This! I could not be more excited about this new wonder for little kids and big kids and all the kids in us! I can’t turn these pages without choking up the happiest, with worship, with kinda heart-bursting joy! It’s an honor to welcome Matthew Paul Turner to the farm’s porch today. His wife Jessica is one of my dearest friends; we’ve journeyed together through life, sharing struggles and triumphs of parenting and life. And Matthew has heart for the marginalized and whether it is with his work with World Vision or serving people in his community, he loves people deeply. His new children’s book, When God Made You, made me weep because of its truth and beauty — I want every child everywhere to revel in this one. It’s one of my favorite children’s books ever — and that is saying something. It’s a grace to welcome Matthew to the farm’s front porch today…
I love words.
That’s cliche coming from somebody who writes for a living. Nonetheless, it’s true; I really do love words.
One of the reasons I have such a great affection for words is because when we see words or we hear them or speak them, there’s a pretty good chance that we also feel them.
I believe that’s why the Psalmist once wrote, “let the words of my mouth… be pleasing to you, God.”
Because words are powerful. Words are influential. Words can change us.
And how we use them can affect others deeply.
Though I’ve been a writer for nearly 15 years, becoming a parent offered me a brand new appreciation for words because I have seen firsthand the impact they make on my little ones.
Early on, when Elias, our oldest child, was still an infant, I was rocking him to sleep one night when, while humming an old familiar hymn, I stopped humming and whispered these words into his ear: Your mommy loves you. Your daddy loves you. And Jesus loves you. Nothing can ever change that.
At the time, those words were obviously more for me than for Elias. But for some reason, they stuck with me. From that day forward, every night I put Elias to bed, right after swaddling him in a blanket and laying him in his crib, I would brush my hand over his head and speak aloud those words.
Those words became like a prayer for Elias and me, a daily benediction that my son came to expect.
A couple of years later, as I was once again putting Elias to bed, I said, “Mommy loves you. Daddy loves you…”
Elias lifted up his head and said, “And Sheezus love me!”
I’ve spoken those words over all three of my kids. In fact, I spoke them over my little Ezra, our 2-year-old, just last night.
Words are a gift to us as parents.
Words give us opportunities to speak truths over our kids, truths that help them feel loved, confident, and secure, truths that help them know they are valued but also help them learn what they should value, too.
A few years ago, as my daughter, Adeline, was 3, she and I were snuggled on the couch, having just finished the evening’s story time. She’d had a difficult day. She was discouraged and frustrated with herself.
As she mournfully told me all that she was feeling, I said, “Adeline, look at me, sweetheart.”
She turned her sweet face toward me.
I wiped a tear off her cheek, and said, “I want you to hear me, okay?”
“Adeline, I know you. Your Mommy and I know you better than anybody else. And this is what I know to be true: Adeline, you are strong. You are brave. You are good. And you are loved. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.”
Eyes widened, her sad expression brightened slightly.
She didn’t fully understand why I was telling her that at the time. But one day she would. Because nearly every single day for almost three years, I’ve been looking into her big brown eyes and telling her she is strong and brave and good and loved.
Sometimes I write those words on a notecard and stick them inside her lunchbox.
Sometimes I whisper them to her like a bedtime prayer.
And occasionally, I ask her to say them with me.
“I am strong. I am brave. I am good. I am loved.”
Between Adeline and me, those words are like liturgy, an empowering reminder of who I know her to be.
Like all parents, I want my kids to be fully aware of who I know them to be. I want them to know who I believe God made them to be. I want them to fully know these things before somebody tries to tell them something different.
I’ve watched how my words affect my kids.
I’ve seen their countenance light up when I use my words to affirm them, when I use them to try and express how proud I am of them, or when I attempt to let them know just how much I love them.
I’m certainly not always perfect with how I use words.
But even on those occasions, when I’ve misused words or spoken words in an unkind manner, I’ve learned that there are few statements that I can say to my kids more affecting than “I’m sorry” and “will you forgive me?”
My passion for words and how I’ve seen words bring life to my kids is why I felt called to write the children’s book When God Made You. In this little book, the words celebrate a child’s individuality, creativity, and purpose and remind them who they are, both to themselves and to God.
The words of When God Made You are a prayer for parents to offer to their children when they don’t have the words – be it in the morning, before the day has begun, or at the end of a long day. It’s a book written to encourage and to open communication lines between kids and parents—to talk about one’s unique gifts, the love of God, and the ways we are called to serve and love one another.
In a world that sometimes feels hopeless and filled up with so many fears, our children need words of love, truth and encouragement daily. These words will impact who they become and the ways they love other people.
As parents, we have the opportunity to nurture their spirits in powerful ways – not just through the words that we say, but in the words that we read to them.
In Proverbs, the author writes, “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry…” (Proverbs 25:11, The Message Bible)
May all of us pursue adorning our children (and each other) with beautiful, powerful, hopeful, and gracious words, words that offer them life, words that they will keep with them for years to come.
I am truly smitten with this children’s book! Matthew Paul Turner, who has traveled the world with World Vision and National Geographic, is a writer whose new children’s book, When God Made You, is a hands-down must for every family’s bookshelf. It’s truth-filled message is one that children need, as well as their parents.
[ Our humble thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for their partnership in today’s devotion ]