When we were just starting our little family I read every Dr. Dobson book, and listened to focus on the family 5 times a week. I wanted to know how to shape those little cherubs with rolly polly thighs into women with a strong faith.
I dreamed of things like having lots of family over for every birthday, growing up in a house with a wall of pencil marks at different heights & a tree house in the back yard, going from a bike with training wheels to a scooter & then in a blink of an eye watching them drive off in a car, I dreamt that they would go to an amazing youth group & have a strong group of Christian friends that would go from those awkward junior high years to seeing each other go off to colleges around the country, I thought about them leaving home and going to college figuring out who they were and then watching them change the world.
I thought those were good dreams, basic things people hoped for their kids.
My confession this time is that, sometimes I get so sad thinking that those are not the reality of my girls. I get a little jealous watching my friends on social media posting pictures and stories of their children doing those normal things that kids do growing up. Homecoming, prom, first car, driver’s permit, big Memorial Day picnics with lots of food and family. . . I am just being honest. This is called confessions of a missionary wife ya know.
Over the last few weeks, I have realized that maybe I had been all wrong about the dreams and ideas I had of raising my daughters.
Before our first term was over, I started researching the schools here in Costa Rica, because I wanted something different for the girls. The school that they were at was changing directions. I know my girls and knew that the new direction was not going to meet their needs. So I pursued new schools. However I could never get my girls on board to go look at other schools, or to show any interest at all. Finally they said, “we don’t want to change schools mama.” I had to give this over to the Lord. I had to give over another “dream”, of what I thought was the ‘Best thing I could do for them”.
Since we have been back, schooling has been an issue. It is so frustrating on a level I can’t explain. I felt like I was watching a train wreck that I could have stopped. (the schooling is not as bad as train wreck, I am exaggerating to make my point, I know, I rarely exaggerate, but just the one time I will). Ugh!! Sometimes I just wanted to say “I told you so” like a thousand times. Ok ok maybe I even did say it a few times.
I mean mama knows best, right?
During one messy tearful conversation, Maggi said, “mama, I know that God wants me here.”
Um ok, maybe she doesn’t know best after all
So then there is this tension, struggling with social issues and educational issues against the girls both believing that they belonged there. And the tension in this mama’s heart with trusting that her daughters can recognize the voice of the Lord versus what mama believes is best.
Education is a big deal for us. We have done it all – private school, public school, Home school, international school. We chose to buy a house in a school district that we knew would be a good one to raise our daughters in (in what I like to refer to as our other life). We sacrificed and drove almost 4 hours every day the year we were in the states to put the gils in the school we thought was best for them. We are crazy like that. We want the best for them, and at different times it looks completely different. The year we home schooled, it was the best decision, the crazy commute, it was the best decision. . .changing schools sure seemed like the best decision.
I finally just asked the Holy Spirit for peace. And I tried to keep my opinions to myself. I didn’t grow up like this, so I have to value their opinion and let their voice be heard. I thought they didn’t want another transition, another change.
We are getting ready to finish our second year of school since returning, and I am starting to see those dreams I had for the girls in a different light.
A few weeks ago I went to a lunch with another missionary friend, and she gave me what she called a mom “nugget”. Our daughters go to the same school and a mom from another student told her a story about Emma. How Emma had been kind, consistent, and helped her daughter heal from a hurt. She said it was like her daughter had retreated into a turtle shell, and Emma just kept knocking on that turtle shell and wouldn’t give up. Emma had made a difference in her daughter’s life.
My friend went on to say that everyone in the school that our daughters attend know that the Cartwright girls love Christ and their actions prove it.
This year Maggi started a Bible study for friends from her school. Every week we host about 8-10 kids here in our home. We feed them, play a game, and then do a Bible study. It has been interesting. I grew up in a small southern town, where almost every one went to church, or at least had a home church. Most everyone was evangelical. I didn’t have to think about my faith, it was never really questioned. I was not different.
