I have discovered the most amazing book for new parents. I love it so much that every expectant couple I know will probably get this book and its accompanying gift from here on out. It is that phenomenal.
Eryn Lynum, blogger, inspirational speaker, and author of 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting, had me crying ugly tears by the end of her first chapter. As a grandparent, I was overwhelmed by the truth and love Lynum conveys through her writing.
Within the pages of 936 Pennies, Lynum captures the struggles, anxieties, worries, regrets, sacrifices, and burdens that come with the job of raising children in the hectic, egocentric, crazy world in which we live. Then, almost unbelievably, she turns around and corrals all those heart-wrenching emotions into the sublime joy of parenting intentionally – with the help of a simple jar of pennies.
For Lynum, it started the day her second son was dedicated to the Lord during their church’s Child Dedication Sunday. She recalls the entire experience as harrowing, far from the super spiritual day she had envisioned. Lynum, pregnant with their third son at the time, recalls standing on the church stage with her husband, their oldest son, and their wiggling, screaming toddler Ellison, literally praying for the ceremony to end.
Lynum was not prepared for that day or the gift that accompanied it.
After her pastor lovingly encouraged the families lined up beside him, he presented each family with a simple jar filled with 936 pennies – one for each week of their newly dedicated child’s life, from birth to 18 years of age. The pastor charged each family to go home and remove one penny for each week their child had already lived. Then, as he instructed the families to recognize the responsibility of raising godly sons and daughters, he cautioned them to use their pennies and their allotted time wisely.
For weeks, Lynum avoided the weight of removing 76 pennies from her son Ellison’s jar. Transferring that many pennies to another jar weighed heavy on her heart. Had she used that time with Ellison wisely? Had she done all she should to nurture and guide him in the ways of God? Had she simply completed all the menial, tiring jobs it takes to raise a child, without enough regard for the soul of that child or without real regard for the short time she had been given with him?
Finally, she realized that avoiding the jar could not make time stand still. So, she rambled around in her kitchen cabinets until she found another mason jar to place beside the first. And she began to count.
It was a pivotal moment in parenting for Lynum. God began to show her that every moment with Ellison had been used for the creation of something beautiful. She also realized that this new jar “represented the investment of a lifetime – truly, the investment of an eternity.”
She decided to invest that time in teaching Ellison and her other two sons exactly who Jesus is. She vowed to invest each and every penny, every week of their lives, as wisely as possible. And from that moment on, Lynum was determined to parent intentionally, with eternity in mind.
So … I was absolutely hooked by this point in 936 Pennies. I began to read each of Lynum’s 10 chapters eagerly, for each chapter addresses some aspect of the allotted time parents are given with their children. Whether it is amplifying parenting time through intentional pursuits, navigating time by searching for godly answers to problems, or buying time back by getting rid of devices or situations that consume our time unwisely, Lynum pulls no punches. She is realistic; she is relevant, and she is ready to help others learn to intentionally parent by God’s design, even if it means exposing her own parenting flaws and failures.
At the end of her book, I cried again, for Lynum closes 936 Pennies with the reminder that all too soon every parent will be left with an empty jar. Therefore, she encourages parents to love large and make time count.
And as a parent of two grown sons, I have to concur. Life moves so swiftly, and it seems like only yesterday that I was carrying a long-legged toddler on one hip, while constantly chasing after a wild and precocious kindergartner. Most days, my house was a disaster, and I was absolutely exhausted by the time I flopped down in bed each night.
But here’s the funniest thing of all: My kids never reminisce about the dirty house or the myriad of things I worried about back then. My boys love to talk about the forts we made on rainy days, the silly games we played, the playdoh we cooked, the crazy free-day trips we took, the picnics we held both inside and out, and the dozens and dozens of their long-gone friends that I towed along with us for our adventures.
And believe me, it’s not that my sons don’t remember my inadequacies or my shortcomings; to them, those parenting failures just don’t matter in the scheme of things. All that matters to my boys 25 years later is the love and time my husband and I invested in them.
So, like Lynum, I can say from experience (since my own sons are now all grown up) that all those memories, those childhood moments packed with the love of their parents and their Savior, all those times spent together are priceless. And those symbolic 936 pennies represent the greatest treasures of my life as a mom.
936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting can be purchased online and at retail bookstores. (Mason jars and pennies are not included, but they do make a great gift to accompany the book when presenting to new or expectant parents.)