Category: Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl – 8. Christmas Day

I can still remember Elen’s first Christmas, though I have to confess that this is mainly due to the fact that for the first time in my life I wasn’t the one getting all the flashy presents – she was!! At the time she was just a dribbling 7month old who didn’t even know how to use all the super-cool stuff her doting relatives had lavished upon her. Myself on the other hand had to suck it up and get used to the idea that I had been relegated from the designer clothes and tech gadgets league to the box of chocolates and budget socks league!

Gutted!!

Truth is I wasn’t really that bothered at all. After all it was Elen’s first Christmas and I wanted her to be blessed to the max. Plus I quite like budget socks!! She might not have remembered much of that Christmas, but her second one – now that was a different matter…

By the time Christmas number 2 had arrived Elen had grown into a beautiful, bouncy toddler, full of life, laughter and creative energy. Michelle had been racking her brains for the perfect gift and came up trumps when she managed to get hold of a quality kid’s kitchen set, complete with cooker, hob, dishwasher and all the utensils! It was right up Elen’s street and we knew she’d love it! The problem was wrapping the jolly thing. We’d set it up all ready for her and it was huge – literally twice her size! We stayed up late on Christmas Eve wrapping all her gifts and eventually managed to get them all done – including the colossal kitchen! As we went to bed that night we were both buzzin’ to see exactly how Elen was going to respond to her special gift on Christmas morning…

As Christmas morning dawned Elen woke up full of excited anticipation. I’d like to think her excitement was all down to her passionate appreciation of the nativity story, but in reality she was a 19month old little girl and it was all about the merchandise at this point! After joining us for a cwtch in bed we went downstairs and her little face lit up as she saw this huge object, smothered in wrapping paper, waiting for her in the middle of the living room.

What she did next was profound.

She did what every kid in her position would have done – she hurried over to it and wasted no time in ripping strips of paper off until she made it to the prize underneath. To say she liked it would be an understatement of epic proportions! She went crazy for it and got straight down to cooking us breakfast (nothing like plastic sausage and chips for Brekkie on Christmas morning!)

But here’s the point – she saw the gift and just went for it! No fear. No doubt. No suspicion. No looking for strings. She knew it was a gift from parents who love her to bits and she trusted that it was going to be something good!

To me this was one of the most important lessons I learned from my little girl because this is how God wants us to respond to His gift for us. What is His gift? Check it out:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6v23)

God’s gift to us is eternal life that is solely, freely available to us through Jesus. He paid for it with His own blood on the cross and He now offers it to all who would receive it. Yet so many hear the good news of salvation and reject it. They say it sounds too good to be true. They question the validity of the gift, doubt the integrity of the Giver, fear what it’ll cost them, or refuse to accept that anything comes free and without strings!

Maybe that’s where you’re at!

If so, consider the words of Jesus Himself:

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18v17)

On the morning of Elen’s second Christmas I learned what Jesus was getting at when He said this! My little girl trusted us, grabbed hold of the gift, received it joyfully and boy was she blessed?!

That’s how we are to respond to Jesus!

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Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl – 7. Jesus Is Alive In Wetherspoons

I wasn’t there for this particular episode, but Michelle insists it was one of the funniest moments from Elen’s frequently hilarious toddler-hood. Here’s how it went down:

We had just moved to a new area and were still finding our feet, meeting new people etc. So you can imagine Michelle’s joy when she was invited to join a bunch of young mums and their little-uns on their weekly pilgrimage to Wetherspoons, for an early morning brekkie and a natter! Before long she was loving the warm friendship (and reasonably-priced toast) and the Wetherspoons jaunt soon became a regular fixture for the Hankey girls.

Now Elen has always loved songs! I mean she wasn’t so much the kid who knows all the words to “Twinkle, twinkle little star.” She was more like a pint-sized jukebox who would burst out into song regardless of time or place. It was almost as if someone had put a coin in the slot and she had no choice but to perform!

One morning whilst chilling in Wetherspoons, the Jukebox simply had to play. At that time Elen was really loving a worship song called Happy Day by a guy called Tim Hughes. The lyrics for the second verse go like this:

When I stand, in that place
Free at last, meeting face to face
I am Yours Jesus You are mine.
Endless joy, perfect peace
Earthly pain finally will cease
Celebrate Jesus is alive.
He’s alive!

