A hand to hold

“Look how strong you are!”

I’m not sure when it happens – I just know it does and did for each of my three children. That moment when your infant child is able to wrap their tiny fingers around your one adult finger and you feel the smidge of strength and purpose as they recognize their ability to grip.

“Look how strong you are!”

These words instantly come out of a mother’s mouth both in affirmation of your child and awe at the miracle you are holding in your arms. Each new development you see in those first weeks is remarkable. The progress in the first year of a child’s life feels like more than any other year of a human’s existence. The newborn that comes into the world 100% dependent on their parents quickly moves from nursing or a bottle to solid food. They transition from lying helpless to crawling and walking on their own. First words may be uttered, and the desire for independence that grows with each passing year begins to peak at you in the most subtle of ways.

“Look how strong you are!”

Today marks a milestone in my mothering life. Our youngest turns 20.


The memory of her gripping my finger for the first time is clear in my mind’s eye.

Maybe because she was my last baby.

Maybe because she was my smallest baby and this landmark felt even more amazing. Her fingers – so tiny!

Maybe it is because even today, she still reaches for my hand when we are walking together or driving together or sitting near each other. I learned one of the best ways for me to communicate my belief, support and love to my strong, determined, compassionate last-born is to hold her hand.

“Look how strong you are!”

As I look back at the years my children spent in their teens I realize that the words I spoke during their first year of life, that came so freely and so enthusiastically, were the exact words they needed during this season of the teenage years that again felt like such rapid growth. The tone may have needed to drop an octave or two from the higher pitch we often use with newborns – but the sentiment is still the same. “Look how strong you are” is a message my teenagers needed when navigating a world that seemed to scream about their weaknesses when held against their peers’ apparent strengths. It was a message spoken from a “I knew you when” perspective. As a parent your memory of that first finger squeeze is held up against the strength your child demonstrates when stepping up to bat for the first time in little league, or rides the bus for the first time, or gets in the drivers seat of your car and you genuinely see their strength that comes from daily, gradual growth. The biggest lie a parent of teenagers can believe is that their voice is no longer welcome or necessary. The effect your words have may elicit different responses than the smiles and coos of a baby but the reminder that you are still in their corner full of the same belief, love and trust instill a security so desperately needed in their lives.

“Look how strong you are!”

But what about those times when they’re not.

And we’re not.

Strong, that is.

When the circumstances of life appear to have the upper hand that takes a sneaky right upper cut to the base of our jaw, or into our gut. And all strength and hope feels lost. The “look how strong you are” statement falls flat because it is…




God uses each of my children to teach me much needed life-lessons. My just-turned-20-year-old is no exception. My modus operandi is to proclaim “Look how strong you are!” even when it is not entirely accurate in an effort to take my eyes and others off the hard and onto the bright side. The reality is that as we grow older so does our ability to detect inauthentic praise. My daughter reminded me once that allowing oneself to feel the sadness that accompanies disappointment and discouragement are a necessary part of the growing process and that false encouragement is no encouragement at all. I learned that in the moments when my children feel weak and I have little to offer the most important words are not, “Look how strong you are!” but…..

“Look how strong HE is.”

He – the God who knit you together in my womb.

The God who promises to never leave or forsake you.

The God who has endless grace and mercy. Giving us more than we we ask or imagine and forgiving us more times than we deserve.

The God who sent His son into the world, leaving his divine power in heaven in order to feel the strain that humans feel when their strength is tested. The God who exhibited the greatest strength when he allowed the physical sacrifice of His son through death on a cross.

His son, our Savior who defeated death and the grave to give




to all that believe in him.

“Look how strong you are!”

Today I celebrate the end of an era. I loved the teen years. I loved the conversations with my children that made me laugh, made me think, made me sometimes want to pull my hair out. I loved the evidence of moments that showed their growth, their maturity and their trust in their Savior. I loved every moment where I was reminded of my need for wisdom and strength which lead me straight to the feet of Jesus.

Today I celebrate you, Brooke. The bookend to our children. The courageous, witty, determined, passionate 20-year-old. The human that asks the best questions, that expects excellence from herself, that is willing to stay in the hard when others may want to bail. The one that takes the time to write heartfelt birthday cards and thank you notes and is quick to ask how I am doing. Today I celebrate your God-given strengths that you use to point others to Him and I also celebrate your weaknesses that remind you that your true source of power comes from the one who gave you life for now and eternity. I take your hand, I squeeze your fingers, I feel your grip –

“Look how strong you are! Look how strong He is!”

You are loved.


Brooke – She’s 20

2 thoughts on “A hand to hold

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