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Lost & Found

Lost & Found | a touching story of a father's love... must read!It was a stupid thing to do. That much is obvious.

Normally, I would have spent recess swinging or sliding or riding on the merry-go-round. But that day, I sat alone at the edge of the playground holding my new ring, admiring the way it caused the sunlight to dance in my hand.

The ring was a birthday gift from my parents — a tiny diamond (April’s birthstone) set in the center of a small gold flower.

I was seven at the time — too young for anyone to have mistaken it for an engagement ring — but my mother still insisted I wear it on my right hand.

Only that day at recess, I wasn’t wearing it at all. I was playing with it. I was playing a game I called “Digging for Buried Treasure.”

First, I’d bury my little ring in the sand, then I’d dig, dig, dig until I found it. Then I’d bury it a little deeper, and dig a little longer until I uncovered it again.

And so the game continued: the ring was lost, then found, then lost, then found, then lost… then the bell rang.

Frantically I searched as my classmates lined up to march back inside the school building, but to no avail.

The teacher called my name, tapped her foot, pointed to her watch, jerked her thumb toward the double doors behind her.

I tried to explain why I couldn’t possibly leave. Not now. Not yet. But she insisted, and I spent the rest of the day distraught and distracted in my little school desk, staring out the window and wondering if I would ever see my beautiful ring again.

When the final bell rang that day, I ran home in tears to tell my mother what had happened.

She listened to my hysterical cries and did her best to calm and comfort me. “Just wait until your Daddy gets home,” she soothed. “He’ll know what to do.”

And he did.

With eyes full of compassion, he tenderly took my hand and led me back to the school yard.

As we walked together, he didn’t scold. He didn’t lecture. He didn’t tell me how foolish I had been or how easily I could have avoided this situation or how it would serve me right if I never got the ring back.

He didn’t grouse or grumble or complain.

Instead, he acted as if he’d been waiting all day for a chance to come home and dig in the sand with his little girl. All I sensed was love and sympathy and a stubborn determination to find what was lost.

The playground sprawled across a good two acres, much of which was covered in 4-5 inches of sand. Daddy asked me to point out the general vicinity where I’d been playing, then told me to hunt there. But instead of digging beside me, he strolled to the nearest entrance and began combing through the sand with his fingers.

Slowly, systematically, he worked his way toward me, all along the retaining wall, sifting the sand as he went.

After about twenty minutes of digging, he uncovered a cut stone, but it was too big to be mine, so he kept searching.

Another ten, twenty, thirty minutes passed. The sun was sinking low on the horizon. But Daddy kept looking. Patient. Persistent. Unperturbed.

Then, just as it was growing too dark to search any longer, the last grains of sand fell through his fingers to reveal my beloved ring!

My father had the most beautiful smile — pearly white teeth with a small gap between the top two. The light was too dim and my eyes too flooded with tears for me to see his smile that night, but I could hear it in his voice as soon as he called my name, and I knew.

He had found what was lost.

He had accomplished what he’d set out to do. And my heart was filled to bursting with gratitude for that Daddy of mine.

My father wasn’t perfect. Like all parents, he sometimes made mistakes. His patience occasionally wore thin. There were plenty of times that I got the lecture (or other appropriate discipline) I so well deserved — dished out with love, to be sure, but without such obvious compassion.

But on that balmy night of yore, he was as perfect as a Daddy can get.

I cannot tell you how often I’ve reflected on that scene from my childhood, for my father’s pivotal response affected me in many unforeseen and far-reaching ways:

  1. It affected the way I approach my problems:
  2. My father’s calculated response impressed on me how important it is to remain calm and collected, even (and especially) during times of upset and stress. My frantic and random pawing at the ground earlier in the day had been completely ineffectual. Daddy’s slow, methodical approach took time, but yielded the exact result I was hoping and praying for. Daddy showed me that cool heads prevail, a lesson I’ve carried with me into adulthood.

  3. It affected the way I parent my children:
  4. I don’t remember everything Daddy ever said to me growing up, but I remember how he made me feel: Loved. Esteemed. Cherished. And I’ve done my best to communicate those same things to my own children. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I fall short. But the example my father — and my mother — set for me has made it much easier to be a good parent myself. I can model what they did with full confidence that 98% of it was right and good.

  5. It affected the way I perceive my Heavenly Father:
  6. They say that children tend to view God in the same way they view their dad. Perhaps that is true. My earthly father was wise, benevolent, and completely trustworthy, so it has never been difficult for me to trust implicitly in the wisdom, goodness, and faithfulness of my Heavenly Father. My dad’s loving response to my lost ring has given me confidence to boldly approach the Throne of Grace with other burdens and requests, great and small (including another diamond I lost forty years later). And that’s a rich heritage, indeed.

