About the Author

Ann Voskamp is a farmer's wife, the home-educating mama to a half-dozen exuberant kids, and author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, a New York Times 60 week bestseller. Named by Christianity Today as one of 50 women most shaping culture and the...

Recent Posts

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. oh, the wasted moments – anger, selfishness….shushing, shushing, shushing my boys. reversing this story so that i am the one walking the dutsy road home? oh, how humbling.

    • Beautiful Kendal…this post brought tears to my eyes…your comment brought me to my knees. Thank you for your words. Thank to you Ann for sharing the beauty of His grace….

  2. Ah Kendall… Isn’t that the thing? Instead of being the wayward Prodigal Parent — to be the Wholehearted Prodigal Parent. The Way-Ward — the God-ward — Prodigal Parent.

    To move from being the wasteful selfish son in the parable… to the lavishly graceful Father in the parable.

    Walking that dusty road home with you, Kendall… He’s *yearning* for us to come — running with you now, sister!

  3. I have squandered too many moments this week. I have struggled and raged and floundered and flailed wildly, repeatedly – I have foolishly resisted grace and spent too many words on apologies. This has been such an ugly week here. I have had to turn back towards this home, to answer this calling with a humble heart… This was a word I needed today. I am so thankful for the truth of this, ” know that you can always, always come home”. I am encouraged . Thank you for this, Sweet Ann.

  4. Ah, Kris, friend….

    The Wholehearted Prodigal God can’t wait to lavishly welcome the wayward Prodigal daughter home — and make her like Him — lavish in love, reckless in grace.

    We’re all beating a dusty path back to Him who is waiting armwide to welcome us home…

    I’m with you, Kris — repenting of being a prodigal… and praying to be His kind of Prodigal. More love than thin letters can hold, friend….

  5. Ann, brilliant word visuals that captured my mom’s heart. Yes, I’m a prodigal, but mostly I’m a recovering Older Brother…

  6. My son is home from college for spring break this week, the one who made me dive deeper into words about prodigals and repentance and forgiveness and the gospel. He taught me the importance of knees-to-carpet prayer and, that when God said not to lean on one’s own understanding, he intended those words for mothers, too. My son taught me that I need to model the gospel by saying to him, “I’m sorry, will you please forgive me?” because we all fall short. And I’m so thankful you taught me to count gifts during some of the lean years–the practice taught me to wait in hope for the One who delights to give good gifts to his children.

    My son has taught me so much about God’s faithfulness to his promises, as he fill me in about the Bible study that meets on his dorm floor and the ways God has met him while away at school. Yes, I know that neck-craning, straining to see that handsome young man of mine, and the grabbing him tight around the neck, no matter how ridiculous I look. There is just no off switch to a mother’s heart.

    • ~smiling tears~ No off switch. No… no off switch, Nancy.
      Powerful and beautiful, Nancy.
      Thank you for showing us Prodigal Parenting as they head out into the world.
      *Thank you* for sharing your story here.

  7. Good morning, Ann! Thank you for such a true description of what we need to be as parents for our children as they make their pathways through life. Your words dovetail with a letter I wrote for yesterday’s MOB Society about the hidden dangers of being the “good-son.” More than half my life was spent trying to earn favor by being the anti-prodigal and it was a pathway of slow decay until the day I was astonished by the fullness of grace. I used to fear having children because we might have a prodigal (after watching my parents go through more than a decade of destruction) but today my passion is to make sure my children don’t become “good sons” anymore than they stray into prodigals. Both are paths that wander away from the Father and you notice which child didn’t know redemption at the end of the parable? I also want, like you, for my children to know their soft place to land and to land there myself as often as I can. Abba’s arms are best.

    • Jen — profound truth — not to want our children to be “good-sons” more than “prodigals.” That is the thing… to focus our eyes on the Father of the parable — to be like the Prodigal God.

      And this…. “a pathway of slow decay until the day I was astonished by the fullness of grace. ”

      That.
      You minister to us here —- *Thank you*

  8. Absorbed in reading the book Quiet here this week.
    Deep in prayer about my prodigal parenting ways.
    Practicing acceptance of my own “quiet” girls who
    find living in our world very difficult. And I need to
    offer them a home and safe haven free from the should bes…. and arms filled with mercy. Please pray
    for my eldest daughter….that she can see and find acceptance at home to give her strenth for the future. Praying and waiting through this next labor.
    Thanks for wise words Ann.

    • Dear Lord God — thank you for this eldest daughter whom You love and have plans for. Please give her eyes to see the acceptance and a heart to feel it, that unconditional grace can strengthen her for the future.

      Thank you for sustaining her mama through this labor….
      In Jesus’ name….
      Amen.
      Praying with you, beautiful Jennifer.

  9. I love how your words take us with you to the airport and wrap God’s love around our hearts. I have never once thought of being a prodigal parent. Thank you for this beautiful picture of God’s love and challenge to live it out with my family.

  10. Inspiring words, these. And so close to the truth of my parenting, squandering the grace-moments too many times. This “Prodigal Parenting” that you mention? Oh, I so want to do this – want to be this! Thanks.

    • Lord God, thank you for moving LuAnne from the wayward Prodigal Parent — to the wholehearted Prodigal Parent. Lead us on, Lord!
      Amen.

      Praying with you, LuAnne!

  11. Oh…with your prompt on sacrifice I pondered this word…even looked it up…to offer something precious…that begged the question…what do hold as precious?…oh it could be so many things….but it all boils down to me…my…I…and when that is what drives me…I squander much…oh but so thankful for the open arms…the ones that receive me back…over and over again…
    Thanks as always Ann….and yeah…leaps of joy….June 8th:)

    • Ro! Looking forward to June 8th! Yes, we squander much — and our Savior rescues. Ah, makes my chin tremble, Ro, our God like that… Our God like that.

  12. Weeping as I read your words.

    Prodigal? Yes…..every day, yes. Always running not towards His open arms, but away. Wanting my own selfish ways. Running from His words, His commands. Struggling to remain close, yet being torn away by my own selfishness. Stunned by by own mucky heart sometimes. Always prodigal, yet wanting to just *be* in His embrace. How to *be* in that embrace in the midst of busy, challenging days? That is my struggle.

    Thank you for your words. Perhaps today I can be reminded to stop running {even for a moment} to give him a hug.

    • Heavenly Father — thank you for holding Kristen close today. Thank you for washing her heart clean through Christ, for drawing her to Yourself, that she longs just to be in Your embrace today. Thank you for being the Prodigal God loving the prodigal daughters… In the name of Jesus, Amen…

      You are so loved, Kristen.

  13. I was ok reading this post until I read “How do you live so that when your kids think of the Grace of the Gospel, they think of you?” And then the tears flooded and I realized that I can’t read this when I’m at work because too often my eyes cloud over and tears fall and I’m a snuffly mess. 5 I have. 5 who have seen all my hypocrisy, all my flaws and failures and my tears fall more. And then I realize that this, these flaws, are what the Grace of the Gospel is for. Thank you from heart and my clouded over eyes.

    • And 6 here, sister… There is grace and His scarred love covers our sins when we turn. Exactly, Marilyn: “these flaws, are what the Grace of the Gospel is for. ” You see Him. You beautifully see Him, heart open wide for us to come home.

      Praying with you right now, Marilyn….

    • Marilyn! I am delighted to see you! You will remember me from MCS and Wheaton. I find much encouragement through Holy Experience and I’m glad to see that you do also.

  14. What a beautiful, heartfelt post, Ann. I am so incredibly grateful for your words. And I’m amazed that I never took time to look up the defintion of “prodigal.” I’d always assumed it meant something negative, as in squandering or wasteful. I just read that it means either wastefully, recklessly extravagant OR giving lavishly and yielding profusely. I want to wholeheartedly, by God’s grace, follow the second definition and not be wholeheartedly wasteful. I want to encourage others to know that with our prodigally generous God, He always gives a second chance. I strugged to become a mother at forty. It was not an easy or pretty transition when I obeyed God to leave a career and come home and raise my daughter. But God was so generously prodigal to give me another chance at obedience and love after I had aborted my first child (in complete fear and confusion as a very young Christian). Sadly, though I had known the horrendous pain and guilt from the abortion years earlier, I still fought God when I became pregnant again, struggling with the magnitude of such a responsibility at a later age, leaving a career and fearing depression in isolation in my home and fearing what might go wrong with the baby of an older mother; but desipte my horrific earlier sin, our prodigal God generously blessed us with such a precious little girl and undeservedly entrusted her to me. Though I prodigally wasted precious moments in her young life, struggling with the role of motherhood and my selfishness and ineptitude, God still changed me, giving me a prodigally loving heart towards my daughter. When we turn back to our generously prodigal God of second and third and innumerable chances, He blesses and strengthens us in our calling as mothers. He will not fail us! My nearly 20-year-old beautiful daughter and I are such sweet friends now, and I was just telling another “mom” friend yesterday, how blessed we are that our daughter Sheridan is attending college locally and that she wanted to stay home (with such an imperfect mother)! God has so prodigally made up for years eaten by locusts and continues to give me blessed opportunties to bless my daughter. Imagine my joy last night, when Sheridan (nearly 20!!) asked to be tucked in at bedtime!! I was at the computer writing, and I had a choice: prodigally waste an irretrieveable moment, or prodigally capture it and lavish love on my daughter. By God’s grace, in that moment, He enabled me to be a prodigal blesser! I am nothing but dust and clay feet, and I need God’s prodigal grace more than I can say and prodigal mothers like you to remind me that it is always there, lavishly for the receiving. God bless you, dearest Ann, for the beautiful, generously vulnerable and prodigal person you are!
    Lynn Morrissey

    • Lynn, your post was a singular blessing to me. I jotted down a couple of your phrases in order to remind myself to “prodigally capture” the moments and to be “generously vulnerable”. Thank you for sharing!

  15. Thank you so much for letting us into your heart this morning! I’m so glad your baby boy is back in your arms, and I’m sure you are marveling at the life changes that happened while he was away from you.

    I can also see the Prodigal Parent in myself. Like you said, there have been too many wasted moments, too many times when my own babies asked me to play with them and I said I was too busy. Just like my heavenly Father welcomes me back with open arms every time I become the Prodigal Daughter, I’m so thankful that my babies are still young enough that they open their arms to the Prodigal Mom each time I get a reality check like this one and return to them.

  16. I see the words, ” bone marrow transplant” and they capture me. My oldest son lives now after being diagnosed with a type of bone cancer, he was 14 then, 30 today! My youngest son now almost 19 and it’s been a year since we drove three days without stop to bring him home again….a prodigal in the first degree…. both sons given back to me by the grace of God….but my heart has been the real prodigal and only by His grace and mercy has He made known to me what real love and joy are! Only from Him can we receive what is needed to give back to others.
    Thank you Ann…someday I’ll share the whole story and how your words have been such and encouragement to me for the past couple years.
    Stilling healing, still learning, Karen

  17. Tears. Just Tears. Thinking about all of the wasted time, wondering. Wondering if when my children think of the grace of the gospel, do they think of me?

