When You Want to Skip Christmas!

 Is your schedule out of whack this holiday season?

Are you experiencing some winter or holiday blues?

Is your adopted/foster/special needs kid melting down every time you turn around?

Do you just want to pack up the decorations and skip Christmas altogether?

Then this is for you friend.

The Whole House team had a conversation the other day (on our pm) about kids being dysregulated over the holidays. It’s hard. Constant meltdowns make us want to just skip the whole season.

Here’s a couple of things to remember if you want to skip Christmas:

Expect Meltdowns.

Different things are triggers for different people. I get weepy around Christmas. I hear an Amy Grant song. I put up the Christmas tree. I hear a church bell and I think of my mother. Midnight mass in the choir loft. Pumpkin pie in the oven or cooling on the gas range. Christmas dinners with tables end to end all the way across the length of the living room. Great memories. Mom left this earth almost twenty years ago and yet , a smell, a sound, can make it feel as if it were yesterday. That’s the way with triggers, they transport us to another time, another place and more importantly, another feeling- whatever that was.

* * *

We adoptive parents must remember that our children have a past. Some of it is fresh in their memory. Some of it is buried so deep, they cannot tell the story.

* * *

But, let them smell something in the air, hear a sound, or taste something and they are transported to another time and place. They may not know why or where. They may not be able to vocalize it. Instead, they will act it out. They will meltdown. Be prepared. Be patient. Be prayerful. Be proactive if you have any information that will help you avert those triggers! – 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas

When you want to skip Christmas.png

This also applies to kids with Capital Letter syndromes. We’re playing Christmas music and decorating the tree and the kid is punching a hole in the wall. We are left scratching our heads and throwing our hands up and saying, “Forget it!”

Lack of schedule, change of routine and the anticipation of the upcoming event(s) create a tornado of emotions. Some of us just want to skip Christmas altogether! These items I just listed make it hard for a neurotypical child to regulate. Just imagine how much more stress is added for a child with a Capital Letter syndrome or a child from hard places.

Your teen may turn into a giant toddler. His eyes may stay dilated, indicating stress. His body may be rigid, shoulders tense, hypervigilant, looking this way and that for danger, supposed or real. It’s common for your kiddos to balk at doing every day tasks during the Christmas season, even if they normally enjoy them. Their bodies are too overwhelmed to enjoy things.

When we adults react with our own triggers and meltdown ourselves, there will be chaos. We need to provide felt-safety for our kiddos. If that means skipping the Christmas party, ordering online instead of going to a crowded mall or not visiting Santa. Skipping anything that stresses your child to the point of meltdown is worth it to enjoy your holiday. Guess what – you are in charge of your Christmas schedule. You don’t have to do something just because Aunt Edna said so. You don’t have to put up a tree if it stresses you or your child.

Think of it this way, Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. How do you prefer celebrating a birthday? What about your child? If you prefer a quiet birthday dinner at home and not tons of people because it stresses you and your child – do that. Do whatever fits your family style. Make the season what you need to make it as peaceful as possible. If you need to participate in events, as much as possible, let your kids know what is happening next. Make sure you rest in between events. Give your child voice. If they can verbalize that opening presents in front of everyone is too much, don’t make them. If people get offended because you are parenting your child, that’s really on their plate. Not yours.

“Remember at the end of the day, you are the parent.  You have the right to say no to some parties, to say no to the extra sugar, to say no to extra church events that bring in loads of people.  And give yourself permission to not feel guilty because it’s your family and your child and your sanity.  And remember that as hard and stressful it is for you, it’s probably 10x more so for that special needs kid.  Grace upon grace upon grace for this Christmas season.”- Lori Shaffer

Watch for Episode 51 of The Whole House Podcast on Monday, December 17th – “Kids from Hard Places and the Holiday Schedule” recorded by Kathleen and Lori. (PS- I think we recorded this to encourage ourselves. Hope it encourages you as well).

Three Tips for Thriving Through the Holidays

Every year the calendar flips to December and we Moms hit the ground with skis on and head down the slope to things to do and places to be before that magic goal day on the calendar, December 25th. We don’t want to just survive the holidays, we want to thrive!

1. Rest

This doesn’t mean do nothing at all. Rest can and should be planned.

Rest often means a different kind of work than you usually do.

Rest doesn’t necessarily mean vegging or bingeing on Netflix (it can be, but not always). This rest means doing something that pour back into you and your family. This is the kind of rest that you plan and always remember. It’s another group of coins in your memory bank.

