Monkey Says The Most Precious Things

Talk of possibly having another baby has been flying around our house for the past few months. Should we be blessed enough to get pregnant again, I’m fine with another girl or a boy. Hubby is definitely ‘Team Boy’ while Monkey has firmly planted herself on ‘Team Girl’. For a while she was excited for a baby brother, but has recently become quite certain she will have a baby sister:

“Can we name my baby sister ‘Mermaid’?” Monkey asked. 

“I don’t think so. Besides, we don’t know if it’s going to be a baby sister or a baby brother. God decides,” I answered.

“God told my heart it was going to be a baby sister,” she told me with absolute conviction.

“And He said it’s alright to name her ‘Mermaid’?” I was skeptical.

“Yes. He told my heart,” she affirmed.

Well, color me happily surprised. Reading a Bible verse every night and saying our prayers together really seems to be affecting my little angel (perhaps not as much as the movie ‘The Little Mermaid’ has affected her, but close enough).
It was at least a month ago when I explained that God always listens to our prayers and He speaks to our hearts. I haven’t really talked about it since, but on many nights we have read this short devotion from Really Woolly Bedtime Prayers by Bonnie Rickner Jensen:


I praise the Lord because he guides me. Even at night, I feel his leading. (Psalm 16:7)

[God] goes ahead of you,

To guide you with His love.

He helps you when you ask Him to,

With wisdom from above.

And when you say your prayers at night

He’s listening –it’s true!

He whispers to your little heart,

I am taking care of you.

~ (RWBP)

Unbreakable

I can still hear you say you will never break the chain ~ Fleetwood Mac The Chain.

At the risk of being labeled a bad mother, I confess that I did not feel joy on the day I brought my newborn daughter home from the hospital. I was grateful and happy to have a healthy baby girl, but I was severely depressed and majorly terrified –overwhelmed with the magnitude of the responsibility I was facing.

My confidence wavered as I tried unsuccessfully to wake a sleeping newborn to nurse. My nerves were shot and my hormones were going haywire. I couldn’t help feeling like a part of me was missing. She wasn’t missing –she was in my arms, but it wasn’t the same, and I mourned the feeling of life moving within me.

Even though I’d anxiously waited for my due date for nine months and longed to hold my baby, I ached with emptiness. Any joy I felt at holding my newborn drowned under the sorrow I felt at losing our physical bond.

Thankfully breastfeeding reestablished the physical connection I needed to move past the ‘post-partum depression’ or ‘baby blues’ I experienced after Monkey was born. Although two weeks after we’d been home, when the remainder of her umbilical cord fell off (the last tangible evidence of our physical connection), I cried –a lot.

When Monkey stopped breastfeeding, the sense of loss and detachment returned, although not as fiercely as before since she clung to me 24/7, or so it seemed at the time. Monkey made it easy to remember she needed me. I was blessed and fortunate enough to be home with her and if we were ever apart, her daddy or grandparents were there to watch her and would fill me in (whether willingly or with endless questioning) on every cute and rotten thing she did.

Last Tuesday Monkey started preschool and for the first time in her life I wasn’t there to observe everything she said and did, nor was I able to wring out every detail from her nursery school teacher. This turned out to be more difficult for me to handle than I had expected. I cried when I left her in her classroom. I cried when I got home. I felt alone. The house seemed so empty and lonely. Something was missing. It was the same feeling I had when I got home from the hospital three years ago, only this time, there was no infant snuggled against my chest. I cried harder. This was it. Our lives had diverged and our bond was gone.

I truly felt too miserable to go for a run, especially since Monkey had been joining me on Tuesdays in the stroller. But when I’m miserable, that’s the perfect time for a run, so out the door I went.

It had been raining and dark clouds hovered overhead. As my body relaxed into the rhythm of running, thoughts about Monkey moved through my mind: how inseparable we’d been for the last three years; how it seemed like the chain of family members that had always linked us together had been cut; imagining there was a chain hanging heavy around my waist, a swinging, severed end banging against my leg as I ran.

Digging deep I searched for something positive. Well, at least the pre-school was at the church and her grandparents were across the hall at choir practice. It was some consolation. As I contemplated the church, I heard God whisper to me, “I am the link in the chain between you that can never be broken.”

I looked at my watch; it was 11:00 A.M. A powerful surge of love and faith revived and strengthened our invisible bond.  I imagined being a fly on the wall of the preschool classroom and hearing Monkey say, “I want ‘bobo’(her security blanket). Where’s my ‘bobo’?”

For the first time since my daughter was born, I understood that we would always be united in Christ and experienced the power of that union.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for comforting me with your words in my time of need. I feel so unworthy, so blessed and so humbled. May I always find time to open myself to Your whispers. Amen.

This story is a perfect illustration of why I run. Running is the only way to silence the obsessive voices in my head, to clear my mind, to open myself to God’s presence. If I’d sat at home feeling sorry for myself, my thoughts would have been raging too loud for God’s whisper to be heard.
***
How do you clear your mind to hear God’s whispers?

 

Making the Most of Running with Monkey

One of the joys of running for me is spending quality time with my daughter. Monkey is three now and joins me in the jogging stroller for two runs a week. Here’s how I make the most out of our running time together:

Pray – Before running I pray that God will keep us safe, help us to run our best, and open our senses to his presence.

Practice God Sightings – I feel closer to God when running; I’m hoping Monkey will someday know the same closeness.

