It wasn't uncommon to read six or seven books to Luke, followed by singing every Baptist hymn I knew plus every verse of Just As I Am and Amazing Grace. When he was five, we spent fifty nights learning about every state, including population, land area, state bird, state resources, etc. For forty-two longer nights, a different president was his bedtime story.
I stood beside Hope's crib when she was a toddler and patted her bottom, rubbed her back and sang. Thinking she was asleep, I slowly lifted my hand from her back, but without lifting her check or opening her eyes, she whispered, "shong," which was my signal to continue. At the age of five, her bedtime story was simple: one book, usually about Barbie or a Princess, but the songs were complicated, either The Bare Necessities from Jungle Book (I only knew the chorus) or A Spoon Full of Sugar from Mary Poppins (It didn't matter that I'm an alto).
James required two or three books, and my creative Water Medley and Jesus Medley worked perfectly as lullabies in his glider rocker. By the age of five, though, James found LOTS to do in his room, so we stayed with him until he fell asleep.
"Mommy, when are you going to leave?"
"When you're asleep."
After a few minutes... "I'm asleep now, you can leave."
"How will you know I'm asleep?"
"I can hear you breathing."
He closed his eyes, breathed as loudly as possible, and started the fake snore. Nice try, Jaybird.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. Psalm 23:2
After reading Charles Allen's God's Psychiatry many years ago, Psalm 23 became a favorite passage and eventually very real to me.
The shepherd starts the sheep grazing about 4 a.m. The sheep walk steadily as they graze; they are never still. By 10 a.m., the sun is beaming down and the sheep are hot, tired, and thirsty. The wise shepherd knows that the sheep must not drink when it is hot, neither when its stomach is filled with undigested grass. So the shepherd makes the sheep lie down in green pastures, in a cool, soft spot. The sheep will not eat lying down, so it chews its cud, which is nature’s way of digestion. Study the lives of great people, and you will find every one of them drew apart from the hurry of life for rest and reflection. Great poems are not written on crowded streets, lovely songs are not written in the midst of clamoring multitudes; our visions of God come when we stop. The Psalmist said, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). The sheep will drink only from still waters. If there are no still waters available, while the sheep are resting, the shepherd will gather up stones to fashion a dam across a small stream to form a pool from which even the tiniest lamb may drink without fear. Even while he is sleeping, the Shepherd is working to prepare for his needs tomorrow.
I knew the physical benefits of sleep, so I devoted many hours making my children rest their bodies for another day. Unfortunately, I didn't devote many hours for my own rest and stillness for spiritual health; instead, I filled my days with nonstop noise and deeds (as many distractions as possible) to avoid silence. So, as the Psalmist promised, my Shepherd made me lie down and be still. Starving for spiritual food, I was led to hours alone in strange stillness of cool, nourishing pastures without the usual noises hiding His voice, to reading and searching (no music or television) and an opportunity to drink water my Shepherd carefully prepared, and although it was difficult being made to STOP and REST, I'm forever grateful. I'm hardheaded and easily distracted, so I know He will do it again when necessary, for my Shepherd "restores my soul.."