So there she was sat at the table with the whole gang, when she turned to Michelle and passionately declared “HE’S ALIVE!!!” Not sure what people made of it – if anything! Some might not have known what she was on about. Others perhaps knew it was about Jesus and chose not to draw attention to it. Or maybe they all just found it really cute. Who knows? All I know is that my 22month old little girl strolled into a pub one day and proclaimed the most important message of all time!

Jesus is alive!

This is literally the most crucial truth out there. Here’s why:

1. It proves that we can trust Jesus
Jesus made some huge claims and some massive promises, but none was more audacious than this one: “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” (Mark 9v31) If Jesus is dead – so are His promises and so is our faith. But Jesus isn’t dead, He’s alive and well and 100% trustworthy.

2. It takes the fear out of death
Fear of death is still the world’s number 1 fear. By conquering death, Jesus has showed that death doesn’t have the final word – He does! Those who believe in Him can confidently say: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1v21) Death holds no fear for those who believe that Jesus is alive.

3. It guarantees us eternal life
Jesus guaranteed a new-kind life to everyone who puts their faith in Him – life that is full (John 10v10) and eternal (John 3v16). This life is made real to us by the same power that bust Jesus out of the grave being unleashed inside us: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8v11).

Jesus is alive! It’s such great news!

Take it from a toddler who knows!!

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl – 6. Etch-a-Sketch

What a duck!One of the one of the best investments we ever made for Elen was a magnetic Etch-a-Sketch pad that we got from Tesco for £2.99. It might not sound particularly impressive on the surface of it, but trust me the hours of pleasure she got from doodling and creating were worth so much more than £2.99! In fairness to Elen she also loved to share her ‘skecthy’ with her parents and would regularly let me have a go on it. The thing is she only ever wanetd me to draw one thing – a duck!

Initially my ducks weren’t that impressive, but after months of dedicated practice, I could soon draw ducks with my eyes shut – and I reckon they looked pretty cool! Elen, however, being the creative genius that she is, liked to add her own finishing touches to my master-pieces. These finishing touches would usually take the form of large, enthusiastic scribbles all over my beautiful art, which to Elen’s finely-tuned eye were master-strokes, though in reality – she regularly, recklessly destroyed my ducks! One of the best things about the sketchy, however, is the little slider at the bottom that erases every trace of wanton vandalism and destruction, and leaves you with a brand-new canvas to start working on again.

It’s a powerful reminder of what Jesus has done for us.

If we’re honest, most of us would have to put our hand up and admit that in some way, shape or form we have messed our lives up. We have all sinned and done stuff that we regret and often times that regret is accompanied by a deep sense of shame.

  • If we could turn the clock back we would.
  • If we could shake off the memories we would.
  • If we could clean up the mess we would.

But we can’t. We try any and every way we possible to numb the pain – drink, drugs, sex, violence, retail therapy, denial etc., but it never works. It’s like the beautiful picture that our lives should have been has been totally wrecked by our sin.

The truth is if we were offered a fresh start we’d grab it with both hands!

Well that’s precisely what Jesus offers.

Imagine every single word, thought and deed that you’ve ever done wrong, written on a skecthy (even the stuff you think is unforgiveable!) As Jesus shed His blood on the cross, it’s as if God Himself slides the wiper from one side to the other and in doing so – all trace of our sin is gone. The punishment that we deserve was taken by Jesus. The forgiveness we all crave is now freely available.

“the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin.”  (1John 1v7)

“as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103v12)

It might sound too good to be true – but it’s not! It’s God’s loving gift to guilty people in a messed-up world. There’s only one appropriate response: 

“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord”  (Acts 3v19-20)

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl – 5. Hospital

dripIt was a day that stands out in my memory above nearly all others and not for a good reason. Elen was around 9 months old and had been suffering with a virus for several days. Her temperature had been gradually creeping higher and higher, until one afternoon it reached crisis point and she started to convulse uncontrollably on the floor. We rang 999 and within minutes a medic was on the scene.

Moments later Elen was rushed to hospital in an ambulance.

