When I put my kids to bed, I have a ritual. It can take up to an hour. We do the normal things like stories, prayer, singing, snuggling, etc. But I've also created a "ticket system" for fun stuff like hanging on my pull-up bar, piggy back rides, or being tossed on to our bed. And, where it bites me in the butt is when I'm tired and I just want to tuck them in quickly and kiss them goodnight, (so I can crawl into my own bed or just be with my wife), they call me out.
"That's it? That's so short. What about Gapastonia Kingdom?"
And I just give in!
What's Gapastonia Kingdom you might ask? Just wait.
Basically, there's no getting out of this bed time ritual, ever..or until they're in middle school, or whenever they become too cool for my stories and snuggling.
But now, it is so worth it. I cherish these times. I lay with them, pray with them, and remind them of how loved they are. Sometimes I lay there and fast forward ten, twenty years, and I admit I shed some tears thinking about they day they'll move out and be out of my care. And I also lay there long enough to fall asleep myself. (Actually, five to ten minutes of being horizontal can do me in).
But tonight-I just had to blog about our conversation.
It was about Heaven.
It all started when the driver of Princess Wendora's carriage was comforting her in the rain, on the day before her wedding to Prince Antonio.
Yes, I have created a whole story, a cast of characters, which takes place in Gapastonia Kingdom, and revolves around three princesses who are sisters.
Tonight, I told them some of the prequel, before the princesses were even born.
I told them about the night before the royal wedding, when our antagonist, the sinister Chantro, schemed to ruin the wedding with a horrible storm. Trees were collapsing on top of the castle (it also happened to be really windy in Redwood City), and the rain was drenching princess Wendora's pre-wedding party.
The carriage driver, who was delivering the princess' dress, showed her comfort and kindness. As she cried, he hugged her. Princess Wendora noticed he had large scars in his hands. It didn't occur to her until later who this mysterious man was.
Let me just say, my girls eat this up. Sometimes I have to choke back the tears watching their little faces take it all in. I love it.
But, to make a long story short: Prince Antonio and Princess Wendora wed the next day on a beautiful sunny morning after battling an evil rat, having a visit from a dove with an important letter, prayer from the king and queen, and finally when they chose to be brave. And the story is always: "To Be Continued."
But after I finished we were discussing "the man with the scars."
They began to ask about what Jesus looked like in Heaven.
"Is he Shiny?
Does he have wings?
Does he still look like a boy?"
I loved their questions, and funny thoughts about what life would be like after we die.
"Dad, when we go to Heaven do I get to keep my skin?
What about my bones, can I take them to Heaven?
Can we fly in Heaven? I hope so. I want to fly fast and eat my food in the air.
Is there dogs in Heaven?
What about cats? And if there are, are they nice dogs and cats or mean ones?"
I tried to let them be curious about the answers and let them explore a bit. I asked them what they thought and simply tried to steer them toward simple truths that I know. Because I truly don't know if there will be tigers in Heaven, I just know if there are, they won't bite us.
But the one thing I kept saying was:
There is nothing to fear in Heaven.
There are no mean people or mean animals in Heaven.
Everything is beautiful, perfect, and with out pain.
And Jesus still has his scars, forever, so we'll remember the great love and sacrifice he made for us.
"So... there are nice tigers in Heaven?
Oh, then I want to ride one.
Dad, when I die, I want to die with mommy"
I love you.