Sunday, April 7, 2013

A little more broken, a little more grounded in love and grace.

Today, I went to church broken. And I left a little more broken.

My children were exhausting during the service, and I wasn’t feeling it anymore than they were. It happens sometimes. We would have survived without much issue.

After church, I needed to talk to someone about a CPR class I am doing, and the kids were antsy. E was pushing buttons as he ran through the crowd “punching” people. (Let me be clear, he was not hitting hard, it was more of a tap besides the fact that he said “punch” each time he did). I grabbed him and we had a quick chat while I got some disapproving stares. I made a mental note to get him out of there. He was overwhelmed by the people and he was anxious to get home. Plus, I was feeling edgy with the stares I was getting. After our chat, he ran off again and “punched” one more person on his way. Sigh. Kids are exhausting and 4 year olds aren’t always the best behaved. But then I got the nastiest, eyebrows raised, really-did-your-son-just-do-that-OMG-can’t-you-control-him look, and it pushed a button. I was tired from surviving church. I was frustrated at my sons less than stellar behavior. I was feeling pulled in two different directions from the necessary conversation about the CPR class and the obvious needs of my kids. I felt the shame wash over me. How dare that kid not listen? Why can’t he do anything right? Why do I always have to deal with this? Now, all these people are looking at me and giving me nasty looks. Shame sends me right to blame.

Not familiar with the visceral, physical reaction of shame? Check out Brene Brown.

Next, I did something I am not proud of. It was fight or flight. I couldn’t think straight. That woman gave me that final look, and I lunged after my son. I grabbed his arm, not gently at all, growled unkind words into his ears, and pushed him towards the back door telling him to GO HOME. (We live next door, he knows how to get there, and his brother was going with him). I was mean, nasty, and shaming to my son because of my own reaction to shame.

Sigh. Right away, I was mad at myself. I knew I took it out on him. I was frustrated with him, my parenting, and my reaction. I walked back across the front church hallway to say goodbye to my husband before leaving when I heard a man walking out the front door say in a disgusted tsk-tsk kind of voice, “those kids need a little Catholic school” to his family.

Excuse me? EXCUSE ME? I almost said it. I almost stopped him right at the door to say, “Excuse me?!?” I didn’t, because I couldn’t think straight. I was seeing red. Here I was, an exhausted mom of two small children who had struggled through church, and then had a rough time afterwards. Judgment and shame were exactly what I did not need. I stomped out of church, swearing (loudly) through my tears across the back parking lot. I can only imagine what our poor Council President thought as she got out of her car and watched as I stormed away.

After letting this sit for a few hours and restraining myself from responding to comments on my angry Facebook post, I have come away with two things.

First, people come to church broken. We all do on some level or another. I came to church today incredibly broken. If our church is going to talk about renewal and wonder where all the members are or why churches are dying, we need to consider if we’re meeting broken people where they are. I left church today more broken than I when I went in. I struggle to get through a lot of my days, and it’s a simple fact of survival to not do something that I know is going to make it harder. So why would I go to church? Well I have lots of reasons – a seminary education, a belief in raising up faith-filled children, and a desire to support my husband, the pastor. But what if it wasn’t me, what if it wasn’t the pastor’s wife, what if it wasn’t the girl with a seminary degree?  What if it was another broken Child of God without the support network or church connection that I have? Outreach and community are not just words to throw around. I am thankful for the many supportive members of the community we have. Just moments before the dirty looks and the mean comment, I had been joking with another church member about my kids’ antics during worship. We can joke because we know their presence is important for them and us. At the same time, I am also reminded that we need to be really outspoken with our support of each other, especially young families. Church can’t be another place where it feels like us vs. the world.

