Church with kids. The hardest most rewarding calling. 

Saturday night comes  and I get to fall asleep with the peace of mind that I don’t have to set an alarm. There isn’t a 6 AM wake up time on Sunday. It’s always been that relaxing day where I don’t have to worry about much of anything. When I was growing up my mom would make cinnamon rolls every Sunday for breakfast. We would watch cartoons, get dressed for church while my parents played what they liked to call “Sunday music” and then we would head to church together.

I loved church. I found so much solace in the quiet congregation silently worshiping and offering thanks to God. I was always so grateful for those that shared their testimonies of love, forgiveness, the power of prayer and more. I attended my classes and the hallways were always full of those that I would happily mingle with in between. The walls of the church were full of the spirit that brought such a feeling of comfort and what a blessing it was to share that feeling with those I loved. After our 3-hour church block, I would go home, find me something delicious for lunch, take a long uninterrupted nap followed by the awesome dinner that was always my mom’s Sunday tradition. Then it was just eat and chill for the rest of the night.

I’m now almost 27 and last night I found myself falling asleep on a Saturday night. But the feeling of peace has been replaced with a small amount, okay you’re right, a rather large amount of anxiety. Why? Because tomorrow is Sunday, and I have two small children.

I woke up this morning to the alarm clock that I’ve had for what will be two years in November. My alarm clock is almost 2 years old and woke up angry. I tried to convince him to climb in bed with me and watch a show so that I could maybe close my eyes a little longer but he was hungry so our morning started nice and early. Sunday’s have changed since I had children and while I find myself extremely embarrassed to say it, the happiness that used to flood my life every Sunday is often gone and in its place is left a pile of my hair that I swear I didn’t pull out in frustration.

My 5-year-old has a million other things that he would rather do than go to church. Somehow every Sabbath all of the toys that he’s had zero interest in playing with all week  are “lonely” and “need to be played with!” He would rather stay in bed and watch his shows because his feet hurt from walking all week long. He is tired because he didn’t sleep very well last night, even thought he slept like a rock.  How does such a small child already have such a long list of things that are more important than church? Getting my 1 year old dressed is like real life alligator wrestling. Avoiding the end with teeth as to not get bit and everything. By the time I get his pants on he’s trying to pull his shirt off and often times we go in circles for what feels like hours. I throw myself together and eventually, after all of this we get ourselves to church.

Sometimes sacrament starts off fine. But by the end of the sacrament service, the ground around me is covered in snacks, which I bring in hopes of lengthening the amount of time that my kids are at least manageable. I’ve been out to the foyer at least 10 times and my husband another 10. My boys are fighting over who gets what coloring book, even though they are completely the same half the time and of course they both need the blue crayon, RIGHT NOW! I find myself watching other families whose children are quietly sitting and I wonder what I’m doing wrong. Why are my children insisting on laying in the aisles and pulling things out of the woman’s bag in the row in front of us? I turned my back for a second and now the hymn book has been turned into the coloring book they have always wanted. They need every piece of bread when the sacrament comes by and they spill the entire tray of water.

When it’s time for class, at least my oldest gets to go and be with his friends and hopefully listen to his teachers. But I find myself in the halls of the church. The same halls that used to be full of mixing and mingling with loved ones. This time, it’s just me, and my youngest child. We walk the halls until church is over because the nursery is apparently like purgatory and my class is the local playroom. I watch him walking around the hallways and I wonder why I’m here. I have learned nothing today. I realize that I probably would have felt more peace if I would have stayed home and let my kids run wild. I’ve cried as I’ve tried to remember the last time I’ve felt the spirit. You know, that down to your core kind of feeling. Sunday’s have become a day of stress for me, and while the guilt eats me alive for letting those words come out of my mouth, let alone sharing it with whoever chooses to read this, there are no words more relevant to my life these days.

I lay my head down on my pillow and while it’s hard not to say “I’m never doing that again,” instead I choose to say “We will try again next week.” Why? Why do we, because I know I’m not alone in this, choose to do it again, week after week? A friend once referred to her daughter as borrowed when we were talking about our children and how we choose to raise them in this life and I’ve never looked at my children the same. While the beautiful children that I have been blessed with in this life are mine and they always will be, they were also given to me by a loving Father in Heaven who trusted me to raise them the best I could. He believed in me. He knew that during the good times and the bad that I was capable of being a good mother and doing what is best for HIS children that are in my care.

Church is hard right now, but my boys know that we go. They know that we love the Lord and that he loves us. They know that it makes our Heavenly Father happy when we choose to use our agency to attend services that invite the spirit into our lives and our hearts. Somewhere in between the 17 times that my 5-year-old’s teachers have asked him to stop talking, turn around, not play with his friends and listen, he heard that when he’s scared he can pray and his Heavenly Father will bless him, so he does that. The Spirit of the Lord resides in the halls of the church regardless of whether I am in my classes or walking the halls and it’s my choice to let it fill my soul. Yes, it’s harder to let the spirit envelop you in the halls alone then it is in a room full of women who love you and remind you every day what is means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Last week my son bore his testimony which I didn’t know he had, and while after his first sentence he needed help, his first sentence was “I would like to share my testimony and I know Jesus is real.”

My boys know that we go to church. They know that sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed and get ready when we just want to cuddle and watch Zootopia together for millionth time. They know that God comes first. They know that church is a priority and that if we follow the commandments and keep the Sabbath Day holy we will be blessed in our lives with the things that we stand in need of. So while church gives me stress acne and sometimes even a headache I have to remind myself that we did the right thing in making an effort to walk through those holy doors today. So I’ll eat my weight in chocolate, visit the temple this week, thank my Father for the opportunity to raise these sweet spirits that we’ve been blessed with in the gospel. So whatever church you belong to, take your children. No matter how hard it is. No matter how many times you’ve been drawn on by their markers, or how many Cheeto finger stains have been left on your shirt. No matter how many tears you shed last week from frustration, exhaustion or defeat, take them. Take them this week and next week and forever. While the challenge of taking your children to church can often extend through all ages and while their reasons for not attending are likely to turn from their toys to their beliefs, take them. You will be blessed and while that is important, there is no greater calling than that of a parent who raises their children in righteousness with the intent of helping them return to their Father in Heaven, even when the path to him is difficult. So take them.

 

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