Episode 10: Hannah Prewett – When Your Children Deconstruct

In this episode of Everyday Discipleship Every Day, we talk with Hannah Prewett about how she is walking through her daughters’ deconstructions of their faith. In this very honest and raw interview, we look at Truth and how we teach it as well as how it is received. We also talk about what scripture can comfort a parent walking through this experience.

Transcript/Show Notes:

Terrie (00:00:38):

Welcome to Everyday Discipleship, Every Day where we discuss discipleship in the 21st century, guided by biblical discipleship, a Christian worldview, and individual needs while focusing on discipling our children as well. I’m your host, Terrie Hellard-Brown, and I’ve been releasing my discipleship book on my blog slowly, chapter by chapter, and you can download it for free, but I’ve been working on this since we were missionaries in Taiwan, and I’m editing it and revamping it, going back through it. But rather than publishing the book at this point, I just wanted to make it available to you. And so it is on my blog terriehellardbrown.com, and you can download each chapter as they’re posted for free and use them to help disciple others. I focus a lot on questions because conversation is so important in the discipleship process with our kids or with other people, to make sure they’re having an understanding of what the scripture says and to find out if there’s something we need to address that we didn’t even think that we might need to address, such as a wrong belief or a misunderstanding.

Terrie (00:01:53):

So that’s really the focus of this discipleship program that, or book that I am putting in my blog. And I, I do hope it blesses you. If nothing else. I hope it gives you some questions to think about and contemplate and, and maybe answer for yourself. Now, today, we have a very special episode for you. It’s longer than most of ours, and I may cut it into two episodes because it is so long. But I have a dear friend Hannah Prewett. She’s an illustrator and an author and the mother of three girls, and she’s sharing her journey with us as her three daughters have begun to deconstruct their faith. And this is something that we are seeing in our culture today and in our churches, and how do we walk through it as parents? I think she has come to a place that she has some wonderful things to share with us.

Terrie (00:02:44):

And like she says, she doesn’t have all the answers because she’s still walking through it. But I think she has some things that will help each of us in our parenting to bless our kids and to help them in their faith. And so join the conversation now and hear what she has to say. And I hope it blesses you and encourages you.

Terrie (00:03:06):

Today, we have a very special guest with us. My friend Hannah Prewett is with us, and she is going to share some of her story with us. And I know as Christian parents, once our children pray that prayer and accept Jesus, we kind of breathe this sigh of relief. But nowadays, we’re seeing many of our young people walk away from their faith. And Hannah is walking through that right now and is going to share with us. And she’s talked to her kids, and her kids have graciously agreed that they could, that she can share their story. And so we’re very blessed to have Hannah with us today. So Hannah, thank you for joining us today.

Hannah (00:03:45):

Thank you so much for having me. It’s really an honor to be here.

Terrie (00:03:50):

Well, we want to hear your story and we want to encourage parents in how to walk through this, how to navigate this. I said often, I think I even said it to you, that nothing strikes fear into the heart of a parent these days than a child coming to us and saying, “I don’t believe in Jesus anymore. I am deconstructing,” or that “I’m gay.” And you’re getting to walk through both of those, you said. So let’s unpack this a little bit. Tell us your story, and then let’s talk about how you’re navigating that.

Hannah (00:04:26):

Sure. So yeah, I completely relate to that because I do feel, especially as someone who was saved at a young age, grew up in the church, married my husband, who was a young man who grew up in that same church, and we kind of just, were in that community our whole lives. And I think especially when you grow up in that environment, and you become a parent, there’s kind of this, your one job is, you know, make sure your children are walking in truth. And so to be faced with having them all get saved at a pretty young age, it is this, oh, okay, great. But now to have them all walk away, it is definitely a challenge, not something I expected at all. So for our family, I think really the catalyst for my children, not that it was necessarily the starting point, but when my husband and I first noticed a lot more of the questioning and some of the doubts and some of the struggles was during Covid.

Hannah (00:05:26):

And I can imagine for a lot of parents, I feel like covid affected everyone. And it seems like it either made people go one direction or the other, just from what I’ve seen. Because I’ve heard really incredible testimonies of how God has used covid to bring people to himself. In our case, it was kind of the opposite. I think just that environment of being, you know, cut off from the world in a lot of ways while we were in our homes and everything having the kids doing online studies. So we all of a sudden were a lot more on our devices and phones, and we were never awesome about devices and things, but especially when Covid happened and our kids couldn’t do anything, like, I’m sure many families can relate to the whole. Like the first month or so, it’s like, oh, we’re going to play games, and we’re going to do all these cool things and do crafts and movie nights.

Hannah (00:06:21):

And then, you know, once the first month or so goes by, you kind of–it’s hard to keep that positive creative aspect of it. And so we did let our kids just be on their devices a lot more. So I think that kind of contributed. I think seeing the world kind of falling apart just brought a lot of extra anxiety for the kids. And then I think also, unfortunately, the way they saw some Christians handling things, because as we all know, COVID kind of brought up a lot of arguments that never even existed, you know, and the whole mask to not mask, vaccinate not vaccinate. And I’m not saying anything either way. I personally think, you know, follow what you think is right and agree to disagree. But as you know, for a lot of people, that wasn’t the case.

Hannah (00:07:14):

And things got very heated. And I think sometimes there were believers who, in their freedom were not very sensitive in the way that they handled that. And the kids saw that, and that was very frustrating to them. So that kind of was when we started noticing the ripples and going, okay, something’s going on here. And then it was about a year after that that my middle daughter came and told me she didn’t believe in God anymore, and the other two followed shortly after that. And then within the next year, both of my two youngest came out to me and told me they were part of the L-G-B-T-Q community. So it kind of came in stages, which was kind of nice that the Lord did it that way because it, like I said, we were not expecting it. And so just having to adjust through all of that was very difficult.

Hannah (00:08:08):

At first it was, I can’t even describe it. I feel like when I first realized what was happening, I’ve told people it felt like I was standing at the edge of this burning forest, and I could see God stepping in there going, “Okay, come on, let’s go.” And I was at the edge going, “No, I don’t–this is not the journey I chose. I don’t want this.” And slowly he’s been working on my heart just walking through this, and it’s not any easier necessarily, but I feel like I’m a little more at peace at this point with how things have progressed. But that’s kind of how it all started. Definitely there were some things in the church and in our parenting that, you know, I’ll go into a little more when we share more about the girls’ personal stories, but that’s kind of how it started for us.

Terrie (00:09:01):

Well, and I know that you have really worked hard to keep communication open. First of all, let’s clarify, you have three daughters?

Hannah (00:09:10):

Yes. They are 20, 18 and 16.

Terrie (00:09:14):

Okay. And you’ve worked very hard to keep the communication open and to keep talking with them. And I know you talked with them before doing/agreeing to do this interview.

Hannah (00:09:24):

Yes.

Terrie (00:09:24):

And I appreciate so much that they were willing to let you share their stories, and that’s just wonderful. I appreciate that they still talk with you about what they’re thinking, feeling not just, you know, having a relationship, but still talking with you about what they’re wrestling with and with their faith. Do you think they are really deconstructing and basing their beliefs more on the progressive cultural liberalism? Or do you think that they’re just untangling where there’s been difficult, I don’t want to say abuse, but I know that that’s how it comes across to some people is very strict beliefs and stuff in a church, and they’re untangling from what they think they believe and what they don’t, but they’re basing it on how they interpret the Bible. Which way are your girls going more?

Hannah (00:10:13):

Mine are full on deconstruction. There’s, all three, no interest in God. The youngest is pretty much like, I am not interested at all. She gets frustrated with–she’s a little more hostile, for lack of a better term. And I think she would be okay with me sharing that. My middle is more like, I can’t follow a God who has the teachings in the Bible about the community because I am part of that community, and I can’t see how I can be my genuine self and follow a God who has those teachings. And I think my oldest is probably the least aggressive towards it, but she still is not interested in following the Lord. So it’s definitely a full on deconstruction/separation, not a detangling at different/varying degrees.

Terrie (00:11:12):

Right. Okay. Well, do you want to start by telling each girl’s story? Or where would you like to?

