Today, I am thankful for:
56. friends to ride with to the Norfolk Grand Illumination Parade to be able to participate in our church's servant evangelism project.
This was particularly special to me, because it was my very first SE event. I am not an extrovert, at all. No, really. I'm actually quite socially inept until I get to know someone a little bit, then, and only then, do I start making any sense with the words that come out of my mouth. Besides that, I suffer from anxiety (although it has gotten MUCH better in the past year.) I get very anxious just thinking about taking my very small children to servant evangelism projects because of, well, because of all the strangers around. (Can you tell this is WAY out of my comfort zone?!?)
This particular event has been in my church's bulletin for weeks now, and honestly, I hate to admit it, I had no intention of going whatsoever. And if I was going to go, it would be us going as a family so that the girls could finally see a parade, because they never have. Ever. Well, God had other plans, apparently.
Miss Dainty had seen a sign advertising the parade a few weeks back... (speaking of reading, there are times when I wish she wouldn't...) She was so excited, and asked if we could go. I told her I didn't know. Well, she surprised me this morning with the question of whether or not we were going. I had hoped she would forget, because (as it always seems to happen,) Mr. Hubs had duty tonight, but apparently she had written it on her calendar!! (Why does she have to pick these things up from me?!)
Many things were against us going: 1) I would have to drive us in insane traffic, 2) I don't know the Norfolk area at all, 3.) it would be dark, and I would be trying to find my way, in the dark, 4.) chances of regrouping with anyone from church would be slim to none... 5.) which meant that I would be in a huge (HUGE) crowd of strangers... STRANGERS!!! 6.) with TWO small kids, by myself, 7.) that is IF I happened to find the right place and find a parking space AND was actually brave enough to stay. Do you see how the odds were very much against Miss Dainty?
Well, I decided to take the kids to a nearby town's fall festival, hoping that it would be enough excitement for one day. We had lots of fun. There were classic cars to look at, books to be had, puppies and kittens to be petted, a karate demonstration to watch... Neat stuff, I tell ya, I was quite content, but apparently, it was not near enough excitement for Miss Dainty. Immediately after leaving, she asked again, "So, can we go to the parade?" And again, I told her I still didn't know.
I debated it in my head. Told myself I should try. Talked myself out of it. Back and forth, back and forth. I eventually asked friends on facebook if anyone was going to go. One friend in particular said she was, and invited us to hang out. Well, before I could change my mind I told her that that would be great. So, there. Once I hit "comment" the decision was made. I felt like I couldn't wimp out and tell her never mind. See how I have to trick myself?
Anyway. I got the kids dressed warmly, packed some snacks, and even made hot cocoa to put in my awesome coffee mug. (Seriously, 5 hours after I poured it, I am still sipping on hot cocoa as I type this!) I drove us down to church to meet up with everyone. I asked a few questions about where the parade would be, how bad would parking be, etc. Not really good questions for me to ask, since I wasn't really intentionally trying to talk myself out of it, although that's what was happening.
When my friend showed up, I shared with her how I was feeling. She encouraged me, and insisted I could follow them, and everything would be fine. I then realized it was just her and one other lady going together. "Is her backseat empty?" I asked her. When she nodded, I asked if she thought it would be possible for the girls and me to be able to ride along, because at this point, I knew there would be no way I would make it to where ever they were saying the parade was going to be (I still have no idea where it was.) Much to my relief, her friend said that was fine.
So, I transferred the car seats, jackets, the camera, the candy canes & invite cards we were handing out, and my half dozen bags over to her car, and we were off. We sat in traffic for a little bit, but spent the time chatting away. When we got to the ferry that we were going to take over to Norfolk, we noticed how very long the line was, but we were hopeful. We stepped in line, and my friends entertained Miss Dainty, while I tried to soothe Baby D who was a bit mad I had put her in the sling, when she knew she was quite capable of walking around.
We waited for about 30 minutes, when the friend who had driven decided she was going to go ahead and hand out her candy canes and cards to people in the line. My other friend and I stayed in line, so as not to lose our place. We waited for another 30 minutes, and it seemed the line was not going anywhere. We debated whether or not we should stay. If we waited (who knows how much longer,) and taken the ferry over there, we didn't know if we would even have any time to a) actually see any of the parade or b) be able to pass out the candy & cards since we would have to turn around almost immediately to get back in line for the return ferry ride before the ferry stopped running. After realizing the parade probably wasn't going to happen for us, and realizing how many people were still in line, we decided we had an awesome opportunity to pass out the rest of the candy canes & invite cards.
So, we did. And I was so incredibly nervous... until I saw my little Miss Dainty cheerfully handing out candy canes and cards to those who wanted them. I knew that if she could do it, I could, too. It's crazy how often my children encourage me in ways they have no idea!
After the first person I asked said, "Thanks, I'd love one," my nervousness and anxiety melted away, and instead I smiled and was happy. And the people smiled, happy for something nice while waiting forever in line. All of my candy canes & invite cards went quickly. So did my friend's.
We ended up walking around town looking for a coffee shop that might have hot cocoa (would have worked great if we were in Sicily!) but after finding only drinking bars, we decided to just stop by a store and let the kids pick out a treat for being so good about not getting to see the parade. On the way home, we talked about how we were in a perfect place to hand our invites out. People were receptive after standing in line for so long, and no one else from our church was there. If we had gone across on the ferry, there would have been lots of people from our church who would have been handing their candy & cards out already, but on our side, we were the only ones. It was like we were meant to be there.
And further, as I reflected on this as I typed it up, I realized this whole thing wasn't even about going to the parade. Deep down, I really didn't want to see it without Mr. Hubs. I really wanted the girls to see their first parade with him there. This wasn't about the parade at all. It was about God getting me to (finally!) do a servant evangelism project. Which is kind of funny, because I've been praying that I become better at evangelism, and for more chances to do it, and yet He still had to drag me into it kicking and screaming! (okay, maybe it wasn't that extreme... heh.) But I do know that had my friends not let us ride along, I wouldn't have even made it there. I would have turned around once I hit traffic, and if not, I would have definitely not stayed once I reached the huge line by myself with two kids. I'm so grateful for them. They truly helped me do something that I have been praying for the courage to do.
And so tonight, I will be praying for all the people who accepted one of the candy canes & invite cards. I hope that it serves as a gentle reminder about Who this season is really about, and that it encourages them to go to church, even if it's not ours.