I am always learning new lessons from my children. After 20 years of motherhood and 7 children, I believe more heartily today than I did a dozen years ago that there will be many more lessons as the years go by. I will never be able to say, “I have learned all there is about being a mom”.
I learned a pretty deep lesson a few weeks ago from Scarlet, my almost 3-year-old. I have tried to raise my children to be content with what they have. And for the most part, there haven’t been complaints or bickering about hand-me-down clothes or the lack of cable TV in our house. Another reason that they have been content to live with less than your average teen is because of the examples they have in their lives from their friends. I will get back to that in a minute. But for now, back to the lesson that Scarlet taught me.
Two weeks ago, I was going to have some extra time on my hands with Scarlet while the older kids were in their homeschool co-op. Why not go shopping with her? I’m thinking, ‘She could use some new winter boots. Yes, that’s it. I’ll get her new winter boots since she has had this same brown pair for 2 winters.’ Scarlet has been the tiniest and slowest-growing child out of the whole Weatherly clan, so the boots that she got for Christmas 2011 still fit her. There’s nothing wrong with her boots. They’re still in excellent shape, but still, let’s get new ones.
Before we leave home that morning, I get down on my knees and call Scarlet over to me and with excitement tell her, “Scarlet, guess what we are going to do today? We are going to the store and we are going to buy you some new boots!” Instead of cheers of happiness, I see her eyes get this look of confusion and seriousness. Her mind is really thinking about this; I can tell by the way she’s not making eye contact with me, but staring up at a corner of the wall. Then she looks directly at me with a smile, points down to her brown boots that she’s wearing and says, “Have boots”. In other words, ‘Mom, I already have boots. We don’t need to get another pair.” And she went on her way.
And I am left there stunned because, well, aren’t girls supposed to be excited to get new stuff? Well, that all depends on how they are raised. Mike told me awhile back that if we raise our little kids to believe that they need to have the newest fashions in clothes, they will require that as teens. If we raise them to believe that they need the most updated forms of technology, then they will always require that. So true. Life can be a breeding ground for discontentment if we teach our children that there is always something more to buy, something more to look for, something else to keep us happy. Scarlet wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of buying new boots because she simply knew that she already had boots that worked just fine. What if we all thought that way? If we said, “I have enough” and chose contentment rather than consumerism.
No guilt trips here. I am not saying to live like a hermit and pretend that we don’t truly need things. But can I, as an American girl, truly differentiate between a need and a want? Even though I have lived a much simpler life this last decade, I have been trained in greed and coveting. I constantly have to keep my flesh in check because the ‘worries of this world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desire for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.’- Mark 4:19.
Now back to the examples that my children have. This is so important- Who our children have as role models. As a parent, I am not powerless in helping my kids choose who they will look up to or which friends they will have. And thankfully, my children have had awesome examples of what a selfless, satisfied life can look like in the life of an American teen. Friendships that revolve around malls and opposite-sex relationships and competition and gossip: This is what I have prayed against. Friendships that revolve around more eternal matters, such as caring for the orphan, looking out for the underdog, the desire to live a pure and pleasing life to the Lord: This is what I have prayed for. Amazingly, these types of kids do exist.
Tiffany and Kaylie are blessed to have friends whose lives are not the norm. One of them, Sydney, at such a young age, has started a non-profit ministry that sends food and clothing and medical supplies to orphans in Ghana. And whose family has adopted 4 of those orphans and now devotes their whole life to this cause. Sydney leaves again next week for another trip to Ghana.
Or the other young lady, at just 16 years old, who is sacrificing 6 months of her life to serve a missionary family in Chad, Africa, by helping the mother with her young children. She leaves May 30.Or the family that left everything behind to move to Africa for 2 years with their 5 sons to serve a population of needy- both physically and spiritually- people. The sacrifices that I see these kids making, they, themselves, wouldn’t consider them sacrifices, but just a part of who they are and what God has called them to do. They exude joy and contentment and satisfaction, knowing that they are living their lives for a cause higher than themselves; they are living for Jesus.
The 16-year-old girl that I mentioned above- her family has made such an impact on my life. Her dad was a basketball player for UofL and felt the Lord leading him to witness to Muslims in Africa with his family. Talk about radical! What a dangerous mission! His family of 10 has lived in several African countries, ministering to Muslims (you know, the people that most of us feel intimidated by). There was a sacrifice of comfort and convenience, but you know what? His children loved it there. They now live here in KY in a modest 3 bedroom, 1 bath home and are active in serving the local community while the dad makes occasional trips back to the Middle East to speak to Muslims.
The other night at our church’s Community Group, several of us families were discussing the questions that were based on the message that the pastor gave the previous Sunday. One of the questions was: ‘Do you ever feel like you have enough?’ None of us could answer yes, that we felt like we had enough. There is always something else we feel like we need. Everyone gave an answer similar to that except for this mother of 8 children, the one whose husband was called to Africa to minister to Muslims. She answered, “I have more than enough”.
Scarlet still has her beloved brown boots. And I am still learning new lessons about contentment and how I can instill that quality in my children. I need to keep myself grounded on the things that really matter, the things that matter to Him. “Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion”- Proverbs 30:8. My prayer is, “Less of me, more of You, Jesus. Help me to teach my children that they don’t need more stuff, more clothes, better ipods, newer boots, updated bedroom furniture. Help them to know deep in their hearts that they truly do have more than enough of the world’s goods. What they need more of is You.”