The Culprits

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Heather Goes to VBS

Sometimes, I, Heather, have a bad attitude. I know. It’s hard to believe. Last week was our church’s Vacation Bible School. I admit, I was kind of grumpy about it. I partially raised my five younger siblings, when I was growing up. As a teenager, I was the neighborhood babysitter. After high school, I was a nanny, a daycare worker, ran my own in-home day care and taught Sunday school for years, all the while birthing my own permanent daycare of six boys. As much as I love my own children, and have loved other peoples’ children, one does become burned out eventually. Kids start seeping out of one’s ears and one’s brain starts to melt. I decided years ago, melted brain and all, that helping in the children’s ministry at church was not my calling any longer. My own kids became my main ministry. It’s the most important ministry I could have. I have spent many years in churches where I took on far too many responsibilities, becoming overwhelmed and spiritually spent. My passion is music ministry, as well as helping young moms. Since I have my own children whom I am immersed in daily, I need a break from that when I come to church. I set some healthy boundaries and have allowed myself to only be involved in the worship team, and occasionally bringing dinner to the high school youth group meetings. I badly needed these serving limits in my life, for my own sanity. But having so many children whom I place in childcare at church for others to watch during church, I have felt somewhat guilty for not helping in childcare ministry. To be honest, I’ve only helped out with VBS the past couple years to alleviate that guilt on a once a year basis. As VBS grew closer this year, I found myself less than excited about the early mornings, dragging six kids out of bed, dragging myself out of bed, driving my husband to work (we are a one car family right now) and then driving to VBS. 

The past few years, I have struggled with truly feeling God’s love for me. I have caught glimpses of it from time to time. When my kids lie and fight and hurt each other and knock holes in the wall with their Tonka trucks, paint their clean shirt with my new lipstick, when they decide to urinate in the front yard in front of all the neighbors, when they turn the bathroom floor into a swimming pool, when they keep me up at night and head butt me in their sleep………….I find that I still love them dearly. When they hug and kiss me, when I see them angelically snoring away at night (I firmly believe God created sleep so that parents would not eat their young), I find myself thinking how dearly God must love me to bless me so. When my kids hug and love each other and share with each other, it warms my heart deeply. As a mother, I cherish those times. Those times are less common than the times of fighting and mess making. I know that God must love it when his children love each other and show kindness to each other. He is probably sad when we do not. Maybe one way we can experience his love for us is by loving each other. I know this logically. I also know logically that God sees me as his child and loves me no matter what I do. Actually feeling the truth of that is another matter. It is mostly likely my own fault as I have not spent the time in prayer that I should. I have not given God much opportunity to show himself to me lately. He does not force himself on a person, so I have often gone about my life without drawing from that source of strength, although he is good and often aids me in ways I do not even ask him to. I have also found myself highly unmotivated to seek him. I cannot see him, touch him, or hear his literal voice. That is a problem for me. I have often asked him to pull me to him, to make me desire him, because on my own I do not. This is not something I am proud of, but it’s the truth.

VBS week arrived. The getting up early, the driving and the stress of getting to VBS daily was as I feared it would be: tiring and stressful. We also had to be at church every night that week for the older boys’ youth group meetings, for church (we go to the Wednesday service rather than the Sunday service), for VBS family night and for Celebrate Recovery. I felt like I was either in the car or at church. It was a very busy week.

While I do not volunteer in children’s ministry often, I apparently made a name for myself during last year’s VBS. Last year I had ten children in my crew, with no one to help me. The kids loved me. I’m not completely sure why. I just acted like a doofus, bribed them with candy and they fell for me. I ended up loving them in return and having a good time. I guess that the children’s minister thought I did so well last time that I had actually been bored and could really use more children in my crew this time around. So she placed me with fifteen kids. Bless her little heart. I was assigned two helpers, but I was afraid I would not bond with the children as well this time, due to the sheer number of children, the fact that I would be sharing them with two other helpers, and the potential for chaos. There were more kids over all attending VBS this year as opposed to last. Trying to keep track of fifteen children, in the midst of three hundred other children, moving from activity to activity……it was all a little bit frightening. I had two boys who kept trying to run away. I had some children who were shy and seemed sad. I had some children who really wanted to test me and see what kind of shenanigans I would tolerate. I had some children who could not keep their hands to themselves if their lives depended on it. I had a little ladies’ man who kept asking one little spit-fire of a girl to be his girl friend. She did not like that at all and came very close to beating him up. One of the older boys tried to tell me, during Bible discussion, that Jesus shows his love by helping him to poop. Really, kid? Do ya know who you’re dealing with?! Ya gotta wake up a lot earlier in the morning to shock this mom of boys! Besides, I supposed there was probably some truth to that. I just agreed with him and moved on.

As the week moved along, my crew became increasingly attached to me, and I to them. When they would misbehave I just made funny faces, dangled a bag of tootsie pops in front of them and they stood in formation at attention. We had a lot of fun just being silly. They gave me lots of hugs, pokes, attempted to pull my arms off and other such forms of affection. They even said nice little things like, “I like you, Miss Heather.”

