Tell Me Now…Where Do I Belong?

She walks in the church and cautiously looks around with her four-year-old daughter in tow.  She hesitantly makes her way to the back of the church and sits quietly, thumbing through her Bible, avoiding eye contact at all costs.  She has contemplated this day for months.  She wonders if she should be here.  Does she really belong?  A warm, friendly woman sits beside her and begins to make conversation with the four-year-old.  The young mom is certain that woman notices her empty ring finger and hangs her head in shame. *

It’s been a little over six weeks since Maycee began her new school close to the Yellow Submarine and I began working full forty-hour weeks.  During those six weeks we’ve been to church a total of two times, as of this past Sunday.  This may not seem particularly strange to anyone except the fact that I used to lead worship at our old church, create the power point presentations for Sunday when Pastor was away, and often opened the service, helped with children’s sermons, Sunday School, confessional prayer, or any other part of worship I was asked to do.  I did this faithfully and voluntarily for the past three years, and prior, back home in Ventura, I was actually paid to do it.  So, for me, it is a bit strange.  I figured I would dive right into a new church now that we weren’t driving back and forth between cities, thus making my connection with the old church rough to keep.  I figured I even knew where I was going to lay ground, having already met with a pastor up here from a sister church. I felt like I’d eventually gain a new spiritual family and home with his congregation.  All wonderful news!  Except, Negative.  “Houston, we have a problem.”  I’ve been paralyzed. 

 

Change is never easy, but for me, well, I’ve become accustomed to it-often.  It took me two decades to find God and find a church where I flourished.  It took me years to feel a-part-of and worthy of attending, deep down.  It took being a member of a congregation here on the Central Coast that accepted me for exactly the broken woman I was, loving on Maycee and me as if we were flesh and blood, to allow me to look up and out with no trace of shame, share my story openly with fellow believers, and use it to do good works.  It took getting to this place of stability to be able to feel confident that I WOULD connect somewhere once the school and work changes happened.  I didn’t need hand-holding anymore.  I knew I could do it.  Isn’t that what being a Single Working Mom is all about?  I CAN DO IT.

Floundering along with busy weekends, company visiting, house projects to occupy my time, and wanting Maycee to enjoy her pajamas just a little bit longer, Sunday upon Sunday passed me by.  I justified the break with a need to rejuvenate and rest, and albeit, this actually holds truth.  Recently, though,  Maycee and I were invited to attend another local church by her daycare head teacher, with whom I had enjoyed terrific conversation during school registration and promptly found out she was a Christian heavily involved in ministry.  The invitation sat in my mind week after week until with complete determination I decided this past Sunday was the day.  No excuses.  No visitors.  No extra jammy time (heck, the service wasn’t until 10:30).  No bad hair mornings.  No Ihaven’thadmycoffeeyets.  No, oops the dogs made a mess.  No nothing.  NADA.  ZIP.  ZERO. It was time. 

Some studies suggest as many as 67% of single moms currently do not attend church – many citing fear of being judged as key.*

Maycee was excited as she new the plan.  She got on one of her best Sunday dresses from grandma and put on her adorable little riding boots to complete the ensemble, a barret clipped to the side in her hair.  Me, well, admittedly I love contemporary worship services because I can stay clad in my blue jeans all the way, but I did put on a pretty floral print top and my nicer cowboy boots.  As we drove down our hill and up to theirs (Grace Bible Church) all of sudden I felt like I was going to barf.  I’m sorry, but I can’t put it any more eloquently than that.  Plumb sick to my stomach with anticipation of the unknown. We found the sanctuary and pulled into a HUGE parking lot, people buzzing around like ants.  It was so full I had to park in the “overflow” parking.  Let me explain further…at our old church, we had a cracked parking lot with no lines visible-everyone guessed where the spots were as we never filled it, so no big deal. Park sideways if you like.

