Sometimes God uses children to show us His magnificence. Today, as I listened to a little boy talk of his teacher -the bestest in the world- and his friends -also the bestest- I was reminded of the work God does on a daily basis. It seemed the only thing to do was to write about this beautiful child and God’s perfect work.
Our Lovely Boy
His chocolate eyes are sparkling bright.
His brown skin glows with health.
His smile can brighten any room;
I bask in it, myself.
He came to us an angry soul,
Surrounded by his rage.
We sheltered him and showered him
With love, applied each day.
And slowly, oh so slowly
His soul turned to the light.
The goodness of a gentle love
Shone strongly through his night.
Today I watched his face alight
With happiness and hope.
I heard him talk of joyous days.
I smiled as he spoke.
Was this the frightened, angry child
We met this time last year?
I do not see his anger now
And where is all that fear?
It’s all of God; His love shone bright
And forced away the pain.
That hurting, hopeless little boy
Will never be the same.
His world is new; he knows he’s loved.
He’s learning everyday
That God is good and though we hurt,
We needn’t stay that way.
So here’s to you, our precious boy.
Your life brings hope anew.
And when I see that lovely smile,
I can’t help smiling too.
Isaiah 54:13 – All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.
I’ve never liked the name Gramma. It goes against the grain to hear this grammatically incorrect version of what could be a lovely name for a lovely position. I mean, think of the alternatives— Grandmama, Nonna, Nanny, Mimi…anything but Gramma! At least that’s the way I always felt.
And then it happened. There I was, wandering through Hobby Lobby —- not really for any reason since I am not a ‘craft’ person. I think I was simply there to support their business, but that is an entirely different issue — yes, there I was with my little granddaughter, wandering. Now, normally, Sofya calls me Baboushka and I call her Sofya, with the accent on the first syllable, not Sofia. That is the American translation.
When suddenly, she said it! She called me Gramma! What? And not once, but repeatedly. Each time she spoke to me, she used THAT word. Her mom looked at me and chuckled,
“She must have heard it on TV. American children call their Baboushkas Gramma.”
Hmmm, I’d never really thought of myself in those terms. That was for someone with a house dress on. (Forgive me if any of you wear house dresses. I remember older women, somewhat heavyset, wearing those unattractive articles of clothing when I was growing up. I don’t DO house dresses. And now would I be relegated to THAT group?)
The next time Sofya visited, Gramma was forgotten and the familiar Baboushka was back in her vocabulary. I breathed a sigh of relief. We would escape the dreaded word yet.
This year Sofya will begin her first year of education at home. It brings back all of the glorious memories of placing curriculum orders and the excitement of materials arriving in the mail. It was like Christmas each year when our books arrived. I remember those years as some of the best of our lives; books, books, books, and the delight of opening the world of learning to my children. What a privilege it is to see Sofya beginning this same journey. A shopping trip for school supplies was just what she and I needed.
We made our plans for a sleepover and the next morning Sofya and I hit Office Max and Walmart with a vengeance; we had important work to do. We found construction paper, pencils, crayons, scissors, even some nice little school dresses….when suddenly in the midst of it all, Sofya exclaimed,
“You’re the best Gramma I ever had!”
My eyes filled. My throat constricted. I held her tight.
“Oh Sofya, I’m going to cry right here in the store!”
And I did. Then, I wiped my eyes, pulled myself together, and rejoiced that I was a Gramma. Because it’s really fine. It’s a fine thing to be a Gramma, especially to a little girl like this. As we finished up our shopping trek and headed for the registers, Sofya humbled me with one more comment,
“I hope I live in America forever!”
You will, Sofya, if this Gramma has anything to say about it. Get those house dresses ready, I’m up for this!
Here I stand, blubbing, as I watch my granddaughter place a ‘fishing pole’ gently over the top of a cardboard wall and watch excitedly to see what she will ‘catch’. It’s a Pollyanna world and I’m falling apart. I’m not gently tearing, wiping a stray bit of wetness from my eye. No! I am actually BLUBBING! Blubbing means that you can’t hold it back. There is nothing attractive about it, you simply BURST! And this is me, on this hot July 4th, in central Arizona, on the town square with all the other revelers, unable to hold it in.
I don’t care. It’s all just too wonderful. I look at Sofia as her mom drapes red, white, and blue beads over her neck. She waves her patriotic fan. It is all excellent. This is so hard to believe and yet I know….it’s true! I am standing here watching my granddaughter enjoy her first Fourth of July in America!
