Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
~ Children are my passion and in that I have a partner, Peter, and maybe Mary, too. They both love to bless children at church or here at home. I'm clinging to God's promises and praying that he teaches me boundaries fast, so I can pass on balance to my brood as they serve others.
~ Teaching four year olds regularly at church has been a good, solid learning experience. One aspect of the learning has been discerning what makes a Sunday School curriculum appropriate for preschoolers--something I've wrestled with for my students. The Gospel Project, a curriculum my church is locked into for another year, is not appropriate for preschoolers. I've worked with other preschool ages in the last two years as well, and I've gathered anecdotal notes in my mind for future reference, should I ever want to partner with my son Paul as he writes Christian curriculum.
When I was first told, upon volunteering in the children's department, that I would be teaching every other week, I thought it was a bad idea for my family for various reasons. I had read the welcome packet carefully and it didn't say how frequently a teacher serves, so I assumed it was once a month, which was typical in most churches. Once I knew the truth, I didn't feel like I could back out. But God knew what he was doing. I love my students and I'm always happy to see them, and Peter is too. Mary comes in occasionally, too, to work on her leadership skills. I'm filing away so much about how to teach the very young about Jesus, God, and faith.
~ When I first offered to watch my neighbor twice a week, it didn't seem like much of a stretch. Even my husband, who is always hesitant to add new responsibilities to our plate, didn't think it would be a big effort to add another child two nights a week. We already have this neighbor boy for AWANA nights and twice a month for Bible study. However, in our previous experiences with him--lasting not much more than 2 hours at a time--we hadn't seen the full range of behaviors and issues he struggles with. Adding him into the mix for 5 to 6 hours twice a week has changed our lives quite a bit. It's not a paid endeavor because I wanted to help my neighbor, not add another bill to her life. Nor did I think it a good idea to have a financial relationship with a neighbor. As such, if we feel we can't handle the situation, we can back out, but that would be devastating to our young friend, because he loves coming here. So we have discussed as a family how to make this work, where the boundaries should be, how to streamline the whole experience, how to minimize certain behaviors, etc.
One thing I've noticed is that when we are not serving our neighbor, we are enjoying each other more. We more keenly appreciate the blessing that is nuclear family, and we take note of the blessing that is sacrificial love--that is, giving up our ideal evening for the sake of another...our neighbor child and his working grandmother.
There are still times in that 6-hour segment that I wrestle with God, wondering why in the world I got myself into it. But the voice I always hear confirms that love is stretching. Love is hard. Love can be as a dull ache at times. But we don't love alone. And love doesn't leave us the same, but better.
~ I've been married 14 years. I can tell you we didn't bargain for special-needs children and the rocky ride they turn a marriage into. I'm thankful that my marriage is not defined by any one response, any one day, any one attitude. It's defined by a mutual love for Jesus Christ, and a mutual awe for His grace and mercy. It's defined by unyielding commitment. It's defined by hope. I'm thankful for my husband.
Tonight, I'm thankful for all the little journeys. The stretching of me as a wife, a mother, a teacher, a giver, a sharer of Hope.