Connecting With Children Through Stories In VBS

“‘How is our church using stories in VBS [Vacation Bible School] to connect with children?’ I asked our children’s minister, Ms. Alexia, through email. ‘Do you have a story to share?’

Reading her response, I sensed her excitement …”

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I’m so enjoying our roses this year. One is so amazing. But when you gather more together … even more amazing. And that’s how God’s people are. When we come together for a common purpose, we make an impact.

Please join me over at WMU’s website to learn more about when a precious child, adopted from Africa, realizes in Vacation Bible School that his family was touched by his new family through the Bucket Project …


Do you have a sweet VBS story to share?

When The Yoke Seems A Little Runny

I take the bread, cupping my fingers over it and guarding it with my life. I glance down the pew at God’s sweet provision. With my head bowed, I take a long look inside …

Life can be excruciating. It can.

My grandfather answers the phone. “Yellow” … (his version of “hello”)

With excruciating fear, I say, “Pa-Paw, we’re thinking about adopting a baby …” I hadn’t been able to sleep. My gut churned. All the “what ifs” …

“I kindly adopted you, didn’t I.” My grandfather’s words wrap peace around me, like an old familiar song. If I could love this man like I do, who took me as his very own, maybe just maybe a child could love me, too.

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I play and replay that scene over in my mind when life is hard. I remember all the ways God came through for me, through fear, how my two daughters resemble me in the seen and unseen. From the perfectly placed freckles to the seemingly imperfectly placed …

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Because I go to my knees with fear these days. I tell my doctor that I’m not handling things well. Is this coping? She assures me that she’s there to help me, should I need it. Medication, she surely means.

The unease in my heart has kept me up many a night. My insides are doing abnormal things. “Or is this my new normal?” I ask myself. When my pulse races away, I count to ten over and over throughout the night. I pray continually. I chastise myself constantly. The Lord offers the light and steady yoke, and time after time, it seems I take on the weight of the heavy yoke and allow it to run away with me, spinning me around and solidifying my impending disaster, allowing the weight of it to press me to my knees.

And the guilt drives me deeper into the mud and mire.

Why? Where is the peace?

And just this morning, I beg God for answers. God, why? Why can’t I have peace in the midst of the storm? The storms that pummel me, one after another. Why can’t I sleep?

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“I kindly adopted you, didn’t I.” That’s what I hear spoken over my heart. And I think of that night after the Passover, in the garden, before Jesus went to the cross, the excruciating pain.

An angel from heaven appeared to him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Luke 22: 43-46

“Do you really think you are so different from me?” I hear spoken over me. “You love. Your heart is soft, not hard. You’re in pain, Shelli. You’re scared. You’re sweatin’ it out. But you keep kneeling and praying … kneeling and praying …. You are not crippled. You keep getting out of bed each morning, you keep taking step after step, you keep going a little further … with me.”

And as I sit in the midst of the flood, the guilt of how I should be handling things rolls in waves away from me, back out to the ocean.

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And relief, full of peace, splashes over me like new rain. Like Heaven sent.

“This is my body given for you …” I swallow hard and take the cup, wrapping my fingers securely around it, guarding the lifeblood with my life.

“Do this in remembrance of me …”

Do you ever feel like you are handling things all wrong? Does Jesus’ example comfort you, too? 

Much love and Happy Easter, y’all. 

I Ripped My Pink Panther: When Your Kid’s Attitude Calls For A Tickle and Talk Session


“Yeah, one day I’ll be able to tell you all the issues I have with you, Mom.” My daughter chuckles. “I can’t tell you now because I have to live with you.” She sinks into the couch, laughing herself silly.

“Get over here right now.” I giggle, moving to the edge of my cushioned seat and pointing my finger to the hardwood floors in front of me. “Right now.”

No movement from daughter. Just more giggles.

I jump up, run to her, and tickle her till she cries.

She gasps for breath, still chuckling. “I’m just pulling your leg,” sputters out through more giggles.




Uh-huh. Oh, I know, Daughter. I know exactly what you mean. Because I felt those very things as a young girl. The only difference—unlike you, I voiced many of my thoughts aloud.

The whirlwind of my parents’ divorce left me tied in knots, feeling pulled apart. One arm held by my daddy, the other held by my mother. My grandmother held firmly to my leg. I didn’t know how to feel about everything or anything. I didn’t know how to express myself. I didn’t know what was normal, what was right. I felt crucified, tormented.

