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Jill Martin is the mother of thirteen children. She is a pastor’s wife, writer and fitness instructor. She encourages women through her blog and community “Strong Hearts, Strong Women.”
She loves to help people grow. She has “no problem talking about the elephant in the room.” Her family has been very involved in her husband’s work with the church.
“Educating and equipping people is ingrained in who we are.”
Jill and her husband had two children before entering into adoption. They decided they would “(allow) God to be the chooser of our child.” They wanted to be open.
The Unexpected Triple Adoption
The couple ended up with twin newborns, one needing open-heart surgery. “They had wanted to separated the twins, at birth, and place one up for adoption and see if the other one made it. The nurse was upset, social workers were upset, no one was in agreement, we got pulled into the picture and someone said, ‘Oh, the Martins!’ and that was the beginning of it.”
In the bed next to the twins was another baby in the PICU that was born in the ER and before you knew it, there was three babies that was our first adoption. It was basically triplet newborns, one needing open-heart surgery.
We had a one year old and a two and a half year old at home. After that, everything seemed easy. It’s not like we said, “let’s go adopt three newborns that were all prenatally exposed to drugs and alcohol and one needing open-heart surgery and make our life crazy. It’s just how the Lord worked it out.”
God’s The Best Designer of Families
This journey helped them to feel confident that God is the best designer of families. They trusted in Him through the process, through the experiences. The family has learned a lot about putting others first and serving.
Many of her adopted children have disabilities. The biggest common denominator is that they had poor prenatal health. Many exposed to drugs and alcohol.
Many people are nervous about adopting children with prenatal exposure and with special needs. Some are afraid that they cannot handle that and try to avoid these types of adoptions.
The Martin’s have children in wheelchairs, on feeding tubes, on oxygen, kids with Down Syndrome, autism, and spina bifida. Jill admits that she has been nervous and afraid at times, but that she don’t let that stop her. She still does what God asks her to do.
For the family as a whole, “The kids have experienced things many other kids have not,” Jill finds. At the time of this interview, the family is preparing for their terminally ill son’s death.
The family “is intentionally walking that journey with your children as they watch their sibling get ready to be with Jesus. That is a new road for us, but we are honored. We feel privileged. We can be a part of that, and help our children to journey that in a good and honest way.”
Fitness and Stewardship
Jill feels that stewardship goes beyond tithing. All of the parts of your life are part of stewardship.
“It’s important for us to be the best vessel we can be, so we can be a better servant.”
Through her fitness coaching, “you might be doing a lot of pushups and squats, but I’m going to make you talk about the deep, dark stuff as well!” She says, “no matter how many push-ups you do, if you’re heart’s not right with the Lord, then you’re a hot mess and so we have to push ourselves to work on all the things.”
It’s important to be physically, emotionally and spiritually strong. It’s not good to be deep in the Word, but “not be able to get off the couch. How’s this good? It’s a package deal so that we can do all the things that God asks us to do.”
“I don’t want to NOT do things because I can’t, but because God said not to.” She compares taking care of your body to people who want to do mission work, but who are in a lot of debt. If you are a good steward of your money, you don’t have that obstacle in front of you. Just like taking care of your body.
“How could I take care of all these kiddos in wheelchairs if I wasn’t taking care of myself?”
“People always want to know ‘Do you have time to take a shower?’ I live by systems. I love systems because they keep my brain in gear.”
There’s a lot of routine. She uses routine systems with chores, laundry, dishes and meal-planning. “We are very intentional. We plan our menus, we plan for schooling, we plan our days, otherwise we would be like a circus around here.”
This makes it easier for the adults, but even better for the kids with developmental delays because they know what to expect. This gives comfort to kids who have come from chaotic backgrounds.
One thing that gives Jill comfort is that she has “let go of things.” This means she will use paper plates, and not let it get to her. She advises giving yourself permission to let go.
Create traditions, routines. These are simple, little things. That kind of structure lets kids know what to count on. It creates a sense of home.
How Do You Deal With The “Big Stuff?”
“Be willing to talk about the hard things. You have to make yourself do it. You have to bring up the conversation. Know that there’s no right answer. We all love answers and kids look to parents for answers, but it’s alright to say “I don’t have the right answer. There isn’t just one answer.”
Teaching your kids to talk about the hard things is important. You don’t have all the answers, yet still talk about these things anyway. “You don’t have to be the expert.”
The Martins are acutely aware of this now as the family transitions through the terminal illness of their son. It has provided opportunities for the family to ask questions and to learn more about themselves and God.
