It’s a modern church with interesting architecture and striking stained-glass artwork. There are various pieces of art hung throughout the church, each one with its own purpose and story which I want to know. My story is there too. I walk into the church each Wednesday evening, my hair hanging in unkempt tendrils around my face which, if I’m being honest, may or may not have been washed that day. The baby is in the stroller, cooing, maybe crying, it just depends on what kind of a day we’ve had.
Wednesdays at our house are “full-swing.” By that, I mean that we are on our little train, going places. Homeschool, working out, kids’ Kung Fu class, doctor appointments, the 4 year old is with us because he only goes to preschool Tuesday and Thursday…full-swing. There’s not a lot of breathing time or self-care time. That’s more of a Saturday ritual, breathing.
But not Wednesdays.
There’s a late afternoon shuffle. My husband gets home while I’m finishing making dinner for him and the kids and then I leave with my infant daughter. She and I make our way to this interesting and out-of-place-in-Los Angeles Episcopal church where I get to sing. The choir is made up of about 16 people with various backgrounds and most of the people are, ahem, shall we say…a bit grey?
They are (mostly) all lovely and accept me and my chaos—I mean baby—with grace and love.
There’s the 2 grandpa-basses who sit behind me and inquire about the age of my baby again, “Is she about 8 weeks now?”
“No,” I say, blushing. “She’s 5 months old now!”
They guffaw and smile and say of course. There’s the token curmudgeonly older lady who rarely smiles, but somehow, she likes me. And I her. She asks after me and my daughter every week, making sure we don’t need any help to or from the car.
As I step into the church, I feel like breathing even though it’s only Wednesday. I smile. I know not everyone has this reaction to churches, but I do to this one in particular. As I enter, it’s as if the church asks me to leave my outside chaos…outside. Peace is what is welcomed and honored here. The church is quaint while still being modern, grand while maintaining a mysterious humility. It’s not too big, holding seats for only about 200 people. The altar is beautiful with carved candlesticks and a beautiful concrete and wooden table for the sacrament. There are beautiful stained glass installments, some of which are straightforward like an illuminated Jesus over the altar, while others are more esoteric and require a bit of deeper reflection.
As we rehearse, our sometimes imperfect pitches permeate the walls and bounce back to me. I leave the mama world where I worry about each of my kids. When I’m there, I am a singer. A professional, perhaps. The baby sleeps in the stroller, lulled to sleep by our harmonies, and I am just Lynne, a girl who loves to sing. I dig into the challenge of reading each note and accurately moving my line in concert with the other singers around me. I make a contest out of singing a particularly difficult passage without making a mistake, a contest to pursue excellence and complete something without interruption. For these moments, I am good at something and it feels satisfying. Often my days of mothering feel like a string of question marks marked by desperate prayer. Will they grow up to be decent people? Will they ever sleep? Will they really know God deeply? Will they love me when they are grown or will they turn to therapy to deal with how much I’ve messed them up? Seriously, God? Will they? But these notes on the page are questions answered. I just have to sing the right notes, that’s it. The requirements here in this space are simple.
The baby, having fussed during our last piece, is now nursing contentedly. Rehearsal is over and I feel energized and light. Those two hours of singing and just being me are like a dose of medicine. The choir members filter out to the parking lot and say their goodnights. I gently get the baby back into her carseat and gather my music. On the way out of the church, a tapestry draped on a side altar catches my eye. It reads:
“All shall be well
and all shall be well
and all manner of thing shall be well.”
~Julian of Norwich
My heart swells. I know that in my full-swing Wednesday, I have come to this church and the desperate question marks of motherhood have been answered.
All shall be well.