Good mom, good kids?

I’ve always known– intellectually, anyway — that it is not my job to be a perfect parent.  I’m human and I make mistakes.  And as a Christian, I know that Jesus loves me and died for my sins.  I don’t have to labor under the burden of needing to be perfect.

But here’s what I’ve come to realize recently.  Even though Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross released me from that need to be perfect, for years as a mom I’ve been clinging to that burden anyway.  You see, I know my actions affect my kids and the last thing I want is to be that proverbial millstone– dragging my kids down because I’m not patient enough or focused enough or wise enough to respond appropriately at various moments in their lives.

Certainly any mom who cares about her kids wants to do the best job possible, and looks for ways to handle difficulty with more wisdom and grace next time. But recently God has been opening my eyes, and showing me how much my endless quest for ‘success’ (whatever that is) has left me living under the law instead of in freedom.

Thinking that my kids’ success or failure is dependent on my ability as a mother is putting myself higher on the totem pole than I belong.  Higher than the God who’s got the whole world in His hands. The God who loved my kids to the cross, through the grave, and back.    Yes, I play an important role in my kids’ lives.   But God is the real worker in their lives, in me and through me and around me and sometimes in spite of me.

I cannot mess up God’s plan for my children’s lives.

Even in my worst, weakest moments, I do not possess that power.

I can’t tell you how freeing that realization is to me.

Because unfailingly my MOST frustrating moments as a mom are when I feel ineffective– when I’m repeating a lesson or dealing with an issue and things.aren’t.working.  At least not on a here-and-now visible-to-me level.  And when I feel ineffective, I start flailing around in frustration, wondering what I should be doing differently.  And pretty soon I’m yelling at my kids, which leaves me feeling even more aggravated and ineffective and hopeless.

What am I focusing on in those trying moments?  Results.  Or lack thereof.

Somehow I’m thinking if I just come up with the right combination of rewards and consequences, of words and wisdom, of grace and grit, that life will somehow miraculously get all unsnarled.

But here’s the thing.  I can’t grow my kids’ souls any more than I can help them sprout new teeth.  Sure, I can feed and water and encourage and influence and hug and love.

But the growing?  That’s between my kids and their God.

So instead of fluffing up like a ruffled chicken when I’m not having my desired effect on my lil world, I need to put myself back in my place.  Chill.   Be faithful.  Do my little bit.  Obey to the best of my frail ability.  And leave the results up to the real Worker in my children’s lives.


He is able to do immeasurably more than I can ever ask or imagine.

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  1. Thank you Mary!
    I REALLY needed to hear this just now.


  2. Thank you, Mary! I really need to hear this, too. Actually, I don’t need to hear it, I need to believe it, which I desperately want to, but don’t entirely. It is there intellectually, but if I am honest, my heart still clings to my self-idolatry. I am the one who decides how my children will turn out. Gulp. That is a huge burden that I really don’t want and a lie, of course. Sometimes, it feels almost hopeless to think I could ever be free of it.

    I am going to print out your post to read again and I will be praying and thinking and asking God to invade my heart to push me out and replace me with Him.


  3. When I finally understood that no matter what I do, my kids still have free choice, I felt peace, but only because I remember that God loves them even more than I do. I have trouble understanding that – how could anyone love them more than me? And yet, my own love for them has grown over the years, and I didn’t think I could love them more than I did when they were small either. God is good. Trusting Him can be so hard, especially when you are a controlling person like I am. Where I fall so short is in praying for my kids. I honestly think praying for them may be more important than any other action I take, and yet I don’t do this nearly as much as I should.

  4. Beth Miles says:

    I love this post. I love that you became vulnerable and shared your heart. I love you dearly my friend. <3

  5. Thanks for this great post. I found you from Smockity Frocks and am following you via networked blogs now. Have a great day!

  6. AMEN!!!!!

  7. This was a much needed read for me today! I like the freedom in knowing that God is in control of our children’s lives!

  8. With one daughter just married, one son just going to college away from home, one adopted daughter estranged from us and two RAD adopted siblings at home, I know firsthand how hard it can be to let go yet how crucial it is. I have come to realize that I can educate and try to fill my children’s hearts but if they are closed it is because of their sin, not my inadequacy (although I should always be striving to be more like God). Our children have the same free will that we do. Your post is right on target.

  9. Amen, Sista! Note to self: Reread every time my world is crumbling. My good friend, Julie, is reading a book along these lines, I will be borrowing it…

  10. With nine of ten out on their own we have all had our moments when the kids were growing up, for sure but in the long run they are all wonderful kids and I enjoy their company immensely. I know that their mistakes are their mistakes and no reflection on me as a mom or my parenting. Our kids have to learn to take responsibility for their actions and we have to release them to make those mistakes.
    A person just has to look at the families out there who have happily-adjusted functioning children and one or two children who took the wrong path to fully understand that children have a will of their own and can and will make some incorrect decisions but this is no way any reflection on their parents or their parenting.
    Thanks for this post and the dialogue and reflection it is bringing.

