The past seven months have been filled with various kinds of challenges for our family. Much of it has pertained to health issues, but then that’s what happens when you have a lot of children. Germs keep multiplying and it sometimes takes more than a month to simply let one virus spread, pass, and then another one begins again.
My body and mind have been more tired than ever and it was in the midst of this tiredness that I made two lists of rules: “Things I Do” and “Things I don’t Do.”
Simplistic, I know. Kind of like my simple summer list. This is probably just a clear sign of the times, friends. Simple is pretty much all I can handle.
It was a good practice for me, as it enabled me to think through what was most important to me and the life of my family during this season of young children, a busy work schedule for Bradley–that often involves out of country work trips–and continuing to navigate life with a child who has special needs.
What made the cut? In many ways it was easy. The list of things I do was full of hobbies or ministries that are important to our family and we want to make a priority regardless of the current season of life. The things that didn’t make the cut included, but were not limited to, volunteering.
Previously in life, as in before I had kids, I volunteered for pretty much anything that was needed. I do feel like God has given me the spiritual gift of service, but being a Mom has changed that in many ways. I can’t drop what I’m doing for my family just because there’s a need to fill. So, volunteering for things takes thought, energy, and inevitably someone in the family will suffer to some degree.
Enter our church’s summer ministry, theCAMP. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw pictures of my kids and others that we spent time with during the last week of June. What you might not know is that I volunteered.
I broke my own rule.
I knew about theCAMP all year, and I wanted to participate. The need for volunteers is always great, but it’s also one of the ways that our church works together to minister to our city. So, it’s an important element in the life of our church. I wanted to do something. My kids wanted to attend. But I was afraid that participating would suck the life out of me and be detrimental to my kids. Specifically the younger three, as their days would be long and everyone would be tired and/or off of their normal routines.
I also felt as though my volunteering would just create more work for everyone else. After all, I would have two children in the nursery and another one who would need a personal shadow so that he could participate with other campers his age.
We would just be a burden.
But every time they made an announcement at church or I read something in the bulletin, my heart was pulled and prompted to sign up.
About three weeks ago I received an email from the Director for the younger group of campers. She specifically asked me if I would be willing to fill a slot in this age group. She mentioned each of my kids and said they were welcome to participate and they would also be welcome in the nursery. I was able to easily rearrange some appointments we had scheduled for this week, and so I signed up.
Did I feel completely excited? No. Was I nervous? Yes. I was breaking my own rule, but I felt compelled by the Holy Spirit and had to step out in obedience.
And you know what? God showed me that the very thing I thought would drain my family was life-giving.
The kids did great. In fact, even though we are out the door by 7:45 every morning and driving back home after their normal naptime has begun, no one’s naps were ruined. Cooper was just as happy as he could be in the nursery with new workers almost every day. Jennavieve thought she was pretty big stuff because she got to wear theCAMP t-shirt and go to her class with the other 2 year olds. The older girls loved participating and we’ve had some good conversations about how to make friends with strangers and include others in their already established relationships. They learned to eat food from the cafeteria that isn’t their favorite, so as not to offend, and we talked about being grateful for what is given to them no matter what it tastes like.
My eyes have been opened to a new side of our city. To new people in our city that are beautiful, smart, fun, broken, and just as in need of Jesus as I.
Creating boundaries for ourselves and our families is good and healthy. But I learned that I need to hold those boundaries loosely. Because the Holy Spirit isn’t bound by what I consider to be limitations. He wants me to obey His voice, not quenching the Spirit, but listening to Him at work in my heart and stepping out in obedience to the things He has for me and for my family.
He equips. He enables. He gives the strength to endure. And I’m so thankful for the Holy Spirit at work in us to continue shaping and molding us–even when it seems uncomfortable or a little scary–to be more like Him. He will continue His work in us until the day of Jesus Christ.