My daughter and I bonded from the moment our eyes met in the delivery room. With each passing season, our relationship grew and deepened. Friends marveled over how close we were. People beamed at us in church.
Then Lillian turned fourteen. Suddenly, nothing I said was right, and everything I did was embarrassing.
When the Lord opened a door for me to speak at a missionary gathering in Asia, I spent all my frequent flyer miles to take my daughter with me. Since she loved everything Japanese, surely a visit to Tokyo would glue us back together.
The weather was perfect, the hydrangeas were blooming, and our hotel’s decor was delightfully authentic.
My only real worry was dining out. Lillian’s idea of adventurous eating was putting ketchup on her hamburger. She did like fried chicken. Might battered tempura be close enough?
As we headed down to the hotel lobby, I reminded her of our travel motto, borrowed from missionary friends: Where you lead me, I will follow. What you feed me, I will swallow.
“Got it, Mom.” Only a slight eye-roll.
Then we stepped inside the traditional Japanese restaurant, with its shoji screens and glowing lanterns, and her face lit up.
Things were off to a stellar start that evening. Until I put my purse beside my feet.
Our horrified waiter quickly produced a small table and moved my bag onto it with much polite bowing.
Lillian was clearly amused at my blunder. “Didn’t you know putting your money on the floor brings bad luck?”
Oh dear. I did not.
Having already committed one cultural faux pas, I vowed to do better and carefully studied the menu, grateful for the full-color photos. No sooner had I ordered the tempura, than we were served two steaming bowls of dark liquid.
Soup? Broth? Our waiter was gone before I could ask, so I gingerly picked up the bowl with both hands. Lillian took a small taste and wrinkled her nose, but I was hungry enough to down the whole thing.
When the waiter reappeared, he looked at my empty bowl in dismay, then quickly replaced it without a word. Only then did I realize I’d just consumed an entire bowl of tempura dipping sauce. Without the tempura.
“Good one, Mom,” Lillian said, now grinning.
Hot tea came next. Since there was a small bowl of sugar on the table with a teeny tiny spoon, I sprinkled a heaping spoonful in my cup, then took a sip. Ack! Not sugar. Salt.
By then, Lillian was giggling aloud and eating everything that landed in front of her. Even the vegetables she never ate at home. Even stuff with tails.
“What’s this?” She held up a mysterious shape.
“Pretend it’s shrimp,” I advised, then plunged it into the soup. Uh, sauce.
By meal’s end, God had used my foolish mistakes to remind us how much we enjoyed being together. I consoled myself that no one understood what we were whispering about, until our waiter offered a final bow, then thanked us profusely. In perfect English.
One of my favorite verses, 1 Thessalonians 5:16, is short but definitely sweet: “Rejoice always.” Few things heal like laughter or bond like shared memories.
My daughter and I flew home smiling. A decade later, we’re still smiling.
How has the Lord used laughter to strengthen the relationships in your life?
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