Serenity, Courage, Wisdom

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

And wisdom to know the difference.

Amen, amen, and amen.

I am in control of very few things, as much as I would like it to be otherwise.

Parenting is the perfect opportunity to learn this lesson.

From potty training to teaching our children to drive, we do our best, offering tips, providing tools and systems. We encourage and support.

But at the end of the day, our children alone are the ones who learn to keep their pants dry or pass their driver’s test.

What about kids from “hard places”?

We offer love, create an environment of structure and nurture that is as healing as possible.

We use the most therapeutic parenting tools we know, imperfectly, but we do our best.

Still, we cannot dictate our child’s response. [Interestingly, they cannot control ours either.]

Our children are not controlled by us – we do A and they respond with B. They are complex little people.

Many have histories we will never know and they may never consciously remember – although the memories are stored in their brains and bodies.

We cannot change our children’s histories. We grieve when we learn more, the details rushing through our minds as we lie awake at night.

I know I’m not the only one.

We wish we could go back and protect them from harm, but we weren’t there, we didn’t even know our children those years ago.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

What about our kids who didn’t come from “hard places;” the kids already in our families?

Some of our childrens’ lives became so chaotic with the addition of traumatized siblings, they became traumatized themselves.

We created “hard places” for the children already in our families.

This is something we wish we could change, but the harm can’t be undone and smoothed over.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

Grieve the loss of what your children’s life was like before. Acknowledge the sorrow you feel over the changes, and possibly even harm done to your children.

It’s certainly not what you intended when you added more children to your family – it’s not what Russ and I intended.

But it happened.

We can’t go back and change what’s been done, but we can go forward.

Courage to change the things I can.

What can we change?

Russ and I finally reached our lowest point and admitted things weren’t going to “get better.” The kids weren’t going to settle in and adjust.

We were in way over our heads.

We sought help for the children.

We started with an adoption medicine clinic and then with a therapist who specialized in adopted children.

Finding a good therapist takes courage, friends. Trusting someone with the very heart and mind of your child – that was huge for me.

We found support for ourselves.

We needed friends who understood what was happening in our family and loved us without judgment.

There were dear friends from our life before adoption who stood by us. We also found new friends in the adoption community who became lifelines for us.

We increased safety.

Some changes were simple while others were complex, but we intentionally set about making our home children safer.

We staggered bedtimes to avoid bullying behavior. We put baby monitors in rooms so we could hear conversations. We separated combinations of kids when possible.

We changed the way we educated our children in order to provide space and respite for them during the day. This took real courage for me.

We gave voice to our children and learned to listen.

We’ve continued making changes for the health of our family in the ten years since we adopted.

And wisdom to know the difference.

This is where we have to be discerning. Is it within my power to change the matter at hand?

Can I change this without sacrificing my relationship with my husband?

Can I change it without sacrificing the good of my other children?

What about my own health and well-being?

Can I be at peace with this issue/challenge/problem and simply wait to see what God will do?

Can I listen?

I seem to ask myself these questions regularly. I’m prone to striving and fretting, but it’s useless – worrying produces absolutely nothing good.

I ponder these questions, especially as we move toward another school year.

Are we making the right decisions for our kids? Do I have good supports in place?

Do I need courage to make changes or should I be at peace?

I also consider this prayer often in my marriage. 

I cannot change Russ nor can he change me.

We can influence one another, listen and love each other, but we can only change ourselves.

This means choosing serenity and closing my mouth when everything in me wants to bicker and complain.

It means the same for Russ – I’m not especially easy to live with and we don’t always see eye to eye.

The Serenity Prayer comes to mind and daily reminds me to set aside those things over which I have no control while also seeking wisdom about those which I do.

Do you have challenges requiring serenity? How about courage?

Do you struggle to discern the difference?

I hope this prayer and my thoughts are a blessing to you today. God be with you, friend.

In hope and courage for the journey.


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.


  1. Robin
    July 17, 2017

    So very thankful for your example, Lisa. ❤️

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 17, 2017

      So sweet to hear from you, Robin.

  2. Jennifer P
    July 18, 2017

    This is total honest truth. I thought I could “grieve” for them until they could handle the past and grieve for themselves. I lost my serenity. The best wisdom is to look forwards. Thank you.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 18, 2017

      Such unexpected grief. I’m glad this helps you, Jennifer.

  3. Shari
    July 18, 2017

    This prayer has meant so much to me over the past 9 years. I LOVE the longer version. “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace” continues to challenge me.

    God, give us serenity to accept the things that cannot change, Courage to change the things we can and the Wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
    Taking, as Jesus did,
    This sinful world as it is,
    Not as I would have it,
    Trusting that You will make all things right,
    If I surrender to Your will,
    So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
    And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 18, 2017

      Thank you, Shari. I originally included the entire prayer in the post and then decided the post had gotten too long. I’m so glad you posted it here!

  4. Marilyn
    July 18, 2017

    Thank you soo much for this. You are my main support online. I have very few real people to talk to either. After our first attempt to find a therapist was a real fail, I always describe it as ‘gathering up our courage to try again’. I just wish we hadn’t waited 2 yrs more. I am so happy this time around–we had also learned what kind of therapist we needed though.
    I get so caught up in the frustrations and stress of caring for our hard child that I’m not able to analyze what is happening to me or her and what needs to change. I will read this over again and again.
    I never heard the long version of the prayer but i really like it. (Need it)

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 19, 2017

      Marilyn, I’m honored to be your support, we all desperately need one another for this journey. I hope you have a community surrounding you, holding you up. I hear you about therapists – we’re starting again with someone new for one of our children and I’m equally hopeful and somewhat doubtful. Thank you for encouraging me with your words.

  5. Amy Brown
    July 19, 2017

    Thank you for this. It is all so true and will be a good post for me to come back to. I have asked myself many of these questions and I think the hardest part is the courage it takes to answer those questions honestly and make the hard changes that need to be made. This year our hard answer is that our daughter needs to go back to residential-care. She was in treatment for two years and was home for 10 months.
    I too am a striver and think if we try hard enough we can figure out a solution! In our situation, this is the answer we feel is best. It is hard and isolating and I am so thankful for the support we have.
    Thanks for sharing your heart and your life on this blog, I have been encouraged many times by your words. Parenting children from hard places can be very lonely and I know your blog encourages many.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 21, 2017

      Thank you for commenting and encouraging me too.

  6. I think I need this tatooed on my forehead 😉

    1. Lisa Qualls
      August 8, 2017

      Me too!


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