How to Pray for Your Grandchildren

Our church hosted a grandparents’ prayer gathering not long ago, one where they offered a printed collection of Scripture-based prayers to help you know how to pray for your grandchildren. I wasn’t sure I needed the handouts—I had plenty of stuff to pray about—but the cards were pretty and well-organized, so I picked them up and took a seat in the little chapel where we were meeting.

How to pray for your grandchildren cards

The first thing I did was to open my journal and write down the names of all five of my grandkids. I figured that would help keep me focused. I can be like our dog Minnie sometimes, especially when it comes to prayer. Minnie sees a ball or a squirrel or whatever, and it doesn’t matter what she was thinking about before then. She’s gone.

Writing the children’s names gathered and grounded my thoughts.

Names of grandkids in my Growth Book Journal

Then I let my eye wander over the verses on the cards. They were listed topically, one after the other, with prayer prompts for anger, anxiety, confidence, direction, friendships, humility…. You get the idea.

I paused and asked God to show me, specifically, what each child needed and what he wanted to do in their lives. How might he want me to pray for each one of my grandchildren?

One of our grandsons, Grayson, is two years old. His baby brother was due any day, and as I thought about what Grayson might need, the verse under GENEROSITY began to resonate:  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Timothy 6:18)

Grayson is a delightful kid, but I knew his world was about to change. No longer an only child, he’d have to share his home, his toys, his dog, his dad, and—most of all, at this point in his little life—his mom. He doesn’t always love it when my daughter holds other babies. He wants all of her arms. Sitting there in the quiet chapel, I began to ask God to make Grayson generous toward his baby brother. To help him be rich in good deeds. To equip him to be willing—eager, even—to share, whether it was his beloved toy excavator or space on his mom’s lap.

A prayer for your grandchild for generosity

And as I prayed, something interesting happened. God began to expand my vision, and I pictured these boys as adults.

I thought about how they might grow up to love and support one another, being generous with everything from their time (moving furniture, for example, into a college apartment), to their words (coming alongside one another in times of both mourning and joy), to their finances. My friend Susan Yates tells the story of a businessman who paid off his brother-in-law’s college debt in response to a prompting from God. The businessman didn’t tell anyone else what he’d done—he merely acted in obedience, putting love into action and fulfilling 1 Timothy 6:18.

Who among us would not want our grandchildren to care for one another like that?

I know I would. But I would never have thought about praying for a two-year-old’s generosity—let alone envisioning him as an adult who would be rich in good deeds and willing to share—except for the verse on that card. God’s word is powerful! 

And here’s the thing about praying the scriptures when we pray for our grandchildren—or anyone else. We don’t do the blessing, the healing, the providing, the protecting. That’s God’s job. Our job is simply to be the conduit for his power. Watchman Nee, a Chinese Christian writer, put it like this:  “Our prayers lay the track down which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails.”

Watchman Nee quote about our prayers lay the track

Let’s lay the track down.

Because stories like God opening my eyes to how I might pray for my grandchildren—and prompting me to ask for generosity in one little boy’s life—are never just one-off’s. Our prayers continue to unfold, long after the words have left our mouths. As Ephesians 3:20 reminds us, God is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” And when we pray prayers birthed out of time spent in Scripture—when we anchor our prayers to Christ’s words, and allow them to animate our desires—we tap into a power that goes beyond anything our mind can conceive.

We welcomed Grayson’s baby brother, Henry, on March 1. One of my favorite ways to pray for my grandchildren, right from the start, is to pick a prayer verse that lines up with their actual birth date. The verse I’m praying now for our 3/1 baby is rooted in 1 John 3:1 – “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)t

I’m asking God to let Henry know, now and always, the lavishness of God’s love.

Big Brother welcomes the new baby

 

❤️

To access prayer cards like the ones shown in the photo above, click here to visit Grandparents@Prayer. And if you want a collection of prayers for your adult kids as they parent your grandkids–as well as bonus prayers for the children–you’ll find those, along with some encouraging stories and ideas for how you can pray for your grandchildren, in my book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children.

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Pray that Your Kids Get Caught

Years ago, I told a younger mom that I always prayed my kids would get caught if they were doing anything wrong.

“Why do you do that?” the gal wanted to know. “Wouldn’t it be better to pray that they won’t do anything bad?”

I laughed, thinking that it would take a lot more faith to pray her prayer than mine. And when I read Susan Alexander Yates’ post this week about praying that her kids would get caught, I knew I had to share it with you.

(Not just because–true story–I also threw mud balls at a police car.)

(And not just because I also got caught.)

I knew I had to share Susan’s post because, back when my friend asked why I prayed the way that I did, I think I mumbled something about wanting sin to be exposed or how kids grow and learn when they have to own their mistakes. I still stand by those words, but golly. I wish I had put it then like Susan does now.

