Adoption, Family Relationships, Love

Family: Lessons Learned as a Family

Yellowstone boys hiking 2

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

Last week’s Five Minute Friday word still has me thinking about family. It’s such a unique circle of relationships. And it’s lived out differently in each home.

As children, what we see in a family setting often defines what “family” should look like. Both of our boys love us, and are completely bonded with us.

Puzzling together

But one doesn’t often let us help him. He doesn’t want to be entangled by some facets that are intrinsic to being part of a family. He yearns to be self-sufficient, even as he craves spending time together, just the four of us.

Instilling our vision of family into our boys has been . . . challenging. As we try to model family looking like this: helping each other, putting each other first, loving each other through life’s hard, the lessons are hard taught and not often caught. I don’t know how much of the “hard” can be attributed to the adoption aspect of their identities, or just their sin natures (we all deal with this!).

Big foot little foot

Ideally, family is committing to love each other in our best, and at our ugliest. It’s that safe place where we know we’ll still be loved, no matter what. Sometimes, family members make sacrifices in order for one member to succeed. Relationships and hearts are interwoven, tightly knit together.

Peter moving up a rank


Edmund football

At times, being part of a family hurts. It can be inconvenient. As a mom, there’s a constant dying to self. Each day, we’re figuring out how to do life together, as the Takenaka clan.

How many times have I struggled with God’s definition of family?

How many times have I pushed away His love because I felt like I had to prove myself to Him, or to those around me?

How many times have I done things on my own?

God made me a woman who is good at “self-sufficient” . . . for a little while. It’s a gift, but it can also be a curse. That self-sufficiency tends to encourage me to live independently of God.

It tends to cause me to shut people out who want to help. Especially if they have disappointed me in some way. Yes, and I’m hanging my head, I’ve shut my boys out when they didn’t do something, and I did that thing myself. With the disastrous effect of making them feel “less than.”

Karate family pic

Though human families aren’t perfect, God is. Though I can, at best, love incompletely, He loves us perfectly, passionately, sacrificially. With complete abandon.

When I embrace His love . . .

. . . His training for me as His daughter . . .

. . . I grow in my understanding of what family looks like in His eyes.

He surrounds us with community so we can learn how to live in His family . . . making mistakes, forgiving, learning how to love well, even as He does.

Puzzle complete

As I walk out being God’s daughter, I’m hoping our boys are seeing the benefits and the sacrifices of living in the community of family (both our immediate family, and the family of people around us).

We’re going to make mistakes, but family forgives.

We’re going to hurt each others’ feelings, but we will also talk it through and love each other through those times.

Boys n me 7-4

We each have the opportunity to be loved by God and to learn how to love others.

Just like God does for us.

What about you? What defines your family? What lessons have you learned that you are living out with family (biological or community)?

12 thoughts on “Family: Lessons Learned as a Family”

  1. Hi there, Jeanne. I couldn’t write on the prompt last Friday although I sure wanted to. What a good idea to share it later! Your family looks lovely, I like the pictures. Yes, family is where they’ll love us no matter what, and that’s what I want to keep living out in front of my kids.


    1. Actually, Betsy, I had too much to write on Friday, and my mind kept mulling on the word. I couldn’t quite put into words what I was thinking, but this is my attempt. I’m so thankful I grew up in a family where I was loved even when I was ugly. We try to be that for our boys. And, Hubby and I, like you, want to keep living out family, and God’s love, in front of our boys. Thank you so much for stopping by!


  2. We’re in the midst of this… Talking in terms of a three-year-old, I’ll say my feelings have been hurt. And then Bea cries because she’s embarrassed and trying to figure out this whole family thing and says that her feelings have been hurt. And here’s where I fail… She asks me to apologize and I don’t want to! I’m the one who has been hurt! She needs to apologize to me! (Yikes – this is so embarrassing to write and admit…!) I’m learning that mistakes and teaching and figuring out family start with me. I can’t depend on a preschooler to set the tone and course. It’s hard and I’m learning that modeling apologies, while humbling, is the course and language I want for my kids. Thanks for making me think!


    1. Annie, one of mine did that too. It just seems to take them years of awareness to realize (and be humble enough) to acknowledge their wrong. 🙂 And I’ll join you in the “I don’t always want to be the grown-up club.” I’ve been there too.

      I loved what you said about how figuring out what family looks like—the tones we want to set with our family—does begin with us, the moms. Dads help, no question, but often we’re the ones with our littles most moments every day. I’ve done a lot of modeling apologizing and asking forgiveness too. We’re teaching them, and it is beautiful when they “get it” and begin doing it. 🙂


  3. Such a beautiful family. It’s such a process. We try to remember that we all make mistakes, but that will never change how much we love each other. We are all learning together.


    1. Lisa, it is such a process! I have a friend who says, “Motherhood: Perfection not required.” I’ve embraced this truth. We do make mistakes, and both we and our children have the opportunity to learn from them. Thanks so much for stopping by!


    1. We adopted two of our sons. They came to us at ages 5 and 8, and we were their fourth home. Family is a hard, hard topic for them. I had this dream of us being one big happy family. The older child could trust no one but himself and tried to stay outside of family. The younger one liked family. He fluttered at the edge, trying to connect with us and with his brother. They were children, each with the mind of a child, trying to navigate through a minefield of memories, emotions and opportunities. We could be a big family, but not happy. Or we could be a smaller but happier family. As adults, the older of the boys opted out of family entirely, with his younger brother still on the edge trying to hold hands with both.


      1. Shirlee, our visions of what family looks like are re-defined when children come to us through adoption. And when children live a history like yours must have? My heart aches for those boys, and for you and your husband. Parenthood is never an easy road to walk. It’s interesting the different things our children need. Knowing what I do about you, I’m certain you and your husband were the best parents for these boys. I’m glad the younger brother still tries to have relationship with your family.

        Our stories are different, but I believe some aspects have been similar. I so appreciate your transparency. Thank you for sharing your story here.


  4. We make a mistake when we think of the term “family” simply as a noun. I see it as a verb, an action that’s accompanied by words like share, contribute, sacrifice, love, support and even discipline. Family is an effort not a title and it comes at a price. Family embodies selflessness, yet it requires an authority figure, Family doesn’t just happen.
    It brings a smile to my face when I see people like yourself who work so diligently to establish and maintain the value of a Godly family.


    1. Gene, I love the idea of family being an action. All of those you described encompass “family.” And yes, it does come at a price. Your descriptions resonate with my heart for family. Thanks so much for your kind words.


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