If you empty the contents of every bag I own, you will find peanut butter crackers: unopened, mostly crushed packages; opened, half-eaten ones; even (gasp) the lone naked cracker slowly coating the bottom of the bag with salty, oily film.
As I write this, one arm around the toddler on my lap, I am being crusted like a chicken casserole.
We are a ministry family, a missionary family, who can spend as much time in the car and in meeting houses as we do our own house. Three kids means food must portable. PB crackers are life.
There is a small group of mothers like me. You can see us if you look closely. We stand in the back at the conferences swaying a baby on our hips. We walk the halls of the churches to wear out little legs and loiter the bathrooms because, well, potty training. We scope out playrooms and cry rooms like cat burglars on the hunt. We mark perimeters around tent meetings and pray the loud one gets it all out of his system during worship.
Shushing and chasing. Shushing and chasing.
My oldest is getting old enough now to engage in some of what is going on, but it has been a long time coming. And with one still in diapers, I have a long road ahead. Time for some real transparency.
When I talk to people about what we do, I get a variety of responses, ranging from awe to condemnation and the ever-welcome advice in how to do it the right way. I am no expert on this life – I just met a pastor’s wife with her seventh on the way with nary a gray hair in sight – but I have started to find purpose in the placement.
The realization hit me hard on a recent out of town ministry trip. I laid down the expectation that the children would spend an allotted amount of time in worship, either dancing and singing or sitting and meditating.
All arrangements hit the fan when they found out there was a children’s room.
There was weeping and wailing until I said we would look at the room. Then there was weeping and whining until we relented and stayed.
I realize this makes me look like a pushover mom, but with a packed crowd trying to worship, I was trying to be polite. Judge if you like, but hang with me.
So they played, and I strained to hear through the door. I was about to send my oldest in to worship with his dad when he started complaining of a stomach ache.
Yup. We went back and forth to the bathroom until worship was over.
Memories, let me tell you.
It was about the time I collapsed back into a tiny children’s chair that one of the children’s workers walked in. She was just there to take care of some business, and we chatted for a few minutes before she left again. Then I heard the familiar voice whisper, “Why didn’t you pray for her?”
I don’t know. It should be my natural response, right? That is who we are – we are intercessory missionaries. We pray. But I was so absorbed in my mommy frustrations, I did not think of it.
I righted my wrong, even if she was gone. I prayed for her, her team, her family. I looked at that room where my children played and I saw prayer all around me. I laid hands on each of those tiny plastic chairs. I prayed over the changing table, baby swing, bassinet. I blessed the toys as we put them away (and as Seraphina pulled them down again). For an hour, that room was my assignment.
I know so often, we weary mothers feel on the sidelines of the world, standing on edges and back rows and hoping to contain the circus.
We forget that God has no sidelines, only front lines. We are always on His front lines.
So this is my resolution: that no matter where we land on mission, be it a prayer room, play room, or even a bathroom (yikes!), I remember I am placed. God can and will use me and the children to love others, speak life, encourage, and bless if I will be conscious enough to engage with the Holy Spirit.
Even if I have to dole out the peanut butter crackers. Peanut butter crackers for all. Make it rain.