“God designs your journey different from my journey.”
Also important is to recognize different personality styles: “I’m an extrovert, but she may not be. I have to find that middle ground with her. Tell her it’s okay if you need time to think on it and let’s plan on a time tomorrow afternoon to talk about it.”
Help her see that it’s okay to have different personalities. It’s good to learn personalities before things get hard. You’re more competent to wrestle the hard things because you’re not second-guessing yourself. If we understand that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, then there is space for grace.
Teach your kids how to cope by helping them identify their favorite activities and encouraging them to do it when times get difficult. Help them process it and see what God is doing in their lives.
Effective Methods of Discipline
“I’m a chatty person, so the biggest thing for me has been to learn to say less. Sometimes they don’t need me to tell them what they did wrong, they just need to deal with it. We tell kids what they’ve done wrong too often.”
“How Many Times Did I Tell You Not To….”
Kids are not learning how to accept responsibility for their actions when we just point out what they did wrong. They are only reacting to what we told them they did wrong.
If we want our kids to take ownership of what they’ve done, I start with, ‘Try again.’ My other famous line is ‘What happened?’
Kids want to turn it back onto the parents, so it is important that you ask them what they did. Tell me what you did, and we’ll go from there. It calms the parent when the parent says less, and asks the kids to tell what they have done.
“We have a few kids with behavioral problems stemming from their lives from before they were adopted. Attachment disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, but at the end of the day it boils down to defiance.”
Don’t Take It Personally
“The hardest thing is not to take it personally. It can easy to feel like they are being spiteful, and they maybe are, but even if they are, it’s still about them. It’s a selfish thing. They are immature emotionally.“
“They are turning the table on you, but it’s not about you. So, I have to remind myself of that. You also have to be consistent. They complete their restitutions (if they’ve broken something), I inspect it, and if it doesn’t meet our standards I say ‘Try again’ and ‘What can you do differently?’”
“They are looking for the loophole. You have to be consistent and persistent. I need to be tougher than my kids’ toughness. I need to be stubborn back, but in a healthy way. I need to do it in a way that says, ‘No, I’m the authority here and you’re not. Try again.’ Is a boss going to let you away with these things?”
Jill explains to her kids, “I’m not doing you any favors by letting you off the hook all the time. Do what was asked of you, try again, follow directions, let me know when you’re done. I’m training you to be an adult.”
“This will also teach them how to respect what God asks them to do in their life. We don’t need them to be expert loophole finders, because that will teach them to find loopholes with God.”
What are you most excited about today?
Jill’s son is terminal and they are purposefully going through the journey. Her kids are asking the hard questions, but it is good to see them grapple with these things as it prepares their futures as adults.
“To see your children face these things is exciting because in the middle of the hard there’s also hope. You see where they are going with it.”
What is your biggest stumbling block in your relationship with God?
“When I was younger, feeling to need to know the answer all the time. There was a blessing to it because of the pursuit.”
“Who doesn’t love black and white things? As I get older, I know it’s just not that way. I stumbled in figuring out how to make more room for grace – how to accept there are many answers.“
“Obviously Jesus is the only exception, but in other areas there are some gray areas. There are David’s and Paul’s in the bible, they are very different, but both gifts in the Bible that God has made. Being different is okay. You are a gift to this world and the more I pursue understanding that I get over the temptation for the right answer all the time.”
What has been the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Pursue God first in all things. Don’t rely on someone else’s answers. There is a temptation to ask a hundred people, but go to God.”
“Find the answer from your relationship with God and the Bible. When you hear other people’s advice you can weigh it against what you’ve already learned.”
Who do you admire most, other than a biblical figure and why?
Jill most admires her husband. The two have opposite personalities and different tactics, but their core passions are shared.
“It’s important to remember that God made him that way just as much as God made me this way.” Don’t allow that (difference) to be an irritation; (then) that person becomes a gift to you. This also allows you to give room for grace.
What is your favorite book, besides the Bible, and why?
Brene Brown’s “Rising Strong”. “It’s about getting back up. It’s not about falling, because we all fall, it’s about getting back up and doing that in a way that’s really honest and intentional.”
What is your most effective relationship habit?
“Talking about hard stuff. Nothing goes under the rug here.”
“With all you’re getting, get wisdom. If you have time in the day, don’t waste it on Netflix. Listen to podcasts, sermons, read books, music. Things that will put life back into you. Use your time well. You’ll never regret reading things that build you up.”