Four things nannying taught me about God’s heart

Nanny DiariesFor the last year and a half, I had the privilege of helping a really great mom raise her kids. She entrusted me with her three most valuable possessions for about 20 hours every week, and truthfully, they blessed me way more than I think I ever could have blessed them.

There were a lot of things I dreamed about doing once I graduated college, but being a nanny was not one of them. It’s not exactly the most glamorous job. Sometimes I used to pretend I was like Jesse from the Disney channel to feel a little cooler about it. It was refining, it was exhausting, and I learned so much about myself and about God during that season.

Last Friday, I spent my last day with the Haynes kids. I hugged them all goodbye in the YMCA parking lot, and as soon as I turned around to walk to my car, I lost it. I still haven’t gotten the image of that precious little 8 year old boy with tears in his eyes out of my head.

All weekend I thought a lot about all the things God did in me during that year and a half. Because of those three kids, I have known a kind of love I didn’t know before, and I realized in processing it all these last few days that there are some major things I learned about God’s heart for me because of them.

1. My disobedience is offensive to Him. 

There’s a difference between babysitting on a weekend and nannying four to five days a week, literally helping someone raise their kids. The difference is that you have to actually parent them.

I figured out pretty quickly (and called my mom to repent for my disobedience growing up) that it is offensive when I’ve asked them to do something, and I know they hear me, and they don’t do it. I was never mad at them or unforgiving of them, but the whole time I was learning to check my own heart every time and ask God, “Are there places in my life I’m doing this to you?”

It was convicting. The answer was often, “Yes.”

1a. Even after I’ve offended Him, He still thinks I’m awesome. 

One of my favorite things about disciplining the kids was the conversation we would have about whatever their offense was, and how it always ended with a hug and a, “I’m not mad at you. I love you.” When I’m slow to obey God’s guidance and leadership in my life, we have a conversation about it and He corrects me. But it always ends with me knowing His affection for me.

2. He loves that I need His help.

There was this one day that one of the boys had taken his brand new bike for a ride around the neighborhood with friends. He was late in coming home so I walked down the street to where I knew he was, only to find him standing there, covered in mud, crying hysterically. 

His wheels were so coated in mud they wouldn’t even turn. To a 9 year old, this is truly the end of the world. I was trying so hard to hold back laughter. I had to explain to him that this isn’t a big deal, we can fix it, and he wasn’t in trouble. (He was still crying, saying he didn’t mean to be late and he didn’t mean to ruin his new bike.)

Well, since the wheels weren’t going anywhere covered in all that mud, I had to throw his bike over my shoulder and carry it home as we walked back together. And as he wept, I was still laughing, trying to calm him down and tell him it was going to be OK.

I think God and I have similar moments. Something happens that I didn’t see coming, and I feel like I should have been able to avoid it, so He comes walking over to meet me and I’m just weeping and in panic mode. I think in those moments He laughs at my silliness and says, “Sara, it’s going to be fine. You need my help, and I love that about you. This draws us closer to one another.”

3. It blesses His heart like crazy when I take Him at His word.

I will never forget this conversation I had with one of the kids last summer at Hawaiian Falls (a water park here in Waco). The boys wanted to go on this big, fast slide, and their sister was a little bit scared. She wanted to do it, but she stood there at the bottom, unsure of whether or not to actually climb all those stairs and come down the slide.

OK, so part of me only wanted to talk her into it so I didn’t have to sit at the kiddie pool all day, but this was a really special conversation.

I said, “Hey, Jesus lives in your heart, right?” She nodded yes. “Did you know that Jesus and fear can’t live in the same place? So you can just tell that fear, ‘No,’ and Jesus will carry you through whatever you’re scared of. It’s pretty easy, and it’s really fun!”

That was it! She believed me. We rode that slide 10 times that day. She knew I was telling the truth and she didn’t question it. That conversation has marked my relationship with Jesus ever since. Every time I’m scared of something, I just think, “Wait, Jesus and fear can’t live in the same place. You’re right, God. Let’s do this.”

4. He knows all the details of my life, so I don’t have to concern myself with them.

As I was getting ready to hand my job over to the new nanny, I was going through all the details I needed to train her on. Noland was asking me what all I needed to teach her, and as I explained it all to him he stopped me and said, “Are you gonna be ok? You’ve been loving those kids in the tiniest details of their lives for a long time.”

