Yesterday afternoon we went to a local park with our 8 kids, as we do every week. Some swam; others went to the fruit grove to pick mangos; I played a riotous game of volleyball with several of our older kids; Darwin zipped back and forth on the monkey bars. After everyone was either really wet or sweaty — and not by any means in their nice ‘photo attire’ — it occurred to me to organize an impromptu family photo. It had, after all, been months since the last time we took a photo of all 8 together, so I called everyone over and began explaining what was going to happen: everyone was going to hang from the monkey bars while I snapped a couple photos. It sounded easy enough.
As everyone started swinging into place, we started realizing that the photo I had in mind was a lot easier said than done! The hard part was that once the first ones got into hanging position, they had to wait for the others — some of which are not exactly lightning fast — to climb up and make their way across the bars as well. Before we knew it, everyone was slipping and falling from the bars because they couldn’t wait long enough for everyone else!
Poor Gaby and Josue! They were the first to get in hanging position, and they ended up staying there several minutes while everyone else climbed up and across the bars! Darwin had to come in for emergency monkey support!
Oh no! Jason (green shirt, red shorts) just fell! Now everybody else has to wait for him to get back up again, which is no short process! Hang in there! (No pun intended…)
Somebody suggested that they bring in stools to help expedite the process, so everyone began frantically bringing over carved tree trunks to stand on so that they could grab the bars faster. Gaby and Josue (left) kept hanging on for dear life! Hurry up, everybody! Where’s Jackeline?!
Finally we got a good shot (even though Jackeline and Gleny are technically cheating — their feet are on the stumps!). This one’s going in the family photo album!
On our park outing, we had a young family friend along with us who sat nearby just watching the whole photo-taking craziness. As I glanced over at him and smiled several times — our kids all laughing hysterically and crying out in pain — I felt that he did not know whether he should laugh or feel embarrassed to be associated with us in public. Our dear friend is from a very small, subdued family; we’re accustomed to turning heads just about everywhere we go!
The first shot was over, and everyone’s hands hurt! Look at those beautiful faces!
Everybody cried out, “That’s it, right, Mom? Can we go now?!”
My too-perky response, which was received with groans: “No! Everybody get back up there; we’re gonna take a few more photos! Let’s go, team! Up and at ’em!”
Round two! Get in there, Jackeline!
Their faces are priceless! Aren’t they just too cute? (Hey! Jason isn’t even hanging from the bars…) This must have been the most painful photo shoot they had ever attended!
Red alert! Josue’s grip gave way after several minutes clinging to the bar! Good thing Darwin was close to make sure everything was okay…
One last shot, everyone! Darwin, hop in there!
Do not fear, kids! No more monkey bar shots; now we’re headed to the teeter totter for the last part of Mom’s crazy photo shoot! Everybody grab a sibling!
They were certainly relieved when we told them that we had successfully finished taking our wild series of family photos! Several collapsed on the ground dramatically in response to the rigorous process…
Amen! We praise and thank God for the beautiful family He is forming among us. He certainly is Father to the fatherless; He sets the lonely in families…
Earlier today we did a new thing. We informed our kids that we wanted to have a family meeting, which is a fairly common occurrence, but the theme we would be discussing was not.
Natural and spiritual gifts.
As we sat on our old floral-print sofa and on battered wicker stools and chairs that have been around longer than your great-grandmother, I suddenly felt like we were on some kind of God-inspired kids’ television program where all the little people are spell-bound as they sit sprawled out or curled up, knees comfortably drawn under bright faces, absorbed by the adult reading the storybook as they wait to see how the adventure will unfold.
Everyone’s faces were aglow as we went one-by-one naming the specific natural and spiritual gifts we’ve noticed in each child/teen. No one moved a muscle as I felt like every possible distraction immediately fled from the room. God had rolled up His sleeves and rubbed his palms together enthusiastically. He was about to do what only He could, and He had their full attention.
The attitude with which this entire process was embraced far exceeded that of the most extravagant of Christmases – the excitement and immense awe that filled each person suddenly overflowed as the entire room filled to the brim. We were swimming in joy, exploring God’s infinite glory revealed in our very own lives.
