Oops. I Became a Mom.

I imagine that *if* people that know me or knew me ever talk about me, it might sometimes go something like this:

“Oh yeah, she has FIVE kids now!”

“What? No, not her. I’m talking about the girl who….”

“Yeah, that’s her. She’s married and has five kids.”

“No. There’s no way. Don’t you remember that one time…”

“Yes. That’s her. I’m telling you. She’s married with a bunch of kids.”

That could maybe go on for a while, but you get the idea.

You see, I don’t recall ever really “wanting” kids. I think I did want them eventually, after I- you know- conquered the world and stuff. I was going to either get a super-awesome job like in one of those super-awesome movies I always watched. Or I would basically be Sandra Bullock. I would move to New York or LA and become an actress of sorts. I’d also travel the world on mission trips for humanity and then eventually, when my biological clock started ticking, I would either just adopt a kid or two who needed a mom or if I found someone I wanted to marry (let’s be real, that should say: “who’d want to marry me”), we’d have kids. (But I’d keep conquering the world, FYI.)

I think that’s basically how I envisioned my life when I was younger. But as my “normal” life continued to be “normal,” I started not being as opposed to all those “normal” things. I moved along- sometimes kicking and screaming [sometimes literally] – got married, was a mediocre [sometimes horrible] wife, unexpectedly (because even though I was married, that didn’t mean I had to start having kids anytime soon!) got pregnant with Baby #1 and then things just went on from there. Baby #2 came quickly after Baby #1. (My body has this resistance to birth control, I’ve learned. Especially when you forget to use it *exactly* as directed.) Baby #3 was actually on purpose, as was Baby #4, which came with Bonus Baby #5. {Twins! B1G1Free!} So here I am. Thirty-four years old with five kids being a person I never thought I’d be and a person I often don’t feel I’m very good at being.

My kids are amazing. They are beautiful [handsome] and smart and brilliant at times. They are also sassy and lazy and bratty at times. They get it all honest, I guess. I love them so fiercely. But I’m not the mom who gets super-sentimental all the time. I’m the mom who will share the cynical, sarcastic Mother’s Day video on social media (like this one) before the sweet, sentimental one (like this one), even though I did watch both and that sweet one did make me cry a little.

I stood in the shower today thinking, “Why am I here?” Not in the ‘I don’t want to be here’ kind of way, but just the ‘Wow. This is crazy. God really had some different things in mind for me and I need to figure it out and embrace it’ kind of way.

So here’s to all the moms who just kind of tripped and “fell” into this “Mom” thing, but are still doing our best and loving our families with all we’ve got. I, myself, am still conquering the world. A much tinier world. With a lot of grace. And a lot of help.

Happy Mother’s Day, 2017.

1/9/16 Reflection

One year ago today we were doing the same thing we are this morning:  getting ready for our boys’ Upwards basketball games.  Except last year it was their first basketball games EVER and I had delivered our twin babies just one week prior after an unexpected emergency Caesarean section. It was a very rough morning physically and emotionally.

I was dealing with my milk coming in full force; pumping for one baby and nursing another, but not very successfully at this point; several clogged milk ducts causing severe pain and rock-hard breasts that produced no milk when pumped even though they were clearly full of it; cramps and incision pain from, well, everything; lack of sleep; hormones (that needs no explanation); emotional breakdowns from Baby A still being in the NICU and at that time not know when he’d be well enough to come home, but the rest of our four children needing me/us at home; the three year-old had a run-in with lice, which was discovered when we gave her a bath after she got the stomach bug and vomited all over her bed (all of this on the first night we brought Baby B home); exhaustion from running back and forth between the hospital and home; living out of duffel bags; and I think that’s about it???

[I don’t know how many run-on sentences were in that last paragraph, but forgive me. I consider myself a grammar-Nazi, but run-on sentences with potential improper use of punctuation are a weakness of mine.]

