Nurturing Your Children in the Lord

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Episode Synopsis

Jani and Heidi share insights on how they have trained the little ones in their lives to know and love Jesus from an early age, with a special emphasis on the Easter narrative. What can help when a young mother feels too overwhelmed to embrace this priority and privilege?

Audio Transcript

Heidi: Hello, everyone. Welcome to He Restores My Soul. Heidi Howerton is finally here with

Jani: Jani Ortlund, we’re just both giggling because I’ve missed Heidi so much. I know our listeners have, too. Welcome back, Heidi.

Heidi: Thank you, Jani. I was just talking with you about how nice it is to be sitting across the table from you again. I’ve missed you and this time together.

Quick Update on Heidi

Jani: Well, I wonder if our listeners might be curious about where you’ve been and why you haven’t been able to record quite as often with me? Why don’t you tell the world your news?

Heidi: Yes, so at the beginning of January, Mike and I found out that we’re expecting baby number four.

Jani: Oh, so exciting.

Heidi: Yes, it is so exciting. And we were humbled and honored and thrilled, but as some of our listeners probably experience too, I suffer with really, really bad sickness in the first trimester. I have been so sick, and some days, life has just seemed hard to do. So you’ve been so gracious with me, as I’ve called you in tears, saying, “Jani, I just can’t podcast today. I don’t feel well.”

Heidi: Of course but for a wonderful reason. We’re so grateful for this little baby growing within you, and I know our listeners are excited as well.

Our Question for Today

Jani: So I’m glad to be sitting across from your beautiful face and just being able to talk with you this week of new life, of Easter. Oh my, we want to wish our listeners a blessed Easter. We pray that this is a very meaningful week for their families for their children. And we thought that a question from one of our listeners might be a good springboard for our conversation today.

Heidi: Yes, I think this question is so appropriate, especially as a lot of moms are thinking about Easter and what to do with their children. So should we just dive on in and I’ll read it?

Jani: Let’s.

Heidi: Okay.

“Dear Jani, I am a mama of five beautiful children ages six months through eight years old.”

Jani: Wait a minute. Did you hear that?

Heidi: I was just thinking, that’s where we’re gonna be in a year.

Jani: Six months through eight years old. Five kids. That’s a lot.

Heidi: That’s a busy mama.

Jani: Yeah.

Heidi: And a blessed mama but a busy mom.

Jani: Yes. Excuse me for interrupting. Go ahead.

Heidi: I forgive you. She says,

“I did not have a strong example of Christianity growing up and teaching my children about the Lord does not come naturally. I want so desperately to teach and train my children to love and follow the Lord with their whole hearts. But I get overwhelmed with all the wonderful information available to me when I’m still struggling to grow as a Christian myself. Do you have any words to share in responding to the overwhelm that comes with trying to nurture our children?”

Jani: Oh my, who hasn’t struggled with that feeling of being overwhelmed, Heidi? I know I have. You have felt overwhelmed these last…?

Heidi: Like two months, two and a half months? Yes. I just was thinking about it the other day, maybe two weeks ago, I mentioned it to Mike, I said, “I just don’t feel like we’re training the children in the Lord as we normally have been.” Life has been so much in survival mode for our family these past two to three months, and I haven’t been operating as normal. So I think that’s a great question. How can we teach our children to love the Lord with their whole hearts? How do we do that throughout their entire lives? It’s not just one moment or one month or one year. It’s 16 years and 20 years and 25 years. It’s a long journey the Lord has for us.

Jani: Really until we say goodbye to them and head to heaven ourselves. I think, Heidi, I still see that with my grown children. We’re still interacting on how to do life.

A word from Heidi: Pray, Pray, Pray

Jani: I wonder if you might want to speak into this. I know your life has been a little topsy turvy with your feeling so poorly. And feeling somewhat overwhelmed like this mama of who has more children than you right now, she has five. But how have you and Mike dealt with that? How have you dealt with it in your own life?

Heidi: I started with prayer and just saying, “Lord, I don’t feel like I’m teaching the children like I want to be. Normally in the Howerton life, I will do devotions with the kids every morning and we do different devotional books and we pray together and we talk together. And in this season, I feel like I can barely homeschool them some days. And so I’ve been feeling guilty about that. And I just took it to the Lord and said, “Lord, what should I do? What do you think of this season?”

Heidi: And I felt like him just put on my heart that he’s a loving father and he delights in his children and he understands. And just that kind of reminder of “Just talk about me during the day with your kids, Heidi. Talk about in this season, when you don’t have a lot of energy to research books and to do certain devotionals, just tell them what I’m teaching you or talk about life and when things are hard.” Or when I see the children obeying to say, “I see Jesus in your heart. Isn’t that exciting?” You know, he’s with us every single day, every moment of the day as I take care of the kids, he’s with me. And so there’s different opportunities to talk about him. And I’ve just felt him say that that’s enough for this season.

