In Genesis 48-49, Jacob is nearing the end of his life. He has been reunited with his son, Joseph, whom he thought was dead. In these two precious chapters, Jacob blesses his grandsons (Joseph’s children) as well as his own children. As I have been reflecting on the tenderness of this passage, I have been reminded of the importance of parents (and grandparents) blessing their children.
I am far from the perfect parent. However, here are a few ways I have found to bless a child. (Here’s an excellent post by another writer.)
- Pray for them daily. Never underestimate the power of prayer. Paul reminds us, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Need some help? Here is a great post sharing 10 things to pray for your child.
- Say “I love you,” often. One of the greatest blessings we can give our children is the security of knowing they are loved and hearing that they are loved.
- Hug them a lot. Appropriate touch reminds them that you will be there no matter what. One of my favorite habits my daughter does when I see her and hug her is when she says, “I’m not done hugging you yet.” What a precious gift we have when we hug our children regardless of their age.
- Discipline them. This might seem like a left turn. However, discipline is a blessing to our children. It teaches that there are consequences to our actions. Hebrews 12:6 reminds us that “The Lord disciplines those he loves…” As the Lord displays love to His children through discipline so we bless and display love when we do the same with our children.
- Write notes to them. My wife is so good at this. As our daughter was growing up, she would leave little notes in her lunchbox or on her bathroom mirror or in her room or anywhere. Just simple reminders that she is loved. What a blessing and encouragement when we leave little notes.
- Celebrate rites of passage. There are many ways to do this. I wrote letters to my daughter. My wife had other ways to celebrate rites of passage. Regardless of how you choose to do it, do it!
As I reflect on those key parenting years, there are so many things I would have done differently. One thing I would have prioritized was blessing our daughter more. As she is married and establishing her own family, I am still applying these to my life and blessing her even now. Praying for her. Saying “I love you more.” Hugging more. Writing more notes. Celebrating more.
Here is a letter I wrote to our daughter upon her graduation from the University of Tennessee in May 2018. This isn’t a perfect letter, but maybe an example that will spark other ways that you can bless your children.
Today you will take a step that you will remember always. It is not because of your age or the fact that you have met the qualifications issued by the State of Tennessee. The issuing of a diploma is merely symbolic. The step you take today has not come from my feeble attempts at parenting. Your maturity and grace come from the Lord, and only by your willingness to surrender to His guidance.
You displayed a depth of faith as you followed the Lord to Berry College. I am sure a part of that decision was a need to get away from home as well as wanting to live in a castle. J But nevertheless, the Lord developed you and sustained you.
You displayed a depth of faith as you were obedient to serve on MFUGE staff. What a joy it was to see how you allowed God to stretch you during those two summers. It was through MFUGE where you met Wes, the love of your life. And what a leap of faith it was during the second summer as you served as a Mission Mobilizer. It was truly humbling to see how the Lord granted you strength, ideas, and favor among people as you lead.
You displayed a depth of faith as you followed His nudging to transfer to the University of Tennessee and the challenge of moving back home. I cannot tell how grateful I am to have enjoyed these last two years.
I have been blessed to have the opportunity to watch you grow from a precious little girl into a beautiful young woman. It seems like yesterday you were splashing in a kiddie pool or learning to ride a bike in a church parking lot. I remember ballet and dance and tennis and gymnastics and ice-skating and all the years of volleyball and countless hours of peppering volleyballs. I remember jumping off cliffs while white water rafting. I remember Wild Adventures and Six Flags trips. I remember school commutes and kolaches and memorizing Scripture and listening to music and you playing the recorder and so much more. What a journey thus far!
It may seem to you that is has taken forever to reach this point, it happened all too quickly for me. I’ll admit it saddens me to see you start the rest of your life, however my sadness cannot compare to how happy and extremely proud I am to know who the Lord is shaping you to become.
Always remember that life is made up of small journeys. Never forget to enjoy the journey! As you grew tired of me saying, “Attitude is a choice.” Choose to have the attitude to make the journey as enjoyable, adventurous, and rewarding as possible.
There is so much I want to share with you and advice I want to give. Much of what I would say you will figure it out along the way, that is the nature of how the Lord grows us. However, allow me to offer a few simple principles I have strived to embrace in my life throughout the years and perhaps could have done more effectively throughout my life:
- Be an independent thinker and make up your own mind – lead, don’t follow.
- All relationships require effort and investment – trust and respect is essential.
- Don’t worry about the past or things you cannot control – it only makes life miserable.
- Have lots of good friends – they will see you through some difficult days.
- Always maintain your integrity and personal character – it defines who you are.
- Treat all people with respect and be kind to everyone – no exceptions.
- Don’t expect too much from others – but expect much from yourself.
- You have more ability than you think – don’t be afraid to fly.
- Never be afraid to tell the truth even if it is bad news – hiding problems only makes it worse.
- Don’t avoid confrontation or conflict – situations do not improve on their own and only grow more toxic.
- Always remember that life is too important to be taken seriously – laugh often.
You are ready for the journey! I have NO doubts! Whenever I sit and reflect whether we have done a good job of raising you, all I have to do is look at who you are. I don’t tell you this nearly enough, but I am extremely proud of you. When your mom and I were naming you, Abigail means “a father’s joy.” A more fitting name could never be found. The reality is that you have brought your father unspeakable joy!
Today is one of the best days of my life as I hear Abigail James announced as a graduate from the University of Tennessee Knoxville Magna Cum Laude. Congratulations!
I Love You! Daddy