About the Author

Robin is the author of For All Who Wander, her relatable memoir about wrestling with doubt that reads much like a conversation with a friend. She's as Southern as sugar-shocked tea, married to her college sweetheart, and has three children. An empty nester with a full life, she's determined to...

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  1. Robin,
    I love your posts because they speak so honestly to the state that I am in right now. I have a prodigal son for whom I pray constantly. He was once a strong Christ follower and I know the Holy Spirit will do a work in his heart. It’s me that I continually have to remind to, as you said, “speak love” and make a refuge for his heart to return to. I need to keep reminding him that though his actions may be disappointing, he is not a disappointment. Proverbs 22:6 is a prayer on my heart every day. Thank you so much for your wise and sage advice and reminders.
    I guess you’ve heard the story that God must be a Clemson fan, because every evening at sunset he paints the sky orange and purple? Go Tigers!
    With blessings and thanks,
    Bev

    • {{Bev}}

      I don’t have a prodigal but I know many; my heart goes out to you and YOU encourage me by your faith. I’m so thankful for the story of the Prodigal, for the encouragement in Proverbs…and for the Body who sustain all of us when relationships scatter. If anything I’ve written is of value to you, it’s the Lord in me, and I’m grateful (to Him, and also to you).

      And what you said at the end of your comment? I cannot believe I HAVEN’T heard that! And I love it and will be sure to share it again and again :). xo

    • Bev,

      Prayers for your prodigal. In time when he hits rock bottom God will wake him up and bring him home to you.

      Keep the faith and we all will keep praying for you! 🙂
      God Bless

      • Bev –
        I too have a prodigal son – but I take comfort in praying for him and the realization that my desire for him to come back to his faith follows along with God’s will for ALL of us – for us to be in relationship with him and eventually reside in heaven with him. Adult conversion is a powerful instrument used by God and I pray for that daily. I know it will happen for God promises us all – “for whatever you pray for in His name…” and after all, we mothers are praying for our children’s souls. He’ll come back.

  2. Thank you, Robin, for speaking these truths. The story of the prodigal son, with the picture of the Father’s patience, persistence, love, and grace, has been my reality. Several years now have been spent in prayer for my own prodigal. God has taught me so much about waiting, trusting, loving, and having faith when all seems lost. Always remembering there is always more to the picture than what we can see because He is always at work in our lives. He is faithful, constant, relentless, all-knowing and loves us still. That’s the kind of parent I want to be. I’m sure we’ve had people in our lives who thought we’ve done it all wrong, but by trying to live grace with truth we have been able to stay in relationship with our son and I will continue to believe in God’s perfect timing for healing and redemption. Thank you again for your words that have strengthened my heart today.

      • Melanie,

        Prayers for your prodigal. In time when he hits rock bottom God will wake him up and bring him home to you.

        Keep the faith and we all will keep praying for you! 🙂
        God Bless

  3. GREAT post! How I wish for some “do-overs” with my oldest son. My approach and perspective changed a lot between him and our 3rd/last.

    Just thankful that God is SO much bigger than my blunders and HE will perfect and complete. We are ALL a work in progress!

  4. Thank you for putting into words something we’ve tried to do in our own family. We told our kids (we have 4) that we never tried to treat them all the same…we tried to treat them all FAIRLY…because what works for one, usually doesn’t work for another. And the goal is always to reach their hearts…and for forgiveness…and for restoration. God has been so gracious to us in all of the times we’ve messed up. We’ve tried to remember that as we’ve raised our kids…and want to model that same behavior for our kids. Thank you for sharing this. 🙂

    • Marty, your comment reminds me about something else we’ve lived–not loving our kids Equally but loving them uniquely. At first that sounds awful until you hear the heart of it–children are different so why try for equality? This presumes equality is not the same thing as favor. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. They add so much to this conversation.

      • One of the favorite parental quotes at our home was from The Lion King…..”Life’s not fair, you know!” 🙂

  5. Great insights, Robin, and you fed them to us in such a well-written manner. Enjoyed reading this. I appreciate your wisdom and application. I would add just one caution is using Proverbs 22:6 or any of the Proverbs as promises. This is an oft misunderstood book in Scripture. It is God’s Word, but it’s purpose is a book of wisdom sayings, not a book of promises (Proverbs 1:1-6). If Proverbs were promises, all godly people would be wealthy and live long, healthy lives (Proverbs10:22,27). I add this because I taught this Proverb as a promise for many years, but now that I am in my 60’s, I have seen many of my generation with ungodly adult kids despite their godly, loving parenting. And when we learn this Proverb as a promise, we have a tendency to unfairly judge the parent instead of the prodigal who chooses not to return.
    Thanks again for this great post.
    Gail

  6. robin, thank you. todays post was a prod and a balm to my heart stuck and struggling with the changes that need to happen in my parenting. god allowed you to put words to what i’m feeling and also give me a sense of answer to my hearts questions.
    while feeling discouraged that my kiddos and i are losing that easy bond we’ve had and wanting to chase after them, truth is—i think i need to looking at who i need to be for them now in these older years. they want to come home to love and forgiveness and encouragement and a safe place to recover from setbacks.
    it is not so much about love with boundaries as when they were little, but about boundless love. my heart is breaking today but in the best way possible. xoxo! –kris

    • Kris,

      “it is not so much about love with boundaries…but about boundless love.”

