Last weekend we packed up our youngest 4 and headed to Winnipeg for Canada's very first Belong Summit. It was an amazing weekend filled with so much truth, so much encouragement, and so many challenges. If you haven't heard about the Belong Summit here's a bit of a description....
The Belong Summit was hosted by https://foreverfamilies.ca/. Forever Families of Canada is a relatively new organization that has seen the need for Canadian churches, Canadian Jesus followers to step up to the task that God our Father calls us to...to care for the least of these...vulnerable kids and vulnerable families. It's incredibly exciting to see the body of believers begin to take action!
Anyhow, my brain and heart have been a mess this past week. I feel like an incredible failure because I can't be all my kids need. We do what we can to foster self worth in our kids...to teach them their worth not only in our eyes but in God's eyes.
Our girls take therapeutic riding lessons. They love it! And most importantly, we've seen some amazing growth in all 3 girls. They are gaining confidence. They are learning to deal with their emotions. They are learning to deal with the hurt from their past.
We got a dog for our kids. Pepper is what only a dog can be to kids. She is their faithful companion who never has any expectations of them, but just lets them be who they are. She recently had pups and what these pups do for our kids is amazing!
We're working hard to be all we can for our kids. But as you all know, kids need so much more than just the love and support of their parents and siblings. They need a community.
I didn't realize how much that is lacking in their lives until this past weekend. Don't get me wrong, we do have some fantastic people in our life...but they are few and far between. Partly it's our own "fault". We're that weird family that's hard to connect with. We look different. We act different. Our heads are out to lunch most days. We miss church a lot! It's hard to attend regularly when one is dealing with trauma, bonding, and all kinds of other issues. And in the process we slip into isolation. It's not my kids' fault. It's not our fault. In fact, I'm not sure that it is anyone's fault. It's just how it is.
...this past weekend we were blown away! I mean really blown away! We had registered our kids in the children's program at the Belong Summit and didn't really know what to expect. Would one of us be required to stay with Wren? Would we even be able to enjoy the Summit? Would we get the much needed encouragement and challenges we needed? Would transferring Wren in and out of her chair mean that we would be running more than sitting? Would our kids fit in? Would our kids have fun? Would they feel accepted?
You may think these are odd questions to worry about. They're not! We've experienced enough rejection from the body of Christ to know that our kids are not welcome in some settings. Wren's needs are too complicated. Her "disability" is too severe. Quite honestly, I think she scares some people. Oh the hilarity of that!! The action of far too many people is to simply ignore our kids...to the point that in leaving an event where we know a lot of people, my 6 year old, with such a hurt look in her eyes, asked, "Mama, how come no body talks to me?"
Now before you go and get all upset about how my kids are treated, here's a question I have for you...are you certain that whatever organization you think is the greatest, the best, or the most welcoming...would they really welcome my kids with open arms? Or would there be all kinds of policies or rules that trump love? Best way to find out? Go ask the leadership of that organization...you may be surprised by the answers you'll get!
Anyhow...on to what blew us away.
This group right here!!
That beautiful teen in the bottom right...she organized and facilitated the kids' program. She welcomed our kids with open arms...and most importantly a kind and loving face. We're so afraid of being a burden to the church...so I left my number and offered to help Wren in and out of her chair as needed. And to take her to the washroom. I was fully expecting one of two things...Wren would spend the day in her chair (a chair that is awful for her functioning ability), or I would be running all day to transfer her in and out of her chair.
That didn't happen!
I checked on the kids and would you believe it!?! Wren was NOT in her chair! Can I get a "HALLELUJAH?!" Long story short...this sweet teen and her team transferred Wren in and out of her chair all weekend long without so much as a hesitation!
And the beauty of leadership being loving and welcoming is this...it snowballs!! Our kids connected with some of the other kids! (That rarely happens!...remember we're that odd family!) I wish I had taken a picture of sweet Ruby who took it upon herself to push Wren's chair everywhere! Sweet Ruby treated our girl for the valuable girl she is! She treated her as God our Father treats us...with upmost value and love! I can't wait to help Wren write her first letter to Ruby!! Yes! You've got that right! Ruby wants to be penpals with Wren! Be still my heart!
Our kids had a blast! They couldn't wait to go back! They came home and were literally glowing...to the point where even the riding instructor noticed!!
We saw something in our kids that weekend that we don't get to see very often...how they glow when they are surrounded by a community that really gets the importance of caring for vulnerable kids and their families!
So to Forever Families of Canada, to the Belong Summit team, to those of you that get it and love us....THANK YOU!!
You are an inspiration and we pray that your faithfulness to God's call to care for the vulnerable will snowball into much more than you can ever dream!