I hold Alana on my lap, and she cuddles into me, dressed in her Sunday finest: a plaid ruffled dress, thick stockings, a big, clip-on bow in her hair and shiny black shoes. I try to put her down, but she reaches back for me, so I scoop her in my arms once again. And I hold her.
We sit together in a rocking chair, and we go back and forth, back and forth. She is warm, happy and looking all over the room. I imagine if I were her age — 14 months — I would have done the same in a strange room, wanted to stay safe in someone’s arms and let my eyes do the exploring my feet weren’t yet ready to do. I like how solid she feels in my arms, a weight I well remember from toting my two little brothers around when they were young. (Now one’s in the Army and the other, the Air Force.)
I scan the room and take inventory of all the nursery babies toddling around while their parents sit in church. Some keel over, off balance, and bump their heads. Some discover toys in the bin and, as they do, fall into it. Some don’t stop crying. For all these minor catastrophes someone close by serves as the rescuer, the scooper-upper, the kisser for the babies with booboos. Or, for little Alana, I serve simply as the holder. None realize that this is my precious, sacred, most treasured time of the week: My Sunday morning, house-is-silent reading the newspaper time.
Sunday morning before church I spread the big, thick paper on the kitchen table. I get my cup of coffee, and I take my time. Page by page. Because this is the only morning I may linger. All others are for rushing: Rushing to work, to warm up the car, to get my lunch ready, to pack my purse, to find that one shoe always conspicuously missing. But that time before church, those few sacred hours were for lingering slow and lovely through the pages of the Sunday paper. I dawdled through it, stopping where I fancied, getting my fill of local and international news, with a smattering of book reviews and columns thrown in, too. All while sipping coffee that gets frequent refills.
Alana makes a noise and points to her twin sister across the room, also being rocked. She, unlike Alana, is fussy and has wet eyes from tears that only stopped a few minutes ago. Church is almost over. It’s my third week volunteering in the nursery. I haven’t yet gone a week without thinking about the sacrifice, even if no one else knows or cares. Sometimes the babies scream and won’t stop or poop in their pants, and when they do, I ache for that silent kitchen and my formerly inky fingertips, because I deserve it, don’t I? I work hard all week long, and that’s my time. For just me. But, you see, that’s where I was wrong.
My time is not my own. It is God’s, to do with it what He wants. Being a part of the church means more than showing up Sunday morning. It means rubbing shoulders with other people through serving with them. I realized after a quick assessment of my always-full work week that Sunday morning was the only time I could conceivably volunteer at the church in some type of ministry. Then, sitting in the pew one week, I saw in the bulletin that the 10 a.m. service needed nursery volunteers. My mind shot directly to my newspaper time: Could I give that up? I wrestled with it for too long. I realized that if I didn’t, I was putting myself, my own wants and desires, before obedience.
Alana’s parents appear in the doorway, and she lets out a squeal. I tote her over, and she reaches both arms out for her father, who has eyes only for his little daughter. Nursery work isn’t glamorous. It involves tears and poopy diapers and lost little shoes and lots of snotty noses. No one knows that I traded in my newspaper time. But it’s not about people knowing anyway. I know who I’m doing it for, and he knows too.
And I hope it makes Him smile.