When I was little, I used to sit for hours in the dark in front of our Christmas tree. I would keep my eyes open, looking at the lights, then slowly shut them until they were almost closed but not quite--so all I could see was the blur of bright light, and I thought I could almost see that sky in Bethlehem all lit up from the multitude of the heavenly host (I loved that King James language too..."heavenly host" sounded so awe-inspiring and other-worldly.)
A couple of weeks before this Christmas, I went in one night to check on the girls while they were sleeping. Lucy was still awake though, and she whispered, "Will you rock me, Mom?" So we got in the glider rocker together--where I've rocked her ever since we brought her home from the hospital--and we talked together. It had snowed that day, and she told me, "I love winter so much! I love winter a lot more than summer."
"Oh, Lucy," I said playfully, "We can't be related if you like winter more than summer. Yuck! Summer is way better. You can go on picnics in the summer!"
Then she said softly, "I love picnics. I love when Manga took care of us, and she would make our lunch and put down a blanket in the backyard so we could have a picnic together." Then she began to cry. "I don't want Manga to die, Mama!"
It had been a long, tiring day of shouldering the adult world for me and, while I let her child-like pain soak into me, I began to cry too. "I know," I told her. "I don't want her to die either. My heart can't bear it. I'm going to miss her so much. I can't figure out how to have a life without her."
Lucy said through her tears, "I'm going to miss everything about her. She takes such tender loving care of me. She is the right grandma for me. I just can't let go of her!"
I held her close and told her I understood. Then I said, "Lucy, there's an awesome verse in the Bible. It says that one day Jesus is going to come back for us. We're going to hear a great shout, and we'll know it's Him because we know His voice already. And there will be a trumpet too. And when all the people have died hear Jesus calling and any of us who are still alive hear Him calling, we'll be caught up into the air TOGETHER. Just think of it! When we hear that shout, we'll all be gathered together again, and you'll see Manga right away!"
She still cried and said, "I hope she doesn't look young though so I don't recognize her. I want her to still have her same curly hair and her cute glasses. And will she know it's me?"
"Of course she will," I reassured her. "She'll say, 'Lucy LuLu! I've been waiting for you!' and you'll never be separated again. This time, we'll be together always and forever. Jesus promised us. And He always keeps His promises."
We rocked for awhile longer, and she quieted down and went back to bed.
We moved through the holiday season and then back to school. In January is the school-wide speech meet. Each child from 1st through 8th grade has to memorize (according to grade-appropriateness) a poem, a fable, or a Scripture passage. Lucy was adamant that she wanted to memorize some Bible verses, so we have been working diligently together on that.
On January 13, I was working around in the kitchen after school, and Lucy was puttering around by me. All of a sudden she said, "We learned about Nicodemus at school today. He talked to Jesus and he found out that he had to be born twice, not just once. And I know I love Jesus and want Him to be in my heart, but I don't think I've ever asked Him to, have I? Can I talk to you about it, Mom?"
I dropped everything I was doing and drew her onto my lap. I asked her if she understood what that meant. She did, but I explained it to her again. I told her that Daddy and I have already observed how much she loves Jesus and wants to live for Him, but that this was an important decision because it meant going to God directly and telling Him that.
We prayed together, first me, then her. She thanked Jesus for coming to Earth and dying on the cross for her sins. She thanked Him for rising from the dead. And she told Him how she wanted to live for Him while she's here and would He please take her to heaven when it's time. When we were done I said, "Did you know that the Bible says that right now, all the angels are up in heaven, having a big party just for YOU?" Her eyes widened with delight. "You know what else? Your name: LUCY, is written down in God's Book of Life. No one can ever erase it, and no one can ever take you out of Jesus' hand."
I told her the story of Maria Chapman and played her this song (I hope you can hear the whole thing--if not, the lyrics are here).
Today was a holiday from school so I took both the girls to see my mom. Her condition is rapidly deteriorating now, and Lucy hasn't seen her since New Year's Day. Before we left, she had a special picture she wanted to draw for her Manga. She did her best work, and I bought her a frame to put it in.
When we got there, they had a private conversation together. Lucy told my mom that she had asked Jesus into her heart last week, and she gave her the picture she had drawn: of clouds; of God and Jesus on thrones; on streets of gold; and of a curly-haired lady labeled "You" and a little girl labeled "Me." Then she recited her verses that she's memorized for the speech meet:
Colossians 3: 1-4 "Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above--where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also shall appear with Him in glory."
I've always found it challenging to keep walking by faith. I want the sight so bad, and I want it now. I want to be able to tell a grieving little girl that I know heaven is real because I've seen it with my own eyes, but I can't. I can only tell her what I believe.
Fortunately, she believes too.
And as I sit here in the dark, squinting my eyes at the images, I can get a little glimpse of glory.