So a few weeks back my kids sang in church in front of the whole congregation. It was seriously adorable and sweet and was just one of those happy moments you know you will look back and fondly remember.
But in this particular case the nostalgia would not last long as you would then be smacked in the face with the memory of the full-on, soul wrenching, blood curdling death scream immediately coming forth from the small 3 year old on returning to her seat to find her brother had the audacity to sit in her (?) spot. And then followed the Walk of Shame from the front of the chapel where we had to sit to give The Look to any child who might think playing with the microphone while singing was a good choice.
As my husband and I sat outside for the last 10 minutes of the meeting with the 2 youngest, praying the oldest 3 were not causing our family further embarrassment alone on the bench, we revisited an old question we explore every so often.
"Why do we do this again?"
Because for real the 15 month old is no joke. She climbs on tables, splashes in toilets, throws books over her shoulder from the bookshelf faster than should be humanly possible. And we think it's a good idea to bring her to a place of reverent worship for 3 hours during lunchtime and then naptime? This cannot be a wise plan.
These pics were all within like 5 minutes of each other. You *might* notice a slight darkening around the lips from where she tried to eat a marker and also *may* notice a sopping wet shirt from where she dumped a full cup of ice water that was on the table over her head. And yes, she is both standing on top of the coffee table AND sitting on the island in these pictures in case anyone was keeping track.
And that's not taking into account the 3 yr old who, while sparkly and charming, is also extremely spicy. And obviously has a decent set of lungs.
And then there's the 5, 8, and 10 yr olds who are great for the most part but are 3 little people with their own needs and quirks and all that.
I feel like I really deserve a medal by the end of sacrament meeting every week, or at the least a Reeses or something.
I'm just so tired.
So why then? Why do I subject myself (and the congregation) to this every week? Why do we keep coming back when it's a major accomplishment when I even know who spoke?
Reason #1: Added Help
Back in the day when Matt and I were childless we used to sit with an amazing woman who came every week by herself with newborn twins and the squirreliest 2 yr old you've ever seen. We helped as best as we could, but that woman truly never sat on the bench or heard a word spoken. I remember asking her one day how she kept coming and her answer surprised me.
She told me that no matter how busy she was at church and how little she gained while she was there, the rest of her week went better because she put God first on Sunday. She was strengthened with all she faced in her daily struggles. God saw her offering and returned it with peace. She said she hadn't always been so faithful with her attendance and learned the hard way that she needed that help.
Just last week I was asked last minute to sub in the nursery and inside I groaned just a little as I really wanted to go the adult class and use adult words and have actual complete thoughts go through my mind. But I went and served those sweet little ones the best I could and came away completely uplifted and refreshed.
It's kind of nuts and doesn't make a whole lot of sense logically, but it's a true concept that when we put God first, we're blessed.
Reason #2: All Good Things Take Sacrifice
Is it a sacrifice to get up on Sunday, get myself and kids ready for church, refocus the 1 year old and preschooler through sacrament, fulfill any callings/obligations I have while there, endlessly roam the hall with the toddler like a nomad, and then deal with the post-church aftermath of tired, hungry bodies?
Uh, heck yeah.
But growing them in me was no cake walk either and I somehow managed to pull that off. And I miraculously taught the oldest ones to read through sheer determination on my part.
Because important things take work.
Watching a show? Easy. Important? Nope.
As I plow through those hard times at church, I'm proving to God, myself, and my children that this is important and that no matter the cost, it's worth it.
Reason #3: So When Do You Start Going?
If I just waited until my kids were older and it was easier to go back to church, then when would that be? And what would we all be missing out on in the meantime? And then, how do you tell a preteen that religion is important when you told the same child as a 3 year old that it wasn't?
Those were a lot of questions, but I think valid ones.
The other part to this is that it does get easier as you plow ahead. The older ones are mostly pretty good during the meeting.
Also, there's never any discussion about NOT going as that isn't even an option in their minds. Granted, my oldest is only 10 so that will change in a few years but church attendance is what we do on Sundays.
Reason #4: It's Not About Me
This is a tricky one for me because, really, when is it NOT about me? But maybe me going to church when it's hard isn't really about me getting to participate in a lesson or be uplifted by a beautiful message. This can be so darn difficult to resolve in my heart when I'm feeling empty-sponge-like, which is a common problem for moms with young kids. I'm not saying I shouldn't let Dad take the baby on too, because you'd better believe he's got her just as much as I do.
And as my brilliant friend Garnet reminded me, as moms our spiritual cups desperately do need to be refilled, it just may be we need to think a bit creatively about it. If not then this all gets very difficult.
But maybe going to church is about my kids strengthening their relationship with a loving Father. Maybe it's about that sweet young mom that just moved in that I was able to welcome while chasing our noisy little chickens together out in the hallway.
Or maybe I'm just learning deep compassion and love and endurance that I can tap into when my littles have grown that I can use to strengthen someone else going through their Humility Lessons.
Or maybe I'm learning all that so I can be the mom my kids need when they're NOT little but equally needy teenagers.
I don't know. I do know that there are a lot of life lessons happening here every week, and mostly for me.
Just like any other challenge, this stage is not forever, as much as it feels like it is when your baby calls to the world from just inside the chapel doors as Dad's taking her out, "Bye bye Mommy! Daddy changing my bum!"
Or when your sweet little boy accidentally flips off the light to the chapel in the middle of the meeting.
Or when a child full on slaps his brother across the face. And then his brother yells in response.
So the next time your little one tears up and down the chapel aisle like a racetrack and your face is bright red as you chase him down, own that embarrassment like the badge of honor it is and know that you are doing this. You are doing this for your kids, for God, but also you're doing this to become the person you never knew you could be.