On a recent visit I asked her to retell the versions of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Jack and the Beanstalk and the Three Little Pigs she told us as kids. She said she couldn’t because, just like her biscuit or buttermilk pancake recipes, she never wrote them down.
My mom redeemed every childhood story she told. To the best of my recollection my mom redeemed Goldilocks and the Three Bears by turning the three bears into a hospitable foster home for Goldilocks. A safe haven where she could rest, eat and relax, even laugh, while the bears worked to help her find her way home.
Jack and the beanstalk, is a little fuzzy for me. But I think she told it something along the lines of, Jack’s mom was broke and sent him off to sell their beloved cow Betsy in exchange for money to buy food. But Jack was a dreamer and when told about the magic beans he could exchange Betsy for, that would surely lead to a magical bean stalk that grew to heaven, where Jack could get the golden egg laid by that great goose in the sky, he couldn’t resist. That golden egg would guarantee Jack and his mom would be fed and well cared for. All I remember after that is that Jack’s mom was mad that he got duped, so he threw the beans out the window, fell asleep crying and woke up to an enormous beanstalk that ascended as far as the eye could see into heaven. Jack climbed the stalk, in a half dreaming state, and when he arrived at the top, he went looking for the golden egg. He found the egg and instead of stealing it, he told the goose his plight and the goose gladly gave him the egg. When the giant discovered Jack with the egg and began chasing him Jack scrambled down the stalk and I honestly don’t remember what my mom did with the story after that. But I bet she made Jack convert the giant to kindness and they became friends who frequently visited each other and shared the wealth the had with all their neighbors.
She did the same redemptive retelling of the Three Little Pigs. By the end of the tale, the wolf repented of his sins, entered a work program with the pigs and built new homes for everyone.
My mom doesn’t like stories with sad endings. I guess no one does. I recently heard a podcast with Karen Swallow Prior, Jane and Jesus, where the guest was a female scholar of Jewish and Yiddish literature. In the interview she talked about how in Jewish literature, there are no happy endings. Sometimes there are no endings at all…. The story just drops. No resolution. No resolve. No Messiah. No redeemer. No happily ever after. No heaven.
I’ve thought a lot about what that lady said. The idea that there’s someone who will redeem all the bad things and make them come untrue seems too good to be true. A tale that is meant for fairyland, not earth. Not 2022. Not all our wars and murders and lies and greed and abuse and neglect and genocide and hatred and fear. Maybe we think there is no happy ending, no rescuer to make things good and right because we think this is the ending.
To some, my mom’s version of childhood stories seem insulting to real life. Turning all the bad moves these classic characters made into graduates from etiquette school feels unreal…because it is. It isn’t the way of any life, not even animal or plant life.
So should we all be fatalists and stop looking to redeem stories or write stories with characters who do what’s good and right? No, I don’t want to live or write or read like that. But stories with bad endings, unresolved endings that don’t redeem the evil or suffering or pain of the story, also tell a part of the great true story we all draw our stories from.
Listening to The Habit podcast recently, the guest talked about how all the stories we write are ultimately drawn from creation. We don’t make up new stories. We just draw themes and truths from the Great Story that God wrote. Redemption, rescue, repentance, doing good works, learning to love, all spring from God’s story, and feed the river that flows to the oceans full of all our stories.
My mom has long hoped in her Redeemer. She has suffered the pain and evil that make one wonder if anything or anyone can make things right. I love the way she edited the childhood stories she told me to include truth from God’s deep well of redemption. It’s one of the things I love most about my mom. She believes in happily ever after.
As a Christian parent, my greatest desire is for my children to trust and follow Jesus. I want good things for them, but the world is full of frightening possibilities that threaten my kids’ faith and future.
Maybe like me, you find yourself overwhelmed with concern for your kids and you just don’t know where to start when it comes to prayer.
For centuries Christians have written prayers and used the prayers of others as a guide. Even the first disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, and Jesus gave them what we call The Lord’s Prayer.