Here, for my daughters, their faith is constantly being tested. The idea that the best thing to give my daughters was a safe place deepen their walk, had crumbled. They do go to a youth group here and love it, but youth here is a wide range of ages. The girls don’t go to school with the same kids from church, so you don’t have that peer group to identify with on campus. That “dream”.
Most of the kids that came to Bible study were not from strong Christian homes. They didn’t grow up in Sunday school. One fella even asked what kind of Bible would he need to bring, & that doesn’t mean which translation, he really thought we had a different book we called a Bible. They challenged her to answer questions about the Virgin Mary, because they were from a Catholic background. They challenged her on the existence of an actual God, her opinions and stance on alcohol, her purity ring.
Last week Dave and I took her group to the beach for a “retreat” and a good bye celebration for the seniors. It was a completely different experience. We had to remember that we were not taking a group of deeply rooted Christians. There were rules that I would have never thought I needed in my “perfect” made up dream world.
Like don’t say curse words. Don’t listen to explicit songs. Don’t drink alcohol. Keep your actions pg 13.
I was watching the girls interact in the group and listened to the their conversations, and something inside me melted.
I had it all wrong. I wanted to keep the girls from the world until I thought they were ready to change it. I wanted them to grow up with good Christian friends so that they didn’t think drinking, cursing, and partying was the only option.
I had so many “dreams” of my daughters being brought up in faith.
It never occurred to me that I had been dreaming the wrong dreams (or praying the wrong prayers for that matter- had I been praying that God would use my daughters and use the hard experiences for His glory? ummmm no, not in those exact words) (it was more like “Lord smite down all that are wicked and who are mean to my angels. . . or something similar. . . you get the picture).
Instead of being surrounded by friends deeply rooted in faith, they are reaching out to kids who have been hurt, who don’t know what they believe, who are confused, who have never seen what a life lived for the Lord looks like. Eventually Maggi confessed that one of the reasons she wanted to stay, was because of her strong desire to win a lost friend to the Lord.
Instead of going to the amazing youth group, they are creating one of their own.
Instead of growing up in the same house, in the same neighborhood, they have the ability to share their faith to people who didn’t grow up with a church on every corner.
Instead of going to church, they are inviting them into our home for church.
Instead of figuring out who they are in college and then trying to change the world, they are changing their own little piece of the world now.
There are many battles as a mom of teenage girls I can’t win. I grew up wearing koulots (you may have to google that) so I cringe when it is time to shop for shorts. I can’t stop the influence of pop culture, so moms if you are thinking about shipping your girls away and keeping them locked up— I am afraid I have some bad news. I can’t choose their friends, or all of their music choices. I am probably even get in trouble for posting our private struggle. But I am mom, and I can do what I want to. One day they will appreciate it, right?
There are also things I could not do no matter how hard I tried that they can do. I would not have been able to start a successful Bible study from their student body, but they did. I would not have been able to draw that girl out of her turtle shell, but they did. I would not have been able to influence their circle of friends into making better choices, but they did. I would not have been able to get teenagers to sit around a living room sharing their struggles and fears, but they did.
My reality is that God spoke to my girls, and they recognized His voice. Their lives are being watched and people are being drawn to Christ.
My reality is better than I could have dreamed (but I would still like a wall full of pencil marks from all of their growth spurts).
My reality is not perfect, those girls still make bad choices sometimes, don’t keep their rooms clean, don’t pick up after themselves, they still push the limits. Yesterday I told them to fuss at each other in Spanish with a nice tone so I could drown them out and not know they were being mean to each other. Yea, it didn’t last long, but it was good try, right? So maybe they won’t get the perfect SAT score and pass all of their AP exams. Maybe they won’t qualify for the top academic scholarship. Maybe Harvard and Princeton won’t be calling. But maybe when that lost friend has a crisis of faith he will reach out to his friend that has been praying for him. Maybe that friend knows that even though she has been hurt, there is someone who will continue to pursue a friendship with her, because she is compelled by the love inside her heart.
Today we put that perfect little house we chose to raise our girls in on the market. That was my -other life. We are closing that chapter. It is bittersweet.
So my reality looks different than I imagined it would.
and I am ok with that