Hannah (00:11:19):

We could do that because, oh, this is, this has actually been, I mean, it’s, it’s hard, but it’s been a really good thing preparing for this interview. It’s led to some really good conversations, I think. I think it was actually very releasing for all of them too. Like my younger two wrote like full on essays with, you know, different bullet points and everything. So I’m not gonna do all of that today. But my oldest was just a phone conversation and I was frantically writing everything down. But I think it was good for them to kind of process things. I wanted to kind of preface this with obviously my children’s worldview and the worldview of myself, and probably most of your audience is going to be in a very different place. So obviously some of the, the conclusions that they’ve come to are not necessarily gonna mesh with the conclusions we would come to.

Hannah (00:12:09):

But my goal with this, and my hope with this is just for your audience to be able to hear a genuine perspective from kids who have walked away. And if nothing else, just be able to think about, okay, obviously we can’t compromise on these things. These things can’t change, but what are some of the things that maybe we can look at in these words that they’re sharing and think, hmm, how as a church can we improve in the way that we respond to sin, in the way that we respond to sinners, in the way that we teach things? So I just kind of wanted to, to put that out there first, because obviously, you know, there are gonna be some things that people aren’t going to agree with that my girls are putting forth. So I just kind of wanted to clarify. So my oldest, like I said, is not quite as not pushing back quite as much against God, but she still has some things she’s working through.

Hannah (00:13:08):

She told me the preliminary reason that she left is she had a lot of questions about God theology and the way things were that she felt the church couldn’t answer, at least sufficiently for her, it was a very gradual change. I think of the three of them, she was the one that backed away the slowest. And so that was hard because she still loved the community, but didn’t relate to them. A big thing for all three of them was the L-G-B-T-Q issue. And I know this is so tricky because like when I was growing up, it wasn’t as common and widespread. It was kind of the sort of thing where you could just not really think about it. And unfortunately, we are in a time where we do have to think about that and we have to face it. And, and I don’t know if I should even say it unfortunately, because I think it’s important for us to see people the way Jesus sees them.

Hannah (00:14:01):

So anyway, she just mentioned meeting L-G-B-T-Q, people who were more loving than the church kind of made her go, wait a second. She also said, the world is bigger than I was taught. There are good people in and out of the church, not just Christians. And I think this is kind of one of those subliminal messages that we don’t necessarily mean to teach as believers, but it can kind of come across as we’re the good people. And those people out there are the sinners, whereas we’re all on the same page. You know, we’re all redeemed sinners, like we’re all sinners. Some redeemed in some not yet. So, oh, yeah. And then she mentioned they would always say, oh, people will ask why you’re so good and that’s going to lead people to the Lord, and she said, I have never had that happen. And there are a lot of good people that don’t follow Jesus.

Hannah (00:14:51):

She doesn’t believe that all Christians are bad, but she has met some that just kind of left a bad taste in her mouth. The world was a lot bigger than what she’d been taught. There’s a lot more gray and a lot more nuance. And then she’s had, this one’s kind of tricky using the Bible to back up the Bible, like why the Bible is true. Just going to other verses about that rather than, you know, we have so many incredible resources now, scientifically apologetically. So I think just coming from other sources to show why we believe the Bible is true. And then for her, she just said she still finds it kind of confusing because she still finds a level of appeal in the church community. But she was saying, I don’t know if that’s a nostalgia thing or if it’s truly about God. So she’s, that’s kind of where she’s at. She, like I said, she didn’t share as much. So those are just some of the things that kind of stuck out to her as, so I don’t know if we want to discuss that a little bit before I go onto others, or just if you want me to just keep going or–

Terrie (00:15:54):

Sure. Let’s discuss that a little bit. Sure. Because I do think that’s important that we as a church, as Christians don’t discuss in us and them so strongly that we’re not teaching our kids that it’s an us and them. My husband always says, I’m one, you know, beggar who has bread to share bread with others. You know, I’m begging for bread too. And I love

Hannah (00:16:16):

That.

Terrie (00:16:16):

That’s kind of, that’s his attitude. And yeah, our pastor, who was his mentor always said there, but for the grace of God, go, I we’re all capable of sin.

Hannah (00:16:24):

Yes. I’ve grown up with that phrase as well.

Terrie (00:16:30):

I think it’s important that we acknowledge we are all weak. We still have a nature within us that is fighting to take over, to be in control. And if we don’t daily, you know, try to, Dave says it’s our default, you know, is to be a sinner and to be selfish and to follow our own desires. And, and it’s only by the grace of God that we do choose to do the right thing. And I think we’ve really got to help our children and our whole congregations understand that. The other part of this that hits me is the not answering the questions. Now granted, maybe we never can answer someone’s questions to the point that they’re happy, that they’re satisfied with our answer. I mean, that’s legit. Sometimes you just can’t, there’s no matter how many, you know, how much we answer, they just say, no, that’s not satisfactory. But oh my goodness, if our kids have questions, if our people in our congregation are struggling with something, we need to get down there and, and dig through the word of God and dig through whatever, and, and really answer those questions as much as we can. And I do know, it does always, always come to, there is a place of faith where whether you’re believing evolution, whether you’re believing atheism or you’re believing Christianity, there’s still a step of faith in all of that belief. Yes. And, and so we do come to that place where we’ve got to take a step of faith and decide who we trust and what we trust. But to not feel like you’re being heard and not feel like your questions are welcome is a disservice to our congregations. Absolutely. And yeah, so I just, that’s where I was just like, oh, no, you know?

Hannah (00:18:31):

I was just going to say, you know, as I was reading through these, when they first gave me all their notes, you know, as a parent, of course, you’re thinking back like, okay, how much of this was us? How much of this was the church? And we did have a more legalistic church growing up. Grace was taught, but not always necessarily. There was a lot of traditionalism. And growing up in that environment, there was kind of this, you can question some things, but you trust God, you know, and I think I kind of grew up with this fear of questioning. And before all of this happened, times the girls would ask a question that seemed like it was a little bit more like, well, why would God do this? I kind of would panic as a mom and sometimes cry. And so that I’m sure did not help them at all. And I, that’s one of the things I deeply regret, which is one of the reasons why now my husband and I are both working so hard at keeping the lines of communication open and making sure that we are a safe place. And I’ve told the girls over and over again, it does not matter if what you’re sharing with me is something I don’t agree with or something I don’t believe. I want to know what you’re struggling with, what you’re feeling. This is a safe space for us to have this conversation.

Terrie (00:19:46):

That’s awesome.

Hannah (00:19:47):

Yeah.

Terrie (00:19:48):

And that, I think that’s a lesson we can all take from this.

Hannah (00:19:52):

Absolutely. No matter where your kids are.

Terrie (00:19:53):

I’ve tried to communicate that with my kids. I don’t think they always believe me. You try. You definitely try.

Hannah (00:20:04):

I do.

Terrie (00:20:07):

Okay. So, all right, well, let’s go on, and let’s hear about your second daughter.

Hannah (00:20:13):

Alright. So she seriously has this full on beautifully written essay, which I’m not going to read the whole thing, but I’ve highlighted some. So she kind of divided hers by section: purity culture was one big thing for her, which is interesting because our church did not go nearly as deep into purity culture. I kind of got on a really big modesty kick when the girls were young. I was listening to some radio programs, and it just was something that really resonated with me. But I think I probably could have handled it a little bit better. She writes, “One of the main reasons I left the church is because of the environment of purity culture. The constant policing of how much of me I needed to cover up, especially from such a young age, just kind of led me to feeling like my body was inherently sinful.”

Hannah (00:21:01):

One of the first times I noticed this was one time I wore a new red dress to church. It was a little shorter than I was usually allowed to wear. Skirt him was a little higher than my niece. Also, I should preface this with my husband and I went to a private school K through 12, and the dress code was, you know, girls’ dresses had to be at the knees. You had to have like two inch straps. So when you’re kind of brought up in that, it’s easy to just kind of default to that. So, let’s see. So she needed a red dress for the church program. I really liked it. So my mom let me get it once I was wearing it at church. However, I felt really uncomfortable. I remember standing in the church bathroom just staring at myself and feeling so gross.

