“Dear Jesus, thank you for today. Thank you I lost my first tooth. Thank you I have a good teacher. Thank you I’m in this family. Amen,” prayed my little six-year-old a few nights ago.
“Mommy, will you scratch my back, and sing me a song?” she quietly asked. “I like the one about the river of life because you say ‘splish, splash’ and tickle me.” I scratch, sing, and tickle. We laugh and she asks for another song.
“Can I have some water? Can you put ice and water in my water bottle? I like when the water’s really cold.” With a little sigh, I walk downstairs, fill the pink plastic bottle, and make my way back to her room. “Thanks, Mommy. Can you tell me a story about when you were little? I’ll just drink my water, and you can tell your story.”
“When I was in first grade, we had books that had Mommy’s name in it. Every day I read about Dick, Jane, and their dog Spot.” Sitting up in the darkness my little girl marveled, “Really? There was really a book with your name in it.”
“Sweetheart, you have to go to sleep now. It’s late, and I don’t want you to be tired tomorrow.” “Ok, Mommy. Can you turn on a CD? I love you, Mommy. Will you come back and check on me, just to make sure I’m asleep.” “I’ll check on you. Now go to sleep.” With a kiss goodnight and “I love you,” I slip quietly out of her room.
My husband and I pass in the hall as we change rooms. He prays with each child every night. His strong words offer protection and safety during the night.
I find my son already waiting for me. “Mom, can you get me some water in my water bottle?” “Sure, buddy.” Another trip down the steps, another filled bottle, and a climb up the steps. “Thanks, mom. Can you tell me a story? Tell me a story about war.”
Sitting on the side of his bed I begin my favorite war story. “Your great-grandfather fought in World War I. He grew up in Indian Territory. It’s now called Oklahoma. He was selected to drive an ambulance probably because he grew up on a farm and knew how to drive any kind of machine. He set off on a boat across the Atlantic Ocean where he would fight in France and Germany. He shared an ambulance with a partner named Kirk. They would take turns driving. One night when it was your great-grandfather’s turn to drive, Kirk told him he would take his place. He didn’t give a reason; just jumped into the ambulance and drove off. About an hour later a call came in camp, ‘A man’s down. Kirk’s been shot.’ Kirk died that night, on the night your great grandfather should have driven the ambulance.”
My son’s heard the story before and finishes it for me, “Since he didn’t die that’s why I’m here. God wanted him to live. God is amazing.”
“I love you. Sleep well.” “I love you, Mom. See you in the morning. Leave my door open. I like to see the light from downstairs.”
One more room to visit. A daughter, old enough to have almost adult conversations, waits in the dark for me to come. “Hi, Mom. I already have my water bottle. You know what happened today? Can you scratch my back?” Her words flow in the darkness. Sometimes she can tell me secrets better when she can’t really see me.
We lay side by side talking about our day, things that just popped into her head. “Did you see how God worked?” I ask. “You always have to look for Him. He’ll really surprise you sometimes.”
“One time when I was five years old,” I began. “I was so sad because I didn’t have anyone to play with. My brother and sister were playing with friends, and I was by myself. Well, your Grammy, my mom, had a great idea. She said, ‘Why don’t we ask God to send you a friend?’ Kneeling beside our sofa, Grammy asked Jesus to send a friend. Before we could even stand up, the phone rang. It was my friend Nancy calling to ask me if I could come to her house to play. “God answered our prayer so fast.”
“He will do really great things in your life. You are a beautiful girl. I’m so glad God gave you to me. Goodnight, sweetheart. Sleep well.”
Closing the door behind me, I slowly walk down the steps. A sink full of dishes and piles of laundry wait for me. I still have school forms to complete and papers to organize.
My husband looks up from his computer on the kitchen island, “Are you finished? Is everyone asleep?” “I don’t know about asleep, but they’re all in bed,” I wearily reply.
“It takes a long time, but I love talking with them. I know I could just tell them goodnight, but I would miss out on so much,” I say with my hands plunged in soapy water.
“We’re building bridges to their hearts. Someday when they’re trying to find their way in the world, they will have a path to lead them over the expanse back home,” I pondered.
Building bridges is work, takes years. Sometimes it’s hard when I’m tired, and my children want to hear one more story. It can hurt when they say words in anger they don’t really mean. It’s rewarding when we understand each other. The process is a constant going back to the foundation, my own relationship with Jesus.
God knows about bridge building. Jesus willingly died on cross-shaped bridge so I can be His child. He loved me extravagantly, beyond human reasoning, so He could hold me in His arms. He sacrificed for my good, not His own comfort.
Each day I’m learning to listen more closely to His voice. I’m resting more in Him, and working less in my own strength. He whispers words of love I can share with my children. He gives me wisdom when I don’t have the answers. He quiets my soul when I think I can’t take another step. “Come to Me,” He whispers in a still voice.
At night, in the darkness, I’m the child He wraps in His love. In my heart, he tells me stories of how He created the world, when He walked on water, and when He sent the earthquake to release Paul from prison.
If the Almighty God takes time for me, I will continue to make time for my precious children. If I strain my eyes, I can already see the horizon where my children must walk alone with Jesus. I have today to build a relationship.
Copyright © words and photographs by Jane Carole Stein