This week will mark the one year anniversary of her arrival. What a year it’s been! Today will be the last holiday of her first year of American holidays. Next week begins her second year in America and she enters it chattering along in English and reading her first words, like any other five year old.
She woke up this morning knowing today was a special day. Her mom’s been teaching her the meaning of Independence Day and she probably knows it better than the average American child. She’s been read the story about the King who demanded too much from his subjects, the colonists who threw tea in the harbor, the war that took place, and the new country that was formed. She read this in a book her mother wrote for her in preparation for this day. Blessed, lovely mother.
When it’s time for the National Anthem and everyone stands with their hands over their heart, there is a little girl standing right along with them.
At the end of the day, as fireworks light up the night sky, I listen to our Portugese friends next to us, Noel and Maks chattering along in Russian, Spanish and English from our native Arizonans, and I look over to see a little girl with face uplifted,
” My eyes can’t believe it!”
No, Sofia, my eyes can’t believe it either. I can’t believe you’re really here! God bless America and God bless this wonderful girl.
“Do you know this dog’s name, Sofia?” I asked my little granddaughter. The stuffed toy I held was a little worse for wear. His original overalls had been tattered and torn and he now sported a new pair. His conductor’s hat was firmly attached to his head, though he HAD lost one ear. Yes, Casey dog had traveled the world in his 34 years…..
‘When your mom was a baby, just about the size of Mariana, her father, your Dyedushka, brought Casey home. You see, Casey lived in a store. He always wanted a family and when Dyedushka picked him up, tucked him under his arm, and paid for him, Casey was excited. Dyedushka brought him home and laid him next to your mom on her blanket.
Casey lived in your mom’s crib and then later on her bed all the while she grew up. Then one day your mom began to pack for a journey far away. She put her special things in a trunk to store while she was gone. Casey was one of those special things, and as she picked him up and gently tucked him in the trunk, he wondered where he was going.
For five years Casey waited. He wondered if Noel had forgotten about him…if anyone remembered him anymore. Meanwhile, Noel was learning Russian and living far away on the other side of the globe.
One day, she met a handsome man, named Maksim (your father). They fell in love and soon they were married…the American girl and the Russian man. They were happy and hoped for children of their own. Soon, they found they were going to have a baby.
Meanwhile, Casey waited. Didn’t anyone notice he was gone? Would he EVER get out of this trunk?
One special day, Noel and Maksim welcomed a little girl into the world. They named her Sofia (that’s you). As she held her little girl in her arms, Noel thought of Casey dog and how much she wished she could give him to Sofia as Dyedushka had given him to HER. She wondered if, somehow, Casey could come to Russia.
Plans were being made for Sofia’s American Baboushka to come for a visit and Noel thought about how great it would be if Casey dog could make the trip too. She gave Baboushka directions on where Casey dog was.
Casey heard the lock being turned. Was it really true? Were they coming to get him? He KNEW they wouldn’t forget!
Gently Baboushka lifted him out of the trunk. His clothes were tattered. After all, he was 29 years old! Some of his stuffing was escaping from his ripped seams. As the days passed in preparation for the trip to Russia, Baboushka and her daughter Caroline worked on Casey dog. They sewed new overalls for him. They stitched his ripped seams. He began to feel young again!
And then the day came when Casey was placed in a suitcase and began the long flight from Los Angeles to Khabarovsk. It seemed the flight would never end. Casey could hardly believe he would soon be with Noel again. He felt the plane settling down for a landing, then felt the bumping of the bags being unloaded. Brrrr…it seemed awfully cold.
Before he knew it, Casey dog felt the suitcase being rolled across a floor and heard the voices of Noel and Baboushka, along with a new voice.
“That must be the husband, Maksim,” he thought.
Everyone climbed in a car and the bags were loaded in the trunk as the long ride home began.
“Will I ever see my Noel?” thought Casey. He floated off to sleep. It had been a long trip.
After a couple of hours Casey knew they must be home. Car doors were opened, and again the bags were moved….this time they were carried inside. Casey could hardly contain himself! Soon! Surely soon they’d open the suitcases! And then it happened. Casey heard the zipper being pulled and a hand reached in and picked him up. He tried to look calm and collected, but he just KNEW he HAD to have a peek at his girl.
