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What Adopting My Daughter Taught Me Spiritually
This week is my daughter Amanda’s thirty-third birthday. We adopted her from Korea when she was only three months old.
Once we adopted her, things for her radically changed. She became a legal part of our family. We gave her a new name and her status was changed. She was no longer an alien from another country. As an American citizen she was afforded full rights and privileges of that position. She was no longer an orphan as she was now a daughter. She was no longer penniless but had resources at her disposal for all of her needs and many of her wants. She was no longer alone; she was part of a family. She was no longer unloved or unwanted, but was dearly loved and deeply wanted.
Amanda experiences her identity in line with these realities. When she was little she felt free to snuggle in my bed when frightened by a nightmare. When she was a teenager, she didn’t think twice about running in my bathroom to use my hair gel, cosmetics or to borrow some jewelry. She knew she was adopted, but fully trusted that she is our daughter and is emotionally bonded to that truth.
But what if Amanda knew intellectually she was adopted but emotionally felt unsure of our commitment to her? Because of her lack of trust, she might have decided to sleep on the floor instead of in her nice big bed. She could have been reluctant to eat our food or use our things because she feared that if she displeased us we would send her back to Korea.
What if Amanda thought that we loved our biological son Ryan, more than we loved her? If Amanda wasn’t emotionally secure in her identity as our daughter, or didn’t trust that we meant our covenant of adoption with her, then her internal feelings would not be at peace with the legal information that she had about her adoption. She would experience her life (or feel) as if she were still an orphan, even though factually she was a Vernick.
For many of us, we fail to experience a change in our feelings about ourselves when we come to Christ for salvation because we don’t really believe God when he tells us we are his adopted children and that we are deeply loved and valued. (Read Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:5; Romans 8:14-17). We have head knowledge of those truths but lack heart trust.
When we suffer with this kind of head/heart split, we feel a great deal of emotional pain. We long to feel differently, to experience our adoption as children of God. We yearn to feel special, loved and valued. If only we could really believe that God loves us, then maybe we could feel happy.
The writer of Hebrews speaks of this head/heart split when he tells the Hebrew believers that they didn’t experience God’s peace and rest because they didn’t really believe his promises (Hebrews 4:3).
God knows our pain and turmoil and he offers to heal us, however, our approach to healing our identity issues is crucial. We don’t change these damaging feelings about ourselves by working on feeling better about ourselves.
We can only change our feelings when we deepen our trust and belief in God. Then the truth of our identity as a child of God is not mere information, it becomes a heart-felt reality. We feel secure and loved because we trust and believe God.
Here is my interview with W. My question are in bold, her answers are in regular text.
How did you become aware that your marriage had become destructive?
Last week in his post, my husband mentioned his “entitlement” attitude he brought into our marriage. He defined this as the belief that he was entitled to have me do and say the things necessary to make him happy. My problem in this dynamic was that I believed he was right and that this was my role and duty as a good Christian wife, no matter how I felt.
I had originally been attracted to my husband’s “bigger than life” personality to help overcome my insecurities and sense of powerlessness that I brought into the marriage. I saw my husband as so vibrant, Godly, and respected. He seemed to fill every place in me where I felt lacking. I wanted him to be my rescuer. (Can you see the train wreck coming?!)
My undeveloped lack of self and lack of voice (lack of CORE) ultimately created an emotional over-dependence on him, and did not serve our relationship well. Instead of being aware, speaking up, and bringing balance, I dismissed my concerns, avoided conflict, just tried harder, and kept the peace at any price. I was dishonest about who I was and how I really felt. This dynamic progressed and what I thought was submission to him in love, was really accommodating him out of fear.
In retrospect, I had developed a perpetual focus on my husband-whether he was physically present or not- thinking that somehow I could do something to control what he would say or how he would act.
This preoccupation kept me in a stuck place. While I was focused on him, I was not taking responsibility for myself and my stuff. I felt very alone. Our regular conflict and lack of resolution, even after much joint marriage counseling and several marriage intensives, had left us feeling hopeless.
How did it impact you-physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally?