It was an incredible blessing to have the father I had. I know that’s not been the case for a lot of people. Many children growing up today do not even know their father, much less enjoy such a close relationship with him. Others have had negligent or abusive dads. That grieves my heart. It makes life much more difficult for them, but it does not leave them without hope.

Having a good father may make it easier to understand and accept the goodness of God, but God is good regardless. You can choose to believe what the Bible says about God, even if it varies widely from what you’ve experienced in your home.

God loves you. He cares for you. He is patiently seeking — even now — that which is lost.

As I’m typing these words, I’m praying again, boldly making my request known unto God. (Philippians 4:6)

But this time, dear Reader, I’m praying for you. I’m praying that you will see God for the loving Father He is, and that you will bask in that love, fully assured that He is good and wise and worthy of your complete confidence and trust.

“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)

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38)

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12)

Praying for Your Unborn Child

A friend of mine once told me that, all through one of her pregnancies, she prayed God would give her a beautiful little girl with blue eyes and dark hair.

God granted that request, but the little girl was also quite stubborn. She was so headstrong, in fact, that by the time she was two years old, my friend was wishing she’d spent more of her pregnancy praying for her daughter’s character than for her physical features!

Of course, I don’t think praying for a baby is like ordering off a menu, but I do know that God delights in giving us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4-5) — especially when those desires are in line with His own.

While it never occurred to me or my husband to pray for a child’s hair or eye color, or even for a particular sex, we certainly sent up many other heartfelt petitions for our children, beginning from the first moment we learned we were expecting, if not before.

Here are the things for which we most fervently prayed:

Prayer for an Unborn Child

C is for Conscience

Pray that God would give your child a tender conscience and would draw her to faith at an early age. Pray that she would be anointed by the Holy Spirit even in the womb and would know and love the Holy Scriptures from infancy. (1 Timothy 1:5; Luke 18:16-17; Luke 1:14-15; 2 Timothy 3:15)

H is for Health

Pray that, if would please Him, God would give your child good health and a strong body. Recognize that is is He who knits your baby together in her mother’s womb, and ask Him to watch carefully over every stage of her development. (3 John 1:2; Isaiah 40:29; Psalm 139:13-16)

I is for Intellect

Ask God to give your child understanding, so she might learn His commands. Pray that He’d bless her with a sound mind and would grant her wisdom and discernment. Pray that she would love the truth and not be swayed by false teaching. (Psalm 119:73; James 1:5; Proverbs 2:2-11; Ephesians 4:14)

L is for Love

Pray that your child would feel secure both in God’s love and in her parents’ love. Pray that she would learn to put others first. Pray that she would love the LORD with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength, and would love others as herself. (Romans 8:38-39; 1 John 4:19; Mark 12:30-31; Philippians 2:2-4)

D is for Disposition

Ask God to give your child a happy, cheerful disposition. Pray that He would fill her heart with joy and gratitude. Pray that she would bring hope and encouragement to everyone she meets. (Proverbs 15:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 6:7; Romans 15:13; Proverbs 12:25; Hebrews 10:23-25)


“For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of Him.” (1 Samuel 1:27)

Do you (did you) pray for your babies before they were born? On what things were you most likely to focus your requests?

Parents should never underestimate the power of prayer. Even if you’ve not prayed consistently in the past, you can start now. Here are a couple of our other free printable guides to help you do that:

Praying for Your Children from Head to Toe
Praying for Your Teenager

We invite you to check out our printables page for even more!

Pray for Your Teen!

I received a request from a reader this week for a printable prayer guide for teens. Here’s what she wrote:

Thank you so much for your head-to-toe prayers! I’ve been using your husband one to pray for my husband for a few months and it’s been powerful! I like the one for children, also, which I just found today. I’d love it if you made one specifically geared toward teenaged children. I currently have five in that age range and never has there been a time in their lives when they need more prayer.

She’s right, of course.

Our children need prayer at every age and stage of life. They need Mom and Dad to faithfully and fervently bring them to the throne of Grace and intercede on their behalf. This is especially true during their teen years, as they navigate the sometimes tortuous path from carefree childhood to responsible adulthood.

