Baring and Consuming Fruits (of the Spirit)
Snip, snip, snip, around Abram’s head … and paste. Snip, snip, snip … careful around Lot’s foot … and paste. Snip, snip, snip, around an apple … and paste. Finally, done with the last one!
I step back to admire the template I’ve created for my toddler/preschool bunch. Now for the verse, and I bite my tongue to the corner of my mouth as I print, So Abram let Lot choose first ~ Genesis 8:13. Then on the apple I write, #2: Joy. A huge sigh escapes as I finish. I look over at my child care director,
“Should I be concerned that I’m learning these lessons about ‘The Fruits of the Spirit” as I’m teaching the kids? Smiling she shrugs and says,
“I think it’s a good sign. You’re being stretched.” Stretched, huh? One could say that.
Before I started working in the nursery during Women’s Ministry programs, like Moppets, I wondered if I needed a sanity check. I had only ever taught high school English. I adored the spring semester and the opportunity to discuss Iambic Pentameter along with my Shakespearian Unit on Romeo and Juliet. I was used to explaining MLA style and the proper placement of a thesis statement in a research paper. But what did I know or possibly ever hope to impart to a group of 2-5 year olds?
I go on the “offensive,” in my preparation. I secretly abscond with (borrow) the church nursery’s music CDs so that I can memorize the lyrics and tunes to “Father Abraham,” and dozens more. I beg a former preschool teacher friend of mine to give me “classroom management” tips. My favorite is: “Tell each child to imagine she has a little bird sitting on her shoulder. If she can’t sit still, tell her that the birdie has flown away, and will only return if she sits quietly.” Panicking, and contemplating flying the coop myself, I retort,
“What if they still won’t stay seated on the mat while I’m teaching?” Her response is to try a “sit down song,” which is, ironically, at the end of “Father Abraham.” I become a student of this song. I realize that my efforts to honor God with excellence have turned into fear, which I have foolishly tried to conquer by resorting to over-planning, and attempting to control the unknown. I kick myself. I try the new mindset that God is in control. I pray. … I pray more. … I pray not nearly enough, but then remember that “His grace is sufficient.” I take a deep breath as I greet a nervous mom, take the first diaper bag, and smack the first name tag on my student’s back.
It goes … poorly. In particular, the reaction that I get as I act out “Father Abraham” is hilarious, but I’m too self-conscious to notice. One kid is picking his nose, another is free form karate chop dancing, a little girl takes my seat in the “teacher rocker,” my own daughter wanders off to the play kitchen, one little boy actually looks disgusted, and stands with his hands on his hips, and his mouth agape. Later, the bird thing works for seconds. They can smell my fear! I think. Calm down! That’s only bees and dogs!
I’m literally startled one day when my daughter recites a lesson back to me as I scold her for the mess she’s made at the kitchen table, “Mommy are you being patient, kind and gentle?”
A mom dropping off her three children in the next weeks asks, “Can you show me the hand gestures you taught the kids for “Jesus Loves Me?” But I thought your son was offended by song time, and especially my dancing!?!?!
“Me too,” another mom chimes in. “You know my son has been sharing his toys with his siblings all week, so that he can show ‘joy’… something about letting Lot choose first.” I am astonished by the sweet side of my karate kid.
“My daughter just loved the lesson on the ‘Good Samaritan.” Are you kidding lady!?! I accidentally skipped half the story that week because the pages got stuck together.
Well, I decide, that tears it! ... This “semester” has been a success despite me, and it can only be a ‘God thing.’ I am humbled that He has chosen me, an imperfect vessel, to teach these sweet children about Him. I pray that the little seeds that He has used me to sew will continue to grow and flourish for the rest of their lives.
John 15 says, 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. … 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
That first experience was so rich and blessed me in such a way that I could never have imagined. I continue to be surprised each year as I have worked or volunteered with different children’s age groups during Women’s Bible Studies, Moppets, Cubbies, Sparkies, or even Sunday School. Currently, I work in the infant-one year old room during Moppets. I regularly think, What possible impact could I really be having on these young ones? They can’t listen to a lesson, or even wipe their own noses. Yet, I know someday that I will see the fruits of the investment He has made in me and them. For two Fridays a month, these infants know that Moppets is a safe, loving place for them to come and first experience the body of Christ. Plus, their moms are being refreshed by His teachings, and encouraged by the fellowship of other Godly women. In turn, they will be ready to pour back into their little ones, and watch them grow in His ways.
Julia Hunter lives in West Des Moines, teaches part-time Composition courses at DMACC West Campus and is a member of Valley Church. She has been married to Caleb, an amazing man of God, for eleven years, and has three children: Lydia, Micah and Natalia (Natalie). Julia loves serving in Moppets and other children’s ministries. In addition to interacting with sweet little kiddos, she has the opportunity to meet and be surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses as she partners with other moms running their races with perseverance.
We are currently looking for women who love young moms, children and serving Jesus to join our MOPPETS team for Valley MOPS! This twice monthly commitment is a paid position and meets September through the first part of May on Friday mornings, 9-11am. If you are interested in joining our 2016/17 MOPPETS team contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We NEED your helping hands...we have 20 women currently on our MOPS wait list due to lack of MOPPETS workers! Won't you consider joining our team today?