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Parenting Children Who Don’t Share Your Worldview with Mary DeMuth

What do you do when the kids you’ve raised in your faith take a different path as they move toward adulthood? Mary DeMuth has some important truths to consider as she joins AllMomDoes host Julie Lyles Carr for a poignant and important conversation about what parenting looks like when your children don’t share your Christian view.

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AllMomDoes – Episode 111

A Story of Overcoming with Mary DeMuth

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Purposely your life, God’s purpose. Listen at

Julie Lyles Carr: I’m Julie Lyles Carr. You’re listening to the AllMomDoes Podcast, part of the Purposely Podcast Network, and today we are tackling a topic that I have had so many emails. So many DMs about, and I have I think, the perfect guest to really help us walk through this particular topic that seems to be on the hearts of a lot of listeners.

I’m gonna reveal what that topic is here in just a minute, but first I want to introduce you to my guest, Mary DeMuth you are an AllMomDoes podcast alumni, you were with us back in episode 111 and hopefully we can get Rebecca to stick that link in the show notes so people can go check out that interview as well because it was fantastic.

You and I have been in writer’s world together for a long time now, and have all kinds of people in common and share a similar heartbeat. Mary, I just really appreciate you being on today. 

Mary DeMuth: It’s so great to be here and really lovely to see your face. 

Julie Lyles Carr: It’s so good to see yours, so catch me up on where you’re at in your seasons of life now and what’s going on, because you’ve been busy launching people and you’ve had some very cool trips and you’ve added some things to your career cv.

So give the listener a snapshot of where you’re at in your world and what you’re doing these days.

Mary DeMuth: Yes, sorry about my dog in the background. . 

Julie Lyles Carr: There’s always one. 

Mary DeMuth: I have a dog. Yeah. I would say that you and I were talking prior to this recording that as writers it’s really hard to make a living, and so I’ve had to add . 

And I didn’t really necessarily want to. But now I’m really happy that I did. But I am a literary agent, so I represent authors to publishers to publish their books. I’m an artist, so I have an Etsy shop where I sell scripture cards and calendars and things like that. I’m a podcaster of the Pray Every Day Show, which is getting close to 4 million downloads.

So that’s been amazing, successful. And then an author, speaker all those other things. I just finished just launched my 46th book. 

Julie Lyles Carr: Amazing. 46th book. That just blows me away. , I knew the numbers were getting up there. One of the last times we talked, you were hitting around 30 or 35 and I was already like, what?

And now. Wow. Just incredible. Mary, I’m gonna let the listener know. Now, this topic that again, as I was telling you before we got on mic, , I get asked about this all the time. It’s a really tender topic. It’s one that I think has to be handled well, and I know that you are just exactly the right person to be able to talk about that.

You have a new book that’s come out called Love, Pray, and Listen, and here’s the subtitle, Parenting Your Wayward Adult Kids. with Joy. We are in a season for a lot of us, whether we still have young kids in the home and we’re trying to raise them in faith, or we have been launching kids and there’s that moment, Mary, for all of us as parents, where you may have them at every single thing at church.

You may have them in Awana’s or you may have them at vacation Bible school, or you may have them at every youth group activity. That does not always mean that at the moment they launch, they’re going to retain those practices and stay in that lane. What inspired you to write about this topic in this huge career you’ve had with all these different books? Why this topic now? Why in this season? 

Mary DeMuth: I do have three adult children and they are working on their lives in their twenties and making all sorts of interesting decisions. So there’s my own personal story, but I think it was really the kernel of the book was launched when I was involved in a small online prayer group, and there was a particular mom who had adult kids, and this was before my kids were adults, and she was so distraught and all of her joy had left her life because she had this vision of she had homeschooled her kids. They were gonna have a compound and everyone was gonna live near each other. They all were gonna, like, all the grandkids, were gonna know each other and be cousins. And none of that came to fruition.