Hannah (00:21:40):

I almost asked if we could drive home and grab a pair of leggings for me to put on underneath. So obviously I had no clue she felt this way. And that’s one of the tricky things I think as parents too, is a lot of times kids internalize things and we don’t find out until years later that like an offhand comment or something we were teaching, they took, you know, farther than we intended. So this is just more of a, just something to think about as we’re teaching, especially our young ladies about modesty and how to implement that. One of the other instances that comes to mind is this one time I was at a dance rehearsal for a show. I was in rain leggings and a fitted crop top. All I could think about the whole time was how everyone was probably looking at me and thinking how disgusting I was because of maybe half an inch of midriff.

Hannah (00:22:26):

I knew it wasn’t true, knew there was nothing wrong with what I was wearing. I didn’t even consider myself a Christian by that point, but I still spent the whole rehearsal feeling anxious and self-conscious. So this was a big deal for her. And I do see a lot of repercussions in our young people right now with the whole purity, especially extreme purity culture. This also definitely affected my youngest, which I’ll share in a bit. Her other thing, I don’t know if you remember the old song Jesus and Others in You. What a wonderful way to spell joy. J is for Jesus, for he has first place. O is for others. We meet face to face. Y is for you in whatever you do, put yourself third and spell joy. And you know, I used to sing that all the time in Sunday school too. For her, it was very detrimental because as a, an extremely empathetic, people pleasing person, she saw that as I can never do anything for myself.

Hannah (00:23:20):

It always has to be for others. She says, dumbing down such a delicate concept to such a simple song for really, really young kids is not exactly the best approach, in my opinion, without the proper explanation that we should be selfless when we can be, but still look after ourselves. The way I internalized the message of that song was that you should always put others before yourself, even if that means putting yourself at risk. That thought process has gotten me into bad situations where I spent so much time and energy looking after other people that I had nothing left over to look after me. And it’s something I’m still trying to work on to this day. She actually was in a situation when she was a teen, where she had several friends online who had some very serious mental health problems, and she felt like it was up to her to keep them from harming themselves.

Hannah (00:24:06):

Yeah. Just because of that mindset and not understanding the balance of putting others first and proper boundaries. Again, this was something I didn’t know until later. And so, you know, as a mom, I’m like, oh, I wish I would’ve known because we could have had a conversation about this. And then she talks about how she saw legalism. This one isn’t necessarily applicable to every church, but it certainly was to ours, especially when I was still attending, even though it was taught that all you need to do to be saved is accept that you’re a sinner, ask God for forgiveness and accept them into your heart. That wasn’t how many of the people at church live their lives. Traditions like girls only wearing skirts to church. The progression of church services such as, you know, how we did our communion serv–Like everything was very like, this is the way we do it.

Hannah (00:24:51):

Other things that were, in the grand scheme of things, inconsequential, became nearly as important as the text of the Bible itself, at least in her perception, and as someone who grew up there, I can see some of these things. I don’t think they affected me quite as much, but there was definitely an unspoken pressure of how you lived your life, how you did things, and of course, because of my daughter’s lifestyle, one of the biggest things for her is how the church treats people in the LGBTQ Community, which both she and my youngest wanted to mention. They use the term, which used to be a slur and is now kind of reclaimed and used as a blanket term for that whole community. I just wanted to mention that because that was important to them, and if we are going to be out in the world reaching these people, it’s good for us to know the terminology sometimes too.

Terrie (00:25:43):

Yeah, and it’s uncomfortable for us to use that term.

Hannah (00:25:47):

It is, it is. Well, especially because for a while you weren’t supposed to, so… Yeah. I believe one of the worst things about modern organized religion is its treatment of people in the community. This is her… Being friends- Let’s see. As I got older, a lot of the friends I made were gay, trans, or both. Being friends with them made me realize how human they are, how similar to myself they were in the church. The topic of homosexuality was so taboo that no one ever really talked about it, just that it was bad and sinful and wrong and disgusting. People were so demonized to the point where it shocked me just how normal they were. When I first met someone who was, because of all of this negativity and hatred around the LGBTQ Community realizing I was queer was the final nail in the coffin for me to leave my faith behind.

Hannah (00:26:34):

In my mind, there was no way I could live a life where I was authentically myself and also a Christian. And then she has a personal story with this, this conclusion was only reinforced by something that happened a few months later. There was a girl I used to be friends with, someone I had known since both of us were born. She and her family were very religious, which had in the past been a way we could relate to each other. At the point in time this happened, her family had moved to another state, so we were communicating mostly by texting and calling, and she wanted to tell her about being gay and not identifying as a Christian anymore, so she did. I told her I understood if she didn’t want to talk anymore, but that I would love to still be friends.

Hannah (00:27:14):

A few weeks later, I got a letter from her saying that she was sad for me, and she didn’t think we’d have anything to talk about, so we probably shouldn’t continue our friendship, even though I had known it was coming and I had told her it was alright, it still really hurt. Our friendship had been the longest one I’ve ever had, and it meant a lot to me. Long story short, Christians are taught to show God’s love to everyone, to let Christ shine through them, to set an example for the rest of the world to follow. People should be and are deserving of that love, even if you believe they’re living in sin, and this is definitely something I see, especially with our, our older Christian community too, and even like my generation, like again, we didn’t have to really think too much about this, and it was kind of this other-ing, like we were talking about earlier, and I can under- you know, I think through the situation with the friend, and just to give you a little background, my middle daughter went through a period of time where for almost almost every year in elementary school, she would make a really good friend, and then they would leave at the end of the year, and then she’d make a good friend, and they would- and it was just heartbreaking. So that made this loss even more detrimental because this was one of the few friends that she’d just known for such a long time.

Hannah (00:28:25):

And on the one hand, I can understand from a Christian perspective, you do have to be careful who your close friends are and all of that. But I just… I just wonder if there wouldn’t have been a better way to still continue the friendship. Maybe not in the same capacity, but in her mind that just solidified, you know, oh, okay, well you’re done with me now because of this choice I’ve made, so…

Terrie (00:28:51):

It’s a hard one.

Hannah (00:28:53):

It is, it is, and so I want to be careful in sharing this that I’m not trying to say… Because I get it, it’s a complex issue, and honestly, five years ago I might’ve made the same decision and told my kids, you probably shouldn’t be friends with them anymore. So my perspective has changed a little now just because being on the other side of it, but I understand. So again, I- my purpose with this is not to tell your audience these are the definite answers of how you need to do things, but just kind of throwing another perspective out there so that you can have these conversations and think about, “Hmm, how would I handle that situation from a biblical perspective? How can I show love and yet not compromise?” That’s, especially with this issue where it gets very, very complicated because it’s so ingrained in their whole being that it makes it very hard, and even within our own family, my husband and I have had to do so many times of just prayer and talking things through, and I know that some of the conclusions we’ve come to are probably not where other Christians are gonna land, and that’s okay. I think it’s really between you and God, and I think there’s a variety of different ways you can handle that scenario, and just giving each other grace and knowing that not everybody’s going to land in the same place.

Terrie (00:30:12):

Yeah, and I’ve seen different reactions even within my own circle of friends and those I know of, and we know some who have, well, because their child has decided they’re gay, they changed their whole theology, well then, it’s okay, you know? God didn’t mean that. And my son went through that, where he was, he had a friend who wasn’t a Christian, he was Mormon actually, and came out as gay, and so my son started trying to change his whole theology and tried to reinterpret the Bible, and we talked about that, and I said, you know, just because the Bible says something is a sin, doesn’t mean you have to hate him or not be his friend. He’s made a choice that you disagree with, and if it were any other choice that you disagreed with, you wouldn’t hate him for that, hopefully.

Hannah (00:31:08):

Exactly.

Terrie (00:31:08):

But that doesn’t mean that we throw out what the Bible says. God is God, we’re not, and having him, you know, he was trying to say it was only condemning pedophilia. And I said, give it a few months, and people are going to say, oh, no, it didn’t mean that either, but that’s beside the point. But I said, it doesn’t fit. If you read what the stories say and what the scenarios are, that doesn’t fit, and so then he would try another thing. He has really struggled with that because he really cares about his friend. And I said, but the bottom line for him in his situation is his friend doesn’t even know Christ yet. His friend doesn’t even have that. He has walked away from Mormonism. He’s had some other friends walk away from it and become atheist, and that breaks my heart because it’s like, if you realize your church, whatever church it is, is teaching something that seems contrary to what you think is right, then dig into the word of God and see what it says.