And as we are praying for our teens, we must also remember to pray for ourselves — that God would grant us wisdom to face what challenges lie ahead, that He would give us patience to meet those challenges with understanding and grace, and that He would comfort us with the knowledge that He loves our children even more than we do and will be faithful to complete the good work He’s begun in them. (Philippians 1:6)

- A Prayer Guide for Your Teens -

T is for Trust

Ask God not only to bring your children to saving faith, but also to mature them in that faith. Pray that they would trust the LORD with all their hearts and not lean on their own understanding. Pray that you, as a parent, would maintain their trust, so that they will always feel comfortable confiding in you or coming to you for counsel. Pray that your teens would prove themselves worthy of the trust others place in them. (Ephesians 2:8; James 1:4; Proverbs 3:5; Proverbs 5:1; Proverbs 25:13)

E is for Education

Pray that the LORD would place within your children’s hearts a lifelong thirst for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Pray that your teens would learn to number their days and use their time wisely. Ask God to give them an eternal focus, so they will prioritize those things that He says are important. And ask that He’d provide clear direction as they make decisions regarding college and career paths. (Prov. 23:23; Psalm 90:12; Micah 6:8; James 1:5; Proverbs 2:3-11)

E is for Emotions

Ask God for an extra measure of sympathy and discernment as you parent your child through puberty and beyond. Pray that He would keep the lines of communication open as you discuss with them the fact that hormones not only affect the way their bodies grow, but the way they think, as well. Ask Him to help your teens navigate those changes wisely, while nurturing the fruit of the Spirit, including love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and (especially) self-control. Pray that they would not be ruled by their feelings, but would take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (1 Peter 3:8; Ephesians 4:29; Psalm 19:14; Proverbs 4:20-27; Galatians 5:22-23; Jeremiah 17:9-10; 2 Corinthians 10:5)

N is for Name

Pray that your teens would live and walk with integrity and that God would reward them with a good name. Pray that they’d do nothing to tarnish their reputation, but would serve as salt and light in their community, that the love of Christ would shine through them to a lost and dying world. Ask God to help them choose their friends and confidants wisely. Pray that no one should look down on their youthfulness, but that in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, they would show themselves an example of those who believe. (Proverbs 11:3; Proverbs 20:7; Proverbs 3:3-4; Matthew 5:13-14; Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 27:17; 1 Timothy 4:12)

S is for Spouse

Pray that God would give your teens a clear vision of all that marriage is meant to be. Ask Him to grant them patience as they wait on His choice and timing, temperance to meanwhile maintain their purity (both in thought and deed), and a spirit of discernment as they evaluate potential mates. Pray that God would help them become the kind of person they want to marry, that they might be equally yoked in every way. (Mark 10:6-9; Psalm 33:22; 1 John 3:3; Romans 6:12-14; Proverbs 18:22; Proverbs 31:10-31; 2 Corinthians 6:14)


These are the things my husband and I pray for our teens. Can you think of anything we’ve left off the list? Maybe “S for Safety” — especially as they start to drive? You may just have to flip the page over and continue the list of specifics on the back!

You can download all our other prayer guides here: Free Printables.

“The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear him; He will also hear their cry and will save them.” (Psalm 145:18-19)

Do You Wanna Have a Baby?

I’ve been hearing daily reprises of FROZEN songs ever since the movie hit the theater last fall. My kids love it and have memorized most of the songs by heart and can even play a couple of them on the piano.

My personal favorite is “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” which I’ve been singing for months — but with homemade lyrics. You can listen below (or scroll down for the words, if you want to sing along):

Do you wanna have a baby?
So cute and cuddly and small
Then we could kiss his little nose
And count his tiny toes
And watch him learn to crawl
A baby is a blessing
From above
You’ll love him, and so will I
Do you wanna have a baby?
I know you’d love to make a baby!
C’mon… let’s try.

Do you wanna have a baby?
So fresh and innocent and new
I bet her skin will be as soft as silk
I’ll feed her mother’s milk
And listen to her coo
I wanna hear her heartbeat
Deep within my womb
Grow stronger as days go by
(Lub dub lub dub lub dub)

Do you wanna have a baby?
With chubby cheeks and downy head
I’ll sing him lullabies and hug him tight
And rock him every night
Then tuck him into bed.
I wanna be a mother
It’s ingrained in me:
What I was meant to do.
Do you wanna have a baby?

Of course, the song makes better sense if you’ve already seen the movie. If you haven't, I’d highly recommend doing so. (Incidentally, the Happy Home Fairy is even giving away a copy on her blog this week. You can sign up for the giveaway by following this link.)

Do You Wanna Have a Baby | Frozen parody music video

Lessons Learned from a Two-Year-Old

In celebration of my son David’s birthday today, I wanted share a couple of my favorite stories from his childhood (and important lessons learned along the way). Enjoy!


