I sit in church today behind my teenaged sons. One has a buzz cut and the other has wild dark blonde waves that leave my husband wondering sotto voice if the boy forgot to comb his hair this morning. “It’s the style,” I whisper, and John’s eyebrows go up even as he sighs resignedly.

My boys. My babies.

They’re long and lean, 16 and 14. The 16 year old is 5 foot 11.  The 14 year old is nearly that, and growing so fast that he may surpass his brother soon.  Today their clothes are accidentally coordinated, like I used to dress them when they were little:  khaki cargo shorts and Old Navy flip-flops and earth tone plaid shirts left untucked.

Their handsomeness clutches at my hearts, with their turning-into-men faces.  I think of their sincere faith in God, and their love of stick-fighting and video games, and their willingness to steer the three year old around in the pool in her little red boat. They take my breath away for a moment, these wonderful boys of mine.  My voice falters in the middle of a song, and my husband shoots a glance my way.

In recent moments of motherhood, moments where I lose my confidence, moments where I doubt my ability or my stamina, I look at these big kids of mine and see redemption.  I know I failed them plenty of times.  And yet look at them.  Strong and kind and sensible and funny and faith-filled and well-loved by those who surround them in this world.

They’re growing well in spite of my floundering as a mother.   In spite of my persistent frustrating humanity.  God has redeemed my efforts, maximizing the good stuff and graciously making the least of the bad.  When I grow weary in parenting my younger ones, feeling some days like my impact is small and my mistakes are many, I look at these big kids of mine and know that God loves my little ones just as much– that He can work just as powerfully on their behalf.

Each child will choose his or her own path, and there may be decisions that are not of my choosing.  And yet God has proven His power to work beside me and through me, to make much more of my effort than I even deserve.

‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.  Zech 4:6

‘so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.’ 1 Cor 2:5

Praise Him, for He has done marvelous things.


  1. Nice post and good looking young men. Nice that they wore coorinated clothes. My son is 13 and his hair is wild all the time, although not on purpose.

  2. My eighteen year old son is on his first vacation without his parents. I SO miss him but then again, I’ve missed his ten year old self for a long time. 🙂

    Sons are definitely a gift from God. Well, daughters, too but they don’t make you feel quite so safe as sons do.

  3. Ah…sons. yeah, a gift from God. And as they grow into men they make us/me shake my head in wonder…where did they come from, because I didnt’ do that, that goodness?! It was God all along, and it’s cool…because they are SO much better than just I or we could ever have made them….and it makes me catch my breath too. Which is a gift. Happy for you to have this morning and those boys. What a double/triple blessing!

  4. Love this. It’s an encouragement to know that they will turn out okay in spite of all our shortcomings.

  5. Oh Mary! Your sons are so handsome! (I’m not listening, though. My 2 are 6 and 8 and I’m certain that the next time I look they will be like yours-almost grown!)

  6. Oh Mary, this really blessed me today. I have a hard time envisioning my boys growing up right before me- it goes so fast- but to know they still bless you and delight your heart even at that age… oh that means so much.


  7. so wonderfully visual. i am excited to have a son of my own next month! (or this month with the way i am feeling). lovely post.

  8. This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I have three sons (4, 2, and 5 months), and bedtime couldn’t have come quickly enough tonight. I was just exasperated with all 3 of them. Reading this made me cry. I want my babies to grow into nice young men too…but part of me wants them to stay babies forever (even if it means days like today). Thanks for this great post.

  9. And I’m having an emotional time because my little man is 8 months- 2/3 of a year old, and I can see his birthday rapidly approaching and I wonder where the year has gone! Waaahh…

    But, really, thanks for the reminder that it’s only through God’s power & strength through our weakness that we can parent our kids. We have no greater joy than to know that our children walk in truth, right? 🙂 (3 John 1:4)

  10. Thank you Mary for putting such wonderful emotions into words so that we too can feel your love and awe, while at the same time tearing up because it is how we feel about our own child. I too have a 3 year old and everyday I pray I am being all I can be for her. Thank you for taking some weight off and giving me more faith in my abilities and in God.

  11. Mary, thank you for this. Sometimes I forget the “aim” in the midst of the day to day.

  12. This was lovely. Thanks for writing your thoughts.

    And yet… herein lies a big piece of what makes life such a struggle for me. The kind of emotional roller coaster brought on by one person last week for a few days in your house? My daily reality. The eldest I have to look to for assurance? That very same one person.

    And I guess that was a personal vent from an emotionally raw woman. I’m sorry. I just had such a profoundly bittersweet reaction to this.

  13. It’s nice when God pulls back the curtain and shows us a glimpse of the good stuff, isn’t it? Otherwise we moms might be more inclined to throw in the towel on many days. Very handsome young men.

  14. Beautiful post. I came across your site the other day and I am encouraged by it, thank you so much. We are a family of 6 looking to adopt again, possibly a sibling group, so I was looking at “large families” online. Thanks for the inspiration! I look forward to stopping by more often. Handsome boys!

  15. Lovely post, Mary. What a rollercoaster parenting is, and what huge delight there is to stop and see and be thankful for the way they turn out, despite our flounderings! Your boys are wonderful. My “baby” is about to go off to uni, and my 32 years of full time parenting will be over. It seems just yesterday that my first son was born!

  16. That was so beautifully written. My boy is 7 months old and since he is my last baby, I grieve a little bit each time he reaches a new stage. I have never thought about how great it will be to see him as a young man and just thinking of it makes me well up with pride.
    Thanks also for the reminder that God works in our kids despite our own failures. I’ve been very aware of my own shortcomings whilst dealing with my nearly three-year-old daughter lately. It’s good to be reminded that it’s not by my strength or knowledge!

  17. What a wonderful encouragement! I have two boys and I sometimes feel as if I have failed in parenting them. But then just a few weeks ago my oldest was baptized. I felt so proud for not only him but for me as well. It really boosted my spirit. So thank you for lifting me up today.

  18. Mary it is such a beautiful post about your boys.

    I never had sons until we adopted our three boys six months ago. I find myself looking at them and thinking similar thoughts (except for the all-grown-up parts) as you have described.

    I tried to explain this to my husband but when I did, I ended up sounding all weird and creepy. How do I tell him about the catch in my throat when they show kindness to the little ones, or when they look so handsome, or when they come in the house after working hard with their dad in the yard–proud, exhausted and sweaty–and greet us all as if they had been out winning the bread all day…
    I said it was like that first crush on a boy–innocent but all those feelings that take you by surprise and make your heart beat a little faster. ( I guess that was the creepy sounding part. But my first crush was in second grade and you can’t get mush more innocent than that! ) Anyway, I gave up trying to explain it but it is a different feeling than I get looking at my girls. Not better, not worse but different–and it is wonderfully, unexpectedly sweet.

    And somewhat like Mary in the Bible, I find myself pondering these things in my heart. I wonder if she also felt proud and humbled all at the same time?

  19. Aww, they are handsome!
    Sometimes I can’t wait to see who my kids will be young adults and as moms and dads. I feel guilty for that because I do not want them to grow up so quickly, but it’s my momma’s heart to see them grown up in truth.
    I pray daily that God will pour out HIS grace and mercy on my family. Minimize the wrongs I have done and maximize the rights.
    Thank you for this encouraging post!

  20. Kathrin from Germany says:

    Beautiful post! Very handsome boys you’ ve got there! I can’t belief how much they look alike.

  21. Thank you for the very encouraging words. I am about to give birth to my 3rd boy (+a stepson and a daughter in the middle!) and I look forward to seeing them at that point. They definitely take my breath away sometimes!