[This is a guest post by Dr. R.B. Ouellette. Dr. Ouellette is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Bridgeport, Michigan, where he has served for thirty-five years. The church has grown tremendously under his leadership and sees regular fruit through soulwinning and outreach. Dr. Ouellette is also the author of several Christian books. You can follow him on Twitter.]
Because Krisy and I were married for ten years before the Lord gave us children, I was able to observe how other people raised their kids. I remember preaching for a man who had six children who were happy, sharp, obedient, and godly. When I asked him about his family philosophy, he said something I’ll never forget:
Your kids will remember two things when they grow up. The things you did all the time, and the things that were special and unusual.
When the Lord did give us children, I determined that there would be some things we did all the time such as soulwinning, church attendance, and family devotions. I also determined we would try to do special things that would help draw the family together and make memories. Here are a few ideas that we practiced as our children grew up.
Take a vacation.
Every year my wife and I took our girls on a two-week vacation. We went to Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, Cedar Point, and King’s Island. We took them to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. We took them with us to the Holy Land. On several occasions, we rented a cottage on a lake.
I tried to save carefully so that we did not have to scrimp but could thoroughly enjoy ourselves while we were away. Of course, my wife saw to it that we took plenty of pictures. I jokingly say that in the days of the earliest camcorders (remember those bulky old things you put on your shoulder with another pack you carried by your side?), I saw all of our vacation spots in black and white.
Take overnight outings.
We would have one special day for each child every year where we would take the family to a motel. Sometimes we would go someplace like a Holidome where there were lots of fun activities for the kids. Krisy always did a terrific job in creating some special events. Sometimes she would have a bunch of different gifts or “prizes” hidden behind a bed or dresser and attached to a string. The kids would pull the string and squeal with delight when they saw the present that was attached to it.
Have a treasure hunt.
My wife makes sure that the presentation of the gift is as memorable as the gift itself. Sometimes there will be a series of clues. Sometimes there will be various colored plastic Easter eggs hidden around our yard with money in them (as we have gotten older, we have found it wise to keep a list of where we hid them. There really is truth to being able to hide your own Easter eggs!)
Take a day trip.
We have gone to the Detroit Zoo, a quiet lake where we could find a secluded beach, and other places for a day of activities with our family. We would usually take with us games like Jarts or Bocchi ball.
Combine business with pleasure.
Often I would take my family with me when I went to preach somewhere, then take an extra day and enjoy a special attraction nearby. My friend, Pastor Chuck Redmond, often had me preach for him in LaFollette, Tennessee, which is near Norris Lake. He found that it was as cheap to rent a houseboat for our family as it was to rent a motel. Bro. Redmond graciously loaned us his pontoon and we would putt around the lake in the daytime then boat over to the dock in our church clothes, climb carefully off the pontoon to the dock, get into the car and go to the service.
Make your home special.
In the basement of our home there is a ping pong table, electronic dart board, electronic Ski-ball table, air hockey table, electronic foosball table, electronic basketball game, and a pool table. I always wanted our house to be more fun than the houses of my children’s friends. I wanted everyone to want to be at our place. It not only made my children have a positive attitude about our home, it helped keep some of the activities in a place where I could carefully supervise them.
Make memories out of misfortunes.
I’ve said it often enough that it has become a family joke: “This is what memories are made of.” I would treat light-heartedly the inevitable difficulties of travel. Once, we had a flat tire and found that there was a go-kart course just around the corner from the gas station that was changing the tire. We walked over and rode go-karts while the tire was being fixed. Several times we have run out of gas. On one occasion, our boat conked out in the middle of the lake with no one in sight. Each time, I would smile and say, “This is what memories are made of!”
Believe it or not, no one says, “Remember that trip we took where nothing went wrong?” They instead remember the unusual incidents that were treated with a good spirit and turned into a fun time.
Life is fragile. Handle with care.
My dad was once invited to Sunday dinner by a family in a church where he was preaching. While he was in their home, they told him a sad story. The oldest son had rented a plane to fly home from college for the weekend. The entire weekend was awful. The father and son fought. When they weren’t fighting, they sat in stone-faced silence. They went to the church service and listened to the sermon with their arms folded, daring the preacher or God…or anybody to get past their stubbornness. Though the weather was questionable, the young man decided to fly home after Sunday dinner. His plane crashed into a mountain and was not found for some weeks.
The mother put together a scrapbook of items that were recovered from the crash. Among them was a tattered, mouse-nibbled church bulletin from that Sunday. On the bulletin were these words: “Life is Fragile. Handle With Care.” My dad said that as he read through that scrapbook, he wondered: if the father and the son had known this would be their last meeting together, if they had known that they would never speak to each other again on this earth, what would they have done differently?
Each day is a precious gift from a loving Heavenly Father. We must treasure it, enjoy it, and make special memories that will knit our families together. Life is fragile. Handle with care.