They transform the larger part of the church into a labyrinth of multisensory experiences. It is an interactive display of the events of Holy Week, the life and death of Christ, a look at who Jesus was, how he loved and transformed everyone he encountered. There is room for worship, meditation, emotion, reflection, and communion. It is a unique journey, transformational, and so beautifully, artistically thorough.
I attended tonight. Robb is gone all of this week... six long days. So tonight's journey represented many things to me: it was a time of worship, a chance to share my children with others (namely loving childcare volunteers), and an escape into a place of quiet contemplation. I wanted to reflect, put my heart in the right place, and prepare for Sunday morning's celebration.
And I did.
I took my time. I read. I thought. I walked slowly. I took it all in. I took my time. I felt every emotion, throwing myself fully into the experience. I silenced my phone. I took off my watch. I engaged entirely. It was incredible.
As I finished, I was surprised to see that the experience had taken me over an hour. I felt so deeply reflective and provoked, after thinking so deeply on the most important. I was ready to gather my beloved children, carry their tired, sleepy bodies to their carseats, drive them home in continued quiet contemplation, and pray with them before I nestled them into their beds. I had worshipped fully for over an hour, and I was ready to bless my children with the fruit of such a retreat.
Only it didn't really happen that way.
When I walked into the nursery to gather them, I saw Tucker's shoes and socks placed neatly next to a bundled plastic bag on the counter. In the world of potty training, this only means one thing: an accident. Oh, shoot. I should have taken him to the bathroom before I dropped him off. We are getting so much better that this, but he still needs those reminders... bummer. But it's okay. We can recover from this. After all, I was still on my mountaintop. Not quite ready to come down, even for wet pants in a plastic bag.
And then I saw my boys, the last two left in the room of toys and sliding boards and good times for preschoolers. They were blowing bubbles - their great delight. They were giggling, blowing, popping, and playing, so much so that they groaned when they saw me. The groan that says, "What? You? We didn't want you yet." Sorry, boys. You've got me. And it's time to go.
And that's when Tucker started the waddle. In the world of potty training, this only means one thing: a bigger accident. Out of respect for your limits and Tucker's dignity, I will spare you the details. But it was a team effort (mine and the nursery workers') to get him back in working order. And he had now gone through all of our spare clothes in the diaper bag. One ouftit ago. Ugh.
(I was beginning to feel the tug on my spirit... I was losing my grip on the attitude my heart had found just moments before.)
Finally, with Tucker cleaned up yet again, and with the diaper bag, plastic bag(s), and my purse on my shoulder, I worked to gather my children and usher them to the car. The clean up had taken a bit of time, and there were few things to focus on except our departure. All the other families had gone home... it was just us and the nursery workers and the church staff. They were locking doors; it was time to go.
May I just say, in those moments of high profile, when everyone is watching and acts of parenting are spotlighted, when my husband is away and I am left to my own devices of patience and strategies, I really wish for my children to obey. I wish for them to sense my deepest, heart-felt desire for compliance.
They rarely do. And they did not, in that very moment.
I was balancing my many bags and their sticky little hands in mine. Tyler was lurching for toys and strollers in his path, and Tucker was dancing in circles around me, wishing and asking-asking-asking for more bubbles to blow. They were scattered, hyper, overly snacked, and overly tired. We were a walking octopus, with our many flailing appendages. I forged ahead, all but dragging these boys behind me.
Please, let's just get to the car.
And when we did, Tucker commenced his meltdown. He hit a wall. (I could relate.) Simultaneously, Tyler climbed into the very backseat of the van, tempting me to come get him, begging for boundaries, and asking for consequences. And all around us, church staff are filing out and into their cars. We were still on display.
(I love these people. They are gracious and kind, and I choose to believe they were free of judgment. But still, I couldn't deny the fact that the parking lot was quiet except for the squeals from within my minivan. I was dispersing warnings to the boys through gritted teeth, then turning my head to cheerfully say goodbye to someone once again. Motherhood calls for expert duplicity, varying tones of voice in play at one time.)
I retrieved Tyler from the backseat, and I wrestled him into his carseat. I issued words and warnings to never do that again, fully aware that this is the new game and we are far from the end. I put Tucker in his carseat, as he cried for his sunglasses. (It was 8:30. Please. I'm not worried about the glare.)
I got into the driver's seat. And I crashed. Crash landing. Back to reality. I had journeyed through the beauty of redemption; I had landed quite harshly into the reality of my life. How do I blend the two? How can I be in both places? Can I worship fully, but still be fully mommy?
I began to wonder if tonight's experience had been worth it at all. Only shortly removed from the place of quiet reflection, it seemed worlds away. All I could think about was what lay in front of me. My children were exhausted, and this 'single mom' still needed to get them home and in bed... which is a journey of its own. Was it worth it?
I didn't start the car right away. I needed to sit. Please. Just for a moment. Because the sooner we get home, the sooner I am swamped with pajamas and brushing teeth and medicines and tired. Please. I just needed to sit.
And while I sat, for just a few, they stopped crying. Tucker spotted the moon, and he told us all about the man in the moon (who isn't really there, he would like for you to know). Tyler talked about bubbles. And I listened.
And Tucker said, "Mommy, God made the moon. And he made Tucker."
"From the lips of children and infants, you have ordained praise."
"He sure did, kiddo."
And that's how I blend the two.
I started the car. And we started home. (And I stopped at McDonald's. This mommy needs a mocha.)
It was worth it. It was worth it.
It was worth it.