Two years ago, roughly, I was getting the kids ready for church on Thanksgiving Sunday. All four in the bath and then out, seven months pregnant, just trying to get out the door. Of course, the phone rang. The real Children’s Church teacher was sick, can I please sub in. Of course, I said yes, though I was kinda annoyed to have to throw a lesson plan in the mix quickly.
I looked up Thanksgiving crafts. Stupid. Looked up “thankful” Bible stories. Time’s a-ticking. Finally found a “harvest” craft to base our lesson around. They were sunflowers, and on each petal the children were to write something they were thankful for. Fabulous. Print, copy, race out the door.
I remember each moment, so vividly.
All the kids were on the floor in the upstairs of our building, all spread out. Scissors, glue, paper scraps. I shouted the Bible story the best I could over their interrupting and whispered conversations. It was a really inspired morning. I was nauseous, and just wanted to go home, but some of the kids really got into it. I can see Catie, leaning back on the pew talking to Samuel. Dara used up every petal- and extra- and asked me to photocopy some more. While I went to do that, Jana helped one of the other kids cut theirs as hers was done quickly. I obliged Dara; I was happy someone was into it. For some of the kids it was a total bomb. Actually, I remember overhearing one of the moms telling their kids “to just throw it out if they didn’t want it.” Oops.
Two days later, my hubby and I huddled in prayer while scores of sirens went by. Police. Ambulance. Fire. Honestly, I lost count after ten or fifteen. My sister called, completely incomprehensible. She had happened to drive down that road- saw the scene unfolding. My hubby and I prayed. Our children prayed. We texted. They were gone. Lives ended and changed forever, so fast.
They were the first kids I was close to after moving here. They were the first non-family visitors in my home. I admired how they were raised so much, that we actually have used many of the same tools their parents did. We started the Vacation Bible School ministry because of them and a few others; we have a pretty small church and mine were still babies. They would sit with us sometimes during the service when they were smaller as their parents led worship. I was always honoured that they “chose” us. It might have been the snacks, though.
So, here is where we could get to the “hug your children” part. The “cherish every day” part. But honestly? That is obvious, and not the focus.
The focus is- those children were raised for eternity. They were discipled. You can hug your children all day, every day, and still, you have to let go at some point. Hugs are temporary. They feel good and I am SO THANKFUL for every single one I get- but they don’t give me hope.
How are their parents walking, living and dealing? They have something the world doesn’t have, even though it has been provided. They have hope. They knew all along they were training their children for the kingdom. They know they will be reunited. They know that there is something bigger, here on earth, and forever. They know the One who holds their lives and their world.
So, how about you? Are you living for today? Or are you living for forever? Because while we go through so much hard stuff in this life- this is the real, tangible hope that can carry you through. This is the ultimate source of strength, the kind that picks you up off the floor when you can’t see a reason to even try. You don’t have to live without hope. It is available to everyone: the price has been paid. Don’t wait. For your sake, and your children’s.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17: Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.