“Time for your blessing! Go to Daddy,” I’d say, scooching a cuddly, pajama-ed Little Bear off my lap after I’d read her a story or four.
She’d bound across the small space that separated the couch from his recliner, then scramble up onto his lap and tuck herself into a corner of the recliner, Daddy’s arm secure around her. He’d read from a children’s daily devotion book then I’d scoop her up and let her lean precariously out of my arms to give him a kiss before I took her down the hallway to bed.
We started the devotions when she was three and read from that book over and over for several years. But we wanted something new this year, something that included activities to encourage her to really think about what God says in the Bible. And that’s what we got with our new devotion book.
Even if now, sometimes, the devotions are really hard to read.
She perches on the arm of the recliner and leans into my shoulder and though we’ve been together all day in the classroom, this is the time we are really together. I read from a chapter book, we giggle and cuddle and then I reach for the blessing book.
And my heart, balancing unsteady on the sharp point of grief, tips from happy to anguish because the Bible verse is John 11:25 and I should take comfort in the words, but it’s hard to when I want Kevin back so much.
“He who believes in me will have life even if he dies.”
I swallow hard and read slowly because tears don’t start in your eyes; they start in your throat and make it impossible to speak through the lump that tightens with each breath.
“We don’t like to say good-bye to the people we love…When death is the reason for our good-bye, it is especially tough…You and I might wonder why God took them to heaven.”
I falter and she leans in closer and picks up at the next sentence:
“But they don’t.” Her little voice so clear and sure. “They understand. They are, at this very second, at peace and with God…And when Jesus comes back, we will see them again.”*
She finishes the devotion, reads through the Growing in Grace activity, then sits quiet, thinking.
I slip the bookmark into place and lay the book aside.
I look at her earnest little face.
“Can we do that? Can we plant a tree for Daddy?”
It’s the suggested activity: plant a tree, watch over it, and know that God is watching over her Daddy.
I nod and manage to push out some words. “You bet.”
“And I think it should be a redbud tree because the leaves are shaped like hearts.”
I squeeze her close and whisper, “That’s a great idea, baby girl.”
I scoop her up, carry her down the hallway to tuck her into bed. Hugs and kisses and prayers and I back out of her door, closing it gently.
She doesn’t go to Daddy for her blessing anymore, she comes to me. But she doesn’t know that she is my blessing and she brings me to God and He will hold us secure through this sadness and pain. So we will plant the tree and we will wait to see Kevin again and while we wait, I will watch her play in the shade of the heart-shaped leaves and I will smile as she dances in the leaves of love that flutter down to kiss her in the autumn breeze. And it will be our time of blessing.
* Devotion quotes from Grace for the Moment: 365 Devotions for Kids by Max Lucado, adapted by Tama Fortner.