I wrote this a little over a year ago, but today’s experience reminded me of it and I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!
“Boys, please whisper.” I’ve said that a bazillion times since we sat on this pew a half-hour ago. “We’re in the Chapel, and The Sacrament is being served. Please show reverence and think about Jesus.” My two oldest sons (ages 5 and 6) quietly resume their contest: racing to see who can find a specific Hymn number first. I look to the ceiling and roll my eyes—I taught them that game. Allowing them a little lee-way, I attempt to take my own advice and think of my Savior. The baby begins to fuss. I tuck his blanket around him and rock the infant carrier, hoping to sooth him to sleep. Simultaneously, I grab my 3 year old daughter’s feet to prevent them from, again, kicking the pew in front of us. Why do they have to have wooden pews in this acoustically sound room? Rock, rock, Rock, rock. “Mommy, I’m thirsty, when will the water come?” my daughter asks at the top of her voice. Why the acoustics!? I whisper a response she doesn’t like and a tantrum begins. Fussy baby—Rock, rock, Rock, rock. I attempt reasoning, to no avail, the tantrum escalades. Oh church during naptime! I give my daughter the option of getting a grip or having a time out on my lap in the hall. She chooses the time out. I don’t like 3 year olds! I grumble to myself. I look down the row at the blessed woman who sits near us. She nods her head and begins to shuffle her way, over her son and my boys, toward the baby to continuing the rocking. I yank my three year old to her feet and march her down the isle and out into the hall serenaded by her discontent. In the hall, time out is unpleasant so that behaving in the Chapel starts to look good.
Sitting with my melodramatic three year old I wonder WHY do I EVEN try!? Why do I bother coming to church? I never get to listen to the talks in Sacrament Meeting (even when I manage to STAY in Sacrament Meeting)! I partake of the Sacrament each week, but I hardly am able to think of my covenants at all. And if I’m in my other meetings I, still, can hardly hear them. Why do I do this? What do I get out of it?
Suddenly I hear my Mom’s voice in my head, “You’re just keeping up the habit.” I think about that for a little while.
In the evening, before bedtime, we read the scriptures as a family. My oldest two boys can read (even though it is sometimes a painful lesson in long-suffering) and my daughter repeats the verse after Brendan or I read it in pieces for her. Lying on our tummies in the living room each with his/her own set of scriptures, bookmark, and red marking pencil scripture reading goes something like this: “First Born you start.” “No! I wanted to start” “I want to read 2 and 32 and 9 and 16” “We’re only reading two each, Sweet Girl” “HE HAS MY BOOKMARK!!” Enter The Baby (10 months) “AAAAAHHHH!!!” (happy squeals as he gets a hold of someone else’s something and shreds it, or attempts to) “OKAY EVERYONE, Frist Born is starting, no more talking!” “And…behold…it…came…to…pass…’ My daughter is wielding her marking pen like a wand and whispers, “I command you to be a Chihuahua!” and whacks her scriptures. Second Born is fending off the Baby. Dad is trying to get a good grip on the 23.5 lb baby and I’m attempting to help First Born read. The thought reoccurs to me , Why am I doing this to myself!? And again, I hear my Mom’s voice, “You’re just keeping up the habit.”
Sometime after my oldest was born, my Mom taught me that moms with young children go to church not because they are regularly edified and rejuvenated (although that certainly happens on occasion) but rather to keep up the habit. Mom taught me that the consistency of attending church, keeps the habit for myself, and also teaches my children that I view The Gospel as a high priority item. I knew church was important to my parents and that was largely in part because we went to church weekly, unless we were contagiously sick. I know that regularly attending church as a child is a main contributor to my desires to be a faithfully attending adult. I also know that my daily habit of scripture study is deeply rooted in my parents’ consistent efforts to hold family scripture study. Even especially, when we were all in sports, working jobs, and had extracurricular activities.
“Keeping up the habit” circumstances like continually attending church services and holding family scripture study are cases where actions do speak volumes to my children! The things I spend my time and efforts on communicate to my children how I feel about them! THAT is why I keep attending church. THAT is why I keep holding family scripture study! In spite of the ridiculous that occurs during these sacred moments going to church and family scripture study are important to me. I want my children to know not just because I tell them, but because my actions show that these things are important to me. So I’m gonna keep “keeping up the habit” like my Mom has taught me and have hope in the promised blessings of obedience and diligence in my efforts. I know that when we are obedient to the Laws of God, when we diligently strive to follow him by studying the scriptures and attending the church meetings which He has provided for our learning He will bless us and our families. I have experienced those blessings myself, I know they will come!
“Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable. But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results. “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33). Consistency is a key principle as we lay the foundation of a great work in our individual lives and as we become more diligent and concerned in our own homes.”
Read, watch or listen to Elder David A. Bednar in his talk, “More Diligent and Concerned at Home”, Oct 2009.