Watch and Pray

DSCN0241  Middle school:

the two words deliver hefty punches with immediate images.

Heavy and tedious.

Like a backpack bulging, slung over, with dreaded algebra homework lurking within.

For females, the image evoke scenes of social awkwardness, screaming insecurities that we alone can hear, but are sure the whole wide world can spot when we walk into a room.

With these images resurfacing in my own memory bank as my two oldest rounded out the last years of elementary school, I decided to do a two year stint of homeschooling with my two oldest daughters.

My oldest for grades 6th and 7th.

My second oldest for grades 5th and 6th, together.

Based almost entirely on a prompting that it would be good for them.

Good for us.

Not a sheltering, per so, but a shoring up.

A deliberate reminding of who they are and how God sees them. What is true in this world. How to think and process and use logic. To laugh and tell excessive jokes based on the USA show Psych!

To learn how to bake bread and do the laundry properly, and breed bunnies for profit.

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For the most part, I loved it. We grew closer. We would have days where the discussions would go for hours. They received a top notch education, and I realized how much I still love the academic.

But then once again, life shifted, as life does.

I started working part time just in the evenings. I did not think it would have the slightest impact on my teaching during the day. I never schooled in the evening, after all.

But it did.

Work was good for me, for us as a family. The frenzy of Christmas came in all its retail and madness and I could barely function from the stress of it. Six months left in the school year, and plans to put the girls back in public school come the following fall, as was the plan for the beginning, started to not look like a good idea.

Not for me. Not for them. Not for us as a family. Something had to give.

My second oldest went back to the snug confines of an elementary classroom down the street in the New Year.  Where they still pass out cupcakes on their birthday and jump rope at recess. My oldest went to the big impersonal middle school across town that every 7th grader in the entire district attend.

Dropping her off at middle school that first day and walking away down a shiny floored hallway, while she practiced her locker number for the ninth time was unbelievably hard.

Sad panicky tears.

I can’t even concretely articulate why. Part sadness of how grown up she is now; in middle school. Part panic of how harsh these children, desperately trying to play the part of worldly adult, are.

But weeks prior to me walking away with tears we went in together for a visit. I had never even set foot in the school before that day.  We walked into the front office and were directed back to the guidance counselor’s office. Crossing over the thresh hold of the lobby into the offices I immediately was struck that the atmosphere of the staff was positive and in control. The counselor was frank and upbeat. I exhaled fully for the first time that day.

The school does have issues.

There are multiple fights in the hallway which my daughter has accidentally been jostled near and nearly struck.

Children casually drop the F-bomb in their conversations amongst each other like Barney giving out hugs, and the teachers do not say a word.

From the way she describes it, walking down the hallways and going to the girls bathroom is bit like trying to navigate the island in Lord of the Flies.

I drilled her everyday those first couple weeks with specifics and would give her no rest until I received specific answers.

Most of the teachers had control of the classrooms. This accounts why she was so taken aback at “how mean they are”. Zero tolerance of pulling crap.

“Good” I said.

She is there to be educated, after all.

I still do not like it, but I am not afraid of it.

I keep praying for one good Christian friend so they can “sharpen each other” like the Bible says believers need to have.

She went to the IF:Gathering conference with me a few weekends past, even though it was not a “teen thing” but a “woman thing”.

I don’t buy the whole teen culture needing a “teen friendly” God.

She is in the world and has to make the choice herself not to be in it by treading softly with integrity down rough hallways and graffiti bathrooms, leaving just a slight imprint where ever she goes; an impression of something strangely set apart and whole, often without saying a word.

That is what I pray.

No amount of youth geared church activities or a ten step strategy on how to be a good teen Christian will neatly achieve that. However, as abstract as it is, every time I pray for my oldest, that is what I see.

So that is what I keep praying.

I brought her to the  IF: Gathering as part of her birthday present since that week she and I had our 13th and 35th birthday, respectively.

I booked us a hotel even though it was ten minutes away. With a pool of course because swimming in an 85 degree pool in February is too good to pass up. People were surprised I would bring a 13 year old to the event. I explained it in terms of this:

In the Hebrew faith when a boy turns 13 they have a Bar Mitzvah.

A coming into manhood that includes his faith walk.

I ancient times, it was around this age he would start to learn directly In The Temple.

That idea would not let me go: Female gentile Bar Mitzvah?

So my daughters do church with us.