Our baby boy!Anybody who has ever given birth knows that a having a baby can turn your life upside-down; however, after experiencing this phenomenon twelve times over, I can testify that some babies turn it upside-downer than others.

Some babies cry and are colicky and sleep just as little as possible throughout those first weeks and months and years of life.

We’ve had several of those (although they eventually grew out of it and were definitely worth the trouble — in fact, we saw one of our crankiest, most inconsolable babies blossom into one of our most caring, compassionate adults).

Other babies are all smiles and sunshine and seldom complain about anything. We’ve been blessed with a couple of those, too (and are glad to report they did not grow out of it, but are still just as pleasant as ever).

Our third born is a prime example. David was as easy a baby as any mother could hope to have. He was quiet, happy, and content all the time. If he got bumped or startled or scared, his eyes would get as big as saucers, but he wouldn’t utter a sound. Even when he woke up hungry, he’d coo rather than cry.

David slept all night from the day he came home from the hospital (which means I got to sleep, too). He slept the better part of most days, as well. He basically slept around-the-clock for twenty-four months solid.

But then he turned two and stopped sleeping altogether.

Suddenly, my incredibly easy baby was wide-awake, insatiably curious, and into everything! He lived in constant motion, but was still extremely quiet (translation: he was sneaky), which meant I had to watch him. Every. Second.
Snips and snails and puppy dog tails... that's what little boys are made of!
A few days after his birthday, I made the mistake of bending over to pull a weed while David was playing with his older siblings in our backyard. By the time I stood back up, he’d clambered over our fence, dashed down the alley, and climbed into our neighbor’s yard to pet their dog. Of course, I was only a few steps behind him, but that is beside the point.

The real question is, what’s a two-year-old doing scaling fences in the first place?

That was a game changer for which I was woefully unprepared.

The following month, David discovered that by climbing onto the workbench, he could reach (and operate) the switch to our automatic garage door opener. One bright Saturday morning,his Daddy heard a cry for help and, upon investigating, found our toddler hanging by his fingertips from the ceiling of the garage! He had apparently caught a ride up on the moving door, but was uncertain how to get back down.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying, sometimes LIFE can feel a little like that. Know what I mean?

Have you ever wondered, like I sometimes do, O what’ve I gotten myself into now? Have you ever felt like you’re barely hanging on by tooth or by nail? Do you desperately cling to an old way of doing things, a way that no longer makes sense, because you’re afraid of what might happen if you let go? Are you hoping against hope that someone will happen along who can help?

Maybe that’s why God allows us to get into such predicaments in the first place — because it makes us so acutely aware of our need for Him, our need for wisdom, our need for balance.

And that’s a good thing, for we must recognize a need before we can ever hope to meet it (or, in twelve-step lingo, we must admit there is a problem before we can find a solution).

My two-year-old’s response to the garage door incident is a reasonable response for adults, as well. Whenever life leaves us hanging by our fingertips, we must remember to:

  • Cry out for help
  • Be willing to let go
  • Learn from past mistakes
  • Avoid the things that throw us off-balance in the future

Our tireless toddler is now six-foot seven, out of the nest, and in his second year of dental school (mothers of energetic two-year-olds, be encouraged: this stage will pass, all too soon). In all those interim years, we never had to rescue that son from the ceiling of the garage again (from other heights, perhaps, but never again from that one). He learned his lesson well.

Here’s a picture of David today (along with his colicky-turned-compassionate sister/classmate Bethany, who is equally amazing):

So proud of these kids...

The Bible teaches that “the beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom,” (Proverbs 1:7) and that if any of us lack wisdom, we should “ask of God, who gives generously to all, without finding fault, and it will be given.” (James 1:5)

Prayer should be our first response to any problem, for God is the ultimate source of every solution.

Isn’t it a comfort to realize that, just as my sweet little David called for his Daddy so many years ago, we can cry out to our Heavenly Father, who stands at the ready to rescue us, to take care of us, to plant our feet back on solid ground?

15 Unexpected Benefits of Big Family Living

The Unexpected Benefits of Big Family Living | Loving Life at HomeI love children and have wanted a bunch of them for as long as I can remember.

Not surprisingly, this fact significantly narrowed the field of potential marriage partners back when I was in college.

“Want to grab a cup of coffee?” an interested classmate might venture.

“That depends,” I’d answer matter-of-factly. “How many kids do you plan to have when you get married?”

Subtlety has never my strong suit.

This line of questioning quickly scared off most would-be suitors, but I didn’t want to risk falling in love with someone who didn’t share my desire for a big family.