In fact, most of her kids walked away from the faith and she could not have joy. And I thought to myself, first of all, I don’t want that to happen to me. But that’s the first thing I thought. But the second thing, . If it does happen to me, I don’t want the enemy to have that secondary victory. If he’s attacking my adult kids, that’s one sad victory.

But if I lose my joy and I lose my ability to do the work that God has called me to do because of my lack of joy, then he gets a second victory. And so really, I wrote this to encourage parents that no matter what their children choose, and you can read this book if you have non wayward kids. It’s a whole different world of parenting in that second half of life.

And you can still have joy and energy and I believe that these are the best years of your life in terms of ministry. So I just wanted to encourage parents who are walking through that grief journey. 

Julie Lyles Carr: Mary, one of the reasons I think this is such a tender topic, I can remember back in the day when I was maybe late high school, early college, there was a man and his family who served as elders in our local church, and one of their children went into adulthood and made some interesting decisions.

And this man, because of the way he understood scripture about who could be in leadership in the church, felt that he needed to tender his resignation. As this very godly man with a ton of wisdom and a lot of heart to serve, he felt like he needed to turn his card in because there is that verse that talks about that an elder should, be an great manager of his family and that his kids are walking in truth.

This man felt like this disqualified him. I think that’s why it’s tender for a lot of us when we want to be able to discuss the challenges that we may be experiencing with our adult kids, the choices they’re making, the decisions they’re making surrounding their spiritual lives, and yet to try to do so in a ministerial way when we interpret scripture that way, that almost we could be disqualified.

Because our kids didn’t necessarily land exactly where we’d hoped, like your friend’s situation. How do you work with both wanting to be able to demonstrate, hey, I wanna be able to minister here, and we did the things that we were raising our kids in a certain way but at the same time, leave room.

Leave room at the table for people who have phenomenal wisdom and just because they didn’t get the result that maybe you are hoping for, doesn’t mean they don’t have something to offer. How do you distill all of that complexity? 

Mary DeMuth: My husband was on the elder board of our big church when we had an, a situation like that, and he had that conversation with the senior pastor and he was like, no, you stay with us.

We need you. And the point was, that once your children are adults, they are making their own decisions. You’re not raising unruly kids at that point. They have left the situation and so they have that free will to make whatever decision that they want. I also would say as I talk about this openly with people I’m seeing people be set free because it’s a real hush-hush shame topic.

 We were fed this bill of goods that if you just did everything right then your kids are gonna come out like this automatic machine , that they will come out on the other side loving Jesus immediately after they leave your nest. And that is just not true. And the encouragement I have for parents in this situation is to remember that God was the perfect parent had these two kids, Adam and Eve, he had adult children who rebelled . They were obviously adults and they rebelled. And so if the perfect parent has children who rebel, then he has empathy and there is camaraderie that we can experience with our heavenly Father because we are not alone.

And think about this like every human being in the whole human race has rebelled against God. All of his children have been rebellious at one time or another, and so we’re in good company, just to think of it that way. 

Julie Lyles Carr: Absolutely. Mary, I think it’s interesting when we have this idea about kids who are wayward.

I think for some people that can mean a certain extreme of moral behavior that a child engages in. For others that can mean they’re just not getting plugged into a local church. And yet I’m a little interested in the idea that sometimes the measure we take of how we think our kids are doing spiritually is if they found the church they’re gonna go to in adulthood, which doesn’t necessarily indicate anything about their spiritual health.

So how do you define this idea of someone who has become wayward? That’s, it’s a classic term. It’s got some Shakespearean feel to it, if you will, some King James feel to it. How do you define that term when it comes to what we’re seeing today with our kids? 

Mary DeMuth: I think it is a squishy term, so it is hard to like solidly define it.

And I think each family would define it differently. Some families would say, if my children vote differently from me, then they’re wayward. Some families would say if they go to a different denomination, they’re wayward. Some would say, if my kids are on drugs, they’re wayward. So there’s a lot of different ways.

