Ties that Bind

A 52-Week Devotional for Mothers and Daughters


By Kristin Armstrong

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“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” — Ecclesiastes 4:12

A mother and daughter relationship is one of the most important and defining relationships in life. Just like when we braid our daughter’s hair, as we raise our girls we weave three strands together: our faith and their faith, together with God’s love. If we can do this well, the cord is not easily broken.

In this weekly devotional there are common themes supported by scripture, with one reading specifically for mothers, the other for daughters. Each week is intended to generate connection and conversation, with questions included to spark discussion.

Topics include:

Body Image
Healthy Friendships
and many more!

This year long journey together will deepen your faith, and your relationship in addition to offering introspection and personal growth for women of every age.


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My mother, wearing braids made by my grandmother.


Ah, yes. Mothers and daughters. What could be more powerful, more fierce, more fragile, more fraught with emotion and layers of meaning than the relationship between a mother and a daughter? Every single woman bears the legacy, and sometimes the scars, of this most intimate tie.

Ultimately we are the product of our relationship with God. But the foundation we have with our family has a great deal to do with how we see ourselves along the way. Some mother-daughter relationships are healthy and joyful, some are broken, some are passive-aggressive, some are guilt-ridden, and some represent total abandonment. The healing and wholeness we have sought, or haven't, impacts our ability to mother, our daughters' ability to mother, and on and on for generations. Our relationship with our mother impacts our friendships, our marriages, and our mothering. It colors the way we view all our relationships with women. Are we healthy and free? Or are we competitive? Demanding? Hurtful? Withdrawn? Judgmental?

We struggle in relationships with our toddlers, our adolescent girls, our teenagers, our girls leaving home, our girls getting married, our girls as they parent our grandchildren. We get stuck in our relationships with our mother-in-law and our daughters-in-law. We resort to old patterns that have never worked for us in the past because we don't always seek God's wisdom in these timeless relationships. Our love is complicated (I need you/Leave me alone). We need God's word to help us grow up and into free and beautiful relationships. As painful as it is for daughters to pull away and grow, it is equally painful for mothers as they endure the separation. What if we relied on God to help us learn to understand and love ourselves—and each other—better as we grow up and grow old?

That is my hope for this book, to explore where we've been, where we are, and where we want to go. This book represents a yearlong journey, intended to be taken together. Each week we will delve into a new area, and hopefully, with God's help, we will reach deeper levels of understanding, communication, and healing.

Mothers have braided their daughters' hair for generations, and in that simple act of love we can see that a cord of three strands is not easily broken (Eccl 4:12). As we weave our relationships with our daughters with a third strand, our faith in Christ, our ties to each other will be healthy and strong.

God's Word never returns to Him void. Let's open our hearts and minds and allow Him to work on us. The femininity of our family, the legacy of our love, the genuineness of our generations is at hand—His hand.

With great love and anticipation,




Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Deuteronomy 6:5–7

There is no better place to start than here. This is explicit instruction on how to begin to forge a relationship with God—love Him with everything you've got. To love Him, you have to get to know Him, and that is exactly what we are going to do together this year.

Embedded in these verses are also some explicit instructions on parenting. I just love how God put this here, up front in His manual, so to speak. As God's rules, or His commandments, are laid out, He makes it quite clear to parents that it isn't enough that we imprint these laws on our hearts. We are also called to impress them upon our children. Which means that we know them well enough to teach them and live them well enough to represent them. This is a huge undertaking, a powerful call. If it feels enormous, it should, because it is.

The passage goes on to explain when we should impress these commandments on our children. Let's think for a second about our culture and our frenetic lives today and how our pace impacts our parenting. We are supposed to share God with our children when we sit at home, when we walk along the road, when we lie down and get up. I don't know about you, but I don't sit at home very often at all. And I rarely walk along the road. And I sure as heck don't have time to lie down unless I'm about to pass out at bedtime. Talk about a gut check. I am going to revisit pace this year. I'm going to be intentional about sitting down, about taking a child with me and walking our dog, about taking time to rest, snuggle, and take a day off more often than just when someone is sick.

If we are struggling to share our faith with our daughters, perhaps we need to really read God's Word here and see how our rushing is affecting our communication and our level of intimacy with our children. Hurrying will never yield the depth required to make soul-level connections.

This week, as we start off together, let's begin by slowing down. If we're going to go deeper and do things differently with our daughters this year, we have to start with some new habits. Let's stop multitasking and make a point to sit, go for a walk, or lie down together. This week, let's honor God and His commandments by forging ahead with just these changes. They may seem like small things, but their impact is eternal.



Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Deuteronomy 6:5–7

Loving God with all your heart, soul, and strength does not just happen. Loving someone like that requires that you know Him deeply. God wants that kind of relationship with you. He wants you to know all about Him: His history, His promises, and His truth. He wants to be the first person you go to when you have a problem or have great news to share. He wants to take your worries and be the first person you thank when things turn out okay.

How are you going to get to know God like that?

We're going to get to know Him together this year, one week at a time. We're going to look deeper into the Bible together and see how God's Word is meant for you.

In order to learn more about God's character, you can turn to His Ten Commandments. Make a point this week to sit down with your mom and talk about God's laws and how they might apply to you and your life right now. Or go for a walk together and use that time outside to talk about God. Each commandment goes deeper than just what it says. For example, thou shalt not kill. Okay, easy enough, right? You think to yourself, I'm not a murderer, so I'm all good. Check. Not so fast. How often do you kill someone's good mood, someone's hope, or someone's spirit with your words or actions? Really think about it. Or, thou shalt not put any gods before me. You can think, I love only one God, so that's not a problem for me. Check. Wait a minute here. What about the "gods" we can make of our friends, our social life, our weight, our clothes, or our abilities at school or in sports? Yep, keep going. Each commandment can go deeper and deeper until you get to the root of how each law fits with your heart and in your life right now.

This is exactly where we want to go in order to build a strong foundation with God. Ask Him to show you the areas where you have room to grow, and ask Him to send His Holy Spirit to help you get there. He will reveal the same things to your mom, and you will both have work to do. But it's good work, the kind of work that brings peace and understanding.

Connecting with God takes time. And a life of rushing from one thing to the next doesn't leave enough time. How can you slow life down this week and make room to learn about God?



… "That is enough," the LORD said. "Do not speak to me anymore about this matter."

Deuteronomy 3:26

I can totally relate to God the Father here, having been to that "enough is enough" place with my children countless times. Moses, blessed as he was, must have been somewhat taken aback by such a firm refusal from God.

There have been times that I have prayed, fervently and fiercely, thinking that my heart was right and my request was certainly in line with God's will, and yet, God said no. It can be painful to pour our hearts out to God in prayer, especially on behalf of our children, only to receive a negative response. For faith that is new or has not been tested in this way, it can be extremely disheartening—even to the point that we are tempted to turn our back on God in our anger, sadness, or disappointment. This is a crisis of faith, and precisely the moment that we must remind ourselves that we do not have the answers and, try as we might, we cannot see the bigger picture. We don't know what lies ahead, what chips must fall in order for this life to be affected this way, another life this way, all interconnected and all according to an intricate timeline we simply cannot fathom. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways (Is 55:8–9).

My mentor helped me to understand a deeper perspective to God's no. She reminded me that in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed in agony for a different path, for the cup of sorrow to be taken from Him. And God refused His own Son—His spotless, sinless Son. Jesus obeyed, all the way to the cross. And because of God's no and the obedience of Jesus to follow the path prescribed for Him, we receive the forgiveness and healing of the cross and are restored into relationship with God for eternity. Imagine if God had granted Jesus' request? Imagine if Jesus had refused to pick up His cross and labor on? Where would we be?

Suffering is bigger than us, and it unites us in ways we cannot fully comprehend in this lifetime. When God says no, He may actually be saying yes to something far greater, far more important than we are able to know. We have to trust Him in spite of the way things seem at the time, in spite of circumstances, in spite of our own feelings sometimes. It's easy to trust God when things are smooth and our prayers are blessed with yes. But how deep is our trust when the tides of our life turn?

Are you fighting or begrudging the noes in your life? Can you open your heart to the possibility that God is working on something big for you? (Jer 29:11)



… "That is enough," the LORD said. "Do not speak to me anymore about this matter."

Deuteronomy 3:26

When I was younger and growing in my faith, I prayed to God and presented my needs and requests to Him, and He usually answered my prayers. I would often pass my test. I was able to repair a friendship. Maybe I made a certain team, or we won a big game. All these things helped build my faith, and I started going to God for more and more help, in big and small things.

But what happens when we ask God for something important to us and He is quiet—or worse, He responds with a very obvious no?

