Studying Personality Types to Better Your Relationships

In the nine years that I’ve been married, I’ve read a lot — and I do mean A LOT — of books and articles about relationships. And out of everything I’ve read or tried in my marriage, if I could point to one tool that has made the biggest difference, it would be personality tests. That’s why we chose to talk about personality tests on this week’s podcast (episode 90).

I have this intense inner drive to understand people. I know that I, personally, am capable of greater kindness, compassion, and patience when I understand where a person is coming from. When I have context.

This is especially true in my marriage. My husband and I agree on a lot of big, important things. We have our faith and a strong work ethic in common. Our sense of humor and taste in movies, TV shows, and music overlaps considerably. But we are very different people.

Unfortunately, another thing we often have in common is our stubbornness. We both put a lot of thought into what believe, so when we arrive at a conclusion, we’re pretty convinced we’re right. Often we arrive at the same conclusion, but when we don’t… it can be hard to remember that we’re both reasonable people doing the best we can.

That’s where personality tests come in. The better we understand each other, the better we can connect and communicate — even when that means expressing negative feelings, conflicting ideas, or (hopefully constructive) criticism.

The Enneagram

By far the most helpful and comprehensive personality test we’ve taken is the enneagram. This personality test separates people into nine different personality types. It offers information about each type’s motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. It even provides insight into how you behave during seasons of growth and when you’re under stress.

I am a 1 on the enneagram — the Perfectionist. My husband is an 8 — the Challenger. We’ve both read The Road Back to You and The Path Between Us, and they’ve been incredibly helpful in helping us understand ourselves and each other better. Turns out, our experience as a couple is common for 1s and 8s. They have a lot in common, like a passion for truth and justice and the sense of obligation to improve the world. When they agree, they can accomplish big things. But when they disagree (which does happen, because 1s and 8s are also very different in how and why they do things, even if they have a common objective), they disagree very strongly and stubbornly. Which is probably why The Enneagram Institute describes them as “a relatively rare romantic pairing.”

Knowing that helps. Not as a reason to throw in the towel or make excuses for ourselves, but as a reminder that neither of us is trying to be difficult. We aren’t pushing each other’s buttons on purpose. We just have a different perspective and approach. Now that we know that, it’s easier for us to stop fights before they happen, de-escalate during a fight, or make up afterward. We can use conflict as an opportunity to learn and grow as individuals and as a couple, instead of getting bitter or resentful.

Love Languages

Another personality test that helped us a lot, especially early in our marriage, was the five love languages. The basic concept here is that while there are endless ways to show that you love someone, everyone has their favorite. If you aren’t feeling particularly loved in your relationship, the problem might be that you and your partner are speaking different languages. You may each be following the Golden Rule, doing for each other what you would like done for you. But if your partner’s love language is physical touch and yours is acts of service, you might be failing to fill each other’s tanks. Once you know that, you can adjust.

Of course, the adjustment requires a bit of compromise from each of you. Your partner responds to physical touch, so you should try to express your love through touch more often. And when you’re feeling unloved, you can remind yourself that all of those small acts of physical affection are your partner expressing his love for you. Perhaps they don’t resonate with you as strongly as acts of service, but that doesn’t mean your partner isn’t being loving.

Other Personality TestS

Of course, there are plenty of other personality tests out there that can help you learn more about yourself, your spouse, and others in your life. The enneagram has been the most helpful to me, and the five love languages are definitely good to keep in mind. Ruth Soukup has a fear assessment that can help you identify the fears that keep your from chasing your dreams and working towards big goals. Sometime soon, I’d love to take the Clifton Strengths assessment (and have my husband take it as well).

