When my kids were little, my husband and I attended a parenting class at our church. The whole concept of a class on parenting almost makes me chuckle. Can anyone offer training for this monumental task in the space of eight weeks?

The older, wiser couple who led the class did a beautiful job of providing overarching principles coupled with personal and even vulnerable anecdotes that truly have stuck with me. One of the principles presented was that valuing the relationship with our kids when they are small will reap dividends in influence when they are not so small. 

The verse from Jesus’ parable of the faithful servant comes to mind: “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things . . .” (Matthew 25:21, NIV). 

What exactly does it look like to value the relationship with your children?

For us, it has meant asking for forgiveness a whole lot. There is nothing more humbling than when you mess up with the ones you love. It has meant sticking with quarreling children until it is worked out even when you feel like your last nerve is being rubbed raw. There have been individual back-to-school dates, just you with mom or dad experience gifts for Christmas, and lots of chats over tea or hot chocolate. Vacations, stops for ice cream, and holiday traditions have served as glue that binds us together. Laughing at what they find funny and being silly at their side translates to, “You matter to me.”

The testing of this concept has come within the last 18 months for us as our family moved from Pennsylvania to England. Our kids were ages 14, 12, 9, and 3 when we moved, and it cannot be adequately captured with words how hard this shift was for them. Had we known how excruciating it was going to be, I do not know if my husband and I would have had the courage to actually make this move. In God’s mercy, we were ignorant when we embarked on this adventure. 

My oldest son, now almost 16, has been living in a crucible. Changing high schools across town is not easy—in a new country is near impossible to survive. At an age when he just wants to say the right thing and be accepted, navigating a new culture feels disorienting and suffocating. 

This beautiful boy of mine was born without a left hand. Interestingly enough, during our life in the USA, he was the quintessential golden boy, who oozed confidence, leadership, and compassion for others. His apparent “handicap” was not seen as such by us, himself, or his peers. Now in a new place where his identity was unknown, he was bullied for this difference.

“I never knew how ugly, I was, Mom,” he confided. And my heart rent in two.

I don’t even know exactly when it began, but we started having breakfast together. Each morning there are four kids to get to three different schools, so this isn’t the most convenient time, but it has become sacred. We rise early for a fried egg sandwich for him and a superfood smoothie for me, along with a cup of tea for us both. We talk, we take a look at the Bible together, and we wrestle through issues like “Why is there suffering?” or “What is faith?” and “Is God really good?” 

Eighteen months ago, I wouldn’t have seen difficult days for this guy as a teenager, but they are here. I am so thankful for the years of notes in the lunch box, homework help, and cheering on the sidelines of the soccer field for they have brought us to the space of our breakfasts in the midst of the pain. The struggle isn’t over for him, but my husband and I are in the thick of it with him due to the day-in, day-out relationship building along the way. It is a privilege to be able to influence this precious son in this hard place.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Amy Mullens

Amy is an American church planter alongside her husband and four children living in the Midlands of England.  She loves great conversation, well written books, and a strong cup of coffee. Walking the English countryside, chats with neighbors and feeding swans along the river are all luxuries that she is committed to making time for.

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

You’re Almost Grown, But You’re Always Welcome Back Home

In: Kids, Motherhood
Teen in room studying with computer and smartphone

Dear child, In the days before you could walk or talk, there were times when you would wail—when my rocking and shushing and bouncing were seemingly futile—but it didn’t matter. Each day and night, multiple times, I always picked you up and welcomed you back into my arms. As a toddler and a preschooler, you had some pretty epic meltdowns. There were times when you would thrash and scream, and all I could do was stand by and wait for the storm to blow over. Eventually, you would run to me, and I would welcome you back with a warm embrace....

Keep Reading

No One Warned Me About the Last Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn baby, black-and-white photo

No one warned me about the last baby. When I had my first, my second, and my third, those first years were blurry from sleep deprivation and chaos from juggling multiple itty-bitties. But the last baby? There’s a desperation in that newborn fog to soak it up because there won’t be another. No one warned me about the last baby. Selling the baby swing and donating old toys because we wouldn’t need them crushed me. I cried selling our double jogger and thought my heart would split in two when I dropped off newborn clothes. Throwing out pacifiers and bottles...

