Monday, January 14, 2013

Cultivating thankfulness.

All 6 of our children, struggle with entitlement on various levels.  It has driven us to a point where we decided there has to be some cure for this mentality of " mom and dad are their loving providers and care givers, so they MUST give them everything they ask for... or NOT?   Sol and I have made very intentional decisions of not parenting out of "what feels good" to us but rather "what is best for our children... long-term." We seek God daily to give us wisdom on how to teach our children life lessons. Courage. Integrity. Humility. Discipline. Contentment. Generosity. Thankfulness. 
Right before Christmas, we decided that our gift giving was going to be very minimal. We kindly asked family members to hold on to their gifts for our children and explained to them why.  We truly wanted to celebrate Christ's birth, live and breathe thankfulness and understand what it means to be content.  As someone that loves giving gifts, it was difficult for me.  But Sol and I both felt this was best for them. We still gave, but we gave minimally, they gave to each other and we let Christmas reflect its true meaning. We also gave each of our children a journal to begin their personal journey of Thankfulness.  Every morning, before breakfast they write 3 things that they are thankful for. 
Cultivating thankfulness. 

A glimpse into a couple of our children's thankful journals

I realize that in spite of all the headaches, emotional roller coasters and many tears shed from feeling completely taken, manipulated and "bully like" attitudes, I also must choose to be thankful.   We have SO much to be thankful for and I don't want a single moment to pass by where I miss seeing the beauty hidden in the pain of what our children carry. Within the past month, our 7 year old daughter (my Mt. Rainier) has intentionally made some positive changes.  Because of all the ups and downs we have had with her, I still find myself hyper vigilant... I want to relax and yet I'm anticipating her next episode... because realistically, 1 month isn't long enough.  In all honesty, I find myself guarding my heart instead of embracing her courageous choices. It's convicting to know that while I am encouraging her and the rest of my children to be thankful... I am struggling to do the same.  I want to celebrate. I want to be thankful. I want to breathe it all in and just be in this moment with our daughter.  After all, I should be thanking God for her heart and the conviction He has given her to make better choices. 

It's a journey...
A few days ago, our 10 year old son decided he was better off without us.  His "fight" has begun and now we have yet another Mt. Rainer to embark on.  He has lived 10 years of his life with a "survival" mentality.  He was never taught how to deal with his emotions in a "safe and respectful" way.  His education was extremely poor and traumatizing...every time he didn't understand, complete his work or asked a question, he would get beaten. As a result, he learned to fake competency. The reality is...
our son desperately needs to heal. 
We have and are seeking proper help for him and yet at the same time... 10 years of his life has already passed. 
As much as our heart aches for his past - the losses he experienced and the lies he was told as a child... it IS our job to guide him in the right way and provide a safe and loving home for him. There are certain behaviors and attitudes that we don't let slide by us and we make sure he is fully aware of it.  Unfortunately, he is used to living a life of his own... And just like his sister...he is fighting for control. 
Thankfully, my husband who began his life on the streets at the age of 12, has more than enough street smarts to outsmart our son.  But it doesn't make it any easier... our push/pull dance with our son has now begun and we may as well be here for a very long time. 
So, where and how does thankfulness fit in here?
Can I be thankful when we feel like we have given the "world" to our son and he simply rejects it with an attitude of  " I deserve better than this," threatens to leave and walks out the front door?
My answer is yes.  I have to be.  At this point, thankfulness cannot be based on my circumstances or on his behavior.  He is our son. We fought for him in Ghana and we will always fight for him. 
The fight isn't easy. 
But we never signed up for "easy." 
... I know I have to cultivate a heart of gratitude within my own heart.  I can't expect my children to walk in thankfulness if I'm not willing to walk the journey with them.
My prayer is that within each trial and outburst that we face with our children, I can still praise God and know that He designed each one so uniquely to fit perfectly in our family. 
Although I can't push my children to heal, I will do what I can to help them choose to heal. Every morning as I hand each child all of their vitamins, I pray desperately that God uses it to bless and heal their bodies.

And then I pray that He gives my children a lot of laughter.
Laughter is healing.

Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God,
and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.
- J.W. Tozer
Although our first Christmas together started out with hours of meltdowns and defiance... we still captured some smiles.
"The best way to show my gratitude to God is
to accept everything, even my problems, with joy."
- Mother Teresa
I just want to say "thank you" to all of you that have written me such encouraging, life giving words.  Even though its difficult to find time to reply to your messages, please know that it blesses me more than you will ever know.  May God bless you as you continue to embark on the journey He has for you. 


  1. You are loved. You are prayed for. You are not alone. You are a tender and strong warrior. You are Christ incarnate for your six little ones. So grateful you've continually said "YES" to Jesus.

  2. God is Faithful...I have to keep reminding myself of that daily...I love your honesty and will continue to pray for your family...
    Love from NC

  3. This is a perfect example of what I tell people about adoption. Don't go into it expecting a fairy tale, it is a challenge. You learn so much about God through adoption. It is so worth it, but it is work.

  4. I have been waiting for an update from your family. Once again, I love how honest you are in your updates. You bring the struggles right out there.
    I co wrote a song once for an orphan left in a Romanian orphanage.
    Dont ever give up hope! What you are doing is something wayy above and beyond what anybody else would do. It is so easy to write a check for an abandoned child some place in this world but go out there and give love to the ones that never experienced it, is a totally different thing! God has called you for something that not everybody is called for: To love unconditionally in your own home! Looking forward to your next update! And never give up love! Steffi

  5. Chris, I am always so touched and inspired by your transparent sharing! Praying that God would enable you to discern and respond with His perfect balance of toughness and tenderness in each difficult parenting situation you encounter, the right balance of guardedness and letting down your guard, that you wouldn’t miss “seeing the beauty hidden in the pain that your children carry,” that you and Sol might be able to laugh every day with your children and that the laughter would bring healing to both of your souls as well as theirs. I love your idea of thankfulness journals for them. You are living an incredibly courageous life. I have great respect for your unwavering commitment to continue to fight for your children. Thanks for sharing your joys and struggles with all of us.

  6. I so appreciate your honesty and authenticity. What courage God has given you to share these parts of your journey. Praying He shows up in extravagant ways as you pursue Him and pursue with love the children He has given you. May His grace give you the peace and strength you need for each moment of each day!
    Blessings. Katie T.