Thursday, November 5, 2009

While Israel is big boy enough for a three day, three night trip to Deeja and Papaw's, Eden stayed with us at the CCDA conference. She did an amazing job and we did not have to miss a single breakout session on her account. She napped in the ergo baby carrier, played quietly during the big group sessions, etc. She was the only baby-in-tow at the conference as her friends were old enough to go to the babysitters and since most everyone else in the group left their children behind for the conference, she was everyone's baby for the weekend. She liked being held by all kinds of people (though we all have our limits). Josh (pictured here) seemed to have a particular fondness for her and she enjoyed his airplane rides when she'd had enough of sitting still. It was a mutually beneficial relationship, I'd say. He got some I-miss-my-baby time and she got some "Something different, please," fun. Most of the time during the sessions, she was either strapped to me or Pat or playing with Josh.

During one of the group sessions in particular, though, Eden seemed bound and determined to interact with the stranger behind us. No matter where I sat her down to play or what toy I used to entice her to sit still, she kept crawling around or under my chair to get to whoever was sitting behind us. (I didn't want to turn around and make eye contact because it felt like an awkward situation keeping my kid away from someone she obviously wanted to see.) Finally, I heard a lady's voice say, "I can take her." It was the lady behind me...who I don't know at all. With a little bit of I'm-not-sure-this-is-really-okay grin, I handed her my kid. I tend to think small children have a sense about who is good and who is not. It's as though they have an ability to see spiritual realities we lose as we practice judging based on use of our five primary senses. I hope I'm not just naive for wanting to trust that in my kids. And I want to trust other people, even though most of the time I don't. There was that, and I figured most everyone at the conference was someone trying to be good and living the same sort of life I try to live, right? Besides, I wouldn't really know the "official" sitters for the conference either, right? Sometimes you just have to trust your kid to a stranger, right?

So there went Eden. I tried to check back behind me not so often as not to make whoever it was feel like they weren't trusted but enough to let them know I don't just expect them to be in charge of my kid for the duration. Every time I looked back, Eden was sitting perfectly happily in the lady's lap, leaned back with a big smile, looking into the woman's face. And the lady and the whole row of people sitting with her were smiling back at Eden. It seemed a perfect arrangement. I could listen to the speaker because Eden had all she wanted and so, it seemed, did the row of people behind me.

When the session was over, I turned around to meet the miracle lady who had so enchanted my Eden. Her name was Judy and she had a warm smile. When I thanked her for caring for my kid, she said, "I'm a grandma." Obviously, Eden could tell. But I'm sure Eden meets tons of grandmas in a given day and she has not ever -- before or in the weeks since -- so pursued a particular person. So we dubbed the lady Grandma Judy.

We were often late to the gatherings and did not sit in the same close-to-the-front seats during the next large session. And we didn't see Grandma Judy. But the following meeting, we were able to get our previous seats and found her there again, sitting right behind us. I said a quiet hello and she said, "I missed you the last time!" Eden quickly went to her again.

I have waited a bit to post this entry, both for lack of time and for want of thought. This little relationship was so short and strange and wonderful. It is such a beautiful thing when someone loves your kid -- I mean, really loves them. I felt totally loved by this woman because of how she loved my daughter.

And then it hit me: I bet God feels the same way about us when we love His kids. He feels loved when we love our brothers and sisters. I understood suddenly why loving God and loving your neighbor go so hand-in-hand. And I want to be good at loving my brothers and sisters, whether I know them well or not. I want people to be able to sense that about me -- to sense God's love in me -- and to be drawn to it despite all other distractions. I want to be like Grandma Judy.

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