I really have some catching up to do. The whole reason I began this Family Rehab blog was to hold myself accountable to actually following through with “family rehab!” I knew that I needed to have a public audience that was expecting to hear what we were doing and how it was going. I have come to grips with my personality enough to know that without peer pressure we’d spend all our time in pajamas eating Cheetos. (Well, at least that’s what I fear when not trusting Jesus with the plan.) However, I’ve kind of been slacking in recording our special moments and little triumphs. I have been pretty consumed with my own drama, as I previously mentioned in the past couple of posts. Also, with the Olympics in full swing, we’ve been so busy following our favorite athletes, forcing math and science lessons in during the commercials, learning how to spell crazy Russian words and names, and watching Gideon tug at the skin under his eyes as he practices his newest ‘creepy’ face. And so, in all that kind of excitement and our big move to Katy, I forgot to share a wonderful experience that we had in late January, that would never have been possible if it weren’t for Family Rehab.
Paul was asked to speak at the Texas Lutheran Early Educator’s Conference the last week of January. Due to the amazing generosity of others, we were able to join him and spend some time together learning from the conference, relaxing in Horseshoe Bay, and celebrating Judah’s first birthday. As details of the conference came in, we were so excited to find out that one of our favorite authors, Sally Lloyd-Jones, was also going to be speaking. Helen had just finished reading The Jesus Storybook Bible as her selected chapter book and loved it. (Check it out here: the-jesus-storybook-bible)
We discussed how exciting it would be to meet her and ask a real author some questions. I decided to find her on Facebook and sent a message explaining why in the world I was bringing my kids to a conference and if we could meet her. She was so kind to reply and accept our invitation. The girls couldn’t believe they were going to meet someone famous.
About a week before leaving for the conference, I asked the kids if they had thought of any questions to ask Ms. Lloyd-Jones. Helen said, “I’ll be too nervous to say anything. I will just look at her.” I thought, “Oh, great…she will think we’re simple.” Then Ava said, “Maybe I could practice my British accent on her.” (In a British accent, none the less.) After a pause of disbelief, I said, “Well, Ava, sometimes it isn’t very flattering to have someone try to talk with an accent like yours. I don’t know if that would be appropriate to do for her.” And I thought, “Oh, great…she will think we’re rude.” Then Gideon piped up, “Should I make a creepy face at her?”
Well, we headed to Horseshoe Bay with no questions in our pocket. We at least had our copy of her book to get autographed. We started our time there by exploring the grounds of the awesome resort and spending some good quality time together.
We celebrated Judah’s first birthday by decorating our hotel room with streamers and balloons, and singing Happy Birthday to him at one of the hotel restaurants. We joked how the fourth child is always spoiled and next year we will have to top the resort and fancy-restaurant chocolate cake for birthday #2.
Finally, on the last day of the our trip, it was time to hear Sally Lloyd-Jones speak and then get a chance to meet her. The three oldest kids squeezed up to a front table to sit with Daddy and have a prime seat. She spoke with such eloquence that pointed to the evidence of the Spirit in her. She challenged my heart as a parent and my new role as a teacher. It was wonderful. She shared more of her work, which the kids were so delighted to see and hear. After she finished, the kids rushed out to buy her newest book, Things to Make Your Heart Sing, and then stood in the long line to meet her. I could tell they were nervous and excited. As we waited in line, I yet again asked if they had any questions for her. Helen said, “She answered all of my questions in her talk.” I thought, “Lucky you, smartie…” Ava said, “Nope.” I inwardly heard the Marge Simpson sigh. I looked down at Gideon practicing his creepy face.
When we reached our turn in line, Helen placed her book on the table and sheepishly said, “hi.” Ms. Lloyd-Jones said, “Oh, is this the family I’ve been waiting to meet? You all were so sweet sitting there right in the front row. Shall I sign your book for you?” They all just nodded in disbelief. I interjected, “Thanks for meeting with us, they really are so excited.” She opened the book and said, “Okay, tell me your names and how to spell them. I’m not a very good speller.” (Hey! Neither are we!) Down the line they went as they watched her pen write their names…
“And how do you spell that?”
All eyes on Gideon: “HA! I don’t know how to spell my name!” We and the line of early education teachers behind us all broke into laughter. And I thought, “well that was a lot cuter than creepy face!”
After she finished getting all four names plus her own in the book, we left the line and the girls giggled to each other that they couldn’t believe that they had an “actual autographed book” and immediately started listing which friends they were going to show it to. Gideon was just happy to be there and Judah only had his mind on lunch and a nap. I thought about the words of wisdom that Sally Lloyd-Jones shared in her session about speaking to the hearts of children in a respectable and honorable way. We shouldn’t just communicate with them in a way that seems to say, “I don’t have to try hard, these are just kids,” but rather, that we should try harder–with more intent. If that doesn’t apply to Family Rehab, I don’t know what does! She said good books are not sermons to answer questions, but are stories of truth that invite inquisitive minds to ask more questions and wonder. I wanted so desperately for my children to have intellectual and deep questions for her. I wanted them to dig deeper and want more than second-hand fame handed down in an autographed book. But had I really inspired them to those kinds of questions? Had I directed them to the Truth of Jesus, as seen through the life of Sally Lloyd-Jones, or just pointed them to a nice author and her accomplishments? Had I listened to the questions that they did have with respect and honor? Seriously, I could have honored and respected even creepy face. His desire was to be funny and his heart was to bring a smile to her face. I could have encouraged the heart behind the creepy face and let Gideon know how making others happy is evidence that Jesus lives in his heart and is working through Him.
She also shared her personal story of writing in a dictionary margin as a young child that God had told her she would build a church in Africa. She had completely forgotten about it until she came across it much later in life. She shared how recently she was asked if The Jesus Storybook Bible could be used to teach the Christ-centered nature of the Old Testament to a country in Africa. Little did she know she would be building a church not with bricks, but with books. What I took away from her story was that God is speaking to our children. We should be listening! What things has He told my little ones? Are they whispers into His plan? Do they speak wisdom into my parenting and how to encourage my children down the path He has set before them?
All of this to say, it was a wonderfully challenging experience that we couldn’t have done if it weren’t for the space created in Family Rehab and for the generosity of others. We were so blessed to have the time and the space and the gentle reminder of how to love our children in the light of His love.
You are an outstanding writer! I so enjoy reading your blogs. God’s blessings on your move to Katy. We’ll miss you around the Austin area, but know new doors will be opened for ministry in Katy.