Because of Peter's work schedule, there are many Sundays I attend church alone. Not really alone, though, as I bring the six kids with me. I hate coming late those days with the walk of shame up the isle to the only spots left with enough space for my family- the front of the chapel. So I try really hard to leave the house on time, early even. Last Sunday I almost made it.
All the kids were newly-ish bathed or showered with clean clothes and real, matching Sunday shoes. Breakfast (for the ones too young to fast) was bananas and homemade toasted bread, much better than our usual fare of a handful of cereal thrown into a bag to eat on the way. In fact, the only glitch was when I remembered I owned a skirt that matched my new shirt and, after digging into the depths of my closet, found that it didn't fit anymore. But that was only small hiccup and, having exercised the day before, I didn't feel too bad.
In the final lead up to leaving I noticed that Joseph had somehow smeared butter all over the front of his Sunday shirt. I had my hands full of Kirsti's hair so I asked him to wait. Instead he rubbed it into the shirt. I could change him or keep on time. Reasoning that the dark brown color would hide the stain, I choose to keep the schedule.
I loaded the kids in the van, a few minutes behind but still well within my goal. I turned the key to wake the engine, but it protested. Click. Click. Clickity-click. I remembered Matthew climbing in yesterday to play. He must have left a light on.
I can handle this. Peter had gotten home from working the night shift a half hour earlier and his car was parked next to mine. Luckily our driveway has a slight incline so I could shift into nuetral and back down. I ran inside, grabbed Peter's keys, and postioned his car in front of mine for a jump. But I couldn't find the hood release. I looked for a couple minutes before resigning myself to my fate: I needed to wake my husband and ask him how to open the hood. Let's just say he woke up the way he always does and it wasn't fun. The Suburban started immediately and I headed to church, which began 5 minutes into our 20 minute drive.
Now I am in church. I've fixed my slightly cried into makeup and straightened everyone's clothes as I wait for the Sacrament to end so we can find a place in the chapel. As I always do before I begin the long walk up to a seat, in front of the whole congregation, I take a deep breath and hold my head high.
We walk to our seats and as I position myself on the bench I notice a lot of smiles. They weren't "we're happy to see you" smiles they were "I'm trying not to laugh" smiles. I know from experience this means one of two things- one of the kids has snuck in wearing something silly or carrying something silly. A quick check reveals the culprit. Joseph has carried in his toothbrush. It has a suction cup on the end and he has stuck it on the back of the bench. Having just drawn the attention of everyone as we tramped up the isle, at least half the congregation was watching him do it. Oh, joy.
As I try to find something to entertain Matthew in my church bag I notice it has some unusual contents in there as well. Like the missing toilet paper roll and an old, smashed bag of cereal. In fact, my bag is a total mess. The kids' clothes are a mess. I am a mess.
And then...miracles. The kids all sit quietly through the meeting! Not a single fight or yelled "whisper" or bathroom break needed. Even Matthew, who is in the midst of the wiggle and talk stage, sits with his head in my lap. Then, during the last two hours of meeting, my Sunbeam class is half its normal size. All children listen and participate. It is the best the class has been so far. I leave church amazed that the calmest 3 hours of church I've had all year was preluded by so much frustration.
I can't tell you how many times I have arrived at church on the brink of a meltdown. Frustrated and stressed and ready to just give up. Because getting 6 kids ready, taking them, and sitting through an hour plus meeting is hard. Doing it by myself is insanity. Wrestling with a class full of 3 to 4 year olds for the next couple of hours makes it harder. And EVERY time I feel close to breaking something happens. A kind word, an offered help, or a peaceful meeting. I am continually reminded that God knows my struggle by the tender mercies He shows.