FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Surrendering to God’s Plan For My Kids

with Dave and Ann Wilson | April 5, 2021
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As parents, we often think about the future and what expectations and dreams we have for our children. But how do we balance our desires for their good with surrendering their lives to the One who created them? Dave and Ann Wilson give insight on having plans for our kids, while understanding God has a bigger one.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

As parents, we often think about the future and what expectations and dreams we have for our children. Dave and Ann Wilson give insight on having plans for our kids, while understanding God has a bigger one.

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Surrendering to God’s Plan For My Kids

With Dave and Ann Wilson
April 05, 2021
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Bob: Dave and Ann Wilsonremember becoming parents for the first time. Their parenting journey got off to an unexpected and challenging start.

Ann: Finally, the doctor came and he said, “This was a really traumatic birth; it was really fast. We’re afraid your baby has a skull fracture.” I’m in that room all by myself and I said, “God, what’s happening right now? Where are You? This isn’t what we hoped it would look like. This isn’t what we expected.” In that time, I felt like God was asking me: “Can you surrender this child to Me?” That’s a hard thing to do.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, April 5th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at A big part of parenting is recognizing that your kids don’t belong to you; they belong to God. So the right first step is to surrender your kids to God. We’ll talk more about that today with Dave and Ann Wilson. Stay with us.


Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’ve had people, over the years, who have told me they think it’s really smart, if you’re going to write a book on parenting, wait until your kids are grown.

Dave: —are 50 years old. [Laughter]

Bob: That’s what I’m thinking. I’m thinking, “My kids are grown; they’re all married. I’m still not sure I’m ready to write that book on parenting.”

Ann: Me neither.

Bob: But you just did!

Ann: We did; what are we thinking?![Laughter]

Dave: Well, our oldest is 34. We figured, “Okay, that’s long enough.”

Bob: You guys have just finished a book called No Perfect Parents.


Dave: That was mostly about Ann. I was sort of the perfect parent. [Laughter] But I was married to an imperfect one. [Laughter]

Bob: You—

Ann: I’ll say, “Amen,” to that.

Bob: —you really, looking back on your parenting years, lots of lessons learned that you’re just thinking, “I wish somebody had told us these things when we were starting the journey”; right?

Ann: Yes, and I think that I’m not sure that I could have heard it and put it into action. But I do wish that I would have had a mentor. I think I had that, time to time; but I needed somebody continually to be pouring into me.

Bob: I was a camp counsellor for six summers.

Ann: Oh, so you’re an expert.

Bob: That’s what I thought; I thought, “I could be a parent. I was a camp counsellor for six summers. I mean, what else is there other than—

Ann: That’s harder than—

Bob: —“you take these kids down to the creek. [Laughter] You play around for about an hour. Then you take them back to the camp, and then it’s nap time. I mean, I’ve done this! It’s simple.”

I really do think I went into parenting with the idea that that’s what you do: “You just show your kids a good time, and you have fun.” I don’t think I had much of a vision for what I was supposed to be, as a dad, or what parenting was supposed to look like, other than: “Keep them safe and get them to 21, and make sure they’re in decent shape when you get them there.”

Ann: That’s not as bad as my goal. I was like, “My kids are going to be happy, and popular, and athletic”; because that’s what my parents were like, growing up.

Dave: That’s Ann’s perspective. I was scared to death, because I don’t remember ever being around my dad; so I really didn’t know what parenting looked like. My mom was great and loved me; but when we brought our first son home, I was really scared. I was like: “I need this book. Where’s that book?” “I need something.

Bob: You need somebody.

Dave: “I need something.”

Bob: One of the things you guys talk about/you really start this book with a look at the expectations we bring into parenting. But take us back; you’d been married how long before you found out you were pregnant?

Ann: —five-and-a-half years. We were planning everything. We were on staff with Cru®. We had finished seminary. We had been married long enough; so we’re thinking, “Okay;—

Dave: — “we’re ready.”

Ann: “—it’s about time.”

Dave: We thought we were ready.

Bob: You had kind of held off for a little while: “We’re going to have some years together; get these things out of the way before we have kids.”

Ann: Yes, I’m kind of an achiever; so I’m thinking, “Okay, I’m pregnant. I’m going to make sure I do all the right things.” My first thought was, “Well, what should I do?—I should learn from other women.” I got myself into this small group. We were still in seminary, and I was newly pregnant. I thought, “I’m going to go to this Bible study for moms, and I will learn from these moms what it’s like.”

