Sweet Lives for Jesus

I wake up to happy music. Mandisa claims that “It’s a good morning” and sometimes I need to listen two or three times before I believe it enough to get up. I roll out of bed more cautiously than I used to. Some of my joints feel like they need to be oiled. Then I hobble to the bathroom to start my morning. While each day is fresh and new with it’s own surprising mercies, there’s also a lot of rote repetition. Generally, I like my life and when I don’t, I’m learning to choose to be grateful for it anyway. Still, it’s a grind. Day after day turns into decades of feeding, clothing, taxiing and cleaning up messes for my family. It’s kingdom work but in my reflective moments I wonder if I am really shaping a legacy.

Nicole Noordeman ponders this question in her song called, Legacy.
I wanna leave a legacy.
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to You enough to make a mark on things?
I wanna leave an offering.
A child of mercy & grace who blessed Your name unapologetically,
And leave that kind of legacy.

As I cut up the vegetables for salad and drive my kid to dog obedience class, as I clean my toilet and weed my garden, I’m always on the look out for ways to make the daily holy. And I have found that traditions are a venue for infusing meaning into the routines and rhythms of life. And fall traditions are my favorite.

I grew up celebrating Halloween. My mama sat down at her sewing machine and worked magic transforming me into a clown, a nurse, even a housewife. I gobbled up my trick or treat candy except for the tootsie rolls, which I gifted my mom as a thank you. I never understood those annoying children who ate three pieces of candy each day until Christmas. I had a friend like that and I stole a handful of his candy when he wasn’t looking. That’s how seriously addicted to sugar I am.

When I turned teenager, I watched a few horror movies but never when I was babysitting and I even paid money to walk through rusty old semi trailers recycled into spook houses with friends.

But when God made me a mama, I mused differently about holidays.
Halloween is a holiday worthy of every parent’s prayerful consideration and ours led to celebrating All Saints Day on November 1 instead.

Rather than transforming our kids into superheroes for a night, we spend the entire month of October immersing ourselves in the stories of real live superheroes of the faith, finding inspiration through reading about their calling, courage and commitment. Sometimes their stories feel a little like walking through a spook house, they’re so scary and occasionally they end like a horror movie, gruesomely violent. But we invite them to shape our perspective. We honor their Kingdom contributions through humble acts of daily obedience to God, choices rooted in conviction, passion and faith.

On October 1, the kids customize their brown paper candy bags with a few markers and some cute stickers.
Over the years, we’ve beefed up our family library but we started out with the 4 Volume set of Heroes of the Faith by Dave and Neta Jackson and it’s become a timeless favorite. Every night at dinner, we read a story from the book and then ask the same question. It’s not a trick and there’s always a treat for the correct answer.
“Who lived a sweet life for Jesus?” we inquire.
They delightedly call out the name of the brave soul we’ve just read about. Then we pass around the candy container, which excludes all tootsie rolls, bubble gum and dum-dums. They choose a piece for their bag and a piece to eat.dscf6835dscf6833The routine lasts a month and culminates on All Saints Day, when they claim their bags and take their candy to their rooms. Some of the girls, like their mama, devour it at record speed. I find wrappers under beds, next to trash cans and in their pockets. The others remind me of the neighbor boy and I’m tempted to steal their candy too.

Over time, October’s became our favorite month to parent. The kids treat each other better as they absorb the broken-beautiful stories of the saints and apply them to soft hearts.

As they mature, the tradition morphs. I pull books off our shelves, adding them to a basket where I keep seasonal reading.
(See our personal book list at the bottom of this post.)
We offer the kids money or extra candy in exchange for additional independent reading as well.
One year, they asked to pool the money they earned to buy Bibles for China. Another year they wrote their own book, a compilation of short stories and poems about saints including discussion questions.

Now that we’re all abstract thinkers, the conversations about our heroes sound different than they used to. Lately, we’ve been reading about Hudson Taylor and contemplating his conviction regarding exclusively asking God for money. We wonder how stressful that was for his wife who died young and seemingly malnourished.
“Why do 99.9 percent of missionaries have sad stories of somebody dying?” Our twelve year old baby queries and her sis responds, “Because real life isn’t Disney.”
We muse aloud about real life and the ways that one person’s story affects another.
And that reminds us that our stories have influence too.

My story, mama of four girls, it matters. Smack dab in the middle of the daily, I choose intentionally to make God the main character of everybody’s story, in every season and in every holiday. And that’s a worthwhile legacy.

Books that have delighted us over the years:
YWAM Christian Heroes Then and Now series
YWAM Heroes for Young Readers series
YWAM International Adventure Series
Ten Girls series, Irene Howat
Ten Boys series, Irene Howat
Daughters of the Faith series, Wendy Lawton
Trailblazers series, Christian Focus
Torchbearers series, Christian Focus
History Lives series, Christian Focus

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