To the Mom doing church in the lobby... by Brohgan Dieker


One Sunday, I chose to bring my cranky older baby into church. He was feeling clingy and getting a tooth. I knew him well enough to know that there was no way he'd last more than 10 minutes in the church nursery before I was paged to pick him up. I knew this because I had been paged 10 minutes after dropping him off in the very crowded nursery for the last 4 Sundays, and this was the worst mood yet.

As we walked in before the service started, he was already fighting my grip and monopolizing the noise in the room. After being up with him the night before, we had overslept and were attending the busiest late-afternoon service. We live in a college town, and we felt like the oldest (and youngest) people in the room.

The auditorium was almost full, but we managed to find a couple of empty chairs on an aisle while we made our loud, dramatic entrance. As we slid into our seats, I glanced down the row. There was no smiles or sympathetic nods from other mothers; actually, the entire row of college students next to me looked ready to move to new seats! (Nothing makes a room full of 20 year-olds more uncomfortable than a crying baby.)

Once the music kicked up and the lights dimmed, that was it: my son started wailing. He and I found ourselves out in hall within minutes, me feeling a little ostracized, him feeling relieved. We never made it back in. After getting everyone dressed, fed, and out the door, I attended church for less than 5 minutes that week.

After a long week of not enough sleep and not enough adult interaction, an intense hour of parenting out in the lobby is not where I wanted to find myself that Sunday morning. I was left feeling torn between worshiping in the way I wanted to be and fulfilling my part in the role God chose for my life.

Some babies just insist that no nursery worker or children's minister can take mom's place, not even for a half hour. That was my child. He absolutely refused to be pacified. There was no toy, no snack, no way to be held or rocked, and no distraction from his anxiety. (People say it's just a stage, but that doesn't really help when it's happening to you.)

It was a little embarrassing. I would stand there in the lobby holding my screaming child and watch as a dozen kids the same age as mine went happily into the nursery while their moms freely walked away. In that situation, you can't help but wonder what the heck you are doing wrong.

(I realize now, his obstinance was not entirely because of my parenting. Part of it is just him being who he is. I only had so much control over my son, even as baby or toddler. Some kids are always happy in the nursery, others kick up a fit the entire way through preschool or beyond. Parenting itself is only a portion of what contributes to this behavior. A big part of it is just the child's personality, tastes, and stage in development.)

Looking back on it, I realize that my own expectations for smooth Sunday mornings were more selfish than anything. I had a serious heart problem: I was much more concerned about how I might escape my difficult parenting reality for an hour than I was about worshiping God in church.

God really caught my attention out there in the hall. He taught me quietly with a lot of grace, and I learned a lot.

After weeks (months?) of he worst attitude I could possibly have in this situation, the first thing I learned was that God had specifically placed me in the hallway and not in the seats. He gave me this child. He called me into motherhood. This was my place to flourish or fail. That knowledge did not make me feel warm and fuzzy, but it did provide some much needed prospective on the situation. I lowered my self-centered expectations for Sunday mornings, and, since I was an absolute mess, I asked for help.

I didn't want to ask for help, because I'm proud, but once I started talking about it, I ended up asking everyone I could think of: my husband, my mother, my father, my grandmother, my cousins, my life group, other Christian moms, friends who are paster's wives, and the nursery volunteers. It was amazing how many of the godly women I admired had spent a year of Sundays in hallways, or more. I collected stories and advice. We traded survival tips. And, best of all, some of these precious people offered practical help; sometimes I stayed in the lobby for the songs, and my husband or my mom traded with me for the sermon.

This clingy phase lasted for a year of Sundays. I admit, sometimes I passed off my child to the nursery workers kicking and screaming just to experience a song or two alone before getting paged to pick him up. This tactic never worked for us, but I am ok that we tried it. My was just anxious and needed his mom, and that's ok, but it was also ok to stretch his world a little. Also, on these weeks, I would often come back and stay and play with him until he was no longer feeling anxious and afraid.

Some weeks, we streamed our church service online from home. We did this when someone was sick or when nobody in the house had slept. Our church started a live streaming service just about the same time my son was born, and the timing for our family could not have been more convenient. When it comes to spiritual nourishment, it's ok to think outside the box sometimes!

But, even with the extra help and support and the occasional e-church Sunday, there were still few weeks where I ended up in the church lobby for the entire service. (For instance, the week when my son came down with a virus, and I didn't catch on until half way through the service.)

In the end, the lobby wasn't a bad place to spend a year of Sundays. I learned a lot in that place.

After a long week of not enough sleep and not enough adult conversation, an intense hour of parenting out in the lobby is not where you wanted to find yourself on Sunday morning. Encouragement for the Christian mom of babies or toddlers who has not been spiritually fed on Sunday mornings. Includes Christian parenting tips, and a list of worship songs.

