“Go to the wedding, go to the funeral, stop at the lemonade stand.”

Wise words from my friend, Ann.

For many years, my life was crazy busy. I homeschooled, parented seven children, adopted four more children, wrote a blog, spoke at conferences, and learned all about parenting kids with trauma.

Living in the trenches of parenting children from “hard places” was a marathon. I was running with all I had every day and there was little time to give to others.

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I once skipped a family wedding because I was too emotionally and physically exhausted. It was a necessary absence; nevertheless, I missed one of the biggest moments in my niece’s life.

The thing about weddings is they are about more than the bride and groom. Our presence tells them, and their families, we value them and their very special day took precedence over all the other opportunities and responsibilities pressing around us.

But what about funerals? I was one to avoid funerals at all cost. Death has always been very hard for me and unless I absolutely had to attend, there was no way I was going.

Then my daughter died.

This is isn’t the time to tell that story, but I want you to know that when we were in a terrible car accident and our 13-year-old daughter didn’t survive, I was terrified of her funeral. I was physically injured and emotionally in shock. I was completely sick and overwhelmed the day of her service, sure I wouldn’t make it through.

When they wheeled me down the aisle in my temporarily-needed wheelchair, I saw the crowded pews and my heart filled. When we sang, the voices surrounded us like the most comforting hug you can imagine.

The air was thick with love and I breathed in great gulps.

Mid-way through the service, our family stood on the altar as my husband spoke. I looked up and saw that not only were the lower pews packed, the pews climbing higher were also filled. I could not believe this display of love for our family.

Later, friends formed a long line and, as I sat on a stool bandaged and bruised, they came one-by-one to hug us, whispering comforting words in our ears, or simply taking our hands in theirs as tears flowed down their cheeks.

We remember the people who came.

And what about lemonade stands? I kind of wish Ann would have left that out because I’m not generally spontaneous. Besides, I live in a nearly cashless world and kids don’t take debit cards!

But what if I intentionally put money in my car for lemonade stands, fundraisers, and stopping for ice cream with my kids?

In my busy, check-it-off-my-list world, I tend to put my head down and plow through. How many times have I driven past children selling lemonade and thought, “I wish I had time to stop.”

What if I lightened up and paused to smile at children pouring sticky glasses of lemonade?

Weddings. Funerals. Lemonade Stands.

What do these have in common?

So many of us are isolated and lonely. These special moments require us to pause and remember what is truly important. At the end of the day, or the end of the week, will we treasure our checked-off lists of accomplished tasks, or will we value our family, friends, and neighbors?

We need one another for both the sorrow and the joy.

When we show up and love with open hearts, we demonstrate generosity of spirit. We are saying, “I see you. You are valued and loved. Your joy is my joy, your sorrow my sorrow.”

So go to that wedding, show up at that funeral, and stop at the next lemonade stand you see. It’s worth it.

Cherish one another,
Lisa

Lisa Qualls

Lisa is the mom of twelve amazing kids by birth and adoption (and sometimes more through foster care). More than thirty years ago she married Russ; they had no idea the adventures awaiting them. Once lost, now found, she is forever thankful for grace. Lisa is passionate about caring for children from “hard places.” She is a TBRI Practitioner and works for Fostering Idaho. In 2006 she created the blog One Thankful Mom where she writes her honest reflections on family, faith, adoption, and foster care. Lisa’s work has also been published on Empowered to Connect, Show Hope, Adoption Today Magazine, Focus on Adoption Magazine and many other adoption/foster care publications.