But it was our boys’ first basketball games ever and they were so excited and neither of us was going to miss it! We had spent Friday with our kids so that they could spend the night in their own house and beds before their games. I was also so anxious and struggling that no one was with our Baby B. The doctors and nurses had encouraged us to go home and spend time with our older kids who need us- and who know we’re not there- and that our son was in good hands (we never doubted that) and that he wouldn’t even notice we weren’t there for a bit. Although that didn’t make it easy to cope with yearning to be in two places at once when you can’t be.

Despite that distraction, the games went wonderfully and we were so proud of our older boys! They had a blast and it was so fun to see them so excited and into their sport. We had a few errands to run and had to take the kids back to their grandparents before we could return the hour drive to the hospital. My husband’s sister and her brother-in-law were meeting us there to visit and I was afraid they’d get there before we would. A friend was texting me about bringing us dinner and when we would be home. I was texting another friend to pick up some essential oils from her to combat the lice and stomach bug that had hit our home. All the stress that had disappeared (mostly) that last two hours started flooding back. We got to my friend’s house and she opened the door, my kids immediately ran into her house to play with her son; my husband was outside talking to her husband. She asked a very silly question. I think it was, “How are you?” That was it. I collapsed into her arms a sobbing mess. I don’t remember what I said. Lots of babbling and rambling, I’m sure. Maybe some apologizing for unloading on her and being such a mess (and possibly giving her lice when we hugged, just kidding or getting snot and tears on her shirt, I don’t know). Of course she said something like, “That’s what friends are for.” After some chatting we got back in the car and I just continued stressing out, being short with the kids who didn’t deserve it and raising my voice to my husband who was trying to be more calm and sensible about everything (as always) than I was being. I started inconsolably crying again.

At that point I remember hearing my daughter in the back seat singing along with the radio.

“There is power, in the name of Jesus….”

over and over and over. That resonated with me so much. Why was I hanging onto all this and not giving it to Him? I knew that our baby boy would be fine; it was just taking time for him to get strong enough to come home. I knew that eventually all the chaos would be gone would be different and we would get through these [small but many] trials. I needed to trust that God knows what He’s doing and He’s holding our hearts, that all of this is shaping us and preparing us as a family. It took the innocence and sweetness of a -my- three year old girl to get me to stop and calm and hear His voice. I started thinking about those words and reassuring myself that all of this would pass, and I need to let the worry go. I felt a peace come over me that I couldn’t explain. He did what He said He would do. He bore my burdens. There really is power in the name of Jesus. I had to stop and take a photograph of that exact moment, that sweet singing face. Here it is.

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I Have Found My Purpose- Mom 3:16

Most of us live for years searching for and yearning to find our purpose. Some might never find it. Few seem to be blessed with the gift of knowing what their purpose is and getting to do it every day. I truly never thought I would be one of those few, but over the last few weeks, it has finally dawned on me: I believe I have discovered my life’s purpose.

I don’t write this blog post to make anyone jealous or to brag about my recent discovery. I write this so that you may all rest in the peace of knowing that someday, you may realize your purpose as well.

Over the last few weeks I have done something over and over and over and thought: Surely there is more to this life than THIS. Is this what I am really meant to do with so many hours of my time? Then I started thinking that this must be my purpose in life!

Oh, the JOY!

Evidently, my purpose in life is sticking my hands into nasty, disgusting socks and turning them right-side-out so that they can be made clean again! They could be nasty from playing carefree in mud puddles, or sweaty from a nice relaxing run after a long day’s work. Whatever the reason, it is up to me to turn them around, and make them clean again. It is my job- dare I say? My Purpose- to do these mundane tasks day after day so that they may live life to the fullest and grow up to do amazing things. These people cannot be bothered with turning their clothing right-side-out before placing it in the laundry all over the house wherever they feel like dropping it. Why waste the mere seconds that it takes to take off a sock carefully and properly? For they have bigger things to do! Things like: pick their nose and eat their boogers; find bugs and worms and nail them to trees; fight about which chair to sit in at dinner even though every chair is exactly the same; and find and watch the most random and annoying YouTube videos known to man.