I would say a simple explanation is walking away from the historic Christian faith. That is if you look at the parable of the prodigal son also, there’s also this element of I am leaving everything behind and I am, basically, saying, I don’t want you anymore. And so then there are those issues that parents are facing today where their kids will ghost them and may not even explain to them why.

So there’s a lot of different ways to define it. I guess for me it’s just personally for me, it’s if my kids walk away from the faith.

Julie Lyles Carr: We’re in this series of going deeper in your spiritual faith, in your spiritual life, and I knew that this was something that I wanted us to be able to discuss as part of that series.

For a lot of parents in this moment where they feel like they have a child or children who have walked away, , it can bring on a significant level of questioning. Of questioning God. Of saying, I tried to do all the right things. I took for real your admonition to talk about faith when we were walking, when we were sitting, when we were eating, doing all the things.

Why God is this happening? How do we handle that sense that maybe one of God’s promises has not come to fruition in our lives if we walk through this kind of experience with an adult child? 

Mary DeMuth: It’s very bewildering and it does feel like the foundation has been pulled out from underneath you. So I just wanna dignify people that are walking through that.

And I would say the first thing to do is to talk about it with someone that’s safe as well as, of course, pray. But to really process it out loud, I’ve found a lot of parents are hush-hush about it because they’re ashamed. But I haven’t been able to heal until I have expressed it to somebody else. And then to realize that there are some promises and guarantees from the Lord in our lives his promise is that he’ll be with us in every situation.

It doesn’t mean that friend we pray for who has cancer is gonna live another 10 years. Sometimes God answers that prayer differently. And that’s when we have to really rest on the true real promises of God. That no matter what you face, and no matter what choices your children make, you still have the presence of God to walk with you through the fire.

Julie Lyles Carr: Talk to me about the titling of this book because I know that this is your approach. This is how you suggest parents handle their relationships with their kids who are not currently walking in faith or who have a lot of deep questions or who may be making some choices that parents are really wrestling with.

And so again, this idea, of Love Pray, Listen, how did you arrive at this three prong approach and what would you say to someone who’s love, pray, listen, like I feel like we need an intervention. I guess how did you come to this particular, I’m not gonna call it a formula, but this approach?

Mary DeMuth: Yeah. Cuz I think most of us are like, cry, try to control and fix. 

Julie Lyles Carr: Alternate title. Yeah. . 

Mary DeMuth: Yeah. And honestly, that’s how I tried to parent my kids when they first left the nest, because I was so used to being a mom of high, not high control, but you, when they’re in your home, you have a modicum of you have to train them. 

You have to speak into their lives, and they have to listen to you. And so it’s much more directive. And hopefully throughout your parenting career, you have let go. And then so when they leave, it’s not so sharp. They’re like, oh. But I think the reason I came up with it is first of all, the whole book is structured around 1 Corinthians 13, which is the love chapter.

And I unpack those verses about love being patient and kind and keeping no record as of wrong and all of that. So of course we’re called to love and of course we can pray and listening is what we can do, and ultimately we cannot control those outcomes. But we always can control how we respond to our kids in love, in kindness and all those things.

And then no one can prevent us from praying to our, for our, not to our kids, , but for our kids. And when, and if we have a relationship with them, we can always be active listeners. And we have some of our kids are wayward and some are not. And so we even had an experience, I had one today where one of those kids called me up on the phone and asked advice and really just needed me to listen.

And yet we disagree on almost everything else, but the child knows that we are there for them. We are a haven. We are solid, and we are solidly behind them. 

Julie Lyles Carr: Right, and that really ushers in boy, a question I hear a lot in this arena, because that question is this, do I keep engaging with my kid when I deeply disagree with their lifestyle or the things they have chosen?