My stomach still about to spew I stuffed it down deep as Maycee’s excitement took over.  “Wow, look Mommy.  This place is HUUUUUUUUUUGE!”  We enter the building…”Wow, oh, look at this!  Wow!  It’s sooo nice!” “I like it here, Mommy!” All I can do is stare at lines of folks, for what, I can’t really tell.  Lines here, lines there.  Adult Bible Class.  Sign your kids up here.  Starbucks to the left.  Jamba Juice to the right.  (Just kidding.) We enter the sanctuary after kindly taking our bulletin.  I’m overwhelmed.  The old church?  Sits on the street downtown, can’t miss it, stained glass to die for adorning the entire front of the building, walk up the sidewalk, into the sanctuary, BOOM! You’re there: no road map necessary, no passing “Go”, and nope, you probably won’t even find $200-ANYWHERE.  We take a seat in the already acknowledged HUGE room, almost to the front row, close to the band.  At least I can check out their equipment.  All of it.  Every single expensive cent of it.  Two large drop-down screens on each side.  One beautifully lit cross in the background. The pews continue to fill.  I can’t help but  notice all of the families.  FAMILIES.  Nice looking families: moms AND dads with 2.5 children. This is not like my old church!  Where are the vagrants?  Where are the other single women?  Where are the single men (no, I’m not fishing)?  Where is the drunkard we’ll have to toss out when he becomes unruly?  Where….WHERE?  Maycee is looking around in amazement-undeniable, enthusiastic amazement. 

The worship minister (I’m sure he’s not on a volunteer salary) begins the service with a gracious welcome, and then the music starts to play.  Perfectly pitched, perfectly blended.  It’s KLOVE in the house, I swear.  Each instrument perfectly tuned.  All I can hear is “perfect”.  I begin to cry so hard I want to shout, “I WANNA GO HOME!  I WANNA GO HOME! I WANNA GO HOME!”  But, I don’t, and my tears are interrupted by Maycee’s daycare teacher who finally finds us amidst the perfection.  I’m certain, actually, it wasn’t too difficult.   There are many announcements about the wonderful missions of this great facility, and, can you please fill out the visitor’s card?  I didn’t move a muscle until…”Mommy, fill it out.  Fill it out!” as Maycee shoves the card in my hand.  Then the sermon.  During the entire 35 minutes of preaching, even as the pastor tried to get everyone on fire, there wasn’t one “AMEN!” in the house.  Not one, “PREACH IT!” to be heard.  Not one, “COME ON, PASTOR!” entered my ears. My old church?  Not one little blip of the microphone because it wasn’t working. And, the pastor stayed on topic.  What?!  My, God, where are You??? 

I clenched my soaked kleenex until it was time to go. I did it.  I survived. No music played as we left the sanctuary.  Only the hum of the congregation leaving, and immediately they began to clean the pews.  I’m not sure what they were cleaning.  I think everyone had on clothes washed with Tide. I’m sure of it!  Afterwards, the daycare teacher and I talked for quite awhile, and I was able to be honest about my feelings.  What were they, you ask?  Less than.  Different.  I don’t belong here.  These people aren’t in my shoes. They aren’t my kind.  They aren’t lost.  They’re perfect.  They make lines and follow them.  They sit neatly pressed with hands folded during firey sermons.   Maycee’s, feelings?  After we hit the potty , she exclaimed, “I love it here!  Isn’t it great?!  Mommy can we make this church our new church?  Plllllleeeeeeaaaasssseee! Can we come back here? Plllleeeeeeaaaasssseeee?” 

Our new church?  Our new church.

