Friday, January 11, 2008
Meilani's Milestones: Taking Cues from the Nativity
This week we fished out the boxes from the garage and packed away the Christmas ornaments, the wreaths and nutcrackers. We hefted our brittle tree out to the curb and swept the trail of pine needles throughout the house. And last, but not least, I packed up the nativity set. Of course, our now 19-month-old Meilani is not ready to part with her personal nativity - an early-December gift from Grandma.
Let me tell you something about this nativity set designed just for kids. It's made out of that action-figure rubber, painted with bright (somewhat unrealistic colors) and this set has gone everywhere with us for almost a month now.
I mean everywhere.
These wise men have been launched across the living room. These shepherds have trotted after their sheep in the family hybrid, the laundry basket and the stroller. Mary and Joseph have traveled not only to Bethlehem but to Tahoe Joe's restaurant in Fresno, the Tech Museum in San Jose and even to several friends' houses across the Central Valley.
And let's not forget the baby Jesus, whom my daughter fondly calls "BeeBee." He's not more than the size of my fingernail wrapped in swaddling cloths but he's also traveled the world of my eager toddler, frequenting pockets, backpacks and once even landing in the toilet. (I'll spare you the details.)
Meilani does not discriminate with her nativity scenes. She loves her own personal set but she's also constantly on the lookout for other varieties. She would climb onto her changing table just so she can peer out the window at the BeeBee in our neighbor's window across the street. Nana Maria has a nativity collection and Meilani loves getting her sweet face in close and examining the carved faces of wise men carved in Rwanda, cows carefully painted in Mexico or angels molded in Costa Rica. But she's always most concerned about the BeeBee.
Is the BeeBee sleeping? Is the BeeBee eating? Who wrapped the BeeBee? Can she hold the BeeBee? Is the BeeBee safely in the Mama's arms? Meilani will gingerly place the BeeBee Jesus in Mary's arms and hold him there for long stretches with her pointer finger and thumb as if it's her duty to help him find his mama.
I don't know what it is about this scene that brings me to tears. I've learned a lot this month from my daughter and her child-like faith. I have a new understanding of that verse in Luke that says we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of God.
She gets it. I know she does in her simple way. A new milestone at our house is that Meilani leads the prayers. We never prompted her. For weeks she kept saying "PIE!PIe!" and we had no idea what she was trying to communicate until this past Sunday when I was with her in her little Sunday School class and the teacher said it was time to pray. Meilani leaped up to the front of the class, folded her hands and said, "Pie!" She bowed her head and mumbled a few jumbled syllables. Speaking in tongues? Teacher and I exchanged one mutual look of awe. She wanted to pray to Jesus.
Sometimes we make faith so complicated. We pile layers of theology and materialism on top of the truth and the BeeBee is so wrapped up in our "swaddling cloths" we don't even notice him anymore. At least I don't - until I hear my daughter trotting through the house yelling "BeeBee! BeeBee" at the top of her joy-filled lungs.
And now the Christmas lights are no longer winking at our house. The bows and rolls of extra wrapping paper are packed away. The Christmas tablecloths and serving platters are returned to the closet until next year. But we're still keeping one particular nativity set out. Meilani has the BeeBee and his friends tucked in a small felt bag underneath her arm tonight. She's resting with Jesus.