Heidi: And then another season will come and I’ll be able to pour into them more deeply. So I think that the main thing on my heart for our listeners is that life is full of different seasons and some seasons God gives us the time and capacity to research the different devotionals, to look at, “What are other moms doing with their kids?” and to be inspired. And other seasons are survival seasons and we’re just trying to get through the day. And God understands. What he cares about most is that our eyes are on him and our hearts are with him and we’re trying to walk with Him faithfully during the day, however that looks. And he’s such a kind dad, I mean, the kindest dad in the whole world. And he loves us so much. I’m so thankful for his kindness.

Jani: That’s so good, Heidi. Yeah, he’s not sitting on his throne with a scowl on his face and pointing his finger saying, “Look, son, do you see that mother? Oh, man, we got to get after her. Some disciplines got to come her way.” It is just not the kind of father we belong to.

From Jani: Test the Feeling of Guilt

Jani: I would like to encourage this listener to think about the guilt she’s feeling and to lay it out before the Lord and say, “Lord, is this holy guilt? Is this from you?” Is this conviction from the Holy Spirit? Or is it possibly made up in my own heart or from the enemy of my soul? Is he firing darts at me saying, “You loser, you can’t keep up. Your kids aren’t going to love God, because you’re such a bad example.”

Jani: So first of all, I, I really agree with what you’re saying, Heidi. Think about the different seasons. Please give yourself a break. We belong to the Lord who restores your soul. He doesn’t beat it up. He’s a soul restorer. And the guilt that you feel, lay it out and say, “Lord, is this of you? If it’s of you, I will confess it as sin. Is this something that you had to take to the cross? As the nails were being nailed into your hands, was this one of the sins? Or is it just my own comparative spirit wanting to be as good as my best friend with her kids?” So differentiate between false guilt and conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Parenting is CONSTANT

Jani: We have had a family visiting us. Our youngest boy, Gavin, is a pastor in California. They have four young children.

Heidi: Oh, how fun! So your grandchildren have been in town?

Jani: Yes, yes, we had them for 12 days. It’s been wonderful. They just left. And the children were ages 7, 6, 3 and 9 months. One of them, the oldest, had his eighth birthday while he was here. So that’s been great. But I just want to say, I want to ask all young mothers who have listened to forgive me for all the pontificating I have done about do this and do that and be this kind of mom when your kids are young. Because it’s really easy to forget. It’s really easy if you’re a grandma who just comes to see your kids once in a while.

Jani: But while they were here, they were here for 12 days, I had the three older children, the 8, 6, and 3 year-old for five days myself, well, Ray was here, but he was working full time. And I just forgot how constant it is. And I want to say I’m sorry for all those times I’ve said, “Do this, do that” and you felt guilt. Don’t take Jani’s guilt on you. Listen to the Lord.

Jani: But it is hard. It’s very hard work. It reminds me, I think I’ve mentioned that cartoon before of the little boy, he must be two or three, sitting on his daddy’s lap and they’re looking at his mom and dad’s wedding album. He looks up at his dad and says, “Oh, so that’s the day mommy came to work for us.”

Heidi: Yes, I love that cartoon.

Jani: I know, we feel like that as young moms, don’t we? And I felt like that, as an old grandmother caring for these three little ones.

Jani: What I want to encourage this young mother of five who’s written in this question—can you imagine her youngest is six months and her oldest is eight years? So that means that oldest might have been six when she got pregnant. I mean, it’s crazy. She’s got a lot on her plate. Lift those children up to the Lord realize that they are his gift to you. They’re not a prison sentence. They’re his gift. He’s given them to you. And it’s a sacred commission for you to raise them for him.

Pray FOR your kids as well

Heidi: You just reminded me as you were saying that, Jani, I was going to encourage our listeners to pray for their children. I always have to remember myself, God is sovereign over their hearts. And I can share the gospel with them and that is wonderful and good and that is sowing seeds and that’s what God calls me to do, and he smiles on that. But the at the end of the day, our kids need God to touch their hearts. And we see God touched children’s hearts who are not raised in a Christian home. And that gives me hope. So I remind myself too that God is sovereign over my kids and so in some seasons, if I don’t have the capacity to be that perfect Pinterest mom that’s doing a million Easter devotionals to pray for them: “God, touch Hannah’s heart today. God touch James’s heart. Be close to him. May he know who you are,” and to trust in His sovereignty for over their lives and over their stories. But I want to hear what you did with your grandchildren while they were in town.

Jani: Well, I’ll tell you, but I’m noticing a pattern in what you’re sharing today, Heidi. Praying for yourself and now praying for your kids. It really is important. We have an advocate that we can go to constantly, moment by moment, we’re never alone. I think that’s such a good reminder. Heidi, thank you.

