Yesterday Steve turned 40. It’s interesting, this turning of another decade.
From 30 to 40 feels like 3 years. It might have been the fastest decade to this point.
My friend, Adina (you may know her as Take Them A Meal), gave me an idea I’ve been holding onto for Steve’s 40th. A gift that money can’t buy, one to hold for life.
I asked friends and family to send me a favorite memory of Steve. Over the last several days, the memories poured in. I laughed. I cried. I sighed. I pondered. More than anything, I was humbled. And I couldn’t wait for Steve to read the words of people who care so much for him.
To celebrate Steve’s 40th, we cooked his favorite dinner. Country fried steak and gravy (something I only make every couple of years…too much grease, too much work), Pioneer Woman’s mac and cheese (the best ever ever ever), green beans, and biscuits. Topped off with pound cake, strawberries, and ice cream. Wishing you were with us?? It was every bite delicious. Worth every bit of all the hours it took to make.
Steve’s a simple man. And birthdays in our home are a simple affair as you can see from the decor. We take what we have and make the best of it. If you didn’t know better, you might think we were celebrating the 101st day of school rather than a 40th.
While we ate dinner, we explained that we had asked people to send us a memory. We passed the bowl of memories to Steve and watched each one transform his face.
He was two sentences in on the first memory card when the tears appeared.
I couldn’t take my eyes off our boys as they watched the emotional, tender side of dad on full display. Letter after letter, words upon words, each one unique in its own way.
A common theme presented itself in those memories. The little things matter. People matter. Relationships are priority.
This is what we were made for. Relationship.
I was struck by the sentiment in those letters. What stood out in many of the shared memories was that Steve cared. He simply cared.
He cared enough to ask about people and actually take the time to listen. He cared enough to pray for them. He cared enough to include them when others might not have. He loved first. He was slow to speak and quick to listen. He cared enough to not let differences in beliefs hinder the friendship.
No matter what memory was written, all I heard was, “he cared so much about me…..”
Don’t we all want to know someone cares?
After the bowl of memories lay open and exposed on the table, one thought remained. The little things matter. The simple ways we treat people matter.
Don’t discount the small.
Relationships. We were made to be in relationship with God and people. People matter.
The little things are bigger than we will ever realize. The words we choose to speak. The look we choose to give. The leaning in when leaning away is easiest.
We care big through the littles.
As the evening came to a close, I saw how moved Steve was by the words now written for him to hold onto.
A sampling of the little ways Steve’s impacted the lives of others are now written. He has them to hold onto, to remember again. To be encouraged when he needs encouragement. To be reminded how important the smallest things really are.
Rarely do we take the time to tell someone how they have impacted our lives. I can list 100 different ways people have shaped my thoughts and my heart by the tiny examples they’ve served me. Yet, I rarely tell the person.
What a gift to hear that how we treat people matters. How we invest in relationships is immeasurable.
The notes the boys wrote Steve were priceless. Each boy told me there is no favorite memory because there are just too many. They eventually settled on one each and wrote heartfelt letters. But Andrew’s letter was precious. He wrote every single word, and it started with “Dad, this is Andrew.” 🙂 Precious. He ended the letter with, “I love you because you love us first.”
We all want to be loved first. And we are. And that is why we can love.
We love each other because he loved us first.
1 John 4:19
Love well. Love hard. Love deep.
Love in the little ways because they dig the deepest roots.
Love others today well. Let them know they matter in the smallest of ways. You may never know the impact you are making, but when you are investing in relationships, you are changing the world.
If you want to give someone the very best birthday gift ever, make them a bowl of memories. Collect little notes from people in their life. I promise it will be one of the best gifts they will ever receive.
We all want to know we are making a difference. And when we see how deeply we are impacting hearts, it wrecks our own heart.
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