    And this phrase:

    “I know there are no guarantees that anyone comes home again.

    I know sometimes what messes our life up most — is the expectation of what our life is supposed to look like. Entitlement can leave you feeling entirely empty.

    I know that He only means everything to reshape us and nothing to reduce us

    Oh, how that phrase tugged deeply into my soul. You never know, do you?
    {Can I use that phrase in a blog post? You said it so very perfectly.}

    love you, sweet friend.
    -H

  18. My friend Steph is wandering so far away from her foundation… we went to Bible camp together, youth group, Sunday School. Her parents’ hearts are breaking for her, and lately I can’t get her out of my mind. She’s done this before, 15 years ago, and then came back. But I’m afraid she thinks she’s too far gone now….
    We don’t live in the same town now, don’t keep in touch but once in a blue moon, but she’s been so heavy on my heart. Pray for her? And her parents? And wisdom to know how (if? when?) to remind her she can always come Home.

  19. Just beautiful Ann-you got me at, “I know sometimes what messes our life up most — is the expectation of what our life is supposed to look like. Entitlement can leave you feeling entirely empty.”

  20. How do you do that?

    I *am* a “prodigal parent”… just the right words to describe it.

    And “bone marrow transplant”? Yes! Sign me up for one of those.

    I have a feeling I’m going to be ruminating on those two thoughts for quite some time. Thank you. (((hugs))) ♥

  21. stedfast …
    standing …
    with open ARMs, right here whereEver is.

    In the mist of HIS grace cause HE answered my prayers of one very HOT … july day to give me the TIME … to care for my two most precious gifts from HIM … this single prodigal parent is HOME … this single prodigal parent is at the house …

    waiting …
    loving …
    holding …

    just like my forever married Mother … just like my forever married grandmother … rebellion last only for a moment … not a lifeTIME.
    Our FATHER works in units of TIME.

    in my weekness HE is strong

  22. So glad he’s safely back home, Ann! Your mother’s heart speaks to all of us. And it reflects the Father’s love. Whenever we turn back to Him, He’s always waiting there to love on us. What undeserved grace!

  23. Oh, Ann, the love is so big, so deep, so wide. I’m so grateful to know it as a parent. Home is just something different when a chick is missing from the nest. And yet, life awaits them …

  24. I’m at a huge letting go stage of my mothering. Everyday, I learn something new about my heart. I’m so grateful for the chance to parent such amazing people!
    Now, they move forward and I reap what God has done through me.

  25. Oh dearest friend, Ann! Rejoicing with you that Caleb is home – in time for the rest of Lent and then Easter! Knowing how your heart felt – how you felt deep withing yourself! You put it down so beautifully, so eloquently! I know, for we just picked up Aaron from Africa last Wednesday and Jonathan and family from a month in New Zealand! Smiles tell a lot. Aaron’s words have been few, but we will hear of his adventures Sunday morning as he preaches in the Mennonite church! Then tears will flow and heart will flip and flop on August l (Tom’s birthday) as we pick up our Andrew after working in New Zealand for a year! My stomach flips just thinking of that big hug he will give as he bends down to his short Mama! What a day of rejoicing that will be! Be blessed as you listen to how God has worked in Caleb’s heart while away from your lovely family! Greatly looking forward to the day when Peter will even give me a smile. God has His perfect timing! Loving you so, my friend Ann!! 🙂

  26. Such a beautiful story, Ann. I have been a prodigal parent who’s parented a prodigal daughter. We don’t have reunions in airports or talk openly about our lives (anymore), but I keep praying, some day. Some day……

  27. Thank you so much for this post today. It really moved me to tears. I just can’t seem to stop crying. I have a couple of nephews who are prodigals. I just love them so much and want the best for them. I really want them to leave there evil ways behind and run to the fathers arms. Know that no matter what they have done that they are always welcome back into the fold. We have all done stuff that is displeasing to God. All of us. They are not alone. God is always here for them. My heart just breaks for them. This post has lead me once again to pray for them. To message them and tell them how much I love them. How much richer my life is because of them. Thank you Ann.

  28. Thanks for sharing this precious moment Ann. I am so glad he is safe at home. I want to know more about his adventure!! The life change is just beginning for him isn’t it? Miss you my friend.

  29. I shed tears for you, Ann. I was thinking the other day – is he home yet? Your sharing placed him on my heart, and I know that God knows that. That a woman’s heart aches for safety for those she loves. I’ve never met you. I don’t have children of my own. But, I do appreciate your willingness to share yours with me. Welcome home. Thank God for your blessing of a safe return – safe, but changed – both parent and child.

  30. Ah, yes, the tears, the leaving and losing and finding and gaining. Knowing this “I know there are no guarantees that anyone comes home again.” and this “Why hadn’t someone told me that a mother’s labor and delivery never ends and you never stop having to remember to breathe?” all too well from opposite sides of the child-mother spectrum…
    Hopefully pointing me to the everlasting hope of our forever together home! 🙂

  31. This post – it put both a smile on my face and a lump in my throat. With my baby being 19 now I’ve been thinking so much of parenting lately and about when they were 2. And a part of me, a big part, wishes I could have it to do all over again.

  32. Ann – I am so glad God has blessed you with his safe return – and thank you, thank you for letting him go in Jesus Name, to bless those dear people wearing little more than leaves and a gourd. My lovely, godly parents met on the mission field of Papua New Guinea – just across the border. They gave up all the shiny tinsel, to live eighteen years with these people, loving them with basic medical treatment, introducing printed language to them, and teaching them the love of Jesus. I was born there and swum in mud puddles too! Now Dad is with the One he served, and Mum at 86 is still leading Bible studies. She will be blessed to know God is still working there, that young ones serve Him still… Sorry this is not really a response to your question.

  33. Crying here. Last Thursday, I saw my middle son again for the first time since Dec. 12th. He was at Marine bootcamp and we could not see or talk to him, just letters. It was a glorious reunion complete with, “Where’s Mom?” followed by a big hug and lots of tears.

    SO glad your son is home safely.

  34. Gave my son a small pocket compass on his 21st birthday, so he can always find his way home. (Had I not been so prodigal, he would have received it on his 16th.). “We only inherit so much time.” And how quickly that time flies past.

  35. My boys, they’re 27 and 25 now, but they still come home and my husband and I are still there with open arms waiting for them and smiling as they walk through the front door. All their lives I have loved them lavishly, hugged them often, forgiven them always and made sure that the grace of God they see on the face and in the heart of this very earthly mother who loves them beyond measure. No matter how far they go, how far they push, how much they resist, they know that Sunday dinner waits for them each week. The fatted calf or mounds of spaghetti or loaves of bread are always spread and the stories around that table. Praise God! The stories shared and the lessons learned never stop.

  36. I have a prodigal at the moment….and I can’t help but wonder how much of his decision to leave the path that we’ve so carefully brought to his attention is because of my own prodigal heart. Thank you, Ann. I will open my aching arms once again, even though they long to hug my own breaking heart.

  37. I am a prodigal! My father and his friends were sexually and emotionally innapropriate and he couldn’t bear to look at me in his guilt, would rage over me for hours, exhaust me, spend hours talking about his honour …. my family disowned and shunned me and I found strength in women like Joyce Meyer and Mary DeMuth who encourage us to find our hope and strength in not building up those people who hurt and hurt us but trusting God in the journey and looking to Him in faith and hope. Life without that trust and hope is very empty!
    What has this taught me? 1 Peter 3:9: to not return their hatred and lies to them but to bless them; and how it is I want to parent my own son.
    I send him off on every adventure – to scout, to camp, to kayak, to Europe on a student exchange with a blessing we keep our arms open to him always, wherever he’s been, whatever he has done my husband and I love him with open arms and will never reject him. He is a gift to us and I have watched him develope his own character and thank God for the blessing of him in our lives.

  38. Liz — you mentor us all with these words:

    “Life without that trust and hope is very empty! What has this taught me? 1 Peter 3:9: to not return their hatred and lies to them but to bless them; and how it is I want to parent my own son.”

    Thank you for taking the unspeakable, anguishing pain of the past — and using His Word to make beauty of everything.

    We can’t thank you enough for these words….

  39. I call myself a stay at home mom, but the truth is I am can at times be so far from that. I am the prodigal parent. I have good days mixed in with days I’m ready to put running shoes on ready to dive into pig slop- thinking it’s wedding cake. I want to do more than do better. I want to be. Just be. Make the most of every opportunity and not at all squander the precious time I have now to carefully handle my children’s hearts. Thank you so much Ann for your words of encouragement and wonderful insight. I think I’m going to leave now and hug my kids until they wiggle out of my arms. Big blessings to you!!!

  40. What a nice surprise to be reading this blog this morning and find pictures of Papua!
    I spent a semester there while in college, and still pray for friends who serve God at a school in Bokondini. What a small world it really is!

    God has been using your words to encourage me closer to Him in very powerful ways over this past year. Thank you for writing.

  41. What a beautiful story. I did not realize til I got the end that it was written by Ann, but I was bawling by the end. Ann’s words have a way of bringing cleansing tears.
    I have been the prodigal parent watching for their prodigal child, and I have been the prodigal parent, wasteful, not enjoying my riches when they were here in front of me. So glad the Arms are always open.
    Thank you, Ann…

  42. They are all grown now – but still I sometimes have to clear my vision to see the grown-up and not the two year old. The mother heart never changes. When all is said and done it is just the loving that matters. We have, all of us, been prodigals in one way or another. It is that under-girding grace that you always speak of sweet friend that supports it all. Grace for us; grace for them – covering so much of what we deem failure and what He uses to make us more like Jesus.

  43. I am speechless, breathless, as I read this for the 3rd time this morning. I have children who are 2, 5, & 7 and when I think of them being 22, 25, 27 I hear brakes screeching in my head.

    Lord help me. Really help me.

    So happy to have found this this morning and now to read all of the comments as well. God bless!

    • I hear those brakes squealing too! My friend shocked me today when we looked at our 7 yr olds and she said, “Wow. To think we are only 10 yrs away from them going to university…” {lump in throat, knowing how quickly 7 yrs has flown by….}

  44. Lately, I have had such a weight on shoulders. I feel like I have failed. I feel like I have already lost so much time with my precious children.

    I wish I could go back. I wish I would have surrounded them with the love of Jesus. I wish I would have not focused so much on circumstances around me that I could not change and been strong for them. They needed it.

    My babies are now 14, 12, 9, 9. I cant go back and for the rest of my life I will feel sorrow for the lost years but I need to look at the now. I still have time. It just feels so hopeless at times.

    Thank you for your words.

    • Never hopeless, Miranda, never hopeless. There is so much yet for you to do, and how blessed you are to have time left to do it, along with a heart willing to see, and a desire to follow Christ. You have been given much grace to “lavish” on those precious kiddoes!

