Last night I lay in bed watching Netflix with my husband. While we watched a favorite show I glanced through the pictures I had taken that day. I especially loved one of my two youngest daughters looking out over a natural spring in Central Florida. We had all watched with glee as a trio of otters dipped and ducked through a bed of lily pads. I showed the photo to my spouse.
He commented, “you know, I’ve never seen otters in the wild before. And I’m forty-one. The girls got to see that today. That’s awesome.”
I agreed. A year ago this week we had made a monumental decision to travel the country together with our children. And in that, already our young daughters had seen things we had not even known existed at their age. Yet it was more than swimming otters and multiple coast-lines.
Last week my husband had met a new friend. It was a guy about his age, and they spoke for some time, having multiple things in common. And I’m not even counting the fact that this man and his family had decided to focus on the finer things in life like we had done.
After they had met that day, and as my husband shared some of their conversation, he spoke, “the guy said something that made me think of you. He mentioned how the things he once thought were important, turns out, they’re not.”
I chuckled. Yes.
I can look back at my life and I see a lot of wasted time.
I remember when my mom and I first moved onto the land my new stepdad owned. One day in particular I got to meet my cousins on his side of the family. I acted like an absolute nut. My mother had mentioned it to me later, after they left, and even at age eight I realized she was right in her assessment. The entire time I had been screaming, “look at me! Watch this! Watch me!”
I had just wanted them to like me.
I remember the first day of third grade at a new school I had told the little blond girl I met on the teeter totter that I had epilepsy. I had wanted her to feel sorry for me. I had wanted her to see I was different. Beat me, bore me; just don’t ignore me. I had shared something that set me apart from the other children because I wanted to be seen, to be noticed.
They noticed me, all right. It didn’t pan out like I hoped.
I entered elementary school as the sick kid, the different kid, the kid with a weird accent.
I went through junior high school as the kid who wanted to be the cool kid. I scoured my YM magazine for inspiration. I wanted to dress cool, say the right thing.
I wanted to fit in.
In high school I sought out the pretty girls, the athletic guys, the popular kids, the cool clubs. They seemed so happy, like they had it all.
I wanted to find that place. I wanted to find my place.
I thought maybe I found it in college.
I mean, there were so many other people like me. Young people searching to find their fit.
Searching for acceptance.
Searching for love.
Searching to stand out.
Searching to make a name for themselves.
It was even kinda cool to be different, to be weird. Yet still…
I couldn’t really find my place. So uncool.
Ever since I began homeschooling my first daughter I received flack from my peers. Even people who had never laid eyes on my children had something to say.
Coworkers questioned my children’s socialization, even proclaiming things like, “oh my God, please don’t do that to your kid. Don’t make her one of those weird homeschool kids!”
I’ve seen the same pushback when we decided to travel.
“What about their friends?!”
Cause, you know, my three year old is the president of the nursery. Her peers elected her most likely to potty train first.
I saw other moms question our lifestyle.
“I could never do that! I’d be afraid my children wouldn’t know how to act in social situations!”
“What about school?”
“Aren’t you worried how they’ll act when they get to college?”
Ahhh, college. I remember it well. It was the place where I almost lost myself searching for who I needed to be. It was a place where a public school kid went wild, still searching for my fit. I wasn’t even a “weird homeschool kid,” and I still didn’t know how to proceed in life. I grew up, no fault to my parents, always thinking that was the goal. The goal was to fit in, to find my niche, to succeed, be a cool kid. Maybe I was a product of too many John Hughes’s films. I chased popularity, fitting in, and finding favor with man for far too many years. I was highly socialized, but into the wrong society. I was socialized into the world. We were never meant to try and fit into that.
My daughters are afforded every opportunity in life to “socialize” with others, but they also know there’s more to life than being the cool kid.
They understand it’s not about the clothes you wear, or brand names. It’s about carrying yourself like a Child of the King, robed in righteousness.
They understand it’s not about fitting in; it’s about helping others feel like they fit.
It’s not about being the best; it’s about being kind.
It’s not about chasing love. It’s about knowing they are highly loved and favored already by the One who formed them in my womb.
It’s not about trying to fit in and find their place in this world. Because they understand this world is but a vapor. Their goal is to love people while they’re here, enjoy the gifts they’re given in life, and be thankful for each day.
It’s not about being popular. It’s about being a good friend.
It’s not about being a winner. It’s about being a servant.
It’s not about having a big house. It’s about having a big heart.
It’s not about their last name. It’s about being a good example.
It’s not about how much money we have. It’s about how much we share.
It’s not about the best school and best grades. It’s about the life lessons we learn and how that shapes us to be better people.
My daughters don’t make friends based on appearance or reputation. They make friends based on The Father Heart of God. They’re not perfect kids! They can be mean little brats! But they’re learning. They’re learning that there’s more to life than being a cool kid. It’s all about being the kind kid.
They make friends regardless of color, religion, or if their playmate has two dads instead of parents of the opposite sex. They “socialize” with others regardless of the clothes they wear, where they live, or what their parents do for a living. They aren’t manipulated into believing they belong to a certain group. They know we’re all God’s kids; even if we don’t know it. And that means everyone is cool.
My hope for my daughters is that they won’t waste time trying to find their place or fit in. They’ll understand that God made them unique, but places them exactly where He needs them to be. They don’t have to run to find their niche. They’re in His hands already.
My hope is that they won’t chase the things of this world, the things that fade, rust, wear-out, and fail them. Instead they’ll rest in an eternal mindset.
Yesterday my eldest daughter and I talked about sand castles as we built an elaborate sand city. I told her that life here on earth was like building sand castles. You knew that one day the rain, wind, or a wayward person would knock down your castle. But that knowledge didn’t stop you from building them. It didn’t make you want to stop building sand castles. Instead, you simply enjoyed your time building your castles. That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to enjoy the sand God gives us to build with. We can’t take it with us, but we can take along the friends we make building castles together.
So shouldn’t we offer to make castles with everyone? Shouldn’t we love building castles, sharing our castles, and making the most of the construction? There’s more to life than being the cool kid. There’s more to life than building the biggest, best castle. Build to the best of your ability! But don’t build just for those watching you. Don’t just build to seek gratification from those around you. Don’t just build to make a name for yourself. Instead, build for the guy alone in the corner who hasn’t figured this castle thing out yet. Build a bridge so he can come to your kingdom, meet your king. Even the coolest castles get taken out to sea when the tide comes in. So don’t worry about your castle’s outside. It’s what’s inside that matters most.