On a related note, let me tell you all what happened to me yesterday. From the beginning:
As any mother can attest, Sunday's can be hard. I can't, for the life of me, get all five of us in a routine that makes getting ready for church easier. I try very hard to go the entire morning not raising my voice, but I just don't always make it. Why do the kids move so slow? Where do all the shoes disappear to on Sunday mornings? Why does that cowlick pick Sundays to be the most stubborn and pronounced? The struggle is real, folks. Regardless, we did make it out the door and to church on time for the kids to go to Sunday school, with little to no permanent scarring.
For worship we enjoy having our kids sit with us. We feel it helps to teach the kids that it's okay and necessary to learn to sit still and quietly. Zach took part in the service so I sat with our kids alone. At one point, Ryann hit her head on the pew and began crying. I told the other two to stay there and I got up to take her out. I am almost to the back of the sanctuary when I realize Noah has tagged along. Somehow, within the 2.5 seconds I left them, his sister had found a way to seriously offend him. Sigh. When the closing song begins, Noah, Ryann and I make our way back to our seat. Jeez, who was sitting here? Animal crackers strewn about, colors on the floor, two bulletins seemed to have multiplied to countless pieces of paper. Sigh, again.
With Zoe's help we get everything picked up and gathered. I grab my purse, Ryanns diaper bag, the church bag, and the baby, and head out to the new Prayer Garden where we were having a blessing and dedication along with taking communion. Again, Zach is participating in this service so I stand there, in the sun, with my arms full of the above mentioned items. The baby is hot, tired, hungry (despite the number of animal crackers she partially consumed during church) and is squirming to be put down. Noah keeps wanting to stand with his Daddy in the front. Zoe is bored and restless. Double sigh.
Then, do you know what happened? This sweet older woman, whom I'm sure I've met but can't remember her face in the sea of faces I've encountered these past few weeks, witnessed my plight from across the garden and made her way to me. "Can I please help you by holding your purse and bags for you?" I'm not sure what she thought of my expression, but I felt overwhelmed with relief and gratefulness. "YES!" I practically shouted it. "Thank you soooo much." She held my belongings, literally taking a burden from my shoulders, allowing me to enjoy the moment a bit more, to take communion without struggling.
One small, little gesture. It meant so much to me.
Being part of the church for most of my life, I have heard it countless times: "How can we get young families in the church? How do we reach the millennials?"
Here's my answer: I couldn't care less about the type of music you play, the clothing your congregants wear, the type of seating, if the pastor robes up or not. I have enough struggles and worries to let those types of things bother me. I want to be a part of a place that shows me and others the Love of Christ. If you want to get young, busy, stressed out families in your church, then love them. Easy as that. If you see a young mother struggling with her kids, offer to help. Say something encouraging. Love her. If you know a single mother who worries about her car making it to work, to school, to the babysitters, then fix it for her. Take away that burden. Replace it with love.
I've been accused in the past of looking unapproachable. It angers and saddens me when I've heard these comments, always from people I've gone to church with, because I want to ask them, when you see me looking like that, is Zach there? Do I have kids hanging off me? Have you given any thought to what may have happened in our home, just to get us there? I'm counting it a victory to just be here sometimes, I'm sorry if I don't appear happy and carefree all the time.
So, moral of the story and of this rant, be aware of what other people may be going through. Offer to help, even if it's a small, little gesture. Even a word of encouragement or understanding can go a long way to show other's what LOVE means.