I still remember catching up with them shortly afterwards in the Children’s hospital of Wales. My tiny little girl lay motionless in a huge bed, pale and scared. Drugs were being pumped into her via a drip in her tiny hand. Her temperature was still really high and we were told that she would not be allowed to leave until her temperature had returned to normal and remained stable for 24 hours. This did not happen for several days.

It was an exhausting time both emotionally and physically, so you can imagine how grateful I was for the hospital’s merciful provision of a Coffee Lounge for parents! As I was making a coffee one afternoon I got chatting to the father of another child who was also sick in hospital. We talked about the pain and helplessness we felt as dads being unable to do anything to relieve our kids from their suffering, and as we did so I made this simple comment:

“I’d do anything to swap places with my little girl right now!”

I meant it from the very depths of my heart. Literally if there had been any physical way that I could have exchanged her virus for my health so that I would be the one sick in a hospital bed while she skipped and danced her way back home – I would have done it in a shot because she’s my little girl and I love her deeply! It was as these words passed my lips that the sheer miracle of God’s love dawned on me in a fresh and profound way.

As we have already seen, this world is seriously sick – infected by the virus of sin. Furthermore, no matter how much religion, philosophy, self-help, or technological progress we turn to for salvation – we remain incapable of saving ourselves. We’re broken and we can’t fix it!

Incredibly, however, when God sees the affliction of the people that He loves, His heart-cry is exactly the same as mine was for Elen:

“I’d do anything to swap places with them right now!”

And that’s precisely what He did for us on the cross. Jesus literally swapped places with us and died in our place. This one incredible ‘great exchange’ * changes everything for those who believe:

  • From guilty to righteous (2Corinthians 5v21)
  • From broken to healed (Isaiah 53v5)
  • From cursed to blessed (Galatians 3v13)
  • From enemy to family (Romans 5v10)

Why did He do it?

Because He loves us to death!

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5v8)

* A phrase coined by the radical German Monk, Martin Luther.

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl – 4. Baby Jesus

baby JesusElen’s first Christmas passed her by with minimal fuss. By the second time round, however, she had really started to get her head around the whole Christmas thing – loving the bright lights, the cheesey songs and of course – all the presents. Bizzarely, however, it was a small cloth bag stuffed with soft nativity characters that she got most excited by. It contained shepherds, a sheep, 3 wise men and some dodgy-looking angels. Mary and Jo were obviously in there too, but it was little baby Jesus who really captured Elen’s imagination the most. She couldn’t get enough of him as she cuddled him, talked to him, danced with him and invited him to join her at every family meal. All she would talk about was “baby Jesus this” and “baby Jesus that.”

It really got me thinking about Jesus in a fresh way.

Whether influenced by Sunday School stories or South Park stereotyping, most of us have some kind of image in our minds when we think of Jesus. To some He’s the good teacher, to others the compassionate healer. Some think of him as a revolutionary leader while others associate Him primarily with the cross. But to Elen, He was a tiny, helpless baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger.

As Pops’ Rat has already revealed to us – we need a Saviour, and that is exactly who Jesus is, as the angels told the shepherds when He was born:

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2v10-12)

Jesus was the hero of heaven who had come to save us from the curse of sin, but rather than coming as a mighty warrior, or a charismatic political leader, He came as a vulnerable baby, dependent on a mother for food and warmth. He embraced the fullness of humanity from the cradle to the grave, knowing like us, what it means to grow up in a paiful, broken world, to face every trial and feel every emotion. He laughed, He cried, He triumphed and He trembled.

He knows what true life feels like from our perspective, which is awesome because it reveals to us that God is not a loveless, distant God who doesn’t give a stuff about what we go through. Rather He is a good God who is willing to step right to the heart of where we are at in order to reveal His love to us.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4v15-16) 

Baby Jesus reminded me that even a toddler can relate to the Saviour of the world.

I love that!

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl – 3. Pops’ Rat

pops ratWhen Elen was born she just seemed so perfect. As she started growing up, however, we soon realised that our precious little girl was not the perfect little angel she had first appeared to be.