We spent the afternoon having lunch with the daycare teacher and her mom and dad at their home.  I learned a lot about my own judgement (it’s always good to check the face in the mirror) and God’s grace, one more time.  I know Grace Bible Church isn’t perfect. I know the people who were around me aren’t either.   Perhaps some of them do use Dollar Tree detergent even. You never know…  What I do know is that the prettiest of packages can be incredibly broken and damaged on the inside.  I know that change, even when anticipated is hard.  It appears, as well, that I have a long way to go with my own inferiority complex and insecurities.  I know that I love God and am forever grateful for the faith I’ve found, even without understanding.  I know that God is there with the downtrodden as well as those who are hiding amidst Ben Franklins.  And, I know that I want Maycee to WANT to go to worship every Sunday. 

Today our “We’re glad you visited us” letter came.  Darned visitors’ cards.  Maycee brought in the mail and shouted, “Mommy, it’s a letter…from the church we went to…from Grace Bible Church!  Can I open it?  It has BOTH of our names on it!”  She read the entire thing, top to bottom.  My little seven-year-old.  I know this, too: she’s my light, my love, and my reason.

Ultimately?

Always there

I think that means we’ll go back for another visit.  When we do, I’ll look a little closer next time, and maybe…just maybe…I’ll find I do belong.

Psalms 146:9 says “He cares for the widows and orphans.”  The widow, oftentimes, is the single mom. *

Thanks for reading, Friends.  For the rest of this week, and as much as possible, be happy, and give a chuckle.

*Cited from the CBN.com web article, The Church and the Single Mom written by Jennifer Maggio. 2011.

**”Footprints in the Sand” and “Mount of Holy Cross” from Google Images.

 

 

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Author: singleworkingmomswm

I love to write, and I love raising my daughter. The two combined have prompted me to create a blog about being a single working mom. Life's a trip, and I tend to take the windy roads.

8 thoughts on “Tell Me Now…Where Do I Belong?”

    1. Thanks, Karen.I couldn't believe it when I looked at the clock last night and saw that it was 12:30AM!I began writing this post at 9:30 and last remember seeing it was nearing 10:15.The time just flew by as I recalled all of the thoughts spinning in my head, the emotions, and Mayceeisms.:-)

  1. I understand exactly how you feel. Before my husband left, we attended a larger-than-life church here in my hometown. I was raised going to small country churches where the people had known my mom when she was growing up so it was a big change for me.

    After my husband left four years I started attended less and less. I think I’ve gone two, maybe three, times in the last year and a half. I was invited to be part of a small group lead by a lovely older couple and I attended a couple of times. I stopped going because all the other members were young married couples who “wanted to help me” and “be part of my life”. I felt like I had become their mission so I stopped going.

    I’ve yet to find another church to attend regularly. One where I don’t feel like the charity case. But I know God loves me and I know He’s got it all figured out. Hope you’ve been able to make the connections you need to, to feel like you belong.

    1. Hi, Holly…thanks for the comment. It is tough, very tough, to find a new church home. I haven’t settled on one yet, but I do know that I am worthy, as are you and any other single mom. When I wrote this post the feelings of “less than” overwhelmed me when I visited this new place. I went back last week, sat in the back row, looked around, and had more of sense that I am completely worthy of being in any sanctuary. After all, it’s God’s house, not anyone elses, and Jesus sat at the table with the sinners, the obvious ones and the hidden ones. I’ll find my home again, and I’m sure, one of these days, so will you! 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. Your blog is so heartfelt and beautifully written. I am enjoying and relating to all of your stories. This story hit home with me. I haven’t found the balance; mega churches like the one described are just too false for me, small churches are just too filled with small-minded people. I have resolved to just live and love God and find like-minded individuals to worship with in everyday life.

    1. Thanks so much, Michelle, for reading, subscribing, and commenting! I’m glad you can relate to what I’ve written (here, there, and everywhere), and I will for certain check out your blog, too. 🙂 It is indeed hard to find the balance. I’ve been lucky to have found it in the past and had wonderful church families to hold me up when I couldn’t hold myself. For now, like you, I’m comfortable knowing I love the Lord, He will guide me, and I just need to be patient in waiting. 🙂 Patience…so tough!

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