Living in fear took a toll physically on my adrenal system, creating exhaustion. When we were experiencing tension, because I’m a conflict avoider, I would experience disengagement and I would sense my brain literally “freeze” up. At that point I would forget much of what had been said or done.
I would feel exhausted and just want to withdraw and go to bed. Without being aware of it, spiritually, I allowed the voice of my husband to become the voice of God. My husband’s disappointment and disapproval became God’s and therefore had great power over me. The message of this idol in my head was, “You are not enough,” and “You just don’t get it, do you!”
What steps did you take to communicate that to your spouse? Did he hear you?
Neither one of us could hear the other at the time we separated. When we began the painful process of change, it created a lot more conflict. Our separation was necessary so we could get our eyes off of one another and onto ourselves.
When you separated what work did you do?
At first I needed rest. I took advantage of the stage of life I was in, my kids were married and moved away, I was retired and as I began to refresh. I experienced new found strength and an insatiable zeal to figure out our dynamic. What felt particularly healthy – being the lifelong caretaker I had been – was doing it for my own benefit. This was the beginning of new history for me.
I was able to ask, “What did I need?” And I had the space to listen and pursue the answer. I read voraciously, made copious notes, and attended counseling sessions, intensives, and workshops. I participated in a nutritional cleanse that helped me focus on my spiritual cleanse-things that needed to die, in order to be resurrected to something more beneficial.
I got involved in 2 separate women’s groups and began meeting regularly with 2 individual women for processing, prayer, encouragement and growth. In these safe places I took a chance, broke my silence and exposed who I really was …and they embraced me and we grew together. This created an emotional intimacy I had never experienced before.
When did you know it was time to reconcile?
It’s interesting that it took about 9 months time to birth our new relationship. Basically, we reconciled when we came to a point where we had some agreement on what our underlying marriage issues were and began seeking and asking forgiveness.
Read the rest of the interview here
What Adopting My Daughter Taught Me Spiritually
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Lost & Found by Gayle Roper
LESLIE ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS
Staying Well – Part 2
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Lost & Found
Dinah Hyland comes from the perfect family. She has always looked forward to the day she has her own home. Her distress over her lost dream runs deep when she is medically unable to have children.
Connor Marshall’s family was less than stellar. He plans to remain a bachelor and teach in China only to lose his dream when he becomes guardian to his late sister’s four small children.
Both struggle with God as it seems He has taken what matters most to them.
When Connor’s new family attends Hobby Horse House, Dinah’s day care, tension between the two grows as she observes how inept he is in caring for the kids and he sees how good she is.
While they work to find harmony—and more—they must save the children from a kidnapper and find peace with their disappointment in God.
“I loved the sparks that flew between Dinah and Connor. They certainly had chemistry and some of my favorite stories are those that show strong family bonds, which LOST & FOUND does. I thought it was full of conflict and action, and the complex issue of infertility was handled realistically. If you're a Gayle Roper fan, you should enjoy this book.”
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Winners of the Double Crossed by DiAnn Mills are Nancy S. and Karen T.
Sept. 22-26, 2015
AACC World Conference
Oct 9-10th, 2015
Providence Presbyterian Church
Conference For Abused Women
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HERE'S WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT LESLIE'S COACHING.
“Leslie never told me what to do. She simply reiterated the truth over and over until it finally cut through all the confusion and lies and lit up the way so I could see clearly again. So I could grow up and make my own decisions in light of reality. Several areas in my life were in desperate need of an overhaul just a year ago, but one year later, every single area has seen a marked improvement even though my circumstances are, for the most part, unchanged.
During my year coaching with Leslie I went from being a distraught, weak, panicked, stressed child to being more confident in making decisions and taking responsibility for what I could fix in my own life. My investment of time and money with Leslie will be paying dividends for the rest of my life because she gave me the tools I need to continue moving forward on my own in a healthy direction. I'm grateful to God for guiding me to her at just the right time, and I highly recommend her coaching services for anyone ready to take some major steps toward growing up and getting strong.”
– A woman in a destructive marriage
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