With her cheeks flushed red from standing in the 3 pm Arizona sun and her backpack filled like a paratrooper, my thirteen-year-old daughter jumped into the car with great anticipation. I figured she must have some “hot off the press” news to share about her day in the 8th grade, or an urgent question, but I was wrong. Instead, a burning request poured out of her mouth, and within minutes we were locked into a passionate conversation with diverging opinions building steam. Shocking, isn’t it? I know it’s hard to imagine a teenage mother and her daughter not seeing eye-to-eye, but there we were. Welcome to my everyday version of “normal” in the Keeton home, circa 2017. It just so happens that those cute, puffy-diapered, soft-skinned, sticky-handed babies of mine are growing up to have thoughts, opinions, and needs that sometimes collide head-on with my own views on things.
As Sophia and I bobbed and weaved around one another with our words, rolling around like two puppies cutting their teeth in a cardboard box, the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder. He whispered, “Hey, this conversation is getting hot. You’re entering the territory where the enemy has handed you your old big gun full of bad words. You’re the parent. You get to call a time-out.”
“Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” – Proverbs 10:19
I stopped and told Sophia, “I love you. I am for you. I want to be with you in this. Let’s take some time to breathe, and we can circle back.” I would love to tell you Sophia agreeably replied, “Sure mom! Sounds like a good plan,” skipping off to her room to do her homework, knowing everything will work out just fine because she knows her Mom loves her, wants the best for her, and is trustworthy. But that didn’t happen. That would have been too “perfect church kid” for even me to believe.
Thank God that He knows all my shortcomings. Thank God that He knows that I said yes to Him while still wearing my own backpack filled with worries, fears, insecurities, and plenty of weapons to protect myself as I grew up on the streets of this world. Growing in God’s love for me continues to give me the courage to take the backpack–“the weight” of this world– off my shoulders. When I remember I am God’s Beloved, with whom He is well pleased, I am once again breathing the air of heaven. I am thankful for all that God has done and is doing in me.
When the waves start crashing into my boat, I remember the power that I have been given in the name of Jesus to hold my peace. Because I know that my story is a day-by-day, page-by-page, growing to be God’s glory type of story, I can grab the oxygen mask of heaven, take a deep breath, and live in the reality that God is good and nothing is too difficult for Him to do. From there, I give him the right to do whatever He wants to do through me. I know it will cost me a certain burning away of myself, but in return I get more of Him.
Growing in gratitude involves way more grit than you might expect. It’s less like making a list of what you are thankful for as you snuggle under a warm blanket drinking coffee and more like writing a love letter home from a foxhole on the front-lines of war.
Reminding myself of how God loves me keeps my weapons down and my insecurity walls from going up. When I have a hard time being grateful, I remind myself of God’s kindness and graciousness towards me—once a lie-believing, worldly-comfort seeking daughter— who now, by His grace, one battle at a time, is winning the war for her heart and the hearts of others.
When it comes to growing in love and relationship with God and others, and especially between my daughter and I, I have an entirely new thing going on. Growing up, I didn’t get for myself the things that I am longing to give others. This makes me wholly dependent upon my God to speak to me, teach me, and change me. I let God get His kind yet firm hands on my heart to form, mold, and make me into the completed work of a woman that He has made me to be in Christ. Every single day I am leaning into the goodness of God to learn the truth of what it means to “grow your child up in the ways of God and when they are older, they will not depart.” In the end, I can honestly say I am grateful that I don’t know what I am doing. My neediness drives me to learn everything firsthand from a Father who loves me and rejoices that I’m leaning in to hear what He has to say. This generational gift of knowing God is one that I hope to pass on to my children, their children, and their children’s children. Lord, let it be so.
“The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.” – Psalm 126:3