When I became a mother, I suddenly realized how important it was for me to have a “helper” and a confidant to guide me in my journey. I needed someone to walk alongside me … someone to show me the way … someone to light the path. Sure, I had (have) my husband, but let’s face it … we weren’t (aren’t) always on the same page a lot of the time when it comes to parenting. Thank goodness for me (I am a bit of a control freak), he lets me do most of the parenting work (I guess he’ll get to blame me for their shortcomings later on). I needed someone just a little “more” than my husband for this journey, and in my mind, there is no one more suitable to walk alongside me in my parenting journey than God and his son, Jesus.
Let me start by first confessing this …
I did not grow up in a church. I was not baptized (and I am still not baptized). However, I certainly seemed to believe in heaven and something beyond the physical world. I certainly always felt like I was being watched … not in a creepy sort of way, but in a comforting “guardian angel” kind of way. “Someone” was looking out for me and my wellbeing. Some may attribute my good fortune (I’ve had a lot of it) to luck, but I always felt there was a little more to it than that.
In my adult life, post-university, I felt a spiritual hole, and found myself a church to attend in a community close to where I was living and teaching at the time. The minister was amazing and did a spectacular job of teaching the children who attended that church “the lesson of the day” using story and puppets. I left “feeling full” each Sunday, taking the time to journal after each service contemplating how I might apply the week’s lesson into my life for the upcoming week. It … was … beautiful.
In 2011, within weeks of having our first child, we moved. In 2013, we had another baby. Our new church was a 15 minute drive from home. I would describe our church attendance in the years that our now “big” girls were little as “erratic.” There were days when getting everyone up and out of the house by 8:30 a.m. (or earlier) for the sixth time that week lacked a certain appeal … so we didn’t go. Also, I don’t have to tell my fellow-mamas … keeping small children occupied or engaged or quiet or still for an hour or more during a church service ALSO lacks a certain appeal. Many times, after leaving church with my small children, I felt frustrated or disheartened because I wasn’t even able to focus on the message of the day or listen attentively to what God was trying to tell me through the words of my minister. It seemed like such a waste to even bother attending church on Sundays. In fact, as pathetic as it sounds, I yearned to go alone (and sometimes, I did).
Even though our attendance WAS erratic at times, there was still JOY to be found in attending church on Sundays. To begin, over and over again we were told how much people enjoyed the sound of “little voices” in the church (I was just told this again yesterday in my “new” church in Hudson Bay). “Don’t stop coming,” they urged us over and over again, despite our lamenting how completely awful the kids were. Further, there were countless completely goosebump-worthy moments when members of our church would seek out our children to do important jobs like blowing out the Christ candle or decorating for Easter. The tenderness towards our babies was just so completely heartwarming. They would “gush” over our girls, complimenting them for how pretty they looked or how good of a job they did handing out or collecting the bulletins. They would “sneak” the girls treats or give them juice boxes when I wasn’t looking. They would give special hugs or invitations to curl up in a lap. They celebrated our birthdays with us. They shared their concerns with us. They jumped for joy when the big girls announced that they would BOTH be big sisters in the fall of 2017. And they prayed for us when we thought things weren’t quite right with our third baby (as revealed in an ultrasound).
There are so many sweet (and bittersweet) memories of our days at Robert Hall Mission United Church in Prairie River SK that will remain in our hearts forever. As long as this church remains, we will return to it … our family’s roots are there. Our biggest babies were baptized there, and our last baby will be baptized there in June of this year. We have celebrated seven Christmas Eves in this church, surrounded by family and by friends, and we will return to this church EVERY Christmas Eve. Here, my girls will see their “once a year” friends, hopefully, with an overwhelming feeling of warmth and comfort as we are all wrapped in God’s everlasting love at such a special time of year.
In 2017, we moved once again … back to MY hometown, where my husband and I both work, where the girls go to school. The move meant a “new” (old) church for us … St. Stephen’s United Church (my husband and I were married in this church in December of 2009). The girls and I have now fallen into a regular routine of attending church on Sunday (if we don’t happen to be away). They’re older and with a very short commute, preparing for church isn’t nearly as cumbersome as it once was. We ALL look forward to it. St. Stephen’s has a newly developed children’s ministry program. Children participate in the first half of the service, with the minister spending some time with children reading a story, watching a video, or just chatting, before they head off to Children’s Ministry. Volunteers prepare for this time with the children, solidifying an important “lesson of the day” through crafts, prayer, and song. I get to stay behind, and LISTEN to the readings and the minister’s message of the day. I am affirmed, I am challenged, and I am comforted. I ponder, consider, and reflect. I … am … filled. And … it … is … beautiful.
Again, members of the congregation “gush” over my kids, they chat with them, they listen to them, they pay attention to them. This is what I so desperately want for my children … a community, and maybe more particularly, a faith community. I want my children to bond with other adults and other kids through a love of God and God’s call to all of us to be and do good. I want my children to feel loved. I want my children to know that their worth is not dependent on others … God loves them no matter what. He is a forgiving and loving God. God’s grace is neverending. God wants us to be kind to our neighbours, to love and care for one another. God is ALWAYS with us. We are NEVER alone. We have God, and through our mutual love of God, we have (and belong to) a church community. Tell me … where else are my children ever going to be a part of such a community??? Not through dance, not through T-ball, not through school.
In times of trial, I want my girls’ to instinctively turn to God. In times of bliss, I want my girls’ to give thanks to God. I want my girls’ to continuously move toward the light. I want my girls to know that they are loved. I want my girls to know that they are not alone … just as I am not alone in my motherhood journey. I have invited God to be with me, each … and … every … day, through every trial, through every blessing, when I fold the laundry, when I drive my car, when I am with my children, when I go for a walk, when I sing, when I dance, when I read a new book … through … it … all. And He is. And … it … is … beautiful. Thanks be to God.