After a particularly rough time at mass, one that involved Noah PHYSICALLY EXITING the church at one point on his way to the parking lot (would that he had the keys), I came home just a little bit more weathered and worn. I gave Joshy a marshmallow and sent him to his room to enjoy it and looked over at my sweet little Noah (so rotten just a few minutes before). He looked angelic there in the kitchen, and even though the time was already behind us I felt the behavior was at least worth mentioning. So, I tried to put it in my best two-year-old words as I knelt down in front of him.
"Hey, buddy, I'm kind of sad about Noah at church."
He stared at me oh-so-innocently.
"I really need you to stay with mommy, OK?"
He looked at me thoughtfully. Then, he said in a sweet voice and with a tone wayyyyy beyond his two years. . .
"It's OK, Mommy. Don't Worry. It's over."
I had to try hard not to giggle as he toddled off to his toy train. Leave it to Noah to drop the truth. Noah always says, "Don't Worry." any time I look sad. He's my little living, breathing Gospel. And he has a point, why worry? Oh, wait, I'm a mom! That's what I do! I have a gift of finding something to worry about in any situation. Maybe you share that, too. But outside of my little mama worries like if my kids are getting enough sleep and enough protein and what's with that cough and let me go in and make sure that they are still breathing, I wrestle with that nagging worry that I am somehow not the best mom for my kids. Like, if Phil had a different mom maybe she would have found out a solution for his eczema by now, or if Daniel had a different mom maybe he wouldn't have been so overlooked as the perfect toddler and preschooler he was, or if they all had a different mom maybe they would be more athletic, or have better opportunities in life or WHATEVER. The list of my perceived failings loves to knock, and it's a constant battle to keep them all outside my door.
I did hear Father say, however, just before Noah disappeared down the aisle and excused himself to the narthex to play with the angel tree toys, something really profound. God chose Mary to be Jesus' mother before Mary was even CONCEIVED. God wasn't like, "Oh, that teenager Mary looks like a good one. Maybe I'll pick her." He CREATED Mary to be Jesus' mom. And that same level of intention goes for each of us.
Boom. . .drop the mic.
How humbling and how empowering it is to think that God chose Philip, Daniel, Joshua and Noah for me- not just before they were born, but before I was born!? As if my whole life and the whole universe was leading up to this moment?? And yours, too?
Out in the narthex in the shade of the angel tree, I met another mama with a toddler doing the same thing as mine. She was clearly my new soul sista because she was wearing an Evy's Tree hoodie (obsessed!) so we smiled at each other and laughed about toddlers at church and how somehow we thought this was going to be easier than bringing all of our kids after school without our husbands. Is there really ever a convenient time to bring a 2-year-old to mass? Probably not. I laughed and told her that I figured Mary understood. She's our girl. I mean, Mary had a two-year-old once, too! And I am sure that even though Jesus was without sin, he was still T-W-O! Because when you think about it, it's not like Noah is sinning when he is misbehaving in church. He doesn't even know how to sin! He just wants to explore his world and pursue his personal agenda, very little of which involves sitting in a pew, no matter how engaging the music and the sermon. And when you think about it, how lovely that he feels comfortable enough in church to trot right up the aisle and find the angel tree all by himself, and is so familiar with its layout that he can navigate solo to the side exit to the parking lot? Sure, I'll go with that.
And, you know, some people gave me some grumpy looks, I'm not going to lie. I have a standard apologetic look that I give people when my kids are wiggleworms at church, which is met with a face that expresses either:
A. Sympathy (Oh, I'm so glad that's not me!)
B. Empathy (Oh, sweetie, I've been there!)
C. Apathy (Must. avoid. eye. contact.)
D. Antipathy (I will give this mom the grumpiest face I have so that she never wants to sit near me again and she knows what an epic failure she is).
I will say that choice D. keeps me humble. Because, you know what, as much as I would love my kids to behave like angels so I don't look like an idiot, I've been around long enough to know that kids have a mind of their own and I might just end up looking like a fool because of their behavior. It has happened MANY TIMES BEFORE. It will happen again. But I've also emptied myself enough to know how much I need Jesus, so I am going to get myself at His table whatever it takes. I don't need to worry too much about the shifting opinions of the world if I'm right in my heart with Him. And if I just stare at the floor or over people's heads while exiting the sanctuary, it's like I don't even know if the people have chosen A, B, C or D! You kind of feel the D's burning into you, but just walk faster, right???
Plus, I am so confident that our girl Mary understands. Although it was never written down in the records, the evidence of the years of care she gave in raising Jesus show. And despite the crazy today, I am now more aware than ever that our children were chosen for us so long ago and with a Love so big that we can't even wrap our minds around it, the same way Mary was chosen for Jesus. That perspective makes it easier to dismiss those voices of worry when they pop into my head, and compels me to live my life today with more intention. Before I know it, it's going to be over, just like Noah said. I'll be the person in the pew choosing A. B. C. or D. as the younger mama wrestles with a crazy toddler in the pew. For the record, I am planning on giving her "Look B". And if I see her afterwards, I'll be sure to tell her she's doing a great job, too.
Don't worry, mom.
You're doing just right.
And Mary's got your back.
And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me Shine until tomorrow, let it be I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.