You know those days when you send a sad kid off to school? Maybe it’s friend problems, or loneliness, or just the growing pains of life—but whatever the reason, they leave the house and it’s not better? Welcome to my morning. Everything in me wanted to pull her into my lap (though she doesn’t really fit anymore), tell her to stay home, then wrap her in spiritual bubble wrap so no one and nothing can ever hurt her. I wanted to fix it, to put on my Mommy Cape and swoop in and straighten out her whole world.
But of course I can’t.
So we talked for a while—I shared my stories of angst and loneliness and how God used those times to teach me what real friends are (and aren’t), and to help me find comfort and friendship in Him. To show me that He is the only One who is always reliable, never petty, never in a bad mood—but honestly, I don’t know if it helped much. In the end I did what my wise mother always did with me when I was crying and she couldn’t fix it: We prayed.
We sat on the couch and cried to God and begged Him to pay attention to her problems and give her comfort and wisdom and relief. We prayed as specifically as we could about all of her worries. And you know what? That’s the best I know to do for my beloved kids. That’s the greatest gift any of us can give our children, the gift that will outlive all our advice and intervention: Teaching them that God is real, a loving Father who is truly concerned about their everyday life. Actively engaged in helping them face their concerns. We can show them that when we bring problems—even preteen-drama-in-the-lunchroom problems—to Him, He cares. He listens. He draws near. So to all my fellow heavy-hearted parents out there, wringing hands over the growing pains we cannot fix, wondering what to say and how to help, let’s do this one thing for our kids: Let’s teach them to pray to the God who cares. The God who goes to school with them. The God who sits beside them in the lunchroom. The God who will walk with them every day for the rest of their lives. The Father who will be with them, comforting and guiding, even when we are long gone.
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son….
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them. (Hosea 11:1,3–5).
A poem for preteen girls…and the mamas who love them
Too tall too soon,
a wonder-eyed kid caught in a growing-fast body.
“So wise and mature,” the watching world exclaims—
and sometimes it’s true—
but I know how you sleep snuggling armfuls of stuffed animals
and half-believe in Big Foot and magic.
Or at least you wish you could believe.
Too tall too soon,
and even I forget how your old soul is still so young—
one minute your brilliant insights could end world hunger,
the next you are so hungry your whole world is ending.
Our days start with weep-giggling and end with giggle-weeping,
till you give my heart whiplash,
and neither of us knows if we want to hug it out
or strangle each other,
so we try a little of both.
Too tall too soon,
and others your age are already all-knowing eye-roll masters:
too cool to smile; too cynical to pretend, let alone believe—
but you know, and I know,
that rainbows are squeal-worthy,
and any day now our Hogwarts letters are coming,
and birthday cake tastes better shaped like a unicorn.
(But we have to know it in secret.)
Too tall too soon,
but my girl, you will never be too tall
to fit in these arms,
to rest your almost-taller-than-me head on these shoulders—
and your problems will never be too big,
and you will never be too big,
because no matter how you grow,
Every day it gives me hope and keeps me sane. Every day it saves me from my own angst, my sinful thoughts, my despair over this dark and dangerous world.
I’m working on diving deeper into the Bible with my daughters, especially my preteen (age 10). I want my girls to understand that the Bible is not just a holy book, formal and distant and vaguely frightening. I want them to know the Bible as God’s living word: A comfort we can rely on in daily life. A tool that teaches us who to be and how to think. A guide that helps us understand God. An insight into how deeply God loves us, even when we make mistakes.
Here are 13 scriptures to read with your daughter, divided into categories (these scriptures will speak best to girls ages 9 and up):
says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)
2.This scripture helped me survive high school—I read it a million times, and drew so much comfort and confidence from it, knowing that God loved me even when I felt all alone at school.
But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. . . .
you are precious to me.
You are honored, and I love you.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 43:1–3, 4–5 NLT, emphasis added)
What’s important to God?
3. Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34–40)
4. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23)
5. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:2–5)
Living a pure life in a dark world
6. How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches. (Psalm 119:9–14)
7. For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11–14)
8. Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (1 Peter 2:11–13 NLT)
9. Don’t worry about the wicked
or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away.
Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you. (Psalm 37:1–5 NLT)
10. But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
11. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3–4)