5 reasons volunteering, even as a toddler mom, is WORTH IT.

For the last 20 years of my life, I have either been on paid staff, a guest worship leader or speaker, or a key volunteer at a church.

I love The Church. I love serving her, watching even the youngest ones using their gifts to edify Her.

And yes, I know that WE are The Church. It isn’t contained within 4 walls of a building. I get that and believe it with all my heart.

But, there is a pep-rally of sorts that happens, usually on the weekends, when we all choose to come together from our different neighborhoods and corners of our sub-cultures and raise a unique sound that will never be lifted again. We choose to join our hearts and minds together to celebrate, learn, commune and meditate on the person of Jesus. We see Him at work in each other, we see Him in the faces of the other, and we hopefully walk away better and more open to the voice of the Holy Spirit during the week.

Now, my niche in the world of “professional Christians”- those of us who are actually paid by our specific churches- has always been with worship, and teaching children and youth. It is a blast!!! I would ALWAYS say that I had the best job ever!

If you know me in real life, you know that it is my passion to raise up youth and children to know and love Jesus and follow Him. I especially love training them to use their gifts to teach others about Him!

When I had Elias last year, I honestly thought that I would be able to continue working at church. However, at the 6 week mark, when I was done with taking time off, I knew it wouldn’t work.

For starters, I only worked at the church for 20 hours a week, with most of those being weekend hours. I didn’t get maternity leave. I was still not making the amount of money hourly that would actually contribute to our household. And, my husband was also working for the church, so weekends were tricky when we were both pulled in opposite directions. There was also no opportunity for my position at the church to grow… so it was a pretty easy decision (on paper) to step down.

But the reality? When I knew it was my calling? Wow. So hard!

I stayed on as a volunteer on Saturday nights, which was still hard because Elias wouldn’t go to anybody. My husband would run sound most Saturday nights, so as I was in the children’s area rehearsing with my team, he was in the sanctuary and unable to help. Elias was so little, and the noise was too loud during rehearsals. I would try to take him to the nursery but he would SCREAM until he would fall asleep. It broke my heart. There were actually a few times when I “wore” Elias on my back and put his little headphones on so I could lead worship and he could be with me. He loved that!

I was always drenched by the end.

It was exhausting.

I started getting anxious as I would drive to church on Saturday nights. How would he act? Would he be ok? Would he be willing to go to anyone, or would I have to wear him?

During those few months, a few different people stepped in. One staff member would just wear him as she walked around completing her duties at the Saturday service. Another mom he knew would just take him to the nursery and sit with him so he wasn’t with strangers. I was so grateful!

However, with wanting to be at church together on Sunday, it became less and less practical to come both Saturday night and Sunday. So, I stepped down from leading kids worship right around when Elias turned a year old.

We would come with Leo on Sundays, help lead worship, and enjoy being together in one service.

And, again… people stepped in to help. We have such an amazing community!

There was a switch that happened for Elias when he started to walk at around 13 months. He was ok with not being held all the time. He was more ok going to other people.

So, here are my reasons I love volunteering, even with my toddler:

1) Church is literally his favorite place to be. Whether or not I’m leading worship with Leo, Elias walks all the way up to the front during worship, and he lifts his hands, claps and sings along.

When Elias wants to keep moving and not sit still, literally at any point, he can walk down the halls and hear worship. He has been known to walk into the 5th grade room, into the 1st-4th grade room, and even up to the screens projecting the service in our church cafe.

2) Elias loves being around other kids! He knows he is a part of a huge community, and he LOVES being a part of the different music classes I’ve taught. And the kids love him!!! They are so patient and kind. One of the best parts is that our church is filled with people of all different nationalities, languages and races. So his best buddies don’t usually look like him!

3) It solidifies for me that it truly takes a village. I’ve always loved pouring into other people’s’ kids… but my heart absolutely melts watching other people pour into my son!

4) Elias gets to watch his parents love Jesus, teach the Word, lead worship and pray for others! Now, he is starting to join in, and we want him to!

5) Last but not least: being a volunteer means that I can pick and choose the opportunities that fit best for our family. When I was on staff, I was the one who had to pick up the slack when volunteers weren’t able to show up. But now I get to choose. And I am grateful for the opportunity to choose things that fit us the best.

I am so grateful to be able to walk this amazing journey, and to now be able to serve as a family is beyond words.

The flexible nap schedule, the (sometimes) over-stimulation, the poopy diapers that need to be changed at not-so-convenient times… it’s all worth it!

Advertisements

I am the hot mess mom

We have had a crazy week. One of those weeks that I would totally judge my mom-friends for when I would hear them complain. I would think to myself “at least you can HAVE that kind of week”.

Infertility made me judgmental and jealous when I would hear how hard being a mom is.

And I catch myself all the time when I am tempted to complain.

This gift of being a mom is hard, and I am so grateful! I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Not even for the chance to take a shower by myself. Lol!

