It’s the last Thursday of Awana Clubs; my feet are tired, I smiled so much my face hurts, and I’m already feeling bummed that next Thursday is suddenly blank on the family calendar. Tables and chairs are put away, doors locked up, my own kids are sound asleep as I sit and contemplate the last year of Awana goodness. The last 12 months marked a year of transition for my family; I started a new job, one kid started kindergarten, one started preschool and the last one took advantage of any and all weaknesses. In the midst of these somewhat normal family transitions, we faced a medical diagnosis for our daughter, and a cancer battle for my father-in-law; a battle lost in December and who’s loss continues to have an impact on our daily life. It was during this crazy year, that Awana Clubs also began at the Hood River Alliance Church.
Looking back over the last year of our somewhat chaotic life, I find that a steadfast theme in the course of our year, in the midst of our trials, was Awana Clubs. It acted as a metronome for our weeks, a steady rhythm, “Every. Thursday. Night. Awana.”. It was a heartbeat, a continual pulse during the frantic weeks of activities, doctor’s appointments, shifting childcare and emotional breakdowns. My kids missed one week of club, due to Strep Throat, and I found myself anchored by the routine of helping with clubs, not missing a Thursday. It was during a time in my life where I felt overwhelmed by a new job I wasn’t convinced I was doing well. I found relief in helping on Thursday, finding that comfortable stride I had yet to find in my work life, in my role at Awana. I was able to relax knowing my children were making great friends, having a great time, learning about Jesus and coming home exhausted (bonus!). While the kids participated in Awana, I was able to meet new people and make new friends. I found I was looking forward to spending Thursday nights with my Awana leadership team and all the crazy excited kids.
It was through Awana that Jesus also reached out to me; quietly reminding me during dinner verse memorization, bath time Bible songs, and sweet bedtime conversations, that while navigating this unknown future, He was there. My daily time with the Lord had become sporadic at best and as a full time working mom of three small kids, finding a daily quiet time was difficult…and never quiet. However, during the course of Awana, God spoke truth into my life through my children; I read more scripture with them as we memorized verses than I had in the previous year of motherhood. The truths I received during the year were simplified. Bible verses shortened so a 4 year old could easily remember them. But while shortened, these verses remained impactful. Small Biblical sound bytes with truth that went straight to the heart of our journey. As we sat through oncology appointments, “Great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23)” looped through my mind. Driving through Portland traffic for medical testing and doctors appointments with my little girl, Exodus 12:5 was whispered in my ear, “The Lord is my strength and my song”. The last year proved to be a year of trusting on the Lord’s strength, not my own.
With the passing of my father in law, the foundational truth of Awana club was instrumental in working through our grief. It was during the last few weeks of his life that my daughter was working to memorize John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” That truth, that hope, is what we held fast to as we lost someone who held such a special place in my children’s life. My six-year-old found relief knowing that Papa had accepted Jesus into his heart, had been baptized, and was no longer sick but with Jesus. My four-year-old understood that Papa was no longer with her, but with Jesus. Every week after his passing, Awana Club helped solidify this truth in their hearts, reminding them as it pulsed the hope of John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” This truth was discussed as I tucked the kids into bed every night. This truth was whispered in the quiet moments on the way to school when the loss suddenly took grip. This truth is now written on the hearts of my children, whose childlike faith during a time of grief can be overwhelmingly beautiful.
The year of transitions, though difficult, was covered with the grace and love of Christ. My job was provided by Him, for me. It was a change that was very much needed for the health and happiness of my family. My daughter’s medical diagnosis was, in comparison to others, not huge or scary, but God blessed us with confidence, people praying, and steps to treat the issue. The passing of a loved one continues to be devastating, and while grief often takes its hold. God also worked in that space: giving me co-workers that supported us, a church family that prayed for us, and strength to continually discuss the loss with our children. And through this mess of year, God gave us Awana. A safe and fun place for my children to grow and strengthen their love for the Lord. During weeks where our schedule and routine were tossed around on stormy seas, Awana proved an anchor for our family. Who knows what this next year will hold; we cannot be certain of the road we will traverse. But we know with confidence that God is faithful. God is our strength. We have eternal life. So we shall enjoy the summer, the lazy calendar days and popsicles. We shall walk into the fall with more changes for our family; routines shifting and schedules rearranging yet finding confidence and familiarity knowing that “Every. Thursday. Night. Awana.”.