Sunday, January 31, 2016

Get me to the church on time!

Okay, so I may not be getting married (for those who didn't catch the reference, shame on you- go here now)- but getting to the church on time is still a very huge priority of mine!

When I was young, church attendance was easy! I had parents who, for whatever reason, are gifted at getting places on time, so the concept of "dear-HEAVEN-please-everyone-just-rush-to-the-car-now-NO-you-do-not-need-to-change-shoes-yet-again-those-shoes-are-fine-NO-stay-out-of-your-room-you-don't-need-a-toy-STOP-taking-your-coat-off-WHERE-DID-YOUR-SISTER-GO" bliss that I live through now was never a part of my childhood. This is good and bad. It gives me hope that there is a way to make peaceful punctuality happen- but it also fills me with despair. What am I doing wrong? (I say "for whatever reason" but I am guessing the fact that they came from religious families with 6 children in each was probably helpful in prepping them to go places! They knew the drill! And with just two of us to get ready, it probably felt like a walk in the park!)

Forget that for a moment. I want to focus on the fire, not the smoke.

See, I often have moments where I slip into a Martha mentality, when a Mary mindset is most important (for information on this, see Luke 10:38-42). For years the only person I had to prepare for church was me. Easy peasy. Then, it was still me (as my husband would ready himself). Then, it was me, and an infant. This part was mostly easy- the organizational freak I am, the diaper bag would be packed, the back-up bag would be packed and stowed in the car (extra changes of clothes for us all... because yeah, sometimes the kids puke on your shoes... and who wants to walk with sloshy squishy steps? Ew!), baby would be clean, changed, fed, etc. This worked about 95% of the time- that last 5% being something odd, like- we are on our way out the door and I would fall and need to change clothes, baby had a blowout, or something of that sort. Usually I could still dash and change, so all was well. Punctuality in place!

Then we added another child.

This child was my puke-a-noodle. No, really, that was his nickname. The kid threw up about as much as I did while I was pregnant with him (and hyperemesis is no joke!*). We would have extra changes of clothes for everyone, times three, and we would often STILL get to church- granted by the skin of our teeth- on time! YES! However, now there were times it would become quite obvious we weren't going to make it. Three changes of Sunday best later, and loafers full of puke (not even exaggerating...) we would declare defeat and change back into pajamas and call it a day.

Then the kids got older...

Raising children feels a lot like this video sometimes...

It seemed like no matter how organized I was, how prepared I seemed to be, or how willing I was to try- our percentage of successful Sundays decreased.

Then we had another child.

I can remember many days where I would be crying while looking at the clock and feeling like I was completely helpless. WHY?! Here I was, trying to do something wonderful, uplifting, and righteous for my family, and my efforts were all in vain! All that preparation! All that work! ALL THAT EFFORT! AND NOW WE ARE LATE?!?!? Toss in the towel, I am going back to bed!

My husband and I became really frustrated. The anticipation for Sunday prep became more like a boot-camp exercise than a family activity. Checklists, code-words, special equipment- you name it, we did it! It was insanely stressful. We would get to church, file into a pew, take a deep breath, and nearly pass out. What did we learn in church? No idea- we were coming down from our adrenaline rush. But week after week, our percent of success decreased. Our number of Sundays was going down. "Too late now, we missed _____!" "Can't go now, we won't be able to ______" "Forget it, we are already late!"

Now, I do not know WHEN it happened, but I can tell you we had an ah-ha moment. At some point, we realized that God would rather we get there than not. At some point we realized we were being Martha about something we should treat as Mary. We realized that it was far more important for us to get to church than miss it- even if that meant we were late, our hair wasn't cute, or shirts were stained (we feed the kids breakfast before they dress for church, but they STILL manage to get food on their shirts! HOW?!). We came to see that being stressed and closed-off was not helpful to us, that we need to take deep breaths and be calm and open and receptive during our Sunday worship. God wants us to be happy and have joy!

So, we changed.

Yes, we still miss some Sundays- but it is no longer because we can't get there on time or because something happened to our outfits. Now it is usually for illness or illness prevention (we have a newborn, so I am home with her today). We still work hard to be sure the diaper bag is packed, the kids have their clothes all ready the night before, and that breakfast is eaten before anyone is dressed for the day- but if things do not go perfectly we have stopped stressing about it. YES- all meetings at church are important, and YES it is our goal to have 100% attendance- but we also understand that sometimes things happen that prevent being on time, and instead of cancelling church all together, we simply go late and deal with it. Consequently, we are either quite early, just on time, or late- our window is quite literally a full hour... that is a lot! How does that happen? Kids throw tantrums. People spill things. Sometimes someone will get sick (an adult being sick significantly changes the amount of time, effort, and help with prepping the kids). Arguments between kids happen and it can take longer to get people ready. Sometimes kids get sidetracked. Things just happen- and instead of allowing those things to dictate the course of the day, we decided WE are in charge, and we will keep our actions in line with our priorities and just get there!

What are your best tips, tricks, and habits for getting out of the house on time?

*Our son's condition was being tested by doctors, but it was not a contagious illness so he was cleared to be around people. If our children were sick with anything that could be catching- we stayed home.