I have a lot of friends going through very difficult parenting situations right now. These are friends with older kids in high school and college and the road seems so much harder than when we were raising little ones. I always thought when I had young kids that this had to be the hardest part of parenting. How could it possibly get harder? However, as my boys are growing up and are now 15 and 13, I see that the hardships of parenting don't end. Why? Well, one boy has his permit now and that is hard enough….and because we love them more than life itself and there is pain and awfulness in the world and we want to protect them all the time - and we can't. While some things were so much harder when they were little (I have a constant image in my head of one of my boys with a binky in his mouth, stuffed dog in one hand and sippy cup in the other - still able to scream constantly through the side of his mouth when we wasn't getting what he wanted), larger life situations and the decisions that our kids make become so all consuming as parents and often come with consequences for our kids. I think the best way we can parent them is by praying daily for them.
My parents prayed for protection over us every day and they also committed to praying for our faith and our spouses. They prayed for who our spouses would be from the time we were little. I wanted to share a brief look into my story to share what that faithfulness in prayer by them eventually led to.
I grew up a believer and had faith through the middle of high school. While I never completely walked away from my faith, I set it aside for about 7 years and went my own way. This is due to a lot of different reasons that I won't go into here, but I decided to follow my own desires and path and lived this way for years. I never dated Christian guys - they would have been hard to find in my circles. I partied way too much and did extremely stupid things - a couple times I literally could have been killed. I am so thankful for the grace and love of Christ and that when I was ready to come back to Him and really own my faith, He was there with open arms waiting for me.
I only share where I was for those few years in order to share how God answered my parents' prayers. I had been finding my way back to my faith, but could not quite get there because of my circle of friends. I really needed to break free from the party scene, but I didn't know how since I did not have friends outside of this. During all of this time, my parents continued to pray faithfully for me - every day. I know there were days where they wondered why God didn't answer them. Then one day, God answered their prayers.
Over Labor Day Weekend when I was 23, I was up near Yosemite staying at a friend's lake house and water skiing and partying with a bunch of friends. We were at the one bar in town and my friends started talking to this cute guy that was there. He later told me he came over to our table because he wanted to meet me and had seen me earlier in the day. That guy has been my husband now for over 20 years. Here is the thing though - he has never drank in his life. He was only at the bar because it was the only TV in town where he could go watch sports. He had just finished his Masters in Theology (that was a total bonus for my parents) and was living in Yosemite leading faith-based wilderness courses with an organization there. He would spend 7, 14 or 21 days out on course and then come back to a base camp for a few days and rock climb in the Yosemite Valley (which is pretty much why he picked this spot in the first place). That night we talked a lot about faith and the struggle I was having to find my back. We talked until the bar closed and I honestly never thought that I would see him again. Within a couple weeks, he had found me in Newport Beach because I told him that I worked for an environmental law firm there. Remember - this is before cell phones and the internet, you could not just look someone up on Facebook or Instagram so it was kind of amazing that he found me. A couple weeks after that, we started talking a lot on the phone and writing letters to each other every day. We were dating by December and married within 11 months. My parents clearly got to see an incredible answer to their prayers for my spouse and my faith as my husband definitely helped lead me back to it.
About 11 years later - in front of hotel bar where we met
Here is the thing - the reason I share this story. God literally had to drop my husband into a bar for me to get me out of my situation. I actually think this is so awesome because to me it shows that He has a sense of humor too. This is not where my parents would have wanted me to meet my husband, that is for sure. My mom would get so excited for me to tell the story of how we met to other people (the long story about God's role and how my husband found me, how God answered my husband's prayers the day after we met, etc.) but I still enjoyed telling her friends the short version - that we met in a bar. Even at 23 it can still be fun to annoy your parents.
I also want to share that while I am in a great place now with my faith, I still struggle often with trusting God and why He allowed me to go through certain things in my life. I have dealt with some really tough things in my past and struggle with anxiety, fear and panic disorder due to some of this. However, God continues to be faithful and is constantly using my struggles to help other people. I think as parents, we all have to remember that God will use the really difficult times that our kids go through for His glory - whether we ever get to see it in this life or not. Trust and faith is all we have.
God can do anything and is extremely creative. He will work in ways that we would never think of to bring his children home to Him. My story is just one example. However, as parents, I believe we play an extremely critical role. We must pray constantly for our kids to follow Christ. When I think about what my boys will become and what they will do with their lives, I really only have one prayer - that they will follow Christ and give their life completely to Him. I know they may falter along the way, but I intend to be faithful in praying for them in this. As they get older, we don't have control in their lives and prayer is all we have. We need to pray and entrust them wholly to God - which can be the hardest part of parenting.
This is why I pray for my friend's son daily. I don't know how their story will end and it is very scary right now, but I know that we have to trust God with this life. This is why I am committing to pray for my own boys now daily instead of "most days". I wish I could say that I had followed my parents' model here and have prayed for them every day, but I have not. I intend to do that now and I encourage all of you to do the same. While so many situations seem hopeless and there are many endings that don't make sense to us in this life, I believe all we have is prayer and our daily commitment to trust God and that He has a plan for our kids - whatever that may be. Whether it is through our lives or our struggles or even death - God will use our stories to reach others for His Kingdom. I am so thankful for my parents' commitment to this and for the model that they have given to us.
* My brother has a different, but also awesome story of how he met his amazing Christian wife and my parents' prayers were answered there as well.