You only fail to see the goodness and faithfulness of God that surrounds you when you are completely focused on yourself.
The other day I was picking up items around the house, and I found Ellie's sandals next to mine.
The contrast in size - the contrast in color - the contrast in how they are used ... all of these things struck me, and made me smile.
As I kept staring at the sandals, however, another thought entered my mind.
I am an example for Ellie to follow!
She is going to learn how to be a woman - by watching ME!
How to walk, speak, dress, take care of a home, honor and submit to her husband, love her children, worship, obey the Lord, and minister to the body of Christ.
I am used to being the mother of sons who naturally begin to emulate their father around the age of two. They want to talk, walk, run, and BE like him because he is a man, and they are little men who itch to be big and strong like their father.
I teach them how to be gentlemen, help them understand the thoughts/ ways of women, and train them in righteousness as Scripture calls me to do. But never in my wildest thoughts have I envisioned myself teaching them how to be MEN. Because I can't! I am a woman - and there is only so much I can do for my sons in a practical sense. God did not create woman to model masculinity for their sons, and there is a reason! He created men for that role! Purposefully and intentionally. (Which is why the church needs to be diligent and faithful to fill in the gaps for boys who do not have fathers.)
Boys need men to model manhood - pure and simple.
Girls, on the other hand, need women to model womanhood.
I am a mother of a GIRL!
I knew this truth, of course, but seeing Ellie's little pink sandals sitting next to mind was a profound moment. She is a child - speaking, thinking, acting and behaving like a child. So I treat her accordingly. We do not discuss gender roles, or her place in the home, or how God designed her to be a help meet to her husband and a faithful servant to her children.
She is four!
We color, take walks, play games, read books, and talk about snacks.
While she loves pretty clothes, she is the baby sister of five brothers - there is not a lot of femininity flowing through this house! She will put on a princess dress and then shoot guns with the boys outside in the dirt.
She chews with her mouth open (AAH!), YELLS every time she speaks, puts Hot-wheels in her purse, and rides a Big Wheel in the middle of the street without shoes on.
That's my girl!
And you see - that is exactly my point! Ellie is a GIRL.
She was designed by the Creator to be a girl.
He chose her gender.
He chose her personality and her strengths.
He made her the youngest of five brothers - for a reason.
And He has a purpose for all of it!
I have no idea what kind of woman Ellie will become.
Will she be shy, strong, independent, behind-the scenes or out in front?
Will she love music and art or numbers and science?
Will she marry and have a family or will the Lord keep her single?
Will she be a faithful friend who pours into the lives of others?
I don't know!
But the Lord DOES.
And He is not asking me to "design her" for the future. He is not asking me to imagine her future.
He is asking me to be FAITHFUL, day by day, year after year, to do what He has commanded me:
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9
Everything I pour into Ellie - whether she is four, fourteen or thirty-four - will become a part of who she is when she is a woman.
My choices affect her ... good and bad ... and will shape the heart and mind of this little girl as the Lord grows her into maturity. She will be watching me. Listening. Examining. And copying.
He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Luke 6
I am Ellie's teacher! I can say all of the right words and read all of the great Scriptures, but if I am not LIVING those truths day by day she will respond to, and mimic, my actions far more quickly then she ever absorbs any of the words I utter.
Oh, how the Lord uses our children to refine us!
If there is one thing that will push a mother towards holiness ... it is knowing her children are seeing their God through HER eyes. They are hearing His voice in HER words. They are seeing His love displayed in HER actions.
And though she knows she is imperfect and will fail them at times, her desire to see them boldly loving their Savior, seeking Him daily, and utterly dependent on Him in all things knowing He is all-sufficient and ever faithful, is what drives her to her knees in prayer and keeps her buried between the pages of Scripture.
Because she knows that without a real, authentic, and personal relationship with Jesus Christ that consumes her life in every way ... all of her labor is in vain.
If we want our children to walk in truth ... we must model what truth-walking looks like!
Whether we are in the mood or not.
Whether it is convenient or burdensome.
F A I T H F U L L Y.
And if we do this, through the help of the only One who can give us the selflessness, strength, and desire we need to be faithful in such a calling, we will enjoy the fruits of our labor when one day ...
