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Serving in the Older Years

When my husband Joe and I moved to Florida in 1991 and joined a church there, an older gentleman in the church made a remark regarding serving which really took me aback. When asked to do some little service task, he turned it down, saying he had paid his dues! I was astounded that someone who had been a loyal church member and one who had served for many years could feel that way. My thinking was “How can you ever believe that – no one can out-give God.”

Sometimes our words can jump up and hit us later. When I left Florida to return to Indiana, my first priority was to find a church where I could be a part of the family and also serve. However, I made the remark that I had no intention of teaching children again. I’d been there, done that! (Is that so different from saying I’ve paid my dues?)

Obviously God’s plans for me were different than what I had in mind. Through a series of circumstances I wound up teaching the 1st and 2nd grade Sunday school class a few months after coming to New Hope and have been doing so ever since. And what a joy it has been.

Even though I have had two children of my own, I’ve never considered myself as being in tune with young children. However, I’ve found that God doesn’t push you toward a task without giving you the tools to work with. One benefit of being retired is that I have plenty of time to prepare each week. A big blessing of teaching children is that it has made me much more focused in reading the Bible. Of course, it’s a challenge; and some days go better than others. Probably the biggest drawback is that my energy level isn’t what it once was. Most Sundays I go home and take a nap.

Growing out of teaching the Sunday school class has given me the opportunity to participate in Vacation Bible School. Seeing the excitement and enthusiasm of this large group of children as they worship and learn about God is a reward in and of itself. Of course, just as on Sundays I have to go home and take a nap after each session.

I’ve had the privilege of teaching three of the Jankowski children as well as four of the Thompson children in Sunday school. They both have another one who will be in 1st grade four years from now. That gives me motivation to keep on until I’m almost 90 so I can make a full sweep.

To give me an opportunity to be among adults I’ve been a part of New Hope Helpers. However, when first joining the group I made it quite clear that I would be willing to serve meals but don’t ask me to cook. That was never one of my better talents, and I’m completely out of practice now.

The Bible gives us many examples of women who made an impact in their older years. Hannah not only had a baby in her old age but promised that he would serve the Lord. (I Samuel 1:27-28.) After becoming a widow, Naomi returned to Judah and encouraged her daughter-in-law Ruth who was also a widow in seeking another husband which resulted in Ruth becoming a part of the genealogy of Jesus (Ruth 1-4). Elizabeth became the mother of John the Baptist in her old age and recognized that her cousin Mary would be the mother of the Messiah (Luke 1:41-45). The Bible tells us that the prophetess Anna, after becoming a widow, served in the temple from then on and was there at age 84 when Jesus was first presented. At that time she thanked God and spoke to others about Him (Luke 2:36-38).

All this is to say that as we age God still has plans for us. We may not quite understand where He is leading us, but we need to trust Him at all times in all things.

Maggie Vail

Giving up Control

“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” Proverbs 28:26

“I just stay home with my kids.” Looking back I can’t believe those words ever came out of my mouth when asked what I do for a living. I had just come out of a male dominated industry and felt that becoming a stay-at-home mother was a less than meaningful job. In fact, that attitude had permeated my childhood and young adult years as I had a mother who stayed home with my sister and I while we were growing up. Unfortunately I saw her as “weak” and “unimportant” and therefore, I wanted the opposite for my life. I studied business in college and made sure I would have a job which made me feel important.

I believe the Lord has a sense of humor. Who would have thought I would not only be a stay-at-home mother but also someday homeschool my kids? He is so good and faithful and knows exactly what we need to be the person He created us to be when we actually listen to Him versus the all the loud voices of the world or Satan’s lies.

It all boiled down to a matter of control for me. I thought I had complete control of my life and was certainly capable of making good decisions for myself. The Lord got a hold of my heart, and, while I am still a work in process, there were a couple of pivotal moments in my journey.

Even though I wanted to be home with our first-born son for part of the time, I thought I would still continue working at my career part time. Nothing panned out part time and we knew the Lord was asking us to take a leap of faith financially. However, I had no idea what a leap of faith this would be for me personally. I went from having stimulating conversations to enjoying my baby but feeling like I might go crazy because of the monotony of the day to day. As I spent more time in God’s word, He did a work on my heart and I began to see the beauty in simplicity and experience true joy in my new role. Truly, it was through prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit that changed my heart and mind.

Fast forward a few years later when the Lord knew I needed to fully trust Him. I had 4 children by this time, children that we knew were blessings from God but we had “planned” according to our timing and convenience. I was having some quiet time alone with the Lord and I heard Him say to me, “Do you trust me?” I answered Him, “Yes, of course I do!” He proceeded to ask me again, this time including the words, “in everything?” I honestly thought I had given him control of everything. But then, when He specifically asked me if I trusted Him in the number of children we should have, I broke down. I had to repent and admit that I had really never even considered Him in this area of my life. Oh how heart-breaking now, looking back. Not that submitting to the Lord’s plan for our family to have 9 children was easy, especially with all the questions and disapproval from people, even people within the church. Again, who would I listen to – the Lord or them?

A few years after He got our attention with His plan to trust Him, the Lord led me to people, websites, and information, stirring up within me a heart to homeschool my children. I did not have any training in childhood education. My confidence came only from the Lord. He was, and continues to be, with me every step of the way.

Early on as a stay-at-home mom, I would often waiver and doubts would creep in, tempting me to give in to the lies that maybe I am not doing enough for the Kingdom of the Lord or even for the world. My mind would go back and forth between loving my new role, yet thinking I needed to be or do more. Now, however, I can honestly say that I have never, in all my life, felt more satisfied or fulfilled than I do right now. I know, as a stay-at-home mother, that I am living the fullest life that God has for me. I am making a difference for His kingdom because I am being obedient to His plan. I find deep joy that cannot be attributed to anything other than remembering where I came from and who God is making me into. How can I not worship him through the laundry folding, the cooking, the book reading, the managing of a household? He certainly knows what I need and I will continue to trust Him in everything, even the things that my humanness may want to control.

This is not to say that there are still not difficult days or seasons in my life. But, living a life humbled by the fact that the Lord saw me fit for this job helps me to overcome these challenging moments. He has, and will continue, to give me just what I need, just when I need it. I know that it is pointless to fret over the future, for my life or my kids’ lives. His faithfulness and daily provisions sustain me and cause me to live a life of gratefulness to my King who is so trustworthy!

Cheryl Hamilton