After all, we were not unwrapping physical gifts but rather digging deep into the soul of each child to recognize and call forth the priceless gifts that God himself had planted there, waiting all these years to be discovered.
In a workshop our team of Christian laborers recently attended, we were encouraged to adopt the attitude of treasure-seekers in our daily interactions with our kids, constantly hunting for the ‘hidden treasures’ that God has placed in the lives of each of them as we shine the spotlight on the gifts and lead the child toward his or her destiny.
Oftentimes my husband and I have committed the grave error of participating too emphatically in the opposite search – the all-too-easy and deadening search for all that is wrong, all that needs to be corrected. The abuse suffered. The subsequent behavioral problems. The stains of sin on a young life.
In our three-plus years of parenting children who sprang from other women’s wombs, many times my husband and I have slapped on the camouflaged army helmet (not forgetting to snap into place the little buckle on the chin strap) and headed into the depths of our children’s souls, whacking back dangerous overgrowth – lies of the Enemy that have taken root and sprung up – with a large machete. It has been easy to focus on these life-choking weeds – the hurt, the poor decisions, the generational chains of sin, attitude problems (whether the children’s or ours), the times they’ve lied and stolen, possible dangers that lurk ahead – because this intense overgrowth has been the most obvious, urgent thing demanding our attention. Through fasting and prayer, healthy confrontations, individual counseling and behavioral correction/training, we’ve had to cut back this nasty overgrowth so that the children could breathe, could begin to escape from the long claws of the Enemy threatening to drag them right back into dangerous family patterns, self-destructive decisions, lies. Our cries have been ‘freedom’ and ‘healing.’
But today we put our machetes away (and took off the camouflaged helmets). Instead of cutting back the bad we partnered with God as He powerfully began calling out the good, calling forth the hidden treasures we’ve glimpsed under the thick overgrowth as we’ve swept the floor of our children’s souls.
My husband and I have noticed these gifts – even talked to each other about them as we’ve stood jaw-dropped in awe of the talent, the immense potential in each of our kids’ lives – but we had yet to share these revelations so freely with our kids, opening their eyes to the precious and powerful gifts that God has placed so miraculously within them.
A heavy blanket of serenity fell over our living room where we sat. Ceramic tile under our feet. Front door wide open, taking in the bright green leafy view in every direction. Family photos hanging in frames of different sizes and colors on the wall behind us. I felt God’s presence very near – as near as my own mouth. As brave, daring words came flowing off my tongue, I felt that God was calling forth those hidden treasures to be recognized and to begin to grow in Jesus’ name, to bear great fruit in the lives of His children for His glory and pleasure.
15-year-old Brayan. Physical strength. The ability (and desire) to memorize Scripture. Agriculture and farming. Humble of heart. Great faith (like that of a small child). The gift of serving others.
My hand on his knee as he sat to my right on the couch, we named his gifts one at a time, giving specific examples of ways we’ve seen these gifts played out and their importance in a hurting world.
Nervous about the seriousness of the beautiful words he was hearing, his eyes trained on mine as his Father began calling forth great fruit in his life, his mouth turned up in that little, infamous grin and he said, “Enjoy my physical strength while you can, because before you know it I’ll be a little old man.”
We all laughed heartily as we then continued onward.
16-year-old Dayana. Leader. Godly counselor and strong column holding others up. The ability (and desire) to encourage and teach others according to God’s Word. Well-organized administrator. Musician. Avid reader and writer. Compassionate. Future mother to orphans.
Perhaps most beautifully of all, as one child was receiving words of life, the others almost always nodded in amazement, confirming that, yes, this or that is an exquisite gift that is already bearing fruit in their sibling’s life.
13-year-old Jackeline. Enthusiastic cook. Great math and logic ability. Phenomenal sense of humor (very warm, affectionate and hilarious – a carrier of God’s infectious, extravagant joy). Blossoming servant to others. Future evangelist to a lost world.