Far from it…

As with most kids, Elen developed a real fondness for soft toys. One of her favourite hang-outs was Mamgu and Pops’ house (that’s what we call my mam and dad!) because they had a sofa in their living room with a huge assortment of soft animals strewn across the back of it. As soon as Elen was able to climb she couldn’t wait to scale the heights in order to get her hands on the various cuddly creatures that lived up there – frogs, bears, elephants, monkeys, tigers, koalas…

One day, a new animal appeared at the far end of the sofa. It was a small, grey rat that my sister had bought Pops for Christmas, and was quite special to him. Pops’ rat was therefore ‘off limits’ for Elen, who was told that she was welcome to play with all the other animals, but that she wasn’t to touch his precious rat!

What unfolded as a consequence of this new rule was as disturbing as it was hilarious!

All of a sudden Elen didn’t give a stuff about all of her other animal friends. She was focussing all of her energy, passion and criminal skill into swiping Pops’ rat from under his very nose! She tried everything from smash and grab to distraction tactics, usually failing miserably, though occasionally getting her hands on the coveted rat before being headed-off at the pass!

As comical as it was, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the bit in the Bible that explains how the world got to be so messed-up! Genesis (the first book of the Bible) tells the story of how God made the world and that the pinnacle of His creation was human beings, who He made to be in relationship with Himself. He gave our first parents, Adam and Eve, the freedom to enjoy the whole world, with just one simple command:

“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2v16-17)

In the same way that Elen broke our rules and pursued the forbidden rat, Adam and Eve rejected God’s loving law, took the forbidden fruit, thus kick-starting a tragic chain-reaction that continues to destroy our world today.

  • Rebellion against God is called sin, and we are all born in its cruel grip.*
  • All of the suffering, hatred, disease, anxiety and death in our world today are the consequence of sin in our lives.
  • Ultimately sin is a barrier that separates us from God (who is perfect), both in this life and after we die, in hell.**

If nothing else, Elen’s rebellious escapades only served to remind me that we are all sinners who need to be liberated from the Curse of Pops’ Rat!

What we need is a Saviour.

 

* Romans 3v23

** 2Thessalonians 1v9

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl – 2.Sunroof

If Elen looked chilled out at 12 weeks, the 20 week scan revealed a baby who was so content as she slouched about in her cosy embryonic armchair that she showed no sign of ever wanting to emerge. As the pregnancy developed, she did not budge an inch, refusing to get into the ‘engaged’ position (“Ready or not, here i come!”), opting instead for the ‘breach’ position (“We shall not, we shall not be moved!”)

Giving birth to a baby in breach is dangerous for both the baby and the mother, so Michelle agreed to give birth by elective caesarean section, meaning that she would go in for a pre-planned operation a week before the baby was due. No breaking waters, no contractions, all a bit surreal really. All of a sudden our answer to the question “when’s the baby due?” was “9am next Tuesday!”

Elen - Day1So when 9am next tuesday arrived, Elen’s peace and quiet was disturbed forever as she was hoisted out of the ‘sunroof’ and entered the bright lights of the real world. As the midwife placed this tiny, gorgeous girl into my arms it was one of the most intense, memorable, awe-inspiring moments that I had ever experienced. This precious little person in my arms was my daughter. My own flesh and blood. My responsibilty.

The landscape of my life had just changed forever – and I was buzzin!

It’s no exaggeration to say that within 2 minutes of holding Elen I was a completely different man. I felt my roughest edges melt away as I was overwhelmed by a love that was unlike anything else I had ever known. It was so raw, so powerful and so deep that I didn’t know how to process it properly. I just wanted to nurture, protect, love and encourage her forever.

Why did I love her so much? To this point she had done absolutely nothing to deserve it – she hadn’t given me any gifts or done me any favours. She literally came to me with nothing in her hands.

I guess I just loved her because she was mine.

She was part of me.

In that moment I wanted her to know how much I loved her. I wanted her to grow up so secure in that love that she would one day feel able to love me back. I guess that’s the essence of all true relationships – unconditional love inspires unconditional love.

Incredibly, that’s exactly what God’s love is like for us! The Greek word for love in the Bible is ‘agape’, which describes a love that is rooted in the desire of someon to give love, rather than in the worthiness of the recipient to receive it. It’s an awesome word! One of Jesus best mates called John once wrote:

“We love because He first loved us.” (1John 4v19)

  • God loves us because He wants to.
  • He created us to love us because“God is love.”  (1John 4v16) 
  • We were designed to both enjoy His love and to love Him back.
  • We were made for a relationship with God!

That’s awesome.