by Mary Grace Conrad
It’s been a year to remember for the Conrad family: Jane turned ONE yesterday, (Can you believe it!!!) a new job for Alec, new school for me, and trying to figure out where to plant our feet in a church. As most of you know, Alec and I have been living in Grenada since 2015. I’m a school-based Speech Therapist, and when a job opportunity came up in Grenada School District a few years ago, we couldn’t turn it down. The schools here are truly wonderful! I love my job, and I can’t wait to send Jane to school here in the future. Unfortunately, moving to Grenada meant being further away from Westminster. But for 3 years, that commute every week was manageable for us. Alec and I enjoyed talking over coffee, practicing for the worship music, and recapping the sermon on the way home. Yes, it was annoying at times, but we made it work. We couldn’t attend every single church function during the week, but we were still active and loving our time at WPC.
Then insert Jane into the picture, and WHOA! That commute suddenly felt like 3 hours. Waking up extra early and trying to get everyone out of the door was hard. This sleep-deprived mama just wanted to rest and not travel so far to church. I realized that singing on the worship team was impossible at the time, and attending any functions would take major planning. By the time Jane was six months old, we had only been to church maybe three or four times. Sometimes Jane was sick, other times we were all too tired. The few times we were at church, my mind would be elsewhere:
Is Jane being fussy in the nursery?
Do I need to go nurse her?
Will she sleep on the way home or is our whole day going to be messed up?
Is Jane going to scream the whole way home?
What am I going to cook for lunch?
Did I turn my hair straightener off?
Did we feed the dog?
I was dreading every Sunday because I knew it would take way more effort to get there, and then I wouldn’t even be mentally present once we arrived. I often asked myself, “Why are we even doing this?” Alec started to go most Sundays without Jane and me. It was not working for our family.
We decided to start visiting churches in Grenada to help alleviate some of the Sunday stress. Though the commute was only a few minutes, the battle each week to get our family out of the door still took a lot of effort. And with every church we visited, we felt uneasy about being away from Westminster. Let me say that there was nothing wrong with the places we visited; we just felt homesick for WPC—like we didn’t quite belong in any other church. Finally, after months of church-hopping, we decided that forcing ourselves to join another church was not the answer. Maybe God was using this time away from WPC to show us what really matters on Sundays.
One thing I’ve learned is that Sunday is not about me. I shouldn’t turn away from church when Sunday mornings have me in a twirl. I should instead run to church, needy baby in my arms, desperate for God. If my salvation isn’t based on my actions or behavior, then why am I making church attendance dependent on Jane’s behavior? If I wait on her to display the perfect behavior or have the ideal schedule, the Lord himself will have already returned! Praise God that He has his arms open wide, ready to welcome us in. We all need grace, including our children.
I must choose to fight my temptations to stay at home and instead make corporate worship a priority to myself and to Jane. Children love what we love, and when Jane sees us love church, she will learn to love church, too. I want her to know that it doesn’t matter how your week has gone—whether it be the best week ever or the most challenging one—on Sundays we gather with our church family and praise God-through good times and bad.
From the time I was born until I married Alec, my parents diligently made sure my siblings and I were at church. My mom even called me while I was away in college and grad school to see if we went to church anywhere. I didn’t think anything about it; it was just a part of life. I’m sure my parents were distracted in the service and spent most of the time telling us to pay attention or stop passing notes. But because they kept taking us to church week after week is why I even know who God is. It’s how I can still, to this day, sing a little song that helps me remember the Ten Commandments. Going to church every week is what helped me learned The Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 23, and how to maneuver through the Bible and find certain passages and verses. I know that going to church is not what makes you a Christian, but I do know from experience that going to church as a family helps lay down a foundation for knowing who God is and what he did for us.
The most obvious thing we learned while visiting other churches is how much we LOVE Westminster Presbyterian Church. And I don’t mean the pretty building, the coffee before Sunday School, or the flow of the service (although they are greatly appreciated!). What we love is the friendship we have with fellow members. We love hearing sound, biblical, deep, and challenging preaching and teaching. We love the discussions in Sunday School, and how refreshed and encouraged we are when we leave. We love that a huge reason Jane is here with us is because our church family prayed and helped us through every trial and obstacle of infertility. We love that members checked on us in the last few months and told us to go to church wherever God led us. We love the impact that WPC has made in the delta and in our own hearts. When I share my testimony with others, I can’t help but talk about Westminster and how it was my first encounter with reformed theology, and how much that opened my eyes and changed my life. What we learned while being away is that we HAD to come back. A quote from the movie Juno describes it best: “I never realize how much I like being home unless I’ve been somewhere different for a while.” And for church, it’s no different- we were longing to be home. And home for us is WPC.
We know it’s not ideal to serve in a church that’s not where we live. We hope you join us in prayer that God opens doors for us in the future- whether it be a move closer to Greenwood, or even a move to another church. But for now, we are right where we need to be. We have never been so excited to wake up on Sundays and worship with you! Thank you for welcoming us back. It’s good to be HOME.