Blue Ribbon Apple Pies and a Greater Joy

I recently took my four kiddos to the Elizabeth Community Fair, a small-town celebration, a Fair where I had proudly entered many an apple pie and canned goods back when I was in high school. We left from my parents’ farm early enough to get good seats  (yes, we come from Chicago), and between two vehicles we crammed an excited crew, found our parking spot by the Elizabeth library (about the size of a generous living room), and started to scout out our spot.

As we found our way to Mainstreet, my dad continued to greet and be greeted by people of all ages, sizes and walks of life. As we reached a sensible spot in the shade, Haddie, my eight-year-old, whispered to me, “Papa knows a lot of people.” I smiled. No one in the town would simply say that my dad was their family doc, he was their friend.

We gathered ourselves close to the curb, straining to see those who faithfully served in our Armed forces, as they shuffled down the street, signaling the beginning of the parade. We did our best to honor them, Hudson and Kuyper, removing their hats, while the rest of my family clapped our thankfulness and gratitude.

And then, the candy began. I have never, in my life, seen such volume of candy. From every float, tractor and fire truck, candy came, showering over us, peppering the streets in amounts that even the most desperate of the candy seekers could not keep up with. My brother, Josh, volunteered to take the heavily weighed down grocery bags of candy to one of the cars, while the rest of us walked on to the community center where they were serving free pork sandwiches, alongside potato chips and ice cold milk from a carton. I watched my children eat the same meal that I had years ago. I watched them enjoy the animals, who waited patiently in the hot stalls to be allowed to go back to their farms after everything was said and done. I watched my children look over the canned goods and apple pies, on the same wooden slates where my apple pies had sat years before. I tried telling Haddie how my apple pie had won the blue ribbon prize two years in a row. And her response had absolutely nothing to do with the apple pies with which I was trying to impress her.

And it all made me stop. Was my legacy in a battered blue ribbon, hidden away in a Rubbermaid container in the attic? Or was it tied to something else?

A hearty, joyful laugh took my eyes away from the entries, and I saw my dad, once more, talking with the same, faithful ladies, who had taken down my entries over twenty years ago. My dad had faithfully brought us to that fair, year after year. He had faithfully paid for our entry fees, paid for the materials for our entries, and even planted our entries in his garden. And then, after all this, he celebrated our accomplishments, genuinely beaming with pride, as we ran to tell him that our entry had won first prize.

I thought the fair would be an opportunity for me to recount my childhood to my children, but instead I found that I was the child, and the one recounting the story was my father, who stood, silently, and faithfully in the same spot he had always stood, quietly cheering us on, quietly enabling everything we did and every experience and blue ribbon we won.

All that we enjoy and all that we delight in is enabled by our Heavenly Father. Attending the Community Fair this past weekend was a sweet reminder of this. But not only does He enable these joys, but He, because of Jesus, He delights over us, enjoying His gifts, whether they be tastes, friendships, lovers, the ability to walk, to run, to participate in fitness classes, etc. And it is in the moments our eyes can see it is all from Him, that our hearts are filled to overflowing to keep on keeping on with what He has entrusted to us for His glory and for His joy over us. Let us keep pressing ever more into the joy of our Father, a joy that cannot fade over time, like my blue ribbon in the attic, nor can never be taken away by the next year’s pronounced blue-ribbon apple pie. Let us enter into our Father’s joy, boldly and freely, whether we eat or exercise, for He has done great things.

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