I have a house full of big personalities that illicit a wide range of emotions from their Mama--laughter, frustration, delight and a fair bit of cringing. When left unto itself, my mind races away with thoughts of what a child's future will look like if this or that weakness isn't reigned in. I have written many times about my temptation to parent from a place of fear rather than hope.
I want to be a wise steward of these little lives, but I also want to be like my Lord. Not leading anyone or anything impatiently or in a panic...but living and moving as an expression of faith. I loved this reminder that Jesus, Himself, was a seer of potential...focused on who people were to become moreso than where they were currently stuck.
During a recent session of purging my trio's backpacks I came across projects that gave me pause. Each of my 5th graders had completed a coat of arms assignment, researching colors and symbols to use in the design they felt best represented them.
The artwork was cute, but the attached explanations allowed a glimpse into their self image, values and aspirations that does not come frequently with tweens. As I savored these snapshots of who my 11 1/2 year olds are becoming, I pondered the implication of words spoken to them through this first decade+ of their lives.
To read what my kiddos state as their beliefs about their burgeoning identity left me awestruck. They were given a word bank of colors, symbols and their corresponding meaning, then free reign to express themselves. There was only one duplicate on their pages.
Here are a few excerpts of what they chose.
"Gold represents generosity. I like to help people like our foster kids."
"I chose a globe because I love to travel the world."
"Green represents joy, hope & loyalty. I chose this because I'm usually happy and hopeful. For example, I hope our foster children will learn about God."
K: "I chose the Ichthus (Greek for fish)representing belief in Jesus. I thought this would be a good image to choose because I trust and love Jesus and God with all my heart."
I decided on blue for my background color. It represents truth and loyalty. I used this color because I always tell the truth and never tell a secret.
I chose thyme for my image. It represents courage and strength. I used this because I am brave when it comes to heights and ropes courses. I am also not scared of anything.
I chose gold because it means generosity. I share my stuff with my foster sisters."
R: "I picked the allerion because I trust God and He gives me strength. I chose white because I trust God and He helps me with my choices. I chose the anchor because I have a big belief in God and I love him from the bottom of my heart. I chose maroon because it means patient in battle and victorious. I chose this because I'm doing my best and having a comeback in school."
These are just excerpts. There were certainly humorous parts that reminded me these are children with lots of growing left to do...like the fact that R chose black for "constancy or grief because I am coming out of some hard times." (Concerned, I asked him what he was referring to and he flashed dimples and confessed he just thought black would look cool.)
But, typical 11 year old behavior considered, I was struck by the insight this project offered. Even while groaning at chores, attempting to sneak in a little extra screen time or practicing making body noise sounds that annoy, truth IS taking root in their hearts.
Exactly 4 hours before these beautiful, hope giving words came home I was confessing to my small group all the ways I feel like I am blowing it. I lamented that the business of life and ALL THESE CHILDREN was not allowing for the neat, picturesque moments I like to imagine my family having...
The evening Bible studies by the fire I aspire to as marks of a godly, together Mom are a stark contrast the wet haired children I am trying to coral into bed or the exhausted big kids splayed across the sofa watching replays of American Ninja Warrior.
But through the faithfulness of God and the countless adults God has placed in the lives of my children, Truth is taking deep root in their hearts.
As I read their assignments, I recognized some of the words their father and I have spoken over them--prayers we have prayed through the years. But their were other parts did not come from us, but from coaches, teachers, children's ministry volunteers, friends, family members--and oh, how God is weaving all of it together to form identity in their hearts! Truly breathtaking.
"A person becomes a person through other people." Desmond Tutu
This is the body. This is community. This is how lasting identity is formed. What a reminder to show up for other people's kids with well placed words and the investment of life on life! What an encouragement to stick with the rhythms of Bible study, church attendance and even Sunday afternoon lunch traditions with friends that have become family. These rituals form a framework where truth can be safely spoken and actively lived out.
Moment upon moment identity is being forged. Just as it is hard as a Mama to see just how much your children are growing in height, I think it can be equally challenging to see how their hearts are growing in depth. Every now and then we get these moments where we rub our eyes and go, "whoa." All of this investment of prayer and love and talking is adding up to something.
And here's the thing: NOTHING IN THE ECONOMY OF GOD IS WASTED, even those real life moments! Squabbling siblings, ropes courses, family travel, grades that reflect not doing our best, the blending in of younger foster kids and the stretching and growth it requires? God is using it!!!
"It's an unbelievable experience to watch your kids become their own person. You know that all humanity has walked this way before, but for you and your child, it's all new. You are living the clichés, but now they are real and different."
- Sara Groves
This week I had the chance to sneak out of town for 24 hours of reconnection with dear old friends. I realized it is the same way in my adult heart. I have known these girls for more of my life than I haven't. Over 23 years we have experienced the highest of highs in joy, love and laughter and the lowest of lows in loss, pain and regret. Yet, even in our 40s, when we get together and share our hearts we remark to each other "My, how you have grown since I saw you last."
So, today, Lord, lead us and guide us in having eyes to see and marvel all the ways You are at work. Give us words of hope, love and truth and the courage and commitment to speak them. May we plant words that help each other grow into the people You have planned.