Teacups in the Jungle

Life stories from a missionary mama

I am just going to say this from the beginning; I really struggled to write this post. The part of my life I would least choose to write about is parenting. I feel so inadequate to say anything on this subject, especially since my children are just 6 and 4 years old. As we prepare to move our family from one remote jungle village to another, I have felt so out of my depth as I seek to raise our kids through this transition in wisdom and with grace. I pray daily for wisdom and I am learning to trust that as I follow my Shepherd, He will help me to shepherd the little ones beside us as we walk by faith in Him. This does not mean we will be the perfect family, or that I will not make mistakes (I do everyday) or that my kids will not struggle (they do), but it does mean that we are learning to depend on the Lord in all things. These words are not written from someone who has all the answers figured out. I want to simply share how God has been revealing Himself to me, as I walk through this time of transition with an ache in my heart for the souls of my two little loves.

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It was the first week in December and our Christmas tree was up in the corner of our room. The lights were flickering out in the darkness of the jungle and everyone was asleep, except me. It had been a nightly occurrence. I couldn’t sleep due to the turning over of thoughts in my mind concerning our upcoming move. Every night I had been mulling over how I thought it may affect Izzy and Judah. I reprimanded myself for not having read more books on the subject of parenting children through change. I felt so unprepared to know how to guide their little hearts through it all. I want them to know that we are moving because this is God’s will for our family and there are those in another place of the Philippines who still do not know Jesus as their Saviour. Yet as they pack up toys and say goodbye to the sweetest of friends in this little jungle village which has been their only home, I don’t want them to blame our precious Lord Jesus for the pain they feel. And so we pray, we listen, we snuggle longer than they need, (or I need) and we take it one day at a time. Our journey of faith has already begun before we have packed a box.

In that first week of December, I had sat each night by the Christmas tree longing to hear from the Lord. On one of those nights I had opened my Bible and read a familiar chapter, Psalm 90, and the last verses in that Psalm put words to the desires of my heart. “Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord be upon us..”

While I have been trusting the Lord to guide Danny and I and give us peace in the days ahead, I have had this tinge of fear or dread in my heart as I thought of taking our kids, from a home they love, to follow the Lord into this new place. The Lord spoke quietly through these verses into my heart that night. Instead of always praying for their comfort and protection, pray instead that even through the sacrifice and the struggle they will have the opportunity to see God’s glory and faithfulness to them. Pray that even through these broken days of change they may experience God making something beautiful, giving them security in His presence and meeting their needs, just as He has always faithfully met mine.

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It was then that the Lord brought another piece of Scripture to my mind and I flicked over to 2 Chronicles chapters 19 and 20. If there is one passage in the Word of God that has impacted me the most in the past year, it is these chapters. It is the story of King Jehoshaphat, a King who led the people of Israel to act in the fear of the Lord, with faithfulness and an undivided heart and to always do what was right before the Lord. In chapter 20 the story unfolds as news of a war is declared on Jehoshaphat and the children of Israel. The King’s response to such a situation is something we can all learn from and apply to so many situations in our lives.

  • He was terrified. (He was a normal person!)
  • He immediately begged God for guidance.
  • He ordered the people to fast and seek the Lord’s help.
  • He gathered the people together to pray to God.
  • He reminded himself and others of the faithfulness of God to them in the past.
  • He voiced their lack of ability in all areas and that they are coming to God for help. (Full dependance on the Lord for victory.)

It was as I read the next verse in this story that the Lord opened my eyes, once again, to a precious part of the story that could easily go unnoticed.  It reads; “And all of Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives and their children. Then upon Jahaziel…came the Spirit of the Lord in the midst of the congregation.”

They were gathered together, terrified, facing a huge battle ahead of them, asking God for help, seeking His wisdom, reminding themselves of God’s faithfulness in the past, and they had their wives, children and even their little ones with them! I love that the words “little ones” is specifically written there. If the word “sons” was written there, we would imagine these strong young men preparing for a battle. But no, they were there trusting and seeking their Almighty God in the face of a terrifying battle and they carried their little ones with them as they sought God’s help. They did not tuck them off in some corner to protect them from the news, the emotion of it all, or the reality of the circumstance. And by doing so, look what their little children witnessed that day!

