This Mason Jar Filled With 936 Pennies Will Change the Way You Parent

Can We Please Just Make it to “Amen”?!

A couple of weeks back we dedicated our son to the Lord at church.

As we stood before our church family and God, and vowed to raise him, by God’s grace and help, to know, love, and serve the Lord; he yelled at the top of his tiny lungs “Down! Down! Down!”. He flailed his surprisingly strong body in attempts to escape my grasp and reach the freedom of running wild in the sanctuary.

I held tightly to the frantic child, discreetly stuffing animal crackers into his mouth as our pastor eloquently went about introducing the other families and children.

Just as our pastor instructed the church family to bow their heads in prayer over these little ones, my dear precious son lost any scrap of patience he had left and yelled–loudly–through the entire prayer.

Our church family has a good sense of humor. A good portion of them have, or have had, small children of their own–they get it–but as I carried my dismayed toddler off the stage, my face was flush with a hint of embarrassment.

The Burdening Weight of 936 Copper Pennies

At these child dedications, gifts are always given to each family. At our old church back in Wisconsin, I was in charge of organizing these events, including ordering the parenting books, childrens’ Bibles, and children’s hymnal CD’s that would be tied together with ribbons and handed out to the parents.

This time, however, we were in our new church. In our new state. In our new world. And I was a bit surprised as the gifts were handed out to each family.

Into my hand was placed a mason jar full of pennies. A heavy mason jar full of pennies. A mason jar heavy with the weight of exactly 936 shiny copper pennies. My arms dropped a bit as I took the full weight of the jar between my hands.

936 pennies

“In these jars is a penny for every week you will raise this child.” Our pastor explained. And with his words the jar felt exponentially more heavy in my grasp.

“Every week, when you get home from church, remove one penny from the jar. And it will be a reminder of the time you have left to raise your child before they go out on their own.” I stared at the pennies, shiny and glinting within the glass jar.

They looked so many, yet so very few. 

That jar of pennies now sits on my desk. Our pastor had instructed us that, once we brought it home, we should start by removing a penny for each week old our child was. Ellison is one and a half. He was the oldest child being dedicated that sunday morning, and I had a lot of pennies to remove.

So many, in fact, that I have yet to do it. I haven’t removed them; not a single one. Maybe it’s because I haven’t made a spare moment to sit and count them out, but moreso I suspect it is because my heart is afraid to feel the weight of 76 pennies being emptied from that jar, never to return.

Maybe I am afraid to begin removing pennies because I know that, with each penny I remove, that little glass jar will only grow heavier. More imminent. More immediate.


And then I look at my firstborn, and my soul feels the weight of 172 pennies gone.

I ask the inevitable question–how were they spent?

A penny can be invested; it has the potential of growing in value. It also has the potential of getting lost in a couch cushion.

And if we are to divide a penny into seven parts–one day for each week, what worth are we breathing into each of those days?

Further, a day can be divided up also–into moments.

Some days I feel like I spend my whole penny–an allowance of a week– in a single 24 hour period.

In a weak moment I can feel like I blow through 5 cents. One slip of the tongue, one impatient reaction, one missed opportunity to speak truth, one fatigued mama feeling the whole weight of failure; it can leave me wondering if I just screwed up a whole week of parenting; or if my actions, or reactions, will stick with them for a lifetime.

I know they will. How I spend these pennies will shape the rest of their lives; they’ll carry the effects of my spending habits with them for the rest of their days beyond our nest.

Taking A Good Look At My Spending Habits

One thing is certain, no matter how I spend each penny, I purchase with it a pile of lessons in motherhood. I know this because after a long day, when the boys are finally sound asleep in their beds, my mind finally able to rest apart from little voices asking, demanding, quarreling, loving, thanking, apologizing, and being little voices; I don’t put those voices out of my head.

I replay them. The conversations of the day. The requests, the new words, sentences, questions, and understandings. Every “I love you”, “Thank you, Mama,” and “I’m sorry, Mama.”

Eryn Lynum
Eryn Lynum
Eryn Lynum is author of the book 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting. She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and three boys, where they spend their time hiking, camping, and exploring the Rocky Mountains. She loves to travel and share at conferences, churches, and writers’ groups. But every opportunity she gets, she is out exploring God’s creation with her family, and sharing the journey at

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