Spirituality for Today – January 2014 – Volume 18, Issue 6

Lessons From A Nineteen-Month-Old

By Janice Alonso

A photo of a young girl

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." Luke 18:17

I have two grown sons, both married, and one with two children. I've always loved having sons, but living in an all male household prompted me to pray frequently for God to bless me with a daughter. The daughter never came, but today my mother, two loving daughters-in-law, two precious granddaughters, two wonderful nieces, and two adorable great-nieces live close by and are blessings to my everyday life. God is good and His timing is perfect. Trusting in God's plan for our lives is a lesson I need to relearn often… and He sends me these reminders in the gentlest of ways.

A couple of months ago on an early autumn morning, my nineteen-month-old granddaughter was staying with me for a few days. One of our favorite things to do is spend time in my backyard. I have flowerbeds, a butterfly garden, and a small-pebbled path that leads through a wrought iron gate onto rolling hills. I've placed whimsical garden art under the Japanese maples, atop the brick wall, beside the birdfeeders and baths, and under towering pine trees.

As is her usual practice (and is also a familiar routine for her sister and cousins when they visit), she keeps a small tin bucket at the foot of the back porch stairs. As she had done on the day before, she picked up the bucket, stood and smiled. "All ready!" she announced.

Clutching the bucket's handle in her tiny fist, she set forth to gather bits of nature to fill her bucket. She wandered around, stopping frequently to perch on tippy-toes to pluck the pinkest of lingering impatiens, to squat down and study the broken pieces of hickory nut shells, and to lean over and finger-rake the fallen pine straw in search of twigs and clumps of dirt. All the finds she placed in the bucket. Her toddler feet traipsed along the brick pathways until she decided to pause and add yellow and russet colored leaves, little rocks, and bits of clover to her treasury.

When her bucket was about half full, we sat down on the grass and studied each of her finds. Together we marveled at the paper-thin bark that had pealed away from the crepe myrtle tree. We cautiously traced the thorns on the knockout rose's stem. Red berries, blades of grass, smooth stones… each find received careful attention and produced an air of wonderment in her wide eyes.

We named all her finds. We sorted them into groups. We lined them up in rows. We counted them one-by-one. We identified their colors. For the better part of the morning we existed in this tiny world… God, my granddaughter, and I communing with these gifts from nature. For a few precious hours of our life we praised God's handiwork. When we were finished, I took her hand and we headed back to the house.

She stopped at the bottom of the back porch stairs, emptied her bounty, and set the bucket down. She gazed up at me and said, "All done." Then she smiled and returned her hand to mine and we mounted the steps.

A simple personal experience. Or is it? I took her home the next day and on the return ride I thought about how much I loved our garden time. Selfishly, I thought about all I was teaching her about God's world. Then I smiled as God sent me a better message… how much she was teaching me about life and the Christian journey.

Lesson One: God wants me to enjoy His creations at all times. I don't pay enough attention to all the small pleasures and gifts God provides for me each day. True, I rise early in the morning and read my Bible, pray, and wait for His presence. Unfortunately, the remainder of the day is spent in the pursuit of getting things accomplished, being productive, and checking off tasks on my to-do list. Most mornings I watch the sun rise… and sometimes I pause to witness its descent. But what about all that time in between, the time when I can view the sun in all its glory, a symbol of God Himself. Even on those gray days when the sun is hidden, it's still present, shedding its light and warmth… just as God watches over me when I am unaware of His presence. I listen to the birds' predawn chirps and the squirrels' morning chatter. What do they long to tell me the rest of the day? I smell the honeysuckle, feel the cool breeze, and taste the moisture that hangs in the air. Why do I deny myself these glorious gifts God offers for the mere taking? These are gifts God wants me to place in my bucket… to name, sort, count, and praise.

Lesson Two: God will always provide everything I need. And what are the things that separate me from His joy? I let troubles weigh me down; I am anxious about earthly plights; I strive to assure my well being in the days ahead. I think of the hours I've wasted mulling over situations that never came to pass or issues over which I had no control. Funny, even the things I thought I had in my control… I really didn't. When I have these times of angst, God wants me to draw nearer to Him and let Him lift these problems and bear them for me. When I am pushing Him away so I can handle things, He is drawing me nearer and guiding me down the right path. God wants me to trust in the knowledge that He is my caregiver. Despite His promises, I worry about the future. I fill my earthly storehouses with material goods in an effort to secure that future. How often have I saved good food and later had to throw it away because of an expiration date. Good nourishment was pushed to the back of the pantry, forgotten about, and never used to fuel energy or delight the taste buds with its created purpose. Like my granddaughter, I can empty my bucket of worries and fears that I collect each day. I can even let go of the "good times" and the sadness I feel when I know these days, too, must pass. God will see that my bucket will be replenished with what ever I may need to see me through the next day. He will send many more "good times" if I am just ready to receive.

Lesson Three: I don't have to earn God's love. I will always unconditionally love my granddaughter. She doesn't have to "do" anything to make her more precious in my sight… she merely needs to exist. While it saddens me when she makes poor choices, it doesn't lessen my love for her. In fact, it is during those times when she is most unhappy that I long to holder her closer, tighter. I want her to understand that she can always turn to me and my arms will be open wide to accept her totally. Isn't this, after all, the way God feels about me? I never need to be ashamed in His presence. All I need to do is seek Him with an empty bucket and collect His blessings.