They are Third – Hold Our Children Loosely

Do you hold your kids loosely or do you make them your God? When you are raising your kids, it's important to hold on tightly to God. But hold your children loosely. Cherish them and cradle them, but remember they belong to God. Point them to God, but don't make THEM your God. Remember God is first, husband is second (if you have one), and children are third. Hold them loosely.

Four autumns ago, our then 18-year-old daughter moved away. Thirteen hours away.

She took many clothes, her make-up, a dozen or more of her favorite books, several pairs of shoes, her childhood teddy bear and Laura Ingalls bonnet…..

and part of my heart.

Her moving away has taught me something. It was a lesson other older mothers had told me about that now, four years later I know is true:

When you are raising your kids, hold on tightly to God.

But hold your children loosely.

Yes, cradle them in the palms of your hands and cherish them deep in your heart.

But do not clench your fists. They belong to God, not to you.

Yes, treasure the moments with your kids; love them; teach them; point them to God.

Do not, however, make them your God.

That is a hard thing to do. We mothers love our kids beyond words. We center our lives around them and their well-being. From their earliest days, we feed them, train them, nurture them and help shape them. We spend hours rocking, comforting, correcting. We help with homework; with relationships; with triumphs and disappointments.

Yet, with all our motherly duties, we must be careful to not make our children the most important aspect of our lives.

They are not.

God is.

Then our husband is next (if we have one).

Our kids are third.

They are Third – Hold Our Children Loosely

I had many people that first year or so, concerned how I was fairing, ask me “How are you doing now that Kenna is gone?”

Surprisingly well, I must say.

Now, if you had known me the first few years I was a mother, you would never believe this. My life revolved around my kids. And, when they are very young, in many ways this must be the case. But I was headed down a dangerous path. My kids were fast becoming my ‘god’, taking the place of my ‘God’.

Thankfully, I had a few wonderful mentors. They shot straight with me. They helped steer me gently in the right direction. Also, I watched them closely. I saw how they, unlike other women I observed, did not fall apart when their children spread their wings and left the nest.

The reason?

They had their priorities straight.

Above all, they loved God.

Secondly, they made their relationships with husbands a priority OVER their kids.

Now, that is not to say that there are times that attention to the kids might warrant priority for a moment or an hour. But, as a rule, their husbands came before the kiddos.

Oh…and they made sure the kiddos knew this.

Not in a harsh way, mind you. But in a fun and loving way.

Ask my kids… I am famous for saying, “I love you guys like crazy, but I married your dad. He and I will be together loooong after you are grown and gone. So, take a number, kiddo. Your dad comes first.”

Now, of course I didn’t say this to them when they were two. But at 22,18 and 15, they all know it now. And, I firmly believe it helps to foster security in them. In a day and age when MANY of the marriages all around them are falling apart (and some because the kids came way before the spouse and, as a result, the couple lost touch with each other) our kids can sense a strong commitment if we visually and verbally live this way in front of them.

And also, ever since Kenna was little, I have realized that I cannot be (nor was I designed to be) her everything. I have specifically prayed for other women who will be godly mentors for her and God began bringing these women into her life, beginning when she was about eight.

Yes, she has a mom, but she also has an Ellen, a Carmen, a Julie, a Mrs. Annis,  a Sarah Grace, a Miss Wendy and Miss Lysa.

Yes, she has LOTS of God’s girls who love and shepherd her.

And so, even though I sit here in the middle of the mitten that is Michigan while a part of my heart is now far away in Charlotte, NC, I am doing all right.

I have learned to see the truth.

  1. My kids belong to God, not to me.
  2. He loves them more than I even do.
  3. I did not have kids to have them live with me forever.
  4. I can rest in the fact that Kenna is in the center of God’s will, so why would I want her home with me?
  5. I can trust that God will use others to mentor her.
  6. I can experience the excitement of seeing her life unfold and not lament that I am losing mine. I just need to adjust to my new ‘normal’.

Now, this does not mean I’m not counting down the days until Christmas break and planning many of her favorite activities to do and foods to serve. Of course I spend time calling her at least once a week and sending her little messages of encouragement and scripture verses; I send her care packages in the mail and “Luv u” text messages at night.

Even though she is third, she can still be my BFF :-).

Hold tightly to God and your kids loosely

So moms, hold on tightly to God while you hold your children loosely.

God is first.

Your husband is second.

Your kids are third.


Karen, KarenEhman.com

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  1. I needed this word so much today Karen. So many times, I feel like I am doing it backwards. Thank you for the encouragement that even though other mom’s don’t see it this way- that it is the right way.

  2. What a wonderful – and true – message! I so hear you with one son off at college across the country and a couple of daughters soon to be off too. Sniff. But my heart’s with my husband and we got a good thing going too! 🙂

  3. I love this. It’s so difficult to hold on loosely as you say. I find that praying daily for the grace to do so really helps me, but sometimes I have to do it minute by minute. Know what i mean?

