When we moved to Concordia, the opportunity arose for me to stop working and stay home with our children. Although I LOVED my job in Denver, since we were moving to a new place, I jumped at the chance to be full time at home with my children while they are still young.
However, moving to a single-income family meant that we would need to observe a more strict budget. Please don’t misunderstand me – we are extremely blessed. We are not hurting for money, and my darling husband (and many thanks to Dave Ramsey for this!) is an incredible budgeter. But, it does mean that we do have to say no to things and opportunities sometimes.
Two of my greatest blessings. I thank God for the special times I have with these precious boys.
Concordia hosts an amazing Fall Festival (“street fair”) every year, complete with fair food, good old-fashioned country contests, a Biergarten, and, of course, carnival rides. As you may know, especially if you have children, carnival rides are expensive. Concordia offers the option of a four-hour unlimited ride wristband, which is a great deal, but, my husband and I determined these to be not the best use of our money for a 2-year-old and 4-year-old. (Disclaimer: Although we believed this to be the best choice for our family, some families do purchase wristbands for their 2-year-olds and 4-year-olds, and we support them!)
The Saturday morning of the fair, our family collected our 2-year-old’s participation ribbon for the baby health contest and watched our 4-year-old pull the pedal tractor. After a brief corndog and Biergarten burger lunch, we made our way down Mainstreet for the Ping Pong Ball Drop. I told Z to watch out for other kids and to do his best. I couldn’t see him for much of it, but it looked like he was kindly and respectfully collecting balls without shoving. I was proud of him. However, when he walked toward us, proudly showing off his four ping pongs, I burst into tears (so glad this pregnant, hormonal momma was wearing sunglasses!) In his little bag was a golden ping pong ball – which he could exchange for an unlimited ride wristband to use that afternoon.
You see, although I logically knew that it didn’t make sense for our family to buy wristbands, and even though I knew that the other components of the fair would be blessing enough, deep down, I want to give my children everything, no matter the cost. I want them to be filled with joy and blessings because I love them.
And – if I can just lay out my heart right here on the internet – sometimes I carry the guilt that my choice to stay home is what deprives us of some of those “yes”es.
But in the moment when we explained to him what the golden ping pong ball meant, my heart overflowed in thanksgiving and worship of our God. I cried out of joy because I knew the joy this would bring my son, and I praised God for providing this unexpected opportunity.
Zadok didn’t receive a golden ping pong ball because he is a good kid (although he can be!) And he certainly didn’t receive it because he has perfect parents (we are far, far from that!) And he didn’t receive it because he is a regular attendee at Sunday school or because he can say the Lord’s Prayer. No, he received the golden ping pong ball because CFM Insurance decided to bless 150 kids out of celebration for their 150th birthday, and Zadok just happened to be one of those children.
In the same way, God, and here’s where I’ll really start bawling again, in his great mercy has lavished upon us so much more than we deserve. Just as my son didn’t “deserve” to ride the carnival rides and yet received the wristband, God has given us so much more than a golden ping pong ball. We received the gift of eternal life with him. The Apostles Paul and John summarize this incredible blessing so beautifully:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1a
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-6
Friends – deep down, the Father wants to give his children everything, no matter the cost. He wants them to be filled with joy and blessings because He loves them. And he already has. He’s given us everything – in Jesus Christ his son. He made us His children. He didn’t count the cost, but instead willingly laid down his only son so that we could be co-heirs. We have everything awaiting us and I’m sure it’s way better than four hours of unlimited carnival rides. Oh, and the best part? He hasn’t just given this away to 150 people. This incredible gift is for anyone and everyone. He’s already saved us, all we have to do is acknowledge our need of Him.
As my son hopped from ride to ride that afternoon, overflowing with joy, I couldn’t help but smile as well. I pray that we may be filled with Golden Ping Pong joy – knowing that our prize awaits us in the presence of our treasure Jesus Christ.
Z had a bonus ride ticket and got to bring his little brother on the helicopter ride.