We’ve had a roller coaster year with my oldest daughter this year. You might blame it on the fact that A) she’s a teenager, or B) she is going through adolescence just as her mother has hit MENOPAUSE (party at my house), or even that C) karma is a bear and I owe my dad each and every phone call that I’ve made over the last 20 years apologizing for what I put him and my mom through.
Or D) all of the above.
Anyhoo. Tumultuous year, to be sure. And it wasn’t really all that bad, you know, when you consider all the teenaged stuff that we could be dealing with. I think we’re a bit sheltered from a good deal of that because she has been home schooled her whole life. I know where she is at all times. I know who her friends are. I know what media she’s exposed to.
Our issues have stemmed mostly from a crisis of faith. And with that you mix in ALL THE SHY, the raging hormones, and the self consciousness that nearly every teenage girl experiences. And the end result can be a teenager’s doubt that there is a living God who cares about this girl’s every thought and feeling. Followed with a healthy helping of some rebellion and pulling way.
We had a few months wherein we felt like we were losing our daughter. There was such a disconnect that it broke our hearts. But we never let go. We kept pursuing her heart.
One of the most difficult aspects of our fight was that she was also rejecting the church that had been our home since she was young. She had gotten to an age of becoming a part of the Youth program (7th – 12th grade) but not even that could hold her attention.
Our Children’s Pastor at the time (who is a dear and trusted friend and has shepherded our daughter since the 2nd grade) had a plan. He talked to us as parents about her interests, and then he approached our daughter about volunteering at service. We had been talking to her about getting more involved, but she rejected everything we presented. But when Pastor Brandon asked her if she’d like to run Tech for the children’s services, and then also work at the children’s check-in counter, she agreed. I was happily surprised.
After her first week she reported to us that she would like to continue.
Over the next months she volunteered with a true servant’s heart.
Our Children’s Pastor was promoted within our church, and another Children’s Pastor came on board earlier this year. (He and his family have become very dear friends. His wife is a kindrid spirit. Oh. And they HOME SCHOOL.) He sensed a gift of service in my daughter and has cultivated a wonderful relationship with her, giving her more and more responsibility as he’s seen growth. And he’s not afraid to call her out if she veers. (She’s the first to admit this, gratefully.)
I had no idea this child has a heart for service.
As of now, Emme loves the Youth group, and is often volunteering at nearly every service, doing everything from Door Greeter, to actor on stage for the children’s ministry, to assisting as Small Group leader to the younger kids, and working the computer for Check-In.
She is now connecting not only with her parents, but with everyone she serves. We’ve seen a maturing over the last 8 months that I feared I wouldn’t witness for another 20 years.
Last week she hugged me when I dropped her off at her weekly school Co-Op. In front of people. I almost cried right there mid-hug.
And then on Sunday we were able to witness this:
Our church has a yearly beach baptism. Emme is the first of our children to be baptized, as we have made the choice to have them wait until we feel that they are ready, having a full grasp of what it means to die to your old self, and to become new in Christ. She told us a couple of months ago that she wanted to be baptized. We knew she was ready. And she could not have been more excited.
She was baptized by the two pastors who are having a lifelong impact on her life. She has recounted to me all day how she felt when she came up out of the water, and heard the Pastor say, “Emme, I am so proud of you.”
And so are her parents.
I’m certain that we’ll face more treacherous terrain in the years ahead, because DEAR GOD, SHE WILL START DRIVING. But I know that we’ll make it through to the other side because she has so many dear friends and family looking after her. And she holds fast to a God who cares deeply about this girl’s every thought, feeling, and life decision.