First, it's a really good place to pray. The hall is active yet quiet. As a parent, you're primarily guiding how your child spends the time while allowing your little one to be him- or herself. Maybe you're nursing or cuddling or handing out toys. But, you're not doing much talking in the hall other than directing interest away from minor hazards (like an uncovered outlet or the stairs) and toward a better choice.

In those moments when you're parenting on autopilot, pray. Maybe try the oil and vinegar approach? If there's bitterness there, I tried to confront it first, and I think confronting it helped improve my attitude during that time.

It's a place to reach out. This is the place where I asked for help in my spiritual walk.

If Sunday morning parenting is wearing on you week after week, and you're struggling to grow and thrive in this chapter, you're never alone. There's moms on either side of you that have been there. They have walked this road, and they know the way.

Start by opening up about your struggle. Talk to your family, your friends.

Join a new MOPS group or women's Bible study. This is a new chapter, after all, and it comes with a steep learning curve. Don't be afraid to reach for new forms of support, especially from other moms. It's scary at first, but it might end up being exactly what you need.

What did I do? I got plugged in! I joined my church's MOPS, and I made new Christian mom friends. Another friend and I get out our strollers and walk and talk through some tough accountability questions on Thursdays. Also, a group of us meet monthly, just the moms, and no kids allowed (unless... well... it happened sometimes).

If you're struggling and don't know where to start to build this community around yourself, please feel welcome to reach out to me personally. We might be able to come up with some new ideas together.

My e-mail: brohgan [@]

It's a place to gain perspective. When I'm being a grouch because my life is so hard, bumping into someone whose life is way harder stops my negative thoughts every time. There is always someone dealing with something bigger and harder than my own struggles, and I need to look past my own life to gain perspective. In fact, some of the people reading this are probably struggling much more than I have been.

For instance, I've met people who are primary caretakers in other situations, not just babies and toddlers. My time in the hall might be a couple of years, while others time in the hall might be a significant portion of a lifetime.

I have also yet to spend time in the hall without running into someone who has been openly struggling with infertility or infant loss.

Pay attention to the people around you, smile, and try empathize with the fact that we all have struggles in our lives. Even if they are not a mom of littles, nobody's road is easy on this side of heaven.

It's a place to consider giving back in a new way.

If your church's volunteers are looking like they could use a little help, this might be a good time. Nursery, greeting, coffee bar. Think about what opportunities might be open to you in this stage of life and whether they are a good decision.


If you missed church, here are little ways to make it up throughout the week:

And, finally, music.

Nothing soothes my the mom-tude like a playlist.

But, since I've spent a year's worth of Sundays out in the hall, I asked my tribe to help me with this. Here's a playlist of worship songs that they suggested for YOU, the mama who spent Sunday in the hallway, and me too.

When people come together to encourage and help each other out, it's powerful stuff.

After a long week of not enough sleep and not enough adult conversation, an intense hour of parenting out in the lobby is not where you wanted to find yourself on Sunday morning. Encouragement for the Christian mom of babies or toddlers who has not been spiritually fed on Sunday mornings. Includes Christian parenting tips, and a list of worship songs.

Want to know the secret that finally worked on a peaceful transition to the church nursery? Playing with my son with toys in the nursery for a few minutes before quietly slipping out the door while he wasn't paying attention. Will it work for you too? I have no idea, but might be worth a try?



Are you finding yourself frustrated in other areas in this chapter of life, such trying to provide your family with healthy snack and meal options? I write a weekly newsletter to help moms tackle the small stuff around the house, like meal planning, quickly and efficiently so that they can have more time to savor what matters: time with the people who sit around your kitchen table.

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Maintaining a Loving Home by Brohgan Dieker

As a woman, I wear many hats. Maybe you feel this way as well? I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a friend. I am a Christian.

I am a member of my community and my church. I am a volunteer.

I am an entrepreneur and the only employee in my business (yes, blogging is a business).

Also, I am myself, the sole person in charge of expressing and caring for my own needs.

Each hat comes with its own set of responsibilities. For instance, I eat fruits and vegetables. I pray. I read. I jog. I have deep, meaningful conversations. I prioritize sleep. I do laundry. I clean. I cook. I write.

But, it's like my friend always says, you can really only do one thing well at a time. I always choose your top priority for the moment, even when I'm not consciously doing it.

Just like I can't text someone and drive a car at the same time, I can't maintain a perfectly clean home and take time to get down and play with my son on the floor at the same time. It just isn't possible.

In the same way, I can't work long hours and have a regular date night with my spouse.

Choosing my top priority for the moment bleeds into every decision, even when I'm not aware that it's happening. If I'm eating well, I'm simultaneously struggling with exercising. If I'm sticking to the budget and monitoring every penny, I'm stress binging on Netflix at every given opportunity. If I'm exposing my son to lots of playdates and educational experiences, I'm simultaneously neglecting to clean out the fridge.