  4. Yep. I am right there with you. Just sent an 18 year old off myself this year. I, too, feel a peace that my daughter is exactly where she is supposed to be. Thanks for a great post. I have my suspicions that kid-centered moms are one of the reasons for divorces in those empty nest years. How crucial it is that we keep up our relationships with God and our husbands!

  5. What a beautiful and IMPORTANT reminder. I love to shoot my husband a special smile when the kids complain about what I’m making for dinner. I always reply that I cook for their father since they will grow up and leave me one day. Our children truly thrive when we keep these priorities in place.

  6. Wonderful and true message! While I don’t have a husband (and haven’t in about 12 years), I have often felt like my daughter and granddaughter are everything, only to be reminded that God is my everything, and they are co-equal as #2.

    1. I am in the same situation. I’m divorced with one daughter & one granddaughter, & have found myself treating them like they are my “gods” & truly needed this reminder that they are my co-equal #2’s, too. 😉

      1. Yes! That is exactly what I have been doing, without even realizing it until recently with the Sunday sermons at my church, and then this post! I’m glad someone else can relate! And I’m definitely going to stop doing this! =)

  7. Thanks! This is such a great thought to keep in mind as I’m just starting my parenting journey (1 year old)….I’ve been thinking about this topic lately – how we can allow even the best things in our lives (husband, kids, ministries) to take the place of our relationship with God. I actually just wrote some about that:


    Thanks for the reminder of where our priorities need to be.

  8. Amen! This had been a hard, but necessary, thing for me. As a mama who fought long and hard to adopt my five blessings it was all too easy to make my children god. Now that we are entering the teen years I realize how completely wrong that is. It is good for them to spread their wings and it wise for me to hire a sitter and go on a date with their daddy!

  9. Wonderful, encouraging words to remind ourselves “Whose” our children really are. My husband and I have chosen to place our children in environments where they will be surrounded with Godly counsel. We recognize the fact that, at times, advice coming from mom or dad could be tuned out or dismissed; their being surrounded with others who will offer wise, scriptural guidance reminds us that HE is in control of our parenting! And we absolutely adore the person each of them has grown into…and are less than 2 years away from our nest being empty!

  10. I guess I look at things a little differently. God is interwoven throughout every aspect of my life. I don’t look at it as first, second and third. God, my husband and kids are all first in my life.

    1. Thank you for this. I’m really struggling with holding my kids loosely. They are young – elementary school – but time is speeding by fast. Not that I don’t have room to grow in making my husband more priority and having my identity in more than being a mom, but your comment of all 3 being first feels more freeing and inviting.

  11. Well said. Now, with it said, perhaps you can provide some examples of what you mean by making your kids “take a number” and your husband always ranking above them. For instance: Your husband has a banquet for work, but your daughter has a dance recital or your son has a football game. What do you do? Just curious how you strike a balance in the real world.

  12. Just like when our children are learning to ride a bicycle. We run along side of them encouraging them knowing all along that we are going to be letting them go.
    My oldest just turned 18! Her senior year is here! My wife and I are in that process of letting her go… bitter sweet, but it’s a lot sweeter knowing all along that this day would come. It’s not saying goodbye to our children it’s turning the page. A new chapter, a chapter to look forward to!
    Great article! This generation desperately needs to hear this.

  13. I have heard this my whole married life-35 years. My husband and I are empty-nesters. We have 2 children walking with the Lord; and one not. It is soooo hard not letting the one be my god!

  14. Wow, I am so thankful that I have stumbled across your blog post through Pinterest. God has used your words to speak truth straight to my heart. My husband and I recently had our first baby, a girl. She is just about 5months old, but I’ve already found myself in fear of losing her. In countless ways, I am beginning to see how I’ve made her my “god,” over my GOD and I’ve let the love between my husband and I slowly slip through my fingertips in the process. Your message is one I had in my heart long before our little girl was born, but somewhere along the way, I stumbled off path, veered from the truth I once knew.
    I am blessed beyond measure to be reading this reminder today. Thank you for your heart and mind after God and for allowing Him to share His message for me through you.

  15. Wonderful message, I have raised my 6 children to be able to grow up, be able to spread their wings, and pray they will let God guide them. Some bumps along the way but get back on the right path.

  16. I I’m so thankful for this message today. I am a stay-at-home mom who is about to return to the Work World in a few weeks. My son has to go to preschool and I am a little sad about it and nervous because he has not been with any strangers before but after reading this I am reassured that he will be protected by God. I have nothing to worry about. He is loved by God so much and he will be OK. I have to learn to let go and loosen up my grip that I have on him and know that he is covered and protected by God and I really have nothing to worry about.

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