And there was my mama.

I didn’t love everything about my life. I just wanted my mama and my daddy back under the same roof, tucking me in bed at night and reading nightly devotions to me. Bitterness, in the awful form of anger and what felt like hatred at times, welled up inside and drizzled out.

On life’s fragile edge, I grabbed my Pink Panther stuffed animal that I’d gotten at Six Flags, that I adored. Taking its right arm in one hand, its left arm in my other hand, I pulled. Its little insides oozed out. So much misery. I injured the very thing I loved.

I felt so ripped to pieces. So I’ll rip this to pieces.

 

 

 


I loved my daddy. But I was in this city, and he was in that city. I was in this house, and he was in that house. I lived with my mama, and she took the brunt of all my painful trying-to-figure-out-this-situation.

Sitting in my room, I mourned my hate-filled words to my mother. My heart mourned that I’d injured the very one I loved.  Because I loved my mama. I hated the situation. But I was only ten. What did I know then?

And just look what I did to my Pink Panther. I cried.

Grown-up stuff is too hard to contain inside a child. It will spill.

My pillow—the catcher of all my tears. God—the storer of all my tears. And I gave God a tremendous amount of tears to handle. Like rain.

 

 

Life is hard. Life is hard to understand. So we trust. Trust God. It’s all we have, Daughter. And it’s more than enough, Daughter.

At only ten, I reached over and took hold of the Bible that I’d been given by my Sunday school teacher. Given just in the nick of time. Given just when I’d needed it. And God showed me that He could be my all. He should be my all. He would be my all. I couldn’t place my faith and trust in my mother or my daddy—I could only love them. I had to heap all my faith and trust in God, my heavenly Father, the only one who could be the perfect parent.

God—the restorer of my life. The one who takes all our confused and broken pieces and makes us His restoration project. The one who stitches together our torn pieces now. The one we can spill our insides to now. The one we can entrust with everything now. The one we don’t have to be fragile with now or ever. The one who takes every tear and stores it now.

When we want to ask all the questions that so often go unanswered

Why?



Your pillow’s stuffing will hold your tears until God can gather them, one by one, in His safe-keeping. Your tears haven’t dried, they’ve just been collected, sweet one.

Because I know you have more questions than you’re asking, Daughter. Questions only God knows the answers to, and that seems so unfair. I know. Questions I’ll never be able to pull out of you because maybe you think you’ll injure me. Maybe you think I’m fragile. Maybe I am, but I won’t break. I’ve already been broken, baby. This mama is tougher than you might think.  



Because when you want to take this side of life in one hand, take the other side of life in the other hand, and pull

Remember that in between lies the body of Christ—the one broken for you.

And comprises that beautiful Body of Christ—someone will remind you of that Scripture just in time. Someone will text you encouragement just in time. When you forget, someone will point you to Jesus just in time

 

His one arm stretched across one side. A nail pounded. His other arm stretched across the other side. A nail pounded. Take His hands. Pull and pour your heart out on His hands.

Because mercy and grace pooled and spilled out, trickling down on you … the crimson turning the darkness of pain and confusion all white, all pure. All for you.


Oh, Daughters—She Could Have Been Our First Woman President

“Mama?” The one word that changed everything for me.

“Yes.”

“Mama, I heard that women pilots in our nation’s air force have really struggled with this issue. They can’t fly in this condition, so some choose this course.” 

Oh, Daughter.

Oh, Daughters—She Could Have Been Our First Woman President


I had just been in church, the pastor’s words on freedom had taken my heart and mind soaring straight to this topic without him ever mentioning a single word about it. 

Why? I don’t know. God in me, it had to be.

Because I have no personal experience with this topic. I bear many regretful choices from my teenage life, and I’m thankful this isn’t on my list of regrets. But it could have been. Easily. So easily. 

Oh, Daughters.

I felt a whisper over my heart, “You better be brave, and bold, and obedient.”

I’ve hemmed and hawed around ever since, in a feeble attempt to be brave, bold, and obedient. Weeks have passed. Writing and talking it out turns my legs to jello, my insides to mush, tears me apart, rips my heart apart. So please know I’m not judging, but breaking. 

I thought over it all.

Oh, Daughters, I need to tell you something. Because some things one never forgets.

