Never Too Early

Never too Early

REVISED:  January 2017

A huge truck with the letters D-A-T displayed boldly on its side rumbled to a stop in front of our house one day — looking for direction to deliver who-knows-what to who-knows-whom on our disjointed road.

And I could not help but think that if our little granddaughter had been there with us on our front deck that day, we might have passed her off as a precocious one-year-old reader, as she would no doubt have pointed with great enthusiasm to that truck, shouting “dat!”

She is now 3 1/2 years old.

But this word, which we think meant “that”, was one of her first words after “Mamma” (and maybe “statue” of all things), and was used to point out anything of interest to her. The popularity of the word was rivaled only by “oonch!”, which she used for anything she wanted us to get FOR her or take her TO.  And don’t ask us the etymology of that one!

It’s surprising what these little ones understand before being able to put it into words — at least what we might call English. It’s popular nowadays to teach a few words of sign language to babies, which they can amazingly pick up from early on. So little Petra could sign “eat” and “enough” and such things before her first words. And from that she developed her own sign language of beckoning little hands and wriggling fingers amidst the “oonches” and “dats”, to make her point — which was often “please take me outside to my pool”.  And soon she was quite proud of herself to have added the distinctive “up” and “down” to her vocabulary, accompanied by large arm movements in each direction, after which she would run to her parents with great glee over this accomplishment.

But my biggest surprise was to hear from the lips of this one-year-old child the words “God” and “Jesus” — well, actually “Ga!” and “Za-jeesh”, while pointing to an old picture in a little plastic case from my childhood, and then recognizing him in other pictures without our prompting.

Just how does God, as we understand Him, work in these little ones? Where, when, and how can we speak to our children of that which is spiritual? Perhaps it’s really so simple that we are tempted to make it hard. Perhaps we just need to let the words speak for themselves, and “preach” more through our own sign language and actions.

And it’s never too early.

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Life is Like a Bowl of Beads

 (This is inspired by the kind of beadwork I learned to do from the people of Yakutat, Alaska.)

imageYou’ve heard it said that life is just a bowl of cherries? Or is it that life is NOT just a bowl of cherries? Well, I prefer to think that life is more like a big bowl of beads, filled with bright little pieces of creative energy and multi-colored potential, just waiting to be used.

In bursts of red and yellow, pearl white and sparkling gold; in shades of purple and pink, blue and green; I see these little beads as sparks of faith and hope that can come together to raise our spirits and bring joy to our hearts. But that’s up to us.

Let’s say that each bead is like a little piece of God-given potential, waiting for us to give life to it. We can bring that potential to life in a beautifully-crafted design, or we can sit overwhelmed by the possibilities. We can even convince ourselves that we have no creative talent, or that the work is better done by someone else. But our Creator God continues the creation through us. God’s creative power flows through us, like the beading thread flows through the beads and guides them.

But God has given us a choice. We can open ourselves up to God’s power and give life to things that are nurturing and beautiful and life enhancing. Or we can close ourselves to God’s loving potential and give life to things that are deadly and ugly and self destructive.

Perhaps life is like a big bowl of beads, full of possibility and creative potential. But without a good pattern to guide the placement of the beads upon the felt or hide to which they are sewn, the finished product might be without any clear design or meaning.

And so it is with life.

But if we follow the pattern of love that God has given us in the Gospel message, every bead that we add to our thread will help create new hope and a new vision for our world.

 

Little Steps of Faith

 

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She knew how to turn around and get off the couch safely, but before long our little granddaughter found herself climbing up there all by herself, to sit in awe of her newly-found skills, beaming with pure joy! That was the night before her parents left her with her proud grandparents.

And that very next morning she took another big step on the back patio, lifting one leg up over the edge of her big plastic swimming pool, and plunging her little body head first into the pool. And then came another big step in her development. She figured out how to get out.

One leg over the rim, hand down to the ground, she literally flipped over the edge, landing on her little padded, diapered butt! She did it again and again. I watched with mixed glee and horror, but Grandpa said that’s how they learn.

Hey Mommy and Daddy — look what little Petra learned when Grandma and Grandpa were babysitting! Whoosh! Plunk! Splat!

But isn’t this how we grow — taking one step at a time until we can finally walk and run — and even hop? And is this not how we also grow in faith — sometimes with tentative little steps like a toddler on her first realization that there’s more to her world than crawling?

Those first steps are often faltering ones, and she falls, sometimes hard. But she takes in stride what might take out the best of us! After all, Mom and Dad are there cheering her on, even when she falls, encouraging her every step as she grows stronger with each trial.

And I like to think that God is like that.

Sometimes faith is about plunging in head first, unafraid, choosing to trust that God has called us to a task. But sometimes we plunge head first into a situation that’s a result of our own poor choices. And flipping out of the pool without any padding may just not be a good idea!

In either case the process can be painful, as God did not guarantee us a care-free life without its sorrows and hardships, even when we are doing His will. But through Jesus He tells us that He will never leave us alone.

So take the plunge, maybe not head first, but with a leap of faith. And you won’t be alone. Like grandparents and parents keeping a watchful eye, remember that we are all under the watchful eye of our Heavenly Father!

 

 

 

The Sticker Picker

imageI recently moved from a tiny village in Alaska to join my husband in Arizona. Changes in retirement now include a total reverse in climate, seeing cowboy boots instead of Alaskan rubber “Xtratufs”, and driving on roads you can actually get out of town on that don’t end at an ocean shore.  And an extra bonus has been a grandchild available in only eighty minutes by car, with no planes or boats involved.

This little bonus feature has recently learned to walk and has taken off on adventures of discovery that include the exploration of all nooks and crannies she can squeeze her little self into. And her job, which she takes quite seriously, is to personally peel off all stickers and tags left on any items she can get her hands on. On her last visit she made a point to turn over the kitchen rug she had previously removed a price sticker from to make sure no further infractions were evident.

Of course, we try to child-proof our house when she visits, by putting up gates in front of stairways and putting up our breakable big people “toys”, though our refrigerator magnets have not escaped unharmed. She has learned what shouldn’t go into her mouth, but often teases us with a hand to the mouth and a smile before giving some old crumb or recently-discovered price tag to Mommy. She is learning to help pick up toys and put trash into the waste basket, but is just as good at taking both right back out.

After a recent visit that left our living room floor looking like a toddler attack, complete with the scattered debris of toys, crayons, and Grandpa’s DVD’s, we noticed something down the hallway after she had left. It was a ray of light coming in through the remnants of a pet door constructed by a previous house owner and now bolted shut. But a floor-level peek hole had suddenly emerged in the shape of a perfect circle.

What we suspected was confirmed by the little picker’s dad, who had been to the end of the hallway with her but had forgotten to mention the tape she had picked off the door. I’m sure she must have been pleased with herself and stuck her little hand through the hole. The tape had been hiding something we hadn’t yet ventured to check out, but our little girl was on the job!

We might have suspected any number of things, and some not so good, when that perfect circle of a hole suddenly appeared in our back door that evening — until we remembered the presence of the little “Sticker Picker” among us. And then it a seemed so obvious. A sturdy piece of tape had been picked away to reveal a mystery. And I can only imagine what purpose the hole may have served back when Fido used the door.

Maybe it’s like that sometimes with God’s presence in our lives. We don’t see God’s hand in something until we have come to know His nature. And then it seems obvious. His handprints are on the tape that has been removed to reveal something that might have gone unnoticed. But even then, God’s purpose is not always clear. Sometimes it might be best to celebrate the loving presence of God among us, trust that God’s purpose will be revealed to us in time, and accept the mystery.