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8 Things I Learned from Raising 8 Children, Guest Post by Valerie Elliot Shepard

Updated: Oct 18, 2019

Note from Bekah: As a high school student I first read the biography of missionary couple Jim & Elisabeth Elliot. It shocked me and made me cry, which I almost never did for any book or movie. The book changed my life.

I couldn't have known then that God would let me get to know Jim & Elisabeth Elliot's daughter, Valerie, or that, like her, I would have eight kids. I couldn't have known that as powerfully as her mother did, Valerie would share truths with me I'd desperately need.

In this guest post, Valerie Shepard was so gracious to share some parenting and marriage wisdom she's learned from raising her eight children. Mrs. Val has the sober wisdom of her mother, who I remember my mother listening to on the radio daily when I was a little girl. I love this lady and her heart, and it's such a joy to get to share her words with you!

Guest Post by Valerie Elliot Shepard (wife of Pastor Walt Shepard, mother of eight, and daughter of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot)

Note from Val:

ONLY by depending on the Lord for wisdom, patience, and self-discipline, can anyone train their children in righteousness.

Have hope, dear "younger moms," because He truly does hear your prayers and is beside you all day long and all through the night. Some of you are older moms who have grown children who can send this to younger moms you know.

1. Be Thankful for Your Children.

I sure was more worried and fearful about how we were lacking in our consistent training in teaching obedience. Much more worried about OUR performance rather than being aware that the children were amazing gifts to help me to trust in Him for help in raising them!

My husband taught me, and it had to go in both ears many times before I actually caught on and it registered, to be thankful for our children (meaning not fearful or worried). I want to encourage you to thank the Lord for each one of your children, no matter how difficult they may be.

2. Pray with Your Husband for Your Children.

Have you prayed specifically for each child with your husband, and have you thanked the Lord for them? I cannot tell you enough how often it wiped away my worries when my husband would pray with me for them.

Even if I initiated the prayer time, and he may have been slightly disgruntled that I was asking him to pray with me, it always ended up being a blessing to both of us to pray for our children - lifting them up to our Promise-keeping and Covenant Keeping God. Look up Isaiah 49, esp. verses 22-25.

3. Raise Your Children to Have Faith in a Covenant Keeping God.

Is He not the God who delivered us from the Kingdom of darkness, and did He not give us each one of our children with needs that we can fulfill, but ultimately He is the one who saves and provides for them?

So, give them to HIM with joy and thanksgiving, because we have a FAITHFUL FATHER, who understands our weakness and wanted to bless us with children who would humble us and cause us to grow up! Growing up simply means taking responsibility for the gifts He has given and being good stewards of our words and our time with them.

4. Cast Your Parenting Cares on God.

Even "respectable people" can avoid their responsibilities, but God, who makes us aware of our need for Him, as we read His Word, will lead us gently to be loving, kind, and wise in leading our children. And by the way, we are only "respectable" when we are completely dependent on God, needing HIM every moment of every day!

I had a lovely older woman tell me that when she would wake up worrying over her children, she would get up and "FLING" her burdens upon Him, because He said "Cast your burdens upon the Lord."

She sometimes felt so frustrated with a couple of her boys that she had to really fling them upon Him. And the boy who was the oldest and the most trouble - with ADHD, whom she shed many tears over, became her most wonderful, helpful and supportive adult son. He recognized his need for the Lord and her need for his love and respect!

5. Don't Assume Your Kids Will Be Picky.

I hear moms say "she doesn't like it," or "he won't do it" and then they may roll their eyes or shrug their shoulders as if there's absolutely nothing to be done about it. Indulge me in my being as earnest and serious as I can when I say, "Something CAN be done!"

For an example, when you are offering food to a baby who is beginning to eat table food, and they try one bite and then spit it out, don't say a word, but simply put the idea of trying that food to wait till two months later.

Children's tastes can change monthly, so any food you want them to like, keep trying it on them until they are at the age where you can say, "You will eat two bites of it even if you don't like it, because I know it will help your body to be healthy!"

I would NOT say, "Oh, you don't like that, do you?" Just smile cheerfully and don't say anything. Give the next food option and keep trying it at least twice in one meal.

As long as a baby or toddler continues to hear her mother or dad or caregiver say, "Oh, you don't like that!" it will become ingrained in that child's head that yes, she certainly doesn't, and it if appears again, she/he won't like it.

6. Only Say Things You Want Your Child to Believe.

Beware of what you say to your child or even to another person, because they pick up on everything. Especially when you talk about them in front of them, it lodges in their little brains that what their mother says about them is Truth.

What comes out of your mouth to your children should be wise and truthful, but also sparing. The more words you use, the more tendency to say too much. It may be just your frustration, but it will become the truth to them. Depending on their age, they will be saying the same things about themselves.

You can take this example and apply it to anything you have to deal with in your children: "A wise woman builds her house but a foolish woman tears it down."

The teaching of kindness is on your tongues, but the teaching of the world, that whatever the child wants he/she gets, has to be carefully watched for in your own words.

7. Train Your Children Not to Be Self-Conscious.

Jim and Elisabeth with Valerie as a baby

There are a lot of parenting tips that aren't Biblical, so be careful what you are reading or listening to. My husband often alerted me when I talked about my children when they were within earshot, because they do pick up on anything. If you are disappointed or frustrated with them, they will begin to be insecure and frustrated with themselves.

Even when we are holding a baby that doesn't talk yet, we should not talk about them in front of them - they will sense your focus on them and it will encourage more self-centeredness, and more self-consciousness. It may encourage worry and fearfulness too.

What CAN be done? Train them with your loving voice from the time they are tiny, so that they hear your voice as their authority, and when you say good, kind, loving things, and expect obedience, they will want to follow what you say. Of course, there are some children who are more willful and recalcitrant than others, as are four out of my eight!

I had to learn that persistence in training with consequences to disobedience or disrespect would pay off. You will be grateful later on that they learned your voice meant exactly what you said!

8. God's Grace Covers All.

So, my last bit to say is, Walt and I didn't do it perfectly or consistently, but we both agreed that respect and obedience were the two necessary areas we had to constantly be on top of. God's grace covered and still covers all our sins and REALLY DOES!

May God give you the grace, persistence, and faith to raise up your children to glorify HIM, not themselves, which is the way of the world. Only the Holy Spirit can help you be godly in your reactions to them and in training your children...I hope to only give hints on how the Lord helped me. Please talk and pray with your husbands in this process.

Next week on the podcast, Lord willing, I plan to share with you a recorded interview with Valerie Elliot Shepard, where she shared with me how God has taught her throughout her life as a pastor's wife, mother of eight, and daughter of a mentor of mentors, Elisabeth Elliot and martyred missionary, Jim Elliot.

Mrs. Valerie so graciously shared with me these words of parenting wisdom, and I'm so thankful to get to share them with you! Enjoy and hold these things close! Feel free to share.

You can read more of her writing at her blog, Live to the Hilt. Aaaannnnddd...

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