Terrie (00:32:11):

Go find out what God says. Don’t just throw God out with a bad church or with a theology you disagree with. It may not be a bad church. It may just be they say something you don’t like, and that’s what I wish: these kids could, could challenge themselves to, to dig into the word of God, and I love that my son, even though I don’t agree with everything he was saying, but that he did, that he dug into the word of God and he’s been wrestling with the word of God and his faith has actually become stronger, and I’m very thankful for that because I was concerned about what was going to happen with him as well, even though he wasn’t being tempted into that lifestyle, just he’s very empathetic too, and his heart was breaking for his friend.

Terrie (00:32:56):

And all four of my children have friends who are gay, Buddhists. My daughter has friends who are in wicca and scares me to death. It’s just, you know, and my prayer for them has been that they’ve got the maturity to hold onto their faith and still be able to have those conversations and still have those friendships. These are not people who are saying they’re Christians and wanting to serve in the church, and yet they’re living a double life. These are people who are not in the church, and I think that’s where we also have to talk about breaking friendships. If someone is in the church and wanting to be in ministry and they’re living a double life, then you have to say no. That’s, “I’m not comfortable, you need to repent.” That’s where we need to, because we’re in the fellowship together.

Terrie (00:33:47):

They’re professing to be Christians, and yet they’re making these choices that are contrary to their faith. We need to talk to them, but someone who has said, I’m not a Christian, I don’t believe in God. Maybe they never truly believed, maybe they never had a real relationship with God. We don’t know. I think showing mercy and grace and still having that friendship can be such an enriching experience as you help them walk through what they’re walking through, even if it’s breaking our heart. I think it’s hard. I think it’s uncomfortable. Well, you know, too, we can’t just close the door. And it’s like, I feel like when that friend closed the door on their friendship, it was like she was closing the door of the church and saying goodbye, you know? And that’s not at all what we want to do.

Terrie (00:34:41):

And I relate to the modesty thing too. As a pastor’s wife, I really had a hard time with this because my younger daughter developed very quickly, at an early age, and so in her mind, she’s not even in that mindset. She’s not a teenager yet, and people- and because we were in a foreign country where she was taller than everybody, they thought she was much older than she was, and guys who didn’t know her would treat her inappropriately, and kids at school would say inappropriate things, and here she is, just like in second, third grade, and it was awful. And we took her out to Chinese school pretty quickly after that, but you know, people in the church would complain about how she dressed, and I would talk to her about it, but I never said, you’re wearing this and you can’t wear that.

Terrie (00:35:32):

And, you know, there was one point at which where she was an adult and she was helping lead worship, and I did have a serious talk with her then and say, you’ve got to understand you’re up here on stage. Your skirt is short, you know? If you weren’t up there, it would be different, but when you’re up high, it’s just too short. Either wear leggings or tights or something, and she opted to just start wearing pants to church, and that settled that, but I mean, people, they didn’t talk to her. They talked to me and I was supposed to talk to her, and, you know, I’ve had my kids more than once say, why are people so mean in the church? Because we, you know, we’ve been in ministry their whole lives, and it’s hard to walk through that, even with kids who are still holding onto their faith. That they still see that some Christians are mean.

Hannah (00:36:24):

They are, they are. I think sometimes we get so caught up on the superficial things, and I think there’s a balance, you know? I think it’s easy to get way too caught up in the legalism of how we dress and how we present ourselves. I think it’s really easy to go too far the other way as well. For me, I want to find that balance, but yeah, it’s so complicated. We’ve really backed off on a lot of that just because, as you’ll see, like with my youngest especially, it was so detrimental.

Terrie (00:36:56):

So that’s what really hit me with what you said is, we don’t know how our kids are internalizing the lessons we’re giving them, and I was talking with another person for a future podcast that’s coming out, and that’s one of the things when we can ask these open-ended questions in our discussions and see what they’re understanding, then maybe we can correct some things, and I don’t think we’ve always been taught that or thinking that way, and it’s harder sometimes to come up with open-ended questions, but if we can train ourselves to do that as parents, and then maybe early on when this is first being internalized incorrectly or more heavily than we intended, maybe we could undo some of that. And one of the books, I was going to use it in one of my podcasts, and I started reading some of the reviews on this book, cause my daughter loved this book. It was called The Princess Kiss, I think it is. Or Prince Kiss?

Hannah (00:37:55):

Yes. I’ve heard of that one.

Terrie (00:37:56):

Yeah. And it’s about purity culture. And she just loved it, but, a lot of these young women when they read that, internalized it completely differently than it was intended- I think it was intended. Anyway, the way my daughter took it. And they had a hard time even getting married and having a relationship with their husband. That was a sexual relationship because sex was bad, and that was one thing, and I know I’m getting off topic a little bit, but when I got married to my husband my cousin’s like, I just don’t get it. How can sex be bad one day? And then it’s good after you say, I do? And I said, I never thought sex was bad. I just thought it was for marriage. And so, you know, I was looking forward to it, and so saying I do, getting married and walking into that relationship was like, yeah, I’m turning red, but anyway.

Hannah (00:38:54):

No, it’s all good. Yeah.

Terrie (00:38:57):

That’s what we want our kids to understand. This is a beautiful gift from God. This is something wonderful, and it’s not dirty and evil, and, you know, being modest, being protective of your body in a way that honors God and honors who you are as a young woman or young man; that’s what I wish our kids could understand. Respecting your body and not flaunting it around other people; that’s showing respect for yourself. You want people to know you, not looking at your body, and that’s what I wanted my kids to understand. I don’t think they always got that, but that was what I was trying to communicate with them. That’s what I wanted them to understand about modesty. It’s honoring yourself as well as honoring God because, you know, you’re respecting yourself, and our women today, our young women today are not being taught that. They’re taught I’m empowered if I show off my body, and I don’t– that grieves me a lot.

Hannah (00:39:59):

And that, for me, definitely, that was kind of where I was going with, you know, is, that was what I was trying to teach, but I think it came off a little more extreme, and that grieves me that what I was trying to teach came from a good place, but it just got internalized and warped in ways that just, I just, I feel so terrible that that that’s how it was interpreted and really caused some detrimental problems for both of the younger two especially. And it’s interesting because for me, I was one of those that was like, “Sex is bad, sex is bad- Okay, now it’s fine.” All that, you know? And so I was terrified, you know, I was like, “I don’t know about this,” you know? So I did decide to kiss before our wedding because I told my future husband at that time, I do not want our first kiss to be in front of the entire church.

Hannah (00:40:54):

I would like to, you know, get some practice in a little bit. You know, we waited till we were engaged, so I felt like that was a good, you know, balance or whatever, but you know, I mean, so many of those things, there are so many ways you could go, so much nuance, and one of the things that actually made me kind of rethink the modesty thing a little bit was when our girls wore for strain, and there were several of my friends who also had teen girls who wore all sorts of things that I was kind of judgy about, and then during that time, I was like, you know what, these girls, yes, they’re wearing these things that are more showy, but they’re following the Lord. They love Him. They’re in a really good place spiritually. Here are girls that we’ve, you know, pounded all these modesty things in, and they’re done with God, and so it’s like, okay, we obviously missed the boat here somehow in the way we emphasize things, or, you know, maybe we focus too much on this as opposed to matters of the heart. I don’t know. I mean, as a parent, you can always look back and think about what you should have done differently or what could have made a difference, but that did just give me pause that, you know… Yes, I think it’s still an important issue, but maybe I shouldn’t have given it such a high place as I did, or had, or maybe I should have taught it in a different way. I don’t know.

Terrie (00:42:16):

Well, yeah, and I wonder too, because I mean, like I said, we had to deal with this as well. If we teach our kids why, I think “why” is so important with our traditions, with, you know, the why we do what we do and then help them, or let them make the choices. I mean, that’s what I did with my one daughter. My other daughter’s very modest, she isn’t a problem at all, but my one, my younger daughter, she had a hard time being what I would consider modest. I thought if I dressed the way you did, you would be so embarrassed.

