Going to Church with Little Kids

Strategies and suggestions to help things go more smoothly.


Before we had kids, my experience of church was involved, but fairly laid back. We would arrive 5-10 beforehand, chat to some friends and then find a pew somewhere around the middle to front region. When it came time to sing, we would stand and sing. And when it was time for the sermon, we would sit and listen. I always enjoyed taking notes – writing down verse references to look up later or phrases that stood out to me. Or even having a good old doodle to keep my mind from wandering. Then, when the service finished, we would turn around and have a chat to whoever was in the pew behind us or catch some friends. All before leaving when we were good and ready.

Ahhh.

Don’t you feel so relaxed reading that?

Because going to church after you have kids is a little different…

Now, we tend to arrive on time (yay!) or 5-10 minutes late (better late than never, so… yay!). We find a seat towards the back of the hall, in order to minimise disruptions to everyone else during one of the 50 million times we will get out of our seats. During songs, we spend about half the time singing the words, and half the time whispering to an inquisitive child what the song is about or telling a child to face the front or disseminating snacks. The two older kids go out to Kids Church during the sermon, but we keep the baby in with us and let him crawl around in the general area in front of our seats. I’m lucky if I can hear an entire sermon these days, let alone process what has been said. And how long we stay at the end of church is determined by the battery life, I mean tiredness, of the youngest members of our family.

So if you’re in a place where going to church just seems too hard or you’re thinking about giving it up, let me encourage you to keep going! Keep trying!

And maybe some of these practical tips will help you out… (And please add your own helpful tips if you’ve “been there, done that”!)

 

Babies

  • When you arrive at a new church or before your baby arrives at your current church, take a moment to suss out a place where you can change a nappy and a place where you can go if the baby gets too loud. Ask the person at the front door if you can’t find somewhere suitable. It’s best to find these places at the start, otherwise when your baby starts crying in the middle of the service, you might get flustered and just leave!
  • When breastfeeding, I prefer to sit at the back of the church. I find that people can’t see much from the front of me, but they might “catch a glimpse” if they are sitting behind and to the side. So sitting right at the back of the church provides the most comfortable place for me to feed. (Our old church – pictured below – had two big red lounges at the back of the church specifically for nursing mothers. It was fantastic!)
  • When our babies were little, we always tried to line up one of their naps to be during the service. We would either put them down to nap in the pram or with one of us using the baby carrier. This often involved one of us going outside or into the hallway until the baby fell asleep. Sometimes this worked well, other times they would either not fall asleep at all or they would fall asleep, but wake up immediately upon entering the church hall again. Which leads me to the next point…
  • Have a plan, but be prepared to go with the flow. Babies often run on their own schedule (and sometimes that lines up with ours). It’s okay for them to miss the odd nap (provided they don’t just scream until the next nap). It’s okay for them to have a shorter nap than usual on one day of the week so that you can make it to church. Our kids never napped for longer than about 30 minutes in the pram or carrier, so we just accepted that they would need the next nap to be a bit sooner.
  • Don’t feel like you need to rush out of the church hall every time your baby makes a noise. There are happy noises and there are not so happy noises, and both of these can be equally disruptive to the church service. We tend to wait a minute or two to see if the baby settles down, and if they keep being loud, one of us will take the baby into the back room (where Kids Church meets) or into the hallway to the side of the church. We have just accepted that we will miss parts of the church service for the time being. It’s just a season – not forever.

 

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What screaming baby? I can’t hear any screaming baby…

Toddlers and Preschoolers

I’m lumping these two together because there is a fair bit of over lap.

