I haven't adjusted to life without Aslan. I just came upstairs and I still have the strong impulse to let him out and make sure he makes it up the stairs while the lights are on because this staircase was always very perplexing to him. The other day I was chopping a particularly teary onion and in my culinary haze, I thought the pile of dirty laundry at the base of the steps was Aslan. It's amazing how, in those split seconds, the heart really does forget what the mind knows.
This morning was my first morning at church since Advent. We went the Sunday after Christmas with Sam's parents, but it was a very small service with no music and I spent the whole time outside of the worship space trying to comfort three tired, screaming kids. Since then, we have been with family every Sunday, except for the fourth Sunday of the month when our church doesn't meet.
It was good to be back. Entering worship at our church for me is like going to University Village to buy a book and making eye contact with the Fran's Chocolates sign. I didn't even know I wanted chocolate, but now, quite suddenly, I must have it. My taste buds have been roused.
Sam stayed with the kids in the play area so that I could have a turn in worship. We were twenty minutes late, which is normal these days, so I walked in and scanned the room. I can't help it. I guess I sort of check people out. We are still somewhat new at our church and I think I am trying to get a sense of who's there and where I fit into the group. I notice people's clothes, their age, their butts, how intently they are listening, if they are drinking coffee, who is resting their head on their lover's shoulder, then more body parts- namely all the ones I am self-conscious about on my person. I notice a lot of post-partum pouches these days. I don't like that I am this way. I think it comes from being imperfect and also from ten years of being mostly in church shopper mode, which is not a very good way to grow as your part of the body of Christ. It's like I've often been the pointer finger wagging at the rest of the body, only I don't realize that I've severed myself and am bleeding on the floor while the body is doing all the things that bodies do, with or without a pointer finger.
The first thing I heard is stories from a young man who works at our church. He lived in the Dominican Republic for a couple years and just got back from being in the DR and Haiti, participating in life-saving surgeries and aiding in post-op recovery. And even though my eyes were still distracted and making all kinds of snap observations that have no relevance, my heart was stimulated and I began to cry. Not the kind of crying where you know it's coming, but the kind where tears start streaming down your cheeks without warning and you desperately wish you were the kind of mother who carries tissues because the drips in your nose are beginning to pool and you only wore 3/4 sleeves, which are much harder to use as wipes.
Worship consistently is so transformative for me, which, I guess, is the point. But I don't even realize I need it until I'm there and that craving is awakened. The involuntary response that I have is something I can't create for myself at home or in natural beauty or with those I love, regardless of how holy a moment it may be. It's a unique thing to stand in a group of people who collectively claim their need for God and experience the Lord's presence together. To say as a body, we are at the same time full of beauty and error, but as we abide in the vine, fruit is born in us and through us that we could not have constructed alone. It's awesome.
At the end of service, all five of us went to receive communion right next to the thumping drums and singing guitars of the worship band, which is Manny's favorite place to be. When I tore off my hunk of bread, Heidi said, "This is Christ's body, broken for you Angie, because he loves you so much." And then James B said the same thing when I dipped it in the wine. And then Glory grabbed the piece of soaked bread out of my hand and popped it in her mouth, leaving me with a crumb. But it was enough and I liked her boldness. Get as much of God as you can Glory.
Manny is going through a contrary phase. Most of it is funny, but there are some things he says that are hurtful. For example, this week he keeps saying that he doesn't like Glory. Sam and I ache when he says this, and we try to have a 3 year-old discussion with Manny each time, but Glory doesn't seem to notice or care, so hopefully the contrary phase will pass before she becomes self-aware.
At bedtime tonight, Manny and I read a book that says,
Giraffes like to stretch. Do you like to stretch?
Manny: I don't like to stretch.
Gorillas like to swing. Do you like to swing?
Manny: I don't like to swing.
Lions like to run in the grass. Do you like to run in the grass?
Manny: I don't like to run in the grass.
Hippos like to eat snacks. Do you like to eat snacks?
Manny: I don't like to eat snacks.
Penguins like to say good night and go to sleep.
Manny: I don't like to say good night and go to sleep.
This totally cracked me up. I turned off the light and laid my head on his chest and began to sing Jesus Loves Me. And I could just barely hear Manny whispering, "I don't like this song. I don't like Jesus." So I stopped. Then he asked to hear another song. I paused, trying to think of something he couldn't be contrary to. I settled on "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." I knew he couldn't say, "I don't like Emmanuel," since he still thinks that song is in some way about him.
It's late and there's no time for editing or a conclusive statement, other than every day is so filled with emotion, hilarity and being distracted by a helluva lot of crap that doesn't matter. And now I need to fold the laundry on my bed so I can go to sleep. Unlike Manny, I like to say good night and go to sleep.