Don’t Give Up!

Tomorrow our second-born son celebrates his 26th birthday!

He is the son who made me wonder if I wanted to be a mother anymore. 🙂

He is the son who was toasted at his wedding by one of the men in our church, who smiled as he said that years earlier he would have voted Joseph, of any of the little boys in church, most likely to end up in prison! I think he was joking – kind of.

Joseph was a sweetheart — when he wanted to be. He was (and still is) compassionate, playful, creative, bright, curious, friendly, and full of energy. But rather than submit to Daddy and Mommy, he often decided that doing what he wanted was worth the consequences. He spent a good portion of every day in the sewing room, the room where “instruction in righteousness” took place. 

Joseph was the child who passed out in the middle of tantrums. Read through the offenses listed on our “If Then Chart” and think, “Joseph.” 🙂  He grins now when he tells people that he was the one who inspired us to create that chart. It’s true. He is the one who drove us to our knees. After almost three years with his easy-going, compliant firstborn brother, we were suddenly faced with the fact that we didn’t know what we were doing after all. That was good.

God has a reason for putting strong-willed children into families. They’re not mistakes. They’re gifts, given by a God who loves us and desires for us to lean totally on Him. He used our little handful of untamed masculinity to mold and shape us.

  • I started to pray and lean on God like I never had before.
  • I dug into the Word, for my own strength and survival, and also in search of answers to the “What do I do now?” questions that came up almost daily – or maybe hourly – while raising Joseph.
  • I learned to persevere, and continued to discipline him, no matter how futile it seemed, because I loved him and I loved God.
  • I became at least a little less proud when I had to ask again and again for forgiveness after sinning in my own impatience and anger.
  • I was motivated to change when the Holy Spirit pointed out my own stubbornness and self-reliance reflected in Joseph’s attitudes and actions.

Over the years, God helped me to see glimpses of the blessing in his stubbornness, and to welcome the tremendous strength that stubbornness can be when brought into submission to Him. That determined spirit, when submitted to God, can grow into a strong and committed follower of Christ who who will not be easily swayed.

Little by little I changed, and so did Joseph. God worked in his heart, softening it and irresistibly drawing him to Himself. His energy, curiosity, tenderness, sense of justice, and musical talents joined hands with his determined spirit to passionately worship and serve the Lord he had grown to love.

Now he’s a man — a strong and godly man who loves God’s Word and knows what he believes. He is committed to Christ, committed to the Church, and committed to his growing family. I am so proud to call him my son.

Those of you who are blessed with strong-willed children — give thanks!  God is the one who created those children. He is one who will bring that will into submission to His. He will use you and your faithfulness, but He is the one who changes hearts.  Pray for your child. Pray for wisdom and strength to guide him into the path God has for him. Pray for patience and trust God. He created that child with a special plan in mind, and He will bring it to pass.

Happy Birthday, Joseph. I am so glad you were born! I thank God for the privilege of being your mama. I thank Him (and you) for the forgiveness that has been granted over and over to this imperfect mother. I thank Him for working His work of grace in your heart in spite of our many mistakes. And I thank Him for the countless ways He has blessed and taught me through your life! May you continue to persevere for His glory! (And I’ll be praying for you and Hannah as you start to raise your own little handful of masculinity soon. 😉 )


(Last photo taken by His and Her Photography)

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  1. Just the words I needed to hear today. Thank you!

    Your products have been a blessing to my heart and my family for years, and I’m delighted to continue to use them to help me disciple our children. God bless you over and over for your faithfulness. To God be the glory!

  2. This is such a blessing to me. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Thank you! I needed this. 🙂
    My ‘Joseph’ is named Zachariah, and he has more strength of will and curiosity than his older 3 brothers combined! Zach was a gift to us after 2 second trimester losses in 1 year. We felt so very, VERY blessed to carry him 9months, and see him born healthy and strong. I keep reminding myself (and hubby too) that one day, with God’s grace, we’ll get all of these strong traits working in the right direction….But the day to day is exausting and this was much needed encouragement today. Thanks! 🙂

  4. I have a Joseph too, his name is Erik Charles. It means Strong Ever Powerful and Manly. What was I thinking!! he drives me to tears daily. I remind myself that his placement in our family was designed by God. I have been told that he will be in the news some day, just not sure if it will be for Gods Glory or for something else! Seriously. Thank you for the encouragement.

  5. I remind myself on a daily basis that my strong willed 4 year old was created in the imagine of Christ and that he IS a blessing! It’s so good to hear and share these stories so us moms (& dads) know we aren’t alone!

  6. It was so so encouraging to read this! My son, who is seven, has to have the “If-Then” chart memorized by now!! He has to read and copy from it almost daily (and some days, numerous times). Really, this is just what I needed to read today. Thank you very much, Kim

  7. I am crying as I finish reading this because my 9yr old strong willed son has been at his worst today. That often triggers the worst in me. i definitely needed to hear this today. Thanks so much for a great post! I am definitely glad God has blessed me with my strong willed son and I do often remind myself that God will use that mightily for Him someday!

  8. Thank you, I have a second born who is a little “Joseph”.

  9. Ours is Gabriel- strong man of God, it gives me hope that he will grow into his name, he has the strong part down now in his will, we just have to try and direct that will into God’s. Sometimes that seems like an overwhelming task.

