Giving the Gift of Joy (Even When You Don’t Feel Like It)



Drip. Drip. Drip. It was the first night of our family camping trip, and that wasn’t a sound I wanted to hear. I felt around in the dark, and sure enough–my hand was wet. It had been storming all night and now our tent’s roof was leaking. “Adam? Adam?” I said in the dark. “Water is dripping from the ceiling and it’s STILL raining. At what point do we need to evacuate?”

I half-heartedly hoped he would say the time was now. In fact, maybe he would just say this whole camping thing with three young children wasn’t a smart decision and decide we should get a hotel. But I also didn’t want to walk a quarter mile to our car, in the rain, at night, carrying those three young children. I also knew that my husband was looking forward to three nights camping in the wilderness with his family, and whether or not it conformed to my idea of a vacation, I wanted to give him the gift of a wonderful time.

It wasn’t an easy task, however. Besides the storm and leaky tent, Adam and I also got into an argument on Day One when he realized he completely forgot to pack anything needed for cooking – except his pocketknife. My plans for scrambled eggs over the fire for breakfast and using our unopened Dutch oven we received for our wedding quickly vanished. But we made up and pressed on. The next morning we headed into the nearby town, determined to start the day anew, only to wind up caught in another downpour as we walked along a pier after checking out a lighthouse. This was not what either of us imagined when we decided to go on a family vacation.

However, sunshine or storm, I was still resolute that I would not complain to my husband. While it took a lot of strength to get through that first night (I constantly had to remind myself to be joyful), I noticed that as time went on it got easier. Adam recognized the loving sacrifices I was making and even praised me and thanked me for keeping my cool, leaky tent and all. His recognition only made me more conscious that what I say and do has a huge effect on the family and that it was way more fun when I chose to be joyful, thoughtful and patient.

It also wasn’t too long before I truly was having a lot of fun and enjoying every minute with him and the kids. My gift to Adam ended up being a gift to all of us. One of my favorite memories occurred as we jumped back in the car after getting caught in the rain after the lighthouse visit.

As Adam buckled in the kids I turned to them, laughing, and said, “Who loves camping?!?!” “I do! I do!” my oldest two replied. Adam chuckled as he slid into his seat next to me and said, “You know, this experience so far has really made me love you more.” I didn’t know what to say. I ended up mumbling something along the lines of “Well, I’ve really been trying my best for you. I know this camping trip means a lot to you.”

“I know,” he responded. “Thank you.”

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