Here she is…

Why You Should Pray Regularly that Your Kids Get Caught

(Guest post by Susan Alexander Yates)

This Is Why You Should Pray Regularly That Your Kids Get Caught!

I want to encourage you to pray that your kids get caught.

What?”

“Why would I want to do that??”

We had 5 kids in 7 years. Even today, as a grandmother of 21, I can still feel the exhaustion of those early years. Raising young kids is hard for many reasons, but one is that you train and train without seeing results for many years. It’s discouraging.

Why doesn’t this child get it? I’ve told him over and over! Will he ever learn?”

Our kids keep us on our knees. One of the things John and I prayed for each of our kids was that if they were doing anything wrong they’d get caught. It’s far better to get caught when you are young, living at home, and your foolishness is less likely to be as serious.

Our kids were not thrilled with this prayer of ours!

Let me share a personal story:

When our son Chris was about 11 he and his buddy Nate decided to make clay “cannon balls,” hide behind a bank next to a road, and throw them at passing cars…

Continue reading This Is Why You Should Pray Regularly That Your Kids Get Caught! at SusanAlexanderYates.com

_______

Want to know more about how you can pray for things like honesty and integrity in your kids? Check out Susan and John Yates’ book, Character Matters: Raising Kids with Values that Last.

And psst…if you’ve got a copy of the just-released updated edition of Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens, check out chapter 6… 😉

Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens (on black table)

…or chapters 8 and 17 in Praying the Scriptures for Your Childrenin which kids get caught stealing crayons, vandalizing their school, and accessing some unwanted content on the computer…

Praying the Scriptures book on the beach

…OR, if you know Numbers 32:23 (“you may be sure that your sin will find you out”) and you just need a prayer you can pray  RIGHT THIS MINUTE, try this one:

Heavenly Father,

Keep ____ from deceitful ways. Teach them to choose the way of faithfulness and equip them to hold fast to your statutes so that they will never be put to shame. (Psalm 119:29-31)

Amen

❤️

(As always, if you use the links in this post to order any books, I get a small commission. And as always, I only tell you about the really good stuff. Susan and John’s book was the first parenting “how-to” book I ever purchased, and it’s still one of my favorites!)

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Nothing is Impossible with God

For the word of God will never fail.

I read those words–a line from Luke’s gospel–and stopped. I’d been making my way through Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift, and when she got to the part about Mary and the angelic visit, a story recorded in Luke 1, I thought there must be some mistake. I knew Luke 1:37 (it was the first verse our son ever learned) and that definitely was not it. The verse I knew, and the one Robbie memorized as a preschooler, went like this: “For nothing is impossible with God.”

Could I be remembering wrong? (Maybe don’t answer that.)

I flipped open my Bible–an old NIV–and sure enough, that’s what Luke 1:37 says: “Nothing is impossible with God.”

Luke 1:37 "Nothing is impossible with God."

Well then.

Could Ann Voskamp be wrong? I didn’t think so.

Curiosity piqued, I decided to dig. A quick search on Bible Hub unearthed 30 different versions of the same verse:

Nothing is impossible with God (BibleHub.com)

The NIV (which was updated in 2011) says: “For no word from God will ever fail.”

In the NLT (which The Greatest Gift uses) it is almost the same: “For the word of God will never fail.”

But the ESV renders the verse the way I remembered: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

A Colossal Linguistic Mistake?

How, I wondered, could the translators come up with such different wordings? Was this some sort of colossal linguistic mistake? Surely some Bible Brainiac would have noticed this whoopsie before.

(Okay, so I realize that comparing Bible translations doesn’t quicken everyone’s pulse, but stick with me here. We’re getting ready to pivot.)

As I pondered the contrast in meanings—some versions emphasizing the dependability of God’s word; others focusing on his power to do anything—it hit me: The different versions were not in conflict at all. Rather, they were two sides of the same coin.

Nothing is impossible with God because his word gets the job done.

Now, you won’t find that particular rendering in any translation, but you get my point: God’s word does not fail. It makes anything possible.

My favorite illustration of what this looks like in real life (and if you’ve been around this blog for a while, you’ve heard this one before) is when God said, “Let there be light.” Had you or I issued such a decree, we’d have to flip a switch or light a match or do something to scatter the darkness. But not God. All God had to do was speak and light happened.

God’s word makes things happen. Which is why I love wrapping my prayers in the language of Scripture, allowing the Bible–God’s written word–to shape my thoughts and desires. I want to tap into the full scope of Luke 1:37, knowing that nothing is impossible with God and that his word will not fail. I want to have a heart like Mary’s, who responded to the angel’s seemingly impossible news in Luke 1 with these words: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.

31 Days of Praying God’s Word

I’ve never been much of a New Year’s resolution person, but I can’t think of a more powerful or satisfying way to kick off 2021 than to spend the first month praying like Mary did–asking God to fulfill his word in the lives of the people I love. And if that appeals to you too, I’d like to invite you to join me in January for 31 Days of Prayer, Mary-style.