Keep Reading

Parents Are Terrible Salespeople for Parenting

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tired mother with coffee cup on table, child sitting next to her

As the years of fertility start to wane, many of my childless peers are confronted with the question, “Should I have kids?” With hesitation, they turn to us parents who, frankly, seem overwhelmingly unhappy. They ask sheepishly, “Is it worth it?” We lift our heads up, bedraggled, bags under our eyes, covered in boogers and sweat and spit up, we mutter, “Of course! It’s so fulfilling!” It’s like asking a hostage if they like their captor. Sure, it’s great. We love them. But our eyes are begging for liberation. Save me, please. I haven’t slept through the night in years....

Keep Reading

Soak in the Moments because Babies Don’t Keep

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Roller coaster photo, color photo

I love marking the moments, the ones that count—making a note and storing them for memory. But I often miss out on them when it comes to our oldest. ⁣ ⁣The day he wanted to be baptized, I was at home with another kiddo who was sick. He called me from church excitedly, emphasizing he was ready and didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t argue with that, so I watched him go underwater through videos my husband and sweet friends in the congregation took. ⁣ ⁣On the day of his fifth-grade graduation, we found ourselves at the pediatrician’s office. Instead...

Keep Reading

Sometimes a Kid Just Needs a Sick Day

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy outside, color photo

My middle son stayed home from school today. He said he was sick. I’m not sure that is the truth. I was lucky enough to have a mom who was an amazing caretaker, especially when you were sick. She pulled out all the stops. A cozy clean space to be, a thermos with ice cold juice by your side, Mrs. Grass’s soup, and Days of Our Lives on the screen while she tidied up the house. It was the best feeling in the world to be home and cozy with my mom when I was sick. It felt cozy and...

Keep Reading

Sometimes We Need Someone to Just Sit With Us in Our Struggle

In: Kids, Motherhood
Sad woman sits on floor, black and white image

Early this morning, I told (yelled is more accurate) my sons to get up with the same furious ferocity I use every morning when I realize they should be ready to go, but are still unconsciously snoozing away. One son lazily said, “I’m up, Mom” (even though he was very much not up). The other son, who typically has no problems getting up, had overslept and immediately freaked out, thinking he would be late to school. He proceeded to have a mini-meltdown from the dark recesses of his bedroom. That overflowed into the hallway where I found him lying face-down,...

Keep Reading

Daughter of Mine, Do Not Let the World Extinguish Your Fire

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and young daughter, color photo

Daughter of mine, I see the fire behind your eyes. Do not let it die. Daughter of mine who runs wildly and loves freely and whose anger is always whipping silently just under the surface like a pilot light, ready to ignite with one tiny spark. Do not let it die. RELATED: There is Wild Beauty in This Spirited Child of Mine Daughter of mine, one day you will become a woman, and the world will try to steal you and mold you and tell you who to become. Do not let it. It will try to fit you in...

Keep Reading

God Chose Me to Be the Mother of a Wild One

In: Kids, Motherhood
Woman holding child on the beach, black-and-white photo

It was just another typical fall morning. There was a time change so you were a little extra sleepy (also known as grouchy) but nothing too out of the ordinary. In a split second, that all changed, and the reality of what it is like to live with an unbelievably relentless little human set in like never before. I sat on your bedroom floor, laundry scattered all around, and literally watched my tears fall to the ground. I was on my knees. Physically on my knees just begging you to stop or begging God to give me patience. I don’t...

Keep Reading

I’m Raising a Fearless Daughter

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little girl on playground

Imagine you are at the playground with your kid(s), and you look over to see someone else’s kid launching themselves off the tallest tower on the entire playground. You feel your heart stop for a second, you suck in a sharp breath. You think to yourself, or maybe you even say it out loud, “Oh my gosh!” That kid—the one who is always finding the most dangerous way to do literally everything? That’s my kid. Truthfully, that’s both my kids, my youngest just isn’t tall enough to join in on the real danger yet. RELATED: Raising a Wild Child Is...

Keep Reading