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Whimisical. Simple. Thankful. Profound.
One day at a time, one prayer at a time, a busy working mother and playful six-year-old daughter transformed their bedtime ...
Whimisical. Simple. Thankful. Profound.
One day at a time, one prayer at a time, a busy working mother and playful six-year-old daughter transformed their bedtime prayers. They started rushed and tired. Distracted, "It's late. Let's go."
And then, gradually, something happened. A thank you here. A vulnerable moment there. The perfunctory prayers became . . . opportunities. "What did you do today? What did you learn? Anything else?"
Like a window into their relationship their prayers and reflections let us witness the growth, enjoy the childlikeness, and learn from their winsome faith. Discover how you and your child can find connection, humor, and a deeper understanding of God in the quiet last few minutes of each day.
There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart. —Celia Thaxter
Sunday, May 3 1
CHLOE: Dear God and Jesus, thank you for getting to have school tomorrow, and getting to have a school year thing that was very fun. Lots of stuff to eat and ... Help me ...
MOMMY: What else did we do today? What did we do this morning?
CHLOE: Oh, go out with our friends, get bagels, and eat at their house. Play.
MOMMY: And then what did we do this afternoon?
CHLOE: And they got a new dog. And thank you for letting me go to the pool. Thank you for my family, and one more thing, oh, thank you for Mama!
In the Beginning
It was Chloe's idea to document her prayers. I had told her that I thought they were so beautiful and that I always seemed to learn something every night when I listened to her pray. I didn't always realize what I had learned right away, but the lesson would come back to me, days later, in small doses when I least expected it. Something simple would happen, such as a stranger holding a door open for me or a redbird pecking at my kitchen window, and I would think, Chloe would thank God for this.
Then one night while I was remarking on how special her prayers were Chloe said, "Mommy, why don't you write them down?"
We decided to begin just after her sixth birthday. Documenting the prayers in her Hello Kitty notebook seemed like a good idea at first until we realized that we were sitting in a dark room. That, along with my poor handwriting, convinced me that I needed a more practical option, so I decided to record them. Since I didn't want her to be intimidated or distracted by the voice recorder, I chose a small digital recorder that I could hold at a distance and still get clear sound. I also didn't want her to feel pressure that we would record every single night. We decided our goal within her sixth year was to record one hundred prayers, and then I would transcribe them and make them into a little booklet for her to keep. When she grew up, she would always have this special reminder of her childhood.
"I just talk into it?" Chloe asked me, wide-eyed as I held the tiny handheld recorder near her face. She leaned in thinking she had to have her mouth practically on top of the speaker for it to work.
"You don't have to be that close. Just talk normally. Pretend it's not even there," I said, gently guiding her head back down onto the pillow.
But then something funny happened along the way to reaching our goal. As I listened to Chloe pray every single night, I realized that I was not doing this just for her; I was also doing it for me. I'm a regular mother who wanted to give her daughter a love of God. Yet, with no special skills or theological background, and with as many questions about faith as answers, I felt ill equipped to be her guide. But slowly I started to discover that she was my guide. Woven in between her simple declarations of thanks and love were trinkets of wisdom about how to approach spirituality, parenting, and life in general. It was only when I stepped back and really started to understand the gift she had given me that I decided I needed to share it with others.
"Is it off now?" she asked that first time we used the recorder.
"It is, sweetie," I replied, tucking it into the pocket of my robe.
"But I've got more to say," she said through a yawn.
"They'll be plenty of time for that, baby. Plenty of time."
Monday, June 1
CHLOE: Dear God and Jesus, thank you for getting to have a playdate with Julia. Well, Mallory had it today. Thank you for getting to have school today. I'm sad because—well, I'm happy because we're going into first grade, but I'm sad because we're leaving kindergarten. I want to time travel to get all the way to the first grade. My friend Jordan wanted to do that.
MOMMY: So, did you love kindergarten?
MOMMY: What are you going to miss about it?
CHLOE: I'm going to miss my teachers, my friends, the whole entire classroom.
MOMMY: Okay, what else do you want to thank God for?
CHLOE: Getting to do swim practice today, and Daddy getting to be home today.
MOMMY: Home early.
CHLOE: Home early. Thank you for my family and one more thing, oh, thank you for Mommy!
