On a drive home from being out of town for the weekend, we stopped at a rest stop on the Ohio Turnpike. All six of us piled out of our van and walked through the hot, sunny parking lot to the front doors. As we walked, we passed a waist-high column made of stones that held an ashtray on the top. “Oooh!  Look at that!” said my three-year old as he stepped across the sidewalk to touch the stones. My daughter and I looked at each other with a smile. Our youngest seems to find delight in the smallest things. We often jokingly refer to him as the preschool version of Elf- someone who is constantly amazed and overjoyed at what most of us would simply not even notice (“I love smiling.  Smiling is my favorite!”). Once inside the rest stop, we headed over to the water fountain. Micah was excited to see that he was just tall enough to get a drink from the smallest fountain. As my husband began to help push the button on the fountain, Micah protested, “I want to do it!” Then, as the water shot out of the fountain right into Micah’s face, he began laughing hysterically. Again and again, he pushed the button to try to adjust the height of the fountain and had water spraying up his nose and in his mouth. The giggles were unstoppable. And soon my husband and other three children and I were all laughing at the drinking fountain escapade. I wondered what other people thought as they passed our family having a hilarious time at something so simple and routine. Who knew a drinking fountain could be so much fun?

I’ve often remarked to my husband how our little guy reminds me to laugh. Our three older children were born in closer succession to each other, then there was a five-year gap, and Micah came along. He was not an original part of my “three kids by 30” plan. But how grateful I am that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9) and that He chose to add him to our flock. While we often share laughter with our older three as well, we’ve found that life continues to get busier and busier as the kids get older. Bigger, weightier decisions are being made with high school courses and thinking about college. Serious talks about the weight of sin and confusion in our world over gender and identity are necessary conversations to be had. But then along comes Micah. The only one who still asks me daily, “Mommy, will you play with me?” in the middle of running kids to cross country practice, and fixing dinner, and helping with homework, someone just wants me to play trucks. It can be tempting always to say “later, buddy; Mommy has to …” But the realization of how quickly my first three have grown makes me a little more willing to put down the frying pan and pick up the monster truck.

Delighting in our children and entering into their joy with them will look different depending on who they are and what their interests are.  My oldest daughter has taken up running, and she and I often go for runs together and talk about life, school, faith, and friends. My pre-teen son enjoys music and technology. He loves to create new songs and movies with his iPad and is eager to show me his latest creation. Sometimes it takes as little as a few minutes to sit down with him and take an interest in what he’s created. Each time I stop what I’m doing and take a genuine interest in his interests, bonds are formed (Philippians 2:20). My nine-year old daughter loves all things girly. Polishing her toe-nails is an act of love and delight for her. And eating sweet treats together scores big points as well. As I enter into laughter and joy with my kids, I trust God will provide more opportunities to speak of His love and delight in them (Isaiah 62:4-5). The joy I experience with my children is only a tiny taste of the joy we have in Christ.

I confess that many times I fail at delighting in my kids. I’m a list-maker and often set overly-ambitious goals that can end up making me feel defeated at the end of the day. The kids and their growing schedules can leave me feeling exhausted. My patience can run thin on too few hours of sleep.  But in those moments when I know I’ve failed, I need to remind myself to lift my eyes upward to the One who erases my sin. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions form us” (Psalm 103:11-12). I need to ask Him for grace to see my children as gifts to delight in and not burdens to complain about. He is the One who has knit our family together, and He will give us the strength to serve them with delight instead of duty. What is currently in your life thatis keeping you from entering into laughter and delight with your children? The time of their childhood is short. Let’s make the most of our days with our kids while they’re still in our homes, enjoying them just as our heavenly Father delights in us.

Psalm 127:3-5, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!”