This can be very confusing. We might feel angry with God. We might be so disappointed that we don't want to talk to Him. We might start to think maybe He isn't real, and maybe all the times He seemed like He was there for me—maybe it was just a coincidence that things somehow worked out? If we aren't careful, we can let God's no cause us to pull away and stay away. Things happen that are so hard to understand. Parents get divorced, people die of cancer, we fail a test or a class, or our friends turn their backs on us. Why does God let us hurt if He loves us so much?

This question is a hard one when you're young, but guess what—it doesn't get any easier to understand when you're older! Adults struggle with the same things.

A friend reminded me that Jesus did not want to be turned over to the authorities and sent to die on a cross. In fact, in the garden of Gethsemane, He begged God to figure out another way. But God said no to His own Son. So if God says no to Jesus, He certainly may say no to us.

But think about this: If Jesus had not obeyed God and taken His cross, where would we be? Because He died for us, we are free today, and we have eternal life in heaven. There is so much more going on behind the scenes; we have no idea.

When God tells you no, it's okay to be upset, but don't pull away. Express yourself and your disappointment to God, but be open to His plans. They are often far better than what you originally had in mind. We cannot see what He sees. Be patient and trust Him. He loves you and will take care of you no matter what.

Can you think of a time you prayed and did not get what you wanted? How did you feel? Did you eventually end up with something better, or are you still waiting? Keep the faith.



… "It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else's field you might be harmed."

Ruth 2:22

What is better than good girlfriends?

Good, godly girlfriends. That's what. There is nothing like faithful friends. They will laugh with you, pray with you, encourage you, forgive you, teach you, reprimand you when you need it, and form a fortress around you when life's storms come. It is crucial to pray for godly friends for your daughter if she doesn't have them, or pray for protection of these precious relationships if she does have them.

No matter what we have poured into our girls, there comes a time when they are not with us all the time. They go off to school, off with friends, off to play sports, off to college, and eventually there will be more influence from their peers than from their home. This is precisely why we want them to be surrounded with friends who believe and share their values. We have to pray, but we also have to be proactive.

What does this look like? Well, first, we cannot offer a vision of something that we are not living ourselves. We each must examine our own inner circle to know if we are surrounded by God's girls. We must make a priority to value these relationships in our lives, in front of our daughters. I want my girls to see me going to Bible study, to retreats, and to church with my friends. I want them to feel the powerful network of praying women who love them and know their hearts. Second, we have to help them build a foundation of these relationships for themselves. We can help them connect at church, find Bible studies, and foster experiences with other believers. We cannot force them to need or nourish these relationships, but we can help our girls to distinguish the difference between varying levels of intimacy between friends. Friends who share faith are bound by a cord of three strands, and these are the relationships that stand the tests of time and trial.

Take time this week to examine the quality of your friendships. What does your daughter see when she witnesses you and your girlfriends? How can you help her foster Christ-centric connections or build on the ones she already has?

These are the relationships that will yield solidarity and security. Pray for wisdom. Pray with gratitude. Pray with perseverance. Pray for God's girls.



…"It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else's field you might be harmed."

Ruth 2:22

It's hard enough these days to figure out friendships. Girls can be fickle, can't they? One minute you are in the group; the next, you aren't sure. Some girls change friends as often as they change clothes. This can be confusing, and sometimes painful.

How do you learn to grow the friendships that you can trust and rely on?

God tells us here in the book of Ruth that it's a good idea to go with His girls. This means friends who believe in Him and value the things that He values. This does not mean that you cannot be friends with people who don't share your faith—not at all. In fact, God wants us to reach out and share His love with others. But it does mean that when you are choosing your closest confidantes, you should choose the ones who will best care for your heart. Often these are the girls who believe that you should love God first, and then love your friends like you love yourself.

Friendships grow differently when they are rooted in God. They don't hog the sunshine and the rain from one another, but they give each other space and grace to grow and bloom. They maintain the trust between them. They honor the plans and promises they make. They tell each other the truth. They have each other's backs instead of talking behind them. They forgive each other when hurts invariably happen instead of holding grudges.

Going with His girls means that you can travel safely in a pack. You have His protection and His provision with you. Remember, God tells us that He is present any time two or more are gathered in His name (Mt 18:20). This means all the time, if you are with a friend who believes.

This week, think of how you can seek out or improve relationships with faithful friends. Talk to your mom about her close friendships throughout her lifetime. Be mindful of asking God about the safest people to trust and forming friendships in which you can completely be yourself without fear or judgment. When in doubt, or when you have a choice, go with His girls.



Contend, LORD, with those who contend with me…

Psalm 35:1

The mama bear version of this verse has to be "Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with my children." Amen?