Terrie (00:42:52):

But, I mean, it wasn’t bad. It was like she would show her midriff, she would show. It was a little lower cut than I thought was appropriate and, you know, that kind of thing, but she was always covered. She was never, you know, hoochie mama, but anyway, some people probably thought she was hoochie mama. I did let her choose. I let her decide, and then I knew I was going to hear about it on Sunday about how I let her dress. Her skirt was too short, this or that, you know, and she had shorts on under her dress, but nobody knew that. They just saw the short skirt. And I just, I thought, I can’t. This isn’t a hill I want to die on.

Hannah (00:43:32):

Exactly.

Terrie (00:43:32):

And it was really tough being the pastor’s wife and having this be an issue.

Hannah (00:43:38):

I can imagine. I can imagine. But I love that you gave her the principles and then let her; gave her that freedom to make the decision.

Terrie (00:43:45):

But I didn’t do it perfectly. Don’t get me wrong.

Hannah (00:43:48):

But still, just even the fact that you, that was your heart there. I love- yeah. For me, it’s funny, the modesty thing now, I’m like- and part of it is too, as someone who grew up with a lot of body issues and, you know, we all struggle with that in our family, and so that always makes it complicated too, and the other thing that I realized when I was growing up is, you know, we’re supposed to not be always thinking about ourselves, but then we’re told, think about how you’re bending over. Think about how you’re- you know, so like half the time in my life, I’m always like, okay, am I being a- am I being a stumbling block to my Christian brothers? Am I like, you know, sitting weird? Am I leaning forward and showing? You know, so it’s this constant state of like almost panic.

Hannah (00:44:32):

And, I don’t know, while we’re on this topic, I guess I could just go to my youngest. With her, it was actually- this was one of the biggest things with her. She explained, she says, “I experienced some shame around literally just having a body, but the main effect was fear at first. I didn’t realize that policing the bodies of children so heavily wasn’t normal. But as I grew up and wanted to start dressing in ways that made me happy and comfortable, the answers I got affected me more and more. I was told that I couldn’t wear certain things for both my safety and the apparently more important comfort of grown men who should know better. I was scared. I was constantly aware of how I looked. I thought that every grown man was inherently waiting for me to wear something revealing so they could justify doing something to me. I couldn’t even be in the same room as my dad for about a year and a half.” I’m so proud of my youngest for sharing this, because this was really personal and really tough.

Hannah (00:45:22):

But then there’s, to be clear, in big letters, my dad is a wonderful man. He has always been super sweet and respectful, and has always tried his best to keep everyone around him happy, safe, and comfortable. He was very understanding during this period and tried his best to avoid anything that would make me feel uncomfortable or unsafe, but that didn’t matter. The way I was raised made me believe that every man had malicious intent and that it was okay, even natural. Nothing ever happened, thank goodness, but it took ages to unlearn what I’d internalized, and this experience in particular is what made me go, okay, we have got to rethink the whole modesty thing.

Hannah (00:45:56):

Like, we basically got to the point where we didn’t say anything. We’re just like, hooray, they’re wearing clothes, yay. You know, like- because that was just such a rough, rough time for our family, and especially for my poor husband who is the most amazing man ever. You know? And I love the fact that my youngest recognizes that, but it was a very, very difficult, and that was me trying to take that concept of, you know, we are being respectful of our Christian brothers and not putting them in a situation where they feel uncomfortable or they’re- you know. And I feel like… Because that’s how I was taught, and yes, there is something to that, but I do feel like in the church, a lot of times there’s so much focus put on the women and not a lot of focus put on, hey, young men or older men, you guys also have a responsibility to be in the word, to guard your heart, to not look after a woman with lust in your heart. That’s in the Bible, you know? So I think there’s kind of a tendency, especially in some more conservative churches, to put all of this focus on how the young women are to dress, and, you know, I think there’s an imbalance there that definitely needs to change.

Terrie (00:47:09):

Definitely, and if you look at the scripture, Jesus doesn’t say, as often, I should say, that the women need to police the men.

Hannah (00:47:20):

Isn’t that interesting?

Terrie (00:47:21):

If you lust after a woman in your heart, it’s talking to the men to watch. Well, and the women too, I’m sorry. If you’re lusting after a man, you’re just as guilty. You know, it’s talking about our hearts and what we’re letting happen in our minds and in our attitudes, and we are responsible for that. The verse that I’ve heard abused so much, and I’ve abused it myself before I realized I was saying it wrong, is to avoid the appearance of evil.

Hannah (00:47:50):

Yes. I overuse that so much in a fanatical way, kind of, you know.

Terrie (00:47:56):

Me too. And, you know, and not causing your brother to stumble; overusing that one. We’ve used that, you know, with the drinking issue and just everything, and we’ve come to a different place now, a little more liberal place I guess, but we as individuals are responsible for our minds, our sins, our choices, and where we let our minds go, and I just, I think we are misinterpreting those scriptures a lot. In fact, I’ll put a link in the show notes because Mike Winger talks about that ‘appearance of evil’ scripture in such a great way. He can do it way better than I could, and I just love how he clarifies that. And I’m going to put that in the show notes because I think it is an important point that we need to get this right because we’re putting, we’re putting bondage on our children, and on our members of our churches that they don’t need to bear, and God calls us out for those kinds of things very strongly in the word of God, and I think, you know, we want to see this generation on fire for God. Not walking away.

Hannah (00:49:07):

Absolutely. Exactly.

Terrie (00:49:08):

We’ve got to quit abusing these things and misusing them and putting guilt and all of that on our kids. I mean, it’s just as bad as putting the burqa or what, what is that called? The- what the Islam religion puts on the women, you know, covering our women from head to toe, just seeing their eyes. We’re doing that in a spiritual way, with many times. I’m not saying everybody is, I’m just saying.

Hannah (00:49:32):

No, no, no. I totally get it.

Terrie (00:49:33):

I was raised in a fairly conservative church. I was not raised in a very-uh-it wasn’t abusive, it was a really pretty healthy church other than gossip. Gossip was a big deal, but it always bothered me. I’m like, why is no one saying gossip is wrong? And, but anyway- but I loved my church. There was not, you know, we got to- I do remember though, when the pastor made the wonderful announcement that girls could wear pants on Sunday night. That was like, huge. You know?

Hannah (00:50:02):

We started wearing pants on Sunday mornings and it’s so nice in the winter, you know? I mean, yeah. We were very, we were in a church where if a girl wore pants, usually someone would walk up and be like, you actually need to wear a skirt.

Terrie (00:50:17):

Yeah.

Hannah (00:50:17):

And I’m just thinking, you know, of all the things to focus on, why? Why is that important? You know? Especially like- jeans are more modest than a skirt half the time, so what’s the big deal?

Terrie (00:50:28):

I know that! I actually had a boyfriend who mentioned that to me once he was like, “You know!”- Oh, anyway.

Hannah (00:50:36):

I know.

Terrie (00:50:38):

But we grew up in a generation where, like if we went to the grocery store, I couldn’t wear my shorts and t-shirt to the grocery store. I had to get dressed up to go to the grocery store, so it’s a whole different mindset than what we’re living with now, but one of the- one of the things that happened in our church, we had a young woman who was quite rebellious, and I wasn’t even sure what she believed, but she was attending and I was very happy she was attending. She was a teen mom. And so she decided to nurse her child in the fellowship hall in front of God and everybody with nothing covering anything. And I have nothing wrong with nursing, I’m a total advocate for nursing, but I don’t want guys watching me nurse. I just would rather, I don’t even want women watching me nurse. I would rather have a blanket over. But she didn’t care, and I was so proud of my two sons because she just whipped it out there, and both of my sons, I was watching them and they just turned around and they just looked away, and I was like, thank you, God.

Hannah (00:51:41):

That does not sound like a very good woman.

Terrie (00:51:43):

I’ve done something right along the way somewhere.

Hannah (00:51:46):

Yay! …Yeah.