So I held out… and my patience eventually paid off. Mr. Right finally showed up a few weeks before graduation.

Not only was he interested (in me!), but he gave the desired response to all of my questions — and didn’t seem intimidated by my asking them.

The rest, as they say, is history: I married him 16 months later, got pregnant two weeks into our honeymoon, and spent the following quarter of a century either pregnant or nursing (or both).

Life as the mother of many has been every bit as blissful as I imagined. Sure, there have been lots of unexpected challenges, but there have also been plenty of unanticipated rewards. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Expanded Options
  2. There are so many beautiful names with wonderful meanings out there, it’s difficult to narrow down the list of favorites and pick only one. Having a big family completely solves that quandary – you can use them all! (Or in our case, almost all — we’re still hoping for a Hannah).

  3. Boredom Busters
  4. There is never a dull moment in a home filled with children, and there is always somebody to play with. Neighbors and schoolmates will come and go, but siblings are friends you can keep for life.

  5. Conversation Starters
  6. Big families invite all sorts of inquiries: “Are all these kids yours?” “Don’t you know what causes that?” “Are you going to have any more?” “Do I need to buy you a TV?” In our experience, most of the people asking such questions aren’t trying to be rude — they’re genuinely curious — so we answer as graciously and amicably as we possibly can. What a great way to meet people!

  7. Group Discounts
  8. A really big family can qualify for discounted group admission rates without even trying. And do we ever get our money’s worth on those annual zoo and museum memberships — especially the ones that offer reciprocal benefits at sister sites!

  9. A Deeper Admiration
  10. The love and affection I felt for my husband as a spouse, great though it was, increased manifold when he became the father of my children. I still enjoy watching him teach and train and interact with our preschoolers, adolescents, teens, and adult children, but there is something so specially endearing about the way he cuddles and cootchy-coos our babies, it makes me glad that for so long we’ve had one in the house to draw that tenderness out of him.

  11. Household Help
  12. A wise man once observed, “Many hands make light labor.” He was right. Of course, many hands make bigger messes to begin with, but when everyone pitches in to help clean up, household chores are knocked out in short order, and kids learn responsibility and other important life skills from an early age.

  13. No PMS
  14. Between pregnancy and breastfeeding, you can literally go for years without having a monthly cycle. I’m not gonna lie — that has really been nice.

  15. Pick Your Sport
  16. Depending on the size of your family, you can field your own basketball team. Or volleyball. Or baseball. Or soccer. The physical exercise does a body good, and the games give ample opportunity to practice good sportsmanship among other players who are held to the same standard.

  17. Social Security
  18. Contrary to what “Zero Population Growth” proponents will tell you, demographic declines are causing deeply troubling problems for societies worldwide, which is why many countries (Germany, Japan, and Austrailia, to name just a few) are now actually paying people to procreate. Big families are simply ahead of the curve.

  19. Youthful Beauty
  20. While pregnancy keeps you looking young (think thick, glossy hair and glowing complexion), the children themselves keep you feeling young. It’s a wonderful thing to see the world through the eyes of a child, so filled with awe and excitement over each new discovery. Their energy, enthusiasm, and laughter are infectious.

  21. One Less Excuse
  22. Being open to pregnancy allows couples to enjoy intimacy as God intended. No frantic search for a misplaced diaphragm. No mad dash to the drugstore when you run out of condoms. No having to compensate for the fact that the Pill completely decimates a woman’s libido. Just blessed spontaneity (although regularly scheduling time for said spontaneity is highly recommended).

  23. No Sour Milk
  24. In a house full of kids (especially teenaged boys), food seldom lasts long enough to go bad. That’s a plus! You can buy in bulk without fear of spoilage. And as an added bonus, dinner conversation never drags with so many different personalities contributing to it.

  25. Built-In Babysitters
  26. Our kids absolutely love babies and are always clamoring to hold our newest addition. As a result, they can all handle infants very comfortably and capably — experience that will come in handy someday when they start having kids of their own. As an added bonus, our big guys have discovered that nothing attracts attention from the opposite sex more effectively than toting around a new baby brother or sister (otherwise known as a “chick magnet”).

  27. Best Foot Forward
  28. Not only do children help refine their parents’ character qualities, but they polish one another, as well. Siblings have a way of knocking off one another’s rough edges, so they’re less likely to make fools of themselves in public. Corny jokes and lame pranks can be tested (then reworked as needed or altogether abandoned) at home, where the stakes are lower and the audience more forgiving.