It is so tempting to want to fight our daughters' battles for them. Just today one of my girlfriends said that she would give anything to save her daughters from even one second of the body image issues that have haunted her throughout her entire life. We want to have a little chat with the teacher when we don't think a grade is correct. We want to intervene in girl drama and end the pain of exclusion, mean girls, and teasing. We want to pop the tires of the boy who broke our daughter's heart. It's unbelievable how a mother's heart works—it's a fierce love.

Sometimes our intervention is necessary, and we need to humbly ask God every morning to light our path and give us wisdom. But other times the intervention is our own doing, not God's will. To quote Brad McCoy, the father of former University of Texas football player Colt McCoy, we need to "prepare our child for the path, not the path for our child." It is dangerous when we focus on the path more than the person because it causes us to raise young women who are unprepared for life's challenges. Although our hearts are good and our intentions are loving, we are doing our girls a disservice when we rob them of opportunities to grow and rise up on their own behalf.

The only way we can find relief and release from this strong desire to fix and control is to remember that we are useless compared to God. No one can protect our daughters like He can. No one knows the training and refinement they will need for the journey ahead, but He does. No one can be with our daughters all the time, from the womb to the Promised Land, except for our God. Our faith grows when we trust God with our girls. They are, after all, not ours. They are His. We are raising them for His glory. He knows what they need in order to develop into the women He created them to be. We have to know when to step in and when to step out of the way—and the only way to really know that is to listen to God's responses to our prayers. He speaks—through His Word, His people, and His divinely appointed lessons (aka our circumstances).

Be intentional this week about trusting God with your girl. Be obedient when He leads you in your parenting. Allow Him to contend with those who contend with her.



Contend, LORD, with those who contend with me…

Psalm 35:1

When someone hurts our feelings, it can be pretty tempting to want to hurt them back. Revenge is a very powerful temptation, especially when someone has shown such little care for our own feelings. It makes us not want to care about theirs, doesn't it?

Feelings like anger and hurt are a sign that something is going on that is not okay. If we let our feelings take control of us, we can make choices we will later regret. If we take our feelings to God until we calm down, He will help us see what is behind the emotion and what we need to do about it.

Sometimes we don't need to do anything at all. And that's exactly what this verse is telling us. Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me. "Contend" can mean fight, so this verse means Fight, Lord, with those who fight with me. It's like saying, "Okay, God, you deal with this one. I can't make things right, but You can."

This is a great verse to memorize so that in moments of powerful feelings, we have a way to calm ourselves and connect with God. We can ask Him to deal with the people who bother us. God has specific lessons for us as we grow up, and He also has lessons for other people. Sometimes when we take matters into our own hands, we get in the way of the lesson God has in mind for the person who is hurting us. And God's lessons are always more powerful than anything we could come up with on our own.

Besides, when you speak that verse back to God, you learn a lesson about self-control and trust. You learn that you can feel your feelings without losing control of your words and actions. Learning how to handle our emotions makes us incredibly powerful, far more powerful than a person who reacts or explodes. When we channel our emotions back to God, He will handle everything for us. When we trust Him with outcomes, He will move mountains. After all, He promises He will never leave you or forsake you (Heb 13:5).

Is there a certain situation or person who makes you feel like fighting or reacting? Isn't it comforting to know that God will fight for you so you don't have to?

This week, memorize this verse and practice saying it in your head when you start to feel your frustration rise. Let God contend with those who contend with you.



Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

Psalm 34:5

Ah, beauty, a subject with rich topography for any woman. Sometimes beauty is our friend; sometimes it is our opponent. Sometimes we pay it no mind and it settles on us like a butterfly; other times we chase it despite the fact that it will always elude those who pursue it.

We have a history with beauty, whether we want to dig there or not. Our history is framed by the way we grew up, messages from our parents and siblings, experiences with our peers, our boyfriends, and our husband. At times we have regarded beauty differently than others, and perhaps it has caused us to regard ourselves differently as a result.


On Sale
Nov 5, 2013
Page Count
224 pages

Kristin Armstrong

About the Author

Kristin Armstrong is a mother of three, a runner, a writer, and a speaker. She is the author of Happily Ever After, Strength for the Climb, Work in Progress, Heart of my Heart, and Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run. She is a contributing editor for Runner’s World magazine and writes a monthly column for Tribeza. Her work has also appeared in USA Today, O, The Oprah Magazine, Parent: Wise Austin, and Glamour. Kristin lives in Austin, Texas and Santa Barbara, California with her family.

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