Sometimes we need inspiration to know how to pray. That’s why I wrote this. I hope this post will inspire and help you talk to God about your kids and the anxieties you carry for them.
Scriptures to pray over your children
Prayer is a conversation with God. When we use our Bibles to pray, God talks first, we listen and respond. If we make a practice of talking to God about what we read in our Bibles, we’ll have plenty of help with what to pray for our kids.
Here are 8 Bible verses and prayers to use as a starting place.
Prayer for your children’s protection
I am guilty of wishing I could raise my kids in a bubble.
Drugs, alcohol, sexual perversions, greed, love of money, abusive people… the options for destruction surround my kids like a pack of wolves. How should I pray?
The famous bedtime prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,” may sound childish, but the truth is, the Lord is the one who keeps our kids’ souls. He is our hope for their protection.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- whom shall I dread? Though an army deploys against me, my heart will not be afraid; though a war breaks out against me, I will still be confident.”
Psalm 27:4 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayer for a child in crisis
When we get bad news about our child, or they experience trauma or loss, the overwhelming sense of helplessness is paralyzing. We want our kids to be strong and courageous, but when fear breathes down our necks we too need the anchoring truth of who God is to help us pray.
“God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its water roars and foams and the mountains quake with its turmoil.” -Psalm 46:1-3 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayer for children’s health
God has not promised our kids health. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.(John 16:33)” But Jesus also fulfilled the prophecy that says, “…he himself bore our sicknesses…” (Isaiah 53:4) Though our children may not be healed of mental or physical maladies, we can pray they will trust the Christ who bore their brokenness in his own body, and can raise them to new life.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will have life even if he dies. And he who lives and believes in me will never die. Martha, do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26
Pray like this:
Praying for a rebellious child or teenager
Next to the death of a child, watching a son or daughter rebel against your guidance, and especially against Christ, is heart-wrenching.
In Psalm 51, David writes a broken-hearted prayer of repentance after his sin was exposed. It was only after recognizing his own sin that he was able to teach others to turn to God. In our prayers for our children we must seek God’s wisdom to discern where our own confession of sin and repentance is needed to help our kids return to obedience.
“Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you.” -Psalm 51:12-13
Pray like this:
Prayer for your child’s future
God knit our children together, weaving their personality, talents and number of days like a master tapestry, before their first cry. We can pray with confidence in the goodness of the God who holds their future in his hands.
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it…For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:7,11
Pray like this:
Prayers for your child’s success
Because God’s thoughts are not like ours, the way we and our kids measure success may leave us with an insatiable thirst for more. We want our child’s ideas of success to grow out of God’s thoughts, not their own. Whatever our children set out to do, we want them to be motivated by a desire to glorify God.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayers for teenage relationships
Next to the “terrible twos,” the teenage years have the most notorious reputation for trouble.
Teens live in a tension between playful childhood and adult expectations. The fact that teenage relationships are between two immature and broken people means there will inevitably be trouble. We can’t keep our kids from this kind of suffering, but we can pray that in their relationships they will learn to love others well.
“This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you.” – John 15:12 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayers for my daughter or son to come home
The goal of parenting is to launch our children out into the world equipped to follow Jesus. We want this to be a deliberate and happy launch. We don’t want anger, shame, and lust for the world to drive our kids away from home. When a child leaves home in rebellion, the desire for them to come home is a desire for reconciled relationships. Like the Father in the prodigal son story, we must look for restoration. Praying is how we watch for the day when God brings our child back to a right relationship with us and him.
“So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. – Luke 15:20 CSB
Pray like this:
Never Stop Praying
As our kids grow through the various stages of life we must never stop praying for them. Using these 8 verses and prayers we can begin praying with confidence in what God says. The Holy Spirit will help us when we’re weak and don’t know what to pray.
“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” (1 Samuel 12:23)
And click here to get free printables of these 8 scriptures and prayers. And here for an editable word document of the same.
