I think a lot about children.
My life is dedicated in a huge part, to children...some of my best times are spent with children.
I love them.
There were years in my life that I could've never dreamed I would devote my life and my profession to these little, mini-me's. Infact, my mind was the furthest it could ever be from something so "crazy" as this. (And those that knew me years ago, would probably be obliged to agree.)
Sometimes we never know the plans God has for our future...and as far-fetched as things may seem, He is preparing us every day, for just that...our future...in more ways than one.
My future would involve kids of all ages.
It began with 4th, 5th and 6th graders...then it expanded to high-schoolers and beyond.I didn't even KNOW THAT I LIKED these sometime alien-like beings...!!!
When I think about just the mere fact that I am sitting here writing this, it blows my mind! I'm telling you, this was NOT in my plans! But boy was I wrong!
These little lives have helped get me through some of the most devastating and troubling times of my life.
There were times when I didn't know if I could get up out of the bed, but then I would think of how they depended on me, and somehow, I could put one foot in front of the other.
They needed me...or was it really???... that I needed them.
There were days I would walk into this group of giddy, chatterbox, wide-eyed little humans and my day would totally change.
I would walk in with the weight of the world on my shoulder-- literally not knowing how I could muster up a mere smile, much less "teach"... and they would greet me with that unconditional, non-judgemental, never ending love, and a boundless energy of arms would wrap clear around me.
It was on the days that seemed the hardest, the end, too much to bare---that I would receive a special note or a hand-made card, or a tear stained face would look up at me with nothing but love to give...and all my woes would somehow disappear. My heart would melt, I would hold them as if they were mine...I would cry with them, laugh with them, play with them, act goofy with them...
shoot, I was one OF them.
I loved them.
What would I do without them.
I watched this past year, my first 4th graders, graduate from high school.
I watched as they awkwardly approached their adolescence, eagerly approached young adulthood, and then hesitantly approached the real world of responsibility and those dreaded...choices.
I've watched them go from "boys have cooties", to "oooohhhh he's so cute", to "wow she's the one I want"...I've seen little league players grow into scholarship award-winning atheletes.
I've helped them through divorces, teenage problems, first-loves, lost loved ones, broken hearts, lost pets, broken bones, life's hard-knocks, illnesses, and cancer. I've even seen a few pass from this life to life eternal.
But the thing that stands out amongst all of this as the greatest pleasure and privledge, is that I have been there when many of them have given their life to Jesus Christ...
I remember the little boy that so shyly but desperately came up to me, all alone he fought his way through the sea of laughing children and with one tear dripping off his face, said the words, "I want to be saved."
I remember holding the shaking hands of the child that "needed Jesus"...
I remember the uncontrolable sobs of a young teenage boy saying, "help me! I need Him."...
I remember holding my end of the phone, leading a desperate teenage girl to Christ (over the phone!)
I remember crying outloud with a desperate teenager full of pain from a family broken... from a heart that was breaking... from pure desperation...
I remember the prayer of a child, bowing that precious head and asking Jesus to come into their heart, and the smile on their face the minute they realized they were a child of the King..
I remember the group of girls that came to me- as one, and they all "wanted to get things right in their life" and they wanted to do it together.
My heart is warmed by the memories of singing together at camp-fires, lifting our voices loud to the heavens, raising our hands to the one most high, hanging our necklaces on the cross, coming forward one by one to light a candle on our hand-made lighthouse... pushing our candlelit testimony fish into the moonlit lake...putting together our hand painted boards to make the magnificant bridge, washing feet in the early morning hours in the edges of a lake when you could hear a pin drop, christmas plays, thanksgiving feasts,"Chic n chats", Christmas parties, incredible worship, silly little dances, ice cream faces, shaving cream hair-do's, scavenger hunts, jumping off the pier, "letting" them push me off the pier, swimming across the lake (and back), lock-ins, ice skating, and trivia games.
And then, I fondly remember one of the most meaningful moments in my life: it was during the hardest part of my life...I was going through my divorce and it just seemed like my world was crashing around me. We were at summer camp, the highlight of the year...and it was last night of camp, the highly anticipated bonfire service.
We've all felt like what we did doesn't matter, that it was time to move on, that "I" didn't make a diffference.
I was having a really hard time...and this is truly how I felt.
I had decided that when we returned from camp, it would be time for me to move on...I wasn't the one for this...I wasn't making a difference. I even took a dear friend by the hand, pulled her aside, and told her my plans...I asked her to tell no one, and I know that she didn't.
It was the bonfire service...and we were in the middle of a service that I believe was straight from God.
It's the time at camp where you are invited to stand and tell your story---what camp meant to you, how you feel about Jesus...pretty much just a time to give your testimony, share your heart...it's your turn to just be "you".
I listened with a heavy heart as I felt this would be the last bonfire service I would lead...
Person by person stood and began to share their hearts, and it wasn't long before I realized what was happening...
almost every person that had stood, and was still standing one by one...had mentioned MY name somehwere in their story...
"thank you Ms. Dara for..."
"when I prayed with Ms. Dara..."
"when Ms, Dara led me to the Lord'...
"I don't know what I'd do without Ms. Dara..."
on and on and on...
I KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt that GOD was sending me a BIG message!
You DO make a difference Dara!
My head dropped and tears FELL onto the dirt beneath my feet...God's dirt, I was standing on
My heart was about to beat out of my chest...and with my heart I said, "OK God, I hear you...but..."
I should never have said it..."BUT"
...He always proves his point...And in the midst of my tears, there it was:
(a friend of mine was leading music that night, and she stopped the service-without prior instruction)- and said something I couldn't believe...
"Dara, I hope you don't mind, but I just felt that we need to do something right now...I feel like God has told me to stop and pray for you, Dara...lift YOU up to Him...I don't know why and I don't understand it, but I want to do that if you don't mind..."
and as I sat in my tear drenched spot, I began to feel the precious, small, delicate, hands of each child as they placed it on my back, on my arms, holding my hands, touching my hair...
they were laying they're hands on ME,
they were there for ME,
they didn't even know how much I needed them!
and they were there! My GOD! This is way too much!
They began to pray, outloud, with their innocent-non judgemental-loving voices...
they were praying just for ME..
they didn't even know why...it was simply just a prayer of LOVE.
The hands of GOD were literally ALL OVER ME!!!
He was giving me one last "touch" of assurance...through those children...that I INDEED, did make a difference...
it wasn't time...
He would let me know when that time would come...
but it definately wasn't up to me.
He made that loud and clear....He's GOD, you know.
So here I sit...8 years later.
Still spending a HUGE part of my life in the midst of children...every single day.
I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams...
My life is so FULL.
I love them...and I will simply, "Be still and KNOW that HE IS GOD..."
Jesus loves the little children, ALL the children of the world...
and so do I!
These are my thoughts...