What do I really want to teach my children?
One of the kids’ favorite morning cartoons tossed out the phrase “have courage” to an army of squirrels.
I had my back to the TV trying to put shoes on their feet and asked my two sleepyheads, what do you think it really means to have courage?
Without a pause, brother said, being kind. (G was still in a fog.)
It caught me so off guard that I said a silent prayer of thanks for whomever taught him that and then thought about what MY answer would be.
I arrived at a simple statement: Courage is making the right decisions even when they are hard. I got a nod from brother and a thumbs-up from G. Who knows if it stuck for them? It doesn’t even really matter though, because it stuck for me.
Teachable moment for (myself) today: CHECK. Today I will make the right decisions even when they are hard. Maybe by living this daily I can teach my children to do it too.
So many of these little moments – life lesson moments – are found in the quiet quick places. If I blink, I miss them. This is one of my biggest inspirations behind this writing adventure, the practice of becoming heartfully present. Stepping away from the noise and pull of a world that tries to convince me that I need to be more than I am. Opening my eyes and heart to living well, right here. Modeling this for my children, who I hope will catch it young and let it serve them through their wild and precious lives.
Because these little people are not our own. We just get to borrow them for a little while, give them all the heart we can, and send them out to make a difference for God and for people in the world. Their smarts can be trained (thank you teachers!), skills can be practiced (thank you coaches!), but character only grows with constant attention to bloody knees, sweaty hard work, and tears of victory and defeat. And a whole lot of prayer through it all.
This is the beauty of moms and dads, and grandparents, and mentors too. We get to be the ministers of all this magic.
So in the quiet moments where I am bandaging those bloody knees, and wiping those brows, and drying those tears, what do I really want to teach my children?
You are so supremely loved by God, your parents, your family, and your friends. People will come in and out of your life. They will tell you things about yourself. Some are true and some are not. Remember whose you really are. You have supreme worth. Be real and stand tall. When the world tries to teach you that your real worth is in your status, your place on the scoreboard, your clothes, money, car, or assets, your looks, or your friends, I want to teach my children to come back to this place right here and remind yourself who and whose you really are.
God, your parents, your spouse, and your inner circle of friends and mentors. Lean into these people who speak truth to you, truth about who you are and who you are becoming. When they hurt you, say the hard words and do the hard courageous things to make it right. If you can’t, love them anyway. Time is the most precious gift you have and can give. Make time for these special people. Learn to speak their love languages and make it a point to reach out and care for them well.
Your gifts are uniquely yours, designed in you to be used for good, for God, and for His kingdom. Staying comfortable in your castle is not what you’re meant for. Stretch and grow and extend and give to people who need your love. No service, large or small, is insignificant in God’s eyes. You won’t receive recognition for most of it. Serve anyway.
Getting hurt will make you want to hide and close off the best parts of yourself to the people you love. This will only break your heart, and theirs too. Choose to forgive, to move forward, and continue to offer what’s lovely in you, expecting to receive what’s lovely in them. (“Namaste” translates to: the light in me honors the light in you. The yogis have it figured out.)
The more you learn, the better you will become. Take the time to read good books of all genres. Read what you like. If it bores you, put it away. If you love it, read it and mark it up, and then give it away. It will give you such joy to spread what you love and learn to other people. Listen to God. He will speak to you in strange and quiet ways, but only when you are willing to be still and let Him. And listen to that still small voice in you. It knows you better than your brain does and will steer you right.
You will learn from them too. Smart people, wise speakers, compassionate servants, quirky neighbors, funny friends, creative experts, people rooted in faith and strong ethics you admire. Since you become like the five people you spend the most time with, choose them with care.
When you know what your beliefs are, it will be easier to stay on course. It will feel easier to stand your ground in tough situations. It will be easier to find your tribe of people who can encourage you in those beliefs. And funny enough, it will be easier to enjoy community with people who do not share your beliefs. When you stand firm in what you believe, you can listen with love and desire to learn instead of lashing out in heated debate to “win” your side of the argument.
Just because it’s done a certain way doesn’t mean you must do it that way. There are infinite ways to live your life. Want a corporate job? Interview on. Want to make weird art in a city studio? Create on. Want to start your own business? Entrepreneur on. Want a life in academia or education? Study on. Want to enter into the ministry, military, non-profit realm, or your own home? Serve on. Everyone gets their chance to choose their life and so do you. The people will love you no matter what you do, because we love you for who you are.
Your lives began in the most unconventional, extravagant ways, and there’s no reason the rest of your lives won’t be just as extraordinary. Don’t be afraid to break the mold. You were made for it, anyway.
The only limit on you is the one you place on yourself. “Good enough” is fantastic when you need to give yourself grace, but it is never enough for your amazing life. Jesus came that you might have life, and have it abundantly. Don’t waste a moment of it on pursuits that don’t set your spirit on fire. Ironically, all of the pursuits that will set your heart ablaze come with heartache, disappointment, doubt, and frustration. Work through it. There is absolute glory on the other side of it, and a version of you who you never imagined could exist. To quote Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own: It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.
What I want to teach my children is that the world is theirs… and that my world is full of their magic.
Make it amazing, dear ones. I will love watching you soar.
Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have 4 children, LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and brand new baby Elisha.