Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why in the world do I come to church when I'm in the hall with a fussy baby?

I ran into a young dad at church with his toddler and preschooler in the foyer during sacrament meeting. His wife was gone with another commitment, so he came alone with two rambunctious children. And he wondered what maybe all church-going parents have asked themselves sometimes. 

"Why am I here?" 

It's a very good question. I told him my husband and I asked ourselves that plenty of times when our children were young and fussy and rambunctious. Five out of our five had colic. And some of them hated nursery. Now that I've been a mother for 21 years, I wish I could go back in time and share some of the wisdom I've gleaned with my 20-something young mother self. Maybe some of these answers will help you too. 

Why do I come to church, even if I get virtually nothing out of it?  

Because it's the right thing to do.  

Because we do what is right and let the consequence follow. Even when the right thing is hard or inconvenient or a sacrifice. Think of the Martin or Willey handcart pioneers. Was the right thing hard for them? 

Because we are tough and can do hard things with Christ's help. 

Even when that hard thing is feeling exhausted walking the halls with a fussy baby when you'd much rather be relaxing in Sunday School feeling spiritually nourished by your favorite teacher learning about applying gospel truths to your life. 

Because if we don't go to church today for the reason of fussy kids, it will be that much easier to stay home next week, and next week, and next week. 

This habit is too precious to risk losing. Its' so much more than a habit. It's our lifeline to Christ, His power, His Atonement, His Spirit, His light, His truth. Ordinances and covenants that plug us in to Christ's power. It's too risky. 

Because if I use fussy kids as an excuse to miss church this time, what excuse will I use next time? 

A super bowl game?  Boating?  I'm tired?  I'm not in the mood for church? Someone was rude to me last time and I got offended?  Is my testimony, conversion, eternal salvation, and relationship with my Savior worth tossing to the wind for excuses like that? 

Because we love God, and God said to go to church. 

We show our love for God by obeying his commandments. And when God speaks, I've learned that He is a bajillion times smarter than me, so I obey. 

Because, as Elder Holland said, our children tend to exaggerate whatever we do. 

So if we're cynical or critical of church leaders, our children will tend to be more so. If we're committed disciples of Christ, our children will tend to be more so. On that same vein, if I find excuses to stay home from church, our children may never go. If I go to church no matter what, even when it's hard, our children will tend to have even stronger commitment to God and the gospel. Don't we all want that? 

Because I need the little bits and pieces of doctrine, principle, application, truth, light, understanding, testimony building that I can get. 

Even if a colicky baby keeps me in the hall a lot during church, when that baby finally falls asleep on my shoulder, or has ten minutes of calm between crying, I can sneak into Relief Society and be taught good stuff. Or I can hear a sacrament meeting talk from the speaker in the nursing lounge. Even if it's just ten minutes worth, it's more than I would have gotten at home. And somehow God can make that ten minutes worth enough to get me through another week. 

Because these hard moments won't last forever. 

My first colicky baby overwhelmed me so much that I couldn't even bring up the subject of having more children than one, for months. But she grew. She stopped crying all the time. She became a bright, talented, musical, academic, wonderful girl. And then she got married, and had my first little grand daughter. She's now finishing her degree in sign language on a presidential scholarship at Utah Valley University. And my oldest son is preparing to serve an LDS mission soon. Babies don't cry forever. My purpose here isn't to brag -- it's to give you hope, the same hope I needed when I was bouncing fussy babies in the hall myself. It seems like last week. 

Hind sight makes it all worth it. This beautiful daughter of mine outgrew her colic, grew up, and became a beautiful mother. 

My son holding his mission call to Paris, France. 

If I would have given up then, look at all my children would have missed not having the gospel in their lives. And look at all the help in being a better parent I would have missed in having the gospel, Spirit, Atonement, and ward family. I'm so proud of my daughter and son-in-law, that even though they've had moments of wondering, "Why do we come to church if we're in the hall with a fussy baby anyway?" they kept coming. Week after week. Even with a challenging pregnancy, a challenging calling, challenging homework, and plenty of reasons that it would be easier to stay home. They come anyway. 

