Building A Treasury of Ways to Connect

We recently took a trip to Aiken, South Carolina, where the food was rich and the scenery was grande. We had a great time visiting Grammy and Hawpa. The kids threw around piles of leaves (we don’t have many fall leaves in San Diego), climbed trees, and were awestruck by all the critters. I teased with my husband that my interest in critters is about a 2 out of 10. The kids did great on the plane ride, even though it was the longest trip we’ve ever taken with them. We saw the historic homes of Charleston, the riverfront of Savannah, and even squeezed in a date night at the renowned Wilcox Hotel & Restaurant in Aiken. Visiting family was the best part though. The kids bonded with their cousins as if no time had passed at all.

 

[Things Dad let’s the kids do when Mom isn’t around…]

 

One of the highlights was my husband taking our oldest daughter out to breakfast. We try to be intentional about taking the kids out on one-on-one dates. Our oldest is starting middle school in the fall, and her personality can be hard to crack. She’s quiet, an avid reader of fantasy, and she needs alone time to recharge (like her momma). There wasn’t any notable conversations during the breakfast date, but she thanked her dad about seven times for taking her out. She might not be a young woman of many words, but she made sure to reiterate her appreciation.

We’ve noticed the older our kids get, the more they need to be reminded of their individuality. It becomes important for them not to always be lumped in with their siblings but to have their own unique relationship with mom and dad. We’ve found this intentional one-on-one time fills their cups in a special way. The conversations might not be groundbreaking every time, and their choice of activity might always be our favorite — but this time together cannot be underestimated. The individual time together is a reminder we are on the same team. It’s a reminder that we value them and care about their unique heart, personality and interests. We’ve also noticed our one-on-one time with them grows their level of respect for us. They listen better when our interactions with them are not solely based on us being an authority figure in their life.

2016 was an interesting year. On one hand, it was one of the best years yet for our family. On the other hand, there was an underlying sting as we lost many friends. Our kids asked questions and cried, and we asked questions and cried right along with them. While we were in South Carolina we kept saying, “As long as we have Jesus and each other, I think we could be happy anywhere.” 2016 provided the reminder that people will walk in and out of our lives, but Jesus will remain. Deuteronomy 31:8 says “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” We wish we could shelter our children from loss, but we can’t. We live in a transient city; people move, families get deployed, people change sports or churches or schools. Sometimes we will stay in touch and other times we won’t.  We can’t shelter them, but we can try to cultivate an unshakable connection with them and God, giving them a firm foundation to stand on during times of transition, uncertainty or hurt.

In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown says “With children, actions speak louder than words. When we stop requesting invitations into their lives by asking about their day, asking them to tell us about their favorite songs, wondering how their friends are doing, then children feel pain and fear (and not relief, despite how our teenagers may act). Because they can’t articulate how they feel about our disengagement when we stop making an effort with them, they show us by acting out thinking, This will get their attention.”

 

 

When I first became a parent, I wanted an arsenal of discipline strategies because I assumed that’s what I needed. Now that I’m in the thick of parenting, I find myself building a treasury of ways to connect. It has become a rhythm over the years, my arsenal dwindling and my treasury brimming. I believe in discipline, but the more time I spend training, shepherding and connecting with my children, the less discipline they seem need (thank you Parenting is a Ministry). One day, I will stand before God to give an account for how I did raising His children. I wonder what that conversation will look like — what questions will God ask me? I picture myself standing in front of Him, words don’t come out of His mouth or mine, but we are communicating perfectly. I feel His presence like an echo, and although His words are not verbal, they fill my stomach and soul. I know what He’s asking:  “Did you reflect my heart?”

 

 

Adoption Update: We Wait

It was June of last year when we pushed send on a preliminary application for adoption. My husband was adopted as a baby and I was adopted as a teenager. Adoption has always been a part of our lives, our story and our future dreams. For us, it wasn’t a matter of if we would adopt, it was a matter of when. In June, we decided to take tiny, exploratory steps. We weren’t expecting to feel more peace with every tiny step.

The tiny steps led to bigger steps within a long process, but our agency did a great job preparing us for the wait and the workload. Being “paper pregnant” has been much different than a physical pregnancy. With my other three children, I ate and they grew, and as 40 weeks approached, they came out. The paper pregnancy has been an active process. The steps of the process haven’t been as glamorous to document (belly pics were fun) but it’s still just as exciting. We’ve been through psych evaluations, background checks, mounds of paperwork, classes and certifications (pool safety certified even though we don’t have a pool!), book reports, home inspections, interviews and more. Every hurdle we jump through solidifies our eager desire and growing love for this child. We’ve teased about the arduous process, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. The process, as extensive as it is, will make prospective parents say either “this isn’t worth it” or “I would jump through a thousand more hoops for this child.”

