by Amy Langford
When I first read about the invite to submit an article for Perennial Gen’s December theme of holidays and family traditions, my mind whirled with ideas on what I might submit. I knew I had my favorite traditions, but I wondered what my family thought. What did they look forward to each holiday season?
But before I move tell you the answer to that question, I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s a painful one. From the time our children were born, I read Bible stories to them, taught them songs of praise, and took them to Sunday school. When they both accepted Christ and were baptized I wept tears of joy.
The teenage years rolled in and I watched them both buck their faith. They wanted to spread their wings and fly away from the nest that had taught them their values and encouraged their walk with Christ. My mother’s heart broke each time they refused to join us at church or rebelled against hearing God’s word. I fought back tears each time they refused to have dinner with us because they didn’t want to hold hands and say grace.
I knew this was their way of branching out into the world, defining who they were versus how they were raised. I understood. I did the same thing when I was a teenager and eventually God drew me back into His loving arms despite not having a single person in my family who walked with the Lord, spoke of His goodness, or even bothered to pray for me.
Foolishly, I thought that by raising my children in God’s word and praying over them, there would be a guarantee that they would not follow in my footsteps. When my boys started rebelling, I questioned how they could have the same result as me at that age, when I had spent endless hours praying that they’d have a deeper, richer relationship with Jesus without all of those missing years spent in rebellion.
But for now, the Hubs and I hold tight to Christ and pray that one day our sons will turn and come back to the Lord. In the meantime, our faith and holiday traditions stand firm, including our Advent wreath. It’s nothing fancy, just a simple holiday wreath I picked up from the craft store. It sits on a plastic charger with the traditional 3 purple, 1 pink and 1 white candle tucked into the middle. At dinnertime, I read an Advent devotional, and share history, meaning, and symbolism with everyone who joins us at the dinner table (or my children, who sit on the couch refusing dinner and grace).
Now that you have a bit of background, here’s how one of my family members responded when I sent a group text message to my husband and sons asking them to tell me what their favorite holiday traditions were.
My oldest and most rebellious child responded first. “I like the candles.”
I was confused at first. Candles? What in the world? Which ones? Every holiday, my husband and I always pick up our favorite Yankee Candle scent and light it each day throughout the seasons. Maybe that’s what he’s talking about. Weird. I didn’t even know my son paid attention to the Cinnamon Spice or the Balsam Fir candles.
You know how you get those little flutters of hope in your stomach? Those mom nudges that spring to life when it comes to something positive about your child? I hoped beyond hope my son was saying something more than simply liking the pine scented candles burning each Christmas, so I called my husband. “Did you see the text?” I asked.
“Yep.” My husband responded.
“Well, do you think it’s the Yankee candles?”
“Could be.” He is a man of few words.
“What if he’s talking about the Advent wreath?” I asked.
“Could be. Ask him.”
Honestly, I didn’t want to come right out and ask my son to clarify because I didn’t want to get my hopes up and then have them get dashed. What if he only liked the smell-good candles and that was it? Eventually curiosity got the best of me and I tentatively shot a text to my son. “Hey bud, are you talking about the advent candles on the kitchen table?”
Oh my! My heart soared to the heavens in thanksgiving to the Lord. I know, I know… it’s a teeny tiny step. But for this momma, it’s a step that showed me that despite the rebellion, despite the anger directed towards Jesus, and despite all outward appearances that made it seem as if our efforts as parents were a complete waste of time, here was one tiny little reminder to never give up hope.
The first candle of the Advent wreath is the Hope candle. It is a symbol, a precious reminder that our hope is in Christ. That candle lights the darkness, and speaks of his promise to save rebels like me. It is a reminder that God will do what he promises: “So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Amy encounters God’s grace every day as she navigates life as a wife and mom and takes on the responsibilities of being an adult child caught in the middle of 2 sets of aging parents.
I was the same way – I did not grow up in a Christian home, and God graciously brought me to Himself. I thought that by having all the Christian influence I could muster in my own home, it would just automatically “take” with my children. One seems to have retained his core belief in salvation by grace, but has rejected much of everything else he grew up with. One isn’t actively in rebellion, but he’s not actively pursuing God, either. I cling much to the hope in Phil. 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” I pray that God will bring back to their minds truths that they’ve heard and send someone across their paths who can speak and demonstrate truth that they’ll be open to.
Thank you so much Barbara for the sweet reminder that God will bring all things to completion. Christ is indeed whom we can hold onto when our children take paths away from Him, and when we, as their parents hit our knees in prayer over our families. Jesus is the hope, the promise and the answer to life’s blessings and challenges. May God give us the strength, wisdom, grace, compassion and heart to seek Him always on behalf of our families.
Standing together in Christ,
You are not alone in your wait, Barbara. There are many of us Perennial Gen women and men waiting with God for our prodigals. Thank you for sharing that verse here. It is a hope-giver to me as I wait, too. – Michelle
I know this hope too, Amy. Our son doesn’t show the outward defiance but it’s clear he’s removed himself from much of how he was raised. We’ve walked through dark times in his younger hears but there is that flame that still flickers. I can see it. It’s small, but it still burns. Thanks for sharing this part of your story. It speaks to so many of us and we need to be reminded we’re not alone.