As Ann Voskamp tells it, Mary kneels “not as a woman producing, performing, or perfecting but simply bending before a God who has all the power to dispatch angels, enfold himself in embryonic cells, choreograph the paths of stars–a God who quietly beckons every man, every woman to simply come, bend, make a space, receive.”

Our Heavenly Father has the power to do the impossible—whether the need is in relationships, character traits, health concerns, faith issues, or anything else—and his word will not fail. All we need to do is simply bend before him and receive.

As you read your Bible this month (or this year), be alert to verses that might serve as prayer prompts. If you’d like help with the picking, you can download a 31-Day Prayer Calendar here, or join me over on Instagram or Facebook, where I’ll be sharing a new verse every day in my Stories, something to help us pray for our children or for anyone who’s claimed some space in our hearts.

Today’s prayer is for a loved one’s salvation…

Prayer for Salvation from Acts 26:18

Heavenly Father,

Turn _____ from darkness to light…that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among your people, those set apart by faith. (Acts 26:18)

Amen

❤️

P.S.  If you’re looking for some more good prayer prompts for your kids (or grandkids!), this post from my pal Susan Alexander Yates reveals three crucial things we can ask God to do in their lives.

And if you’d like a place to record your scripture prayers–as well as God’s answers–this year, I want to remind you about my most favorite prayer and planning journal, The Growth Book

The Growth Book

The Growth Book comes with space to record goals, prayers, memory verses, and more. This year, I ordered the bonus pack of “Study Deeper” stickers to help keep me organized as I learn about different topics. And I went ahead and printed some pix of our crew to tuck into the pages of the journal and serve as prayer prompts:

Family Photos as prayer prompts

If you want a Growth Book for yourself or a friend, use the promo code “growingin2021” (exclusive to JodieBerndt.com readers!) to get 10% off. I don’t make a commission on sales; I just love sharing my favorite things. 😊

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Teacher Appreciation Meets Mother’s Day

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. To all the professional teachers out there:  Thank you. For now, and for always.

It’s also Mother’s Day. And to all you moms who’ve added “teacher” to your job description in recent weeks (months? is it years yet?):  Thank you, too.

Some of you seem to be crushing it on the homeschooling front. My pal Elizabeth, for example, adopts a British accent when she teaches her children.  (Maybe she thinks they won’t realize she’s Mom?)

"British" teacher doing school with her kids

And I loved the way that Caitlin, a California mom, put her own COVID spin on the traditional Presidential Physical Fitness Test:

 

Clever, right? (I was more than a little impressed.)

Hope for the Overwhelmed Teacher-Mom

Honestly, though? I’ve heard from plenty of you who don’t feel so creative. You feel overwhelmed. Over-tired. Over it. You couldn’t muster up a British accent to say “Shaken, not stirred,” much less to give a spelling test.

One precious young mom sent me this:

teacher question meme

If that’s where you are, can I just offer two bits of advice?

First, hang in there. Don’t give up. Get yourself an index card (even a fake teacher has those at home, right?) and post Galatians 6:9 on the fridge:

Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

Galatians 6:9 graphic

 

And second: Don’t compare your insides to somebody else’s outsides.

Seriously. That might be the best piece of parenting advice anybody ever gave me, when our kids were young. And it applies to pretty much everything, from your marriage to your job to your effectiveness as a freshly minted school teacher.

Life Lessons from Little League

If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you may remember what happened back when I got drafted to coach Little League. Read that post here, if you want; the nutshell version is this:  I knew nothing at all about baseball, but that didn’t matter to my team, the Purple Wolves, at least not at first. We spent our practice time perfecting our cartwheels, working on our team cheer (a growl, paired with a threatening “wolf stance”), and honing our baseball-themed jokes (“Why did the sausage quit playing baseball? Because he was the wurst on his team”).

Life was pretty good. But then Game Day arrived.

I’d found a big old beach blanket so my team wouldn’t have to sit on the grass, and I’d packed what I thought was a strong lineup of snacks. My Wolves seemed pretty happy–until they looked across the field.

“Oh no…” one kid said.

I followed his gaze. The other team wasn’t seated just yet, but you could tell where they’d be. Every single one of the 14 spots in the opposing lineup was clearly marked on the ground by a carpet sample. A carpet sample! And on top of each tidy square sat a matching red water bottle, with a little baseball stopper on top.

“We’re gonna get killed!” a wolf moaned. A few others agreed. And fear spread through my team like wildfire.

Can I just interrupt myself here and let you know that this was tee-ball? If you know anything about tee-ball (and if you don’t, consider us friends), you know that nobody keeps score. You cannot lose. And you definitely cannot get killed. But try telling that to a bunch of kindergartners whose parents are stacked, three-deep, in lawn chairs on the sidelines. My Wolves had come ready to play…and yet they were already feeling defeated.

