I stood in line to pay for my groceries at Walmart, the items already on the black belt that would send the eggs and baby spinach and balsamic vinegar to the cashier. I sensed someone behind me and turned around. A brown-skinned man held the smallest bike I'd ever seen--a pink and white Minnie Mouse bow nestled between the handle bars. Petite training wheels were attached to each side of the back tire. The man beamed, his smile as bright as the little white bike seat. I smiled back and motioned for him to go in front of me. He hesitated, then put the minuscule bike on the floor and rolled it down to the cashier. As he passed me, he said, "For my daughter." The man reached into his pants pocket and pulled out his wallet and paid cash. I couldn't help but overhear the cost. It was more than I'd have guessed. But this gift was perfect and gloriously pink. Worth every penny. The man picked up the bike and cradled it in his arms. He then turned to me, and we looked at each other for a brief moment. I was close enough to his face so that I could see smile lines etched around his shining eyes. He said, "Thank you." I replied, "Merry Christmas."
Later in the week, I sat with another man in my counseling office. A professional man, with an expensive haircut. I could see lines around his eyes too--worry lines. Words and tears spilled simultaneously. For the first time in his life, the man spoke of a father who had neglected him, been absent from the home. The man looked at me and asked, "How can I still be so emotional about my father decades later?" We processed many of his feelings, and he'd never considered the perspective of that brave boy who survived the pain--the resilience of s little boy who'd had to muster enough strength to make it to adulthood. "I guess I just never looked at my childhood that way," he said. "This changes everything. It wasn't about me. It wasn't that I was unlovable. It was more about my dad than me." I could almost see the light bulb blinking in his head. The man smiled through his tears. "This is great. This is great. But, Priscilla, what if I get stuck? Start going backward and blaming myself for the mess in my life?" I said, "I know you are a man of faith in God, so when you get stuck, think of crossing the border into a new territory. It is a safe place, the place of laughter and remembering. It's a location where God is laughing and smiling because He is so delighted with you. He's remembering all your milestones and rejoicing over you, his beloved boy. The new thought when you are stuck is to remember that you are the much-loved child."
It is difficult to believe that 2019 is around the corner. That wide open space of a New Year opens before me. Before you, dear readers. May we receive courage to explore that territory, anticipating that this new landscape is dotted with signs of God's presence in our lives. May we remember the man holding the pink bicycle and know that the heavenly Father takes great pleasure in giving to us. And when we are stuck, when the world throws us painful curveballs, may we step acorss the border into the geography of laughter and remembering, knowing that we are much-loved children.