  • In order for your kiddos to watch a Christmas movie, you make the popcorn and the hot chocolate. You snuggle on on the couch with your kiddos. Take the time to listen to their commentary and questions during the movie.
  • Visiting a tree farm and chopping down a live tree.
  • Decorating a tree.
  • Reading Christmas books aloud.
  • Singing Christmas carols.
  • Having a coffee date with a friend who is a kindred spirit.
  • Go to a Christmas market and look at the lights.
  • Listen to an audio book while you clean, bake or sit by the fire (Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one I listen to every year.)

2. Go Deeper in your understanding of Christmas. Get an Advent Devotional for yourself as well as your children.

I’m never going to get to the place on this earth where I have arrived spiritually. I’m always learning. Going deeper. Having new revelations. Our children learn by repetition, layer by layer we add truths from the scripture as we read through the Advent Devotional. It’s the same for us adults. We need to add layer by layer of Christmas truth to our understanding. Each year we pray that God gives us a new “book of revelations”. God can’t do that if we aren’t willing to take the time to read and study. There are plenty of Advent Devotionals out there. Find one that fits your life for now. If you have small children, try one that you can read in the few minutes you have after everyone is asleep. If you have more time because you have teens or are an empty nester, find a longer version to invest in!

I’m trying Jennifer Hand’s book:

I haven’t read it yet, but I’m super excited about it. Yes, I wrote an Advent book as well. You can find it here.

3. Pray Through.

Mark Batterson speaks of this in his book Circle Maker – here’s my paraphrase:

We don’t usually remember the days we did nothing, but we remember the days we had everything to do and God pulled us through.

If your plate is full this season and it’s all good things that you committed to, then pray through. If you’re tired and don’t think you can do it all, Jesus is all. He gives strength to the weary. When you wait upon Him, He will lift you up on wings as eagles.
Don’t do what I sometimes do – pray and then hang on by my fingernails hoping God will pull through. Thank Him in advance what what He is going to do. Enjoy the the “through” instead of waiting until you get to the other side.
I’ll leave you with this set of verses from Matthew 11.  Note that Jesus says His yoke is light. A yoke implies work. So, whatever work you must do this season, He can make it light. He can refresh your soul.

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([d]relief and ease and refreshment and [e]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.

30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [f]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.

The Day After Christmas

Every year is a fresh blank slate to fill with Christmas memories. This year was one of those. You may not feel like it right now, your house may be a mess. Christmas has worn you out. Right now, take a moment and breathe deeply. Ponder the season. Look back through the tips and count up how many you used. Guess what, even if you only did ten or five, you did more than you would have done if you hadn’t read this Advent Devotional. Go YOU!

* * *

I hope the chapters each week deepened your faith and expanded your understanding of adoption. Not only are you chosen and loved, but so are your children, regardless of their past. Adoption makes kings out of carpenters. Adoptions transcends all bloodlines. Just as Joseph is really the father of Jesus, you are the parent of your adopted children. Adoption is for those children  who need a home to flourish in so that they may fulfill their destiny. It’s a father like Joseph that children need. A man who follows the call and doesn’t look back.

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We adoptive parents, when entrenched in the day to day with our child’s behaviors, survival mode ruling, we may wonder if your children’s births were prophesied, if they were planned for, if all the past shame neglect and abuse can bring forth a new shoot, new life from the stump of pain and decay.

* * *

In the midst of the mess, the strewn wrapping paper, the piles of presents, take some time to prophesy for the coming year. Find a quiet place and for a few moments, look ahead to the present of the new year. Write down some prayers for your children based on the word. Remember, God can do over and above and beyond all we can ask hope or think, according to the power that works within us, the same power that rose Christ Jesus from dead.

* * *

We adoptive parents may go through a Job syndrome of our own. Horrific things happen in the wake of our calling. Maybe you feel like the holidays are a Job syndrome. Too many meltdowns. Too much sugar. Too little schedule and your family has been thrown for a loop. I get it. I’ve been there. It’s hard to celebrate when you feel as if you are just surviving.

* * *

Funny thing about surviving, it means you made it. You crossed an invisible finish line. Christmas is behind you and the calendar is speeding to a new year.

* * *

Another interesting phenomenon, your children will remember the celebration, the layers of tradition, the happy times more than you will remember the exhaustion of this moment. When my children talk about our leanest years, they don’t remember lack, they remember celebration and joy. When I remember the meltdown on a Christmas shopping day, that particular child, all grown up, remembers it as a great day. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. The post Christmas exhaustion you feel is not a measure of the holiday or the memories you made.

* * *

Let me leave you with a final word of encouragement. Parents, you are anointed and qualified to preach the Gospel of good tidings to your children.

* * *

With the help of the Lord, under your prayer covering and guidance, your children can be set free from the mindset of neglect and lack. If you adopted a child from birth, he can feel chosen, not abandoned. If your teen struggles with his identity, you can proclaim liberty and continue to point to his worth. Formed in his mother’s birth womb, he was chosen and set apart.

