Somewhere in the top 5 days of your child's life (along
with their birth,marriage and maybe a few other things)
is their baptism. You pray for it,anticipate it, and
try to make everything perfect and everybody happy. But,
ah,what we learn from 2 year olds...
Who was it who said "The best laid plans of mice and men,
often go awry..."? He was probably a new father. There
we stood (along with 6 other couples we barely new) in
front of 1000 stone faced, quiet, some half-asleep fellow
church-goers at the very formal First Presybterian Church
of , ready to present our sweet Leigh to the
pastor for her baptism and our affirmation that we plan,
by God's grace, to raise her in the "nurture and admonition
of the Lord." Things seemed so perfect. Both girls had been
great that morning, and we had gotten out of the house
without 1 tear being shed--currently quite an accomplishment
for us. Leigh looked beautiful in the gown her Honey had made
for all the grandkids' baptisms. She was quiet. I handed
her to Dr Duncan and his booming barotone voice proclaimed
her a Child of the Covenant and baptized her in the name of
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Not a peep from
Leigh. As I reached to take her back, I nearly knocked
the baptismal urn over, but the elder caught it. No big
deal--I don't even think anyone besides Anna noticed it.
If that was our biggest problem, we were in good shape.
Leigh let out a little scream while Baby Kellum was being
baptized next, but I quickly got her back to sleep. Way
to go Dad!! Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed
Sara Elizabeth had squirmed her way out of MyMay's lap on
the third row of this massive church and was standing in
the center aisle...but she was quiet. If that's what it
took, we were OK. I turned my attention back to
Dr Duncan and the next thing I heard was all too familiar.
"Noooo!" that little voice cried out as if she was about to
get a bath or have to go inside or get her doll taken away.
Then again, "Nooo!" I glanced over and MyMay was trying to
calm her and get her seated. Sorry, Dr Duncan, my attention
was gone. After another "Nooo", Sara Beth realizes she is
not gonna win this battle with MyMay and she sees her Honey
behind her. So the cry changes to "Honeyyyy!?! Honeyyyy!?!"
as if only she could save her from this terrible injustice.
By this time we're on baby 4 out of 7, and in true Dr Duncan
style, each child is getting his or her own individualized,
excrutiatingly long (at least for me, at this point) prayer.
After more screaming and crying, and the call changing
to "Mommaaa, Mommaaa", Sara Beth breaks away from MyMay's
grasp and runs like she's being chased (and she probably
she really was) through the other couples and infants, past Dr
Duncan and into her Momma's legs. Now crying hysterically,
Anna takes her away from the gathering in the front of the
church to attempt to calm her, but unfortunately, it's way too
late for that. She continues to cry uncontrollably. I can
only imagine the color my face was--I know Anna's was as
red as I have ever seen it. If you could combine the red
face of anger with the pink face of embarassment and get
some kind of dark maroon--that was Anna!!
Dr Duncan has now prayed prayer number 7 of 7, and amazingly
kept his composure. (He confided in me later, that he now knows
why God made him be a junior high coordinator for a few years--
he can handle any distraction!) It's time for that perfect
moment of walking back down the aisle with our little family.
Unfortunately, it's not perfect. Sara Beth is still screaming!
While the other 6 couples made their way back down (all very
quietly, I might add), we did our best to calm her, but we
couldn't. It came our turn and she walked alongside Anna,
still crying, for the first 1/3 of the way. Suddenly and
finally, she realizes that everyone in church is staring
at her and she gets deathly quiet. As we continue
to walk, looks of pity beam from the fellow parents in the
congregation, each of them knowing that that could have been
them, and probably quietly thanking God it wasn't.
Sara Beth is now composed, and we're almost out of there...
but she has to add 1 more thing. As only she can, she looks
up at her mother and says (loud enough for anyone within 20
feet to hear her), "Mommaaa, I don't know where Leigh is?"
"She's right there, baby," Anna whispers. "Yeah, but I don't
know where Daddy is." Anna only sqeezes her hand and hopes
that we can get out of that church before she (that's Anna,
not Sara Beth) breaks down in tears. And yes, we made it.
She was calm now, but I wasn't. As steam visibly rose from
my ears, I yanked her up into my arms and all I could say
was "Sara Elizabeth Henson!! SHHH!!" This of course, set
her off into tears and screams again. Fortunately, First
Pres has very thick sanctuary walls and I think we were safe.
I made sure Anna wasn't in tears and I stormed off to the
nursery with my still screaming 2 year old, as Anna held
the newly babptized (and quiet) Leigh. Then like an angel
sent for me, I bump into my sister-in-law Laura and her 2
year old William, also headed to the nursery. Her face
combined a smile of pity and humor and as she patted me on
the back, I couldn't help but laugh--yes, I was still mad,
but I was laughing.
I not so gently dropped Sara Beth off at the nursery and as
she stood at the doorway still crying, I said "Sara Elizabeth,
GET IN SIDE THAT NURSERY, NOW!" and walked off. If you don't
know FPC, there's a lot of different places you can sit and
still hear the sermon. So Anna and I sat in tiny Hutton Chapel
all alone, as dead faced as we could be listening to Dr Duncan
(as Anna had amazingly held back tears to this point).
And then the message came...it was really only a small part of
a bigger message, but it was what I needed. "Rejoice", he urged
us from Paul's letter to the church at Philippi. I realized,
as mad I as was that this was a time to rejoice. Rejoice in
this family, immediate and extended. Rejoice in our church home.
Rejoice in what we've been given. Rejoice that I have a job I
love. Rejoice even in the screams and cries of a 2 year old
that God uses to show us that our priorities may sometimes be
in the wrong place. Most importantly, rejoice in the salvation
offered through Jesus Christ, the very salvation we must
preach and demonstrate to our children. And rejoice in the
covenant of grace and mercy that Baby Leigh was baptized
If this weren't real life, then you know our day would
have gotten better after hearing this message...but it didn't.
Sara Beth continued to be miserable--she fell, she bumped her
head, she hit another kid with a plastic golf club, she
acted spoiled at times, she even hit her momma. But through
all this, we rejoice in the opportunity to be parents, to
learn from our kids as much as we teach them, and to bring them
up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."