Or do I stay in relationship and by staying in relationship, am I condoning what they are doing? How did you wrestle that out and answer it for yourself? Because I know a lot of people who are choosing to abrupt the relationship with their kids, and I gotta be honest. , that worries me more because then you’re creating an even bigger gap to try to fill when it comes to being someone that your kid would seek out for counsel. So how did you guys navigate that? I know there are a lot of opinions, but I’m curious to hear how you arrived at your decision to stay there and to be behind your kid, to be the person your kid can call. 

Mary DeMuth: I guess I just go back to erring on the side of love.

But in that, I don’t mean that we can’t disagree, but I think there’s a time to do that and a time to stop. And in some of those particular situations, we reiterated our stance on something and then we shut up because they, are smart kids, they know exactly what our stance is. We reiterated it once.

We decided we weren’t gonna say it again because it’s just brow beating at that point, and that doesn’t leave space for the Holy Spirit to do his amazing work as well. So it’s okay to say the truth, obviously but to keep saying it over and over again just will mess up that relationship. And I think there’s something too about having a holy curiosity about your child, your adult child.

I think there’s, I think a lot of times, because we live in a society that is just lambasting each other online all the time, we’re not listening anymore. And we don’t have good discourse anymore. One of the things we learned in France when we lived there as missionaries was that French people just like to talk.

They like to figure stuff out, and they like to take the opposite of the argument. As an American, that freaked me out because we always have to have a winner to an argument and they were just like, no, I wanna do the other side. And that does not sound fun to me. But it actually is super interesting.

So when I ask, when I look at a difficult political issue or something like that, and we start, I start asking questions about why do you feel that way? Usually there is a kernel of something that we can agree on, like people’s lives matter. And so that is important because everybody has the image of God in them, and that’s where we can camp on in that common ground. But it takes a while to get there. 

Julie Lyles Carr: Absolutely. It makes me think about the verse, and I’m trying to remember if it’s in 1 Peter or 2 Peter. I think it’s 2 Peter 3:2, but you can tell me if I’m getting this right. , Where Peter is giving advice to women who have come into the faith, their spouses are not in the faith, and essentially what he says, and we’re gonna call this the J L C version but essentially what he says is, . Look, stop trying to convince. Stop trying to talk it all the way through. Just let them see by your life. Win them without a word, because your life is being lived with such joy and with such vitality that they see that whatever this thing is that you’re following is working in your life.

I think that precept plays into how we need to be approaching our kids as they may be making choices that we hate to see them make, which is, Mary, you’re so right. I don’t know why we cross over into this lane of, honestly, almost becoming like a verbal bully with , what we believe. Thinking that we need to say it 17 more times.

We’ve said it, they know they were raised in our home they know .Why do we feel like we have to keep lambasting it? And so this idea of truly listening to them, of letting them talk through and to not feel the need to always defend is so powerful. It really changes the context of a conversation.

How can we make sure we in watching our kids aren’t lapsing into some issues that really have more to do with our preferences and our desire for control? Because I can remember times I was raised in a background that was very specific that denomination was the denomination. . . And when my husband and I really launched more fully into our expressions of our spiritual lives with God and the places and the communities of faith where he wanted us.

There was a lot of consternation and upset in the family that they were very concerned that we were losing our faith, that we were going wayward. And the irony was, we were so engaged in finding our way to God in the way that he had for us. So how do we evaluate that within our own hearts that sometimes what we may be calling wayward really is not about a moral principle or a lifestyle practice.

It’s just more about how we understand our faith with God and we think that it should be a one size fits all experience on our kids.

Mary DeMuth: That’s a great question. And we experienced that as well when we first got married. My husband’s family is Catholic, and I remember having a conversation with his father saying, we’re in this on the same team.

This is not like us versus them or anything, but we remembered how horrible it was to be treated like that, as if we were like infidels. And so we made a determination based on that, not to treat our kids that way. And I think that’s the question that’s practical for all parents. How would you have liked to be treated in your twenties when you were exploring different parts of your faith?

