Sunday, May 1, 2016

Children and Light

I have mentioned in the past how grateful I am that my children and I have found a home church- the Church at the Gate.  Due to circumstances surrounding their father's abandonment, it was too difficult for the kids especially to continue attending our former home church, and one weekend last June, I attended CATG for the very first time, and aside from weekends when we were too ill or it was negative 40 degrees outside, we have attended church there every Sunday and many Wednesdays since.

Now, I love our church, and I have started to be a bit more open and friendly with other members, but I still find myself quite reserved, especially with people my own age.  I am not entirely certain why I find it harder to connect with them other than often they're two parent households with young children and I feel in my own mind like I don't fit in.  Even that is a bit of an assumption.  But, I often find myself connecting with people who are a little further along in life than I am, with children older than my own.  I feel more at peace with them, but I think I've always sort of been that way. I remember loving to spend a lot of time with my aunts and uncles growing up, as well as my grandmother.

I digress.

I feel, as I stated a few posts ago, that I'm nothing more than an ordinary, forgettable person who blends into the crowd (unless my kids are being boisterous).  I'm used to this, especially after my former husband was the charmer and charismatic one, and I was just sort of there.  He was the socializer for our family.

Before the message began at church today, as always, we engaged in worship after greeting one another.  As is occasionally true, God speaks to me individually during this time.  Today, He spoke twice.

During the greeting part, I shook a few hands.  I have been challenging myself to branch out further and walk farther away from my seat and to greet people that I don't know.  It's tough, and I do not succeed as well as I would like to claim.  Every Sunday though, there are two people who I always see.  One shakes my hand as I return to my seat, but the other finds me if I haven't found her yet, and for the last month or so as I have been recovering from the pneumonia and broken rib, she's suddenly been giving me hugs.

Another thing about me is that during the last couple years of my marriage, although I love hugs, both giving and receiving, I've found myself questioning whether it is okay, whether I can, or should give a hug to any given person at any given time.  I found myself feeling this way in my marriage, unsure if I could hug my own husband, but not really knowing why.  So, I struggle with that still and overthink giving an actual hug.  But, I will gladly receive one at most any time.

Goodness, I cannot seem to stay on topic today.

So, as is becoming customary, I approached this beautiful and friendly woman who is older than I, as I have many Sundays before, and for the fourth or fifth time ever, she gave me a huge hug.  Today, after asking how I was and I inquiring about her, she looked me straight in the eye and said, "You're always such a bright light in my day. I love seeing you here."

I stared at her, probably blushing, feeling incredibly shocked, and said "I really don't know how to respond to that, but thank you."  She smiled and hugged me again and I returned to my seat thinking about the moment.  And then I laughed.

As per my last post, you may (correctly) assume I've been exhausted and stressed out.  I feel like I've been in a funk the past few days after a pretty wonderful week all around.  I personally have been seeing myself as closed off, not very friendly, and certainly not full of light.  But then, I felt like God was whispering to me, "You shine."  

I shine?  Me?  No way.

I have Christ in me.   I prayed with a friend this week over my relationship and understanding with the Holy Spirit.  It's a concept I understand less than my relationship with God and Jesus.  As we prayed, I visualized the wall that I had between the Spirit and I formed a door, and with her encouragement, physically stepped through it.  She asked what I felt or saw, and I said something about it being much brighter.  She talked with me and affirmed that I do have the Holy Spirit within me (which I knew theoretically but still do not entirely grasp, yet to day).

Well, I think the Holy Spirit is what gives us our light.  

I don't see my own light.  I really don't. Not often. And when I think I see it I am probably way off anyway, so I try not to dwell on it too much.  But today, someone I see once a week for a few moments at a time told me that I'm a bright light to her.  

The ironic thing is- she's a light in my eyes.  She's one of many I see at church regularly and think to myself "s/he's got Jesus inside."  You can just see it radiate in their face, their actions, and their words.

I then recalled a month or so ago how a coworker that I do not work with often had written me a note telling me that she sees Jesus in me. I remembered tears in my eyes and some confusion as I read the whole note, not understanding how others see that in me when I feel I cannot sense it myself.

When we were singing, and truthfully I do not remember which song at the time, I was contemplating the whole light situation, and my thoughts were suddenly turned to my childhood.  The lyric was about having God with us every day, he wouldn't let us fall, and he never failed us.  He's faithful, always faithful.  That song.  While singing it, I realized that I am one of the fortunate ones who has grown up with God.

My grandmother was one of my best friends, and I am so blessed to be able to say that, because she is the biggest reason, I believe, that I had faith growing up.  I loved to spend time with her, and many Sundays, I would go to church with her.  I went to Sunday School and parochial school for a couple years beginning my education, but after, for the most part, my family went to church on holidays, until we moved into town  and I started going to church regularly with my Grandma.  (At least this is how I remember it, though I believe it's fairly accurate.)  I continued going with her through my junior high and high school years when I entered confirmation classes, taught VBS for one summer, and was confirmed. I absolutely adored sitting next to her in that sanctuary with the bright red carpet listening to our pastor and singing hymns. The sermon notes required for confirmation class were never a burden, they were interesting to me.

I went to college at an ELCA Lutheran college for two years, did youth lock-ins with an outreach ministry, and worked at a bible camp in the summer.

Without my grandma's light, I don't think any of that would have happened.

While I strayed somewhat from time to time, distancing myself from our Father, He never left me, and I never abandoned him.

I have often worried about the effect I have on my own children's faith, and I worry more often than I should that I will fail them or I'm not doing good enough.

And God told me this morning, "One light is enough."  Yeah, because my grandma was the one light I had.  And I can be the one light to my children.

The message began and it was about raising the faithful- raising children in the church.

While I went to a church and "belonged" to it as a child, the church, to me, didn't feel like I believe it feels to my children now.  I had adults there and all, but I wasn't really close to them.  And our church is filled with not only children, but an amazing children's ministry with a loving pastor and countless volunteers who I know help my children feel loved and important and special.

The message was aimed at us adults and how we need to make sure we have inter-generational relationships, and how the children learn scripture and God's word in the classes on Sundays and Wednesdays, but it is our job to share the testimony of his Goodness and Faithfulness in our own lives, so they can see the Word brought to life. Our pastor urged us all to connect with the children and speak Life and Truth over them and share our testimony.

And then I felt overwhelmingly grateful for the adults in my children's lives who have been doing this already for many months.

I'm not alone in this.  Yes, I'm one light.  But my children have many.  So, even when they are not with me, they are at daycare in our church with teachers who have lights.  And they spend time with our dear friends every so often in their home, and I know they speak God's word and His love to my children, and they see them living and striving for a Godly life.

I realize I have many friends and family who are believers, but not a lot of them ever really talk about it, especially with my children.  Most do not urge them to pray, though, or bring God into every day conversation.  

Our pastor spoke also about the children having a strong anointing.  I believe this to be true of my children, though they are so young.  My oldest, I have been told, is an amazing prayer warrior, and he is only five.  It blows me away, because my prayer life is something I am still really working on shaping, and often feel overwhelmed or confused about how to pray, when to pray, which words to use, and so forth.  But, according to some, my son has it in him.  When our pastor spoke of anointing, that's immediately what I thought of- my prayer warrior.  I realized as pastor spoke about the children's ministry in our church how blessed we are to be there, yet again.  There are adults there who notice these gifts in the children and work to strengthen and guide them, which is such a blessing to this momma who worries and struggles on her own sometimes.

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