  45. I put one daughter on the train this morning to visit her big sister at college for spring break. Three more at home who are disappOinted to miss out on traveling. May I be lavish in creativity and energy to make this break sooo fun for them rather than short and irritable because they’re home getting into each others hair.
    Yes! Lavish with love by the grace if God

  46. Trying to keep the tears at bay until I can read this at home…alone. I, too am the Prodigal Parent & have spent a lot of time beating myself up for it. I was a full time working mother of two and so many moments were hushed and rushed through just to get through the day…to the next one to do all over again. Your book, and this post are helping me to make amends with myself. I attend a non-demoninational church but decided this year to learn more about Lent (again because of your blog). I ordered two of the devotionals that you recommended…..and The Advent/Lent wreath made by your precious son. I can’t tell you what these practices have done to enhance my journey…for a closer walk with Him. The “listmaking” was the start for me and I can’t describe in words what it has done for me. I, too am a very content introvert so sitting alone and putting pen to paper, writing down my daily gifts and reflecting on them comes very naturally. It’s a discipline that I look forward to doing. Thank you for writing, Ann and being so very transparent for us. xoxo Debra

  47. Thanks be to God we do not need to be perfect in ourselves or in our parenting … as if we could! We need to be “giving lavishly and yielding profusely” and supporting and loving our bairns as they grow too fast for us to keep up with their changing.

    I have this quote from the writing of Garrison Keillor above my desk that helps me focus on my primary mission in life as parent:

    “Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted.”

    Every blessing to you, Ann, and Thank You for one more reminding gift ….

  48. Thankful for these words today – thankful for His path that led me to your heart, words, wisdom for just this time of need. Im walking, no running back.

  49. So very true. As a mother of six who is ready to launch the baby, I amen and confirm what you say. The last thirty-five years of mothering flew by way too fast. In caring for their daily needs and homeschooling for twenty-eight years, though my heart was intent on seizing every single moment to the full, still precious moments got swept away, hurried through, missed, or ignored. We’re all prodigal.

  50. Thank you for sharing this! Beautiful words and now I cannot wait for my own son to get home from school- and he is only 7! I want to look at his face and tell him those words that he can always, always come home!

  51. Lately, I have been thinking “do I hug my children enough? Do I cherish my time with them enough? Do I take our time together for granted?” I know the answers to those and im not proud. A son about to graduate from high school in a couple of months and another son right on his heels next year. My second son would much rather than be anywhere but here and it saddens me. Before long those boys will take flight. Will I have done a good enough job? Again I don’t think I like my answer. Does anyone ever think they have done good enough?
    Local girl died this week at school in her gym class. I read her obituary in the paper. Just 12 years old. Same age as my daughter. Cannot imagine the devastation her family must feel. And I think to myself, did I hug my daughter before she left? Did I hug her hard or just half way. I need to learn to hug them like it’s the last time I will see them. Cherish them before those times have passed and they are grown. All things for me to ponder.

  52. I sit here in humbled tears having lunch with my 5-year old granddaughter-the one whose daddy is upstairs with his struggle. My middle son who loved his God so much he wanted to serve Him in far away places now struggles to meet God half way. The one who loved his wife and daughter with such unconditional love now struggling to face the day since the wife left him for an old flame and has now divorced my son, taken the daughter 250 miles away and married the flame. As he nears his 30th birthday he has had to come home and live and search and cry and find his own way back. We will be here to be whatever he needs if we can.

    • Praying with you over those precious, suffering sons. I’ve been there, too, weeping with mine in their loss. God uses it all–He will redeem these bitter times and restore the locust-eaten years.

  53. I shared this on my FB page, such encouragement for today. Thank you for writing, especially this: “Why hadn’t someone told me that a mother’s labor and delivery never ends and you never stop having to remember to breathe?”

  54. After reading this, Ann – I spun my computer chair around, pulled my middle child into my lap and said, “Let me look at this face.”

    While I’m with my kids all day, everyday – I hadn’t stopped to just stare in.

    And I’m the prodigal for it.

    I desperately don’t want to spin around in my chair one day and realize they’ve already taken flight – and in my selfishness and ungratefulness…missed it all. Lord, let me live in the now and love it!

    Your words cause me to stop and stare and soak in and remember. Thanks 🙂

    – Kate

  55. “How do you live so that when your kids think of the Grace of the Gospel, they think of you?”

    So much to meditate on here…. so much to still learn and unlearn…

  56. wow… I am crying… and praising God for your gift of words. you are amazing and this was so beautiful.

  57. So beautiful and so important that it made me weep. Thank you for the gift of your words and for reminding me that the small moments are building blocks for my son’s life.

  58. Yippee!!! How to keep the wonder at the sun on their skin, the twinkle in their eyes, the joy of sharing about travelling the globe with the best news. Glad your boy is home with you and that you are enJOYin him back in the embrace of home.
    Hugs.

  59. Right now, walking the path of being a prodigal wife in the face of my husband’s infidelity… “How do you live so that when your kids think of the Grace of the Gospel, they think of you?” I want to live, lead, love, so that when my husband, an unbeliever, thinks of the grace, the forgiveness, the love, the mercy, and the selflessness that I’ve poured into him, into the brokenness, into our wounds… that he will see Christ and head for Home, and that our children will follow that lead.

    My husband belongs to the Lord more than he belongs to me… the Lord longs to welcome him Home even more than I do… I always saw that in terms of God loving our children more than we do, but right now, the perspective is shifting to how He loves my spouse, and what I can learn from this.

    • Wow, JD… so sorry! What a sweet spirit you have! May the Lord bring your dear one to Him and back to you…

    • JD… I am right there with you! I have been praying for my separated prodigal husband for almost 3 years now!! I have some resources I can highly recommend if you would like to contact me!! Prayers to you!! Never give up… “For NOTHING is impossible with God!!” (Luke 1:37)

      • Praying for you, JD. I am so sorry. My husband dances with the bottle more than me. For yrs now… an addicts life is very messy. God’s grace is enough.. even on the days I feel like it isn’t enough. Much love.

  60. My heart echoes so many of the comments above. Not really “being there” with my three little ones. It’s easy to just let them be on their own in the other room because they are perfectly content, right? I underestimate how much my time means to them. I say no for no good reason and don’t really listen to their sweet words…just nod and say “uh, huh” as I continue with what I am doing. I have never apologized more than since becoming a mom. I am continually saying “sorry” to them for this or that. Asking a sweet three year old to forgive you for harsh words…then getting a tight squeeze, a pat and a “it’s okay mommy” in return…now that does something to your soul.

    • My life echos your example, and I too realize that moments are slipping by me and opportunities are fading fast away….Help us, Lord to see those precious faces for the sweet gifts they are, and help us to also be generous with our time and attention. I so needed this, and I thank you for your honesty, I felt alone in my dissapointment of myself.

  61. I’m the prodigal for sure, gone from God for decades, finally returned these last few years. I turned back tentatively, but I am running now, and so grateful that He welcomed my slowing turning back to Him with open arms and continues to urge me onward!

    Lovely story, Ann – your son is precious…turning out to be just like his mama!

  62. Oh Ann, how I identify waiting at the gate 3 years ago when my 18 year old son was returning from Ethiopia (20 lbs. lighter!) from weeks away. The exact same feelings as you. Waiting now with open arms for a prodigal so dear to me to come back. Oh the waiting….but oh, the anticipation.

  63. Last night I dreamed that my children were 8, 6, 4, and 1 again. (They are 7, 11, 13 and 15 now.) I dreamed that we are on some adventure, seeing some new place…after I settled my little ones to wait at a table with Grandma while I went to buy tickets, I said to them (as I always did), “Now, stay right there, I’ll be right back.” But I paused to memorize them in my mind (as I always did) before I turned to go.

    As the dream continued, I went to buy the tickets, and as I stood there in the lobby my oldest son went laughing out the door! He wasn’t 8 years old. He was almost 16 (as he is now), and he was healthy and strong and big and fine and happy, wearing a Civil Air Patrol uniform and heading toward a Cessna.

    When he was little I told him to “Stay right there.” But he didn’t stay right there. He grew up and went somewhere else.

    I’m glad he’s doing so well. I’m proud of him, and I’m so thankful that he is safe at home every night. He’s not all grown up quite yet.

    Still, I’ve been crying over this all day.

  64. Sitting here with tears in my eyes, tears of shame and repentance, oldest daughter a prodigal, oldest son (too young to get married) getting married in 9 days, younger children still here, Oh God my Father have mercy.
    Prone to leave the God I love,
    take my heart, oh take and seal it,
    seal for Thy courts above.
    This portion of “Come Thou Fount” fits me too well.

    • Judy, you are not alone. My heart is so broken it is hard to breathe, let alone get through each day. We have 13 children. The oldest two are prodigal daughters in their very early twenties. There are so many regrets, so many things I should have done better, but it’s too late. I pray each day that they will turn back to Christ and to His Word and salvation. I pray for my new and only grandchild, who is going to grow up without a real father. God trusted me with these little hearts and I failed, yet He expects me to go on. Not only that, but to continue to raise all of the others. May He help us through this. May we grow closer to Him through our pain. May He give us much wisdom and strength to do wonderfully with those entrusted in our care. May our hearts not wander from His any more.

  65. As I watch my only son (21) walk a path leading him away from God… away from the protection of the Holy Spirit … the safety… the sure… I fear. I pray as I fear and I pray and I pray ~ when to speak, when to stay silent, what to say, what not to say. I’ve missed a lot … but I don’t want to miss this ~ I’ve been wrong a lot … but I don’t want to be wrong this time ~ I cleaned too much … now I just want to be clean ~ I loved but … now I just want to love, love, love him back to God… but I can’t, no matter how hard I try and so I stop trying and I just love him even when he won’t let me … I love him and I PRAY. Thank you Lord for loving my son more than I do, thank you for caring more about his salvation than I do (You must care A LOT), thank you for bringing me to my knees … this prodigal.

  66. Oh Dear Ann,
    So often when I read your posts, I cry, no I weep. There’s always a co-mingling of deeper understanding of His incredible grace and His best conviction.
    How have I been a prodigal…definitely in paying too much attention to the unimportant things, majoring in the minors; and in fighting off my desperate selfish need to be loved, rather than be rightly concerned with loving.
    This is such a powerful thought…Who, if you knew their whole story, wouldn’t you love? No one.

  67. Ann,
    I can’t begin to tell you how this post resonated with me. My oldest daughter unexpectedly moved out of our home just over two months ago…she’s 18, half way through her senior year of high school, and has no idea how to survive in the world she so desperately craves. Our hearts are broken, our family torn apart. God has been faithful and has been at work in the lives of my husband and I and our other four children, but this mamas heart of mine is shattered. I have been a prodigal parent many times over, but being the mother of the prodigal child has been my undoing.

