Most of you know that I am not only a mom to two daughters, but a step-mom to three boys. I have been a mamma for 20 years and a step mom for seven. "My" boys came into my life when they were three and five. I quickly became their primary maternal figure and still am today. They have a mom, whom they love very much and she loves them, but they live with us and she lives in another state. These young boys have put up with my learning how to step parent despite the lack of a manual that could explain how to do exactly what it was I was trying to do.
I have always taken the kids to church. At times, they'll sit in Sunday School. At times they'll make paper airplanes out of the bulletins and if I am lucky, maybe one of them will try to at least pay attention. About three years ago, my twin boys started looking forward to the time when they would be old enough to attend the camps meant for middle schoolers and high schoolers. Two months ago, the registration began for "the Weekend." I guess the glory of years before had passed because they weren't even asking to go. I felt a strong urge to sign them up, asked five of their friends to join them and hoped for the best. One by one, each friend invited let us know they wouldn't be able to join them. Being a twin means getting a sort of built in buddy at all times so I decided to send the boys despite not having friends join them.
I packed their clothes, their allergy meds, their Bible and hoped and prayed for the best. I mean, lets get real here, the camp was only 36 hours and two nights away but it was a big move not only for them, but for me.
Parents were to pick up their kids at the church service. As I walked into the church, I quickly noticed a sea of over a hundred students with matching camp shirts sitting together in the front. I sat a few rows back, settled in for the service and waited to hear how they liked it. Each week, our services start with a few worship songs, and without fail, I seem to tear up every time. As I watched my boys stand up, amongst what seemed to be new friends, I smiled. What happened next brought even more tears to my eyes than usual. I saw several of the students, slowly, one by one, raise their hand in the air. Knowing my boys barely even listened to the music, I was just proud they were standing. That's when it happened. I saw them, each, slowly but surely, with joy in their soul, lift each of their hands into the air to worship the Jesus I've known for so long. These boys had to adapt to their parents living in different states. They have been missing a sister who is finding her own way and fighting her own battle with addiction. They've had to adjust to me.... the woman who isn't their mom but who tries to raise them like I am, but they've adapted. As if they knew I would be proud, they slowly turned to find me and when they did, they smiled.
We had to rush off to a flag football game as soon as the service was over but I did hear stories of new friendships, canoeing, zip lining, amazing mentors and wonderful memories.
After one of the twins scored the winning touchdown, ate some lunch and sat with me after we got home, he said to me... "I finally know why people raise their hands during worship songs." With a sweet pang in my heart of joy I simply asked him "why?"
The sweet twelve year old boy smiled, stood up and said, "It means we surrender our lives to the will of God," and he walked away as he if had dropped the microphone. Amen, son. Amen.
How's your heart today? Is it open to goodness? Is it rusty from pain? Is it wrapped in bubble wrap to protect it from past hurts?
It takes a whole heck of a lot to undo heart damage. Trusting. Feeling. Enjoying life despite the situations. How are you going to do it anyway?
It tells us in the Bible so many times that God will provide the way for us. It also tells us that worry and anxiety aren't feelings God wants us to have. It also reminds us that we matter. You may get out of bed with perfect intentions to lead a more joyful life. You may get out of bed and promise to undo the mistakes of yesterday. You may get out of bed and promise to serve, to be kind, to be generous with your words. What happens though, if instead, you keep blundering and doing the same thing you did yesterday? Let me encourage you to keep on moving; to keep on trying.
At one point, you will simply say you have had enough. Enough self loathing, enough self-criticizing, enough worry, enough apologies, enough hurt. What are you going to do when you get to that point? I got to that point a few years ago only to realize just how comfortable I was with my own story I had created. I felt comfortable in my worry. I felt comfortable simply being on the edge of joy but never actually experiencing it. It took a lot of work to acknowledge that I was letting my self be defined by the worry, defined by the denial of joy, defined by the fear.
Let me get to my point of today's blog...
This morning, I was sitting around cutting out little paper Jesus figures for our church Sunday School class. Several other women sat around the table with me. We were smiling, we were helping, we were experiencing joy.
Around the table, at that very moment, I knew there was a widow mourning her late husband and his birthday today. I knew there was a woman who has survived three strokes this year alone. I knew there was a woman experiencing sadness with her own personal struggles. In that moment, Gods strength was shining through their weakness as well as my own. They were women trying to honor their Father and serve in a way they knew how.
I don't know what the rest of their day looked like but I do know that for a moment today in their lives and in mine, there was laughter, productivity and community. There was a moment where the worry fled and the joy emerged.
I want you to know, as always, that you are not alone even in times when a smile or joy is the last thing you want to or know how to experience.
Let Him be your strength. Let Him lighten your heart. Allow yourself to feel something new today. I encourage you to open the Bible, to read a devotional, to highlight things you "hear" and to write a letter to God. I encourage you to wonder what the opposite of fear would look like, what the opposite of worry would feel like and I would like to encourage you to be kind to yourself and allow yourself to breathe in some joy, even if it's uncomfortable.
In Him. Be Free.