“Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. 14 Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. 15 For seven days celebrate the festival to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.” Deuteronomy 16:13-15
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,…” Galatians 5:22
I once asked my daughters what their favorite childhood memories are. Julie and I always tried to remember that a lot of parenting is giving your kids good memories. I was curious now as to what had stuck. The answers were a bit surprising, but not much. Both girls had the same answers.
First was when they were both still young and “kid-sized.” They still had the small bicycles and were yearning for the big kids’ bikes. They were just about big enough that Julie and I figured they could handle full sized bicycles, so we did the following.
Julie had to get a gift for a friend’s youngster’s birthday. We planned a trip to the toy store, making it a family outing instead of just “Mom’s Errand.” Julie went off to do her shopping, and I walked the girls past the huge array of bicycles. I told them I wanted to just look around and some stuff, but what if they stayed right here and see what sort of bike they might like to have…some day? Go ahead. A little day-dreaming can be fun.
Oh, yeah! A chance to dream big!
I came back a short while later and asked them if they had found something they could see themselves riding when they were big enough. Each stood proudly next to the bicycle of their choice, ownership oozing from every pore. I asked if this was indeed it, the perfect bicycle for you. Absolutely! I tried picking out anything that might make it a bad choice; Color? Tires too big and knobby?
Nope. Both were their perfect, ideal choices.
After enough assurances that these were indeed their dream machines, I told them to grab the ticket for each one. No sense in waiting. Let’s just get them today before someone else does.
I think I got more of a kick out of that little surprise than they did!
Years later, in their high school days, I had a job that required a TON of travel. I racked up hotel points and frequent flyer miles that were ridiculous. I had taken a business trip to England, toured London, and had the actual business meetings in another small town. It was a great time, but something was missing: my wife and daughters. Everything I saw I wished I could have seen with them.
Well, I have all these points here, so…
It took some doing, but I managed to get seats all together out and back for the four of us. Once I had the tickets in hand and everything was set, Julie and I were just waiting for the right time to tell them. The plan was to go over the week before Christmas so they would only miss a few days of school. I figured international travel was going to be educational in itself (all of the teachers agreed!).
One night, we were driving home from the shopping mall, and something in the conversation led Julie and I to drop the news on them.
“Whaddya say? Shall we tell them?”
“Tell us what?”
“Well, we’re going to go to England the week before Christmas. Dad already got the tickets, and we’re good to go. We just have to get your passports.”
Unfortunately, we were met by laughter and complete disbelief.
“Good one, Dad! A little over the top for one of your pranks, but nice try anyway.” Julie and I ended up laughing at how ridiculous this was; we could NOT convince them they were going to England the entire 20 minute ride home.
Of course, once we got home, I took the tickets out of the safe and showed them to the girls. One each. With their names printed RIGHT THERE and everything.
Game, set, and match.
The second time over for me was as good as the first time. I was seeing it all through their eyes, their wonder. I was enjoying it with my girls, my loved ones, the way life’s joys are supposed to be shared.
There were other such moments, of course. But those were the top two. There is a message there also. Bicycles ranked just ahead of England. Why? They were younger, dreams were – how shall I say it? Smaller and bigger at the same time. The real lesson is that you never know what action of yours is really going to move another’s world.
Taking the time to chase softballs at the YMCA field after pitching to them. Their first time staying in a hotel room as toddlers and the sheer rapture of doing such a grownup thing! Rome for two weeks. Of course, that didn’t score quite as highly to those two seasoned travelers! The first time I let each drive the family car; under aged, in an empty parking lot, spur of the moment.
The list goes on. And why is there a list? Because I loved them. Still do. I did all of those things, because I wanted to give them joy. I wanted to find ways to show them they are loved. Because I put them first as much as I could.
Because I enjoyed their joy.