  68. My 13 year old son – first born – leaves for a service trip to Costa Rica in a about a week. No parents along… just our prayers. Letting him go has been easier and harder because of my experience with letting him go… due to my own mistakes leading to divorce… and letting him go every week for years now. Yet I cling all the more because of it all sometimes. I am reminded of what is most important every time I look at him. And I know that every day he is that far away without me I will be having to offer him back to God 100 times…

  69. The heart of a Mother for her children often broken by just life and this journey in the flesh; forgetting that the receiving of Christ takes residence within us with the power to live through us with miracles every moment. Often I was disappointed and wasted many days with worry for my daughter forgetting who I and she belong to and we all were bought with a high price. Our prize is realizing, repenting and knowing that God has never left us we have just wondered from HIS forgiveness, love, embrace, provisions, and peace forever and ever. Thank you Ann you are a gem that the Lord is using in a powerful way. I am 64 years young and my daughter is 35 with 3 young boys and she loves the Lord and is setting a better example of faith that I could have ever dreamed or imagined. I am learning from her and I am thankful.

  70. My husband’s younger son, 24, the youngest of his children … who, faced with the challenges of becoming a man, the challenges of an elder brother called Home too soon, never to disappoint his earthly parents again (and how do you live up to THAT when you’re the kid brother still stranded on this broken planet, with broken parents) has turned his back on the God of Israel. We covet prayer for him.

  71. Ann,
    You made me cry when you sent him off on January 26th and here I am again, crying. Thank you. You always manage to express what’s in my heart.

    I’m glad your boy is home. Mine comes next Friday for a week of Spring Break. Will make sure I tackle him at the airport like you did (aka hurricane of happiness). As to my younger one, well, we have a Monopoly game to finish and maybe a punishment to tone down. I had forgotten that my goal for this year is to have a face of grace. Thank you for the reminder.

  72. Thank you, Ann, for this beautiful post…I am the prodigal parent…always knowing in my heart, “there, but for the Grace of God, go I”… Henri Nouwen, the famous author, once gave a postcard print of the Rembrandt painting, “Return of the Prodigal,” to individuals who had come to hear him speak, which I included in this blog post… http://bethwillismiller.blogspot.com/2011/09/rembrandts-return-of-prodigal.html
    He asked them to look at the hands of father–one hand masculine and strong, and the other hand feminine and gentle. What a wonderful way to illustrate the unconditional love God has for all of us prodigals, full of grace and truth…the kind of prodigal parent I pray to be…

  73. I went back to work full time so we could send our son to a wonderful university. It’s no sacrifice when it’s done in love. Every job frustration is met with – “but this makes possible my son’s future.” I would give anything for our son. That’s what God does for me, his daughter. What kind of love is this?

  74. Our own dear prodigal son left for college 15 years ago and the same young man never came home. Why he wandered, I’ll never know. Was it our parenting? But the others didn’t wander in such a way. He calls home. He asks us to pray, but still he wanders far from his physical home and his spiritual home as though he has lost his way. My heart breaks. My husband, in his wisdom, tells me “Our job is to pray…and to stay on the front porch with our eyes fixed far off, so when we see him coming we can run to him with our arms open.” Will you pray with us that he will turn his feet toward home?

    • Agreeing with you in Jesus’ matchless name that he’ll come home. For a revelation that will cement his faith forever. Amen!

      • Hi Lynda, we have two prodigal daughters and the pain never goes away. Your husband is so right! Our job is to keep praying and to wait for their return.
        Abby, thank you for giving me more words to pray or my two prodigals. I had run out of words. Praying for a “revelation that will cement heir with forever.”

  75. Ann,

    I am so happy for you and rejoicing with and thankful to learn your son and the team has come home safely…thanks for sharing your story with us and sharing the beautiful pics…we’re about to embark on a journey with our son, Caleb Joshua, as he’s readying to deploy to Kuwait in a few short weeks…prayer appreciated for his young bride, Shelby, and beautiful 15 month old daughter, Rylie! I look forward to seeing how God is going to use this in all of our lives! God is good, Sovereign and in control, in that I can trust and rest! 🙂

    Kelley Light

  76. As we get older and our children have their own children, we get to practice being the Prodigal Parent on a new level…not only to our own children, but to their children too. I am always blessed when my children call and say “Mom, I need you.”

  77. Tears flow, though I was feeling quite composed today and the pain did not seem to be so near the surface. One little poke and the fountain begins. Our son left 5 months ago, 1 month before his 17th birthday. Ironically, he lives only a few blocks a way. Was here yesterday playing basketball with his younger brother and sister. Are my arms open? I don’t know. Seems conditional. He’d have to honor our values even if he doesn’t agree with them and that he is not willing to do. So is “come home if…” a demonstration of grace? The prodigal son came to his senses and then came home. That is our prayer. That the world will lose it’s hold and he will no longer be a slave to sin, but to righteousness and let the love and holiness of his heavenly Father embrace him. My heart breaks, too, Lynda. Thankfully we have wise husbands:)

  78. I am filled with joy as i read this post… so glad he is home:) I too know the feeling of sending off a child to a far away country, all the feelings, fears and joys of the adventure and the raw , deep faith of trusting God to keep your child safe and the prayer for an amazing time and safe return home. I believe it is just as much growth for the mommy through this experience as it is for the child. And yes it does make you reflect on missed or wasted time, the regret, thank goodness we have more time to take in and fill our hearts with our babes.

  79. “Why hadn’t someone told me that parenting was less about avoiding prodigals but more about becoming a better Prodigal parent?”

    Really Ann…beautiful revelation. And you know, of course, it comes at just the right time for me to hear. Thank you.

  80. I love this story! I reminds me of some crucial times in my son’s life. By God’s grace we have all grown up!

  81. ‘I know sometimes what messes our life up most — is the expectation of what our life is supposed to look like. Entitlement can leave you feeling entirely empty.’ I love this, it spoke to my heart today, Ann. Thank you for your ise words 🙂 xo

  82. tears of joy and sweet laughter as I read today…what beautiful freedom we have in Christ…thank you for sharing your heart for Him…i am encouraged!

  83. I know the pain of having a prodigal who hasn’t found his way home…and I don’t know that there is a greater pain. I have asked the Lord for glimpses of our son’s heart and He has graciously given me those glimpses to cling to, although it has required looking and craning of the neck. With every thought that begins “If only I had…” I have to remind myself that that he is loved by the Prodigal God! What makes that ache bearable, is the joy of knowing that not one more hug or one less mistake as a parent could begin to touch the lavish love of our Savior.

  84. Thank you, thank you for this. Yet another post of yours, Ann, that brought me to tears. I drove my 18 month old son to the zoo today. And on the way there, him giggling in the back seat, asking for more “tunnels” to drive through…it hit me and tightened in my chest: Time is so short!
    We ran through the zoo, him blazing the trail, looking at monkeys and making bear noises. That sweet package of joy wrapped in blonde-haired toddler’s body.
    I’m 20 weeks into my second pregnancy. Can’t believe these children will grow and become adult-like…too soon.

    Blessings to all.

  85. Dear Ann:
    Your story pierced my heart today.
    I have two beautiful daughters who are 18/20 now, and I missed so much of their childhood when their dad and I divorced. Even as they grew up, I didn’t realized the importance of each precious moment. Now they are building lives of their own, and I keep looking back down the road, praying I could take it all back. The backward glance down your own dusty road is the hardest to move from. There is wounding that I know only God’s grace can heal, but oh, how I would love to undo the hurt that we caused. Once your eyes are open to the truth of the true inheritance Christ wants you to pass to your children, you are almost blinded by the past. I MUST now move forward and keep the faith that with God, NOTHING is impossible.
    Thank you for this beautiful story, that moved me onward to becoming a faithful prodigal parent, who waits patiently for the return home, first of her own heart, and then the hearts of my children and grandchildren, who, in hope, will follow.

  86. Many days I have been the prodigal. Today, after 2 weeks of illness, I have come home to my beloved two boys. My arms embrace them. What a privilege to be their mommy.
    I’m enjoying watching them play in the mud, bathing and laughing together.
    Oh, the joy of it! God is so good. Grateful for healing and being able to enjoy them.
    And their daddy is pretty swell too!

  87. I have two prodigals: One who is so angry with us because we have quit enabling him so is not speaking to us…. the other so intelligent, he lost his way in the philosophies he studied at the university. Both know the depth of our love for them and the love of God they have turned their backs on. They have chosen to be separate. We wait. I have prayed for the first one for 25 years, through his adoption and growing up. He has always wanted to walk his own path separate from us. I have prayed and cried with other moms in Moms In Touch for years and still pray for our college age kids. I can’t believe how much my heart can break and then find peace in God’s ever present presence. We also have a son in the ministry. Such a confusing roller coaster of feelings: pride and disappointment and hope and love and frustration and fear with 3 such different men. Expectations that have need of submission to God – daily.

    • I know the path you walk, Lynn. I pray that your loved ones come home to Father’s arms and find their identity and answers in Him. And I pray that you find the grace to fully love them right where they are as He enables you. I pray that for me with mine as well.

      • Thanks, Lynda. It is hard to believe that God loves them more than we do. I pray that you are finding peace as you wait.

  88. Our prodigal joined the Army 7 years ago after graduating college. I was not OK with this. I begged and pleaded with him not to join because I knew he would go to war, but he said he knew that and it was OK. He left for Iraq on the same day his youngest sister went to kindergarten. One going to war and one going to school for the first time. I did not think I would survive. But God brought our prodigal home almost 10 months later and what a day of celebration it was! He was home! 6 weeks later he collapsed on a run with his unit and we found out he had stage 4 cancer. And months later he had a bone marrow transplant. But the crazy thing is I too had a BMT. Only my transplant was not with chemotherapy or in a hospital, although I spent weeks there, but in the very recesses of my being for this was truly where God turned my heart towards home and showed me that like my son who was changed at the cellular level because of his transplant that he too would be changing me.

  89. Ive never commented before but God uses you again and again to change me. Thank you for being vulnerable. For not conforming but using your writing to show an example of being transformed. You truly have a gift… One I was jealous of at first if I’m honest. But jealousy turned to gratitude. I am thankful for your ministry. You make me want to be more authentically ME, while asking constantly how the real me can best point to Christ. Please stay humble in all of your success and continue to be the earthen vessel His treasure shines so beautifully through

    • Rachel… this choked me up. Tears all brimmed. Thank you for being brave and honest. I get that — how you feel. And it makes me want to run hide under a rock somewhere, ashamed and embarrassed and feeling foolish — not wanting to make anyone feel anything less than loved.

      And I don’t take one friendship, one grace, ever for granted. I know it could be otherwise. That you would still reach out anyways, Rachel? That you would feel around for the gratitude and be more of who He created you to faithfully be? Exquisite, Jesus beauty.

      Please, pray for me? I am desperate everyday to rest further and deeper in Him… to Hide in Him.

      Your words were a humbling gift today, Rachel… and lay me right low.
      More love than thin letters can hold….

