I have a senior in high school this year and it’s that time of year when scholarships are due. When my daughter was a senior, she diligently searched for scholarship applications and faithfully submitted various essays. Her brother is doing the same.
I’ve learned a lot by reading the essays even though I complain about another paper to proofread. I’m blessed by reading about people and experiences that have influenced the kids and shaped their career choices. As their mom, I’m humbled that I’m not the absolute influence in their lives. As I’ve corrected page after page of grammar, these are things I’ve learned have shaped their character and personal development:
- Mentors. Our kids have attended church camp since elementary school. For one child, adults in this ministry were instrumental in seeing them, mentoring them, and developing leadership. In one text, my child described how a camp counselor believed in them when they were shy and lonely, and drew out confidence they didn’t know existed. Later, this child described how camp leaders saw their potential, affirmed their leadership and gave them opportunities to lead. These mentors influenced them.
- The Mundane. In more than one essay, our firstborn said she didn’t want to be a teacher because she saw both her parents spending countless hours grading papers and making lesson plans. On the other hand, our current senior wants to be a special education teacher because of an experience he’s had in a Functional Skills classroom this year. Both have seen the mundane moments in the education profession but it’s impacted them differently. It’s a reminder God calls each of us to different passions and professions.
- Moments. One child described a moment with a man at a nursing home. Tears filled my eyes as this child described the impact this smiling, disabled man had on him. I’m reminded influential life moments are not orchestrated, sometimes they just happen. This one left a deep impression. Taking time for small moments yields big rewards.
- Ministry to others. Both scholarship applicants wrote about service they’ve done through youth groups, cross-cultural mission trips, or school service projects. Investing in lives of others never returns void. Both students cite service experiences as factors for their career choices. My firstborn spent Christmas Day of her junior year in an orphanage in Mexico. This impacted her so much she is pursuing Teaching English as A Second Language and Spanish as a double major so she can work in underdeveloped countries teaching and loving children who have no families. She has spent over two months this past year at an orphanage in Zacapa, Guatemala, with Hope of Life International ministry, and hopes to work in a similar setting after graduating in 2014.
- My son has chosen teaching children with severe disabilities as his major of study because of experiences he’s had working in a Functional Skills classroom this school year. He’s been blessed by the honest love of children with special needs, yet he’s aware of the hard work and patience required in teach a challenging classroom. Through experiences serving others, both young adults have found passions they may not have known they have.
The journey of releasing children into adulthood is filled with joy, pain, and pride all at the same time. As I’ve read my children’s words on paper, I’m flooded with God’s grace of how He, not, me, forms them into the people He desires them to be. Watching a child succeed is a fulfilling moment for a parent, but reading scholarship essays has taught me how influential other people and experiences are in the lives of children- both good and bad. It reminds me I need to be diligent in shaping what influences them until they walk out that door. My job isn’t to be the only influence in their life, but to be engaged with other influences seeking their attention.
I’m humbled and thankful for the people, experiences, and moments God has brought into their lives that I haven’t had a part of.
There’s a powerful verse in 1 Corinthians (3:7, NIV)
Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow.
This truth is applicable to parenting. We plant seeds into our children. Others water what we plant, but God makes our children grow to be the ones He created them to be.
Proofreading essays reminds me my efforts aren’t futile and I need to be faithful until the very end. Prayer becomes even more important as I ask God to bring to the seeds we’ve planted to full bloom. Faith in a constant, never-changing God gives hope that He will grow good things in our children when they are far beyond our reach and grasp.
Where ever you are in the parenting journey, how can I pray with you for the seeds God has given you? It would be my privilege to hear your stories and to pray with you, no matter what the age of your child.
Thank you, Lord, Jesus, that you never leave us or forsake us. Or our children.