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In November of 1995, we flew home to NC from Alaska for Thanksgiving. We left Anchorage on the red-eye and flew all night. Traveling with a 7, 5 and 2 year old could be a little tricky, so I made sure none of them had a nap that day to allow them to sleep on the plane.

Shortly after the lights went down in the cabin, all three were curled up, heads in our laps, snoozing away, looking like little angels. Mommy success moment! Now we could lay our heads back and get some shut eye too.

As we boarded, I noticed the family behind us had a 4 or 5 year old little boy. I also noticed that his mother ordered him a Mt. Dew when the flight attendant took our drink orders. This wasn’t going to end well.

Before long, little Johnny was predictably bouncing off the walls — grabbing my seat and swinging on it for all he was worth. I tried to avoid whiplash, and she tried to make him sit still. Neither of us were successful.

First Stage: Bargaining

“If you’ll be quiet and sit down, I’ll get you another Mt. Dew!”

“I’ll be good! I want another Mt. Dew!”

Bartender! Another round for Dennis the Menace!

Second Stage: Threatening

“If you don’t sit down, I’m not taking you to Disney World! I’m going to tell the Captain to turn the plane around!”

*Picks up telephone in the seat*

“Hello? Mr. Captain of the Airplane going to Disney World? Can you turn the plane around since little Johnny won’t be good?”

Little Johnny wails at the top of his lungs, “NOOOOOOO! I wanna go to Disney World! Call Mr. Captain back and tell him I’ll be a good boy!!!”

*Picks up telephone in the seat again*

“Hello? Mr. Captain of the Airplane going to Disney World? Never mind! Little Johnny is going to be good!”

And so it went. For hours. Little Johnny was rewarded with a few more Mt. Dew’s and I couldn’t wait to land in Minnesota so I could get a neck brace and call DSS to have this poor little abused child removed from his mother.

Sometimes you learn what NOT to do by watching other people parent.

My mother had planned since my kids were born to take them to Disney when they were all old enough and big enough to ride the rides, and I made a vow right then that when that day came, I would never use it to manipulate them into behaving. (And also not to give Daniel Mt. Dew. Ever.)

As my kids grew, they each developed a love for a Disney character. Lindsey loved Tigger, Kaitlyn loved Eeyore and Daniel was a Buzz Lightyear man. For a little while, he refused to answer to “Daniel”. At suppertime, I’d have to say, “Buzz Lightyear, come to the table!”

He’d get up on his bed, hold his arms straight out and yell, “To infinity . . . . AND BEYOND!” as he jumped off and ran to the kitchen. *heart melts*

What celebration when we finally told them, “We’re going to Disney World!” It seems to me they should still be this small . . .

Disney 1

It’s safe to say it gave us every bit as much happiness as they got, if not more, to take them on this trip. Seeing the smiles on their faces, the screams of delight as they rode the rides and met their favorite Disney characters made every sacrifice worth it. It’s a toss up as to who was the most thrilled — the givers or the receivers!

Disney 3

Whenever I have trouble remembering how much God loves me, I try to remind myself of how much I love these three, and the two children I was blessed with when Todd and I got married. God is a parent, just like me — but He’s certainly a better one than I am (and Dennis the Menace’s mother on the plane!). Jesus said in Matthew 7,

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

If I have hopes and dreams for my children, and if I love to give them good gifts, how much more must God love to give to us! How much joy it must give Him to see us enjoy His creation, His blessings, His protection and love!

For some reason, I’ve had trouble with the phrase “God’s will.” It has had a harsh connotation, like it’s something being imposed on me, against my will. Sort of like it’s me vs. God, He’s bigger than me and is going to win anyway, so I might as well give in. Even though giving in might mean I’ll be forced to be a missionary to the Aborigines with no Netflix or half and half for my coffee.

(Seemed like I switched gears there, didn’t it? I didn’t. Just hang with me.)

In a recent Bible study, someone shared those same thoughts and feelings as I’ve had about God’s will. Same as me, she said it seemed like God was forcing Himself on her. But then she said if she thinks of God’s will as His DREAMS for her, she could then think of it as something wonderful to be embraced and desired, not something to fear and resist.

I can get on board with that!

God has dreams for us. Big dreams. His will for us is a hope and a future. If you haven’t memorized Jeremiah 29:11, do it.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It will help you remember that His will for you is a great big, wonderful dream. He won’t use it to manipulate you. He won’t hold it over your head to force you to behave, or threaten to take it away from you if you don’t.

If you don’t think it’s come yet, just hang on. He’ll give it to you, when it’s the right time, when you’re old enough and big enough to ride the ride. For no other reason than because He loves you.

He’s a good, good Father.