Life as a mom is a difficult balance, and perfection is not an option. Believe me, I've tried. There's a cost to every action. Sometimes the cost is small, but other times it is absolutely gigantic.

When it all boils down, I don't want to be wasting my life on maintaining house and home, or even cooking (which is a favorite creative outlet of mine).  I want to be pouring my life into my people to the best of my ability.

I want to be the best woman I can be.

I want my husband and son to know exactly how much I love him, not a guess, but to actually know because I took the time to remind them every day.

I want to be the type of person to drop everything and just show up when someone needs me to.

I want my home to be a safe and welcome place. I want neighbors to feel comfortable knocking on my door.

I want to draw nearer to God, because I know He listens and draws nearer to me.

I want to savor the stuff in life that really matters and to just maintain the responsibilities that don't matter as much. I want lasting impact, not temporary impact.

I want to be present while my son plays in a patch of sunshine on the floor without guilt about what needs to be done.

Easier said than done, ha.

And I absolutely don't want to be spending my life doing the housework, cooking and cleaning... unless the heart and soul of doing it is to show how much I love and respect the people who live here too.

And, that last point is exactly where it gets a little fuzzy for me sometimes. I crave clarity on how to maintain a loving home, both relationally and physically.

I want to love my family in the best way possible. Sometimes that means doing chores. Sometimes, that means ignoring chores.

At any given moment, I have to choose my top priority.

And, for me, that also means that I have to have a system in place to maintain my lower priorities while I'm focusing on what's most important that moment.

Here are a few things that are rarely top priority for the day but still desperately need to be taken care of daily.


Here is my system for cleaning the house, which prioritizes resting on Sunday.

I've found that when I don't take a day off from these chores, I get behind on housework. Or even worse, I get too wrapped up in doing them perfectly.

By setting aside a day to rest and NOT DO CHORES (wooohooo!), I am more motivated to get them done throughout the week.

It doesn't always go perfectly smoothly, but that's ok. If the last week (or month) has been rough, I just try again the next week.


I have written extensively about my meal planning strategy and my pre-made grocery list.

Meal planning is an established routine for me now, but that certainly wasn't always true.

There was a time early in my marriage when I would buy all the wrong things at the grocery store in an attempt to try new recipes and please my husband just to have those ingredients slowly go bad while I ran back to the store almost daily for quicker dinner options.

By the time my son was born seven years later, I was desperate to be able to maintain a healthy, frugal lifestyle without spending a lot of time shopping or cooking.

I've learned some of these kitchen and cooking tips the hard way, and I am still learning.

Maintaining the finances

A few years ago, my husband and I took a financial planning course together, and it was very eye opening for us.

We have found that it's best to make all of our financial decisions together. It takes time to write out a budget and to use a cash system, but it is well worth it.

We have time scheduled on the calendar and reminders on our phones set up ahead of time. It's good to have a system in place to keep this habit  from falling to the wayside.

Feeding My Heart

Someone told me this over the cries of my screaming newborn: "everything about motherhood is spiritual." When you spend your days (and nights!) caring for littles, your own heart is filled and emptied and refilled moment by moment.

But, there are chapters in mom life that writing long entries into prayer journals and keeping up with a Bible reading plan is just not possible. And, that's ok. God put you in this exact place.

When doing more is just not possible, finding little cracks of time to reading a single verse is enough. Praying in your head while you put your child to bed is enough. Listening to worship music and letting the praise bleed into your actions is enough.

It helped me to have certain triggers to remind me to spend time with God. For instance, during the quiet of nursing during the night, I prayed and read. While in the car, I sang worship songs. A friend teaches Bible stories to her pre-schooler during bath time.

Life is always busy, but I've found that by pairing my time with God with a daily activity, it reminds me to be present and aware of His benevolence.


And, the Grace

After becoming a mom, I've learned that I have to allow myself to accept the same grace God extends to me.

Sometimes, I fail. Actually, it happens daily.

I choose wrong. I get wrapped up in a project and get resentful when nap time is suddenly over. I get impatient when people interrupt me while I'm trying to get things done, even if they're low priority. I forget God.

And in the midst of wrestling with pangs of guilt, I have to clean the slate and start that day anew. It's the only way to move forward.

Grace is key.

I absolutely don't want to be spending my life doing the housework, cooking and cleaning... unless the heart and soul of doing it is to show how much I love and respect the people who live here too. And, that last point is exactly where it gets a little fuzzy for me sometimes. I crave clarity on how to maintain a loving home, both relationally and physically. I want to love my family in the best way possible. Sometimes that means doing chores. Sometimes, that means ignoring chores. At any given moment, I have to choose my top priority. Cleaning, cooking, finances, caring for my own heart, need a routine that maintains the status quo while caring for my family.

Are you struggling with clarity on how to maintain a loving home too?

Join me on this journey. We can navigate this together in tandem.

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