Recently I visited friends in Minneapolis. It was my 10 year reunion with Bible college friends and I also visited a church I used to attend as a college student. It was such an encouraging and refreshing time to reconnect, laugh, pray, open up, encourage, and be inspired. I could go on and on about it :)
One thing that struck me was spending time with a dear friend and her children for lunch. She offered to pray for a woman working at the restaurant while we were all sitting down with our children. It was such a simple and kind act, and yet so profound. The lady was very receptive and gave prayer requests immediately, and thanked us for thinking of her. Here we were, a hot mess with children everywhere trying to get everyone fed and organized, and yet my dear friend made it a point to reach out to someone despite the chaos of the moment.
As a stay at home mom I am often frustrated with my ability and options for sharing my faith and being a blessing outside my home. I am involved in our church and love serving the Lord there, but I also long to be a blessing to those outside my Christian circle. Before I had Sitora I was extremely involved inside and outside our church, volunteering and serving wherever I felt God leading me. I was free to go here or there, to help on a whim, to drop everything and meet a need. My career focus was ministry, and I loved it.
As I have become a mother of two, started homeschooling, and became pregnant with our third, I have become even more frustrated with my lack of energy, drive, and ability to serve. What happened to my boundless energy and creative ideas? What happened to my endless witnessing opportunities and ministry focus? I slowly began to realize that single Casey no longer existed. Childless Casey no longer existed. I needed to accept Mom Casey for who she was and what she had to offer. I was obviously entering a new season of life and desperately needed Jesus to reveal to me how I could serve Him in this season.
When I was out to lunch with my friend and she offered to pray for this sweet lady at the restaurant, I thought to myself, "I need to do that more often! It's so simple." Oftentimes I feel that a witnessing opportunity needs to present itself in a certain way. Going to Bible college I took classes on how to share my faith and how to get conversations started with strangers that lead to sharing the gospel. Many times I have attempted this when at parks with my kids or places where I meet new people. But when kids are involved it makes things tricky. They need something to eat, they peed their pants, they are tired, they start fighting, it's time for a nap, etc... The list goes on. I just couldn't witness to people the same way I used to now that I had kids in tow. I didn't want to see them as a burden! I wanted to see them as part of God's plan in sharing His love with the world!
After this weekend I asked the Lord to help me be more open to simple moments where I could offer to pray for people I meet. Whether they said yes or not wasn't important. The important thing was that I be open to the Spirit and let Him lead me.
Yesterday I was about to pack my kids up for the one hour trek back home after Sitora's homeschool choir class, but they begged me to take them to a park first. Since the sun was shining and I knew we weren't guaranteed many warm days left this year, I agreed. We pulled up into the parking lot of our favorite park at the same time as another mom and her three kids. I wasn't feeling very well and actually just wanted to drive home so I could collapse in my bed and rest, but I felt led to stay a little while longer. The mother and I struck up a conversation while our kids played together and I felt the Holy Spirit immediately speak to my heart that I was to pray for this woman. After asking her a few questions I learned that she was waiting for her mother in surgery at a nearby hospital. She had brought her children to the park to pass the time until she received the call that her mother was out of surgery. She asked me what we did for a living. I was able to share that my husband is a pastor and asked her if she went to church. Our conversation was cut short due to my kids needing help on the swings and her needing to leave. I felt frustrated (yet again!) that I wasn't able to continue sharing my faith with her any longer. Then I felt led to ask if my kids and I could pray for her mother right then and there. She was stunned and extremely grateful, which gave me such excitement and trust that God knew what He was doing in that moment. I gathered my kids and she gathered hers as I lifted up her mother by name and asked the Lord to touch her in surgery and continue healing her body. She thanked me as we both parted ways. Do I wish I could have shared more of my testimony? Do I wish I could have asked her if she has a relationship with Jesus or had thoughts on heaven and hell? Yes and yes. But even though the conversation didn't go where I thought it should go (my perfectionistic type-A tendencies creeping in yet again) I know without a shadow of a doubt that God used my feeble attempts to share His love. I pray that act of praying for her mother spoke to her heart deeply. I pray it spoke to her children. I pray it gave my own children courage and faith to pray for others anytime and anywhere God leads.
As we were driving away from the park I remembered that we were very close to a Planned Parenthood Clinic. I have been meaning to pull up there and pray as a family but have never remembered to do so. I parked right by the front door and explained what the clinic was to my children. I've already talked to them (in a child-friendly fashion) about Planned Parenthood and abortion. I have explained that mommies who have babies in their tummies are sometimes very scared and don't have help from others in their lives. I have explained that sometimes these babies are killed. We have prayed together in our living room for abortion and mommies needing help. But I felt it would be so powerful to pray together right there in front of the clinic together, for my children to see that this was the actual place where women walk in needing counseling and help. Hearing my children pray for these mommies, the babies, and the clinic workers brought me to tears. I love it when Sitora prays for the clinic workers because it gives me a heart of compassion for everyone involved. She prays that they will want to help babies and that their eyes would be opened to the truth and God's power. When she first prayed that prayer a few months ago I was really convicted to change my heart attitude towards people who view babies differently than God does. God loves all people, including babies, mothers, and abortion clinic workers. He can do miracles in any situation.
We drove away and started our long trip back home. I felt relief and fulfillment in that moment, knowing that I was doing my best to intertwine ministry with child raising. They are not two different boxes. My life is one big box and God wants to shake up my mentality about ministry and family. Together we can minister to a hurting world, no matter how wild and crazy things can get with sweet littles in tow. If anything I am more vulnerable and needy of the Spirit to guide me as a parent, as apposed to my old energetic single self. So many it's better that I am now more dependent on Him than my own talents and abilities.
My prayer is that if any of you are feeling the way I was feeling, that you would be encouraged. Encouraged to share your faith and the love of God as a family unit and not view your children or family life as a hindrance to the gospel. Children, I have found, can be the most powerful way to share the gospel with others. My kids teach me so much every single day about mercy, forgiveness, compassion, love, and patience. I pray that God continues to give me opportunities to share the love of Jesus wherever we go, no matter how many little people I have tugging at my skirt! We are a team, a unit, and together we can strive to be a blessing and a light in this world.