I’ve never seen that more clearly than when my grand-daughter returned to visit me yesterday. Only ten days before, two-and-a-half year old Elyse and her 18-month old brother, Isaiah, came and spent four days with me while their parents prepared for a move halfway across the state. What a special time for this grandmother who had seen very little of her grandchildren the past year.
Sweet, cuddly, joyful … that was the packaging and the content of our days together, filled with rocking chairs, story reading … and so much cuddly laughter. Each treasure specially made to fill this grandmother’s dreams.
Elyse’s visit yesterday was unexpected, and I counted the hours until her arrival. When her daddy carried her in the door to my office, the change in her was visible … physically, facially, even her body language spoke a new message.
Who was this little independent female prancing around, swinging her head with such knowing? Other than giving me an obligatory hug and kiss (her daddy required it) when she first came in, no affection flowed my way. Oh, she was obedient, excruciatingly so … but she wore ‘self-determination’ with such panache it was difficult to equate the Elyse of this moment with the Elyse of ten days ago.
Could this possibly be the same little girl who had filled my days with “Noni, hold me,” and “I love you, Noni!” a mere ten days earlier? Somewhere, somehow, in a blink of time, a transformation had occurred. Before me now stood an Elyse determined to be “queen of her day” … that much she made abundantly clear.
No reading her stories. No sitting together in the rocking chair. She was extremely polite, obeyed without fault, even played and interacted with me. She made it clear, however, everything was on her footing …according to her game plan.
During the two hours we were together, at least half the time was spent “taking the baby doll for a walk” in the play stroller. Always we went together. She in front, but with a constant look over her shoulder to make certain I followed.
I lost count of how many times we traversed the darkened sanctuary, weaving in and out of the pews, winding up and down its isles. She certainly made this outing an adventure. But then she has a unique way of doing that with all of life.
Once she even asked me to “push the baby doll,” but after about twenty steps, Elyse returned control to her own hands. Guess I didn’t push it fast enough, or do it right … more likely, I had simply exceeded my allotted time.
Every once in a while, as we wove our way around the sanctuary, Elyse would stop at a pew, pat the cushion and say, “You sit here.” I would comply. Sometimes she would sit right next to me, scooting her little body as close as she could to mine. Mostly, however, even though she would place us on the same pew, Elyse would sit me at one end, then promptly move herself all the way to the opposite end. We’d sit a minute, and then Elyse would pipe up, “Ok, let’s go!”
Sometimes, part of the play involved an additional element I did my best not to chuckle over. Elyse would pick up a hymnal or a Bible and come and place it in my hands, then after a minute take it back from me and return it to its original place. There was purpose behind her every action, and a determination that never faltered. We played this game for a good hour.
Then suddenly, without warning, ten minutes before our time together ended, she returned to the Elyse who had stayed with me just days before. She handed me a book, led me to the rocking chair, climbed up on my lap peacefully and snuggling down whispered softly, “Please read, Noni!”
I’ve thought on all this a lot today. With each reflection I feel the shutter open, snap a picture, then quickly close … for a moment. I don’t care for the picture I sense developing on that Divine film. But when the shutter reopens, exposes a little more of that film, it’s not a new picture … just one getting sharper and sharper in focus.
And it’s not a picture of Elyse appearing at the end of the developing process. It’s me! That saucy little girl who once loved nothing more than climbing up on her Father’s lap. Who loved to feel His arms enfold me. Who eagerly listened to the sound of His voice. Who never wanted my hand released from His, so eager to follow Him anywhere.
In this moment, my Father makes me look, honestly, at how much the ‘journeying’ has changed.
Together? Yes. But who leads the way? How often do I tell my Heavenly Father where to sit, then move myself more comfortable down the pew from Him.
Like Elyse, I keep looking over my shoulder to make certain He is there, because I don’t really want to be on my own. I just want His presence with me on my terms. Once or twice, I ask Him to take the lead. But it’s only a few steps before my voice can be heard saying, “OK! My turn!”
My grand-daughter and I aren’t so very different after all.
“Lord, how do You do it? How do You bear with me so patiently? So tenderly? You never abandon me to my own ways. You stay, right with me, even when I choose to move to the far end of the pew. In this moment I can only wrap myself in Your unconditional love, Lord. It holds me up. It teaches me to grow. It leads me to turn back into Your arms and hold You … oh so tightly.”
Seldom have I found any article any where that I felt a prompting to print out and tape to a wall near my desk or on the common household billboard, the refrigerator, but...this one may be the first. Seldom has an article spoken to me in the coveted "still small voice", most of them are well intended saints yelling their convictions, but not this one, no, it whispered. Funny how a whisper to one sounds like a rushing mighty wind to another. (Hate to spoil the moment, but you did have a typo your word processor missed, the word "shoulder" was missed because it says "should" and of course a spell check would allow it.)