I grew up involved in church. Children's choir, Vacation Bible School, Youth group and retreats. . .I was even in a hand bell choir for a short while. Its much more fun then one would imagine! I wonder where I could get in with a good handbell choir today. I have time for that, right? It was in college at Auburn, however, that I really began to grow in my faith and explore myself as a spiritual person. Like many, after I graduated the "fire" wore off and I've been at many different places in regards to my faith and relationship with God since leaving college. While I've attended many churches, I haven't found that church home that I so relied on for support, accountability, fellowship, and consistency during my years in Auburn. So, I officially renewed the search today. Three year old in tow. Obviously, Liliana has traveled along MY road of faith for the past 3 years, unable to choose the paths of her own. This is a responsibility I may have taken too lightly. You'll see why consistency is hugely important when it comes to children and raising them within a certain faith. Not just a consistent Christian lifestyle, but a consistent form of formal worship and fellowship with others.
Liliana was dedicated as an infant at the church I was attending at the time of her birth.
Such a happy day! I had good intentions, I really did. But then, I got tired. I could tell you about all of the things that have made me tired beginning about 3 months after she was born and continuing over the last 3 years. Some of you would sympathize or even empathize. Some of you would tell me that these are the times I should make sure I surround myself with a faith family because its when you need them the most. And you'd be right. I could then argue with you about my severe Anemia. And my body doesn't absorb iron and you'd shake your head empathically while thinking "Lame-O, get off your lazy butt and go to church". I could tell you the woes of single parenthood, but you'd continue nodding your head and patting my shoulder with a kind, but questioning look on your face while you thought, "Listen, chick, we've all got a sob story." and I'd know that's what you were thinking and panic and probably burst into tears and yell, "DON'T JUDGE ME!! I'm doing the best I can". So, let's avoid that and pick up right where I left off. Let's recap and allow everyone to get back on track while I grab a Xanax and a glass of water: Liliana was dedicated, we've attended church, read bible stories and sang Jesus Loves me sparatically, but I've basically fallen down in my some of my parental duties of raising her in a the Christian faith, not all of them, but some of them, namely church attendance. Fast forward a few years and Liliana and I choose a church to attend and we set out on our Sunday morning adventure. Oh yeah, and somewhere along the line you began judging me, but now I'm properly medicated and all is right with the world. Everyone caught up?
During the car ride, we talked about how its going to be and I gave her the options of going to the kids room and playing with all the kids which will be so so so fun or if she wants to sit with Mommy the first time that's fine too, but there are certain times we have to be really quiet. We went over all of those. We wouldn't want a repeat of last Sunday's dinner when a sweet couple had us over and said a prayer before we ate. My child, of course, not used to this routine (parenting FAIL) starts freaking out and wanting to know why everyone is just standing there with their eyes closed. If you know my child, you know that things freak her out. Anything that isn't quite right requires immediate explanation. . . and good explanation. None of this "Just because" stuff. And if you don't answer quickly, she panics, and gets loud. So, I tried to explain to her what all would happen and how we needed to act. Some of the terms in there were "talking to Jesus", "singing and thanking God", "learn about God and Jesus". I'll also insert that she is very well aware that when the people and animals (I know, I know) we love have died, they have gone to heaven to be with Jesus. As far as I could tell she was taking it all in and we were going to have a successful Sunday morning. Wrong. Somehow this baby at church
First, we were led by a nice young boy, who insisted on taking the eery stairs where they are storing VBS stage props btw, to the children rooms. We walked in and a couple of very nice youth were in her class, which was painted entirely like an ocean (she's a wee bit afraid of the ocean and all of the sea creatures it contains). There were no other kids in there so I inquired and the girl said all of the kids just moved up, so it'd just be Liliana. She wasn't having any part of this. Exorcism number one was performed and we eventually walked back upstairs. By this time the service had began. So, I thought we'd just slip in the back and join in the upbeat singing and have us a glorious time. One of the men I've coined 'the silent ushers' handed me a bulletin and I opened the door. I kid you not, all four of her limbs secured themselves on the door facing like a cat resisting a ride to the vet in a pet carrier. It wasn't happening. The silent ushers stood their posts, waiting for another straggler to hand a bulletin to. So, I peel her off and duck into the closest room I see. Luckily, it was the women's restroom. Exorcism number two is performed and we sit on a comfy little sofa and talk things over again. We read a book we'd brought along. I pull out 'Clifford' and even purple pappy (whole nother blog). And when I think we're ready again, we head back towards the sanctuary. The silent ushers both open a door for us this time (so helpful) and both extend a bulletin. We have one, thanks. As soon as we start to sit. The drummer gets going and everyone stands. Chaos breaks out in our corner and a three year old darts towards the doors faster than you can say 'what the?'. So, I follow. The door is already open (Thanks silent usher #1). I catch up to her in the lobby and we walk outside and sit on a bench to figure this out. I'm ready to call it quits and head back home with my chin to my chest. Feeling like a failure destined to raise an evildoer due to my lack of enthusiasm for church attendance. But, as avid as she is about not going in, she insists we aren't leaving either. Exorcist number three is performed and she gathers her self and states "Let's go in and sit on a bench". I say ok, not questioning at this point, and we do. As we pass a couple in the lobby, the man loudly whispers, "How much you wanna bet they'll be right back out here?, followed by an even louder "shhhhhhhhhhhhhh" by his wife. My patience far, far out the window and having blown up 65, and probably spread along Tennessee somewhere, I swing my head around and give them the "I so heard you" glare. Ah, church, making me such a better person already. To my shock and awe, we sit this time and DO NOT leave again (Thank you very much doubting Thomases in the lobby). Liliana buries her sweet little head in my arm most of the time as I do the things I usually do when I attend a new church, scope out its wedding potential, scope out the congregation for groom potential, read the bulletin for a better understanding of the church's main focus, and pay attention when I see folks jotting things down rigorously on the sermon outline. During my perusing of the congregation, my eyes fell upon a big black window on the back wall of the room. I thought, huh, guess the sound guys are in there? And didn't give it another thought. During my perusing of the bulletin I read a paragraph that noted, "A nursery and sunday school program is provided for children of all ages. However, if you wish for them to attend the service, a sound proof cry room is available where you may tend to them without missing the sermon, worship, or prayer times." GEE, SILENT USHERS, would have been nice to know about this room 3 exorcisms, disruptions, and near nervous breakdowns ago! But thanks for the many bulletins you offered me.
When the service was over, everyone starts to get up and mingle. My darling child looks up at me with big huge eyes and in all sincerity says, " Now is it time for Jesus to come out?". Bless her sweet little heart. Of course she thought we were going to be seeing Jesus in the flesh this morning. And of course that would scare you when the things you associate with him include dead animals and really old sick people along with piece milled bible stories about whales swallowing people and having to fight lions. This whole time she was anticipating a face to face meeting with Jesus. I might be a little scared too had I a three year old's understanding of it all.
I'm glad today happened, though. I have been content at times in my life without having a church family and been able to sustain a close personal relationship with God. But as I often have to remember, its not about me alone anymore. I learn this in so many different ways every day. The things that a church can provide for a small child, the type of understanding of the Christian faith, of God, Jesus, and Salvation they can convey is something I can't do on my own. I'm not sure if we'll end up at this church permanently, but the search is on. And next Sunday, the first thing I look for is a cry room. . .and usher's with voices.