My dad used to keep a real-estate ad of a huge house for sale on the lake fifteen minutes from our little home. He thought it was beautiful and his dream was to own it. I didn’t know that until after he died, and my husband told me that he had told him about it while driving him to work one morning.
It was just one more thing to make me feel guilty.
After all, I had heard my dad often speak of the RV he wanted to get one day after he retired. He wanted to pack us all inside and drive across the country, visiting the Grand Canyon and the National Monument and the Redwoods and so much more. It wasn’t something he mentioned only once. He mentioned it a lot, explaining how the trip would be. He would watch shows with me on the Discovery Channel about the country’s biggest waterparks and the best restaurants. We had a running list. He dreamt of going to Hawaii, and we talked about parasailing and eating coconuts right off the trees.
I got my travel bug from him I think.
But, life happened.
Long before he got the house, long before he got that RV–he got cancer. And it was all cut short.
For a long time after he died I dealt with extraordinary pain over the fact that my dad’s life consisted of just a few things. Working long hours, leaving the house at dark and coming home at dark, mowing the lawn, getting dressed up for church, and leaving work early only to attend my school plays and choir concerts. At least to my childhood eyes, that’s what it all looked like. It seemed that his dreams were pitted in a future he never had. I felt guilt over my opportunity of going to Hawaii, of traveling and buying a house in Idaho–his favorite state. So much guilt.
But I was so wrong.
Lots of things came to light after my Dad died. There was a savings account for trips and he worked hard for it. But each time a summer came around and he had a week off, my mom and he would decide to go to Disneyland instead–because my sister and I were convinced we were Disney princesses and we loved roller coasters. The new house never came because buying me a car when I was 16 came first to them, and so did school trips and clothes and the million other things I’ll never know about because he worked overtime without saying a peep just so I could have those things.
He didn’t live a life without. He lived a life of complete sacrifice. And my mom did the exact same thing as a stay-at-home mom, living a life of wiping sticky faces, chauffeuring us to soccer practice and dance recitals, and making sure we had the last piece of chicken if we were still hungry, even before she ate a thing.
The word sacrifice always sounds so painful. But when we really look at it and examine what it is and what it means in the eternal scheme of things, there is no pain. Only joy.
And I’ve learned that lately more than ever.
As soon as my husband and I decided that adoption was the way we were going to start our family we both looked at our “Hawaii” jar (because after our last amazing trip we vowed we had to go to Hawaii 185 more times before we kicked the bucket) and decided with a sigh that priorities have changed. And movie night? It turned into Netflix night so we could save some pennies for diapers and a crib. But strangely–it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t hurt because it’s for something I love already SO much more than all those things or all that freedom.
One of my close friends sent me this picture tonight and it reminded me not only of the sacrifices we’ve already had to make for our baby–but the sacrifices that have been made all my life for ME.
I read this and in a single moment it all made sense to me.
Your sacrifices don’t vaporize. They don’t go unnoticed.
They are flecks of gold that add up and build mansions. Your sacrifices build your children and your grandchildren and the generations that will come long after you are gone. The things you give up grow a thousand fold and are given to those you sacrifice for. Your children, your career, your spouse, your friends, and your church–you’re building them up. Just as Heavenly Father did by sending his ONLY son for US–you as a parent or as a guardian or as a teacher mimic the exact same virtue.
I don’t even have my child yet and I feel a glimmer of what my Dad felt all those years and what my mom felt when she went along with everything in total agreement. I know now that when we hung the curtain up by his bedside during his last days–the one that had a picture of a Hawaiian beach–he didn’t stare at it longingly, wishing he had had a chance to go. I know now he wasn’t thinking of the RV he never had a chance to drive or the Grand Canyon he never had a chance to see. He wasn’t thinking about the extra cash he could have earned or the new house by the lake.
He was thinking about my sister and my mom and me–right by his side.
He was thinking about his investment.