Christmas Roadtrips

Today we will put away the Christmas decor for another fifteen weeks or so, and wrap up our new family tradition of celebrating Christmas In July.  So I’ve been reflecting on my Christmas memories as a child this morning.  Many of those revolve around road trips to visit extended family. And when I say road trip, I mean road trip.  Like 1,000-1,500 miles and 20-24 hours of drive time.

We would leave on a Sunday night after church.  We would load everything in the station wagon and hit the road.  No seatbelt laws meant we kids could sleep on the slats Dad had specially made to fit in the back of the land yacht. Luggage underneath the slats and sleeping bags on top of the slats.

Mom would drive first because she was a night owl.  She would get us to daybreak, and then Dad… having gotten some sleep while she drove… would take the helm and keep us rolling.

We stopped only to fuel up and eat.  While we rode, we played all the classic road trip games… because there were no cell phones… or on-board wifi… or iPads… or built-in video players which could play videos or your gaming system.  No, we read… and slept… and talked… and drove each other nuts.

But you know what? I never thought twice about what direction to drive… or how much money we would need to take with us… or whether gas stations were open on Sundays or not… or whether we would get where we were supposed to be going.  Mom and Dad said, “Get in the car. We’re going to see your grandparents.”  And I did.  I just got in that station wagon, and let them do all the planning and driving.  They took care of when to stop and when to go.  They determined which roads were best for us.  They made sure we had all we needed to make the trip as easy as possible.  I just got in and trusted them.

Oh, that I would always treat God the same way.  That I would simply get in the car of life which He is driving, and let Him take care of all the details.  Sometimes I do better than most.  Other times, I’m like a 6-year old trying to tell his parents what time to leave, which road to take, how fast to drive, what time to stop or go.  I know, it doesn’t make any sense.

In those moments, my Heavenly Father is kind and gracious enough to say from Matthew 11:30, “Keep company with Me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  In other words, “Allen, let me take care of the details… You just get in and ride along with me. I’ll get you where you need to be, when you need to be there.”

I’m glad He’s driving.  And since He is, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to climb in the back, rest, and have fun looking at the billboards and license plates we pass.

And oh yeah, just one more time this year… Merry Christmas in July!

A Little Something Extra

I don’t know the young man or young woman’s name who took our order at the counter of the McDonald’s on the main strip in Gatlinburg, TN that evening, but I remember the feeling I had walking out of the building and showing PR31 the tallest ice cream cone I had ever received for a buck at any McDonald’s.

We were on vacation, and we were splurging for a little treat on a cool October evening. We had walked up and down the strip, enjoying a leisurely time together.  We didn’t have to get an ice cream cone.  It was just a little something extra to top the night off. And it ended up making our vacation memorable.  In fact, it started a little tradition of visiting that McDonald’s on any of our trips to Gatlinburg.

I had no idea that I would walk out of that restaurant with ice cream so tall I thought it might topple off the cone if I tilted it too far one way or the other.  That was something the folks in South Louisiana refer to as “lagniappe” (pronounced lan-yap).  It means, “a little something extra.”  That’s what that person did for us that night… a little something extra.  It was kindness.

Kindness is when we do a little something extra for someone… whether they deserve it or not… whether they’ve earned it or not… whether they’ve asked for it or not… whether they paid for it or not.  It is an attitude of generosity which goes far beyond money or goods.  Sometimes it’s helping out before we’re asked. Sometimes it is paying a compliment to someone who looks to be having a tough day but is doing a good job.

In the Old Testament, King David asked one day if there was anyone from Saul’s family to whom he could show kindness.  Saul was his predecessor… and the guy who had tried to hunt him down in order to kill him.  And yet David made a choice to be kind to Saul’s family because of his friendship with Saul’s son, Jonathan, and because he wanted to have a right attitude.  It’s not that being kind was common.  In fact, it wasn’t in that day an time. Most kings wiped out any relatives of their predecessors.  So what David did was rare.

Sound familiar?  We live in a world where kindness is often a rarity.  Some people think it’s antiquated. But I’ve never met a person who didn’t appreciate it.  Everyone needs that little something extra… kindness.

So today, let’s tip that waitress a little more than we have to.  Let’s take some cookies to a friend or neighbor.  Let’s send someone a text just to let them know we think they’re amazing.  Let’s spiral the ice cream a little taller on the cone than is expected.  You never know… You just might make someone’s day in a way they’ll never forget.

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