Not until you’re 30. I know you’ve heard us say it. I’ll let you in on a little secret—we don’t really mean it. Maybe you already knew that which is why you felt able to take the risk to ask me to talk about dating.
There’s so much to talk about really. But, it doesn’t all need to be talked about now. You’re new to this, and we’re new to this (not dating…we’ve been doing that for a long time. We’re new to parenting a kid interested in dating.) I’m going to keep it simple now—like Dating 101—knowing that we’ve got lots of time for Dating 201 and 301 and so on.
- Dating is a good thing. We’ve joked about not wanting any of you to date for decades. That could lead you to think that we think dating is a bad thing. We don’t. Dating is good because relationships are good. God made us to need relationship and connection with other people. Your desire to date and connect more with other people is part of living out how He made you.
- I want you to learn about you. You told me about how you felt when you got the envelope that you knew wo uld tell you if you were accepted into Junior National Honor Society. You felt your heart beat fast and a heaviness in your chest as you anticipated opening it. You might feel some of those same things when you think about dating someone. I want you to study yourself and learn what it is that you feel and do because I want you to be an expert at discerning the difference between being interested in dating in general and being interested in a relationship with someone specifically. There is a difference.
- We will have rules. We don’t know what they are yet because we haven’t needed to make them yet. But, my guess is that when we do, they will be different than rules your friends have. The rules aren’t because we want to limit how much fun you have or keep you from growing up. We will give you rules because we want to give you very clear boundaries so that you know that within those boundaries you are most safe. Within those boundaries, you will still have freedom to be you and grow into the you you will become. We hope that the boys you date will also have clear boundaries, but they may not which means that you have to use a lot of wisdom to discern if dating them at all is a good choice. We need discernment too so we can help you make that choice.
- We are your best resource. My guess is that boys are a pretty popular topic of conversation among your girlfriends. That’s fun. You can ask them questions; but my guess is that they have more questions than answers. You can ask Google like we do for most things, but Google doesn’t care about like you like we do. We are your most invested, most dependable resource. Just come to us. Talk to us. We are for you and love talking to you about everything from kitty cat antics to boys.
I think they’ve come to expect it. Kind of like children on Christmas morning. They know that when we come, we don’t only have bags full of art supplies and toys and vitamins for the children. They know that somewhere in those bags is something for them. And, I love that they’ve come to expect it. I love that they know I’m never going to come and forget them.
It’s always a challenge for me though. What can I bring that wasn’t made in China? What can I bring that speaks their love language, that is easy to pack, that I can bring lots of because there are lots of them.
With only a month before this trip, I still had nothing. My mom, who has become pretty adept at Pinterest surfing, had an idea–aprons. She made one that I loved and hand wrote instructions so I could enlist some other helpers. We asked three more women to join my mom in making them, each one the same but different so that each ayi could pick her one that was her own. I had a plan–each of us on the team could wear one as we served and then we’d give the ayis their own before we said goodbye. I had no idea how many we’d need in order for two different orphanages–maybe 40? Maybe 50?
Emily’s aprons were the first to arrive in a pile of beautiful color. She made way more than I had asked for. I started making plans for the extras. My mom’s motherload came next. She too made more than I had asked her to make. Valerie’s and Angi’s aprons had not yet arrived, but they were most certainly going to be overflow. When Valerie’s package arrived, the 10 I asked her to make was 14. That’s okay. I would just save them for the next trip when we would go to a different place.
A few days before we left, I got a message from one of the orphanages. They told me that they had 32 caregivers. Okay, so that was a few more aprons than I thought we’d take there we’d be okay still; we had extras. I counted out 32 aprons and left the rest in a pile. Two days before we left, I got a message from the other orphanage finally answering my question from weeks earlier. 56 caregivers. Oh no. I panicked. 56? There’s no way we’re going to have enough aprons! Wait, no need to panic, I know what we can do. We’ll skip the part-time caregivers and give them something else little; only full-time ones would get an apron. But, I panicked again when I asked the director how many of those 56 were full-time and how many were part-time. They were ALL full time.
Angi’s 10 aprons had not yet arrived, and I had not counted how many made up the stack I had. But, I knew we’d be short. A day before we left, Angi’s aprons arrived. Like the other women, for some reason, she made a couple extra, sending 12 instead of the 10 I had asked her to make. I opened the package and marveled at her work and all the color, amazed at how all four women are able to take a flat piece of fabric and make something out of nothing. As I started to count up all that we had, I thought about how I could make up the difference. Should I run out and get nice hand lotions? Would Target have aprons that I could spread among the handmade ones?
10 became 40 and then 60. Aprons laid in stacks of 10 on my living room floor. Stacks and stacks until I counted the very last one. We needed 88 for all the ayis. We had 93–the exact number we needed for each ayi and the 5 of us.
I don’t know how it happened. But, it did. And, it was just the message I needed that He’s going ahead of us, even to the point of directing these four ladies to make just a few more…just in case.
I even got this picture sent to me later–this ayi very proudly added to her apron to hide any dirt.
My mornings in China tend to start much the same. I wake up early while the sky is still dark, and I text home because the window of time when we’re both awake and able to respond is quite narrow. Mark shares pieces of what happened while I slept. I read and respond. And, I write out my heart in the form of phrases, short texts one after another, glimpses of feelings in the form of little blue bubbles on a screen.
It’s near the end of the trip. I’m tired. My body is tired from days of being on from beginning to end. My heart is tired of hard conversations and coming face-to-face with deep brokenness. At the very same time, I want to run home to be with my own, run away to be alone, and run in and ask to stay just a little longer for one more conversation, ten more pictures, another song, to give another touch on the back.
It feels sadder here.
Like the kids know there’s something a lot better, and they are powerless to do anything that might make their life look different.
The injustice feels thicker and deeper.
He told me:
Yeah. Tends to happen.
It is good. Take advantage of it.
I boiled my hot water. Made my milk tea. And, I opened my Book.
It is for this reason that I bow my knees before the Father, after whom all families in heaven above and on earth below receive their names, and pray:
Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen Your people. Fill their souls with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in their hearts. May love be the rich soil where their lives take root. May it be the bedrock where their lives are founded so that together with all of Your people they will have the power to understand the breadth and length and height and depth of your love, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God, may Your fullness flood through their entire beings.
I have never faced brokenness so close as when I am in this place…holding the hand of a child who tells me she remembers her parents and doesn’t know why she is where she is…reading a note found pinned to a abandoned baby’s blanket…being asked by a caregiver if there’s any hope left for this older boy who she says isn’t so clever. These places are hard. They are uncomfortable and painful and messy. And, they are good. It is here that I am rescued from complacency. It is here where my spirit is stirred to hope for immeasurable, seemingly impossible, all-things-new redemption. And, it is here where He asks me to fight for it, and I say yes.
The injustice is thick and deep. But, His love is deeper still.