“I just don’t know how you do it all…”

Post Author: Stephanie Sorge Wing

“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” – Romans 12:4-5

The author with her sons before worship

“I just don’t know how you do it all…” It’s a refrain I hear so often from the members of the congregation I serve that I thought I ought to share my great wisdom with a broader audience: I don’t.

Most mornings are a rush to get my two young boys ready to go for the day. The youngest eats breakfast once he gets to daycare, thanks to the kitchen staff and daycare providers who prepare, serve, and clean up for breakfast and lunch each day. Great thanks be to God for them. The oldest gets a choice of breakfast foods that can be taken in the car, and he’s usually still finishing it when we get to his preschool down the road. The other day his primary teacher and I watched him stuff 3/4 of a mini bagel in his mouth after I kissed him goodbye. Mom of the year.

Some days are harder than others, and sometimes there are tears at drop-off. I rely on the loving care of Ms. Jackie and Ms. Ginny who are ready to help improve his morning transition. I repeat my goodbye and head out of the door, knowing that all will be well. Sometimes I find myself in tears, and post in a facebook group of pastor mamas, “This pastor mama stuff is hard.” They quickly respond with love and affirmation, and I keep moving through my day.

I come to work in the context of a wonderful, active, and supportive congregation. I marvel at the volunteer leaders who give so freely of their time and talents in order to do the work of ministry together. Things get done, and often not by me, and yet I still hear, “I just don’t know how you do it all.”

Most evenings, you’ll find my light still on at the church office, because my husband picks up the boys and usually figures out feeding them. I must confess, I rarely cook. I do my very best to make sure we eat a variety of mostly nutritious foods (frozen peas for the win!), but we still have more evenings with drive-through dinners than I care to acknowledge. Also, the house is a mess. 99.78% of the time. I usually stay on top of dishes and laundry through the week, but I’m just always surrounded by mess, which comes between me and the deep clean that my soul craves. But if the choice is between between bedtime snuggles and picking up, between cleaning and  sleep, snuggles and sleep it is!

Bedtime routines aren’t as routine or idyllic as I’d like. We read books, but there is too much screen time, too. Baths happen. When they are needed. I wish we had better rhythms, sweet rituals, and sacred moments of faith formation. Sometimes we do. Sometimes.

And then there are Sundays. I carry my 32-pound 2 year old in one arm, multiple bags slung over shoulders and arms, and hold the hand of my 4 year old as we come into church together. I try to keep my boys occupied and mostly contained while I also run around doing last minute things, meeting with worship leaders, conferring with ushers, greeting visitors, or stopping to make a quick pastoral visit. Sometimes my kids are in tow, and other times Teresa, or Susie, or Larry, or Mark, or Mary Lou, or Judy or someone else who has arrived early will greet the boys, take them to the nursery, offer to read a book, or bring them into the sanctuary to hear the musicians warm up. Barbara or one of our other nursery workers or volunteers arrives, and I hand off the kids to enjoy a few final minutes of pre-service preparation. Before I know it, it’s 9:30, and time for worship. My boys rush into the sanctuary and usually jump right into my arms. They’re back and forth between my arms and the laps or arms of others – the members who know and love them so well. Lauren has been holding Micah in worship since he was 8 weeks old. Even on his clingy mornings, he’ll gladly go into her arms.

At my church, we have a special area just for the kids, right up front by the pulpit. There they can move, listen, sing, dance, sit, and learn. We call it our “Prayground.” It’s a space where the youngest disciples can go and be themselves, be comfortable in the worship space that should be safe and welcoming for all people. It’s a space where church members get right down on the floor, criss cross applesauce, and make my boys and other young ones feel safe and welcome. Middle school and high school youth, like Lizzy or Carolyn, will jump right in to help the children follow through the service, to know when we bow in prayer, or how to find the hymns that they can’t yet read but are still learning how to sing. When it comes time to pass the peace of Christ, the youngest ones are right in the mix. Even my still mostly non-verbal two year old is excited to offer his hand and share peace with this church family.

Being a full-time pastor mama of two young children has been a great learning experience. Before, I used to be able to do it all myself, and pretty well. Now I just can’t. Some things just don’t get done, and I practice giving myself the grace that God gives so abundantly. I acknowledge that my failure to live up to my own expectations is just that. It doesn’t lessen my worth or my value to God, the church, or my family. I’ve also learned to lean on a very large village, especially this body of Christ, where the members work together, supporting each other in ways tangible and intangible.

I’ve learned what a struggle it is to get my two young children up, dressed, fed, and to church every Sunday morning, even though I manage to do it every other day of the week. I’ve learned what a gift it is for them to have a whole church full of people who love them, care for them, and have pledged to help nurture them in the faith. I’ve seen how important it is for them to have sacred space – physical and metaphorical – where they are welcomed, loved, and free to be themselves. A place where everyone knows their names – and where they know the names of adults and youth on whom they can call, and with whom they can learn and play and grow.

The love and support of the congregation I serve also assures me that they don’t expect me to leave my “mama” hat at home, but that they are here to love and support me as both pastor and mama. They understand, better than most, that together we are the body of Christ, and we each have our gifts to use and roles to play, that we are so much better when we work together than when we try to do it all on our own. They welcome me, and others, just as we are, not expecting that any one of us has it all together or can do everything. That’s not how we were created, so why should we expect it of ourselves or anyone else? So how do we do it all? We don’t. Thanks be to God.

Stephanie is a Presbyterian minister and mother who is so grateful for the village her family has found in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where she serves the incomparable Trinity Presbyterian Church as pastor. She wonders how anyone answers questions about spare time and hobbies, but she loves dearly her two active boys, who fill her time - spare and not - with joy and laughter. Her hobbies include coffee and sleep, and just enough time at the gym to provide a little balance.

Image by: Daniel Lin
Used with permission
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