  29. Empty Nest Postponed
  30. When you are blessed with many children, you don’t have to give up all your favorite things about one stage of life to enjoy all the great things about the next. You’ll still have little ones at home to cuddle even after first ones move away. That’s a happy distraction during what would otherwise be a bittersweet time. Also, studies show that the older a couple is when their last child leaves home, the more likely their marriage will survive the transition.

I could go on (and on and on), but I’ll stop there. What are your favorite things about having children? Do you plan to have any more? Don’t you know what causes that? Do I need to buy you a TV?

Pray for Your Children from Head to Toe

After I published my popular “Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe” printable, several readers requested a similar prayer guide for wives. I made one, and my husband published it on his blog last year. Recently a reader suggested I do a “Praying for Your Children from Head to Toe” guide, which I agreed was an excellent idea. So here it is. May you and your children both be blessed!

Pray for Your Children from Head to Toe | free printable from Loving Life at Home

[Click image to print a black & white copy of this guide.]

Pray for Their Mind:

Pray that your children would earnestly seek wisdom and understanding; that they would value knowledge and discernment; and that their thoughts would stay centered on the truth of God’s Word. (Proverbs 2:1-6; Proverbs 3:21; James 1:5; Psalm 119:97)

Pray for Their Eyes:

Ask God to guard your children’s eyes and protect their innocence. Pray that they would focus their attention on doing what is right. (Romans 16:19; Proverbs 4:25)

Pray for Their Ears:

Pray that your children would be quick to hear and that they would incline their ears to listen to instruction. (James 1:19; Isaiah 55:3; Proverbs 8:32-34)

Pray for Their Mouth:

Ask God to keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking lies. Pray that all their words would be pleasing to Him and edifying to others. (Psalm 34:13; Psalm 19:14)

Pray for Their Heart:

Ask God to give your children a happy, cheerful heart. Pray that they’d come to faith early and would trust easily and completely in Him. (Proverbs 15:13; Psalm 28:7)

Pray for Their Hands:

Pray that they would be diligent in their work and that their hands would not be idle, but that God would bless, confirm, and establish the work of their hands. (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Ecclesiastes 11:6; Proverbs 10:4-5)

Pray for Their Legs:

Pray that your children would not walk in step with the wicked nor stand in the way of sinners, but that they’d find wise and godly companions along life’s journey. (Psalm 1:1; Proverbs 13:20)

Pray for Their Feet:

Ask God to direct their steps, to help them stand fast, and to protect them from stumbling. (Psalm 17:5; Psalm 37:23-24; Psalm 121:3; Psalm 119:133)

A Mother’s Job Description

A Mother's Job Description - 4 Habits that Will Help You Raise Happy Children| Loving Life at HomeIt’s really something we all should be doing. But when I came across this verse in my Bible reading a couple of weeks ago, it dawned on me that 1 Thessalonians 5:14 provides a particularly apt job description for mothers:

“We urge you [to] admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

Doesn’t that about sum it up? Aren’t these the very things that God calls and expects a mother to do each and every day?

  1. Admonish the unruly

    Children of all ages can act a little headstrong and ill-behaved from time to time. When they do, a mother should stand ready to admonish them — not out of anger or irritation or exasperation, but out of love, always keeping her children’s best interest at heart. She must correct, counsel, and caution them against continuing in that vein. To do otherwise is to be guilty of negligence.

    “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15)

  2. Encourage the fainthearted

    Growing up is hard work, and children need a lot of motivation and morale-boosting. As a mother, we should be our child’s first and best cheerleader, offering a healthy balance of enthusiasm and empathy. We should view every day as a new opportunity to invest in our children’s inner lives and to inspire them to greatness.

    “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

  3. Help the weak

    Women are nurturers by nature. Helping the weak is what we do. This is especially evident when it comes to mothering. But we must be mindful to help in a way that doesn’t perpetuate weakness, but builds strength. Our goal is not to raise big children, but mature, responsible adults. We help our kids best when we teach them to help themselves and empower them to help others.

    “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)

  4. Be patient with everyone

    Be patient. With everyone. Did you notice the exception clause? Neither did I. The Bible doesn’t say we should be patient with everyone except the toddler who’s pitching a fit or the teen who’s copping an attitude or the son who’s begging to play on the computer after you’ve already told him “no” ten times. Neither is impatience excused if we’re dog-tired or running late or stressed out or stuck in traffic. No, our goal — even when admonishing the unruly (see #1) — is to maintain patience at all times, toward all people, in all circumstances. Period.