They had fallen prey to The Comparison Trap.

Watch Out for The Comparison Trap

We do the very same thing.

We can’t help it. We look across the fields of our lives (or our social media feeds) and see moms whose kids are smiling around the kitchen table, workbooks opened, pencils raised, and shirts (clean shirts!) buttoned correctly, while we sit there wondering if the corkscrew would make a good show-n-tell. Or if tracking the steps between the couch and the fridge counts as math.

You know? We can’t help it. We look around at how everyone else is coping with COVID-19 and we think to ourselves:  We don’t have what it takes.

We’re failing at this.

We’re gonna get killed.

We give insecurity a little foothold in our lives and then, like the Purple Wolves’ fear, it starts to spread.

Here’s the thing, though:  Anybody can look like they have their stuff all together, like they are leading a carpet-square life. And if we spend our time scrolling through what other people look like instead of focusing on who we really are—beloved children of God, whose power is made perfect when we are weak and whose grace equips us for every good work—we’ll be doomed. The comparison trap will feast on our joy and eat us alive.

So let’s not. Let’s stop looking across the field at the kids with their matching water bottles, and let’s look up instead. Let’s look at God.

Because He is looking at us. And, like the parents who turned out to watch the Purple Wolves play, He doesn’t care if his kids are sitting on carpet squares or a blanket.

He just wants us to know how much we are loved.

Heavenly Father,

Help me pay careful attention to my own work, getting satisfaction in a job well done, so that I won’t need to compare myself to anyone else. (Galatians 6:4)

Amen

❤️

And P.S., if you want a few prayers you can pray for a teacher (or, a-hem, for yourself), click here to download this printable card:

Teacher Prayer Printable

And if you’re looking for some fun new activities to incorporate into your daily routine, check out the FREE ebook from my friend Susan Yates. (I’m not sure the toilet paper fitness challenge is in there, but she’s got 100 other fantastic ideas!)

Cousin Camp eBook graphic

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Launch Week Fun!

Ok Y’all. It’s Launch Week for Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult ChildrenWhich means all kinds of fun. Like, look how happy my kids are.

First of all, thank you! Thank you for letting me test drive so many thoughts and prayers in this space. It’s been a delight to partner with you as we bring our loved ones–our kids, our spouses, our friends–before the Lord every week, and then wait and watch as his faithfulness unfolds in our lives.

And thank you for jamming up Amazon. I mean it. The book earned Amazon’s #1 Bestseller flag on Launch Day–thanks to you!–and the Mother of All Retailers ran out of stock. They say they have more, but I’m picturing (and praying for) their 120,000 new seasonal employees as they drive forklifts around big warehouses, looking for boxes marked “Berndt.”

In the meantime, I have my own stash of books and I’m itching to share! Post a comment on this blog–it can be a prayer request, a favorite Scripture promise, or just a Merry Christmas wish–and I’ll pick three winners at random, who will each get a copy of the new book. Whoop.

And there’s more.

My good friend Susan Alexander Yates (you’ve met her in this space) graciously offered to let me guest blog for her this week. I talked about praying for your child’s marriage and created a Marriage Blessing from the collection of Scripture prayers you’ll find in the new book. If you want your own copy of this prayer, you can download it here.

(And P.S., the prayer card is two-sided, with the prayer on the front and the Scripture references on the back. If you want to frame it as a Christmas present for your spouse, your married children, or a even a new bride, Amazon offers a great selection of clear stand-alone frames; one of my favorite styles is here.)

(But don’t ALL of you order today. I don’t want to make those forklift people any more crazy than they already are.)

And finally… Maybe you saw this pic on Fox News.

Annesley says I blog about her too much (and lately, she’s right), but when I got the chance to write a post for the media moguls so that they could give folks some Good News this Christmas, I couldn’t help myself. Y’all know I’ve made some pretty jolly mistakes (the sweater, the posture brace), but money-wise, this one was the worst. If you missed it on the Fox News site, here’s the story.

And again, you all. Thank you. Thank you for your friendship, your encouragement, and your prayers. May the Lord continue to encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:17)

You are loved.

 

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Praying for Your Child’s Gifts

When Annesley was three years old, she loved puzzles. But rather than fitting the edge pieces together or tackling certain sections of the picture, she would methodically work from left to right, trying each of the two or three hundred tiny pieces in sequence like some sort of towheaded computer.

Later, when she learned to write, Annesley became a list maker. At night, she would pick out clothes to wear to school the next day, and then make a list of the clothes and how they were to be worn (“Pull socks up to knees”), just in case she forgot. When she babysat for her younger siblings, we always came home to a written report (“Virginia fell on my homework and pulled my pants down”). And one New Year’s Eve I found Annesley working away on her top ten resolutions, recorded in capital letters for added significance:

EXERCISE EVERY SATURDAY.

