The Language of Rest

Last week, I talked about “When Trauma Affects Your Ability to Listen to Your Body.” I finished the article with:

THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE OF REST

Why? I didn’t know what my own body was telling me. I didn’t know how to cue into it. I still struggle with knowing what it’s trying to tell me. It’s as if we don’t speak the same language. It says, “rest” and I don’t speak the rest language. It’s foreign to me. I put my self-imposed to-do list above my body’s needs. Not good. I understand there are things we have to do as women, moms, and grandmas. Whatever your title is, there are tasks or appointments we should keep. One of those appointments is with ourselves. Did Jesus care for the needs of his own body? If so, how? 

Today I’d like to spend a few minutes on the language of rest and how Jesus understands the needs your body.

When do you rest?

  • Do you wait until your body is completely depleted?
  • Do you schedule rest?
  • Do you work your body as if it has infinite energy and then are flabbergasted when it shuts down?
  • Did you know enough about your body to know when it’s telling you to rest?
  • Do you feed your body the food it needs to work well?
  • Do you fuel your body often?

Answering these questions is a great starting point. For me, I used to wait until my body was shutting down before I rested. Now I schedule rest. I do sometimes still get flabbergasted when my body says, “STOP!” For instance, (last week) I’ve had two Easter Egg hunts on consecutive days, followed by a doctor’s appointment the next day, and then more days of outings, including hiking, church, grocery shopping, running errands, and date night. Reading the list exhausts me. In fact, today I’m suffering from an introvert hangover after all the peopling I’ve done. (If you’re an introvert and want to know more about the science, embracing your introvert-self, check out Holley Gerth’s – The Powerful Purpose of Introverts.) How did you answer these questions?

Getting to Know YOurself

  • Do you know yourself?
  • Do you know what stresses you?
  • What energizes you?
  • What exhausts you?
  • Which foods give you energy?
  • Which foods leave you feeling wired, tired, bloated, or fill in the blank.

If you read last week’s article, you’ll know I followed the voice of trauma and survival mode for years. I didn’t know myself at all. I even went so far as thinking I was being sinful if I took time to know myself or do anything for myself. If you think that way, it’s not true. Not Biblical. Not how Jesus sees things. He not only promises to give us heavy-burdened, trauma-driven, codependent, perfectionists REST, He says He will “ease, relieve, and refresh our souls.” (Matthew 12: 28,29) Read that again and take a deep breath or two. Jesus cares about you and your body. He listened to and knew His own needs. Even though he is God, as a man, He became tired and needed a break. He needed rest and He knew the apostles did too. After they told Jesus all they had done and taught-

He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while”—for there were many [people who were continually] coming and going, and they could not even find time to eat.

Mark 6: 31

Find A Co-regualtor

On a comment on my Instagram post last week, I mentioned when we need to use the same parenting tools we employ with our kids who have experienced trauma with ourselves. We need to re-parent ourselves. Maybe you missed the season of co-regulation in your childhood. Maybe there was too much chaos in your home (or is now), and no one helped you know what your body was telling you. Basic things such as hunger, thirst, need for rest, and what we feel (anxiety, excitement, depression, uncertainty, joy) – all these feelings we need co-regulators guiding us. EVEN if you are an adult, you may need a co-regulator and some re-parenting!

I started the practice of reporting all I have done to my husband. It’s not for approval’s sake. It’s so he can weigh in and advise me. He’s often told me – “You do more on a rest day than most people do on a work day.” I had no clue. I thought everyone worked the way I did. Maybe you are the same and you don’t know how much you really push your body. Find someone to help you regulate until you can do it on your own. Do you have someone in mind? If you don’t pray about it?

Do you speak the language of rest? Share in the comments!

*If you struggle with knowing what your body is telling you, take some time this week and answer all the questions in this article in a journal or on you phone. If you struggle with knowing the answers, you may not speak the language of rest. Ask a trusted close friend or spouse to help you begin to recognize what your body is telling you or find a counselor.

