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Papa and the power of pepperoni pizza

Sunday afternoon, and all is good –– and then it gets even better. My phone buzzes. It’s a FaceTime call. It’s my son Kyle, but it’s not Kyle I see. It’s my little grand, Maggie. My smile triples in width, and I know I look goofy, but it doesn’t matter. Four-year-old Maggie is calling!

The distance — I check frequently in case it shortens miraculously — between us in North Carolina and my son and his family in Texas is 15 hours and 37 minutes if one does not stop and traffic flows smoothly. (We stop frequently and traffic is crazy through Charlotte, Atlanta, Birmingham, Jackson, and Dallas.) Our visits are not nearly as often as we would wish, so hearing from my grands makes my day.

“Hi Papa! I’m in my room. What are you doing?” The angel face takes up the entire frame of the phone, eyebrows raised, intense expression, and it’s fun to imagine she is very close, looking into the screen so as to see into my room, almost window-like. I do the same. She chuckles and moves back.

“I’m cooking dinner. What are you doing?” I tell her I am making pizza. She tells me she is too.

“What are you having on your pizza?” she asks.

“Onions. And olives. And artichokes...” Before I finish, her face scrunches. I chuckle. “Okay. What will you put on your pizza?” She and I say it at the same time: “Pepperoni!”

We laugh and I ask again about onions. She makes another face and puts out her tongue. I bring the phone’s camera close and stick out my tongue, too. She belly laughs, falling to the floor in her bedroom 1,068 miles away from me, and I feel close as my laughs echo her own.

Then the connection breaks. Her face disappears. I suddenly feel the extreme distance between us.

Psalm 127:3 proclaims that children are a heritage from the Lord — rewards, gifts. The son and three daughters Kathy and I call our own are truly precious, and in our years of active parenting young children, those four made my world beautiful and rich no matter what was going on in life. Illness and hardship, even tragedy, fell into a broader perspective when my son took my hand in a crowd or my daughter climbed into the recliner with me during a storm.

I am blessed beyond measure because of these gifts, and I do not miss opportunities to thank my Lord daily for each child nor testify to friends of their inestimable value to me.

Today, though, I look beyond my own children to my children’s children, and I think of God’s goodness. I feel the joy of life again through the small eyes of my grandchildren, and I see just how good God is.

My phone buzzes again, and I see Maggie’s face. She picks up right where she left off: “No onions, Papa! No!” And then she asks, “Where’s Pearl?”

Kathy comes from the kitchen and her face appears on the screen with mine. “Hi Darling!” Maggie smiles and looks deep into the phone to see us.

We tour Maggie’s room as she shows us her latest stuff, talking about what’s going on in her summer (Vacation Bible School with Nana and Pawpaw, climbing mountains in Colorado, swimming with her brothers, reading books with Mom and Dad. And making pizza. With pepperoni –– no onions!)

Three times, we lose connection. Three times, she calls back. The distance shrinks more each time.

How good it is to connect with Maggie. The view of her world challenges me to see the important things as only a child can see them, and I recall the words of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel declaring: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Too soon, she hears brother Stuart calling. It is time to make her pizza. Our time draws to a close. I make a funny face to hear her laugh once more. She does. My heart swells.

“See you later, Maggie! Call me again.” She makes a funny face, too, and I laugh with her. “Bye Papa.” Then her face comes closer and closer until I see nothing but cheek, and I know that I am receiving another gift — a phone hug from Maggie that travels the distance and warms my heart.

Homeword is written by Jim Edminson, Charity & Children Editor

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