  10. Thank you, Pam – this blessed me immensely today. I have been praying daily that God would give me encouragement and provide me with wisdom and strength and it came in the form of this post today. So thankful for my own little “Joseph”! Jackson brings so much joy and so much instruction from God on my attitudes and behavior. I pray he will grow up to be a wise, godly, and strong man like your son is. Blessings to you!

  11. I can see that I am not the only one who has a “Joseph.” My Nate is our second-born son and you described him to the “t”! He is nearly 8, and truly a joy to our hearts. He dreams of becoming a pastor one day, and I know that if we can keep steering him in that direction that he will be successful (and full of real-life examples from his own childhood on what NOT to do! LOL!)

  12. Always feels good to know that you aren’t the only one in this battle. My son is a huge gift from God after first having two miscarriages, and I pray that God will use his strong-willed personality for his glory. I really love the part where you said “That determined spirit, when submitted to God, can grow into a strong and committed follower of Christ who who will not be easily swayed” This makes me excited about his stubborness. I am trying hard to make changes in my own strong-willed personality. What is nice about those talks where you say ‘mommy shouldn’t have reacted that way and yelled…’ is that they remember well when you mess up, so make sure you use it for the glory of our creator, teaching them who seem to have similar traits how to deal with it. Thank you so much.

  13. I should add one more comment from our experience. I remember being terrified about what the teen years were going to be like, if Joseph was already as difficult as he was as a little guy. “If it’s this bad now, what will it be like then?!!!”

    Well, he surprised us by actually starting to settle down when he reached puberty! What a surprise! And a good reminder that it doesn’t do a bit of good to worry, and that God knows what He is doing, and we don’t.

  14. Lucy is my strong willed one (though I’m guessing Stephen will have her beat! Scary!). But already I love her so much! She has so much to give the world. I know that someday she will be one dangerous woman. I just pray she is dangerous to the gates of hell and not to the saints of the Kingdom!

    Thank you for this encouraging post.

  15. I have the blessing of having two of these strong willed children. My first born daughter, Kayleen, whom I have reared to nearly 20.. and she is a blessing and a stronger, more convicted young Christian than I was at her age and our youngest of the four, Micah, who is currently four. I just had to hit my knees and pray to have the strength of will and patience to read a few books and tuck him in with a snuggle. It has been a battle, but I know that redirect and redirect I must. I have to say, he can be such a gentle, tender young guy, while still showing us his strong willed stubborn personality as well (I like that Untamed masculinity comment). His eldest sister often complains of his behaviors only to be reminded by me of the time she did the same or similar thing). Unfortunately, I am a much older mother now… I mean more experienced, of course, but also.. I am more tired and less able to chase him down. ( good thing there are siblings to do some of that chasing!) Thanks for the timely reminder and smile ( through my tears) that you blessed me with this evening. And thanks be to God for that extra 20 minutes of grace He provided me tonight.

  16. Thank you for this post. It was extremely encouraging as I raise my VERY strong-willed child….Joshua David (Joshua – “Jehovah is Salvation” and David – “Beloved”)….With those meanings behind his name, I just KNOW God has something very special in mind for him 🙂

  17. What a great post of encouragement. What a great picture.

  18. So encouraging. Thank you.

  19. This brought me to tears. It gives me such a hope. I already see God drawing my sweet Eli’s heart and the battle that has been there from the beginning. Thank you for the encouragement to pray. Eli is 9yo now and I feel like we are running out of time, but God knows him and loves him even more than we do. Thank you for being so honest. Just…thank you.

  20. This is so encouraging. I was ‘that’ child for my parents, but oh how different it is when you are the parent to ‘that’ child. My second son is the exact same way. I’ve rejoiced at seeing God get ahold of his heart this last year and the changes we’ve seen in his life. I know that his strong will and conviction, once focused on God and used by God will accomplish great things for His kingdom.

    Thankyou for the encouragement to press on and continue to persevere in training him and praying for him.

  21. Thank you so much for the post. Johanna told me about it after I told a brief story about my son. You son sounds a lot like mine. He’s also my second son and currently 2 and a little terror. Thanks so much for the inspiration! It’s nice to know there is light at the end of the tunnel.

  22. Thank you so much for posting this.I am so encouraged and full of hope.

  23. Thank you so much for this wonderful encouragement.
    As a mother of 10, soon to be 11, children I am finding that each and every one of my children all have differing personalities. Some are more compliant than others…. some hearts are more tender than others…. and I do have one especially that is…….
    I appreciate what you have written here….. thank you again.

    May God bless you,
    Janet….. mamachildress

  24. Thank you so very much for the encouragement! It gives me hope and strenght to perservere with my own strong willed child. I will print out this article and read it over and over again next time I am back down on my knees praying for insight on how to parent my daughter

  25. Thank you for sharing this! I can already feel it helping me change my thinking with my “joseph”! His name is Ty and he is 6. He had a rough start in life and still has a couple concerns we are working on. As the “middle” child, I think he often feels “lost through the cracks” especially since our third child has also had a rough start and we have been in and out of the hospital for surgeries during the last 3 years. We try to spend extra time with each of the two older ones, we just wonder sometimes if it’s really enough or effective. Thank you again for sharing your story! It gives me great hope!!

  26. I really needed this today! Thank You for the encouragement!!!

  27. My guy is Peter William – Rock, Strong Conqueror. Oh how he fits his name. Thanks for your encouragement. You can still see that determination in your son’s face as an adult!