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Lemonade Stands

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According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, summer officially ends on September 23rd at 4:21am. Yes, I agree that’s a peculiar date and time for summer to end but who are we to argue with old farmers?

Sadly, the end of summer also brings the season’s end to a beloved American pastime—lemonade stands—which inexplicably, are under attack by various government branches. No, I’m not making this up.

The government lemonade crackdown may have begun last year in Coralville, Iowa, when  police shut down little 4-year-old Abigail’s stand after she had been open barely 30 minutes. The reason? She did not have the required $400 permit. In Midway, Georgia, police shut down a stand run by three little girls because they did not have a business license, a peddler’s permit, or a food permit. In Overton, Texas, public outcry was so loud after two children’s (7 and 8) stand was shut down for not having the proper permits, the Chief of Police released “dash-cam” VIDEO of the occurrence.

The list of government shut downs of children’s lemonade stands has grown substantially over the years. So much so that websites like lemonadefreedom.com have opened up with news and videos to promote “Lemonade Freedom” throughout the land. So in the hope some government official will read this and have second thoughts on sending the police to shut down a child’s lemonade stand, I share this story.

I love lemonade stands.

In fact, my wife and children know it’s almost impossible for me to drive past a neighborhood lemonade stand. I’ll circle blocks, make illegal U-turns, and even try to sneak past a police crime tape surrounding the permit-less operation of a 4-year-old, just to get to a child’s lemonade stand. Then I’ll call my wife and kids and insist they drive over and buy some, too.

It goes back, of course, to my grade school days when I proudly opened my very own lemonade stand in my front yard. I was a proud and hopeful small business owner determined to make millions from the ten-cents-per-cup lemonade my mother made. It was back in the day when a young entrepreneur could set up shop in their own front yard without ever worrying about being busted by the Chief of Police.

I remember setting up the table alongside the street, making the signs, and wondering how much to charge for a wonderful ice-cold glass of lemonade; a nickel, a dime, a quarter? Could a cold glass of lemonade be worth a quarter?

Of course, mom helped make the lemonade and even supplied a small box of change. She helped me make the sign and set up the table in a spot where she could keep an eye on me from inside the house. Then, finally, it was time to sit in the chair behind the table and wait for the line of cars to show up, driven by thirsty people with an extra dime or two in their pockets.

That’s where a major flaw in my business plan was revealed. At age 11, I was unfamiliar with the “location, location, location” principle and Freakonomics hadn’t even been written yet. So I was on my own, on a quiet street, learning tough business principles the hard way. But dreams are beautiful and I never once considered our quiet street would not be teaming with thirsty drivers coming from all over Miami to drink my lemonade.

Long, lonely minutes crept by as I sat there anxiously waiting for a car—any car—to pull down my street. Then, when a car did come into view, nothing crushed my spirit more than watching it rumble past as I stood there with a cup of cold lemonade in hand and a hopeful smile on my face. (There’s just something un-American about driving past a lonely lemonade stand.)

But dreams die hard and I knew my first customer could be coming down the street at any moment. I would be ready. The minutes slowly ticked by and turned into a discouraging hour. Then that hour slowly passed into another hour, and another. The hot sun burned down, the ice in the lemonade pitcher quickly melted, and no one, not one car or person ventured toward my lemonade stand.

Mom had given me a nice apple to offer to my first customer as a special bonus. It had been nice and fresh when I had set up the stand, but now it too, was starting to look beat down from the sun and heat. Still, no one stopped. I was fairly miserable.

The afternoon wore on and I was dragging my head in discouragement. I was just about to close up shop when off in the distance, I noticed a car coming my direction. It was a familiar car. It was my dad’s car and Dad was in it. He pulled up to my stand and rolled down the window. “How’s business, young man?” he asked with a big smile. All I remember was bursting into tears.

The next thing I know, my dad was asking for a glass of lemonade. “Are you selling that apple, too?” he asked still smiling. I managed a “yes” through my tears but said it wasn’t looking so good anymore. “Looks like a great apple to me,” I heard back, as I handed it over.

I can still picture handing my dad the warm glass of lemonade and the sad looking apple through the window of his car. He leaned back and drank the lemonade in one long swallow, smacked his lips and then bit into the apple. “Wow, that’s delicious,” he said to my surprise. “I think I’ll take another lemonade.”

When he was done, he reached into his wallet, pulled out a bill, and handed it to the little boy trying to overcome his sobs. He said a big “thanks,” complimented me on the excellent lemonade and fine tasting apple and drove away.

He was around the corner and out of sight before I looked and saw the twenty-dollar bill he had pushed in my hand. In many ways, it remains the biggest sale I have ever made.

I have a sneaky suspicion my mom called my dad to let him know I was out there struggling to make a sale. I can see him dropping whatever he was doing at work and driving over as quickly as possible to buy some warm lemonade from his son. With tenderness and compassion, it was “Dad to the rescue” because that’s what loving dads do.