How would it have been helpful for your parents to treat you and then treat your kids that way? Just the basic golden rule. And to really, I think the other thing that we mistake is that we’re, as parents, we’re so used to being directive and pointing out the wrong things in our kids. But here’s my encouragement to your audience is this week catch your adult child doing something amazing and text them or send them a note or do something and say, Hey, I love what you’re doing here.

This is powerful and amazing. And I think that you will see just a transition in your relationship when instead of being sad about the things that you don’t like to open your eyes to the good things that they are doing. 

Julie Lyles Carr: Absolutely. Mary, how do we take care of ourselves when we have done all the things left our twenties and thirties and early forties, maybe all on the floor for our kids because we had hoped for a certain outcome, particularly when it comes to their spiritual lives, and if it hasn’t happened, if we feel like we have, in a sense, unsuccessfully launched them? I have a couple friends who’ve really wrestled this.

This has been a point of such sadness for them that they feel like with all of the effort and all of the sacrifice that mothering takes, it did not lead to where they had hoped. How do we take care of ourselves? And I know we talked a little bit earlier about the perspective of God has a whole bunch of kids who’ve gone rogue on him.

But what are some things we can do to encourage ourselves in the spirit like David writes about in the Psalms, how can we do that where we’re not minimizing the responsibility and the calling that it is, to help introduce the next generation into relationship with God, but at the same time, we let ourselves off the hook a little bit?

Mary DeMuth: Yes. I think Grace abounds for any parent of a wayward kid. Absolutely. And I think one of the things that needs to happen first is to lament it, to go through some of those lament psalms and go through that exercise of telling God why you’re mad, or why you’re upset, or why didn’t you do things according to the way I wanted them?

Or why are my expectations not being met? And then the second thing, and his shoulders are big enough to handle that, obviously. And as we move through that series of grief, there comes a moment where we have to make a decision. Am I gonna let this ruin the rest of my life or am I gonna move on? And that’s where we just have to surrender afresh to Jesus and ask him for help and for , just direction and love and light and all of that.

But I just also wanna say the other thing that has really helped me is to visualize my children completely free and dancing on the other side in the new heavens and the new Earth,. And to remind people that we tend to view God in an American way, which is, if I pray this this moment, then tomorrow it better be answered according to my will.

We have to take the long view. There is one person in my life I have been praying for 40 years for, and I have just begun to see a transformation in their life after 40 years of tarrying in prayer. So I think sometimes we just want it right now. We want our kids to make all the right decisions right now.

Forgetting that when we were in our twenties, we didn’t do everything right, right now. We made a lot of mistakes and if we can give grace to ourselves in our twenties, then surely we can give grace to our kids who are just trying to figure things out on their own. 

Julie Lyles Carr: Mary, I know that part of the conversation that comes up that gets interesting.

I’ve seen some parents do okay giving some space and some room in the twenties and okay, this is hard, but alright. And then sometimes a little something happens where now it’s not just about that kid, it’s about the grandkids that come into your life through that child. As you were researching this topic, as you were digging deep, as you were praying for inspiration, what are some things that you ran across that are important for listeners to know? Because there’s something about then the next generation coming in that can be an accelerant for how this feels, because now you’re not just worried about your children, you’re worried about the generation after them. What are some words of wisdom you can give us there?

Mary DeMuth: I am not a grandma yet. , Lord willing someday. But one thing I have thought of in terms of next generation and the following generation is to keep those lines of communication open in that relationship as strong as you can, according to Romans 12, which says, as long as it depends, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

So look at your heart. Find ways to build bridges between you and your adult kid because there will be that opportunity as a grandparent to influence that next generation. You just don’t know what that’s gonna do. It could do some amazing things. Grandparents have an amazing connection with their grandkids, and that might end up being the way that your wayward kids come back to the Lord.

I’ve seen it a lot actually, where parents, they be, kids become parents and suddenly they’re like, we gotta go to church , because they realize it’s such a big deal and there’s so much to learn and so much to do, and they need that community around them. 

Julie Lyles Carr: Pew research shows that trend quite a bit, actually.