That picture that sits in my bathroom, on the side of the tub? You know the one. The sole purpose of that picture was decoration. Me, the amateur photographer, imagine that. Some fifteen years ago. It seems like yesterday. The day I sat you girls in a bucket for a picture. The dog’s water bucket, no less. You were in your pink swim suits, in the bathroom. Watermelon and polka dots. Cutest things. 

One goes in the bucket, then the other. Big sister’s legs are getting long. Just drape them over the side. I position those tiny legs and feet. “Smile for me. Say ‘cheese’ …” 

Big sister, make sure little sister …

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Some time after, my friend who owned an adoption agency wrote to me. “Shelli, watch this video.”

Most people recycle plasticmilk jugs, sacks. Buckets, buckets, and more buckets.

I bend over, peering into the plastic to see something precious …

Oh, Daughters—She Could Have Been Our First Woman President

Oh, Daughters—She Could Have Been Our First Woman President


Beautiful eyes, beautiful skin.

Little tiny baby legs, feet, arms, hands …

And then my eyes become so clouded with tears I can no longer see.

My heart gasps and the sound spills out with my breath. My living breath. 

Oh, Daughters.

What could he have been? What could she have been? 

Google “baby in a bucket” … then Google aborted baby in a bucket” … one tiny word changes everything.

And just allow those images to sink in, into the marrow of your bone, your soul.

One baby is sitting joyfully with a smile, covered in feathers or covered in a ballerina tu-tu, tulle ruffles, all pink. Happy. In the other picture, the baby is doubled over. Pale. Legs displaced. Organs displaced, delicate and private parts that should be covered. Crimson paints the body. The baby in a bucket, like something you’d only see in a prison encampment. In a horror film. That baby never had the chance to know happy on Earth, to be snuggled, to wear a onesie, to be burrito-wrapped in softness.

In a bucket. Some things deserve a beautiful burial.

Oh, Daughters.

That young woman thinks she’s ejecting to safety, freedom, normalcy. And maybe she doesn’t realize that though she’ll be free of a live baby, she’ll be placing herself in enemy territory. I won’t pretend to know, but I hear it, read about it constantlythe pain, the torment, the regret.

No, don’t Google. Don’t allow those images to sink in. Because we get so accustomed to seeing the bad … and then it means nothing to us. The images don’t stir our heart, don’t make us sick, don’t break us, don’t make us gasp, don’t tear us apart.

The images should place our minds in a prison encampment forever. Maybe they do. Maybe they will.

Oh, Daughters, your sweet baby faces come to mind. 

Oh, Daughters—She Could Have Been Our First Woman President

Oh, Daughters—She Could Have Been Our First Woman President




And I thank God that two women gave you girls life. That they placed you girls’ tiny infant feet and tiny chunky legs on the side of life. These two precious women, who weren’t ready to be mothers, allowed someone else to be a mother. 

Me.

Oh, Daughters—She Could Have Been Our First Woman President

Oh, Daughters—She Could Have Been Our First Woman President


Because that baby in the bucket could have completed someone’s family, someone’s life, made a family of three, given a sibling … could have changed everything for someone sunken low in the pit of infertility. 

Maybe the sole purpose of the situation is to keep another from loneliness, to bring life to the dead, to decorate someone’s life. Only God knows. But know this

One’s desperation could end another’s desperation. 

Oh, Daughters—She Could Have Been Our First Woman President

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I know life is messy, complicated, but it’s worth it. The situation can’t be kept a secret, but all secrets come out eventually. The closed always becomes disclosed. 

Oh, Daughters, I pray you never have to choose. I pray you always make wise choices. I pray you never hold a list of regrets.

But placing a baby is a critical choice. Fill arms, Daughters of this world, Daughters of the KingFill empty arms. Place that living, breathing child in living, loving arms, not plastic. That bucket—I pray you never allow to be on your list of regrets. 

I pray you recognize there is no choice.

Oh, Daughters—She Could Have Been Our First Woman President


Because some things should never be recycled.

Oh, Daughters, freedom of choice is not free. It’s never free to the one whose life was taken. The one who couldn’t choose. Life or death. The one who can’t speak “Mama” yet certainly can’t speak “life” yet. 

What could that child have been? The bucket child. Could that tiny, beautiful baby have filled the position of our nation’s first woman president? Just think of it. Can you imagine it?

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Oh, Daughters. Where would I be without you?

And I know you. But what kind of mother would I be if I didn’t say

Choose life. Choose adoption. Choose family. 

Always. For Life.

Choose … 

One tiny word changes everything.

