A recent visit to the nail salon I often visit for simple manicures reinforced the importance of my job as a parent.

I have patronized this salon for nearly two years, and in that time have had minimal conversations with the two Asian women who operate the business. They are cordial, but usually serve their customers with thoughtfulness and few words.

On this Monday, however, a smartly-dressed woman strolled in and changed the tenor of the place with a two-word comment.

The nail technician, who obviously serves her regularly, inquired how she was doing.

"I'm blessed!" was her perky reply.

She shared with the technician how she had recently returned home from a conference in a state that had been pummeled by a hurricane. She expressed gratitude to have had a pleasant visit while there and to have made it back safely.

What piqued my interest was the conversation that followed. The nail technician I had considered timid or purposely mute, talked about the value of faith with her customer for about twenty minutes.

She explained how, in her native Vietnam, her Christian father would gather her and her siblings and pray with them every night. It is a practice she has tried to share with her own children.

For a time, she told her customer, it went well. But as each child has grown older, each has decided there's no need for this foolishness of prayer.

The nail technician's eldest son told her he didn't want to pray with her anymore and, knowing she couldn't force him to talk with God, she released him from practice.

Her next child followed suit when he reached adolescence.

"And now," she told her customer, "my youngest child tells me, 'I don't want to pray with you anymore.'"

As she filed nails and poured out her heart, she seemed to be hoping for answers. She believed this joyful woman of God, also a mother, could provide them.

The customer reminded the nail technician of God's Word: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6). The customer told the nail technician she is at a juncture that all mothers reach - the need to allow her children to find their own way while continuing to pray for them.

It is the modern-day version of Jesus' parable about the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-24).

Certainly, the father in this story knew that when he gave his son his inheritance, the young man wasn't mature enough to manage it wisely. Yet instead of refusing to hand over a portion of the estate, or putting conditions on his son's use of the wealth, the father lovingly let the funds - and his son - go.

Think he was praying for his son's safety while the young man was gone? What parent wouldn't be? His love was obvious in the way he embraced his son upon his return, with a royal robe and a feast fit for a king.

The customer in the nail salon tried to convey to her technician that her job as a mother isn't much different today. Her prayers must cover her children as they tuck away the knowledge of God she has instilled in them and focus on their youthful desires. She must never stop asking the Father to nudge them back to Him.

The nail technician seemed more peaceful as she took in the woman's advice and buffed her fingertips. She had received reassurance that she hasn't failed as a Christian mother.

Indeed, many of us will face prodigal son or daughter moments as our children mature and begin to think independently. They may act out in school, disregard our rules, or lack gratitude for the opportunities and amenities we have have given them.

They may decide that our lives are mundane and choose to follow a racier lifestyle, or immerse themselves in the tenets of a different faith.

Through it all, however, we remain our children's earthly shepherds. We are here to love them unconditionally, as Jesus loved us. We must continue to call their names out to God, asking Him to bring them, or keep them, home.

I pray that blessing upon the nail technician's family. I pray that someday, her children will appreciate the strength and steadiness of her prayers, and tell her thank you.

Stacy Hawkins Adams is the author of the Christian fiction novel Speak To My Heart. She is also a reporter and inspirational columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia. Stacy often speaks to audiences about the blessings that come with authentically living one's faith. She and her husband, Donald, have two children.

This article originally appeared on Crosswalk.com's weblog page (www.crosswalk.com/news/weblogs).