In my last few days, I couldn’t stop thinking about that. He was right. I knew everything about them. I knew when they got up and when they went to bed, how and when they got to and from school, what they wanted for lunch every day, when and where all their practices and activities were. I knew their favorite colors and favorite games, their best friends and their favorite snacks. 

And because they knew I was taking care of all those things, they never questioned it. This is the way God wants me to be with Him! He knows when I sit and when I rise. He discerns my going out and my lying down; He is familiar with all my ways. (Psalm 139)

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared in this new season of my life. I’m in a new job that I don’t really feel comfortable in. I feel way under-qualified for the position I’ve been given. I get stressed about figuring out the details of my life on my own.

And I keep going back to this thought that truthfully, I’m just supposed to act like those kids did with me. Allowing Him to care for me without asking questions or doing the planning myself. Believing Him when He speaks and knowing that His presence will always drive out my fear. Being obedient to His call and knowing I need His help in every little area of my life.

The children will be the ones who inherit the Kingdom. I want to be one of them.

My sensor is broken.

Transition is a pesky thing. I think I mentioned this approaching season in a post from a couple of months back. It’s the “night” time, so to speak, between the sun setting on one season and rising on another. I’m there right now, and it feels a little bit dark at times.

Life is kind of crazy for us right now. It feels like when you’re first learning to drive and you aren’t used to the sensitivity of your brakes yet. So you accelerate, and then you come to an abrupt stop. (Over and over until you finally start to feel natural) Meanwhile mom is in the passenger seat about to lose her lunch.

We’re in town on the weekdays, working full time and trying to adjust to a different pace of life from the craziness of our training school year. But on the weekends, we’re going to weddings and visiting family and celebrating our anniversary somewhere in there. We aren’t home on a weekend until mid July. So we have these two different speeds that we keep going back and forth from. Fast paced weekend, then slam the brakes and try to slow down during the week. I feel emotionally car sick.

Finally last week I reached a breaking point, and I was about ready to lose the little bit of sanity that still remained. (OK, or maybe I did lose it a little bit) Misfiring with spousal  communication led to frustration that finally made me go for a drive to get some space. I cried the ugly kind of cry that makes you thankful you’re driving at night and not in the daylight, and I cried out to God wondering how I got to this place of complete chaos. 

And then I realized, this is what the enemy does. Here I am in the night time season of transition, isolated. He comes to steal, kill and destroy. Righteous anger began to bubble inside of me. “Oh, hell no,” I said out loud, driving around Waco and fighting evil in a more real way than any Marvel movie character ever has. And I finished that verse that had come to mind, “…but Jesus came that I may have life abundantly.”

And I don’t always understand what that’s supposed to mean, this idea of life abundant, but I know that when my thoughts are taken captive by evil and not by grace, I feel cheated. But when my thoughts are taken captive by the Grace Giver, well, I feel complete. And there’s always grace.

All is grace.

Ann Voskamp says there’s always a well. All is well.

I came home and the deep well of grace that is my husband was waiting to reconcile our frustration with one another. “I think we started fighting each other instead of fighting the one attacking us, and we just needed to go back to our respective corners to figure that out,” he said as those pretty blue eyes stared into my soul, saying without words that no dark place will ever be able to separate us.

There was an intruder in the boxing ring. But wait, what the heck are we doing in a boxing ring and why are we in opposite corners?

I guess life with Jesus is a fight. And somehow marriage ups the ante and makes Satan fight harder. 

Well, since we seem to be doing everything on the run these days, we didn’t have much time to recover from that night. We drove straight to Little Rock the next day for my best friend’s wedding. And my emotions are feeling like when you pull a muscle but the team still needs you, so you just wrap it up, lather it with Biofreeze and keep playing. Still sensitive to the challenging season I’m in, the enemy kept throwing punches.

I kept wondering how to find God in all this, if He was on this roller coaster too. I resolved that I suppose He is, and I suppose He knows where we’re going, and all I’m supposed to do is keep walking and talking with him. After all, Abram didn’t really know where he was going, but it says that he believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. (Gen. 15:6)

He believed God, and God declared him set right. 

That’s all I have to do? It’s so… simple. Just believe that what He says is true, and be obedient.

And as we were driving back from Little Rock the car started shaking, and we had to pull in to Walmart and have it looked at. Something about a sensor going out and spark plugs misfiring, and I thought, “Well this is ironic.”

