I never had any interest in watching the 1946 James Stewart Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, until college. Many adults and teens in my life had droned on about how boring they found this particular movie, so when one friend insisted we watch it as a group, I was ready to pretty much zone out. Instead, I was blown away. Now, for my husband (who also watched it for the first time that day) and me, it’s a tradition. (Though we do have to overlook the whole thing about people becoming angels when they die, and then angels having to do good works to earn their wings.) As George Bailey rushes into his home full of life and cheer, I am always holding back at least one tear. And maybe one or two spill over. Why does this happy ending elicit a tearful response?
I have no idea what or who my seventeen-month-old daughter will dress up as for our upcoming Halloween events. These days, it’s a big responsibility to make sure that your family costumes are aligned with your values and that the character or theme you are portraying is moral and upstanding. Will we show up as the princess of the year or the cute cartoon character? What if, down the road, the princess is no longer thought of as a good role model for young girls? Or if the cartoon character teaches (whether purposefully or not) a lesson with which I disagree?
“Don’t you see how hard I’m working?”
“I feel like my work goes unappreciated.”
“It seems like no matter what I do, it’s never enough. There’s always one more thing.”
Before having kids, my husband and I believed that family dinners would come naturally. Neither of our parents seemed to have much trouble making this happen, so we thought we wouldn’t either. Veteran parents might laugh at us for being so naive, but it hadn’t been difficult for us to eat dinner together before. Boy, did our baby girl change things.
“What dis?” my son asked, pointing to the ultrasound picture of our baby, due next month.
“Baby brother!” I said, pointing to the picture and pointing to my tummy. Then I dug around in a special wooden box we keep in my son’s room and found his ultrasound picture from two years ago to show him too.
“What dis?” he asked again.
“This is Ben!” I said, pointing from the picture to him, giving him a little tickle for good measure.
There’s a joke in my family that my older sister was baptized in the kitchen sink by my maternal grandmother. I have no idea whether the tale is tall or true, but I can imagine it might have a speck of honesty in it.
I walk into the sanctuary with my newborn daughter strapped into a baby carrier and a diaper bag on my back. I’m only a few minutes early to service, but it’s a relatively empty space. It’s my first Sunday alone with my daughter. My husband, who is the vicar (a yearlong pastoral intern) at the church, cannot help me with her cries. I want to find a place to sit and just blend in. I want to disappear into the crowd of worshipers. I find my seat and send a little prayer up that she stays asleep or remains quiet. The opening song starts, and I realize I have no idea where to go if she starts to get loud.
Having my daughter last spring has definitely changed my walk with Christ. Busy days come with sleepless nights and quiet moments are often broken with cute coos and not-as-cute cries (though I do think her cries can be cute). It extends to my experiences at church. No longer is the Sunday sermon a time where I get to sit and soak up the nuances and meanings in God’s Word. Now it’s a time of wrangling, toy-picking-up, and diaper changes. I expected and longed for these days.
“I’d be LIVID if someone prayed with/to/at my kids.” My heart leapt into my throat and then sank as I read these words from a Facebook group on parenting. The original post had asked for advice on what to do as a parent if you found out your mother had prayed with your children when they couldn’t sleep, even though you are agnostic/atheist and raising your children the same way. This was just one of the many comments expressing this sentiment that flooded the post.
The words of Proverbs 3:1–4 tumble around in my head and heart often as I go through my day with my three small children: