Are there chaff sifters in your life?

This photo was taken at our wedding. Seven of our kids and grands come from a different location on the planet. Dan’s daughter was adopted from Korea. She married a man whose parents immigrated from Thailand. Dan’s son married a first-generation Persian woman. My son chose a Hispanic bride. And my daughter and her husband adopted three boys from Uganda.

We are an American family.

Photo: Hannah Turner Photography; Bend, OR

As you can imagine, there are a variety of parenting styles represented in this group. Dan and I have talked about our own parenting patterns. I wasn’t a perfect parent. Dan says he wasn’t either (I know … you’re gasping). And neither are our adult children. Because there is no such thing as a perfect parent among us humans.

As the person in charge of Littles (and Middles and Teens), we’ll make mistakes. We’ll mess up time and again. And still, there’s hope. Because of love:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8

I remember delivering my youngest—fresh out of high school—to a new job in California. I reminded God that I wasn’t finished with him yet, that there were still some things I needed to work on.

While driving back home to Oregon, this verse kept pushing its way into my head. It’s from a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to new believers at Philippi:

Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6

It was God who began a good work in my children’s lives through their father and me, as human and imperfect as we were in our parenting skills. It’s God who promises to complete what He started because He loves these kiddos so much better than we possibly could (and we love them to the moon and back).

As parents, we did the best we could with what we knew. Our kids are doing the best they can with what they know. And God will complete His work in the hearts and minds of their children, including healing those who were harmed by childhood trauma.

My daughter and son-in-law recently attended a REFRESH Conference for parents of foster/adopt children. One of the encouraging take-aways was this: “There is no perfect parent … well, except God. And look at how many of His kids are messed up” (my paraphrase).

I had always equated this quote by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik to the relationship between a husband and wife, but now I read it with family members in mind (family defined as those we invite in and hold closest to our hearts):

Oh, the comfort—the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person—having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

Chaff is what’s left after threshing the seed. Corn husks, for example, are chaff. Chaff has no value.

Oh, to have family members, whether blood-related or not, who will love us, quirks and all, who will blow away our chaff, our mistakes, our unbecoming behavior, and who will love us despite ourselves—this is a priceless commodity.

As we work on rearing our children—and for the grandparents among us, as we look to partner with our grandchildren’s parents—may we be reminded there is no such thing as a perfect parent except God, and He’s in the business of healing what we can’t heal—the brokenness within the hearts and minds that were inflicted by childhood trauma.

Not all of us in the above photo are blood related. But we are family.

Undeniably connected. Unconditionally loved. Willing to sift away each other’s chaff. Each of us wanted and necessary and important to the beautiful, larger picture.


What if we’re better together?


What would it look like to slow your pace?


  1. Hi Marlys,

    ‘great article!

    (I especially love the title!)


  2. What a beautiful truth and testimony of family!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2024 Marlys Johnson