In the following verses the Lord answers their pleas. He speaks through His Spirit to strengthen them, to give them courage and to tell them that the battle is not theirs, but the Lord’s. They were to go out into the battle the next day fully believing that God was with them, they worshipped the Lord and even before the outcome of the battle was known to them, they praised His name by singing, “Give thanks to the Lord, His faithful loves endures forever…” We read on in the next verses that the armies coming to attack them turned on each other, and just like God had promised, the Israelites had no need to fight. God fought the battle for them and they returned home rejoicing that God had given them the victory. God Himself had fought for them! They were saved, they praised His Name and a fear of God came over the kingdoms surrounding them, because they, too, had witnessed that God Himself had fought for Israel.

What must those little ones have thought? What they saw and experienced that day would have moulded their little hearts and minds on who their great God was that their parents had talked so much about. They were right there to see God’s Words come true and to experience God’s victory and glory. The God of their parents was true and trustworthy and He had fought for them. He was with them and He was a God worthy of all honor and praise.

The Lord spoke to my heart that night in ways I struggle to put into words. But I asked myself, with a broken heart over my shallow trust, “What if in wanting to protect my kids so much, I shield them from opportunities to see the glory of the Lord?” There is a battle out there, a spiritual battle for the souls of the next generation and I am afraid that so often we are putting their comfort, their entertainment, their education, and their reactions ahead of our first priority, which is leading them to see and know the faithfulness and the glory of the Lord.

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As the New Year comes in, many of us will think over our family life and we will make decisions on things we want to do better, changes that would help our kids and our families. Less screen time, more healthy food, earlier to bedtimes and better morning routines. We can spend so much time on practical and logical decisions over their lives and little to no time in purposing and praying over how we will lead them along, “to see the glory of the Lord.” For so many of us, we, as their parents, have seen and known the faithfulness of God in our own lives as we have trusted in Him and He has answered prayer. God has given us the strength through difficult circumstances, even when our prayers were not answered the way we wanted. He has given grace one day at a time. Do we share those stories around the table? Are we covering them in prayer as they carry burdens we cannot fix? Do we lead them to the Word of God, not just for answers and guidelines, but for comfort, hope and security? Do we gather together confessing our sin and asking God for help, guidance and wisdom for the problems we face? Do we live with an attitude of praise and worship to our God, despite not yet knowing the outcome of the circumstances before us? Is God’s glory the ultimate goal of our family? And if so, how do we live that out today?

As I sat by the tree, I had more questions than answers, but I had a direction that led me once again to the foot of the cross; if it weren’t for Jesus, I would have nothing. True gratitude to our Savior will shape us, as parents, more than anything else and as we respond to His grace, He will give us an undivided heart for the glory of His great Name. This is where we start; by living in light of the gospel.

The battle looks very different in our lives in 2017 than it did in the time of Jehoshaphat. However, I know that many of us could look out into the future with fear in our hearts for the spiritual well-being of our families. Sometimes the pull of the world on the hearts of our children feels too overwhelming to fight against. But are we still believing that He is the God who does not change and He is sovereign over all? Sometimes our families can head in a direction we never wished or planned on, because we have let our kids choices take the lead, instead of leading them along, with a fear in our hearts, as we respond to Almighty God.

Dear friends, let’s not leave our little ones behind in this spiritual battle. Let’s gather together as families in dependance upon the Lord, remembering His faithfulness in the past, trusting in Him as we face the difficulties before us and praising Him together, simply because He is God and He is worthy of it all. Our children are a beautiful gift from the Lord. They are, also, our greatest responsibility. So, let’s lead them on to see the beauty of the Lord by making no apologies as we follow Christ and live according to His Word. In doing so, even through hard circumstances, we may be leading them to see the very glory of the Lord. That will change their lives for all eternity. And if like me, you come to the realization of the responsibility on our shoulders, fear may creep into your heart. Then let’s take a leaf out of Jehoshaphat’s book and beg God for guidance. “Lord, help us to lead our children to see Your glory.” Then we rest on every side. Not because we have done everything perfectly, not because we are confident that we have all the answers, or we know how things will turn out, but simply because we know the battle is not ours, but the Lord’s. And therein lies our hope, for all eternity. Our God is too big and His glory is too great to ever be shielded by me. But, what a holy pleasure we have been given as parents – to be able to prepare, to teach, to remind and to lead our children along in their knowledge and understanding of Jesus.

As I end this post tonight, the prayer of my heart is not that we will take desperate action for change by laying down a new law on our children. But that we, as parents, will daily lay down our lives before them, in response to God’s endless grace.

With love,

Philippa.

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Happy New year!

 

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