      That will preach, friend.

      Thank you for letting me join your life in this parenting odyssey. I’m praying for all our incourage mamas and their prodigals, and those who simply need to pay attention and respond to those changes that accompany age.

      ((hugs))

  7. Robin, thank you for sharing this post. There is so much wisdom there for parents. I am sorry that I am not alone in having a prodigal child, but am comforted to know that I am not alone as I read the comments of others. I agree with Karen above: I wish I had a “do-over” with our daughter. As an adult she has now rejected God and declared herself to be atheist. She is going through a divorce. But these difficult times in her life have caused her to come to us for some help. Prior to that she wasn’t communicating the difficult season in her life. So we are loving her and encouraging her and helping as much as we can. I always affirm that I love her and am praying for her. There is a fine line I am trying to balance: not being offensive but also speaking the truth. I am so grateful that communication is improving, And I want to be a positive influence to my grand kids. Carol Barnier has a good book “Engaging Today’s Prodigal”. Her testimony gives me hope! And I can see God working, even though our daughter might deny that!

    • Denise,

      Yours is a battle, of heart, soul and emotion. I’m so heartened to hear your testimony of seeing God working, something that should encourage others to know. A lovely example in the midst of hard times.

  8. I have 3 girls and 2 of them are in junior high. I have a quiet, gets-along-with-everyone daughter whom I found out earlier this year had started cutting herself. I also have a loud, constantly-involved-in-drama kinda girl. I struggle with helping them both find ways to cope. We are seeing a Christian counselor and definitely have good days and bad days. Especially with my “loud” girl, I have trouble not passing judgment on the types of friends she is choosing and the choices some of those parents seem to be making. I struggle with teaching her about love, mercy, and forgiveness while wanting her to make better choices about her friends. It is hard to know the balance between choosing friends wisely and being the “mean girl” who excludes girls that may not always be the best influence.

    • Amber,

      I wish I knew how to help your situation; maybe encourage your “loud” girl not necessarily to be a mean girl excluding poor influencers, but be kind to them without spending social time outside school?

      Praying for you, Amber…two different challenges that try a Mama’s heart.

  9. Robin ~ thank you for today’s post. As a mother of a prodigal, God is continually bringing me encouragement through other’s writings and wisdom. As a mom of three – all in late 20s and early 30s, looking back I too wish I had do-overs but am learning to let go of the guilt that Satan wants to use against me! My prodigal is the one who I would have never dreamed would stray from his Abba Father. But again, the enemy preyed on the weakness of my son’s lack of relationship with a godly earthly father and he is seeking approval and “love” through the homosexual community.
    My heart breaks, not for me, but for his loss of relationship with his Creator and for his sin. My prayers are for the Holy Spirit to pursue our son, stirring his heart to repentance and giving him the desire for restoration, as well as for people of God’s choosing to come across my son’s path each day that will reflect God’s love for him. I pray for his eyes to see, his ears to hear, and his heart to be postured that he is LOVED and to recognize his true identity is in Christ.
    I know that God has all of this situation in His Hands and in His control. And that ultimately this will all be for His Glory. Until then, I pray, wait, and love – even if it is from a distance. Arms are open, waiting for him when he hits the end of the cul-de-sac and has to turn around.
    Thank you again for your timely words and the Truth.

  10. I love the message of love and communication. I wish Robin Thicke (who sang the song Blurred Lines) at the vma show would have his mama and daddy talk to him about singing that song (ugh!) with a girl young enough to be his daughter. We, as mamas ourselves, have a gut reaction to our beloved Hannah Montana dancing so lewdly. Let’s all remember to include holding men to high standards. We live in such a weird culture where things are so oddly sexualized in such a commercial way, it stuns me. Thanks for letting me come here for an oasis of sense, love and light. Thanks for this lovely article and God Bless.

    • Jan,

      Yeah, Robin Thicke…it’s hard to imagine what’s inside his head :/.

      I’m so thankful we ALL have the oasis of incourage; I’ve never heard anyone use that word to describe it, but it’s perfect :).

  11. THank you for your post, Robin. I could barely read it through my tears. Your following words were what pierced my inner core:
    “If you have a child who’s wandering, whose heart concerns you, whose state of soul terrifies you, don’t despair. As long as there’s breath, there’s life and reason to hope.