I remember this morning because I was nervous. I’d never been to a mom’s Bible study. I dressed in this really cute outfit, because I wanted to impress them. I wasn’t really showing yet; and I thought, “Oh, I wish I was showing.”

I walk into the door of this Bible study. It was like World War II had gone off in the room [Laughter]: there were diapers, and swings, and bassinets, and screaming/like screaming and crying. I look over, and this young mom; I’m thinking, “What is she wearing? It looks like she just got this shirt from the bottom of the laundry basket”—[Laughter]—“that’s been there for like three months.” Not kidding; she smells because she has spit up; it’s rolling down her shoulder. The other thing I thought, “Oh my goodness, she has a Cheerio® stuck in her hair”; [Laughter] but she seemed so happy—and all the moms—I’m like, “Do they not see the chaos that’s going on?”

I did learn; but I had that prideful-ness, thinking, “This will never happen to me.” And all of it happened to me; I was every one of those women in that room.

Bob: Were you ready to be a dad? I don’t mean ready, like prepared; I mean, were you: “Okay, this is the time; and this is what I want, so let’s have kids”?

Dave: Yes, I was very excited. I mean, it wasn’t like I got married and, day one, I was like, “I can’t wait to have kids.” But by years, five and six, it was like, “We want this; we get a chance to leave a legacy.” Yes, we were super excited. We had prayed for years, and then we got pregnant. I mean, we couldn’t wait.

Bob: Was your pregnancy glorious, or challenging, or what were the nine months with CJ like?

Ann: Not bad. Back then, too, I was really into fitness; so I’m like, “Oh, I will be strong and fit.” It’s so funny all the things that were so important to me—now, that I look back and think, “Really, did that matter that much?”—but that’s who I was at the time.

He was born three weeks early, and that did surprise us.

Bob: Tell me about when you went into labor.

Ann: [Laughter] Maybe Dave should share this part; because he was, obviously, sleeping hard when, at 37 weeks, I’m trying to wake him up. I told him, “Dave! My water broke. We’re having this baby today/tonight.”

Dave: Yes, I mean it was/Bob, it was a crazy night. Obviously, we knew that we were going to have a baby in the next month. We did not know that CJ was going to come early. I’m the Detroit Lions chaplain, my first year; wasn’t that our first year?—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —at the end of our first season.

Ann: You were only 28.

Dave: Yes, I was 28 years old. Again, I don’t have a lot of dreams. I’m in dreamland; I can remember—it’s vivid—it’s Monday Night Football

Bob: Right.

Dave: —in the Silverdome.

Bob: —in your dream.

Dave: Yes4, and the Lions are playing the Bears. I don’t know if you remember history, but the Bears had just won the Super Bowl the year before with Jim McMahon and the Super Bowl shuffle.

Bob: Right.

Dave: We’re playing them on Monday night. We have two quarterbacks on our roster, Chuck Long and Joe Ferguson. I’m on the sideline, like I always am as a chaplain; and it’s 80,000/85,000 people there. It’s Monday Night Football; it’s everything you can imagine. Somewhere, in the first or second quarter, our starting quarterback gets a concussion; and they take him to the locker room. Joe Ferguson goes in. Next play—

Ann: He never has this kind of detailed dream.

Dave: Yes, I never have dreams like this; but this is/I can still see it. Joe gets sacked and hurt—

Bob: —on the next play.

Dave: They take him off, literally. I remember Darryl Rogers, our head coach—I could see it in my dream—he’s like looking up and down the sideline. We don’t have a third-string quarterback on our roster. All of a sudden, I hear, “Wilson, get in there; suit up!” I’m like, “What?” “You’re going in; you’re our third-string quarterback.” Literally, they called TV time out—this is all in the dream—I get in a uniform, somehow, in the locker room; come running out.

It’s third and ten because we’ve had no completions. I remember I can see, walking from the huddle, I’m getting under the center; I’m, “Blue 15, Blue, Hut-Hut!” We have a bomb called the Jeff Chadwick, our outside receiver. I drop back, and I can see him; he’s behind a guy. I step up, and actually Richard Dense coming in—he was All Pro—and I make him miss. [Laughter] I step over and, in slow-mo, I just let this baby go. I mean, I can see the ball spinning—

Bob: Yes.

