Here's the thing I'm learning in baby steps along the way, God doesn't want me to just trust Him in the circumstances that I choose with the parameters that I set- in my comfort zone, so to speak, He wants me to trust Him in the places where HE places me/us with conditions that may be and likely are very much out of my control. No doubt, the fact that we have made the decision to raise our family overseas, definitely creates it's own set of issues and interesting situations- possibly far more situations that are out of our control when it comes to parenting, but don't think for a minute that we can't create our own comfort zones right here in this very foreign culture. Although we are physically removed from what is likely MOST comfortable, the world is at our fingertips, so comfort is often just a click away. If I fully believe that God has called our entire family to this place, and I do, then I must trust Him with the details of what that means for our entire family. I love the reminder in Acts 17:26 that God "determined the times set for them (mankind) and the exact places where they should live." God knows exactly what our family needs, exactly in the place where He has called us. He has shown me time and again how important it is to build our children in to the very fabric of what we are called to do in Christ. Yes, there will be days when the mountain seems insurmountable, but I must trust that He will be my foothold, and will enable me to keep climbing.
I posted a while back HERE on lessons learned about being entrusted with the lives of my girls. That's kind of the easy part for me. Yes, it's weighty- a huge responsibility. But it's something I'm able to exert a certain amount of control over. I make choices about the way I structure our days and our lives. It's my responsibility to be faithful, or not, with the tasks God calls me to. The bigger challenge for me is not that I've been ENTRUSTED with their precious little lives for this season, but that I must TRUST God with the outcome of those lives for the long haul, because when it comes down to it, those lives, though entrusted to me for now, are not mine at all. They are His. His to mold, His to instruct, His to lead. During our fertility journey a few years ago, He gave me a very vivid picture of my girls lives being in His hands that I posted about HERE. It's something I'm so thankful for, as He uses that picture of life being in His hands quite regularly to remind me to let go a little if I am holding on to something regarding my girls too tightly. And I do have to ask myself regularly if I am making a decision for my family, my girls in a way that reflects my trust in His ability to care for them or am I trying to hold on a little bit too much because of my desire to be in control. Why is it so hard of a lesson for a mom to learn that His care is so much more effective than hers?!
What's so amazingly comforting and well, just cool, for lack of a better word, about this journey is that I can look back over the last 14, (almost 15!!) years of parenting and see God's faithfulness and tender care along the way. Circumstances and situations that may have seemed insurmountable at the time: putting my kids in a foreign preschool and having to walk away as they screamed, studying foreign languages when I wanted to be studying ABCs with toddlers, dragging the family out to a 10 PM visit when I just wanted to crash, worrying over my second grader not yet reading well in English because Arabic came first to name a few, have been used by God as reminders that His care for my family is so much greater than mine can ever be. Hard to imagine, but God did, after all, create the maternal instinct and is therefore far better at it than I ever could be!
"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me." Isaiah 49:15
"He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40:11
My maternal instinct is to protect, shield and often remove my girls from things that might be unpleasant and difficult in their lives. However as God teaches me about fully trusting Him as it relates to discipling my girls, He is showing me that that is not always His instinct. When Jesus prayed for His disciples in John 17 He said in verse 15, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.". It really hit me recently that he prayed specifically to God, "NOT that you take them out...". How often do I pray for my kids to be removed from a difficulty, or sometimes even remove them from it myself? Wow. I mean that requires a different level of trust entirely to actively and knowingly leave your kiddos in a difficult situation, of course praying for their protection from the evil one, but allowing them to struggle, to seek to gain a foothold themselves in a difficult situation! God give me strength!!
So as I've been pondering all of this over a period of weeks, months even, God blessed me with an amazing visual reminder of exactly what He is trying to teach me. And better yet, I got to experience it with my older 3 girls.
In our travels this summer, we've had some amazing experiences including a beautiful morning hike in the Alps. Abbey and Maddie charged quickly ahead while Naomi and I brought up the rear.
As you can tell, she was loving it...
It was a beautiful mountain path and we were high up there!
After about 20 minutes or so, the climb got pretty difficult. Under normal circumstances, it probably wouldn't have been too bad, but it had been raining A LOT and the dirt trail was a muddy mess and was extremely slippery. Understandably, I don't have any pics of the difficult part of the trek as I was quite literally pulling and pushing Naomi up the side of the mountain. She had one pretty big fall where she slid about 3 feet in the mud and it just happened to be on a very narrow and steep part of the trial. I knew she was not in any danger and I also knew that she was completely terrified in that moment. We stopped and prayed and I showed her how we were going to continue on.
She wanted to quit, to turn back, but I wouldn't let her. I know we were almost to the top, and I knew the view was going to be amazing. I also knew she would be thrilled once she actually made it to the top. There were lots of tears and a good 20 minute pause in our hike, but she eventually let me lead her quite literally footprint by footprint. I would take my foot and put it on a root or rock or something secure, showing it that it wouldn't slip, and she would follow putting her foot right where mine had been. As we hiked, I was saying all the things you could imagine about how this was like our walk with God, how he helps us stand on places where we couldn't' otherwise stand, how he makes our feet secure etc. I honestly wasn't completely sure how much she was actually listening until we got to the top and she told her big sisters that she'd been pretending I was God and she was following... Ok, maybe not what I was looking for but she was getting at least the idea!
She was SO proud when we did finally make it to the top.
and more than a little dramatic with her sisters about what she had endured (they were way ahead of us!)
(and of course she had to fall again when we were almost back to the bottom and soak up more mud)
How often in the mountains we are climbing are we tempted to turn back and just give up? Decide it's not worth it and call it a day. Or especially in the mountain of parenthood, simply choose the easier path. I am so thankful for this very visual lesson God gave the girls and I in fully trusting Him with placing our feet on the firm places where He will enable us to stand. The path all around us may be slippery and often scary, but we can rest assured that His hands will steady us.
For Naomi, this was a lesson in pressing on, trusting her mom in a new kind of way and learning how that related to trusting God.
For me, this was a very pointed reminder from my heavenly Father to trust Him with my girls in a way that allows Him to be their foothold. As much as I want to, I cannot always provide them with a firm place to stand, but I can direct them to the One who can.
"It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of the deer; he enables me to stand on the heights."
Psalm 18: 32-33