GO TO BED AT 8:30.

TALK TO GOD EVERY MORNING. (A noble goal, to be sure, but clearly less important than Annesley’s desire to HAVE A GOOD BIRTHDAY).

In addition to making lists, Annesley liked to clean out her drawers, label sections of her closet according to season, and keep track of things like assignments, appointments, and family vacations on the calendar she got from the dentist. None of my other kids were so compulsive, and I didn’t know any other seven-year-olds who begged to make chore charts for the family. To be honest, I didn’t really know how to take Annesley. I thought she was quirky. In a good sort of way.

It was not until years later – as I watched my girl make hard jobs look easy, pay attention to small details, and visualize goals and the steps needed to get there – that I realized she was not quirky. Annesley has a God-given gift of organization.

My friend Susan Alexander Yates, who wrote a book called Character Matters: Raising Kids with Values that Last, advises parents to pay attention to the gifts that God gives their children, and clue them in on the fact that God has given them these talents or abilities for a purpose. “A sense of destiny,” Susan says, “will encourage our children. Learning to recognize their gifts will enable them to discern more quickly the ways in which God might use them.”

By the same token, learning to recognize our gifts can help us (or our children) avoid misusing them. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” That’s true. But perfect gifts in the hands of imperfect people can sometimes be tricky.

Organizers, for instance, may be really good delegators, but they can also be bossy. They can become easily frustrated when others are slow to grasp their vision. And they can put projects ahead of people, neglecting the Colossians 3:14 command to cover all of our virtues with love.

How do I know these things? Because I am an organizer. And as Annesley grew, I prayed that in sharing my gifts, she would be spared my tendencies to misuse them.

Today, Annesley works at an architecture firm, designing buildings and managing construction projects for big universities where inches and dollars both matter. (She actually likes to keep track of that stuff.) And God continues to use her organizational abilities and her Be Prepared personality to bless our family; she’s the one we can always count on to have Advil, a notepad, and money.

(And Annes, if you are reading this, thank you.)

But here’s the thing. Maybe your child’s not an organizer. Maybe she is an accomplished musician, or a technological whiz. Maybe his heart beats with compassion, and you already see him caring for people who hurt. Maybe your child is a leader. Or maybe he or she delights in encouraging others who lead.

If you want to discover (and celebrate) the way that God created your children, I’ve got some good news.

First, this post was excerpted from Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, which Amazon is offering right now in the Kindle version for just $2.99. Click here to get a copy (or, if you already have the book, consider passing this news along to a friend).

And, even better, the fact that God gives our kids gifts – and that he equips them to use them – is actually an invitation to pray. There are so many good verses that speak to this topic (check out Exodus 31:1-5Romans 12:6-8, or Proverbs 22:29 for just some of the gifts God provides), but here’s an all-purpose prayer we can use. Because it doesn’t matter how old our kids are, how organized (or not) they might be, or even how totally committed they are to getting exercise EVERY SATURDAY: God loves them just the way they are, and he has a wonderful plan for their lives!

Heavenly Father,

Equip ______ to use whatever gift they have received to serve others, faithfully administering your grace in all its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10)

Amen

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Friday Prayer for Imperfect Moms

There is no perfect family. And there is no perfect mom.

We know this, of course. But it can be easy to forget, particularly in an age of professionally produced Christmas cards and Instagram posts that showcase trophies, vacations, and siblings who appear to genuinely like each other.

And it can be easy to feel like you are the only one who is seriously blowing it. Like when you go to the parent-teacher conference and she asks you, in the nicest possible way, if your son is going to get “any pants” for Christmas.

(As if you are the only fourth-grade parent who doesn’t think wearing shorts in 37-degree weather is that bad.)

Lately, I’ve been reviewing some of my parenting failures. (Which, given the fact that Mother’s Day is on Sunday, seems only natural.) And so it was with no small amount of gratitude that I heard my good friend, Susan Yates, say the following:

Your ability to ruin your child is not nearly as great as God’s power to redeem him.

Isn’t that awesome? (You can stop reading right there, if you want, and go have yourself a Happy Mother’s Day.)

Susan was in Virginia Beach this week to talk about her new book, Risky Faith, as well as her One Word Cards. She wasn’t here to talk about parenting. But as she cataloged God’s attributes (including his love for us, and his power to provide for our needs and cover our mistakes), I found myself thanking God (not for the first time) for putting this wise woman in my life.

And, listening to Susan speak, I found myself thankful for another wise mentor. My mother. Here she is, on the far left (with Susan and my daughters, Hillary and Annesley, between us):

I’m thankful for my mom for a variety of reasons. Partly for the sappy ones, the sentiments that show up on Mother’s Day cards (You are an amazing mom…I’m so proud to be your child…Thanks for hanging in there with me), but even more for the less-sappy/more-real reasons that don’t. Like the fact that my mom made about a zillion parenting mistakes.

