Today I rolled in to Mass late … like really, really late. Then I left after Communion. I didn’t stand or kneel during the Consecration… the holiest part of the Mass. You also haven’t seen me at Mass in the last two months. You probably assume I don’t really go to Mass. That I pop in here and there when it’s convenient and that other weekend activities are more important to me. My toddler was in sneakers … where were his nice church shoes? And my infant … I kept him in his carseat and totally ignored him. What a deplorable mother.
Last night my infant woke up to nurse five times. 10pm, 1am, 4am, 6am, 7am. After each nursing I struggle to shut my mind down and rush back to sleep so I can rise for the next feeding. Sometimes I get ten minutes of sleep in between feedings. And he won’t take a bottle. So my husband can’t relieve me. That means when the rest of the house wakes up on the weekend I pass him off and try desperately to curl up under the covers and catch a few zzzz’s. By the time I woke this morning, I had missed 7:30am Mass, I had missed 9:00am Mass, and the 11:00am Mass was beginning in approximately 2 minutes. After rushing around the house trying to get the four of us ready and halfway decent looking, we made it into church about 25 minutes late. I told you … we were really, really late. I’m not proud. But we were there. We could have been there only 23 minutes late, but my concealer and I wrestled over the dark circles under my eyes for a few minutes. I usually leave them as-is to give people an explanation as to why the rest of me looks so disheveled. This time I decided they would downright frighten people, so they got covered up, which made us 2 minutes even later.
Right after Communion I noticed little feet poking out from under the carseat cover. Oh no … he’s waking up now!?! He just napped for two hours. He will be HANGRY! I have a choice. Unstrap, fight with the nursing cover and flailing baby hands, stay in the pew long after Mass, and then have him downright mad to be strapped back into his seat again. OR we could sneak out now and make it home in time….barely. There is technically only about 2 minutes left of Mass. I HATE leaving after Communion. I want to sit with the Lord. To revel in his sacrificial love for me. To allow him to transform my heart into a better mother. But I have a HANGRY baby. Choices. So we left after Communion. We looked like those people … arriving late and leaving early. My heart aches. I want nothing more than to honor the Lord, but sometimes He whispers in my ear, ‘you are honoring me when you tend to the little one’.
Toddler shoes? That one is simple. “I DON’T WANT TOOOOOOOOOO” accompanied putting on the nice church shoes. Sneakers it is.
The Consecration? The central part of the Mass. If I could lay prostrate in front of the Eucharist to show my respect and gratitude I would. But people would think that’s weird. And my toddler would think it’s a game. Today he wanted to be held. Can’t hold a 40 pound mini person very easily when kneeling in a pew. I’ve tried. I break out in a sweat and the concealer hiding my dark circles starts to drip down my face in a hot mess. So we sat.
And you haven’t seen my family together at Mass for months because sometimes I get my only solid chunk of sleep for the week on Sunday mornings – so I go on Saturday night. Sometimes I have a napping toddler, so I come alone with the baby. Sometimes I have an unsettled baby, so I come alone with the toddler. Always different Masses – sometimes 7:30am, or 9am, or 11am or 5pm. Sometimes my entire family is unsettled for one reason or fifty so I come alone. But sometimes God gives me a giant rainbow and all the members of my family are rested, fed, and clothed (albeit not always well) and we’re ALL there… and we’re early. Sometimes God even puts a pot of gold at the end of my rainbow and there is no fighting on the way out the door, no tantrums over shoes, no hungry infant or defiant toddler. Everyone sits still and enjoys the hour of peace. And I THANK God for throwing me a bone. A reminder to keep on keeping on.
If you’re not a Mass-goer, or not religious at all you might wonder why in the world this is worth all the effort? It’s simple, really. 1. We love God 2. God asks us to show up 3. We are training our little ones and ourselves. You can’t run a marathon without training, and you definitely can never win a race without training hard. I want our family to complete the race, and to win it. So we train. And as with all training, it’s not always pretty. There is blood, sweat, and tears (literally and figuratively … there is actually sometimes real blood, sweat, and tears involved with getting to Mass). But we are there week after week after week. Please know that it’s not always what it seems. I don’t want to come late. I don’t want to leave early. I don’t want to sit during the Consecration. I want my toddler to wear his church shoes and my infant to eat and sleep when I tell him to. And I really want to sleep at night, but right now I work the night shift. And Jesus gets that; sometimes he worked the night shift too.
There is the ideal. And there is reality, which is sometimes hard and not very pretty. And God is good enough to meet us anywhere in between. And he wants to be with us even more when it’s hard and not very pretty. So put your trust in Him. Show up. He’ll give you the graces you need to persevere; He is delighted that you are trying.