Let’s make our table a joyful place of refuge, a place where no one is excluded, and where there is a feeling of connection and welcome.
A Collection Of Experiences and Observations
Let’s make our table a joyful place of refuge, a place where no one is excluded, and where there is a feeling of connection and welcome.
Just pick up the pencil
It’s perfectly ok to celebrate Christmas on a day other than the 25th
I sit, Starbucks Hong Kong coffee mug in hand, as the sun streams through the window and warms my chilled body. I guess I can say I have been there, even though it was just a brief layover, flying from China to Indonesia. After all, I do have the mug to prove it.
As I ponder what to write, a myriad of ideas dart every direction in my head and smash into each other, leaving me with nothing but disjointed, unorganized thoughts. I know I need to work on my book, but today just isn’t the day. Then, when I am about to slam the computer shut, it comes. Still not completely clear, but at least a few uncluttered notions:
Get it down on paper while it’s fresh on your mind.
Future generations may want to read it.
Just write one sentence, then another, then another…
Keep reminding self: Many sentences make a story!
Just a few days before Christmas 2019, I had only one question, “Didn’t we just have Thanksgiving?” On this year it fell on the 28th (the latest possible date it can be.) Both my husband’s and my birthdays are in December and our anniversary on January 1st. With Christmas on the heels of Thanksgiving this year all of these special dates seemed to literally bump into each other. Thanksgiving definitely got the short end of the stick, with Christmas festivities and decorations merrily hijacking it. Even I, who has always believed it to be just plain wrong to commence with holiday decorations before Thanksgiving, succumbed. Yes, I caved in to the pressure of putting up the tree days before the turkey was carved!
Our 25th of December morning began with just the two of us and no presents under the tree to open. That was okay because we had already gifted each other with a future “event” (attendance at the Colson Center’s Wilberforce weekend in Arlington, Virginia) which had been on my bucket list for several years.
Our day included an afternoon trip to the airport in Austin to pick up our Chicago kids. How could we make the day special for three teens, one three-nager and their parents? With no restaurants open, we knew we had better come up with a plan for feeding two 6’ 4” boys (uh, I mean, young adults, as they constantly remind me), a petite fourteen-year-old girl who eats as much as her brothers (where does she put it?!) and a three-year-old who is always hungry. A bottle of water and a granola bar was not going to suffice.
So, hubby and I spent our Christmas morning in the kitchen making a picnic fit for a king (or queen), perfect for a tailgate party.
As predicted, the kids got off the plane starving. No way could we have made the long drive home from the airport without some pretty hangry peoples. A little side note: Hunger to teenagers translates into, “If I don’t get food I’m going to die!”
The dazzling Johnson City Christmas lights turned out to be the perfect setting for our Christmas meal. These Chicago-land people, used to their heavy parkas and gloves by now, jumped out of the van to a pleasant surprise–their feet landed on soft green stuff instead of crunchy white stuff. They could hardly believe our pleasant Texas Hill Country evening. Everyone grabbed a bag or cooler and headed for the one picnic table that just happened to be right in front of the courthouse.
Our table, set with green and red paper holiday plates and candles to light the table as it got darker, looked beautiful. The main entrée of Texas Crock-pot pulled pork, along with buns, chips, salsa and hummus got everyone’s attention. And what would a Christmas day/eve dinner be without 2019’s ever-popular charcuterie board filled with an assortment of cheeses, crackers, Texas Longhorn summer sausage, chips, olives, nuts, and fruit?! Hot chocolate and cookies satisfied our sweet tooth and topped off the food selection for our tailgate party on a table.
As the sun slowly dipped behind the horizon, the lights on the courthouse and quaint little houses on the streets surrounding it brightly glistened against the dark sky. The entire area transformed into a twinkling fairyland that could have easily passed for a portrait by the famous artist, Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light.”
The kids chased each other on the lawn and the adults reveled in the soft quiet of the night by the brightly lit sign outlined by tiny lights that spelled out in fancy cursive letters, Hill Country Style. It was truly a Hill Country Style evening I will not soon forget.
If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s to lower expectations and be flexible when family gathers in large groups for extended periods of time. I wouldn’t have chosen Christmas Day to make a run to the airport, thus necessitating our family celebration to be scheduled later in the week. But, it happened this year, and we still managed to make some memories. I can just hear the kids-young adults-in 2030, saying, “Yeah, remember that year we had a tailgate party on Christmas day and we didn’t have to eat turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce?!”
Maybe, just maybe, it’s perfectly acceptable to occasionally dispense with the year-to-year same old traditions and try something new. And maybe it’s okay to just do it once!
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:1 NIV
Recently, I kept my three-year-old granddaughter while her parents were away. To delay her nap, she gladly welcomed snuggle-time in my lap. However, just minutes before, she lay sprawled on the floor, loudly protesting sleep. This bouncy, spirited little redhead wrapped her arms tightly around my neck and completely relaxed. As she rested her head on my chest, her breath tickled my chin. I began to sing, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey.” My annoyance at her tantrum quickly faded. I deeply desired for her to know that she was mine, and I loved her.
In our pain and despair, we sometimes lose hope and shake a fist at God. Our kind and merciful Father responds by declaring us family. His open hands reach out and pull us close as He whispers in our ear, “You are Mine and I will provide strength and comfort through your sleepless nights.
Father, as we enter the hectic Christmas season, quiet our restless spirits. Restore our hope and let us never forget that we are Yours.
Old hands, young hands, wrinkled hands, calloused hands, soft hands, freckled hands. I love to study hands. I don’t think I have pretty hands, but they are what God gave me, and I must realize He gave me these hands for a purpose. So, I need to embrace the fact that how my hands look are not what is important. It is what I accomplish with them that matters.
My brothers, sister and I have similar hands, just like my dad’s and grandfather’s. My grandpa’s hands were working hands. He was a plumber. His hands reached deep down into the recesses of toilets to unclog them, and they pulled his body through tight spaces under houses, in muck and mire, to fix broken pipes. My dad also had working hands–he climbed poles to restore electricity and helped mama cows birth their calves. My brother, five years younger than me, also works hard with his hands, but not the same kind of “hard” as my dad and grandfather. He assembles sound systems, builds music studios, and creates CD music recordings. My sister, in her 60s, still cleans their cabin rentals every day and works with her husband to gut and remodel houses.
I was ten years old when my youngest brother, Brian, later nicknamed B, was born. Already infatuated with babies, he became my living baby doll. When he cried nights on end with ear pain, I rocked him back to peaceful sleep. My hands cradled him so lovingly as I cuddled him close, feeling his strong heart beat thump, thump, thump against my chest. Sometimes when he was fast asleep, I jiggled his bed to wake him, so I could scoop him up with my small hands and love on him more.
Years passed, and our dad got cancer and ceased being the role model this now teenage boy so desperately needed. My brother began to drink with his friends, then left home.
I went off to school, married, and moved far away. My baby brother grew up and we drifted apart.
He still worked with his hands. He built a house and played guitar for a living in faraway countries.
Once he dropped by to visit us in New Mexico on his way home from Alaska. He loved our girls and they loved him. He, the fun uncle, tickled them softly with his freckled hands and made them laugh. Big boisterous laughter! His rusty and dented, old Ford SUV filled with a giant, stuffed, black bear, brought back from Alaska, peered out the back window. The girls, infatuated with Uncle B, begged to take a picture with him, and, of course, the bear.
The girls grew up and began families of their own and didn’t see their uncle nearly as much as they would like.
Finally empty-nesters, we moved to Austria for a few years. I worried about my brother. I knew he participated in risky behaviors, like drugs and alcohol.
We decided that after retirement we’d move to the Texas Hill Country, where he lived, hoping to be a positive influence in B’s life. After two years in Austria, we received news that he tested positive for liver cancer. He finally gave up his drug and alcohol habit, but it was too late.
As he lay in the hospice bed, looking like a shriveled up old man, I remembered what it felt like to cuddle that soft, tiny babe-in-arms. I caressed his hands, as memories flooded back of days long gone, when I called him “my baby.” I leaned over and heard his heartbeat, just like I had done as a ten-year-old girl. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I gently laid my hand on his chest, and it ever so slowly moved up and down.