Seriously. My mom consistently modeled imperfect parenting. She was great at that. And now that I am making the exact same mistakes with my kids, I could not be more grateful.

I am grateful to a mother who taught me that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

That it is God’s job (not mine) to work in my kids’ lives so that they will think and behave in ways that line up with his plans. (Philippians 2:13)

And that I really can rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4), even when my kids choose to wear shorts in the snow or make other, more impressive, mistakes of their own. God is, as Susan Yates said, all about redeeming that stuff.

So thank you, Mom. Maybe you aren’t exactly the Proverbs 31 woman, but you’re mighty close. Especially when you get to the second part of verse 25, which you pretty much nail every day: You can laugh at the days to come. You do that well.

And if you’re not my mom – if you’re more uptight like me, and your heart gets in knots over all the things that you didn’t do right, or the things that you could have done better – can I just offer this Mother’s Day prayer? Most of my Friday Prayers can be prayed for your loved ones, but maybe keep this one just for yourself:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you that your grace is all that I need. Help me remember that your power works best in weakness. Let me be glad about my own weaknesses, because that’s what unleashes your strength and releases the power of Christ to work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Thank you that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and that nothing – NOTHING – can separate me from your love. (Romans 8:1 & 39)

Amen.

 

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And the Winners Are…

I love Easter traditions. One of ours is to drag The (Very Heavy) Egg out to the street on Saturday night, under the cover of darkness…

IMG_6715

…and then take a family pic the next day (an exercise that almost always involves stopping traffic and checking around the ankles for stray poison ivy!):
DSC_0603

And speaking of Easter traditions…thanks so much to everyone who posted a comment on last week’s Easter Basket Giveaway. I LOVED hearing your stories and reading about all the ways that you celebrate our Risen Lord!

Congratulations to Laura in Charlottesville, Virginia, who won the One Word Cards from author Susan Alexander Yates and artist Christy Yates (who, coincidentally, is also from C’ville)!

And to Emily in Leesburg, Virginia and Sally in Winston-Salem, NC, who each received a copy of the new book, Unshaken. Sally, lots of readers told me how much they liked your story about setting your alarm for 1:45 a.m., dragging your blanket-wrapped kids out of bed and onto the front porch, and listening for the sounds of the Moravian Band and their 1.5 minute-long rendition of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” That took top honors in the unofficial “favorite memories” contest!

And finally, a shout out to Cindy in Chesapeake, Virginia, a next-door neighbor to Virginia Beach, who got her teenagers up for the sunrise service at the beach – after they’d been out super late the night before at a Youth Group event! Double points for the parenting effort we all know that took! Cindy won the limited edition Scripture Prayer Cards that were lovingly created by the gals at Sisters Ink. (You can’t buy the cards, but you can contact the Sisters for wedding invitations, exquisite stationery, and more!)

Many thanks…lots of love…and He is Risen Indeed!

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An Easter Basket Giveaway…for Mama Bunny!

I love Easter.

I love the joyful songs (Christ the Lord is Risen To-Day-ay…Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-lay-ay-loo-oo-yah!), the fragrant lilies, and the occasional bonnet that shows up in church (particularly when the ‘Hoos are still in the hunt, like they were on Easter Sunday last year):

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I love dragging our big plywood egg out to the street late Saturday night (under the cover of darkness), and then waking up to the Good News Sunday morning:

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And I love stuffing Easter baskets. One year, we had 23 college kids stay with us for the weekend. Never have I been so grateful for the Dollar Tree and its affordable stash of plastic eggs, candy, and gifts. Because nothing says “Happy Easter” like a chocolate bunny, a new toothbrush, and a tattoo sleeve:

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This year, we won’t be welcoming any college students (other than Robbie, who says he mostly just wants to come home and sleep). Which is kind of a shame, cuz I have some basket upgrades in mind – upgrades that, truth be told, Mama Bunny will like even more than the kids:

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a free giveaway, so how about this? Post a comment on this blog – share a favorite Easter tradition, a prayer verse you like, or anything you want to wish others a Happy Easter – and you’ll be entered for a chance to win one of the treats in this basket (which, incidentally, would also make a great Mother’s Day gift). Here’s what we have:

Unshaken. This new book from Sally Burke and Cyndie Claypool de Neve (order your copy or download a free chapter here) outlines a four-step prayer process to help us keep our eyes on the Lord and pray with confidence, even when everything around us seems to be shaking.

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I love the real-life stories these gals use to illustrate their prayer principles. And, as a bonus, they offer cleverly designed pages that are meant to be copied and shared:

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One Word Cards. These beautiful 5×7″ cards pair the devotional musings of author Susan Alexander Yates with the stunning artwork of her daughter-in-law, Christy.