During our runs, I point out God’s wonderful and beautiful creations like the blue sky, fluffy white clouds, flowing water, green grass, fine sand, heavy rocks, tiny pebbles, the variety of creatures like the birds, ducks, geese, groundhogs, squirrels, and turtles. Highlighting all of the different textures, smells, sounds, and sights around us, I say, “God made that.”

Later when I’m making dinner and overhear Monkey say, “God made water or God made macaroni and cheese;” My heart swells and I breathe a prayer of thanksgiving that my efforts made an impression.

Practice running – At various spots along my route, I park the stroller and encourage Monkey to get out and run around with me or on her own, although I don’t push; if she doesn’t want to run, I don’t force her.

There is a track along my route, but Monkey got bored running in circles. (I can’t blame her – five laps and I can’t take it anymore.) Now she likes to run around the pond occasionally chasing geese and pointing out all the neat stuff God made, trying to be like her mommy.

Practice teaching – While running I count how many squirrels we see, how many geese are on the water, and how many laps I do on the track. There are plenty of opportunities to teach counting, colors and shapes.

There are woods and a stream along the route, which provide the opportunity to teach Monkey about nature. This summer she’s learned, among other things, that spiders make webs to catch other bugs to eat; that squirrels eat acorns; that acorns grow on trees; that fish breathe in the water and that turtles can disappear inside their shells.

Pray – I end our runs together just as we began – in prayer. I thank Him for keeping us safe, for speaking to us through His creation, and for the ability to run. I also pray that our time together has nurtured and strengthened my daughter’s faith.

Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you…
Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Deuteronomy 4:1a, 9b (NIV)

***

Previously posted @ The Caffeine Coquette on August 19, 2011

VBS Night 3

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast ~ (Psalm 139:9-10 NIV).


Dear Friends and Readers,

We are half way through our week long Vacation Bible School and I find myself struggling to write with energy and enthusiasm. I had no idea that I would feel so drained and sapped of creativity after only three nights. But it’s totally worth it! Witnessing my daughter and niece discover God’s awesome love is simply amazing.

Without further ado, I give you my observations from Wednesday night:

  • It’s incredible the differences between pre-schoolers going into kindergarten in the fall and pre-schoolers who will attend pre-school for the first time in the fall.
  • Tonight’s Bible story was Jonah. My fellow crew member and I were both impressed when all the children recognized the blue sheet on the floor as ‘water’ during ‘Bible Adventures.’ Once they were told the brown mat was the boat, apparently it was obvious to them all that a blue sheet would be water.
  • My niece ‘Zoey’ became my God Sighting for the day when lying on her stomach beside a little boy, she looked at him and said, “You are so adorable.” And later when we were on our way home, I heard her singing softly, “He’s wild. God is wild about us.” I’ve heard her sing Beyonce’s Single Ladies and the entire soundtrack to The Little Mermaid, but hearing her sing about God for the first time made my own heart sing with joy.
  • Is it possible for a child of 4 to be obsessive compulsive? I’ve witnessed one child go straight to the bathroom and wash her hands every night this week. And every time she passes a hand sanitizing station, she saturates her hands, which is a big no-no for little children.

VBS is draining and can be frustrating at times, but it’s been an incredible learning experience and overall, a total blast! Stay tuned to hear all about tonight’s adventures!

Blessings!

Your friend and blogger,

 

God Sightings

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? ~ (Psalm 139:7 NIV)

Thanks to VBS I now have a term for the process I’ve been practicing with Monkey for the last few months –God Sightings, or illuminating evidence of God’s presence in our lives. I discussed pointing out God’s presence to Monkey during our runs in this earlier post – Running with Monkey. If you remember, she didn’t seem to be impressed at the time.

Fast forward a month after her first night of Vacation Bible School where she learned that God made her and it’s a completely different story! On our run this morning rather than pointing out something and saying, “God made that,” I asked her, “Who made the ducks?” Her answer was immediate: “God made the ducks!” I repeated the same process for practically everything and her answer was always the same and it was always said with excitement.

Tonight at VBS, one of the station leaders asked her “Where did you see God today?” Monkey replied softly, “God made the water.” I practically wept with the pride bursting in my heart. By golly, she got it! There must be something about VBS that helped make the idea click for her.

Group Publishing, Inc. provides the material for our church’s VBS and in the Crew Leader Pocket Guide they note: “The more you incorporate God Sightings into your conversations with kids, the more they’ll ‘get it’.” This has certainly proved true in my experience.

Here are Group’s suggestions for incorporating God Sightings into your day:

Sights –

  • Eat or drink something that God made. Then say, ‘Thanks, God.’
  • Point out something God made that makes you smile.

Sounds –

  • Point out how we think of God when we hear people singing about him.
  • Tell kids that hearing laughter and happy voices reminds you of the joy God gives us.

After helping Monkey recognize God Sightings, the next step is to help her be a God Sighting.

Here are Group’s tips on helping kids show God’s love to others:

  • Encourage children to thank those who take care of them.
  • Thank children for watching over their younger siblings and friends.
  • Encourage children to help clean up.
  • Practice giving high fives for jobs well done.
  • Surprise your child by exclaiming “God loves you!”
  • Challenge kids to share what they’ve learned about God.
  • Praise children for physical gifts like running, jumping, singing, clapping and smiling.
  • Encourage kids to ask questions, let them know that God gave them each a bright mind that can learn more about Jesus.