    “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

While these four principles sound simple enough, it’s a challenge to live by them consistently, isn’t it? Yet the latter part of this passage provides a clue as to how we might do so. It bids us to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)

This, I believe, is the secret to success in parenting (or any other endeavor): Stay positive and stay on your knees. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. That is key.

So what sort of things would you add to the list on a mother’s job description? Did any of those requirements throw you for a loop when you first became a mother?

A Letter to My Father

A Letter to My FatherTomorrow marks the seventh anniversary of my father’s passing.

I remember dreaming that Daddy died several years before he actually did. The dream came long before the cancer diagnosis, before his health began to deteriorate, back when he was still in the prime of life, while he was still here.

But the dream shook me up. In my dream, my father died suddenly. I woke up crying, missing him terribly, stricken by grief, and filled with remorse over all the unspoken things I should have said, would have said, if only I had another chance.

How relieved I was to realize it was only a dream and there was still time to say what was in my heart.

So I crawled out of bed in the wee hours of the morning, bleary-eyed but grateful that my dad was still in the land of the living, and scrambled around for a pen and some stationery to write a few words of gratitude to my father while I still had opportunity to do so.

This is the letter I sent him the following day:

Dear Daddy,

So many things that I’ve taken for granted for so long come crashing through my consciousness sometimes when I talk to someone whose past experiences have been so different from my own. That was definitely the case when I asked a friend this week whether he had any fond memories of his father, and he faltered with “we used to wrestle, which was fun.” We sat in silence as he searched his mind for anything else, and all the while my mind was absolutely flooded by all my precious memories of you.

How grateful I am for every one of them!

I was reminded of how you searched through the sand until you found my lost birthstone ring; how you waved from the sidelines as I marched in a school parade; how you taught me about negotiation (even with retail stores) when you bargained with the manager for a better price on all those lap desks I used to paint; how you’d bounce and flop me around in your lap in that old Lazy Boy recliner (I can still see the room spinning upside down in my mind) and pull pennies out from behind my ears or make my hair ribbons disappear in your fist or remove splinters from my fingers and toes; how you’d spend what seemed like hours making and checking addition drills for me on that terrific yellow legal pad (I still love legal pads) and would give me logic problems to do in my head on long trips or would test my night vision on far-off roadsigns; how you and Mother would let me swing between your arms on the walk home from open house at my grade school; how you’d surprise us with chocolate milk and donuts from the shop on the corner or surprise Mother with a dozen Tyler roses you bought off a street vendor for a quarter (one of my favorite memories, as she always seemed so pleased); how you’d feed us ice cream cones for breakfast (unbeknownst to Mom) and claim it was the same basic thing as cereal with milk; how you’d fit a crib mattress into the backseat of the Plymouth for trips to Oklahoma or an occasional drive-in movie; how you made me the coolest art box (with the ingenious paint palette and built-in easel) when I decided I wanted to be an artist like Aunt Loura; how you accompanied us to church every Sunday and didn’t leave it to mother to take us like the fathers of so many of our friends did; how you even noticed that my makeup was caked on too thick and threatened to pull me out of the choir loft and personally scrub it off my face if I ever wore it so heavy again; how you went to bat for me with my eighth grade English teacher when she counted off for my spelling the plural of chimney as requested, rather than the singular as was in the spelling book; how you let us clean that dirty iron scrollwork on a house you were painting (and though it was hard work, and I may have grumbled at the time – did I? – it was a wonderful feeling to be able to help you); how you’d discuss with me – I thought you talked to me just like an adult rather than a child – such awe-inspiring topics as the universe, eternity, astronomy, theology and philosophy; how you would brag on me to the family on Mema’s front porch when you thought I was out of earshot and wouldn’t hear (or did you realize I was eavesdropping from the front room?); how your blue eyes would twinkle and you’d wink at mother whenever you teased me; how you walked past the dollar-bill-on-a-string a dozen times on April Fools’ Day without ever stopping to pick it up (which annoyed me at the time, but strikes me as funny now); how you and Mother would host the church youth at our house long before Kimberly and I were old enough for youth group (as well as during and after) and how you also had homemade ice cream ready and waiting for a party (be a celebration or consolation) after cheerleading tryouts in six grade; how you always encouraged me in every endeavor and taught me not to be afraid to attempt new things and told me I could do anything I set my mind to; how you’d rescue me whenever my car broke down or ran out of gas, and would beat the bushes for me if I were ever late for curfew (which I’m sure was much more difficult before the advent of cell phones);how you loved me, and taught me, and led me, and encouraged me, and built me up from the day I was born, even until now.

