And so naturally, I learn something from her every day.
1. Slow down: Three-year-olds can move like lightning when they want to…but usually they’d prefer to take their time. I match my steps to hers, so that she can keep up. I stop whatever I’m doing to see what she’s made. I put my agenda aside when she is hurt. It is an exercise in condescension…I stoop to her level, to meet her needs. And I think about God stooping to earth, meeting us where we are, taking time to listen and to care.
At night she often falls asleep on my lap. Rocking her as she twitches and snuffles in sleep is so sweet. She is utterly vulnerable, and completely trusting. She knows I have her and won’t let her fall. As her breathing slows, so does my own. I rock and hum and enjoy the peace of a sleeping child. Other duties can wait.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:1
2. Ask permission: She doesn’t always need me to help her with her shoes and socks. She can brush her own teeth. She can get herself a snack. But she knows I want her to check with me first, and so she does. I love her independence. But I appreciate her deference to my authority.
‘Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
3. Look around: There is a delight in life that the little ones know, but the rest of us have forgotten. They view the world with wonder. Lucy loves to look at the bath bubbles on her arms, the milk bubbles in her cup. She squats down to examine a pebble, a bug, a leaf. She spots a tiny plastic bead in the dirt, and it’s a treasure. She loves all living things, including ants, kittens, dogs… and goats.
“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Luke 12:27)
4. Share everything: Even if we have the same ice cream, Lucy asks, “Do you want to try mine?” At night she gives me one of her animals to snuggle. She finds a gel pen–“Did you buy that for me and you to share? Oh, fank you, Mama!!”
“The Earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness”…yet He shares its beauty and bounty with everyone, whether they acknowledge the Giver or the gifts. When I recognize that God’s daily blessings are a grace to me, and express thanks, the gifts are that much sweeter.
“Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:6-7)
5. Ask for help: Lucy is at an age where she teeters between independence and neediness. Sometimes I think she asks for help with something just for the reassurance of our touch. And I’m learning that it thrills her when I ask for her help. She loves to help feed the dogs, and set the table for dinner.
When I’m cooking, her constant cry is, “Wait for me!” “Let me see, too!” She frantically moves a stool closer and clambers up, afraid she’ll miss something important. “Can I do that?” “Let me help!” “Is it my turn?” are the perennial questions I hear. And I find that if I am patient, I can find a way for her to help, and we both enjoy the task more.
God has asked for my help, too…He invites all His children to help Him in His work, even if He could have accomplished the same tasks better by Himself.
“God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are.” (Ephesians 2:10)
I know I learned this when parenting her daddy and her uncle. But now I am realizing afresh that it is in parenting (or grandparenting) that we truly learn about God’s love for His children. That love is unconditional, and sacrificial. It delights and encourages. It can be disappointed and saddened, but it never gives up.
“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:11)
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
“He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.” (Psalm 103:12-14)