Fall feels fresh and exciting, a season full of possibilities. School is back in all its forms; families are settling into a new year, new classrooms, and new groups of friends. It can also feel overwhelming, creating struggles to set priorities and find balance in our homes. We also step into church, with great intentions that we’ll show up, we’ll engage, and we’ll be committed to growth in our family and our faith. As quickly as the season starts, we are enveloped with the realities of the new school year — sports schedules, homework, school activities, work, care of family and homes, and then, an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy can sweep over us.
How am I going to help my kids connect with God? Help them grow their faith when we are pulled in so many directions by the world? As Christ following parents, our most important desire is to have our children follow Jesus. Often, it doesn’t take very long before we feel we are missing the mark.
In times like these, I cling to the words found in Deuteronomy 11:
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,” Deuteronomy 11:18-20 ESV
God gave us a road map to use. When I stop and think about it, it’s a simple plan. We need to share God stories with our children every day, in any place, and at any time. Sounds simple, right? A lot of the time it is not, but not because we don’t want to, nor because we don’t value it, but because we are caught up in the busy of life. Yet, I believe the more we can weave our faith into our daily lives, identify God’s hand moving in our lives every moment, and share that with our children – God can use it to impact, shape, and mold our children.
When I look back on my growing up, I can now see how my parents wove faith into our daily lives. I went to the neighbor lady’s Bible study with my mom, and “helped” her write notes in her Bible. I sat at her feet while she practiced telling her Good News Club stories or her Sunday school lesson. Dad prayed every night at dinner and called the family to church — Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, Monday nights, the next big tent meeting, you name it. If church was being held, we were there. My parents opened their home to missionaries who needed a place to stay for a night or weekend, and we heard stories of how God was working in their lives. They didn’t do a big devotional each night or week. They didn’t make us memorize scripture. They did, however, talk about how God wanted us to live, what God had done, and what He is still doing. My siblings and I are still following the Lord and praying regularly for our kids and grandkids (Well, I’m praying for their grandkids, and praying to have a few of my own). What my parents instilled in us has stayed with us well into our adult lives and our own families.
Yet, with my own children I wondered: have I done enough? I tried to emulate similar patterns I saw growing up — praying for car accidents on the road, stopping to share something God made that was beautiful, inviting neighbors to hear the Easter story, and doing egg hunts.
My oldest son, Jeremiah, was always full of energy, life and riding the edge. We knew it was coming when he turned 5 and told me he was now, “a whole handful,” and I laughed and thought, boy, did he speak the truth. His path was far from straight and had many bumps along the road. We kept sowing seeds, having conversations, and pointing to Jesus. We spent a year reading Proverbs every night. Still, Jeremiah continued to face many challenges, addictions, and frustrations, even with the church.
During the summer of his junior year of high school, he and his core church friends were asked to not attend youth groups, as he and his friends were “not the type of kids they wanted others at the church to be around.” Interestingly enough, Jeremiah didn’t miss one Sunday night River service his whole senior year. Our adventure continued with Jeremiah after high school, and we prayed often, shared, and continued to point him to Jesus when we could. The last 3-4 years of Jeremiah’s life, he was reaching out and finding ways to connect with his siblings and the family again. He was sharing dreams of proposing to his girlfriend of 10 years. We were hopeful, encouraged and felt we now can speak life and of Christ’s plans into Jeremiah’s life.
And then… he was gone. December 16, 2016. Unimaginable pain, heaviness, and crushing weight on me, on our family. I have heard people share the heaviness they feel with depression but had never experienced it until that day. I remember crying out to the Lord, “How can I go on with this weight,” “How can I face the next day?” I know Jeremiah prayed with me when he was young, asking Jesus to be his Savior. I clung to that memory, and the promises in Scriptures that say no one can snatch them out of God’s hand (John 10:27-29). But the weight remained.
Former Friendship Church Pastor Doyal VanGelder married Spencer and I, dedicated Jeremiah when he was little and ultimately led his funeral service. It was as Doyal prayed over us that God whispered to me ever so sweetly and faintly, “I have him in my arms, everything is going to be fine,” and I felt the heaviness and weight of fear, pain and debilitating sorrow being lifted off me. God’s care and blessings to me did not end there. He gave me even richer gifts. He allowed friends of Jeremiah to come and share stories of how they prayed with Jeremiah, how Jeremiah lived out Scriptures he learned as a child, like to never let the sun go down on your wrath. His friends also shared that when conversations turned to issues of faith, Jeremiah shared with them that the only way to heaven was through Jesus Christ. Through all Jeremiah’s struggles and hurts, even from the church, he did not leave Jesus. I am confident and anticipate my reunion with Jeremiah in heaven one day.
I tell you all of this for one reason: please find ways to tell God’s stories to your children. Tell them everyday something that you saw God do, something God made, something God revealed to you. You don’t need to have a theological devotional each week, but our children need to hear us talk about how God is working in our lives. How he loves us and has a plan for us, and that we are uniquely and wonderfully made by the Creator of the whole universe. I am 100% confident that God will use your stories and your faith walks to powerfully impact your children and guide them into a deeper relationship with the Lord. Even the littlest thing can make the biggest difference!