Growing up, my family of 5 sat together unless my dad or brother needed to usher. I figured that’s how church worked–unless you had extended family in church, you sat with your parents. Consequently, I always imagined that all my children would sit with me in the pew on Sunday mornings.
Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. . .
I did solo wrangle Babykins and Sweet Pea for over a year. But as Sweet Pea gets older, she gets wigglier and louder. I often have to take her to the back of the church during the sermon. And while Babykins generally sits quietly in the pew, taking her to the back with Sweet Pea and me meant she started crawling on the floor and talking loudly.
I asked our church grandma if I could leave Babykins with her when I needed to take Sweet Pea to the back. After a few weeks of this method, Babykins was begging to sit with Granny the entire service.
I was hesitant–after all, children should sit with their parents–but Babykins had also started to feed off of Sweet Pea’s antics and would try to cling to me as I wrestled with her sister. Truth be told, Babykins behaves better when separated from her sister. Now she peacefully sits with Granny. When I glance back at her, she’s either observing what is happening around her or eating her snack.
As for Sweet Pea, she’s much more of a handful in church than her sister was. Most of this is because she’s so much louder than Babykins! I generally let her be as loud as she wants during most of the service (as long as she’s not screaming for screaming’s sake) and try to keep her quieter during the readings, sermon, and prayer of the church.
I’m still making it through church without a designated “busy bag”, but I do pack her a snack, a couple of crayons, a doll, and a book for Sunday mornings. Sometimes I can keep her quieter during the sermon by whispering the text of the book I’ve brought (I usually choose a book by Joni Walker or a Kloria Publishing book). Often I need to take her to the back during the last few minutes of the sermon because she gets too wiggly to contain in the pew. Sundays are exhausting now, but my hope is that if I keep on patiently teaching her how to “do” church, she’ll be as good as her sister in a couple of years.
Yesterday I took both girls to a midday service for Good Friday at another church in our circuit. Generally I try not to get too worked up about circus act that comes with bringing two little children to church. However, Good Friday services are so somber and quiet that the girls’ inevitable antics seem especially jarring even in the most child-friendly churches. Why? Because while people are reflecting on Jesus’ suffering and death, things like this are going down in our pew:
- 4 month old Sweet Pea grinning like a fool in the silent sanctuary.
- 2.5 year old Babykins slamming her water bottle against the pew.
- Sweet Pea needing to eat during the sermon.
- Me realizing that Babykins is pooping right before communion (I left her in the pew to finish her business while I went up).
- Babykins loudly annoucing, “All done pooping!” as the rest of the congregation silently leave the sanctuary.
Needless to say, the feeling of piety was pretty low after that. At least the children keep me humble.
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.
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. 🙂
Now that Babykins is 1, we are past the sweet spot on Sundays. Our time in the pew is becoming more like a combination of a wrestling match and a rodeo. I’m pretty sure it’s because Babykins has her own rules for church. If she could talk, I think she would list them as must something like this:
1. Flail around as much as possible if Mommy tries to “wear” me. Well-meaning friends have told her that babywearing will save her sanity in church. She may think that she can keep me contained by popping me into a ring sling. Ha! I will not be contained unless there is something extremely interesting to observe! Instead, I will arch my back, flail my arms, and yell until she lets me free.
2. Try to find the most interesting place in the sanctuary to explore. To be clear, the most interesting place is anywhere that Mommy is not.
3. Talk at inopportune times. The sermon and the Prayer of the Church are the best times to practice my new vocabulary as loud as I can. How else will people know that I am there? Plus, the sanctuary has the most wonderful echos.
4. When given a clear shot of the aisle, make a break for it. I’m not really sure if I want to see Daddy in his funny outfit or if I’m just referring to rule #2, but that aisle has a siren song for me. So far I have not succeed making it down the aisle, but some day Mommy will be too slow. Just you wait.
5. Smile at all the members as they leave so they never suspect me of mischief. Nobody can think ill of a cute baby grinning at them. Even if they do think I was a bit loud during the service, my adorableness will quickly erase any supposed wrongdoings.
With these rules, I help Mommy appreciate any future moments of peace she gets in the pew. With Daddy always working Sunday mornings, I’m making sure Mommy really savors those Sundays she has help (except for the fact that I will eventually start hollering if anyone besides Mommy tries to hold me).
If I wrote a more helpful blog, now would be the time I would include why it’s important to keep children in church and tips to help. But I don’t, so now all you have are these *beautiful* pictures. At any rate, I feel that I don’t have enough experience to write about either topic, so I’ll let other people explain. Here’s a useful post on helping children in church (*Disclaimer* I don’t find that sitting up front helps at this point, but I’ve known several families that do find their children behave better in the front pews). And here’s some encouragement for keeping children in church.
If you ever want to spark a debate among pastor’s wives with young children, just mention attending midweek services during Advent and Lent. These services typically start around 7 p.m. You know, right when parents are usually getting their children ready for bed. As hard as it is child-wrangling on Sunday mornings, it’s even harder fighting with exhausted children in the evening.
There are two groups of pastor’s wives when it comes to evening service attendance. First, there are those who diligently go to midweek services, no matter what age their children are. They argue that the only way children will learn to appreciate these midweek services is by taking them. Likewise, they state that it’s difficult for their husbands to ask other members to attend midweek services if his own family isn’t attending.