Because by coming to church no matter what, we teach our children that this family is committed to Jesus Christ, no matter what. 

There's this concept called family culture. It's our identity as a family. And I grew up with a family culture that the Balderree family is active in the church. We are committed disciples of Jesus Christ. We obey His commandments. We daily fill ourselves with the Spirit through prayers and scripture study, even when their oldest daughter, Becky, stayed up too late and slept in and resists coming to morning family scripture study. The Balderree family always goes to church, even when my dad sits on the stand for what seems like my entire growing up years, and my mom wrestled with seven children all by herself. It's what Balderrees do. It's who we are. I can't tell you how many times I've been overcome with gratitude for parents who gave us that kind of family culture and identity. We have been so blessed by it EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

Because the purpose of life isn't fun and ease. It's to become like Christ, fulfill our life mission, and return to Him. 

Sometimes we forget the real purpose of life, which is another great blessing of coming to church - we get perspective and priority realignments and tune-ups. According the great and spacious building, aka, television, movies, the mall, and the world, the purpose of life is fun, ease, toys, looking awesome, and having lots of money and stuff and power. That's not God's perspective, and God's is always right. The purpose of life is so much deeper than all that fluff. There's a much bigger plan going on. The plan is to change us into new creatures. And that takes a lot of work. 

As C.S. Lewis said, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself" (Mere Christianity). 
Because the law of the harvest is real. 

Parenting is more like the law of the late harvest. It takes a long time to reap the rewards of all the hard work of parenting. Sometimes showing up for church on hard days is like that too. The rewards and blessings do come, but sometimes after a while. 

Because crying and sacrifice is temporary, but family and heaven are forever. 

And family and heaven are worth sacrificing for. 

Because we need our congregation or ward family. 

Sometimes it's easy to take a congregation family for granted, because they're just there every Sunday when we show up, and we don't realize how precious they are to us. Today I attended a missionary farewell in the ward that we got split off from two years ago. It was soul nourishing to sit among old, dear friends and chat for a long time after the meeting.  We talked about our children, great books, mission experiences, so and so's health condition. We are family. And I love it. I don't think I appreciated how much I deeply love the people on that side of our neighborhood until the ward split. I served as a Relief Society president with those women, and Mike served as their bishop, so we both love them deeply. I miss them. And I relish the time to renew those bonds. 

Likewise, I love my current ward and the wonderful people here. I need them too. I love coming to church and feel my soul fill up like a gas tank with the goodness of the Spirit, the talks, the testimonies, the lessons, and the people, our ward family. Take today's Sunday School teacher, Wendy. She is a busy young mother of several children, her husband is a new doctor and works a lot of Sundays, and she's a new Relief Society counselor. Yet she filled in today, not for the first time, and taught Sunday School. She called yesterday to invite our kids over to a blow up water slide they had rented for a work party later in the day.  What a gal. We need to be surrounded by good souls like Wendy who nourish and nurture each other. 

And we also need to nourish others while we're at church. 

Even if we're spending most of the time in the hall or foyer. And believe me, I've spent my time in the halls. When my twins were nursing babies my husband got called to the war in Iraq. So I was essentially a single mother of five young children. I went through several double-wide strollers, and some of that stroller time was in the halls at church. When it was nap time, our adopted Grandma Cleo would sit with my other three kids, and I'd walk the halls, lap after lap, with a blanket over the stroller, humming, "Lullaby and goodnight" until they both fell asleep. 

That was a time when I needed others, actually I mean NEEDED others at church. I needed to talk to adults. I needed to feel cared about and asked about and nurtured. I needed support. I needed others to ask what they could do to help. I needed the Spirit. 

But I hope over the years that I've also been able to give to others. My single-mom experience gave me deep compassion and empathy for others struggling with young children. My off-and-on struggle with depression as a young mother gave me deep compassion for others struggling in that way, or in any way really. So my heart wants to listen, validate, encourage, uplift, and say, "With God's help you can totally do this! What can I do to help?"  

I sure needed to hear that sometimes. I hope I'm able to help others when they need to hear it too. 

