Can I brag about my kids for a minute?
By now, I’m sure that pretty much everyone has met my children, Caroline and Mitchell. Caroline is nearly four and Mitchell is a couple of months shy of being a year and a half, and the speed with which they are growing up is astounding to me.
I’ve started telling people that Caroline is three-going-on-fourteen. This is partly because she’s going through a rebellious phase – your prayers for this are appreciated, by the way – and also because she’s maturing so rapidly that it’s hard to believe that she’s still so young. She’s got a very inquisitive mind and wants to know and understand how everything works and why we do the things we do. She’s also starting to understand lots of very important concepts, like Jesus dying for our sins. I’m absolutely blown away by how curious she is and how readily she learns new things.
Mitchell, while still a couple of years behind Caroline, is growing quickly, too. Physically, he’s mastering things like using a spoon that were far too advanced for him just weeks ago. He’s also starting to talk – the number of recognizable words that he’s saying is increasing rapidly! And, he’s developing quite the sense of humor – he loves to sneak up and surprise people, and he’s enjoying playing little games. It’s really amazing to watch him grow and discover new things at such a rapid pace!
As many things as my kids are good at, I am compelled to admit that there is at least one skill they haven’t mastered: sitting still. They’re full of life and energy, which usually manifests itself with them running around, making noise, and generally getting into mischief. That’s all well and good at home, but it can cause some problems when we’re in public.
A great case in point came a couple of weeks ago at the community Thanksgiving service. As we do every year, our church joined other churches in our community for a time of worship and thanksgiving in an ecumenical setting. During this year’s service, which was hosted at the Methodist church, Pastor Tim brought the message and our choir sang for the offertory.
Due to a series of miscommunications about whether or not child care would be provided, Lora found herself seated right in the middle of the crowd with both of our kids. Meanwhile, I was seated at the front of the room, right next to the choir.
In fairness to our kids, I have to say that they made quite an effort at keeping their composure throughout the service. At some point, though, little kids can only sit quietly for so long.
First, Caroline got restless and wanted to go explore the room. During one of the songs, while the rest of the congregation was standing up, Lora told Caroline that she could go to the front of the room and sit with me, which she did. Caroline fidgeted and squirmed a little bit, but for the most part she stayed with me the rest of the time and did a pretty good job.
Mitchell, though, was at the end of his rope. He just couldn’t keep quiet any more, and he started to make too much noise for Lora to be able to keep him in the room with the rest of us. So, she got up and took him outside about halfway through the service.
That left Caroline and I sitting up at the front of the room. That worked pretty well for most of the service. Although she wasn’t entirely quiet and attentive, Caroline hung in there for a good half hour, singing along with the hymns and listening to the sermon. However, I was dreading what would happen as soon as the choir started to sing.
Did I mention that Caroline isn’t very good at sitting still? She usually doesn’t stay in one place very long. So, as soon as I stood up to direct the choir, I was sure that she’d be “on the move,” wandering around the room and (possibly) getting into mischief. An even scarier scenario was going through my mind, as well: the front door of the sanctuary at the Methodist church opens right onto the busiest street in town. What if she decided to go outside? Would she wander into the street?
When the time came for the choir to sing, I tried my best to put on my Stern Father face and told her that she needed to sit in her seat, and I would be done in just a few minutes. I prayed that my worst fears wouldn’t come true.
And, as it turns out, they didn’t – she stayed seated for most of the song, then came up and stood next to me until we were finished. I was relieved that all of my worrying was for nothing.
It wasn’t until later that I found out that I wasn’t the only one that was paying attention to what Caroline would do.
Unknown to me, people from our church, who were seated all over the room, had noticed my predicament and were planning on how they would come to the rescue if something happened. The ladies on the front row in the choir had already worked out a plan where one of them could hand off her folder to the person sitting next to her and chase Caroline down. Another group of FBC people, sitting near the middle of the room, had already decided that they would “block the exits” if she got away from me. Still more of our folks, sitting on the back row, decided to preemptively stand up at the back of the aisle so that they could intercept Caroline if she “made a run for it.”
All of this may seem small and insignificant, but I can’t tell you how much it means to me, as a parent, to know that I’m part of a church that loves my family like this. As parents, Lora and I have always appreciated what a great place FBC is to raise our kids. We have been blessed by all of the folks who have said encouraging things to Lora and I as we have experienced the ups and downs of parenting, and our kids have benefitted from wonderful Sunday School teachers, nursery workers, and caring adults throughout the congregation that make them feel loved and safe. We discovered early on that our church is a great place for kids.
What I didn’t expect, however, was for so many people to be aware of what we were going through in that moment and to take so many proactive steps to make sure that we were taken care of. It is encouraging and humbling to know that we have so many folks that we can count on to look out for Caroline and Mitchell. This really is our “church family,” in every sense of the phrase.
Colossians 3:12-14 says:
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
These words from Paul, written as advice to the church on how to work together for the glory of God, sum up so much of what we do as a church. We are called to be a people who are marked by the love that we show for each other and for our community.
Thank you for showing that kind of love to my kids, and for being our “church family.” FBC is a great place to be a parent.
Thank you, also, for showing that same kind of love to our community. In hundreds of ways, big and small, our members work tirelessly to be the hands and feet of Jesus in Flatonia, and we pray that God is glorified in all that we do.
What a great church to be a part of!