Dave: —perfect tight spiral. That’s how you know it’s a dream. [Laughter] I can see this ball going up, and you can see 85,000 people standing up; because they can see, “He’s beat the guy; the ball’s perfect.”

Ann: Of course.

Bob: The chaplain’s about to throw the big touchdown.

Dave: They don’t know who this kid is; but man, he’s got a gun; right? The ball’s literally—it’s coming down into his pinkies—you know, outstretched arms. He’s at the five-yard line, looking over. The ball’s coming down; again, of course, it’s in slow-mo.

Bob: Right.

Dave: It’s just about to land in his fingers, and he’s going to score.

Bob: Right.

Dave: It’s like an inch from his fingers when I hear, “My water just broke.” [Laughter] I mean, that’s literally what happened. I’m like/I’m asleep, and I hear this. I can hear it in the distance; I’m like, “No, no, no, no. Hold on; hold on!” I don’t even know what I’ve heard; but I’m like, “l cannot—this dream can’t end.”

Sure enough she’s shaking me now. She says, “Dave! My water just broke.” I remember thinking, “Water doesn’t break: it drips; it flows; it spills. What do you mean, ‘You’re water?’” Then, of course, I woke up.

Ann: He says to me, “I’m having the best dream.” I’m like, “I don’t care.” [Laughter] Then we’re driving. We’re anxious; we’re driving to the hospital, and he’s telling me all the details of his dream.

Bob: —while you’re having contractions.

Ann: Yes, yes! We didn’t expect my labor to begin like that.

Bob: Right.

Ann: That was just the beginning of expectations.

Bob: You got to the hospital; and they said, “Okay, you’re going to be here for a while.

Ann: Yes, the nurse comes in; and she looks at me and she checks me. She goes, “Oh, honey, you’re going to be here, at least, 24 hours.” It’s what?—four in the morning?

Dave: Yes, there’s no doctor. They don’t need a doctor yet.

Ann: So Dave’s like, “I’m going down the hall.” He takes his Sports Illustrated with him to go to the bathroom. I’m thinking, “Oh, I know what that means.”

Bob: “I won’t see him for a while.”

Ann: Yes. [Laughter] I’m in this room all by myself. I’m hooked up to a fetal monitor. All of a sudden, I’m watching. You know, all you can hear is the baby’s heartbeat on the fetal monitor; and you can see the tape of paper coming out. I start having these hard contractions. Every time I have a contraction, I can see the heartrate dip and hear the heartrate get much quieter and softer. That started to scare me. Suddenly, I’m thinking, “I’m going to have this baby now.”

I ring for the nurse. She comes in and she watches. She’s looking now at that tape and the fetal monitor. I can see that, “Uh-oh, she’s a little alarmed,”—I can tell by her face. She checks me; and she doesn’t even get there, where she says, “The baby’s coming out.” She runs back. She says, “I have to call the doctor”; she hasn’t even called the doctor. I’m in the room by myself. She says—she leaves the room—she says, “Don’t push!”

I yell for Dave: “Dave Wilson! Get…”

Dave: I can hear it from the bathroom—[Laughter]—some hysterical woman yelling my name—I’m like, “Uh-oh, I better close up this Sports Illustrated and get.” I ran down the hall. She’s just about to deliver.

Ann: They’re wheeling me out of the room to have a baby.

Bob: Wow; everything went smooth.

Ann: No, Bob, it didn’t; because there’s another expectation. I thought, “Oh, we love Jesus; we’ve been praying.” No, it didn’t go smooth; it was a complicated delivery. His cord was around his neck so they whisked him away. He was in NICU; we didn’t even hold him or see him.

The doctor came in and he said—and this was a long time/it felt like; didn’t it?—like maybe

20 minutes/a half hour; I don’t even know/an hour—and in that time, if any parent has been there, where you don’t know what’s going on, it’s so scary. Our outcome was good; and I know a lot of people have had really hard outcomes, and the news hasn’t been what they had hoped for.

But in that time, finally, the doctor came and he said, “This was a really traumatic birth; it was really fast. We’re afraid your baby had a skull fracture,”—which even hearing that—“a skull fracture,” what does that mean? He said, “We need to check his heart and his head.” Dave’s like, “I’m going to find out what’s going on,” because the doctor left.