Her children rise up and call her blessed. Proverbs 31
May I be found faithful, Lord! To Ellie, and most of all - to You!
Our 10th year of homeschooling! WooHoo!
We are going back to a completely pure homeschooling model this year. No classes, no outsourcing - just me and my children day by day as we pursue the course of study and character training the Lord has called us to ... for such a time as this.
My highly-skilled, and more-than-qualified groom has been gracious to talk, plan, pray, and read with me as we prepare for this year. And there is much to prepare for, though I remind myself continually, "The Lord has this, Michelle!"
Much like the apostles in the boat being tossed by the storm who cried out, "Lord! We are afraid! WHY are You sleeping?" - I have to be reminded by my Savior that HE is not afraid. The same God who controls the wind and the waves and the salvation of my children also controls their character, intellect, and spiritual gifts. What curriculum we use and where they go to college is hardly a cause for an emergency meeting of the Trinity!
Over the past three years the Lord has graciously freed me from the burden of believing that the future, intelligence, and success of my children rests on my shoulders. I cannot do anything to "create" who they are or what they will become. Nor am I called to do so!
The Lord commands us as parents to train our children in righteousness ... to discipline them ... and train them in godliness and wisdom. But never does He command us to secure their futures or prepare them for the workforce.
HE is the One who created them!
HE is the One was has a plan and a purpose for them.
HE knows their every strength and weakness, their passions, skills, and desires.
HE is the One who will continue to mold, shape, prepare, and purify them for the calling He has already placed in their hearts.
My responsibility is to show them the face of God - every single day.
Pray for them - and with them.
Model Christ in my actions, words, and relationships.
Remind them that the Cross is the only place they will find healing.
Teach them the Word of God so they can hide it deep within their hearts so they are able to turn away from evil.
And remind them day by day the beautiful truth that their Lord is ALL SUFFICIENT - in all things - and He is FAITHFUL.
Math, science, history, writing and grammar - they will happen.
But if my children gain a terrific education while following the way of culture, living like the world, and rejecting the Savior ... I will have modeled for them the frightening verse that declares, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?"
And my labor will have been in vain.
I LOVE that the Lord has released me from the burden of claiming the successes and failures of my children.
I love that He knows them intimately and designed them not only in His image, but fearfully and WONDERFULLY.
I love that He has shown me boldly, and without room for doubt, that each of my children - Micah, Luke, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie - are not my children ... but HIS.
He created them in the secret places of the earth, and His work has never ceased since the moment they were formed.
I remember the first year we opened the doors of The Eastman Academy. Micah was going to be in Pre-K, and the night before our first day of school I broke down with Dennis crying, "What if I ruin him? What if he never gets into college because of my mistakes? How will I ever be able to DO THIS?"
He waited until I finished, looked at me very seriously and said, "Babe, he's FOUR. Read some books, pull out some Play-do, teach him to cut with scissors and call it a day!"
The father of our child was not at all worried about what was going to happen to his son during the day - because he trusted ME. He knew that my love for Micah would overpower any deficiencies in my lesson planning or craft ideas. His confidence in me was greater than the confidence I had in myself.
And guess who had it right?
It wasn't me.
I can recall that night with the utmost clarity, and I am so glad I am not that same woman!
I have made mistakes in homeschooling.
I have made mistakes in their Biblical training.
I have failed to show them a gentle and quiet spirit, and responded in anger instead of grace.
I have been lazy when I should have been diligent.
But you know what is amazing about all of these failings? The Lord was right there for every single one of them! In all of my selfish and sinful moments He never left me. And what's more - He never left my children.
He was there ... watching ... convicting ... challenging ... and encouraging me as I moved through each day. The good and the bad. The exciting and the discouraging. The fun and the frustrating.
And now, as we are about to embark on our tenth year of homeschooling, I am more passionate and excited than ever before. Nerves, insecurity, and fear are no longer a part of my curriculum. Not because I have it all together - but because I know the God who DOES!
He promises that I can do ALL THINGS through Him. And when He makes a promise - He means it!
So I can surrender this school year to Him. I can surrender each of my children to Him!
And I can trust that the One who created each of them will guide, shape, and prepare them for the future
that HE has planned.