A CD with her favorite praise music played as Emily Hartly drove toward the church. She hoped the music would help to improve her mood. For quite a while, the conflicted feelings about this weekly Bible study had gnawed at her. This particular morning, she was feeling very negative about it. There were so many places she would rather be than sitting in the Davis living room.
Yet as the wife of the youth pastor, Emily almost felt she was required to attend the study. The study itself wasn’t much of a problem. Emily genuinely enjoyed reading the book of James and discussing it with the other women. It was good to get the input and insights of women who had been a part of the church so much longer than Emily herself had been.
That is where the problem came in. The women who attended this weekly Bible study had all been in the church longer than Emily had been. Some had been in the church longer than the 32 years Emily had been on the planet. She felt out of place with them. Often, she felt like it was her husband’s position on the Faith Community Church staff that allowed the other women to even tolerate her presence. If there was just one other woman in the study near to Emily’s age, she would feel so much better about coming.
“Oh, Lord, show me what to do,” Emily prayed as she turned into the church parking lot. “If I’m supposed to be at this study, please give me a clear sign.”
It was not just the Bible study that Emily was concerned with. The problems within the church itself had weighed on her mind for quite some time. Though she kept telling herself to leave it all in God’s hands, Emily found herself in a near constant state of worry about finances. She and Shane had felt strongly that what God wanted was for Emily to be home with their children. But now with the worries about whether Shane would get his weekly paycheck from Faith made her rethink that. She loved being home with Cameron and Candace, and hated the idea of putting them into daycare. Yet she was couldn’t help wondering if having a job would be more beneficial to the family.
Shane told her not to worry about it. He had a job outside the church, and that paycheck was steady enough to make up anything that the youth pastor job didn’t bring in. He didn’t want Emily working, not while Cameron and Candace were so young and needed their mother at home.
Still, Emily felt there was something more she should be doing for her family.
There was an unfamiliar car in the church lot. Emily pulled to a stop in the spot beside it. She got out of her car and walked around to the other side to get out the things she had brought with her, all the while wondering who the car belonged to. She balanced the large black bag that Emily used as purse and diaper bag on her shoulder, her Bible on top of the wicker basket containing the muffins she’d made that morning, gripped the handles of the basket tightly, and closed the car door with a hip shove. She shoved the door a little too hard and nearly lost her balance. Emily was glad no one was around to see her nearly stumble to the ground.
As she made her way slowly up the walkway toward the parsonage, Emily noticed a woman on the swing set. She smiled half wishing she could join her. Swinging was a time tested stress reliever. At least someone was taking advantage of it, even if Emily still didn’t recognize the woman.
The closer she came, the more Emily felt her prayers for a sign from God had been answered. If she was not mistaken, that was Abby, the young woman who had joined Emily’s Sunday school class the week before. She’d been very quiet, for the most part. But when she spoke up, Emily was blown away with the insight Abby had into Christ and the material they were studying. She found herself wanting to know more about Abby. Maybe this was her chance.
“Oh, hello there!”she called out. Emily wanted to wave, but the load she was carrying made that impossible. Instead she smiled and said, “It is so good to see you. I was really hoping you would make it.”
“I was a little unsure at first,” Abby said slowly. “I didn’t want to intrude or anything.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Emily said. “The more the merrier.”
“Can I help you with that?” Abby asked.
“If you could just take the Bible,” she answered. “It looks like you are already carrying enough of a load without taking on mine. Your due date must be coming up.”
“Just a month and a half away,” Abby said.
“Is this your first?”
“Oh, I remember that excitement. Shane, my husband, got more nervous the closer we came to the due date with our first one. When I went into labor, he actually asked if there was a way to stop it because he was not ready yet.”
“I’m ready to have her now. I don’t want to be pregnant a moment longer than necessary. Ugh.” Emily watched as Abby rubbed her belly. “Why do some women do this more than once?”
“Oh, when you look at the baby’s face,” Emily said, “you will understand. I won’t say you forget the pain—I never did!—but it will all be worth it to be able to cuddle that precious little one.”
“I hope you are right,” Abby said. She took the Bible from Emily and the two walked together toward the parsonage. “But I still don’t think I will be having another any time soon.”
Before they reached the back door, it opened wide. Lorna Davis filled the doorway, her hands on her hips. Emily noticed the smile on her face, and knew it was forced. That was the look Lorna gave to anyone who had offended her, when she was trying to hide her offense. Emily wondered what she had done to earn the look this time.