It was a bright June day when I started noticing a peculiar habit of Juliana's. Every morning after breakfast, she would run out the front door and sit in the front yard, seemingly doing nothing but staring at the grass. This day was maybe the fifth day in a row she had done it, and as I stood at the window I watched her peaceful, dainty hands stroke the blades of grass.
The night before my observation, Juliana had lost her earrings for what seemed like the thousandth time. They were the second pair we had to buy her because she had lost the first. She had to use her small amount of allowance to pay for them, and when they went missing she was naturally devastated. Tears rolled down her cheek as she searched everywhere for the tiny silver hoops that had just arrived the previous day. We asked for St. Anthony's help, but eventually decided it was time for bed before finding them.
The next morning, when Juliana decided to come in from her new morning grass staring ritual, I asked if she wanted to go check eggs with me. As I grasped her delicate hand in mine and stepped onto the back porch, I spotted her tiny earrings laying on the concrete! What a terribly strange place for earrings to be! Great excitement and relief came from Juliana as she quickly snatched them up and held them tightly in her hand.
"You should thank God and St. Anthony for helping us find those!" I told her.
"I already did", she replied matter of factly.
Surprised, I inquired further. "You thanked them, just now, that quickly?"
"No, I thanked them when I was in the front yard this morning saying my prayers."
I tried to bring clarity to the situation by asking her if she thanked God for helping before the earrings were found, and she replied that she had. She couldn't seem to understand what was strange about this. I tried to press further, my mind trying to grasp what was going on in my seven year old's spiritual life.
"What else did you tell God when you were praying?"
Juliana shrank back from me, her eyes lowered and her voice became quiet and shy, "I don't like to tell people what I pray. I think it's just supposed to be between me and God."
I respected her privacy and grabbed her hand to head towards the chicken coop. After about five paces, she stopped suddenly. "Mommy, I don't really pray to God. I more like talk to God and ask Him questions. I ask Him what He is like and how His ways are and then I try to hear what He says. I only really pray, like ask for things, at church."
I was obviously very shocked to hear my seven year old basically describe contemplative prayer in her own sweet way that day.
In days since, I have thought a lot about our conversation. I have mostly thought about the gift that time and space is for little children (and maybe big ones too!). If Juliana had been hauled off on a school bus that morning, if she had had an ipad to grab or a daycare to get to, she wouldn't have had the space or the quiet to run into the front yard, stare at the grass and contemplate His ways. It has given me a renewed sense of gratitude for the gift of homeschooling. It renews my firm belief that staying home with your children to witness and be a part of these little moments is worth more than all the money or earthly prestige in the world.