Whole Parenting Family

Sundays and Why I Suffer Through Church


It’s another hot humid muggy soily (as in, my children will soil their clothing) Sunday morning. I am up early with the tot, then play pass off to my marathon-training husband who ran 26 miles this morning (!?!?! because he’s amazing), and doze a little.

I dream of the perfect donut and sleeping forever.

Did you know you could dream about sleep? You can.

I haul my jiggly sore belly out of bed and semi-get ready for church. Throw on a dress and hoop earrings. Kinda brush my teeth and hair. As I pick up a hustle down the backstairs to the tunes of it’s mine and why does she always get it cascading as plaintive cries to the heavens, I think what if we didn’t have to get to church?

We swap parenting again. This time for him to shower and put his legs up and for me to soothe the irrationally irate tot who wants blue mac & cheese for breakfast and insists on using a sharp kitchen scissors to trim the bushes in the driveway. They don’t need a cut. We all settle into reading about Little Bear and I sorta start a chai tea, iced.

Like usual, I forget about it until the ice has watered it so down, no one would count it as mildly caffeinated anymore.

We struggle the kids into their church clothes, we struggle them into their car seats, and I’m already ready to call it a day. It’s 9:56am.

Mass is the center point of our spiritual week. It’s a glorious, gorgeous affair at our simply wonderful church. We spy JESUS! {as all three pointed out loudly at different times throughout}, our friends, and that couple who dress like it’s the 18th century {thankfully she also fans herself or she’d be needing serious smelling salts on these dog days of summer}.

We only make one bathroom trip. I also wanted to stay in the cool bathroom forever and had to be dragged out by my youngest two.

We only go to the back three times! The last time was to satiate the tot’s insatiable desire to rip apart all the blue baptismal books in the baptismal area. He settled for stacking and counting them while I settled for sitting on the cold floor dreaming about watermelon and sleep.

But honestly, I love going to Mass. I really do. I love receiving the Holy Eucharist. I love hearing the chants and smelling the incense. I love my 3.5 seconds of quiet prayer before someone asks me 1) why the little girl behind us has earrings and 2) when she can get them and 3) what it feels like and 4) how long the scaffolding will be up and 5) who has died falling down from it and 6) why does she have to be quiet right now?

It’s a toss-up. Either my husband and I attend different Masses, alone, and bask in the glory of silent prayer (taking just the eldest with one of us) or we all hoof it together and struggle through, modeling that families pray // go to the back together and God loves seeing us in our diligent attempts even when the ushers don’t really.

I thought about it on the way home as I clutched the side-bar next to the window (it’s a reach. why couldn’t mini-van designers appoint sick pregnant women to their design team? put the bar above the door where I can lean into it, dingdongs). Why go to church on Sundays? Why not enjoy the farmer’s market or laying down in the air conditioning and watch my children out the windows wrestling my husband to the dry browned grass in our yard? Why go through the agony and inconvenience of public prayer when I could just say a few ditties in my head in thanksgiving for a great life?

The answer is simple: the Eucharist. I can light candles at home and look at beautiful art and read all the readings and say all the prayers. But I can’t partake in receiving Holy Communion from the comfort of my cool perch with pregnancy pillows. I can’t teach my kids that inconvenience leads to great things, like God present in the form of bread, and being together as a community to experience them is what makes community strong.

I also can’t develop my own tolerance for discomfort staying mildly uncomfortable in my bed. Pushing myself is a good thing so long as it’s not too long or too unhealthy. A little suffering is a great thing to offer up for those who endure true suffering.

Maybe that makes no sense to you and you’re off to get that perfect donut on Sunday morning. I get it. I get you. I hope you do have your “reach” thing, too, though, just for your own character development. It’s good to suffer a little.


sweaty, stinky, smelly mom from the back of church with a grainy selfie from this morning



  1. Momma Dye on July 24, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    I’m not a morning person, getting up in the morning in general but also on Sunday mornings, is difficult. My DH would love for us to attend 9am mass, but I have talked him into 10:30a. It’s the only day I get to walk around in my PJs making breakfast before I get ready for the day. I often lay in bed, hitting the snooze, dreaming of a relaxing morning sipping coffee on my back porch, reading the Sunday paper, listening to my girls play quietly…then I wake up to 2 girls kicking me in bed (when did they crawl into bed with us???), complaining the other is taking up too much space and realize I don’t get to sip heavenly coffee and read the paper on my back porch (it’s sweltering out there in this Midwest heat anyways!!) even if I wanted to. I love mass too & for all the same reasons! Wish I could hear more of it, sit quietly in prayer, ect, ect. (Amazingly this week, they girls were angels, didn’t have to take either of them out back or to the potty – Praise God!!) But I know that the day will come when I’m not hauling them to the back of church for the 5th time and I’ll miss those days.

    • Natural Mama Nell on July 24, 2016 at 10:59 pm

      Loooooove hearing your take!

