Help! My Sunday Mornings Are Chaotic

This article is part of the Help! series.

The Most Stressful Day of the Week

Beverly married a pastor, and their four children came in rapid succession. Sunday was the most stressful day of her week. Her husband left early to unlock the church and prepare for his morning of ministry. And getting her four little ones dressed, fed, and in their car seats single-handedly—never mind getting herself ready—proved overwhelming at times.

Knowing that she would need to cheerfully corral her little ones throughout the morning, while introducing herself to visitors and remembering the very real concerns of church members, added to her Sunday morning angst. By the time she pulled into the parking lot, she found her heart longing to escape to any other place on earth where there were fewer duties and expectations.

One Sunday as she was getting the kids out of the car, she couldn’t find her two-year-old’s diaper bag. She must have left it on the kitchen counter—again! When would he finally learn to use the potty? She could imagine his teacher’s forced smile as she dropped him off empty-handed. And then she noticed something even more disheartening—she had on two different shoes! Looking back she would find it quite humorous, but not that Sunday.

Help! I'm Married to My Pastor

Jani Ortlund

Help! I’m Married to My Pastor is written for ministry wives who feel alone, afraid, and stressed to the limit, reminding them that God will work out his good purposes through even the hardest moments of ministry and marriage.

What a blessing that Helen saw the tears brimming in Beverly’s eyes as she walked by. After helping Beverly and the kids into church, Helen began thinking, and a few days later she told Beverly about a plan she and seven other ladies wanted to implement—a zoo patrol. Each Sunday morning, two of these understanding older women would arrive at Beverly’s door one hour before church started to help her get her little zoo fed, dressed, and transported to church. What a happy bonus for everyone—pastor, pastor’s wife, zoo patrollers, and four little ones who had someone to lovingly help them pour their milk and comb their hair and zip their jackets.

A Spoonful of Sugar

I never had a zoo patrol, but I often needed one! We lived in Scotland for four years while Ray earned his PhD from the University of Aberdeen. Ray assisted in our parish church and left early on Sunday mornings. It was hard for me to get our four kids ready and willing for our mile walk to church (we had no car at the time).

I had to do something to help with the complaints and tears and my own growing resentment. So I decided to try making Sunday morning our best morning of the week, something to anticipate rather than dread. I made sure on Saturday night that the children’s clothes were ready without the needless friction of “I can’t find my other shoe!” or “My zipper is broken.” We often mixed up a fresh yeast dough on Saturday afternoon and had fun rolling out several cinnamon rolls to rise overnight. The children would wake up to that tantalizing aroma, which still brings us back in our hearts to our tiny kitchen there along Royal Deeside. Some scrambled eggs and fresh fruit rounded out our special Sunday breakfast.

After getting the dishes into the sink we would set out, and I had “sweeties” in my pocket to reward cheerful and quick obedience. We would have contests to see who could make it to the next driveway without complaining, or who could spot the next house with white flowers in the garden, or who could think of one thing they loved about their daddy before we reached the shop on the corner.

Along the way we would talk about what a special hour was before us, the one hour out of all 168 hours in each week where we could worship God together with our friends. I asked the older children to give me and others sitting near us the gift of sitting quietly for just this short time so we could pray and sing and listen. I encouraged them to try to join in as they were able. When I was first training them to sit quietly, I would sometimes reward them with more sweeties during the sermon.

Children learn to love what their parents love. They will get excited about what excites you.

Then on the way home, we would get the wiggles out with happy words about our time at church, and I’d offer many thanks for loving me, respecting the adults around us, and most of all honoring God with their quiet bodies and mouths. Around the lunch table I would brag to their daddy about their good behavior, and they would light up under his enthusiastic approval.

Was each Sunday as idyllic as I make it sound? No, indeed! There were Sundays when the cinnamon rolls burned, or one of us was in a foul mood, or—horror of horrors—I ran out of sweeties! Every Sunday I needed to rely on the Lord of the Sabbath for perseverance and patience, which he so kindly gave abundantly, overflowingly—“grace upon grace” (John 1:16).

But week by week it got a little easier as we started to embrace a pattern that brought us joy. Sunday morning became, with the Lord’s help, a “We get to!” rather than a “Do we have to?” And, I might add, all four of our kids grew up with no cavities! I wonder if the Lord protected them from all my sugar bribes?

Instilling a Deep Love for Sunday Mornings

What I’m saying is that you have the opportunity of passing on to your children a deep love for Sunday mornings. Children learn to love what their parents love. They will get excited about what excites you.

Let them see the sparkle in your eye when you tell them, “Guess what day it is tomorrow? Yes! It’s Sunday!” Let them hear the genuine warmth in your voice when you say, “I can’t wait to hear what the pastor will teach us all about God tomorrow.” Let them feel the glorious privilege of corporate worship as you pray with them, “Thank you for our church and for this special day each week.” Help them to “taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8).

Yes, this will take extra work on your part. But it will be well worth it! Start small. Be creative. Ask the Lord to help you. Your own soul will be better able to feast on the abundance of his house (Psalm 36:8). And your kids will begin to say along with King David, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1).

This article is adapted from Help! I’m Married to My Pastor: Encouragement for Ministry Wives and Those Who Love Them by Jani Ortlund.

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