Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Child's Thanksgiving

If we are open to it, grace is all around us.  "All is grace," as Ann Voskamp repeats over and over in her "take-your-breath-away-it's-that-good" book, One Thousand Gifts.

I found this prayer last night while cleaning my daughter's closet.  I am so thankful that my little girl's eyes are open to Grace!  And my prayer is that she does not lose her "grace-eyes" as she grows.  Oh, Father....cause her to see.  Cause her to see YOUR fingerprints everywhere she looks!!!

From the heart of my little girl to her Heavenly Father:

Thank you for being such a giving God.  I am so blessed.  You didn't need to be so gracious.  We all often forget how blessed we are....but I don't want to.  I want to embrace all You have given me....even the smallest things.  Like the five senses.  You didn't have to give me sight, but You did!  Thank You!  If I didn't have the gift of sight, I would never have been able to see the vivid colors of a blossom tree in the springtime. Also, You didn't need to give me the gift of being able to hear.  But You did!  Without it, I would never be able to hear the birds chirp in the morning.  Thank You so much for giving me this gift.  And thank You for giving me the gift of taste!  If you didn't give me this gift, I would have never been able to taste a sweet, juicy watermelon on a hot summer day.  And thank You for giving me the gift of smelling!  If I didn't have this gift, I wouldn't be able to smell the sweet aroma of a newly bloomed rose.  And last but not least, thank You for giving me the gift of touch!  Without this wonderful gift, I would never be able to feel the soft fur of a newborn puppy!  So my Lord, please give me a thankful heart that wants to praise You and thank You 24/7.  I thank You again, Father, for ALL You have done for me!
In Jesus' name, Amen."

I can think of no other way to end this post than with a Scripture that echoes what's in my heart right now:  "Nothing could make me happier than getting reports that my children continue diligently in the way of Truth!" -3 John 1:4 (The Message)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Finding Grace in the Public Schools

Fifteen years ago, I became a wife.  Fourteen years ago, I became a mother.  For thirteen years following the birth of my eldest, I allowed my children to define me.  My life revolved around them.  Wanting to shelter and protect them from this world, I decided to homeschool them.

Last year, I was prompted by God to release my children.  During prayer time, I sensed Him asking me to trust Him with their lives and demonstrate that trust by enrolling them in the public school system.  I cannot adequately express in words my sheer terror at even the thought of loosening my grip on my daughter and son.  I struggled with God for months on this issue.

Don't get me wrong:  I think homeschooling can be absolutely awesome, and I applaud the many many men and women who are doing it and doing it well.  However, for me personally (though I could not see it at the time and would not have been able to admit it), my motives for homeschooling had become impure.  I wanted to keep my children in my own "Garden of Eden," separated from the "big, bad world."  But God gave up His only Son for that world; Christ died for that world.  The people I saw as "other" and wanted to distance my precious babies from....God asks me to see those very people as potential brothers and sisters in Him.  He desires that I "move in" (as He instructed the Israelites when they were taken captive to Babylon in Jeremiah 29).  In other words, contrary to my fantasy of running off to join an Amish community, God is asking me to be culturally relevant in the time and place where I have been divinely positioned so that I can have a spiritual impact.

Ultimately, I surrendered my will.  Isaiah 55:9 is a verse I'm building my life upon, and this could be no exception.  I still didn't like His decision, but I was determined to obey anyway.  I felt akin to Abraham, asked to sacrifice his son, to lay Isaac down on the altar and offer him up to God.  (Yes, I know I'm being a bit melodramatic here, but I am a woman of strong emotion!)

I think somewhere along the way, my children had become my idols.  God read my heart.  He asked me the same question He asked the rich young ruler in Luke 18.  For me, it wasn't money that I had to give up, but it was something.  I was holding onto my children more tightly than I was holding onto my God.  He asked me to release my grip on everything but Him.  I could not do as the rich young ruler did and just walk away because I had experienced enough of God to echo the words of Peter in John 6:68, "Where else can I go?  You (Lord) have the words of everlasting life."

On the day I registered my children for public school, I cried all the way to the district office.  Reminding God that HE was the reason I was taking this step, I begged Him to bless my obedience by blessing my children.  I pleaded for His protection over Erica and Liam.

In hindsight, I can say that He has more than answered my prayers!  He has indeed blessed me beyond my wildest imagination!  One of the greatest gifts to come into the life of our family as a result of this act of obedience is the absolute privilege of welcoming precious young adults into our home and our lives.

I am ashamed to think of my old perspective and how myopic and self-centered I was.  Considering all the pros and cons of public education, I only thought of my family....weighing every decision by how it would affect the four people in my family of procreation.  Is that "taking up my cross, denying myself, and following Him?"

By entering the public school arena, God has expanded my sphere of influence.  I absolutely love my children's friends; they know that so it should be no surprise that they enjoy spending time with us.  People like to be around people who like them!  That must be why people clamored to be with Jesus.  He loved them, and that love was shown and felt and drew the crowds to Him.

My daughter's friends open up and talk to me.  They ask my advice.  They go to church with us.  They volunteer with us.  They listen to my stories; when I relate a passage of Scripture and how God spoke to me through it, they are hungry and thirsty for more and ask questions and engage in conversations.  For some of these young people, it is their first exposure to the God of the Bible.  They don't know about King David or Daniel or Esther or Ruth or Joshua or Elijah, and (truthfully) they are more enthralled and listen more attentively than my own children do!

I praise God for expanding my sphere of influence and doing "exceedingly, abundantly above all that I could ask or dream or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20)!  I prayed "keep them safe," but He made them lights!  I prayed, "don't let them be hurt!"  Oh, why was my vision so short-sighted?  Why didn't I pray that God would make Erica and Liam healing agents in the broken lives and hurting hearts of their fellow classmates?!?!?!  I was sending them into the trenches of warfare with a survivor mentality when God has a vision for them to not just survive but to thrive!

Father, give me Your eyes!  Cause me to see!  I want Your vision....for myself, my loved ones, and our world!