How to Tether the Heart-Strings of Your Child

One of the Best GIfts We Can Give

She slid up next to me, a sprig of a thing with her long, thin frame that will likely be taller than mine before the year closes. I was wiping down the counter — tasking — and she wrapped her arms around me and rested her head in the crook of my neck as if we were settling in for a late night story.

My children show affection in different ways, though all of us Hagerty’s tend to be cuddlers. This particular one, however, reserves her hugs as exclamation points. She doesn’t often initiate and when she does, I pay attention.

What was it today? I asked myself and then remembered that I’d been asking myself that more frequently with her.

You see, we’re living time backwards. My children are aging with the calendar but they’re also healing — four of them were orphaned, once — and healing tends to bring them closer to home, despite their age indicating that they’re closer to launch. When they move a little closer in — when they lean, when they initiate, when their eyes look straight into ours for a little longer — we take notes.

What was it today?

Ahhh. It’s the same question I’d asked days before, with what I suspected was the same answer.

We’d taken a long walk. That was it.

One of the Best Gifts We Give

It was everything I love about spring: seventy degrees and a triumphant blue sky, only interrupted by the fresh blooms that hadn’t been there on the tree a few days before. We couldn’t just watch it or photograph it, we had to climb into this day.

We pulled on our rubber boots and tromped through the nature preserve that lies on the other side of our yard. We waded through the stream and listened for bullfrogs and skipped stones. We talked about a lot of “nothing,” at least what the tasker in me might have considered nothing.

My intentional conversation to reach a part of her heart that I’d been wanting to talk to her about felt one-sided.

She wasn’t ready yet.

So we flitted around what was on her mind — soccer practice and sore muscles and water snakes.

And then we came home in time for me to clean the kitchen and wake the babe and for her to run an errand with Daddy. More of the seemingly unmemorable. It wasn’t until hours later that I realized these walks with her, that I might otherwise consider white space in my day, are perhaps more significant than I’d considered.

The Best Gift You Can Give


She needs my time. Not mostly to do her laundry or cook her dinner or read her essays, but to listen to her heart patter. Water snakes and soccer practice woes and muscle aches. She needs me when I’ve slipped off my watch and I’m all hers, to listen to the heartbeat underneath all these seemingly random mind-wanderings.

She needs face-to-face time with her mama. And if I’m honest I’ll tell you, it’s the thing that makes my task list suffer, my pots and pans pile higher in the sink and my sense of productivity feel threatened (if I let it). Pouring into her heart during the in-between minutes of life that could otherwise be used towards productivity and accomplishment may seem foolish in light of my schedule and the needs knocking around in my mind, but it is a life-line to this child who is being formed.

And all the feelings that get stirred when I press pause on those things that might seem they would be a peace-bringer — a spotless kitchen and a well-tasked day and a thriving mission — are the ones He is inviting me to bring to Him, this God who let the earth breathe for a day after forming it.

Just like she needs face-to-face time with me, I need face-to-face time with Him. What I sometimes find myself withholding from her is often a reflection of how I’m approaching Him.

When I treat her like a line-item on my task list, I’m likely approaching Him in my mind with my spiritual resume subtly saying “look what I’ve done for You, God!”, as if this is what moves His heart.

When I want to fix her and change her, rather than hear her and simply be near to her, I’m likely coming to Him asking Him to fix and change me rather than seeing Him as the God who invited me to abide. Commune. To link in to Him.

When I’m frustrated by her behavior and I feel the urge to pull away, it’s likely that I’m angry with my own failings, ignorant of how kind He is when I’m terribly weak.

My time with her is a kind of mirror of my time with Him. {“Watch on” — or off.}

The Best Gift I Can Give by Sara Hagerty

Tether the Heart-Strings

I’ve taken to walking this spring, circling the path through the nature preserve. A few loops with her — and a few in the quiet, just me and the One who made those acres of nature.

She’s taken to resting her head on my shoulder. Time does that, it tethers the heart-strings. I’ve taken to seeing Him a bit more as the patient God, enjoying me when I rest my head on His chest.

Time does that, it tethers the heart-strings. Together.

Mamas, tempted to mostly task your children —

Take a step back and ask: where does this come from? And: am I approaching God in this same way?

What we do with our littles is a reflection of our interior-life in God.

“Wasted time” to our weary, task-driven souls is the very thing that ties our children’s thirsty hearts to ours — and our thirsty hearts to His.

We learn from Him:

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Mark 1:35

For Your Continued Pursuit: John 15:1-8 | Psalm 27:4-5 | Psalm 26:8 | Luke 10:38-42

Sara Hagerty

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Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet4

Sara Hagerty is the author of Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things.

“This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in a very long time. Sara Hagerty is a particularly gifted writer (she has the most lovely writing style!) and her story touches the deepest of places. I found myself stopping many times while reading and just staring off as I pondered the truth of what she had to say. Inspiring, convicting, and touching. I highly recommend this book!” ~ Lisa Jacobson

Every heart longs to be seen and understood. Yet most of our lives is unwitnessed. We spend our days working, driving, parenting. We sometimes spend whole seasons feeling unnoticed and unappreciated. In Unseen, Sara Hagerty suggests that this is exactly what God intended. He is the only One who truly knows us. He is the only One who understands the value of the unseen in our lives. When this truth seeps into our souls, we realize that only when we hide ourselves in God can we give ourselves to others in true freedom–and know the joy of a deeper relationship with the God who sees us. Sara Hagerty unfolds the truths found in the biblical story of Mary of Bethany to discover the scandalous love of God and explore the spiritual richness of being hidden in him.

Find Every Bitter Thing is Sweet on Amazon →

100 Words of Affirmation Your Son/Daughter Needs to Hear

Matt and Lisa Jacobson want you to discover the powerful ways you can build your children up in love with the beautiful words you choose to say every day–words that every son and daughter needs to hear.

These affirmation books offer you one hundred phrases to say to your son or daughter – along with short, personal stories and examples – that deeply encourage, affirm, and inspire.

So start speaking a kind and beautiful word into their lives daily and watch your children–and your relationship with them–transform before your eyes.

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