The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him (Psalm 103:13).

As my dad drove up our lonely street, I’m sure he knew the sad sight he was about to see: a little boy with a sad face and slumped over shoulders fully engulfed in his own private pity party. But as a loving father, he knew what to do.

For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust (Psalm 103:14).

I’m so incredibly thankful the Lord knows how weak and frail I am. I so often feel like I’m still that little boy at the lemonade stand down the lonely street with nothing going right. But my Heavenly Father is tender and compassionate. He knows I’m made of dust and always takes my frailty into account.

For His unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth (Psalm 103:11).

So the next time you see a lemonade stand—STOP—and remember the Lord’s amazing love, tenderness, and compassion for you. Then, pull over and invest in the hopes and dreams of a small child who is waiting just for you to make his or her day. It may just be the best decision you make all day.

What Do I Know?

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Five years before my daughter, Abby, was even engaged, I wrote a song with my friend, Don Koch, called, “What Do I Know?” The song is about a dad’s emotional struggle about giving his daughter away. Of course, that dad is me.

I knew the day was inevitable and tried to project my emotional state. Even then, the thought made me my heart sink, my knees weak, and my eyes wet. I jokingly told her I’d be doing her wedding via satellite.

When I wrote this song, however, I never once even imagined she’d fall in love with an Aussie and move to Australia. So her wedding events and day were filled with an extra amount of emotion as our window of time together would come to a sudden end with her moving to the Land Down Under.

In the hundreds of photos taken by the wedding photographer, most of me were as you see below. I assured Abby they were not sad tears. I was and am thrilled for her and her new adventurous life with Alex. They make a great team. God is good.

With the exception of the “lanky and juvenile” part, I think I got it pretty right. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get a Kleenex. I’m about to watch this again:

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Father of the Bride

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Abby & Alex engagement

I am a father of the bride.

And, no, I have never been able to watch the “Father of the Bride” movie without tearing up. The scene that always gets to me is when Steve Martin (the dad) is playing basketball in the driveway with his daughter (played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley — now the wife of one my favorite country singers).

As they reminisce, the scene keeps flashing back to when the bride was a little girl playing with her daddy and all of a sudden I’m a slobbering basket case. When that movie came out in 1991, my little girl, Abby, was all of one year old and it all seemed so far away. But even then, I think she was secretly scheming to leave me one day.

So of course, I have no idea how I’m going to get through the wedding. It doesn’t help that they will be living in Australia, roughly three airplanes and some 24 hours worth of flight and airport terminal time away. In my mind, she was going to get married and they would live in the house next door — or even better, he could live next door and Abby could stay in her own room in my house.

The truth is, I really am very excited for her. I even like the creep she’s marrying. His name is Alex and I tried not to like him, but he won me over. His love and care for my daughter calms my heart and there is no question she is crazy in love with him. He is God’s ideal choice for my daughter and they compliment each other so well.

I wrote a song a few years ago envisioning the day some guy would ask me if he could marry my daughter. I knew the day was inevitable and I knew then, as I know now, I would be an emotional mess. It’s called, “What do I know?” Part of the lyrics go:

So now he asks me, “Will I give her away?”
My head is swimming, I stammer to say
“Will you love her forever?”
My world is spinning so
What do I know?

(NOTE: You can go to iTunes and download the song for $0.99 and help me pay for this wedding 🙂

It has now been over 30 years ago that I asked the extremely cute, sweet, and smart Vermont girl to marry me. How I pulled that one off remains a beautiful mystery. Of course, I was totally oblivious to any pain or struggle her father may have been going through giving his daughter away to some creep from Miami. But he did and I am forever grateful.

Now it’s my turn.

Abby’s big day is almost here and I can’t help but think of the very first wedding all the way back in the Garden of Eden. The passage in Genesis 2:23-24 explains that when God brought Eve to Adam like a typical man, he looked at her and after he picked his jaw up from the ground he mustered a profound, “At last!”

Adam then pulls himself together and goes on to say, “This is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh. She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.'” The passage concludes by saying, “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife and the two are united into one.”

December 28th is almost here. I think I hear Alex saying, “At last!”

Surviving the End of High School Athletics

When it comes to recalling my athletic exploits, the axiom is true, “The the older I get the better I used to be”. The truth is, however, most of my athletic memories involve hospital rooms, casts, crutches, and Extra Strength Tylenol. I had a heart for football but knees for X-box.

My wife, Jenn, never actually saw me play football when we were students at Wheaton College. She did, however, visit me in the hospital where I slightly embellished how I sustained my season-ending knee ligament tear.  If memory serves, it was whilst tossing a perfect 127 yard touchdown pass between 8 defenders while being tackled by 14 rabid linebackers, the opposing team coaches, and a few cheerleaders.  It was quite a play.

David surrounded by family on Senior Day

I exchanged my football cleats for a seat in the bleachers long ago.  And what a great seat it has been.  Front row and center for the past twelve years; a constant barrage of football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball games and practices.  But then, in an instant, it came to a jolting stop.  Our youngest played his last high school game and suddenly, it was all over.

