I had one of those time-transcending moments last night in a warehouse in Chicago.
Travel back in time with me for a moment, to 1995. My thee children, then ages 12, 10 and 9 and I have started another typical home school day. Breakfast, a few chores, prayer, then the day’s instructions, which invariably included a few minutes of journaling. Their journals were the one school assignment they had each day where I didn’t have to bust out the green or purple pen to correct mistakes. (I rarely used red. I thought it made my own school papers look like a crime scene, so I used gentler colors to deliver the error news to my kids.) I wanted them to be able to enjoy expressive writing and build fluency. so the journal was the one place where they could simply write.
When I heard the inevitable wail “…but I don’t know what to write!”, from my kids, I started compiling prompts, which I eventually self-published as a help to other home schooling families. (It’s now available here.)
Even with the prompts, even with the freedom from correction, my son Ben used to fight me like a furious wildcat when it came to journaling. “I don’t know what to write”, he’d growl and spit.
At one point, after I told him I just wanted him to simply fill four lines in the journal each morning, he wrote the following:
I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write.
Seriously. I had to bite the inside of my cheek to muffle my laughter.
Fast forward to last night. Ben, graduated with dual degrees in Philosphy and English/Writing, is not only a writer, but has become a publisher. He put together a release party for Volume 2 last night that included readings from 5 or 6 of his contributors (including at least two who teach at the college level in the Chicago area), a band, free beer from a local craft brewer, and beautiful vanilla/vanilla cupcakes scratch-baked by his equally-gifted wife. About fifty people showed up on a Saturday night to listen, to network, to drink beer and eat cupcakes, and to celebrate Ben’s vision.
I have had those unexpected moments of discovery with all three of my children. The same focused persistence on a goal that we saw in Rachel during a decade of piano lessons has shone in her adulthood as she’s faced life challenges few of her peers can imagine and pursued vocational training and a long-cherished goal of a college degree. Jacob, a daydreamer, spent most of his U-8 soccer career picking dandelions during his games. We didn’t realize that he was drinking in every.single.detail. in the world around him until he focused on pursuing a career in art. (Jacob’s illustration is featured in Ben’s publications, which is another sweet unexpected gift.)
I could not have imagined any of these things back in 1995. There’s a lesson in that.
As I pray for my children and grandchildren, I hope I’ve been schooled well in what God has been patiently teaching me (sans red pen) – the truth that what is happening on the surface of things is not always a reliable indicator of the story being created in a life.