Oh, Daughters—She Could Have Been Our First Woman President

Oh, Daughters—She Could Have Been Our First Woman President

Oh, Daughters—She Could Have Been Our First Woman President




Enjoy This Time With Your Children


Everyone tells you. Every mother will tell you. Every grandmother will tell you

~Enjoy this time with your children because they grow so fast~

 

As I sit rocking you, I ponder that wise advice. Though you didn’t come from my body, I hold you close to my chest and feed you from the bottle, as though you did. I love these early morning hours, just you and me. I love how you watch me when you drink your milk. And your hands firmly grip the bottle, until you realize I have it all covered. And then your sweet fingers venture over to mine, touching, discovering the hands that hold you. 

With a full tummy, your sweet eyes close, and I lay you down in your baby bed. After patting your back, I notice the label on your little jumper sticking out at the back of your neck“if they could just stay little.” Little you. I tuck it back in place. I’ll go fill another bottle to have ready for when you wake up crying.


I hear you crying. I rush toward your room with bottle in hand, my heart thudding wildly. I’ll change your diaper first. We have an amazing routine going. 

As I turn the corner, you slip off your toddler bed and toddle toward me. “Hi, Mama,” you say. You run past me to the bathroom in your big girl pants. “I gotta go potty.” I do a double-take. What? Where? I remember what my best friend said

~Enjoy this time with your children because they grow so fast. But each stage just gets better and better~

 










I fill your juice cup and screw on the lid. You grab on to that cup like it’s your best friend and take a few sips. That cup slips right out of your hand, landing on my big toe. A few tears surface, but who has time for that? You scramble up into your big kid chair and start devouring the chopped carrots and green beans that you love. When you’re done, I’ve got the perfect book selected“Guess How Much I Love You.” I long for story timewatching you select books and back up, plopping down in my lap. I chuckle, knowing my lap had better be there. 

I hear you say, “Mama, I’m done.” Leaving unfinished dishes, I hurry over to the table to check on your progress, help clean you up, get ready for that story time. You look up at me, with a snaggle-toothed smile, and say, “Mama, I finished my cursive practice. I’m ready to read my book all by myself.” I take away your half eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich, seemingly in slow motion, remembering what my friend said

~Enjoy this time with your children because they grow so fast~

 

The door creaks open. Are you done with school work? Maybe I’ll find you playing on your tricycle or big-wheel. I hear a yelp and wonder if you’ve been hurt. On day one of school your leg got scratched outside, and you said, “I got hurt on my first day of kindergarten.”

I rush to the door and sling it open. You two-wheel it up to me on your big-girl bike, laughing. And I don’t even remember teaching you how to ride. Your bike drops to the ground. You fly past me. “I’m going to watch a Barbie movie. Princess and the Pauper is on,” you say. The queen grabs her remote. My friend comes to mind. What did she say?

~Enjoy this time with your children because they grow so fast. But each stage just gets better and better~


Maybe you’d like popcorn with your movie. I love how we watch a movie together sometimes, or a cartoonLittle Bear or Franklin, especially on rainy days. We’ll split a bag of popcorn. I rush to get a bag popped so I don’t miss the movie. Maybe you’d like lemonade, too. 

I turn the corner into the living room. You’ve finished off a whole bag of popcorn by yourself. You fidget with the popcorn stuck in your braces. And an empty can of Dr. Pepper sits on the floor. On a sugary high, you stand and twirl.

~Enjoy this time with your children because they grow so fast~

Maybe you’d like your ballet outfit to twirl in, since you love dancing. I rush into the bedroom, open the sticking drawer, and pull out your pink tights, pink ballet shoes, black leotard with sequined skirt.
 
I barely get the drawer shut when I hear, “Mama, I need help with my hair.” Maybe you’re trying to wrap your hair in a top knot, like you do for ballet class. I grab bobby pins along the way. As I enter the room, a young man is slipping a corsage on your wrist, and you’re heading out the door for a Homecoming dance. Wait. Did we even show him the shotgun? I re-position the diamond pin in your hair.
 

~Enjoy this time with your children because they grow so fast. But each stage just gets better and better~

I hear you thudding around upstairs. I paced the floor all evening. I run up to check on you. You’re already in bed, tucking the covers under your chin. Make-up off, showered, teeth brushed. I dent the mattress edge, leaning in to you. 

“Mom, I’m a little nervous about starting college.” Tears seep into your eyes. “About growing up.”


