For some time now I've been thinking about taking the boys with me to a mid-week mass. I've done it before, periodically: once when I was very pregnant with Jonathan and once with him in tow. I believe both were part of Lenten disciplines. I remember being glad that I'd gone, and liking the new structure to my week, and realizing that receiving the sacrament of Christ's body and blood more frequently really did make a difference in my daily life with Jesus. But somehow the discipline never stuck. The first time I had a baby at the end of Lent, and everything went out the window. I don't remember why I didn't stick with it the second time, although I imagine that changing nap schedules probably had something to do with it.
It is always something, isn't it? There is always something perfectly reasonable that makes it difficult to make time for Jesus.
Anyway, this past Lent I thought about adding a mid-week mass, but I didn't. The only one that didn't interrupt nap schedules was Tuesday morning, and Tuesday is my errand day. More specifically, Tuesday is my grocery shopping day, which isn't something easily skipped. I couldn't figure out how to get to mass and two grocery stores and whatever other errands always seem to crop up. Still, the nagging thought remained. Not only is it good for me to go to church more often, but mid-week masses are perfect teaching opportunities for Jonathan. They are short services that he can be expected to sit through; we all sit in the choir loft up front so he can see exactly what is happening and be more involved in it; it is a small group of parishioners and no one seems to mind my whispered explanations.
I'm sure you get the picture by now: I know exactly what I ought to do, but it just seems so hard!
And so we come to this morning. I had laid out a carefully planned route of errands. The thrift store, the recycle center, Henry's Marketplace, and Ralphs. With no dawdling and a little luck, I could get them all done between Thomas' morning nap and Jonathan's afternoon nap, and use a minimal amount of gas to do it all.
Thomas slept later than I expected, so we got on the road later than I had hoped. Still, I thought we could do it if I pushed Jonathan's nap a little later than usual. It would work. All our gear was stashed in the car - thrift donations, recycles, lunch, snacks, toys - and we were off. As I drove toward the freeway I noticed the time: 11:21am. Mass started in nine minutes.
I did not want to go to mass. I was seriously annoyed that I had even noticed that it was possible.
"I don't have time, God. This very carefully planned trip will completely fall apart if I don't stick to the schedule."
"Emily, go to mass."
"I can't, God, don't you understand how tricky it is to fit everything in between naps?"
"I do. Go to mass. It will be ok."
"There is no way I can get to the grocery stores if I do this."
"That's ok. Go to mass."
"But I'm trying so hard to be a good steward of our gas money, and I planned the trip so carefully, and now you're asking me to just scrap it all and let the chips fall where they may?"
At this point we were on the freeway, on our way either to church or the thrift shop, depending on the exit I chose. And Jonathan piped up, "Oh Mommy, are we going to church?!"
I sighed and headed for church.
I'm so glad that I did. The boys were angels during the service. Jonathan paid attention and copied my kneeling and standing during the prayers. Thomas was thrilled that we were seated right next to the Christ the King crucifix - he kept pointing to it and grinning and saying "Jee-da!" And somehow, instead of feeling frustrated and stressed by this derailment of my day, I found myself peaceful and prayerful and glad. During a prayer where we offer up our "sacrifice of prayer and thanksgiving" I mentally added, "and obedience, God. This morning is for you."
It is for him, you know. I don't have ownership over my time and my plans, although I generally think I do. They belong to God, and if he asks me to change them, or even just drop everything to come to mass, then it is my job to obey.
And such obedience often brings lovely blessings. No, I didn't get the grocery shopping done. No, I don't know when I'll do it. But instead of a hurried, stressful morning, we had a relaxed, pleasant morning. After mass we went over to Starbucks, just for the fun of it. The boys ate whipped cream off a straw and I ignored the clock and just enjoyed my two beautiful boys. They aren't impediments to my life, although sometimes it feels that way when I'm trying to fit things in around their naps - they are priceless gifts. Taking time to just look at them and enjoy their smiles was exactly what I should have done this morning. We did go to the thrift store, where I dropped off our donations and picked out two pairs of shorts for the boys, a dress shirt for Gabe, a Sandra Boynton board book, and maternity pants and shorts for me, all for less than $20. I think God was smiling on us, don't you? :) And we did get the recycling dropped off before heading home. Now the boys are having much-needed naps, and I'm blogging because I want to remember today. Obedience doesn't always make sense. But it is always the right thing to do, and sometimes it brings unexpected beauty instead of just unexpected inconvenience.
Lord, thank you for your persistent nudging today. Help me always to be obedient.