“Mommy! It’s strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate, with STARS!” Alyssa handed me the red play cup with yellow spoon. The brightness of her face stood in contrast to my trailing thoughts at the moment. Oblivious to the cheerful voice of Mickey Mouse on television in the background, I was still grappling with the latest news with my mom’s battle with cancer.
But it was impossible to stay in my doldrums with that cheerful smile handing me her imaginary culinary concoction. At that moment, time stood still as I saw exactly how this little girl would be my cheerful medicine in the unknown days, weeks, and months ahead.
My mind went back to Christmas morning in 2009, the day the pregnancy test showed two pink lines. After six months of trying for a baby, Alyssa was conceived around two weeks after Matt’s dad passed away following a hard-fought battle with cancer. We knew Alyssa (and 2 months later my niece Emma) was God’s grace for this time of pain. But as Alyssa grew older, I knew something was different about her. She didn’t have the serious, deep demeanor that Drew and I did. She was always happy. She made us laugh. She was full of energy. She loved life.
At the moment I took the red cup and yellow spoon in hand, I saw something more clearly than I had before: Alyssa’s gifting. The person God created her to be. This three-foot bundle of joy was created to lift people up during times of suffering. To provide hope in the midst of despair. To offer the most contagious smile you’ve ever seen.
Many scholars believe that the well-known verse, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and in the end he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6) in the original text means that we are to examine a child’s natural bent and encourage him or her to grow into the person God has already created him or her to be. In other words, instead of looking at our children as a blank page ready to be written upon, we are to look at them as a book to be read and then guided accordingly.
As my mind sees more clearly the way God has gifted Alyssa, I want to do the following things:
Call it out. I want her to know the strengths that God has given her from birth. I want her to understand as she grows that she has the ability to cheer someone up and make them smile.
Encourage it. When I see her making someone smile or bringing joy into my darkness, I encourage her to continue. I let her know how she brings joy in people’s lives.
Protect it. Anything that has the propensity to be used mightily by God will be under the enemy’s attack at some point. What might steal her joy? I will be watchful in deed and fervent in prayer, that God will protect her heart from anything that threatens to overtake her joy.
Seek opportunities for her to exercise it. As she gets older and I see ways her gifts can be used to minister to someone else, I want to encourage her to use those opportunities. I want to help her practice using her calling to glorify God and comfort others.
All of our children have been uniquely created by God. As parents one of the greatest gifts we can give them is helping them to understand their personal gifting. Of course, spiritual gifting will only come once our children come to a saving knowledge of Christ, but they were also created with certain bents that give them great potential in ministering to others.
My hope is that I can continue watching and studying both Alyssa and Drew, encouraging them both to use the gifting God has instilled in them.
Alyssa’s cheerful heart truly is good medicine. May I see it as not only her gifting, but also God’s gracious gift to me.