  • Scout out the location of the toilets and somewhere you can take the child for “time out” if they need it. Like I mentioned with babies, it’s best to find these locations before you sit down so you know exactly where to go, should the need arise.
  • Bring snacks. We still bring snacks for our 5 year old, but I’m sure that will stop some time over the next year. I pack a little bag of things like crackers, raisins and nuts and give them to the kids right at the start of church. Morning tea is provided at the end of the service, but that’s too long for them to wait when they have eaten breakfast at 7-7.30, and church starts at 10. (Actually, bringing snacks applies for older babies too!)
  • Explain to them what is happening and your expectations. It might seem like they don’t understand, but they will eventually. Use simple phrases like, “Now we are talking to God. We close our eyes to help us concentrate”, “Now we’re singing a song about God – we read the words from the screen” and “Now it’s time to be quiet and listen to the person speaking at the front”. Over time and with consistency, they will learn what happens in church and how they should behave. (But it won’t be instant!)
  • In the school holidays, when the Kids Church program takes a break, our church hands out colouring sheets and pencils for all the kids to do during the sermon. We also bring along a sticker book each for the older kids, as we find this helps them to stay quieter during the sermon. It might mean we don’t actually hear much – we are busy holding the book steady and peeling off stickers and finding the right page for them to go on, but this is more for the benefit of others around us – so they can hear the sermon.

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Some Bible verses for reflection

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”” Matthew 19:14

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:21-27


 

What strategies have worked for you? What hasn’t worked? I’d love to hear from you!

Have Dinner Ready in Only 2 Hours!

A realistic recipe for mothers of small children.

 

You will need:

  • 1 packet of hokkien noodles
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 cup of mushrooms
  • 1 block of tofu
  • 1/2 a cup of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • A bucket-load of patience

 

Directions:

  1. Get out a box of toys for your kids.
  2. Place the baby on the kitchen floor and open that one drawer of stuff he is allowed to play with.
  3. Get your broccoli and carrots out of the fridge.
  4. Close the spice drawer and redirect baby to all the SHINY HAPPY COLOURS in the drawer he is allowed to access.
  5. Wash your broccoli and carrots.
  6. Start peeling the mushrooms.
  7. Put down the mushroom. Go break up the fight that has erupted between your older two kids because they apparently both want the same single toy. In a box of about 20 toys.
  8. Return to the kitchen. Clean up the pile of mixed spice the baby dumped on the floor while you were out of the kitchen.
  9. Finish peeling mushrooms.
  10. Cut carrots into sticks.
  11. Wait. Stop. Put down the carrots. What’s that smell? Go change the baby’s nappy.
  12. Finish cutting the carrots.
  13. Slice the mushrooms.
  14. Turn on the stove top and heat some oil in a wok.
  15. Pull the baby off the bin and wipe his hands. Don’t forget to check his mouth!
  16. Your kids are getting kind of loud. The kind of loud when they are playing a physical game that started at “fun” but is fast heading down the “fight” end of the scale. Remind them to only keep playing as long as they are both enjoying it.
  17. The oil is starting to smoke! Chuck that garlic in the wok and turn the heat down a bit.
  18. The baby is eating something. You didn’t give him food. Pull foreign object out of baby’s mouth. It actually is food. Give it back to him.
  19. Chop the broccoli into florets and then throw all the veggies in the wok and stir-fry for 5 minutes.
  20. Start chopping the tofu into cubes.
  21. There is a thud and a scream from upstairs. Put down the knife and get the ice pack. Comfort the thump-ee, chastise the thump-er, admit defeat and put the TV on.
  22. Re-enter the kitchen, taking care not the step on one of the 50 plastic kitchen utensils that are now covering the floor, especially the upturned cookie cutter – that thing hurts!
  23. Finish chopping the tofu into cubes and throw it into the wok with the veggies.
  24. Pull the baby away from the bin.
  25. Pull the baby away from the bin.
  26. Pull the baby away from the bin and put him in a high chair with some cheese.DSC_0632
  27. Give the veggies and tofu a stir. Pour over the honey and soy sauce, and stir again.
  28. Add the hokkien noodles and stir them through the veggies.
  29. Start serving food into bowls.
  30. Your 5 year old looks over the counter and says “Yuck! I hate that dinner!”
  31. Say, “Well, I hope you enjoy eating air for dinner then!”
  32. a) WARNING: Do not say comment in step 31 out loud! If you did say it out loud, then proceed to step 32b. This will add 10 minutes to your dinner prep time.
    b) Give your 5 year old a hug. Explain that they will not, in fact, be eating air for dinner. Explain why the dinner you made is, in fact, delicious (mmm, honey!). Go look up sarcasm in the dictionary together, because #teachablemoments.
  33. Finish serving up the food.
  34. Get all the children in their chairs.
  35. You are done! Enjoy dinner! (Just kidding – you have 2 minutes to scoff everything in your bowl before the baby screams to get out of the high chair).