We’ve now sent our dossier to the country from which we’ve chosen to adopt. Upon approval we enter the referral process, which means a life changing match could happen in a month, next year or two years. We wait. Many have asked if we are anxious or impatient; we aren’t. We feel at peace.

Although we are excited for that life-changing day when we get to see our child’s face and pray for them by name, we are enjoying the journey with the three little ones already under our roof. Christmas – Advent – reminds us that waiting doesn’t have to be a strain, waiting can be a joy. The kids counted down the days until they could open presents and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus (with pumpkin pie, of course). They bounced around the house like wound up toys, singing songs about our savior and using ornaments as action figures.

The Christmas Eve service at Canvas Church was beautiful. During the first worship song, I got teary-eyed looking around the room at the village that will help raise my children. One young man sat in the front row, my son looks up to him immensely. A young girl was helping lead worship, my youngest daughter leaned over and said, “I want to be her!” Their little eyes gaze at role models who lift their hands to praise our King. Our friends and family mean more to us than they will ever know. To us, they remind us we aren’t doing it alone, the waiting and the raising.

Advent may be over this year, but the waiting for the Millers is not over. We wait for the piece of mail that will unavoidably bring us to tears. We wait for the day we book the most anticipated flight we’ll ever take. We wait for the day we board the plane and take a frivolous amount of pictures. We wait for the stepping stones that lead us to the arrival of our special person. We wait, but we don’t wait alone.

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” Matthew 1:23

Encouragement if the Holidays Feel Lonely

untitled-design-5I remember one Christmas in college, I sat alone in my dorm room, eating chocolate chip cookies. They were terrible cookies, I learned the hard way that margarine doesn’t cut it. I had a couple houses to visit that year, and was grateful for the invitations. But that day, sitting in my cold dorm room eating hard cookies, was a time in life when the holidays didn’t feel jolly and bright.

Ever since my (biological) mom had passed, there was a sense of dread around the holidays. For one, it would remind me of how much she loved Christmas and how it wasn’t the same without her. Secondly, it would remind me that I felt like a bit of a nomad since her death. I had invitations for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I was truly grateful for them. But I didn’t feel like I fully belonged at any of those places. Primarily, because the dream in my heart was for a family of my own. I imaged having a husband to sip hot chocolate with by the fire. I’d imagine that we’d stay up late, making sure the kids were sound asleep before we wrapped presents together and put them under the tree. The picture-perfect image I had in my head was a far cry from eating hard cookies alone in a cold dorm room.

I wanted to be jolly around the holidays. I wanted it to be the happiest time of year for me, like it was for many others. But there were many years for me when the holidays felt lonely and in limbo.

This year, I extended an invitation to someone to join us for Thanksgiving. She expressed gratitude but I sensed in her a twinge of the way I used to feel. It feels a little bit like you are a bird visiting someone else’s nest. You know the nest that belongs to you isn’t finished yet – so you’ll need to flit around a little longer until God say’s yours is ready.

I felt compelled to write this to extend a hand of comfort to those who might feel unsettled during the holidays. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, the brokeness of a family, or the dream of a future family you’re waiting for – I want to encourage you that if God can weave a nest for me, He can for you too.

Yes, this year I get to to stay up late sipping hot chocolate and wrapping presents for the kids with my awesome husband of 12 years. Year after year, it never gets old. The sadness has faded and the holidays do feel merry and bright. I get to pass on to my kids things that I wasn’t given (and I’m not talking about presents under the tree). It’s fulfilling, it’s peaceful, and I’m bursting with thanks. But peeking in through the window of a life like mine around the holidays doesn’t paint the full picture. What you see now, is not what it always ways, this is part of the reason I burst with thanks.

After I became a Christ-follower, I understood the true meaning of Christmas and that helped. But I also discovered a God who is a God of hope and a verse that I clung to when I felt the holiday restlessness:

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:5-6

If this holiday season doesn’t match up with what you hope for, I understand. I’ve been there. Holding steadfast to verses like this one helped serve as a reminder to me that my Heavenly Father was working behind the scenes. He is a loving Father to the Fatherless, defender of widows, the one who sees the lonely and sets them into a family. He knows every desire of your heart before you even mutter a word in prayer to Him. He’s faithful to fulfill His promises, both for this life and the life to come.

If I could go back and speak words of wisdom to the lonely girl in the dorm room, I’d tell her this: “Don’t wish for a fast-forward button. Take this time to observe, grow, and learn. Learn how to have peace in God, things won’t always go your way and you’ll need it. Grow in gratitude and contentment, your kids will need to see you model it. Find a Godly couple you admire and glean from them, ask for the hard feedback that will help you grow. Don’t get offended by their response, see it as a tool God uses to help you become the wife and mother you aspire to be. You may feel like the little bird this year, flitting from nest to nest for the holidays – tuck Psalm 68:5-6 in your heart, and hold it tightly and prayerfully. God’s still working on your nest, don’t stop praying for it. He’s putting all the pieces together, preparing a place for you.”

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