The other group are those who stay home for the evening services. They argue that the battle in the pew is not worth fighting when the mother will spend most–if not all–of the service quieting an increasingly fussy child. They make attending Sunday morning service the priority and do the best they can the rest of the week. The best they can often doesn’t involve taking their children to church after their bedtime.
Guess which group I fall under? Hint: I started writing this post at 7:30 p.m. on Ash Wednesday.
Yes, I stayed home with Babykins. I initially did try to take her to midweek services. We went to a few Advent services that ended in tears. Christmas Eve service was a disaster involving a completely inconsolable Babykins with no escape plan. I didn’t want to go through that frustrating and humiliating ordeal again. I told my husband I would not be attending Lent services.
However, I did intend to try to attend Ash Wednesday service since it’s one of the bigger services of the year. But this week Babykins finally started going to bed earlier and I didn’t want to ruin our progress (and yes, I really do believe having her out late one night would set back her sleep progress).
Sure, I feel guilty for putting sleep before hearing God’s Word. Of course, I would have also felt guilty if she had a meltdown at church from being overtired. Lose, Lose.
At any rate, she fell asleep at 6:30. Church would have been rough.
Like everyone else, our December has been busy. My husband’s schedule has been filled with sermon-writing, shut-in visits, service planning, and Christmas program rehearsals. I’ve been rushing about purchasing Christmas presents, writing letters, and managing that *little* task of caring for Babykins.
Despite the seasonal chaos, it’s hard not to be a little bit excited by Christmas this year because it’s our first “forever” Christmas. For the first time in our married life, we are able to say, “Wow, we’ll do the same thing again next year!”
The Christmas tree will go up in the same living room (okay, it won’t be the same Christmas tree because our cats have been set on destroying the cheap $20 tree I bought my sophomore year of college).
While our Christmas lights on the house look off balanced because we don’t own an outdoor extension cord, it’s no big deal because we can do better next year.
The church’s Christmas program seemed a bit. . .unusual to us, but perhaps next year it will seem a little more familiar.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I’ll sit in the same sanctuary that I will sit in next year, hearing my favorite pastor preach. 😉
When it’s time for the Christmas decorations to come down, I will store them rather than pack them for a move.
All of this is made even more special since it’s Babykins first Christmas (even though she may very well fuss all day).
Of course, we have no real way of knowing what God has planned for us, but we’re working on the assumption that we will be here for awhile. So, even though it doesn’t feel like it yet, we are finally home.
(You know, aside from the idea that we are but strangers here, heaven is our home. 🙂 )
My Husband’s First Sunday as Pastor
This past Sunday was the first time my husband led a service as Pastor. He was naturally a bit nervous when leaving for church Sunday morning but was also excited. However, the start of the service set off a dazzling sound system failure.
First, he couldn’t get his microphone to turn on. He had to awkwardly stand in front of the congregation as he fiddled with the pack. When he finally got it on, the sound wasn’t balanced correctly. Have you ever listened to an old speech in front of a large crowd? It echos across the masses, almost repeating the words of the speech. Now think about how that would sound in a small sanctuary. That’s how my husband sounded.
I’m fairly certain that there were some members frantically trying to fix the problem throughout the first half of the service. However, the strange auditorium echo remained when my husband started preaching. About 5 minutes into the sermon, the sound system gave up and created an eardrum splitting round of feedback. My husband asked to have the sound turned off at the point. On the bright side, everyone was quite awake for at least part of the sermon.
The worst part of all this was that several of the same problems occurred at the ordination service, so some members of the congregation worked on fixing the problem this past week. They thought they had everything sorted out, so to have the same issues occur again was frustrating for everybody.
Naturally, the glitches on Sunday didn’t fall completely on the sound system. There were the usual hiccups that occur when a new pastor does a service with a congregation for the first time. My husband forgot to tell the organist about using a seasonal antiphon. The congregation (myself included) got confused about what we were supposed to respond with during the prayer of the church. Overall, it wasn’t the smoothest service. When he got home, my husband shook his head and said, “I was just waiting for a dog to walk in.”
The good news is that Bible study seemed to go much better. Despite my husband using a Power Point presentation, there wasn’t any technological snafus. Nobody stormed out of the study deeply offended. That’s not saying much seeing how we’re Midwestern Lutherans and such a public display of emotion would be unsightly.
My First Sunday as Pastor’s Wife
I had been dreading this first Sunday in a new congregation ever since we returned from vicarage. Since attending services the first few months of vicarage was a horrible, anxiety-inducing struggle, I was concerned that I would wind up in the bathroom stall with a panic attack at our new church.
However, Sunday turned out to be surprisingly peaceful. Well, at least it was only uncomfortably awkward and not panic-inducing. I believe part of this relates to how sound carries inside the church. Our vicarage church’s fellowship hall was loud and often had 60-80 people milling around between service and Bible study. The noise overstimulated me, leaving me confused and anxious. Our new church’s fellowship hall isn’t nearly as loud; it is also a smaller congregation than our vicarage church.
Leave it to me to feel relieved that there are less people attending church.
Another helpful factor was that two members from our vicarage congregation surprised us by attending service (they were vacationing in the area). It was a comfort to see a pair of familiar faces.
Overall, I left Bible study feeling like maybe, just maybe, I could swing this pastor’s wife thing after all.