Posted by Holly Crawshaw
On Sundays when I was growing up, it didn’t matter if we were facing imminent danger or in the throes of a natural disaster, we were going to church.
Literally, I can’t remember not hearing my mom’s alarm clock go off every Sunday morning at 8:00am—because, of course, church was always preceded by a solid hour of Sunday School (bless those volunteers).
My parents could have had World War III with each other on Saturday night. I could have had the measles. My brother could have gotten kidnapped. There was never any question . . .
IT WAS SUNDAY AND WE WERE GOING TO CHURCH.
I remember some Sundays thinking, If we could just stay home this ONE Sunday and watch cartoons and relax . . . But, nope. Sunday rules—it’s church-day.
My parents went through a pretty trying super awful divorce when I was in middle school. Dealing with their own grief and disappointment, they stopped going to church.
But we didn’t.
My three siblings and I continued in the robotic fashion of our youth, waking up and going to church every single Sunday. But… it was different then. We had huge, shame-shaped holes in our hearts. We needed church now—now, more than ever.
Guess what. We’re all still attending church. (So are my parents, but that’s a dramatic blog for another day.)
I don’t tell you this because I think church is the cure-all. Or because I think all people in church make perfect decisions. Or because I think going to church makes you a better Christian. But when I look back on my church-going years, there were always one or two people I was connected with that kept me (and my siblings) on-track.
Ms. Leigh Ann. Amy. Jeff. Robin. Elizabeth. My student ministry. My college group.
Where would I be without these relationships? I’m not sure, but I can tell you that having these voices speak truth to me during some of the darkest years of my life brought light and hope and the chance to be vulnerable. I needed them. I needed someone other than my parents. I needed to widen my circle of influence. And by attending services, youth group, and church outings, my starving soul got the nourishment it needed to avoid massive regret and heartache.
Fast forward some more.
I have two daughters. For most of their lives, I got up before the sun rose on Sunday mornings to help run a children’s ministry. A few years ago, I stepped down from my position to pursue full-time writing.
On Sundays, when that alarm starts blaring, I am 100 percent tempted to sleep in. To let my kids watch cartoons. To sit around the breakfast table and not rush out the door with half the family missing shoes and bows and Bibles.
But then I remember the 12-year-old Holly who needed to be buoyed by multiple relationships—relationships that ultimately kept her from drowning. I hope my kids never need mentorship nearly as much as that middle school version of me did. But I would be selfish to rob them of the richness found in being surrounded by wise and caring adults.
Whether it be a church group, a club leader, a teacher, or a hand-chosen mentor, our kids need other voices in their lives.
How are you widening the circle of influence in your child’s life? No, really. I’m curious. And beyond that, are you that voice for someone else?
About the Author:
Holly Crawshaw is a wife, mother, and writer who eats sour candy and laughs at her own jokes. She served on staff with North Point Ministries for six years, the latter of which was spent as Preschool Director. She and her husband, Ben, are raising their two daughters, Lilah and Esmae, in their hometown of Cumming, GA.
HUDDLE IN CLOSE
Posted by Brooklyn Lindse
“The boys just kind of swarmed around one another next to their buddy, not really knowing what to say or what to do. They just knew they wanted to be close to each other. Somehow that helped. These fifth grade boys were huddled together at the front of the church after the funeral for the mother of the one in the middle of the bunch. It was evidence of community. It was unsophisticated and simple but it was very, very real.” -Mike Sligh, Headmaster, Lakeland Christian School (January 28, 2015)
What a beautiful picture, uninhibited by simplicity, and not afraid of the silence that sometimes accompanies genuine support and love. I’m encouraged by the kindness of a group of 5th grade boys. The words that they chose to show their love were spelled in the act of huddling in close.
Life brings tragedy and heartache. And as a parent, you will likely have to watch your child experience grief, whether it be over the loss of a special toy, a friendship or boyfriend, or even the life of someone close to them.. And your heart breaks too. Because you want to fix it, resolve it, but you know you can’t. How do you walk through it with them? What words do you say and how do you comfort your grieving child?
Huddling in close is one of the greatest kindnesses we can show our kids during these times.
We don’t have to say anything.
They likely don’t want to explain.
We realize without asking that everything is not fine in their world.
The words that they need are your proximity and your heart’s empathy.
Huddling in close is kindness for the weeping.
In those moments it’s normal to be unsure about what to say or what to do. There is no playbook for comforting our kids or anyone in crisis–except the guidance of love, the whisper of empathy, the holy nudge inside telling us to remain quiet or to reach out. There is no script for explaining to your child the sadness at hand. The best thing we can do is 1) admit that we don’t have an answer and 2) resist the temptation to try to make things better with our words.
Words will come later. Love comes in kindness first.
Be kind to the one who is hurting in your life. It could be your spouse, your child, or a friend.
Be kind by huddling in close without expectation and waiting for them to show you how to love them.
I wish I could get this right more often. The things I’ve heard echoed to me in painful situations over time can be heard escaping my lips before I’ve have had a chance to really weigh how they might be received. No one wants to add tears to a weeping soul. Nor do we ever want to crush to joy of a heart truly in celebration. But sometimes we do one or the other, without even knowing it. And sometimes, even when we’ve messed up, our next step should be to just huddle in close.
Huddle in knowing that love heals us.
Huddle in remembering that love binds us together.
Huddle in knowing that forgiveness will come.
Huddle in knowing that the huddling in type is the kind of community that every kid and family needs.
When my uncle passed away this summer, I was the officiate at his “way too soon” funeral. His only daughter, my precious cousin, faced me in the front row as I talked about her beloved dad. I felt deep in my soul that there weren’t any words that could capture him, there weren’t any words that could honor him best. But I knew that being there was saying what my words could not.
Later that day, my family climbed hay bales in the fields and drove four wheelers around the land of my uncle’s house. We laughed, remembering all of the adventures we’ve had in the past and all that we hoped for in the future. Without saying anything at all.
Huddle in close. Let the personality of a group of 5th graders be your guide. They’re so okay with not knowing the way, and so very willing to walk into it anyway.
What has helped you most when you have experienced grief?
What do you think your kids need most from you when they are walking through it?
Romans 12:15 “Celebrate with those who celebrate and weep with those who weep.”
About the Author:
Brooklyn has been a youth pastor since 2001. She has authored numerous books and projects, and is a youth pastor at Highland Park Church of the Nazarene, her first priority. Second she is a speaker who loves teaching from the Bible, and leading people to live in response to God’s love. Brooklyn, while named after a city in New York, lives in the sunshine state with her husband, Coy, and their sweet girls, Kirra and Mya.