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Eryn Lynum, author of 936 Pennies to Spend

Intentional Parenting: An interview with the author of “936 Pennies”

Eryn Lynum, who is ready to welcome her fourth child into the world, knows that our time of influencing our kids is short. But God has given her a vision on how we parents can use our time wisely. Her book, 936 Pennies (Bethany House Publishers), will be released to bookstores and Amazon in February 2018. Metro Voice had the opportunity to interview the author and find the story behind her passion for the topic.

By Jeanette Gardner Littleton

Tell us about the premise of your book and how it came to be.

The Lord used a simple gift, a mason jar with 936 pennies, to change how my husband and I viewed parenthood. We received the jar at our second son’s child dedication service, along with this challenge from our pastor: “Every week, when you get home from church, remove one penny from the jar. And it will remind you of the time you have left to raise your child before he goes out on their own.” Our son was already one and a half years old, so we had to begin by removing 76 pennies. The task was heavy on my heart. I set up a second jar, into which we now deposit our penny every week. This way, as we see the pennies in one jar going down, we see them building up into the second jar, which reminds us that we are not losing this time, rather we are investing it. Every week this practice causes us to stop and ask ourselves: How are we investing this time?

What do you want parents to learn from reading your book?

In 936 Pennies I share many of our own stories from parenting, along with the hard lessons that God has been teaching us about the time we have with our kids. I pray that through this book He will align readers’ hearts with Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I pray that He helps parents to move beyond the nagging guilt, haunting fears, and overwhelming pressures of parenthood and into His freedom and joy. I want parents to gain a new perspective on the time we have been given. I hope that parents can walk away not only with tangible ideas of how they can invest well in their 936 weeks, but also with a newfound understanding of God’s grace and help in their parenting journey.

What words of advice do you have for parents who have already used up, say 800 of the 936 pennies in their child’s life?

In the book I share this: “If your jars are half spent, or even empty, and you’re lamenting the opportunities you never took, the pennies lost among the couch cushions, or the hurt that has left tarnish on those coins—there is hope . . . Time is fleeting. Tomorrow is never promised. And legacies are made today. And that is exactly what we do have: today.” These 936 pennies are never meant to evoke guilt, but rather to direct our hearts toward our need for God. When guilt and shame and regret creeps in, we can recall how He has stepped in along the way, and focus on the promises that He has made to us. I would encourage these parents to focus not on pennies already spent, but on what they can do with their penny this week.

You and your husband have built lifestyles with flexibility to invest in your kids. What words do you have for homes where both parents have jobs out of the home and time is scarce?

One lesson God has taught me along this journey is that sometimes the actions or words that seem so small to us, are very significant to our children. Last week I was feeling bad about how our busy schedule and my fatigue was stealing time away from my son. I stared into my six-year-old’s eyes and told him, “Hey Buddy, I’m sorry that I haven’t been doing a whole lot of things with you lately.” He smiled and replied, “But there is one thing you have been doing with me a lot Mom, and that is…hugs!” With that he threw his arms around me. It was a sweet reminder of how simple acts of affection can go a very long way. In 936 Pennies I dedicated a section of the book to lessons God is teaching me on the power of our words. Even when time is scarce, energy is waning, and intentional plans go awry, we can still speak a kind word to our child, and those words spoken regularly can be life changing.

What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned since you’ve focused on this?

Writing about parenthood is terrifying. It has forced me to come face to face with some of my deepest fears, greatest insecurities, and biggest uncertainties and questions. Through that process, God has graciously brought me into a new and deeper understanding of His grace. Now when guilt taunts me that I’m not spending enough time with my kids, or shame sneaks up on me at bedtime, reminding me of my mistakes from the day, I find such peace in turning toward the Lord and remembering that His grace is big enough for my parenthood. He is always a penny ahead—He sees the whole picture, and He has called each of us to our children for specific reasons. His plan and story for us and our children is beautiful.

What would you say to the parent who isn’t finding instant reward from following the advice you present in your book?

Take a step back and focus on the grace and peace of God. Don’t become overwhelmed by everything you “need to do” in order to invest time well. In 936 Pennies I share a practice I have been doing for a couple of years now called a “Peace Plan.” It is based on Proverbs 12:20 which tells us, “Those who plan peace have joy.” Every month I take time to write specific habits, circumstances, or practices in my life that steal my peace. And then I pray over and write out specific things I can do that month to uproot those “Peace Thieves.” Peace does not come on a whim or a wish. Rather, we need to make a strategic plan for it. And when we do this, God shows up. He wants us to come to peace with our current season of parenthood and embrace the fulfilling life that He has for us.

People make a lot of resolutions and fresh starts this time of year. What kind of resolution do you recommend regarding parenting?

I believe one of the most transformative things we can do in our parenting is to focus in on our own hearts. When we address the attitudes of our hearts, our attitudes toward our children change. Instead of vowing to be more patient or to take our kids on more elaborate trips this year, why not focus on writing a Peace Plan each month or praying with your each night, or reading them a short devotion from God’s Word each day? I truly believe these small, intentional shifts in thinking, and acts that we can do every single day, help us to slow down these 936 weeks, and invest them in more intentional ways.

Learn more about at Eryn’s blog, www.ErynLynum.com.

–Jeanette Gardner Littleton is co-director of Heart of America Christian Writers Network, based in Kansas City. Eryn connected with her publisher, Bethany House, at HACWN’s annual conference.