I became a mom at the age of 27 after 5 years of marriage. My children are in their early 30s now, and 4 grandchildren bless my days.  Thanksgiving turns my mind toward memories of precious holidays past and God’s many blessings through the years. One of those blessings has been the sanctifying work of raising our children.

Penny Keathley was not one of those women who couldn’t wait to marry and have children.  I was in no hurry at all and, to be honest, wasn’t sure I even wanted children. I didn’t want to baby-sit or serve in the nursery; didn’t have a maternal instinct driving me to “mother” anyone. Besides, adjusting to marriage was enough drama to last me for a long, long time! Even so when Matthew was born and – 22 months later – Allison came along, I found myself enjoying motherhood.

For me, parenting began a journey of growth in both emotional and spiritual maturity that God has used as a sanctifying grace in my life.  As I reminisce this Thanksgiving, I am grateful to my children for teaching me:

about God’s love.
The love I felt for our children surprised me. I realized I would do anything to protect them and keep them safe. Then came the realization – how could God sacrifice his only son for us?  And what does that say about His love for me?  My meager grasp on the reality of God’s sacrifice in sending his Son grew because of this new, deep love for my own children.

that I’m not God.  (No matter what Shirley McClain said.) This may seem obvious to you, but it wasn’t that clear to me at the time. You see, I thought of myself as a very capable person before my children were born; one of those “get ‘er done” types who could manage many plates in the air with hardly a tilt. But then came children and I found out that they were not willing to be another twirling plate! They deserved better from me than just being added to my to-do list–and rightly so. It became apparent not too many months into this mothering business that not only were my abilities limited, but that I would need God’s wisdom and patience and intervention.  Jesus said “without me you can do nothing” and I discovered that includes parenting.

to trust God in new ways.
I had trusted God to forgive me and to save me.  But now I was challenged to trust God with little people I loved MORE than myself.  Since I am a natural worry wart, it was a challenge to learn to let go (of what I couldn’t control) and let God (do what only he can).  Once, my teenage daughter said to me something like this, “Mom, do you think God can handle this? Because you are worrying like he can’t”! Hmmm….from the mouth of babes.  You were so right, sweetheart – and every time that I am tempted to let my worrying run rampant or start crying “the sky is falling!”, God reminds me of my daughter’s words, and that he can (and has) been trustworthy and faithful with the welfare of those that I love.

that God answers prayer.
I believed in prayer before I had children. I had grown up in a minister’s home and heard my parents and grandparents pray. I had seen God clearly answer prayer for many of my family and friends.  But now I needed God to answer MY prayers for the ones I loved the most.  I needed God to physically heal my daughter from pneumonia.  I needed God to spiritually heal my prodigal college-age son.  So I began to learn to pray in a new way – and found his promises to be true. God can do what we cannot. Now I look back and read my prayer journals and PTL for answers to prayer and growth in both my life and in my children’s lives. No, he didn’t always answer when or how I wanted. And, yes, he allowed suffering and heartbreak and disappointment. But he was faithful to work in and through all those experiences to teach and grow both me and my children.  My trust, reverence and love for my Savior has grown in proportion to the development of my prayer life.

No doubt these lessons could have been learned through other means if we had not been able to have children. After all, God is committed to our sanctification (John 17:17). But the journey of learning these lessons through my children is precious to me and I am deeply grateful for their lives and the ways God has used them to bless and grow my faith in Christ.

I hope you are able to count many blessings this Thanksgiving.  Why not take time to name them one by one?  It may surprise you all that the Lord has done!