He Gives and Takes Away

Homeschooling 1991

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.]

Lisa

This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

30 Comments

  1. Heather Snyder
    August 12, 2013

    Yes, yes, yes. When my three foster kids would not sit through a book I about cried. Thankful they are now book worms. However, there are so many other things we've had to embrace. My husband loved football in high school and sports through out his life. My 7 yr old foster son is more creative and sensitive. I love to dress my girls up and have fun. My 3 yr old foster daughter is independent and opinionated, and NOT girly. We've said no to so many fun things b/c of our 3 yr older foster son with Autism. We also now live in alarms and gates and constant fear that his Autism will take over reason and he will get hurt. It's a different world.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 13, 2013

      It is a different world, Heather, you are so right. We were talking about this last night and it occurred to us that in the vast range of special needs, the ones that create significant safety issues for our children (both the ones with the SN and the siblings) are very painful to accept. Gates, alarms, monitors – those are things that are hard to imagine living with until you simply do it.

      Reply
  2. Karen NumberTwo Hannaford
    August 12, 2013

    Sounds to me like you all thought you were getting kids who needed a home and a family, and would be so glad that they got one. What you actually got was special needs kids. Not that they necessarily have learning difficulties, but that so many of them have been so hurt! Special needs change your life. Your expectations have to change. Often these kids just cannot handle the stuff you consider to be normal or even fun. But you know, the real belief that pretty much everyone who comments here seems to hold, does not change. That is the belief that your kids matter and you only want what's best for them. It's just that what's best might look rather different to what you expected.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 12, 2013

      Absolutely, Karen – it looks different, and sometimes change is painful and God just has to knock me on the head for me to get it. The past few years it's been a process of letting go, surrendering, loosening my grip – and it's been painful. But I trust that God knows exactly what everyone in my family needs, and my job is to listen, trust, and obey.

      Reply
  3. debi
    August 12, 2013

    Tears. I needed this. Thank you. That's all I can say right now.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 12, 2013

      Hugs to you this morning, Debi.

      Reply
  4. Amy Leong
    August 12, 2013

    As we also have moved from our homeschooling ideal to a mix of charter schools, I have found the book Going Public very helpful. It is full of ways to help your family thrive and be a light in the school world.

    Reply
  5. luann
    August 12, 2013

    Thank you for sharing so honestly. As we finish up our homestudy and think about the future, it is helpful to read about others' experiences with adoption. The great thing about our educational system is that there are a variety of options, and it's nice to know we don't have to decide right now.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 12, 2013

      I'm glad you found it helpful, Luann.

      Reply
  6. erika
    August 12, 2013

    Yes, good timing Lisa. As the first day of school approaches I'm more and more nervous about what my son will be exposed to. He's going to public school – to quote myself, "I'd never send my kids to public school!" I'm trusting that God will meet him there and continue to give us wisdom about what the best school choice is for him.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 12, 2013

      God will meet him there, Erika, and your family's world will widen farther still. Take it a year (or a day) at a time. Blessings on your family.

      Reply
  7. Alyssa
    August 12, 2013

    One thing we were just talking about is that we haven't taken a yearly road trip since our son came to us. The older kids have always loved road trips and we always had so much fun, but our young one just can't handle it yet. A couple hours in the car is it for him. Hopefully as time goes on…

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 12, 2013

      Car trips changed for us. The idealist me that only allowed audio books and Adventures in Odyssey, had to surrender to the need for more distraction on long trips. We bought a small DVD player that allowed us to cover the distances without drama. Recently, though, we took a trip and found ourselves listening to Odysseys again.

      Reply
  8. Sade
    August 12, 2013

    I am in exactly the same spot with you Lisa! I have homeschooled my two bio children since kindergarten. We took in 5 children this year and for the first time, I am sending 3 children to public school in two days. To be honest, while I don't believe in the public school system, I am thankful that it is there to help our family during this time. I do have hopes that eventually, we will return to being a fully homeschooled family, but like you said, I have to be open to what God gives.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 12, 2013

      There are so many unexpected turns for all of us as we add children to our families. Many blessings on your school journey, Sade.

      Reply
  9. Katie
    August 12, 2013

    I remember reading about making the decision to send you girls to school and how hard that was for you. We are also a homeschool family and adopted two from Ethiopia almost four years ago. We are now struggling with needing to send our youngest to school as well. He is seven and it is the first time we have done this. I was a public school teacher before I was a mom, so I have no dislike for public school. I just love the environment that homeschooling has created in our family and my heart is grieving that he won't be a part of that right now. Thank you for your encouragement today. I sure would appreciate your prayers.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 12, 2013

      Katie, I will pray for you! Looking back to when we first made this decision, it seems like a lifetime ago in some ways. I can honestly say that we made the best decision for all of us.

