Every morning around 9, I hear two long beeps from the end of the road. Even the baby has learned what this means by now, and he runs to get his shoes from the closet so he can accompany his sister to the yellow van we call “bus.” Many days, he tries to hop on with her, and the driver and helper on board laugh like it’s the first time.
Usually, my four year old pre-school student is eager to climb on and slide over next to one of her little friends whose names we are all still learning to pronounce. Some days, she asks to stay home with me and “have fun.” I tell her about all the laundry I have to do, and she decides craft time doesn’t sound so bad.
After moving to the other side of the world, and living through a natural disaster and subsequent shortages, we had watched our bright butterfly stow away and become more and more withdrawn. We thought, with time, she would re-emerge with a smile as bright as before.
But that day never came.
She avoided eye-contact. She refused to engage in conversation with foreign friends or national neighbors. She was quiet and moody, but the moods would bubble up and erupt in red-hot rage splashed over plump cheeks streaked with hot tears. At some point I realized this was something more than typical “threenager” antics.
Wrapped up in language school and handling the country-wide crises that spread far enough to touch our family, I was at a total loss to how to bring my smiley, singing baby girl back. The home I wanted to be a safe-place to retreat had become a place void of the peace we desperately needed.
Should we get her a puppy? Put her in an art class or sports lessons? Set up more play-dates?
After several months, I became burdened enough to go check out some pre-schools, just in case the Lord released me from the fear of her being away all day at just barely four years old.
I found the perfect little place with a beautiful playground. I could almost hear her laughter ring its way around the monkey bars and her giggles descend down the slide.
My fears were suppressed by the pleasant atmosphere and the headmaster’s soft voice that reassured me they would do everything they could to make this a smooth transition. Our daughter was their first international student, so it was new territory for all of us.
There are some things I’ve had to let go control of to allow her to enjoy the gift of friends and fun and the life I know she breathes in each day at school- the life I had been neglecting to provide for her outside of the walls of our home.
She hates the daily rice and lentils, so most days she eats a peanut butter sandwich, cookies, and some powdered drink that leaves her upper lip orange. If the mustache is missing, I know she chose water instead, and I do a happy little mommy dance inside.
She goes on field trips once a month, sometimes to temple, and her class observes Hindu holidays. We’ve had many talks with the school staff-members about what we want her to see and be involved in and what we would rather her be sheltered from.
The conversations these experiences have weaved into the clatter of words in our home are opportunities to teach her about the one true God that meets all of our needs and is the only way to eternal life.
The letting go is still a challenge.
Some days, my knuckles are white for grasping because I want to be the one to single-handedly mold her. But the peace that has washed over our home, the sweet songs faithfully sung at 6 am, the rosy-cheeked girl that climbs off the yellow van every day seriously sweaty and undeniably happy is a gift from the letting go. And I don’t want to give it back.
Even when she’s out of sight, and even when I don’t know who she’s with or what she’s doing, she is in His hand. On the bus, in the school-yard, or walking hand-in-hand with a sister around the edges of a Hindu temple while her friends practice their parents’ religion inside, she is protected.
I send her off each morning with a hug and a kiss, and I welcome her home with the same. I exhale the tension built up inside, relieved that she has returned happy and safe to me. I wave to her precious pals and wonder if she will be the light that points them to Jesus one day.
Beyond prayers for safety, protection, and peace, I ask that she would see Jesus in our home and hear His name spoken often. We want her to learn who He is and what He has done for her and know that the happiness derived from her friends is a gift from the One who made her to need them. One day, when it all becomes real and personal, we pray she will respond in faith to receive Him gladly and share Him proudly.
We hope that he will not just be a missionary-kid but a kid-missionary, our bright light boarding the bus with a smile on her face and Jesus in her heart.
What fears for your children are you having a hard time letting go?
What decisions can be made to minister to your kids and point them to Jesus?
How can you teach them to shine for Christ and encourage them when they do?
May our children be lights all over the world this school year 2016!