Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Parenting Adult Children

Leslie Basham: Do you have an adult child who is breaking your heart because of a sinful lifestyle? Here’s pastor’s wife, Holly Elliff with some advice.

Holly Elliff: I think sometimes the Lord would love for us to ask for big things and then trust Him to move in ways that we can’t even anticipate.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, July 8.

Today we begin a new series called, “Flourishing in the Empty Nest.” Nancy’s here to introduce our guests.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, I’m so thankful to have some of my friends here today, some of your friends. You’ve heard them on Revive Our Hearts at different times. I don’t think the four of us have ever been together to do some recording and to have what we call “Table Talk.”

But we were all going to be in town and I said, “Could we just have some time to talk about . . .” I didn’t know what to call this. I didn’t know if I’m going to call it “Middle Life,” “Aging” . . .

Holly: Every title Nancy came up with . . .

Nancy: . . . Holly doesn’t like.

Holly: It was depressing to me.

Nancy: So should we call it “Youth”?

Holly: You can say, “Youth Extended.”

Nancy: That’s a dream.

Rebecca Lutzer: It’s "Aging with Grace." That’s what it is.

Nancy: I like that. Holly knows that I’ve always wanted to be old. 

Holly: Nancy and I are polar opposites, by the way.

Nancy: She keeps trying to slow me down on that.

Anyway, I want you to meet my friends. On my left is Kim Wagner, and she’s just written a book, a terrific book on marriage, not just marriage but for women called Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior. Every married woman needs to read that book. Most women need to read that book. It really has very practical handles.

Kim and I go back to even before the beginning of Revive Our Hearts radio. And these are women who have been friends and prayer partners. I’m going to stop saying nice things about them because there are a lot of things I could say. But on my right is Holly who’ve I’ve known longer than any of these women. We go back to . . .

Holly: 1985.

Nancy: You still have three children at home and grandchildren.

Holly: Going on seven grandchildren, now.

Nancy: So you’ve got lots of different seasons going there. We’re going to talk about seasons. 

Holly: Seasons is good. I like that.

Nancy: We're going to talk about some of the different seasons that we’re in right now. And then Rebecca Lutzer. Rebecca and Erwin have been dear friends. Rebecca’s a part of a group of women who meet in the Chicago area regularly to pray for me and for Revive Our Hearts. We call them “The Chicago Praying Ladies.” They have been really dear, sweet friends. Your husband pastors the, actually, all your husbands are pastors. Some of you hear Dr. Erwin Lutzer on the radio program “Running to Win.” He has been a pastor at Moody Church for many years. Your children are all grown and all married.

Rebecca: And I have eight grandchildren. 

Nancy: And Kim, your children are grown and you are expecting a third grandchild shortly.

Kim Wagner: Yes, I’m very excited.

Nancy: So having my empty nest and near empty nest friends here, we want to just talk about some of the issues related to this season of life. How to think about those. Let me just start with the blessings. As your children are getting older, you’re getting into grandmother season of life, what are some of the things you are really enjoying about this season?

Holly: Nobody that’s permanently in my house is being potty trained. (laughter) I’m enjoying that—not having that season in my life.

Nancy: Because you’ve had a lot of years of that, didn’t you?

Holly: A lot of years. When you have eight kids, that's a lot of years of potty training. So it’s fun to watch my daughters now potty training their children and thinking, I don’t have to do that anymore.

Kim: Well, I am just loving hanging out with my adult children and now their children. I love it. It is so fun to watch my daughter. It’s like I am seeing me in her. She’ll say, “Mom, I do these parenting things that just seem to come naturally. Then all of a sudden I hear you in my head saying these things that I’m saying.” That is just a blessing to me to watch that and to see. Now I get to invest in these little ones, and it's just fun. I love it.

Rebecca: I love going to my daughters' homes. I just have daughters; I don’t have any sons. I think daughters are a little different. They expect you to do things. They want you to be there, and they want you to help. But they ask you in subtle ways that you know that they really want you to kind of come in and take over and do the dishes and say, "Well, honey, why don't you just sit down and rest for a little bit."

