To believe deeply that God is present and at work in human life is to understand that I am a beloved child of this Father and, hence, free to trust. That makes a profound difference in the way I relate to myself and other; it makes an enormous difference in the way I live.

~Brennan Manning

Even as we approach 10 years home with EK, we are STILL learning how to raise and parent our adopted children. When we began this journey, we had no idea how meeting her needs emotionally and physically would be dependent on our willingness to listen and learn from her. We would also come to realize parenting children born from my body and children from our heart would look very differently. It didn’t come naturally… naturally we tried to continue parenting the way we always had but children from trauma need a Different Parenting Style.

Sometimes the way we parent is rooted in the way we were raised. I grew up the oldest in a very structured, secure, and orderly home. My parents both shared the parenting and discipline of my siblings and me. We had rules and everyone tried to follow them in respect of our parents. Good behavior equalled good kids equalled happy parents. Scott’s family was a little more relaxed because his parents were older, raising a son with 3 much older siblings (sort of an only child). He had a lot more freedom than I did and was on his own right out of high school going to college and living in Atlanta.

The combination of the two parenting styles caused us to make adjustments as a couple in the way we wanted to parent. We certainly made our fair share of mistakes along the way but beauty came in the form of three amazing grown daughters, well adjusted and responsible living their lives healthy and wisely. They are truly my best friends now and want to have days where we focus on each other and our relationships. This did not just happen. It was an intentional decision Scott and I made to have a close family focusing on raising our girls in Christ.

We were always sure to be present for them and available to talk, watch, and just be with them in the place they were at any given moment. Because we both worked, our evenings and weekends were completely dedicated to family time. Even if an extracurricular activity called us away from home, we made it priority to eat dinner together and touch base as a family group.

Other than gymnastics and piano, most everything we did together revolved around church. We were there a lot and the people there helped us raise our girls in Jesus’ love. If there was a trip somewhere, one of us signed up to chaperone. We wanted to be along to be with our children but also to mentor their friends at the same time. It was a beautiful thing to really know their friends and right along with that came our sweetest friendships with their parents.

We were never big on sleepovers or playing at other people’s houses unless the parents were our very good friends and even then we sometimes tagged along just for safe keeping. Our girls had lots of friends made in our neighborhood and school but church was the foundation of the fortifying relationships.Our best friends were ones we went to church with and those friendships still live in hearts to this day. We always tried to be the house and parents their friends wanted to hang out with. We loved being in the know of all things happening in their friendships.

In the same way we wanted to be present in the activities and friendships, we didn’t micromanage our girls keeping them from mistakes and consequences. There were times when we disciplined according to the problem and sometimes the problem was solved through just a discussion of WHAT could have happened. We respected each of them to make good choices according to what God wanted them to do therefore pleasing us as well. Savannah set a high bar for her sisters and they followed right along in her footsteps.

Our girls are forever bringing up stories from their childhood telling THEIR side of the story and calling me out on how I disciplined them. I’m fine with it just because I see the result of all those parenting moments. But let me share a story…

It was back in the days of land lines and the privilege of having a phone in your room. One of the girls was given a phone for Christmas or her birthday, I can’t remember. Anyway, the rule was you could only talk when we knew you were talking and no later than 9pm at night. One night one of us picked up the phone to call someone after nine and we heard her talking on the line.

We didn’t have to storm up and yell at her for breaking the rules. She KNEW it herself. She hung up immediately and probably went to sleep worrying over it all night. The next morning in private we just asked her if she knew she had made a bad choice and she agreed completely, cried and asked forgiveness, then we held her to show there was nothing she could do to make us stop loving her.

The next thing we did was yank that phone out of the wall and a grounded session began. No questions, no discussions, just plain consequence. Even though there was remorse, consequences needed to be there so a reoccurrence was unlikely. Even so, we did all of this in love and with respect. And you know what? It never happened again and you know what else? They still tell this story and we laugh together. It’s these things that make us family AND friends!!!

Because I taught school at the time they were growing up, I was able to choose their teachers (my friends) and they became huge influencers on our girls. I didn’t have to worry time spent away from us meant they were spinning without support. Wherever the girls turned, they were surrounded by caring people.

The bottom line of our Parenting Style with the ‘Originals’, as they so cleverly named themselves, is our family was founded in the love of Jesus and a whole village who walked beside us sharing in their lives. God always forgave our mistakes and guided us on the path leading them to His destiny for their lives.

About ten years passed after Rosie was born, and in that time we had two babies go to live in heaven. It was during the birth/heaven day of our son Parker when Scott and I made a clear decision our family would not only Survive such tragedy but we would Cling to each other like never before. Our three girls grew up a lot during these days and it would prove to be a beautiful turning point in our family.

I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting another child and God began sowing adoption into our family. A combination of Savannah and Scott both coming home with adoption stories prompted us to began praying how this might look in our family. That very week God began placing families left and right with little Chinese girls everywhere we went. It was becoming pretty clear we were being called to adopt.

Parenting in Adoption looks very different than with children that are loved from the beginning of conception and it is often a learning process I plan to continue sharing in my next post.

We are His workmanship; created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10 NKJV

Until then, I would love to hear about beauty that has come through your parenting of biological children.