches. So many emotions are swirling in my heart and mind.
In the spirit of not sinking into depression, yesterday I took a good walk and today – don’t laugh now – I did yoga for the second time ever using our old Wii Fit.
Yes, we have a Wii Fit that still works. It was quite the ordeal getting it up and running last month.
If you aren’t familiar, when you log on, the Wii Fit greets you with chatty messages about how long it’s been since you’ve exercised, how much weight you’ve gained, or with a message to remind a family member to get back into their exercise routine.
Imagine my surprise when I got this message today. I nearly had to sit down.
I stood staring at the screen – not sure if I wanted to move past it or leave it there for a long time. Finally, I moved on, and this was the next screen.
I’ve been thinking about memories and trauma – my own, and those of our children from “hard places.” Experiencing a very traumatic event has given me insight into my children’s brains that I never expected to have.
Will there ever be a day when I don’t think about our accident and losing Kalkidan? It hasn’t happened yet in the 22 months that have gone by.
Nearly every time I get quiet and still, memories begin to surface.
Last night I woke at 2:30; one of the kids had left the light on in the hallway outside our door and the light seeping in illuminated our room.
I must have stirred just enough to wake Russ who got up and turned off the light – which turned out to be three lights upstairs and several downstairs as well.
Once back in bed, I reached for his hand and his fingers closed around mine – safety wrapping around me.