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The Life in our Years

March 29, 2017
By Casey Alarcon

An article was making the rounds a couple of weeks ago about how Swedish researchers have unlocked at least one component to extending our lifespan: have children! The study did not provide a definitive reason why parents seem to live a little longer than non-parents, but on average, having children could add up to a year to your life.

Now, if you are a parent, or if you have spent significant time around children, perhaps you’re thinking what I was thinking when I first read this article: children have taken years off of my life! Between knocked out teeth, concussions, multiple trips to the ER, and near misses with cars in the parking lot, I know each one erased some time off my life. I have often joked that whatever age I am when I die; I should have lived at least 3 more years if not for the children in my life.

Packing up and heading out as a chaperone with our 4th and 5th graders on SCREAM retreat last week, the article kept rolling through my mind as I prayed for safety and nothing too exciting to happen. Mostly, I prayed the weekend would be a sweet one. I was hopeful the children would meet Jesus for the first time or be reminded of His great love while on the beautiful campus of Young Life’s Sharp Top Cove. I prayed our Lord would reveal himself to them through worship, in scripture lessons, over kid food, or during free time with their friends running wild away from a schedule, their parents, or responsibilities. I asked the Lord to find these children the way He found so many of us: willing, wanting, eager, and teachable for His grace and salvation.

As always, our Lord is faithful! Our Mt. Bethel children and their invited friends worshiped boldly and sang unashamedly, inviting the Holy Spirit to “flood this place and fill the atmosphere” because “your glory God is what our hearts long for.” The next generation testified that they heard and understood the timeless truth of the Scriptures from the book of Daniel. One after another of our children acknowledged that they needed to “choose good friends to help them stand tall when no one else is standing with God” and “to depend on God in the small things so you can depend on Him in the big things.”

Our 4th and 5th graders eagerly raised their hands to voluntarily pray in front of 400+ children and adults at every meal and before each service. There were prayers of thanksgiving for the generous food that was made, and their genuine gratitude for the food from our Great Provider was refreshing and encouraging.

Even through some damp and chilly weather, cheers of “You can do it” were shouted from the bottom of a 35 foot power pole as our children conquered their fears of heights and scaled higher and higher before leaping off to ring the victory bell. Games of whiffle ball, frisbee golf, basketball, and pit ball were seen not as ruthless fields of battle, but as places to play, enjoy friends, and laugh with each other. And then there was the epic water balloon fight between the chaperones and our “sweet” children who launched balloon after balloon at their unarmed elders. We let them win, of course! Next year we may exact our revenge, but for now, we will let them enjoy their bragging rights and confidence in their throwing arms for another 365 days.

When the sun finally broke through and blue skies surrounded us, the smiles, laughter, and general silliness shone as bright as the warm rays. The joy we experienced through free time with face paint, one too many snow cones, shaving cream hair contests, and the sweet refrains of “Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for” brought me back to the Swedish longevity study.

I’m no scientist, but I do agree that children help us live longer. Just as Christ came to give us life and life abundantly, the children’s joy gives us a glimpse of the eternal life that awaits us through our Risen Savior. I think Abraham Lincoln knew years ago what this new research today is revealing when he eloquently said, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

Whether you have children or you don’t, whether yours are grown and gone, or whether you are still longing to have them, I invite you to be among our children, His children, right here at our little yellow church. They are welcoming, inviting, fun, funny, and full of forgiveness, grace, love, kindness, hope, hugs, thankfulness, and LIFE! Really, the Glory of God shines through them and radiates from them. I witnessed it at SCREAM, and I see it in some way every time I’m around them.

And just like that, the 4th and 5th graders who took me to SCREAM retreat 2017 added back some of those years to my life by adding Jesus’ life and love back into my year!

Casey Alarcon is mother to Samuel (14), Ellie (10) and Henry (7), all of whom may have both taken years from her life and most certainly have added life to her years. She serves at Mt. Bethel UMC as a 4th grade Sunday school teacher with her husband, Carlos and is on the Children’s Renovation Team, the PAC Board for Student Ministries, and the Hospitality Committee. We invite you to join Casey in working with our Children and add some life into your own years!

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