I just hope and pray that my own children will have as much good and as little bad to remember about me when they are grown and gone, and will have as inexhaustible supply a fond childhood memories as I do! I don’t tell you often enough, but I love you with all my heart –

Your appreciative daughter,
Jennifer

As I read back over this letter, I’m struck by the fact that my sweetest memories are often the simplest ones. My father didn’t need to buy expensive gifts or take me on grand vacations to make my childhood wonderful. It was the little things, the every day kindnesses, that spoke loudest to my heart and assured me of his love.

My daddy wasn’t perfect. No daddy is. He seemed pretty par at the time, although the intervening years have convinced me he was extraordinary in ways my child-brain couldn’t appreciate.

Not everybody is fortunate enough to have a father like mine. If you are one of the favored few, thank God. And if you’re father’s still alive, then by all means thank him, too.

But even if you weren’t blessed with my kind of father, you can bless your own children with my father’s brand of parenting.

You can do it by pouring yourself into them. Give them generous helpings of your time, your attention, your patience, and your love.

Sure, you’ll make mistakes. None of us are perfect. But it’s the little things — the approving smiles, the candid discussions, the interest you take in what interests them, the time you spend together — that make all the difference.

What are you doing today that your child will remember fondly tomorrow?

Then Comes Baby in a Baby Carriage

Children Produce AdultsPeter DeVries once said, “The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults.”

I think both processes are important, but have nonetheless found his point to be true. Having children does tend to mature us faster and better than we might expect to mature without them.

When my husband and I first married, the prevailing wisdom of the time was that a couple should wait five or six years before starting a family. They should get on their feet, perhaps buy a house, and certainly take time to get to know one another before bringing a baby into the picture.

Life didn’t work out that way for us.

God overruled any half-hearted attempts we considered making to prevent pregnancy (which were essentially none at all), and I conceived just two short weeks into our honeymoon.

Thus began our true metamorphoses into adults.

My husband and I were both firstborn, and we both had the stubborn, selfish, self-centered personality so often associated with that birth order. Thankfully, children have a way of working such things out of a parent. Of knocking off the rough edges. Of teaching us to put another ahead of ourselves. (The fact that we still struggle with selfishness at all — even after twelve children — is an indication of just how bad the problem was to begin with).

We have found that having children, having a lot of them, and having them early has been good for our mindset. It has caused us to look at the world differently, giving us a heightened awareness of danger and a fierce desire to protect our little ones from any and every threat, be it physical, spiritual or philosophical in nature. It has shifted our focus away from self.

first-time-father

From the moment I first found out I was expecting, motherhood has compelled me to consider carefully the foods I eat, the hours I sleep, the words I speak, the books I read, and the company I keep. It has forced me to think through where to store cleaning supplies, sharp objects, fragile heirlooms, and photo albums. It’s helped me remember to take my vitamins. It has kept me on my knees in prayer.

I-never-knewHaving babies has been good for my marriage, as well as my mindset. Not only has being a parent changed the way I look at the world, but it has changed the way I look at my husband.

I never knew how much I love him, until I saw how much he loves them.

As newlyweds, we were told that we should get to know one another before having a baby. In reality, having a baby allowed us to get to know each other in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without the baby.

Watching my husband kiss and cuddle and coo over our firstborn simply melted my heart. (He has done this with every one of our babies, to the same effect).

Hearing him spontaneously break into song — usually some silly rhyme or nonsensical verse he composes on the spot, such as “Oh, my smokin’ goodness, this little baby is a toodness” — has never failed to bring a smile to my face or to theirs.

I’ve enjoyed watching him teach our children to tie their laces and scramble eggs and ride a bike and swing a bat and start a lawnmower and drive a car.

I’ve admired his clear instruction, his boundless energy, his patience, and his sense of humor.

I’ve watched my husband keep vigil over a sick child, have marked the concern in his eyes, have heard him pray earnestly on their behalf. When at 23 months, our first son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, he spent a week at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, and Doug never left his side.

My husband works tirelessly, gives lavishly, and loves wholeheartedly. He walks in integrity (Prov. 20:7), and his wife and children are blessed because of it. He chooses to do the right thing and to do it faithfully, even when his motives are misunderstood and his sacrifices unappreciated.

Watching the way Doug parents, seeing the tender care with which he leads our family, has filled my heart to overflowing with a deep, abiding love and appreciation for the magnificent man I married.

And so, on Father’s Day (and the day after, and the day after), I want to honor the father of my children and to thank him for his willingness to be a father twelve times over (or more, should God so bless).

Thank you, Doug Flanders. I love you dearly. It’s been great growing up together.