Recently, Babykins has started to notice the crucifixes in our bedrooms. My husband and my bedroom has one hanging above our bed, the nursery has one hanging above the closet door. Whenever she points them out, we talk about how Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sins.
However, in the guestroom we have a decorative cross. Babykins was looking at it the other day and we then had this chat:
Babykins: What’s dat? (points to the cross)
Me: That’s a cross
Babykins: Jesus no on that one!
Me: Well, yes, um. . . That’s because it’s just a cross. When Jesus is on the cross, it’s called a crucifix. Can you say “crucifix”?
Pastor’s kids can have the oddest vocabulary.
I’m going to regret writing this but. . .
Church with Babykins and Sweet Pea has been going much better than I anticipated.
Please note that I described the service as “going much better”, not that it is “easy”.
When I was pregnant with Sweet Pea, I would sometimes leave the church service and think, “How am I going to do this with 2?!” I would think about trying to catch an escaping Babykins while holding an infant or trying to slip out of the service to nurse Sweet Pea with a toddler in tow. It seemed impossible, especially since we sit up front.
Thankfully, Babykins is currently at a cooperative stage for church attendance. She likes hearing the music and flipping through the hymnal. She also likes being able to see the congregation, hence the reason we sit up front. And somehow I’ve managed to convince her that apple slices are an acceptable snack during the service and she’ll happily munch on those.
Likewise, Sweet Pea is proving to be an easier baby than Babykins was. She isn’t nearly as prone to crying fits as her sister, nor does she have the same intense need for movement when I wear her (I can get by with rocking her in the pew instead of marching around the back of the church). She is also a better nurser and I’m able to feed her in the pew. Sometimes she even sleeps in her car seat! About the only time I’ve left the service for Sweet Pea is when she needed a diaper change.
Of course, I’m still far from consciously getting anything from the service. I sing the liturgy mostly from memory as I awkwardly hold a hymnal open for Babykins. I half hear the readings while trying to get Sweet Pea ready to nurse. I less-than-piously stand for the prayers while keeping one eye open on Babykins lest one of her mischievous hankerings take hold of her. And there are moments throughout the service that I have one child strapped to my front and another child balanced on my hip. It’s exhausting, but manageable.
However, I’m not naive enough to think that pew wrangling will stay at this manageable level. I know handling both girls will probably get harder at some point (like when there’s 2 mobile kids in the pew. Oh my!). I’ll get frustrated and wonder what’s the point of going to church. Then it will get easier, then harder, then easier, and then someday the girls will be old enough to not need my constant attention during the service. And then I’ll be by myself again and remember with laughing fondness of this time in my life–at least that’s what the church grandmas seem to do.
Now, getting to church on time–well, that’s a different matter entirely. :p
My Sunday morning at church usually goes like this: Babykins and I arrive at church and set up our pew. I feel optimistic about whatever new pew strategy I’ve created during the week. Snacks, no snacks, a little toy, no toy, crayons, pencils, books, and so on–I’ve tried all these things. Whatever this week’s plan is makes me feel like I can do this pew-wrangling gig.
Then the next sixty minutes proceed and whatever plan I’ve implemented completely falls apart. Snacks are tossed on the floor, crayons are chucked two pews behind us, hymnals are walked on, and Babykins is yelling because I won’t let her stand by Daddy. By the closing hymn I’ve called it quits and tell myself that I should just expect everything to go wrong in the pew on Sunday.
But time heals many wounds–or at least allows memory to fade–so by next Sunday I have a new plan and a new sense of optimism.
And yes, this coming Sunday will go well, I can just feel it.
During the school year, Wednesdays are my husband’s long work day. Confirmation every week and most weeks there is a 7 p.m. meeting. During Advent and Lent, he’ll often have confirmation class, followed by evening service, followed by a meeting. Yes, Wednesdays are long days.
By the middle of Lent this year, I was feeling the drain of the extra work and long Wednesdays. There needed to be a bit of excitement in the evening. So I declared Wednesday night to be Popcorn Night for Babykins and me.
Now, after dinner is cleaned up and Babykins has finished her bath, I pull down my trusty Whirley-Pop and pop up some popcorn. Babykins gets a small bowl for a treat and I have a large bowl set aside to eat later as a reward for getting through bedtime by myself. Bam! A little excitement for those long Wednesday nights.