Just as some children are born with brown eyes or blond hair, I believe some people are simply born with a deep spiritual core. I might not have recognized it as quickly had Chloe been my firstborn child, but because I already had some experience with raising my older daughter, Mallory, I realized right away that Chloe had an inherent faith that didn't come from Sunday school or her family. It came from somewhere deep within her heart.
"Where did you come from?" I ask Chloe on a regular basis, meaning it both literally and figuratively, as in, How did I get so lucky to have such a sweet child? I am a lot of things, but sweet is not a word you would use to describe me—passionate, energetic, intense, but definitely not sweet.
"Mommy, God gave me to you. He wanted you to have me, so he brought me down from heaven and put me in your tummy," Chloe always responds.
One day I promised her something—it wasn't a big something, a trip to the park or a movie. I can't recall exactly what it was. But like so many promises busy parents make to their children, she knew there was a chance I wouldn't be able to keep it. She looked me directly in the eyes at five years old and said, "Mommy, you know if you break a promise you will break God's heart."
On this night as we prayed together, her sadness about leaving kindergarten, along with her excitement about starting first grade, was typical Chloe. She has a genuine love for people in her life, like her teachers and friends, and even though she knew there would be new teachers and friends the following year, it was impossible for her to contemplate leaving the old ones behind.
"I wish all of my friends and my teachers could come up to first grade with me," she said.
"I know, baby. They can't, but you will still see them next year," I said, hoping that I was saying the right thing.
"But it won't be the same," she replied, turning away and burying her head in her pillow.
Somehow, though, even in these trying moments, Chloe finds peace in her steadfast faith that allows her to face the challenges in life with God as her copilot. Unlike other children who constantly have to be reassured about God's presence and ask questions to verify his existence, Chloe simply accepted his presence from a very early age. Her strong faith has caused me to question the strength of my own beliefs and tested me in ways that I didn't expect.
"You're right, Mommy," she said after a long silence, lifting her head up from the pillow. "My friends are always in my heart, just like God," she said putting her little hand on her chest in the general vicinity of her heart.
I'd like to take credit for this early spiritual foundation in my daughter, but I'm afraid I can't. Other than having her say a prayer at the dinner table and at bedtime and taking her to church most Sundays, I haven't exactly been a model spiritual leader. I am the kind of mom who occasionally mutters something unsavory under her breath at other drivers or at times pulls out my BlackBerry in church. Yet, somehow, my imperfect soul created this gentle little creature who at the center of her being loves the world and wants what's best for everyone.
"I don't deserve you," I say with a smile when she tells me about God putting her in my belly.
"Yes, you do, Mommy. That's why God gave me to you. He wanted you to have a sweet little girl," she says with absolute sincerity.
She's not perfect by any means; no one is. But she's someone who inspires me every day to be a better person. As parents, we all have moments when the tables are turned and the children become the teachers. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.
Wednesday, June 3
CHLOE: Dear God and Jesus, thank you for getting to go to the pool today and getting to go to this party at Cici's house. We got to do five fun things. And Mallory getting to do swim team today. Why are you smiling?
MOMMY: Because you're so adorable, and I can't stand it sometimes.
MOMMY: What did you guys do on the porch today?
MOMMY: I thought you danced.
CHLOE: No. And thank you for my family and one more thing, oh, thank you for Mommy.
God and Jesus
I've never fully grasped the holy Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Are they one? Are they three? What's the deal? It's a very confusing theological concept. Chloe, however, decided early on that she would not pray to just God, but that she had to pray to Jesus as well. Chloe has actually always had a thing for Jesus—Baby Jesus, that is. From a very early age she started carrying around the plastic Baby Jesus from our nativity scene (which she refers to as "the Jesus house") at Christmastime. It was not unusual to find him in her bed beneath her pillow, in the pocket of her jacket, or even in the bathtub getting a good scrub. At Christmastime, wherever Chloe goes, Baby Jesus goes too.
"Mommy, where's Baby Jesus?" she yelled from her bedroom one day. Immediately, the whole house was on lockdown as we went on a search-and-rescue mission for the tiny Baby Jesus who was inexplicably permanently attached to his manger. I have learned the hard way that when Chloe loses Baby Jesus, we are in crisis mode until he is located.
"Got him," I said as I retrieved Baby Jesus from an empty cardboard paper towel holder that she had hidden behind the giant throw pillows on the couch.
