Lessons from a First-Grader and An (in)spired Review

[Forgive me, this is going to be a long post. But it’s worth it! I promise 🙂 I’m excited to be able to review an item from the DaySpring Inspired Deals Home Decor collection.  I regularly read the (in)courage blog, and if you’re not familiar with it, you should totally check it out so you can get involved with an awesome and super supportive online community – just promise to come back here for the rest of my post, ok?]

Tonight was the last regular night for Awana at my church. Next week we will hand out awards, and then, the program will end. I have “commanded” the Awana program for the past 7 years. To say the moment is bitter-sweet is an understatement. I’ve felt the call to leave for nearly two years, but due to drastic changes in my life, I postponed. Perhaps I postponed too long…

I am not a mother, but these kids, they have touched my heart. For the past 9 months, I’ve met with them for an hour and a half each Wednesday (with the exception of holidays and school breaks). Some of these kids I’ve seen go from Kindergarten all the way to 6th grade. I’ve seen them grow. I’ve cried with them. I’ve laughed with them. And oh how I’m going to miss them.

Me leading a Council Time Lesson on
Writing Our Compassion Sponsored Child, Helen Angela

Normally, I spend the entire club night running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Trying to find substitute group leaders, looking for spare books, making sure each child has been checked in/out, making sure we have all the supplies we need for the night, dealing with any discipline issues that arise, the list goes on and on.

In the beginning, I led a handbook group, too. It was only about 1/3 of the night, and I loved it, but after a couple of years of being Commander, I realized that I wasn’t able to be there 100%  for the kids. I was constantly being pulled out of group to answer questions or locate supplies. So, I gave up my handbook group and focused on just making things run smoother. It worked, and was better for those kids, but I still miss that time with a small group.

Enter one energetic little first grader. One that I’m pretty sure I’d adopt if his mother could spare him 😉

This boy, well he makes me smile every single week. He is something special. He gets so excited in group, but in his excitement, he can easily lose focus. And in a small group with 4 other first graders on various reading levels and leaders that are overwhelmed, well, it’s pretty easy to lose focus. One night, back in March, he came up to me as he was headed to his small group and simply said “I”m going to do my handbook with you” It was not a question. And, it was totally him. So, I smiled, looked around, and thought “ok. Why not. My leaders are overloaded already and I’ve got some time at the beginning of the night before everything gets crazy, so sure, let’s go!” and I’ve been able to be his handbook leader for the past 3 months.

God knew. He just knew. He knew that I needed this time, and He knew that this boy needed this time, too. He knew that we both needed a sort of closure. I needed to see the impact this program has, the impact a small investment of time – in the life of one child – can make. I needed 20 minutes of pure, innocent JOY. 20 minutes of child-like thinking. 20 minutes of distraction from stress. 20 minutes to focus on someone else.

And this boy, he needed 20 minutes of leader attention – undivided Awana leader attention. He needed someone with answers to questions like “how do you spell your name?” and “how many minutes until the field trip?” 20 minutes all about his progress. Someone who will fish out the red marker to sign the book because it’s his favorite color. Someone who says “yes, you can sign my name. After all, you finished the section!” Someone who knows what he means when he says the verses, even if the words are different. Someone who can see that he knows the meaning, but the words are sometimes made-up.

But, this boy, he’s been pretty down the past couple of weeks. He knows Awana is ending, and he’s trying desperately to hold on tight and not let it go. He’s the embodiment of my emotions for the past two years. Seeing an end in sight, but trying so hard to keep from crossing the finish line. Clinging to a hope for another year, one that says that somehow Awana has to be better than that scary thing called change. That change, it can’t be as good as Awana is now. That staying here is better, it’s safer, it’s easier.

