There’s an article being passed around lately about a mother who has decided to openly share her reasons as to why she does not save seats or buy her daughter any gifts for her ballet dance recitals. After reading the article I can completely understand (and quite honestly would agree with) some of her motives in refraining to save seats or give gifts. However, I am saddened because I felt the method in sharing those convictions may have missed the heart of Jesus.
I’ve purposely chosen to not link the article because my desire is simply to share my own experiences. Whether you’ve read the article or not, or whether you’re a mom or not, the issue isn’t whether or not we choose to lavish good gifts on others or on our children.
The bottom line is this: The solution to making sense of our differences should never be to look at others who do things differently as opportunities to mock, put down, or gossip in order to make our personal convictions known.
So, I offer up this story as simply another perspective in motherhood. My hope is that my words would not be focused on any other mother, woman, or person rather they would be open about my own life and honest about my own heart.
In 2009 my husband felt God’s calling to leave his job as a pastor at the church that had been our “home.” He was on staff there for over a decade, I had been a member since middle school, we were married there, and we had our first 3 babies while there.
Yet we knew, without a doubt, the Lord was moving us somewhere else.
Matt accepted another position as a pastor across town that was one branch of a much larger, very public, very popular (at the time), very fast growing church. However, with that job came an office that was literally like a small dungeon, a massive pay-cut, a much longer commute, and a very fast-paced demanding schedule.
In the beginning we simply thought it an honor to get to be a part of the work God was doing in and among that church. We endured and ignored the frustrations and inconveniences, choosing instead to delight in the wonder of all He was doing in our midst. Figuratively, we sat in the front row seat as we saw God restore marriages, heal relationships, change lives and save people.
But it was very busy too.
The church family grew rapidly, which was amazing to see! But simultaneously so did our immediate family. I had four kids ages 5 and under when I found out I was expecting my fifth. I didn’t get to be a part of the happenings at the church as much as I would have liked because my focus was at home with a bunch of little toddlers and infants.
However, every night after the house was finally quiet I would sit on the couch and listen eagerly to the stories of my husbands “work” from the day. Every night there were more stories of people’s lives being radically changed and it was astounding! If we were to use one word to describe our time at that church it would be “fruitful.”
In 2011 we were asked to move to CA to be a part of another church within the same network. The CA church was also growing rapidly but there was not enough staff to be able to handle the load. We were excited to move and even more so to help out. We anticipated great things to come!
The move itself should be made into a movie someday. It would have to be categorized as a tragic-comedy because it was so terrible it is now funny. But worse than the actual move was what happened when we got here.
If we were to use one word to describe our time at the church in CA, then we would say it was “chaos.”
Plans did not, in any way whatsoever, go how we imagined they would. I’ll try to sum it up as simply as I can for the sake of brevity: From the first day we arrived in CA, I became a single mom. Not in the sense that Matt and I were separated…but in the sense that the demands on my husband, his time, his emotions, and his soul were far greater than anything we had ever experienced before.
Ultimately through many, many tragic and devastating events (which is again another very, very long story) the church fell apart altogether. December 31, 2014 marks the day we walked the last person out and for the last time closed the doors to the church my husband (in a very literal way) gave up his life for.
It was absolutely devastating to say the least.
We wept. We mourned. We painfully and begrudgingly sought wise Biblical counsel. We had hit an all time low. We were utterly exhausted and spent in every way you can possibly imagine.
What in the world does this have to do with saving seats and buying gifts at my daughter’s ballet recital???
During the time in Albuquerque, as well as the time in CA, my daughter would often, regularly and repeatedly beg us to take ballet classes. But the answer was always no…
At first we had to tell her no because I was so incredibly sick with my pregnancies that I physically could not get her there. Then I had to tell her no because there was no way we could afford it. Then I had to tell her no because I was put on bed rest due to that horrific move to CA that I mentioned earlier.
Then I had to tell her no because, if I’m brutally honest, we were too busy and I didn’t want her to be “that kid” whose dad didn’t have time to show up to watch her.
Yet in those early months of 2015 we found ourselves examining every area of our lives as we attempted to pick up what was left of the wreckage. My freshly unemployed husband and I certainly had the time available and, although the money we had in savings could have been used for a laundry list of other things, we stretched out every bit of it to finally sign our sweet daughter up for ballet.
It was a dream. come. true. For her AND for me.
The weeks and months passed and finally the day came for her first ever recital. I couldn’t sleep the night before. It was more exciting to me than Christmas morning! To watch her get into her costume and slip on her ballet slippers took my breath away.
My fingers were shaking with excitement as I put her hair up in her ballet bun.