I just marvel at how my daughters just seem to naturally care for their children and to cook and do all of those things. I just praise the Lord because I don’t know how it all transpired. I mean, I was there, but God's grace just covers your mistakes when you watch your children. I've had to learn how to keep my mouth shut and let them be autonomous and do things the way they like and their husbands like. That was a little bit of a hard lesson for me to learn.

Kim: It’s interesting that you say that. It definitely is hard because you're used to be able to tell them when they were younger. You were able to set them in that chair and say, "Don't move." You know when they were little bitty. Now they are making life choices for your grandchildren. And those may be different than what you would have made.

Rebecca: Yes, I struggle with that, too.

Kim: What has been good for me is to be able to affirm my daughter and the things I’m seeing that she is doing even better than I did a lot of times. So when I’m affirming that, sometimes she’ll say, "Well, mom, I don't know how to handle this." And I’m thankful for that because there are choices they’re going to make, and they’ll learn just like we learned from our mistakes, and that’s hard. But again, we’re trusting God’s grace, that He’s bigger than we are to be able to take care of that.

Rebecca: It’s also an interesting place to be as a mother and a mother-in-law to watch your adult children relate to each other and work through their issues and their problems and to keep your mouth shut. Like you said, we teach the children, we teach our daughters how to do things, and we want them to do them the right way, of course. Then they get into their homes and they’re influenced by their husbands and there are things that they want to do. So God’s really had to teach me about keeping my mouth shut.

Nancy: So how do you know when to speak up about something and when to be quiet?

Holly: My degree is in speech pathology. You know how some people teach their toddlers sign language? We taught our kids to talk. Now, in hindsight, we regret that just a tad. At Christmas we were all snowed in together because the power was off in the houses of the kids that lived near us and then all of our other kids were there for Christmas. We ended up with twenty-one of us in our house for about eight days and the dogs. It was hysterical, but it was never ever quiet.

So we were real fans of teaching our kids to talk things out. We never let our kids go in their room and shut their door and pout. We would follow them. When you have that many people who all believe in talking things out, you have a lot of conversations.

Just about a week ago I was with my daughter and her husband as they were house hunting. Finally at one point after a really stressful day, Regan, my son-in-law, turned around and said to me, “Mom, what do you think?” Knowing both their hearts, it was just so fun to be able to encourage them toward Christ, and encourage them to run to the Lord even in their stress and their tension of having two days to find a house in a strange city. It was fun to be given the freedom to speak still into their lives and to have the kind of relationship where that would be received. Now, there are moments when the Lord just has to give discernment about when to speak and when not to speak.

Nancy: So do you wait for them to ask for counsel? 

Holly: I don't always wait for them to ask. I know all the books say, "Don't talk." But because of the culture of our family where we have always talked about things, there's a little more freedom. So it’s not that I necessarily give my opinion about what they ought to do, but I do believe there should always be the freedom to share biblical truth in a winsome way or a loving way, a kind way—not preaching but just sharing your heart a little bit. I think the Lord is wise enough to tell us when to be quiet.

Kim: There are creative ways to do that. My rule is I wait to be invited to speak truth into their life, typically, which sometimes they frequently do, sometimes not. But what’ve I’ve found to be creative is I can share about another couple that we’re discipling or another couple in our church. I can share general truths, not private things, that I’m hoping they’re hearing and picking up on in the situations. I do think that we need to respect that they are now adults and they need to be grappling with these issues themselves and not just depending on mom to tell me what I need to do. 

Nancy: Rebecca, you’ve got daughters, and I know Holly you have some of both, and Kim you have one daughter. But there is a sense in which they need to be shaping their own families with their husbands and letting him provide leadership without feeling that momma’s still controlling them. 

Rebecca: Right. There were times I would just say what I was thinking to kind of help the situation or to help the daughters or with the grandchildren. And now, I’ve just noticed in this last year that I just have sort of a weight in my heart and my mind. It's the Holy Spirit that holds me back—and I actually think about what I would like to say and just say, “No, I don't need to say that.” I just let them ask for counsel or advice. I think it works better that way. 

