I gave my last ISOM make up class this morning! YIPPEE! Now my summer break can begin. The timing is perfect because tomorrow evening is the kick off to the Summer Reading Program at our local library. The theme this year is 'Catch the Reading Wave' - an all tropical/luau theme. I can't wait to work with the kids! It's going to be so fun making our own leis, pineapple flowers, flip flop cookies, a beach in a bottle (complete with waves!), sand art necklaces and so much more! I'm so excited!
After seeing so many familiar faces in the parade crowd yesterday (some I haven't seen in a long time!), I woke up this morning doing more reflective thinking about the people (young and old alike) who have traveled along life's highway with me. I was especially thinking about the kids I've worked with over the years - most likely because the Summer Reading Program starting up. Gosh, I love kids! I love the creative way they think. I love the way they see the world around. So join me today, as I introduce you to a few of those kids....
I was thinking in particular about this one little boy - only 4 at the time - when I worked with the children's program at my former church. It was in the fall and the kids were working on coloring page with a boy raking leaves (the sun was in one corner of the picture, the tree was shedding it's leaves on the ground with a few still hanging from the branches). As I moved from table to table to check out the pictures, this particular boy wanted to tell me about his picture, so I pulled up a chair next to him at the table. It was an interesting rendition - the leaves were many different colors, but he'd also colored the boys hair orange, red, brown, yellow and green. When I asked him about it, he said, "That boy is me. I was helping my daddy rake leaves and then I jumped in them. I had leaves in my hair. It was fun!" But that wasn't the most interesting part of his picture. What really drew my attention was the purple sun! I couldn't resist asking him about it. He smiled up at me, as if it made him proud that I would ask more about his artwork. Then he got real serious and said, "This is what the sun looked like when I held up a grape!" Kids are so imaginative! I spoke with the boy's father when the class was over. I told him to pay particular attention to his son's coloring page. I suggested he ask him to explain the picture. I watched the two of them walk side-by-side out the church doors. The boy was excitedly pointing out his picture to his dad, but the dad paid no attention at all. I sincerely hope that after they got home, that the dad did pay attention to what his son wanted to show him and tell him. How many times have we not paid attention to what our heavenly Father has wanted to show us or tell us? Hmmm...really makes me think.
There was also the time, when I was teaching the kids about standing strong in the Lord. One of the topics of discussion after the lesson was for them to share about how the Lord help them stand up for themselves, or for others, during the past week. One young man raised his hand (he was 8) and told about how he stood up to a bully who was teasing a kid at school. Apparently the "target" of the bullying was slightly handicapped. This young man told the bully that everyone deserved respect because Jesus loves everyone...even the bully. When I asked him if it made the bully stop teasing the other kid, he said, "Yep. He decided it was more fun to tease me because I believe in Jesus." Hearing this broke my heart, so naturally my next question was, "How did you handle that?" He said, "It doesn't bother me. I know Jesus loves me and nothing anyone can say will make me not love Jesus back. Besides, I'd rather that bully tease me and leave the other kid alone." It was all I could do not to cry! I don't think I would've been so brave at that age. Then another hand shot up - this time it was this boy's little brother, who was only 3 (not really old enough for the program, but we never turned anyone away - plus he loved hanging out with his brother!), so I called on him to share with everyone how Jesus helped him stand up for himself. He slowly, ever so slowly, went from sitting on his knees to standing tall and said, "Just like that!" Kids...no wonder I love 'em so!
Then there was the time I was working with a group of 1st & 2nd graders. They were paired off together and were to work on something they could do to honor God. After some brain-storming time, we came back together as a group. Pair after pair showed what they came up with. One pair wrote a poem about Jesus, another pair preformed a dance, another pair sang a song, one pair had drawn a picture of Jesus on the cross and the words 'thank you' scrawled below it. When it came to the last pair of girls, they looked at one another and began to giggle slightly. They were both very shy. After a minute or so, they seemed to get more uncomfortable as the others looked on waiting for them to do something. So as not to make them too uncomfortable, I clapped my hands and blurted out, "Oh! I get it! Don't you all see? They're sitting quietly before God!" Then I turned and winked at the girls, who were laughing and turning all red. I said to the class, "Sometimes the best thing we can do to honor God, is sit quietly before Him and wait to see what He has to say to us." After the other kids left class, these two girls hung back. I was cleaning up. Once we were alone, they came up to me and said, "We didn't know what we could do to honor God, but as you were telling us all that stuff about sitting quietly and listening to what He had to say, He told us to tell you 'thank you' and give you a big hug!" Ahhhh, such a sweet hug!
