“Everyone else is asleep,” Rebekah said, her long, golden ponytail draped over her right shoulder. “Can you come cover me up?”
It had been a special movie night upstairs and, after a long and tiresome day, Gideon and Betsie had fallen asleep early.
Rebekah’s cornflower blue eyes burned a hole in me, and I felt that familiar tug in my heart that I had better move, this time out of my cozy and warm chair, and take an opportunity to minister to one of my children.
How often is it that I have the luxury to love on one child without the others there to ask for reciprocation?
“Do that to me!” and “It’s my turn!” are, after all, some of the most-used phrases in our home.
And besides all that, it had been a rough day. My patience was down to the very last thread by the time my husband came home from work, and I was not proud of the fluctuations that had taken place in my actions throughout a day of testing on the homefront.
And so, ignoring the ache in my feet and the lazy in my bones, I resolutely set aside my computer, I took her by the hand and we walked upstairs together.
A “fresh start”, even though it was nearing ten o’ clock.
I had just remarked to her an hour before how tall she is becoming. She’ll be six in June, but it has been a trademark characteristic of this beloved second child to always seem much older than she is, both in build and manner. She looks seven, all of a sudden! And so it made me very happy, as we made our way upstairs, to note how small her hand still feels in mine.
We padded quietly on bare feet to her bed, being careful not to disrupt her snoozing siblings.
She laid noiselessly down on her pink, floral sheets, and I was picking up her old, threadbare quilt to cover her up when I felt that tug again.
She must have felt it, too, because the words were coming out of her mouth as my heart was already saying “yes”.
“Lay with me?” she asked. “I love it when you lay down with me.”
I smiled and nodded and, lifting the quilt higher, I slid in beside her before letting the blanket fall down over us both.
She immediately claimed my left arm and laid it across her chest.
“Why do I love this arm so much?” she laughed, holding it close like she always does.
I laughed with her, feeling more useful and important than I had the entire day over.
“Will you tell me some stories about when I was little?” she asked, blinking at me pleadingly.
It has become a favorite pasttime for all of our children, backing up the advice I have read in so many parenting and educating books. Children love to hear stories about their families and themselves, the books say, and I am forever racking my brain to come up with one that they haven’t yet heard.
I hesitated, trying to think of a really good one.
“Just talk,” she instructed me. “Tell me…anything! About when I was a baby!”
And so I started at the very beginning. How I felt when I found out she was a girl. How I picked her name one morning in Sunday School class. How she was weeks past her due date. How, from the very beginning, she has brought comfort and help to our family. How she spent her first six months of life, staring at me, waiting for my eyes to see her so she could convey her love through smiles and giggles. How she began to take command at a very young age, keeping everyone, including the grocery store, in order.
“Was I everything you wanted?” she asked, eyes gleaming.
“No,” I told her, honestly. “You were everything I didn’t even know I wanted. You were everything I needed.”
Her expression lit with satisfaction, and I knew she understood the sentiment I was trying to convey. But then…Rebekah has always understood. Before she could speak…before she was “old enough”…I knew that she knew and I knew what she was trying to tell me.
It is a gift of hers, I think, to understand, and one that reaches me in deep places. I think it might even keep me going sometimes.
I told her all the stories I could think of, some that made her smile contentedly, some that made her throw her head back and scrunch up her eyes with my favorite belly laugh.
And then our conversation eventually turned to Him.
“I just hope,” I whispered, “that you will always, always follow God through His Word, Rebekah. This world is so confusing and people have so many ideas about who God is and what is right and wrong, but even when life seems scary and you don’t know what to do or what to believe, you can trust Him.”
“And God always has a plan,” she murmured, gazing right through me with her powerful eyes.
And then the privacy and comfort of the nursery invited us into a sacred conversation.
Secret fears were shared, fears that I didn’t even know she had. I will keep them just for her, safe in my heart and in my prayers, but what had begun as a routine tucking-in was turning into something so beautifully holy and reverent, casting ridicule on my earlier reluctance to rise from my silly chair in front of a screen.
These are the moments worth living for, the ones where you are living for someone else.
Will I ever remember that up-front, without coercion?
“God will take care of me, won’t He?” she finished, voice quavering.
The Spirit was kind to my speechless brain, and led me quickly to the simple food she needed…
“Do you see the lilies of the field?” I asked. “Does God take care of them?”
She nodded, lips pursed.
“The birds of the air?” I continued. “Does God care for them?”
She nodded again, a tiny smile playing at one corner of her mouth.
“Then how much more will He take care of you?” I smiled, feeling that same truth bringing comfort to my faithless heart. “You can believe that, Rebekah. God doesn’t promise that life will be easy. Sad things might happen, scary things might happen, but you must ALWAYS keep these two things close to your heart: God is in control and God is good.”
She nodded a final time, visibly comforted by the mantra her Papa taught me many years ago. I say it all the time: God is in control and God is good. It answers every question and assuages every fear.
Our arms were intertwined by now as we laid side by side, and I took her left hand in mine.
“I know a song that might help you remember what we talked about tonight,” I said. “Would you like to hear it?”
She nodded, and I began to sing the hymn, long forgotten, but divinely remembered on this special night with my young daughter, and as I sang, I praised my Father who fathers and mothers the ones I love better than I ever could.
With His voice in my ear and by His guidance and grace, I am confident that they will know Him and love Him…
Why should I feel discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart feel lonely, and long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me
I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I’m free
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.*
And just like that, before I could even make it to the second verse, her hand grew slack in mine and her heavy breathing told me she had fallen asleep, ushered into slumber by a voice that, forty-five minutes before, felt too tired to make a peep and too comfortable to go upstairs.
Ah, I am a broken mess of a woman.
So needy. So weak.
So straying. So self-interested.
But His eye is on the mother sparrow, too, and by His grace – and His grace ALONE – I sing.
Happy in Jesus.
Free from myself.
*His Eye is on the Sparrow by Civilla Martin
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