Tuesday, January 24, 2017

cold tea & peanut butter crackers


I pulled into the driveway just after 4:00 to pick up Charlotte. For over a year, my dear friend had been on full-day babysitting duty while I was teaching. Two days a week, my one-year-old daughter joined forces with her one-year-old daughter, and despite the cuteness overload, I have no doubt they were a handful together.

I gave a soft knock on the door and let myself in. I could hear murmurs coming from the kitchen, and as I walked past the family room, I noticed a Bible laying open on the coffee table. Next to it was a journal, pen, and mug. Nosiness got the best of me, and I leaned over to peek into the mug. Sure enough, still half full with a sorry looking tea bag floating on top.

I wondered if it was my daughter who caused the abrupt ending to this quiet time.

I knew the frustration of a passage unread, thoughts unwritten, and a drink turned cold.

Bible study looks different when you're the mom of little ones.

*****

A few years ago, I was invited to join a Thursday night ladies' Bible study. As a working mom, my sole evening commitment was unloading three lunch boxes, washing an ungodly amount of dishes, and repacking breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for the following day. I also had a standing date with Netflix and the loveseat. Venturing out on a weeknight really wasn't my jam.

Nevertheless, I signed up, bought my book, and really enjoyed the first week. I completed my homework, and despite the exhaustion and touch of nausea that had slowed me down the past few days, I headed out on a cold, February night for another week of Bible study.

About an hour in, the nausea and overall feeling of yuckiness had increased. Should I excuse myself?  Was I sick? Should I take off work tomorrow?

Then it clicked. What took me so long to put it together?

I stopped at CVS on the way home and sure enough, baby number two was making himself known. He continued to make himself known over the next months by forming a one man mutiny against energy usage,  the smell of Kroger, and food that wasn't a bagel. I skipped that evening commitment of washing dishes and packing meals, and instead headed straight for the loveseat. It was at least four more months before I rejoined the world.

I dropped out of Thursday night Bible study.

I felt guilty so I got up early one morning to work through some of it on my own, but I puked instead. 

Bible study looks different when you're the mom of little ones.

*****

After moving to a new town this summer, we were immediately drawn to Bethel Cincinnati - a church of passion, diversity, and commitment to Biblical truth. In so many wonderful and challenging ways, Bethel is different than any church Stephen or I have attended. One such challenge includes keeping our children in the service with us during the musical worship.

There is great value in singing and dancing alongside your children and allowing them to see a roomful of adults worshiping through music. But let's me honest, containing toddlers in a church service is a very specific kind of torture. My armpits get sweaty just thinking about it.

I want to be clear that not once have I been given a raised eyebrow or disapproving look by a stuffy church goer. In fact, quite the opposite. This beautiful body of Christ is gracious and welcoming - playing peek-a-boo with my children and easing my embarrassment with a wink and a smile when my darlings are out of sorts.

Charlotte has adjusted to this time, and is willing to be held or sit and listen. Whew.

Andrew has maneuvered under chairs and tables at an alarming speed. Eeks.

This leaves me with two options - get those elbows to the ground, grab his ankles and pull, or dangle snacks to lure him back. 

The power of Cheerios; it's a beautiful thing. All the mamas out there say, "Amen!"

The other week we were about thirty minutes into the service, and I could tell Andrew was done. We were reaching a rather climatic part of a song, a moment where you can feel the presence and passion of the Holy Spirit. The worship team had led us to repeat powerful descriptors of our Jesus.

"Holy, holy, holy. Mighty, mighty, mighty. Worthy, worthy, worthy."

Everyone was engaging with the Lord in personal ways - some were dancing, some were lifting their hands, some standing in silence, and some on their knees.

I, on the other hand, was seated with a package of peanut butter crackers squeezed between my knees, one hand catching crumbs from my son's mouth, the other hand lifted to Jesus as I repeatedly sang out the word "Holy, holy, holy."

"When do I go to my class?" whispered Charlotte.

"Soon."

Holy, holy, holy. The band continued.

"Mo cack pees?" asked Andrew with bulging cheeks.

"Finish the ones in your mouth first." Oh the crumbs.

Mighty, mighty, mighty. The instruments dropped out as voices sang.

I fell to my knees - not in reverent submission but because Andrew had knocked over water that was spreading toward the row in front of us. I wiped up the mess, and slowly pull out another cracker, waiting for him to swallow round one. You can't rush the snacks; they have to last at least five minutes.

"Mom, is this the last song?"

"I'm not sure, Charlotte."

Worthy, worthy, worthy.

Sunday morning looks different when you're the mom of little ones.

*****

Both of our children were handed over to church nursery workers since they were old enough to lift their heads. The sign on the nursery door said "three to eighteen months," but I snuck them in at two months, and thankfully, they were content to play and sing and eat piles of Goldfish crackers in my absence. 

This beautiful routine took a nosedive as we began attending Bethel Cincinnati this summer. After surviving the first half of the service (see above), I was eager for the pastor to pray over our children and send them to their own rooms. 

It might have been his age or the new church or the whole moving to a new town thing - most likely a combination of all - but when it came time to plop Andrew in the arms of a sweet nursery worker, he was not having it. 

"Give him ten minutes. He'll be fine," I said as I hurried out of sight, his screams echoing down the hallway. 

About ten minutes later, a nursery volunteer's head popped into the service, made eye contact with me, and gave an apologetic look. I hurried to the nursery to find Andrew, red-faced and covered in snot.

I scooped him up and rambled on about how he'd been in a church nursery since birth, and I'd never been called out of the service before. I'm pretty sure I even used the phrase "rock star in the nursery." Ugh. I was so embarrassed. No one wants to be the mom of the clingy, screaming child. 

And because his hysteria resulted in a successful rescue from mom, he pulled the same stunt next week - and the week after that, and the week after that. 

Stephen and I spent the next two months rotating nursery duty, leaving the other responsible for a sermon synopsis on the drive home.

Sunday morning looks different when you're the mom of little ones.


*****

I imagine these are scenes the Lord knows well - an attempted quiet moment in His Word interrupted by nap time gone wrong, an expectant mom whose spiritual disciplines are replaced with cries of exhaustion and sickness, a juggling act in the middle of church, and an embarrassed mom sneaking out the back door ten minutes into the sermon, again.

But I also imagine the Lord filled with compassion and a good sense of humor for the moms of little ones who keep seeking Him, clinging to Him with one hand and doling out peanut butter crackers with the other hand.

God is not interested in my sacrifices. It is not about my completed Bible studies or solemn worship. It is not about diligent sermon notes or guilt Satan wants to pour on me. It is about grace, and this rings louder when you're the mom of little ones.
 


"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."
John 1:16



3 comments:

  1. Love this so much dear! Ryan couldn't handle the nursery for a couple months here either. Oh those "joyful noises" our children sing to the Lord!! ����☕️

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    1. Hahaha! And those "joyful" faces I make while they are doing it... :) P.S. Did you know that first story was about you? Way to go, mama.

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  2. Amen, amen, amen. I read this one in three installments, because blog reading also looks different when you're the mom of a little one. ;) I loved this, and it was just the encouragement I needed in a really tough season of churchgoing and Bible studying.

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