Just this past weekend at Hearts at Home, one of the workshop leaders (Connie Johnson) encouraged creating an affirmation file. Basically it was a tool to use on those down days that Satan's lies flood our minds. The days that you don't feel beautiful, desired, loved, appreciated, etc... The days that you end up beating yourself up with negative self-talk. In this file you could place cards, notes, favorite verses, poems, emails, written reminders of compliments....ANYTHING that you could physically look at and transform your thought pattern.
Being the emotional sap that I am, I already have more than one of those. Mine contains things that my kids have made, cards or note that my husband has written, cards, and PAGES upon PAGES of journaling about things I've read or heard that spoke to me. I also started a binder with well wishes that people had sent when I began to share the news of Dad's illness. From that VERY first day, I knew I was going to need every bit of possible encouragement to carry me through the long battle I expected. Amazing friends sent very heartfelt notes of encouragement and flooded me with beautiful Bible verses and prayers. Many came in the form of email, so I printed those off and placed them in my binder. Again, I never expected that battle to end so quickly or in the manner it did----but I can't tell you the countless times I held those in my hands and read them over and over to keep my faith strong. The binder grew to include notes of sympathy and snapshots of the many facebook messages that came in. I still turn to that as a reminder of the beauty that has taken place in those dark days.
Last night, I had another such chance to add to my affirmation file. Kevin lovingly joked on the way home from church last night that he KNEW what my next blog topic would be. At that time, I told him he was wrong that I had "other" plans. I guess my husband knows me more than I know myself at times because here I am!
Amazing. Filling up of our spiritual cups until they were overflowing. Affirmation file contents in abundance.
Here is the thing. It was a blessing. It was needed. However, it was needed in a way that maybe wasn't the "norm". Most of us would tell you that though it is GREAT to be appreciated, we felt awkward. Or at least I know that I did (and Kevin and Adriana mentioned the same thing in different words). We already felt appreciated. Our leaders go above and beyond in showing us that they appreciate us. I've never felt that so profoundly at any other time in my years of serving in children's ministry. Burn-out doesn't even begin to enter my mind like it has at so many other times.
The other thing that really struck me was the teaching that Mrs. Terri did. She spoke about our gifts and the impact we had. I believe that we all do have an impact on the children we are with. Just as JP mentioned...many of us can name almost all of our Sunday school teachers and youth leaders through the years of our lives. It was the fact that she talked about it being a gift that struck me. She mentioned that we probably didn't even REALIZE that it was a gift. She was RIGHT! I love spending time with kids and I actually look forward to the times that we get to spend in the children's ministry. I even love it on the nights that we've had over 25 9 year olds in a tiny room and they can't sit still to save their lives! However, I never had considered "that" a gift. Thank you GOD for that gift. I can't imagine my life any other way. I just considered it fun (though useful!). I also didn't realize the impact that it had on the mothers in the room. I guess that being from a Christian home since birth, that I never truly considered the difficulty some women faced in coming to church on Wednesday nights. I only thought about it from my view point. Wednesday night church is the "norm" for us....just a "given". Listening to the stories of marriages that were being restored, healing that was taking place in some VERY broken lives, women finding Christ for the first time struck a cord with me. I truly didn't realize the depth. I didn't realize what I was taking for granted. For me, coming to Wednesday night programming and volunteering is FUN. It's a passion. It's just WHO I AM. Teaching kids the depth of the love Christ has for them and seeking to give them opportunities to mature their faith is just as basic to me as breathing. I never stopped to think that in spending those few hours each week with them was shaping things OUTSIDE of the classroom. It was a touching moment.
Being a stay at home mom (especially a homeschool mom) can be a lonely road many days. It gets THAT much harder when people talk about how you are wasting your education, your life, and that you are being selfish. When people have said that you are wasting God's potential because you aren't reaching the outside world or that you aren't fulfilling God's demand to "spread" His word, it scars a soul deeply. You see, last night was the most vivid realization I've had in a very long time that though I am an at home mom and I do choose to educate my children at home, I still have a ministry and that what I do does matter. It's evident in the stories shared last night to all of us and it was evident in the personal handwritten cards that Kevin and I poured over reading last night. It's evident in those that our daughter brought home. She doesn't volunteer out of a requirement we make of her; she also does it because it's what is "normal" to her and it's her passion. It's an extension of our lives at home to the "outside" world.
So, though last night was supposed to be a night for the women's ministry to say thank you to the 607 volunteers, I think I instead should be saying thank you. Thank you for letting us love on your children. They keep us on our toes and they keep us accountable as we attempt to live a "life above reproach.". Thank you for showing me that we have been given a gift from God that not everyone possesses. Thank you most of all for letting me see that while I'm doing something that I'm passionate about, lives are being changed in ways that I can't see. Thank YOU!