Terrie (00:51:47):

But you know, that- we’ve got to teach our young men to be modest. We’ve got to teach them to respect women, and that’s really the key. If we respect- if the girls respect the guys and the guys respect the girls, we’re going to make a choice that shows respect. Not a choice that’s showing guilt and fear and all of that, but a choice that honors God and honors our respect for ourselves and our respect for others, and I think if we could key in on that, maybe, I mean, some are still going to internalize it differently, some are still going to take it to the extreme, but I think maybe we would have a little more hope of finding that balance in my way of thinking anyway. I think it might.

Hannah (00:52:31):

And I feel like too, a lot of things would be solved if we just worried about ourselves. Not in a selfish way, but there was something we used to tell our oldest, when she would come home and complain about something someone was doing at recess, we’d go, “You worry about yourself. You don’t worry about all these other people. You worry about. How are you going to respond? What are you doing?” And I think in some ways, you know there, there tends to be a lot of policing in areas that maybe we don’t need to police. Like at least other people’s kids, you know? I mean, obviously there are different scenarios and if you’re in a position of leadership in the church, of course that maybe is going to be different, but I think just focusing on, okay, what are our battles going to be in our family and how are we going to train up our children in a way where we are, they are honor- you know, we’re encouraging them to honor the Lord. Honor each other and focus on “what decisions am I going to make today?” Not about, “well look at what so and so is wearing over there.” Let’s not. How about you worry about what you’re wearing, and how you’re doing things, and you know, that’s between you and God and, you know, your relationship with Him, so…

Terrie (00:53:45):

And, talking about mean Christians and stuff, the same thing. You know, just, our response to them is, you know, I pray for them and let God correct them. If I’m in a position, of course, as their discipleship leader or something, that’s a different thing, but many times my husband’s a very, his main gift is mercy, and I’m so thankful for that. If I were the pastor, it would’ve been a lot worse, but he’s so merciful, and he’s really helped me to understand God’s mercy more. And so, with my kids rather than them- yes, that person was hurtful, that person was rude, wrong, you know, but that’s not God, and helping them to see we are imperfect. We mess up as your parents. They mess up as your brothers and sisters in Christ, but God is still God, and it’s amazing to me that He still loves us with the messes that we are, and if we can help our children understand Him and His nature and His heart, that’s a million miles in the right direction, I feel like, and not allowing someone, someone’s… Our bad teaching or our mistakes or whatever we did wrong, to stop them from at least seeing Him, and that’s just…

Hannah (00:55:15):

I think from the- from the other side of that too, just something I would encourage people outside of the scenario who maybe, you know, you’re in the church and you see the teenager wearing the crop top or the low ‘thing’ or whatever. We don’t know what battles people are facing. We don’t know what situations they’re in. We don’t know how they’ve been brought up. And who’s to say that this isn’t the first time they’ve ventured to come to church?

Terrie (00:55:43):

Right.

Hannah (00:55:43):

Or, you know, and how our words can affect their relationship or their perception of Christ. Maybe they’re not even a believer yet, and those unkind words are those where we think we’re being so helpful going over saying, “Oh, do you realize you shouldn’t be wearing this?” Is that really what we should be focused on? Maybe we need to go over and ask how their day is, or just introduce ourselves or give them an encouraging word. You know, I think shifting our focus as people outside of the scenario, I think that’s something that definitely I’ve been more conscious of, because of where my kids are at. Not just assuming we know the right thing to do in every scenario, and thinking about how we want to approach people, and how Jesus would approach people.

Terrie (00:56:30):

And if we’re going to make a mistake, let’s err on the side of grace.

Hannah (00:56:33):

Exactly. Exactly.

Terrie (00:56:35):

And that’s not always easy to do.

Hannah (00:56:37):

It’s not. It’s not our goal. So important. It’s so important. Yeah.

Terrie (00:56:43):

Okay. So what else did your younger daughter share?

Hannah (00:56:47):

Yes. I guess I should- just, just two quick things too on my middle.

Terrie (00:56:52):

Okay.

Hannah (00:56:52):

She definitely noticed a trend of protecting predators in the church. I just felt I should kind of pop that in there. Something I’ve noticed is that people in the church are often very hesitant to call out harmful behavior. More specifically, they can be hesitant to call out predatory men, whether that’s downplaying or altogether dismissing allegations made against church leaders or justifying marital rape because the wife must submit to her husband. There is a consistent and extremely concerning pattern within the church of protecting abusers. This is not something she’s pulling from, specifically from like our church or anything, but we’ve actually had some conversations about this because of some of the things in the news and all of that. She also mentions teen pregnancy. I think it’s very hypocritical for Christians to condemn people for getting abortions, but then turn around and condemn teenagers who choose to go through with their pregnancies, which we’ve also had a lot of really good open conversations about, because of the whole pro-life thing.

Hannah (00:57:48):

She also just mentions mental health. You know, if your kid is really struggling, maybe don’t tell them they just need to pray more. I did not do that, I would just like to say, but yeah, that’s, you know, definitely something we have seen. All of my girls struggle with mental health a lot, and they’ve actually- my youngest actually had a Christian teacher tell her, “Well, you know, there’s really no such thing as mental health. You just need to pray more.” I was just like, thank you. Thank you 𝘴𝘰 much for that, that’s ‘𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺’ helpful… So my youngest- What?

Terrie (00:58:19):

I said, no.

Hannah (00:58:21):

Exactly, yeah. So my youngest, you know, a lot of the same things. Judgment. We did have a church where we had a very incredible Bible teacher who’s really good at teaching theology. It was incredible and wonderful, but there was kind of this attitude of, our church interprets the Bible correctly and, you know, nobody else, so my sweet youngest, this led me to both develop a warped sense of kindness, decency, and self-importance, and just become the most insufferable selfish child with a superiority complex. I thought that because I knew the true meaning of the Bible, I had every right to be a total jerk to everyone around me, so, I just, I love her process. And, she wasn’t a total jerk. She could be a little bit snooty about things, but then she says, this also weirdly led to a massive inferiority complex, and this is something a lot of my girls dealt with, and this is another thing that I think as a parent, it’s so difficult with the sin nature and how we can’t save ourselves, and our worth and our value are in Christ. For my kids, it was very much internalized as, I mean in my youngest’s words here, “I was a horrible creature who deserved to die for something that I didn’t even do, but was somehow responsible for Adam and Eve being deceived. I didn’t understand how the older members of the church believed that sins such as lying and being a little rude were on par with rape and murder, but I trusted everyone in the church with my whole heart, so I believed I was just as horrible as a murderer,” which theologically, you know, sin is sin, but that’s something that we’ve still had some conversations with.

Hannah (01:00:04):

And it’s been very interesting working through that, and, you know, having that continuing, ongoing discussion. To me, when I was growing up, it was just, wow. To me, it was more the focus of this incredible grace of this incredible God who would accept us, even in our sinful state. For my kids, it was very different. It was a very much a self-worth thing that they really, really struggled with. So I thought that was interesting, you know, and, and how do we balance that as believing parents where, you know, it’s not like we’re all worthless scum of the earth or anything. We all have intrinsic value as creations of the Lord. You know, He specifically designed us and created us, but not thinking too highly of ourselves too. So, again, that balance is just really tough. And I, again, I really feel just… Open communication.

Hannah (01:00:58):

I wish if I could go back and change just one thing, it would definitely be having more open conversations about this. I was realizing as I was going through this with them that a lot of the things that they struggle with are things that in some ways came through my growing up in the church and internalizing things, and maybe teaching them a little wrong, or not realizing, oh, this might be an issue for my child because it never was for me. So I’m so thankful that now we’re discussing these things even though there’s a part of me that’s grieved that I wasn’t aware earlier, only being able to discuss it now.

Terrie (01:01:35):

Yeah. Well, and I think there is such a difference in the way our children receive what we’re saying. I mean, like you said, I grew up with that kind of attitude, so thankful that God would save me, so aware that I needed a savior.

Hannah (01:01:53):

Yes.

