This morning was a good morning. To my knowledge during church, only one crayon went flying from one child to the other and I only raised my voice twice.
We haven't graduated to the point where someone might say, "You boys were so quiet I didn't even know you were there!" But we are making progress.
It hasn't been all that long ago that my husband and I had to pump each other up for Sunday morning church - like soldiers preparing for battle.
Week after week we would rush into church, always late, settling into our pew, hoping shirts were on right, we had remembered all of our shoes, and hair and faces were in order.
It would always start out OK. They usually made it through the children's sermon relatively unnoticed. The music over the next few minutes would usually drowned out all the ruckus coming from our offspring.
But then... the sermon would begin.
Our time had run out.
We braced. It was game time. Us versus them. Civility versus complete chaos.
We were up against twenty solid minutes of only one man's voice. It wasn't even close to enough to cover the screams, untimely laughs, occasional harsh words and tears that would be coming from our children.
On bad weeks we would drag them out of the sanctuary. On good weeks we might make it through the sermon but our neighbors probably wished we had drug them out.
For what seemed like ages this went on. Each week I left feeling defeated, often wondering if it was worth it. I wasn't hearing the message, they certainly weren't, and because of us half the church wasn't either.
At some point, it stated getting better. I've found more weeks than not that I am actually hearing the message. And recently, I noticed our oldest proudly and easily joining us all in the Lord's Prayer while he colored. He was actually taking something in.
With light at the end of this tunnel, I suddenly have time to be grateful. Not one time in the last years has any of our church family said anything hurtful about the boys' behavior.
No one told us to stop coming. No one told us we were bad parents.
One time, in response to the frustration showing through my face, my pastor told me that if he couldn't preach over the noise of the children than he shouldn't be preaching at all.
On one particularly bad day, I remember a man kindly winking at me while I marched an unruly child to the back of the church. He was reaching out, saying "It's OK. This too shall pass." That meant so much to me. I never told him that.
I am so grateful for that kindness shown. I am so thankful our church gave us time to get where we are, without judgement. Even if it took our boys longer than most.
"But Jesus said, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children." Matthew 19:14
To any parent out there, dealing with those same Sunday struggles, I want you to know it is worth it. And remember, this too shall pass.
And to anyone else having their Sunday worship interrupted by a child behaving like a rabbid raccoon, know you're doing the right thing by biting your tongue. Or better yet, giving a kind smile or joyful wink.
That mother and father are working on it. But they need your kindness or they may lose the battle.
Even though we've gotten better, we still aren't perfect. I imagine for quite some time I'll continue praying with one eye opened and continue being grateful for the kindness and forgiveness of those around us.
I'm still pretty new in my journey with faith and Jesus. Too new to be giving any kind of sermon, or biblical commentary. This isn't either. This is just me. And my thoughts.
Today is Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week, which culminates in Easter. Next Sunday, millions of people will attend church that don't normally go. People who go on Christmas and Easter. Or at least attempt to go, on one or the other, most years.
I'm not judging, the exact opposite actually. For most of my life, that was me. I went, first because I was made to, and later in life out of some sense of obligation. Because it's what "good people" do. At least on Easter and Christmas.
I'll never forget the stress I use to feel. To act the right way, say the right things, but mostly, to dress the right way.
Fashion has never been a strength for me. My entire life, it's been a source of great stress. And Easter Church services come with high expectations.
Especially after you have kids. The kids have to have new outfits. I think they are suppose to match and I think it's suppose to be something you have to iron.
I am suppose to have a new dress. It can't be white yet... or maybe it can be? I can't ever remember the rules of wearing white. Except the wedding thing. I always remember that.
It's suppose to be spring colors, definitely not my go to black. My work suits won't work either. It's suppose to coordinate with the kids outfits I am sure.
Church on Easter and Christmas never felt like it was for me. The expectations were high and I was always falling short and uncomfortable while I was at it.
I couldn't find my way to Jesus on those days because I was too busy readjusting a dress I hated and wondering if my shoes actually matched my outfit.
It wouldn't be until years later, when a way too casual preacher stopped us at the local Mexican restaurant and asked us to church.
He would ask a dozen more times before I actually showed up.
It wouldn't be until the first "regular" Sunday morning, that I walked into that church with half empty pews, and that same preacher stood in the aisle telling jokes wearing a weird tie.
It wouldn't be until that preacher turned and saw me, in my blue jeans and boots, and his face lit up as he said, "I'm so glad you're here!". And he meant it - jeans and all.
It wouldn't be until I sat among those people - some dressed up, but most like me, in jeans. There were some teachers, a truck driver, a few farmers, a butcher, local business people. Regular people.
It wouldn't be until I came to church in jeans, actually comfortable in my clothes and comfortable that those around me didn't mind, that I finally could hear about Jesus. That I could finally know and feel Jesus.
I know many of you will go to church next Sunday and many of you will feel like I still do on Easter Sunday - uncomfortable. I pray that you'll still be open to hearing the good news of Jesus.
But if you're like me, and you're distracted by your discomfort, I hope you'll come back. On a regular Sunday. In your blue jeans and boots. Because that church has got news worth sharing. A story worth knowing. A man worth following.
And it's worth coming back. I promise.
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Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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