There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven … A time to mourn and a time to dance. –Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV.

My nieces holding Valentine’s Day cards they made.

I sat at the pink princess table doing a complex princess puzzle with my two little great nieces.  Lilly, now nearly three, seemed to fit the pieces together from memory. Every once in awhile, her cousin, two-and-a-half-year-old Fiona, plunked a piece down and tried to force it to fit a hole that didn’t match up.

Lilly frowned at her younger cousin. “Nooo, that doesn’t go there.”  She wiggled the pieces apart and set Fiona’s piece where it belonged, sometimes  in the center of the puzzle not connected to anything. Then she searched for the appropriate piece to replace the wrong match. When she found it, she slipped it into place and smoothed that section of the puzzle out. She loved precise work.

I congratulated her. “Yay! You found it.”

“I like this puzzle,” she replied, already concentrating on a new piece.

Fiona picked up a piece and this time, it, too, fit. “Yay, Fi! Good job.”   She grinned at herself.  I laughed wanting to squeeze her for being so cute.

I was watching Lilly and Fiona while Lilly’s mother, Emily, ran to the bank with baby Brooke in tow. She’d called me earlier, first to tell me she had cards for me  from the kids, and a second time to ask for help. “Can you come and keep an eye on the the kids? I have Fiona today, too. She’s just getting over a cough.”

This is the first time she’d asked me to help, and I felt a little thrill.

Lilly’s bedroom looked both feminine and bold. A bright red and yellow caterpillar tunnel caught my eye  along with other large colorful toys. I wondered what my own twins’ room would have looked like had they survived my toxemia. I guess they would have had several rooms by now…

I didn’t have much time to ponder.

Fiona, bored with the puzzle, pushed the pink princess chair away from the table and took  a couple of small steps, swung the closet door open and pointed to a pretty white dress splashed with big red flowers. It had several buttons down one side and two big red ties meant for a bow.

“Do you want that dress?”

She nodded.

Was that allowed?

I looked at her. She was wearing a cute light-colored long-sleeved top and a red taffeta tutu over red leggings. She waited for me to reach up and take it down as if this were an everyday occurrence.

“O-kay, I guess so.” I barely had time to pull it over her head when she darted into the living room, the red ties flying behind her.

Not to be outdone or left behind, Lilly ran to the closet and pointed to a pink striped dress on one of the other little hangers. I plucked it off and pulled it over her purple (her favorite color) top, pink ruffled tutu and pink leggings. She padded around on warm, fuzzy striped socks.

Were they going to play Princess? They loved everything that had to do with princesses.

I trailed behind Lilly into the living room.  Fiona had flopped onto the carpet leafing through CDs. She found the one she was looking for and boldly strode  over to the CD player and slid it into the slot.

I gestured for her to stop. “Come here a sec.”  I finished buttoning up her dress and was getting ready to tie the bow when Emily came into the room.

She smiled at both girls and giggled at Fiona. “Silly girl, you have your dress on backwards. Here, let’s straighten it up.”

Oh! It was on backwards?

I wish I could have blamed it on my vision but I think I just didn’t know how little girls’ dresses went. “They wanted to wear these pretty dresses. I hope that it’s all right.” I reported, hesitantly, scooting away until my back touched the sofa.

Emily bent over and twisted Fiona’s dress around so that the buttons faced the back  She then tied a pretty red bow. “Oh sure, they wear ‘em all the time.” She gave Fiona a final pat to let her know she’d finished.

Fiona jumped up. “Thanks, Auntie!”

Emily gestured for us to carry on and left the room.

Both girls began dancing to the CD, a praise and worship song. They twirled and spun  and dipped gracefully as only little girls can do. I watched them from the sofa, fascinated by their facial expressions and light-hearted movements.

Fiona held out her hand to invite me to dance. With her other, she reached out to Lilly. We danced together in a circle four or five times around. Then it ended in a London-bridges-all-fall-down way that had both girls in stitches and rolling on the floor. Lilly jumped up and took one hand and Fiona quickly took my other and we danced again. And again. My heart swelled in the same way their pretty dresses billowed out.

