Not at Our Hands

Last month we had to cancel our trip to visit Dimples. As I talked with her therapist about possibly delaying our visit, I said, “I don’t want to do anything to mess her up or hurt her.”

Her answer was so surprising to me that I wrote it down, and I’ve been mulling it over since. She replied, “You can’t mess her up. You’re never going to hurt her the way the loss of her first mother hurt her.”

I think of the pressure we put on ourselves to heal our children; yet the pain they suffered, the great loss of losing their mothers, came before we ever knew them. We can’t go back and prevent that horrific, life-changing, heart breaking loss.

I recall a conversation I had with Bee a few years ago. She was weeping over the loss of her mother, and I was holding her, tears running down my face too. Finally she said, “Why didn’t you bring my Mom medicine? Why didn’t you come sooner?” The desire of her heart in that moment was not for me to heal her brokenness, but for me to somehow rescue her from the pain of the loss in the first place.

How I wish I could.

We feel unsure, we fail, we are judged and observed, but let’s remember that the pain our children suffer was not done at our hands. Their struggles with attachment are not due to our failures – the profound struggle is due to a loss that we could not prevent.

In spite of our weakness, we are the vessels God has chosen to bring healing and grace to our children.

We will stumble, we will fail, we will sin – but the greatest pain has already been dealt them. Our role is to minister healing love, to listen to the Holy Spirit, and do our best to follow the path the Lord lays before us for each child.

Press on, friends. This is the ministry opportunity of a lifetime, quite literally. We will be pouring love, assurance, and commitment into our wounded children for the rest of their lives and ours, and what we have to offer will  never be quite enough because we are only people – we are not God. Only his power will fully heal their broken hearts and wounded minds.

Let’s fiercely grab hold of God’s strength to simply love our children today, to turn our faces toward them with gentle kindness, to speak words of assurance, and to hold them close – if they can let us.

Encourage one another,

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.

36 Comments

  1. Heather Snyder
    April 22, 2013

    What every momma needs to hear. Thank you for all your honest and wise words!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 22, 2013

      I'm so glad you think so, Heather. I know I'm talking to myself, and hoping it will help you too.

      Reply
  2. Lisa M.
    April 22, 2013

    Oh, yes–I've experienced some of the things you mention when we adopted our daughter from Romania when she was almost 11. That I couldn't "fix" everything that was wrong was humbling and heartbreaking. But we've learned to extend to grace to one another–like you said, we are merely humans–not God. Thanks for affirming so many of the things I've felt. God Bless.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 22, 2013

      Humbling and heartbreaking are good words for what we've experienced. Thank you, Lisa.

      Reply
  3. Andrea
    April 22, 2013

    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 22, 2013

      You're welcome, Andrea. Praying for you today.

      Reply
  4. HeartNSoul
    April 22, 2013

    Powerful message, thank you!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 22, 2013

      I'm glad it spoke to you; thanks for letting me know.

      Reply
  5. AmyE
    April 22, 2013

    Beautiful!! Thank you for that reminder.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 22, 2013

      You are very welcome, Amy.

      Reply
  6. Angela
    April 22, 2013

    You will never know how this spoke to my heart today. God knew I needed to hear (read) it! Thank you so very much!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 22, 2013

      I'm so glad; thank you for letting me know, Angela.

      Reply
  7. charity
    April 22, 2013

    lisa, I was happy to hear the quiet peace in this post, I know so many moments on this path feel like they are raw, unanticipated, painful, and anything but peaceful. but truth spoken speaks peace, and the way God turns our ears on to those truths as others talk to us, is a miracle of how He heals, how He teaches, how He loves us. I have been walking a hard road for some months now with my 11 year old who has major health challenges, and I am touched my His tender mercies as I realize how many of the things we do to help her stabilize are skills I have picked up here from listening to you loving mothers walk through trauma with your own children…I am SO GRATEFUL to have had an idea where to start and known some things to do that dramatically helped us all cope while we tried to find the next step on this child's path. Soak in the moments of PEACE my friend. love you and pray for you all

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 22, 2013

      Charity, it is so good to hear from you. Thank you for taking time to comment in the midst of your busy life. I love knowing that what we are learning here applies to lots of children – and that "hard places" can mean many different things.