Despite not having a summer break anymore, it’s hard not to feel like life will be a little less chaotic when we flip the calendar to June. The town becomes alive with happy children pedaling their bicycles to the pool and neighbors taking longer walks around town. Even my husband’s schedule gives the appearance of calm. Confirmation is on break for the summer and he doesn’t have monthly chapel duties at the Lutheran school 20 miles away. And, for a moment, we think that we’ll have a little reprieve from the rigors of pastoral life.
But June is a trickster month. While children are on summer vacation and confirmation class isn’t a weekly obligation, June is the month of VBS and weddings. Illness and death also don’t take a summer break and still strike when they please.
So, here we are, midway through June: 2 funerals completed, a wedding and VBS still coming. My husband and I are giving each other frazzled looks asking, “How did June get so busy?!” And I would like to say that we were naive and didn’t know to expect this, but the June did the EXACT same thing to us last year. In fact, I remember telling myself, “Next year we’ll know that June isn’t a quiet month.” How could I have forgotten?!
Now, don’t worry about us. We’ll survive June and we’ll go on a family vacation later in July (because nothing says “relaxation” like driving across 3.5 states with a toddler). The end of July and August do promise to be our calmer time of year (it was last year as well), so we’ll get our reprieve. And next year we’ll remember that June isn’t a quiet month and it won’t lure us in with its false claim of summer calm.
The last funeral my husband had occurred the week of Thanksgiving. And can you guess what happened a few days ago? Yup, another member died, meaning there’s a funeral Saturday, church Sunday, and the start of Lent next Wednesday.
I hope this isn’t the new trend for the start of midweek services.
Babykins is a toddler. She does toddler things like move constantly, yell at random times, and destroy things. She does not stop being a toddler when we go to church. Consequently, Sunday mornings can often feel like an exercise in futility as I try to keep her quiet and still during the church service.
However, the last few weeks Babykins has started to surprise me with her behavior in church. She’s gotten a little less loud and a little more interested in watching what is happening the service. So what changed?
1. Sitting up front: Despite past failures, we gave sitting up front another try. I realized that a lot of her antics were attempts to see people and things better (this wasn’t always the reason for her squirming in the past). Plus, we were getting blinded by the morning sun beating through the stained glass window in our pew in the back. So, despite my solid Lutheran upbringing to avoid the front at all costs, Babykins and I now troop up to the second pew on Sunday mornings. She still does toddler activities like yell at random times, walk on the pew, and toss her toys in the pew behind us. Likewise, she still freaks out sometimes because she wants to go to her dad, but we’re learning to deal with that.
2. Letting go of Babywearing: I finally gave up on the ring sling in church. Babykins was making it clear to everyone that she was not happy being confined and the sling wasn’t making it any easier to hold her with all her thrashing around. Some people are able to wear their children in church throughout the toddler years, I am not one of them.
3. More interest in books: Babykins has developed a love for books in recent weeks. This means that she’ll actually look at a book during the sermon, cutting back on her chatter and wiggles. My favorite book to bring with us is My Church Words Book. This book is printed by Concordia Publishing House, which means that many of the pictures inside are from LC-MS churches. This makes it easier to connect what is happening in the service to the pictures in the book. It’s fun to point to the pictures of things like the hymnal and pew Bible in the book and then point to the actual hymnal and pew Bible.
4. Practicing with a hymnal at home: A couple of weeks ago I was attempting to play some hymns on our piano. It didn’t go very well since Babykins is very insistent that she plays the piano with me. However, during this time I wound up letting her look at my hymnal on the floor. She surprised me with her gentleness with it! No torn pages, very few crinkled corners. Consequently, I decided to let her have a hymnal during church. For the last couple of weeks, she has contentedly flipped through the hymnal throughout the service. She’s not always perfectly gentle with it–I’m seeing a hymnal donation to the church in a couple of years–but she stays quiet!
I’m not expecting Babykins to keep up this behavior indefinitely. Babies and toddlers grow too quickly for any routine to stay around too long. What has worked for us the last couple of weeks may very well not work this coming Sunday. But for now, I’ll enjoy another sweet spot of Sunday mornings.
It’s one of those weeks when extra duties for the church and a holiday crash into one another. An elderly church member died Thursday night, so my husband has a funeral service tomorrow afternoon. He also has an extra service this week on Wednesday night for Thanksgiving. We’re traveling a couple of hours on Thanksgiving to visit family. And then Sunday comes again and all the preparations that come with it.