* * *

Start the new year with this in mind, you are equipped, you are chosen, you are qualified. You are the parent that your children need. It wasn’t some mix up in the universe. So, today, put on your shoes of peace, along with the full armor of God and fight the good fight of faith. You are more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus. Thank you for being who you are and doing what you are doing.

Father of orphans,

champion of widows,

is God in his holy house.

God makes homes for the homeless,

leads prisoners to freedom,

but leaves rebels to rot in hell.

-Psalm 68: 4,5

*Excerpt from 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas An Advent Devotional for Adoptive And Foster Parents

You are anointed and qualified to raise your adopted/foster child.

Jesus

“For unto us a child is born and unto us, a son is given and the government shall be upon His shoulder and His name shall be called Emmanuel.”

-Isaiah 9:6

My first born came out wet, red faced, pointy headed and squalling. I was in the birthing room at Mon General, the first to use this new(0ld) concept-to give birth in a room and stay there for the duration. It was state of the art.  Comfortable and top of the line everything. On the tour, hubby asked what the small square pieces of equipment was on the hinged arm hanging over the bed.

“That would be a tv,”the nurse said with a chuckle. All the couples from our birthing laughed heartily and the tension and fear of that moment was broken.

* * *

We all know the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, at least the general story. In fact some of us have rehearsed it so many times, we could repeat the verse that houses the history, verbatim. It’s like memorizing a poem, but do we really think about the meaning?

* * *

Feel the trek to Bethlehem riding on a donkey?

Labor overtaking you and having no place to go.

Lying him in a manger?

Shepherds coming to worship Him.

No midwife or doctor.

* * *

Jesus wasn’t born in the traditional way or in a comfortable environment. There were no gadgets or TVs to help Mary along or make her feel comfortable. Joseph had to lead the way and fend for his new family. He had to trust the dreams and the word spoken by an angel. Mary had to do the same. Mary and Joseph carried more than the angel visits and dreams in their hearts. They had the prophecies of the coming Messiah.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Listen carefully, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us).

-Is. 7:14 (Matt 1:23)

We adoptive parents prophecy the intention of building our family through adoption. Over months or years, we inform extended family and friends.

* * *

We are pregnant with the seed of adoption.

* * *

Most of us don’t have angelic visitations, some of us have dreams to confirm or enlarge our hearts. Yet, none of us have exactly the same journey and none of us have an easy one. There may be travel to a foreign country, eating foods that are not common to us, jumping through political hoops of policy. We stand in embassies waiting for rubber stamps to hit paper. We sit in doctor’s offices with panicked, crying children, fulfilling the necessary vaccine quota, all at once. We may spend hours in the air, comforting fevered, frightened children who have never traveled outside of a 15km radius of where they were born. Some of these have only lived within the four walls of a hospital and orphanage for their short life span. Outside terrifies them.

* * *

We listen to the naysayers, the people close to us who tell us we’re crazy. Or worse, those family members who try to convince us through scripture that adoption is not biblical (FALSE) and that having children ‘naturally’ is God’s will no matter how many barren years you have suffered or miscarriages you are still grieving.

What we must hang onto, what we must rehearse is the word given to us. What we parents must recall is the holiness, the sacredness of this messy journey. Nothing worth doing is easy.

Every worthy endeavor has obstacles

Every worthy endeavor has obstacles.

* * *

Joseph and Mary had many, yet knowing the importance of their calling, they persevered.

None of us are raising/adopting God. Thanks be to God, that is finished. That fact does not diminish the importance of our adoption journey. Adopting is following in our heavenly Father’s footsteps. When reading the summation of what Jesus came to earth for, insert your name.

The Spirit of the Lord upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor and the afflicted. He has sent me to bind up and heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the physical and spiritual captives and the opening of prison and of the eyes to those who are bound.

-Isaiah 61:1

When my newbies first came home, I read this chapter obsessively. It’s worth taking the time to read today. The two words I focused on in those early days (and even now)-anointed, qualified.

* * *

Parents, you are anointed and qualified to preach the Gospel of good tidings to your children.

* * *

With the help of the Lord, under your prayer covering and guidance, your children can be set free from the mindset of neglect and lack. If you adopted a child from birth, he can feel chosen, not abandoned. If your teen struggles with his identity, you can proclaim liberty and continue to point to his worth. Formed in his mother’s birth womb, he was chosen and set apart.