 Is that we can have a generation of people who through a certain season of their life, they’re not so sure. And again, we’re predicating some of this on making church attendance, the barometer for how things are going spiritually. We know that’s not always the best measure. However, certainly we see through a lot of the research that a lot of people do once they become parents, decide that now is the time we need to get back into some kind of faith practice.

And we can see God do a lot of amazing things in that way. And Mary at my house, our house is known as Car HQ and we’ve got four who are launched and out. We’ve got four who are still living here, so we’re still in the thick of it in a lot of ways, but I wanna hear from you how we continue to make our home a place where, wherever our kids are going, wherever their minds are at the moment, whatever they’re doing that we love or we don’t love, or whatever, how we make sure that our homes can remain this place where they want to be, while at the same time upholding the values that we have as parents about what should be happening in our homes or not.

And boy, that’s so loaded. I get it, because we’re talking about a wide range of things that parents may need to consider when it comes to the lifestyles their kids are engaged in and these kids coming home for the holidays and all that kind of stuff.

How do you recommend we approach that in terms of making our home hospitable, welcoming, a safe place, a haven for our kids, and yet at the same time, honoring the things that we think we’re supposed to live by when it comes to our relationship with God?

Mary DeMuth: Yeah, that’s where the rubber meets the road. So what if you have a child that wants to come home with a significant other and stay in a room together that, and they’re not married yet, so they’re, where we have had to say in our house, , this is not what we do. You’re welcome to come, but you’ll have to stay in a different room because we still have these values. 

I think it really does come down to communication. And if you have kids in the home that are watching maybe your child, your adult child doing drugs or doing, doing something that is just not tenable, to have that conversation prior to that child coming home. But then also I meant to say this earlier and I’m glad you brought it up, just it because we’re love praying and listening to our adult kids doesn’t mean that we don’t enact good boundaries. Just like the woman in the Peter passage, who’s gonna win over her husband without a word, some husbands are abusive and they are not gonna be one without a word.

And they need boundaries because she’s in danger. And so I’ve talked with parents who have drug addicted, in particular kids who are stealing from them and they have to do like legal boundaries to protect their family from a bad agent. And so I’m not saying that you just tolerate everything. In fact, love is both truth and grace.

If you have too much truth, you have legalism. If you have too much grace, you have license. And somewhere down the middle is the way that we walk. 

Julie Lyles Carr: I think that’s beautiful and again, to prayerfully be considering where to decide those lines are going to be how to communicate it well. And in all of this, Mary, I just continue to feel like, man, parenting is all about having to be the grownup in the situation.

And once again, , even with your grownup kids, you still have the responsibility to be the grownup to be willing to communicate in ways that are kind, that are calm, that are welcoming, but at the same time uphold just as you would with any other guest in your home the same kind of things that are emblematic of the of the way you conduct your life, the way you live out your faith before God.

Mary, thank you so much for being willing to tackle this. I know it’s a tough topic, it’s a tender one for so many people. And where can listeners go to find out more about your work, the different things you’re doing? In addition, again, we’ll have Rebecca put that show episode link for 111 when you were here before with us, so that listeners can find you there as well. But where can people interact with you?

Mary DeMuth: They can find or the hash or the handle at Mary Demuth. And then I do have a free gift for your listeners. They can go to, which stands for Love Pray Listen, and I have 52 prayers that have blanks in them that they can pray over their children every week.

And it’s not for just wayward kids, it’s for kids who are five years old, 10 years old, 15 years old, 52 prayers for your audience. 

Julie Lyles Carr: Oh, that sounds amazing. I’m gonna go check that out. That is awesome. Mary, as always, so good to see you, friend. So proud of all that you’re doing and your continued creativity and ministry.

It’s just incredible. And as always, the thing you bring to the table over and over, your amazing vulnerability, transparency, how real you are. Thank you so much for all you do. To encourage women and parents and moms today just love you friend. Thank you so much. 

Mary DeMuth: Thank you.

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