Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Easy like Sunday morning

One day I'd like to get to church on a Sunday and not get whiplash from the change in pace.

The other week I was doing one of the readings in church and so was meeting with others in the vestry just before the service to pray. I couldn't think of a thing to say, and I stood, mute and unfocused, managing the occasional 'Amen'.

The whirlwind of Sunday morning had one again left my head full of static, and it was going to take me longer than the distance between the main doors at the back of church and the vestry at the front to calm it down, and this was not an unfamiliar feeling. I usually arrive at church in that state.

Whoever said, 'Easy like Sunday morning,' clearly didn't have children to get to church. My two require endless nagging to get them dressed, brushed and in their coats and shoes round about the right time to leave. We're inevitably just stumbling out of the front door five minutes before the service is about to start, with the church a ten minute walk away. On the day when I'm reading, or doing the prayers, it has been known for me to form an advance party to scuttle down the road ahead of my husband who undertakes to herd the children there when the missing shoe has been located, or the correct toy selected to accompany them. Sometimes when I appear from the vestry in my state of calm serenity (ahem), they're there sitting buffed and alert in church (haha) and other times they appear, grim-faced and pale during the first hymn.

It's not only the children that make Sunday mornings so fraught, however. Some of it may be down to my keenness to extract any last moments in bed on the only day free from school runs or (now) early morning swimming training, and I always underestimate how long things are going to take to get ready.

So much for the practical things, and I'm sure we're not unique - but the real chaos is going on in my head, and that's the thing that perplexes me the most.

I come into church, and it feels different. Whether it should or not is another debate, but I find that eventually, after I've calmed down and soaked up the atmosphere, listened to the liturgy, sung some worship songs, closed my eyes to pray, heard God's word read aloud.... I am in a different place from where I was when I shrugged off my coat and sat down, out of breath. I have slowed; refocused. I am outside myself, for once, and my eyes are on Him.

It feels so much better.

I want there to be less of a difference between that feeling that the breathless avalanche that is my arrival at church. I want there to be less of a difference between one state and the other - my outside church state of mind and my in-church state of mind.

I don't want my head to be so full of things that to slow down and seek God is such a stark contrast from my normal way of being.

I want Him to seep into my normal, everyday consciousness more and more. I know that family life and circumstances are always going to raise the likelihood that the trip down the road on a Sunday morning might be more hairy and exhilarating than serene, but taking that into account, I would love there to be less of a contrast between the spiritual and the secular. Let's face it, it's me that makes the distinction in the first place, isn't it? God doesn't think that I should be in one frame of mind for an hour and a half on a Sunday morning and a different one all week, does He? It's not as if school runs and supermarket shops and sitting at the poolside are beneath Him and He's only interested in me between 11am and 12.20pm on a Sunday.

I am not generally someone who compartmentalises things. I know people who have one pigeonhole for family stuff, one for relationships, friends, work, health etc., but I am not like this. My life has always been more like a sandwich - my children are one layer, my marriage another, work and health and so on the other layers - if one of them is bad, the whole thing tastes wrong. One part will infect all the others and so if all is not well in an area of my life, the whole of me is upset.

I think this is why I am uncomfortable with the feeling that sometimes I put worshipping God in a compartment only to be accessed on Sundays. Because I've done this, the rest of my life has to be awkwardly contained in the same framework and it just won't do it. So the other jumbled-up compartments labelled 'The Rest Of My Life' all swish about and froth up and overflow all on top of the 'Sunday morning' compartment and it gets swamped. And then in the vestry I find that I am waiting for 'Life' to drain away so that I can find God.

Perhaps it's not always like this. I suspect there have been times when my Life Sandwich is liberally spread throughout with spirituality and the whole thing is much richer and tastier and more satisfying because of it. Every bite has God in it.

Maybe I've just lost that at the moment; after all, Christmas is a huge and ironic distraction from one's spiritual life, isn't it? I find that I am all on to focus on the nativity advent calendar with the children once a day in the maelstrom of preparations and purchases in December. I missed the Carol Service this year, my annual advent devotional got pushed out as life got too busy and no sooner were the Christmas festivities over than I succumbed to a chest infection and sort of opted out of everything for the next week, which meant that my usual New Year musings and preparations were somewhat truncated.

That's probably not a bad thing. I over-think most things.

So, here I am in January and I am feeling a little out of sorts. Breathless from the speed with which I've found myself in another New Year and a bit reluctant to embrace it as I liked the old one.  Head spinning a little, trying to find something to focus on that isn't moving, something that will stay the same even when everything else is constantly shifting shape.

That'll be you, then, God.

Spread through my sandwich, will you?  I'm inviting you in - access all areas. Be the main filling, be the crusts, the salad, the pickle, the condiments, the mayonnaise on the side of the plate. Overflow and affect everything.

Peace, please.


  1. My spiritual longing is similar - thanks for writing this!

  2. Hi Helen - reading this really resonated with me - we always had the same issues (I refuse to call them problems!) when our boys were younger and we were trying to get out to church and get there on time. I think you're being too hard on yourself - I don't think it matters if you are late - God is just happy that you turn up - but of course, if you are doing something in the service, that could be difficult.

    I think you need to "cut yourself some slack" and perhaps make a game of the fact that you need to be out of the house by a certain time, and put a timer on, so that everyone is aware and whoever isn't ready on time is the one who does the washing up after Sunday lunch. That will soon focus minds! I know it's not very spiritual, but then life isn't always - and God knows the issues we have in raising our families.

    Having been a busy mum, I know that my children didn't even notice if the house was clean and tidy or if the dusting had been done, but they did notice if I wasn't there to support them and to put meals on the table - so I concentrated on that - cooking their meals and "being" so that they knew I loved them and wanted to give them all the support I could.

    Perhaps you could put some worship songs onto your phone or iPod so that when you are just "sitting" somewhere and waiting for children, you could play them and join in. After all, we don't need to be "in" church to worship God and maybe that will help you to just "chill out" in the presence of God.

    I hope all this makes sense - please don't think I "know it all" - I have been a busy Mother and am now a retired Grandmother - and there are things I would have done differently, but one thing I do know is that if you make the time to worship God wherever you are, He will come to you in AMAZING ways and as you bless Him, He will bless you!

    With love in Jesus, Maureen xx

    1. Thank you so much, Maureen. You've no idea how much I need to hear that today. It sometimes feels as if I am doing so many different things and none of them very well. Thank you for your wisdom. Lots of love. x


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