Chasing the Hearts of our Kids on Summer Days

When my children were babies, toddlers and preschoolers we lived in Michigan. Land of gloriously long summer days- puffy white clouds, bright blue endless skies, and lots of local parks to play.

In that beautiful (and let’s be honest, exhausting) season of life, I found myself chasing. Chasing giggling, sticky-fingered children with wind-swept hair and varying degrees of dirt on their faces – just to guarantee their safety. Safety on the slide, safety on that rock wall they couldn’t climb on their own but were trying anyway, safety to stay far away from cars on the road.

Gone now are the days of spit-up on my clothes, sweet baby voices just learning how to speak, and afternoon naps. I find myself in a different season of summer life, but no less important. Sometimes I blink and look at my growing children now, all stair-stepped down from high school, middle school to my elementary “little boys”. My babies, yet babies no more, with sprouting legs, knobby knees, and thankfully still laughing with wind-swept hair across freckled faces.

And still I am chasing, friends. I’m not chasing little chubby legs around a park, but I am chasing the hearts of my children. This is still hard and good work, this right work for God’s kingdom of chasing the hearts of my growing children towards discipleship in their faith.

As much as I wish I could freeze time on those glorious summer days, somehow each summer my children keep growing. And with their growth comes my own growing awareness that my call to disciple my children in the faith, in study of God’s Word, in their prayer life is still beautiful and exhausting kingdom-building work. So I chase down their hearts with the constant prayer that God Himself would capture their hearts.

I am not the author or provider of my children’s faith, God is. And so I come seeking Him who began this good work in them to carry it out to completion in their lives. He only asks for my faithfulness in the discipleship of my children as I get a front-row seat to the work He is already doing and will continue to do until the day of Christ Jesus. So,  as we capture these last few weeks of summer sunshine, let’s chase the hearts of our children trusting with prayerful supplications that God Himself would continue to capture their hearts.

Here are three practical ways I find myself never perfected but always growing, as we seek to do the hard and good work of discipling our children in the faith:

  1. Be Ready to Step into Unexpected Conversations

Sometimes summer days mean unexpected spiritual conversations. I am always humbled and challenged when I stumble across them with my children in car rides, dinner conversations, or during late night summer evenings. From deep questions about God’s character to questions about creation, identity, friendship, and even how dinosaurs boarded Noah’s ark, I sometimes find myself surprised by the depth of the faith questions my children ask.

And when the moments come where I feel unprepared or unable to answer, I still want to hold and honor their questions (whether they feel big or silly to me) with respect. I’m so grateful that being a Christian means I’m a part of a larger Body of believers with resources and gifts to help me answer my children’s faith questions. And I’m grateful that stepping into unexpected spiritual conversations reminds me I’m not alone. The gift of God’s Word and countless commentaries and books from trusted authors in the faith, and the way these van rides, late nights, and dinner conversations push me deeper into prayer and God’s presence – these things in themselves are gracious gifts from our Good Father in heaven.

So, let’s look for moments to step into the unexpected. It might just be another way to chase our children’s hearts with God’s truth.

  1. Hold Simple Rhythms Sacred As They Grow

Along with the unexpected, summer also gives us time to reset the rhythm, boundaries and structures that often allow children to understand expectations, take ownership of their own day, and feel safe during more unstructured long summer days. This looks different for every family. But from my family to yours, here are two practical examples.

During the toddler and preschool ages we had two construction paper laminated magnets living on our refrigerator – a green frog and a pink princess wand. Many long toddler and preschool days were the never-ending litany of walking one crying or angry preschooler to the fridge and pointing to the frog and the wand. Repeat after me, “It bugs me when… I wish you would….”  Rhythm. Structure. Drying tears. Calming angry voices. For me and for them, grace for the moment.

Faded and gone are the green frog and pink princess wand. Although, secretly sometimes my mama heart still misses them. And instead hangs our daily summer checklist on the fridge. Is summer homework complete? Are rooms picked up? Did you brush your teeth? (No, REALLY, did you brush your teeth?!) Have you helped someone today?  Have you spent time with God today?

I’m no longer holding the tiny hands of crying toddlers and walking them to the fridge to reset simple rhythm into our long summer days. But I am still, by God’s grace, redirecting hearts. Does ownership of your free summer days mean loving God and loving others well? I try to whisper in different ways to the preteens and teens in my home. Sometimes still drying tears. Sometimes still calming angry voices. For me and for them, grace for the moment.

  1. Model Faithful Discipleship in Your Own Life

We cannot talk about the state of our children’s own hearts or discipleship without first examining our own. How well do I model love of God’s Word and faithfulness in prayer as my first response in my own summer days? Because in the ordinary, day in and day out moments, obedience and love for God must first be my own priority lived out in front of my watching children. I cannot ask of them obedience, faith, growth in Jesus unless I am willing to do the hard work in my own heart and life.

Discipleship of my children starts with me submitting to the Lordship of Jesus in my own life. As I align my heart and my will to His good and loving direction of my own days, I can faithfully model authentic, growing, imperfect (but always surrendering) faith in Jesus.

Chasing the hearts of our children, while the Father chases ours.

Every summer I tuck inside my heart the memories of my children laughing under bright blue skies and large puffy clouds. And every summer is another reminder to do the hard and good kingdom work of chasing after the hearts of my children. And I find myself whispering prayers that God would do His transforming work in their hearts, even while I remain faithful to run after them. And that God Himself would chase our hearts, mine and theirs, through every sunny summer day.

— Beth Sickel © July 2023

BETH SICKEL loves being a pastor’s wife who is married to her best friend and called mom by her four favorite growing little people. When she’s not drinking coffee or hiking with her family, she’s trying new dishes in the kitchen or writing about creating space for Jesus conversations in your heart and home. You can find her on Facebook & Instagram @ roomforwonderful


Leave a Reply