I've noticed something about the church we've been visiting. They, unlike our previous church, seem to encourage (or at least they don't discourage) parents keeping their little ones in the service with them. At our church in Houston, there was a separate area where toddlers and kids and teenagers went while the adults worshiped. They had their own lessons and songs to keep them occupied.
I didn't really think anything of it until we started our family. I realized very early on, that unless my kids were being super disobedient or were causing a ruckus for some reason, I wanted them with us. I wanted them seeing us worship and singing the songs. I wanted them hearing God's word preached while they learned to sit and listen. I wanted them in and among the body of believers taking it all in. I read this article the other day, and it completely solidified my thinking.
Yes, it's difficult keeping two kiddos under the age of three quiet and still. Yes, it means The Husband and I have to be on the same page and diligent with our efforts. Yes, it sometimes means we have to take one of them out to have a reminder of how we behave in church (or any setting that has us listening to a speaker). And yes, it obviously helps to have things to keep their little hands and minds busy.
Because Sunday mornings are a bit busier around here than most, I have to make a plan before heading out the door.
1. I pack a little backpack that Jack can (and loves to!) carry.
2. I prepare two baggies of apple chunks (that I keep in my purse) for them to munch on around 11am (usually right as the sermon starts) since they're used to eating an early lunch. Because, like every parent has found out, hungry toddlers quickly become disobedient and disruptive.
3. I wait to open the backpack until they start to fidget. There's no point bringing out anything if they're enjoying participating. They are happy to greet those around us (Jack will reach out to shake hands if the other person doesn't initiate. He's gotten so friendly!), listen and even hum and clap with the music, and close their eyes and pray when reminded to.
4. We keep Jack between us and Ella in someone's lap. Sometimes Jack wants to sit on a lap, too, and that's fine with us.
5. We have them stand (or be carried) when we stand and sit when we sit. Walking/crawling around isn't an option, and we want them participating as much as they're able.
The above is what I packed this past Sunday after we finished breakfast (I snapped the below shot as we listened to a little Frank Sinatra while they chowed down on their yogurt and bananas and Cheerios).
I will leave the books in the bag for a month or so (they don't look at these during the week, so they're a special thing). I, also, draw pictures on a few of the pages in the notepad. Jack colored this tree this week, and I think for a 2 1/2 year old boy, he did a lovely job :) He sat on my lap while he colored, and he took such care in coloring it. I kept nudging The Husband with pride, haha!
Anywho, our church experience isn't perfect. We miss things that are said or are distracted from worship by something cute or irritating.
But we're all together, and it's worth it. This last Sunday, as I raised my hand in worship as we sung about the greatness of our Father, I glanced down to see my daughter, who I held close to me, close her eyes and lift her hands high in the air. My heart was glad, and I will continue to pray fervently that she and her brother will know the goodness of God and have hearts for Jesus.
**I'm posting this just for the pure sweetness. Sunday evening as I got dinner together, I heard Jack (in the other room) say, "Eya, seeet."
I looked around the corner and saw them sitting together looking at books and at each other, and it made me happy all over again that they have each other. So thankful and happy.