|Patti on the left, next to my Mother at the Farmers Market|
Last week we had a conversation that was so exciting to me that I simply had to share it as an example of what can happen when we allow God to take the hard experiences of our life; and use them for his glory.
Patti is the assistant director of a preschool in the Denver metro area where they mainstream developmentally delayed handicapped kids with those children who are developing on a typical schedule. Of course, there are always challenges that come with this approach, but this preschool has found a way to train their teachers so that they are seeking to discover the treasures that are inside of each child, and to draw them out by speaking it into them, giving them room and permission to explore their world, and finding a way not to punish but to affirm and redirect.
Patti hasn't had an easy life. She had a baby that died at 3 months old due to a heart problem. Her husband divorced her because she became a Christian, and was very spotty with his child support, despite having an income several times her income. A few years after the divorce, he killed himself, but not before he sent out a letter blaming Patti for his problems. Her son was 13 years old at the time of his Dad's suicide, one of the worst times for a developing young boy to lose his father. He continues to struggle in many ways.
Despite all of Patti's hardships, she is one of the most joyful, persevering and optimistic people I know. When I asked her once how she did it, she told me that the thief had stolen enough from her and she was determined not to let him steal from her anymore.
As we began to catch up on our phone conversation, she told me that she sees now that God is taking all the pain in her life and turning it around for good. W
hen I asked her she saw that happening, this is what she told me. "When our baby Cara died, it was the worst feeling in the world, even though I knew that I didn't cause it, my heart still told me that a mother should protect her child. With my work with little children, the ability to teach the teachers, and now the parents, and even some of the community, how to treat these little children so they are not injured in their spirits, is such a blessing and a redemption of the pain in my own life. I am so grateful to be able to be doing this work.
When Patti sees the children at preschool, she sees them laughing and being comforted in the arms of Jesus. She sees them safe and with the Good Shepherd who is protecting his valuable flock.
The thing is that even if this work stayed just at the preschool, it would be making a huge difference. But, the kingdom of God is like the leaven that permeates the dough, and the seed that is planted into the soil that becomes the biggest tree in the garden. It works invisibly and then it makes a great difference in the world as God's reign on earth comes forth.
Last week the preschool had visitors from the state, the region, and the nation. These leaders are the opinion setters and decision makers in terms of policy and funding structures for early education. Can you imagine that? God took the heart of one woman and is now turning her desires for "little people" as she calls the preschoolers to be safe, loved, affirmed and nurtured in their God given design and is exposing the highest level leaders to their philosophy.
Patti says that when she gets up to talk, not her favorite thing to do, but after she gets over her nerves, she starts to see what is happening in these observing leaders. They are all smiling, nodding, and some are even crying as they listen to story after story of transformation of what is taking place in the teachers, the children, the families, and even the entire preschool.
And, the good news is that the ripple effect could go as far as to our whole country.
This is the Kingdom of God in action. He takes one life and multiplies his kingdom in it so that it grows to something so big and influential that the world, or the area, or the people group is transformed. But, he does it quietly, almost secretly for a time, almost as if he is protecting the seedling until it is strong enough to be exposed to the elements of the world.
I know that Patti is doing great ministry; she is not a paid pastor, but she has brought the love of Jesus and the kingdom atmosphere into her sphere of influence in a way that is transforming ripple upon ripple.
Jesus, raise up more Patti's! Give us all a vision for how you can take our painful circumstances of our lives and to bring forth your kingdom glory through them. Amen.