Our family is back at home after a week away with the teens. We jokingly say goodbye to each other whenever we embark on a youth camp week because we want to free each other from all other focus but the teens and their spiritual needs. Although we do spend a lot of time in the presence of each other at camp we try to keep our focus on the kids.
I was very blessed to have friends come along this year who were willing to stay with my boys at the rental house, allowing me to attend chapels and very late nights with the youth. Most nights I didn’t get back until 2am and they never complained! What a blessing they were to me.
During the day times we all loaded up and went to camp for the day. Malachi and Levi were both so excited to spend time with the teens and Levi would giggle each day when we arrived. This has been a part of Malachi’s summer since his birth so it is old news to him and something he thoroughly enjoys.
Each year as I pack for camp I ask myself why in the world I am doing this. It is always an extremely long week for all of us and sleep is even rarer than at home. But every single year God reminds me in His own subtle ways why He is calling me to go back year after year. The conversations I get to have with these amazing teens about God is something special. Being able to be on this spiritual journey with them for 7 years of their life is profoundly impacting my own faith. I get to watch God grow these children of His from babies to eating the meat of God’s Word.
This year it took about 24 hours for God to point out why He had called me there that week. I won’t be able to go into detail on here as I want to protect confidentiality, but WOW did God move…and quickly!
As the devil often does, he noticed my joy as the week progressed and started to attack in subtle ways. At one point in the week the teens all do an obstacle course in the mud. This is always a highlight of the week so I drove Malachi down to the course area and set up a chair right next to the first mud pit so he could hear them splashing. The air horn blew and Malachi was on pins and needles listening to the kids enter the mud and run through it. Their squeals made him giggle and his joy was contagious. The kids all finished the course and headed on to the next thing and Malachi and I sat in that chair for an extra few minutes. His smile faded as the kids left and as I watched him intently listening for them as they moved away I couldn’t help but get a lump in my throat.
I could feel in my heart how much Malachi longed to be with them. How much we wanted to get in that mud and splash just like they were. I leaned down at one point and explained that no other little kids were in the mud, that it was only for the big kids and that answered was good enough for him. But soon the day will come when that answer will be a lie. And soon the day will come when Levi is able to do all of those things and the isolation Malachi will feel already breaks my heart.
Special needs parenting is so hard in so many different ways. Some of those I have yet to even uncover, but these glimpses of them are so hard to process.
I truthfully don’t know how many more camps I will be able to attend as Malachi grows. Right now we can still toss him over our shoulder and carry him into non-accessible places, but as he grows that might change. I am cherishing these special weeks until that day comes.
The word that the Spirit placed on my heart this week was “Authentic”. Our ability to bring others closer to Christ is severely limited, and in some cases counter productive, if we aren’t authentic in our faith and in our walk with God. So many times we hide the real us in an effort to portray what we think is a better version of ourselves.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 “For consider your calling, brothers and sisters, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the insignificant things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no human may boast before God. But it is due to Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ “
There are words in that verse that are compliments that people would love to hear said about them: wise, strong, noble.
Then there are words that we would cringe about if they were spoken about us: foolish, weak, insignificant.
But it is those seemingly shameful attributes that God sees a need for Him. He sees brokenness that only He can fix, and when God works in and through our weaknesses the glory can undeniably rest on Him and Him alone.
Authentic faith is so important. Being able to share the good and the bad pleases God. Some of my most powerful God moments were in my weakest and darkest moments. God loves to turn ashes to beauty and bones into an army.
We witnessed very authentic faith this week start to grow and take root in many of our teens. Listening to their hearts was such a blessing and made me take a fresh look at my own level of authenticity.
Please pray for our family as we recuperate from camp and prayerfully choose a route to go with the group. It is always a wonderful challenge to take the fire they have in their hearts from a week focused on God and do what we can to keep the flame shining brightly.
Also pray for our upcoming trip to Nashville to meet with Malachi’s spine and orthopedic surgeon. I don’t expect bad news, but it always reopens the conversation about Malachi’s future and leads to some hard conversations and reality checks.