It was almost too perfect. My little family all dressed up for church, cheerily walking to services instead of taking the car. My husband was wearing his suit, instead of just dress pants and shirt. My three-year old daughter, Samantha, had her most ruffled little Sunday dress on, complete with stockings and sparkly shoes (matching purse of course!). Baby Jolene, a mere six weeks old, was over-dressed as well, yet sleeping comfortably behind her sister in the double-stroller. I wouldn’t let Samantha walk. The road still had a bit of snow on it and I could not risk her getting wet before we ever made it to church. This particular morning God was testing my patience, placing every known obstacle in my way. I woke up late. My post-partum body rejected every decent outfit I owned. Nevertheless, I refused to let anyone get out of going to services this morning. You WERE getting up, you WERE getting dressed, YES you had to wear your stockings, YES the baby is going too, and YES you have to wear a tie. I may not recall what I wore that day, or even if my hair was brushed, but we WERE out the door, Bibles in hand, ready for worship-on time.
It was only a block and a half to our little country church; nonetheless it was enough to leave me covered in sweat. I organized our stuff in the pew, adjusted Samantha’s dress, found all the selected hymns in the hymnal (using the bulletin as bookmarks), and prayed that the baby would make it through the hour without a major disturbance. As Hilda began playing the piano everyone turned in his or her seat ready for preaching.
I should probably pause here to explain that our little church might comprise itself with twenty or so people at services each week, provided no one is sick or on vacation. There are only six children that attend regularly, including my two girls. The other four all belong to my close friend. There is no children’s church or children’s Sunday school and definitely no nursery. Unless my friend and I would like to take our own children upstairs to play and I honestly see no need in waking up early to go to church if I am going to spend all morning playing with my own children. The bringing of children is done at your own risk. No one complains about their fidgeting, or their murmuring. They are simply glad young people like us are attending.
Preacher Mike made his promenade to the pulpit where he boisterously wished everyone a very good morning. As he prompted us to greet our neighbors, Samantha began to squirm. I fetched her a pencil and some paper beginning to fear this was going to be a long morning. Jolene woke up in the excitement and I happily picked her up and passed her directly to her father.
It was after the general announcements that the preacher asked us to bow our heads for the first prayer. It was in that moment that God’s sense of humor reared its head on me again. I’ve seen it before, that moment when I walk into the living room to find my newly folded stack of towels thrown around the room by my toddler, or when I survive a screaming child on a three hour car ride only to have her fall asleep two miles from home. Oh yes, I have seen it before. I would like to know how to see it coming, because nothing prepared me for what was next, God’s next little joke.
Samantha stood up in the space between the pews, squirming and desperately trying to get my attention. I hesitated in responding to her because I was trying to show her how to pray and how to be patient while the grownups pray. Her tenacity warranted a peek. I saw that she was pointing behind her and tears were welling up in her eyes. There was no time to waste. I took her pudgy little hand in mine and directed her out of our pew. Her patent leather shoes echoed through the sanctuary as they stomped across the hard wood floors. I heard the preacher pause as I walked past him to the doors that led to the bathroom. I knew the congregation was smiling behind me. My face flushed with embarrassment anyway. The big wooden door seemed to slam shut behind me, and in its final echo I could hear the preacher resuming his prayer.
I rushed my ruffled angel into the ladies room, turned on the light, and took stock of what supplies I had at my disposal. Paper towels and running water were the only useful items to be found. Samantha squirmed some more, a clear indication that I was too late. I flipped her dress over her head and...
Luckily her stockings had not been ruined, the pink “Disney Princess Hanes Her Ways” had saved the day. Feeling noticeably better, Samantha was eager to return to her seat. I fixed her dress, took a deep breath and stepped into the hallway for a listen. The congregation was just finishing a hymn I had never heard before. I could make out the sound of Jolene crying from our pew. I immediately felt bad for my husband. Jolene was a nursed baby and when she wanted Mommy there would be no contentment found in a bottle. Sensing that another moment of prayer was imminent I opted to take Samantha outside and around to the front of the church rather than risk interrupting the preacher, again. Halfway down the sidewalk she began the now all too familiar squirmy walk and we quickly retreated back to the ladies room.
Three times we tried to return to the service, and three times we returned to the restrooms. The stockings didn’t survive. I could hear Preacher Mike doing the final prayer so I held Samantha back waiting for the “all clear” from Hilda’s piano. The music began; I carefully opened the door and walked Samantha back into the sanctuary. All I had to do was make it down the aisle and to the stroller. I could put Samantha in her seat and no one would be the wiser.
Think again Mom. God has a sense of humor. And He is about to use it!
Samantha escaped my grip and ran up to her Daddy, who had lost Jolene to a flock of cooing church ladies a long time ago. He reached down and scooped Samantha up, proud as a peacock. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t speak. Giggles slowing began to resonate behind him. Every time he turned to see what was so funny a new set of giggles would ensue. I stood paralyzed listening to the laughter reverberate through the sanctuary. Finally Great-PaPa, my grandfather-in-law, pointed out that Samantha’s dress had become caught up in her Daddy’s scooping and she was now mooning the whole church. I was absolutely mortified. Somewhere I think I heard God laughing. I wasn’t laughing. Everyone else was laughing but I wanted to cry.
Maybe He thought I needed take myself a little less seriously. Maybe He thought our congregation needed a good laugh. I’ll never know why it happened. I do know, however, that it will happen again. I hope it happens again. It is a reminder that God loves me and that He will take every opportunity, even an embarrassing one, to make to me smile. After all, it could have been worse right? And I AM laughing now.
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