      Reply
  8. Mary (Owlhaven)
    April 22, 2013

    It is so, so easy as momma to impute our children's brokenness on ourselves. We're so aware of how WELL we want to do this hard job and know how many times we've not lived up to those expectations. This reminder is so freeing– their wounds came before we ever entered their lives….

    Mary.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 22, 2013

      Sometimes I think, "If only I could do this perfectly, everything would be fine." It's good to remember the truth that this is hard stuff that came long before we did. thanks for the comment, Mary. I look forward to having you as a guest later this week.

      Reply
  9. nancy
    April 22, 2013

    Tears in my eyes here Lisa!!! I am going to copy this and e-mail it to myself so I can look at it whenever I need to.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 22, 2013

      Nancy, I'm so glad my thoughts are helpful to you.

      Reply
  10. Denise Allacher
    April 22, 2013

    I can't thank you enough for this post today. God knew what I needed to hear. Thank you for being the vessel!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 22, 2013

      Thank you so much for letting me know, Denise. Sometimes I feel like I'm just writing for myself.

      Reply
  11. Laurel
    April 22, 2013

    I struggle so much with this as an adoptive mom. In the moments when I do fail, I have such guilt over having possibly caused further pain, further damage to my children. I put such pressure on myself to be a perfect mom because they have already experienced too much pain and hurt. Yet, this is unrealistic. We all fail at times. Thank you for such a well-put reminder that we can only do what we can do, and that we are not at fault for the struggles our children are facing.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 22, 2013

      I can't tell you the weight that lifted off me with that one comment. I'm glad it feels significant to you as well, Laurel.

      Reply
  12. Emily
    April 22, 2013

    Great great great post. One of my favorites. I love you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 22, 2013

      I never know what might be meaningful to people and what might not even be noticed. I'm so glad you like this one.

      Reply
  13. Jennifer Kayla
    April 22, 2013

    Lisa,

    God answers prayers in so many ways, today it was through this blog post. I can not thank you enough for your words, your wisdom and your heart for our Lord.

    Blessings to you,

    Jennifer

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 22, 2013

      I am so thankful, Jennifer, that the Lord used this to encourage you. Thanks for sharing that with me.

      Reply
  14. Karen
    April 22, 2013

    This post is so timely for me. Our new foster boys will move in tomorrow and I am apprehensive and excited at the same time. It's so good to remember that they have already endured such pain and that I will never be able to fix it. Only Jesus can do that.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 22, 2013

      Blessings on your day tomorrow! I can imagine the excitement and apprehension. I hope you are surrounded by people who are going to love and support you on this journey.

      Reply
  15. ERIKA
    April 23, 2013

    Praying for your family. Good post.

    God bless you all

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 23, 2013

      Thank you, Erika.

      Reply
  16. Marissa
    April 23, 2013

    Lisa, I love you. Another one I'm going to keep close to my heart.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 23, 2013

      I love you too, Marissa. Our lives are forever entwined by this journey.

      Reply
  17. gwenmj
    April 23, 2013

    I am new here – a foster mom and an adoptive mom. Thank you for this reminder. We often try to remind ourselves that "they have a history we did not create"…it helps get through the hard days.

    As a side note – I love your blog. Thanks for sharing and encouraging those who chose this road 🙂

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 23, 2013

      Thank you so much for leaving a comment and for joining us here. I hope you'll find lots of encouragement and people saying "me too".

      Reply
  18. JoyceHammer
    April 25, 2013

    Wow. Thank you for putting this delicate subject into words. I felt so guilty for not being the perfect parents to my 3 girls I brought to live with us. This changes the slant on my thinking/feeling! Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 25, 2013

      No more guilt, Joyce. We just have to be faithful, humble, and love as best we can.

      Reply

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