I found her in the church nursery, next to the toy bin. Her little hands gripped the edge of a rocking chair. She looked at me, eyes pooled with disappointment.
“Honey. What’s wrong?”
But I didn’t need to ask the question. I knew.
I pulled the door shut behind me, muffling the sounds of women gathering around tables — tables where my daughter had arranged the china, sugar cubes, tea cups, napkins.
She and a friend had planned a tea party as a fund-raiser for a mission in Haiti. They called it a “Hai-Tea.”
They had been preparing for weeks, taping posters to our church doors, standing up in front of the whole congregation to invite guests, publishing notices in the church bulletin:
“Hai-Tea Party — All girls — ages 1 to 100 — are invited to attend a “Hai-Tea Party” on Saturday, Dec. 17. We will be taking a free-will offering, with 100 percent of the money going toward Mission-Haiti.”
They asked church ladies to bring egg casseroles and muffins. They even arranged entertainment: an 8-year-old soloist, a 10-year-old pianist and a poetry reading by my daughter.
And they had done what every devoted disciple does before doing God’s work in the world: They prayed.
They set places for more than 30 women. But she’d counted, and that’s why she quietly stepped into the nursery before the event began: to hide her tears amongst the Fisher Price toys. Only 13 women and four little girls had come.
I knelt beside her, putting my hands on both of her knees. “It’s OK. It’s not about numbers.”
I groped for words, and on the inside, I scolded myself. I had miscalculated, too. Why had I suggested she hold her tea party during the Christmas season, busiest time of the year?
My heart broke to see hers splitting open.
“How will we ever raise $500?” She asked, sniffling. She dropped her head into her hands. “That’s what I’ve prayed for, Mom. Five-hundred dollars.”
I swallowed hard before I said what I needed to say. I knew there was no way she could reach her goal. I couldn’t bear to see her discounting her efforts as failure, or to watch as she accused God for being an unwilling participant in her well-intentioned prayer. Not yet anyway. She’s just a child. Dear God, just a child.
Before I spoke, I prayed a silent prayer of confession: “Father, I’m sorry for my lack of faith.”
Then I spoke out loud: “Sweetie, You’ve set your goal really, really high, you know? Maybe a more reasonable goal?”
She crossed her arms over her chest, and widened her eyes with surprise. “No-oooo, Mom. It’s $500. That was my prayer.”
“But, honey …” Again, I asked her to reconsider. Again, a refusal.
I had said enough. I took her by the hand, and together we walked out of the nursery.
Lydia stood to welcome her guests, emotion tucked behind poise and a podium. She told the women about the free-will offering, pointing out manila envelopes in the middle of each table. And then, she announced her fundraising goal for the event: $350.
I sighed my relief, letting it out in one long breath. Somewhere between the nursery and the podium, she’d readjusted her high-flying goal.
She sat down next to me, and I patted her back. We ate eggs, and drank Earl Grey and, one at a time, all of us told stories of our favorite childhood dolls — just as Lydia had instructed. We watched as people slipped checks and dollar bills into the envelopes — but that didn’t seem to matter so much anymore, with all the laughter and storytelling.
She turned to me, eyes sparkling. “This is the best party ever, Mommy.”
Yes, yes, it was a great party, I told her.
Lydia rose to the podium again to read her poetry. Her last line: “Look around the room: You are the answer to my prayer.”
We closed the event with Christmas carols. Lydia and her friend gathered up the envelopes, and the money-counting began.
I watched. I prayed.
I noticed right away that several of the checks were large. And the dollar bills I’d seen stuffed into envelopes? They were actually 20s. I held my breath.
Another silent prayer: “Please, God. Let them reach $350.”
The tally quickly rose to $350.
Then to $400.
And then, just like that, the girls slapped down the last of the bills onto the table.
The final tally: $560.
Lydia looked at me, eyes wide with wonder at a God who is in the habit of doing immeasurably more. Immeasurably more.
She didn’t say what I thought she’d say. She didn’t say this: “I told you so, Mom.”
Instead, she and her friend grabbed each others’ hands, ran to the altar, and knelt down, while giggling and thanking the God whose wonders depend not on a mother’s simple understanding of what faith can do.
Have you come by to participate in this Wednesday’s God-Bumps & God-Incidences? I’m so glad you’re here.
1 — Write your story.
2 — Add a community button (found here) to your post.
3 — Come back here to link the direct URL from your post on this page (add it to the linky below.)
You are invited to share any life moment — big or small — in which you sense God at work. Together, we are opening our soul-eyes to see the God-incidences unfolding, and the ”God-bumps” growing.
Grace and peace to you, as you sense Jesus in your midst, my friend …