This is Jyeva. (Pronounced Yay-Vuh.)

If you look up the definition of “free spirit” in the dictionary, you will likely find her picture.

Jyeva has a fresh way about her, a caring and affectionate nature, and can offer up intercessory prayer with the best of them.

Jyeva teaches me something new every day, but there are three lessons that God weaves continually in my heart as I parent this precious girl.

Be yourself.

Jyeva has her own sense of fashion and style. You say rainbow butterfly leggings, lacy shirts, athletic socks, and Converse do not go together? Jyeva says, “Why yes they do, kind sir.” The year that Jyeva was 3-years-old we called her Boca because she insisted on wearing only bedazzled velour track suits everywhere she went. She had no taste for dresses, especially for church. She believed then and still does today that Jesus was meant to be honored in converse with purple stars.

Another year, I battled that girl to try on an Easter Sunday dress to match her sister’s. All three of us huddled into a dressing room, the light bulb finally went off, when Jyeva looked at me, eyes wide open, “Why would I want to wear a dress to match Macee’s? I’m not Macee, am I?” She intended no disrespect, her tender tone cut right to my heart, “Nope, you’re not Macee and I love you just the way you are.”

How often have I needed to set aside the expectations around me and embrace who God made me to be? Who am I trying to be most days anyway? Someone who could pass for having it all together? I’d rather be the broken but beautiful me, a living masterpiece declaring a Savior who has fully redeemed me, and continues to put all my pieces together into His masterpiece, each and every day.

Embrace life.

Jyeva runs at life on full throttle. You ask her to give you two laps, she does four. You ask her to give it her all, she gives it 150%. But the lesson she teaches me isn’t about giving it my all and being bold. Jyeva’s lesson is simpler.

When Jyeva was 5-years-old, we almost lost her sweet self. I remember very clearly rushing her down the side of a mountain in Haiti to get her to the medical care she needed in America. Seven days later, lying in a hospital bed, the nurse tentatively took all of the needles and tubes out of her little body. Jyeva looked a me, smiled, and said, “Look, Mom, it’s Jyeva… Unplugged!”

She knows full well that life is short and your time here is like a blink, a half second, the length of a dandelion flower in a strong breeze. Jyeva’s passion is to end homelessness. To have a passion, at age 8? She’s my hero.

I want to be Jyeva when I grow up.

How often are we uncomfortable diving into something passionately? How often do we take for granted the day that God has given us today to do His work and love His people?

Allow others the same – to be themselves, to embrace life.

As is also evident from Jyeva’s outfits, she highly values creativity. But more than her outfits, Jyeva thinks outside the box. The best way she expresses this is in the way she regards other people. Jyeva honors each and every person as a full unique individual in the Body of Christ, in the world around us. She expects no one to look like her, speak like her, think like her. In this, she is always willing to give someone else the benefit of the doubt. She’s always willing to ask a question, instead of jump to an assumption. God created each of us unique, with a unique path to walk. We are all on the same Emmaus road, trying to understand the Word and the work of Christ in our lives, but we may all do that in very different ways.

So often I am quick to judge, quick to assume. Praise God for a Savior who is quick to forgive. Quick to love.

I wonder if these lessons are useful at all in your family, in your life, or even in your church. The more I look around me, I wonder if we fully accept the Jyeva’s of the world in our spheres. Do we greet those who dress a little different from us at church with the same comfort we offer those who look like us? Do we invite people to share their joy and passion and ideas openly and wholeheartedly in our families and our churches? Are we careful enough with people’s testimonies, honoring their walk as valuable and interesting, worthy of sharing, even when it doesn’t look like ours?

Matthew 16:18 has one of my favorite nuggets of Scripture that can easily be skipped over because of the depth of the rest of the passage (emphasis added below):

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…

You are Jyeva.

You are you.

God gives each of us personalities and ideas. I’m so thankful for the unique journey God gives us. I’m so thankful when these journeys cross and our lives are made better by one another. Let us honor who he made us to be today, by being ourselves, embracing the life that He’s given us, and allowing that same precious gift for one another.

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