I am raising 5 small humans with one large human sidekick and it is my responsibility- my DUTY- to make sure they have semi-clean, well-fitting clothes to wear each day most days. I need to embrace this responsibility and carry out my mission successfully and happily. I mean, if I do it so often, that MUST mean it is my life’s purpose? Right? RIGHT?! Or should I keep searching for a different purpose???? So I challenge all of you: do not give up searching for your purpose. It could be something much simpler than you realize. It could be something you are already doing every day. Just approach with with excitement and a sense of humor (and maybe don’t breathe through your nose).

 

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(FYI: this is just a small fraction of my “purpose-work” for one day.)

My Vase Full of Weeds

When I logged in to write this “super quick” blog post I realized it had been ONE entire YEAR since my last blog post! And- how ironic- that last blog post was about our contemplation on whether or not to have one more child- our fourth. We have actually since then had TWO more children, for a grand total of five. How, you ask? We were “blessed” blessed with TWINS! My husband and I often asked one another how our lives could possibly get any more chaotic. God laughed and then answered.

As you can (or CAN’T) imagine, our lives have been so full in so many ways since we found out and since having those precious babies on New Year’s Day. I’m currently at a stand-off with this laundry for seven in my living room:

DandelionsLaundry.jpg

As I’m getting ready to tackle it, my 4 year-old daughter asks to go outside. I oblige and a few minutes into my sorting, folding, and hanging, go check on her. She is knee-deep in our yard near the field picking dandelions. For me. As she does nearly every. single. day.

I sigh and think, How do I break it to her that dandelions are weeds and I could do without them? 

I don’t have time to dig under our sink for a vase; I don’t have room on our kitchen table that already dubs as a desk for three and clutter-catcher for seven; I don’t want to look at them and smell them and have them cause me stress. Then I realize: she thinks they are beautiful. They are her favorite. And she is choosing to pick them. For ME. Why do I have to crush her excitement by telling her they are weeds? Why do I have to make her feel bad by telling her that I don’t want them? Nope. I won’t. When I see that vase full of weeds on my kitchen counter, I will remember that my precious daughter, who gets scolded and put-off by me daily due to the babies’ needs and my stress, still chooses to pick flowers for me- and these days will soon pass.

So we talk about how beautiful those bright yellow flowers are and we put them in a vase together. And there they sit, amidst cereal bowls from I’m not sure which day.

DandelionsVase

It then dawned on me that this is something worth writing about. Just last week I started a Bible Study with a group of ladies from church on “The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands” by Lysa Terkeurst, and one of the things I’ve always regretted saying “no” to was writing. I vowed to carve out a little bit of time each week to write in one way or another. It may not sound like a Best Yes to you given that picture of laundry above. (Go ahead, scroll back up there; I’ll wait.) Honestly, I’m kind of second-guessing it a little myself. But it felt right. It felt necessary.

So here we are. She’s happy; I’m happy and my house is still a mess. But isn’t that better than the alternative? It is for me. It is during this season of our lives. So each time I look at that vase full of weeds, it will represent so much: my daughter’s innocent heart and giving spirit, my wise decision to keep that innocence intact and spend those quality moments of time with her, and my “Best Yes” to put the laundry off a little longer to document this moment and this feeling. For the days are long but the years are short. This season will soon be over. And, who knows, when my kids are no longer picking flowers for me, I may find myself out in my yard picking dandelions just so I can look at a vase full of weeds on my kitchen table again.

You Have HOW Many Kids?!

