It was a Tuesday morning in October 2006. Breakfast was winding down and the children gathered their books to begin the school day. My older boys were off to their room to find enough quiet to concentrate on Geometry. Upstairs the girls gathered around the dining room table to begin their work while I started the laundry. Like each school morning since 1991, we studied together as a family, something that we had dedicated ourselves to since Hannah was a curious four year-old.
Fast forward four years to a Tuesday morning in October 2010. My two daughters, neatly dressed in plaid skirts and white blouses, quickly eat breakfast and grab their lunchboxes. With backpacks slung over their shoulders, they run to give me a hug and kiss as they head out the door to Russ’ car. The other children call goodbye as they settle in with their school books. Russ drives the girls to school while I grab my coffee and shift my thoughts to the day at home. Another school day has begun.
Over six years ago we brought home the first of our four adopted children. Russ and I knew our lives would change forever and we were excited to see what God had in store for our family. We imagined our new children would quickly embrace the life that we had so intentionally created and nurtured over 23 years of marriage.
Each family’s culture is different, but as you spend time with a family, you begin to see what they hold to be important. I’m sure there is a sociological definition of “family culture,” but for me, it is the unique way that a family lives in order to reflect what they value. It is the fabric of the way we live as individual families.
We know families who highly value athletics. Other families value the arts and music. One family we know loves living close to nature, spending much of their time gardening, raising animals and growing beautiful flowers.
We had a family culture we cherished. We valued homeschooling, academic excellence, musical talent, and lots of family togetherness. We spent hours reading aloud in the evenings, exploring new academic subjects, learning along with other homeschoolers, and generally enjoying the flexibility homeschooling provided for our family.
The Lord gives and He takes away.
As we embraced God’s calling on our lives to adopt older children, we slowly began to see that our family culture could not remain the same. To be honest, we resisted it for a long time. We wanted our new children to fit themselves into the life we had created.
In our struggles to help our children find healing we realized we had to loosen our grip on some of what we held dear. It was more painful than I can express, but I could not deny that our new daughters did not thrive with homeschooling. In fact, it was not a positive experience for any of us. We struggled and floundered, and finally came to the conclusion that their needs had to take precedence over our ideals. We had to lay down homeschooling and let other wonderful, loving adults teach our daughters. The Lord takes away, but we also know that He gives.
Our children have expanded our world in ways we could not have imagined. They have brought us an appreciation for other cultures, traditions, and languages. They’ve taught us about black hair care and the beauty to be found in the shades of brown skin. They’ve even given us extended family in Ethiopia and Italy.
Because of our children, our eyes have been opened to injustice and the suffering of vulnerable children throughout the world. We have been given the ability to communicate with people we would never have known — strangers often approach me to ask about our family and we are able tell them what God has done. They have given us a heart for those who live with HIV, for those who suffer and are alone, and for the fatherless children of the world.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised. — Job 1:21b
Questions: What do you hold dear that no longer fits with the life you have been called to as an adoptive parent? What might you need to loosen your grip on in order to love and care for your child in a way that brings about healing and wholeness? And in the process, what treasures and blessings is God bringing to you through your adopted child?
[An earlier version of this article was published on the Empowered to Connect website. Take a look at the wealth of resources there.]