But that can't happen in my ward family if I use fussy kids or sleeping in or ball games or boating as an excuse to get me out of the habit and out of the family. My ward family would never disown me, but I've seen people disown themselves from the family. And what a tragic loss that is. 

And the last reason is the most important. Because we want to partake of Christ's holy sacrament, renew our covenants with Him, receive the cleansing power of His atonement, and have a fresh start for the new week. 

Partaking of the sacrament is the most important reason and the most sacred part of coming to church. We need Christ's atoning power, to cleanse, enable, strengthen, empower and heal us. We need the sacrament. 

Why do you go to church when it would be ten times easier to stay home? Because it's the right thing to do. And because when you look back, you'll be oh so glad that you did. 

I am super duper proud of this young dad. And I guarantee when he turns 40-something and looks back, he'll be glad he came to church too. Even when it was hard. 


I think many parents can relate to this article. The post has gone a bit viral. In the first 2 1/2 days there have been around 2300 views. It has been shared on Facebook 16 times, and received a lot of fun and heart touching comments. Since many more people have commented on Facebook than on the comments below, I'm taking the liberty to share people's comments without adding their names. It's sometimes very comforting and encouraging to know you're not alone. 


Lisa Jackson said...

Amen. Great article!

Becky Edwards said...

Thank you Lisa!

The Waters Family said...

Thank you for your encouragement.

Kathryn said...

And sometimes because you're in the hallway, you get the reward of the comfortable couch!

Linda Robbins said...

Becky, you have such a way of teaching truth, inspiring action, and giving comfort and love! Thank you! Love, Linda

L3 said...

As a Grandma looking back, those were long days, but the years went fast. I learned so much about parenting and marriage and life while in the nursing room, the hallways, and in the back of the chapel. Great job explaining why we do this.

Becky Edwards said...


I think many parents can relate to this article. The post has gone a bit viral. In the first 2.5 days there have been 2180 views. It has been shared on Facebook 16 times, and received a lot of fun and heart touching comments. Since many more people have commented on Facebook than on the comments below, I'm taking the liberty to share people's comments without adding their names. It's sometimes very comforting and encouraging to know you're not alone.

1. This is amazing
2. She forgot one add steps to my fit it:)
3. This is a great article written by my sweet friend, Becky Mike Edwards about going to church with little ones. Today was the first Sacrament I haven't taken the boys out 20 times... It made me think of my mama, Ronalee Anderson West and all the times she took us to church as a single mom. There were 6 of us and I know we were pills. I remember the threats. Boy, I remember giving her a hard time. I'm so grateful for her devotion and persistence.
4. I think I ask this question EVERY time I go to church with my kids. Thanks Becky for the pep talk.
5. I think I ask this question EVERY time I go to church with my kids.
6. These words of wisdom come from a dear friend of mine. I know last Sunday was two (referring to friends she referenced in her comment) are a great example of doing what is right even when it is hard.
7. Great article!
8. Love this! I have to remind myself a lot of these reasons every week. Thanks for sharing, (person who shared it)! (So and so) - Weren't we just talking about this today?
9. Great advice and reasons. However, she forgot one of the most important reasons we should keep going to church in spite of crazy kids and that is so we can take the sacrament and renew our covenants every week! I too know what it feels like to wrangle three kids at church alone without my husband there to help. thankfully mine have enjoyed nursery and primary so far. (I responded with a note explaining I realized after writing the post that I had forgotten the most important reason we go to church...the sacrament. I added that reason to the post.)
10. I'm pretty sure this was written for me!! thanks for the share
11. I think I ask this question EVERY time I go to church with my kids. Thanks (so and so) for sharing!
12. Okay, really...Sacrament meeting at church each Sunday feels like I am weekly "enduring to the end." I enjoy my little ones VERY much at home, but during that hour-plus meeting, it is not as easy. I know these days will pass. I know that others around me are probably not as judgmental as I think they are of our noise (many actually seem to enjoy it), but it can be hard! I really appreciated this wonderful article from my friend that captured my feelings about why it has still been worth it to go week after week. I am reminded of a conversation with my dear (so and so) and (so and so) when they asked why in the world I would try to go to church in Hungary by myself with all those kids when (my husband) was out of town in Norway. Two buses, an overpass dash,...not to mention a church experience that I understood very little of . It did make me pause. However, I remembered hearing a quote in my Kearns ward that has been an anchor over the years, a quote that taught if we truly understood the significance of partaking of the sacrament each week, we would literally crawl on hands and knees to get there. There are many weeks when I feel that way--that I am crawling on hands and knees to get to my meetings. Not easy, surely, but I trust that in the long run I will look back and find that every one of those times was worth it.

