Sunday, March 20, 2011

the faith of a child

If you've been reading my blog long, you know how much I LOVE preschoolers. They have my heart & soul 100%. I spent five years in a classroom with them full time and if I could afford it, I would go back IN A HEARTBEAT. I love my job now with my sweet teenagers, but my heart will always be in a classroom with 3-5 year olds. Sure, they try my patience sometimes, but I absolutely adore them anyway! Watching them grow, seeing them change, hearing their ideas, being a part of their lives, growing relationships with their families.... oh my soul. I'm telling you, folks makes my heart flutter just thinking about it. Little guys & gals bless me in a way that nothing else does in this world.

Matthew 11:25 I praise you Father, Lord of heaven & earth because you have hidden these things from the wise & learned and revealed them to little children.

When I quit teaching preschool this past Fall, I was soooo happy to know that I could still get my preschooler "fix" on Sunday mornings when I co-teach the 4 & 5 yr old Sunday School class at our church. I've worked in the nursery or preschool classes at various churches all my life. When I was a kid, the church where I grew up allowed the kids to start helping out in the 2-4 year old classes when they were 10, so the first Sunday I was allowed, I jumped on that opportunity and I don't think there's ever been a full year since then that I didn't help out in some way or another with little ones.

Matthew 18:3 Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

But I will be honest. This year, I have been stretched.

We have a little guy in our class who I will call "C" (to protect his identity) who has Cerebral Palsy. He's in a wheelchair. His arms and legs don't function normally and he's not entirely verbal. Before he promoted into our class last Fall, I talked to his mom & asked her to tell me what C was capable of & what I should expect in working with him. I didn't want to short change him if he was able to do something, but at the same time, I didn't want to stress him by expecting too much of him. I just really wasn't sure what to expect because I had not been around C much at all, other than passing him in the hallways of the church, and I've never worked with a special needs child before.

To be honest, I've turned down 2 jobs in the past because they involved working with special needs kids. Don't get me wrong. I don't think anything bad of those children and I certainly don't think I'm too good to work in that environment, I just knew at the time that it was not my calling. I believe some people really are better equipped to handle special needs kids. I have 3 sweet girlfriends who work in our school district's PPCD class (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities) who I deeply respect. They've all told me how much they love it. And while I still don't feel that I am called to working with special needs children 40 hours a week, I have sure had my heart tugged that direction this year because of sweet C!

Throughout this year, I have been blessed beyond measure by C. His ever present smile, his expressive eyes, his silly antics, the way he makes his point known without using words. I love squeezing playdough with him, helping him eat his snack each week, seeing how the kids interact with him. I never knew how much one kiddo could wow me!

Matthew 19:14 Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

And so, this past week when our church preschool coordinator emailed us the lesson for this week, I immediately thought of C and how we could teach this lesson without hurting him or making him feel funny. You see, the story was about a paralyzed man whose friends took him to Jesus to be healed. In the story, the men realize that their friend can't go to Jesus by himself, so they pick up the mat he's laying on & take him to the place where Jesus is teaching. When they get there, the place is so crowded that they can't get in the door, so they climb onto the roof, cut a hole and lower their friend down to Jesus. Jesus heals the man & he is able to get up & walk out of the building! You can read about the story HERE.

While we definitely wanted to convey the miracle of this story to the children, we desperately wanted to make sure that hearing this story didn't hurt C. We didn't want him to question why that man was healed but he hasn't been. We wanted him to understand that we all have needs to bring before Jesus. We wanted the class to know that they can help a friend by "taking him to Jesus"...whether for healing or whatever other needs.

Psalm 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

And so, when we sat the children down for storytime, I silently whispered another prayer for God to speak through me in a way that ministered to all of our children, but especially to C. We decided ahead of time how it would go. I briefly told the story so that all of the kids could hear about the miracle Jesus had performed in healing the man but then shifted the focus to growing the faith of all of the little hearts in our room. It may have worked differently in the other classrooms at our church this morning, but in our room, it was more important that we go a different direction. I asked the children if any of them knew anyone like the paralyzed man in the story...someone whose arms or legs don't work. I found it a little funny & so very sweet that it took a few names being spoken before someone mentioned our classmate, C! {Isn't it fun to see how children look past a disability to the point of not even noticing it? I think most of us adults are way more concerned about it than they are!} When C's name was finally mentioned, we talked about how we could take him to Jesus, too! We talked about whether or not we could carry him up onto the roof of our church & cut a hole to lower him down, but the kids brilliantly pointed out that our church's roof is steep & his wheelchair would roll right off. ha ha! Those silly gooses! So I asked them how else we could "take him to Jesus". That's when it hit them....they could PRAY for him!

We talked about how God answers prayers in 1 of three ways. Yes, no or wait. We talked about how we all REALLY want God to give us a "yes" answer every time, but sometimes when He tells us "no" or "wait", it's because He has a very important reason for making us wait or not giving us what we want. I didn't want them to pray for C & then open their eyes & expect to see him running circles around the room...but at the same time, I wanted them to know that their prayers were very important and that God CAN HEAL if that's what He wants for that person's life!

Psalm 17:6 I call on you, my God, for you will answer me. Turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.

