It's been several months since we've attended church because the children get sick (almost) every time we go. But it was a good decision to attend this morning, because I don't think we've ever been in need of a church sermon as much as we were today.
We were angry.
We were vocal.
I noticed that the windows were open and we were speaking IN LOUD TONES but it didn't matter. Who in our neighborhood wouldn't understand that the family with lots and lots of small children and a hacking dog needs to have a good shoutfest every so often?
We have issues. Most of them (if not all) surrounding the offspring that we wanted and prayed for since the start of our marriage. You know, those little things we call children.
Children that don't sleep well. Children that don't nap well. Children that don't poop well. Children that wake up in the middle of the night and decide to wake up their siblings and they all jump out of bed and unload their chest of drawers and try on new clothes and then come wake up their parents to start the day and the parents crawl out of bed before seeing the clock and realizing that it is only 3:45 AM.
Children that destroy things. Children that make new messes faster than we can clean the last one up. Children that grow fast and need new beds and new clothes and new shoes. Children that don't eat. Children that talk back. Children that tease. Children that whine. Children that scream and scream and scream. Children that run away in the parking lot. Children that open the deadbolt on the front door and wander out in to the yard. Children that overflow the bathroom sink. Children that wash their dishes and have a teaparty with water from the toilet.
Children that generate 20 loads of laundry a week because they like to change their own clothes five times a day - and throw their barely worn clothes in a hamper with dirty bar mops. Children that take up almost all of our free time as a couple. Children that take up almost all of our free time for ourselves. Children that take up almost all of our expendable income. Children that have firmly planted themselves in our home and are here to stay.
When Charlie told me that all he wanted was for the weekend to be over so that he could get back to work, it struck me. That's not the way it should be. Heaven knows, I don't want the weekend to be over because then it will just be me and the CHILDREN.
I didn't know where we were going this morning when I got the children dressed and put on my tevas. I didn't know where we would end up when I grabbed the diaper bag and ordered every one to get in to the car. I didn't know where we spend the morning as we pulled out of the driveway and left our neighborhood.
But as soon as we saw the church and realized that it was Sunday, we knew.
We arrived more than an hour before the sermon was scheduled to begin, but since the nursery school was staffed, we dropped off our children and headed for the sanctuary. Because we were early and there were people setting up the stage for the service, we felt a little awkward sitting in the back, or inconspicously off to the side, as we normally do. But once we made eye contact with the singers who were doing sound-checks, we moved down to the front and sat in the center of the row.
For what seemed like a long while, we sat and talked. We watched people file in and take up the chairs around us. We listened to the prerecorded music that is piped in until the band takes the stage. And during this time, we both came to the conclusion that our marriage is sinking fast.
Finally, our church's praise band took the stage. They are such an awesome band every time I hear them, I feel the worries of the world that I carry around in my heart, slough away. And because their talent is so powerful, and the slideshows that they flash on the screen to accompany their music are so beautiful, every time I hear them, I am moved to tears.
So there I was, sitting in the third row - center - bawling. Thinking about my family, thinking about all the things that I wish were different. Looking at the photographs on the big screens of waves crashing on the beach and thunderclouds moving through the desert. Thinking about my sisters and my father and my dog. Thinking about my role as a friend, mother, daughter and wife. Thinking that although people might think that I'm amazing or inspirational, on the inside I feel like I am failing colossally.
Within five minutes of the minister taking the podium, I knew that God had led us to church today. We didn't know where we were going to end up when we pulled out of our driveway, but as soon as the sermon began, we knew that this is where we supposed to be.
I've always been a somewhat spiritual person, but ever since we've had children, I have become even more so. I hang on to spirituality and prayer like a life line. I've never been one to quote Bible verses and have always felt awkward when someone does. But I think that's because I grew up in a Catholic family and that wasn't something that anyone in my family ever did.
Parents lead and children follow.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Ephesians 6:1
Children grow, then they go. Prioritize your family. A healthy relationship between the parents must be the first priority.
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Even when they are being totally bitchy and you wish they'd just GO away). Ephesians 5:25 (& Jen 8/3/08.)
Children are not wired to be in charge. If they were, we would eat cupcakes every night for dinner and candy every morning for breakfast.
God had made these children, they are made in His image, not yours.
Discipline is for the future, not punishment for the past.
Prepare for the journey and know that you might get lost a time or two. Or twenty two hundred. Children are on loan from the Lord.
There were nods and murmurings throughout the congregation. I looked at my husband and it struck me that all of these challenges that we are facing with juggling our lives and marriage and career and family - we are not alone.
We are not alone in trying to be the best parent and spouses that we can be.We are not alone in feeling that everything is too much for us to handle at times.
We are not alone in feeling that we could be better.We are not alone in feeling that the responsibility of raising children that make a positive contribution to society is entirely upon our shoulders.
We are not alone when we shrug off the credit paid for the things our children do right, and severely blame ourselves for the things that they do wrong.With very rare exception, every couple that we know who have gone through a divorce have done so once they have had children. Of course the parents will tell the children as they grow older that it was not "their" fault that mommy and daddy split up.
But quite often, I believe it is.Not the actual child's fault perhaps, but the introduction of children in to a marriage and the subsequent inability of the parents to successfully manage the change. They are unable to keep the focus, the priority, on the marriage. Because there are only so many hours in a day and so much laundry to do and bills to pay and blogs to read and shows to watch - the marriage is put on the backburner, indefinitely.
Romance fades away.Communication begins to falter.
And before you know it, you are talking two different languages and unable to get along.To me, that's what it's about. It's about knowing how to manage your married life once you have children. It's about keeping the focus on your marriage, regardless of what obstacles or challenges your offspring - or life - may throw in your way.
Charlie and I: We are on the same team. But we have got to work harder on our zone defense. We have got to work better on our communication skills and treating each other with respect (that applies to me, mostly).
For us, we are making the commitment to spend some time together, every night. We are going to read the book, The Five Love Languages together, and we are going to be more in love than we were when we united in marriage, 14 years ago, this week.I predict there will be a lot of kissing.