(these are old pictures but I thought they were cute!)
Though it's usually met with lots of protests and requests for "five more minutes", bedtime at our house is a really sweet time. All of the little ones get a story read to them, they say prayers with mom or dad (or sister), and then get tucked in with lots of hugs and kisses.
It's amazing to think back and remember all of the nurturing that I got before I went to sleep at night as a kid. I'm sure the countless stories that were read to me had a positive effect academically, but more importantly, I always closed my eyes feeling secure and loved. That isn't necessarily the case for many kids in the world and it was especially evident at the children's home this summer. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of time for bedtime stories and kids usually don't get tucked in institutional settings. It made me so sad to compare my childhood with their reality. For a lot of them just being able to go to sleep at night in a safe place was a blessing compared to what they had to deal with in the past.
Ideally I would have created a bedtime routine for each kid at the ranch this summer, but since that just wasn't humanly possible with only one of me and close to 30 kids, I decided to try it with the girls. They were the youngest and since there were only 3 of them we were able to spend really quality time together. We would read stories, talk about our days, and pray.
The first time I asked if they wanted to pray before bed Darina got a concerned look on her face and asked me "Why, what happened?", but it soon became an anxiously awaited routine. The girl's prayers were incredible to hear. They would always pray for their families, often telling God just how much they missed them. My heart melted when they began praying for my family every night too. They'd also pray for friends from the children's home that were now gone, asking God to protect them and keep them safe. One night Melina(7) even prayed for all of the Disney princesses by name! "God bless Cinderella, Snow white, Sleeping Beauty..."
Tonight the copy of "Juevos Verdes con Jamon" (Green Eggs and Ham) that I ordered came in the mail. I swear we read that story a million times this summer! As soon as I opened up the first page I was flooded with emotions and memories. I remembered how Darina almost had the entire thing memorized. I remembered how after breakfast Melina would already be asking me whether or not we were going to read stories that night. I remembered how Ana fell asleep in my arms during storytime after a particularly emotional day. I remembered the nights Darina would ask to hold my hand and then firmly tell me not to let go before she closed her eyes. I remembered being scolded for almost forgetting bedtime kisses. And I especially remembered the countless "Buenas noches hermana, te quiero!" (goodnight sister, I love you!).
I can't describe how much those three months with the girls meant to me. It's so hard being miles and miles away from them now...I hope and pray that even though we can't read stories tonight the girls go to sleep remembering that they are loved.
As We Gather
5 days ago