How can a jar of 936 pennies transform our parenting? What can it teach us about making family time richer, not busier? When we practice “counting time,” as David penned in Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” God begins to bring new life to our home and family.
Bible Gateway interviewed Eryn Lynum (@ErynLynum) about her book, 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting (Bethany House, 2018).
Share the story behind 936 Pennies.
Eryn Lynum: When our son was a year and a half old, we were dedicating him to the Lord at our church. We stood on a stage before God and our church family, vowing to, by God’s grace, raise him to know and follow the Lord. At the end of the ceremony, our pastor turned to us and handed us a jar full of pennies. “Each penny in this jar represents one week that you have with your son between birth and 18,” he explained. With those words, as you can imagine, that jar felt a whole lot heavier in my hands. He challenged us to go home and begin removing one penny every week, as a reminder that time is not limitless. As David wrote in Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
This jar was a very poignant reminder of the number of our days. It was so powerful, in fact, that we couldn’t do it, not at first. The most difficult part for us was that our son, Ellis, was already over a year old. Our first task was to take out 72 pennies. I tried to ignore that jar. Yet even when we put it out of mind, time does not stop ticking. A couple of weeks later I had an idea that began to shift perspective. I rummaged through my canning equipment and found a second jar. That second jar now stands next to the first one on our mantle. Every week, when we remove a penny from the first jar, we place it into the second jar. Now we’re not overwhelmed by time gone or wasted, instead we look at that second jar building up. It’s a constant reminder that we’re building into this child’s story, legacy, and eternity. We now have a set of two jars for each of our four children.
You say that the jars are not only about your children, but also you and your husband. What do you mean?
Eryn Lynum: One particularly hard day of parenting, I was walking by the jars when I stopped to look at them and it hit me: those pennies represent not only 936 weeks of our kids’ lives, but also my husband and my life and marriage. God wants to use this time of parenting to chisel and refine us. As we read in Proverbs 25:4, “Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel.” Each week as we move over a penny, it leads us to ask the hard questions like:
- What might I need to ask my child forgiveness for from this past week?
- What opportunities to connect did I let pass by?
- Did I show my child the love of Jesus this week?
- Are my husband and I on the same page in our parenting?
- What heart change might I need to ask God to do in me this coming week?
What are some practical ways to become a more intentional parent that you expound upon in the book?
Eryn Lynum: I wanted to challenge the tensions and temptations that parents today, including my husband and me, face in taking hold of our days and using them for good. Our own stories developed into chapters that equip and encourage parents in areas like:
- Spending time outdoors as a family, and coming to know the Creator through his creation
- Inviting laughter into the home
- Carving margin in our schedules for blank space, which is then filled by memory-making adventures
- Fighting the fears of “what if….,” so that we can walk forward confidently into each day God gives us
- Creating a Peace Plan as a parent, which then changes the culture of our home
- Buying back time by replacing screens and devices with stirring spoons, good books, hiking sticks, and the hands of those we love
- Speaking words of life over our children, which gifts them with truth and confidence that far outlasts our 936 weeks.
Readers can download the free Words of Life pack with encouraging prints to help you speak words of life in your home.
What was one of the biggest ways that God impacted your own family through writing this book?
Eryn Lynum: While I was doing research for a section called “Buying Back Time,” I was shocked to discover that the average child, from birth to 18, spends 205 of their 936 weeks with a screen or device. Twenty-two percent of our kids’ childhoods are being sacrificed to media.
Of course, as a parent of four children, I knew that the last thing we need is more guilt on the topic of screen time. So, I took a different approach. I aimed to encourage parents to focus not on the difficulty, or what’s being lost, when we begin limiting screen time, but rather to focus on what’s gained. And oh my, speaking from experience in our own home, the gains are well worth the hard work when we begin to set new screen time boundaries. For me it all came back to what the apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16)
What about a parent who has already spent most of their pennies?
Eryn Lynum: My aim in writing a book about time was to write a timeless book. I’ve heard from so many parents of older children that this concept is vitally important no matter where a parent is in their journey. This idea of time stewardship applies to every area of our lives. The truth is that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. What we have for certain is today. In the book I share, “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.”
You write about the “Shattered Jar;” tell about that.
Eryn Lynum: As I mentioned earlier, today is all we have for certain. This section of 936 Pennies addresses that truth, and it was the hardest part of the book for me to write. The stories in this section are born from the heartache of parents who’ve said goodbye to children too soon, including my own family’s story of loss. We’re never guaranteed 936 weeks. In this section I share our own grief, and the truth that every story matters, no matter how short or long it is.
This truth, and the jars themselves, are never meant to evoke guilt or fear; they’re meant to show us the power of today. Again, I’m reminded of Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” The penny that we have this week reminds us to hug long, love big, speak words of life, put the phone down, take a family walk, and make today matter for eternity.
What is your favorite verse for parenting?
Eryn Lynum: My favorite verse for parenting actually does not mention parenting at all, but I believe it has everything to do with our life as a mom or dad. It’s 2 Peter 1:3, which reads, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”
I love this promise because it tells us that God gives us everything we need for life and godliness; parenting not excluded. Wherever we are, however weak, depleted, and incapable we may feel, he meets us here and gives us everything we need.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Eryn Lynum: Without Bible Gateway, I think writing this book would’ve taken a lot longer! I’m so appreciative of the tools that allowed me to deepen my own personal study, and check the context of the Scriptures I use throughout the book. Recently I’ve been using Bible Gateway nearly every day as I prepare for speaking engagements. I’ve been sharing online, and on stages, about the lies that moms believe, and the truths from God’s Word that uproots those falsehoods. Bible Gateway has equipped me to share more relevant Scriptures with parents.
Bio: Eryn Lynum is author of the book 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting. She has been featured on Family Life Today, Focus on the Family (airdate 2019), Proverbs 31 Ministries, MOPS International, as well as podcasts and radio shows across the world. She brings a message of intentional parenting, time stewardship, and peace for moms to events across the nation.
Eryn lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and four children, where they spend their time hiking, camping, and exploring the Rocky Mountains. Every opportunity she gets, she is out exploring God’s creation with her family, and sharing the journey at www.936Pennies.com.
Study the Bible with confidence and convenience by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Try it right now!