I was feeling pretty smug Sunday morning. Everything was ready to go for church. And this was one of the busiest Sundays in recent memory, so that was no small feat! I even had a check list written out to make sure all would go well with nothing forgotten.
Pot of chili? Check. Gift bags for kids at the soup kitchen? Check. Treats for guests at the soup kitchen? Check. Donation for the food pantry? Check. Clarinet for daughter to practice for Christmas Eve? Check. Kids dressed and ready to go to practice for Christmas play (which was happening during service)? Not quite...
Our church has a very liberal dress code. Folks in suits and ties mingle happily with others in jeans. It is one of the things I love about our church. I am also pretty liberal in what I let the kids wear. If it passes the modesty codes and makes it into our house, it is generally good to go. But today was the Christmas play...in front of everyone...and my daughter was dressed in long gym pants and a stained (but clean, she insisted) sweatshirt? Even I draw the line at that outfit. She would be embarrassing herself and us.
This is where the wheels came off the cart of my smooth morning.
Off went the fireworks, as I proposed a number of different outfits. She was not interested. I finally landed on what had to be a winner--- the new sweater bought for the band concert that was cancelled. The new sweater she promised me she would wear often when we bought it just last week. What was not to love about it paired with her black dress pants? Apparently this vicious attack on her personal freedom of expression was not to love.
It took my arguments followed by her dad's arguments to get her in the approved outfit and out to the van. I was so annoyed and frustrated. She was so annoyed and frustrated. The boys were just trying to stay out of the line of fire.
As I drove to church, I fumed. I just wanted to drop the whole kit and caboodle off at our church and leave. I could probably even make it to another service in Lexington. Fat chance I would be able to get in the mood to praise God at my church today. I would probably get a lot more out of a service somewhere else where I wasn't expected to help with half-a-dozen things and manage snarly children. Humph!
When we got to church we unloaded. I continued to fume, not meeting anyone else's eye contact, and plotting an exit strategy. Then I heard my own words float up in my head, "If you would spend more time thinking about others instead of yourself, you might just be a happier person." This is one of my favorite lectures to give to the kids. It scores high on both content and frequency in delivery.
I had to acknowlege I was having my own personal hissy fit. I was only thinking about me and others' opinion of me. In a moment of grace, I decided to heed my own lecture, to think about others, to stay at church, and to pitch in with the work to be done. And in the process all the anger melted away.
To see so many people working hard to do nice things for others was inspiring. Our church was buzzing with activity this morning- people bringing in donations, others putting together a chili lunch to raise money to send kids to camp, children practicing for the Christmas play, folks putting together bags of gifts for soup kitchen guests and planning how to do an even better job next year, and one of our oldest members (92 and at church every Sunday!) secretly giving parents of small children a copy of a beautiful "Letter from Santa" that he had written for his own son years and years ago. When all that kindness washes over you, you can only be lifted up. God put the wheels back on the cart. I was ready in every way to help out and to be fully present in our church service.
And then God pulled a little joke. My daughter volunteered to be an acolyte--- which meant her clothes were completely covered by a robe. My husband says it was her way of winning the clothing battle. But I think it was God's way of reminding me that there is no need to get into a huff when I hit a bump in the road or find myself squaring off with one of the kids. I just have to STOP and ask for help. God always puts the wheels back on when they fall off.