I also am reminded of the chance encounter I had with a young boy at a WalMart. His mom had 5 kids with her - ranging from a toddler to 9 years old; two of which we fussing terribly. Her cart filled with groceries. You could tell by their clothes that they were just eking by. Each child had picked out some sort of candy item - obviously a once-a-month treat when their food stamps were issued. As the mother's nerves kept being more frazzled by the whining toddler and the fussy pre-schooler, both tired and ready for naps, the cashier completed ringing up their items and gave the woman her total - which was over her allotted limit. She began telling the cashier what items to take off the tab to try to bring it down to what she had allotted on her EBT card. Several of the items being taken off were items the 9 year old had obviously wanted - among them were Spaghetti-O's and the pack of gum he'd chosen as his treat. He looked up at his mother and asked why he had to give up his choices, to which she said, "the others are younger and they won't understand". He hung his head and quietly said, "Yes momma". As the mother was busy bundling up 3 of the 4 younger kids, I turned to the cashier and said, "Give those Spaghetti-O's and that gum to the boy and put it on my bill". She scanned the items quickly, bagged the items, then walked over to the boy, handed him the bag and said, "You forgot this". The boy waited patiently to give the bag to his mother, telling her that the cashier said they forgot a bag. As I paid and then headed out the line, the mother noticed what was in the bag and told the cashier and said, "Those were the things I told you to put back." Apparently, the cashier pointed to me and explained that I had paid for the items. The young boy ran over to me, with tears in his eyes, and said, "Lady, you must be an angel. Thank you." As he hugged me, I said, "This came from Jesus because He loves you very much." He ran back to join his mom and siblings and as they exited the store, I heard him telling his mom, "That lady", he pointed to me, "She knows Jesus!" I still get choked up when I recall that moment.
Currently, I've been working with the teen youth group at church. I've come to love those pre-teens and teens so much. I did a teaching not too long ago with them, teaching them to hear God's voice through journaling. I was struck when, during the teaching, they were taking notes! Yes, I'm serious! They were taking notes outside of their normal school routine. It blew me away! After the teaching, I gave them time to do an exercise - they were all writing fast and furious! A couple shared what they wrote, most didn't. The following Sunday, the quietest girl of the group sought me out in church and thanked me for the teaching. She told me she'd been journaling every day and that it meant so much to her to hear from God every day! This past Sunday, she sought me out again to see if I'd be at youth group the next night - of course it was the 4th of July, so there was no youth group but, I told her I'd be there for sure the following week (when we resumed). She said, "Great! I hope to be there too. I enjoy spending time with you." Yes, my heart melted!
Then, yesterday's encounter with a little 4 year old blonde-haired girl during the parade, running up to me as I was marching to give me a hug! I have no idea who she was, but what a sweetheart! She made my day.
Ahhhh....so many wonderful memories. I'm really so glad that God does what's best for us - even if it goes against what we want. When I first got involved in church, I remember telling God, "I'll do anything to help in church, just don't make me work with the kids." Yeah, right! That's exactly where He put me...and am I ever glad He did! I would've missed out on so much love; so many hugs; so much insight; so much creativity; so much simple faith. I think I needed those kids in my faith-walk, as much or more, than those kids needed me. Sometimes I have to wonder: who was the real teacher? Jesus said, "Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Then he took them in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:14-16)
Join me again, as I continue to introduce you to the people who've impacted my life. I can honestly say, I wouldn't be who I am today without having them in my life.