For the past 3 weeks, he’s asked if he can come to church forever and have fun every Wednesday night. If he can stay and never leave. If I can tell the leaders that we’re going to do Awana forever. It breaks my heart. Tonight, he put his head down and said “I just want to come here forever, and be like you.” *fighting back tears here* 

Lovingly, I try to explain that we can’t stay there forever. Sometimes, we have to go home. And I think, sometimes we have to make a new home. When church no longer feels like home, when I’m more aggravated and frustrated when I leave than when I arrive, when support is not there, it’s time to go. No, we can’t stay here forever. God doesn’t want us to lack community, but he wants us to learn. There were lessons I needed to get from this place at this time.

But now… Now I know without a doubt that it is time for me to go, time to grow elsewhere, but when I look into the eyes of kids like these, oh it gets hard. Very hard. Next week – at awards, I’m going to have to make sure I’ve got tissues to spare.

It is my understanding that the church does has some sort of children’s programming planned, but officially, I don’t really know. Once I gave my notice in March, I was cut out of the loop. After nearly 10 years in children’s ministry and 7 in Awana, I have no been asked anything in relation to the future of the children’s programming – not even a “what do we need to know” or a “we’ve been thinking about running this program, do you think the kids will respond well to it?”  or “how many kids do you average and what age ranges are they?” (obviously my feelings have been a bit hurt. When I gave notice, I offered to train a replacement. I desperately want these kids to be thought of – to be able to come to a safe place and have fun while learning about God. Awana is a good program, and there are other good programs, too. But mostly, it feels like the administration just doesn’t care – and sometimes, sometimes it feels like they are happy to see me go, happy to see Awana end.)

And so. I come home after an emotionally draining night – and I see the newly hanging wall art provided to me by DaySpring. And they serve as a much needed reminder and a prayer.

Abide in Him

Abide in Him: Follow Him – trust Him – Stand in Him – Dwell in Him. Though this change may be bittersweet and very difficult, it is needed. I must dwell not in hurt feelings or fears for the future, but solely and firmly in God. The Lord has great plans, but only if I have the courage to follow.

Lord Bless this Home

I love that this one says Home, not house. Home can be anywhere, and doesn’t rely on a building or a space, but a feeling. Bless this Home – this sense of belonging, this comforting love. I may no longer feel ‘at home’ at my church, but I’m making a new home. One that doesn’t undermine the former, but builds upon it to glorify God at a level previously unreachable.

And despite the tears that I know I’ll cry when I tell these kids goodbye one final time, I know that there are exciting things awaiting me. And I know that God has big plans for these kids, too. Even if it’s years before I see them again, even if I never see some of them again, I’m so happy to have been a part of their lives – even for a brief moment – and I hope, I hope that I made their days brighter. I hope that I gave them hope. That I helped instill a foundation for a strong faith, that I planted seeds, and nurtured souls. But most of all, I hope I showed them that someone cares. Because I do care. About each and every one of them.

[PS: Check out the product review of those wall hangings after the jump]

Now for the Product Review Part:
I’m not a huge fan of the black/bronze finish on the “Abide in Him” hanging, but that’s nothing a quick coat of spray paint won’t fix. (Really it’s a beautiful piece, but most of the finishes in my house are silver or the walls where I want to hang it are brown, so at the moment, it’s either sticking out too much or blending in too much. But, it’s on the wall and knowing myself, it’s likely to stay there for quite a while before I decide to change it)

>Anyway, both of these hangings seem really solid. They appear to be cast metal, but have a hammered texture to them. Hanging screws and anchors were included, which was nice, but I didn’t use them – I hung mine with simple finishing nails and they’ve stayed up just fine.

I love that these look handmade – that they’ve got that perfectly imperfect vibe going on, but it did make for some difficulties in getting the “Bless this Home” to hang level. However if you go by the bottom of the “Bless This” line, it makes it much easier.

Plus, both the “Abide in Him” and “Lord Bless this Home” wall hangings are on sale at DaySpring this month ($20 off!). If you like them, click below to get the sale price 🙂

Bless this Home- $20 off

Abide in Him- $20 off

I was given this wall art from the Dayspring (in)spired line of products in exchange for a review. Although I was given a free product, all opinions are all my own. This disclosure is in accordance to the FTC guidelines.

2 thoughts on “Lessons from a First-Grader and An (in)spired Review

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