Becky Edwards said...

13. I asked myself that many times. This is what I wish I could have told myself then.
14. Carrie Widdison I asked myself this question just today, thanks for posting!
15. I ask that question often. Thanks for sharing
16. Really great article and I just told (my wife) about it. Thank you for your help that day and letting me know about this!
17. Needed this today! thank you sweet friend!!
18. Thanks for sharing...!
19. My Stake President is always on the floor in the Relief Society Room with his 16 month old son. Shocked my Bishop.
20. Great blog post! Three of my four babies were colicky for 6-12 months and we have had this same conversation at home many, many times. So grateful we endured those tired, cranky days at church. Those three colicky babies have all served missions and shared their beautiful testimonies around the world : ) (Becky’s reply: Yes, it's all worth it. That's the law of the late harvest at work. Thanks for sharing.)
21. One of my good friends told the story of what happened to her. She had a daughter going through some stuff - teenage angsty stuff, and was wondering what to do or say. Then a quote came to mind. It took her a while to figure it out but it was something she heard while out in the foyer with that same daughter years earlier during a General Conference broadcast.
22. I'll tell you why...because there are 2 hours of free babysitting involved for the other kids!
23. I'm "that young mom"! Three under five and demanding callings for self and husband. I teach every week (I'm the YW pres, no counselors) and when husband is teaching at the same time, the baby ends up hanging out in RS or walking the halls with my VT. Some weeks are hard! Thanks for sharing. (Becky’s reply: Hang in there! You and your husband are giving in extraordinary ways. You'll be blessed for it!)

Becky Edwards said...

24. My 40-something self is going through this very thing with a one-year-old. It doesn't get easier as we get older, or the fact that he's my 10th. It just gets harder. I'm not as physically strong as I used to be. But we'll be back there next week, doing it all again. I was wrong... it DOES get easier when I see my returned missionary son sitting there with his newborn little girl. Then I get the joy of knowing he gets to go through it soon, too. (Becky’s reply: That's the law of the late harvest working. It makes me smile picturing your RM son holding your newborn. Sweet! Her reply: It makes me smile, too, Becky. He is the best daddy EVER.)
25. To commiserate with the other inmates in the nursing lounge of course! I never would have gotten out and socialized otherwise. I was too overwhelmed. We go to get ourselves dressed up to feel human again. It's hard, and futile, but it's worth it.
26. This was me 4 years ago, when my twins were tiny. I still have small babies, but it's not nearly as hard as it was back then, with two tiny babies, a husband that taught YM, and a toddler that hated nursery. My husband and I have figured out the baby switch thing well, as our callings in our last ward for the past 3 years (and last 2 babies) were complimentary... I taught Sunday School, he was a YM advisor. I love chatting with other moms in the nursing lounge. I love watching my babies wander during RS. I love when they finally get to go to nursery. (2 months left for my current baby!!) And I REALLY love when they finally go to nursery without complaining (usually around their second birthday for my kids).
27. Thanks for this! This is wonderful. As a mom of 5 boys, I learned the importance of sharing with my family the whys of why we go AND letting them know I love being with them at church... To drop my nazi-church-mom approaches;)
28. I'm currently between callings, so this last Sunday I taught the 10 year olds...and hubby had my 1 year old the whole time. It was nice. I ended up crying all through singing time...afterwards other leaders asked if I was o.k. I just explained I was a busy mama who was hit with the spirit, when usually I'm walking the halls with my little guy and get little to nothing out of church. I make a point to study at home on Sundays so I can still have the spirit. Thanks for sharing!