This picture was taken at 9:45 pm last night. Inside a Wendy’s. As my soon-to-be 15 month-old was having his first experience of dipping fries in ketchup, and then subsequently going to town on the little plastic container to get every last bit of ketchup onto his hands, in his hair, on his shirt and possibly some in his mouth.

His wonderful silicon bib became the placemat because I haven’t gotten his nice little silicon placemat back in the diaper bag since we left it at a friend’s house last week and they mailed it back to us. It still sits in the package on the counter.

I told a friend the other day that our “schedule” is a little different that most… we are all in bed by 10:30, and that we are usually up by 10 at the latest. She looked shocked, and said “well, that’s great if that’s what works for you”. Lol.

A few years ago, a buzzfeed video came out, showing different kinds of moms. The PTA Mom who had it all together, the parenting expert Mom who had read all the articles about all the things, the crunchy Mom who was still nursing her 3rd grader, the hipster Mom who was raising her child with a typewriter and vinyl records….

…and then the hot-mess Mom ran into the scene with her pj’s on, and a stain on her shirt that could’ve been poop or chocolate.

Even though I didn’t know if we would ever have kids, I knew at that moment that I was going to be the hot mess mom.

Elias takes at least one nap a day in the car as we drive home from somewhere, and most days I just chill out in the Cheerio, library book, empty Kombucha-bottle, dirty clothes, toy-filled car while its running and try to decide if it’s worth getting him out or contributing to global warming while having the car run for a few hours (because as soon as it shuts off, the nap is OVER…).

I’m grateful that Leo and I both mostly work from home, but we don’t have any kind of schedule. We sleep at crazy hours, have clients and students coming in anywhere from 9am to midnight.

And 15 months into this, we aren’t much better at communicating our schedules.

Last week?

Total hot-mess family week.

We took off 2 days to drive out to Fort Wayne to spend time with friends. We left Thursday morning with plans of taking our time and getting back Saturday afternoon.

Well, my brother and his family had to evacuate because of Hurricane Florence, and they were only going to be in town to see us on Saturday… so we squished all of our plans to see friends into 2 days instead of 3, and got home at midnight Friday night (luckily, Elias is used to sleeping in the car, and he slept the entire 2 1/2 hour ride home!).

Saturday, we spent a good chunk of time with family at my parents farm, but now that Elias can get into EVERY GOD-BLESSED thing, it was more like chasing him around, making sure he wasn’t getting into all the things he could. Somehow, we didn’t watch closely enough (big shocker), and he hid he remote.

That night, we led worship at a Spanish-speaking church with our band. The event started at 8pm, and we led worship from 8:30-9:30 pm. I couldn’t find a babysitter, so I was wearing Elias the whole time. He was trying to grab the mic from me while I was bouncing around singing to keep him distracted and happy.

I was drenched by the end of it.

The next day was Sunday, AKA: “chase Elias around the church and keep him from going on the stage while Papa is leading worship” day.

I have no idea who thought up the idea of an 11:30 church service, but they don’t have babies. I’m convinced.

He gets so crabby, and I can’t even think about taking him to the nursery because he just screams when either one of us leaves him with strangers. So, that day, just because I was so tired of chasing him around, we went to hang out in the nursery.

Side note: there needs to be a “toddler room” right next to the “cry room” where parents can watch the sermon and let their toddlers play in a semi-confined space.

Then, Sunday night, some dear friends had their last concert in Columbus before moving to Texas. Leo went early because he was running sound, and Elias and I got there right at 7:30. We were there until 10:30pm. Elias fell asleep in the car before we even pulled out of the driveway of church.

The rest of the week was filled with friends coming in from out of town, 2 more gigs, on top of a normally pretty crazy schedule. One night, we were even up until 1:30!

There are days I look at us and am so grateful that we are old 1st-time parents. We have seen so many of our friends learn the hard way that this parenting journey is one of Grace. Their best-laid plans sometimes fail, and the best toys aren’t the ones that cost the most money, but usually the boxes that the toys come in.

We treasure each moment, and try to be as present as possible as we navigate schedules and obligations.

But other days? I feel my age. I am exhausted and frustrated with myself that I can’t have it all together.

As my little man’s personality and desire for independence grows, I am trying to guide him into making the right decisions for himself… letting him fall a little, letting him eat that random piece of breakfast off the floor that the dogs obviously weren’t interested in when he “shared” it with them.

And I’m trying to just keep everything in perspective. It’s ok if the dishes get done once a week. It’s ok to wear the same clothes a few days in a row. It’s ok to put Elias in whatever clothes are clean, regardless if they match.

At the end of the day, God gave us the gift of parenting Elias’ precious soul. He knows who we are. We have already changed so much in this whole process, but one thing will remain the same: we will always be “in it” together. Whether that’s traveling, serving, helping friends, leading worship, eating, cleaning, playing…

We are doing this “hot-mess” life together.