I felt her disappointment the moment I read the e-mail subject line.

Last year, my daughter was a finalist in a national competition. She memorized an extraordinary amount of material about history, math, science, language. She then recorded a narrative recitation about world history from 800-1800AD. It was voted on by the public and scored by a panel of judges.

The moment I received the phone call that she was a finalist was one of the highlights of my life. She was one of sixteen students invited to the final competition aboard a cruise to the Bahamas.

We learned much from the experience.

Diligence and perseverance require much hard work. God has a purpose for us in every life situation to grow closer to Him and bless His people. Mastery and perfection are not the same. We equip ourselves with tools for life, but we trust God with the outcome. People don’t care what we know unless they know that we care for them.

But not this year.

She devoted perhaps more time and energy than last year. But this is the season for us to share the experience as other students enjoy this opportunity.

Personally, I would have preferred to skip entering the competition this year.

The past five months have been incredibly hard. We have been care-givers for my mom in her final weeks of life. Routine has been unstructured. Our days have been unpredictable. School has been close to non-existent. Grief has been our constant companion.

But Malyn in one determined young lady.

So she entered again in the midst of incredibly difficult circumstances. In the final days of preparations, we persisted through tears, conflict, and injuries. We had buried my mom less than two weeks earlier. I broke my finger as we prepared the video. Life was just plain difficult day after day.

My mind dreamed the perfect scenario. I would receive the call again that she was a finalist. This time, I imagined the phone ringing at the time we encountered the one month anniversary of Mom’s death. Joy would ease the pain.

The one month anniversary came and passed with no congratulatory phone call.

The next day, I received the disappointing e-mail.

God’s plan is always better than my dream.

Hiding behind my tears was easy.

I cried over the notification that, despite her wonderful submission, she was not a finalist.  I dreaded having to tell her the news. We had been preparing for disappointment. But the moment was still hard to face.

My children had become accustomed to my tears in the four weeks of grieving my mom’s death. Perhaps that is why the news hit me so hard personally. But it also allowed me space to process my own heart before comforting her heart. I knew this parenting moment would be hard.

The only place I could turn for real help in this parenting scenario was God’s Word.

Isn’t that always the truth?!?

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Psalm 46:1

I felt trouble. I wasn’t sure how to be a good parent. I needed strength. But first…

I was desperate for my place of refuge.

My daily Bible reading for the day was in the book of Numbers. Really?!? I debated skipping my regular plan, but I am thankful I stuck with it. The first half of the first verse is exactly what I needed. God’s Spirit breathed life into my soul through a few words that I had skimmed over many times before.

“The the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai…”

Numbers 1:1a

In the wilderness.

Just a few words offered a healing balm to my grief-filled, disappointed heart. Disappointment is a wilderness. Grief is a wilderness. The Lord sees my wilderness, and He speaks to me. He asks questions that require faith for my heart to honestly consider.

Will I choose to hear God’s voice in my wilderness?

Reality of Mom’s death. Rejection of my book proposal. Uncertainty over how to parent. Disappointment over National Memory Master.

Grief. Disappointment. Pain.

But God speaks in the wilderness.

Sometimes, this is where we hear His voice most clearly. Desperation reminds us that we need Him.

I must make a choice to hear Him in the midst of my wilderness.

Do I know the condition of my people?

What did God say to Moses?

“Take a census of all the (people).” Numbers 1:2

The counting part is easy: 4. I have four children. But do I know where their hearts are right now? Hmm, that’s a bit more difficult.

In the midst of my own personal wilderness, I must take into account that my children are in their own place of wilderness.

Will I leave space for God to speak to my children in their wilderness?

As Mom, I want to ease their pain and take them out of their wilderness. I want to heal the grief. I want to avoid the disappointment.

But if they don’t feel their sense of need, they won’t know how much they need God.

Allowing the disappointment leaves a void that only God can fill.

God will speak to my child in her wilderness, but I must allow the space for Him to fill.

Is my child able to go out to war?

Moses didn’t just count the people. He counted them tribe-by-tribe according to “Whoever was able to go out to war…” (Numers1, verses 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42, 45)

When I assess my child’s heart in her wilderness, I must look beyond the present moment. Is she ready for the purpose God has for her? Are my children ready to enter the war of this life on earth? No, they are still children and there is much preparation remaining for them.

In the midst of my child’s wilderness, I must trust that God sees beyond the current moment.

Will I trust that God will use this wilderness to prepare my child for battle?

This is the main question to ask myself as I guide my child through the murky waters of disappointment.

Will I trust that God has purpose in the midst of the wilderness?

What is your current wilderness?

Is your child in a wilderness?

Are you trying to fix everything for them, or are you allowing space for God to speak and trusting Him to prepare them for their future battles?

Let’s trust that God will speak to us and our children in whatever current wilderness we find ourselves.