Terrie (01:01:55):

And, just thankful for that. And my kids, you know, one of my kids is like, how do I know I’m really saved? I mean, I’m always worried that the second coming is going to happen and I’m not going to get to go. You know? And she just questions her faith all the time, and we talk through it and we help try to help her process that, but it’s not- she’s not grasping the grace of God. She’s not understanding that it’s really nothing you do, it’s not- believing is not like, I don’t know, squinching your eyes and trying harder to believe. I don’t know. It’s that you believe the faith of a mustard seed size, you know, and God’s grace covers us, and walking in that realization is such a freeing thing, and it makes me sad that she’s not able to feel that freedom yet. And I think this generation has, they hear things differently than we hear them. The way they interpret the words, the way they interpret the theology. I think it’s often being interpreted through a different lens.

Hannah (01:03:09):

Well, and I think there are so many more outside influences. You know, and I think that may be part of it, is they’re hearing this at the church and then they’re hearing this opinion over here and going, oh yeah, what about that? And I think, you know, my first reaction as a parent is to want to go, “Let’s shut down all the social media and just shut out all the voices and then it’ll be fine,” but at the same time, what an amazing opportunity we have as believers and as parents to address that. You know, take that head on and go, okay. And even if we don’t have all the answers, go, you know, “That’s a really good point,” and “I hadn’t thought about it that way, but let’s discuss this. Let’s look up some verses, let me look this up and get back to you. Because I don’t have an answer right now, but I think you’re bringing up a really valid point.”

Hannah (01:03:53):

You know, I think if we can just… Because I know for me, my feathers would get ruffled or I’d get all worried because I didn’t have an answer, instead of just going, “Huh, I don’t have the answer to that, and that’s an opinion I’ve never even heard,” you know? That’s a question that never would’ve even come to my mind, so I’ve got to think about that, but I mean, one of the things- one of the things I struggle with is, I feel like so many times, I’m not smart enough. I don’t have all the answers. I can be a deep thinker; I don’t think well on my feet. I’m not a good debater. My youngest is an incredible debater and has an answer for everything, and so I’m always like, I don’t know. You know? But then at the same time, remembering number one, that God gave me these children for a reason, and He has me as their mother for a reason, and also trusting that God doesn’t need me to defend Him. Yes, I should be studying God’s word, and I should be able to, as best as I can, answer why I believe what I believe, but if I don’t know the answer to something, or if I mess up, it’s not like, well, I’ve just completely failed. And, you know, so I think having those answers, and even there have been times when I’ve been honest to the girls about, I don’t understand everything about the way God works, and there are times where I wonder, and I question and I doubt. I was thinking, with your daughter, like, it kind of makes me think of me. I questioned like, am I really saved? I think so, but then I would get too scared and I wouldn’t think about it, so I’d just stuff it away and not think about it and not research it.

Hannah (01:05:26):

But I think a big thing for me, and I don’t know if this is in every conservative church, but it seems like in some of the more conservative churches, for our church especially, we really didn’t learn much about the function of the Holy Spirit, and I think we’ve talked about this in one of our other meetings. So when you don’t have that piece of the equation, I think that can add a lot of anxiety and questioning and fear, because when it’s all up to you, I mean, I knew that we were saved by grace, but it was still a matter of me doing the best I could and then accepting that grace when I inevitably messed up, instead of every day going, “I can’t do this on my own.” I am going to mess up, so Holy Spirit, I need your guidance today to do things through me. And honestly, finally grasping that really only five, ten years ago, maybe made such a difference in my life. Because, it’s exhausting when you’re trying to do everything in your own strength, and you were never more, I think, aware of your failings and your faults than when you’re trying to meet this righteous standard that you cannot meet.

Terrie (01:06:33):

I think that we all struggle with that, at least to some degree, because it is so hard for us to accept that God’s grace is total, and we want to do something, you know, it doesn’t seem right and it isn’t right. It isn’t right that He’s so gracious, but that’s what He has done for us, and it’s just humbling.

Hannah (01:06:57):

Thank you, Lord, that’s what He does. I can tell you, it’s not good any other way. Oh my goodness.

Terrie (01:07:05):

And I also think too, as parents, we’ve got to give ourselves grace. We’ve all messed up, we all make mistakes, and we all don’t understand completely what our kids are thinking, and we could fall into just a striving and a legalism in our parenting and just cause even more problems with our stress level and with our kids, they’re going to sense that. If we’re so, so upset, you know, I’ve had so many moms talk to me about their failings, and one mom came to me in tears because she had, it was too late to disciple her kids to teach her kids because she had just become a Christian and her children were three and five.

Hannah (01:07:46):

Oh goodness. Poor thing.

Terrie (01:07:47):

And I thought, oh my gosh,

Hannah (01:07:49):

Not too late at all.

Terrie (01:07:50):

Yeah, and so we just talked with her and prayed with her and tried to encourage her, and it’s just, we put so much guilt, or the enemy put so much guilt on us. If we don’t do it enough ourselves, he’ll help us out. You know, and he wants us to stay in that guilt. Yes. It’s, it’s where he wants us to function. And when our kids make choices that break our heart, well, he wants us to feel that failure. He wants us to feel like we’ve totally messed up and have regret, and instead, I think what I’ve seen with you is a response of prayer and love for our kids and keeping the conversations going. That’s what I’ve gleaned from when we’ve talked, that if we can do those things, that’s going to be- that’s what we can do, and that’s what we need to do.

Hannah (01:08:42):

Absolutely. I do want to just say too, it’s been a process that was not an overnight thing. I just, for any parents listening who are going through this, this was not how it started. It was a journey of God just working on my heart, and I think for so long I had this illusion of control with my children. Something I shared just this last Sunday is, we had this speaker at a retreat. Her name was Juanita Purcell, you might have heard of her, and she talked about this concept of “palm’s up living” and how just this idea of letting go and giving God what was already His in reality, but just this. And she actually had us physically do that, and I can remember my kids were really small at the time, and I can remember in my subconscious thinking, yeah, but not my kids, and I don’t even know why that thought, I think just because it was like, well, you know, you can’t. You can’t do anything with them. They’re going to be awesome and follow the Lord and do all these things, and what I was telling people is I feel like these last four years have been God slowly prying my fingers open for my children and just asking, do you believe I’m bigger and I’m enough? And then also realizing how much of my identity I had put in my parenting and how my kids turned out instead of in Christ.

Terrie (01:10:07):

Wow. That’s powerful. Say that again.

Hannah (01:10:11):

How much of my identity I was putting in my parenting and how my children turned out, and I think it’s really easy to fall into that trap as a Christian mom because there is kind of this, you have one job, you know, make sure your children are walking with the Lord, and when that doesn’t happen, it threw me, you know, because that was my whole goal and purpose, I thought, and it was this process with God, of Him just asking me, “Okay, am I enough?” Even when your kids don’t turn out the way you want. In fact, it’s funny, one of the, my youngest and I have a lot of conversations about old Bible stories, and we’re talking about Abraham sacrificing Isaac, and I will admit that’s a story I still struggle with as a parent. Having God asking you to sacrifice your kid.

Hannah (01:10:53):

And my youngest was like, well, would you do that if God asked you? And I said, “I don’t know.” I don’t think I could kill you if He asked me. I don’t think He would. But it was interesting, because later I was thinking about it and I was like, you know, it’s not a literal asking to kill my children, but I have offered up my children to the Lord. That’s been this journey of letting go of saying, you know what, Lord, these kids were your kids. They were never mine to begin with. They’re on loan to me. They are individuals who have to make their own choice, and as hard as that is to let go and allow them to make those choices and come to their own conclusions, I have to trust that God is bigger. I have to trust that, okay, even if they choose to walk away, what is my response going to be? And what is my choice with my Christian life going to be? Where is my identity found? Is it in these kids that you gave me? Or is it in you and my relationship with you? So…

Terrie (01:11:56):

And you know, even if our children are not walking away from the Lord, it is still a struggle. I mean, I have a daredevil daughter who wants to go back and teach in Myanmar, where it’s a very dangerous place, and I am like, God’s like, is she mine or yours? You know? And do you trust me with where I’m leading her? And that’s all I asked her was, please make sure God is calling you where you’re going and you’re not just wanting to go. Because you miss the people and hate to see what’s happening there, because it’s just awful. And so, that’s all I’ve asked, is for her to just please pray and know, and she, when we talked about her going back the last time, I said, you understand, they pulled people out of her own apartment building where she lived, pulled people out and either shot them or burned them.

