Originally published 11.17.08
This week’s title is, yes, a real direct quote from Mommy to toddler Miranda. And yes, it was mostly said in jest, but also with a bit of seriousness too. After all, how can we be the picture of the perfect trio, sitting in the congregation with matching colors and smiling up at Daddy while he sings, if Miranda wants to tears a page out of the hymnal and crumbles crackers on the ground?
Backstory: I am certifiably a member of the Gen X Mommies… we buy organic milk, enroll our tiny babies in music classes, arrange play dates at coffeehouses, blog about politics, social issues, and mostly our kids, and, well, find that nothing is ever good enough. We’re always looking past our “dreams come true” to the next thing. Sometimes, in our quest to give make everything perfect, we miss the moments that really count.
Recently I joined a wonderful Moms & More group at a local church, and among the many things about it that impressed me at our first meeting were some words spoken by one of the leaders. She said that both she and her husband had been on staff and volunteering at their church since they were married, were constantly running around and busy with church activities, and because their hectic schedule was ministry related, they had unconsciously excused themselves for instinctively expecting their kids to keep up and go with the flow.
Wow! I sat in that room after hearing that description and had dozens of flashbacks fill my brain… Miranda eating dinner and ice cream at midnight after a concert, feeding three-week-old Kaity in a (quite posh and clean) church bathroom during a daylong gospel convention, trying to keep them both eerily quiet during a studio session, bribing with extra bottles and candy and pens-and-offering-envelopes during church concerts. If you’ve been there, you know the list goes on. And even though my kids clearly enjoy the chaotic lives they have inherited from us, they definitely get stressed out by long hours on the road and the sometimes kid-unfriendly atmosphere of concert schedules.
As Miranda rages forth into her “terrific twos,” I find it’s getting more and more difficult to “contain” her during formal church services. She is usually good during the singing parts, entertaining herself and those around her by singing along, clapping, dancing, raising her hands, shouting Amen, and most recently, encouraging her baby sister to join along. During the “quiet” times though, of testimony, explanation, prayer, invitation, she has a hard time “keeping the victory,” as we call it. And more and more lately, I find myself discovering that “crying rooms” are my favorite invention ever for a church (because no matter how many times I hear my husband sing, I always want to be there for it, not stuck in the nursery. Can’t help it).
Now that school has started, our oldest daughter Paige isn’t traveling with us much, and I always get nervous when we are at a church where we don’t know anyone. What if there is a tantrum? What if there is vomiting? What if, Heaven forbid, I have to use the ladies’ room?
My answer is always the same. Every church has at least one kind, sweet, lady who is a grandma or mommy or auntie and who just “gets it,” and she sits near us, and picks up the bottles or toys that are flung, and usually ends up with one of my children in her arms.
A few weeks ago, that woman was Bobbie. She held and rocked my little Kaity from the moment Miranda went on the move. And after I inevitably had to remove us from the service, she came to say goodbye to us in the crying room.
That’s where I got to know Bobbie and got to know her story. She’s a mom, like me. She’s a stepmom, like me. But quite unlike me, she has suffered a heartbreak that only Heaven is going to cure: four years ago, she lost her youngest son, age 20, in an accident, and she will never be the same.
As Bobbie told me about him and showed me pictures, my girls were keeping busy feeding each other forbidden candy from my bag, fighting over toys, and squalling for my attention. I was growing more and more impatient and flustered, but Bobbie was not phased. As I wiped up and shushed and tug-of-warred, she let her tears flow and poured out her heart.
I ached for her, and yet, I was blessed by her. The scene before her had to mean so many things: perhaps a memory of her son as a child, perhaps a glimpse into the grandchildren he might have given her. And since it didn’t bother or hinder her, I exhaled and let the kids be for a minute. I called upon every word of wisdom I had heard about this situation I couldn’t fathom and shared them with her. I hugged her. And before she left, I was able to block out everything else and pray with her (because an evangelist we met recently taught us that lesson: don’t just tell someone you will pray for her. Do it right then and there before your forget!).
Bobbie might not remember those sweet, chaotic minutes, but I won’t forget them and the lesson they brought to me. And maybe my girls won’t forget either. Just today, in the midst of packing for another trip, Miranda interrupted her play time, walked over to her baby sister in her high chair, and showed her how to pray before eating her breakfast. Maybe one of these days they’ll tell me to quit worrying: they, too, have ministry to do!