This weekend I helped my daughter peel potatoes. We were having company for dinner, and I’d asked Kate to make her roasted garlic mashed potatoes to go along with the main dish that was braising in the oven. As we stood side-by-side at the sink, she commented on the difference in how we wielded our peelers. “I always nick a knuckle when I hold it that way.” I smiled and nodded—regardless of how she holds the peeler, she ends up with a peeled potato. Her recipe differs from mine in other ways: she melts the butter in the microwave, I drop it straight into the hot potatoes; she whisks in chopped thyme from the garden, I settle for salt and pepper; she peels the garlic cloves before roasting them, I roast the bulb whole; her choices of dairy products are richer and more generous than my own; and the cayenne pepper was a surprise. When she was finished, she served up a side dish that could have taken center stage.

Kate is the second of our five children, all of whom are grown and flown, four of whom are married, and two of whom are now parents. I’m not writing on the topic of parenting adult children because I’ve figured it out, but as many writers will attest, by this exercise I may learn a lesson or two. Even the terms empty nest and grown and flown are instructive. Our adult children are no longer hatchlings who need us to meet their every need for survival. Nor are they fledglings who need us to manage the larger responsibilities of their lives. They have spread their wings and flown from our nest of parental care into the lives God has ordained for them. I’ll just share the top three lessons on my growing list, because I’m still learning, and, well, there’s a word-limit—which I’ll probably exceed anyway.

Lesson number one: I am not the sovereign, all-wise being who orchestrates their lives. While I now see this as a relief, for years it was mildly annoying if not downright frustrating. After all, my husband and I love our children very much and we had wonderful plans for their lives! However, through much trial and oh, so much error I’ve come to understand that God’s plans are far better than mine. According to Scripture, while they were young our job was to train our children up in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6), which means: teach them to follow the Lord (Deut. 6:4–7). Their job was to obey us from the heart (Eph. 6:1). Now that our children are adults, we’re to allow them to leave and go into that way that they should go, and they’re to honor us (Ex. 20:12). We have moved fully from their submission to us as children to parents into the stage of mutual submission to one another out of reverence for Christ (5:21).

That may be easy to say, but there’ve been times when our adult children made decisions and our advice wasn’t always welcome. Whether it’s career path, parenting styles, voting preferences, or fill in the blank, there will be issues about which our children won’t ask our opinions or make the choices we wish they would. My husband and I have learned that rather than provoking or deepening conflict (Eph. 6:4), we must instead pray—and keep praying—and entrust their decisions and the outcomes to the Lord. It’s never easy to keep silent when I’d rather give unasked-for advice or avoid the painful circumstances which my imagination sees in vivid detail. But I know I can because of the next lesson.

The next lesson is that God is as sovereign over their lives as he has been over mine. This is a lesson which my loving Lord teaches me daily. He has providentially and patiently led me into and through many trials and heartaches and every single one of them have been for my good (Rom. 8:28). These are not glib words easily written. I believe that the Lord is my portion because of the losses he has redeemed (Ps. 142:5). I fully trust that he is my refuge because of the storms he has carried me through (Ps. 91:2). And I am persuaded that he will never leave me or forsake me because of the many great and precious promises in his word (Psalm 139:1–18). I therefore know the Lord can and will instruct and grow my children’s faith through lessons tailor-made for them and sent in his perfect time. This leads to and overlaps with a third lesson.

The third lesson is that God’s sovereign plan for their lives is far better than any I could have designed. God is leading my children just as he has led my husband and me—on the path which he determined for each of us before time began. As Reformed Christians we believe that God has ordained every detail of our lives by his sovereign decree. So whether they parent, vote, or peel potatoes as we do, their lives and hearts are in God’s hands, and he is directing their every decision according to his plan (Prov. 21:1). God loves my children far more than I do, with an invincible, inseparable love (Rom. 8:35–39). He knit them together in my womb (Psalm 139:13) and he will bring his good work in them to completion on the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). And on that day, if they are in Christ, our children’s lives will show forth the immeasurable riches of God’s grace in kindness toward them, as our Lord Jesus Christ takes center-stage (Eph. 2:7).

What more could a mother ask or hope for?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Barbaranne Kelly

Barbaranne Kelly is a reader, writer, retreat speaker, and hospitality enthusiast. She and her husband Jim are members of Christ Presbyterian Church in New Braunfels, Texas where she serves on the women’s ministry team and leads women’s Bible studies. She has been blogging ever since she accidentally registered for a blog while attempting to comment on a friend’s post and figured, “Why not?” She now writes for her own blog, Grateful, and for Women of Purpose, the women’s ministry blog of CPC. God has blessed Barbaranne and Jim with five fascinating children, two awesome sons-in-law, two amazing daughters-in-law, and four delightful grandsons. In all her roles it is Barbaranne’s sincere hope that she and those to whom she ministers may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.