I’m in that room all by myself. I think every parent has come to this point, where I said, “God, what’s happening right now? Where are You? This isn’t what we hoped it would look like. This isn’t what we had expected.” In that time—I have felt this often in my life—where I felt like God was asking me: “Ann, can you surrender your baby/this child to Me?” That’s a hard thing to do.

Bob: Yes.

Ann: Because even though I hadn’t even met this baby, face to face, I had this love and connection that I thought, “No, I’m not going to surrender him. This is our baby.” I felt, already, that protective mother’s heart. I wrestled with that with God. Finally, I said, “What else can I do, Lord, but give him to You?” That was a hard beginning.

Dave: I don’t remember talking about it, at that moment; but we both had the same sense. I think every parent feels that or, hopefully, is like, “This isn’t really ours; this is God’s. He’s a gift to us. We get to be stewards and, hopefully, raise this young man or woman to know the Creator who made them.” But it’s a moment of surrender.

Ann: And it’s a multiple—

Dave: Yes, it doesn’t—

Ann: —you surrender multiple times.

Dave: It doesn’t ever end. But that night—again, you think—you know, I have expectations: “It’s going to go well. Everything’s going to be easy.” From the very first second, it was like, “Oh my goodness; it is out of your control.” Then you have to go, “Okay, God; I’m going to trust You.” It was not easy, but it was the beginning.

Ann: Bob, have you had times that you’ve had to surrender your kids?

Bob: We all have times, where we recognize, “This is out of my control.” When our oldest, after college, said, “I want to go to Asia, and I want to do ministry in Asia,”—and the country she was going into was a country that can be hostile toward Christianity—I remember thinking, “This is not the dream I had for you.” [Laughter]

Ann: Yes.

Bob: It just so happened that I was watching a movie, not long after this, about the Civil War. There’s a scene with Stonewall Jackson in the movie—General Stonewall Jackson—one of his lieutenants asks him about his legendary composure on the battlefield: “General Jackson, how can you maintain your composure on the battlefield when there are bullets whizzing by and you could be shot in an instant?”

Stonewall Jackson apparently, historically, said this/he said, “My theology teaches me that I am as safe in my bed as I am on the battlefield if I am in the will of God.” I remember hearing that line and thinking, “My daughter is as safe in another country as she is in Little Rock, if she’s in the will of God.” But as a parent, we feel the ownership/the responsibility: “It’s my job to keep you safe,”—

Ann: —especially as a father, I would think, with a daughter.

Bob: —and “It’s my job to make sure that life goes well for you,” and “It’s my job…”—I have these expectations for how life’s supposed to go. I mean, you have here—from the very first moments of life with your son—a reminder from God that this is not completely in your control and that you do have to surrender this child to Him; right?

Ann: You would think—evidently, I didn’t quite get it—because our second child was six-and-a-half weeks early; he was in NICU. Our third son: I went into labor at twenty-one weeks, and then I was on bed rest the whole pregnancy. He was another three weeks early.

I thought, “Finally”; I held this baby after he was born—the first one [to be able to do so]—but then I go back into my room as they clean him up. That same NICU doctor walks in the room, and I say, “No, I do not want to see you”; because now I knew him really well. He said, “You’re son stopped breathing.”

I remember praying with that last baby, like, “Lord, do I not get it?! Do I have to do this every time?” I’ve probably surrendered my kids thousands of times since then. I think that’s a good practice to get into, as parents—not only for our kids but our own lives—all the situations that we’re going through, because we can’t control.

Bob: Talk to us about having expectations/having plans. I think, at some level, we ought to have expectations; we ought to have a plan for what we’re going to do with our kids. How do we balance this desire to want to be the best parents we can be/want the best outcome for our kids with the fact that it’s not entirely up to us? How do we deal with that?

Dave: Yes, I think it’s extremely difficult. Because in one sense, it’s one thing to surrender our own lives—and of course, we want to do that—but to surrender your son or daughter’s life is harder. I want more for them than I even do myself.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I really do. So when I don’t see things going the way I hoped they would—whether it’s out of my control or they’re making decisions or whatever—you want to step in and control and you want to maneuver things to get the expectation and the desire you always had to happen. You can’t do it; it doesn’t work. It actually pushes your children, sometimes, away.