Even when my now husband and I were just dating, we talked bout the size of our “potential” family. We both agreed we wanted to have a “big” family. From what I recall, we agreed that 4 kids would be perfect. 2 boys and 2 girls. We might have even talked about 5 at some point, but who knows. We just wanted lots of fun and excitement and a full house of visitors when we are old and gray and big dinners and big adventures and lots of love.
When we got married I was still quite “immature” (yeah, we’ll use that word) and was nowhere near ready to be a parent and have a tiny human depend on me. I couldn’t even depend on myself. But before I knew it, oopsie whoopsie, I found out that it’s NOT true that you have to be off birth control for several months before it’s “out of your system,” (thanks for that tip to the innocent, pals!) and I was- bitterly, for a bit- making a tiny human. My son was born and he was precious. He truly was a gift to us. Then, another lesson was learned- albeit a little too late- and when my son was 5 months old we learned we were going to have another baby, and we were sore afraid. (See what I did there?) So we disproved the myth that there’s no time for- ahem, you know- when there’s a baby in the house.
We got plenty of comments and looks when people realized the difference in age our two kids would be. I really appreciate them feeding my utter terror of the situation I was going to have to face as well. So sweet. Ha. (I’m kidding mostly, not everyone was so discouraging.)
So there we were with two Irish twin BOYS. Fighting and hitting and yelling and running and wrestling and screaming and disobeying and throwing and ignoring and— how long can blog posts be nowadays? I felt like I’d NEVER be able to have another child because I couldn’t add to this chaos. It isn’t fair to those around me, and what if I can’t handle it myself? You can’t just give a real, live person back and say “Nevermind, I thought I could manage you, but I can’t. Maybe someone else can.” I mean, for pete’s sake people frown upon doing that with animals, surely they wouldn’t accept it with PEOPLE?! (Ha. Or would they???) Either way, we waited a bit and decided eventually, that it was now or never. We had our third child when our second boy was 2.75 years old. And praise the Lord Jesus she was a girl! I really wanted to wear one of those shirts my whole pregnancy that said, “Yes, I’m pregnant. Again. Yes, we know how it happens.” Mainly because I was proud that we actually figured out HOW it happens, or rather we figured out how to for sure NOT let it happen for about 2 years straight! But I did not get that shirt. Instead, I just answered those questions when people asked. Our happy little family is still chaotic,  but when it’s sweet, it’s sooooo sweet.
And now I have come to the whole point of this blog post. It is well-passed the time we would have liked to have had that 4th child we always planned. We never wanted any of our kids to be too far apart because we wanted them to grow up with a tight sibling bond (and extra reasons to fight).
So why have we put it off and why is it worth writing about? There’s one main reason I’m scared to have a fourth child, and that is:

What will other people think?! Or worse- – – SAY??

Yup. That’s pretty much it. I am worried about the judgment, the looks, the disapproval, and the lack of understanding and grace. We live in a time and society where big families seem to be viewed as annoying and irresponsible to most and they seem to be disapproved of while the families with two children (one boy and one girl, of course) are “perfect.” Don’t get me wrong, to some, that is perfect; but some of us just thrive off of pressure and anarchy. Like me. You might think my choice to have more than three kids is questionable. But guess what? I think your choice to only have one is weird. I’m kidding. I don’t judge people for that, because that’s not my journey. That’s your journey. And only YOU can embark on YOUR journey. 😉  

I do know this: what I DON’T want to hear for the rest of my life- from a stranger or anyone else- is, “Guess you shouldn’ta had so many kids.”

I feel like I will be inviting scrutiny every time my family does something not “perfect” or “ideal.” Each time something negative happens to bring attention to us people will be thinking “Guess you shouldn’ta had 4 kids.”

  • Each time one of my kids has a meltdown.
  • Each time we decline a dinner invitation to save money.
  • Each time we are late to a family function.
  • Each time I accidentally start leaving the store without one of my kids. 😉
  • Each time I forget to fill out a certain paper for school.
  • Each time I say my kids are driving me nuts.
  • Each time I tell my guests that they won’t be able to sit on the couch because it’s covered in laundry that needs folded and put away.
  • Each time I say I’m sick of dealing with diapers or trying to potty train.
  • Each time I have to ground or scold two kids at the same for who-knows-what.
  • Each time I complain that I don’t get enough “me” time.
  • Each time my kitchen floor is sticky and dirty dishes are left on the table.

You get my drift, right? Is all of this really so bad and is it all just because we had “too many” kids? At the end of they day, we are two loving parents who can provide our kids with the things that they truly need and all the love that any child would want.

Whether you have one kid, no kids, or 4 kids…

Life is messy.
Life is exciting.
Life is heartbreaking.
Life is sweet.
Life is hard.
Life is worth it.

Whether you have one kid, no kids, or 4 kids…

Life… is a beautiful ride.