      • Ann,
        I will faithfully pray for you more often than just here on the screen.

        Dear God, thank you for how you are using Ann. Be faithful to make her faithful, throughout the days of her life. Father, we ask that she be a beacon of your light until she is with you in Heaven. Keep her in Your Presence. Remain her greatest joy and satisfaction. Call her to ever increasing intimacy with You. Ann is a part of this great Body and Bride of yours… as You pull her closer to You, that also pull the other members of this Body ever closer into Your love.

  90. Love these words – the poetry of everyday life and holy moments! Coming in to comment because I am hungry – hungry for the prayers to be lifted up for a couple of prodigals…you see, sweet tweener whom I write about sometimes is really grand daughter…whom we are raising as her daddy is in prison and mom is not in the picture…I want to be the extravagant prodigal parent (for both son and grand daughter) and I desire prayers for the prodigal who is in prison both spiritually and physically…

    And I thank you in advance for those prayers, and hopefully can thank you for them in person before we all meet in heaven!

    • Cindy – lifting you up for a daily filling of God’s love to give to both of them. Don’t lose hope – our gracious God is a Redeemer. He can, and does redeem…even these great sorrows.

  91. Ahh, the prodigal. He left home at 17 with words swirling on both sides, tall and thin and so full of life, he was bursting at the seams. He is still the prodigal, wandering here and there, chasing dreams he can’t quite nail down. But he loves our God with a deep and hardy passion that with a few years of life, will serve him well and will serve others. He loves with no strings attached, embraces strangers, laughs loudly, skate boards his way through city streets collecting people, a smile for everyone.
    He was home the other night, after a ski trip with his brother. He drank 3 glasses of milk, he stretched his 6’6 frame out on the rug for an hour and chatted. I ruffled his silky blonde hair as he slipped back out the door and told him I loved him. He hugged me fiercely and grinned. “Me too, Mom.” Three years I have waited for some calming, for his Dad and him to reconnect at a deeper level, but it has not come. But it will….I know it will. I loved him too much when he was little, the youngest of 5 for a long time until 2 more arrived, and he felt the chill of babies in his spot, perhaps. He has always had a passion I could not fathom, a reckless passion, but the boy who could climb any tree and rode his two wheeler down a hill and conquered it, the first time he climbed on, would live his life no other way.

    I love your writing, Ann. Bless you as you and your son continue your journey together.

  92. Dear Ann,

    How amazing could one post be…to speak to so many areas of my life? Only God would allow these words from your heart to flow onto this place so that I could once again remember that He has everything in his hands, EVERYTHING!!! I want to tell you that for all of the prodigal in us as parents the good part and the bad part of being the prodigal parent or prodigal son…there comes this moment with our children when they begin to pour back into us that which we have poured into them. My son, my only son, stationed in one of the “Stan” countries, fully loaded with his weapons everyday, just said to me recently on one of those most precious few moments of hearing his voice on the phone…”Mom, we are back from the mission and we are safe”. He said, remember the verse you used to quote to me, the one you would remind me of when I had to do something that I was afraid to do, when I was afraid of failing or getting hurt? “For God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind”. He said, “Mom, I am not afraid! I have been trained well both by the military and by you mom. If I am not afraid you must not be either”. Whoa…there is nothing more precious to my ears than those words from my precious son…a son who has caused this mother to spend much time on her knees…but seeing the fruit of my labor when I felt so lame, so ungodly in my example, so weak in my walk..but God!!! I have had a bone marrow transplant this year as I battle cancer and these words you spoke… “I know sometimes what messes our life up most — is the expectation of what our life is supposed to look like. Entitlement can leave you feeling entirely empty.” It seems to have been a year for this…and yet, knowing that in the midst of this difficult place grace flows down and I am covered, from the fear of cancer and all it holds, to the waiting to see the face of my son once again, the grieving the unexpected death of my brother at a young age, the loss of my husband’s job in the midst of all of this! It is good to lie down in peace and wait for God to show himself mighty to us in small and big ways right where we are! You are a blessing to me in so many ways! Thank you for helping begin this year finding 1000 ways to be thankful to my Creator! Bless you Ann!

  93. On the verge of letting my first go into all the world. He will always be my little boy. I am often the prodigal mother, wishing hours and days different. Looking to grace to cover it all as I know it will. You paint a picture we all want are children, prodigal or not, to see, Ann: one of welcome, open arms no matter what their story. As always, beautifully said–read with sweet tears.

  94. Wow, what a thought. To think like the Prodigal Father..like God. With such grace as we can’t begin to understand, but just receive and pass on to those He places in our lives.
    Needing to be reminded today, to be a prodigal wife, prodigal mum and prodigal friend. To keep loving and praying and valuing those He places in our path, even when they have wandered. Who can’t meet our needs and we can’t be all they need, but we can lead and love each other to Him. And offer GRACE. When they return in their incompletness, to accept the return, and rejoice, and keep praying, and sacrificing.
    I need to be reminded of this today!. Blessings Lisa

  95. I am sitting here at work, crying after reading once again! I have been wondering when your son would be home. Your words touch my heart as always. Your love for your children is so obvious and so deep. I wonder if our children will ever know how much we truly love them. It is such a never ending love that I can’t express enough. I just hope they can follow in our footsteps with our love for Christ as well. Thank you for your honesty.

  96. Ann, I am glad your son is home. You are blessed to have a son who wants to serve.
    I hear a lot of self-blame from parents here, and I want to say that being a parent is such a challenge that it has often felt surreal to me. And I have prayed for my only son all his life.
    May I ask prayer from all of you, now, for him? He is 30 years old and an alcoholic. I cannot tell him that he can “always come home”, because when he does, we are enabling him, as he drinks more when he is home.
    Our consolation is that he still has a deep faith in Christ, and I know that He watches over him. It has gotten to the point where my prayer for him feels like my vocation.
    But I am also concerned that all you parents here, who sound so wonderful and filled with love for your children, scrutinize your every flaw or mistake and blame yourselves too harshly. Your children know they are loved, I’m sure. That is all that they will really remember.

    • I agree with this statement:
      “But I am also concerned that all you parents here, who sound so wonderful and filled with love for your children, scrutinize your every flaw or mistake and blame yourselves too harshly. Your children know they are loved, I’m sure. That is all that they will really remember.”

      This is all very painful with one who is not talking in theory of prodigals like some light subject matter, but really living it. I have two. This thread is not helpful to ones with real flesh and blood prodigals. What are we to make of it but heap blame upon ourselves when we are *all the same*–the “successful” and the “unsuccessful” parents are all the same. Those who succeed should also be on their knees as often as we are thanking God for the grace that their children “chose the right path”. In the end, they choose and blaming us will not cut it just as us blaming our parents will not cut it when we stand before God.

      We all have to work out our own salvation imperfectly having been raised by imperfect parents. Free will is more powerful than I ever realized.

      Another thought. Sometimes the kid on the missions trip does not come home. My son gave $100 to a girl who went on a missions trip. One afternoon she was on video preaching the gospel to village children and that same afternoon she was swept out to sea. My son has a stack of bitterness toward God over those expectations issues. The things that got crused and taken. The family of the girl is in ruins. Her parents divorced and I know of at least two of her brothers who are completely lost. One of prodigals was living in a house of 6 aimless, jobless teens. Two of them are her brothers. My son says they are crazy and emo and one speaks in a fake British accent. This generation is LOST. You have to have a kid “out there” to know how completely shipwrecked they are. And they are pulling our kids down with them. I’m not going to be blamed because the deceiver is deceiving, lying, killing and destroying….doing what he does because the hour is late and his time is short.
      Sorry to go on. Just a lot spilling over….
      Please pray for my 2 and don’t ever take for granted the children that stay close to the Lord! And pray for that family whose daughter drown. She was a beautiful girl full of light and would be so grieved to know how her family has derailed from the devastation of her death.
      RCG

      • Dear RCG,
        I appreciate what you wrote and agree with what you are saying. And I will pray for your two children, and for the family who lost their daughter –
        Thank you –

  97. “I know sometimes what messes our life up most — is the expectation of what our life is supposed to look like. Entitlement can leave you feeling entirely empty.”
    I needed to hear this today…exactly at the time I read this.
    God Bless.

  98. Dear Ann
    Watching your boy stepping into and living his mission in the world is such a privilege.
    I am so glad he is safely back home.
    I read your words and hear your joy/fear and trust-in-the-Lord-pride of what he can do and cannot imagine everything that his future holds.
    I’m thinking of my twelve year old and ten year old sons, and hoping they will have the wings to fly and that I will have the faith to let them go.

  99. I often hear mothers and fathers fussing at LITTLE children at the mall and at stores and in other areas–really fussing about nothing, about insignificant acts. I want to ask them..Will this be important in 100 years? If your answer is “NO”–then QUIT FUSSING. Fuss over the IMPORTANT things–like running in front of a car, endangering their health, refusing to learn…. pick your battles carefully! I know it is hard at times, when you are at the end of your rope but always ask, “Is THIS really important?” And also remember to always treat your family BETTER than you treat your friends and co-workers. Isn’t your family much more important than others? Then why do we often treat them worse? Always treat them as if this will be the last time you will ever see, hear, hold them… (By the way, Ann, you are such an inspiration to me..your writings, your thoughts, your commitment to God give me such an uplift! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing.)

  100. So wanting both of my kids to come back….back to the Lord. They know the truth….yet refuse to embrace it. They think they are fine….I am not fine with that decision. We have talked, they know how I feel. No need to say more unless the Lord really leads me to. Just wanting it now. To worship together, talk endlessly about our Jesus, do ministry together, etc. One day, one day…I stand on Your Word, Lord. You and your household, SHALL be saved. I thank you ahead of time Lord and protect my “babies” while they are out from under You! I look forward to THE DAY and I am on the “porch” watching…they ARE coming(in the Spirit), just can see them in the earthly realm yet…but they ARE there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!PTL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  101. “Just keep the arms open. He always returns.”

    I know there are no guarantees that anyone comes home again.

    Oh, how that hurts. There are no guarantees, but there is always Hope. I have two prodigal sons, and I felt God say once that He was waiting for their return – and that you don’t wait for someone unless you knew they were coming. So I hold onto that. No, no guarantees – but lots of hope and lots of prayers. And this prodigal mama’s heart breaks just a little more each day in the waiting.

    • “I have two prodigal sons, and I felt God say once that He was waiting for their return – and that *you don’t wait for someone unless you knew they were coming*. So I hold onto that. No, no guarantees – but lots of hope and lots of prayers. And this prodigal mama’s heart breaks just a little more each day in the waiting.”

      Thank You for that.

