A dear family that lives near us (we'll call them the "A family") has blessed us so much in the past year and a half. When I went back to work half-time in April 2006, I worried about where my little girl could go on the staff meeting morning that her Daddy and I shared. The "A family" offered to take care of her. And they did, one morning a week, faithfully and joyfully, week in and week out. They would never let us pay them for their services, and they welcomed my introverted little daughter into their boisterous and loving family (which includes 5 children, 3 of them near my daughter's age, plus 2 dogs and a cat!).
I've been thinking about them a lot lately since I am finishing up this particular season of work outside the home. This morning, they blessed me again. But to share how, I need to go back in time about three years.
When the "A family" moved here almost three years ago to attend seminary, Mrs. A was pregnant with their fifth child. We had barely had time to even meet them -- I'm not sure I knew their names yet, but had glimpsed them walking around town and once at church -- when it was time for their child to be born. Their precious little baby girl came home from the hospital but was soon back in with some serious health problems. She literally battled for her life in those first weeks, and they almost lost her. Although we didn't really know them, our circles of community (seminary, church) touched, and we found ourselves praying for them and for this precious little baby girl regularly. I remember checking in on the hospital's care website to see pictures of her, and just praying, praying that she would be well.
I am delighted to say that she is well! Although she has some ongoing health issues because of those early frightening weeks, little "baby A" has grown up into a boisterous, friendly, beautiful little girl who will turn three this September. She has blessed our lives numerous times over just by being her sunny self. She is truly one of the most light-filled little people I've ever known.
Yesterday I was in major stress mode when we got to church. Our family has had too many late nights and early mornings this week, due to lots of things all happening at once: vacation bible school and my last week at the office being the two major ones. We had a bit of a spat at home as we were about to rush off the day: Daddy tried to rush Mommy, Mommy lost her cool and snapped at Daddy, Sweet Girl reacted to everybody's else's stress and decided to throw Daddy's hat down the stairs and then tearfully wouldn't apologize. We managed to pull ourselves together (more or less) in the car, but we still weren't in the best space when we arrived.
When we got to the church building, D. headed off to get into his costume for the opening skit. S. headed for the registration table. I got her checked in, helped her put on her name tag and her bandanna (the kids have all been dressed this week as "islanders" in our Pirates of Paradise Island VBS), and headed upstairs to my office, almost in panic mode as I thought of the huge final to-do list I'd left myself to tackle. I know part of the difficulty in trying to work through so much this week has been the emotions connected to the fact that I'm leaving what has felt like a fruitful season of work and ministry.
Mrs. A. was at church yesterday morning also. She had just dropped off her two VBS-aged kids downstairs. She came walking toward me, her precious, sunny, curly haired, wide eyed 2 year old in tow. I think as soon as Mrs. A. saw my face, she knew I was not having an easy morning, and when asked how I was, I told her the truth: overtired, overextended, stressed.
"Can I pray for you?" Mrs. A. asked.
"Yes," I said gratefully.
And she did, right there in the hallway. With VBS volunteers and kids in and out of spaces all around us, she just put her hand on my shoulder and began to pray. It was a beautiful, Spirit-led prayer that my heart needed to hear.
All of that in itself would have been enough of a blessing perhaps. But as she started to pray, I opened my eyes again quickly, smiled, and held my hand out to her precious, sunny little girl. She smiled back at me, slipped one hand in mine, and then with her other hand, reached out to take her mother's. All during the prayer, she was perfectly still and quiet, until the very end, when she announced "Ahhh-MEN!" in emphatic tones, making us all laugh. When I marveled that she'd joined us so beautifully in the prayer, her mother told me simply "she loves to pray."
It didn't dawn on me fully till later what a powerful picture of the body of Christ this was. Here was this little child, so much like the children Jesus held on his lap as he talked about how we needed to enter the Kingdom. This precious little child is one I prayed for a lot during a very vulnerable season of her young life. And now, not even yet three, she was praying for me when I was vulnerable and in need.
Circles of prayer. Circles of prayer.