Blurb: (BASED ON THE OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED IN THE SHOE) Clare Snyder’s husband died three years ago, leaving her with six boys, ages seven and under. The four youngest are quadruplets. When the new assistant pastor, Drew Young, tells her to get her husband to discipline her children, she knows she’s not welcome at the church. He finds out about her situation and tries to help her, but helping someone get past their grief to live again is harder to do than either of them had expected. Finding a heart of peace can only be accomplished by realizing God’s in control and life doesn’t have to be lived in the past.
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Five of Clare Snyder's six sons took off after the church service, running with lollipops in their mouths.
"No!" she yelled. "Someone will get hurt! Stop!"
The rest of the congregation turned and stared, not even offering to help when her children were in danger. The place was crowded, too, because of all the people visiting for the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
With her fingers still wrapped around her youngest son's hand, she dodged the rest of the people in the aisle. One of her quadruplets, Kirk, approached Pastor Frank Oldfield and a good-looking younger man who were shaking hands.
When the younger man held out his hand with a smile, Kirk pulled the lime lollipop out of his mouth and slapped it right onto the man's palm. "I have to give my offering." The child ran away with a laugh, horrifying Clare.
Pastor Frank laughed, but the younger man stared down at his hand, covered with a wet green gooey lollipop.
"Remember they're all lambs of God," Pastor Frank said loudly enough for everyone to hear. People laughed around them, but Clare was so embarrassed.
The younger man appeared to be stunned as Clare approached him, with her youngest son, Travis, still beside her. "I'm so sorry," she said. "Let me help you." She fished a tissue out of her purse, hoping it was clean. "My son…" Embarrassed, she bit her lips and dug the lollipop off the good-looking man's hand, the stickiness leaving a slimy green residue on his palm. "I'm just so sorry."
"Bye, Mom," Brent said from behind her. At almost six years old, he seemed too grown up for his own good.
"He's yours, too?" The young man pointed at Brent. "How many kids do you have? They all look just like you with your blonde hair and blue eyes. It's almost like they're mini-clones."
He was judging her and she didn't want to give him more of an opportunity. "I'm sorry Kirk gave you his lollipop. I'll have him come back and apologize. He knows better than that."
The man, with slightly curly dark brown hair and very blue eyes, clenched his jaw while his lips formed a thin line in cruel judgment. "Where's his father? You'd think he'd tell him that's not right and round up your kids for you."
Clare didn't know what to say. "He's not here." She lowered her head. "I'm really sorry. We'll just go." Where would she go to church now? There weren't many churches in the small town of Oakville, Kansas and these kids needed direction in life.
"Stay here." The young man glanced toward Pastor Frank. "I'll be back."
Pastor Frank chuckled. "Wash your hand with soap."
"I will. Eventually." He walked off and Clare stood still, watching him leave.
"I'm so sorry," she said to Pastor Frank. He was balding, with gray hair, glasses, and brown eyes. "We won't be back to cause you any more embarrassment."
"Embarrassment?" He smiled and took her hand. "Don't you worry. Pastor Young will be fine. He needs to learn how to handle the entire flock, from the oldest to the youngest."
"Pastor?" She turned her head and looked for the man, but the crowd blocked her view as people caught up on gossip. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been able to talk to adults alone.
"Yes." Pastor Frank interrupted her thoughts. "We're thinking of hiring him as the new assistant pastor so I can retire."
Clare felt her eyebrows lift as she turned her attention toward him. "Retire?" It really was time to find a new church. Maybe she could travel the whole way to Topeka to church.
"Yes. It's time." He nodded toward the lobby. "He'd be a good one to teach your kids a few things."
He said it as if she wasn't doing her job already, making her bristle. She hated being judged.
Heavy anger welled in her chest, making her snort out her breath. "I can handle my children by myself, thank you." Clare stomped off toward the lobby. She rounded up child by child, and before long, she had five of the six kids standing against the wall. Only Kirk was missing.
Scanning the crowd, she finally saw Pastor Young giving Kirk a good talking to, wagging his finger in Kirk's face. The child looked terrified, and Clare could only imagine what was going through the young boy's head. No, they'd never come back here. She'd rather have church at home than deal with a mean pastor, since Pastor Frank was retiring.
"Stay here," she said to the five boys. "Mason, make sure." Mason was the oldest, at seven, then Brent, who was five. After that came the four-year-old quadruplets, Christopher, Kirk, Jacob, and finally Travis, who was deaf.
"Yeah, Mom," Mason said. "I'll sit on 'em." He turned to Travis and signed a few things to him, but Clare didn't have time to watch. She was on a mission.
She pushed up the sleeves on her old green dress and stomped toward the man talking to her son.
"Just remember, Kirk," the young man said. "God loves everyone and wants us to treat others how we want to be treated. You disrespect people when you do mean things to them. Maybe you should work for the church to pay off what you did to my hand."
"He's four!" Clare said, walking up to the man. "Four years old. He can't work for the church at four. He won't understand it."
The man spun toward her, his eyes narrowed and his jaw set. "Oh, yes he will." From his tone and his reddening cheeks, he was more than angry. "Maybe you and your absent husband aren't giving him the discipline he needs at home?"
Clare wasn't sure what to say, not sure if she was angry or just downright sad. Tears burned behind her eyelids, but she couldn't show this man she was weak. She wasn't about to tell him her husband was more absent than he'd guess, because he'd never understand how tough it was.
While grabbing Kirk's arm, she glared at the man in front of her, deciding anger was her best weapon. "We won't be back." Her voice was lowered and she couldn't wait to tell this guy off. "I thought the church would be supportive, but I see no one will help me. I'm on my own, even shunned by so-called Christians." She turned and walked away, the tears filling her eyes. "Come on boys," she said to her line of children along the wall. "Get your coats and we'll go home."
The boys ran to the coatroom then returned to the door. Clare didn't have a good coat for herself, but it didn't matter. She'd just run to the car, get inside, and crank up the heat, if the van heater worked.
They each held hands, with her standing in the center, because it was the only way she could take her crew to her car. They walked outside into the cold mid-November air to her rusted out dark green nine-seater van. After unlocking the doors, she helped each of the kids inside, buckling them into their seats. It was easier when they were babies, because she could put them all into one huge stroller. But now, they were growing up and she couldn't handle them by herself anymore.
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