Friday, August 22, 2014

Beth the Brave

The used books I've been ordering for Sonlight Core B have been trickling in, and this week Leading Little Ones to God arrived, which is part of the Bible portion of Core B.

Recently Mary told me that when we do devotions she has a hard time following, and when we're done she doesn't remember what we talked about. Now, I have my doubts about the sincerity of this because her knowledge of God is pretty mature for a seven year old, so something has been sticking all these years. I have no doubt that she already has a saving knowledge of God.

She struggles currently with feeling like a failure because so often it's cloudy and her thoughts turn to storms and how fearful she is all the time. She feels worthless, compared to others who go about their lives and seem to ignore storms. Why do I unravel at something other people can easily ignore, she wonders. And why did God give me this fear?

Seven years old is early to deal with such big thoughts and big doubts, but I can see that Mary is learning a great deal about God this summer. New believers are often coddled by God a little; I was definitely coddled in the beginning. As a brand new Christian, I prayed for a husband and got one. But when I prayed for a child a year after marriage, there was heartache before there was dancing. The Lord felt I was ready for a testing of my faith, and I feel that this summer has been the first testing of Mary's faith.

Sometimes things aren't neat and tidy and the answers aren't easy and flowing. It's true that some people barely notice the thunder and lightning, while others throw up from the pathological fear of the worst that could happen. While there's no easy answer, I can assure Mary that God didn't give her the fear. Our imperfections, illnesses and disorders are a result of the fall of man in the garden. God allows them, but he didn't cause them. He can miraculously take any pain away from us, but he doesn't always choose to.

Hard things for a seven year old to ponder, for sure. Our lesson last night in Leading Little Ones to God brought up this very topic. This book still uses scripture as the base, but it goes a little further and tries to make it relevant for a range of ages, which I think will work nicely for our family, as opposed to my husband and me trying to make a lesson from our own exhausted heads each night. Devotional books for children tend to teach smaller portions of scripture at a time, and we tend to err on the side of too much scripture per sitting, which is fine for the boys but not for our girls.

The lesson focused on the question of how Miriam responded to having to throw her baby boy in the river. How are we supposed to respond when bad things happen to us? Why would God allow these things in our lives? What did Miriam do and think when she was told to throw her baby in the river? Why would God allow that? What options did Miriam have? How did God respond? What happened to baby Moses? How did God work through his life? It was a lesson made just for my daughter, who had struggled with why God would allow such a ghastly fear in her life (along with learning to read being so hard for her, although that didn't come up this week). Mary doesn't only have fear when it's actually thundering, but when it's forecasted as well, which is quite frequently in Ohio.

We have a choice in how we respond, and in our own nuclear family we have an example of a grace-filled response. Beth. We often overlook the burden on Beth's life because she never complains about her arthritis. In fact, we thought her medicines were working to eliminate most of her pain, but recently we found that not to be the case. She walks on her toes and has done this since the age of 3, which is when her left ankle became affected. She was released from therapy a few months ago because her range of motion with her knees was very good, and her physical abilities and strength were no longer affected by the arthritic joints. They seemed to think the toe walking could be a sensory issue, and not a pain issue because there was no other sign of pain. I never did agree with the sensory hypothesis, but neither did I think therapy was going to address her pain.

As her mother I recognize that the swelling in her ankle has never responded as well to her medicines as her knee joints have, for whatever reason. Beth is more willing now to respond to my questions about her arthritis, and not fear that her responses are going to lead to more doctor's appointments and more shots and discomfort. After trying to get her to walk normally for two years now, she point blank told me this week that she walks up on her toes because it feels better. I then asked her where it hurts when she walks on her feet. She pointed to the swollen area on her left ankle, just as I suspected.

Have you ever walked up on your toes for very long? It is very uncomfortable and your balance you will notice is terrible. It's very awkward. My heart aches for my little girl, and at the same time my heart marvels at her strength and determination. She never complains, and she wakes with a smile, even though mornings find her up higher on her toes, because arthritis pain is typically worse after inactivity. Beth loves life and it's only needles or a mention of blood that makes her frown.

We need the Beths and Miriams among us to inspire us and remind us that we can respond with grace. We can still love life, and we can still smile. We can open our hands to all that God has, and say, "Let me be faithful, Lord. Fill me with your joy. Let me spread your joy to others. Let me be like Miriam, who trusts you. Let me be like Beth, who counts her life all joy because of what she does have." 

It's okay to get discouraged and wonder why, but we can't get stuck there. There is a way out of our despair and our Father will lead us, sometimes through the example of those around us. Very gently last night during devotions I brought up the conversation Beth had with me about her ankle pain. The other three children and my husband and me have been so caught up in the pain and discomfort of OCD fears and storm phobia fears, that we'd forgotten the little angel among us, who had something to say to all of us with her quiet determination, and her quiet faithfulness.

There were some tears at the realization, and little Beth, terribly embarrassed at the attention, slipped behind the couch. She loves to perform for us and dance and dress up in fancy dresses, and sometimes she says she wants to be an actress, but don't ever praise her. She doesn't want that.

She's too young to give God the glory, and of course she doesn't consciously live so wisely, but to God be the glory all the same....

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Jeremiah 31:2-3 Thus says the LORD:”The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.


Tesha Papik said...

Awwww what a lovely lesson form your sweet little girl! I have been actively trying to complain less and praise more! said...

It is lovely when we learn from our children. What a blessing.
I may well buy that book. I have been looking for something more to use with my children.