FIVE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP ADOPTIVE/FOSTER FAMILIES PART 4

Sandra Flach, of the Orphans No More Podcast, joins me again this week for the Positive Adoption Podcast series on the book Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families. We’re sharing the last episode in our series – Five Things You Can Do To Help Adoptive/Foster Families. If you are an adoptive/foster parent you may struggle with your child’s meltdowns but he acts like an angel in public. This week’s topic – don’t be fooled by a child’s superficially, engaging behavior.

Last week we talked about not judging the parents by the child’s behavior. There is another side to this coin…

On the other hand, don’t be fooled by a child’s superficially, engaging behavior.

Some children with attachment, self-regulatory issues will behave horribly in public. Some will look like angels and leave you wondering why Mom doesn’t feel like coming out in public anymore. Take your cues from Mom and Dad. Something is not right. That quiet or gushingly cute child may be malicious and hateful to her new/foster  parents at home. She is in survival mode. She has learned the angles and may have had to act that way to get by in her early life. It’s a survival mechanism she has to unlearn so she can really be part of a family and have authentic relationships, not superficial ones.

Watch Mom and Dad for an accurate picture

Look at Mom or Dad  for an accurate picture. Is Mom haggard? Slurping her second cup of coffee an hour into the field trip? Do her eyes keep darting towards the child as if she is unsure of what the child is going to do? Does she have the worry hunch? Is she too perfect looking, hair, makeup, clothes, as if she is covering up, hiding herself? Or better yet, ask her, and be firm, wait for an honest answer. If you can’t or she won’t talk, set up a coffee date. Go out of your way to make it easier for her. Walk a mile with her. Hear her. Pray for her. 

Sometimes the best thing you can do for adoptive parents is listen. Don’t correct. Don’t interject. Just listen. Support them in prayer and acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers. They don’t need all the answers.  Sometimes what is needed is some validation. Tell them they are doing a good job.  Support and care for them (and their children) in this adoption journey.

Are you an adoptive/foster parent?

Do you often feel alone in your journey? As if NO ONE else knows what’s going on in your home?

Because, which  of us stands on the sidelines of the soccer field and says to the neighboring Moms, “How are you coping with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in your child?” or “Is your child finally attaching or what?”  “How are those adoption/foster classes going?” No. The truth is most adoptive parents don’t say a word about what they are dealing with on a regular basis. They just try to blend in and look normal. How do I know? I am one of them.This is a great handbook to encourage you and let you know, you are not alone. Plus, it’s full of tips, real-life stories, and some great resources. Grab your free copy today.

When Trauma Affects Your Ability to Listen to Your Body

“Listen to your body,” a few friends have told me recently. But what does that mean? If you grew up in an alcoholic, codependent, legalist, neglectful,  or abusive environment (or married into one)- this advice may stump you as it did me. 

My Body Didn’t get a say

Growing up, my body didn’t get a say. I was bossed around by others’ feelings or opinions whether it was intended or not. I didn’t tune in with my body in those early years. The trauma tuned my body out and I lived in survival mode.

Fast Forward to my adult years, marriage, building a family through birth and adoption. I was BUSY meeting the needs of others. My adopted children, who had experienced early trauma, sent me back to the land of codependency. Before I realized it, I was feeling what their bodies were feeling.

I knew nothing of what my body was telling me. I cut it off. Silenced it. Pushed it. Overdid it. Crashed it. Abused it. Starved it. Over fed it. All the while, I told myself I was offering my body as a living sacrifice by taking care of others. (Not accurate, by the way).

A Diagnosis

In the middle of my child rearing years,  after years of health struggles – I  finally received a diagnosis -CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), hypothyroidism, and later Celiac disease. My sister located an amazing doctor in Pittsburgh (Dr. Pierotti),  who has helped me tremendously. With his understanding of the body, how it all works together, and immune system function, I began to get some energy back and lose the brain fog. I won’t go into detail about the treatment (you can pm or email me – positiveadoption@gmail.com, if you want to know more). 

Pushing And Crashing

What happened next is super sad. I began a cycle of pushing and crashing. This cycle lasted for years. As soon as I was able to function, I began doing ALL the things I was doing before. Then I began reading about adding  margins to my day, scheduling rest, stopping before exhaustion, all kinds of great information (check out Toby Morrison’s book and youtube channel!) I would try to implement some practices with success and then go right back to pushing and crashing.