All the while, the words of the children’s simple VBS choruses were seeping into my heart. “When I am afraid I will trust in you.” “I look up to Jesus, my help. I know I can’t do this myself.”

The missions focus was The Free Wheelchair Mission. We saw videos of people in poor countries who suffer because they are crippled and have to drag themselves on the ground to get around. We saw men, women (even pregnant women), children, old people…..there are millions of them…..who are disabled and live on the ground. The toll it takes on their bodies is horrendous. When they receive one of these cheap, easily assembled wheelchairs, it quite literally changes their lives. They are so incredibly happy to receive such a cheap, simple thing. My heart ached when I realized how often I spend sixty dollars on something so easily for my family or for myself. We have everything we need and more. One donation of sixty dollars to the Free Wheelchair Mission changes one life immensely for the better. I saw that some of God’s children were helping some of his other children to suffer less. As a parent, this touched me. I definitely don’t know why God allows some of the things that he allows in this world. I am not God. But I know that, if we are created in his image, and we mothers and fathers love our children so much…..that his love for us much be similar, if not greater, since we are all his children, since he died for his children. I know I would die for my children. I suddenly realized how it must touch his heart when he sees his children loving each other. He must hurt so deeply when we are cruel to each other or when we don’t care about the suffering of his other children.

Throughout the week, there was a lot of cheering during assembly times. The children’s minster would throw giant beach balls into the crowd of kids. Cheering, excitement and chaos would ensue. Bless her heart. There was cheering when Big D and Dude (a couple skit guys playing the part of some totally gnarly surfer dudes) would come up on stage. There was a lot of cheering on the days when the boys collected more money than the girls. There was a lot of cheering on other days when the girls collected more money than the boys. Our goal for the week was to raise enough money to buy twenty wheelchairs to help twenty people to get up off the ground and have a better quality of life. We wanted to show twenty people that someone cares for them, that God loves them and that he has not cursed and forgotten them because of something that they did wrong. On the last day of VBS, when the children’s minister announced that we had actually greatly exceeded our goal and raised enough money to buy one hundred and forty one wheelchairs, the cheer that went up from all three hundred-plus kids, in unison, was the most massive, ear-splitting, heart-rending cheer of the entire week. I admit it. I cried like a big fat baby. These amazing children were not only happy about who had won the contest, or about the crazy beach balls, or about the totally tubular surfer dudes. They were happy they helped one hundred and forty-one people to have a wheelchair. It was the most genuinely happy and excited cheer I have ever heard. It seared deep into my heart and soul and I will never forget it. It made me think that maybe God himself was cheering with them, that maybe he felt the same way as the children. Maybe he was cheering too because some of his children were loving some of his other children and easing their suffering.

Jesus said, “When you do it for the least of these, you do it for me.” I understand that. If someone were helping and loving my child, I would feel as if they were loving and helping me personally. My children are a part of me. A big part. They are my HEART. We are God’s HEART.

I don’t know how to explain it, but God used VBS week to show his love to me. It was something I thought I was doing “for the kids”, even though my heart was not completely in it. But God used those kids to show me his deep love for his children, including me. Me. I’m not saying that this feeling will last forever and that I’ll never struggle feeling his love again. I am not saying that I will diligently read my Bible and pray every day as I should, or that I am now a perfect person and that I am “fixed” now. But I actually want to be closer to the Lord because of his love. I don’t just want to be “good” or want to want him. I desire him. That is the gift he gave me through Vacation Bible School and through those amazing, sweet, naughty, gross, funny, brain-melting and loving children.

Saying goodbye to my crew was incredibly difficult and sudden. It was over in a blink. The week seemed so short to me. I miss them. Who knows? Maybe I will become more involved in our (gasp!) children’s ministry. At some point. Maybe.

***I should mention that Seth was a crew leader and Jarod worked in the nursery. They were both very hard workers, did a GREAT job & I was proud of them. There were a LOT of volunteers there who worked MUCH harder than I did, so don't feel too sorry for me. ;)

Micah made a little friend in his VBS crew. She did not want to let go of him and he was too sweet to ask her to. However, she did not like me, as I was her competition. Every time she saw me, we would fight over Micah. She would say, "He's MY PERSON! You can't HAVE him!"
During story time, she would glare back at me as if to say, "He's MINE!!!!!" 

Daddy got to play dress up on stage during a relay race on family night. Isn't he cute with his floatie?!

I wanted to take pics of my crew, but we were so busy, I never got a chance. Sorry to gyp ya'll like that. They were pretty cute kiddos.

If anyone wants to donate money the Free Wheelchair Mission to help someone like this:

or this:

or this:

or this:

 or this:

click here:


melyssa said...

Very beautiful, lady!

Unknown said...

Heather, that entry was SO amazing. I too struggle with finding time and desire for God. Too often I just pray during nightly devotions (which is mostly my husband praying) rather than praying myself. And as a (former?) schoolteacher I understand how one can get burned out on helping children. Your description of VBS was very touching.