We knew this day was coming.  It had to.  It took a slow, inevitable route beginning with our oldest.  I distinctly remember his last high school football game and the slow, agonizing walk off the field. Shoulders were slouched giving way to heavy sobs.  And my son wasn’t doing much better, either.

But when our eldest son’s high school athletic career came to an end, we still had two more to cheer on.  That meant our calendar remained full of football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and baseball.  Then suddenly, my daughter’s soccer games were over; then her volleyball.  The writing was on the wall the entire time, but with one kid still in the system, the busyness continued.  Then, on a normal day, our last high school game was played and just like that, it was over.

Erma Bombeck said she took a very practical view on raising children.  She put a sign in each of their rooms which read, “Checkout time is 18 years”.

My wife continues to remind me that our job as parents is to prepare our children for “checkout time.”  As custodians of God’s prized possessions, we hope and pray we’ve filled them with confidence, dreams, determination, and faith and trust in a loving God.

When checkout time arrives, the ones with the biggest adjustments are often us parents.  We go from years of whirlwind activity to the unfamiliar territory of calm and quiet.  Suddenly, it’s just the two of us again and that’s both exciting and a little scary, too.

As it turns out, hanging out with my wife is pretty awesome.  And to my great relief, I think she likes hanging out with me, too.  So, it appears we’re going to survive the end of high school athletics. And if our recent trip out west is any indication, this new chapter  in our lives is going to be rather fun and exciting.

Today, highlighted on our calendars, are those wonderful college break visits and vacation days.  And of course, just because they’ve “checked out”, doesn’t mean they won’t be visiting.  After all, right next to that “checkout” sign is another sign that reads “welcome home”.

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P.S.  To our great delight, our youngest (David) is continuing his athletic career at the University of Miami.  We have many football and baseball games yet to enjoy.

Lemonade Stands

According to those who make calendars, summer is officially over on September 23rd.  Sadly, the end of summer also means the end of most neighborhood lemonade stands.

I love lemonade stands.

In fact, my wife and children know that it is almost impossible for me to drive past a neighborhood lemonade stand.  I’ll circle blocks, make illegal U-turns, and drive over rusty nails and shards of glass to get to a neighborhood stand.  I’ll even call my wife and kids and ask them to get in their car and go get some lemonade.

It goes back, of course, to my grade school days when I proudly operated my very own lemonade stand in my front yard.  I remember setting up the table by the street, making the signs, and wondering how much to charge for a wonderful ice-cold glass of lemonade; a nickel, a quarter?  Is a glass of lemonade worth a quarter?

Of course, mom would help make the lemonade and would even supply a small box of change.  Then, finally, after all the preparations were made, it was time to sit in the chair behind the table and wait for the line of cars to show up driven by thirsty people.

That’s usually where the entire operation broke down.

Long, lonely minutes would creep by as I sat there anxiously waiting for a car—any car—to pull down my street.  And nothing would crush my spirit more than when a car would finally come into view only to rumble past without giving me or my lemonade a second thought.  (There’s just something un-American about that.)

There is one summer day that stands out in my life as a lemonade salesman.  It was a particularly hot day and ideal for selling lemonade.  No one, however, seemed interested in my stand.  Cars were driving by that day, but none stopped. My ice had melted.  The lemonade was hot.  The apple I had set on the table to give away as an incentive to my first customer was rotting.  Yet, no one stopped.  And I was fairly miserable.

I was just beginning to close up shop when off in the distance, I noticed a car coming my way.  It was a familiar car.  It was my Dad’s car, and Dad was in it.  He pulled up to my stand and rolled down the window.  “How’s business, young man?” he asked with a big smile.  All I remember was bursting into tears.

The next thing I know, Dad is asking for a glass of lemonade and about the rotten apple on the table.  “Are you selling that apple, too?” he asked still smiling.  I guess I managed a “yes” through my sobs but informed him it was a little rotten.  “My favorite kind,” I heard back.

I have a vivid memory of handing my Dad the warm glass of lemonade and then the rotten apple through the window of his car.  He leaned back and drank the lemonade in one long swallow, smacked his lips and stared at that rotten apple…and took a big bite.

He reached into his wallet and pulled out a bill and handed it to the little boy trying to overcome his heavy sobs.  He said a big “thanks” and drove away.  He was around the corner and out of sight by the time I looked in my hand and saw the bill he had pushed in my hand.  Twenty dollars!

Have you ever gone from despair to joy in under a second?  Well, I certainly did that hot summer day.  It left a powerful imprint on me that lasts to this very day.

It is easy to drive by lemonade stands.  After all, we’re busy and have places to go and people to meet.  But sometimes, if you stop and invest in a “small cup of warm lemonade and maybe even a rotten apple,” you may never know the impact it could leave on someone’s life.  In fact, God could even use it to turn someone’s despair into joy.

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