Friday, December 9, 2011


Sometimes Susan and I have to laugh and enjoy how God works with us at Hope at Home. We have often texted, or emailed or made a phone call and found that we have the same message or scripture to share, completely independent of each other. It's actually such fun for us-- knowing that we are hearing some of God's heart together. This week we both wrote articles for this blog on traditions, so you are getting a double whammy! It's especially funny to us this time because usually I am the one who loves to talk about the practical aspects of parenting, always intrigued with how the Truths we are learning look in "real life" at home, and Susan always says she's more of the big vision type, excited by the beauty and power of the Truth. Well, she felt quite impressed with herself this time because her post is full of practical ideas for creating Christmas traditions, and rightly so-- it's a wonderful article! And my approach is focused more on the overall benefits of traditions in your adoptive family. So here is part two on traditions:

Traditions and Unity

So, I am a big fan of traditions I have to say. In their place and for the right purpose traditions are a gift in any family. Those of us whose families are formed by adoption may find that the creation of traditions serve as an effective tool in building family unity. You may have found, like us, that adoption does not lend itself to unity, that family unity is something we parents must be intentional about. The very nature of adoption is to introduce someone from the outside into the life and heart of your family. In our post on Family Unity I gave the definition of unity: "oneness, especially of what is varied and diverse in its element or part." An adoptive family is nothing if not diverse! We have found that creating family traditions has significantly helped us to be ONE family in the midst of much diversity. There is something about family traditions that fosters a sense of unity, peace joy, fellowship....

Creating Traditions

Unlike routines, which are merely every day activities that require no special behavior and usually do not produce good feelings, traditions are "practices that create positive feelings and are repeated at regular intervals."  We think of traditions as being handed down from one generation to another, but you can create your own traditions to meet the needs of your adoptive family. I loved the ideas that Susan shared in her post on Christmas Traditions. For many of us these wonderful Christmas activities will be new, but traditions have to start somewhere! The first few Christmases after our adoptions we attended a Russian Christmas celebration, filled with Russian music, dance and food. It was an effort on our part to make our children feel valued and to give them something familiar and comforting. It ended up not becoming a tradition for us because it didn't seem to mean much to our children, but I do encourage you to think outside your family traditions to find activities that will be congruent with your family. I'll share one other Christmas idea with you. Because we have seven children and we were trying to avoid having 42 presents under the tree (representing only the ones each child would buy for his/her 6 siblings!) it has become a tradition with us that each child give all the money he or she would have spent on gifts for their siblings to buy a gift(s) for someone in need. Over the years we have given anonymously to families struggling at our church, to homeless children at a ministry in our city, and to unwed mothers. I know that sounds very impressive so I feel I must tell you that we still have plenty of presents under our tree, and most of them are store bought! But we have found that this tradition of giving to someone in need is a wonderful way for our family to live out who we are as worshipers of Jesus. 

The Gift of Heritage

Along with creating new traditions, I encourage you to embrace ones that you grew up with and value. It is a wonderful gift to your children, especially your adopted children, to be warmly gathered into the heritage of your family, the traditions you grew up with. It creates in them a sense of belonging and history. It is a sad reality for our precious adopted children, to one extent or another, to have missing or fragmented histories. When we maintain traditions it fills in the sometimes gaping emotional holes that their missing stories have left. Take the time to tell your stories of growing up, of the things you used to do each year, and then do it again with your children! Both Stephen and I grew up in a liturgical church and we continue to enjoy observing Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas) with our children. It has been an effective way for us to celebrate Jesus in December rather than celebrate presents and Santa Claus. Our best family devotionals have been during these nightly readings, lighting the candles in our advent wreath, and sharing the amazing story of redemption.   

We have been surprised over the years at how protective our children are over our traditions. Sometimes we go to make a change, not actually realizing that something like where we place our Christmas Tree has become a tradition, and find out we are practically flirting with the unpardonable sin! Just two years ago I tried to place the Christmas tree in a different corner of the room and I wish you could have heard the uproar. Fascinatingly, it is our adopted children who often feel the most passionate about our traditions. They have an amazing memory about whose turn it is to put the star on top of our tree each year! I have come to realize that by giving them the gift of traditions we are creating a sense of security and belonging that goes beyond the counting of its value.

Stephen and I just spent an evening with another adoptive family who came to Hope at Home 2011, talking and praying for each other. They were sharing that every Christmas Eve their family shares communion. I just loved that. Stephen and I decided that this year we will do the same-- looks like a new tradition may be born for us Templetons! 

I heard Bill Johnson once say that having a history gives a person the momentum for success. Let's include our adopted children into our family histories and into our spiritual histories, and watch how God uses it to launch them into their destiny in Him! 


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