"That's right. I forgot that's where he was. He was napping," she said, snatching the little figure out of my hand and skipping off in the direction of her bedroom.
So when Chloe started saying unscripted prayers, as opposed to "Now I lay me down to sleep," she decided it wouldn't be right just to pray to God. She needed to include Jesus as well. In the beginning of the prayer project, I also said a prayer directly after hers that I did not tape. The idea was that I would also share something special about my day for which I wanted to thank God. Not being a prayer warrior like Chloe, I often found this challenging despite the fact that my only audience was a six-year-old.
"Dear God, thank you for—" I said one night before she cut me off.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, Mommy. You can't just thank God. How do you think Jesus would feel? It's not right to leave him out," she said, wagging her little finger in my face beneath the glow of the nightlight with its rainbow of groovy colors.
"Okay. Dear God and Jesus, thank you for the sunshine," I said, starting again.
"Sunshine? Mommy. You need something more 'pacific than that. That's not a real prayer," she said, crossing her little arms over her pajamas that were covered in purple monkeys.
"Okay, let's try this again. Can I start from the thank-you part?" I asked nervously.
"Yes," she said impatiently.
"Thank you for getting to go to the pool," I said.
"Done. I used that. You can't use it. You have to use something new," she said incredulously, unfolding her arms and lifting her palms in the air.
"Okay, thanks for the ice cream we had this afternoon," I said.
"Oh, Mommy, I forgot that one. I need to add it in. Can I do mine again?" she pleaded.
That was the last time I said a prayer out loud in front of Chloe. I decided that I was a distraction; plus, I was never very good at unscripted prayers anyway, not even in my head at church. I preferred the ones from the prayer book that I knew by heart. After all, it was Chloe's prayer party, and I was just lucky to be invited. But there was one other guest at the party—it was clear that God was there with both of us.
Chloe on Jesus:
I think he looks like maybe brown hair and I think he has a robe, both of them do. Jesus is the Son of God. He was a teacher, a servant, a healer. He died for us. It shows how much he loves you.
Friday, June 5
MOMMY: So, it was your last day of kindergarten.
CHLOE: It was more like half a day. We got to give the people who are not coming back next year to first grade a hug and also the teachers. Dear God and Jesus, thank you for letting Mallory have a playdate and I get to go with Clare, and getting to go to a movie and make my own ice cream and getting to make a show with them. Yeah! Thank you for my family, and one more thing, oh, thank you for Mommy!
"Thank you for our daily bread" is a line from a prayer from my childhood. At the time, I had no idea what "daily bread" meant. A literal interpretation would be "food" as the prayer is usually said at mealtimes. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that "daily bread" could stand for all of the little moments in our lives that we take for granted—someone letting you in on a traffic-filled highway, McDonald's bringing back cherry pies, or a found five-dollar bill in the pocket of your just-washed jeans.
Chloe takes very little for granted. She finds moments in every single day to be thankful for—a hug from a friend or a teacher, a play-date, a trip to the movies, homemade ice cream. Somehow, she stores all these little treasures in her brain, and then, in the evening, remembers to thank God for these tiny slivers of joy, no matter how small.
"Can you remind me of the good things from the day, Mommy?" she often asks as she curls up next to me on her bed. Sometimes she needs help remembering, but mainly I think she likes the sound of my voice retelling the highlights of her day.
"You got an extra chicken nugget in your kid's meal at the restaurant at lunch," I said once, knowing exactly what kinds of things make Chloe smile.
"That was a very good thing. You're right, Mommy," she said and rewarded me with a toothy grin.
I wonder if this is a trait unique to children or do we all have this innocent ability to appreciate these seemingly ordinary moments in our lives, but ignore them as we become jaded grown-ups burdened by the pressures that adulthood brings? Are we too caught up in the daily chaos of our lives? Are we so busy answering phone calls, emails, and texts that we aren't capable of noticing the "daily bread"?
I have recently vowed to pay more attention to my "daily bread" with Chloe's help. Today, I thank God for the squiggly pink lines in the sky as the early morning sun peeks over the horizon. I thank God for the way my older daughter, Mallory, doesn't let go of my hand as usual when I reach out for it as we stroll along the sidewalk. I thank God for the crisp apple on the plate in front of me. I thank God for the four rabbits I noticed on my morning walk. But most of all, I thank God for all of the lessons I am learning from Chloe.