Second, it has to start with love and grace. The fact is that the people at church today looking at my admittedly misbehaving children don’t have any idea of what’s going on in our life. They have no idea that I’ve spent the last three days doubled over in pain wondering what in the world I am allergic to and what is actually safe to eat. They have no idea that my kids are hanging by a thread after having their routines destroyed and no school for a week. They have no idea that depression and anxiety threaten to suffocate me constantly - sometimes they loosen their grip and sometimes they squeeze tight, but they never let go. They have no idea that juggling therapies, school, and other commitments while trying to help my sensitive children with special needs succeed brings us to our knees daily.

I am not angry (okay a tiny bit, but I’m working on that, it’s only been a few hours) at the people who gave me dirty looks or the man who made his rude comment, but I am frustrated with a world where this is how we operate. I am reminded and inspired to just hold space for people. A kind word to a struggling mom does so much more good than the enjoyment you might get out a snide comment. I know that everyone is doing their best. Life’s just hard. We all have different kinds of hard, but it’s all hard. I am stretching my limits of compassion and empathy, for myself and others. It takes courage. Love, grace, and courage. I might have it tattooed on my forehead… or maybe somewhere slightly more acceptable.

Today, when I felt myself spiraling into anger, shame, and guilt, I did the only thing I knew to do to stop it. I went shopping.

No, no, not for me. I ordered some books that fill me with hope and ground me in grace, and I had them shipped to people I know who could use some hope and grace.

carry ondaring greatly2

That’s all I could do. When I need more love and support, I am pushed to reach out to others with love and support. In the end, love wins. It always wins. I told my little “punching” 4 year old that the other night, and he said, “But I thought God wins?” It’s all the same, buddy. It’s all the same. God is love.

26 comments:

  1. Needed this today. Trying to navigate similar waters without much support.

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  2. Just discovered this blog today. I am right there with you. Thanks for writing this.

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  3. And I just discovered your blog today. In some ways, we are exactly at the same place in life and in others, we are totally on a different page. You are very articulate and your words go right to my heart.

    I remember those days when our children were little and I thought all eyes were on me, them. Now I tell parents that they do not have so much to worry about, but they still do.

    Now, at 56 my children are still teenagers, my husband is starting seminary in the fall. I feel more eyes are upon us and at times, I just want to withdraw.

    Sending lots of love your way.

    Jackie

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    1. Thank you so much for commenting. Best wishes to you and your husband on this journey. It has its challenges and its joys like most things.

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    2. Where have you been all my "(nameless) worship leader's wife's" life? Except, we resigned and are starting over. Thanks for being you.

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  4. So glad I found you! My friends are going to dig this blog. I can't wait to share it with them. (And good luck with the food allergies -- I sympathize!)

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  5. SISTER! My name is Glennon and I wrote that first book up there. I LOVE YOU. I loved this post. YOU SHAMELESSLY SISTER ON, PLEASE. You are right- everything good starts with grace and nothing good starts with shame.
    PEACE, new friend!
    G

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    1. I squealed when I saw this post. Legit scare-my-husband-and-chance-waking-my-sleeping-kiddos squeal. Thank you for your comment. Your blog, your book, and your community give me hope daily, and they give me the courage to be shameless.

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  6. I just discovered your blog! Thank you for writing this. It helps!
    I too am a seminary educated wife of a pastor and now stay at home Mom to 2 very energetic little boys. It is very rewarding some days and very tough others. As my husband is not currently doing ministry in a parish, but in the community, I have lost that sense of community support and love (and disfunction) that comes from living at the centre of a worshiping community.
    Truth be told, since my second child was born, about 18 months ago, I have hardly been to church at all. It became too stressful and frought with one too many of the nasty comments and sneers. Having grown up in the Catholic (RC) school system, guilt comes very easily to me too. No child needs encouragement to feel shame.

    Needless to say - thank you for reminding this theologically educated Mama to hold onto the Hope and Grace.