No matter which personality test you take (or don’t), here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Personality tests are just a tool. Some may be more accurate or insightful than others. Some may not resonate with you at all. I think that, like any tool, they are neither good nor bad. What matters is how you use them. If they help, great! If they don’t, forget them. They’re not Scripture, so you can take them or leave them.
  • Your motives matter. Learning more about your personality (or your spouse’s personality) will not help your relationships AT ALL if you try to wield the results like a sword. Don’t use them to make excuses for yourself. Don’t use them to blame or criticize others. Use them to understand others better so that you can extend grace, compassion, and patience. Use them to understand yourself better so that you can grow.
  • Reading the books is worth it. If you find the results of a personality test helpful or intriguing, buy the book. Reading books about the enneagram (like the two I mentioned above) has been super helpful, and Ruth Soukup’s Do It Scared book is definitely worth a read. Books give you more context for your results and help you apply what you’ve learned properly. They also give you some insight into other personality types and help you see the bigger picture.
  • Apply what you learn to other relationships, too. Personality tests can be especially helpful in the context of marriage, but their usefulness doesn’t end there. You can apply what you learn to improve your work relationships and strengthen your friendships. Or you can use them to better understand your kids so that you can guide and love them the way they need you to.
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How to have and maintain a healthy relationship with yourself

Let’s start this post with this statement so that we don’t get it twisted that this is just yet another self-help post:

Any healthy, sustainable relationship with yourself must be deeply rooted in a healthy, sustainable relationship with God. It cannot hang on the balance of what the world has to offer. – Jessica McHugh

There you have it. The secret behind finding and maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself stems from a healthy relationship with your Creator.

Many of us fall into the trap of unhappiness because we chase the things the world tells us we need in order to find happiness: money, status, followers, careers, perfect bodies, etc.

Although most of us have everything we need, Americans have steadily become more and more unhappy since our peak in the 1990s, according to the World Happiness Report:

“Even as the United States economy improved after the end of the Great Recession in 2009,” that report noted, “happiness among adults did not rebound to the higher levels of the 1990s, continuing a slow decline ongoing since at least 2000.”

What also came around in the 1990s?? DIGITAL MEDIA. The article linked to above sheds a light on how digital media has contributed to the steady decline in our happiness.

What does digital media bring to the table? Highlight reels.

You hear it all the time: STOP COMPARING YOUR BEHIND-THE-SCENES LIFE TO SOMEONE ELSE’S HIGHLIGHT REEL. But we can’t. We compare and compare and compare ourselves to others and their things until we absolutely loathe ourselves and where God has us.

Have you ever heard the saying “comparison is the thief of joy?” Do you know why that is?

Isaiah‬ ‭40:18 asks us, “With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken Him?”

It’s because we were never designed to idolize anything other God, and when we do, we settle into unrest. Sometimes so unrelated that it consumes us and becomes a stronghold.

If we were to only judge ourselves the way God does — if we only compared ourselves to His vision of and for us — what would we find? What would life be like if we focused our gaze on Him and trusted His word instead of constantly comparing ourselves to others?

Isaiah 58:11 gives you that answer. “The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

That’s right…. when you only compare yourself to the One who created you, the One who gave you His same spirit, you will realize that YOU ARE:

Continuously guided.

Satisfied.

Made Strong.

Bountiful.

Fail-proof.

This is where I land every single time I need reminded of who I am. When I know who I am, I stop comparing myself to the world, helping me have that healthy relationship with myself. A constant inner peace if you will. The way we were to designed to feel.

Tips for achieving this:

  • Forgiveness.
  • Grace.
  • Mercy.
  • Patience.

The kind that God shows you, you need to show yourself. Every single day.

Want to hear more? Listen to the podcast – How to have and maintain a healthy relationship with yourself.

Looking My Triggers Straight in the Eye…

This week school started back up, and we were prepping to pack for lunches when one child asked for SunButter. No big deal, right?

Well, thanks to God, it’s not anymore.

You see, SunButter was a binge food I relied heavily on at the peak of my disordered eating. I could easily down an entire jar (if not more) without blinking an eye. It got so bad that, on a couple occasions, I found myself dumping dish soap into the jar so that I couldn’t eat any more of it. I haven’t had it in the house since because I wasn’t 100% sure that I could resist bingeing again.

Bingeing, for me, was a symptom of a deeper issue. It was a symptom of my stronghold, and my stronghold of choice was/is self-loathing. I would restrict myself because I loathed myself, which led to bingeing and then more loathing, rinse and repeat. I stayed in this very unhealthy cycle for many, many months before I knew I couldn’t handle it on my own.

Through prayer, petition, and surrender, God rescued me when I was at my lowest. When I felt the most unworthy, He showed me just how worthy I was, and I truly haven’t looked back since. He has used my wounds to glorify Him and has lead me to speak of my journey so that others who are fighting the same battle can see His light at the end of the tunnel.

