Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Some days are just plain dismal. You feel like you're on the open sea on a sailboat--- with no wind in sight. The sun is beating down on your sunburned head; you're thirsty, hungry, and desperately tired. But you can't sleep. You have to keep trying... keep praying. What's going on? You know where you're supposed to be going; in fact, you have a compass and timeline--- the whole itinerary spelled out, step by step. But your sails are just hanging there, doing nothing. Your shipmates are totally oblivious to your apparent struggle; they sing and frolic and throw the last tidbits of food over board to feed the fish. Nothing, nobody is cooperating; in fact, they seem to be coming against you with some extraordinary kind of negative force. You just sit there, feeling like you've made no progress. In fact, you feel like you've gone backwards a ways.
We've all been in that place of frustration and anxiety. Raising children challenges every person, whether you've had one child or raised fifteen. Some days you feel like nothing you do is productive, or listened to, or considered. Your kids don't share your excitement for learning or for trying to learn--- they ignore, challenge, pout, argue, disobey, lie, and cheat... with a smile. Sigh. Such is life with a bunch of rambunctious children! Some days it does seem like three steps forward, two steps back.
But even in the scenario of three steps forward, two steps back, I have to somehow remember that there is still a net progress of one step! The kids are still continuing to made steps forward... they just aren't at the pace or in the timing I would appreciate.
Expectations and comparisons. These is the clear problems here. We expect, or hope, that our adopted children will act the same way our biological children did. We expect, or hope, that our adopted children will learn at a certain pace, or show some sort of appreciation of what you do for them. This is simply not necessarily the case.
I realize there are people out there who believe that raising older adoptive children is the same as raising older biological children. It is not. I've done both... it is not. One is not better than the other; they are just different. With your biological children, you have such privileged information: you know their temperaments, you know their fears, you know their experiences, you know how they learn. With older adopted kids, you are not dealing with a "clean slate." You have to be a detective and piece together the history, the hurts, the injustices, the anxieties, the emotions of years that you do not have access to.
Because we can't flip back and review our child's history, sometimes it just shocks you at the seemingly trivial issues that make your child lose control. And to add to the challenge, the practices and disciplines you used as a parent with your first kids don't necessarily translate; you have to make a constant effort to re-educate and re-train your parenting and teaching brain. Sometimes what "works" is down right counter-intuitive. Parenting older adoptive kids takes considerable effort, perseverance, commitment, and prayer to endure.
Which takes me back to prayer. I honestly don't know how people raise children without praying continuously. I know I don't have all the answers, but I do know the One who knows everything! And, I know that I know that I know that anything the Lord gives me to do, He will give me the ability to do it. But... He does not promise that the task will be easy, enjoyable, smooth-sailing, or that it will even meet my definition of success.
One of the most encouraging quotes I've read lately comes from the book, "Back to Jerusalem," by Brother Yun, Peter Xu Yongze, and Enoch Wang:
...let us clarify from the beginning that we have no desire to sit down and make our own plans. We only want to hear the voice of God and not human opinions, for we know that when the Lord reveals his will to us and we obey, our mission will be a success regardless of the results. Success is obeying God. Failure is when we don't obey God (p 79).
So, although the day appears dismal, it truly is not. If I continue to take one day at a time, pray for wisdom, teach my kids, learn with my kids--- all with a humble reverence to our Lord-- He will make my path straight. My kids' lives are truly and totally in His hands. If I just continue to listen and obey Him, I can give Him my all. My children's success, or lack there of--- and how ever that success is defined-- ultimately rests with the Lord. They are His children.
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24, NIV)
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)