Let me start by saying, this is a long one. But I didn't want to miss a detail!
I am SUPER proud of our kiddos. But not for the awesome recital they did with their co-op this week or the amazing job they are doing during rehearsals for their upcoming Oliver musical. Not because they are rocking through their schoolwork or impressing me every other day with the things they have learned in spite of my failings and flaws as a teacher and mother.
I'm so thankful God continues to fill in the gaps and repeatedly shows me what He can do with an imperfect parent like me!
Last Christmas, to help remind them of what we are really celebrating, we let each of the kids choose something out of one of the missionary giving catalogs, explaining to them that on their birthdays they get gifts so on Jesus' birthday we want to give something to him.
Of course they asked how we could physically give him anything so we talked about the verses where he says whatever we do for the least of these, we do for him. The kids got it, as simple as that. Why is it so much harder to get things, really get things as an adult sometimes? I remember Joy exclaiming, "So giving to the poor and serving others pleases God. And that is a GIFT to him when we do things that please Him!" Yes it is, my sweet girl!
So after they picked out their pair of chickens, some bunnies, a water purifier and some bibles we decided to make a goal for the next year, Christmas 2013. We asked them to choose something they wanted to work towards all year saving up for, to give as a gift to Jesus. They chose, a COW. Now cows aren't cheap. But they really wanted to give some poor family a cow in Jesus' name. We read about what having a cow can mean for one of these families that don't have much else. "Cows pull carts and heavy ploughs, and produce lots of fresh milk to drink and sell. Their calves are sold or kept to increase the size of the heard. Having a cow would mean a steady income for a family that might not otherwise have any." They really wanted to give a cow. :)
We cut the picture of the cow out of one of the giving catalogs and taped it to a jar, also writing "Happy Birthday Jesus! 2013" on it. We decided that throughout the year when we 'caught' the kids, serving one another, being selfless, doing anonymous acts of kindness for their siblings, helping without being asked...basically the kind of behavior that would be pleasing to God....then they would earn money to put in the jar. There was no set amount for the things they would do, it was very random. When I noticed them being particularly loving and selfless I would let them know how happy it made me to see them treating others that way and reminded them that it made God really happy too. And then I would pull a coin, a handful of coins, or a dollar out and let them drop it in the jar. The amount didn't seem to matter to them, it was all going towards that cow!
Now this doubting mother's heart was a little worried that they might not earn enough to buy a whole cow by this Christmas, but we never counted the whole year through, we just kept throwing change or a dollar bill in here or there whenever they were 'caught' being an awesome boy or girl for God. They began noticing each other's behavior too and pointing out when they caught each other doing things that would please God. Which was really nice for this busy Mama who would have otherwise not known about some of the great things they did.
For example, one time Joy let me know that she saw Joshua grab our neighbors trash on his way downstairs taking ours out because he saw it sitting in the hall. I waited to see if he would tell me himself, expecting money for the jar but he never did. So I let him know later that night what I'd heard and asked him about it and told him how proud I was to hear of him doing such a sweet thing like that. Our neighbors probably have no idea where their stinky trash went, but his sister saw what happened, and I know God saw it too.
Another time we had been grocery shopping and I was loading the food and everyone in the car and then realized Joy had disappeared. In the moment I was about to get frustrated and upset that she wandered off when Faithy piped up and told me she was returning a lady's cart for her that was trying to get her little kids and baby in her van that was parked a space away from us. Needless to say, the frustration melted away and I thanked God in the moment for a daughter with a heart like that, who saw a chance to help someone and just went and did it. Even if she should have told me before she walked away from us so that I knew where she was. :)
Well, today was the day. The kids wanted to count. It's almost Christmas and they wanted to see if they had enough for the cow and if not, how much more would they need in a little over a weeks time...Enter nervous Mama saying things like, "Even if you don't have enough, Jesus will be happy with whatever you are able to give him this year."
We all sat on the floor and dumped the jar that was stuffed pretty full and the kids counted with Mama and Daddy's help down to the last penny.
Not only did they earn and save enough to buy a whole cow....
they had enough in there to buy a COW AND 2 PIGS!
Talk about humbling for this Mama. They did it!
And without even keeping track or knowing all year long if they were close or not. God surprised me once again, through my children. How many times did they fight and bicker over the last year? How many days did I think, "Are they ever going to get along?!" So many moments I was disappointed over one of them being selfish or hurtful to their brother or sister. And still, out of all of those bad days, God showed me today how much more good there has been in it all. It's so easy to focus on the negatives, the things they didn't do or the disobedience. But the four of them had really been caught that many times throughout the last year in selfless acts or kindnesses to meet their goal...and MORE! Wow. Just WOW. I feel like I got a little glimpse of how God sees us. Even with all of our sin and every ugly thing we do that must surely disappoint him, He is able to see the good and the beautiful in every one of us in spite of it all. How very blessed and LOVED we are!
The kids are still thinking about what their goal for next year will be and this time, I have no doubt that whatever it is, no matter how great, they will reach it. :)