There she was, his Noel, the one who had snuggled him as a little girl and whom he had watched grow into a beautiful young woman. And here she was, picking him up, gently looking him over and then, ever so gently placing him in a crib with a new little girl—- HER little girl. He had another little girl to take care of! She hadn’t forgotten! He looked at this new baby and smiled as she snuggled up next to him. This was where HE belonged.’
“And so Sofia, even though you left a lot of things in Russia, Casey dog came back to America with you. He’s 35 years old now, but he needed to be with you, and your mom, and now with little Mariana. He’s come a long way since that day when Dyedushka picked him up from the store shelf…around the world and back!”
Casey dog’s heart swelled as he listened to Baboushka tell his story….no, they hadn’t forgotten and HE wouldn’t either. No matter how far he had to travel, he’d always be here for his girls.
God is truly very good.
There are very few people who can claim not to love the way a baby’s skin smells… or who have never wanted to “eat up” a baby, round cheeks and all. And no, I am not referring to Jonathan Swift’s famous proposal to solve the “Irish problem”. It’s just that impulse one gets when holding a clean, fat baby; maybe the way to the heart really is through the stomach, or maybe our gluttonous instincts associate love with eating.
I did not honestly think I would have this opportunity again; I did not think there would be baby’s cheeks, round or otherwise, or the smell of Johnson’s baby lotion in my immediate experience. I did not expect to ever have that ecstatic burst of love that just wants to “eat up” a baby. And I am being serially dumbfounded as I watch this incredibly, amazingly healthy child. It’s quite a…
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There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not; Thy compassions they fail not.
As Thou hast been thou forever will be.
So says that glorious hymn I’ve sung for as long as I can remember. I sang it. I believed it, or so I thought. But in the last seven months, I KNOW I believe it. God’s faithfulness has been exhibited in this little Russian family as he has healed, helped, and heartened in innumerable ways.
Today, as I made my daily drive to school, I wasn’t alone. A Russian sprite was tucked firmly in her seat as she chattered along to me…asking questions, telling stories….all in English. As she rushed into the preschool room, after an absence of one month, she threw her arms wide and shouted,
” Ms. Lynda!” As if to say, here I am and really, didn’t you miss me?
I smiled as I continued on to my office. Our little Sofya (or Sofia L as she likes to call herself now) is firmly settled in her new country. She chatters on in English scarcely pausing for breath, and I have to remind myself this is the same girl who arrived just seven months ago chattering away in Russian.
One month ago her sister, Mariana, made her appearance…..perfect in every way. I will never forget sitting in that waiting room at 3:30 AM and hearing a quiet voice say,
I turned and quickly walked to our son-in-law, who threw his arms around me and burst into tears of joy, relief, thankfulness. I will also always remember that wonderful nurse who, after examining Mariana, approached the foot of Noel’s bed and stated in firm, clear tones,
“Your baby is perfectly healthy. She is perfect.”
And then, today, a young mother stopped by the school to pick her little girl up. She carried a baby in and showed her off….a perfect little girl who is growing by leaps and bounds. As I watched her share her blessing with the staff and students and accept the admiration of her lovely baby, I stepped back and swallowed hard.
Yes, God, great is your faithfulness……as You have been, You forever will be..
Today I attended a Winterfest in the desert. It was a warm, sunny Arizona day, but I was with ice skaters, polar bears, and an igloo. You see, today I visited a classroom extraordinaire. After teaching a unit on winter and polar animals, this magnificent teacher planned a winter day in Arizona. It didn’t just happen; preparations had been going on for a month.
The children’s excitement built as they saw their igloo taking shape and made milk carton polar bears. Snowflakes appeared, dangling from the ceiling, and icicles hung from the corner ‘treehouse’. On the long awaited day, paper plates were taped on stockinged feet, miniature hockey sticks and miniature goal posts took their place as the children played a game of ice hockey with a nerf ball as the puck . Penguins stood quietly watching and since the air conditioner was turned up to full strength, they had no worries. A snowball fight ensued with paper snowballs….planned chaos and spontaneous joy with polar bear ice cream to follow.
This is true learning. These children will never forget their adventure into northern climes —- the animals, the sports, and the teacher who led them there. And over it all hangs the knowledge that the wonderful God of creation made it all. Whether desert or winter wonderland, He is the Maker. God has blessed these children by placing them in a splendid school with a splendid teacher ……… twelve wonderful explorers being led on a glorious journey into the world of learning.
As an educator, it is almost too wonderful to imagine. As a parent, it is beautiful to see. At this blessed school, it is an everyday occurrence.