I’m entering a new phase of parenting. I don’t know what it’s called. But I recently saw a video on a Facebook group for women over 40 that I think may have named it for me. The subtitle of the video from a radio show called Jonsey & Amanda read, “Being the mother of a son is like someone breaking up with you really slowly.” That. That’s what this phase of parenting I’m in should be called: The Breakup Phase.
My sons are (almost) 17 and 15. The 17 year old has his own vehicle and license. The 15 year old is passionate about motor sports and can be found either working on his motocross bike or riding it somewhere in the nearby desert. Both of them have exceeded me in height. Both of them have made it clear they don’t want or need me to hold them, be their caregiver, or watch over them. The nurturer in me has been put on notice. And this is what I signed up for. Heck, this is what my tagline has been since they were two. For as far back as I can remember I’ve been reminding myself I’m raising men, not boys. I’m raising men, who will leave my house, and my side and take to the road with Jesus, I pray.
I was twenty-nine when Connor, my almost 17 year old, was born, and 31 when Ryland was born. I wasn’t supposed to be able to have kids, said my doctor. I didn’t ovulate. And my husband didn’t want to have kids at all. So when Connor and Ryland were born, despite the prognosis of my doctor and the wishes of my husband, I felt much like Hannah and prayed:
I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord.For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him.Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord. – 1 Samuel 1:26-27
I was so thankful for the kids God gave me, and I committed to him that I would not neglect to dedicate them to him. I’d spend my life pointing them to Jesus and when the time came, like Hannah, I would leave them to him.
Leaving your kids to the Lord sounds right, but actually doing it is painful.
Dedicating your kids to the Lord happens in prayer and practical acts of selflessness from the sleepless nights of infancy, through the struggle with the terrible twos and threes, through the years of homework help and self-image confusion and puberty-controlled emotions. And through all those phases of parenting there are actions we take as parents to very intentionally dedicate our kids to Jesus. We, as Paul Tripp said, shepherd our kids’ hearts through discipline and hugs, and self-sacrificing of our sleep, time and resources so they can sense the love of Christ in us, and follow him for themselves.
But then comes a time when putting your kids’ hand into the hand of Jesus means, letting go of their physical hands, of their choices, of their consequences. And this means just as intentionally as you pulled out that children’s Bible when they were three and sang Jesus Loves Me with them, you now intentionally practice at the mind and heart level the prayer and faith that actually hands them over to Jesus.
The thoughts of feeling unwanted and un-needed and the strong urge to grasp for some kind of hold on your kids that might satisfy that need you felt fill with joy when they used to crawl in your lap and put their tender hands on your face and tell you, “I wuv you momma,” cannot win at this stage of parenting. Just like the urge to ignore their need to hear about Jesus when they were three so you could watch Netflix could not dictate your actions then. And when I say you I mean me.
The whole point of raising those men I’m raising (I’m not done yet), is to point them to Jesus. To place their hand in his. To launch them out into the world leaning on him, not me. And it feels like a breakup. But it’s not. It’s a critical stage of leadership, where the leader becomes a leader maker. And it’s that same stage lived out in motherhood when the mother becomes a woman in the life of a man she bore and raised, lifting him up, coming alongside him in the church, as he shepherds the heart of someone else to Jesus.
David and Jonathan shared a deep friendship. But when the time came where they had to part and they knew all kinds of scary things would separate their friendship, the Bible says Jonathan “strengthened” David’s hand in God (1 Samuel 23:15-17). The depth of their friendship wasn’t evidenced by their unrelenting grasp on each other. Their true friendship was evidenced by their desire to see the others’ hand placed in God’s hand, strongly!
It hurts. I’m crying a lot. And I’m sure I’m not doing it all right. But I am praying to the same God who heard Hannah and cared for Samuel, and heard me and has drawn my two teen sons to himself.
Please Lord, I am the woman who prayed and asked you for these children. And you gave them to me. From childhood I have dedicated them to you. They are dedicated to you still. Help me to strengthen their hand in yours.
Abraham and Sarah used their servant Hagar in their unbelief to get for themselves the child God promised. But when Sarah finally gave birth to the son God had promised, they sent Hagar and her son Ismael away into the desert.