My days aren’t perfect — I still struggle — but I wrote this blog post to say that they are SO MUCH BETTER!!

I bought the kid the SunButter!! It has set untouched by me in the cabinet for almost a week. That is such a milestone for me! It may seem trivial to you, but this is a praise-Jesus moment in my recovery. I can look that trigger right in the eye and know that it has no power over me. All the glory to God!! Absolutely anything is possible!

If you are interested in my story and would like to hear more, don’t forget about The Whole House Gathering on September 7th!! I will be speaking about having and maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself. You can grab your tickets here https://m.bpt.me/event/4240478

Make sure to register by September 5th!!!

Also, mark your calendars for October 19th. I will be speaking at a women’s workshop about God carrying me through my weaknesses to find my worthiness.

Hope to see you at both!!

Jess

The Spiritual and Missional Aspects of Adoption/Foster Care

*This is an excerpt from How to Have Peace When Your Kids are in Chaos for Adoptive/Foster Parents by Kathleen Guire

A few months ago, I wrote an article titled “What If We Treated Foster/Adoptive Parents as Missionaries?” I got lots of flack from non-Christians (which is understandable, to an extent), but I was shocked to also get some negative comments from Christians. So I started asking adoptive/foster parents what they thought about the subject. Then I took it a step further and created a survey that asked all the questions I was curious about. I shared it with my adoption/foster care support group, and several friends did the same. I’ll be sharing the results throughout this article along with some of the feedback via quotes.

Your Home as a Mission Field

Before I began the season of homeschooling in my life, I hadn’t thought of my home as my mission field or considered the far-reaching implications of family to the third and fourth generation. I pretty much thought about whatever seemed to be going on at the moment or what the church was putting on the calendar that I needed to attend to. 

When Jerry and I were married, we were just getting our sea legs when it came to Christianity. We were both sorting through the theology and doctrines handed to us by our parents. (You can read the whole scoop in A Positive Adoption Story.) I had a general sort of doctrine — don’t get divorced, don’t commit adultery, go to church regularly.  My beliefs about family were muddled somewhere in the middle of all that, but I had taken my cues mostly from the culture around me. These are just a few of the assumptions I picked up:

  • Having children is a choice and sometimes (even in the church) viewed as an impediment to true ministry. 
  • Ministry happens at the church, out in the community, or in some third-world country. 
  • If you have children, you can’t (or shouldn’t) bring them along to things that are holy or have the word “ministry” attached to them. You farm them out or wait until they are grown before you do anything of real value. 

I followed the church culture like it was the Pied Piper of Hamelin. I filled my schedule with church ministry activities and shooed my kids out of the way. I needed to do holy work, and they were obstacles to that — until Denny Kenaston planted a seed in that set of tapes, A Godly Home. That seed grew into the vague, unsettling idea that I was growing the wrong sort of ministry. In response, I began researching other authors, listening to other teachers, reading the Bible, and questioning everything I knew about family. 

Although I’m the type of person who likes systems, facts, and formulas, I have learned the hard way that without a foundation, these things aren’t effective. I was that way with family. I thought if someone could just give me the general formula — stay married, don’t commit adultery, feed the kids, etc. — then everything would be alright. But the how alone doesn’t work. There has to be a why. The Bible puts it this way: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Families are destroyed because we don’t fully understand their importance. 

The Stay-at-Home Missionary

I sat on a comfy couch in the Chi Alpha room at Trinity. The smell of rich, brewed coffee permeated the air as the Keurig hissed for the tenth time. Women filed over and filled couches, chairs, and the floor. Soon, coffees were abandoned on end tables in favor of pillows to hug. Women cried as they poured out their woes, insecurities, and failings. This wasn’t a group therapy session. It was a Mom’s Tea I led every Friday at our homeschool co-op, THESIS. These women were my friends. 

The overarching theme was “I’m just a mom.” Some of these women had left nursing, accounting, teaching (in a public school), and other careers outside the home. The message culture was hissing at them was toxic: “The job you are doing is not important.” 

