Standing around the kitchen island, pouring coffee, I conversed with my daughter. She is the youngest of the girls, but now, this aspiring lawyer is finishing up her senior year in high school and making plans for the future. After she settled in with her own cup of coffee, we began discussing plans for the day. With the to-do list all arranged, we took ten minutes to catch up. This is what you do when your kids are teens.
In utter excitement and awe, I shared news of how God had answered a prayer that very morning. My prayerful concern, weighing heavily on my mind and heart, had been kept to myself, knowing that only the Lord would be able to resolve this issue.
Upon hearing us chatter, a visiting friend chimed in, and the conversation turned to prayer. I watched my seventeen year old daughter dive into a discussion about hope, faith, and a relationship with Jesus. I could not have been more proud when I heard her say: “I don’t think of prayer as something limited to a formality of place, position, or time. It’s a conversation that never leaves off….I’m always talking to God — that’s what a relationship is.”
What is the Source of Hope?
As I reflect upon her statements, along with other similar conversations I’ve had with her two sisters, I am filled with gratitude. I am in the season of life where I am watching my daughters launch out into adulthood. I’ve equipped them with an education, skills, and the know-how to make it in the world. But my joy comes in seeing them discover the path God has for each one of them.
You might think that our home life must have been ideal in order to produce daughters with such wisdom. We must have had daily devotions, perfect church attendance, a loving marriage, and parents who poured themselves into their children. However, this was not the case.
Unfortunately, my girls had a difficult childhood. They had a mother who came to Christ when the oldest daughter was five years old. A mother who had a lot of emotional baggage and fears that took years to overcome. Fears that resulted in overbearing and super strict parenting. They also had parents who fought often, and they experienced year after year of abusive behavior from their father. Worse than all of that, they were taken to church each week, where their father would pretend to be something he was not.
So how do these three girls end up loving God and forging forward into adulthood in faith? It did start at home, but not in the ideal way. These girls learned about God as they watched, listened, and heard a mother’s hope.
Remembering What They Saw
When the girls were young, for the most part, they were unaware of the hardships in our home. Little children don’t understand that something is wrong when daddy doesn’t go to work each day or mom is worried about how to feed them. What they do remember is what they observe day to day, year after year.
During these times, when I desperately desired to have the ideal Christian home, I had to accept and submit to where God had me. I spent a great deal of time on my knees in prayer, studying the Scriptures, and often journaling my frustrations. This kept me hopeful and, in turn, I was, by God’s grace, able to keep the atmosphere of the home positive.
Practically speaking, when dealing with a difficult marriage and the many hardships that come with one, I would try hard to turn negative moments into positive experiences by redirecting the attention and energy of the kids to something fun. I didn’t curl up into a ball, escape to my room, and partake in a pity party. Instead, we would walk to the park, bake cupcakes, or engage in some other distraction. Today, my girls are eternal optimists, and I can’t help but believe it’s a trait learned from their early years.
Remembering What They Heard
As the girls grew and became more aware of the issues in our home, I realized the impact of my words. It’s one thing to be able to shelter young kids, but with a deep desire to see my children walk in truth, especially under the circumstances God had us in, it would be paramount to set the example through what I said and what I didn’t say.
Proverbs 18:21 says it well: Death and life are in the power of the tongue…
During those early mornings of quiet time, God was teaching me the wisdom to know when to hold my tongue and when to stand firm. Most often the difference between one and the other was so delicate it took listening to the Spirit of God to know what to say and when to say it.
Navigating a hazardous home life wasn’t easy, but with three tween girls not only watching but now listening and understanding my words, it required putting on my big girl pants, taking every thought captive, and trusting God with each situation.
For me, it boiled down to a control issue. I wanted to control the negative in my life, but learned it was God who would control the outcome. Today, I watch my daughters remind each other and myself of the sovereignty of God and how we need to hope and wait until He works things out.
Listening to What You Said
The girls are now teens and young adults. They watched God work out a rescue plan for our family through divorce. Although this is completely opposite of the ideal, it was the situation and circumstances the Lord used in our family to grow faith in each of us.
These days, parenting has changed a great deal for me. No longer am I telling them to get along or play nicely; these girls are adults and making their own decisions. Our time together is spent texting, chatting, and Skyping.
We talk about silly things and about weighty matters where my girls are listening keenly to the advice and stories I share. Like the story of answered prayer I shared with my daughter over coffee that morning, my goal is to be a sister in faith who encourages them in hope.
God has given each of us a different set of life circumstances. I know of friends who have beautiful marriages and loving homes, yet they still face trials. We all will, it’s part of life. But in these difficulties is the beautiful opportunity to exhibit hope in Christ. A contagious hope that springs up in your children and grandchildren.