Adoption builds families the God-purposed way. Adoption is greater than or precedes the universe. Before Jesus, the Word made flesh, spoke the world into being, God chose us, planned for us to be adopted as His own, because it was His kind intent. (Ephesians 1)

1. Adoption, like the birth of Jesus is hard and messy.

2. Not everyone will understand your calling, but you must hold to your confession of faith.

3. You are anointed and qualified to raise your adopted/foster child.

“This is how adoption works-like a sacrament, that visible sign of inner grace. It’s a thin place where we see that we are different and yet not entirely foreign to one another. We are relatives not by blood, but by mystery.”- Kelley Nikondeha

Christmas Has Needs

I paced back and forth at the front of the house where large windows looked out over the front yard and the mailbox. The mailbox- what had been a symbol of Christmas cards and good news had become my worst enemy. I dreaded the mailman coming bringing bills and more bills, and yet I watched, waited, worried. When the mail truck pulled up to my box, I hid behind the curtains, afraid he would see me and hand deliver bills that said, “FINAL NOTICE”. I imagined him shaking his head in pity me as he saw the stack of bills.

I’ve lived there, deep in the pit, where my prayers were only about my lack. Mortgage payments. Groceries. Presents.

* * *

How do you have a silent night when your mind is full of the need? Of worry? Of the reality of the barrenness of now?

Christmas
Has 
Needs

I’m not going to tell you how to shop smarter or spend less (there are plenty of great blogs and books about that). The truth is you cannot shop smarter with nothing. It is not a great deal if you have nothing.

Over ten years ago, we moved to our current home and still owned a home in another city. It sat on the market for a year and a half. We paid two mortgages for that length of time. A few years before that we lost our family owned business. We ate through our savings, our kids college funds and put the rest of our money into a house that the downturn in the market swallowed up. We went from being middle class to on the edge of homeless.

* * *

I don’t share this info often because I don’t enjoy pity parties anymore. I’m not inviting you to one. I do, however, enjoy empathy parties with a healthy dose of encouragement. That is what this book is for. Encouragement. As I said before, I have talked to many adoptive families over the years and all of them have something in common- after the adoption comes the Job syndrome. Sometimes it’s years down the road. Sometimes, just months or days. It can come in different packages, loss of heath for parent or child, loss of finances, behavior issues, trouble attaching,_________(fill in the blank). The Job syndrome is a whole book in itself, I’ll keep it brief your sake, you get the picture, right? (This is redundant.)

* * *

Christmas has needs. It needs us to step outside of our everyday stress and receive it.

* * *

That is difficult to do when we are full of worry and the weight of the world on our shoulders. So, how do we accept the gift of Christmas when we cannot buy our children the gifts we want to? Or buy the groceries we need to make the traditional dinner? How do we meet Christ in the morning when we are so weighed down and depressed we cannot get out of bed? How do we celebrate when our children from hard places have had every trigger activated and are out of control?

* * *

Biblical Application:

1. Accept your now.

You may not be where you want to be financially or physically, just remember a healthy part of getting on the right path is enjoying something in your now that you can remember later. Play games with your kids. Cut out paper snowflakes. Sing Christmas carols. Make gifts.  Watch for points of connection and behaviors you want to encourage. Mention them aloud to your children. Before you know it, you will have a pocket full of wonderful memories. The kids won’t remember the lean years as much as they remember the celebration.

* * *

2. Prepare for your future now.

I’m not talking about getting a financial plan. Those are great, but the bottom can fall out of those too. Ask me. I know. I’m talking about your heart. If you believe your child will always struggle or always make things a struggle then it will become reality. Instead, look for pinpricks of light and believe that God is doing a great work in the child that He put in your care. Instead of thinking that your Christmases will always be full of lack and need, focus on the blessings you have. Thank the Father for them. Often. Keep a list or a thankful tree (it doesn’t have to be November to do this). This is heart preparation for the future blessings. It makes things well with your soul.

* * *

3. Rest in HIM.

I can’t say this often enough. I do say it often because the Lord leads me to verses often that hi-light REST. His rest is not the same as ours. It’s not vegging in front of the TV ignoring the  issues, it’s digging deep into His word. It’s dialoguing with Him. Tell Him your concerns. Don’t just make requests. When you do, trust Him to supply. He will. The Christmas that was the most lean for us financially, friends of mine gave me gifts for my children that were perfect for them. We didn’t spend lots of money. We didn’t have it. We did celebrate. I bet if you asked my kids if they remember a ‘bad’ Christmas, they would say “NO!”The great thing about the need of Christmas is –

“You don’t have to make Christmas…..You can rest in Christ…..You can breathe easy in Christ.”- Ann Voskamp

Christmas needs us to rest in Christ.

*This is an excerpt from 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas An Advent Devotional for Adoptive and Foster Parents