Strong Relationships, Part 1

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There are few things a mama feels more deeply about than her children, few roles more complex and tiring than motherhood and few stakes higher. Motherhood is a weighty and wonderful role, and once you become a mama, you are forever changed. 

Elizabeth Elliot says: 

“The process of shaping the child…shapes also the mother herself. Reverence for her sacred burden calls her to all that is pure and good, that she may teach primarily by her own humble, daily example.”

I’m not sure how you are feeling as you embark on this journey; excitement, fear, a sense of awe that you are now to be entrusted with this new life… I certainly felt all of those feelings and more. Don’t be afraid of your inadequacy. In humility come to the Lord and admit your need of Him. And don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek help from trusted family and friends. 

How do you “tie heartstrings” (or build relationships) with your children, so as they grow up they don’t forget their connection between their parents - even in the teenage years?

This topic is a BIG one, and one I care very much about. I speak to you today as a mom still on the journey of learning how to truly know and love my children. I may have some miles behind me, but I am now on the new journey of asking the Lord to help me continue building on the relationships I have with our adult children. Some days the learning curve feels pretty steep, and I certainly don’t always get it right, but I am committed to the same goals my husband and I started with when we had our first child almost 25 years ago. 

I have spent the past nine days writing on an ever-growing word document and randomly grabbing scraps of paper to jot down ideas that come to me as I go throughout the day. I sought the thoughts and perspective of my husband and asked each of our three kids to have them help me learn ways that we built relationships with them over the years. I realize that every one of these points could be an entire talk of their own, so I prayed and asked the Lord to help me to synthesize and get to the heart of what I wanted to say and then to trust Him. I pray that I have done that!

Four major priorities or loves kept coming to the surface as I contemplated some of the ways to build relationships with your children that will carry on from infancy to adulthood: love for God, your husband, your children and the priority of genuine conversation (which is a major part of each “love”).

Remember, strong relationships and communication in the teen years begin with patterns and conversations that you began when they are little. It’s not necessarily something new you do with your teen, but an extension of what you have been doing all along. I encourage you to talk early and often about everything that truly matters to you. Help them to know your priorities from an early age. And don’t wait until you feel like you have all the “how” figured out before you start…just begin and trust that God will help you to grow and develop the specifics as time goes on.

1st Priority: Love for God

Recently I re-read Deuteronomy 11. In verse 13 Moses told God’s people to “love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.” In verse 18, he went on to remind them to impress the words of God on their own heart and soul and to place them physically on their bodies as ready reminders. And then he reminded them of their responsibility to teach those very words to their children all the time: “when you sit in the house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you rise up.” In both the Old and New Testaments God is very clear - God’s people are called to love Him with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. Daily we are to impress God’s Word upon our own hearts, and then, if we have children, we are to seek every opportunity to talk about it and live it out before our kids every day. 

Clearly, this must be priority number one for all of us. This one choice will affect all else we do as moms.

You and I have been called to know our God and we have been given the wonderful privilege to read God’s revelation of HIMSELF every day through His Word! This shouldn’t be hard, but I know it is! It’s hard to make it a priority before you have kids and it will often be even more difficult once you have children. The enemy of your soul knows this too, and he will use all manner of methods to distract and discourage you from your pursuit of your God in His Word. Do not be surprised about the difficulty, and do not give up because it is so hard!

I encourage you to fight and plan for opportunities in your day to read God’s word every day. Be creative! Place a Bible by the spot where you nurse and softly read His Word over your little one as she nurses. Play Scripture put to music and or listen to it on Bible Gateway. Sing God’s Word and meditate upon it. Install a Bible app on your phone and then read it while waiting for appointments, rather than looking at Facebook or Instagram or reading your email.

As your children get a little older, help them to revere the Word of God too. A young children’s leader puts a Bible on her lap and says, “This is God’s Holy Word, and every word of it is true!” Thank the Lord with them for giving us the Bible, teaching them that the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself. Read to them from God’s Word (when our kids were really young in highchairs I read Bible picture books to them every day at lunch), and let them observe you reading the Word on your own. Talk to them about what you read in the Word together and as they get older, share with them what you are learning as well. We also read theology-type books, like “Leading Little Ones to God.” 

Begin early to set the pattern for the example you wish to continue with your children as they grow older. You want them to know that the Bible is part of your everyday life, that reading it, talking about it and using it to formulate your values and make decisions is very, very normal. Never underestimate the power of your example! 

My pastor recently said in his sermon that kids can smell hypocrisy a mile away. How true this is! Ask God to help you be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. When you fail, confess your sin first to Him and then to your children. Model for your children humility and need of God. In thoughtful and age-appropriate ways, share some of your own weakness and struggles to your children and ways you are asking Him to help you walk in obedience. Let them see in practical ways that the Bible is useful and relevant to your everyday life and decisions, with the prayer that they will continue that dialogue with you and seek the Lord in their own life as they grow.

Never underestimate the power of your example, and know that God can bring about good in your own life as you keep this truth of your example to your children before you. 

These words come from an online article, written by a mom: “Whenever I am discouraged and tempted to give up and give in to sin, the knowledge that my children are watching me and that I am an example to them reins me in and brings me back to where I need to be.”

And don’t forget to pray for your children! Let them know how you are praying for them and ask them if they have specific requests. Pray together often about their questions, concerns or needs. Prayer can be a powerful means to build a relationship with your children.

Although we have no guarantees that our children will choose God for themselves, we have the privilege and responsibility to teach them about God and Biblical truth and to bring them to the Lord in prayer, knowing that He is the One who changes hearts.

Part 1 of 4, written by an anonymous wise mama.