Recently my church joined 537 other churches around the world to host Night to Shine.
Night to Shine is an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs ages 14 and older. On one night, February 9, 2018, 537 churches from around the world came together to host Night to Shine for approximately 90,000 honored guests through the support of 175,000 volunteers!
-Tim Tebow Foundation
My church has partnered with the Tim Tebow Foundation for the past 3 years. Unfortunately this year, our church had another event taking place on the night of the worldwide event and wasn’t able to participate that same evening. But, do not fret, it was too amazing of an event to miss out on. So, we hosted it on a different night instead.
Going into the evening, I didn’t really know what to expect. Still, I felt myself being drawn to this event. I didn’t know what my job would be exactly. But, I knew without a doubt I could be used in some way and this is where I was needing to serve. I simply said, “use me where I’m needed most!”
I signed up. I showed up. I was forever changed!
I’m passionate about the fact that God loves ALL people no matter what differences we may have. God has instilled in my heart a desire to serve others and make a difference in other people’s lives-no matter who they are. For as long as I can remember, I have found different ways to serve our homeless community (you can read more about how that desire came to be here: Joe: How a Homeless Man Changed My Life). Serving the special needs community at this event was a new experience for me and I was so excited for the opportunity to show God’s love to these amazing people.
I came with a desire to serve when in all reality,
I was the one who was changed.
I find myself to be a pretty kind and loving person. And, yet, my eyes were opened in ways I didn’t realize they needed to be opened.
I learned so much!
It’s easy and important to spread kindness
Throughout the night, I kept finding myself being amazed at the amount of sincere love and kindness being expressed. When we first arrived, we walked down the red carpet together. There was a paparazzi taking photos-I felt like a celebrity too! Just the fact that people would go out their way to kick off such an amazing event like that was so heart touching!
After we entered the building, I escorted my guest into the hair and makeup room where professional hair and makeup artists did her hair and makeup. There were several times throughout the evening where I felt myself tearing up. The first, was when she saw herself in the mirror for the first time after her makeover was completed. You could tell it made her feel so special.
The kindness expressed wasn’t just by the volunteers but by the honorees as well. Everyone was complimenting each other on how beautiful they looked. They complimented their dancing. They were just so kind to one another. It was obvious how everyone was so grateful and excited to be at the event. The joy was just flowing out abundantly! It comes to show you, a little kindness is contagious! I learned to spread kindness.
You are stronger than your circumstance
The word that stands out most from the night is strength. I began the evening chatting a bit with my guest and getting to know her. From speaking with her, I learned what a special young woman God placed into my life that night. My guest didn’t speak or walk until the age of 3 years old. To hear her explain what it was like for her mom when the first words to ever leave her lips were, “I love you, mom!”…Well, let’s just say, as a mom myself, it took all my willpower to not break down sobbing right then and there! She explained how diligent her mom’s faith was and how hard she prayed for that moment. I was reminded how powerful prayer can be. Because of this, she has developed a strong faith as well. It made me realize, that no matter what circumstance we are faced with in life, God is faithful and can give us the strength to pull through. To see her faith shine so brightly made me feel ashamed for those moments in my life when I feel God is being less than “faithful” and I am tempted to doubt Him. I think of her often and am reminded what strong faith can do. I learned I can be stronger than my circumstances.
Let loose and dance like nobody is watching
As the night progressed, I quickly learned I had a big dancer and I needed to muster up some strength of my own to keep up! Ha Ha! This event took place the week before my husband returned from a 9-month deployment. If you are familiar with military deployment, it is at this point where Momma is just flat-out tired! I was worn out. I was exhausted. To be honest, for as excited as I was to volunteer, I was really just hoping for a nap! (I know you know the feeling!) I was so drained physically and mentally that night! I didn’t know if I had enough left in me to dance the night away! Luckily, this exhaustion didn’t last long! I was reminded of the strength filling the room and I was filled with their strength as well. As I looked around, nobody was worried about having the perfect dance moves. They were just out to have a good time. I learned some new dance moves and even started the “train” dance where we all grabbed ahold and acted like a choo-choo train. We had so much fun together! I learned to let loose and dance like nobody was watching!
Look beyond the surface
There was one couple that stood out to me the most that evening. My guest whispered in my ear that this couple was actually engaged to be married! It was the sweetest thing I had ever heard and my heart jumped an extra beat at the news. To see their love and the happiness they shared together reminded me there is more than what meets the eye. As someone who has struggled with body image, I feel society feeds us lies that surface attraction is the most important aspect of a relationship. We are told what is “pretty,” “fashionable” and “perfect” and if we don’t fit that cookie cutter design, then we will never find love or be happy etc. Magazines and movies illustrate to us constantly how to “get the perfect guy.” I tell you what, none of those fallacies were what I saw in this couple. I don’t say that to imply they weren’t beautiful or fashionable (they were!). What I mean is that this couple was able to dig deep into the person they were with. They had found in one another a type of love and joy that many of us are too shallow to uncover because we listen to the pop magazines rather than our hearts. They found TRUE BEAUTY in one another…beauty that runs deeper than what any formal gown or tiara can provide! They found their “perfect person” despite what the magazines say is “perfect.” They were able to be themselves and share that with another person who was comfortable enough in their skin to be themselves too. It was beautiful! I learned to look beyond the surface.
There’s nothing stronger than a mothers love
At the end of the evening, the parents joined us for the last dance. As we danced, I spoke with my guest’s mother and expressed to her how amazing her daughter was to me. We watched her off dancing with her friends-laughing and having a great time and her mother and I hugged and cried together as we talked about how incredibly strong her daughter was. Most importantly, I praised her for being an incredible mother. Throughout the evening, she spoke so fondly of her mom constantly. You can tell, this is a mother who gives 110%. She told me several times how her mom is her best friend. She told me fun stories of what they like to do together. She just admired her mother so much. It made me stop and think of my relationship with my own mother and with my own daughter. We are very close too. I just pray we can continue on that path. I pray I can be the type of mother my daughter can’t stop talking fondly about! I learned there is nothing stronger than a mother’s love.
Little did I know when I signed up to volunteer for this event,
that it would impact me so profoundly.
I know it is one of those nights that I will always look back at and feel I grew so much as a person.
I learned to spread kindness, that I can be stronger than any circumstance, to let loose once in a while, to look beyond the surface of people and the importance and power of a mothers love.
Pfew! It wasn’t even a church service and God was working BIG TIME in my heart that evening!
If you aren’t familiar with this event or you want to get involved,
here is a link to more info: Night to Shine.
I would highly recommend getting connected with this ministry! I know it is an event I am already planning on working at again next year!
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