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Getting the Signal

Paying attention to your child's "warning lights"

The other night at about ten o'clock I blissfully hopped into my minivan after an evening of running errands sans kids. I started the van and was about to head home when suddenly a red neon light appeared on my dashboard.

Usually I wouldn't let a little thing like a pretty red light thwart my navigational plans, but accompanying the light was a peculiar dragging sensation each time I pushed the accelerator. I had no idea whether to stay put and call my husband to come and get me or to try and make the 20-minute drive home.

Quickly surveying the dark, deserted parking lot, I decided to hit the highway at a swift clip of about 35 miles per hour. It's times like these when you wish you had a sign to hang out the window, "Please don't be mad; my car's broken!"

I turned on my phone and called home. My dear husband has become accustomed to my reports concerning all manner of unfortunate auto "incidents." He's always braced for the worst, so anything less is a bonus. "Babe, I'm on my way home," I told him. "I'm about 20 minutes away, and there's a red light glowing on the dashboard. The light is shaped like a video camera, only I'm pretty sure we don't have a video camera built into the car. What do you think?" He gently broke it to me that that particular light meant something could be wrong with the engine. No bonus today.

I finally made it home and we took the van to the shop the next morning. It turned out all my kid-mobile needed was a thorough servicing. A few bucks later and it was running like new.

Wouldn't it be great if our kids came with a set of warning lights? When the baby gets cranky for no apparent reason, a light would come on that said, "Ear infection—see doctor immediately." Or, same cranky scenario but it's your teenager. Just when you're beside yourself trying to figure out what on earth has turned your charming boy into a raving lunatic, a blue light would start flashing, "Puberty in full swing. Proceed with caution."

I sure could have used some sort of flashing signal recently when faced with the difficult decision to homeschool two of my kids. I went back and forth and back and forth. So many reasons not to, yet so many reasons to go for it. Certainly this decision was surrounded and saturated with much sincere prayer, but there was no message in the clouds—no voice from heaven, no definitive answer. In the end I just followed my heart and brought my two brilliant sons home to learn.

That's what much of mothering is about—taking the information and resources available to us, weighing the benefits and costs, and filtering it all through the grid of our faith. Sometimes the "voice from the sky" we so desperately seek echoes in the words of a trusted friend, in the persistent reports of concerned teachers, even in a gut-level sense of where we should go next. God uses people, circumstances, feelings … all kinds of signal lights to point us to his best path for us.

Making the best decisions for our children can sometimes paralyze us with fear. But the Bible promises that, "He guards the path of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones" (Prov. 2:8). You can trust that when you step out in faith, when your desire is to find God's best for you and your family, when you look for the signals he's placed on your way, God will honor the choices you make.

A Note from Elisa: Dear Mom, If we were mechanical robots, life would be simpler. We could read the signals and respond automatically and perfectly—without getting bogged down by our unpredictable hearts. Alas, we are human! The good news is that God created humans to run best on his guidance. And guidance goes through the vehicle of the heart. Confused today? At a crossroads? Are the signals on the dashboard blinking? Go to God and ask for his wisdom. After you ask, respond to the leading in your heart. The signals may not be mechanical, but they're there!

Lisa Johnson is a writer, speaker, and recording artist from Southern California. Learn more about her at www.candykissesmuddyhugs.com.

Elisa Morgan is president emerita of MOPS International.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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