Andy Denen

Ideas on life, church, and culture.

What I Learned from My 1-1/2 Year Old

Friday was the first day of our vacation in South Carolina. We left home Friday morning and drove about 8 hours before stopping at hotel to settle the kids in and gear up for the final 4 hours on Saturday. Traveling with toddlers really isn’t bad, but it does require some extra time and “stuff.” We packed snacks, games, videos, and made sure we took our time on all stops to let them run around and burn off some energy. Overall, they did awesome. A few minor fussy moments here and there, but the trip was seamless.

Until we tried to get them to go to sleep.

We got a room with a king sized bed and a pull-out sofa bed. We figured Ethan would sleep in the pull out and we asked the hotel if they had a pack and play for the room so we could put Ellie there after she feel asleep. It was pretty well thought out. But plans don’t always work out the way we think.

At about 8 we started to get them ready for bed and Steph and I could quickly tell this was not going to be easy. They were overly tired, yet wired from all the excitement and new environment, not to mention they had been in car seats for 8 hours that day. They both fought sleep… hard.

At about 9:30, Ellie was in full on wailing mode. Like, the kind of screeching cry that probably made the other hotel guests wonder what information I was torturing out of her. She simply would not stop crying. Ethan was being a little fussy and trying to play, but at least he was in the bed with my wife, slowly settling in.

Ellie would have none of it. I overhead my wife ask Ethan, “Do you want to listen to some of mommy’s music.” Music has always had a calming effect on both my children. “Yes, mommy.” Ethan replies.

As Ellie is now moved from wailing to swinging and hitting anything and everything she can make contact with (mostly my face), I hear a song start to play.

I don’t know if it was caused by extreme fatigue, a feeling of helplessness about getting my daughter to go to sleep, some emotional realization or a combination of all three, but as the music began to play tears started welling up in my eyes. I heard the music and lyrics from the song Steph was playing for Ethan. It was the song Oceans by Hillsong.

You call me out upon the waters.
The great unknown where feet may fail.
And there I find you in the mystery
In oceans deep
my faith will stand

The song continues and Ellie is still wailing and slapping me in the face and clawing at me, just trying to get down. She has no idea what she wants to do, she’s overly tired and really just needs to sleep. She’s not hungry, she’s not thirsty, her diaper is clean and dry. She just needs to sleep. I knew it. I knew what she needed to do to feel better. I was trying to communicate that to her, but she was too overwhelmed.

All I wanted was for her to know that I had her. I knew what she needed and that I was in control, she didn’t have to be so upset.

Then I felt it. The music starts, the tears well up. I heard a whisper in my heart. Nothing audible of course. Just a feeling I couldn’t deny.

There’s a reason why God is referred to as “Father” in the Bible. It’s a parental, protective, nurturing, disciplinary term. He is our Father. Not because of what we do, or who we are. But because of who He is. He is our Father. He wants us to refer to Him as such because He cares for us like His children.

The whisper in my heart was simple. I act towards God the way Ellie was acting towards me so much more than I care to admit. I kick and scream and wail whenever I don’t understand what’s going on or when I don’t get my way. With my actions, I slap God in the face and try to claw my way out his arms to get “what I want.” Which, much like Ellie, what I want and what I need are usually completely different things.

But when Ellie was clawing at my face and slapping me, wailing like she was in immense pain, I never once thought about abandoning her. Steph asked if I wanted her to step in, I told her I was good. Because the more Ellie cried, the more I wanted to pull her close and let her know everything was going to be ok. If she would just sleep, she’d be ok. Daddy wasn’t going to let her go. Daddy wasn’t going to stop being there for her. Daddy was going to whisper in her ear, “It’s ok baby, Daddy’s got you.”

I had her. I knew what she needed. I had it under control.

And I will call upon your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Our plans don’t always work the way we think they will. Sometimes we don’t always get what we want. At least not in the time frame in which we want it. But God hasn’t put something inside you for no reason. It’s in you because He wants to do something in you and through you with it.

Please don’t ever forget that He has you. He knows what you need. He is control. Lean in and put your head on His chest. He’s not going to let you go.

Eventually Ellie did go to sleep for a few hours. She never made it to the pack and play. Ethan didn’t sleep on the pull out, he slept in the bed with my wife. I was on the pull out, with Ellie on my chest. I didn’t get much sleep that night. But I’d do it over again in a second. Because I got to watch her little back rise and fall with each breath. I got to hear her breathing deeply as she got what she needed, some much needed rest.

God is whispering, “I’ve got you. I know what you need. I’m in control.”

Will you listen? Whenever you feel like things are out of control or you’re not sure what’s happening or why, whenever you feel like you don’t know where you’re going… lean into God. Keep your eyes on Him. He knows where He’s going. He knows where He wants you. He’s already put it inside you. Don’t think your way is the only way. He’s got a better one. I promise it’s more than you can ever imagine. And it will give you everything you need and more.

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