I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints. (Philemon 1:4-5)
We are encouraged when we hear about others who are living a faithful life of God’s love. Seeing how God has poured into others’ lives challenges us to trust and live in God’s love more fully. We can praise God because of how He moves in any life, not just ours. Today, take a moment to hear from my friend Gloria, and praise God for the love He provides for each of us.
My childhood was far from perfect. My mother passed away of an aneurysm when I was eight years old, which was just the beginning of the biggest transition of my life. Within 12 months, I found myself with my single dad, soon to be followed by a new step-mom, immigrated to the States, dropped off in the middle of the United States (literally, I was taken to Olathe, Kansas, to live with my maternal grandparents), taken to a school filled with people who didn’t understand a single word I said, and had to say good-bye to my dad who went to go live in Los Angeles. That’s a lot of changes for an eight-year-old in 12 months! I was too young to process any of this as a young child.
The next few years weren’t any easier. I lived with my relatives in Kansas for four years, moved to Los Angeles to live with my dad, step-mom, and half-brother at the age of 13, started new school at the height of puberty, went through many identity crises, and struggled through my relationship with my step-mom throughout high school. Life wasn’t easy: I had many tearful nights as a teenager. My big saving grace was that God had surrounded me with amazing family members who got me through the very tough, emotionally-charged times. However, I often questioned God about why my life was the way it was.
Fast forward to Father’s Day 1994. I was in college, and a few of us had volunteered to lead kids in a Sunday afternoon program at church. We had decided to do a special project on this Sunday, probably the most popular craft that is done on this day every year: A TIE-card for Father’s Day! We probably thought we were brilliant to come up with the craft. As we passed out the cut out tie-cards, a third grade boy with the cutest chipmunk face you’ve ever seen looked up at me and said, “Teacher Gloria, do you have a dad?” I felt blood rushing to my face. How could we have been so insensitive to this kid? We all knew that he had lost his dad not too long ago. Our conversation continued:
Me: You know what? I do have a dad… but you have something I don’t have.
Me: You have a mom…. I don’t have a mom. I have a dad, but you don’t have a dad. Why don’t we go to that bench and talk? You don’t have to do this craft…
This conversation with an adorable third grader forever changed the way I interact with kids. That evening, I realized how God used my past experiences to talk to him, and it was even healing for me. The following year, I began an internship in children’s ministry and have been in vocational children’s ministry since. Countless times, I have been able to talk to kids about death, absent parents, stepparents, pain, and the not-so-perfect life! I have become a lot more sensitive to kids who are hurting, and I also learned to share the hurts in my life with the kids I minister to so they can know that they have someone who understands hardship. I’m sensitive to the hurts and baggage kids carry, and I understand that some of these hurts never go away.
I believe that God used my childhood experiences to prepare me for my ministry. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would go into ministry to children, but as I look back, I believe God had been preparing me all along. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else but to minister to kids and share the love of Jesus with them.
Dear God, I am yours. I don’t want to compare my story to anyone else’s. I don’t want to make excuses that I am the exception to Your provision. I don’t want to belittle anyone else because of where they are or where they’ve been even when my intentions are simply to help them. I know that when I disrespect others or even myself, I am disrespecting You because You made us in Your image. I am sorry. I know that You have brought people together in community in order to do life together, including sharing the messy journeys. I want to honor You in the journey, and I want to honor You in the sharing. Thank you for providing for my life through others and in their lives through me. I am humbly Yours to use.