One day I was at church alone with my boys while visiting one of my old wards (congregations). One of the speakers that day was on assignment from the Stake President and spoke on a topic that has been a big focus of my church this year, keeping the Sabbath day holier.
It was a great, well-meaning talk and he had some nice ideas. At one point he was saying that we need to be respectful of those sitting around us in the meeting by paying attention and keeping quiet.
Cue the children.
At exactly that moment, one of my boys pushed the other off the bench. I generally try not to leave during the meeting, which is probably what the speaker was hinting at, but I feel when I’m alone, it’s more of a circus to haul all of my children out of the chapel than to quickly hush one of them. So I doled out the appropriate amount of comfort and discipline and went back to trying to pay attention.
I’m not kidding you when I say that not even 60 seconds later, my youngest punched my oldest in the face. Given the topic of the speaker and the previous fiasco, I had to hold back from laughing out loud.
I thought, “This guy is telling me I don’t belong here!”
Probably a big part of what made me not break down in tears was that I was sitting within a group of people who loved me and supported me when my husband was called to the bishopric and had to sit in the front of the congregation, leaving me alone to wrangle four very small boys, ages newborn to eight.
See, I used to have this ideal of what my family should behave like at church. You know, all lined up with hands folded and heads reverently bowed, shirts tucked in, and shoes tied. I got really frustrated at any misbehavior, which wasn’t really misbehavior, just normal behavior for little boys doing their best to sit still for an hour and fifteen minutes when nothing being said is really aimed at them.
Until one day my boys were behaving normally and I was already close to the end of my rope after getting them out the door for 10:00 church on my own and I was just about to lay into one of them when a friend behind me starting laughing.
His reaction made me stop and analyze my reaction.
I needed to lighten up. I surely wasn’t getting anything out of church by being angry and frustrated the whole time and going home in tears every week, and my boys would very quickly resent going. That’s not what anyone wanted.
So I made a few changes on Saturday to make Sunday morning go more smoothly, and changed my expectations.
Amazingly, Sunday got better.
This year, with churchwide push to make the Sabbath the best day of the week, I’ve spent a little time thinking about what else I can do to make our Sabbath better. The result?
The first time I spent some time thinking about it and wondering what to change, my husband came down ready for church in his everyday work clothes. He works as a Director of Communications and Marketing, so he wears nice business casual clothes everyday, plus he teaches early morning seminary, so almost always wears a button shirt and tie, but he has a suit for Sunday because we are supposed to wear our Sunday best, and in his closet, in my opinion, the suit is his best.
So we got into a little tiff over his clothing choice for that day. I had concerns not only that he wasn’t putting his best foot forward, but that it would lead to arguments with my boys over what I felt was appropriate to wear to church since, they, too, have suits.
I realize that all this makes me sound ridiculously shallow, but it is the Sabbath, and showing our utmost respect is important to me. I mean, after all, if my family is going to act like themselves and I’m going to be ok with that, at least we should try to look nice!
Sunday Curse. I swear it’s real.
I kind of gave up on the idea of trying to improve our Sunday, until one day I saw this quote on Instagram:
All of us are blessed when the Sabbath is filled with love for the Lord at home and at church. When our children are taught in the ways of the Lord, they learn to feel and to respond to His Spirit. We will all desire to attend each Sunday to partake of the sacrament when we feel the Spirit of the Lord. And all, young and old, who are carrying heavy burdens will feel the spiritual uplift and comfort that comes from a Sabbath day of devoted contemplation of our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thankfully, Christ is always near, waiting and willing to help us when we pray for help and are willing to repent and come unto Him.
– M. Russell Ballard
Then that same night I opened my Ensign to a conference talk by Claudio R. M. Costa entitled “That They Do Always Remember Him” and read this:
I believe that starting a tradition of telling the stories of Jesus to our children and families is a very special way to keep the Sabbath day holy in our homes.
This will surely bring a special spirit to our home and provide our family with examples from the Savior Himself.
The Sabbath and the sacrament become much more enjoyable as we study the stories of Christ. In so doing, we create traditions that build our faith and testimony and also protect our family.
Well, geez. What am I supposed to do with that?
I tried to keep those thoughts from wandering around in my head again during the week because of the argument from a few weeks ago and didn’t even bring it up in my prayers, but still, that Sunday turned out a little ugly. Sunday Curse strikes again!
So, really, what am I supposed to do with this? I’m still trying to figure it out, but one thing I have felt is that I need to quit forcing it. Being dictatorial doesn’t invite the Spirit. Watching a video from mormon.org, practicing my mediocre piano skills by playing the Hymns, and reading a story or two from the Friend at bedtime do invite the Spirit. And if I happen to practice piano over the top of the football game, well, bonus!
Truthfully, Sunday has been my favorite day. We don’t turn on the TV before church and my boys find creative ways to play together. They (generally) get along and there is a feeling of happiness and peace. I turn on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir channel on Pandora and it adds another level of peace.
I know I still have a long way to go, but it doesn’t have to change today.
Line upon line.
All that jazz.