One of my favorite times of the day (I have many, this is just one of them) is found in the moments between waking up and crawling out of bed. I often extend that time because my mind is working out a problem or a thought. When I was working in the real world, I had a tendency to wake up about a half hour before my alarm went off, then spend time thinking through all of the things I had going on, making sure I was ready for anything. I still do that, because once my feet hit the floor, my mind starts running on overdrive.
This morning I thought about Vacation Bible School (VBS). Friends are posting pictures of what’s happening in their churches and it just makes me smile.
But Bible School was really just the launching pad for my thoughts.
When I was a kid, we didn’t have pre-published glorious extravaganzas. I tell you what, those have been a real gift to churches, both small and large. They made VBS accessible in a time when churches considered setting the week aside because it was so much work. And VBS was a lot of work. Okay, they’re still a lot of work – I’ve been involved in too many to not realize that truth.
Anyway, in our little churches, VBS planning started early. Dad gathered people who were interested in making it come alive and when they got the literature from Cokesbury, they started the process. Mom usually ended up chairing the whole thing and loved turning it into a grand time for the kids. But she was always exhausted about halfway through VBS week. The children loved it all.
I’m getting too far from my thoughts.
VBS only went up to fifth grade, so Dad did something different with the sixth graders. Each morning of VBS, he packed that group into a van or two and headed for one of the various state, county or city parks – a different location every day. In between fishing, hiking, other outdoor games, and crafts, kids learned more about their relationship with God.
I could not WAIT to be a sixth-grader. I’d listened to Dad plan that week for years, heard older kids talk about it and when it was my turn, I could hardly stand it, I was so excited.
The first day was one I knew would be the best. Nametags with gimp lanyards. Dad had a huge inventory of wooden discs that he used for the name tags. A church friend had found two inch diameter branches and sawed off thin discs. Dad also had five or six spools of colored gimp, a plastic lacing cord. We each got our wooden disc and, using markers, made personal name tags. Then, Dad taught the kids how to tie different patterns with gimp to create a lanyard. I was beside myself with anticipation. THIS was what I’d been waiting for all of those years.
That day, I was just finishing the decoration of my wooden disc when Dad pulled me aside and told me that I wouldn’t be making the lanyard after all. He hadn’t realized how depleted his stock of gimp was and there wasn’t enough for everyone. If one person didn’t do the project, there was enough for everyone else. He didn’t ask if I was okay with it, he just told me I wasn’t doing it. I can still feel the heat of my disappointment and anger. It wasn’t fair. Just because I was his daughter, it shouldn’t mean I was left out. In fact, I should be the first person to get the best, right?
When I protested, he gave me a look. I knew that look and sat back down at the picnic table. Everyone else gathered their colors and started working to create their lanyards while I got two limp strands of gimp to tie a necklace. I can’t imagine that I was very pleasant that day, I felt my week had been destroyed. Dad never said much more to me and Mom pretty much just told me to get over myself when I complained to her later on.
That event stayed with me for a long time (apparently until now, even). I worked through Dad’s choice and my reaction over and over again. It took a while before I finally asked myself: Who else would I have chosen to miss out on the project? The answer was obvious. Nobody but me.
Lessons that really mean something are difficult to learn, but that day I learned quite a few, even though I protested with as much emotion as I could muster (and at that age, I could muster a lot of emotion).
I learned about selflessness. There is no thing (read no … thing) that is as important as another person. Not a gimp lanyard, nothing.
I learned about sacrifice. I certainly didn’t like it, sacrifice is never easy.
I learned about self-control. In many areas of my life, self-control is still lacking, but when it comes to expressing negative emotions around others, I was expected to rise above the moment and maintain dignity and self-respect.
I learned humility. I just wasn’t that special. Oh, I was very special to my family – that’s not what I mean. But in the bigger scheme of things, I was no more important than the other children in the group. Dad wasn’t there to make my day perfect, he was there to make everyone’s day perfect and if mine had to be a little less so, he was okay with that. He was raising children who would know that every person was significant.
And … I began learning that day how to take the long view of life. You see, three years later, I was at another summer camp with Dad. This was a much bigger group and we created the same type of name tags. It wasn’t lost on me that he had more than enough supplies for everyone there and took the time to make sure I had the colors I wanted for the lanyard that day. It was just as special as you might imagine. I wish I could pull it out and show you a picture; it’s packed in a box somewhere.
The thing was, those lessons weren’t only taught to me in one singular moment. They were reinforced over and over by my parents. Selflessness, sacrifice, self-control, humility, taking the long view. Those weren’t the only lessons they taught us, but they were certainly important.
JUNE 17 – WINE & TRIVIA NIGHT (6-11 pm) on the Bellingwood Facebook page. Come join us!
JUNE 25 – BOOK 14 (Reflecting Love’s Charms) will be published! It’s nearly here.