Our kids quickly disappeared into their bedrooms and reappeared with notebook and pencil in hand, actively scribbling down their natural and spiritual gifts as they heard them. Certainly this was a moment they could not afford to forget as Creator God was dangling a small, bright lamp before each one (think the long stick with a carrot hanging off of it for the horse to follow). This is the path you are to take. Walk in it. I’ve destined you to be a great leader among my people, a servant to all. Use your ability to sing, to write, to cook for Me, for My good pleasure. Give this beautiful treasure to Me, and I’ll make it grow. I want to bless humanity and draw them to Myself through these gifts I’ve planted in you. I’m a Good Father, and I give good gifts. You will open the doors of your home to the lost, receiving them with vibrant hospitality as they come to recognize my great love. I am equipping your little brother to go door-to-door visiting and caring for those on the margins of society, bringing eternal hope to those who have not heard My name. Your sister will draw the little children to Me.
And so we read 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 13 about the various gifts God has given us so that we all might function as Christ’s body, working together as we reach the lost for God’s glory. We also read Romans chapter 12 about the different roles and gifts God gives to each.
Today we took a brake from crying out desperately for healing or from interceding for the lost among us. We turned off the crisis hotline and took a moment to simply enjoy our good God, to marvel at His infinite kindness at giving His children such delightful gifts. Surely He has redeemed us with Christ’s blood and is in the process of raising up a new generation who will walk in their giftings as they extend the great wedding invitation to the ends of the earth.
I sat in amazement as the conversation among us continued onward, Scripture being read, received.
My mind could barely grasp what was being revealed before my eyes. Combining the gifts present among the 10 people in this one little family, God’s given us enough…to serve an entire village, impact an entire city. Teachers. Christ-centered servants. Leaders. Godly counselors. Mothers and fathers to parent the orphaned. Preachers of God’s Word. Lovers of the poor and the outcast. Columns of truth; doers of justice. Administrators and encouragers. Passionate cooks. Readers, writers and musicians bent on proclaiming the truth of Christ.
I can hardly imagine if all of humanity turned inward in this great treasure hunt, enthusiastically seeking out the treasures Father God so playfully hid within their own souls as they then place their gifts and talents at His service to love humanity and praise His name.
A world like that would be like the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven.
So this morning Father God led us to take a mighty stand against mediocrity, against everyone’s-the-same, against the daily job of machete-hacking. He spoke directly and undeniably to the deepest part of each of our kids’ souls, reminding them who He is and who He has created them to be, lighting the path which each has been designed to take.
And, incredibly, as our family meeting came to a close, each person suddenly began exhibiting the exact treasures we had recognized and called to life. Our beloved cooks (Jackeline and Jason) suddenly jumped up and offered to help cook lunch (which is a particularly sweet blessing for me because I do not possess the natural love of cooking). Those who we had recognized as having the gift of serving others eagerly offered help as I headed out the door to begin the somewhat tedious yet fun task of sudsing down that old floral-print couch. Our pre-teen daughter (Gleny) who has a special heart for small children and a natural gifting as a teacher seemed affirmed and at peace as her siblings enthusiastically called to life the possibility of serving God as a teacher to small children, discipling them in His ways. Two of our other children (Jason and Josselyn) seemed excited to hear the idea that their spiritual gifts might lead them into a life of missionary service to the poor, an idea that they might not have previously considered. One of our daughters (Dayana) whom God is growing into a gifted counselor spoke up, telling me with a glow in her eyes that God had put it on her heart to delve even deeper in His Word and begin sharing Godly counsel with her circle of friends. In the blink of an eye (or rather in an hour of family meeting) everyone seemed to have gained a new understanding and appreciation for their own purpose as they now embark upon the lifelong journey of cultivating those special giftings God had placed in their care. Everyone suddenly came to life in exactly the way Father God had wanted. I sensed He stood by and watched with a huge grin on His face.
Please pray with us for each of our 8 precious children, that they may boldly trust in God to develop these gifts so that they may enter adulthood fully equipped to reach a lost and wounded world as Christ’s hands and feet.