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Five days deep in to the year and our family is submerged in to two things: 1) Goal setting and 2) The Great Purge of 2020.

We have work goals, family goals, personal fitness goals and mental health goals. I’m in the zone, pitching and donating and looking for anything that sits idle long enough to be thrown out.  (Once after dumping a cup of coffee Chris was still drinking, he warned the kids not to stay in one place too long or Mom might throw you out, too!)

There were many years when I set BIG and BOLD goals. But by February, I couldn’t begin to keep up with them. Knowing my track record, I began planning and tackling some of my goals back in November and it’s been effective. Case in point: I actually weigh the same today as I did before Thanksgiving. This is a huge accomplishment for a woman in her 40’s. (Take that, metabolism!)

I went in to this week feeling pretty proud of myself. So I told the whole family, “Listen, we’ve been away from church too long. It stops this year. We are going three times per month, no matter what. Kids can go with us or on their own. But your butts will be in the seats THREE times per month. And once a month, I want to sit in the same row. Got it?” Five teens and one adult nodded practically in unison, knowing Mom meant business. 

I worked in the church for a decade before we moved back to my husband’s hometown.  It was a draining world to make a career. (I’ll save that for a future post.) At Chris’ nudging, we found an amazing church soon after we got settled. I was enjoying being able to worship and build community without the dynamics of holding a role on the staff. I even dipped our toes in to a small group and volunteering. It was refreshing.

From our small group to the pastor and his family, everyone at our church is just amazing. They embrace the calling to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. It’s no wonder the place is exploding with growth! But with five busy teenagers, growing a business and just figuring out life, we couldn’t keep all the plates spinning. Getting there on Sundays became impossible, and being an active part of church began to feel like one more thing on our already lengthy to-do list. So the grace and peace I felt in the beginning was soon replaced with a guilt about falling short.

That guilt served no one and was actually holding me back from making a change. So it had to go. I refused to bring it into a new year. This means I am no longer stressing about a Bible reading plan (yet). I’m not going to pressure myself to volunteer (yet). I’m not going to criticize myself for not doing enough (yet).

I’m reading The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman to help clear my mental and emotional clutter. The premise is to make change by simply taking the next right step out of love. For our family, the next right thing is to get our behinds back in the church pew.

So on the first Saturday morning of 2020, I Pulled up “Football Family”, as I refer to the Brownberg clan in our group text, and declared the following:

“Tomorrow is Sunday and we are all going to church. You can go with Dad and I at 9:30am or you can sleep in and go at 11:00am. But you will be there! If you had your wisdom teeth out yesterday, you have a one-time pass.”

Sunday morning arrived. Chris and I were ready to go as planned when Joe, the oldest and one of two kids who drive, texts us.

Joe:  “What time are services again?” 
(This is a good sign since he and two brothers stayed at a friend’s house.)  
Me: “9:30 and 11:00, bud! You going at 11?” 
Joe: “Yep. You think if we leave by 10:30, that’s good?”
Me: “Sure do! Drive safe. Brady’s going with you too.”

This was exactly the response I hope for, with all parties on board- no excuses or complaints.

We walked into church with our coffee in hand. (Side note: I was super excited for this part since giving up weekday coffee as another 2020 goal. Now if I can only keep that kind of discipline and actually follow through on the Invisalign trays I bought years ago!) We exchanged hugs and smiles with friends we hadn’t seen in a year. Between the music and the energy in the room, the church was practically buzzing. It didn’t take long before I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I thought to myself, “I really needed this.”

The pastor delivered the message and it was like he was speaking directly to me. My spiritual cup had been refilled. I felt so thankful we chose the next right thing for our family. We were already rocking this goal.

Around the close of worship, I felt my Apple Watch buzz. I looked down discreetly to see a text.

Joe, “Mom, What’s the name of our church again?

I could have spit that delicious coffee all over the floor.

The tranquility and sense of thankfulness I had enjoyed for the last hour vanished in an instant. Sure, we hadn’t been to church regularly for about a year. But this was the same place where previously worshipped, volunteered, did youth group and small group, and considered our church home. Am I such a failure that my kid can’t even remember its name?

That simple text spiraled me into a parental nightmare. I had failed their spiritual development and felt the weight of their future bearing down on me. My brain seized the opportunity and started to walk me through all of our shortfalls as parents. That lasted about thirty seconds before I brought that talk to a screeching halt. I couldn’t let those thoughts undo our progress and defeat me.

We had done the next right thing. Chris and I came to church that morning, leading our family by example, and the kids were on their way. Who cares if one of them flaked on the title of the building?

A few hours later, the Football Family group text started again: 

Joe: “Hey guys, we are headed home from church.”
Dad: “Good deal. How was it?”
Joe: “It was great!”

That was all I needed to know the morning had been a success. We all made it to church and thought it was great. That was enough. We could celebrate and build on that, taking the next right step and then the next one after that.

Friends, don’t let the expectations of a new year overwhelm you. Achieving goals starts by committing to a simple step and following through. Then repeat the process.

It’s okay if you forget the name of your church along the way.