28 Jan 2015

My husband is the full-time pastor at our church where we have been serving for nine years. When the Lord first called us to this sweet congregation, we had only three young children (four, five and seven). As most of you know, getting small children dressed, fed and ready for church is nothing short of a weekly miracle. Add to that exercise the pressure of being on time— because you’re the preacher’s wife. About a year after taking this church, we welcomed our fourth child, and Sundays became an all-out athletic event. By the time we arrived, dropped off the baby in the nursery and claimed our designated pew, I was usually exhausted! My task for the next hour was to keep three wiggly bodies still, quiet and reverent. I was convicted with every tired fiber of my being that they needed to be in church at a young age, but I silently wondered if there was any benefit for any of us!

As happens so often, time has a way of silently slipping by when we’ve got our hands full of diaper bags, PB&J sandwiches and story books. Gradually those things were replaced by purses, Bibles and Sunday school books. Before long, the youngest was old enough to join us for service, and once again, I was shushing loud whispers, catching hymn books before they could crash to the floor and generally trying not to cause a scene. Our Sunday line-up had my youngest on my right side, followed by child two, then one and next-to-youngest on my left. This seating arrangement was strategically designed to minimize fighting between my darlings and also provide the fastest escape route if I needed to make a quick exit. It seemed the task of curtailing distractions was my eternal lot. But little by little, week by week, I heard more of the sermon and less noise. I spent more time worshiping and less time wrestling.

A few weeks ago I sat down in our pew, settled my purse and Bible and read through the bulletin. Hearing the music that cued the start of the service, I suddenly realized I was sitting alone. I remembered my oldest son was in the back, running the audio-visual equipment. I smiled, proud of the fact that he was already serving his church at a young age. Glancing around, I spotted my oldest daughter sitting with a new teenage girl from another country. She went out of her way to befriend her, knowing how hard it is to find a place where you fit in, even in church. I noticed my younger son, just promoted to the youth group, sitting with a couple of older boys. Had he really been hardly more than a toddler when we first came? And then there was my youngest, my baby girl, just promoted from the preschool department to the children’s, sitting a few rows up by her best friend, whispering and doodling. My smile quickly faded as I suddenly realized they were growing up. My first instinct was to enact a new family law stating that we must all sit together on Sunday mornings. Just as quickly I realized that they needed this freedom and that it was both right and good for our family. The reality of the fact that I am now in a new phase of parenting, however, stung my momma’s heart just a bit.

I also realize this same shifting of seasons is unfolding in our homeschool. Days of phonetic readers, tears over handwriting, counting with blocks and messy art pictures have passed. I have one independently navigating algebra and biology. My middle two children don’t need my help much, except for math. My youngest is just starting to read, and I am savoring every minute, knowing that in just a few short years, she’ll be the only one left at home when her older siblings are off in college. Then a few quick years after that and the last of my chicks will leave the nest empty. The books and papers will be gone, the house will be tidy, and I’ll sit alone at the kitchen table that was once the school table. I fully expect to look into the lives of my young adult children with pride and gratitude for the years we had together, but I’m sure there will be a few tears, too.

So, as difficult as it sounds, enjoy the hard days. Savor the struggles. Embrace the season you’re in and treasure the moments you’ve been given.

Amanda Garner and her husband, Wes, have home educated all four of their children. They currently have two in college, a high school senior, and a middle schooler. Amanda is a regular conference speaker, freelance writer, occasional blogger, and most often, a regular homeschool mom and wife.