My husband, Tom, and I have had the privilege of raising three amazing daughters. We started “parenthood” in our early 20s and made plenty of mistakes along the way. To say we didn’t have a clue of what we were doing is a fair statement, and we remain in awe of the amazing women Brittney (30 years old), Breanna (28 years old), and Brooke (23 years old) have grown to be. All praise and honor truly go to God who provided wisdom about how to build a firm foundation through friends, family, books (certainly the Bible), and Chase Oaks Church.
After people have met or interacted with our girls, I’m often asked, “How did you raise them to have such a strong faith in God and be so devoted to each other? Are they really best friends?”
I typically share the following three ways to build a firm foundation of faith and family.
1. Building a Firm Foundation in Faith
We gave them the opportunity for a firm foundation. Church attendance and involvement (including serving together) were just part of our family DNA. In our home, there was never a question on Saturday night if we were going to get up for church on Sunday. It’s just what we did. I’m thankful that Tom and I grew up going to church weekly, and it was something we wanted for our family as well. That doesn’t mean it was always easy, and it doesn’t mean that we didn’t experience times when one of the girls didn’t want to go or questioned the importance of it. Sunday mornings were not always our best moments as Tom tried to get four females out of the house on time and “happy,” but we made it happen. And I’ll be forever thankful.
Each of our girls had their own “crisis of faith.” At some point during high school or college, they individually questioned if they truly believed what they had been exposed to and taught as they lived in our home. They met people who believed differently and began to wonder, “What if I had been born to another family and raised to believe differently? What if what you have exposed me to isn’t really THE truth?” I’m actually thankful that they went through the process of doubting and making their faith their own—it needed to happen. I’m also thankful that they had enough foundational teaching and life experience to know that Jesus loved them, died on the cross for their personal sin, and desired a personal relationship with them. I’ll be forever thankful that they were taught truth in Kidzone and Student Ministry. They were an active part in our LifeGroup and served in many areas of our church and community. They knew the truth, and after wrestling with many other options and “what ifs,” they each confirmed to Tom and me their thankfulness for the foundation they were given.
2. Building a Firm Foundation for Our Family
Tom and I were committed to making our family a “team” and a safe place for all of us. We worked hard and played hard, celebrated together, and carried each other’s burdens and concerns. One of the ways this played out was that we made it clear that we would never allow the girls to call each other names or be verbally unkind to each other. I grew up always wanting a sister (although I’m thankful for my two older brothers), and I reminded the girls often of the gift they had in each other. Did they argue? Yes, of course! But looking back, I honestly don’t remember ever hearing, “You are so stupid,” or “I hate you.” And if it did happen, it happened once! To this day, they are each other’s biggest fans, and I’m thankful for that.
3. Building a Firm Foundation Through Prayer
We prayed…a lot! Since the day I found out I was pregnant, I prayed for our baby and for Tom and me to parent well. When our second was coming, I began praying for our children to be best friends and for them to grow to not only love each other but to truly like being together. It’s amazing how God has answered those (many) prayers.
All three of our girls are very different. Sometimes I’m surprised they came from the same family. And yet to this day, they would rather be together than apart. They would choose each other any day. They truly are each other’s best friends! Now that they are married and starting families of their own, it’s a joy to watch them love and support each other in their new roles and love on each other’s children. Honestly, there is nothing better than to watch your adult kids enjoy spending time together!
One thing that I wish we had done differently…I wish we had never stopped praying with our kids at night. When they were little and we were tucking them in, it was such a precious time to end the day talking and praying with and for them as they went to sleep. Somewhere along the way, we stopped doing that. I’m sure it was when schedules were crazy, and often, they were up later than we were, but it’s not like they ever said, “Yeah, I’m done with that. Please don’t come in my room. Please don’t pray with me anymore at night.” We just got out of the habit and stopped doing it.
We prayed often as a family—over meals, over heavy burdens, and over moments we were full of joy and celebration. But we stopped being intentional with one-on-one time at night with them. I try to encourage all of my younger friends to make this a priority…seriously, until they leave your house! Even for those kids that might roll their eyes and act annoyed, I don’t believe they really are.
Our kids need to hear our prayers—prayers of gratitude for the awesome gift of being parents to them, prayers of petition on their behalf, prayers of repentance when we, as their parents, mess up. If you have never prayed with your kids, please start. If you, like me, did it when they were little but have gotten out of the habit, please begin again. I’m grieved that we didn’t take every advantage we could to pray with them before they left for college.
The Rewards of Parenting
Today, I’m thankful that we have family email threads, family texting threads, and a family “Marco Polo” group (my latest/favorite app to help keep us connected—especially since it’s video and I get to see our grandkids on it!). We share prayer requests and crazy things that are happening in our corners of the world. I’m thankful for the culture and DNA of our family. While we are absolutely, 100% not perfect, with God’s wisdom and guidance, we did a few things well that helped created what we have today. We are #teamELFH, which represents the last names in our family. It was really cute when it was “ELF,” but last November, we added the “H,” an addition we all happily celebrated together!
Parenting is one of the most difficult yet rewarding jobs we will ever have. It is also an area of life that we need to do with others to support and encourage one another through the difficult times and the good times. On Saturday, March 30, 2019, Chase Oaks Church will be hosting Life at the Table where you will enjoy engaging speakers and experts and will find practical tools that will strengthen various areas of your life, including parenting. We hope you’ll join us and make this investment for you and your family.