…Do you feel judged about decisions such as this? Do you find yourself “judging” others? Please, respectfully leave your comments!!!

Why Mother’s Day is a Bogus “Holiday”

Picture the movie Tommy Boy, with Tommy (Chris Farley) sitting in a diner talking to Richard (David Spade) about why he sucks as a salesperson. We should all remember that scene, right? (<<If not, click that.) Now picture me, talking to my best friend. It goes something like this…

“Best Friend, we’re both mothers. Let me tell you why I- SUCK- as a mother. Let’s say it’s Mother’s Day. Let’s say my family and I are supposed to have a wonderful day together. Well then I get all excited; I’m like ‘Susie, the Crazy Soccer Mom’ with a shiny new minivan. The minivan is my children. Aw, my beautiful little children, I love you! So I hug them and I rock them and I kiss them. And I love them; I love my little cute children, you’re CUTE! And then I take them for a ride in my shiny new minivan and I crash. {unrecognizable noises} I crashed it! I CRASHED MY MINIVAN!!!!! And that’s when I blow it.”

Okay. Maybe that was a horrible analogy, but it sounded like a splendid idea at the beginning, so I went with it. I thought about acting it out and putting it on Youtube myself, but I didn’t, so consider yourselves spared. Now, bear with me as I move on…

There are many, many reasons why Mother’s Day, and holidays like it, are bogus. I truly try not to be a Debbie Downer, but as I was on the floor in the fetal position in my kitchen bawling my eyes out around 9:30am this past Mother’s Day because it had already seemed like it failed miserably, I realized that I can’t possibly be the only one who feels this way. (Perhaps I feel this way a little more dramatically than others, but that’s how I {usually} roll.) So I wanted to write about it, because it’s true, Mother’s Day can sometimes suck.

The first reason that always comes to mind is this:

1. Too Many Mothers; Not Enough Time

I am a mother; I have a mother; I have a mother-in-law. None of us is more or less important or deserving of being celebrated than the other. (Though I tend to think the “youngest” or “newest” mother should get precedence, that might just be because, at the moment, that’s me. 😉 )  So how do you decide what to do for whom and when? Not many people really want to spend their entire Sunday on Mother’s Day rushing around from one mom to the other to quickly give them a gift and have a meaningful visit, only to move on to the next activity as soon as possible. You also don’t want to be the jerk kid or the selfish daughter-in-law who doesn’t do enough for the other mom and make them feel bad. So pressure’s on. Better find some happy-medium, and fast, because everybody’s bugging you about what you’re going to do.

Next, I think some of you can relate to this:

2.  Faking a Selfless Desire

It’s Mother’s Day. So the MOTHER gets fielder’s choice on the activities of the day, right? As moms, what are most of us going to “choose?” Something that will make everyone else happy. Nobody wants to be that high-maintenance, self-absorbed mom that requests a day completely alone at home reading a book or a spa day to get pampered or tickets to see her favorite band (which is NOT the Fresh Beat Band, by the way). Yet, that’s sort of what a lot of us want. But instead, we choose the zoo or a park or a kid-friendly museum for a family-fun day that we can all enjoy together. And in order to make this “family-fun day” happen, MOMS would typically have to make lunches, pack a cooler, pack a diaper bag, load the car, put on everyone’s sunscreen, deal with temper tantrums, change diapers, remind everyone to use the restroom, and break up fights. Great, just what I wanted. More work. (Unless you have a husband like MINE, and he helps you out with all of those things tremendously. But I’m speaking to the majority here.) Now, to be fair, this example is probably the least concerning of reasons why Mother’s Day is bogus. I understand ALL of us mothers find extreme joy in seeing our kids happy, so doing something they love reminds us what we love about being a mom. But nonetheless, it’s still work, and on “Mother’s Day” no less!

