Vacation Bible School week at church is one of those times when you plan on blessing others with what your church can provide the kids with...but you always end up getting a blessing yourself from an unexpected source. Our church's VBS was 2 weeks ago already. It runs like a machine, really. Kids are dropped off, we feed them a meal, we teach them songs and stories about our faith, we play games, we pray over them, we laugh together, we become friends. I hadn't though of it before, but it's really a good model of what every parent wants to provide for their children: a loving, safe place to grow into the person God wants you to be. A place where someone tells you, "You matter. You are loved. I believe in you." As the week went on, the fun increased, the relationships deepened, and our ministry we provided increased. As we sensed the deeper needs of the kids coming, we were able to meet those needs with food, clothing, and prayer. To some of the kids there, we were a parent to them. To others, we were another positive voice in their life. All were treated equally, all were loved and cherished. And once again, I received a huge blessing from an experience where I was the one supposed to be blessing others.
For me, VBS week was a week I will never forget because this year, it was the week I found out my father has brain cancer. And not just brain cancer, but lung, kidney, and colon cancer as well. As I was caring for and loving kids I had never met before, my mind was racing with memories of me as a young girl with my Dad. I have the best Dad on planet Earth...hard working, smart, kind, funny, committed, brave. You name it- he's been it for me. Everything I was trying to do for these VBS kids in one week was just a reflection of what had been done for me my entire life by my own parents. When I would see a child come to VBS in clothes too small for them, I would start to cry because my parents were always able to provide clothes for me. When I would see a Mom and Dad come pick up their child from VBS and give them a huge hug, I would start to cry because my parents had done that for me, too. I felt so much gratitude in my heart for my parents that week. I knew my Dad was sitting in a hospital hearing bad news, and yet he was still cracking jokes, smiling, staying positive and putting his faith first.
I've spent lots of time the past few weeks marveling at how many people are pouring out love and appreciation for my Dad during this rough time for him. He's not famous, he's not rich, and he hasn't won any special awards. But my Dad has been all-in his entire life. He's never backed down from what life had for him- he has always stayed in the game regardless of if he would win or lose. He has spent his life making sure others were encouraged and lifted up. His message to me, for as long as I can remember, has been: You matter. You are loved. I believe in you.
I keep trying to help my Dad through this tough assignment we've been given, and yet he keeps blessing me, my sister, and my mom with more love. What if we all had a Dad like that?