And we were not alone in that belief. As I mentioned earlier, only 56.9% of people I surveyed said they think of family as a mission or ministry. Meanwhile, 25.9% said family is not a ministry or mission, and 17.2% said maybe. I shouldn’t be surprised at the results, but I was!

But this idea of family not being a ministry couldn’t be further from the truth. The acts of raising, teaching, praying for, and attaching to our children are among the most important things we will ever do. Moms are stay-at-home missionaries. One survey-taker noted: “I believe God created our family to be together to minister to other families and our community — both with our own gifts and with our experiences. Plus, as a mom, raising my kids to know God is my greatest ministry.”

I agree. That’s why I love the movie Marley and Me. Jen, who has decided to leave her career as a journalist and stay home to raise her kiddos, says something like, “No one told me it would be this hard.”  Her husband John agrees and gives her an out, saying she can go back to work, but she won’t bite. She wants to raise her own children. 

Jen alluded to the fact that her career outside the home was easier than raising kids. I cry every time I watch that scene because it resonates with me so much. It’s as if the culture tells us women that we bring no value to the world if we “just stay home.” The world wants us to raise children who are well-rounded, emotionally stable, educated, and contributing members of society — but often looks down on those who leave a career outside the home to focus on that responsibility. 

Our society is full of therapies, counselors, and facilities designed to help people heal from childhood trauma and its long-term effects. We have an army of women willing to stay at home and raise kiddos so they don’t have trauma or help them heal from past trauma, and the voice they hear is, “You aren’t worth. You aren’t doing anything of value.” In Parenting is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths that Keep us Trapped in Guilt and Worry, Leslie Leyland Fields shares:

“The intense spotlight on the home comes to us at this point in our history for good reason. All of us know, the traditional family is under serious attack. Family units now include same sex couples and three parent families in which children’s needs are sometimes less important than the rights and whims of adults. Child abuse is rising so fast that it is described as an epidemic by the Child Welfare League of America. As families fracture and states scramble to fill the gap, more and more children are entering foster care. Against the backdrop of such moral fragmentation, surely we can assert that our highest call is our families!”

Leslie goes on to say our highest calling is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). While I wholeheartedly agree with her, we cannot overstate how important raising your family is. This mission is a big part of our highest calling. I point this out because the feminist pendulum has swung so far to the left that it can actually damage and divide women. It often leaves the impression that being a stay-at-home mom is an second-class, almost subhuman role.

Foster Care as a Ministry or Mission

Out of the families surveyed:

  • 70.7% said that yes, foster care/adoption is a ministry.
  • 17.2% said no.
  • 12.1% said maybe.

If your family is a mission, isn’t it a natural progression that foster/care and adoption is? If we categorize being a mom as a mission, why wouldn’t we include foster care and adoption? 

Let’s be clear: We don’t adopt or foster to create a ministry. We don’t have children to create a ministry, either. God puts us in ministry. Often, we’re not even aware of it until we look back and see His handiwork. Our job isn’t to create a ministry; our job is to be obedient. Ministry exists in every area of our lives when we are obedient to Christ.

Ministry draws us closer to God. When we walk in obedience, our relationship with Jesus is fuller, more dependent, and more intertwined. Our relationships are affected and enhanced. That is true ministry. It’s not a plaque on the wall or a saying on a tee shirt — it’s relationship. Through our relationship with Christ, we become new creatures. Our old habits and ways have passed away, and we live with His light shining through us. That is the ministry we engage in and that the world longs to see. This sort of ministry isn’t planned in your Google calendar or written into a mission statement. It’s found in your everyday life with Christ, led by the Holy Spirit. 

As foster or adoptive parents, our home is a long-term (forever) mission base. We bring these kids who have been discarded by the culture, hurt by their parents, and harmed by trauma into our homes. There is rarely a respite.

I talked to Elizabeth King, a full-time missionary with twenty-two years under her belt. When she and her husband were presented with the opportunity to adopt two girls, they said, “More ministry? Yes!” They were up for it. Hadn’t they been practicing this for years? She says:

“But we were not really ready for the total onslaught of doing ministry right from the very core of who we were. Always before we had ministered outside of our home or had temporary visitors in our home. Our residence was a place of refuge from the rigors of ministry. But now, by accepting these broken girls into our lives – there was nowhere left to retreat to. Nowhere to relax. No escape from the desperate needs and destructive behaviors of the two hurting souls. We found that all our weaknesses, which we could hide pretty well in the course of normal ministry, were now staring us in the face every day.”