  102. Just reflecting on how wierd it was to feel a flutter a week after I had delivered my Erynn….only to realize it wasn’t her anymore. Even though I was happy she was here, I was sad she wasn’t with me all the time. And she has been slowly moving away from me ever since. Who would have thought 18 years would go so fast? A wonderful girl, full of a tender heart and a fighting spirit all at once. Wondering who she is on her own walk with the Lord, sometimes close, sometimes far, sometimes farther still. We are doing the dance of holding on and letting go. Grateful for the grace of the Father, for the wooing of a young heart. Praying for her to embrace this TRUTH not as mine, but as hers.

  103. The only thing I have ever been a mother to is my dolls when I was a little girl…that was decades ago, and oh my heart has ached so many times because I was never blessed to be a mother..an aunt yes, but never a mother..my childhood dream never fulfilled. Tears streamed down my face as I read this post today..and now as I write, I can’t stop them. An experience never realized leaves me feeling empty sometimes. I know God hears my heart and I rest in his arms, knowing he really does have a purpose for my life.

    • Dearest Mae… I’ve been praying for you tonight, beautiful sister. Praying you feel the love of Abba Father wrapping round you and you feeling all the rest He brings to your soul. You are loved and cherished and He’s catching all those tears in a bottle and He cannot slumber — He is right there with you, Mae, and is never leaving your precious side.

      Thank you, Lord, for loving Mae beyond comprehension. Thank you for cupping her in Your love…. In the name of Jesus who is her forever companion….

      Amen.

      More love than thin letters can hold, beautiful Mae…

  104. Running out to meet my daughter in Ghana in two weeks! At first, I thought it was too extravagent to buy the ticket, but she needs the banquet of me seeing her launching her life and her heart to rescue the enslaved in this far away place.

  105. How you make me think and rethink what I’m reading…how I wish my relationship with my daughter was as close as the one you have with your children. My twenty one year old daughter seems to be floundering in life. She finally got a job and starts next week but is so far behind in where I think she should be (but maybe just where God wants her to be). She has not gone to college, was in bad abusive relationship, lost numerous jobs after short periods of time. Our relationship is so off and on its difficult to even like her. Not a nice thing to admit but the truth. I’m concerned. Please pray for our family. Thank you for your gift and for sharing it with the world. God is using you in a mighty way.

    • “Our relationship is so off and on its difficult to even like her. ‘

      I lived with one oppositional defiant child for 16 years and another one who wants to “see us bleed out” (because we said no dating till 18 and his girlfriend broke up with him) and uses the f bomb almost exclusively. Sometimes, in the flesh there is nothing to like (about us or them, right?!). Moms are not supposed to say that. But God is the only one with truly unconditional love, at least in my experience.

      You see, having a prodigal is not pretty and not a light thing.

      Prayers for your relationship to heal one day soon….

      RCG

  106. Truly beautiful Ann. You have touched my heart deeply on so many levels as I wrestle with some deep pain in my heart right now. Thank you.
    And, it’s good to know that we aren’t the only family with a rat and blow gun story! Heehee!

  107. I am a prodigal in another way. My elderly father is busy pushing me away because he can’t bear his need. He is willing to sacrifice not only his relationship with all his children, not just me, as well as the health of my mother to his ego. We pray and we pray. I wait and watch for the Father to redeem this. He treats me with disdain and speaks poorly (and untruthfully) about me to others, even while I rearrange my life to meet their needs. I try to fill my mind with worship words. When I fail (and I do) I want to shake my finger back at him, to cut him with my icy words, but I have to remind myself, every day in every way let Jesus increase. And yet it is so hard when part of the cost is my mothers health.

  108. Dear Ann, and Dear Readers All,

    My tears have flowed here today, too, with each of you. Several years back, a daughter turned away, a home struck with grief, I prayed and cried and wrote my way into Today. Sometimes when you are going through tragedy, it seems that no one else knows or understands. But the open hearts I found here today are proof that you know, and truly do understand what it means to have a Prodigal, or to be one. As I read these posts today, I felt God nudging me to share a poem I wrote in some of the deepest pain I had ever known. I discovered as I wrote the poem that it was a Prodigal who was pondering the wayward paths of another Prodigal; hence, the title.

    These stories and comments on coming home, on standing ready to receive those who have not yet realized they will one day head for home, brought the pain of those times back into sharp focus. Our own Prodigal returned, and not a moment goes by but thanksgiving abounds to our merciful God.

    Whatever would we do without His pity to us all?

    Ann, your words give life, and they equip us to brave the heights and dare the depths of living. I stand in prayer with each of you, my sisters, who yet await the homecoming. May it be grander than anything you could ever have imagined.

    Praying With You,
    Patsy

    A Prodigal Ponders

    I’ve heard that she believes
    That we will always be here for her
    Though her rebel heart
    Brings sorrow to us, grieves
    The lives she’s torn apart.

    And will we, as she deems,
    Be waiting with anticipation
    Till we see her come
    In answer to our dreams
    Again to shores of home?

    Oh, yes, and yes, again!
    To think that we could e’er abandon
    One who is our own,
    Though captive in sin’s den
    With heart as cold as stone!

    The pattern once was set
    For us to understand and follow
    When the Father true
    Betrayed, did not forget
    His wayward, chosen few.

    For though our rebel ways
    Provoked His Spirit, yet He waited
    While He worked His will
    Throughout our willful days
    Longsuffering, until,

    Eyes cast to shores of home
    We came again to our own border
    From sin’s cavern deep,
    Though ‘gainst us stood the tome
    Of written charges steep.

    Did He withhold His joy
    Upbraid us for our endless straggling
    Scorn our fragile dare
    To rise, our hopes destroy,
    Our hopelessness forswear?

    Nay, though our hearts were cold
    His fiery, loving embers warmed them
    Caught up in His bliss
    And rapture uncontrolled
    We felt His holy kiss.

    Can one so vile as I
    Who tasted of such loving-kindness
    Dare to turn away
    When, doubtful, she draws nigh
    Who long has been astray?

    Forbid, Lord, it should be!
    Thy conqu’ring love must ever rule us!
    May we oft recall
    In mute humility
    Thy pity to us all.

    And when she reaches out
    Be it by single glance or footstep
    May Thy love alone
    In us, suspend all doubt
    That she is welcome home.

    Patsy R. Newsom

    • Some of you doing the hard waiting might like to know that Ruth Bell Graham (wife of Billy Graham) was once a mom waiting for a prodigal to return. She wrote a book called”Prodigals and Those Who Love Them.” There may be comfort for you, in it.

      http://www.amazon.com/Prodigals-Those-Who-Love-Them/dp/080105897X

      And while you wait and pray, let me encourage you with this thought which sustained my own mother in the years when my sister wandered far from the Lord and home. Even in the midst of her pain and sorrow, she would often remind us (perhaps herself most of all) that “we worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and that really, he could redeem anything. He even made an Israel out of Jacob!” (Take a fresh look at the story, if needs be.) And yes, He has redeemed the sorry mess – my sister’s loving, tender care of mum is rooted in Christ … all praise to Him, always.

    • Dear Patsy you also have a way with words –
      Caught up in His bliss
      And rapture uncontrolled
      We felt His holy kiss.
      Am still savoring those words, rolling them around my mental tongue..

  109. I am ever so grateful for your willingness to give the rest of us the opportunity to see ourselves through His eyes. Thank you for your timely reminders. My first prodigal child (with a prodigal mother) has made it to the age of 21 with a darling son and a wonderful new husband. My last child at home is a prodigal through no fault of her own. Through abuse, anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome she has brought out my prodigal parenting.
    It is so hard going from crisis to crisis, when you get so busy that you forget that you don’t have to do it alone. That there is One that can do what no one else can do for this child. And I daily struggle to remember to abide in His loving arms, while he directs my path.
    He always puts just who and what I need in my path so that the gift can’t be missed. But I have a difficult time giving up the pain to Him and just abiding in His love.
    It is so hard to let the prodigal child find their own way to His arms, to His healing touch, to learn their own way to Him. It is also so hard to not push them, to let Him help them in His own time.

  110. I have to admit that I’ve been anxious for your son to return. I have praying desperately for him and for your family while he has been away. When my son was at boot camp last summer, I felt very much alone in my heart always out there for him. Just kind of “obsessed” in my thoughts and prayers for him. I will never forget his first letter home and how many times he wrote “I miss you.” in it. Five Times! This son who couldn’t wait to leave home for the way it made his wings feels all folded and smooshed. I am thanking God for the safe return of you son. Blessings on his life and his young wide wings. Thanks for you, Ann; friend of this heart unknown.
    Bernadette

  111. So true Ann, the mother’s labor never ends, no one ever told me that either. As my children have flown the nest, my heart pangs every time they drive away down the driveway. All I can keep thinking is , did my mother feel this way about me? I hope so.

  112. I am grieving a prodigal, one that doesn’t appear to know how far he as wandered. One who rationalizes his ways. One whose own little ones are watching his every move.

    And I am the prodigal parent whose tears have flowed in the dark of the night, whose anguished soul has cried out to the Savior on behalf of her boy, whose apologies have been refused and rejected. Yet I hold on to hope. Haven’t we passed this way before? Didn’t God work in wondrous ways then? And so I wait and pray and hope and love. And I also forgive, because didn’t someone recently say “forgiveness is a river that sweeps everything away”?

    • I am driven to seize every moment. Learning to let them go one step at a time and praying they will be a large part of our lives once they have set up their own households. Please pray for my Emily. She is majoring in our shortcomings and not seeing the wisdom or need to hold God’s word before her as a mirror for her own disobedience. It crushes my heart to know that when she looks at her parents she does not see the longsuffering love of and patience of Christ but rather selfish powerless hypocrites who so poorly adorn the gospel.

  113. I have nearly four year-old twins and a two year old. My husband and I have been walking the long road of medical school and residency since before the twins were born. As a stay-at-home mom and a husband whose school and work have taken so much time and sacrifice, I have come many many times to the complete and total END of my own ability, strength, and patience in my duties as a mother. How good to still be challenged and encouraged in the same story! Thank you, Ann, for sharing your heart with us. It is painful and powerful and I always want to shout, “YES, I feel that same thing….but just can’t express it that way!”

  114. Thank you for your challenging words. Too often, I’m a prodigal mom as well.

    Also, it is so wonderful to see your pictures and realize your son visited the same island where my husband and me serve. What a small world!

  115. Similar words have tumbled from my lips to my gifts…and to the gifts given through marriage. I would not take those words back, in spite of rent relationships, severed status. My prodigals loved, no matter what. It was a promise then; it stands now. My aching, grieving heart searches the horizon for their familiar shapes to come in view; its not His time-yet…so I wait. Wait in anguish; bide in hope. Remembering that He looked for me, knowing I would show up at His doorstep.

    Thank you, Ann, for this lovely bit of writing.

  116. Ann, I am so thankful he is home safely. Beautiful words.
    Our children teach us, don’t they?

  117. I may blog about this one day, but not now. The tissue is still tender and it would not take much for it to burst wide open and spill all over us both. I have a son. For 20 years he has been a hard core drug addict. There were times I didn’t know where he was. There were times i didn’t know from day to day if he would still be alive when put my feet to the floor.