The foreign Language of Rest

Why? I didn’t know what my own body was telling me. I didn’t know how to cue into it. I still struggle with knowing what it’s trying to tell me. It’s as if we don’t speak the same language. It says, “rest” and I don’t speak the rest language. It’s foreign to me. I put my self-imposed to-do list above my body’s needs. Not good. I understand there are things we have to do as women, moms, and grandmas. Whatever your title is, there are tasks or appointments we should keep. One of those appointments is with ourselves. Did Jesus care for the needs of his own body? If so, how? 

Next week – How to tune into what your body is saying and how Jesus took care of his.

Codependency in Adoption/Foster Care

Sandra Flach, of the Orphans No More Podcast, joins me again this week for the Positive Adoption Podcast series on the book Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families. We’re continuing our series – Five Things Your Adopted/Foster Child Would Like To Tell You. Codependency with our kiddos can keep us stuck in a chaotic cycle. Codependency can overwhelm us and make us feel as if we are drowning. If you feel as if you live there (I did), grab a cup of coffee and join us for some encouragement!

Sandra and I continue our series – Five Things Your Adopted/Foster Child Would Like to Tell You with a chat about codependency.

Introduction to Codependency

I stood in front of the mirror, brushing my hair  before heading off to an appointment with my counselor. Thoughts of the day’s events wrestled in my head. I rehashed my reactions to youngest son’s behavior. My shoulders tensed and my jaw set. I set the brush down, pulled my hair with both hands and screamed  Get out of my head! I felt raw. And as if I weren’t a person any more, but as if I were a robot reacting to every move my son made. I was controlled by his mood, his defiance sunk me into a depression, it washed over me like a dark cloud. When I awoke in the morning, my first thought was, “What is  he going to do today and how can I make sure he has a ‘good’ day?” I relayed this info to my counselor.

“You’re codependent,”my counselor said.

codependent-of or relating to a relationship in which one person is physically or psychologically addicted, as to alcohol or gambling, and the other person is psychologically dependent on the first in an unhealthy way. (dictionary.com)

Children who have experienced trauma have a knack for making us adults feel out of control. They do know how to push our buttons. They seem to own a special button locating radar. Once they find the button, they push it mercilessly. And we adults, like puppets on a string flail around, flopping from hot to cold at their will.

This brings me to the fourth thing your adopted child would like to tell you:

If you feel what I feel all the time, we will become codependent and I will rule your emotions like an out-of-control terrorist.

When we subject ourselves to this control, we become codependent. We are happy if our child is. Subdued if he is angry. Emotionally unstable if he is and we find ourselves going out of our way to create a pseudo perfect environment so the child will not _____________ (fill in the blank). This is the same dance the alcoholic and the codependent spouse or family member jitterbug. The codependent family member feels as if it is her responsibility to keep the environment perfect and that it is her fault if the alcoholic or drug abuser becomes abusive or has other repercussions.. She feels totally responsible for someone else’s everything. She lacks power because she gives all her power to the alcoholic/drug abuser.

What does this look like with a child? See my intro, I couldn’t even brush my hair without thinking about him. He filled my thoughts every waking moment. I spent my thoughts either worrying about his reactions or planning a new strategy for helping him. Planning, scheduling, those are great tools, but I wasn’t using them as tools in this instance. I was striving. The stress of raising this hurt child combined with the stress of everyday living sent me headlong into a deep depression.

I must say, I slipped into the pattern of codependency pretty easily, I came from an alcoholic family. I had gotten out of old patterns, but I slid right back into them before I noticed.

What can you do to break the habit of codependency?

A. Be a separate person.

This sounds so basic. So simple. It’s not. Any of you raising  children from hard places  know this. Any day can be like riding a tidal wave and surviving a hurricane and tornado all in one. It might take you pulling your hair in front of a mirror and a counselor telling you to take back your power (your ability to act independently).

If your child has a meltdown because he doesn’t want to eat dinner when you do, do a chore, go to the store, do his school work, etc., then give the child a consequence. Don’t react to the behavior after the consequence and make the choice to keep your power. Do whatever it was that you were going to do without the child controlling you. Make the cookies. Eat the ice cream. Go to the store.If you have  to cancel a trip because of the child’s behavior, sit down and read a book. Call a friend and talk about something that has nothing to do with the child and let him hear you. Work in your garden. Paint a picture. Write a story or do  whatever it is that makes you ….you. You are a person with gifts and talents. Use them in the middle of raising children. Don’t wait to be a person.

