Chris and I have been parenting for over six years now. People always say you learn just as much from your children as they learn from you. Up until today, I would’ve agreed with them in general, but wouldn’t have said that I’ve experienced this in a “knock me off my feet and take my breathe away” kind of way.
After all, we’ve learned that sacrifice is hard. Especially when you’re sacrificing sleep. She’s taught us how selfish we are and how much love we are truly capable of giving. She’s taught us that actions speak louder than words and all the other (cliché but true) things you hear when you’re a new parent. She’s even taught me that just because a millipede is called a MILLIPEDE, it does NOT mean it has a million legs.
Tonight at dinner, however, she taught us something that brought us both to tears.
And I don’t cry easily, so this was big.
She not only taught us, but she showed us that God is present, God is faithful, and God uses our bad for good, if you commit it up to him to do so. (Romans 8:28)
Promise has so many wonderful character qualities and of course, as her mom, I think she’s brilliant.
But, she’s never been a natural giver.
It’s been one of those things that Chris and I, as parents, have mulled over and even tried to force at times. We’ve tried to model it to her, talk her through it logically, and probably even bribe her into it. The fact that Chris can get her to spend $1 of her own money on me at Christmas time (in the dollar store…she bought me a lighter because I needed one) we consider a huge parenting WIN.
Tonight, as we were sitting at dinner, bent over our leftover BBQ pulled pork and pizza from our blizzard-wary Super Bowl party, I started up a round of questioning that isn’t unusual for our family. I started doing this about two years ago, after my friend Elizabeth gave me a book called, “Sleeping with Bread”.
It’s pretty simple and a great tool when conversation is lacking (which it can be, at times, when raising an only child). We go around and take turns asking each person at the table, two very simple questions; “What was the worst part of your day?” and “What was the best part of your day?”. It’s so interesting, and often humorous, to hear the responses. I’ll admit, I’ve even used it as a discipline tool (i.e. “The worst part of my day, Promise, was how you haven’t been listening well to me tonight…”). Not my proudest parenting moment, but it was truthful and is, besides the point.
I had spent a portion of my morning listening to an mp3 of a sermon from one of our associate pastors, Brodie, in which he stated the fact that you have a window between the ages of 6-9 where you can really get to know your child. Before 6 they’re not very good at communicating what’s going on inside their tiny bodies and after 9, they don’t want to. So, I’m trying to take full advantage of this window:)
We went around the table; Promise’s worst part was (understandably) tripping in gym and landing on the metal part of the balance beam. She couldn’t remember the best part. Probably because she had fell on the metal part of the balance beam. Chris’ best part was getting our garage door fixed. Not surprisingly, his worst part was the $375 we had to spend to do it. Then it was my turn.
I took a deep breathe, still weighing in my mind if this was appropriate “6 year old talk” and decided to dive in. I said, “well it wasn’t the worst part, but it was the saddest part, and it made me cry”.
I immediately had Promise’s attention, because again, I usually don’t cry.
I proceeded to tell Chris and her how I had rcvd an email from a friend who had moved away. This friend works with an orphanage in Kenya and they recently had had a little girl with Spina Bifida come to live there. She is nine years old (and for purposes of personal safety, I won’t reveal her name). Because of the lack of parents, medical care, and love in a former living situation, this little girl lives in constant pain. She was given crutches, but they are too hard for her to use, so she scoots herself to school on the ground everyday. She also has difficulty controlling her bladder and bowels, which is humiliating around her peers. They contacted me in hopes that I could design a logo for their donation website in order to buy her a wheelchair.
Obviously, with hot tears burning my eyes, I typed my reply of, “yes, of course”.
The tears stung because there have been countless times where I’ve played out this exact scenario in my head. What would my life have looked like if I had been born into impoverished circumstances, without the medical care I’ve received?
My life, most likely, would look like hers.
I scoot myself around on my own clean, warm floors when my legs are too weak and I’m playing with Promise, because I choose to do that. I can’t imagine doing the same on dirty, dusty streets and sidewalks out of necessity to get somewhere. I have and continue to have countless bladder and bowel surgeries so that I can have some form of control and not be humiliated in public. I have a company that SHIPS ME STERILE SUPPLIES TO MY FRONT DOOR, so that I am able to go to the bathroom and live a comfortable life. This girl can only dream about that.
Promise listened intently as I talked. She had that look she gets when she’s processing things. After a moment, she excused herself from the table. I hadn’t even had a chance to say my “best” part yet. Chris and I continued our dinner, figuring she was taking her normal break from dinner to go to the bathroom.
After a few minutes, she came back to the table holding a $10 bill and two $1 dollar bills in her hand. She handed them to me and said, “this was the biggest dollar bill I had in my wallet, plus two more, so it’s twelve dollars. You can give it to her to buy her wheelchair.” She remarked how embarrassing it must be for this little girl to be late to school every day.
Then she said, “ok, now what was the best part of your day?”.
Chris and I looked at each other, both with tears in our eyes, then I looked at her and said, “THIS is the best part of my day”.
You see, I determined three years ago to not be scared of how my disability would impact her, but rather to pray that God would use it to teach her compassion towards others and ultimately, more about himself.
Tonight I saw it. I saw it in the huge smile filled with PURE JOY when she handed me those $12. I saw it when she ran back upstairs to get two more dollars. I saw it when she decided to take $1 back for herself, then reconsidered and decided to give all $14. I saw it when I could share with her the story of the woman who gave all she had, even though it seemed small to some, which is what God wants (Mark 12: 41-44). I saw it when Chris said, “I’m pretty sure you just made God smile” and she replied, “he’s probably so happy that he is laughing the kind of laugh where no sound comes out.” I saw it in my daughter and I’ll cherish this everyday dinnertime moment for the rest of my life.
It is a bright ray of hope in what’s been a challenging six years of parenting with physical challenges and clinging to the prayer that SOMEHOW and SOME WAY, this wouldn’t scar her, but rather, strengthen her little spiritual muscles. God’s got my little girl even though I have no clue what I’m doing.
Mark 12: 41-44
“Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.
43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”
**As our family continues to interact and learn more about this little girl, I will hopefully be able to provide ways, through this blog, that we can help her and be the literal hands and feet of Jesus to her**