Wednesday, July 08, 2009

and um

There is nothing like having a few kids to strengthen ones' resolve in the belief of total depravity. You discover very quickly from these angelic looking creatures that no one needs to teach them to lie, fight,hit or disobey. It comes very naturally. And at times you stare blankly at your husband across the table wondering how these horrid little misbehaving people came from you. In a sense, we are wired to be destructive to our own happiness and well-being and destructive in how we relate.
Kindness, self-control, generosity, truthfulness and a sense of justice are things that need to be modeled and taught. It's a harrowing responsibility, not so much the saying but the living part of it. I've been pondering how I can teach my children to be compassionate in a time when so many kids grow up thinking the world is centered around them. I'm looking forward to starting this book just given to me by my thoughtful mom-in-law. As parents, we spend hours of time and energy taking our kids to dance and sports and encouraging social, athletic, and academic success. It's good to pursue growth in these things but how much time do we spend teaching our kids to be mindful of the needs of others and how to serve? We are immensely blessed to have so much freedom and abundance and responsibility comes with that privilege. So I talk to Juden, mostly, as he is the most inquisitive, about what is going on in our world. He overhears the news, our prayers and my conversations anyway, why not try to put it on his level? I told him how in some countries followers of Jesus are not allowed to pray and worship freely. I tell him that in some places in the world there are children and mommies and daddies without enough to eat,things painful to see much less to live. But I also tell him about hope and that there are little ways to help. The interesting result has been his prayers. The boy loves to pray and his prayers especially before dinner go on and on with lots of, "and,um and um's" between requests. His prayers are simple and heartfelt and have, on more than one occasion, brought tears to my eyes. He prays for Nana's legs to walk without a cane, for all the children in the world to be healthy, for people not to get in trouble for praying,that people won't fight, that he can go to Mimi's pool and on and on, you get the picture. Then one night after a somewhat exasperated stream of "and um's" he said, "and um, I just can't stop loving you."

Sometimes, along the way, you start to see these little signs that the seeds that were planted are beginning to bloom. It's a beautiful thing and glimmer of God's love that I want to remember. I am seeing the Holy Spirit stirring inside my boy and it makes me so thankful. The other day I sat with Juden at the table as he slowly picked at his food, unusual for my ravenous boy. And then he said, " Mom, if I just eat a little of my breakfast can we send the rest of it to Wogayehu?" He has looked at his picture many times and prayed for him. Pictured is a small-framed Ethiopian boy. He is not smiling and his feet are breaking out of his torn shoes. He has no mother and father, lives with a grandmother and is one of the thousands of kids that depend on being sponsored in order to go to school and have enough food. I told Juden how kind that was and then explained that we couldn't box up his scrambled eggs and sausage and send it half way around the world. But we could send him some money, letters and our prayers. There are tangible ways we can get involved that can also help our kids become more mindful of those around them. Here are a just a few, Compassion, Mocha Club, Shoes for Orphan Souls. I'm thinking the last one will be particularly fun for my shoe-loving girls. You don't have to have lots of extra money to give, you just have to be open-handed with what God has given you. It's not based on momentary bleeding heart emotions, though admittedly for me those are often there. We give in love for the One who has given us everything we have including our very breath.
The other morning I paused on the trail I was running on to pray and instead of thinking about it too hard I thought of Juden's prayer and the sweet aroma it must have been to God. I wondered what my life would look like if that was the cry of my heart.
"Papa, I can't stop loving you."
And it was enough.