In Genesis 21:8-21, the story goes that Hagar and her son are sent to wander in the desert with, “some food and a skin of water.” Basically they were sent away to die or become slaves to someone else. It’s horrible. But it gets worse.
Hagar and Ishmael run out of their meager provisions. Hagar knows her son can’t survive without food or water. So she puts him under a bush and walks away because she can’t bear watching her son die (verse 16). In the distance, her son out of sight, she slumps to the ground and sobs. And there God meets her.
The Bible says God heard the boy’s cries. And God tells Hagar to get up and hold her son. And he promises he will provide for her son.
I think as parents, and maybe more often as moms, we see our kids in impossible situations, maybe situations we fear will destroy them, and our slow-to-believe hearts can’t bear it.
Many times over the past 16 years of parenting I have succumbed to the belief that my circumstances would surely take my boys down. And in my fear and dread, I backed away from them and even wished I could just disappear so I didn’t have to watch them be destroyed. And every single time, the Holy Spirit did a, “Pull yourself together girl!” with me.
When God met Hagar, he told her to get up and lift up her son and take him by the hand. And that’s what God has told me many times. Even this week.
Moms, dads, when the circumstances in our lives seem certain spiritual or physical death for our kids, don’t turn your head and cave into depression’s lies. Get up! Lift them up! Lift them up in prayer. Lift their literal chin if you can. Take them by the hand and lead them to Jesus.
My boys are the children statistically most unlikely to be believers in Christ. Their dad is not yet a believer in Christ. They have been drug through three separations that almost led to divorce every time. They go to a public school system where they don’t learn Christ. They’ve been hurt by their friends, tempted to drink alcohol, do drugs and live for their own pleasure. And I’m sure they will go through more trials and testings, failures and successes. But just when I feel like I can’t handle watching the pain or confusion or bad choices they are enduring, God is there saying, “Get up Sheila! Lift them up! Take their hand and walk with them through this.”
Don’t give up on God with your kids. Don’t withdraw. Press in. Cry out to God, take your kids by the hand and follow Jesus.
Honestly, I don’t want to send them. I want to hide them in a bubble of safety and happiness. But I have no such magic powers.
I do have the King of heaven’s attention though. He hears me. I know he does. And he promises to not abandon me or my kids. So, in this violent culture, on the day before I’ll send my two sons to high school, I have a burden for the King of heaven’s armies to hear my cries for my kids and my friends’ kids.
Yesterday a group of youth were in my backyard making the most fun they could out of the heat with sprinklers, a tarp, dish soap and a nine-square frame. As they were leaving I said, “I’ll be thinking of you all this week,” and I meant it. I remember being 14, 15, 16 and 17. Those years were the curb in the road that changed the direction of the rest of my life. Those were the years I was most confused. Those were the years I lost a friend to suicide and took a bunch of pills to try and sleep away the pain. Those were the years I tried to fit in by being different. Those were the years Jesus found me and named me and made me brave. The boys and girls who walked out my door yesterday will face all kinds of hard things in the years ahead. A mass shooting could be one of them. Lord, please keep them!
Moms and dads, you and I don’t have any magic powers to keep our kids from walking into a place where a mass shooter or any other evil might show up. We don’t even have the power to keep the evil of a demeaning lash at our kids from creeping out of our own hearts onto our tongues. We desperately need a hope bigger than the control we think we have or want to have in our kids’ lives. Join me today in committing to doing these three things. Not because they are part of the formula that’s sure to produce a safe, happy and godly child. But because the God who gave his son over to death to save us, calls us to take up our cross and follow him. Death will not win when we take the road that follows Jesus through death to resurrection.
Don’t hide the Jesus that died for your sin and the sin of your children from your kids!
I don’t know the circumstances around the writing of Psalm 78, but the writer calls the reader to remember all God has done for them despite their faithlessness. He reminds the reader that God has commanded his people not to hide the hope we have in God from the next generation.
