We look forward to Sunday mornings. We enjoy going to church as a family and meeting with our other brothers and sisters in Christ. But, Sunday mornings are also adventures. Getting eight children ready for church and out the door is no small task and then, after we reach our destination, we have the experience of keeping all of them somewhat quiet during the service.
On a typical Sunday morning, I usually wake up early. Once in a while, I am the only one awake, but more often than not, the baby wakes or I hear Nathan, our 3 yr. old in the next room, banging his bed against the wall and singing, "Eei, Eei, Ooh" as loud as he possibly can. Mary, who shares the room with him, will often be awake, too, and I take them both out to the dining room where I begin to feed them breakfast. The dog will be whining by then, so I let her outside and prepare her breakfast as well. Next, I either put on the coffee or heat the water for tea and check the weather for the day.
It is very important to me that the hours before church are a time to prepare our hearts for worship, so I either turn on sacred music or a beautiful nature DVD that plays hymns. One by one, the other children begin to appear out of their rooms. Sometimes, I have to coax a few to get out of bed. Other times, I feel like a drill sergeant barking orders. Then,I either eat my breakfast, get myself dressed and ready to go, or I'm laying out clothes for the young children. By this time, I have to take a break and feed little Sarah and dress her and then, she plays on our bed or swings while the rest of us are scurrying around. There are mornings when she is higher maintenance and I spend more time with her, but she's getting easier.
I do try to have some things done on Saturday night, like picking out clothes, filling the diaper bags and checking the church bag for our hymnals, Bibles, crayons and paper, but often, I find that it doesn't get done, so that leads to added time on an already busy morning. There are also those Sunday mornings where I find myself grumbling about how Mom seems to be doing everything, but then, I remember that this is simply not true. The older kids really do help, even though we have to remind them of things and without my husband, we would be even later, not to mention that his fatherly authority really does go a long way! However, it is accurate to say that I do many things seen and unseen to make sure everyone gets out the door, often feeling as if my head is spinning at a rapid pace. Did everyone go to the bathroom? Did everyone eat? Is everyone dressed with shoes on? Most of the time, the children get dressed, but shoes are another story. There have been instances where we only find one shoe out of a pair. We've been known to blow a morning by looking for that "prodigal" shoe, but more often than not, we opt for the sporty look for the girls. Yep, tennis shoes with dresses. In the colder months, we add even more fun like coats, gloves and hats. This past winter, my in-laws purchased Angry Birds hats for the children and on one particular Sunday morning, when I opted to stay home with little Sarah, my husband and other children arrived at church, late, donning their new hats and the girls were wearing, you guessed it, tennis shoes. I heard from an inside source that it was a sight to behold.
Every so often, we actually leave on time, but the truth must be told. We are often late. We are greatly relieved on those mornings when the service gets started late, but that doesn't happen much. We do try to slip into a back row as quietly as we can, but really. How quiet can we be? I've been known to stay in the car with a sleeping baby for a while and let the rest of the family go into the service. That way, I miss the initial shock waves that I imagine are going through our dear congregation.
Once we are in the service, the next adventure begins. The older children are expected to follow along in the Bible, listen to the pastor and to help keep the little ones occupied. The little ones are allowed to color or play quietly with a small toy they've brought. The little girls like to color, look at books or play with a small horse or doll. The little boys will color or drive their cars. What could possibly go wrong with a couple of cars? Plenty! Our church does not have their own church building. We meet at a sportsman's club where we sit at chairs and long tables. No pews. No carpet. It's not too bad except when you put a couple of rambunctious little boys and their cars in there. For a couple of weeks in a row, the boys would drive their cars on the table in front of them. This is not always a quiet activity, but they are learning. I did entertain the thought of bringing their rug from home that looks like a road map to cover the table, but dismissed it as something that would draw attention to ourselves. When we aren't at a table, I draw a road on a blank piece of paper and the boys love to drive on Mommy's road.
And, then, there's the Sunday we discovered a little too late that they had brought another kind of car. Nathan was busy driving his car when all of a sudden, he pulled it back and let it go. Zoom! It took off with lightning speed all the way to the front of the church, passing several families on its way! Now, granted, our church is not very big, but still, this was quite a surprise. My daughter, Rachel and I watched the car careening to the front of the church, not knowing what to do and paralyzed by suppressed laughter. The next thing I know, Nathan developed a huge grin on his face, giggled and ran after it. I couldn't just run after him with the baby in my arms, so I sent Rachel to fetch our little guy and his mischievous car. Well, one time wasn't enough. When we had finally gained our composure and began listening to the pastor's message again, Nathan pulled back his car once more. We were so thankful that it was time for singing, but that afternoon, we purged the church bag of all cars that had the capability of disrupting the church service.
I do not have time to talk about the many mishaps with snacks in church,(we don't allow those anymore), the countless bathroom breaks, the sudden outbursts over a crayon or the many times I have had to leave the service to take care of a baby or toddler that is out of sorts. We are still learning and we take one Sunday at a time. No, our church does not have a nursery or separate classes for the children. They welcome all children to participate in the service, no matter what their age. We appreciate the love our pastor and church family has for these little ones. Even when there are interruptions, the children are loved and seen as blessings from God. Children can learn to worship alongside their parents. They are capable of learning how to be quiet. It can be a challenge at times. Children have different personalities. Some learn quickly and others take more time, but in the end it's worth the struggle. We have attended churches where the kids did not stay in the service. We understand how inviting that can be, but the Lord has shown us just how important it is to include them in our worship. These little ones that God has entrusted to us can learn so much by watching Mommy and Daddy pray, sing to God and yes, they can even absorb truths that the pastor is teaching. Jesus did not say, "let the little children come unto me, only if they are tucked away in a classroom, or only if they don't disrupt my worship experience." No, He said, "let the little children come unto me." Period. He loved children while He walked this earth. He says over and over again what a blessing they are. He has instructed us as parents to disciple them and to teach them. Yes, we may be home schooling them during the week, but we also need to worship with them in church. What a wonderful privilege it is to wake up on Sunday mornings, feed and clothe our family, drive them to church and worship our Creator together. I'll put up with a few out of control wind up cars and be thankful that we can worship with these precious children.