Sanctuary isn’t exactly filled with grace when whole family present

  • Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A lot of things happened in church on Sunday — none of them pertaining to Jesus, the Bible, the Holy Spirit and/or deep contemplations of any sort.

Our preacher wasn’t off his game. It’s just that there was so much happening on my particular pew that I had no idea what was going on anywhere else.

It’s fairly normal for at least two members of our family to miss church on any given Sunday — with a family of five, a simple cold can take a month to make its way through our household.

With the girls being as young as they are, we are supposed to be fever-free for 24 hours before exposing them to other children. My husband and I travel often for our respective jobs and there are occasions that we skip church to have one full day as a family before one of us has to hit the road again. So it was nothing short of miraculous that every member of our family was not only at church, but well and early.

I should have been optimistic. But our problems started as soon as we sat down. See, the thing is, there are only two sides of me, and when you have three kids who all want to sit beside you at church, this is a problem.

We normally try to stagger the kids: Aubrey, me, Emma, Zeb, then Sadie — keeping a parent between each child.

I wasn’t thinking when we sat down this week and Aubrey and Emma ended up side-by-side with Sadie sandwiched between me and Zeb.

Aubrey and Emma lasted through the first song before Emma looked up at me and whispered loudly that Aubrey had called her stupid. I shifted Emma to my other side, which displaced Sadie who began crying, “I want to sit by Momma.”

Aubrey leaned her head against my left shoulder and Emma tugged on my right hand while Sadie tried to climb across her sister to my lap. Zeb snatched Sadie into his lap and handed her a pencil and a bulletin as an elder prayed. In a whisper that Jesus could have heard all the way to the heavens, Sadie said, “You are my favorite Daddy in the whole world.”

Aubrey drew pictures on her bulletin and after every single one, she nudged my arm to show me what she had drawn. Shoes, women in dresses, right next to block letters that said, “Emma is stupid.”

I raised my eyebrows and pointed to the offending words and mouthed, “Jesus can read.” She scowled and quickly scribbled it out.

All three girls were particularly fidgety and someone was constantly touching me. When my husband started mouthing something to me, I grabbed a pencil and scribbled on my bulletin, “The next time someone tries to communicate with/talk to and/or touch me, I am walking home. For the love.”

He apparently realized how serious I was because soon after, while Sadie was whispering across the whole church about how hungry she was but right after Emma dropped her hymnal on the floor during a prayer, Zeb took Sadie out of the sanctuary (ha - what an oxymoron) and to the nursery.

Aubrey and Emma left for the bathroom, then came back, stepping on my feet as they passed. Aubrey was still getting in her seat when the offering plate passed.

She was looking down and at the exact second I was going to pass the plate to my left she stood up to straighten her dress out from under her, nearly causing me to beam her in the head with the wooden plate. I moved my hand back as she leaned back, waving the offering plate wildly around her head trying not to hit her until I grabbed her gently by the arm, pressed her against the pew then safely passed the plate to my neighbor.

I sighed loudly.

“Whaaaaaaat?” Aubrey whispered.

“Nothing.”

I prayed for grace — and for the sake of everyone within earshot of us I prayed for the preacher to be brief. Given our volume level that included everyone in the church.

The rest of the service was a blur of fidgets, whispers, dropped Bibles, pencils rolling under pews and intermittent chest pains. When the preacher finally said, “Amen,” I collapsed with relief and made eye contact with another mother sitting behind me.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “I’m sure y’all couldn’t hear a word over the racket we were making.”

She cut me off and gestured to her young son, “He fell off the pew and pooted so loud I almost died.”

And for just a split second, I felt better about my own situation.


(Robin O’Bryant is an author, humorist and speaker. Her latest book is “Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter and Visit her blog at www.robinschicks.com.)

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