[box_dark]”Five Kids, Two Dogs, and a Man of the Cloth,” by Cheryl Oberdieck[/box_dark]

mom and kids 2000

Clearly a photoshopped picture of us after church with no spills, smudges, rips or spit ups.

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] love evening church services! It’s the end of the day, and your sleepy children nod their heads against your shoulder while the littlest ones snuggle on your lap as you sing, pray and receive God’s good gifts. Right?

Flashback 14 years.

[box_light]It will probably take a long time to muster up my courage to take all my little people to another evening service!

It started with the church supper. I dropped the three oldest kids off at church to be with their Daddy and raced to Walmart with the baby to buy two loaves of garlic bread because that is what I had signed up to bring. Got back to church to discover that I had accidentally picked up the french bread and not the garlic bread. Oops!

Cut up the bread in the church kitchen while using my foot to rock Christy in her infant car seat (who was fussing that it was time for her dinner too), spread it with butter that I found in the church fridge, then afterward discovered that the butter had expired 2 months ago. Got reassurances from other ladies that it would be okay. Found some garlic powder (didn’t check expiration date, but church kitchen spices couldn’t be that old, right?) and sprinkled it on.

Then it was time to feed the crew. Get dinner for the three older kids, go nurse the baby, watch kids on playground, feed baby again, round up sweaty wild kids.

Church time. Fussy baby. Walk baby next to pew, hoping 2-year-old Kayla will sit quietly and not want to jump around my feet while I pace with Christy. Give up and go to nurse baby again in David’s office (pastor’s wife perk!)  because the cry room was already full. Drag Kayla along with me because I couldn’t see leaving her behind with my friend Julie who was already holding down the pew with her little boy as well as my 7-year-old Jonathan and 5-year-old Katy.

Feed baby while helplessly watching Kayla dump a glass of water she finds in Dave’s office. Clean it up. Head back towards sanctuary with the kids. Kayla takes off ahead of me and tears through the front door by the pulpit right during Dave’s sermon. Fortunately she finds her own way down the aisle back to our pew while I duck in the back door and hide my face.

kayla toddler

Toddler Kayla. (Sure, she looks all sweet and innocent here. )

Sit down. Kayla decides to take a crumpled up bulletin and slide it up and down on the pew in front of us making loud rattling noises. Hand the baby off to Julie. Baby fusses and spits up on Julie. Find some wipes to help her clean up.

Lift Katy out of the aisle where she is insisting it is the perfect place to take a nap. Take Kayla (who is by this time jumping on the pew in front of us) back out of church to a room where she can practice sitting still on a chair and we can still hear the service over a speaker.

Hear Jonathan running down the hallway to the men’s room. I reach out to stop him, who tells me very excitedly (and loudly!) that he saw a black widow spider outside. Wonder briefly how he saw it outside when he was supposed to be in church. Tell him I’ll check it out later and send him on to the bathroom. (Did I mention that Jonathan got into Dave’s army camouflauge paint in his office and couldn’t get it off his face in time for church?)

Get back into church in time to go up for communion. Julie tells me “your baby is acting really hungry” as I watch Christy trying to swallow her fist. Manage with the help of other moms to get us all up to the altar railing. Three adults up there with what seems like twenty children. Go back to the pew trying not to make eye contact with the pitying knowing smiles coming our way.

Sit down. Get up. Take Kayla out again. Come back in and sit down. Hold on to her leg as she is on the floor trying to scramble out of the pew to get to Pastor Daddy up front. Sing closing hymn “Abide with Me.”  Suddenly much more fully understand the words![/box_light]

It might seem that the sum total of my involvement in the service that night was receiving the Lord’s Supper and the closing hymn. Did that make it worth all the effort? Absolutely! My weary flesh certainly was questioning my presence there, but my spirit was still ministered to that evening.

And regarding the rest of the congregation, whom I was sure we were disrupting? Being on the other side of things (almost), I now know that those smiles I saw when coming back from the communion rail weren’t pitying smiles, but encouraging smiles. The church is thriving and growing the next generation! At the time, the parent is always worried about their child causing a scene, but it truly is not bothering anyone but them. God’s good gifts are for everyone, of all ages, even those active little kiddos!

“Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!”

Lutheran Service Book #878