We're overdue for a bit of humor at Embrace the Grace. So, I asked permission to share this story from Meagan's baby file.
Actually since she was only five months old when it happened, the embarrassment is all mine - not hers. But we've made it a rule in our family to never tell stories without permission.
You see, I grew up as a preacher's kid, too. The most dreaded sentence to hear from my father was, "The other day at our house....." My siblings and I would immediately freeze then start sweating profusely until we knew what story he was telling. Whew!
Frank and I made a pact with our crew that we wouldn't do that to them.
It was the spring of 1988. We were in the midst of our annual Easter production with our home church in Asheville, NC. Our cast and crew, more than 200 volunteers, all gave hundreds of hours each year. And with ten performances over two weeks, we celebrated the greatest story ever told with thousands in attendance.
Needless to say, it was equal parts exhilaration and exhaustion.
We had an amazing team led by Rita and Darlene ministering to the babies and children of the cast. (Lots of young families participating in any church event means lots of opportunities for childcare. Amen?!) They worked long hours right alongside the rest of us and we were SO appreciative.
As directors, Frank and I encouraged everyone to be considerate of the nursery/children's workers by promptly collecting their children after performances and during breaks. We also tried to model that with our own tribe of girls.
Kristin (5) was actually in the play. Joy (2 1/2) and Meagan just knew it as a time of being squeezed and loved on by surrogate moms. Because I was still nursing, Meagan would often accompany me to meetings.
She contentedly endured many "meals" with her head covered and her mom talking fast. "Wide Open" best describes our lives during those Easter seasons.
The team meal served between performances had just ended along with a quick meeting with our lighting crew. Before heading into our pre-service prayer time I wanted to stop by the nursery and check on Meagan.
Of course, you NEVER let your nursery child actually SEE you peeking through the half-door entry. Even babies contentedly playing will automatically melt into wailing if they spot mom, dad or a grandparent peeking at the door.
(Can I get an "AMEN!" from the nursery workers reading this?)
So I carefully stood back and surveyed all the bouncey chairs and cribs but didn't spot my baby. It took only a moment to catch the eye of the vigilant nursery attendant. I smiled and mouthed, "Where's Meagan?" She gave a startled look my way then erupted in her signature laugh, "Oh, Sheri! You're so funny!"
I stepped back further into the hallway, surprised by her response. But then it dawned on me, they had obviously taken Meagan to the section where her sisters were being cared for. Even as a five year old, Kristin had a great way of calming her baby sister.
A glance at my watch told me to hurry. Not much time to get all the way downstairs; check on my babies; then make it back in order to lead the prayer time.
Hurrying down the staircase. I was distracted by greeting arriving guests and responding to other cast members dashing by. When I hit the doorway of the older children's play area, I wasn't as concerned about being discreet. I just needed to confirm that Meagan was settled near her sister then get back upstairs.
My eyes swept the room.
Okay good, there's Joy. And there's Kristin. But Meagan was NO WHERE to be seen. I checked the arms of each worker. I looked into each corner but my baby was not there!
One of the workers glanced up and I called across the room rather intensely, "I don't see Meagan! You guys don't have her?!" I asked hoping against hope.
The worker gave me the same puzzled expression as the nursery attendant, "Sheri, you're such a cut up!" Her response made no sense at all. Obviously, these people had been serving too long. I turned and rushed back out the door.
One thing was for sure, my baby was missing and we were getting ready to lock down the entire church facility until I could locate her.
My heart was pounding and my high heels clicked loudly on the tiles as I started running toward the stairs. My mind whirled with possibilities - none of them pleasing.
Frank would know what to do. I ran a little faster.
Just as I reached the first landing, the worker who had been calling my name and running after me, grabbed my arm. I whirled around to confront this lady who was trying to slow me down.
"Let me go! I've got to find Meagan!" Panic was setting in and my eyes had filled with tears.
"SHERI!" she was yelling now. "Sheri stop! Meagan is On Your HIP!"
"She's where?" My voice trailed off as I looked down and realized, I had indeed been running all over the church while Meagan contentedly bobbed along beside me.
I know! I KNOW!
I can hear you howling with laughter and cackling with disbelief, "No Way! You did not lose your baby on your own hip! That's impossible!"
Before you judge me too harshly, please consider this.....all my little girls were born before the oldest turned 5. I had lived for five years with some baby almost perpetually riding around on my left hip. That way my right hand was free for stirring spaghetti, holding the telephone, grabbing siblings before they could fall.......
(If you're left-handed, your baby most likely rode on your right hip. Women all around the world are nodding with agreement and understanding.)
For many years, this true story has been my inroad for the hearts of women attending conferences where I speak. I open by telling about losing my child on my own hip and suddenly women love me.
I know their line of thinking. "I left so many things undone before coming to this retreat. I've been feeling like an absolute failure as a mom. But at least I never lost one of my kids on my own hip!"
It's okay. I'm happy to be a measure against which they can be encouraged about their own parenting - it is the toughest job in the world, you know.
That was the end of this story until last month......
Most of you know Meagan is now a wonderful little mommy with two of my six perfect grandchildren. She also nannies for two infants. Her life is full and she is constantly on the move caring for her charges.
She called one evening recently and said, "Well, mom! You'll be glad to hear that history has repeated itself."
"What are you talking about?" I asked, settling in to hear her story.
It seems she and Joy had met for lunch. They were loading all the children into their carseats when suddenly Meagan couldn't find Madi. She started panicking because she just knew Madi had most likely stepped back out into the busy parking lot.
"Joy!" she screamed. "Where's Madison?!"
Joy started laughing and said, "Well, 'Mom!' She's on your hip!"
Meagan looked down and sure enough, Madi was looking back at her with the innocent expression of total contentment.
The two sisters stood in the parking lot and laughed until they cried!
I have no spiritual conclusion for this except the scripture promise that our Heavenly Father will never lose or forget us - our names are engraved on His hands. I'm thankful for that, aren't you?!
(Any stories from your own parenting/baby days that would make us smile? We'd love to hear about them in the comment section.)