As we closed our story time, the kids gathered around C. Some of them wanted to pray & some didn't. Some wanted to lay hands on him and others didn't. We let them do whatever they were comfortable with. Tears came to my eyes as I listened to the words of those sweet babies praying for their friend, C.

"God, please help C's legs work one day."
"Jesus, I pray that you will help C learn to walk on the ground like me!"
"Thank you for C! Thank you for making him my friend. Please heal him like the man in our story today."
"God, give C peace if he can't walk."

Matthew 18:6 If anyone causes one of these little ones to who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for them to have a millstone hung around their neck & to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Their little prayers went on like that for a while. As the tears brimmed in my eyes, I grabbed my cell phone from my pocket & snapped some pictures.

Group hug!!!

Beautiful C, I hope you know that Miss Liz loves you. Maybe more than you'll ever realize. You've taught me FAR more this year about special needs children, about myself, and about God than I have taught you. You ooze joy from every pore of your little body and I pray that I can show just a smidgen of that to everyone I meet the rest of my life. Thank you for being who you are. And yes, I do pray that if God wants to, one day you'll walk. But if that's not what God has in store for your life, I hope you know that you are PERFECT exactly the way you are right now! I love you, little guy!


markkuykendall said...

Liz, that is one of the most beautiful pictures we have ever seen of children praying and living out their faith. Thanks for sharing.

Jimette said...

That is a wonderful story of God at work in the lives of children. And how much it effects adults. Real faith of a child. Thanks for sharing.

Genifer Nail said...

Liz, I am "C"'s Gigi & I have just finished reading your blog. "C"'s Mommy sent me the link in an email. Otherwise, I'm certain I would never have experienced the blessing I am overwhelmed with this minute. I, of course, being his Gigi, think he is perfect also. Whether rolling through life in a chair or walking next to me, he captures my heart each & every time I lay eyes on him.
Thank you, Liz, for being a servant in my grandson's life. May God continue to smile on your life, for you have smiled on "C"'s life.
God bless Bethel Bible Church!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful testimony of how God uses people and circumstances of life to build our faith. C & Liz, you are both a testimony to me! ABJ

Rebecca Sorge said...

Wow! How awesome. Thanks for sharing Liz.

leachristine said...

Sitting here in tears. So beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. What an incredible, expansive God we serve.

Lisa@BlessedwithGrace said...

Overwhelmed with emotions after this post. Tears flowing. Liz, I am so grateful for you and the role you not only play in "C"'s life but of all the children in your class. I am thankful for the heart of love and compassion you have shown regarding "C". He is truly an exceptional child. His life touches so many, everyday. I know I AM BLESSED TO know and love him and by knowing and loving YOU as well. Thanks!

lana said...

What a precious picture of faith and a MIGHTY reminder of how we should all live. Thank you for sharing your heart. I can not begin to tell you what this means to me at this time in my life as I struggle to know how to pray for my child with special needs. I forget God knows the prayer and knows the answer and I just need the faith of these precious children.
Thank you...

Laci said...

Precious. Thanks for taking the time to record this and share it. To know C is to know pure sweetness. I am so thankful for his presence in our class and in my life.

Ann said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. Children are such a blessing from the Lord and can understand more than we can imagine. That is so precious that children prayed for C and what they prayed for. Blessings :)

Marli7 said...

Liz, Thank you for impacting these precious little ones and for sharing this beautiful picture of God at work in their lives! "C" has touched so many lives and will continue to touch many more. He is an amazing boy and I'm honored to be a part of his life!

Kylee says: thats amazing!

Tara and Ryan said...

Oh LIZ !! What a sweet sweet post. I am crying, (as usual). You and your heart is just what we want our babies to encounter as children. A Godly heart that has love overflowing. I want to thank you for giving that to our church ministry.
What a mighty God we serve. Praying for C and knowing God has a plan for him. He knew he would be in your class and you both would bless each other!
How exciting is that:) Love you sweet friend!

Janet Tilford said...

What a beautiful picture of God at work in the lives of adults as well. To know and experience C is a special privilege. He exemplifies complete acceptance, and joy! Thanks for sharing with such authenticity, Liz!

Debbie Spears said...

This is C's great aunt and I can't thank you enough for sharing this. It's so good to meet and see all the one's in c's life even through email or pictures. We love our litlle C and too love his smile and enthusiasm. C loves our family gatherings and groups and is always the center of them. We love him so much. Again thanks so much for giving of yourself to others. And I know you are a blessing to his mom and dad.

wanda said...

Thank God for teachers and preachers like you. My little grandson,JT,was only 3 or 4 years old when his mom took him to the park to play. He saw a little boy sitting alone and he walked over and asked him what was wrong. The little boy told JT that he didn't feel good. JT laid his little hands on the boy and simply prayed, "Jesus, please make this boy feel better." And a little child shall lead them....

wanda said...
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Celia said...

I know "C"'s Gigi....She is one special lady just like "C". It surely runs in the family!!
Thank you for the wonderful blog post Liz, and Blessings to you!

Mother Dear said...

absolutely the truth spoken with such love and the faith of a child----i will hold the story forever in my heart----that was seeing HIS GLORY