About the Author

Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, and the author of six books including the new memoir "Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity and Purpose" (Baker Books, 2015). Proceeds from Emily’s books benefit her non-profit, The Lulu Tree. She lives in Alberta,...

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  1. I’ve been thinking so much about this lately, and so appreciate these practical tips. I have one child who is naturally very sensitive and compassionate, and another child who is quite the opposite. It takes a great deal of prompting for her to tune in at all to the feelings of others. And this cultivating of hearts, this pointing repeatedly back to Jesus and His ultimate act of compassion and love, this parenting is neither quick nor easy work. So I needed this encouragement today.
    Thank you, friend.

    • this “cultivating of hearts”… that’s exactly it, dear jo. exactly. thankful for you, and your sensitive soul. xo

  2. Thank you for this, Emily. Sometimes the goal gets lost in the everyday . A compassionate heart sensitive to the Lord’s calling is what I long to cultivate in my children. The older two are on their own now yet I still have the youngest who looks to us to lead him toward compassion. The list is so helpful.

    • oh renee, i think if we have the longing, he will bless it, no? i hope so. i really hope so. i find so much compassion in you…

  3. I look at my children and their compassionate hearts and wonder how they got to be that way? Wish I had had your list, wish I had guarded my tongue more, but there’s always grace to begin again, yes? And thank you for the picture of Christ holding us close when tears fall. I needed this today. Blessings, friend.

    • there’s always grace, sweet nancy…. and i believe they got their compassionate hearts from the Christ they saw in you. i ‘see’ him in you, every time you comment. so much love.

      • Thank, Ms. Emily for this post. I needed it…eps. #2. Just apologized to my daughter last night for a conversation she overheard. But I wanted to say a bigger thank you for what you said to Ms. Nancy. They saw it in her life. Praise God for that testimony. Inspite of our faults, God can use our gifts and strivings to shape our children’s lives. Not everyone has the privilege of having parents concerned about how they live. Thank you for the encouragement!

        • oh jessica, you’re welcome… i might sound like i know what i’m doing, but only time will tell… i just have one little guy right now 🙂 i really respect that you apologized to your daughter… that takes such conviction and heart. i can only pray our desire to please the Lord reveals itself in a poured-out act of compassion. bless you.

  4. Thanks Em. I’m working on gratitude and I think some of your suggestions will help me have a softer heart for the world and a greater sense of the blessings I have.

  5. I always love your writing so so much , Emily.

    I have to confess that I go through phases where I have deferred to the Catholic school system to “do” much of this for me, for us.

    I have to confess that I went through a period of feeling quite justified in my taking and tired of my giving.

    I do explain this to my children as well.. honesty is so key. We are human . We can only keep trying. I think a child needs to understand that this is okay too.

    Just this morning my daughter called me out when I was gossiping… which I disguise as not understanding, which is really self-righteousness. But it did lead to a good discussion on the difference between like and love and how difficult it is to navigate these waters so often. I’m still learning and blessed that I have children and friends and blog loves to learn along with.

    • oh deb… every day i battle this feeling justified in my taking and tired of my giving. every. single. day.

      how beautiful, and humbling, that your children are now teaching you. and obviously, they learned the way to walk so they can correct you, painful as it is, so that means you did something absolutely right 🙂

      i love you friend. so very much.

  6. Great list, Emily. There are lots of books as well that you can share to open your child’s eyes to the different ways that people live around the world and the different needs that they have.

  7. this is lovely em…it hurts to watch our kids grow up knowing we have precious little time with them then releasing them to the world…love the practical application as we try to inspire that in our little ones…great post

  8. I am so happy to see you here Em. You write your heart with such beauty.
    I think this is one of those things that is “caught” rather than taught. You wee boy has only to see the outward expression of your heart to know that he too wants to lavish unselfish love on others. You model it so well.

  9. Beautiful post, Emily.
    Continuing on in the same vain. . . . how to knead the gentle into them–enough to make them tender and yielding– without overdoing it, making them all tough and hard. THAT is my constant challenge, to not let my intensity, my own shattered edges, rub them raw. But rather, to let my love & life, imperfect as they are, surround them all warm and cozy, giving them something to throw over those around them in need.
    Thank you, once again, for sharing your heart.

    • yes. how to knead the gentle into them… oh friend, i hear you. to not let intensity rub them raw. yes. i can be so intense. so well-meaning, and not enough living it all. love and imperfection and being there, always there, for them to run to. this, enough, i think… love you.