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  7. Joining orange rino's new challenge starting this week, in part thanks to you!
    Thank you for the grace and the encouragement!
    Emily

    http://www.weakandloved.com/2013/06/on-my-mind-yelling.html

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  8. It saddens me that we often feel more shame and guilt than peace and grace at church on Sundays. People put pressure on parents if their families don't look a certain way, and they put extra pressure on pastor's families. I grew up in a pastor's family, and now I am a pastor's wife. I struggle with this too, though I am blessed to be in a church that is understanding of children and know that children belong in the Kingdom as much as anyone. I don't know if it's the older generation being raised with certain expectations, but I'm praying that our generation can turn things around. And if you are open and honest and can admit that you are a broken Christian (versus the shiny "I-have-it-all-together" kind of Christian), maybe others can too.

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  9. Bless you for writing this real, unaltered, raw viewpoint. I often leave church more broken than I arrived (and I usually arrive quite broken for one reason or another). I thought there was something wrong with me :(. I struggle with finding a balance in church...keeping my kids in check, enjoying worship, taking something from the service. I come exhausted from life and often leave exhausted from not achieving balance. Thank you for being real and sharing this. I'll be back to read more as I feel we are in such similar places in life :)

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  10. I just discovered your post literally 20 minutes ago and already have fallen in love with your posts. I am a mom of two little boys that are still in the "learning to sit still and be quiet" stage (ages 5 and almost 3). Your post was exactly what I needed today, as today is a Sunday and day of Worship. I take my two children to church by myself, my husband isn't involved with our church. Anyways, you hit the nail on the head in many posts and I thank you so much for speaking out. Many "older" people in church forget what it's like to have young children. Teaching them to sit still and be quiet for a whole church service is nearly impossible. Thankfully I'm one of many parents that struggle with keeping their children quiet in church so we don't get "looked down on" as much but nevertheless, I still get the dirty looks and quiets comments as I pass holding one kid under my arm and dragging the other behind me on the way to the car... Thank you so much for being a blogger.

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  11. I literally found this blog 30 minutes ago. As a parent that takes her two boys (ages 5 and almost 3) to church alone, I thank you so much for being the blogger you are. I have already fallen in love with this blog and so happy. Obviously I needed to read these today, since it is Sunday. I get the dirty looks and quiet comments as I pass by with one kid kicking and screaming under one arm and the other being dragged by the arm behind me to the car weekly. I believe people with older kids or even elderly people forget what it's like to have young kids at church.

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  12. I just found your blog today and it is literally breaking me open at the moment. I have 3 young children (6, 4, 2) and one on the way. My husband will graduate I with his Masters of Theology in 2 weeks (after 5 years of working full time and going to school, as well as being an amazing father and husband), and hopefully sometime in the near future he will find a pastor job. Which will make me... a pastors wife. I am so often there where you are, bringing the kids to church, already frazzled when we get there, mostly thinking about how much easier it would have been just to stay home, embarrassed when they act out in church, hoping they are not being too disruptive. We go to a church where the congregation is mostly elderly people, and while many have welcomed us and expressed a joy to have us and our children there, I am sure they are disruptive to many on any given Sunday. I think we have all been where you were, stalking across the parking lot, yanking an arm a little too hard, forgetting that God rejoices to see our little ones there. He would be the first to tell the others to let them come! Anyway, your blog is speaking to my heart, and I wanted to thank you for being real, for offering truth and hope.

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  13. I loved this post. I have a 3 yr old little boy who is very spirited and full on. I suffer anxiety and depression quite often and sometimes I've had a terrible week and often wake up on Sundays wondering if it's worth going to church with my 3 yr old. I know what you mean about arriving broken and leaving more broken It can be a huge thing to even get to church on a Sunday morning, and then when my son decides to do a runner and take off down the aisle and do a whole lap of the church giggling his head off and I have to go and fetch him I get SO embarrassed and humiliated as everyone stares at me. Then to have him poke or 'punch' people after church as he walks past them just makes it even worse and I feel like it can be so much hard work and is it worth it? Thanks for your post it gives me courage.