B. Take a vacation from guilt.

It’s easy to get stuck in the guilt trap. Our hurt children can keep us there. Remember, “You are not responsible for the trauma that happened to me before I came into your family, but I will act like it”. We have the power to release ourselves from the trap. So, take a vacation from the guilt. Stop thinking, if I would have done something differently, he would have behaved differently. If I would have stuck to the schedule, if I would have gotten up earlier, …..If. If. If. Some of these things may be true and we learn from our mistakes, we don’t need to wear them like a garment. If you feel as if you messed up, confess and move on. Don’t wear it.

Remember, you are not responsible for the way your child reacts, you are only responsible for yourself. Your reaction. Your giving of the consequence. So, take my advice, leave the guilt garment behind.

C.  Be responsible for yourself.

Don’t skip this one!  One thing I hear from adoptive parents is they are worn to a frazzle. Take care of yourself.

One week, after a long week in a house full of meltdowns, my youngest daughter and I needed a break. We packed up and went to a hotel near some outlets. We walked ourselves tired in the hotel gym and swam in the pool. We ended the night soaking in the hot tub. The next morning, we hit the outlets and went home later that afternoon, tired, but refreshed.

Self-care is under-rated. Adoptive parents can suffer from codependent behaviors and compassion fatigue. We feel what our children feel. We tend to look at the bigger scope of things and may often over think things, bearing more than needs to be carried. For instance, when we hand an ice cream cone to a six-year-old, we may be thinking of his past, his time in the institution without ice cream, etc. The child may be thinking, this ice cream is good.

Take care of yourself. Take breaks. Eat food. Drink water. Exercise. Take a weekend away. Put on your own oxygen mask first.

Are you an adoptive/foster parent?

Do you often feel alone in your journey? As if NO ONE else knows what’s going on in your home?

Because, which  of us stands on the sidelines of the soccer field and says to the neighboring Moms, “How are you coping with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in your child?” or “Is your child finally attaching or what?”  “How are those adoption/foster classes going?” No.The truth is most adoptive parents don’t say a word about what they are dealing with on a regular basis. They just try to blend in and look normal. How do I know? I am one of them.This is a great handbook to encourage you and let you know, you are not alone. Plus, it’s full of tips, real-life stories, and some great resources. Grab your free copy today.

Foster/Adoptive Parent – You are Not Responsible for Your Child’s Early Trauma

Sandra Flach, of the Orphans No More Podcast, joins me again this week for the Positive Adoption Podcast series on the book Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families. We’re continuing our series – Five Things Your Adopted/Foster Child Would Like To Tell You. Mom guilt is serious. It can overwhelm us and make us feel as if we have failed our kiddos. When we adopt/foster we can wear the guilt of what happened to our kiddos before they came to our home. The guilt is heavy and can sink us into a quagmire of codependency. If you feel as if you live there (I did), grab a cup of coffee and join us for some encouragement!

You are not responsible for the trauma that happened to me before I came into your home, but I will act like it. If you let guilt rule the home, we both be miserable and neither of us will experience any healing. – Your Adopted/Foster Child

A Bit of My Story

I understand the grip of fear and how trauma can rear its ugly head in my adult years. When I was young, my parents divorced. My dad would come pick us up for a visit in the summer.

When dad came to pick us kids up for summer visitation, the departure was swift.  We packed our bags in the trunk of his current car and rushed down the lane, leaving a trail of dust behind us, Mom growing smaller in the distance.  This is the moment the fear gripped me. The familiar faded and the unknown lay before me. The tense anxiety choked me while my stomach churned. Down the highway we sped to another unknown destination; Dad rarely bothered to sit down and explain where we were going and what it would be like this time. The landscape changed from the hills of West Virginia to the bluegrass of Kentucky or the plains of Iowa, where once we raced beside a tornado as it ate up the fields beside us.