God always seems to speak in parallels to me, connecting what’s going on in the spiritual to what’s happening in the natural so I can finally get it. Maybe I need to start catching on sooner. Nonetheless, my sensor had been broken. And when I stop paying attention and sensing his presence in all circumstances, I get shaky. Just like my car.

Maybe the mechanic can fix both of us?

Or maybe I’ll just cling to the verse that’s gotten me through so many of these kinds of seasons, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8)

Lies the sunset tells.

I love to watch the sunset. If you’re in the right place, like the beaches of California watching the sun set behind the Pacific Ocean, it’s just one of those picturesque moments that stops you in your tracks. I see the glory of God in a sunset. His creativity is put on display in colors that can only truly be brought to life in the sky, painted by his hand. But just a couple of weeks ago, as I was admiring a sunset, I had this thought: Why do we romanticize sunsets and endings so much?

It starts in our childhood. Those stories and fairy tales that always begin with “Once upon a time…” they all have the same ending: “…and they lived happily ever after.” The white horse carries princess and prince charming into the sunset, and the story ends.

But what about the sunsets of our lives? Our sunsets are followed by sunrises — the dawning of new uncertainties. And even worse, the dark, lonely night that lies between the setting of the sun on one day and its rising on the next. So these stories and fairy tales don’t give us a blueprint on how to handle these places in our lives.

We were never told of how Cinderella’s orphan spirit probably took counseling and prayer ministry to work through the first few years of her marriage. Or about the beast’s anger management not just going away overnight when he got his human body back. And what about Snow White, who had seven dwarfs following her around all the time? Talk about baggage!

I know I’m making jokes, but this really is a lie we somehow believe, that our lives are supposed to look something like that. So we get lost when all of a sudden the day after our long-anticipated chapter-closing event takes place. This is why we have post-grad syndrome, and we spend the first few months of marriage saying or thinking, “no one told me __________.” I can imagine new moms might feel this, when they wake up in the middle of the night for feeding/changing/rocking/etc. We think so much about the ending of one season (college, engagement, pregnancy, or anything else, really), that we forget as soon as it ends another will begin.

We spend too much time watching the sunset and romanticizing the ending of something, and then we miss what’s next. So as I was watching the sunset a few weeks ago and thinking about all this, I felt God start to speak into this tendency in me. As I’m romanticizing the ending of one of the most refining, challenging, transforming years of my life, I felt like he said, “Sara, enjoy the sunset while it’s here, but don’t chase it. If you don’t turn around you’ll miss the sunrise — and I have something for you there.”

We chase the sunsets in our lives instead of turning east and facing its rising. And I think one of the reasons we do that is because we fear what’s in between. People handle the space between sunsets and sunrises differently. Some of us rest, and others are restless. Some of us dream and others fight nightmares. Do you see what I’m saying here? Our lives have night times and often they’re called transition. The space between an ending and a beginning.

Well, then I started thinking about sunrises. I’m kind of a night owl so it’s rare that I actually get up to see the sunrise. But there is something about the sunrise — that first glimpse of light into a new day. Sunrises actually speak way more into my personality than sunsets do. Sunsets are a goodbye of sorts, but sunrises are more like an invitation. The adventure of a new day rising and saying, “come and get it.”

Here’s the thing about sunrises, though: they’re full of uncertainty and surprises. Sunsets don’t leave much to be questioned — we all know what comes after them. Night. But sunrises… so much can happen in all the daylight that follows! One time I was in Costa Rica and I went for a sunrise hike with my dad and some friends early one morning. It was breathtakingly gorgeous. But you know what happened as soon as the sun came up and we reached the top? We got charged by a bull and literally ran down half the mountain! Seriously, this is a true story. Sunrises are full of surprises.

They’re not soothing and peaceful in the way that a sunset is, although they’re just as beautiful. Sunrises whisper the mystery of a road untraveled, a story yet to be lived. We should be chasing less sunsets and embracing more sunrises. I really believe this is the will of God for our lives.

God lives in the “to be continued.” His story has never ended, and it never will. Every day he invites us into more with him. Another day, a new adventure. That’s not to say that he doesn’t want us to enjoy the sunset and reflect on the day that’s ending. Noland and I are about to spend two weeks of sunset on this year of our life in Africa. But when we get back, we will stare into the dawn of a new season for us in Waco. And I can’t wait to run wildly into that new day.

Our endings are only meant to push us into new beginnings. And when this life ends, well, eternity begins. And eternity doesn’t have an ending. The sun never sets on eternity.