    Let go of your hurt, your right to be right. Let it go. It doesn’t change your child and it certainly doesn’t help you.”

    It is so hard to hold onto hope and to let go of hurt, to let go of a broken heart. I agree with make a refuge for our prodigals. The Lord keeps using the words of Mother Theresa to guide my actions, “Small acts with GREAT LOVE”.

    Thank you, too, to the others who have left comments. Many of us have prodigals and we need to be praying for each other and our prodigals.

  12. Robin, what I got from this posting more than anything is the need for MORE prayer and seeking God out for Him to demonstrate His character through me to my children in each and every interaction.

  13. Robin, thanks for the personal note today. I will try more love and forgiveness, less disappointment and worry. I have been feeling like I was wrong in my approach to my troubled 18 year old son. You give me courage and hope. You also straightened out some song lyrics for me!

  14. My prodigal is 25years old, lives with us and her two small boys. Some days it is hard to love any of them: toys, clothes, even dirty diapers are on the floor when I get home. Yes she has disappointed us, yes, she has failed. So have we. Right now we are praying her paradigm of failure would be shifted, and what has become her truth will be seen for the lie it is. Thank you so much for the encouraging words. I have a feeling I will read them again and again in the coming days.

    • Lynn, Hon, I’m praying for YOU. Yours is a difficult situation, and I know the Lord must be doing an amazing refining work in your life (while, I’m hopeful, in your daughter’s as well).

      xo

  15. What an excellent post Robin! Thank you for being a sane voice in all judgmental madness going on over this incident. The best we can do is pray for Miley and all those other young stars.

    There was a conversation in the lunch room the other day about the whole affair and one man was acting hideous about what he thought were her hideous actions on stage. I asked him if he would have liked a camera following him around when he was 20… this caused him to take a moment of reflection and changed his tirade.

    Having my own “good” daughter pregnant at 15 1/2 and all the fall out that caused was surely an eye opener. From her best friend telling us that “she would have been voted the least likely on campus to get pregnant” to my boss saying that “you could just take care of it and save yourself all the shame”. We immediately learned who was and wasn’t a true friend. My grandson is now 12 and a wonderful little man. My daughter married her “baby daddy” when they were 23 and they are surely the more uncommon scenario of this type of situation. We consider it the real Romans 8:28 life.

    Many people told me that I was a hero for sticking by my daughter and I was appalled every single time… why wouldn’t I stand by her?? I never understood those that didn’t.

    Thank you for speaking out and showing up in the positive on this!!

  16. Today’s title caught my eye as I was looking through my email since I had just been shown something about Miley Cyrus and the VMA fiasco. As the mother of five, I am blessed for the most part. However, my two oldest, my daughters, have helped me earn many gray hairs over the last four years. Thankfully, God has gotten us through some very tough times. Even though I worry that they are not where they should be in their faith, I am thankful that they have not turned their backs completely on it. It was hard for me to read through your column without crying because of some of the memories that it brought back. As far as Miley goes, it boggles my mind that a mother applauds her daughter after a shameful display of attention as that one. I know that it is not up to us to judge, but when someone hurts our children by exposing them to such a blatant display of obscenity, it is hard not to be angry with them. However, what you have pointed out makes me realize that Miley and her family need our prayers regardless. As do the less famous prodigals of the world and their families. I will be praying for all of them.

    • Carletta,

      While I feel your frustration with your oldest two, I think it’s fine for them to ask questions, to sift their faith and what they believe. We don’t want our kids to perform their faith for us, we want it to be real, tested, proven. I’m praying for these girls, to ask a thousand questions and to be sure of the One who is eager to pull them close.

  17. Years ago, I blogged about my son using the prodigal son parable as an example of the importance of letting go of our children & letting God work in his time, no matter how long it takes. At that time, my son was my greatest challenge & concern & he was only 16. Years later, to my shock our oldest daughter who was the easiest to raise has become our prodigal. She has been in a relationship with a guy much older than her for 2 years and she is a totally different person. This young lady who at one time wanted to be in ministry & go on the mission field is now living a life so wrong & sinful. Thank you for your words today! They are the reminder I needed that it isn’t too late for God to turn this around & bring her back to him.

    • Dana,

      In His time…in His time…in His time.

      Oh, how I ache for you in the interim, praying for this season and hopeful for the Lord to work in your “until”. xo

  18. What a timely reminder for me! I see my oldest, on his way to ‘tweener land, shutting down and shutting us out rather than telling us the truth – which is, so often, far less than we had feared. I am reminded that he cannot be spoiled by grace; he must learn integrity… and that all of this must be learned in an environment that is open and free from condemnation. There will still be consequences he will face for his choices and actions, but I’d rather he know that we are for him, just as God is for us.

