Tag Archives: celebration

Her First Birthday Party


Each summer, I serve as the Bible teacher for a summer camp in Texas.  The camp’s mission is to create positive memories for abused and neglected children, ages 7-11.

Two years ago, we had a little girl who was at camp for her first time. Every time she would see me, she would remind me that it was her birthday during the week, and she asked me over and over not to forget. I promised  her each time that I would be sure to remember and that we would celebrate it together.

Confession: I knew something that she didn’t.  At the camp, we always throw a birthday party for ALL the kids on Thursday night.  Many of them have never celebrated their birthdays before, so we get a church to donate enough toys to fill up a large shoebox for each child, make a giant cake, decorate the camp’s mess hall with streamers, confetti and party favors and make sure it’s an event that they will all remember!

When the night of the party arrived, I was excited for her and hoped that she would be pleased with the celebration. Amazingly, none of the older kids had let on about the party, even though they had been to camp several times before. I did my part distracting the kids with some other meaningful activities while the party decorations were completed, and then I got them lined up at the door of the mess hall, ready to go in for their big surprise.

The door opened up, loud cheers and clapping emerged, and the kids bounded inside, high-fiving all the adults and teens that had lined up to greet them!  Once past the gauntlet of celebrating big people, the kids found tables and chairs set for the biggest birthday party they had ever seen!  Party hats, juice pouches, colorful plates, napkins and plastic ware, noise makers and balloons!  Everyone excitedly took their seats and began to explore their table settings while the adults brought them cake and ice cream and sang “Happy Birthday!” to them.

When I went to see the girl after the initial surprise, she caught me off guard. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she said, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Pastor Mike! You remembered!” Over and over.  She was quite undone by the grace of it all.

I was a little embarrassed that she thought I was the reason for the party when I had really done nothing except distract the kids while the preparations were being made, but I didn’t want to ruin her moment by saying anything awkward. To her, this was a promise fulfilled and an opportunity to celebrate her birthday for the very first time.

I often think about this moment.  It both breaks my heart (for a little girl who had never had the simple gesture of a birthday party), and it humbles me.  There were dozens of people more deserving of the credit for her birthday celebration, but God allowed me to be the one that received her appreciation.  What I’ve realized is that God often allows us to get the credit for good works that we had very little to do with.  If we are honest, He does 99% of the work most of the time.  We have little to offer, and we are often selfish about offering what we do have.

I think He uses these moments to remind us of the joy we receive from joining Him in His work.  They are an incentive for us to trust Him more with our time, our talents and our treasures, and they soften our hearts toward those in need.

So, in retrospect, I’m not sure if the birthday party that night was more for the little girl or more for me.  I suspect God made the appointment for us both.

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If you would like to know more about Royal Family Kids’ Camps (which are held in many places around the world), you can visit their website at http://www.rfkc.org.

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Junk Food Weekend


What I’m about to share is self-incriminating, bad-parent behavior.  I’m sure Dr. Spock (the one on this planet) would never approve.  In all likelihood, I’m setting in motion factors and variables that will ruin my children by the time they are ready (or completely un-ready) to enter society.  I know you will judge me, but I’m going to share anyway.

This weekend, my family (except, of course, M37 (a.k.a. “Mom”), who only tolerates this behavior when she is too far away to do much about it) is celebrating a great Miller family (not our real name) tradition – “Junk Food Weekend!”

Mom is away at a women’s retreat, hopefully able to push this tradition from her consciousness and enjoy her socks off.  That leaves D37, C14, A11.75 and S9 at home all alone with a bit of disposable income and no heavy commitments for the next two days.  On occasions such as these, Dad and the kids celebrate (no, not that Mom is away – perish the thought!) our freedom to go a little nuts.  It’s a stay-up-as-late-as-you want-play-video-games-and-watch-movies-while-stuffing-your-face-free-for-all!

You see, M37 is a bit of a “rules” person.  Rules that good parents enforce, like regular bedtimes, healthy eating habits, cleanliness and moderation – rules that D37 rebels against, because they were established by The Man to make our lives miserable.  M37 is successfully (if oh, so very slowly) domesticating D37 and getting some rules-compliance while he is under her watchful eye, but when the cat’s away…

By common consent, each Junk Food Weekend begins with a junk food shopping spree.  Dad and the kiddos hit the local grocery store and buy up all the least nutritious items it has in stock.  It doesn’t matter if they like the taste or not – purchasing decisions are made based on what can do their bodies the most damage before the weekend ends.  In addition to the items that get full group agreement, each kid is allowed to pick out one to two personal choices that repulse the others.

This was our haul for this weekend’s event.  I know, it looks a bit, uh….excessive.  And it probably definitely is, but we won’t actually consume all that in two days (I don’t think).  That’s just to give us options.  And actually, this is the result of two junk food shopping sprees.  M37 made one for us a few days ago, but we didn’t trust her judgment – you know, the whole “rules” thing – so, we did a second shopping spree just to make sure.  Looks like we might have some leftovers.

So far, it looks like our shopping choices were right on target, except S9 was not at all impressed with Thailand’s version of chocolate milk.  After slamming down an entire glass, he said,

“Oh, Dad!  That was so gross!  It was so thick, it was like drinking a chocolate loogie!”

(Later, we discovered that it had expired several months ago (even though we just bought it).  When S9 poured it out, it took more than ten minutes to go down the drain – with the help of a spatula.)

It’s been a few hours since he consumed the toxin, and he’s still twitching eating, so I think he must be okay.  Please don’t call M37 and destroy her serenity.  We’ve been through traumas like this one before.  This is like our fifteenth Junk Food Weekend or something, and we’ve never even once been to the emergency room.  (It was just a flesh wound, I keep telling her.)

No time for anymore play-by-play.  The kids are calling, and it’s time to put in last The Lord of the Rings movie – the extended, sixteen-hour director’s cut.  Whoever falls asleep is getting the shaving-cream-in-the hand-feather-under-the-nose-trick!

UPDATE!  UPDATE! UPDATE!  UPDATE! UPDATE!  UPDATE! UPDATE!  UPDATE! UPDATE!

I couldn’t resist…

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