So I was planning to write a blog post today about raising teens, but then my teen went and had a moment with me that changed everything I had planned.
We have one teen currently: Grace. Her name fits her in so many ways, but one way is that it is by God’s grace we had her as a teen first. There is a day ahead in which we will have at least FIVE teens at the same time. We need some training before that time comes and God is easing us in with Grace (even though sometimes “ease” is not the word we feel like using!) This post was going to be all about that, and that post may still come, but like I said, last night changed the direction.
Grace worked hard last week on a new method of handling school work we started her on and ended up with some free time last night. She would usually use that time to read, but she, her dad and I have been talking about watching the movie The Case for Christ together for months. I proposed the idea and the book went down immediately and 10 minutes later she was curled on the couch in her PJs and under her favorite blanket ready to watch! This blog post is not a review of the movie, but rather about what happened after.
We are a talking family. If you ask a question, you are going to get an answer. If you propose a new idea, it will be looked at from all angles. Teachable moments are a big thing around here, especially with the older kids. After the movie, while saying goodnight to Grace, she started asking some good questions. She was up over an hour later than our first “goodnight” as a teachable moment took precedence. I won’t go into the whole conversation, but one question in particular stood out:
“But wait, if (she) did choose to believe in Him and receive Him, wouldn’t she be healed?”
It was a good question with a hard answer. “No. Not necessarily.”
This same question is asked a lot, with different words, by so many:
“If I am a Christian, doesn’t that mean my life will be easier?”
“Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”
“Why is God punishing me?”
“Why did God do this?”
“How am I supposed to believe God exists and loves me, when there is so much evil in this world? If He created this world, why did He put so much hate in it?”
David shared with her some stories, about times in his life that it wasn’t always easy, but those are his stories to share. I shared a story too. I told her about a young mom. A young mom who had four young children and loved Jesus. Grace stated, “Mom, it’s you. I know that.” Haha, teenagers. I wasn’t trying to fool her, but all good stories have a good setting. Anyway, I told her that this young mom felt called one day to start getting up before the sun to spend time with Jesus
before anyone else got up. I told her this confused me back then because I knew then that God was very aware that I was exhausted from being up with kids often through the night. I didn’t understand why He would ask me to give up more sleep, but His voice on the matter was so clear that I did it anyway. I started a new journal at that time and there is entry after entry about how tired I was, and not knowing why He wanted to meet with me that early, but that I would keep coming. I prayed for my kids, and my husband and our future. I began to think that was why he called me to do it-to see Him do great things in my family because I was praying for us all every morning. I would write about the kids coming out one by one (well the three that were in toddler beds) to join me in watching the sunrise on the back porch and how much I loved them and would do anything for them.
After about a month and a half of these entries, a month and a half of me being faithful to a call, a month and a half of praying for great things for my family, is the entry where I first wrote that my husband had told me he was thinking about leaving. Here I was expecting something big and amazing and instead I got something big and horrible.
At this point David and I explained to our daughter, who has a whole life ahead of her that will hold both joys and hurts, that God could have stopped that from happening, but just like He doesn’t control us or force us to believe in Him, He doesn’t force the actions of those in our lives either. He knew it was coming. His heart was breaking for me before my own started breaking. He knew I would need Him; would need to feel Him closer than ever. So for a month and a half He drew me to His heart, morning after morning, so when the pain came, I would feel Him closer than I ever had.
God doesn’t plan the pain that comes to us. He doesn’t use hard times as punishment. In fact, punishment isn’t his style at all, because that has all been taken care of. His promise is that He is for us. His promise is that He holds all things together. His promise is that we can still rest in Him and His promises. His promise is that He will help if we only ask for it. His promise is that His good overcomes the enemy’s intent to harm. His promise is that He will never leave. His promise is that He is there.
I continued my early mornings and prayed HARD for my marriage to be saved, but again, free will was a factor. My story did not go the way I had, at the time, hoped it would. Grace piped in again, “Because He had something better! He had Daddy for you!”
David stopped her. “You see me as Mom’s reward for her faithfulness, don’t you?” She nodded. “I am not. HE is the reward, the reason, the everything. Really, God was going to use that time to prepare us both for each other and what we would need. And what He was doing in us before and after meeting each other is the good that came.” Grace looked confused. I told Grace I continued the journals. In them I always asked for two things: to see “Beauty from Ashes” in my life and to be amazed. I prayed for those two separate things over and over and over. Then I told her, Dad was not my beauty from ashes. She looked shocked and confused.
About two weeks before meeting David, I had written in huge letters across the wall of my best friend’s and my new bakery space “BEAUTY FROM ASHES”. I was not declaring the bakery the beauty either. I was declaring all the beauty. I was still on a hard road, but God had brought about so much change in me (I was not the same girl who had begun my journey), He had proved Himself faithful countless times, He had filled my life in ways I never knew it could be filled in the midst of what some would see as an unfair time. My beauty from ashes came before I met David. Then I asked Grace when she thought the first time I wrote “God, you have amazed me!” was. She lit up and said, “Daddy!” I said. “yes!” I wrote it the first time a few weeks after meeting her dad. I wrote it again after meeting her and her sisters. I have prayed it many times over since they came into our lives.
As Grace and I turned into blubbering messes (she and I both get emotional when it comes to heartwarming stuff-see the following evidence!),
David took back over. He told her the point we were making was that God doesn’t promise an easy life free of pain if you choose Him. He promises to be there, right there, through all of it. Then another good question came: “But what if I move away from Him or stop believing?”
David went and stood next to Grace and said, “This is how you see that happening.” He started walking with her and then turned her so she was walking away from him. He stopped and cupped his hand over his mouth and pretended to call over a long distance, “Hey Grace! This is God! You lost the path! It’s over here! Come back!” She ran over to him while asking how she would do that in real life-get back to Him. David reminded her that example was of what she thought, but he wanted to show her more of how it is. He started walking with her again and then turned her to walk away from Him. He grabbed her shoulders and stayed right next to her as she walked away from the path. He whispered in her ear, “Hey Grace, the path is over there. Hey Grace, I want you to go the other way. Hey Grace, I am right here, I am not going anywhere. Hey Grace, when you are ready, I will carry you back to the path. Hey Grace, I’m still here.” Grace and I were both tearing up again at the beautiful picture David had given.
We covered a multitude of other topics like true grace vs grace plus works, serving Him vs striving, the security of being in Christ, how she can be an example, what drawing near to Him can look like in her teenage life. But that picture David gave has stuck with me today, and how that same picture is true when it isn’t because we have lost the path. When He is just there in the good moments saying, “I’m here, and I am so proud of you.” When He is just there in the hard moments saying, “I’m here. I’ve got you. Trust me.” He is there in all moments.
Raising teens is hard sometimes. But moments like that, oh moments like that, are why God entrusted us to raise this particular, amazing human being.