Every year, it was a new home in a new state. And every year, it was the same unstable summer, with our travel and activities dictated by someone else’s moodiness or alcoholism. New places did not fill me with hope. They were foreign landscapes with no known retreats or safe hideaways from the too-familiar emotional climate. The unrest filtered down to me and cemented my fear and presupposition: There is nothing good in the world.

Looking through Lens of the Past

My past gave me a faulty picture of the world. Even today, I struggle with sitting in the backseat of a car. I need to know where we are going on a trip. I don’t just want the directions, I want to see the map. My early life sometimes still dictates my now. I know that. I have strategies to deal with it. My friends know this. They let me sit in the front or drive. It took me years to figure out why I didn’t like to sit in the back seat or why panic rose up in me. Knowing the why helps me deal with it. 

Our adopted children don’t know the why or the how. They see through the lens of their past and it is like an old camera. The lens is scratched and distorted and they may blame us, the adoptive parents. Can you imagine if I went on a road trip with my friends and blamed them for my fear of riding in the back seat? Children have a difficult time separating their past from their now, therefore:

You are not responsible for the trauma that happened to me before I came into your family, but I will act like it. If you let guilt rule the home, we will both be miserable and neither of us will experience any healing.

Separating the Past from Now

Separating our children’s past from their now is a difficult aspect of adoption. We parents must be the mature ones and not let their reactions to past events determine our reactions. If we do react negatively, then we will live in a constant civil war and more wounds will be inflicted. No healing will take place and the child will be orphaned (rejected) twice. I don’t have my reactions mastered, I wish I did. I am writing this because my daughter Audrey says I should share things that I wish someone would have told me. I wish someone would have told me this: Many of us who have the heart for adoption, the desire to adopt a large sibling group of children, have had a troubled past ourselves. The desire directs us to adopt. It doesn’t equip us. We must equip and educate ourselves.

No one told me that my past and my adopted children’s pasts would engage in a tug of war to the death.

We both had a faulty lens on our camera. Guess who had to change hers first? Me. Guess who had to die? Me. My flesh. Guess who messed up, often? Me. We assume that wrestling with the child means a physical fight and if we are not careful, that is what it becomes. Daily. There is no healing that way.

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.

– Ephesians 6:12

I have always loved this verse, it sounds so mystical, mysterious. We aren’t supposed to engage in a fight with physical opponents, so how do we fight these master spirits who are the rulers of this present darkness? Ephesians 6:11 commands us to put on our armor that you may be able to stand up against the strategies and deceits of the devil. This is war! Adoption is war. We are not fighting with a physical sword, our sword is the Word. Our belt is truth. Our feet must be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. We raise our shield to protect us from the fiery darts of the wicked one. We put on our helmet of salvation (deliverance) and breastplate of righteousness. What does this look like in reality? Sometimes it means, we just stand. We don’t react when our child melts down and blames us for his hurt, his feeling rejected. We speak the truth in love, “Man, that stinks, how does that make you feel?” And we redirect, “What do you think we could do about that?”

When we disengage our right to react, we become powerful.

And more important than any of the above, we pray. A prayer for healing. Place your child’s name in the blanks:

________ is not harassed by physical symptoms or feelings or their supposed connections to past events. The curse of rejection and abandonment is broken, _____________ is a new creature with a heavenly Father who loves _________, the Stronghold is broken, the sticky web of the past is dissolved. ___________has forgiven and _________ is forgiven.______________is washed clean and ____________ reactions are based on the Word and the new creature that _____________is, not the old fearful, anxious child that _______________was. NO! ____________ is a strong, assertive child of the KIng, ______is a co-inheritor with Christ, ________________ have all the benefits that He has bestowed upon me. ______________is more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus.

Are you an adoptive/foster parent?

Do you often feel alone in your journey? As if NO ONE else knows what’s going on in your home?

Because, which  of us stands on the sidelines of the soccer field and says to the neighboring Moms, “How are you coping with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in your child?” or “Is your child finally attaching or what?”  “How are those adoption/foster classes going?” No.The truth is most adoptive parents don’t say a word about what they are dealing with on a regular basis. They just try to blend in and look normal. How do I know? I am one of them.This is a great handbook to encourage you and let you know, you are not alone. Plus, it’s full of tips, real-life stories, and some great resources. Grab your free copy today.