Brave Parenting welcomes guest writers to share their stories and testimonies of parenting bravely with our community. Today we welcome Anika Ortiz, a mother of three from West Linn, OR. Connect with Anika: anikaortiz.com
One of the greatest gifts we offer our children is the opportunity to move beyond their comfort zones into the expanse of perspective, growth and vulnerability. Most of the time it requires a change of scenery from our zip codes, and that means pressing into new territory. This can seem risky for them and for you, but brave parenting doesn’t arise from comfort. It breeds in daring waters and seeps out in the form of hope to a waiting world.
During a recent dinner, we asked our children about their favorite family vacation.
“My favorite vacation was our trip to Kenya,” stated our eleven-year-old daughter.
My husband and I glanced at each other and smiled; we weren’t expecting that, but we weren’t surprised either.
Last year our family of five boarded a jumbo jet for the long journey halfway around the world. Our children were twelve, nine, and one-years-old at the time.
When we first shared the idea with them, trepidation of the unknown crept into their minds. Shots. Passports. Hot weather. Malaria. Long flights. Different foods.
But as we started preparing for our trip, we included them in the planning for the soccer tournament we’d be hosting in a village outside of Eldoret. They began to soak in the excitement of the possibility of adventure and growing in their faith despite the unknown. Our sixth grade son’s friends and church youth group donated change to purchase new pants for the street children, and our fourth grade daughter’s school collected seeds and pencils for the Kenyan schools. As we landed in Nairobi, our luggage was heavy with school supplies, soccer balls, jerseys and athletic shorts.
For seven precious days under the Equator sun, we opened our hands and hearts to serve and watched our children’s faith deepen as their paradigms shifted away from themselves. They relished in the beauty and sacred of each simple moment. Often language barriers stood in the way of communication, but no words are needed when love is expressed. The girls braided my daughter’s hair, the boys included my son in every soccer game, and the children loved playing with our toddler and holding her pudgy hand. Relationships developed and friendships blossomed.
There were moments where I stood back and just watched. I watched my one-year-old held by a dear mama, my daughter giggle with the school girls and watched my son eat ugali with the street boys.
We were the ones changed, and it intentionally altered the scope of our children’s perspective trajectory.
Our culture tells children they need the latest phones, designer shoes, or video games. Instagram comparison steals joy, and the fear of missing out builds false expectations. But what our children really need is to turn outward and to lift their gaze from screens and selfie reflections to focusing on the needs of others. Then, they realize the world doesn’t revolve around them, and the little things are appreciated.
The most valuable gift my son has ever received came in the form of a soccer ball from the street boys. On the final night in the village, he was presented with their ball made out of string and plastic bags. Priceless. They wanted to show their gratitude, and they gave him all they own. The moment my children start to compare and complain, the soccer ball is a physical reminder of the important and beautiful. It represents faces and names that molded and shaped my children’s hearts.
There’s no price tag large enough to put on the value of opening young eyes to a world greater than themselves, whether that’s in another country or assisting a neighbor. The opportunity to serve is a catalyst for joy. Everything changes. Christmas lists alter. Comparison fades. Contentment grows.
When we step out in faith, we find the weight of the reward far outweighs any potential risk. Brave faith means pressing into the important, upholding the valuable, and stepping into the unknowns with an assurance that the Lord goes before, behind and beside us through every step of life’s journey.
When it came time to say goodbye, tears streamed down the cheeks of our children as their tender hearts broke. They left pieces of their hearts in a remote village in the middle of Kenya and unraveled the secret of joy.
Do you have a Brave Parenting story you’d like to share? firstname.lastname@example.org