My childhood was blessed by the presence of two grandfathers. I have great memories of both. My mom’s dad was a great influence on me during junior high and beyond. When I felt my parent’s just didn’t understand I could sit and discuss anything with grandpa Scheer. Those were the years of Kennedy-Nixon debates; Kent State shootings; the general state of the union. Wow I had such great respect for him. He always gave me his attention, letting me voice my opinion – just plain sitting down and listening. I truly miss him. He was a tall, gentle man with a strong faith in his Savior.
But it was my dad’s dad that I remember most when I was a little girl. Grandpa Nietfeld had a special place in my heart. His wife died before I was born and although he rarely spoke of her he had the greatest capacity for loving children. My brothers and sisters could share anything with him and he would sit and take it all in, even if he had heard it a hundred times before. We were excited to tell him about new baby calves; what we were learning in school; showing our new shoes for fall (really that was big because we did not always get new clothing).
Both of my grandfathers were farmers, but grandpa Nietfeld always wore “the overalls” – sometimes faded blue denim, sometimes with the thin blue stripes – complete with the blue chambray work shirt. His shoes were sturdy brown work boots that laced up and my earliest memories were of him as he sat crossing his knees with me perched on his foot, my hands firmly grasped by him. He would bounce me up and down and call it a “pony ride” and I never tired of it.
I would climb into his lap as he pulled out his simple pocket watch on a thin leather cord. I would put it to my ear and listen to the soft “tick-tick-tick”. Sometimes I would just crawl onto that lap and fall asleep smelling the clean starch of his shirt and feeling the stiff denim beneath my cheek all the while listening to his watch safely tucked inside of his shirt. All the while his strong arms held me. I can safely say he never tired of holding a grandchild or bouncing one of us on his knees.
That image will be forever etched on my brain and it is that very scene that I picture when I talk with Jesus. Sometimes I think we adults make prayer too difficult and complicated. When we struggle with correct grammar, debating the sequence or structure of our requests, we need to stop and know that our Lord hears what is on our hearts. When I’m frustrated, when the phrase doesn’t sound right, when I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude I feel myself crawling into God’s lap. I throw my arms around his shoulder, lay my head on His chest and cry with tears of aches or tears of sheer joy – it doesn’t matter He understands both. And when I rest and fall asleep I can almost hear the beat of His heart beneath my ear, like a soft tick, tick, tick comforting me with His love; giving me His strength and reassuring me that when I wake up He will still be with me. I think it was much the same as when Jesus chided his disciples and said simply, “Let the little children come to me…” Matt 19:14.
Lord, when we struggle in conversation with you, help us to step back and become a child climbing into your lap and letting go – letting you do what you does best – love us.