Nancy: I know a lot of women who have young adult children are dealing with situations where their children who are estranged, where there isn’t a healthy relationship, where the children are not walking with the Lord. None of you are facing that at the moment, but you have friends who do. Help some of those women think through what your role can be in the lives of young adult children who are making choices that are not just different than yours, but that you know are really dangerous and wrong.

Kim: My daughter wouldn’t mind me saying because I’ve asked her before. There was a period in her adult life when we were estranged. There were things definitely that I didn’t agree with and that were so wrong. You would want to come across harshly, but what I found was that I needed to demonstrate at that time love and that we could be a safe place for her to return to. 

Holly: One time I just got my Bible out, started in the New Testament, and just recorded every interaction that Christ had with other people with His disciples. I recorded the way that He related to them in every different circumstance. It was so refreshing because you always see truth, but it is always so wrapped in love, forgiveness, and encouragement.

Kim: And humility.

Holly: And humility. It is such a good model for us as we relate to those who will hear what Christ has to say and those who are not ready to hear it yet. Christ encountered a lot of people who weren't ready to hear it. But you have to believe that at some moment those words came back.

Kim: The Holy Spirit is able to work through you being obedient, to be Christ-like in your demonstration of love to your child who is ripping your heart out, maybe, but to offer love, humility, grace, and truth as you can. 

Rebecca: Well, that’s it. Sometimes you cannot say anything, and you shouldn’t, and you just tell that child, “I love you, and I am praying for you.” Sometimes that is the best thing for them to hear.

Nancy: Rebecca, I know you have such a heart for prayer. Talk about the role of the praying mother with young adult children.

Rebecca: Well, I don’t think there’s any formula that says you have to pray for your children and your grandchildren every day, but it’s a wonderful thing to do that. I think it’s a privilege. We think of all the stresses that these young people have in raising families today and the challenges that they're facing and all the media stuff that these little kids are growing up with and being forced on them in many ways even in schools.

When I can't be there and I can’t encourage or be with my daughters or my grandchildren, I can say to them . . . (I hope I don’t get weepy here.) I have gotten down on my knees beside the bed of my grandchildren and even my oldest one who is thirteen, a boy. And I just say, “Jack, someday I might not be here, but I want you to know I have always prayed for you as long as I’ve been alive and that my prayers will always be with you.” Here’s this great big guy lying there in his bed, and I’m thinking, Well, how much does that really mean to him? But he thanks me and says, "Thank you, grandma." 

Kim: And Rebecca, something I’m doing is I’m writing my prayers for them, for my grandchildren in my journal. So my daughter and my son know I’m already praying for my son’s daughter who’s not here yet, but they know that I’m writing these in my journal, and I’m saving them for them.

This past weekend, my daughter lives nine hours away, so we don’t get to be with those grandchildren as much, but I had my little grandson, who is five months old, and I was rocking him. This is what I’ve done with the granddaughters as well. But when I'm with them rocking them, I pray Ephesians 1 over them as I’m rocking them. And then with my little granddaughter who's two now, I just freely, continually talking to her about Jesus and His love for her and her relating back to me what I’ve been teaching her. I’m just loving it. I love it.

Holly: The wonderful thing about praying for our children and our grandchildren is that there are no restrictions there. We cannot pray too much. We can pray anywhere. My life tends to be crazy, a little busy. If you still have a very busy life, prayer is something that can happen wherever you are. I can pray for my grandchildren that are seventeen hours away right now even though I can’t be with them all the time. I can carry them in prayer.

One thing we’ve done that helps is that we have a family thread on Facebook so all of our family members are on this thread but no one else can see it. So my kids will go on there and post, “Please pray for me at two o’clock. I have this coming up,” or “I'm meeting with this person who doesn't know Christ,” or “The kids are really sick. Please pray about this.” So it’s like a little constant prayer alert, and that’s a big blessing. Our kids love that because they are more aware how to pray for each other as we have kids in several states, now.

But you were asking a minute ago, Nancy, about blessings, what are the blessings. One of the blessings is just the freedom to pray anywhere, anytime, and to know that what that does is to bring God into the picture. Wherever they are, whatever the circumstance, the moment we enter into prayer, we introduce God into that picture and that’s a huge blessing.

