Sunday Morning

By Olga Bulgakova-Petrenko

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And again, thou shalt not be proud in thy heart (D&C 42:40).

Natasha was awakened by the bird’s singing. When she opened her eyes, the room was full of light. Outside, a sparrow sat on the little board Dad had put up as a feeder for birds. The sparrow spread its feathers and cleaned them, singing, “Chik-chirik-chik!” as if to say, “Don’t you see what a beautiful morning it is? How warm the sun is!”

Natasha felt happy, as if it were a holiday. Then she saw her new white dress with pink ruffles and smiled. Of course! It is a special day! It’s Sunday, and we are going to Church, she thought.

Natasha’s parents had recently been baptized, and next year she would turn eight and could be baptized herself. She loved going to church. Everybody there was friendly. She had already learned how to read the hymns and had memorized her favorites. She loved to sing them with Mom or when she was home alone.

Today Mom’s friend Valya was going to be baptized. That was why Mom had made the beautiful new dress for Natasha. “We will all congratulate Valya, and you will give her flowers. It is going to be a real celebration!” Mom had said when they purchased some beautiful blooms the day before. She was as excited as if the flowers were for her.

The door slowly opened, and Mom looked into the room. “You are not asleep?” she asked quietly.

“A bird woke me up!” Natasha said and laughed.

“What a beautiful day!” Mom turned to Natasha. “What shall we do now?”

“Let’s pray!” Natasha said happily, rolling out of bed.

They knelt, and Mom prayed out loud, Natasha silently repeating every word after her. Mom thanked Heavenly Father for the beautiful morning, for His love, and for the scriptures, and she asked for protection for Dad, who was out of town on business.

After they prayed, they read the scriptures together. Then, while Natasha washed up, Mom made hot chocolate. They never hurried on Sunday mornings. From their first Sunday as members, they had followed a plan Mom had thought of to make Sundays special: “Let’s all wake up a little early, enjoy slowly getting ready, then walk to church. We need no more than twenty minutes to get there.” Natasha always liked the walks to and from church. It was a time to talk about their blessings and the gospel.

Now, standing in front of the mirror, Natasha looked at herself in the beautiful dress and white knee-high socks with pink bows that were a present from Dad. Her shoes matched the pink borders on her dress. Everything looked perfect. “I look like I’m ready to go to a ball,” she giggled as she twirled around.

Mom handed her the flowers for Valya, and Natasha looked like a girl on a postcard. It was the prettiest dress she had had for a long time. Mom was also in a pretty white blouse and a full skirt. What a perfect day this would be!

They left their apartment, and while Mom was locking the door, Natasha saw her friend Sveta on the stairs, a new kitten in her hands.

“Oh, he’s so cute!” exclaimed Natasha.

“Do you want to see him jump?” Sveta asked. “Watch!” She quickly set the kitten down and dragged a scrap of material with a string tied to it in front of the kitten. “This is his ‘mouse.’”

The kitten jumped up and started hilariously chasing the ‘mouse.’ Sveta barely had time to pull it away from him. All of a sudden the ‘mouse’ was on Natasha’s dress. The kitten jumped up to get it, but he couldn’t hold on, so he slid down one of Natasha’s white socks and scrunched it up.

Sveta laughed happily, and so did Natasha. But as Natasha pulled up her sock, all the laughter stopped. There was a big run in it!

Natasha looked at Mom with tears in her eyes. Sveta mumbled an apology, then quickly picked up the kitten and took off down the stairs.

“Please don’t be sad because of such a little thing,” Mom said as she unlocked the door. “We’ll find something just as good for you to wear.” She quickly found another pair of white socks in Natasha’s drawer. “These will look fine with your dress.”

Natasha quickly changed, and they left again.

“It rained a little during the night,” Mom said, pointing to the small puddles on the pavement. She took a deep breath. “The air smells good, don’t you agree?”

Natasha also took a deep breath, and agreed. The beautiful day put her back in a good mood.

By the time they got to the corner, Natasha was singing. Then a young man on a motorcycle sped by, hitting a muddy puddle in front of them and splashing it on her face and dress. She heard her mom say, “Don’t open your eyes, Natasha, until I wipe them off for you.”

When Natasha opened her eyes and saw muddy water dripping off her dress, she didn’t want to believe it, so she closed her eyes again. “Why, Mom? Why? We prayed and we read the scriptures and we wanted this to be a perfect day for Valya’s baptism. Why is everything going wrong? Doesn’t Heavenly Father love us?”

Mom quickly put her finger up to Natasha’s lips. “Please don’t think that.” She knelt beside her daughter. “Prayer is not like money that you pay at the store and right then get something for yourself. Sometimes we don’t know why things happen, but usually we can use what happens to us to learn how to be more like our Heavenly Father.”

“It’s his fault!” Natasha angrily looked in the direction the motorcyclist had gone.

“I hope that he didn’t do it on purpose. Look—the puddle is very small. Who would have known that it is deep? Either way, we need to forgive him and go on. If we hurry home and change, we won’t be late to the meeting.” She smiled and took Natasha’s hand, and they ran home.

Mom had to change into another skirt and blouse too. Natasha put on a blue dress with small white flowers and plain blue socks.

Mom gently rinsed off the bouquet of flowers in the shower: “Look—the flowers got even prettier!” Mom smiled happily, as if the accident were a blessing.

Natasha also smiled and thought how great it was that she has such a good and kind mom. They ran to the trolley and made it to the meeting on time.

As they started to sing the first hymn, Natasha forgot all her problems. In front of her sat a thin, pale girl named Oksana, who was often ill. Natasha knew that Oksana’s life was hard. She lived with a little brother, who was also often sick, and their elderly grandma. Mom had given them a lot of her and Natasha’s clothes and, when she could afford it, bought them groceries too.

Natasha saw that Oksana’s dress was very old. It had been worn out in the sun so much that the designs on the shoulders had all faded away, and next to the collar was a carefully sewn-on patch. Natasha looked at her own dress. Even though she wasn’t wearing her new dress, she was very well-dressed compared to Oksana. Suddenly Natasha felt uncomfortable and her cheeks became hot. She thought of how ungrateful she had been for all the clothes she had. And she knew that she would have felt really uncomfortable around Oksana, who had so little, if she’d worn her new, white dress.

After sacrament meeting, Natasha quietly whispered to Mom, “Do you remember when you sewed my white dress, you said there would be enough material left for another one? Could we make a dress for Oksana?”

“Good thinking.” Mom quietly kissed Natasha’s cheek. “There’s even some pink ribbon left, but we will talk about it at home, OK?”

Natasha couldn’t answer. Her throat got all tight and her chest got really warm, so she could only nod.

For Primary, all the children went into another room with Sister Melikovná. They had a lesson, then sang hymns, drew, and learned a poem for family home evening.

After church was the baptismal service for Valya. Mom gave a talk about being grateful for the Church and the blessing it was in her life. Natasha realized that she didn’t need to be wearing a beautiful dress in order for a baptismal service to be perfect. She only needed to have a happy and grateful heart.

Illustrated by Shauna Mooney Kawasaki