    Lately he has been going, by his own choice, to an out patient clinic. The road ahead of him is long and I cannot walk with him. I too, strain my neck looking to see if he is progressing and continuing his journey back…it seems good today.

    He is beginning to read his Bible. He enjoys a fisty discussion about the Word, what is man’s interpretation and what does God really want from us. Like trying on differnt coats to see if it fits and if I approve.

    and I watch and pray.

    It has been a long journey with him. Perhaps this will be the victory that we have been praying for. I remind myself, The Lord gives, gracce, the Lord gives mercy and manna for today.

  118. And what does one say to the family of a “prodigal” son who commits suicide with the Bible open in his lap? Grace, please pray for grace for all who loved and knew this wonderful young man.

    • My brother took his own life 8 years ago this month. He too was a struggling prodigal, even though He loved His Jesus. He too was found with the opened Bible. This is difficult. There are no easy answers and even fewer words of comfort. But like you said, “Grace”… God’s love is abounding in Grace. At my brother’s funeral, the minister used the analogy of a solar eclipse… sometimes a person can only see the darkness, but the “Light” was right there… just being hidden by that temporary darkness. There is an enemy of our souls who wants the darkness to surround us so we can not see that “Light”. It sounds as if the “prodigal” son you speak of was searching for his Father… for the Light… for the Truth! Our prayer is that God met him right there in his darkest moment with His Love and Grace!

  119. Oh, Ann… I am amazed once again how awesome our God is. I have been so behind in reading all of my wonderful blogs, but I had just a few minutes so I checked my google reader and found this… His timing never ceases to amaze me!

    I was the prodigal daughter. Upon entering college 22 years ago, I ran from God and my parents. Although there were many twists and turns… many wrong decisions… many unforgivable sins, God and my parents forgave me anyway and welcomed me home. I am still experiencing the consequences of my choices, but love and forgiveness continue to surround me.

    I was also the prodigal parent. I had given everything to my husband and 3 children. So when I turned 30, I thought it was time for “me”. I was tired of being known as someone’s wife and mother… I was determined to find “Tara” again, as I knew she had buried herself deep within. I still loved my husband and children, but my life became more “me” focused… more selfish. I wasted the years searching…. only to come full circle and realize that “Tara” only wanted to be a wife and mother. There was much damage to the marriage… many days gone and the children were now much older.

    Now I am the separated wife who has been praying for her prodigal husband for 3 years. God has brought me to a place of finding deep trust and strength in Him. I continue to stand for my marriage… no matter what the papers or courts say. God does not give up on His prodigals… so I will not give up on Him or His ability to restore and redeem the broken. He is faithful… so I continue to seek Him first… trust whole-heartedly and love forgivingly.

    I am also the mother who is praying for her children who walk that prodigal line each and every day. As they continue to feel the hurt from their earthly father, it makes them question the love of their Heavenly Father. They each must walk this path… this long, winding and painful journey that I pray will lead them into His arms.

    I just wrote about your book in my latest blog post: “The God is Good”
    http://www.createdtobebeautiful.com

    And the picture you posted with the rainbow over the church… such a “God thing” for me and a reminder of a promise I believe He has given me!!

    If you, or anyone on this blog, would like a Bible study resource, our pastor’s wife wrote the study, “Praying for your Prodigal”… it is wonderful and I highly recommend it!!! http://www.furtherstillministries.org/store.html (I think the workbook/study guide is on page 3).

    Thank you for this beautiful post today… and for the beautiful reminder that we are never too broken… God will always welcome us home again! May we all extend that same loving grace to our spouses, children and other family members… no matter where they roam… may they always come home to opened arms!!

  120. My prodigal son is 22 now and recently married. We have been praying for him to turn back to God for a long time. Many painful memories during high school. I don’t care about any of that only that God gets a hold of his life before he turns around and he’s 40 and has wasted so many years. Thank you for your soul searching, transparent writing. His name is Samuel. “For this child I have prayed….” His verse before he was born.

  121. Ann, in another post you said something to the effect of “when we crush another we crush Jesus”. Well that reminds me of the verse that talks about us rejoicing with those who joy and weeping with those in sorrow. Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, the hurt and grief. And, so, I have wept with you. I have cried out for so many of you, with groanings and a heart spilled out, asking the Lord to work a miracle in those bruised spots, for a mending of relationships and soul wounds. For, you are my sisters and brothers, and you are hurting. I have cried out just now with great praise on my lips for our faithful Jesus’ ministering, for God’s hand working in you and your families. For you are my sisters and brothers. I am grieving my own heartaches, my own failures and missings; but rejoicing again in the knowledge that “His Word does not return void”. Isaiah 55:11 has been such a blessing to me…”So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” If I can do nothing else for my kids… I MUST be a warrior on her knees. If that is the legacy I must leave them, a heart crushed and broken before His throne so I can off a sweet fragrance like the bruised leaves of a rose; May that be used for God’s glory. If I must suffer heartache so that one day my children can see His face, I will do it. If I can intercede on behalf of these sweet souls, and that is how I can water them with love, I will do it. I will pour into them as much as I can, knowing that they are most aware of my faults. We battle alot in our home… battle to die to ourselves daily. Battle to remember to love. Battle to “cast our cares on the Lord”. Battle to keep clinging, trusting, hoping… Battle because we get in our own way so much of the time. A battling similar to wrestling with the Lord, I know I am nothing without Him, and I need, need, need His blessing, His help, His hope to keep going. “Love never fails. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians) God knew our tendency to fail when He gave us the blessings that are our children. He knew all of that when He was on the cross. He still died for us. He still entrusted our kids to us, why? Because He knew that we were the perfect ones to be humble enough to lay our souls out like a fleece for our kids. There is power in prayer. Prayer is the work!! “The Lord inhabits the praise of His people” (Psalm 22) Praise! Where He is there is healing, hope, strength, peace that passes all understanding… and supernatural unconditional love. I am an amazing Loser. 🙂 But, still Jesus loves me as His own, as His child. That. That is what gets me. I must remember to do this… as 58 kd sullivan said, “I will open my aching arms once again, even though they long to hug my own breaking heart.” Jesus did that. He stretched out His aching arms. Even when His flesh cried out to let go, He stretched, and remembered us, and loved through all the sin, through all the ages, through all time, to you… to me. Blessings and healing and grace to you all… In Jesus’ name.

    • “He…remembered us, and loved through all the sin, through all the ages, through all time, to you… to me.” That is so powerful. Thanks for that thought, Celita. And this: “God knew our tendency to fail when He gave us the blessings that are our children.” A truth to remember!

  122. At times I am able to pray for my lost son with a fully-trusting heart, but often I am plagued with fear that in doing so I am inviting God’s severe mercy. That things will get worse before they get better. So many times God allows a deep wound in order to save and heal. I don’t know that I am up for it, again. But even in fearful times, God is and always will be, my God.

  123. I have just finished reading this book – and I’m going to have to read it again – but a lot of it resonated with much of what has been written today in the comments and replies above.
    __________

    “We have all been created for greater things – to love and to be loved. Love is love – to love a person without any conditions, without any expectations.

    “Works of love are works of peace and purity

    “Works of love are always a means of becoming closer to God, so the more we help each other, the more we really love God better by loving each other. Jesus very clearly said, ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ Love in action is what gives us grace. We pray and, if we are able to love with a whole heart, then we will see the need. Thos who are unwanted, unloved, and uncared for become just a throwaway of society — that’s why we must really make everybody feel wanted.

    “There is something else to remember – that this kind of love begins at home. We cannot give to the outside what we don’t have on the inside. This is very important. If I can’t see God’s love in my brother and sister, then how can I see that love in sombedy else? How can I give it to somebody else?

    “Everybody has got some good. Some hide it, some neglect it, but it is there.”

    ~ ~ ~ Blessèd Mother Teresa
    Quoted in “Mother Teresa: A Simple Path” by Lucinda Vardey
    __________

    Yet, for all we have read and understood about Mother Teresa, we have only recently learned with the release of her diaries that she underwent her own “Dark Night of the Soul” for an awe-inspiring 50 years. What faith she had to continue working on while she did not experience God in her life!

    It was the Spanish mystic Saint John of the Cross who coined the term describing the “dark night” of the soul in the 16th Century. He used that term to describe a characteristic stage in the growth of some spiritual masters. Saint Paul of the Cross, an 18th Century mystic underwent a long “dark night,” though he recovered after 45 years. Mother Teresa’s may be the most extensive case on record.

    None of us know what God’s plans are for our lives. One friend often says, when people express anxiety about their lives: “Do you want to hear God’s laughter? Tell God *your* plans for your life!”

    Our responsibility is only to follow God’s call to love everyone and all of life as we have been enabled to do so. For those who have been raised in a home without love, or with very conditional love, the path will be much harder, but God is always walking with us, no matter which path we must follow in our own lives. And yes, that is still the case if we do not always experience God’s presence on our journeys …

    All blessings, this day and always <3

  124. I’ve been looking forward to hearing about your son’s return – and praying for his safety.

    I’ve also realized recently that I am a Prodigal daughter. Through abuse, abandonment and loss my faith ebbed and flowed. Your words have helped me realize that it’s okay to feel and to be who I am – because He made me and He knows me and He loves me – flaws, prodigality and all. Thank you and yes, please keep being the you God made you to be. You inspire so many. Thank you, Ann. I pray for you and your family and thank God for you. You are written in my gratitude journal!

  125. Oh, Ann, now I can’t say no one ever told me…
    “Why hadn’t someone told me that a mother’s labor and delivery never ends and you never stop having to remember to breathe?”
    I am halfway through my sixth month and looking forward to the fourth of July for a whole new reason this year :). However, instead of thinking of the little boy inside me growing to a youth and returning from a voyage, I was envisioning my baby brother, now 25, graduating from Marine Basic Training in SC. Oh how my mother ran to him, how she waiting patiently for his pregnant wife to twirl in his arms through I could see that tearful hunger in Momma’s eyes to be the one in those arms. When his wife let go and tearfully and gladly passed him on to the lineup of others, Mom ran at him and surprised him with the same hurricane of love. And he answered her with the same surprised “Oh, hey, Mom,” then let her hang on until she was ready to let go again and pass him to Dad.
    Ann, I love how the way you write transports me into tearful realizations of what God has to tell me. I thank God for the gift He has given you and pray that He would bless me with more writing gifts as well.
    Thank you for this and the others ;).

