Just two weeks after returning from the Steubenville Youth Conference (you can read more about that experience here), I had my second major event of the summer for work: Vacation Bible School. Since there was no wedding and honeymoon to contend with this year, my pastor and I decided to move up our VBS week so that it fell before the Fourth of July. I was all for the idea- just the thought of nearly two months of peace and quiet was entirely too enticing. Last year, the mere thought of directing this program caused me immense anxiety; this year, I was still breathing regularly a week before VBS began, despite the fact that my snack coordinator had dropped out and I had only just found a replacement. Last year, I had been a rookie VBS Director who had never even attended a Vacation Bible School program as a child. I hadn’t known the first thing about leading this program. Before I began planning, I needed a speedy introduction to all things VBS-related. I gave myself nearly two months to put the program together, which was more than enough time to find enough student volunteers, purchase all the supplies, and secure the four adults needed to lead the sessions. By the end of the first day, I realized that I was more than capable of coordinating this program. By the end of the week, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the fruitfulness of the last five days. With so many people willing to help, VBs was much easier to coordinate than I ever could have imagined.
This past year, I was much more relaxed as I began planning for the summer’s VBS program. The theme for the year was Cave Quest: Following Jesus, the Light of the World. The week was filled with rocks, flashlights, caving equipment, and green slime. We heard about the Old Testament prophets as well as John the Baptist, St. Peter, and Jesus Christ himself. Every morning, the campers came in, eager to begin the day, and every afternoon, they tried to ferret information from me about about the next day’s activities. Their passion was invigorating, and they made it so easy to show up for work at 7:30AM every morning (despite the fact that I spent most of the week sick). Granted, now waking up at 5:45AM wasn’t as daunting a task as it had been last year.
In some ways, VBS was much easier this year, but in others, it was much more difficult. Last year, waking up at 5:45AM had been an anomaly, and one that was incredibly painful even to think about. I was used to waking up at 7AM at the earliest, and most days I was able to sleep in to at least 8:30AM. Now, waking up at 6AM is considered a luxury, and waking up to an alarm clock rather than a crying infant is almost soothing. Waking up at 5:45AM and knowing that the only responsibilities that I had before leaving were showering and packing my lunch was the most incredible feeling ever. But knowing that I had to leave my little boy every morning was also painful.
As much as I love my job, it’s also a struggle to leave my little guy home every time I go to work. Granted, I usually only go into the office two or three times a week, but even that seems like too much some weeks. Five days of leaving him every morning was just too much for me to handle, and I couldn’t have been more relieved when VBS was over and I was able to go back to my 2-3 day workweek in the office. I have never been so grateful for the gift of telecommuting as I was during the week of Vacation Bible School. It is such a blessing to have a boss that really helps a new mother to balance her work and home life. It has been especially helpful since Andrew and I live so far away from our families.
I now have a much greater appreciation for the importance of family and the sense of community that it provides. Last year, I wrote a blog post about the importance of roots, and now that I am a wife and mother myself, I have a new perspective. Last year, I lamented being so far from family as my life changed drastically. I was living in a new city, working at a new job, finishing a degree, and planning a wedding. I would have loved to have had my family nearby as all of these changes occurred. But these changes were nothing compared to the changes required when I became a mother. And nothing made those changes more apparent than last week’s VBS program.
Last year, my biggest concern was getting volunteers and supplies. This year, I was a bit more concerned with finding a babysitter. The idea of leaving John alone with a stranger terrified me, but with family so far away, I wasn’t sure how we were going to manage it. Andrew wouldn’t be able to take an entire week off from work, especially since we had vacation plans for August, but I couldn’t exactly bring John to work with me. We weren’t close enough to drop him off by our parents’, but I wasn’t sure if we would be able to find someone to come down to watch him for a week. Apparently, we had no reason to worry.
As soon as I asked, my mom very enthusiastically agreed to come down to babysit. Every morning of VBS, she would get up as soon as he woke up, giving him his bottle and playing with him while Andrew and I got ready for work. She would take care of him every day until I got home from work, usually around 2 or 3PM, at which point Andrew would take over for a bit while we sat out by the pool or my mom went shopping. Despite the initial stress, this summer’s VBS program was wonderful. With a year’s experience and a trusted babysitter as encouragement, I was able to really relax and give my campers my full attention, not worrying about what I needed to say during my next Bible Stories session or how the babysitter was going to get my son to take his naps. It was an incredibly fruitful week, but I will be grateful when I am working at a parish that is a bit closer to family. It really does take a village to raise a child, and the best village is his family.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!