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The cards – which feature one key word, a relevant Bible verse, and a simple prayer – come in four different sets (click here to see the collection), along with a wooden easel you can use to display them:

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Scripture Prayers and Blessings. I created these little cards with help from the talented gals at Sisters Ink; they represent twelve of the best-loved Scripture prayers from my books. The marbled stock is scrumptiously thick and perfect for tucking into a child’s backpack, slipping into a note to a friend, or just keeping in your purse or car as a reminder to pray.

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So how about it? Post a comment, share a story, offer up one of your favorite prayers…and you’ll automatically be entered to win. And since there are three prizes in the basket, we’ll have three winners…so hop to it, friends! Get a little something for Mama Bunny this Easter!

And for those who think that what Mama Bunny might really want is a new tattoo, try these. I can’t vouch for the design or the quality, but hey. They’re removable.

You’re welcome.

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Risky Faith, Exciting Trust

At some point during Virginia’s graduation weekend, her grandfather asked if she was excited to trust God for what’s next. Like so many new college grads, Virginia has a lot of irons in the fire, but the specifics (jobs, housing, learning to cope without acai bowls until she starts earning a paycheck) are all still swirling around in her blender, and post-college life can be daunting.

Which is why I love it that Papa John asked if she was excited.

On a good day, I might look at an uncertain future with a willingness to trust God, or maybe a resigned sort of readiness…but excitement? I don’t know. For me, trusting seasons – those times when the future (or even the present) is out of my control – are more often endured than enjoyed. Excitement rarely plays into the picture.

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But my pal Susan Yates would have understood John’s question. Her new book, Risky Faithdoes not discount the fears and worries of our lives (both the real and the imagined ones), but she challenges us to reorient our perspective. Instead of letting our “issues” (things like children, jobs, health concerns, relationships) take up the whole screen and cloud our vision, Susan encourages us to stack these things up against the awesome power and love of our Almighty God.

With 46 years of marriage, 21 (or more?) grandchildren, and a lifetime’s worth of trusting God, Susan is quick to share her own failings. But she doesn’t wallow in them. Instead, she takes us through the hard places of pain, betrayal, and disappointment and leads us into a new reality marked by gratitude, growth, and a confidence that God is soooo much bigger than our problems. Because he is.

And at some point, whether we are a newly minted graduate or a seasoned grandmother, we are all going to have to trust God for what’s next. It might not be easy, but one thing’s for sure: When we live the “risky faith” way (taking our eyes off the circumstances we see and fixing them on Someone we don’t), trusting God becomes less of a muddle, and more of an adventure.

Some people might even say it’s exciting.

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“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”

(Jeremiah 17:7-8)

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Thankful for You!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow.

While I’ve been researching recipes (I need to use up some leftover cornbread from our tailgate last weekend – Go ‘Hoos!), my pals in the blogosphere have been making the world a better place with their wisdom.

Jeannie Cunnion, author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child, has the perfect answer for when your kids start asking for “more.” Click here to read her short-but-super Fox News post on how to raise truly thankful young ‘uns – and get yourself in the grateful spirit at the same time.

And for those of us on the other end of the spectrum (the ones who’ve pretty much thrown in the parenting towel and are instead eyeing a holiday table surrounded by parents and in-laws), Susan Alexander Yates offers some tips for making The Big Day a little less stressful (even if your mother-in-law shows up after you’ve gone through a can-and-a-half of Endust Lemon Zest and offers to “just help with the surface dirt”). Click here to read her post and put a little more “happy” in your holidays.

Me, I don’t have any Thanksgiving tips or strategies. All I have is a recipe for Cornbread Dressing with Sausage and Sage (which looks awesome but which my family will probably complain about because it is “different”). That, and a 1978 book about Napkin Folding, which (you may recall) was a wedding shower gift from my mom to Hillary, and which (sorry, Mom) Hillary left at my house when she packed up all the china and crystal and moved in with Charlie. (But I am sure she’ll be coming back for it soon.)

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So…looking for something to do while the turkey cooks? Want a fun project for the kids? Need a handy diversion for your mother-in-law?

Why not fold some napkins?

To give your table an ecclesiastical flavor, go with the Bishop’s Hat:

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For a British flair, try the Ascot Tie (and I’m thinking that a couple of stick-on eyeballs would make this one extra appealing):

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Or, since the French are obviously so much better at la cuisine, how about giving A La Maison a whirl? I haven’t tried it but, looking at the finished product, it can’t be that hard:

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So that’s all I got. I feel kind of bad, leaving you with “napkin folding” as my Thanksgiving offering. Particularly since I actually made the Ascot Tie and, well.

How about if I close instead by telling you how thankful I am for you? Seriously. I pray for you every week when I post the Friday prayer, and I love knowing that God is working in our lives and in the lives of the people we love. I think I know, at least partly, how Paul must have felt about his friends in Philippi:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:3-6)

Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s to a day of being grateful that God has started something good in us…and that he’s gonna finish the job!