I hadn’t even known I’d been missing this feeling of belonging—until that moment when Fiona and Lilly invited me into that sweet giggly world of little girls.

I’d never experienced that with my twins. My first twin died at twenty weeks. the second at twenty-six.  Those dreams had lay buried for nearly fifteen years in an unmarked grave in the United Arab Emirates.

I’d kept myself at a distance for so long. I don’t know if I was afraid to open up that part of my heart or what kept me from being a closer part of my four great nieces’ lives. Rachel and Emily’s baby  showers had come and gone.  Of course I’d attended. But a part of me had  stood aloof. I tried to push back my grief as I remembered  my own attempts to bear children.  I silently called out to God, “Why didn’t my twins make it? How could I have miscarried a year later? What would my life have been like?” Instead I had three broken dreams.  Somehow God’s presence had steadied me. I’d mourned my losses and celebrated their pregnancies all at the same time. Birthday parties had followed. Again, I’d attended and enjoyed myself but always with a sense of reserve. I didn’t have the inside connection maybe.

Emily returned to the living room and joined our circle. We danced together, two little girls and two big girls–three distinct generations linked together by holding hands. Moments  later we dropped in a sprawling, laughing heap onto the soft carpet.

Fiona drew me into her confidence further. “I want to watch Little Monsters, okay?” she whispered to me. She wasn’t asking permission. She was just letting me know. With  confident movements, she switched CDs, then dangled her feet from the sofa where she sat.

The pace changed.

Lilly protested, “Mama, I want to dance. I don’t want to watch the Little Monsters.”

“Honey, it’s time to stop dancing now,” she said gently.  Lilly burst into tears. “We need to give Fiona a chance to choose an activity.”

I think that’s how beautiful moments are. You have to capture  and hold them close because life moves on.

The phone rang. Emily answered it.  “Aunt Amy,  it’s Grandma.”

I took it and spoke for a few minutes. “… Yeah, I’m coming home now.”

After I hung up, Emily turned to me with a bright smile. “Thank you for giving me such a precious gift of time. I really needed to go to the bank.”

I looked at her, not fully comprehending her words. It was she I wanted to thank.

She handed me the two pieces of paper. “Don’t forget your Valentine’s Day  cards. This one is  from Lilly.  Rachel sent the other one, made by Talia and Fiona.”  I took them as I slipped into my boots and zipped up my coat.

“It was fun! Call me whenever you need someone to watch them.” I shouted as I flew out the door. The cards held scrawled pictures and paintings of hearts I could just see if I peered closely enough. I smiled and outlined the names of my nieces with my fingertips.

They made these for me.

I re-read a message on one of the cards. “We prayed that you’d feel loved this Valentine’s Day.”

All day long the image of two sets of little hands stayed with me—one small and pudgy, confidently reaching out, the other delicate and precise, taking my other hand—both drawing me into a special set of Valentine’s Day dances I’d never ever anticipated.

Thinking about it later, I felt my heart burst with love and gratitude as a new wave of healing washed over me. I did indeed feel loved.  God had a way of surprising me with joy when I least expected it.

“God slid the pieces of the puzzle into place!”

It occurred to me as I saw the pieces of  the day’s events slide into place to make this experience come to pass: God is the real puzzle expert.  My puzzle piece stood alone until he connected it so that I fit just right with three other necessary pieces. He smoothed it out. He knew that puzzle from memory and started looking for more pieces.

I felt Him speak to me that night in the silence of my room. “I like this puzzle. There’s a whole lot more to this to put together before it’s done.”

The time for mourning had passed.

The time for dancing had begun.

I loved putting together the  puzzle with these two princesses  as much as I loved the dresses,  the dancing and the drama afterwards.  Valentine’s Day this year was, oh, so sweet!

A Time To Dance
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