We've been looking at different ways we encounter God. Today however, I want to talk about parenting. (You know, when I think about it, God actually has used my daughters many times to speak to me and to teach me a great deal about His love. I have encountered Him through my kids countless times!)
A few weeks ago I met one of the leaders at the Youth group in which two of my girls attend. She asked me what I did to raise girls so in love with the Lord and told me I should write a book about it. I smiled, but thought, "Oh if you only knew! It hasn't been me, it's been all God." No false humility about it. I'm as shocked as anyone. Our daughters are 20, 18, and 15, and while I am incredibly amazed by their relationship with the Lord, I have no thoughts of writing a book on parenting. Today I only want to offer you my testimony. No sugar coating, no stories of home baked cookies, and domestic foo fooey'ness, but just a very candid look at our journey and the struggles that turned into triumphs. (I suppose that alone could be a book, but I promise a condensed version today!)
The only thing I can say I have been good at, is loving our girls and directing them towards encounters with the Lord. When they were little and having tantrums, or misbehaving, there was one thing I always did - send them to their room to ask Jesus how He felt about the situation and not to come out until they heard from Him. Almost every time they would come out having encountered Him. When things were going good, I would remind them to spend some time pouring out their love and thankfulness to Him. It was never about religious dos or don't s, it was always about getting to know Him. To this day, tucking themselves away with the Lord to hear His heart has become a habit for them.
When our oldest was 8 years old and the youngest was about 2, we moved our family to Puerto Rico to become missionaries. We spent a total of 8 1/2 years in Puerto Rico, moving back and forth between there and the States in a total of 6 moves. The more we moved and the older they got, the guiltier I felt with each move. Though some years on the mission field were incredibly awesome and fruitful, many years were very difficult and lonely. Most of the time my home-schooled girls had no friends and we had no money to enroll them in extra curricular activities. We even considered putting them in school, but the schools would have put them a few grades down because they didn't know much Spanish, so we declined. Every time we moved we got rid of everything we owned. When they were little it was rough making them give away their toys, but when they were older, rough took on a whole new meaning as giving away furniture meant sleeping on pool floaties and using boxes as furniture for indefinite periods of time. Many times we had no running water for days, no electricity, and never any AC in blistering humid heat. Such is missionary life and we had it easy compared to many who are missionaries in third world countries. I have so much respect for them!
Those years were filled with many tears, many doubts about my parenting skills, and a lot of guilt as I would hold my daughters and assure them that God would bless them with their hearts desire. (I was reassuring myself as well.) The sacrifice my children had to make wasn't something I anticipated when we first moved them as little children. I expected my husband and I to be the ones to pay for what I considered our call. It wasn't until recently that I have seen the extraordinary plan of the Lord to use those seasons of solitude as a setting that facilitated great dependance upon the Lord. The very thing I felt so guilty about, was the very thing the Lord used to ignite passion in our children. I have often stood amazed because I know our lifestyle could have pushed them away from us and the Lord, but He knew it would do the opposite.We all have areas in parenting where we feel we could have done better. But as we keep our hearts and direct the hearts of our children to the Lord, we see Him go way beyond the expected and do the extraordinary. There were 3 things I have prayed over them since conception: 1- That they would have a close relationship with the Lord all of their lives, 2- A close relationship with us, their parents, and 3- That they would be best-friends all of their lives. I just did not expect Him to answer my prayers the way He did.
At the last church we were a part of in Puerto Rico, nobody went up front to worship except the dance team, even though there was a lot of space. My girls and I have always loved being up front in worship. It is a place where we are undistracted and can really lose ourselves in worship. I taught our girls that true worshipers carry an anointing to break things open and at this church they discovered the power of that truth for themselves. To the front we would go, knowing people were wondering what we were doing, and get totally lost in worship. It wasn't long before others started to join us and by the time we left, each service had a number of men, women, and children worshiping freely up front. The anointing we carried, and just being us, helped free others to worship.
To this day, people go up to my girls requesting prayer because of the way they see them worship. There is a depth to their relationship with the Lord because of the things they have had to walk through. I am incredibly thankful to the Lord for taking our obedience to Him, as hard as it sometimes was, and proving Himself faithful. My girls are growing into women we are incredibly proud of. It wasn't because of anything specific we have done other than loving them unconditionally and continually leading them to the One who loves them more than we do.
Today, be encouraged. God knows how to take what we think are big messes and turn them into beautiful victories.