At church this past week, I was given the opportunity to deliver some encouraging words to women on Mother’s Day. I had taken a couple of days and consulted with a few peers and figured out exactly what I wanted to say during the three to five minutes I would be on stage. Talking about anything and everything comes natural to me. However, talking specifics does not. So, I find it much more challenging to speak for five minutes than for fifty. And because communicating a clear message in a short amount of time requires precise, ordered and efficient wording, I have to write down exactly what to say and then memorize what I wrote.
Having grown up attending Sunday School and AWANAs each week and private Christian schools through tenth grade, I was consistently asked to memorize verses with the promise of being rewarded lucratively with candy or trinkets. And because I am part raccoon, I always rose to the challenge. So, memorizing a one-page script is not new to me. And yet, delivering words from memory is so much more anxiety provoking than following a general outline.
What if I forget and have to look at my paper and can’t find where I left off and I repeat myself or skip entire sections and stand there turning red and people stare with gaping mouths wondering what I’m going to do next?
So, to limit the possibilities of that nightmare becoming reality, I decided to get up early and walk the two miles to church so that I could have the time and fresh air to rehearse what I needed to say. Seattle in the spring is beautiful and chaotic. You never know from one day to the next whether you will be wearing your winter parka, a scarf and gloves like I did last week, or if you will be scrounging around for an outfit with the least amount of material so you can endure the eighty-degree heat and no air conditioning, like I did yesterday. While I knew that it was going to be sunny on Mother’s Day, I also left early enough in the morning that I needed my scarf and jacket to cover over my thin dress and keep me warm.
The early morning stroll provided just what I needed. I was getting Vitamin D, my endorphins were flowing, my memory felt crisp and sharp. I walked a little faster than I planned and got to church a few minutes early. So, I took one final lap around the block to practice one more time. When I came around the corner and was then facing the sun, I finally realized that I needed to take off my scarf and jacket. After I took off my scarf and put it in my purse, I unzipped my jacket to find sweat had pooled under the scarf on my chest and seeped into my V-necked dress. There was a U-shaped dark spot right where the wrap of the dress met. My zen-like state that I had just experienced was evaporated in an instant. O, how I wish the sweat would have done the same thing.
I snuck into church unnoticed since it was still early and rushed to the restroom that is more like your bathroom at home than a public restroom. I shut and locked the door and looked in the mirror. To my horror, everywhere I had sweat was darker than the rest of the dress: my armpits, my chest, my back between my shoulders, and above my tailbone. In mere moments, I was supposed to walk in front of a congregation with my back to them and present myself on stage.
Since I was alone in the bathroom, I took off my dress and started waving it in the air. Back and forth, back and forth I was willing it to dry. It was no use, even if it dried it would leave a stain. I quickly called Karl and told him to come to church and bring me another dress! Of course, he was at home getting the kids ready by himself while wrapping Mother’s Day gifts and prepping for our after-church celebration. However, I thought he would still be able to get there before 9:30 AM when the service started. I paced outside (in the shade) trying to keep my backside from being seen and covering my front side with my scarf. Finally, at 9:31 AM, he arrived with a dress in hand.
I scrambled to change as quickly as I could and proceeded to the front of the church to wait. Praise be to sweet Jesus, the worship music gave me enough time to practice my four-square breathing to try and calm myself and get back to the ease I had on my walk. I tried to ground myself in gratitude and praise in order to think straight.
Thankfully, I was so passionate about the message I wanted to communicate that my delivery didn’t betray me. My wardrobe failure didn’t rob me of enthusiasm. Anxiety tried to win, but my heart rose to the challenge. Sweat defeat? Nah…Sweet victory!