It has become a tradition that I blog about my children on their birthday. Continuing in that tradition, today my daughter Grace turned 12. She called me before 7 this morning, getting on the van in Brownsville, Texas, to go into Mexico on a mission trip. She was giddy with excitement, and having the time of her life. Before she hung up the phone, I heard her talking with the other women in the dorm. She is loving every moment of this journey! I am excited that God has given her such a heart for others, and a desire to minister, even to sacrifice her own comfort on her birthday.
When I see who she is becoming, I am overwhelmed at how God has worked in her life, and in our family's life. Grace was my most challenging child as a little girl. Even as a tiny child, she had her own ideas about life and was extremely difficult to parent. Born with a strong lion, type A personality, she tended to bully her brother and sister into submission. It was a long journey to teach her how to treat them with honor and respect. She used to make this funny little face right before she decked her brother with her fist. I got to where I would watch for the face, and start yelling "No", before she ever did anything wrong to try to head off disaster.
At the same time, Grace was unbelievably insecure. She was born with a deep need for love that was almost impossible to fill. In kindergarten, she threw up every single day at lunch because the loud lunch room made her nervous. At recess, she stood in the middle of the playground and cried. My teacher friends worked hard with her, allowing her to stay inside as a "helper" and finding teenagers willing to come befriend her at recess - boosting her coolness factor with her peers. I owe them a debt that I cannot ever repay, because they dug in deep as a favor to me, and found ways to make Grace feel beautiful, valuable, and important. They went far beyond the call of duty to love my daughter. Our church family, many of them now at The Crossroads, also loved Grace abundantly and unconditionally. At times in her life when she would not accept my love and rejected me daily, they did their best to love her in ways that she understood. They prayed with me, on a daily basis. I could not have parented her without their love and support. It wasn't easy.
I probably have more regrets in parenting Grace than I do with any of my other children. I often lost control of my hot temper as we butted heads. I have said many atrocious and cruel things in an effort to gain control of spiraling situations that I would love to take back. I wish that I could turn back time and parent her again, knowing what I know now about her personality type. However, it is impossible to undo my past mistakes. But somehow in the midst of all my horrible mistakes, Grace still felt the undercurrent of my deep and passionate love.
When we jumped off into church planting, I was most concerned for Grace. Changing schools had the potential to undo all of the years of hard work that we had put into her life at Pottsboro. I spent days and nights on my knees begging God for wisdom. God is good beyond my wildest dreams. Instead of damaging her and setting her back, church planting caused Grace to bloom.
In church planting, Grace was needed. Her natural leadership qualities, her inability to quit, and her administrative ability were desperately needed in the early days of the church plant when we were short handed on volunteers. Now she has assumed primary set up of our children's department and takes care of our nursery every week. She delights in meeting new people, and she makes their children feel special and valued. She brainstorms ideas with us at the table about ways to do outreach in the community, and pitches in to help.
Being in the church plant has helped her to see mission work first hand. She feels called into full time mission work someday. I know that she is young, and it may be that God changes that call along the way, but I have also seen her work tirelessly by my side in ministry. Long after all the other adults have given up and gone to bed. She feels passionate about helping the underprivileged. It is cool to see her strong fighting spirit channeled into a constructive path. That same fighting spirit that kept me from leaving her alone in a room with her little sister as a toddler is now rising up to fight against injustice. She wants to make a difference in the world for kids affected by slavery, poverty, and abuse.
When I see the woman she is becoming, I stand in awe of my God. I could never have made Grace into this incredible girl. In my own strength, I often tried to change her personality and crush her passions in an attempt to obtain good behavior. Every time that I watch her scoop up a small child, or she begs for Bibles to give to her friends, or she asks for a camera to document the God moments on a mission trip, I am amazed. God is able to do such big things in people's lives, sometimes in spite of us.
Don't misunderstand me here - we still have difficult days, and even difficult seasons. However with Grace, I see light at the end of the tunnel. I can see the woman God intends for her to be. Now instead of trying to change her personality, I talk to her openly about her strengths and weaknesses and try to give her tools to use when she is angry. Her anger when channeled against injustice will change the world. I have no doubt. However, as she grows and becomes more and more amazing, I also see her struggling against spiritual attack. This year we had some tough moments. Moments where Satan won some battles and all I could do was hold her, pray over her, and cry along with her.
Bottom Line? I am grateful every single day that God let me be Grace's mom. I am excited about how he plans to use her for the kingdom. It is amazing to watch God work in her life. As I sit here weeping, there is only one thing left to say, "Happy birthday, my beautiful Grace!"