  10. Wow. emily. Thank you for this. I needed to read this today. Such a beautiful and important post. It’s hard isn’t it? I spend lots of time thinking about this, how to break their hearts, how to allow my own to break as an example to them…. all the while praying for grace enough to weather the break, to grow from the smashing and act. To refuse to be content to lie dormant… This has given me much to think about this afternoon. Thank you, bless you.

  11. Beautiful, Emily, as always. And such importance to learn to teach our kids compassion. I just posted on this very topic — the weight of learning your child has acted harshly to another — and how to redeem them when they’ve failed.

    “So that, when the world falls, he’ll drop everything to run, to reach, to be, with the broken.”… Let this be our collective prayer for our little ones. What a beautiful world that will be, don’t you think?

    • i’m going to go visit that post, cara. it sounds so good.

      oh, it would be such a beautiful world… yes, a collective prayer, sister. 🙂

  12. I loved this. How you remind us all that the only way to break and be useful is to have the Jesus embrace near us, near our hearts. The purposeful broken, the useful broken. It’s a miracle.

  13. What great encouragements . . . thank you for sharing! We also encourage our children to reach out to the elderly. There are so many widows, lonely, who might just need a hug, some flowers, or a small prepared meal. And what wisdom we can gain from them, who have “been there”, thru their own brokenness.

    Blessings friend . . .

    • dear loni, yes, my heart has been breaking for the widows here in my town too… thank you for this reminder to love on them. you are beautiful, friend.

  14. I was once challenged (by a founder of a ministry to refugees) to BE with those less fortunate – with no agenda except maybe a meal together – rather than SERVING them or GIVING to them or DOING. He was totally right. And I have found it is much harder to engage in community with this population instead of serving them. But the more I do it, the deeper my friendships becomes with them. And the more I learn from them rather than them learning from me.

    • to just be with them. yes. exactly. and i’m finding that’s all most people want too… including me. 🙂 thank you for this beautiful insight.

  15. “My womb drops and I run. Tears and blood and I kiss every baby fold and hold, hold, and he hushes and I cannot wipe away enough sad.” Oh Em…so beautiful. And I remember the story about the boys walking along the road…it broke my heart. Yes, breaking our hearts is the way to open to compassion…whether for our own tenderness when we fall, like Aiden, or toward others when we see them struggling and take action to help. This is healthy heart break…unlike the heartbreak of those two cold boys…May they now be in a home where they will be loved, fed, kept warm and learn how much they deserve to be held and cared for like your precious boy…and my precious girls.

    • laura, you always teach me…. the way you love so big, the way you embrace brokenness and wrap it tight to yourself, you show me God’s mercy. thank you for this.

  16. “This, how Christ must feel when we cry; how the ground nestles wheat against soil-chest. This, what I hope to teach my son. This hug. This holding forever the hurt.”

    This just makes me cry. I so often lack love, lack compassion, lack so many things… hoping Jesus fills in the blank spots in my mothering… the places I’ve filled with my self, instead of Him.

    • dear, dear leslie, i do too. i lack love and compassion and i have to beg God to replace me in those moments, to be everything i cannot. i understand, sister. xo

  17. Emily – it’s an honor to have your beautiful words over at (in)courage! Thank you for sharing with us the challenge and the call to find ways to soften and gentle crack our children’s hearts. Sometimes it gets lost in the hurly burly of life – thanks for the reminder to stop when possible, and be deliberate.

    ~Lisa-Jo

  18. Beautifully written truths to embrace. I’m so convicted by the Lord about how my own living out of compassion is the most profound teacher to my kids, so I’ve become much more intentional this past couple years about seeking the heart of Christ myself, because I want to do a better job showing that heart to my kids and cultivating that in them as well. Thank you so much for your eloquent and powerful words. I’m challenged and blessed.

  19. Oh yes….
    So soon Aiden will turn around and ask you question like my son does because he can’t help but learn from a heart like yours!
    My Owen he said to me
    “He doesn’t have a home?? Why doesn’t he just come live with us”
    My tongue all thick, I couldn’t answer. Why couldn’t he? I had no good answer.
    Love you! Proud to see you here!

    • you are so encouraging, always, dear melissa. i love what your boy said. his tender heart is such evidence that you are displaying compassion…. love you sister. xo

  20. I’ve been away from everything…traveling in our support raising to move overseas.

    This is simply lovely. Yes, creating a ‘culture’ of compassion and hearts that break for the world…you know where we stand with all of this and as those ‘in ministry full-time’ it digs deep that they might learn to love to give and not feel coerced…that we cultivate it that it become theirs…many prayers for this and again many prayers and the ever inner searching and living…bless you, friend!