Yesterday was Labor Day in Slovakia, so I and everyone else in Bratislava had the day off. As my roommates headed out on a walk to Austria (yes, it is that close), I decided to take it easy on my legs and walk to the park across the Danube river (Sad Janka Kral’a) for some quality hammock time. I have been struggling a lot with muscle pain the past few years and especially since I moved here, but it’s still hard for me to have to say “no” to things I know that I physically can’t do anymore that I would have loved to do previously. Because of that and a lot of other related stuff, I was feeling pretty down-in-the-dumps, but I was determined to have a great day in the sun in my hammock, so I put it out of my mind.
The sun was shining and it was a beautiful 23 degrees Celsius (73 Fahrenheit) as I coaxed my tight, achy legs to make the trek across the bridge. When I arrived, I found a good half-sun, half-shady spot to tie up my hammock and got to work. The people around me got a good laugh as I tried to loop the straps around two trees I couldn’t quite fit my arms around. “Tree-hugger” takes on a whole new meaning when you are trying to put up a hammock by yourself…Eventually, I got my hammock up, took off my shoes, grabbed my book and my little bag of fruity pebbles I packed as a snack (thanks launch team from the states!), and settled in for an hour and a half of swaying underneath the trees.
As I started back into my book I hadn’t read in a while, I started to get the feeling that there was someone behind me, someone watching me. I sat still for a few seconds and then got the courage to peak my head up from behind the hammock. What I saw, I was not prepared for…
A small child, probably around a year or a little older stood there, face inches from mine, grinning with a very curious look. He stared into my eyes and gave me a big, half-toothed smile. I burst out laughing, as this toddler stood dangerously close to my face. His mom came running up behind him with an apologetic smile and gently tried to get him to retreat. I continued to laugh as the child stared me down with his cute little grin, staring into my very soul. His face remained inches from mine and he was not intimidated by the fact that I was a total stranger. Every time I laughed, he followed suit until all three of us (including the mom) were hysterically laughing at each other.
Eventually, the mom picked up her baby and walked back to the path, waving and saying “Prepačte!” (Sorry, or forgive me). I chuckled and could not stop smiling…Anyone who knows me knows that I love little kids, so the odd encounter was certainly welcomed.
After a rough couple of weeks, I was so in need of something joyful and funny to lighten my spirits, and it was so clear to me that God gave me that little gift of laughter to remind me that He loves me specifically and knows exactly what it is I need. Little did I know that He had even more in store for me…
What is it about hammocks??
After reflecting on my little laugh, I laid back in the hammock and started on my book once again. A few minutes later, I felt the same feeling of someone behind my back watching me. Lowering the fabric of the hammock to peak out, I was surprised again by what I saw!
Four little kids with wide eyes of surprise were staring back at me a little further back than where the baby had been standing. They erupted in giggles when I peeked over the hammock to see them and ran to hide behind the tree to my right, all the while squealing with laughter. The littlest boy poked his head out from behind the tree and quickly ducked back when he saw me looking at him. I heard giggles from behind the hiding tree again. I put the hammock over my head and waited a while until it was quiet, then I popped out from beneath the fabric and the kids went wild with laughter, running around the tree.
This game went on for about 10 minutes and ended up with with a talent show of sorts put on for me by the four little ones. The oldest girl, probably six, pretended to be a mime in front of me and took a bow. I clapped, and she ran to the side, letting her little sister take the “stage.” Of course, she copied the older one and tried the mime routine as well. I clapped enthusiastically for her performance and few silly dances from the two little boys. The field was full of dandelions, so of course we needed to blow the fuzzies at other and throw them in each others’ hair for the fun to be complete…
After brushing the white fluff out of my hair, I checked the time and realized I needed to get going soon. I said to the kids, “Potrebujem ist'” (I need to go). They looked sad, so I let them try my hammock for a few minutes while I packed up. All four jumped in and cocooned themselves, once in a while sticking a leg or an arm out and erupting into a fit of giggles.
The littlest boy got out of the hammock and started talking to me in Slovak. I said, “Prepač, nerozumiem. Nehovorim po Slovensky, hovorim po Anglitcky.” (I’m sorry, I don’t understand. I don’t speak Slovak, I speak English.) He was very confused and kept blabbering on. I was able to understand a little bit, but not enough to answer whatever question he was asking me. Eventually, all of the children were trying to talk to me in Slovak and I repeated what I had told the little boy. I had never considered that children probably don’t recognize that there are more languages than their own and wasn’t sure how to explain that in a language in which I am only a beginner. The oldest girl finally understood and said, “Oh, Anglicky!” She then showed me how she could count to ten in English. Her little siblings followed suit. “Good job, dobre!” I exclaimed and gave them a thumbs-up. I waved goodbye and yelled, “Čiaote! Goodbye!” to the kids and there mom who was having a picnic a ways off in the field.
Grinning ear to ear, I began to thank God for His lovely gift to me at just the right time. Lately, I have been praying that I would be able to more clearly see and appreciate God’s work in and through people and in all of creation. It has been amazing and fun to experience things in a new way and see how God uses ordinary things to delight in me as His daughter. Every time I see a cute animal I thank God for creating something that brings so much joy. Every time I hear a good piece of music or movie I think, “thank you, God for making us creative and giving us music to express ourselves!” We were made to appreciate our creator and His creation, so it brings inexpressible joy to recognize the things He has made and what He does to uniquely delight in each one of us. My morning in the hammock was such a great reminder of how God uniquely delights in me using things He made me to love: laughter, children, cute animals, music, etc. I encourage you to ask God to help you to see him in new ways and appreciate His creation this week!
The Dunaj (Danube) River from Sad Janka Kral’a
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”