(And, just so you know, it was not my mother-in-law who offered to get the “surface dirt.”)

(It was my grandmother.)

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“…And then We had Weddings!”

She didn’t know it back then, but more than 20 years ago, I tapped Susan Alexander Yates to be my mentor.  I read her books, attended her speaking engagements, even booked her to come give a parenting talk at our church.  Slowly (and perhaps because she sensed that I wasn’t going away, and she figured she’d rather have a buddy than a stalker), we became friends.  And today, with a heart that is bursting with gratitude for Susan’s writing as well as her friendship, I am thrilled to welcome her to the blog.

First, though (and with a nod to Ricky Ricardo), I’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.

It’s about this picture:

 

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Not too long ago, Susan and her friend, Barbara Rainey, came out with a book called Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest.  Since I’d read all of Susan’s books (my personal favorite being And then I had Kidswhich details what happens when a woman looks askance at other people’s snotty children running around with no underpants…and then has five kids of her own in seven years), I quickly snapped up this one when it came out.  Robbie was about six months away from his college launch when he saw it lying on our kitchen counter.  Certain that I was already measuring his bedroom for drapes and filing cabinets for my new office, he sent me a snap with this caption:

“I’m not gone yet mom.”

True.  But I was a girl scout for about five months before my mom decided she didn’t want to sell cookies, and I still live by the motto:  Be prepared.

And I must say, Susan and Barbara got me ready!  In the book, they tackle the sorts of questions that every new empty-nester grapples with:  Who am I now?  How will my marriage be affected?  Does anyone need me?  How do I relate to my children?  Is it okay to feel sad?  Or thrilled? 

What’s next? 

These gals write with wisdom and candor, and if you or someone you know is about to jump into this new adventure, their advice will certainly ease the transition.  (Robbie’s snapchat doesn’t do the Empty Nest cover justice; to see a better image, or to order the book, click here.)

Anyhow, Susan is a wealth of good family intel, regardless of the season you find yourself in.  When she heard I was looking at two weddings in four months, she weighed in with some advice, which led to this blog that I will share with you now.

(Finally, I know.)

And just so you know how cute Susan is, here’s her pic:

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Here she is, in her own words:

“And then we had Weddings!”

We had five kids in 7 years, including a set of twins. In those early years I simply staggered through each day, waiting for someone to fall asleep or for my husband’s car to pull in the drive so I could run away or at least hide for a few minutes. Physical exhaustion was my constant companion. I didn’t spend much time thinking about the teen years and the emotional exhaustion that would hit all of us during that season.

And weddings? They were way off my radar screen.

However Allison, our eldest, ushered in this new season for us when she and Will decided to get married one week after college graduation.

It was uncharted territory for me and I desperately wanted to “do it” right.

“Allison, you are our first and Dad and I don’t know what we are doing,” I said.  “We want this wedding planning to go well but we are most likely to blow it so if I get too bossy or say the wrong thing please tell me.”

And I did – and she told me. It was a time of learning together, of my letting go, and of granting grace to one another for the mistakes we made.

A few years later we had 4 weddings in three summers. Our twins got married the same summer – just six weeks apart. Since these were to be our 4th and 5th weddings, I hoped I’d learned a few things. But the sheer complexity of two large weddings so close together was mind-boggling.  I felt like I should have been a pro by then, but it seemed that every time I turned around there was another decision to be made, another contract to sign, another detail to cover.

One morning as I was praying over plans these words came to me:

Susan, remember you are not merely planning an event. You are building a family and relationships are more important than details.

I wrote this message out and taped it to my refrigerator. As things got crazy, these words helped me to remember what really mattered.

When our kids get married, our priorities radically change. No longer is my relationship with my child the priority. Instead, the relationship my child has with his or her spouse becomes the priority. And that means I have a new role. Now I have to take a step back. Now my job is to encourage their marriage to flourish and to pray for them. And now, when a child calls and asks for advice, I need to remember that I am no longer the “first responder.”  Now, my first question should be, “What does your spouse think?”

Change is awkward. It takes time to negotiate new relationships. As you work to establish what your relationship with your married child “now” looks like, here’s a little encouragement to see you through:   Lower your expectations, assume the best of each other, choose laughter over irritation, and always be willing to ask for forgiveness.

The best is yet to come!

 

(Jodie’s note:  Can you see why I find Susan so encouraging?  Even if you’re not in a wedding season, you can tap into Susan’s wisdom for families via her blog, or check out her “One Word” tweets – nifty posts that detail an attribute or character trait of God – which you can find @susanayates.)

(And in the interest of social media fairness, if the links don’t work and the Twitter address turns out to be bogus, don’t shoot me.  Remember, I am a techno-moron.  Just post a comment on this blog and I will find a way to hook you up with Susan.  You can’t steal her as your mentor, but you can still benefit from her wonderful insights for living!)

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