Nancy: I think that’s particularly significant for a lot of our listeners. Let me give you an example. A friend shared with me recently that he and his wife have been asked by their grown children not to come and visit anymore. The children do not want them to have any contact with the grandchildren. Now this goes back a long way. It didn’t happen overnight. There have been issues. But my friends, the older couple, have tried to be available to invest in their children. I'm sure everybody has their side of the story.

But it’s a broken relationship. My friend was telling me how heartbroken his wife is. They’re both friends of mine. He was here visiting our ministry, and he said she’s just devastated by this as a mom, as a grandmom. I know none of you are in that situation at the moment, but you know people who are. How do you encourage that woman who says, “It’s a busted relationship. I have no ability to really influence or to have relationship with my children and grandchildren.” How can they be encouraged?  

Kim: They may not have the freedom to go there and visit. And the parents may not receive this, but they can still send gifts, cards, just pour out love on them. They may reject it and not open it. But just continue to pour out what contact you can have and respect their wishes not to come. If they can’t call, I don’t know if they can communicate that way. But you can always mail cards, gifts, nothing that would be in any way condemning, but just reaching out to bless those who curse you. 

Holly: It is heartbreaking. I was talking with a gal in our church about a week ago whose son and his wife divorced. Now the son is their son, and now the daughter-in-law does not want them to have any contact with the grandchildren. It’s heart wrenching. It's heart wrenching for them.

But this gal is a sweet godly woman and she said, “Holly, the thing is, it's like the Lord delivers telegraphic messages to me.” You know, we don’t have a telegraph anymore. “But He lets me know how to pray for those grandchildren. I don't know when I'll see them again, but nothing can stop me from praying for them.” That takes courage to keep doing that when you don’t have the benefits of getting to be with them. It takes a lot of courage.

Rebecca: Well, not just to pray for these grandchildren whom you’re missing so much of their lives, but to pray for their parents and to pray powerful Scripture for the parents that God will move their hearts and change them and break down whatever evil is holding them back from doing what they are doing to all the grandchildren and withhold themselves from their parents.

Nancy: It's so important, I think, in every season of life to keep the perspective that this is not final. God is still writing a story. It is not the end, and God has plans. He's working. If you just get stuck in what it looks like right now, you can want to just go to bed and cover your head with the blanket and not come out. But if you’ll say, “God, You are at work here.” Be praying that God will be at work, and have hope that God really can change this situation. Then I think you’ll be able to pray with more faith and anticipation of what God is going to do.

Rebecca: It’s like Henry Blackaby says, God is working even though we don’t see anything. He is working all the time.

Nancy: I think that's in the Bible, too. 

Rebecca: I’m sure it is.

Holly: I think sometimes our prayers are too small. We don’t ask for big things from the Lord sometimes. I think sometimes the Lord would love for us to ask for big things and then trust Him to move in ways that we can’t even anticipate.

Rebecca: Well, these parents can also pray that God will show them if there is anything that they have said or done that has contributed to this situation of the grandparents not being able to see their grandchildren or their children. They can pray that God would show them how to reach into their lives. If it is a letter of apology, or if it is something that they themselves can do to change the situation, they should do it. 

Nancy: Pathway of humility. 

Leslie: That’s Rebecca Lutzer talking with the host of Revive Our Hearts, Nancy Leigh DeMoss and her friends, Kim Wagner and Holly Elliff. They’ve been casting a vision for the exciting opportunities God may want to provide you in later seasons of life. We’ll continue listening to this conversation over the next few days. We’d like to send you a copy on CD when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size.

We’ve found that donations typically drop in the summer months, so your support really does mean a lot to us. Just ask for the series “Flourishing in the Empty Nest” when you call with your donation of any amount. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or just visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Maybe you know someone who’s struggling while entering the empty nest season. You could order a copy for them as well.

Well, tomorrow, Kim Wagner will show you why the empty nest season can be so exciting.

Kim: These days are such an adventure, to be able to be fruitful for the Lord. I’m so content, whatever He has, to be fruitful. That is what we desire to do our very last breath.

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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