I Found Grace on the Way to Athens

AthensIt all began this morning as Nathan, the six year old, jumped up and down shouting, “Today we’re going to PBS!” Well, he was two-thirds of the way right. We’re going to our first day of VBS… Vacation Bible School. This year the family was getting involved. The three older children were campers, the two-year old was going to give morale support to the nursery class, and my volunteer position was the “Family Tent” leader. I, with three other tent leaders, would tell the visiting groups of children a Bible story, memory verse, and give the practical application.

I don’t know what happened to my alarm clock this morning, but it certainly didn’t go off at 6:00am like it was supposed to. I was up and ready and getting kids up and ready by 7:00am, which meant I had to serve breakfast, eat breakfast, dress, brush teeth, and leave the house in a little more than an hour. No problem, I thought, We can handle this. Everyone ate a healthy breakfast, had teeth brushed, and I even place the required Code of  Conduct and check-in pass by the front door so I wouldn’t forget to bring it.

I don’t know what happened to my plan, but before I knew it we were running late. I started shouting for kids to hustle out the door. I was acutely aware that I was raising my voice in order to get to church where I can serve others with the love of God. BUT I HAVE TO GET THERE FIRST, SO GET OUT THE DOOR! Moms, do you hear what I’m saying? We have to change this. Anyway…

We raced down Sepulveda and all the while visions of how this late-comer would ruin everything raced through my mind. I could see the five of us Saavedras bursting through the church doors and shouting, “We made it!” Well, I get to church in one piece and parking was not as convenient as I thought. I park way down the street. Late, people! LATE!

I park, grab the umbrella stroller from out of the back, and thanks to my family van becoming a U-haul for outdoor vehicles like large plastic cards and bicycles, I had to take several minutes to wrestle a darn bike back into the car so I could close the hatch! I had enough sense to look both ways before I yell at the excited kids, “Book it!” And we ran.

We burst through the doors to find many people walking in late just like us. Others were calmly walking around chatting. I was still having to take deep breaths to calm my racing heart when suddenly I’m face to face with Pastor Chris. Now I don’t know about you, but I would prefer Pastor Chris to only see this Christian congregant in a good mood and singing praises at her beautiful children. Instead he gets to see me in all of my humanness. I’m sure he was shocked to see me for who I am… a flawed individual. He said something like he could see a post brewing in my mind at this very moment. I really wanted to say, “You have no idea!” (I tend to be a little dramatic when I’m feeling frantic.) From one writer to another, Pastor Chris, you were spot on.

Tent leaders are to wear costumes. While most costumes were the usual light blues and browns I find that my costume was a beautiful bright pink tunic! I thought with delight, “These people know and love me!” What can I say? On crazy mornings like that one isn’t it always the little things that count? Maybe I’m just dramatic. Anyway, I got dressed and walked my three older VBS campers to the registration table where I was asked for the Code of Conduct and the green check-in pass. This usually reliable mother had only slumped shoulders to offer in response. “Um, it’s at home near the front door so I wouldn’t forget them. Can it be the thought that counts?” Thankfully they were able tow work around my forgetfulness and the children were checked in. (Natalie, tomorrow I will be bringing my papers!)

During the morning meeting for all volunteers began and the lovely Lisa Larking spoke on having grace for one another on this first day of Vacation Bible School. I wanted to stand up and applaud, “Amen! PLEASE have grace on me!”

Pastor Chris, who now knows yet more about this somewhat hair-brained lady than I care, spoke on grace as well. We had all the grace we needed for today. Tomorrow there would be another out pouring of grace to fill us. Oh, thank You, Jesus! We were also reminded that for some campers this would be the beginning of their blessed eternity. This might be, for some campers, a generation of change and belief! I silently prayed that God would use this tent leader to pour out His words to the children who really needed to hear!

