Tuesday Topic: How do you Balance Family Needs with Ministry and Activities?

 

Today we have a great Tuesday Topic question from Alyssa.

When your children have such a deep level of need, how do you balance outside activities and ministries? It seems like you (Lisa)  are finding ways that you can connect with other families through your writing and speaking, and your husband is involved in some work in Africa. Do you have a process for how to decide how much time to give to these things?

I have stepped away from nearly all volunteer work since we adopted our son 1.5 years ago. My husband was on a school board and that was taking a lot of his time and energy but he’s recently finished that commitment. We just looked ahead at an event in December and decided that this year he wouldn’t help so he could be more available to our family on a busy weekend. We don’t regret these decisions, but I feel like our son has sort of a bottomless well of need and wonder when and if we will add more volunteering back into our schedules.

We’ve talked about organizing an adoption group in our church, but would the energy spent on that be worth it for us and others compared to giving that time and attention to our son (and his older siblings)?

I know God leads each family and there are seasons for things… I’m just wondering how others make these decisions in a balanced way?

Have you stepped away from commitments and activities since your child joined your family?  How do you decide what to say “yes” to and what to leave out of your life?   Russ and I have an ongoing discussion about this ourselves, and we are continually reevaluating our commitments.

Please take a moment to share your thoughts as a comment; we want to hear what you have to say.  If you have a Tuesday Topic question, I would also love to hear from you.  Email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com.  Please put Tuesday Topic in the subject line.

I look forward to hearing from you today; I’ll be watching for your comments.

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.

10 Comments

  1. Julie Blair Pitts
    November 20, 2012

    Oh Alyssa. How this resonates with me. We are just now SLOWLY starting to add things in, and remove them if we find they don't help our son heal. One example is that we played softball this past summer for the first time in years. We missed it terribly, and decided to add it back in. It turned out to be OK. We also evaluate any time we are asked to do things outside our family, ministry or otherwise, on an activity by activity basis: 1. Will this impact our son negatively? 2. Will we be home enough to help him grow? 3. Will we be edified, and more importantly, will God be glorified through this? 4. What does God say? 5. What needs to give as something is added? (continued)

    Reply
  2. Julie Blair Pitts
    November 20, 2012

    I love music. I love to sing and lead worship. I have been on sabbatical for over 3 years because of the time commitment, and because I feel I need to be in God's word on a different night of the week with other women so I can fill up and be ready to minister to my family and friends. I would love to go back. I miss it terribly. God is starting to stir my heart again, which means something else has to give. Women's ministry (my other love)? Small group on Sunday nights (which would be a significant loss)? BSF on Tuesday nights? What gives if I go back to worship ministry? I am also a writer, which I have given up to work part time to pay our medical bills. I have to weigh all of that alongside my son's very acute healing needs and determine if/when my time has come to revisit ministry. Until then, I serve my son and my family. I don't know if that helps, but maybe just knowing you're not alone? May God bless you in your journey…

    Reply
  3. Tom Vanderwell
    November 20, 2012

    We have definitely stepped back from some of our commitments – but in other ways we have increased them. What we've seen and experienced since going to Haiti and bringing our kids home has changed our commitments in that we focus on things that make a more substantial difference to adoptive families, to kids without homes and to organizations that serve them. So it's a switch but also a pull back. There are a lot of things we used to be involved in that are no longer "worth" it because of the toll it takes on our kids. The other reason we have pulled back in our commitments is because a lot of our "friends" that we would do those type of things with at church etc. don't truly understand the needs and that makes it hard to work with them on things. So it is easier to spend time and energy with people who get it……..

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  4. Debbie
    November 20, 2012

    Something I heard once that made a big impact on my heart and the way I was feeling "guilt" about not doing more in the church was that for now, my ministry IS my family. Some people don't understand the decisions we have made, but they are what we need to do for our family. We have not yet adopted, but we have 5 bio children and are fostering to adopt. Our current foster toddler needs much contact and mommy time, so I have cut a lot out so I can meet her needs and help her heal. There is no greater ministry for me right now than that. 🙂

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  5. angela
    November 20, 2012

    Very good question. At first we had to pull back…. completely. Socially, ministry, everything. Life pretty much revolved around the twins. It was HARD. Painful actually to be so cut off from everyone and everything.

    Eventually we decided to start inviting a few families over for Friday night supper and Bible study. This was a strain at first, but we grew into it and the twins grew into it. Slowly we've added . It doesn't look like before we had the twins much, but actually we are doing more. Instead of hanging out with friends who are just like us and are comfortable we've changed the focus. We are more intentional about our fellowship and looking for ways to make it a ministry – even in small ways.

    IT is essential for the twins – now that they have been a part of our family for nearly 3 years, that they be a part of something bigger than themselves. They need to see NEED outside of themselves.

