This past Sunday our church had its annual night of caroling. Only this year we did something a little different and caroled around the halls of the county nursing home. This is a family event. And we had a great group. In tow, were my own children of course. Also present, among a few other kids, were Adeline’s two buddies, Abby and Owen. After about 20 minutes of caroling, as you can imagine, these little ones started to get bored . . . and a little antsy.
So Adeline took her little “Boots” doll (yeah from Dora, that’s right!) over to Abby and Owen and began to create another form of entertainment. They were all laughing and playing with Boots as Adeline danced him around and they chased after him. Everyone else was caroling for the residents as planned, so I went over to stop the silliness and get those kids singing (rule follower here!). Thankfully a woman from our group, who was kneeled down with the kids, pointed to the resident whose room they were in front of as they played. This elderly woman was joyfully watching them, smiling away as she sat in the darkness of her room. She watched as Adeline held boots in the air, taunting Owen and Abby so they would reach for him, missing him a few times but eventually grabbing him. Then of course joyful laughter ensued, and the game begun anew.
But each time, it was not only the children who erupted in laughter, but also the elderly woman watching was just smiling away. A few times during this 2-3 minutes of play either myself or one of their parents “shhhh”ed them or attempted to at least calm them down and redirect them to the “task at hand”. But the woman from our group said, “No, look (pointing to the resident watching from her room), she is loving it! She is watching them and smiling.”
What seemed like a distraction from the task of caroling was actually accomplishing the very thing we were there to do – bring joy to the residents. Our hope was simple: to share with them just a few minutes of Christmas joy. And this is EXACTLY what was going down. Yet, I was so focused on what the 2 three-year old girls and 5 year old boy “should have been doing” that I almost missed what they were actually doing – exactly what we came to do . . . giving a lonely old woman in poor health (maybe with little to no family) a reason to smile.
It was an expression of pure joy on their part. It was innocent. It was unintentional. It was beautiful. They had absolutely no idea what they were doing for this woman. They were just being kids. Playing. Laughing. Enjoying life. Spreading joy right there in the middle of the Salem County Nursing home, simply because they themselves were filled with it!
It is so easy to focus on the wrong thing, or at least to miss the right thing. To be so fixated on what we think we should be doing that we miss the good thing happening right in front of us. To think something is simply a distraction, when in reality it is the main event. This can be especially true with our faith, in our relationship with Jesus.
So often we focus on what we think God should be doing or the way we expect him (or want him) to respond. At times we get so caught up with trying to make things happen the way we want to, that we get lost in the details. We shoo away the “distractions”, or try to silence them. And by doing this, we miss the point. All because we are certain that we have the plan nailed down. And we are gonna stick to that plan no matter what. At all cost, even at the risk of missing out on the joy-filled moment in front of us.
I am so grateful for the woman in our group who pointed out the joy our children were bringing to the resident watching from her quiet dark room. I am so thankful that someone opened my eyes to see that God was at work right there in that moment, through three of his beautiful, amazing, joyful little ones. I am so grateful I didn’t miss it all together.
I am thankful that Adeline, Abby, and Owen reminded me what sharing joy is all about. Because without even realizing it, three little munchkins reminded this Pastor Mom that plans are good and all, but my perfectly mapped out plans are not always the way God wants to work. My road is not necessarily His, even when paved with good intentions like bringing joy to nursing home residents. And that maybe, just maybe, sometimes God intervenes with my plans (most of the time actually) because he has the perfect way of accomplishing His own plan, or sharing His joy.