I had plenty of time to then sign in the two-year old to his class, grab a cup of half coffee and half high-fructose corn syrup, which I had been looking forward to since my healthy breakfast smoothie. I prepared my tent, went over my materials, and prayed with the three other tent leaders. My heart was calm. My heart was happy. I was nervous, but I was ready.

I found the lesson timely considering KHC’s current series on Jonah, because we spoke on Peter’s vision of the unclean animals coming down on a white sheet. God told him to eat the animals. Three times Peter denies God’s command. (Acts 11:5-18) When Peter awakes from the dream three gentiles were at his door asking for him to go to the home of their master who wanted to know about Jesus. Peter receives God’s heart for the nations and he says in Acts 10:34, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to Him…” The message of the Gospel was for everyone, not just for the Jews.

And as I taught each group the memory verse the Lord, in His grace, taught it to me as well.

The memory verse is Psalm 145:9, which says, “The LORD is good to all; He showers compassion on all His creation.” I would test them by changing up the verse and saying things like, “The LORD is good to… Jewish people…” The children would stop to think and realize I was testing them. And as we recited the verse again I could hear the calm and deep voice whispering to my soul, “Janna, the LORD is good to… only those who bring all their papers and arrive on time?” No. The LORD is good to everyone. He is good to me and showers me with compassion.

I don’t know what life is like for you, but you might need to hear that today. The LORD is good to you and He showers compassion on all He has made, which is YOU!

Tomorrow I will try to manage my time a little better so I’m not pushing children out the door or showing Pastor Chris my crazy side, but no matter what I will give myself grace, because, as it turns out, Vacation Bible School did not fall apart due to me arriving a little late, and, more importantly, the good Father still loves me.

7 thoughts on “I Found Grace on the Way to Athens

  1. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story – God always meets you right where you are! 🙂

    Here is one of my favorite songs about the Grace of God. I hope you enjoy it as well!
    Grace Greater than Our Sin – words by Julia Johnston & music by Daniel Towner

    Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, /Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! / Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, / There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.
    Grace, grace, God’s grace, / Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; / Grace, grace, God’s grace, / Grace that is greater than all our sin.
    Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold, / Threaten the soul with infinite loss; / Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold, / Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
    Grace, grace, God’s grace, / Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; / Grace, grace, God’s grace, / Grace that is greater than all our sin.
    Dark is the stain that we cannot hide. / What can avail to wash it away? / Look! There is flowing a crimson tide, / Brighter than snow you may be today.
    Grace, grace, God’s grace, / Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; / Grace, grace, God’s grace, / Grace that is greater than all our sin.
    Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, / Freely bestowed on all who believe! / You that are longing to see His face, / Will you this moment His grace receive?
    Grace, grace, God’s grace, / Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; / Grace, grace, God’s grace, / Grace that is greater than all our sin.

    Looking forward to seeing (or reading) how God will use you in Athens tomorrow! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Paula! I attached a video YouTube of the song you spoke about for anyone interested. Thank you for sharing that, Paula.

  2. Great post Janna- I love reading your writing. We all needed a measure of grace this morning…did you see my kid crying because I forgot to call her friend’s mom back to give her directions to vbs? Yep…we all need grace for one another…and ourselves. Thank you for your never ending willingness to serve even while parenting four of your own. We did pick out that pink costume especially for you. 🙂 Oh, and by the way, my kid didn’t have a Code of Conduct either!

    1. LOL! Thank you for confirming about the costume. That is too funny. Well, I loved it.
      We’re in this together, Mom-of-Four, right? God bless you, Lisa, and don’t forget those papers! 🙂

  3. Oh darn it! WordPress should add last names to these things! Well, I keep all that I said except the word “four”. 🙂

  4. I think it’s fun to show Pastor Chris our crazy side once in a while. It makes his daily grind so much more amusing…. 🙂 Actually, I’m glad it was your turn to slide into church sideways with wild eyes this week. I’m sure it will be mine some time soon…

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