A number of months ago I was having a conversation with my friend Gregg and he told me about a practice he has that really caught my attention. He has three daughters, and for each one of his daughters he has a jar with marbles in it. Each marble represents a day that his daughters have until they leave his house bound for college or career. Every day he removes one marble. A few possibilities came to my mind in terms of reasons Gregg does this:
- Gregg doesn't like his girls and can't wait for them to be out of the house.
- Gregg loves his wife and misses the good ole days before they had children. He's just counting down the days until they are empty nesters and able to simply enjoy one another's company in a quiet home.
- Gregg loves his daughters very much and wants to have a visual reminder that his time with them during this season of life is limited, and he wants to have something constantly kicking him in the pants to spend time with his girls.
I know Gregg. I know he really likes his daughters ... a lot! I was instantly able to eliminate option 1.
I know Gregg. I know how much he loves his wife. I am sure that they will very much enjoy the next season of life as empty nesters and the ability to spend more focused time together. But I know that his jar with marbles wasn't some countdown until his girls are out of the house. Option 2 was out.
I know Gregg. I know that capitalizing on every opportunity to spend time cherishing his daughters by spending time with them is really important to him. I know was his motivation for the jar filled with marbles. Option 3 was the answer.
For a few weeks I couldn't stop thinking about the jars and the marbles. I thought about my own daughters. I am as guilty as the next person of choosing selfish activities over engaging with my girls. One evening I decided I needed something that would kick me in the pants and remind me to get up and spend time with my girls. So, I made the trip to the store. I bought two jars. I bought a few thousand beads (I had to be a little different than Gregg!). Then I came home and did the math. I put the number of beads in each respective jar that represent the days left until our daughters are off to college or the next phase of their lives after high school. Every day I remove one bead from each jar. Not in some morbid or selfish countdown. No. Every time I look at those jars I ask myself:
Did I engage my daughters today?
Did I invest in them?
Did I maximize the time I had to spend with them?
Some days, sadly, the answer is no.
Some days, gladly, the answer is yes.
Above all, every day I have an in-my-face visual reminder to get off my can and spend time with the most important people God has put in my life.
Today, using mid-August as a projected departure time for college, Claudia is down to just 1,100 days until she's off to the next season of her life and the dynamics of our relationship change. Natalia is at 2,196. Time is tickin'! We'll never get these days or this season back. Carpe diem. Seize the day.
God, help us to connect and build memories with our children.
Let them look back on their years knowing that we cared.
Let them long tell stories of the shared experiences we had during their growing-up years.
You are Emmanuel, God with us.
Help us to reflect this reality of who You are to them in our actions.
Let them remember that through good and bad, ups and downs, days filled with sun shine and days that are overcast and rainy, that we were there - present, with them.