Joey and his parents were among the very first arrivals of the day. He is a little sweetheart with a big grin and chubby cheeks. He gave me a big smile upon first meeting, and I knew that this was going to be a good time together for both of us. Joey’s parents are Keith and Melody, and Melody’s parents, Paul and Paula are also here for the conference.
The rest of the attendees came in by twos and fours, until all had arrived from their various cities all over the world. One person came all the way from Australia. By the time the first session started, Joey was asleep in his stroller. So I sat with him until he woke up, wanting dinner. His mother fed him in the back of the conference room as I waited nearby. Then I took Joey downstairs to his stroller and walked him around until he dozed off. Keith had told me that Joey likes to ride in his stroller, and the bumpier the ground, the better he likes it. Indeed, he loves a ride in his stroller. I could hear roosters crowing nearby and chickens clucking proudly to announce a newly-laid egg. There were turkeys gobbling somewhere on the hillside, too. While the cattle were very evident up on the road, down here on the conference center grounds, we can neither see nor smell them.
In the course of walking around the grounds of the conference center, Joey and I came across a turtle making its arduous way across the driveway. Joey didn’t see the turtle, of course, and being still awake and grumpy at that point, he wanted only to keep moving. On a hillside nearby I saw sheep grazing. One mama sheep moved a bit too far from her lambs, and I saw three lambs running and leaping to get back to her side. It was incredibly cute. It reminded me of myself as a child. I used to run or skip almost everywhere I went. I felt the Lord smile at the memory, too. And the Holy Spirit reminded me of this passage:
The voice of my Beloved! Behold, He comes leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. My Beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag, (Song of Songs 2:8-9a, NKJV, emphasis mine).
The Lord and I have something in common with the little lambs!
Joey eventually fell asleep, and I was able to sit a while. In fact, he slept much of our first day together, which gave me plenty of time to just sit and reflect and talk with God. Of course that’s prayer, but it was so friendly and informal that to call it prayer just seems wrong. Whatever you call it, it was a very pleasant way to pass the time.
There was one thing I had prayed about before coming. When I learned that I would be watching a baby, I prayed for a rocking chair. Or a bouncy chair like my Ikea prayer chair. What I got was something else, but it still works: a swing. Joey isn’t interested in swinging with me, but once he has fallen asleep in his stroller I set it by the swing. As I swing, I push the stroller back and forth with my foot. And the weather has been so nice that I have been able to swing with Joey like this every day.
And in the meantime a white and orange kitty came to say hello, and to ask for a scratch behind the ear. His black and gray companion acknowledged my presence with a look in my direction, then turned away with a swish of his tail. High overhead a flock of storks glided in lazy circles before the lead bird chose a direction and flew off with the others trailing in no particular formation. Under a flowering tree I saw four little white butterflies do a swirling, fluttery dance in celebration, it seemed, of the flowers. I smiled, remembering how Kevin used to call the little white butterflies “flying popcorn.” And Nina told me that in her native Colombia they call popcorn mais mariposa, butterfly corn.
In the course of walking Joey around the grounds, I began to notice and pick up bits of litter: candy wrappers, about a thousand cigarette butts, and about a thousand pieces of plastic. When I told Melody she was thrilled and crowed to Grandma Paula: “Joey did his first community service project!” Well, why not? Since we’re walking around and around and around the grounds, we might as well pick up trash.
And thus passed the day and the next and the next in sweet delight. I realized that I had needed this. I had needed to really unplug and to spend time with God. I had never imagined that I would get the chance to do that while babysitting. Like I always say: God is good!