  11. Thank you for this much-needed reminder! With two little ones, I find myself focusing on results/behavior much of the time. They need to be reminded (as I do) that we simply can’t be good enough on our own-we need Christ!

  12. i really needed this today.


  13. You know, when I saw kids that were SERIOUSLY messed up I would nod my head wisely and assume there was SOMETHING hidden in that nice Christian family that had caused this. SOMEHOW it was, at least partially, the parents’ fault. And then I was very close to a family where one of their kids seriously went off the deep end, but the thing is, I know this family well. I have lived with them. Now, when I see this happen, I don’t assume anything. We are each responsible for our own choices. It is freeing and scary too–it’s frightening to realize how little control we really have 😉

  14. “I cannot mess up God’s plan for my children’s lives.”

    Thank you, Mary. I needed to read that today.

  15. Thank you. I am sitting in my empty house, for the first time in weeks (months?) as my husband drives to a campground with the kids for a father/kid camping trip with church. I actually did a happy dance as they drove down the driveway – not because of getting some “alone” time, but because I actually don’t have to deal with them for a day! Then of course I felt guilty that I was wishing my kids away from me.

    My almost-6-year-old and I are in a constant battle of wills these days. The sassing, the not-listening, the disobedience, the defiance are almost more than I can bear. I actually told her to “shut your trap” today – something that is a big no-no in our house. Horrible. I feel like I’m messing them up, and am always telling myself I don’t want her to turn out like me.

    Thank you for the reminder that I need to be turning to God and directing her to God. Looks like I need to get off the blogs and into the Word!

  16. Jeri Riddick says:

    Print. Tape.
    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  17. Right. On. The. Money. 😉 Hearing the same thing around here lately, but always doing battle to stay in that frame of mind, as it comes so unnaturally to me! Thanks, Mary!

  18. You wrote this post for me today, didn’t you? Thank you for allowing God to use this blog to minister to other moms like me.

  19. Amen. A complex and difficult special needs teen’ll whack away at that burdensome illusion faster than most, but it’s always a prideful temptation!

  20. Thanks Mary. It’s a truth my head understands but my heart just won’t believe it. Maybe if I hear it over and over again it will seep in. Properly.

    Thank you.

  21. It all comes down to being a branch, not the Vine. Thanks for the reminder!

  22. I definitely needed this message today!!! Thanks for the encouragement that I’m not alone!!!

  23. So timely. Thank you for sharing this!

  24. Very well written and important. I’m thankful for the timing, because I needed to hear that today! I wish this message was more often proclaimed in the church, because I have honestly struggled a lot spiritually and with the church over the past 10+ years, feeling alienated and beaten up by others who believe that there is a perfect formula for parenting which will always produce “good Christian kids”.

  25. Thanks so much for this!

  26. Thank you for this timely word. I think I will have it laminated because I’m sure I will need to read it over and over. I also have a group of 160 * ladies under me ( I’m a homeschool reviewer), they are getting a copy too!

  27. What an encouraging and honest “newsflash”! Thank you for sharing! It’s so critical to keep the big picture in mind.

  28. So true! Great reminder, thanks!!

  29. Thank you!

  30. Beautifully said, Mary!

    My husband and I were basket cases with our girls entering the tween years for exactly these reasons. It was only about a year and a half ago that the source of my anxiety finally crystallized when I heard someone say this:

    “All you can do is all you can do…and that’s all you can do!”

    When I suddenly grasped that while, yes, I am accountable to God for my parenting, as you said: I can’t mess up His plan for them, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders! I have simply *enjoyed* parenting *and* my children more than ever before (okay, most days…).

    Passing this link along to several people who need to hear it, too!

    And thanks again for all of the Boise info last month! I can’t remember if I ever updated you, but we are moving just along the east coast for now, at least temporarily. Maybe one of these days we’ll get to move out to Idaho!

  31. Just beautiful. Thank you.

  32. Yes! How much of our anger and frustation that we direct toward our kids (even just mentally) comes from their “failure” to reflect our excellent parenting. We do X, so we expect Y result. And we pour out so much, that we want results … and their gratitude. We want the parenting gold star! If only we would be quicker to realize that every frustration is simply a sign that we’re looking to the wrong source — the law, instead of His never-failing grace.

  33. Thank you so much for this!! I was just thinking along these lines this weekend. So beautifully put. I hope you don’t mind my borrowing it for

  34. You always bless & inspire me when I get to catch up on your blog – what an excellent post & a great reminder that God is in charge of our kids’ hearts!

  35. This brought me to tears. Thank you for the encouragement! What a huge weight is removed when I realize that I can’t mess up what God is doing in the lives of my children. Again, thanks so much for sharing this.


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