Rachel Judd, another adoptive parent, said this:

“I didn’t have that mentality when we started adopting, but when we brought home two from Ethiopia from traumatic backgrounds, my views shifted. I could no longer be involved in certain things as I needed to keep my focus on these children and the rest of our family. I knew our family was different from most and people didn’t understand. I didn’t even have the energy to help with VBS most years or simple volunteer work at church. I was burned out. I had to shift my thinking and see that we were parents and caretakers to some very traumatized children and that one day our season would be different.”

Another said: 

“I believe anytime that you walk with the Lord in your calling, it is a ministry. Google defines ministry as ‘the spiritual work or service of any Christian.’ Foster care and adoption is a beautiful display of bringing one into the home and trusting the Lord with the process.”

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t include some of the opposition: 

“No, it is not for us, and it irks me when I hear it referred to as such by other foster parents. With all the faith-based agencies I see that for the majority of foster parents it is a ministry. I feel like calling it a ministry or mission makes it less about the children and more about the foster parents’ religious commitment. Calling it a mission sounds like it’s an obligation and the foster parents are checking off a box to ‘get into heaven.’”

I kind of get her point. I might agree if I were only fostering/adopting to have a mission. Like I said earlier, it was in hindsight that I saw it as a mission. I didn’t set out to adopt so I could have a mission. I became a Christian, and then everything became a mission, because as the Word says, “Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

I love what Rich Mullins said in an interview with 20 The Countdown Magazine: “A spiritual thing is folding your clothes at the end of the day. A spiritual thing is making your bed. A spiritual thing is taking cookies to your neighbor that is shut in or raking their front lawn because they are too old to do it. That is spirituality.”

Whatever we do for God and others is ministry, whether it is making peanut butter sandwiches, reading a Magic School Bus book to a child, singing a nursery rhyme with a toddler, cleaning up the kitchen, or adopting an orphan. It’s all ministry. 

To address the last point of the survey-taker, I would add that Christians don’t earn their way into heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus — it’s by grace alone that we are saved. No ministry work we do will secure a place in heaven.  

And as far as it not being about the child, raising a child is about the child. It has to be, because anything else is unsustainable. Fostering or adopting can’t be about some lofty ideal, checking something off your to-do list, or making yourself feel good or important. None of those motivations will survive the everyday realities of parenting kids from hard places. I can’t imagine telling my kiddos — as I serve up the third batch of chocolate chip pancakes on a Saturday morning before spending the rest of the day at swim meets, birthday parties, or whatever else they have on the agenda — that it isn’t about them. Raising children is about children. There’s no other way around it unless you are the worst-case scenario in the system: an abuser, neglecter, child molester, or pedophile. 

One survey respondent summed it up well: “The Bible says religion that is pure is caring for the orphans. Children in foster care are modern day orphans [with] parents that are absent in their lives. Providing a safe and loving home for these kids to enjoy their childhood with their basic needs (and beyond) met is fulfilling Scripture!”

Want to hear more about the Spiritual and missional Aspects of Adoption?

Listen to the podcast interview with Sandra Flach of Orphans No More Podcast.


When You Have to Disrupt the Adoption

People always say life never happens the way we envision. Despite our best efforts, things turn out differently than we anticipate. 

When we felt the Lord calling us to adopt, we didn’t even know dissolved adoptions were a thing. Yet we ended up living out our worst nightmare. We had to educate ourselves about mental illness, therapies, medications, doctors, lawyers, how to document every little detail, and eventually the ins-and-outs of the CPS system. Weekly therapy sessions, constantly changing medications, and researching the options available to us became our new normal. It was most definitely the furthest thing from how we envisioned our life would be. 

In 2010, along with our 13-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, we embarked on a journey to bring a brother and sister sibling group home from Ethiopia. By the end of 2011, the time had come to travel across the world so that they could join our family. At the time of the adoption, they were 5 and almost 9. 