  126. words fail me as I try to describe how this touched me. Not only the post brought deep tears to my eyes but reading some of the comments. I am constantly all un-sewn by the struggles of life and my failures. So very thankful and amazed that my Heavenly Father keeps sewing me up new in the midst of my wayward prodigal, older son, wishing to be Whole hearted Prodigal Parent. The Lord is definitely at work in me. I feel the stuffing being put lovingly back in, the needle and the string stitching, the stretching. Thank you for sharing your soul. thank you to all the lovely ladies replies. your words were food for the soul. Blessings, Jen

  127. Just read this while sitting in my boys’ shared room and watching them sleep. Amazed at God’s timing. I just read another chapter of 1 Kings to my 4 and 7 year old boys. My sweet 7 year old boy says, “Mom, thank you for reading to us tonight. “…a nightly ritual that I too easily give up when I am ‘too tired’ or just ‘worn out’ A nightly ritual that I wasn’t going to do tonight because of a delayed bedtime due to nothing special. I tell him, “You don’t have to thank me, sweetie…God’s word is the most important thing in the world. I should read to you every night, even if we are getting to bed late. I just don’t always do it….I should” How true to my life this ‘prodigal parenting’ is. Lord, may I, too, be the one who lavishes and not the one who runs far away… who squanders due to selfish desire. Thank you for the grace you show me even through the hearts of my sons…their forgiveness and even their gratitude of something so simple as reading to them at night. Thank you, Ann, for the insight, the encouragement, your transparency. I am truly humbled tonight.

  128. This story is very touching. I can so relate to a prodigal parent. It is so easy to waste time and energy on the not-so-important and miss the moments with little kids that pass so quickly. Thank you for writing. Blessings!

  129. This is a beautiful post! I love your encouraging words. They have inspired me soo many times. I have a disease I found out about in 2009 and been very sick. I just finished reading your book, “One Thousand Gifts” and it really blessed me and encouraged me. I could feel it changing me. This “prodigal son” post encouraged me again to capture every moment with my children and do as much as I can amidst the sickness. This phrase stuck out to me so much tonight. “I know sometimes what messes our life up most — is the expectation of what our life is supposed to look like.”
    I don’t know if it applies here but sometimes when I think about what my life “should” be like with children and how much I want to do but can’t it really does mess up my focus. Thanks so much, Ann, for your encouragement to me. I can’t even explain how feeding it is to my soul and encouraging to keep going. Tonight I am in tears because I don’t want to miss one moment with my children and sometimes I feel like I miss many. And in reference to your book…. I really want to learn not just the art and action of giving thanks in all things but really feeling it and soaring on those wings. The moments of peace God has given me through my sickness is incredible but to keep it their every day and all the time without losing focus is really hard for me. So thanks again. I really enjoy your posts.

  130. Oh, that I would just keep my arms open and not judge and live in such a way that my children see the Grace of the Gospel in me! Help me, Father, I can’t do this without you. Thank you for sharing your heart, Ann.

  131. Catching up on emails…but God’s timing in reading this one is perfect. Today our POP (Parents of Prodigals) study meets. We have prodigal children and broken hearts. Pray for Spencer, Alex, Will, Sarah, Nathan, David, Courtney, Jessica, Robert, and Katie. That they would come to their senses and come home to their heavenly Father and earthly parents who adore them just as they are! Thank you!

    • Dear Donna… I am praying with you right now — for Spencer and Alex, Will and Sarah, Nathan, David, Courtney, Jessica, Robert and Katie. Thank you, Lord, for loving them more than we do… please draw them to Yourself, Lord.

      • I needed that today…and praying with you, Donna, as the mom of one of those precious children! Thank you, Ann for praying for our kids and also for the ministry that 1000 Gifts has been to us, in learning to live in gratefulness and seeing grace, even when we have had very difficult things happening with our children.

  132. This is forever late, because I’m forever running late, but every now and then when reading your post you put something in your writing that seems to dangle from the tree like a broken branch. Only the broken branch always catches my eye as though God wants me to see it. I wonder if God put that in there and without you knowing. “Entitlement can leave you feeling entirely empty,” is the branch dangling from this tree. I’ve been studying this for some time now in my own life and I smile thinking of how my sense of entitlement has made me a prodigal over and over.

  133. “Prodigal Parent:” I’ve been a prodigal parent all my child-bearing years in that I’ve never known the miracle of bringing life into this world out of my own body. I spent my young years as a wife wanting to make up for so many years of unknown, lost childhood joys. When God finally showed me how much of a child I really am, at the ripe age of 33, I was born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. The longing for parenting came with that blessed Birth; at the same time came God’s taking of my diseased and broken womb. So, from my thirties–now well into my sixties–my life has been spent extravagantly, wildly, consumingly in perpetuating not my flesh, but His Spirit, in the lives of other parents’ sons and daughters. Knowing that parents’ lives are so very pressed with the tyranny of keeping up with their sons’ and daughters’ shoe sizes and keeping them out of the emergency room and the nights they rock sick little ones to sleep and handle the every-day conflicts–they don’t see the growing God is doing in these lives. In some ways, teachers can be parents for them and their children; a teacher-parent sees them as people who belong to God, not as carbon copies of their parents… The hours, days, weeks, years I’ve lost–never being the witty, or the prolific cookie baker, or the party maker–lost and forsaken, for the sake of being recklessly up to my elbows in the dough of the Word, kneading and feeding on the Life-Bread my child-soul craves for more new birth inside me, and in the lives of all the children God gives me to love and to pour it all into them…praying for all of them and their families over the years, that no matter what their story, they know The Father’s Arm–the Lord Jesus Christ–is always stretched out to save and to hold them…as He did to this child, so blessed beyond measure!

  134. Wow. much tears.

    Ann, this afternoon Lysa and I skyped with Maureen in Kenya.. she is an LDP graduate. She wanted us to play a song and sing with her. It was such a God thing. Words can’t describe. Life is so precious.

    your words…. wow. wasted moments. Loved when your boy said “mom, what are you doing?” I can hear that in my boys… too.

    much love

  135. Oh, how I long to be reshaped into His image of prodigal Father and His love to overflow from my heart toward my daughter Mariah! Please Father, help me surrender to your undeserved love so that I may have no doubts about its everlasting and boundless outpouring!

  136. […] function validateForm(form) { var errors = ''; var regexpEmail = /w{1,}[@][w-]{1,}([.]([w-]{1,})){1,3}$/; if (!form.author.value) errors += "Error: please fill the required field (name).n"; if (!regexpEmail.test(form.email.value)) errors += "Error: please enter a valid email address.n"; if (!form.subject.value) errors += "Error: please fill the required field (subject).n"; if (errors != '') { alert(errors); return false; } return true; } The Importance of Being the Prodigal Parent […]

  137. How do you stay thankfull for these kids when your soo exausted? When your 8 months preg and cant barely stand, When you cant remember the last time you smiled oh Lord give me the strength. Teach me how to love and be kind when im so tired I can barely stand.

  138. Though I am not a parent, this hit me hard where it needed to. I’m a teacher, and in a way, a motherly figure to 260 Chinese students who need grace, love, and their prodigal teacher to wildly love them. However, life in China does not permit me to teach my “kids” the way one would be able outside this land— but that doesn’t mean I cannot love them and show them grace and plead with my Father to give me unconditional love for these precious students who have an eternity before them. It’s a HUGE responsibility. I’m in my early 20s and my students are not much younger than I. This makes things even more amazing– that I get to be that person in their life. I’ve been chosen, called, sent and have this awesome opportunity to cry out to Father to help me to be that teacher who impacts their hearts and lives for eternity.
    I am one of those children who is blessed to have parents who saw me as something that was not their possession, but a gift, entrusted to them but ultimately belonging to the Creator. The freedom I feel and appreciate is beyond words because I don’t feel controlled by parents to fit their mold or do what THEY want me to do– but I have parents who want me to be who HE wants me to be and be shaped and molded into His marvelous plan.

  139. Deaerest Ann,
    Your words are heaven sent! I have been the worst Prodigal Parent, straying from my Father while my kids were growing up. In His mercy, they still found Him and now here I am, humbling walking that dusty road back to His house. I feel ashamed, weak and empty. But I continue walking because I have nowhere else to go and I know in my heart my Father will welcome me. Please pray that I make it back to His arms.

  140. I keep coming back to these beautiful thoughts and the women who have added to them here. Entitlement or wishing for things the way we thought they should be… I choose enjoying the gifts of what my many blessings are, all He has given my heart that heals it and fills it with joy.

  141. Please, pray for my 2 daughters, only 14 and 16 , enabled by rich and oppositional grandparents/unbelievers/, that run away from as and broke our hearts and our family. We struggle just to survive, because my husband in on disability, so we could not give them much. My 2 younger girls are so broken hearted. I myself need suppport and practical help, because all responsibilities are on my shoulders. My prodigals don’t take it seriously, that I am so tired and they gossiped me in the community. I just feel so betreyed and jugded, when many friends turned away. I am also an emmigrant, without any family here, so I feel very lovenely. Thank you.

  142. it’s hard for me to keep up with my favorite blogs, but yours is one of those Ann, along with your books. i was just linked to this post by a friend who knows i have a prodigal. my only boy was 14 when he began to exhibit deep anger and hatred towards me, and towards his dad. that was in 2011. he had begun running from home, gravitating towards friends with violent tendencies, and spewing hatred towards us. the summer of 2011 we stayed on the road with him, trying to “keep” him from negative influences. we gave him a choice at the end of the summer, to move to Dallas with his dad and be enrolled in a travel hockey academy, or be sent to a residential program for wayward teens. he (of course) chose hockey … he was there for 2 weeks and by that time my husband realized it wasn’t going to work. we hired a professional transporter to come to our apartment in Dallas and pick him up at 2 am, and take him to Teen Challenge in Vero Beach FL. he was there for 15 months, and came home in December 2012. he was home for 8 months, but after 4 months, he began slipping back into his negative behavior, and his dad and i slipped back into our codependent and rescuing ways. we realized that if he went back into school in this mind set we were setting ourselves up for the same outcome. we took him back to TC where he will be until he is 18 (april 25, 2015).

    here’s what God has and is showing me. first, in 2011 i became involved in a recovery program called Celebrate Recovery. finally surrendering my mess to God and acknowledging my inability to manage or control anything about my life without HIM, started me on a road of healing i never thought was possible. the one thing i’ve come to realize is this: although we have free will, God knows already what we will choose. He already has a plan in place to come to us in those adverse circumstances. what i am personally seeing is that all those broken circumstances (that I chose), are the exact things God is using to bring me to Himself. He has come to get me and I am so grateful. i know God took my son from me. i know that the dysfunction of my life was something that God has used to take my son to the place he is today. i know as i’ve never known what that verse means: all things work together for good. He truly does make beauty from ashes. He has (is) healed/ing me, but first He tore me. i am learning to trust God, even if i never see the good outcome this side of heaven. even if i have no earthly relationship with my son once he leaves TC. i know that God has this.

    your words today especially struck me. because i have been in rebellion against God my entire life. i modeled that rebellion in so very many ways to my son … i AM a prodigal parent … i see how much mercy and grace God has extended to me … i am set firmly on a path of hoping against all hope to have that “return of the prodigal” celebration for my son, if not on this earth, then in heaven. i am so grateful this earth is not the end of the story ….