Today I attended the 4-year-old graduation at my daughter’s preschool. Leah will not graduate preschool until next year, but I went this morning because I assisted in one of the 2-year-old classes this year. Whether it’s pregnancy hormones, a bleeding mommy heart or a combination of both (most likely!), I felt a bit of emotion during one point in this adorable ceremony.
Each of the 4-year-old teachers calls up each of their students (wearing white cap and gown), shakes the child’s hand and congratulates them. The teacher then proceeds to give each child a special award meant just for them…The Cabella’s Award for a little boy who was all about fishing and hunting…The Franklin Graham Award for a child who always wanted to stop and pray for a classmate…The Einstein Award for a sweet and very quiet little girl who blew her teacher’s away during assessments with all she knew…The Friendship Award for a child who was willing to play with anyone who asked. On and on this went until each child had not only been congratulated but a very meaningful and sincere word was spoken over their little lives. See, my wonderful co-workers took the time to see the best in each child and then say it out loud. Each child special and celebrated equally for the unique little person God has made them to be. I liked it. No, I loved it! I started to cry as I leaned over and whispered in the ear of another co-worker how powerful it can be in the life of a child to hear what is good and special and right about them. And in a world full of “my kid walked, talked and knew their ABC’s before yours,” I knew each parent would remember what was said about their child for a long time to come. Even now, I feel the tears well up because I think God wants us to remember every day we take a breath He sees the best in us, as well.
As I drove home I thought back over a conversation I had recently with my sweet Rivers. I think I was packing a bag for her to have a sleep over and she asked, “Mom, is it okay if a girl doesn’t like just girl stuff?” I said Absolutely! She then went on to explain that she likes worms and frogs and bugs and exploring and she needed to know if that was okay. Being a girl who was quite prissy growing up, I quickly reassured her that it was great that she liked that kind of stuff! I said, “Rivers, think about Aunt Jen or Callie (an entomologist and great family friend). They know a lot about nature and bugs and really, they are some of the most interesting kind of people!” She seemed to consider this a moment and then replied quite thoughtfully, “They are interesting.”
I loved that moment. I thank God for that moment! I want my children to grow into the person God made them to be and most importantly I want them to be comfortable in their own skin and actually like who they are. Just like those little preschoolers graduating today, I want my girls to know their dad and I see the best in them. We like who they are! I want them to live in the freedom to be themselves and the contentment found in not trying to be something they aren’t.
I know most of my life I tried to impress someone or please someone. I knew I talked too much because I was told that over and over! I knew I was a “girly-girl” aka prissy which sometimes was meant as an insult. I knew there was a lot I didn’t know! I married into a family of green-thumbs and growers. I had a very clean-thumb good for holding glasses of sweet tea while reading on the porch. I married into a family of southern-cooks and grill-masters. I always offered to wash the dishes. I was firmly grounded in church most of my life, with the exception of a few years wandering in the spiritual desert, and although I could mentally regurgitate to you my doctrinal beliefs, I remained the same for the most part. I tried to measure up spiritually all the while fighting a growing discontent with the fact that I was being measured! You know what I needed? A 4-year-old graduation ceremony, Jesus style.
See, the 4-year-old teachers at Leah’s preschool know the total package of the kids. They see the good, the bad and the ugly after nine months! But as they send them out into the world of Kindergarten, they choose to recognize and focus on the best in each child. So, I thank God that a time in my life came, through many hard steps and changes, when He called me out. Jesus spoke into my heart and called me by name and began to tell me what He liked about me. We didn’t talk so much about my weaknesses or flaws. We didn’t talk at all about what others thought of me (except to say it doesn’t matter). Jesus helped me see what my special and unique giftings are. Not in a prideful way. Not in a measuring or comparing way. But just the way He longs to do with each of us. God longs to call us out and give us our “award.”
Maybe yours is The Compassion Award because your heart breaks for others. Perhaps yours is The Innovative Award because you always come up with new and different ideas and plans. Maybe yours is The Best Laugh Award because you love to laugh and it’s great medicine for those around you. Perhaps yours is The Mellow Yellow Award because you stay steady and even-keeled in the midst of life’s storms…you are an anchor for others. See, God makes each of us special. Oh, we easily believe that about preschoolers but somewhere along the way we forget to be unique and try to be like everyone else. It’s oppressive and stifling.
You know what? I love that my oldest daughter likes digging in the dirt for critters. I love that my youngest is out fishing on a boat with her daddy as we speak. I love that after they get washed up they will sing and dance and float around the room like little fairies. I love that Rivers is so intuitive at such a young age. I love that Leah is determined and independent and wears goloshes with her shorts and sunglasses when it’s 90 degrees out. And amazingly enough, I love that God gave me a love for words. I speak them alot, I write them a lot and read them a lot. I love that along with my sometimes animated personality comes a passionate side that when filled with the love of Jesus, boldly tells the realities of who He is in my life and all He has done for me. I love that God makes me free to be who He made me to be.
I know my weaknesses. I know my flaws. I just know that God still sees the best in me. And one of the best things we can do is let Him help us see it, too.
Matthew 5: 5 You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.