Yes, it’s one of those weeks where my husband is busy at work and thinking about work when he’s at home. It’s one of those weeks where the majority of travel preparations fall on me. It’s one of those weeks were quality time for my husband and me is limited. It’s one of those weeks that the upcoming chaos of Advent and Christmas looms over our heads.
But you know what? This is okay. Not ideal, but okay. We will get through this week. We may be a little more tired than normal and our patience may be a bit short. Our routine may not operate as smoothly as usual. But we will live.
Being able to have this perspective is one of the advantages of being done with my husband’s first year in the ministry. I know now that there are just going to be weeks like this. Most people have them, even if their husbands aren’t pastors. Likewise, I understand that most likely it will be over a month before we can catch up on rest and relaxation, but there will be a quieter time eventually. It may not be when we think it should come and we may have to purposely set aside time, but it will arrive. That is the ebb and flow of our parsonage life.
P.S.–Lest you think I have this whole pastor’s family thing figured out, feel free to check in on my attitude in a few weeks when the craziness of Advent is in full swing. My guess is that I’ll still have a breakdown or two. 🙂
Parsonage horror stories are passed around during the seminary years. Most of the time you don’t hear them from someone who actually experienced it. In stead, the story usually starts with, “I know of a pastor who lived in a parsonage. . .” and then goes on to tell a terrible tale about a run-down house where every congregation member had a key and the church council would hold their meetings at 5 a.m. in the parsonage’s living room.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit. But many of these parsonage tales convince skittish seminary families that they never, ever want to live in a parsonage.
Thankfully, many seminary families live in homes owned by the church on vicarage. Often these families come out of vicarage having a good experience in their homes. Likewise, the majority of experienced pastor’s families have mostly positive things to say about living in parsonages.
This is the second parsonage my husband and I have lived in (well, technically the house on vicarage wasn’t a parsonage because a pastor never lived there, but it was the same idea). So far we’ve had a good experience living in a parsonage for several reasons:
1. We don’t have to worry about finding housing: Moving for vicarage or a call is generally a whirlwind. With only a couple of months to pack up and move, there is very little time to find housing. If there isn’t a parsonage, either the family has to quickly buy a house with very little knowledge of the area or they have to rent a place knowing that there is another move if they decide to buy a house. Likewise, the pastor’s family doesn’t have to worry about selling a house should he accept a different call.
2. We don’t have to pay for major renovations and repairs: Since the church owns the house, they take on the responsibility of keeping it livable. Admittedly, sometimes this can be a frustration when the pastor’s family is hoping for an immediate repair or change because it takes time to get approval from the right committees. However, when something like the septic system backing up occurs, the church will cover the cost.
Sometimes the church will even pay for an improvement that you weren’t expecting. For example, the dishwasher was a bit aged when we moved into our current parsonage. My husband and I weren’t complaining because we were thrilled to have any mechanical dishwasher after hand-washing dishes for 3 years. However, our trustee decided that the dishwasher wasn’t working well enough and had it replaced. It’s the nicest dishwasher I’ve ever had in my home.
3. We can embrace our home with, “We’ll make it work.”: This may sound like a backhanded compliment, but I promise it’s not. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to shopping–that’s probably why I hate it so much. I’m always convinced that there is a product that is a little bit better quality for a little bit better price and I MUST FIND IT!! That’s why I do things like search 20 minutes on Amazon for the perfect pair of socks for Babykins (Seriously, self, it’s just a pair of socks!). Can you imagine how I would be if I had to buy a house? Be given a house is a relief to my perfectionist tendencies. Instead of searching for the nonexistent perfect house, we can look at our home and say, “There are some great things and not-so-great things. We’ll make it work!”
Credit where credit is due: My sister-in-law, who grew up in teacherages and lived in a parsonage, introduced me to this mentality. 🙂
4. The members feel a connection to the house: Admittedly, this is a little bit harder fro me to embrace, but congregation members often like being able to care for their pastor in a tangible way. Helping with his home is an easy way for them to do this.
Of course, there are some disadvantages to living in a parsonage, but there are disadvantages to any housing situation. Overall, I would say our experiences with parsonages have been positive and I’m very thankful for the homes our congregations have provided for us.