Our oldest turned 17 yesterday and that number still has not settled in my head, much less my heart. Were you not just 17 minutes old and being shown off to waiting grandparents? Now I send pictures and texts to show you off. However, these snapshots and short words just cannot capture who you are becoming. I will try here with a bit more space to describe this child.

IMG_6587I learned the most interesting news yesterday about this 17 year old. She always leaves for school pretty early. I just assumed it was to grab coffee and then met up with friends. Sometimes a coffee stop happens too, but the main reason is so she can sit with her Bible open in her car before walking into school. She fills her mind with truth and reads words written by her Creator. Her eyes are fixed on Jesus before she walks the halls and faces distraction. Her security of who she is and to whom she belongs is firmly in place as she hears other voices saying “try this”, “why not be this” and “perhaps truth is whatever you want it to be”.

How did this happen? How does a girl, going to a public high school, walk day in and day out in love with Jesus? Would she not have a better chance at a Christian school? Well, maybe yes and maybe no. The primary location this love starts is in her heart. As her parents, we have taken her to church, talked about Jesus, read the Bible together and we pray continually for her. But the decision to follow Him is ultimately up to her. Just because we have surrendered and fallen in love with God, does not mean our children will do the same. I fight for their hearts to be aimed towards Him each and everyday. How I do that is by reading God’s word, praying and talking about Him.

You know, you cannot give what you do not have. If you do not have a deep belief and love for the LORD, you cannot pour that belief, which looks an awful lot like trust, and love out onto your children. Your life does not bear the fruit the Bible talks about. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”. (Galatians 5:22-23). Simply put, our efforts fail when we try and parent on our own. I know this because I tried to parent this way with just enough Jesus and my own common sense. This worked okay until we had our sixth child and none of my go to, I’ve got this stuff was working. I could not be more thankful!

The mom I was 17 years ago is not the mom I am today. In God’s love and mercy, He uses each of my children to pull me close. Sometimes I wonder why it took me so long to get over myself, but even in that I see grace. He has been so patient, loving, kind, faithful and good to me. Evidence of that was on display yesterday with this 17 year old child. You know how she spent her birthday? Her and her brother went to a night of worship with high schoolers from our church. They packed the place out and sang songs of adoration to God. The glow of love they came home wearing on their faces is indescribable.

I will never claim to have all the answers or to have this parenting thing figured out, but I do know and love the One who does. I will claim to be one sinner, coming alongside 8 other sinners in our home. We respectively point out sin to each other, not always perfectly. We repent of our sin and ask forgiveness. We love each other and show grace often. We laugh and actually like spending time together. We love celebrating and count it a privilege to celebrate this 17 year old.

Happy Birthday Maggie! Your love for Jesus is absolutely stunning!

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