1 b : something offered; especially : a sacrifice ceremonially offered as a part of worship
Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to dance. When she turned three, she started asking her mom to sign her up for classes. The mother (who was neither coordinated, nor musically inclined) thought the girl was cute, but going through a phase. To pacify her daughter, the mother signed her up for a six week class at the Y, hoping that would quell the desire. After all, the mother didn't even really like ballet. The parents were snobby, the dancers all had body-image issues, it was an uncomfortable and foreign world.
Yet the daughter's desire remained. The mother found a week long ballet camp, thinking that after five days of dancing for 6 hours each day, that would be that. The camp confirmed the mother's opinion of the ballet world - stand-offish, intimidating and a bit scary - but it did nothing to dampen the daughter's desire to dance.
The mother relented. She began looking for a place to enroll her daughter in fall classes. She looked and looked. And found nothing that was closer than a thirty minute drive across town. This didn't seem feasible for a mom with a five year old, a four year old and a newborn. The mom kept looking, but she was losing hope.
Until one Sunday when the mom wanted coffee on her way to church. She ran into a coffee shop that wasn't her usual spot. While waiting for her latte, she saw a brochure for a ballet school in her neighborhood. She picked it up and called the next day. Classes started that afternoon. The daughter started that day and has never looked back.
Thus began our days, nights and weekends at Rejoice School of Ballet. Yesterday A (who begged for dance with a relentlessness that could only have come from her Maker) and K danced in Rejoice's production of Coppelia. I wish I had the words to tell you what an accomplishment this production was for a non-profit with a small budget. A non-profit that was created to make dance available even to children whose parents can't afford it. A place where children on free or reduced lunch learn ballet for a mere $10 monthly. A ballet school where black and white, middle class, working class and those trapped in poverty dance alongside one another. A place that has been much more than a dance school for our family.
I wish I had the words to explain how Rejoice has given me an outlet for using business skills as a volunteer, how it has transformed A from a little dancer who looked up to the older girls to one of the older girls known by the little dancers, how it has given K the chance to shine onstage and B the chance to try out both ballet and jazz funk.
I wish I had the words or pictures to show you how the dancer that I saw at the first recital has grown from a girl of twelve to a graduating senior. I wish I should take you there and show you how she worshiped while dancing at that recital long ago - and how that made me think that dance wasn't all bad, after all.
I wish I could let you into my heart and see it soften and change as I saw and understood dance to be not only a gift from God, but a gift God has given to my daughter, a gift she uses well and uses to bless others.
I wish you could travel back in time to A's first or second recital and see the dancer she was then - and see her dance en pointe today. I wish you could meet her teachers, who have encouraged excellence and seen that encouragement bear fruit.
I wish I could make a financial offering equal to what we have received in friendship, companionship, encouragement and blessing from Rejoice.
I wish A could take dance there forever. But she can't. This semester will be her last. As her parents, our job is to make sure A doesn't close any doors she might want to walk through later. She may or may not want to dance in college. She may or may not want to apprentice with a company. But I don't want to close those doors to her now.
So we are leaving - with both heavy hearts and great anticipation - a place we love. Over the last few weeks, I have realized all over again how much I love Rejoice. I've let the organization, the dancers, the director and their mission into my heart. The hard part of that? Leaving. The blessing in that? Rejoice has shaped and changed us and will, in many ways, go with us.
May these words be a small offering showing my thankfulness and gratitude for that brochure found one Sunday morning - and for all that Rejoice has become to us since then.