    • MJudge,

      You sound like you have such a healthy perspective; it won’t be easy, but you really do seem to be trusting in the right things :). Our babies need to know we are for them. Even when they make it so, so hard.

  19. When people say that different treatment for different children isn’t fair, I remember a quote that goes something like this: The most unfair thing is
    treating unlike children alike.

  20. Thanks so much for this encouragement. I have a 21 year old who is “making her way in the world” and not including the God that she was raised to know! Thank you for the encouragement to love her through this time!

  21. Robin,

    I almost deleted this incourage post without reading it and I am so glad I did not! Thank you so much for your insight and wonderful wisdom. I also have 3 teens and the oldest is about to head off for her 2nd year in college. I am paralyzed with despair over the choices she is making and would like to just not let her return, but I know that is over-reacting and will not address the heart issues. I want to have the hard conversations and let her know I am not disappointed in her and I don’t want to pound scripture over her head. How do I speak the truth to her without sounding judgmental? How do I convey my love for her and make her feel safe to come to me and still let her know what I think? She knows right from wrong but is choosing sin. My heart is broken in two and I don’t want that to be my starting point. Thank you for listening. Praying for you and your family today. Erin

  22. So needed to read this today. I have learned never to say “my child would never do that.” My eighteen year old has been smoking pot for a while now. It breaks my heart. He doesn’t go to church anymore. This isn’t the child that was brought up in the church. But as long as there is a breath there is life and there is hope. Thanks again for the post!

  23. Robin,

    I just love your posts. They are so full of wit, wisdom and honesty! You know how to speak truth with gentleness.

    Every child is different and has different needs and parenting styles. Each stage of life brings with it challenges in parenting.

    Thanks for speaking such great truths!

    God Bless!

  24. Oh, I love it when God speaks directly to me through you, Robin. Thank you.
    I have a prodigal son, who announced years ago that he did not share our faith in Christ. This is the son who as an 11 year old, brought US to church! He is now across the country in graduate school, and my heart aches for him as the Father of the Prodigal Son did. that story is my rock. and you have taken that, and wrapped it in so much more wisdom with this post. I will save this and read it again and again! SO much wisdom – and I thank you for every gem. God Bless you!

  25. Robin, Robin, Robin! Here’s me: 4 kids, ALL different, ALL equally churched. Kid #1 (son), moves out to live with his girl, despite all efforts to dissuade them. Kid #2 (daughter), gets married at 23, a virgin to a virgin. Kid #3 (son) is now my trial – no college, LOTS of computer gaming, part-time job. Kid #4 (daughter) is just beginning her senior college year, as National Merit Scholar, still dating the young man she met w/in the first 6 hours of college – both “waiting.”

    BUT, how God works things out: Kid #1 is now married to his girl, a nursing student, and I’m going to be a grandmother in October (and that cart came after the horse)! Kid #2 is married, both out of college, and making their own way in life. Kid #4 is trying to work out how graduate school can lead to a timely marriage (they’re waiting, but the wait does get old).

    Kid #3? I tell you the truth – I would MUCH rather have him move out for KEEPS, than to have my front door turn into a revolving one. So, I wait. “Naked Days” also wait. But God’s timing is, was, and always will be, perfect.

    Love your truths!

  26. Robin I just LOVE sitting at your feet listening to you share wisdom on parenting. I could listen to you blog on this all day. Thank you for sharing grace, kind words and encouragement here for all the tired mamas.

  27. Waiting on HIS timing and prayerfully observing, choosing my battles and looking for opportunties to remind my children that I will always love them. I am reminded that I was forgiven and they can be also, so my job is to love my chuldren then all of the awkwardness of childhood and even young adulthood.

  28. I found this today while searching for encouragement. How I wish all of those who shared here could somehow be connected for support and encouragement as we travel this journey. I have three children, two of which are prodigals. My oldest who felt called to the ministry as young as junior high but allowed himself to be lured elsewhere. He lives a homosexual lifestyle and blames us for not accepting it. All of our attempts to love him and support him go unnoticed because we will not condone it. My second child was the compliant, quiet one and suddenly changed and left to move in with her boyfriend, neither of which have finished school. We have raised all of our children in the Church and struggle with where we went wrong and where they made bad choices. I didn’t learn early enough the difference in boundaries as a young child and as a teenager, so perhaps our strictness lead to some of this. I struggle with where that “fine line” is to love and help them but not to approve or enable them. It is often such a fuzzy line. I try desperately to maintain contact but it is one sided, unless of course they need something. I have been so discouraged at the response of my church family. I suppose it is easy to judge when you have not walked in another’s shoes. I try to remain hopeful one day at a time, praying that love does indeed heal all wounds. Thank you all for sharing.