With six kids left at home, going to church on Sunday morning often resembles a workout.
As soon as we find our row of seats, the jockeying for position begins. "I put my bulletin on the arm of this chair," says Mary, 13, "because it is my turn to sit by you." ( I admit I do love that my teenage daughter wants to sit by me.)
As the music begins, Silas lets out a squeal. Last time he said a hearty, "Amen!" after the morning prayer, so the squeal is an improvement.
The rest is a Sunday morning ritual, as predictable as our KFC Sunday lunch.
As we stand to sing, Silas reaches for me. "Hold me," he says. I pick him up, his legs dangling down my sides. When the lyrics appear on the screen, Dorothy comes to stand in front of me, taking my free hand and holding it to her cheek. Though the hymn we are singing tells us to "lift up holy hands" my hands are occupied most Sundays.
Today Dorothy was inspired and guided my hand to help her balance as she glided into second position. I quietly chide her, knowing our family is enough of a distraction already.
The special music starts. I am getting over a cold, and the tickle in my throat is persistent. I feel a coughing spell coming and try to find the Tic Tacs in my purse. But every mother knows it is impossible to quietly get a Tic Tac during church. (Why don't they make a rattle proof container?) First Dorothy hears it and in a loud breathy whisper asks, "Can I have a Tic Tac?" Rattle, rattle, rattle. This makes Silas aware of the opportunity, and he, too, asks for a Tic Tac. More rattling, which notifies the rest of the row, as all my kids' hands go out.
After we are seated for the offering, I cross my legs and my foot gets caught in the chair in front of me. It is Rosie's chair, Silas' three year old comrade. She pushes her seat cushion with all her muscle, trying to force it down, unaware of what is stopping her. Finally, I free my foot, certain she and Silas conspired today before church.
Dorothy whispers, once again in her loud, breathy whisper that she needs to use the restroom. I send Mary with her. Silas likes that idea and says he needs to go, too. Captain Fun volunteers to take him.
They return in time for the last song and Silas again asks to be held, so I oblige him. This time, though, he presses his cheek up firmly against mine, giving me fish lips as I sing. This delights him.
As the song concludes, the childcare coordinator asks me if I would be willing to fill in if the volunteer who was scheduled didn't arrive in time for Children's Church. "Of course," I say. It would be a vacation.
She arrives after all, so I send Dorothy and Silas to Children's Church after the last song and settled in for the sermon from the book of Luke.
My pastor quotes Luke 11:13: "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
I am a flawed human, yet I long to give my children every good thing that I can, be it Tic Tacs during the special music or fish lips during a song. How much more does my flawless, perfect Heavenly Father long to give to me?
That revelation was worth the Sunday morning workout.