Hannah (01:12:53):

Wow.

Terrie (01:12:53):

And I said, if you’re in that situation, what are you going to do as an American? You’re going to be a target. And she said, if it happened to me, maybe then someone would listen to what’s happening in Myanmar.

Hannah (01:13:08):

Wow. Hard for your mama heart.

Terrie (01:13:15):

Oh, and I had to just go to the Lord and say, God, this is hard, and thankfully, He has put on her heart that she should not go back just yet, but I know the minute He says go, she’s going to go because that’s where her heart is, and I knew that when she was there, and it’s a hard life there. It is not easy. You know, you never know if you’re going to have water or electricity. She was followed by men. She couldn’t trying to get away from them, you know, and it was just, I didn’t know if she was going to call me that she had been raped. I didn’t know if she was going to call me, you know, what was going to happen. It was just, it’s a scary place, especially for a single woman, yeah. But anyway, before we end, I do want you to share what scriptures have really helped you walk through this, what you’ve found to give you strength.

Hannah (01:14:06):

Yes. I remembered those questions. So I did prepare for this. Oh, so as far as scriptures, you know, one of the things I found, especially, especially at the beginning, you know, when you’re going through times where it’s just so tough spiritually, sometimes I have a hard time. I know it would be helpful to sit down and do like a three hour in-depth Bible study, but there’s sometimes where you’re just hurting so much, it’s all you can do to just hang onto a verse or something, so when we were going through that really rough time with my youngest, where it was just so hard where she was struggling with my husband and all of that, we kept thinking of Romans 5:8. God kept bringing that verse to our mind, but God demonstrates His own love for us, and that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Hannah (01:14:50):

You know, we’re not always the easiest people to love. We don’t always respond the way we should, and during that time, it was really, it was very tempting to respond in anger and frustration. And so that verse, God just kept pressing on my mind. “While We were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” How can we show love? How can we show Christ’s love in the way we respond? And along that same line, Colossians 4:6. “Let Your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Again, with the way we respond. And so, yeah, and then like, kind of trailing right along with that James 1:5. “But If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach and it’ll be given to him.” There are a lot of times during this journey where I have just not known what on earth I’m supposed to be doing.

Hannah (01:15:43):

And even now, I tell people I’m not going to be giving any parenting advice anytime soon because I don’t know if what we’re doing is… You know, get back to me in 20 years and I’ll let you know, but just knowing that God is there for wisdom when we ask it. In fact, many of the conversations we had, especially early on when things were rough relationship-wise, I would just pray at the beginning of every conversation when I could tell, oh, this is going spiritual, or oh, this is going political or something. I would just pray, “Okay, Lord, is this a conversation where I need to say something? Is this one where I need to just plant little questions? Is this one where I just listen?” And it just gives me an opportunity to understand where my children are coming from. So that was just a lifeline, and then just all of Psalm 139, which has always been one of my favorite Psalms. Just, how personal God is, how intimately He knows and loves us, and nothing can surprise Him about our lives. Nothing can separate us. All our days are numbered. He formed us in our mother’s wombs. So those verses have just been really comforting for me.

Terrie (01:16:52):

And I have to just say, as you’ve read your daughter’s comments and their letters, I can see how they all three have such compassionate, tender hearts.

Hannah (01:17:03):

Yes.

Terrie (01:17:05):

I know that God’s working and that He has a plan for each of them, and that He loves them so dearly, and He loves them more than you do and more than anyone else can.

Hannah (01:17:15):

Yes.

Terrie (01:17:16):

And I just, that’s what I hold onto with my kids too, that He loves them more than I do. And yes, we can all hold onto that.

Hannah (01:17:25):

I have said that to myself so many times, that very phrase, just because, and that is one thing that I tell people, because I think when you’re outside of a situation where your kids are walking away and you see someone else going through it, I don’t know, for me, I could get really judgy and think, “Ugh, those rotten kids,” you know. My children are incredible. They’re such incredible human beings, and I love them so fiercely. And you know what? Right now they’re just looking to different sources. They’re seeing things that they’re passionate about, and they can’t align that with what they see in scripture. And so that’s what’s made them go away. It’s not them, you know, being jerks or whatever. They’re just, they’re really passionate about people, and they care about people. And so that’s an encouragement to me. And again, like you were saying, that God loves them more than I ever could, and that he’s not up in heaven going, “Oh no, Hannah’s kids, what happened?”

Hannah (01:18:24):

You know, he knows and he cares. And he’s allowed this. And you know, there were things that were happening with my parenting that I know this phrase is overused, but I did have some toxic behaviors in my parenting. I did tend to guilt trip. And if I didn’t see a response, I would poke and poke and poke and try and get that, okay, now they understand what they did. And so the Lord’s really been working on my heart in areas that I needed to change that I don’t know that I would’ve seen the need for that change if this hadn’t happened. And I might’ve just continued in those behaviors and who knows where our relationships would be at this point.

Terrie (01:19:06):

Alright. Well, I feel like we need to end with prayer. If I can not cry.

Hannah (01:19:11):

I would love that.

Terrie (01:19:12):

Okay. Let’s pray. Father God, we know, like we said, that you love our children more than we could ever love them. And you know their hearts better than we could ever know them. God, you know where they have internalized wrong thinking or where they have internalized our teaching in a wrong way. And we may never even know all of those things. But God, you are a healer. You are the truth, and you set us free. And I pray, Father, for Hannah’s children, for my children, and for every listener, for their families, for their children, and their grandchildren. Father, help us to be faithful and help us, most of all, to love one another. And God, I pray that you would be glorified, that your name would be lifted high, and that you would get all the honor and glory as we walk with you and as our children seek to follow you.

Terrie (01:20:06):

I pray for Hannah’s daughters that you would open their eyes to how much you love them, that you would open their eyes to the truth. And Lord, that you would help them to find the forgiveness in their hearts for those who have hurt them along the way, for the misunderstandings, for whatever pain has been in their lives, that you would help them to find the truth and to come back to you. Father, I pray that you would help us as your followers to know how to navigate our days, to know how to have the wisdom to share your love, but not compromise your word. And God, that is so challenging at times. Help us, Lord, to be humble and to be gracious and merciful and to know how to give an answer for the faith we have in you. God, we love you so, so much and we are so grateful that you love us. And I pray that you would be honored in what we’ve talked about today, that you would help us to find truth that we can hold onto. And that you would encourage parents who are walking through these difficult times. And we pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hannah (01:21:20):

Amen.

Terrie (01:21:21):

Well, thank you again so much for joining me today and for what you’ve shared. And thank your daughters for being so open. I appreciate it so much. I think it’s really been wonderful to hear their stories, and we will be praying. I think they know we’re all praying for them.

Hannah (01:21:40):

Me too. They may roll their eyes a little bit, but it’s like, sorry.

Terrie (01:21:44):

We’re still going to pray. I do that for my friend who’s Jewish, and I still pray. She knows I’m praying.

Hannah (01:21:50):

Well, thank you so much for having me, Terrie. It was really a blessing to be here.

Terrie (01:21:54):

I’m so glad. We’re so glad you joined us today, and I hope you were blessed by what we shared. And maybe you have some things you would like to add to the conversation. Please feel free to put those in below the show notes. We have a place where you can comment, you can ask questions, you can ask for prayer. Please feel free to put something there that we can lift up for you or answer or something that you can share with us that would help us as well. And I hope, too, that you will look in the show notes. I have some links there, like I said, I would put to the scriptures she mentioned. Also to an explanation of the avoiding the appearance of evil and how we misuse that scripture. I’ll have that link in there and several other things. So check out the show notes and look for those links. And also for the link to Hannah’s website and to my website. And so our prayer is that we can obey Jesus’ command to make disciples as we reach and equip this generation of believers to reach and equip the next generation of believers with everyday discipleship every day.

Link to Mike Winger’s Podcast talking about two commonly abused scriptures.

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