I have been carrying this rainbow with me for over a week now. It is bright and beautiful and holds a deep personal place in my heart. And it happened at church.
Our family have only been going to church for the last 6 years, diligently. I guess I had grown up knowing about church and believing when I died there would be something more, but that was it. When the girls were about two I had this overwhelming desire to go to church. We tried, but it was difficult. At this stage Abbey was in and out of hospital on a monthly basis, at a moments notice. So, when we were home and settled, the last thing I wanted to do was go out! When they were about four I tried again on my own. I found out who this Jesus guy was and I was baptised that year.
When we moved interstate we knew a top priority was finding a church. It was going to be difficult as we had only known one church and I believed it was unique in its structure.
Its been two years and in that time I have discovered one very apparent thing - church is not perfect. Church is not perfect because people are not perfect and people run churches! The other truth I've uncovered is its not always about the church and sometimes (or most of the time) about me.
In my experience, church is not created around or necessarily designed for, special needs kids or special needs families. Just as the world doesn't automatically flatten out when you need to navigate it in a wheelchair. My message is - thats ok. It has taken some time for me to realise that sometimes you have to make it work. We were very spoiled in our first church, and just like a spoiled child needs to find their way in the world, we too needed to find our way in church. My other message - it doesn't need to be easy. In today's environment we are so quick to be searching for the 'easy' and when it isn't quickly found we give up.
I'm here to admit I was ready to give up. I love Jesus and the difference faith makes in my life but it's hard. Church is hard. I felt like our family was a square peg in a round hole and we'd just never fit, and conventionally we won't. WE are different. We have 2 special needs kids who can't be dropped off at Kids Church. We can't put up our hand to be there early and volunteer. We usually can't hang around, talking and mingling to make better connections. BUT, just recently, we've been focusing on what we CAN do.
We can worship with the whole church and then we can move to the foyer, where we can see everything on a TV while Abbey happily plays on the floor and Lucy colours in. We can put up our hand to lead a connect group. Opening our home each fortnight and building a community environment open to whoever wants to walk in. We can choose to do life with people outside of Sunday mornings, cheering them on through life. I can put my 'big girl pants' on and make sure we turn up on Sunday no matter what. Why? Because I am passionate about showing people the difference faith makes when faced with adversity. Because I've done it with and without God to pray to. I've walked long dark tunnels often with no hint of a light and now a light shines bright. Because I've sat on both sides of the fence and I know where the green grass lies.
I want to show up and I pray God will use the picture to build into someone else's life. This is what I have in my hands and I'm happy to have it used anyway He sees fit.
So then comes my RAINBOW -
Two Sundays ago we were doing church - Abbey playing on the floor and Lucy colouring in. As we were getting close to the end, a woman sitting behind us stood up from her chair, stooped down and scooped eleven year old Abbey up in her arms. "Is that ok?" she asked. Ok?! My heart was about to fall out my chest, full of love for this woman who was 'loving on' my girl. I knew who she was and I really like her. I don't see her at church often and, until that moment, she hadn't had any interaction with my daughters. She walked back to her seat and nestled Abbey on her lap and cuddled her. And there it was - the beautiful rainbow. All because in the midst of doing it anyway, feeling like a square peg, God brought a woman into my world to show me the 'beautiful' of church.