My husband and the kids are off to the store. As I sit sipping a hot pumpkin pie latte in my quiet, empty house, I am drawn to memories of the little, two bedroom/one bath house we lived in with the first four kids.
We stood then, as we do now, on what we believed to be basic foundation blocks of family. First and foremost, everyone needs unconditional love. Part of that love is guidance and teaching, but most important was that they were confident in the love of their parents, and they felt loved.
I wanted so badly to be a good mom and get it all figured out before my kids were grown. I prayed for guidance and wisdom for myself and my husband, and for whatever I thought my kids needed at the time. What they needed kept changing as they grew, and I was afraid I would miss something important.
Our kids were truly well behaved. Teachers at church and school loved them. They were respectful, confident, happy and friendly. We taught them about God, largely by how we tried to treat each other and them. When we failed, we apologized. Knowing that we all interpret who God is according to the authority by which we’re surrounded, we apologized hoping to draw the line between broken human representatives and God himself.
Another thing I felt was important was to point to their good behavior as something to be encouraged by and learn from. I wanted them to think and grow on purpose. When I saw them do something that was hard for them, like not fighting with a sibling when provoked, or doing something helpful without being asked, I would point it out. “You did a good job not yelling at your brother. I could tell you were getting mad, but you didn’t yell. That’s a hard thing to do. I’m proud of you,” goes a long way the next time the situation comes up. I also paid attention to when they were trying but didn’t quite make it. If we acknowledge effort and encourage them that they are improving, they will continue to improve and develop.
My kids knew they were loved completely. I gave of myself and told them how much I loved them. One thing I told them often –and still do—was, “You make my life so good.” I also told them what good kids they were and how proud I was of them, but I wanted them to know that just by being them, and being in my life, they made my life good.
For years I tried to do my best, but as they got older I became more concerned with their choices in life. How could I be sure I was steering them in the right direction? Even as a very young child I had noticed that people with opposite opinions and religions believed themselves to be right. When I was in about the fifth grade I noticed that some of the heroes from the Bible had children who were horrible and fell far from God. How could I keep that from happening to my own kids? (Yes, I really did think about these things when I was a child!)
Somewhere along the line, one night during our nightly bedtime prayers and tucking in, I prayed something that changed my life and my parenting.
From then on they heard me pray for them; for anything they were facing, good and bad, thanking God and asking for help; and always I would ask for the most important thing I could give them. I asked God to give them hearts that loved him and wanted to obey him, to give them ears that loved to hear his voice; that he would help them listen and understand when he spoke. I didn’t need a Scripture verse to verify this new way of trusting God with my children. All Scripture points to it, but just in case you want one, here’s one verse that paints this picture quite well.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. ~ Isaiah 55:9
I was released from the wrong pressure I had put on myself. I am still required to do my best to care for and guide them, but their future attitudes and beliefs are ultimately not up to me. No human knows a child better than his mother, and yet God knows him so much more deeply. He doesn’t just read his face and body language, or feel the slight changes in attitude. He knows, from the inside out, every feeling, thought, understanding and misunderstanding, he feels every pain.
I trust my children to make good decisions, and although their bad or immature decisions may hurt or sadden me, I don’t worry about them because I trust God as their guide. If they stray, he teaches them in the off path and guides them back to the right one.
That is my philosophy on raising children. I do my best, and I’ve done okay, but I remember every day, every time I pray, that they have God’s voice guiding them to Truth, and that their hearts are being molded to love the one who is Love. There is nothing better I could give them.
Well, they’re back from the store now, so I’m going to go pour some more pumpkin pie lattes. I hope there’s something here that helped or encouraged you, and maybe I’ve given someone something to think about. It works to trust God with our friends and family, too. He is, after all, the One whose ways are higher than our ways, and thoughts higher than our thoughts.
Pumpkin Pie Latte
- 1 pot espresso or double strength coffee
- ½ cup canned pumpkin puree
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ Tb cinnamon
- ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
- a few scrapes fresh ground nutmeg
- 3 cups milk (or combo of 1 ½ cup cream and half-n-half, and 1 ½ cup milk)**
- 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
- Brew your espresso or double strength coffee. (I used 10 slightly rounded scoops for a 12 cup pot)
- Measure milk and sweetened condensed milk, and set aside
- Combine pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and nutmeg in a medium saucepan. Heat and stir until you can smell the brown sugar starting to scorch, but don’t let it burn.
- Add milks and stir well. Heat to a simmer and remove from heat.
- Using an immersion blender (sometimes called a wand blender) blend well to incorporate pumpkin and make everything creamy. (Or just put it in a blender, or use some fancy coffee thingy that makes a true latte. I’m not jealous.)
- Pour pumpkin cream into coffee cup to just over half full, add espresso or double strength coffee to fill cup.
Of course, whipped cream is always good, and looks pretty. Add a dusting of grated fresh nutmeg, too while you’re at it.
Makes a lot of double strength coffee and pumpkin cream. Refrigerate leftovers and have an iced latte later. It’s nice to have the yumminess factor without the work.
**I’ve made it with milk and with the cream/half-n-half/milk combo, and was surprised to find that we all preferred the straight milk version. Between the canned pumpkin and sweetened condensed milk, it has a nice creamy texture and lots of creamy flavor. Just be sure to blend really well.