I've always wished I could choose my children's memories.
Remember the special moments we carefully put thought into and were filled with joy. Special trips. Family get togethers. Simple evenings sitting around the table laughing.
And I could choose for them to forget the times moms temper was short and the days were long.
Likewise, there are times I wish I could choose their interests and passions. But just as I can't choose their memories for them, I can not decide what will interest them in their life.
What I can do however is show them what interests me. What makes me sad, glad and mad. The injustices in the world that get me riled up. The beauty in the world that makes my heart skip a beat. And how I choose to interact with both.
For Mark and me, we love travel. We love learning about new cultures. And we are passionate about doing our small part to make a difference in the injustices we see in our world.
And so, we engage our children in this. We brought them with us to Africa to show them what we are passionate about and has changed my life. But this does not mean this will be life changing for them in return. It might be - and that's great. Or they may find something else that moves them to action that I'm not called to.
And so we present to them our passions. Just as so many friends of ours share their love of camping, triathlons, woodworking, sports, books, faith, mission and more with their own families. The parents present options. But the child will decide if it's life changing.
On this trip our girls have done a lot....
They been guests in homes in the Kenyan slums and in mud huts in Uganda.
They've shared meals and hugs, laughter and prayers with those living in extreme poverty and former child soldiers.
They've enjoyed time with children without parents and children who's father is notorious warlord Joseph Kony.
They have visited a school where children can't afford shoes or food but are thrilled to receive an education.
They have rode on the backs of motorcycles.
They have learned to pluck feathers from chickens and butcher them.
They learned to do laundry by hand.
They pumped water, carried the water back and then washed dishes in a mud hut with Bosco's children.
They learned to make jewelry by hand.
They went to the local market with a group of teen girls.
They Learned to winnow peanuts
They helped out wherever was needed
I did not change or lighten my schedule for them. They woke up early each day, walked hours in the heat, rode in crowded matatus, wore skirts (this was huge), sat through meetings and kept up with all the adults.
They had only one morning of tourist activities (Nairobi national park and giraffe centre) and then this morning at our guest house they had downtime. Other than those two instances it was two weeks of steady long days.
We encouraged their independence too. They had their own hotel room in Gulu, Uganda (could not find a room to fit four of us!). They went to the market with a group of girls who barely spoke English. They learned to pump water with Bosco's children while we stayed in his hut with him. They went on bodas (motorcycles) with my friend Ketty while we stayed back. They learned to navigate and do things more on their own. In a foreign country!
So was this a life changing experience? Maybe.
We show them what moves us, then we encourage them to reflect on what they've seen and done with journal questions. We talk through each days events. But we don't get to decide that it was life changing for them. This is their life and what moves them can't be dictated by mom and dad unfortunately. Or let me change that. I should say FORTUNATELY it can't be dictated by us. They are unique individuals and as they learn about themselves and the world at large - I can't wait to see what events and circumstances will be life changing for them.
As the trip draws to a close, we hope it has made an impact on them. That they have learned to treat each person with respect and equality. That they have learned that their actions - however small - can make a difference. That people the world over are the same at the core. That the world is beautiful. People are beautiful. And it's an honour to witness so much of what God has created.
And I can't wait for the day the roles reverse and they take me on a journey to show what has been life changing in their own life and I let that impact my life. Maybe it will be a trip back to Africa. Maybe it'll be something I can't even imagine!