      Reply
  10. KarenP
    August 12, 2013

    We were a homeschooling family for six years, then made the decision to send our boys to a small, all-boys school. My oldest will start high school this year at the public high school, so we are entering new territory once again. Having them in school definitely made things easier when we began fostering. They've done well at school and enjoy the social aspects of it, but I still miss having them at home.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 12, 2013

      Karen, I'm glad you found something that works for your family. Ladybug will be taking three classes at our local high school this fall and she can hardly wait.

      Reply
  11. Erin J
    August 12, 2013

    Since bringing our adopted kids home, a lot of things have changed, but it seems like each kid changes a family. Each little person bring his or her own flavor into the family and changes the overall dish entirely. I think RAD has been harder to wrap my head around than Abi's blindness or language learning or culture differences. I wanted to stop hurting for her, hurting with her. I wanted her to just be okay. But I think that God healing her actually means God changing my heart to accept her as she is. Needy and sometimes sad. Prickly sometimes or withdrawn. I've accepted that parenting her will bring those bad days of unlooked-for grief, but that is okay. It's brought me to a greater understanding of God's grace to an imperfect me, and how loving me often hurts the Father's heart, yet He loves me anyway. Sometimes I think that's what healing really is: loving through the pain and brokenness, and going on toward tomorrow together.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 13, 2013

      Erin, thank you for your beautiful words.

      Reply
  12. Shawnee Fleenor
    August 12, 2013

    beautifully said

    Reply
  13. Katie Szotkiewicz Patel
    August 12, 2013

    Wow, such great wisdom ( and challenging!!) This ones got me thinking for sure Lisa!

    Reply
  14. Scooping it up
    August 13, 2013

    there have been so many activities we've had to say "no" to because we know some of our kids can't handle it. and it's so hard when people think we are mean or don't let our kids experience things because we just can't so it. (Like camping, or an Easter egg hunt. Or deal with balloons). Sometimes even something as simple as sitting together to read scriptures as we family or have a talk as a family is impossible. My husband or I have to take one of the kids out. Dividing up instead of being together – something I see is also hard for you and been horribly necessary- is NOT what I ever wanted. But a few of the high needs kids need us to adapt. And it's so hard.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 13, 2013

      I hear you, friend. Sometimes we fractured in order to keep the entire thing from blowing up…it's the less damaging choice, especially for the siblings. Thankfully, God gives us the grace to adapt and change.

      Reply
  15. Heather
    August 13, 2013

    It's the loss of my personal "freedoms" that's been most difficult to me, especially recently. My 15 y.o. adopted son can not be trusted in the house alone. We don't have family locally so it limits our ability to do things. Getting a babysitter for someone his age severely limits our options. If he refuses to leave the house with us we're stuck. My job involves time on call where my husband is the only parent home so there isn't even the option to divide and conquer so that our younger children can attend their activities and events. I can't find another job that will meet our financial needs without even more hours. I just wasn't prepared to feel so stuck

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 13, 2013

      That is a true hardship, Heather. I pray that God will proved a means of rest for you.

      Reply
  16. Tina
    August 13, 2013

    I am in a similar position. My daughter is adopted from Ethiopia as well and will be starting school at a small Christian school on Monday. My 2 bio boys will still be a home with me. She just had this strong desire to go to school, and she is very social. I think it will be good for us all, but it's hard to let go.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 14, 2013

      Tina, I hope Monday is a happy, sweet day for all off you.

      Reply
  17. Cathy
    August 20, 2013

    We homeschooled our four bio children (they are all adults now and some have chosen to homeschool their children .
    Several years ago we had a God story happen in the middle our 5 years of serving in Asia. At the same time we were celebrating the arrival of grandchildren back in our home country. During that time in Asia, God put a special little 1 year old into our lives, through many miracles and divine provision we adopted her. She is now SEVEN! and is in grade 2 at a Chinese/English (public) bilingual school. My dilema is: I like the Chinese portion of "school" but I am not happy with alot of the content in the English program. Stories are read and things are discussed that drive me crazy! I have thought about having our daughter attend just the "Chinese" portion of school and then bring her home for English school. My husband feels that it may be too much for me. We are OLDer parents and since we are back in our home country we have alot of family around… and life is busy. Our daughter, also says, she LOVES school and all her friends and does not want to be all ALONE with mommy being homeschooled. It is difficult to know what to do… Help!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *