When my father was a young pastor of a small church, the kind where you sat in wooden pews, and your wife is home sick, he had to be both parent and pastor at the same time. This was well before the days where children’s church was available during the service.
Whole families, of all ages sat through the entire service. What a concept, right? My first five kids stayed in service with us until worship was done. Honestly, It wasn’t easy on Jer or I. “Stand up, sing, sit down, be quiet, stop that.” We really didn’t get to worship much but our children learned how to sit still and be respectful. We switched churches not long after we had our sixth child, Joe. He missed out on learning some of these good skills early on. When I was four or five, there were a few Sundays were my Mom was not present. On those Sundays, Dad would seat us three kids in the front row, right in front of him. I’m the youngest in my family. Losing interest quickly, I would find whatever was around me to play with, sometimes a handkerchief and make up elaborate stories. I’m sure you’re shocked that I didn’t sit there stoically, focused solely on my father’s every word while he preached. There isn’t anything I can remember in those early years about what he spoke from the pulpit…accept for one specific word. My stories took on characters, using the hanky as a prop. I’d whisper to my wrapped-up hand, who was now a princess. I’m sure there were adults glancing my way but I was oblivious to them. Once in a while, I’d catch a stern look from my father and put my hands down in my lap, but it wouldn’t be long before I was back at it and lost in my imaginary world until right in mid-sentence, I’d hear my father’s firm voice, “Stacey!” My head would shoot up as he looked down at me from over his towering podium, his face tense and sometimes a finger pointing my direction. That’s all it took. Humiliated in front of everyone, I stayed quiet for the remainder of the service. I can remember wishing I could slide down out of view of everyone. You would think I would have learned my lesson but, hey, kids will be kids. I can remember it happening on a couple more occasions, each time creating the same feelings. of embarrassment. You might assume I think poorly of my dad for this, but you’d be wrong. He was a father, doing the best he could and one of the most loving, loyal men I have ever known. He’s been gone a long time now but he has shaped my life in so many beautiful ways.