Moms and dads, our kids are not going to hear the hope their souls long for in the world. They need us to tell them!
I think so many times we as parents fail to have frank conversations with our kids about Jesus because we are trying to create some ideal family devotion time. And for many of us, that ideal situation is never going to happen. I know in my home we don’t do family devotions. And sometimes I realize I haven’t mentioned Jesus or what he’s doing in my life, or a truth I’ve read in my Bible, to them for days! There’s something very spiritual-battle-ish about calling your kids to put down their screens, or stop for just a few minutes from whatever habits have taken over our lives, to look them in the eyes and say, “I want to talk to you about Jesus.” I know the first time I did this I got some mocking and eye-rolling and deep sighs. Push through it. Don’t let their faces keep you from telling them the truth. Don’t hide the gospel from your kids just because they make funny faces. They need to hear about their only hope- Jesus.
Listen to Them Tell You About Things That Seem Silly
My sons talk about their quads and the fishing lures they’re using and the kind of reeds they need for band and the kind of stretches they’re doing for baseball and the cool car they’re driving in a video game. None of those things grab my attention. I’m thinking about bills and plans for work and school and church and groceries and relationships and concerns for friends and family. But as I read somewhere once, if I want my kids to want to listen to me, I must be willing to listen to them. They need to know I care about them where they are. That doesn’t mean I have to throw responsibility to the wind and play video games with them all day long, but it does mean listening to what has them so enthused, they’re willing to tell you about it.
Listen to learn what motivates them. Listen to learn what they’re afraid of. Listen to learn how to pray for them.
Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”
If you want to draw the purposes God has for your child out, listen to them. Listen for what God is doing in them. Listen for evil thoughts they may be listening to. Thoughts like, “Nothing matters.” “No one cares.” “Nothing I do makes any difference.” The only way you’ll hear those things and sense those deep waters churning in their hearts is if you take the time to listen to the surface things that seem like no big deal.
Talk About the Hard Things
It drives my kids nuts, but when the thought crosses my mind I’ll randomly ask them, “How are things going with your friends? Are any of them doing drugs? Are you using drugs? What sins are you struggling with? How’s your relationship with God? Do any of your friends worry you? How are you feeling? What are you hoping for? What’s your goal?” I don’t pester them with one question after another. Actually I have. That doesn’t work. Don’t do that. But I don’t refrain from bringing these questions up just because my kids respond with disdain. Pray for wisdom, and ask questions.
You know what can’t grow in the light? Evil. My kids might hate it that I talk with them about sexuality, drugs, alcohol, parties, shootings, violence, sexual abuse, pride, sin and suicide, but I refuse to let the evil of those things do to them what they have done to so many in seclusion. If they face confusion about sexuality, drug use, violence and suicide in their life, I want them to face it armed with some wisdom and truth and the knowledge that none of that will scare me or Jesus away. I want them to know there is hope in Jesus, even when sin has caused so much damage. I want them to know when things seem hopeless, there is hope and if they can’t see it at the time, I’ll see it for them and stand guard until they pass through their shadows.
Parents we can’t control the circumstances our kids are going to face. But we can refuse to be passive in the face of evil. We can stand at the gates of hell with our kids and fight for them on our knees in prayer, and with the truth to their faces, and with open ears and fearless presence. Jesus can redeem anything. We must show our kids Jesus.
Yesterday at church my pastor taught through the story in Genesis where Jacob wrestles with “a man.” Toward the end of the sermon he referred to the passage in Genesis 32: 9-12 where Jacob prays.
