The last few weeks have not been kind to our family health-wise. We've passed around one little bug or another for so long that we've almost forgotten what it's like to all be well!
Because we are pretty adamant that sick kids (and adults) should be kept home to prevent spreading sickness, and because we don't want to risk catching something new when we're hardly over the previous illness, it's been quite a challenge getting the whole family to church!
We finally saw a window of opportunity one Sunday a couple of weeks back and planned our course of action. We would not go to Sunday School, and would take all of the kids except Levi into worship with us. Surely our odds of catching something with only 1 kid in a nursery were lower than 3 or 4, right?
(Actually, wrong - Levi did get a nasty cold from that 90 minutes, thankyouverymuch.)
Greg was there early for music practice, so he stayed for Sunday School, and I came solo with 6 kids in tow. I armed Brooklyn and Daniel with their own little backpacks full of quiet activities. We got there plenty early and the kiddos filed into our usual pew. I smiled and nodded hello to the couple seated in front of us. After the kids were settled Alan and I left to take Levi to the nursery. This left 4 children, ages 12, 5, 4, and 3 seated and waiting.
When Alan and I returned I noticed immediately the couple in front of us had moved to a different part of the sanctuary.
"Surely they moved to sit next to someone they know," I thought, wanting badly to give them the benefit of the doubt.
But no....they still sat alone.
And I knew.
They moved to get away from the children seated behind them. My children.
My children who were all seated, smiling, chatting with each other, behaving themselves.
I very much wanted to take it personally. And yet, at the same time, I felt sad for the couple.
Yes, children can be a distraction. They do wiggle. Try as I might, someone usually kicks the pew in front of us at least once. They do whisper some - and everyone knows a kid's whisper is as loud as an adult's talking.
But children also sing to their Savior - ever so sweetly. They also make great sermon observations and ask excellent learning questions about what they see and hear. How else are children able to experience worship without...experiencing it?
Even though I was determined not to be judgmental or bitter towards a couple I have never met, I was just a little bit satisfied when we left that service that my children had what was probably their best run ever sitting through a service. I don't think they would have bothered a soul! I wanted to pass by them as we left and say with a sweet smile, "I hope you enjoyed the service today." There is no way I would have actually said it, but I sure thought it. I know. I'm bad.
We missed some more services, and then today we decided to brave it again, this time keeping Levi with us, too. Ohhhh my. I was a little bit nervous. As much as I believe in having kids in worship, I just as much believe in not being an obvious distraction. It's a fine line to walk! And with a 14 month old? Oh my.
So, we repacked our goody bags and chose a pew a little further to the back. This time we chose to leave Tyler with his children's church group. (I'm more for families worshipping together, but that's another post. Sort of.)
There I sat, surrounded by 5 kids, ages 12, 9, 4, 3, and 14 months. And have I mentioned? Greg plays guitar for the first half of the service, so I do that part solo.
We were a song or two in this morning, and things were going pretty well. There was more wiggling than I would have liked, but no shenanigans and everyone was pretty quiet.
Then I felt, and saw, the man behind me leaning up towards my ear. I braced myself. I just knew he was going to let me know about the nurseries that were available for my little ones. What would I say? My mind was racing for a tactful answer.
"Are these all your children?"
"Yes, sir. They are," I answered over my shoulder.
He laughed. "Bless your heart." And he leaned back in his seat. It wasn't a condescending 'bless your heart', or an annoyed one. I could tell from his laugh, from his tone, he was being complementary.
I smiled. "Thank you," I replied with relief.
After that I wanted even more for us to be on our best behavior. And they were. It wasn't our best run, but no disasters. I did have to slip out with Brooklyn for a potty stop near the end (and took Levi with us). We missed the end of the service, and therefore missed the complements that gentleman and the couple with him paid to Greg about our beautiful family.
A much more pleasant experience. As easy as it is to drop the little ones off (and I have been very thankful for our wonderful nurseries on many occasions!), I still enjoy being together to worship and learn as a family. It's not too much to expect obedient children to sit quietly through a service. Yes, it takes work, and yes, it is a little distracting to Mama and Daddy. But what is gained by us all is worth it. I doubt we'll keep them all with us all the time from now on, but I have a good feeling it will be happening again.
So next time you see a kid or two or five in your church services, remember that Jesus said to let the little children come unto Him, and try not to get too distracted by their too-loud whispers. They're learning, and their mama is probably trying her very best. And if you offer a kind word on your way out afterword, you just might make their day. :)