That morning I felt a surreal soberness about it. As the day went on, I felt jittery and nervous. It makes me laugh now, but I can vividly recall catching myself speaking to someone and realizing I was talking much faster than I normally would!
Family members drove and flew in from all over the country to get to watch her dance.
Friends from our church and neighbors and classmates from her school were there too.
We brought balloons and flowers, and I made her a jar decorated with ribbons and bows and filled it to the top with her favorite candy!
The time came for the show to begin.
As the lights dimmed, my heart began to race. As I heard her music number, my throat started to close up. My eyes quickly scanned the stage for my little girl.
As I saw her body in her beautiful costume coming onto the stage, I could feel the pounding in my chest increase by the second.
Then I saw it.
I saw her face.
And what I saw on her sweet face was nothing short of sheer elation.
I absolutely lost it.
I mean completely, utterly, unashamedly lost it.
Tears of joy were streaming down my cheeks.
Seeing her step out onto that stage, and seeing her little dream finally come true and watching as she delighted with all joy in the opportunity to dance made my heart crack in half with thankfulness. That dance in so many ways, was the culmination of things that had been “undone” coming together by His care, under His guidance and by His provision. In that one moment I saw as clearly as I ever have His mercy and His grace and His love. And OH how incredibly thankful, so very, very, very thankful I was…and still am for His goodness, His wisdom, His leading, His care, His provision and His outpouring of mercy.
We didn’t deserve any of it. Every bit of it was a gift. And I was overwhelmed with thankfulness.
Perspective on Thankfulness
Was I thankful in that moment that my husband had no job? No. But kind of ya, maybe I am now. Had he not walked away from the job to prioritize us as his family, we would not have so tangibly learned what it means to wait on the Father. Our God sustained us, grew us, changed us, shaped us and reset us. He is our Provider and He cares for us. We learned in very real ways that we cannot find our hope in an income or a job or a corporation or even in a plan.
Was I thankful that our beloved church had been closed? No. But kind of…ya…looking back maybe now I am. Had it not closed, we might still be living at a pace and sprinting through life in a way that was unsustainable. Ultimately, living that way would have ruined our family in the long run. As we slowed down and learned once more to listen to His still small voice, we began to prioritize again the things He would have us prioritize. He used our trials to show us over and over how much we need Him. He used the suffering we endured to show us that He alone is the fount of living waters. He used our failures to show us that Jesus is our only true satisfaction and His grace is more than sufficient.
The goodness of the Father in the midst of those hardships and heart wrenching trials completely and utterly overwhelms me…and it all came together in that moment of watching my daughter finally get to participate in something she had waited her whole 9 years of life to do.
I saw that day a small glimpse of the Father’s heart toward me, his child. He gives to me, not because I deserve anything, but because HE is the one that is good. And when He takes from me, it is because He wants to show me once more that what my heart cries out for at it’s deepest level is Him, not whatever I hold clenched in my fist.
I showered my little girl with gifts that day not because she deserved them, but because I love her. I gave because He first gave. I give because He gives. And I have every intention to continue to give because He is the perfect giver. Whether I have much or whether I have little, whether there is plenty or whether there is nothing, I desire more than anything that I might know the quiet peace of being satisfied in HIS grace alone and then extending that grace and all I have to others.
An Open Letter To My Daughter
My princess, one day you will read this…and I want you to know that I celebrate you, my daughter, and I thoroughly delight in you because you are a precious, priceless far-from-perfect gift from a perfect, loving and over-the-top gracious Father. There is great value in you because you are made in the image of God and I relish the fact that for right now, for this season of my life, for just this short window of time I get to call you mine. I have every intention to lavish upon you, to the best of my ability, whether we have nothing or whether we have much, whatever affections or gifts that I have in order to show you what grace looks like. I pray that you will know that His heart is for you, that He gave the ultimate gift, His son, in your place for your sin and that your deepest joy will only be found in right relationship with Him.
My sweet child, do not make the tragic mistake of thinking that you deserve anything in life. Yet, instead humbly receive His unparalleled, undeserved, inexplainable, magnificent grace and rejoice knowing that it has been given without any earning of your own. What you have been given is from the Perfect Giver who does not hold back and knows exactly what you need even before you ask. Keep those gifts held loosely in your fingers and intentionally look for opportunities for you to pass them along to others.
My greatest desire is for you to worship Him with your entire heart and that in some small way you might know His abundant grace from having spent your childhood in our home. And yes, you can rest assured, sweet daughter, that I will most certainly be bringing you some balloons, some candy and some flowers to your next ballet recital!