And here’s the last- and very crucial- reason(s), with many applicable examples:

3.  Unattainable Expectations

These unattainable expectations are what led to my demise on Sunday morning (and also what led to the fetal position). It’s Mother’s Day, right? The day where you are supposed to get waited on hand and foot and you look happy and radiant and everyone is quiet and respectful and does what their mothers ask with little to no resistance and needing no reminders. {I feel violently angry just typing that.} No one poops or gets chocolate on their clothes moments before walking out the door for church or talks back or “forgets” to brush their teeth despite being asked 17-and-a-half times. (Insert extremely high pitched voice>) Uuuuuuuuum, no. That DOES. NOT. HAPPEN. For me, it started out being bummed that my husband had to work the weekend. He was going to have to come home from 3rd shift and have to go to sleep while I got all 3 kids up, showered, dressed, and ready for church by myself, then be at church without him. On Mother’s Day. But who cares, right?! It’s just any other Sunday. But it wasn’t. Some jerk had to give this Sunday the name “Mother’s Day.” So I expect things to be different. Special. Speaking of special, I should probably *look* special. It’s Mother’s Day, so more people at church are going to be paying attention to me and wishing me a happy day, and I’m going to have to pretend that the world didn’t stop for 10 minutes this morning while I had a good cry on my kitchen floor. I should look put-together. I should wear a dress. But I didn’t have time to shave. And I’m working in the toddler room so I should wear sensible shoes. I haven’t done laundry in a week so who knows what’s clean. So I’m wearing some pants that were cool in 1999, shoes that my 89 year-old Grandmother wouldn’t be caught dead wearing to the senior center, and a shirt that’s missing a button. Now I’m bawling because I look ridiculous and I wish I could go shopping. So I change the shoes because- well, something’s gotta give, and the rest I leave alone. As I’m doing that, my boys have begun fighting, and my daughter climbed onto the counter and retrieved a Dum-Dum sucker and is sticky on 27% of her body. Oh no. Here it comes. It’s happening. Yup. I’m screaming. I’m screaming at my older boys for fighting, not listening to my instruction and not being ready to go, and I’m screaming at my daughter for getting into the candy. I’ve woken up my husband and he, half-asleep, comes out of the bedroom to check on World War III and lend a hand. At this point I’m also internally screaming at myself. It’s Mother’s Day. It’s only 9:30am. You’ve already made your kids cry and you’ve woken up your husband. This ENTIRE DAY is supposed to take place figuratively frolicking through a field of daisies and you’re flipping out on everyone. Your kids are actin’ a fool because you didn’t teach them well enough to mind you and now you’re yelling at them because you’re not fit to be a mother. I bet other mothers aren’t yelling at their kids right now. Why are you even a mother? You are a jerkface. And you are a jerkface dressed like a substitute teacher from a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode. You suck. Mother’s Day sucks. Everything sucks. (continue sobbing).  These examples collectively fall into the category of unrealistic expectations, which wrongfully steal my joy on soooo many occasions.

So there you have it. That’s why I think Mother’s Day should be banned. It’s kind of like Sweetest Day or Valentine’s Day when Hallmark makes you think life is like those horrible jewelry commercials, but really you end up fighting about the radio station on your way to a mediocre restaurant in your minivan with a husband who has gas. That was a made-up story, I swear. Just a hypothetical. But, what can I say, I’m a realist.


Now, for those of you who may be concerned about my well-being, or that of those around me, I will tell you that my Mother’s Day turned out pretty swell. Eventually we made it to a nearby historical village and saw some pretty cool things, got some delicious ice cream, and ate and a wonderful local, old-fashioned Mom and Pop diner. I love my kids dearly and I know they love me. Being a mother is a blessing. I don’t think I’m great at it. But aren’t we all just doing our best with what we’ve got? We are.

So, what do you think about Mother’s Day??? If you can’t agree with even ONE point that I made above, you are a liar. But enlighten me. Please comment! Even share if you wish!

Love,

Your Headcase

 

 

 

What’s the Big Deal When People Leave a Church?

Last Sunday (12/1/13), a pastor asked a question during his sermon.  I don’t want to misquote him, so I waited so that I could listen to the sermon online again and quote it word for word.  Here it is:

“One of the things I’ve never understood about church people, and maybe this is because I didn’t grow up as one:  is why do we get so upset when someone leaves one church and goes to another?  What’s the big deal?”