And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children.But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude. – Genesis 32:9-12
I’m raising two men. My sons are now sixteen and fourteen and everyday I wake with a burden to see them bend their knee to Jesus. I’ve approached my desire for them to know Jesus from different strategies as a parent, hoping to plant the seeds that only God can make grow. I’ve sung to them, as infants and toddlers, songs and hymns dripping with the doctrine of salvation by faith through grace. I’ve taught them Bible verses and told them Bible stories. I’ve prayed and pleaded with God, pouring out my concerns and intercessions for them. I’ve taken them to church with me and have tried to use every daily life opportunity as a teachable moment or a chance to hear their heart and learn how to pray better for them. I’ve sought God’s wisdom and have asked other parents for their help in knowing what to do in various situations. I’ve read books and blogs and articles. And as the long days and short years have flown by I continue to do the above on repeat.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened but I remember a time when I was praying and struggling to say what was on my heart and I remembered Jochebed, Moses’ mom, who placed him in a water-proof basket and put in him in the river like Pharoah decreed, hoping he would live, and I cried, “God of Jochebed, please save my sons!” It was a powerful moment. I wasn’t conjuring up some proper Christian prayer, I was drawing on the accounts of those who trusted God and acknowledging that I was calling for the help of the same God they trusted in. It was a turnaround in my prayer life. Since then, I often call on the God of people in the Bibles who trusted God through various circumstances, as well as people in my life I’ve watched trust God when their faith was tested.
This has led to me teaching my sons to do the same. They both have expressed their doubts and questions when we’ve talked about Jesus or the Bible and their need for a savior. And in recent years I’ve found myself saying, “If you can’t believe because of what the Bible says, or what you hear at church, believe because you’ve seen me. Trust in the God of your mother. Look at my life. Look at my faith. And put your hope in the God who continually hears me and gives me hope and wisdom and a faithfulness to love others and turn from sin.”
It isn’t a strange practice, to call new or unsure believers to believe because of the witness of another person. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he said:
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,just as Itry to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.– 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 (emphasis mine).
When Paul was trying to stir up Timothy to courageous faith it’s not only Jesus he draws him to look to, but the faith of his mother and grandmother. Hebrews 12:1 points back to chapter 11, calling the reader to look at the long history of people before them whose faith helped them endure through suffering an trials.
I am raising my sons in a post-modern, post-Christian culture with an unbelieving husband, who I love. I want to point them to Jesus, but in recent years I realize God would have them look to me to help them trust the Jesus they cannot see. I’m calling them to follow me as I follow Christ. I’m calling them to look to a cloud of witnesses, including me, and to call on the God of their mother just like Jacob called on the God of his fathers.
It puts a holy fear in me to do this. Not a fear of not being good enough. But a fear of loosing sight of grace and ceasing to point them to Jesus. Asking my kids to trust the God of their mother means I am asking them to trust the God who called a coward like me to repentance and faith in Jesus and has provided for me, rescued me time and time again and is able to help me stand.
Tonight after a day of high school classes for my sons, and a day of work as a nurse in acute rehab I wanted to veg out, and so did they. I had homework (only one calss left for my BSN!), they had finished theirs. By the time I finished my required essay, I was ready to enjoy my glass of wine and do nothing but relax. My boys wanted to watch the rest of Black Panther and I was tempted to let them.
But in the shower these words came to mind:
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV
In a brief exchange of prayer, I argued with the Holy Spirit, Psalm 127 coming to mind, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord , the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalms 127:1,3). But even as the passage went through my head, I hear the words of Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
“I know you’re tired Sheila. But it’s the very fact that all your labor is in vain unless I build, unless I grant life (even your children’s), that you should labor. I am building the house. Your labor is not in vain.”
In a rare exchange of intimate prayer (most of my prayers are more like drowning Peter’s, “Help Lord!”) I responded, the words of the Psalmist bubbling up in my heart:
Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! Psalms 90:16-17
“Establish the work of my hands Lord! Establish the work of my hands to impress the gospel upon my children’s hearts! Establish the work of my hands to be a witness of the good news of Christ to my husband! Establish the work of my hands!”
I got out of the shower and pulled the Tim Keller book I was planning to return to the library without ever reading out of my bag, “Making Sense of God- An Invitation to the Skeptical.”
“Hey guys,” I called to the two young men of my womb laying on the couch watching Black Panther, “I want to read to you for awhile.”
“Oh mom, come on, really?! Read what? I want to watch this…” they challenged.