Saturday, June 6
CHLOE: Dear God, thank you for getting to see Mommy today because she was away. And, Jesus, thank you for having no school and washing my dad's car and our neighbor's car. Going down in our green wagon, and my dad pulling us. And thank you for my family, and one more thing, oh, thank you for Mommy!
Mothers, Be Good to Your Daughters
No matter how much time you spend with your children, it is never enough. When my older daughter was a baby, I worked full-time. Eventually, I negotiated a four-day workweek. By the time Chloe came along, I realized that I would need to work less and spend more time at home if I was going to be the kind of parent I hoped to be. This pull, along with my new writing career, prompted me to go to a three-day workweek. But soon, my writing career started to take more of my time at night and on my days off. The cycle of not spending enough time with my girls started all over again. I was right back where I had started.
"Mommy, why are you dressed up?" Chloe asked me one morning.
"Because I have to work today, honey," I responded in a gentle tone.
"But, Mommy, it's summer. Why can't you stay home with me?"
I decided I needed to prioritize my family. Work—television reporting and writing—would have to take a backseat. Doing so many things at one time means that I never do anything really well. When I am with my kids, I constantly misplace my BlackBerry that connects me to work. I fight hysteria as I dig through the trash can or a full laundry basket looking furiously for the vibrating albatross that anchors me to the outside world and constantly distracts me from my children. When I am at work, it is not uncommon to get a hysterical call from one of my daughters that she and the babysitter waited for thirty minutes at the piano school only to find out that I had the day wrong. In short, I am far from perfect, but thankfully the screwups are not of the life-and-death variety. I do the best that I can.
Excerpted from I Love You to God and Back by Amanda Lamb Copyright © 2012 by Amanda Lamb. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Part 1 Endless Sunshine 1
Part 2 Chloe and God Go to First Grade 51
Part 3 Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus 137
Part 4 Nesting 175
Part 5 Rebirth 215
Prayer Primer for Parents 249
About the Author 257
Posted April 19, 2012
This book was not what I was expecting based on its title. I was looking forward to coming away with some life lessons and new values on how to grow in God alongside my children. Sadly, it did not deliver on this. "I love you to God and Back" however was a heart warming reminder of the everyday blessings in our lives that we are often too busy to notice. Visits with friends, simple outings and our dear families are just a few of God's gifts to us in our daily lives. A little book that will leave a smile on your face.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 5, 2012
It was hard for me to decide whether I Love You To God And Back by Amanda Lamb should be a Read It or Skip It recommendation. The book itself was fun, sweet and very feel-good. But in the end, would this be a book that readers would keep in their libraries or get rid of? Would it be remembered? Would it add anything lasting or memorable to the reader's life? I believe the later, so my recommendation is Skip It.
If you love fiction, then you will love this book. It's a warm, positive story about a baby Christian mother and her younger daughter, sharing a prayer time. This book makes you smile, so if your goal is just to have a good time, read this book.
However, I seek something a bit deeper. You will most likely forget this book. After reading it, although I enjoyed reading it, I didn't come away with any real value added to my life. The prayers are extremely light or simple. Some might use the word shallow but I prefer not to describe someone's genuine prayer as shallow because they are heartfelt. However, nearly every of the 100 prayers in the book goes like: "Dear God and Jesus, thank you for being able to go to school, thank you for swimming at the pool, thank you for playing with friends and thank you for my family. Ohhhh and thank you for Mommy!" Nearly every prayer follows this outline with a little change here or there. And the rest of the book is Mom telling stories about how adorable her girls are. And they are adorable! You will love them. Mom writes a beautiful book. Maybe I should give this a "Read It" recommendation.... but I can't. Simply because there wasn't enough to it. It was like watching a good soap opera.
The best part of this book for me was the questions that the daughter made her mother consider. Who should we pray to? God? Jesus? God and Jesus? And should we end our prayers with Amen? Why? Things like this added a little depth to the book, but there weren't enough "Ahhh" and "Hmmm" moments for me. Just lots of warm fuzzy memories being shared. It was a good book. But not a great book. If you have time and enjoy fiction, read it. If you are busy, skip it.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher for this unbiased review. I am not required to give positive reviews.