All we knew was that their biological mother had passed away, and there was no one available to care for them. We would later discover that the youngest, our Ethiopian son, had severe PTSD and anxiety among other mental illnesses that would take years to sort through. 

Our Judd clan had grown overnight to include an almost 15-year-old, an almost 9-year-old, a 6-year-old, and a 5-year-old. Our newest two children spoke no English and were reeling from some deep loss and trauma. It was overwhelming and exhausting. Before we knew it, we were operating in survival mode.

I would be remiss to go any further without pointing to Jesus. Each chapter of our family’s story has God’s fingerprints on every page. Even the darkest days were illuminated by Jesus’ love for us. No twist or turn was traveled alone. He promises in Scripture to never leave us or forsake us, and I am here to testify to that truth. 

Between the years of 2011 and 2016, our family walked roads that were almost unbearable. We noticed from the beginning that our Ethiopian son (whom I will refer to as H) was carrying the scars of trauma. He would have meltdowns that lasted hours. 

Although his meltdowns finally calmed down after a few months of being home, the PTSD and anxiety were still in full swing. He could not take a shower with the curtain drawn and could not use the restroom with the door closed. He was terrified of the dark and wasn’t sleeping well. He would walk with his back against the wall because he was afraid of who might come up behind him. He refused to be in a room with a closed door and often struggled with paranoid or irrational thoughts. 

Over time, other behaviors came to the forefront. He was very jealous of our other son (whom I will call C) — to the point of trying to hurt him in retaliation for things C was doing well. Fun time spent burning off energy on the trampoline became a time to try and injure C. H began showing signs of very dangerous behavior. We found hidden shanks he had made by whittling wood and throwing stars cut from old CDs that were sharp as glass. 

The overtly violent behavior started with little things, like putting thumbtacks in C’s doorway “so they would go through his foot when he got out of bed” and sleeping with items that could be used as weapons “to hurt C if he comes in my room.” We managed these behaviors as best we could, but our home was no longer a safe haven. It had become a war zone as we tried to keep things to a manageable level. 

Our oldest daughter (whom I will call A) was developing severe depression and anxiety as a result of the constant chaos. She was a competitive swimmer, and we were thankful she had an outlet outside of the turmoil that was our home. However, no matter the temporary distraction, our home life was having a negative impact on her mental health. 

By 2015, H was in and out of short-term psychiatric hospitals. We had exhausted every avenue available to us. We had tried 5 different types of therapies that were unsuccessful — including TBRI (trust-based relational intervention) and equine therapy, multiple psychiatrists, multiple medications, and a couple of months in a residential treatment center. 

We had EMS sedate him to safely transport him to a hospital after an hours-long fit of rage that included hitting police and EMS officers. H had told us that he had plans to kill us and proceeded to give me a very detailed description of how he would do it. At one point, he even came up with plans A and B to kill us in ways he thought he would not get caught. 

His rages were in full force by this point and would last 3 to 5 hours. He was extremely violent and would hit, kick, bite, and spit. We had to monitor his every move and keep him constantly in our line of sight to  protect the other children. We had alarms on doors and video monitors in rooms. No one was safe, and everyone had to be protected and watched at all times. 

Thankfully, the only ones to actually get hurt physically were my husband and me. Between the two of us, we experienced cracked ribs, kicks to the jaw, and an ER visit for lower back trauma from being repeatedly kicked by H while trying to restrain him. Our lives had turned into a nightmare beyond nightmares. 

While we struggled to keep everyone safe, our oldest daughter (by now an older teenager) began self-medicating in an attempt to mask the helplessness. We were so overwhelmed that we kept chalking it up to curiosity. No parent wants to come to terms with the fact that their daughter is struggling to cope. Her drug use eventually ended with a stint in rehab — yet another word I never envisioned having in our family vocabulary. 

Our goal during the beginning of 2016 was just to survive until the end of the school year. Once school ended, we would try to figure out what our next steps would be. 

June rolled around, and all hell broke loose. After an extremely long and violent rage with H, we knew we could no longer keep our other children safe while simultaneously parenting him. He had begun hitting the other children while making known his plans to kill us all. We would have to hide the other children in a bedroom with the door closed and a noise machine running in an effort to minimize the trauma they were enduring on the sidelines. 