My tired body didn’t want to resist. I wanted to give up and go to bed. But the promises of God assured me, any effort I put into impressing the hope of Christ on my kids would not be in vain.
Tired mom, don’t give up on pressing into raising your children in the nurture and teaching of the gospel of Christ. Work! Your labor is not in vain. God is buildng his house. May he establish the work of our hands.
This is the second week of high school for my two fast-becoming-men sons. I dropped them off feeling that familiar threat, “They’re never going to believe you Sheila. They’re never going to love Jesus.” That voice of accusation, lies and hopelessness that likes to try and tempt me to give up. Whatever that means.
But today, I remembered Jochebed. I wrote about her in an essay Morning by Morning published yesterday. Reading my own words I thought about my voice as a writer. I sound like a preacher sometimes I think. It’s mostly cause I’m preaching to myself. It’s hard for me to step away from the pulpit and let you see my bleeding wounds. But I’m learning to find the assurance of the body of Christ there. In the vulnerable gatherings of people, online, but even more, in person.
I struggle to not feel hopeless for my kids. For my husband. For myself. Jochebed must have struggled to not give in to hopelessness. Surely the threat of Egypt on her beautiful newborn son made her wonder if her God really was the living God. Surely she was tempted to wonder if the stories she heard about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and the God they put their faith in were true. But ultimatley she didn’t give in to unbelief. She didn’t give up Moses to the river or to Pharoah’s daughter’s arms out of hopelessness. She gave him up in faith.
I gave my boys up in faith. Again. May the God who preserved Moses in the river and in Pharoah’s house preserve the two beautiful sons he entrusted to me!
You should head over to Morning by Morning and read the touching essays and stories there. You’ll find encouragement!
Here’s an excerpt of my piece on Jochebed:
Being a Christian mom in the current American culture is daunting. Like Mike Cosper describes in his book, Faith Among the Faithless: Learning From Esther How to Live in a World Gone Made, we find ourselves in an “in-between space” where as Christians, we like Esther have to choose between power and weakness, safety and vulnerability. There is much to be learned from Esther. But as a Christian mom, married to an unbeliever, I find a lesser known character in the Bible inspiring me to walk by faith at such a time as this.
My husband of almost twenty-five years and I do not share a worshipful response to Christ. The strain on our relationship as we pull our yoke two different directions has impacted every person in our family, especially our kids. Raising my sons with a desire for them to know Christ feels threatened daily in our home. And in our politically-correct, pluralistic, secular culture where you can believe whatever you want as long as you don’t believe the exclusive teaching that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, pointing my kids to Jesus is mocked.
And it’s not just the threat on my sons’ minds and hearts that concerns me. Their lives are literally at stake. The suicide rate in the U.S. for teen boys is astounding. The message they’re taught says they’re nothing but randomly formed animals, the result of a hapless passing of millennia. Yet they’re taught they should be moral (whatever that means to them) with no grounds for that morality. In a milieu of endless entertainment, they’re bored and hopeless. The edict of death seems to have been declared on our sons by unseen rulers in our present age.
It’s the first day of school around here. My 6’3″ firstborn walked out the door to start his sophomore year, hands in jean pockets, looking at his boots, one ear bud in, one draped over the other ear, baseball cap and t-shirt sporting his athletic cowboy look. My 5’10” freckle-faced, fair-skinned and just-as-sensitive-in-heart son walked out the door to face his first year in high school fretting about having to carry his clarinet and backpack, chosing to leave his water bottle behind because it made his backpack unbalanced. They are two totally different young men. And in my eyes, they look exactly like they did when their voices were high pitched and needy and one clung to my leg while the other chased a ball.
I don’t feel the same first day gitters about school that I used to. I used to feel that nervous, butterflies in your stomach feeling when they would go to their grade school because I remember how it felt. But now I feel a very real sense of danger and fear threatening. At the breakfast table this morning, my sons were talking about why there are school shooters. I didn’t bring it up. This was their morning convo over a breakfast shake and tamales (yes, that was breakfast). I wanted to hide them. I don’t want to talk about school shootings like it’s normal. I don’t want them to go out into that world of sexting and drug trafficking, experimenting, and curiosity pressed by the pressure of peers. I don’t want them to learn or believe that they’re just random, chance pieces of matter and that they don’t really matter. The message of the world is so hopeless. So deadly. But I do have hope.
