I have never really been good with kids. When I was in high school I volunteered to help out with VBS because it was required in order to go on mission trips. I really liked the kids. I thought they were so cute and I enjoyed being around them, but I never really felt like they liked me back. I just wasn’t a kid-magnet. You know the kid-magnets, right? It’s the guy who is as animated and loud and funny as a cartoon character. Is the woman who isn’t afraid to look silly or foolish. Kids just seem to love them. It doesn’t matter what they wear or what they look like. Their personalities just attract the little ones like moths to a flame. And that was never me.
I remember once asking a man in our church how he did it. Kids FLOCKED to him. Little kids, teenage kids…It didn’t matter. They ALL loved Dan. I loved Dan. What did he have? His response was, “I love them. You just gotta love them.”
Fast-forward a few years to when I was in college. I really enjoyed working with high schoolers. I loved volunteering in our church’s youth group. I thought of how I was as a teenager…and it’s hard. I wanted to become a safe sounding board for these students. I wanted them to feel like they could talk to me and get a non-judgmental ear. I know how hard it is to be a teenager…to do the boyfriend thing…to be confused about life…and to get frustrated with my parents. I was old enough to know that parents are usually right about things, but young enough to remember that it doesn’t always feel that way. I also knew that a lot of kids were coming from dysfunctional families and maybe didn’t have a mom or dad who was actively involved in their lives. I wanted to be able to be an adult role model for these teenagers. That was my sweet spot. I still love teenagers.
When I imagined my life in the future, I never imagined being a stay-at-home-mom. (no, this post isn’t going to be all about being a stay-at-home-mom). I never believed I had the patience. I don’t like snot and puke and anything that’s sticky or germ-infested…and little ones always have at least one of those things going on. When I imagined being a stay-at-home-mom I figured that my kids probably wouldn’t like me. I probably wouldn’t be any fun. Besides, I think I had one single friend whose mother stayed home. So I didn’t really have an example of what that might look like.
Instead, I wanted to be a baseball player…then I wanted to be a secretary. My mom was a secretary and I thought it was the coolest job EVER. First of all, she got as much red fruit punch from the hospital cafeteria as she could handle (I only knew this because she took me with her on Take Your Daughter to Work Day…and clearly, that’s what she had to have been doing every day…that’s what I wanted when I went there…). Secondly, she sounded so professional when I would call her…”Physical Therapy, this is Julie,” or “Education, this is Julie,” or “Clerical Services, this is Julie,” or “Administration, this is Julie.” She got to have a cool answering machine message, “You’ve reached the desk of Julie Larson. I’m either on another line, or away from my desk…” But why I really REALLY wanted to be a secretary was because my mom got to wear cool clapping shoes (pumps) complete with toe cleavage! It was AWESOME! I wanted to be like that. In fact, I wanted to have a boy and a girl. I would name them Steve and Julie…because those are my parents’ names.
None of those things happened. And I may have 1 pair of shoes I wear every once in a while that have toe cleavage.
Then I became a mom. And that changes everything.
The moment Big Man was born, I knew in my heart that I could just never leave him. I could never go off to a job and work with 80 teenagers while I paid someone else to take care of my son. God had changed my heart. I desperately believed that I wanted to stay home and I would do whatever it took to make that happen. I didn’t care about his poop or puke or boogers. It no longer mattered.
Even so, I still wasn’t too keen on being with other people’s kids. Again, I just didn’t think they really liked me. I wasn’t cut from the same cloth as my kindergarten teacher friends. They were so soft and sweet and I was…well, not. I have even been known to say (in previous churches), “don’t even ask me to volunteer in the nursery. I can’t do it unless it is an emergency. Find some other way I can help or get involved. Just not elementary kids…PLEASE!” I didn’t believe I was cool enough. I didn’t believe I had the patience.
Then something happened. Someone said, “you are so patient with your boys. Even too patient.” Now, I never thought I was patient with them because I knew what I was thinking…and my thoughts did not reflect patience. It was amazing, though, hearing those words. Then someone told me that I was a good mom. I never thought I was an especially good mom. I mean, I love my kids…but I am not doing all of those cool Pinterest crafts. I don’t make play dough or paint out of shaving cream or microwave a bar of Ivory soap just to show my kids what it does. How could I be a good mom if I didn’t do those things?
So I started watching my friends kids periodically so they could go to doctor appointments. I started watching a 4-year old on a regular basis…and, miraculously, I loved it. It was hard work, but I loved it. I loved the sweet smiling faces. I loved listening to their imaginations run wild. I loved watching them run around and scream and giggle. The sound of happy children would flood my backyard and bring me so much joy.
But that was ONE kid. I could never do more than ONE kid.
So I started working at our Mom’s Morning Out program at our church. And loved it. I called my mother-in-law after one of my mornings with the kiddos and said, “I totally see why you love elementary kids! They are SO CUTE! They are SO FUNNY!” Now I look forward to seeing the kids when I help out in the Sunday school class or Mom’s Morning Out. I look forward to drawing pictures, creating crafts, building towers of blocks, becoming a spy, playing with toy farms, and braiding hair. I love hearing what the kids did over the weekend…even when I have no clue what they’re talking about. I love listening to them tell me stories. I love holding their hands as we walk to the bathroom or water fountain. I love bringing home beautiful masterpieces that they draw for me. I LOVE these kids.
So here I am…in a place I never imagined I’d be…something I never wanted…and I love it. And I’m so thankful. I’m so thankful that God changed my heart and mind. I’m so thankful that God blessed me with these little ones. I have the best job in the whole world. I get to, not only talk to these kids about Jesus, but show them the love of Jesus. I get to do it every day at home with my kids. And now I get to do it for other children.
Of course I have my bad days…even bad weeks. It’s easy to burn out when you’re constantly pouring into other people, but don’t take care of the spring coming into your own life. You can give and give and give…and, eventually, you run out. So I have my days or weeks when it is clear that I’m running on empty…and I need to fill up. But who doesn’t, right? We ALL have those moments. I just never believed I was allowed to need to be filled too.
My hope and prayer for these children is that the love of God would fill them up. That His love would be made clear to them and they would, someday, choose Him for themselves. And, to me, there’s no greater job in the world.
There was a spy in Sunday School today. Apparently he had gotten a hold of a crystal emerald and a crystal diamond. In the wrong hands it would make the world go “boom boom” (complete with flashing hand motion). In the right hands, it turns into an amusement park. My vote was for Disneyland.
This is what I look like to a 7-year old girl…:) She noticed my pink hair. I always knew the other side of me had awesome lips like Angelina…
This would be me if I had been born a different race, apparently. 🙂
A couple of angels a little girl colored for me.