...my family took in 2 foster children that were removed from their mother's custody. The mother had cried out to my parents for help, wanting her children to be in the home of another church family. We are so glad we listened to the Lord and said "yes". Of course, the situation was a very trying one for all parties involved. I think the kids experienced something of a culture shock upon entering our home. There were many items of clothing and belongings that my parents would not allow them to bring into our house. They were apart of our family in every way: they were required to participate in our family bible studies and prayer, they were home schooled with us, and they were disciplined the same as us.
There were many conflicts, tears, a few angry outbursts, and a lots of asking forgiveness of one another and learning about ourselves in the process. I believe they lived with us for about 9 months. It seems like longer looking back on it. Their attitudes toward us almost completely changed in that time frame. They have since grown up, and we've seen them on occasion through the years. A week ago, we saw the older girl for the first time in about 2 years, and as always, she ran up to my parents smiling and hugging them. She introduced us to her fiance' and called us her "second family". It was really touching to see how much love she still had for my parents after so long. It made me appreciate them and their example so much.
You would think that after living under their roof and "their rules" she would have resented them. Even hated them. I believe she did go through those emotions at first. But, thinking about the way my parents handled everything and the way they raised me and my sister, I thought about Ephesians 6:4. It says, "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord"
I always think of my dad when I read this, because I think there is a key here that many parents miss. See, whenever my dad told me or my sister we "couldn't do something", there was always a REASON behind it, and not only did he tell us that, he explained it to us. He earned our respect by respecting us enough to give us principles based on reason, rather than Pharisaical restrictions. He always led by example, never expecting something of us that he didn't live by himself. And, he cultivated a love in our hearts for God's Word, by showing us how blessed and happy we would be by obeying it- not driving us away with RULES and RESTRICTIONS. He wasn't satisfied with just outward obedience, he knew he had to win our hearts for us to not "depart" from the "way we should go". (Proverbs 6:1)
Now, I want to be clear about something...when my sister and I were young, my parents ABSOLUTELY taught us to "obey without question". Immediate & cheerful obedience was always expected in our home and that was most definitely my mother's method of child training. But, once we got old enough to understand principles, my parents never left us just wondering... "well what was that all about?" or "why do they expect --- of me?"
Another thing I really appreciated about my dad, is that when the time came and we were old enough, he allowed us to make our own decisions. He taught us how to choose right, then he gave us the OPPORTUNITY to do just that. He knew we'd grow up some day, and he couldn't force us to do anything anymore. He could be estranged from us, or he could be our friend. And that's just what my mom and dad are to me and Nick- some of our BEST FRIENDS.
Mom, Dad...thanks. And I love ya!