My hope is in the One who saw Moses placed by faith in a boat of his parents’ making, and handed over by his mother to a kingdom who’s worship and wealth would surely allure a young man’s appetites. My hope for my two sons is that they are not mine. And they are not the world’s. They are set apart for Christ. God gave them to me, kowing I am his daughter. And I have committed them to Christ. My hope is that the One who hears my cries, sees their plight and is good and faithful.
I’m entrusting these two souls to you Jesus! Please hear my cries. I am the woman who stood praying for these two sons! I wanted to be a mother and you gave me Connor and Ryland. And I have dedicated them to you from their birth. I have not hidden the message of the gospel from them. They have seen my weakness and heard me cry to you for strength. They have heard your word and have been embraced by your people. Please show them your power and your faithfulness. Please let them see the beauty of God in the face of Christ. Please give them a sense today that they are set apart for you.
I saw a black bear cub today. I caught a brown Trout. I went to New Mexico and back into Arizona on a fire road through a spot on the map called Blue, Arizona. I saw the white Blue Cowbells in the meadows next to the stream that is the Blue river. I saw bull and doe Elk and several of their young. I walked the bed of the windy Blue and parked a chair along it’s banks to watch my boys roll up their pants and stick their bottoms in the air searching for crawdads. They say they caught a grand-daddy! I walked over a set of stairs put in place by citizen conservationist from the 1930’s to lead the way to a hidden area of petroglyphs along the rocky formations next to the Blue. And I ended the day watching my sons catch and release Apache Trout from a hidden lake tucked away in a hole surrounded by Pine, Spruce and Aspen trees.
Tonight’s our last night at Hannagan Meadow Lodge. We haven’t taken a family vacation in 6 years and this is only our second family vacation, so I don’t have a lot to compare it to. But it’s the best so far!
Every year I usually take the boys to Oregon and Redding, California to visit family. They usually stay for a month with my sister, but this year we broke tradition and the boys went to ZONA camp at Biola University for a week and we all (husband included) went on a much needed family vacation to the beautiful high country in Eastern Arizona. And I am so glad we did. I wrote 4 poems here. Took up watercolors (I won’t quit my day job) and wrote a list of observations at several places we visited. The time out here has been inspiring, refreshing, quiet and adventurous at the same time.
Hannagan Meadow Lodge, where we rented a cabin, is at 9000 feet elevation along the historic Coronado Trail (a.k.a. Devil’s Highway- it used to be labeled Hwy 666) in Arizona’s Blue Range Primitive Area. About a five minute car ride from Hannagan Meadow is hidden Aker Lake. I painted two of my water colors there and wrote two poems there. You drive down a forest service road into a valley were at the bottom is a natural, small lake, tucked all around with green grass, Pine, Spruce and Aspen trees. There’s a simple wooden sign at the lake instructing fishermen: Single barbed hook and artificial lures, catch and release only. Aker is full of Apache and Brown Trout as well Greylings. My boys took a fly fishing lesson the first day we were there from Wendy, a pro-angler and sweet, intelligent, strong, active woman. So glad she taught my boys. Now their hooked! They want to get their own fly fish gear.
There is so much more I could tell you about this trip. I told my husband I want to write a memoir about it. But I’ll leave you with a list of wildlife (I don’t know all their scientific names, so some of this list is just a description) I personally observed in the past 72 hours. As well as some pictures from our wildlife siting adventure in the Apache-Sitegraves Blue Range Primitive Area.
Black and white butterflies
Bright orange butterflies
Finches with yellow breast
Bull elk (4 of them)
Cow elk (I lost count… more than 20)
Swallows (and their babies in a nest on our cabin’s porch)