Amazing Faith

“Something amazing happened today!” Lucy was bursting to tell me something exciting.

From my warm van I had watched her exit the school in the driving winds. She’d come out smiling and taking her time across the snow. I was glad she’s old enough to find the van on her own. I’ve had this cough for two weeks now and I don’t want it to last another day. After she was safely inside, she turned her toothless grin to me and beamed with joy, making Buell Bunch (20 of 31)her exclamation.

I turned off the radio so she could tell me what had made her day. I imagined all sorts of things that would rank as amazing in the eyes of a first grader. I was completely unprepared for what she had to say.

“I started a church club!”

“You did? How did you do that?”

She began to tell me of her friend Patricia, who, she discovered, did not go to church! Lucy had been telling her about Pastor Michael, her children’s pastor, and Patricia shared that her family didn’t go anywhere. Lucy was shocked. So Lucy said, “I made a church against the wall at recess.” She said she could teach Patricia all about God at school.

Tears filled my eyes and joy filled my heart. Lucy, however, wasn’t done yet.

She had recruited her friend, Liam, “who goes to church in a school” and her friend Cooper as well, “‘cause he knows Jesus.” Liam will be one of her students because “he needs to learn more about Jesus.” Cooper, they decided would be the “one who runs the church” while Lucy will be “the team captain and the worship leader.”

And there it was. My six-year-old became a church planter today at a public school. She even hired other staff. She is so excited to teach people who don’t know about God all about Him.

Long ago I read that children are the best evangelizers. I knew that first-hand–I’m the reason my dad started coming to church when I was only four. Children are unafraid of sharing their faith. Lucy was shocked when I told her many grown-ups would not be as bold as she was to tell their friends about Jesus. “Why not?!” she asked, perplexed.

Why not indeed. There is a reason Jesus said we needed the faith of children. There is boldness in the heart of my six-year-old. There is no fear of being rejected for her faith. There resides in her simple act the true definition of ministry—find a need and fill it!

Lucy has gotten the message that she can show her friends who Jesus is. She fully believes that learning about God is a worthwhile way to spend your recess. She has caught an excitement about leading others in songs of praise and lessons of faith. How my heart filled with joy!

I pray her love of learning about God is contagious. I know from experience that in a few days her group of friends will most likely move on to chasing bad guys or pretending to be jungle animals. But for now, seeds are being planted in young hearts and my daughter is the tool God is using to do it. Why? Because she loves God and she is willing. How fantastic is that?

Something amazing did happen today.

The Most Wonderful Time

IMG_1537I love Christmas. I love the magic and wonder of sleighs pulled by flying reindeer and gifts made by magical elves. I love baking and sharing those baked goods with Santa on Christmas Eve and with teachers and friends in the days leading up to Christmas. (And don’t even think about telling my kids anything negative about Santa. Seriously. Don’t.)

I love the miraculous wonder of God’s amazingly unconventional plan of a virgin giving birth to a son in the most humble of places. However, you won’t find a grown-up nativity in my house because I’m holding out for one where Mary is holding Jesus. I know, I know, they found the babe lying in the manger but I’ve been a new mom. I am certain once all these strangers arrived, Mary would have picked the kid up.

SAM_1113I love the decorations and the songs and the snow. Oh my word do I love snow at Christmas. It puts me in such a happy place.

But this Christmas has felt like a struggle to be joyful. My mood has lingered in grey, matching the overcast skies as I tried to rally a smile and headed to Lucy’s 1st Grade Christmas program at her new school. She was so excited. I’d already tackled a band concert for Jarod and an orchestra concert for Kati. Alone I sat at each one smiling and listening and trying not to think about how the others were doing at home alone. Alone I sat trying not to think about the fact that I was attending alone. I tried instead to focus on how proud I felt of them.

Maybe it’s grief. It’s the second Christmas since he died. Last year I was in complete survival mode. Surviving Christmas was the mandate. Minimal decorating. Minimal baking. Minimal everything. Lots of tears. This year there are no tears. But one child has ripped at my heart. He wanted to know if he could write Santa and ask if Dad could join us for just one day. He knew it was a long-shot, but…. Oh the things I had no idea I would have to explain and deal with after Kraig died.

Maybe it’s the busyness of life that is keeping my circle of friends and family occupied. I understand. We are all trying to juggle holiday prep and children’s shows and baking and so on. But I am lonely this time of year.

I never understood how anyone could say the holidays made them struggle with sadness. “How could you be sad during the most wonderful time of the year?!” I used to wonder. I listened yesterday morning as a Christian radio DJ over-simplified, stating it was mostly people who did not understand the hope that Jesus brought at Christmas.

I fully understand the hope of Christ’s amazingly out-of-the-box arrival over 2000 years ago. The arrival of that tiny baby split history in half and brought radical love and redemption to anyone willing to accept it. Grace arrived that night under a starry sky in Bethlehem–God’s infinite grace and forgiveness. Wise men fell at his feet, offering gifts extravagant beyond anything Joseph could have earned in his lifetime. Shepherds were scared spitless by angels exploding into the night sky and singing incomprehensibly beautiful music that heralded the arrival of a king foretold centuries before.

I understand the hope of Jesus and the wonder of Christmas. But this year it is a struggle to feel it.

This morning I learned a friend’s mom had died, losing a battle with cancer. A flurry of texts amongst our circle of friends began planning how we’d support her during this time. My heart ached for her family, especially her kids, having a funeral during Christmas week.

Perhaps this is something I can take from my overcast skies—understanding. I can now reach out to those who wear a forced smile amidst the carols and who hide a tear in the shadow of Christmas lights. I know that sometimes this is not the most wonderful time of the year. That does not lesson our understanding of the amazing gift sent from heaven that we celebrate. But life is hard here on earth. Until we stand hearing the angels sing in person, sometimes Christmas is a struggle. Sometimes it is simply not the most wonderful time of the year. And that’s OK.

For the record —I’m not lost in grief this year. I plan to embrace the simplicity of making it magical for my kids and finding ways to reach out to others. Would you join me in offering hope and smiles to those around you without any this Christmas? Find a way to reach out with a hug or a gift or simply your presence to the widow, the orphan, the needy, the lost, and the lonely. Ask the Father of the first Christmas to show you where you can shine the light of joy this Christmas season.

Praying it is a Merry Christmas for all and a happy new year.