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In all seriousness, it’s not often that everything goes wrong like that. And when it does, all I can do really is sigh, and think, “That’s life with kids!”.

I’ve found that chopping the veggies and meat earlier in the day goes a long way to making this time of night go more smoothly.

What do you do to help things run smoothly in the evenings? I’d love to hear from you 🙂

 

If I Could Stop Time

There are certain things that highlight, for me, the swift passing of time.

The changing colours of the leaves is one of them. And each child’s birthday is another.

And so now that my youngest child is one and the leaves are bright reds, yellows and oranges all around us, I can’t help but think about how fast the days and years roll over.

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Sometimes I just want to stop time in it’s place and check I’m doing everything I can be… being the best mother I can, the best wife I can, the best friend I can. It feels like time moves too fast to properly handle everything, and that if I could somehow stop it, then maybe I’d have a chance to get it all right.

Or some moments seem so perfect, I wish I could stay there for longer. Like when my two little boys are rolling around on the bed, “wrestling” and shrieking together. Or when my daughter sits for half an hour at her dressing table, carefully colouring in a picture. Or the chilled air of a perfect, quiet morning.

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What I’m learning is that while I can’t stop time (or rewind it and redo it), I can make sure that I’m pouring my best into each moment I’m given.

Not worry about what’s coming, just handle what is right in front of me in the best way possible.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34

Sometimes that means leaving the dishes for another time so I can read a pile of books with my kids. And sometimes it means telling the kids we’ll read books later because I really do need to wash the dishes.

Sometimes that means giving up my “lunch break” during nap time to get through a stack of paperwork. And sometimes it means leaving the paperwork for another day because I need to go lie on the grass and look at the sky.

Sometimes that means getting up at 6am and spending time in prayer with the Lord, while the house is still quiet. And sometimes it means turning off the alarm and thanking God for just a little bit more sleep, after being up all night with a baby.

There is a time for everything.

This can be hard to discern sometimes. When is it time to clean the house, and when is it time to let go of our standards?

I often quote to myself James 1:5 when I’m struggling with my priorities:

 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

God has all the wisdom we need about how to give our best self to any particular moment. He knows what we ought to be doing, and He will gladly guide us if we just ask him.

 

One day I won’t have babies any more. One day I won’t have toddlers any more. One day I won’t have little kids, or big kids or teenagers any more.

I will have adult children and the work of “raising” will be done.

For now, I want to fully take in each moment… do the work needed, love with all my heart and point to Jesus with my every word and action.

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I’ll leave you with the words of Sara Groves, “This Cup”:

How many hours have I spent
Watching this shining tv
Living adventure in proxy
In another person’s dream
How many miles have I traveled
Looking at far away lights
Listening for trains in the distance
In some brilliant other life?

This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This challenging reality
Is better than fear or fantasy

So take up what we’ve been given
Welcome the edge of our days
Hemmed in by sunrise and sunset
By our youth and by our age
Thank God for our dependence
Here’s to our chasm of need
And how it binds us together
In faith and vulnerability

This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This challenging reality
Is better than fear or fantasy

What if my whole world falls apart?
What if my life could be different?
What if I sat right here and took you in
Without the fear and loved you whole
Without the flight and didn’t try to pass

This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This beautiful reality
Is better than fear or fantasy
Is better than fear or fantasy
Is better than fear or fantasy

What’s Your Default?

I’m a huge fan of learning from other women, particularly when it comes to practical stuff like child-rearing and home-making. I’m sure most of the good ideas I use daily came from watching and learning!

So I was delighted to read this blog post by Jess Connell recently, called Here’s What I Learned Watching my Friend be ‘Busy at Home’. She talks about several tips she picked up by observing her friend.