Clearly how the above words affect people doesn’t matter and no reasonable answer is going to matter because the question was labeled afterwards as rhetorical:

“Don’t answer me now; I’m sure I’ll get the emails and phone calls later.”

I’m answering it anyway because I don’t want to continue sitting silent with the thoughts in my head as I always do.  I also feel I’d be doing a disservice to my friends and family- strangers even- if I don’t answer it.  Granted, I don’t spend 40 hours a week reading scholarly books, looking up church-related statistics, following blogs by leaders of ginormous churches, and I know I don’t spend nearly enough time reading God’s Word, but I do have two characteristics that I think are necessary to respond to this:  logic and compassion.

By asking this question, our pastor was clearly implying that it’s not a big deal when people leave a church to find another.  Let me tell you; it IS a big deal.  Here’s why.  All regular church members spend about two hours at church every Sunday.  Most church members spend an hour or two at church on Wednesdays.  Some church goers are involved in a small group or a Bible study.  Some serve on ministries that might spend hours a month doing charity work, organizing events, or working in the church office.  Some care for, teach, or lead their own children and other people’s children week after week in church.  Etc. etc.  Personally, I see people that I attend church with more often than I see my own parents and siblings.  These aren’t just people you go to church with.  These people are family, and more specifically:

  • They are men and women who listen to the needs of others with empathy
  • They are families who moved from across the country and found this to be the first place they felt comfortable and welcomed
  • They are families who financially helped us while our children battled cancer
  • They are couples who emotionally supported us when we lost our child
  • They are friends we confided in when we thought our marriage was falling apart
  • They are couples who peel potatoes beside us year after year preparing for the Thanksgiving feast
  • They are couples who watch our children while we go to dinner and a movie
  • They are men who go to the church to fix a toilet, clean the baptistry, or shovel sidewalks at all hours of the night
  • They are men and women who sang our song requests and lead our worship
  • They are couples for whom we raised money when their child was born with unexpected medical complications
  • These are people who helped us tear down plaster and lathe in our home and then put up drywall and mud
  • They are couples who open their home to our small group and spend hours preparing material to feed our minds and hearts
  • They are men who tirelessly sit in meeting after meeting, trying to compromise or express what they feel is right or wrong on behalf of their congregation
  • They are women who send us cards and make us meals after we’ve had babies
  • They are women who play piano beautifully week after week during our service
  • They are men who bring communion to shut-ins
  • They are couples who dedicate hours each week to leading and setting an example for our youth group
  • They are young people who were raised in this church and are now raising their kids here.

THESE are the people who are leaving the church, and for those reasons alone, it IS a big deal.

In case that’s not enough, here are some other things to consider.  I’ve not researched the statistics on this, but I am certain that not all families who leave a church will find another one.  We are running the risk of entire families lost, for what?  Also, most people take church membership very seriously.  A very large percentage of people who choose to leave a church to go to another do so after fervent consideration and prayer, so if they finally do choose to leave, it’s because something is seriously wrong.  When the amount of people leaving a church grows and becomes more frequent, something is seriously, seriously wrong.  We shouldn’t simply turn our heads and believe that it is ‘no big deal.’  Even if someone from the pulpit tells us that.

Another issue with this rhetorical question is the message it sends to more recent church members.  Many people view church membership like a marriage.  They are committed to the cause, the people, the building.  What is this telling them?  “I know you are wholeheartedly committed to this union, but if you choose to leave, we don’t really care that much.  It’s no big deal.”  So are we not committed to and concerned about the people who have been here for 30 hours or 30 days the same way as we are to the people that have been here for 30 months or 30 years?  People are people; they all matter.  There’s another reason that should be obvious, but it’s not nearly as important as the others; and I don’t want this message to be about the wallet, I want it to be about the heart.  So I’m leaving it at this.  And this should be plenty.

Just to recap.  The reason it’s a big deal is because it’s not just a church member leaving a church, it’s a family member leaving a family.  What it’s not is ‘not a big deal.’

 

[Updated on 4/15/14 to remove hyperlink for anonymity.]