"He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms, and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young." (Isaiah 40:11)
On Monday morning while I was finishing up my devotion time, Jim came to the dining room table and gently put a note on top of my Bible from Gabrielle. "Did you see this?", he asked. " Gabrielle slipped it under our door." I had not seen it. It read:
"Dear Mommy, thank you for taking us to get our pictures taken later today. And thank you for preparing us for Easter. Love, Gabrielle"
Gabrielle's sweet words pierced my heart. "Thank you for preparing us for Easter."
I prayed: Thank you, Lord, for Your faithfulness and this bittersweet conviction. Let me yield my heart to you. Give me the wisdom and grace to clarify and demonstrate to our children that preparing for Easter is an inward matter of the heart, not an outward readying of finery and adornments.
Last Thursday, we stopped at PayLess after school to get Joshua brown shoes to match his Easter outfit. On Friday afternoon the children got "Easter hair cuts". On Monday morning, I was taking the kids to get their picture taken at a nearby studio (This is something we haven't done in a few years since I am a camera crazy woman myself and a member of the Mommarrazzi...always clicking pictures! Why pay studio prices when I can take the pictures myself? Well, a coupon I received in the mail beckoned me to the studio! I went for the bait.)
Gabrielle's note jolted me. Jim and I want to daily be preparing and nurturing the soil of our children's hearts for God and His Word, and we want them to know the Easter celebration of Christ's resurrection is the pinnacle of our faith. When I read Gabrielle's sincere and sweet note to me, it made me realize I needed to gather our little lambs together so they understand the real "preparing for Easter": preparing our hearts and keeping them poised before Him in humility, gratitude and reverence.
God provided me the perfect opportunity on the car ride later that morning to the studio. Since Joshua was born, God put it on my heart to start the children's days with worship music and God's Word. Before the children can watch television or a video, we sing worship songs first. I take Psalm 138:2 to heart: "...for you have exalted above all things Your name and Your Word." In our hearts and in our home, we want His name and His Word to be above all things...and before all things...and behind all things...and beside all things....we want to be surrounded! He is above all.
(Now, while morning worship and devotions with the cherubs sound great in theory and in pure intention of the heart, please know that many of our mornings are not picturesque and peaceful. It's often a struggle, but I realize we are in the trenches for our kids, and the trenches are not comfortable. We will be in this "training" phase for many years. "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6 Training takes time, perseverance and the commitment not to lower the bar. We are training them and teaching them. Our prayer is that, as they grow, starting each day and continuing throughout the day with the Lord will be a natural outflow of their love for Him. That's the heart of worship...it's all about Him.)
Back to the story....when we began our 20-minute ride to the studio, I put one of our favorite worship CDs on. The children then asked if they could watch a video. I said, "After we have our worship time, you can watch a video." I heard one of my cherubs say to the other, "Sing loud so Mommy can hear us worshipping!"...and thereby get the video promised after worship. Hmmm....Hello opportunity, thanks for riding along with us!
I shared Isaiah 29:13 with them: "The Lord says: 'These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by men.'" Many mornings, my heart is so blessed by listening to our cherubs worship the Lord in song and sing to Him with all their hearts. I do believe our cherubs love the Lord and they love to worship Him in song. Monday morning, however, they just wanted to get on to other things...in this case, a video. (I understand that, have been there and will be there again no doubt.) As I explained this verse to them, I told them God wants our hearts first because He loves us so much, He loves having an intimate relationship with us and He has our very best interests in His heart. When He has our hearts, our worship just flows beautifully and naturally from our hearts and our lips. I think they got it. And I think they know now they can't "fake" worship just to get on to a video. "Surely You desire truth in the inner parts; You teach me wisdom in the inmost place." Psalm 51:6
I pray that this tete-a-tete during our car ride resonates in their hearts and minds forever. I pray our hearts are poised in humility, gratitude and lifestyle worship every single day for our Redeemer, whose gift of new life we celebrate on Easter...and daily.
Our car ride to the portrait studio was way more meaningful than the portraits themselves. He will always gather them into His arms and carry them close to His heart...whether they are dressed in their Easter finery or their muddy and torn play clothes. May they abide in His perfect, unconditional, redemptive love.
And this momma, I am so thankful HE GENTLY LEADS THOSE THAT HAVE YOUNG. I need His gentle and faithful leading. On Monday, He led me by that sweet note from our daughter.