Yes they go downstairs during the sermon, but only every other week.

I brought her to IF: Gathering, because I felt it was relevant not for just woman in church, but The Church. I want her to live out being The Church; not just a moral teen with a crash test course in Apologetic 101.

Like it or not, middle school aged children are throw in adult situations and problems, see the ugliness of adult sin.

Let’s give them adult faith.

Let them be around adult women simply talking about their faith and their testimony in a fallen world.

It is what The Church has always done.

Why have we made it so complicated, by making it so curtailed?

We have taken away the beauty and power of the Body coming together and being real and simple.

And so every morning I watch from the art room window in our house to see her stand alone, cold winter morning breath billing around her uncovered head, because she refuses to wear a hat, as she waits for the big yellow bus to cart her away.

And I feel torn.

She has to walk her faith herself, but I can’t just throw her to the wolves and hope for the best, can I?

Our children are inundated with sexual images every time they connect to wifi.

They hear adult crude language pretty much as soon as they leave the confines of their home from peers and social outlets.

We worry if they will to be able to stand for their faith in the public school when it comes to the origin of life, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of sex, why believing in Christ alone is not the same as religious intolerance; something most adults have trouble doing, including myself.

Then we exclude our youth from participating in the beauty of the body blending together in corporate worship, so they can go downstairs for “teen jam” worship.

Prayer group is for old ladies with too many hours to fill.

If they hear a sermon it has to dumbed down and entertaining, with excessive culture euphemisms so they “can relate” and “not  get bored or confused”. Which by the way always comes off as contrived and lame.

I believe my generation stands as grim testament that taking kids out of the world into a secluded G-rated,smiley-face-Jesus-world, does not work.

As more and more parents of my generation are, with ringing hands and jelly knees and acid stomach, feel led to allow our precious fledglings out of the nest to awkwardly test their wings in a world that is not holy but harsh, let us do some other things different too.

Let’s not buy a teen devotional Bible for them. Blow off the dust on the simple one sitting on the bookshelf, and open it up when they have questions.

Let’s not be satisfied with youth group leaders making The Word relevant.

Let’s not be guilted into ordering another family devotion that someone at church recommends, that is so cookie cutter and prepared that all you have to do is read a paragraph and tell them to turn to a Bible passage and ask “what do you think about that verse” {Because it says in parenthesis to ask your kid that} while everyone squirms in awkward silence, hoping this will be over soon.

Homeschooling showed me how much children, teens, want to listen to what their parents’ think or believe about something.

They want to figure it out, and are okay, if not immediately comforted or informed, if you cannot answer a question about your faith.

The Lord has spoke very clearly to me as I wrestle with just what I need to do and exactly how I need to love my children as they grow up. It was very, very simple:

“Let them know you see them and that you believe in them”.

We as a family, do not set aside family devotion times.

We just don’t. Sometimes I feel bad about it, but it never, ever, feels natural. I did with just the girls when we were homeschooling, and that was great. One of the best things to come out of our home schooling. But the whole family in our loud, crashing evenings, with dinner seldom on before 7pm?…not gonna happen.

I’m sure there are many, many families that do, and it’s a precious and meaningful time.

I just can’t bring myself to do it.

However, being available for them, by our family purposely doing less running around stuff, including church activities, does not exactly come natural either. It most definitely is not fun or the least bit warm and fuzzy most days, because being home a lot with noisy, emotional, bickering four daughters, leaves me so tired and cranky I feel like being a mother is the most unsuited job for me possibly.

Seriously.

But I have four daughters aged 13 to 6, and they are my responsibility. I always love them. However,  I need God’s grace, and Him showing me how much He not only loves, but likes me, to like them in turn.

Seriously.

The exact sentiment applies to our marriage.

So every day, after day, after day, I not only do dishes and laundry, and homework, and run to horse riding and piano lessons, and work a few evenings a week too, but I show up fully for them.

To listen and counsel,  and answer question, and listen and listen some more mainly.

It is never planned, or curtailed to a lesson format.

It is full of fights, and yelling and throwing things and crappy apologies followed sometimes by genuine tearful apologies {from both the girls and myself}.

Tim and I, we live out our life and our faith with four moody gangly girls in the midst of it.

And when these girls walk out the door, with stuffed backpacks, skinny jeans, and still not wearing a sensible hat to be carted away where I cannot follow, I watch them shuffle out

and

I pray.

to pray

Cheers.

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