Adoption Parenting, Conquering Fear with Consistent Kindness

posted in: Faith, Family | 0

good shepherd

I occasionally have an “ah-ha!” moment. Most of the time I feel like I am pretty slow to understand what the Lord is trying to get through my thick skull, and then one day it dawns on me how clearly God has been revealing a piece of His heart to me. I am so grateful He is patient with me, as I learn to be patient in response.

While we were in Peru completing the adoption of our daughter Camila, we were battling numerous issues. She was being medicated unnecessarily. She had spent most of her time apart from meals, in a crib. She knew nothing of how to play with toys, how to respond to excitement, what it was like to hear a blow-dryer, ride in a car, communicate at all, or what a family was like. It is complete truth to say that everything she has learned about life, she has learned from the age of three when she was adopted. She is now five and we are amazed at the astounding progress in every area. In fact, the only areas that she is behind her peers is in speech and social skills. Since Camila only spoke three words when we adopted her at three years old, she was never fluent in Spanish, nor was she anywhere close to knowing any language. Just like a baby learning to mimic small sounds at one, and then beginning to piece sentences together around two, Camila has spent the last two years learning to speak. It gives us a chuckle when people, unknowing of Camila’s background, ask us if she is finally fluent in English. A child who was fluent in Spanish might be fluent in English after two years. Might. A child who was three and didn’t talk, well it takes time to learn such a skill. But she is learning. She speaks in sentences, is beginning to answer more and more questions rather than merely repeating the ends of whatever she is asked. She progresses week by week. The social skills are also developing. A child who had had no idea how to play at all, now prefers to play with others. She is a visible image and reminder to us daily of the miracles God can and will work, regardless of one’s background.

When a child has had no form of consistency in their lives, when they have been neglected or abused or abandoned, there is naturally some amount of fear deep inside. Fear that someone will leave. Fear that someone will hurt. Fear that someone will not care. While we were in Peru adopting Camila and she screamed for hours on end at night. I knew she was scared. She was used to the crib she spent all of her time in. She was used to orphanage life, and all in one day some gringos take her into a realm without walls. It was terrifying. Huge tears rolled down her cheeks at night as she sucked on her two middle fingers. God then spoke to me, as nothing would calm her, to begin reading Psalm 23 over her. That was the only thing that would bring calm.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths     for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[a] I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I had no understanding of why these scriptures brought her comfort, though she knew nothing of the words I spoke over her. I only knew that God’s Word is sharper than any two edged sword and more powerful than any earthly weapon, and it was doing what only it could do to bring her peace, when all of my efforts failed.

But God has recently refreshed me in why these scriptures brought and continue to bring such comfort to her. I pray them over her life. It’s because they are a reflection of the magnitude of God’s infinite love, provision, and kindness.

They say, ” I will be with you FOREVER. Even in the darkest of nights. Even when people fail you over and over again- I WILL BE RIGHT HERE. I will lead you and I will provide EVERYTHING you need. You will lack nothing as long as you’re under me. I will anoint you and use you for a purpose. I know you are a treasure.”

Let me be real with you for a moment. Adoption parenting is the hardest, most stretching thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s also one of the most rewarding, adventurous, beautiful things. That’s why I am doing it again! I’m all about adoption. But… Parenting biological children is nothing like parenting adopted children from hard backgrounds. Nothing. The same techniques do not work. The same concepts that a biological child receives and learns from, a child who is from a hard background will be unmoved by.

As any child will test boundaries, so will an adopted child. But being aware of the root of an adopted child’s behavior is vital. We have found, and are learning that the behaviors rooted from fears will never be conquered by discipline. Never. You cannot threaten a child from a hard back- ground enough to convince them that you will never leave them. You cannot give enough time-outs to convince them that they do not need to steal and hide food in their room because you will always give them enough to eat. You cannot remove privileges enough to get a child to stop reacting out of fear when they have never had reason to trust anyone.

After months roll by and as an adoptive parent, when you desire to see progress much faster than you’re seeing it, it is easy to become frustrated and irritated. It’s because you’re ready to see your child reflecting all that you feel like you’re pouring in. It’s because you love them and you cannot understand why they aren’t “getting it”.

Let me tell you what the Lord has been teaching me over the last two years. In my frustrations and through the trials I am learning through what He whispers to my heart.

“Calley, you be a reflection of me. I am the good Shepherd. When you’re afraid, I consistently comfort you. I respond to your fear with my kindness and reassurance. It is my kindness that leads you to repentance. Nothing else will bring comfort like my kindness flowing through your hands, to the beloved daughter I have given you.”

We rarely see these huge outward displays of fear like we did in the early days. Camila has learned to trust. But sometimes, when we step into a new environment old behaviors come out. Nervous reactions come out. Things that are the opposite of what we see in the real Camila at home in daily living. God is reminding me to check my responses when these behaviors arise. My flesh wants to respond, “NOOOOOOO!! We’ve conquered that. We cannot go back to the hiding! Do not do this!” But the Spirit of God says, “Let my kindness flow. It is the only tool that will bring lasting peace.”

Finally, I am continually reminded to return to the promises of God over Camila’s life. Please understand,  I am being transparent in hopes that other adoptive parents will find encouragement. Undoubtedly, Camila is now thriving and fear based behaviors become less and less a part of our daily living, compared to where we came from when every thing she did was from a place of fear. But even when she reacts in fear, God’s promises remain true. Even when other well meaning people do not understand why she is behaving a certain way- something completely untypical to her norm, and they think something is wrong- His Word is the last word. I know and will stand on no other word over her life other than the personal word the Spirit of God gave me when we were in the adoption process. I will believe nothing else. I know the story God is writing over her life- one of redemption. When I pray for her, I see her rising up as a young woman declaring her praise and devotion to her Creator. I will see this. No doubt in my mind about it.

And it’s only out of a place of faith and trust that we are capable of the right parenting responses of kindness when the going gets tough. It’s only from resting in His Word, that I can trust that He is working out whatever needs working out, as I pour out my life to be an instrument and representation of the good Shepherd. I have so much to learn. I fall down. I repent. I wonder why I freaked out over nothing. Then, praise God, my good Shepherd comes right back with His patience and loving kindness, and reminds me of the right responses.

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? -Romans 2:4