I don’t know if the rest of y’all are being stalked and tortured by Shutterfly like I am, but this travesty has got to stop! I mean, here I am, sitting in my office, minding my own business, trying to be productive and earn my keep around here, and out of nowhere it comes across my email: an unsolicited, unexpected SCUD missile of cuteness. The evil geniuses at Shutterfly have taken to periodically sending me old photos of my girls a decade or more ago, carpet bombing me with bittersweet nostalgia: my middle on the stage in a tutu at her dance recital, five-year-old mouth wide open, one hand in the air and another on her chest, a pale Beyonce regaling the crowd with an unscheduled solo; there’s the smack-talking three-year-old who was going to engage every one of the Disney characters in deep conversation, that is, until she actually met one at the shamefully-overpriced breakfast, whereupon she immediately assumed the fetal position under the table, never to emerge until said Disney characters retreated into the enchanted forests from whence they came; or, the oldest in her yellow raincoat on the rollercoaster, bearing the same dyspeptic frown as an eight-year-old she now bears as a college sophomore every time someone tries to put her on a so-called “thrill” ride.
I love sports, enjoy it as much or more as the next guy. I tolerated competitive cheer, and I have driven more miles to dance lessons last year than any J.B. Hunt employee. But all this reminiscing reminds me of one simple fact: the best times in my life with my kids, and the times they always talk about now, were not the weekly activities, or even the amazing, spectacular, monumental trips or memories I spent weeks and months engineering. What really matters, what really sticks with them now, is what we did in those in-between times.
Instead of ball games, my kids remember every Saturday at the bagel shop that no longer exists, followed later by waffles at home created by Chef Dad. Some of our best conversations about life and what it means to be a very young follower of Christ happened around those tables, completely unplanned and unscheduled, an impromptu family devotional in the midst of doing life together.
Or, a service project with some other dads and their elementary-aged daughters, thrown together by one of the dads: sometimes a Habitat house, other times maybe an older lady who needed a lot of work done on her place. Some of my girls’ deepest relationships, those that last to this day as they’re in high school or college, were forged serving the Lord together while showing simple acts of grace and love for elderly ladies.
Or, that last second road trip to Big Bend, after the Buffalo River trip failed because the water was too high, but I already had all my camping stuff in the truck, so…. completely unplanned, watching at a distance as my two junior highers sat on a rock, talked and laughed, framed by the multi-colored majesty of the Chisos Mountains at the edge of the world, tears in my eyes as I thanked God for how much they loved each other (still do).
Or, the 8,000 summer trips to the Redneck Riviera, the 10,000 games we watched in a stadium or in what my girls have dubbed “the football room” in our home, the 4,000 trips to Home Depot (many in the same day), and the 2 million lunches and dinners at Don Juan’s, my girls learning what missional living means by (I pray) watching us live and learn within this beautiful community and these gracious people with whom we’ve built a life and a town together.
It doesn’t really matter where you go, or what you do, if you want to make memories with your kids. What matters is that whatever you do, you live out loud for Jesus, right in their faces: being intentional in your talk and your walk, and loving fiercely, and giving generously, and failing miserably, and begging and seeking and granting forgiveness, and relentlessly loving their mamas and daddies, even when it’s really, really hard, and letting your kids see you doing it all every single day, faithfully and obediently, and well. If you do that, every second of every day becomes a potential life-giving memory in the making. And, if you happen to take a few photos along the way, maybe the nostalgia ninja geniuses at Shutterfly will attack you someday—drone attacks of goodness, gratefulness, and God’s grace.