Don and I have put priority on making memories in our marriage and in our family. We struggled with the typical desires to have more stuff (matter) or nicer stuff, particularly early in our marriage, but we have always enjoyed experiences and new adventures. I am grateful that whatever financial level we were at in our lives, we were able to find fun things to do.
When we were first married and were still poor college students in Knoxville, Tennessee, we looked forward to going to the Smokey Mountains to “rock hop” and go tubing in the mountain streams. After we moved to Pennsylvania and had “real jobs,” we started vacationing with friends by going camping in tents, even after we started having children. From there we graduated to cabins, then vacations with family. We also made it a priority to go on dates and to go away overnight on occasion without the kids. They had a blast with Grandma and Pap or friends, and learned that Mom and Dad needed their time to be alone together.
Then finally in 2003, we hit the big time! The doctor I worked for at the time had a condo in Miami that he let us use, and it was no ordinary condo... It was over-the-top! We have continued to be blessed over the years to stay in nice (and sometimes free) places as we made memories with our family. This past week and a half was another one of those precious times. My brother let us use his house in Nags Head, NC, where we had the opportunity to build more memories and enjoy our family!
This vacation was different though. This vacation included some sadness and struggles that are new to our family. It was good to try to forget the realities of this cancer and just have fun, but the questions and uncertainty of the future never go away. We made it a point to have some conversations about the “elephant in the room” that no one really wants to face. Our family enjoys good conversation, but these conversations were very different than any past conversations we have ever had. I am asking everyone to be open and honest about how they are feeling, knowing we all have different feelings and different worries at different times. We need each other, and we need to understand how our personalities are different and how this may affect our needs and ability to share them.
I am so thankful that we were able to have these conversations and still have a lot of fun together, which included taking walks on the beach, sitting in the hot tub and playing games. The stars were incredible and we were all reminded that God is in control. The same God that created the heavens and each star, also created the land, the ocean and the powerful waves. He dictates how far the water is allowed to go. He is in control, and this brings great peace. I have no more power over this cancer than I did over the waves of the ocean, but God does! I know daily that I have to trust him. I know he is using our struggles to help others. I know his ultimate goal is to save more people and have a close relationship with each one person he has created. We are each a part of his plan as he gives us purpose.
Psalm 143:8 says, “Let the same morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life.” We don’t know what all God will choose to do through us, but if we are open and available, even through illness, he will use us in many ways to help others and reflect His love and grace.
I am so grateful that we have had a higher priority on making memories than on gathering matter in this life. It is fun to talk about past vacations or other ways we have made memories together. Our daughters never talk about "stuff" they wished they possessed or felt they missed out on. They talk about the fun times we have had, and crazy events we experienced together. They talk about home movies they made (some of which we still have and are hilarious.) They remember taking the shopping challenge to find a new outfit they had to wear out to dinner on vacation for under $10. (and they looked good!) They remember driving up to the doctor’s over-the-top condo in our rented minivan, like the Beverly Hillbillies, with expensive cars all around, and Missy Elliott getting out of her Humvee. We remember the times when things went wrong and how we are able to laugh about these things now. These seem to make the strongest memories.
I remember years ago when Don and I attended a parenting class, Gary Smalley strongly recommended that families go camping, because some sort of crisis was likely to occur and this builds memories and brings growth and bonding. We have found this to be true. This can occur in the mountains, a beach condo, or your own backyard.
Stuff wears out, becomes outdated, breaks, or gets stored away or given away. Put more energy, time, and treasure into making memories. Relationships are the only thing that will last into eternity. This becomes even more important when you are faced with your mortality, and the memories become a greater treasure than ever before!