Again, like Ann said, a thousand times/probably a hundred times a day, you’re like, “Okay; God, I’ve got to hand CJ, Austin, and Cody back to You” It’s like Abraham and Isaac. You’re like putting them on the altar and saying, “They’re not mine; they’re Yours; and I can trust You.” But that is the hardest—I think the hardest thing to do as a parent.

Ann: I think, too, it’s surrendering your expectations. Because I think we have this dream of what it will be like/of what our kids will be like. I think to partner with God and to say, “God, what are Your expectations?”—

Bob: Yes.

Ann: —that’s different from my dream of what my child will accomplish or what they’ll be like. Because really, the more we’re in tune with our heavenly Father, who created them in His image, to me, now it becomes this relationship of me partnering with God and finding out who He created them to be, not me managing them into my own picture of who I am.

Dave: Yes, as you think about it, from that night with CJ in the hospital as a newborn, you have to let go. Then you think—we’re all older parents/we’re grandparents—we can think of all the moments—you know, when they went to school for the first time: “You’ve got to let go,”—it’s scary. You can fast forward through; I can remember standing, looking out the front window of our house, when CJ, then Austin, then Cody drove out the driveway in a car at 16. You’re scared to death—oh, my goodness:—

Bob: Right.


Dave: —walking down the aisle, taking them to college—you name it—being in the hospital when they had their own kids. It’s like, ever year, there’s a chance/every day to say, “I’m not in control. You are, God. I’m going to entrust my kids to You.”

Ann: It’s so interesting, too; because I’m recalling when our son had our first grandchild, he and his wife. We were so excited when they told us. They shared it with us in this really creative, exciting way. Then even, as a grandparent, you have expectations: “Oh, this is going to be amazing.” Now you feel even more connected because now this is your child’s heart and his wife’s heart. So when Austin and Kendall lost that first baby, oh, I was crushed myself but even more crushed to watch their pain. Then it happened again, and it happened again.

Dave: Three miscarriages.

Ann: Right.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: To watch them hand God their hearts—


Bob: Yes.

Ann: — and their hurts and their hopes—I wanted to protect them; I know, Dave, you really wanted to swoop in and protect them. But to watch God, the heavenly Father, love, take care of, and soothe their broken hearts—that was really something.

Dave: At the end of the day, I’d just add this, the title of the book really comes from that perspective: “There’s no perfect parents; there’s no perfect kids; there’s no perfect parenting process—there’s only One—and His name is Jesus. He’s the Creator who you can trust in the middle of this imperfect parenting journey that we’re on; there is One.”

We were going to call the book, Vertical Parenting; because it’s really this idea of you’ve got to hand your kids, vertically, to Christ. You’ve got to find life in Him and lead your kids to find that way. But it ended up being No Perfect Parents; because there is one perfect parent, and His name is Jesus.

Bob: I think this idea of surrender—having expectations but surrendering: “God, these are Your kids; they’re in Your hands—you do have a responsibility, as parents, to shape, and to mold, and to protect, and to keep safe, and all of those things—those belong to us—but at the end of the day, these are God’s children. You capture this beautifully.

I really hope our listeners will get a copy of your book, No Perfect Parents. We’re taking pre-orders; it releases next week. You can go to our website,, to order your copy of No Perfect Parents by Dave and Ann Wilson. The subtitle is Ditch Expectations, Embrace Reality, and Discover the One Secret That Will Change Your Parenting. Again, go to for more information about Dave and Ann Wilson’s new book, No Perfect Parents. Pre-order from us, online, at; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order your copy. Again, our number is 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Let me just say, if you’ve not gotten together with other parents and gone through FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting® video series, you guys need to do that; because Dave and Ann are a part of the series. There are others, who have contributed to the series. It’s good, solid, practical counsel on what the core focus of our parenting ought to be. The Art of Parenting video series is available from us, here, at FamilyLife®. Get more information when you go to our website,; or order it from us by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY. Plan to get together with a group of parents who have got kids the same age as yours. Really, the group experience is a big part of the value of going through the Art of Parenting content. Again, find out more when you go to our website,

Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about how critical it is for us to have the right goal in mind/the right mission as we’re seeking to raise our kids. We’re talking about parenting this week with Dave and Ann Wilson. We’ll continue the conversation tomorrow. I hope you’re able to join us.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Got some extra help today from Bruce Goff and, of course, our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.

Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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