“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.[a] 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7
Zoom, Zearn, and Zany Days
I remember early in my days of being a new Christian loving this verse so wholeheartedly, being so struck by the simple elegance of this scripture. So, I printed it out and hung it next to my kitchen window to really let the words “sink” in while I did my daily chores. I wanted to immerse myself in the very act of being completely wrapped in scripture. It was my desire to feel God’s pressing into my life. I was open to growing and learning. I had this thirst to be a devoted follower, a diligent student, a loving wife, and most of all a teacher of the Bible to my young children.
That was then…
Today, my kids are 26, 23, 18, and 8. Along the near 3 decades of being their mother, I have been humbled more times than I care to admit by my feisty and precocious children. They have been my instructor for countless lessons. And yet, in all my training, preparing and coaching the Braaten Brigade I have not been tested or evaluated so many areas of my life like I have these past eight weeks.
Change Energizes Us Right?
The Shelter in Place order and the decision to implement distance learning for our local school in March 2020 has prompted from me silly jokes. I have sighed sarcastic comments not so under my breath. There have been forlorn pleas for help to my husband to whom I refer to as the principal. I probably at some point made a few shouts for deliverance from this season, it’s a blur some days. This process of sheltering in place and this new role as a proxy teacher has changed the landscape of our Braaten household.
Our household though very busy and sometimes a bit hectic was a well-oiled machine. Mostly because Lee left for work and Chyla left for school. My days consisted of my own sort of order. Although I felt typically busy, observed a hectic to-do list, participated in sometimes frenzied scheduling, and committed to a very full calendar I had a kind of peace and quiet. I deemed this lifestyle as sufficient due to my unrealistic and almost manic sense of control. I may be described as a bit of an A-type personality.
The New Normal Sets In
All of this came to a screeching halt in mid-March. Our home turned on a dime and we needed to adjust immediately to the Shelter in Place order in which our family stayed at home to earn a paycheck and teach our second grader. Our home life became different. It became drastically quiet, it became still, it became weird, and it became surreal. I didn’t recognize it and for me this was a struggle. I no longer had my job at the YMCA. Lee set up a home office in our dining room. Chloe did not leave the house to help at the church and I was now engrossed in distance learning with a very strong-willed, independent, social, and determined child. Did I embrace this newfound change of Zoom meetings, Google Docs, and distance learning? Ummm, not exactly.
I mean I am for the most part a good sport, a rule follower, and an achiever. When it comes to other people’s expectations of me I look at it like a game to win, an obstacle to defeat. If the Marysville School District wanted me to teach my daughter then I was going to be the best teacher I could be! But, that is where I was really terribly mistaken. My compass was off. My benchmark was measuring the wrong rubric. I was looking at teaching my daughter through the lens of a task to complete and not a journey to embrace.
There was a need to look more in-depth. I needed to stop and slow down. It became clear I needed to be desperate for God’s leading hand. I needed to open my Bible and read what God says about teaching our children. I can teach my child her reading, writing, and mathematics with a grace I only receive from knowing how God wants me to instruct her. James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
First of all, there have been really good ax head moments in this season of transition. Every single day I am acquiring a knowledge of my spunky and opinionated daughter. I am learning so much about her in a depth I did not have access prior to this shelter in place. Now, I am hearing her stories and jokes. I am more aware of her fears and I am present and in the moment with her frustrations and disappointments. Now, I am able to watch her learn to ride a bike and complete inspiring projects. I am available to listen to her interests and watch concepts and ideas emerge in ways that may not have happened in her traditional learning environment.
Secondly, I am held captive and captivated at the same exact moment. There is such a connection between myself and my little one. And yet, there is sadness too, deep loss. I am grieving with her the loss of her weekly interactions with her loving “real” teacher. The loss of daily physical and social contact with school and church friends. And yet, I am relishing with her the finding of experiences we didn’t even know were absent from our lives. There is a closeness that permeates our life in such a simple and abundant way. Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God”.
My relationship with my youngest daughter has been blessed so abundantly by God. I am in awe of what He brings to both of us on a daily basis. He brings blessings of laughter, joy, victories both small and large. He brings us to our knees in repentance and in forgiveness. We find ourselves open to hearing a dialogue between our Father in Heaven and us as His humble servants. When we begin our time together in prayer we can feel His presence. When we come together we reinforce that where two or more are gathered Yahweh is with us. We seek HIS blessings of wisdom and discernment. Ours is to rely on those gifts to not only encourage us but fill us with hope and peace. We discover so much grace in HIM and through HIM.
The Bible has so much to say about teaching our children and teaching them in ways that honor God. There is no way my blog could do any justice to God’s word all I hope to accomplish is point back to HIM with humility and awe. Jesus, Himself spelled it out for His disciples. The book of Mark states ”And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
The Greatest Part
My greatest gift as a human being has been to teach my children to know God by modeling my own rich, vibrant, and dependent need for Him. It is my purpose to never to hinder my children in coming into a relationship with their Savior. My purpose is to steward wisely whom God has entrusted into my care. I am often reminded of how Hannah poured out her heart to God and was blessed by the birth of Samuel. “I prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for. And now I have dedicated him to God. He’s dedicated to God for life.” I can confidently say my children have seen God sustain me in both trials and triumphs. 3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
I firmly believe that God is with us during this and any crisis no matter the magnitude. He boldly commands us Deuteronomy 11:18-19 “You shall, therefore, lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
I lift You Up
In closing, I pray that you feel a deep desire to embrace God’s pressing into your life. I pray that you are open to an incessant thirst for learning and growing in your faith. I pray that you commit to becoming a devoted follower, a diligent student, a compassionate servant of Christ and a mentor to those God has placed in your mission field. In these petitions know that we are seeking our Father God with all of our hearts and minds. Even now in this pandemic, God is leading us along still waters to refresh us and give us peace that surpasses all understanding. When we trust in HIS goodness we build our faith. Living during this unprecedented time in history is doing that very work of building our faith. And in the building of our faith we teach our children.
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