Seven a.m. found us at the airport this morning only to find out that our flight to Orlando will be an hour late. We left our house at 5 a.m. and sweet Joel took his turn to transport us. A generous offer to send Joy and Nate to the national competition if I would speak was irresistible as I take advantage of every training opportunity for my children that I can. Training brings skill, confidence, poise and grace to children as they learn, experience by experience how to build their skills at relating to life and to people. Some have asked me how I can allow my children to go into the world to dangerous places--New York, Boston, overseas, etc. I think that your goals and philosophy will determine so much of what you do and practice. Clay and I talked hours and hours about our ideals for our children. Our ultimate goal was to teach and model to our children what is looked like for them to walk with God. Our goal wasn't just to teach them morality, or to indoctrinate them spiritually, but to cultivate in them a heart for God, a heart for His word, and to slowly give them independence so that they would be able to make good choices and have convictions.
We often talked about "he who is faithful with small things will be faithful in much." And for us this meant, little by little, giving them opportunities to walk with God, to make decisions; to practice being responsible with us, so that as we walked alongside them, we could help them, pick them up, teach them to learn from mistakes while they were still at home, and then always say, "God has a work for you to do in your lifetime and in this world. Your personal integrity will be the platform from which you will give your messages. If you are faithful at home, we will help you to expand your borders."
Jesus said of his disciples, "Father, I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one." Jesus sent his disciples into the world to bring His light and redemption and love. How can we as parents have a different goal? Am I ever worried? Of course I am. it is a dangerous world out there. But having prayed for them and told them all their lives that they were to be kingdom bearers in the world--that they would be God's hands and feet and mouth to lost people, then we had to support them, pray for them and be accountable to them as God began to give them dreams and to open doors for them.
Clay and I did decide that our children needed a transitional year between high school graduation and college or moving away. Each lived at home, worked, built faithfulness and proved their character. This year, we developed opportunities for the kids to expand their borders and to spread their wings. We stay face to face and very active in our children's lives--and we did send them to lots of training places with other strong believers (Masterworks, Summit Ministries, World View academy and others Clay attended with the boys). But these were baby steps toward owning their own lives. Each child is different, but the basis of loving discipleship and relationship leadership was always a big part of our lives. However, most of all, we depended on the Lord, prayed a lot and asked His Holy Spirit to work. He is always our confidence. He is our strength and the one we went to in unsure times.
I think that when parents try to hold on to their children as they get older and make them totally dependant on them, they are inhibiting them in their own adult life and in their walk with the Lord. There is a balance and each child is different. But, that is why training and foundations are so important. We taught scripture in the market place of life. High control and protection and training when they were little as we helped them to establish foundations. Then, little by little walking along beside them to let them see what ministry looked like--talkging, talking, talking every step of the way as Jesus did.
That is why we made each of our children speak or sing or serve or perform in some way every year of our mom's conferences. We wanted them to perceive that they had something to say, something to give, something to do--in helping even those who were in our audiences. Yesterday, Joel and I were talking and he said, "It is funny how all of us feel pretty secure speaking or singing in front of people. You all always said we needed to be message makers and we needed to have experience doing it. I remember one year being so terrified to get up in front of the crowd. But you and Dad prayed and encouraged me through it and now I see that all of us kids perceive ourselves as people with a message. Training and experience made the difference."
It is fun to finally be at the stage where often our children reflect wisdom from their own hearts--to see that they have owned the messages we had to repeat over and over and over again. So that is why I am excited about this week. Another opportunity to be beside my children, to encourage and instruct them and support them as they are rubbing shoulders with those outside of their box. Clay has already talked about what he is going to do with our kids who are still home this week--taking them alone to breakfast to talk with them about their ideals and goals. So we will both have time to pour into our kids and to further prepare them to move ahead confidently into their own arenas. Joy and Nate will be in monologues competitions, singing, acting, modeling. Why? Because they have an interest in these areas. When we found out that 98 per cent consume media and only two percent inform the values of media, we could see that it was an arena in which the Lord would call some to be a different kind of model, to bring different values. It is a touch arena, and there will be obstacles for our children along the way, but we will be beside them, praying every day, and talking, talking, talking. But, in obedience to Christ, we want and long for them to have a heart of compassion for the lost. We do not want them to have pharisee hearts--that they are somehow better than others who have fallen--but we want them to have pure hearts, filled with compassion for the lost and broken. We want them to, by God's grace, take His light and redemption to every corner of the earth in confidence that He is with them and will sustain them and guide them because of their own walk with God.
Please pray for us this week. Please pray for many to come to our conferences as we so long to encourage, help and train precious moms, so that they, too, will grow in their vision about how to train, love and prepare their children to be mature disciples for Christ. Whole Heart Ministries depends on the Lord for our financial stability and it has been our conferences that have helped us to do the work we have been able to do, in order to support our staff and to fund the publishing of our books and materials. We appreciate every bit of help you give to us to be able to reach more families. We so appreciate your prayers. May our wonderful Lord bless and encourage you for a most productive and blessed 2009 Love, and blessings to you all! Sally