  2. Lauren B on July 25, 2016 at 1:53 am

    We totally skipped today. *hangs head in shame, Lutheran guilt creeping in.*
    Ugh. I could justify it- we overslept late enough that getting out the door would have been a madhouse, that my husband is about to enter a crazy period at work for the next month or two, so this is his last day to sleep in.
    But you’re right. I’m not receiving communion or intentionally connecting with my community. Even if we are taking the toddler out to go pee at least once (but more like twice, let’s be honest).
    For what it’s worth, I think it’s great having kids in church. Mostly so I can see other families like mine- with toddlers who wiggle and ask questions and decide to dance in the aisles to the hymns and ask weird questions about God during the quietest portion of the service. We are really lucky to go to a church where all of that is encouraged – or at least tolerated.
    You’ve renewed my commitment to try again next Sunday. 🙂

    • Natural Mama Nell on July 25, 2016 at 8:30 pm

      Girl–I totally get it. “Ask weird questions about God…” Hahaha yes!!

  3. Amy A. on July 25, 2016 at 7:58 am

    Girl, I feel you. Not the pregnancy part (right now) but the struggles with Mass. I went alone two straight weeks due to sick babies and family members to get to the airport on a Sunday morning and it was . . . fine. Easier to get to on time. Easier to fit into the day without having to squeeze it around naps and meals and all else. But oh, when I had my lap filled with babies yesterday morning and my husband next to me and we had whispered conferences about who needed to be changed and I tried to keep the one who has recently learned to stand alone from wobbling right off the pew . . . that felt right. So right. Pushing myself and encouraging my family to give and grow just a little bit more than is comfortable is right. Being together in His house is right. Modeling prayer and perseverance, however imperfectly, is right.
    Thanks for your words of encouragement, friend. Your writing has been such a balm to me lately. Praying for you!

    • Natural Mama Nell on July 25, 2016 at 8:29 pm

      Beautifully said!! Hugs.

  4. Christina on July 25, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    OH I feel you. I FEEL you. I often have these insane fantasies (while trying to buckle a screaming toddler into a carseat, already 10 minutes late for Mass) of just being like, “You know what, everyone back inside, put your pajamas back on, we’re going to bed. And bring me a cup of coffee and a fresh croissant while you’re at it!” Hey, it’s a fantasy, might as well go whole hog, eh? 😉 But I’ve NEVER regretted the effort of actually getting to Mass afterwards, it truly matters that we’re there. It matters to me, yeah, but also to my kids, my family as a whole, and like, to GOD. Keep fighting the good fight, sister!

    • Natural Mama Nell on July 25, 2016 at 8:29 pm

      A fresh croissant!!! Bring it!! You’re right. I never regret going once I’m there.

  5. Sara Masarik on July 31, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    This. Is. Beautiful.

    The struggle is real – but it is good to live in the hope and promise that suffering is redemptive – and character developing.

    Thank you for sharing this. I love the mess, the honesty, and the real focus on the real beauty.

    Signed, Small Family Mama Who Wishes God Would Give Her More Except on Sunday Mornings.

  6. Kim Hainline on July 31, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    We’ve always been a Saturday evening Mass family because I know it is likely we won’t go at all if we try to make Sunday morning. I am NOT a morning person! Saturday was not always easy as many times when our two children were younger, they would start to get sleepy/fall asleep during 4:00 Mass. Now that they are older, there are many Saturdays when I think, “Man, it would be nice to have an uninterrupted Saturday evening,” but I feel like it’s important to actually go to Mass because otherwise there’s not set, intentional time for prayer. I do pray throughout the day at other times, but it’s usually a much brief amount of time (Please help me get through this day, God!) with very little reflection. Mass is about intentional time for me. Love is doing. Working our schedule around Mass on Saturday is the action that hopefully shows our kids that we do this because we love God.

    • Natural Mama Nell on August 1, 2016 at 6:14 pm

      Totally my prayer throughout the day too. Beautiful said: love is doing. What a great example to your kids.

  7. JB on July 31, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    As a Mama who flew solo this morning at Mass while the husband with the summer cold slept in, I have one word – Yes! And, it was one of those Masses where I wondered exactly why I went. And, if the Mass behavior was almost remotely tolerable. My 3 old enough to so know better boys decided to well physically fight on the way out while I tried to negotiate with the newly minted 3 year old who was tantruming on the floor because I wouldn’t let her swim in the Baptismal Font. And, then the Pastor tried to help and freaked her out because she is going through an all men are strangers phase. It was fab. So, thanks for reminding me why I suffer so voluntarily weekly.

    • Natural Mama Nell on August 1, 2016 at 6:13 pm

      PHEW. Solo flights are so hard. That is hilarious about the Baptismal Font–and of course, any helpful adult who isn’t you is a total freak-out trigger. HA! We’re in this together.

  8. Barbara on July 31, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Thank you for your article. I’m having awful morning sickness 11 weeks pregnant right now with #4. …Three boys, the oldest is 4. I sat in the backseat on the way to Mass at 10:05am this morning and finished putting on shoes and shoving some breakfast in their little mouths and we were in the back pew before the Gospel reading (ended). I needed a reminder that there are others in my boat.

    • Natural Mama Nell on August 1, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      GIRL! it’s so hard. and as you can see from the comments: you are far from alone!!

  9. Tori on August 2, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    The handle struggle is real. Our old minivan had one above the door, it’s one of the things I miss most about it. Our current van only has this piddly little insert thing under the window, right in front of the door lock/window buttons. It doesn’t even count, really. I swear the rest of this spoke to me, too, but…the handle. Oh, the handle.

    • Natural Mama Nell on August 3, 2016 at 10:49 am

      THE HANDLE IS A BIG DEAL. Clearly men designed it.