Both our children enter their senior years in the fall. One will finish college. The other one will finish divinity school. Neither one has an idea about their next step. If you were to ask them what happens when they graduate they have many ideas, but no plan.
All they know right now is their life has to matter, to count, to be lived offering love to all. The love in them cries out to be shared with others. We have extraordinary children.
I did not teach them this. Okay, I did try, but sometimes mommas are not the best teachers.
Don’t get me wrong. I taught them many things, like never settling, stepping out into the unknown, surviving character assassinations, finding your place when no one wants you to play.
But the things that really matter like loving without conditions, showering others with love and hope and being Christ’s hands and feet . . . those things my children learned from ordinary saints who comprised the churches we served.
David Coble modeled love for both of ours in the cradle ministry at FBC Whiteville, NC, as he welcomed them, met their physical needs, made them feel safe and empowered them to take risks. Then pastor Roger Gilbert and his wife Deidra held play dates for our children and encouraged dreaming. Rebecca and Christ Tanner talked–really talked–with them. Grady Waters showered them with hugs of blessing. Janet and Fuller Royal imagined with them and introduced them to new words.
When we moved to Bethel Baptist Church, Scottsburg, VA, in 1994, Janice and Thomas Burton became our children’s grandparents. There were sleepovers and biscuit making, garden harvesting and long conversations. Virginia Clark, a recent widow, poured her love into our children. The Moores, Womacks, Dunnagans and Drakes helped us parent during the time our children thought we weren’t cool. Kirsten and Barry McCormack challenged our children spiritually and intellectually. Lizzie Drake [a teenager] played dolls and princess with Tara. Chris Drake [a teenager] had a heart-to-heart talk with our son about scars after Joe was bitten by a dog at age six.
In 2003 we moved to Rome, GA. Without hesitation or apology the saints of North Broad Baptist Church entered the lives of our children. Judy and Grady Goodwin taught missional living by inviting our children to minister alongside of them. Adair and Beth Cox asked questions and celebrated their achievements and dreams. Phil and Patty Carter taught biblical excellence in Bible study and missional living by serving others. Roy and Nancy Echols modeled love that had hands and feet. Lottie and Jim Finney invited the children to use their gifts and try new ventures which called out gifts they did not know they had. Martha Ann Kuhlman embodied reverence–with just enough mischief to make life fun. Tia and Philip Hawkins became second, much younger parents. Debbie and Steve Heida challenged both of them to think critically, weave passion with professionalism and imagine more. Kristy and Lee Treadaway applauded their becoming and encouraged them to reach for the sky. Jerry Gatlin modeled preparation and love without bounds. Ellen and Weyman gave hugs which washed away tears and restored hope.
Our children are extraordinary because of the ordinary saints who loved as Christ loved. These saints mentored, coached, modeled, taught, engaged, held accountable, challenged and loved our children. They are the reason our children are extraordinary.
They are the reason our children live lives that matter, that count, that invest in others . . . that show love to all. Our children are a mosaic of these ordinary saints who lived out their discipleship intentionally for our children to see.
This momma is so very grateful.
Katrina Stipe Brooks is campus pastor at Lynchburg college, youth pastor at Madison Heights Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA, half of a clergy couple and Momma to Tara and Joe.