Here’s the one that stood out to me:

#7- CHOOSE TO HAVE A DEFAULT POSTURE OF BUSYNESS, NOT IDLENESS

I noticed throughout the week that her default “position” was at the kitchen sink. This may be the most important of all… not that we all stand around in our kitchens all day… but that her position was one that put her in a ready position to field meals, cleaning, and the family calendar. Did you ever play baseball or softball? “Get into position!” meant to hustle to the spot where you would be most advantageously used for the position you were playing. THAT is what I saw in my friend Kelly. She was “in position” for much of the day, doing dishes, preparing treats for her gluten-free son, checking out the calendar to be ready for what was coming, browsing a cookbook for something tasty that night, etc. Her default position was one of busyness, not idleness.

I found it particularly challenging because if I think about it, my default “position” throughout the day is probably sitting at my laptop, reading news or current affairs sites. Sure, I do plenty of other things, but that’s where I bounce back to in between activities. And it’s a default position of idleness, for sure.

Since I read this last week, I’ve been actively trying to change my default to one of busyness. Like the mum mentioned in Jess’s article, the kitchen is probably a good central place for me to default to. It’s where my planner lives, and there is always something I can do there – dishes to wash, food to prepare, floor to sweep. So I’ve been making more of an effort to head back to the kitchen when I seem to have a spare moment, or when I’m not sure what to do next. There, I either just start doing something or check in with my planner to find out what I should do next (I usually mentally divide tasks into things that can be done with “kids awake” or “kids asleep”).

The results are that I’m getting a lot more done! (Surprise!) And I don’t have as much of the restless “I should be doing something, but I don’t know what” feeling.

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My kitchen doesn’t always look like this, but when it does, I take a picture!

But I’ve been thinking about this concept of our “default”, and I think it applies beyond just busyness/idleness.

Here are some other questions I’ve been thinking through:

  • Is my default demeanour one of cheerfulness and laughter, or sombreness and sighs? (Remember, we’re talking about what our default mindset is, not our constant mindset!) I remember once I sighed and my daughter asked me, “Mummy, why did you say *sigh*?” I hadn’t done so consciously, so it was a good reminder that my children are watching how I carry myself, and that they pick up so much from the unspoken things. Sometimes I remind myself to put the smile back on my face as I finish something more serious, like disciplining a child or concentrating on a physical task. I’m not talking about fake-smiling (plastering on a smile to mask real feelings of despair) – but I often find that when I consciously put a smile on my face, I feel more happy (or maybe I remember that I am happy). Another method I use to reset the mood is bursting out in song or making a loud, silly noise (I have preschoolers – they think I’m hilarious).

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

  • When I face hard circumstances, do I default to worrying and fretting, or do I take my concerns to God in prayer? This is one the Lord has really been impressing upon my heart lately – just how much worry is a waste of time. Sometimes I will spend half a day worrying about something, going over scenarios in my head, trying to think of ways to fix it but coming up short, which leads to more worry. Then I remember to pray. And I put my concerns in God’s hands and walk away from it. And I breathe easy. And I wonder why it took me so long to do, realising that I just wasted a whole morning’s worth of thoughts. God wants us to bring our concerns to him – he has the power to take away our anxiety and also to fix what is troubling us (even if that doesn’t always look how we imagined). If we truly believe this, we should work to make our default response one of prayer.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:27

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7

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I’d love to hear your thoughts – what do you default to?

Idleness or busyness?

Cheerfulness or sombreness?

Worry or prayer?

 

 

 

Kids Will Ruin Your Life

… and other reasons you should have them.


It’s true.

My life now is nothing like it was before I had kids.

I have much less freedom now. There’s no such thing as “just” leaving the house or “popping over” anywhere. I used to pop around all the time before I had kids. “Ducking”, too – I used to do that a lot! Now going anywhere takes more planning than a royal wedding. It requires trips to the toilet, nappy changes, packing the food, packing changes of clothes, feeding the baby, buckling everyone into their car seats, then unbuckling everyone, opening the pram, holding hands, navigating roads safely, scouting out the location of the nearest toilet, etc.

Life is hectic. Truly. Just the other night I had a dream/nightmare that I was at some kind of giant airport/movie theatre/entertainment park with all three kids and we had to stay there for two hours. It had different levels, but there were no escalators, only giant slides. And I had to send my daughter down one of them ahead of us, and she fell off the bottom and got knocked unconscious, but the slide attendant just shrugged and said “it happens all the time”. Then the baby started screaming and then my son had to go to the toilet… then I woke up.