As our saga continued to unfold, the Lord orchestrated every detail so that we knew we were never alone. He placed just the right people in our lives at just the right moments. He opened doors for us that we didn’t even know existed. What we thought were obstacles, He used to strengthen our faith and trust in Him. He paved a way where there was no path. 

The following days, weeks, and months following that last violent rage with H were a whirlwind. In June 2016, we had H admitted to yet another psychiatric hospital (sadly, we knew the packing list by heart at this point) and proceeded to call CPS to turn in our own child. We told CPS that our family was in danger and that we would not be picking him up from the hospital. They opened a case on our family and interviewed all of us. We were told they would file charges against us for failure to take responsibility for H. 

Within weeks, we found ourselves staring at a stack of documents in a mediation room full of lawyers and case workers. We were given instructions on all the various times we would be expected to be in court over the next 12 months. It was overwhelming. We were encouraged to hire our own lawyer and informed that one had been appointed to represent H. Due to God’s faithfulness, we found an amazing lawyer with whom we formed an instant bond. She had compassion for our family and kept us informed every step of the way. 

A year later, we chose to terminate our rights in the hope that he would get the treatment he so desperately needed — treatment we sought over and over again, in the face of every imaginable obstacle. 

During the year H was in CPS care, he had to be removed from his foster family due to violent behaviors. After bouncing from placement to placement, he was finally adopted out of foster care, though we know his problems continue and likely always will, even with ongoing treatment. The damage was done long before he made his way out of Ethiopia. There are some things that love, no matter how strong, cannot “fix” on its own.

Our hearts will never be the same. We fought with every fiber of our beings for H. We loved him then and will always carry love in our hearts for him. But the point of this story is not us — or our children, or even “the system.” 

The point is that, in the short-term, there is help. You can and must keep your family safe. In the midst of the storm, that may seem impossible, but it isn’t. And in the long-term, there is healing — through therapy (individual and family), counselors, and the grace of God. In the midst of the storm, this too seems impossible, but it isn’t. The fact that you’re reading this is a testament to both of these truths.

We wanted to let others who find themselves traveling this difficult journey how we knew it was time to let go. We found ourselves caught in the cycle of “surely there is something we haven’t tried yet.” We allowed ourselves to feed into H’s cycles of rages and manipulated kindness. 

As he got older, the rages became more and more violent and dangerous. Because of my husband’s job, sometimes he wasn’t able to drop everything and head home to help with a rage. It was very difficult to protect the other children while keeping the destruction at H’s hands as minimal as possible. H had begun throwing things during rages, especially things he knew would shatter. Sometimes these episodes would end with glass all over the floor.

The immense amount of stress we were under had also begun to take a toll on our health. I had PTSD/secondary trauma that resulted in extended periods of heart palpitations, rapid breathing, anxiety attacks, hair loss, and a year of suffering from gallbladder attacks that led to gallbladder removal. My husband also had a miserable case of shingles that his doctor said was likely triggered by stress.

The last straw with the final rage we endured was that H started to turn his violence towards the other children. That last night, he hit and kicked one child and punched the other in the back. This would have continued had we not immediately intervened. We were unable to maintain a good quality of life for anyone in our home, nor was our home safe for anyone at that point. The mental health of two of our children was also rapidly declining as a result of H’s violence. 

In order to protect our family, we had to come to terms with the reality that we were all in danger. If you find yourself in a similar situation, please do not hesitate to reach out.  


About the Author: I am Rachel Judd — Jesus follower, wife to my wonderful husband of 23 years, and mother of 3 through birth and international adoption (Ukraine and Ethiopia). We also do foster care relief work through a local children’s home.

I am a stay-at-home homeschooling mom. I am also on the leadership team for a foster/adoptive mom retreat called Together in the Trenches Texas. My husband is an Air National Guard chaplain and engineer for NASA, so I also help with marriage and family retreats for military families when the opportunity arises.

We LOVE to travel. We are always on the lookout for our next adventure.

We have had a lot of experience with reactive attachment disorder and many other challenges along our journey. It has given me a heart for reaching out to others in similar situations. I help run a small Facebook group of “trauma mamas” here in the Houston area.

You can find me on Facebook and Instagram.