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  14. Thank you so much for this! I can totally relate on so many levels. We have four kids under the age of seven. Most of the criticism we receive is from those who don't have children, but it still hurts! LOVE your blog! :)

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  15. I sit here in tears readingthis today. I was so fed up with comments last week at church I quit. Pastor's kid here and "I" quit.

    You're blog has made me reconsider. Perhaps you had this very hard day just so you could write about it and make me reconsider what's really important. Thank you.

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  16. Thank you for keeping it real. It's nice to know as a mom I'm not alone. We are so lucky to have a new opportunity every day to live with love, grace, and courage. God is love.

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  17. I came here because one of my friends from church posted your HuffPost "Parents with Young Children" post on facebook today. I read it months ago, and read it again today, and just felt defeated. Every Sunday feels like this to me. Today after church I lost my temper and yelled at my kids in the car afterwards. Last year, I organized a nursery so that we could take turns watching each others' toddlers, but my family was the only one using it consistently and it was too hard to ask for volunteers just for my own little boy. One mom told me she didn't use the nursery because she likes spending time with her son. She seriously said that to me. Like I don't enjoy spending time with my sons? I do, but I also enjoy worshiping and concentrating on God during the service, not silently fighting with a 2 year old. I struggle with anxiety and depression, too, and as I'm sure you know, some days are just harder than others, and some days are just impossible. Today was impossible. I need an encouraging word. :)

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    1. I can tell you that we had one of "those" Sundays this past Sunday as well. It was bad. Give yourself grace, mama. It is hard. Of course you love spending time with your son but not ALL. THE. TIME. We all need breaks

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    2. Your story sounds almost identical to mine in terms of both the little ones and the nursery situation. I was asked to organize the nursery but the multiple times I was in there as a test-run (with people being told it was there and it mentioned in the bulletin) no one came but me and my child. After I gave up (for the time being) on the nursery and started back with sitting in the service (with a two year old and a three month old) I was admonished by a father of twins (that looked to be between 2-4 years old) to "keep control of my son and not make others to it for me" I found myself breaking down. I'm with them 24 hours a day (Stay-at-home mom here) and my husband is NOT a church-goer (no matter that I fell and struck my head hard on a wall at church trying to corral my eldest son into the pews) and his statement was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I couldn't focus and take notes on the sermon as I was taught by my dad to do because I had to keep urging my son back into his seat (even WITH the IPad which is generally my last resort and the only thing that will keep my son sitting still). It had me in tears when I had to keep pulling my increasingly vocal son out from the pews in front of me only to thump him on the head in the process. A month later and I'm STILL getting teary about the situation.

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  18. I've been a PW for over a decade now and I keep thinking it will get easier and maybe it will but I tend to live in the moment where it is currently hard. It's hard going to church every week and trying to worship for my own personal relationship with Christ, support my pastor husband, and train and teach my children (I have about a 1/2 dozen :) that church is a good thing so that they'll grow up and have an 'authentic' relationship of their own. One of my constant prayers is that my children will follow Christ despite what they unfortunately see at times at church, whether it's their daddy being openly criticized, the lack of grace and love to the brokenhearted that need Christ, some of the weak leadership needing 'the boot', or the way Mommy reacted to so-and-so. Pastor's wives have an interesting role and lets face it, it is hard! Livin' in the fishbowl...and all that.

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  19. Really feel for you. Now a grandmother who probably LOOKS cross(but doesn't mean to) at "misbehaving" children. Lots of us remember those times..... but choose to forget them! I feel so sad when a child walks in front of me and the parent excuses them. I TRY always to say "please never apologise for children-they are a blessing" Hope this is a little comfort- there are more of us there than is realised.God Bless you and your family:-)

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  20. I just read this in the Anglican Journal - what a great article. I think it's so important for children to have the experience of church and feeling that God listens to our prayers. Thanks for writing this!

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