    I think that the priorities change a lot. The before the adopted life, the first couple years of settling in, and then because your view of life changes during that time, there is the after adopted life. And each segment look very different.

    Reply
  6. sleepyknitter
    November 20, 2012

    We have definitely stepped away and for this time consider our children to be our ministry and our "activities," mostly because our middle daughter's anxieties are so intense that we have had to be with her every waking moment (quite literally) for most of the last four and a half years. But during this last year we adopted an older daughter who is emotionally the same age as our middle daughter, and the two girls play very well together most of the time (although there is a lot of jealousy between them), AND our middle daughter has gained a passion for drawing and coloring, which she can do for an hour or more, narrating the story aloud to herself as she colors. These two changes have given her an ability to be away from us, even by herself at times, that I think will lead to our someday being able to leave the kids with a sitter for an evening while we participate in a Bible study or a charity event or whatever. For now, though, our children are our ministry and our activities.

    Reply
  7. Luana
    November 21, 2012

    I can't think of any greater ministry than the need under my own roof. Like Alyssa said, the well of need runs deep and no one else was called to fill it.

    We have simplified every aspect of life in order to have the time to minister to our daughter. Her therapies and schooling are all-encompassing. I have even simplified my home and personal life.

    Eliminated 50% of our home furnishings and kept only the most meaningful or useful items (to save time on cleaning and organizing), cut my hair – from past my shoulders to a Halle Berry length (to save time on getting ready), paired down and gave away all my gold jewelry (to fund a friend's adoption and not "think" about accessorizing, now I only wear my wedding band), ripped out my vegetable garden and put in sod (no time to nurture it) and on and on.

    (cont'd…)

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  8. Luana
    November 21, 2012

    (cont'd…)

    These are drastic means, but our life has been drastically changed with our new calling – our newest addition. I must do what I can in order to focus on her and make the most out of our day. These changes came over two years. I used to complain to God about not being able to do this or that, looking at the "leeks and onions" in my past life. I mourned the freedom and ease I once had. When I listed all the things I wanted to do instead of therapies with my daughter (gardening, take classes, crafts, etc.) the Holy Spirit gently reminded me that none of those things had eternal value, but that my daughter did. Her spirit will live on through eternity and He chose Me to minister, mold, and shape it in His image.

    Be encouraged and remember…

    Those who seek to save their life will surely lose it, but those who seek to lose their life FOR HIS SAKE, will surely find it.

    Luana

    Reply
  9. sdgator
    November 20, 2012

    This is a great question! Once again, i am comforted by others' asking the questions that I constantly ask myself! I think this one is such a hard one, because when you are dealing with a child that has SO MUCH need (and I love the way Alyssa called it the "bottomless well of need" PERFECT DESCRIPTION) you as a mom really need some time with others, outside the home, just to fill back up again. But there is a fine, fine line there, because one step over it (i.e.too much outside stuff) and then you just heap more work on yourself (stress, stress in your kids, disregulation because of being overstimulated/change in routine/ etc etc). Its been very hard for me to figure out what "outside" things will bring that fresh breath to me, without disrupting home life to the point that its worse than before i got out a little. (Hope that makes sense).
    we tried a care group of other adoptive parents for awhile, and it was very specifically tailored to what we felt our family needed (every other week, at our house, no potluck or any food prep) but it still could adversely affect our kiddos when we ran late, or they got overstimulated with all their friends being over. So we cut down on that, but now my hubby and I really feel cut off from fellowship. I would say the biggest thing that has helped, though, is a twice-a-month "adoptive mom's group" that is led by our Christian counselors that we see regularly. Its a group of only 3-4 other moms, but it helps me 'get out' and talk about stuff that's really relevant to me as a parent. But, it doesn't afffect my kids' bedtimes, or routine, because I leave them home with Dad. And any other fellowship I have, I do on the phone with my mentor (another adoptive mom, but she's three states away!). But I do feel like I'm "out of it" still.
    I'd like to volunteer more at the girls' school again, but right now its just not a good idea. I'm hopeful that maybe next year I can step back into that, and that provides some good fellowship.

    I don't really have any good ideas to give, but I can say that you aren't alone in pondering this question! And I think everyone is different: i expected after one year home, that we would then resume life as it was, but so far, that's not gonna happen. I think I got that expectation from watching what another adoptive mom did, but her timeline and mine is just gonna be different; and I think we all have to just constantly evaluate our own level of what we can handle. Cause ultimately, we aren't good parents (and can't parent at this high of a level) if we are stressed out and/or occupied in too many directions.

    Reply
  10. Alyssa
    November 23, 2012

    Thank you all so much for your replies and encouragement!

    Reply

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