My, oh my, I’m afraid to go to sleep and wake up. Where did the time go? I remember the baby that you were. When your tiny hand wrapped snuggly around my pinky finger. That was just this morning. And then I envision the lady that you’ll be. Will you be teaching school? Or will you be taking someone’s hand in marriage? I rub over your sweet forehead, brushing back the hair, and dab your forehead with kisses. 

You take my trembling hand in yours, holding firmly. 

“Don’t be afraid,” I say. 

~Enjoy this time with your children. Each stage just gets better and better~



Thank you to Karalee Littleton, Ronda Wetherbee, and Becky Wademy inspirations.


To: My Girl—The Day I Adopted You & My Hope For Your Future


Oh, My Girl, I cannot believe you are a senior this year and nearing graduation. I can’t even think about it or write these words without tears gathering.



I will never forget the day you burst forth into my life and the day I ran with open arms into yours.

You, little thing, were my heart’s desire.

This road of adoption is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. It’s something I’d do overagain and again and againin a heartbeat. But it’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Because it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The most agonizing. Gut-wrenching. I didn’t know if I’d get to take you home. I didn’t know if you’d be mine. I felt so out of place in that hospital. I felt like an invited and welcomed thief. I felt like an invited and welcomed intruder. Internal anguish. And I cried a hidden ocean in that hospital restroom before you breathed your first breath.

My very first glimpse of you. My hands on you. Little baby, were you praying?







I wouldn’t wish it on anyone because you know your momma … when I fall, I fall hard. And the day I held you in my arms, I fell hard.

You were mine.










And all through your baby years, you and I were joined at the hip. A permanent mark wrinkled my clothes from you backing up and plopping down in my lap with your book to read. You’d just begin backing up, and my lap had better be there.



But adoption was hard because I had to deal with internal struggles like

~What if she doesn’t love me when she finds out?
~What if she is disappointed in me?
~What if she is disappointed in life?
~What if she longs for another?

And I’ve had to deal with issues and tell you things over the years that I wasn’t sure I’d survive …

Like

~You didn’t grow in my tummy because my tummy was broken.
~You grew in someone else’s tummy.
~I believe God gave you to me because I prayed for you for so many years.
~You might hear that I’m not your real mother.
~Someone might ask you who your real mother is. 

Until someone experiences adoption, they never know how much pain the word “real” can cause. 



But I did survive because I had no idea at the time of your birth that God would do such sweet things …

Like

~Let you favor me, just a little.
~Give you a freckle on your arm in the same spot as mine on my arm.
~Give you a heart to love the broken.
~Give you a heart that says I’m real.
~Give you a heart that trusts God.

And I remember the first time we talked about adoption, and I was scared to death. And you acted like you didn’t even care. You wanted to keep playing with your toys. You made it so easy for me, and I sighed a huge breath of relief. And you still loved me. I couldn’t believe ityou still loved me.

My Girl, through all the uncertainties, the thing I’m certain of is that I love you as though I’d given you life. I couldn’t love you any more. You were never my second choice, you’ll always be my first. I choose you.

You are joy. You are beautiful. You make me laugh. I love shopping with you, dancing with you while I’m shopping with you, singing out loud in the car with you. I love that you talk to me, that you share your heart’s secrets with me. I love watching you walk away from me when we arrive at church to go work with the children. I love watching you walk into the hospital to volunteer your love to premature babies and whatever else they need you to do. I love your sentimental soul, that tears can prick your eyes instantly. I love that your fierce strength can surface in 60 seconds, including your protectiveness over me and your little sister.

I want you for my BFF for the rest of my life.



Because you say back to me“You were never my second choice, you will always be my first. I choose you.”

And you have no idea the joy that brings to me, the tightness that gathers in my chest, the feeling that my heart could just 4th-of-July-explode with happiness and love and relief.

Oh, My Girl, with all that I know and have experienced … I wish adoption for you. I do. Because God has given you a heart for children. And when you tell me that you’ll adopt one day, I fully believe you will. And I can’t help but smile over the fact that you’ve redefined generational bondage. And I wish adoption for you because when you fall, you fall hard … just like your momma. And every child needs someone to fall for them, to fall hard for them.

I couldn’t be more proud of you, proud that God let me be a part of your lifeyour little days and your big days. 

I am blessed, and I know it.

You are my girl … my real girl.

And I love you … I really love you.