I say it was a dream, but you don’t have to read into it too hard to see why I am dreaming about things like that!

I can’t go to the toilet when nature calls. This too requires special planning! Okay, baby’s asleep, the kids are happily engrossed in building duplos… now’s my chance! Even then, the kids seems to have inbuilt sensors that detect when I’m on the loo so they can all rush at me with their urgent questions like, “Mummy, when is it my birthday?” and “Can you read me this book?”

Physically speaking, my body is not my own. The baby still relies on me for breast milk. And even though the older two are becoming more independent by the day, they still need me to physically do so much for them, like make them food and tie up shoe laces and wipe their bottoms. And they all need my physical presence emotionally; my hugs and kisses to show them they are loved.

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So, in a sense, having kids has well and truly ruined my life, the life I had before. It’s not the same, it’s never going to be the same.

But I’m so thankful.

And not just thankful despite all of the above, but because of it.

Because of all these struggles that come with having kids, I have grown and am growing in ways I never would have without them.

The Bible talks about this concept often – that God uses our struggles and our sufferings to grow us and make us more like Jesus.

 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:3-5

Not that having kids is suffering, at least not all the time. But it is definitely hard. And in this way, I think this passage from Romans can be a great encouragement for us mothers.

It’s not hard for no reason!

If we don’t give up, mothering our children through the good and the hard times will produce endurance, character and hope in us.

And this (among other things) is why I think young women should be intentional about pursuing motherhood.

 

At this point, let me pause and say I know this will not be possible for everyone, and that this can be a very painful subject for some. Some of you desperately want to be a mother but you can’t because of struggles with infertility, or you haven’t met someone you want to marry yet, or you are married but your husband isn’t ready for kids, or any other number of reasons it hasn’t happened. I’m so sorry you’re in that position, and I hope this post doesn’t add to your burden – I am speaking here to young women who have a choice to make about which direction they will take.

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So, here’s what I think is fantastic about the task of raising children:

  • It teaches you selflessness. I used to think that it was impossible to be selfish and a parent, but the astounding need for foster carers says otherwise. I do think it’s impossible to be selfish and a good parent though. When you have kids, you have to consider their needs above your own. As kids get older, of course we teach them how to put others first and to wait before having certain needs met. But they enter this world completely dependent on us, and for good reason. I’ve found that as I lay down my own desires day after day, and commit myself to the good of these little ones under my care, I learn more about the love God has for me. I learn that Jesus was driven by pure, unselfish love when he gave up his life on the cross, for the good of all who would follow him. And I see that God is equipping me with the selflessness of Christ that I need to live out the life of sacrifice He has called me to.
  • Raising kids has eternal value. Everything that we do on this earth has value, if we are “doing it all to the glory of God”. But still, most of it will pass away. What we invest into our children, in the way of teaching them about the Lord and shaping their characters, will last for eternity. We don’t have control over their eternal fate (whether they go to heaven or hell), but we do have great influence. This eternal significance of mothering is something I often come back to on the mundane or difficult days. I remind myself that the little choices I make in how to speak to my children, how I behave around them and what to teach them will add up to big aspects of their character later.
  • Raising kids is a lasting legacy. Similar to the above point, it helps me to know that I am spending my time doing something of value. I often think about the career I may have one day – I would love to be a paid writer, that would be my “dream job”. But if that never happens, I’m okay with it. I know that I have spent (and will spend) my time doing something of great value.
  • It’s so much fun! Seriously, sometimes I look outside and see the big kids helping each other climb a tree or I hear the baby happily shrieking about a piece of cloth, and I just have to pinch myself that this is my life. Every day I get to watch each child learn new skills or new facts about the world. Every day I have the chance to enjoy the company of these three little entertainers, who find so much joy in simple life it’s contagious.

 

Those are just a few of the amazing things about being a Mum that I can think of now – I’m sure more will come to me later.

I hope it inspires you and encourages you. 🙂