Jani: Well, what did I do with our grandkids? I want to tell this question-asker and our other listeners, that I didn’t have time to prepare a real fancy devotional. I didn’t even have much time to go online. So I pulled out my favorite book of all time—children’s or grown ups—The Jesus Storybook Bible. If you do not have one, turn off this podcast right now and order one, the Jesus Storybook Bible. And what we did was we’d have dinner each night, Ray would be here and he’d sit with the kids and support me. And we’d bring out a little dessert. Maybe we had some chocolate easter eggs one night. Another night, we had some ice cream. Another night, we had some cookies they had bought at the bakery when we were in downtown Franklin. And over that sweet—because we want them to learn that God’s word is like honey to their mouth (“As honey is to their mouths, so is his word to their souls”; that’s what we wanted; we want his word to taste sweet to them—I read from The Jesus Storybook Bible, and I broke it up into four small sections, because the youngest little guy was only three. But they all listened. We talked about the pictures and we worked on a Bible verse together from John 10:27. And they learned it for their parents. Their parents were so excited when they came back. The Bible verse, see if Mayme, that’s what they call me, can remember it.

“My sheep, hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

John 10:27

Jani: And so we talked about how we’re all sheep and what sheep are like. You can do this very easily with your children over dessert. You know, sheep don’t have sharp teeth, they can’t protect themselves, they can’t run really fast. They don’t have horns to butt off the wolf as it comes to get them. They’re defenseless really. They need a shepherd. And children are as well. We need Jesus as our shepherd.

Jani: So we talked about that. And then we talked about the Easter story, how people did terribly mean things to Jesus and he accepted it for our sake. And we talked about his death on the cross and what it means for us. And then we got to talk about the resurrection and what that means for us. And it was wonderful when the light bulb went on in our, he just turned eight the day before, little Isaiah’s heart and he said, “Mayme you know what?” I said, “What?” “I think Christmas is the funnest holiday cause you get presents but Easter is the happiest holiday because you get Jesus!” And I thought, you really get Jesus both but you know what I mean!

Heidi: What a beautiful example from an innocent child’s heart.

Jani: Yes. The “funnest” versus the “happiest.” He realized, I think what he was saying is lasting joy. He saw how happy the disciples were when they saw that Jesus had come back from the dead and how we don’t have to fear death. He’s just coming into that age where he understands death a little bit more and we don’t have to fear it. He understood a little bit more about what earth, life on earth is all about.

Jani: So i want to encourage this listener and all of our listeners with littles to do what you can and Jesus will find that beautiful. We’ll talk about this verse sometime, Heidi won’t we? One of my favorites. Mark 14:8.

“She has done what she could.”

Mark 14:8

Jani: Yeah that’s so wonderful. Jesus found that beautiful. When Mary, we believe it’s Mary the sister of Martha, she has done what she could and Jesus defended her. Jesus will defend you, young mom, when you feel guilty. Just do what you can and bring your kids to him.

A Comment on Hard Trials

Heidi: And Jani I also wanted to take a moment just to mention in this podcast, you know, as we announce our pregnancy and the joy with it, just to tell our sweet listeners that my heart is with you. That I know that some women struggle with infertility and so that’s on my mind as we were getting ready to share this. I even had a friend this week miscarry and it’s so hard and so I just wanted our listeners to know that I’m praying for you guys and I see you and I don’t want it to sound in this podcast like “Heidi is complaining and she’s been so sick.” Mike and I are overjoyed and a little life is so worth it even though we I’ve been so so sick.

Heidi: And my heart is also with you women where the Lord is asking you to walk through that hard hard trial as we talk about raising children and pregnancy and I’m praying for you and that God would just draw near and encourage you and give you hope.

A Prayer for Those Longing

Jani: Let’s just pray for them right now and then we’ll come back to close up our podcast.

Jani: “Oh Father we lift up those listeners today who are longing for either their first baby or another baby. They’ve been struggling through infertility or several miscarriages. Oh lord, I know what that’s like and I pray father for them I pray that you would draw very near in comfort, in mercy, Father, speak gently to them. Lead them with kindness and cords of compassion, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Jani: Yeah it’s so important as Heidi and I look into these microphones and try to picture you, so many of you write us. We thank you for that. Many of you support us we thank you for that. We want to identify with all of our listeners not just a certain stream. So we tell you we love you, we thank you for listening.

Jani: Let’s close this podcast, we’re talking about Easter we’re talking about a question from a very busy mama of five where we’ve mentioned your new baby forming within your womb, Heidi, and those who are longing for another baby. I think of a verse that Ray gave me a few weeks back when my soul was struggling and it’s from Zephaniah 3:17. We often talk about how he will sing over us but I love that middle phrase where it says,

“He will quiet you by his love.”

Zephaniah 3:17

Jani: Very much to me that’s a mother figure kind of quieting. Patting her little baby and saying, “Shhh, it’s okay, darling. Don’t cry.” I picture God wrapping each one of his daughter’s in his arms and quieting you by his love. May you snuggle in close to his heart under his wings and let him quiet you today with his love this Easter week. Happy Easter to you. May He Restore My Soul.

Heidi: Happy Easter!

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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