And then he breathed one last breath.
We weren’t actually there to watch the basketball game. Our primary purpose (or so we thought,) in braving the cold, windy December evening in Chicago, was to catch a few minutes of a half-time cheerleading routine.
The girls stood tall and straight, hands planted firmly on hips, waiting for their brief moment of fame. As the game clock counted down, our granddaughter, Selah, quickly glanced in our direction to make sure we were ready and watching. All smiles, they stormed onto the court. We later complimented Selah on a great performance and her beautiful smile, to which she replied in her twelve-year-old, sassy way: “Oh, that was just a fake smile for the crowd. I don’t really mean it when I smile.” Clearly, their school spirit was at an all-time high on this evening as the voices bellowing out of their petite little bodies reverberated throughout the gym. Then, in a blink of an eye, it was over.
As Selah joined us in the stands, her mother appeared deep in conversation with the three boys behind us. I turned around just as our daughter, Erin, gave her cell number to them, with instructions to call her if they ever needed anything.
As we bundled up, to once again brave the inclement elements of the outdoors, I heard Erin address the kids: “If you all stay here while I take my family home, I will come back and give you a ride.” Without hesitation, Brandon, the oldest, quickly accepted her offer.
On our way home, Erin filled us in on the situation. Brandon, sixteen years old, assumed full responsibility for his three younger siblings when their mom worked. His twelve-year-old sister was on the same cheerleading squad as Selah. They had walked the mile from their apartment to the basketball game. Brandon never left his two younger siblings alone and he certainly wouldn’t hear of his sister walking anywhere by herself. So, that meant if their sister needed to be somewhere, they all walked her there and back. With no dad in the picture, their mom, principle bread-winner, worked most evenings and weekends.
We shivered as we exited the car. The blessing of a warm home on this night was most welcome. Erin headed back to the school to pick up her new young friends.
She had barely turned into their apartment complex when they, one by one, began voicing their appreciation for the toasty ride home. As the youngest turned to close the car door he exclaimed with all the gusto of a car-crazy eight-year-old boy, “This is the coolest car ever-I’m going to have a car like this someday!exactly the kind of car I want to have someday!”
A few days later, Brandon called Erin to ask for a ride to the school to pick up Christmas presents he purchased for his family the previous day at the school bazaar. The school had called to inform him they would be closing the bazaar room in thirty minutes and he needed to find a way to get the gifts. Erin dropped what she was doing and headed his way. He apologized profusely for having bothered her. She assured him she was more than happy to do it.
She sat in the car as he hurriedly ran up the steps. No more than five minutes had passed when the door to the building flung open and a tall, lanky, teen boy, carefully balancing several bags, emerged. Tears overflowed from his eyes and dripped down his cheeks as he approached her car. In a barely audible voice, cracking with emotion, he told her that the school had bought Christmas gifts for a few of their low-income families, his being one of them. After a little detective work, the school district had identified a few needs/wants of Brandon’s family and purchased special gifts for each of them. It greatly touched Erin to witness the compassion and grateful spirit in this young man’s heart.
Our Chicago kid’s plans for New Year’s Eve included an invitation to the parents of their oldest son’s girlfriend. As they prepared for the evening, Erin received a call from Brandon asking if he and his siblings could come over that evening. There’s one thing for sure: a person with a heart for hospitality never turns down a request from someone asking to come over.
Once again, her ragged little Honda Pilot pulled up in front of the apartment complex where four kids and a grandmother eagerly waited to be picked up. The grandmother, whom Erin had never met, sheepishly asked if she might come too. To which Erin quickly and enthusiastically replied: “Of course you can-the more the merrier!”
The kids all gravitated to the den to play games while the adults gathered around the dining table for an interactive game of Apples to Apples. What better way to get know people than through an introspective game?!
As I chatted with Erin on the phone, I told her what I was writing about. She said what I expected: “Oh Mom, it wasn’t that big a deal to reach out to them. For all they have been through, they are such amazing kids. They have taught us so much.”
Fond memories, in spite of the wicked weather, of this December 2017 trip will stay with me for a long time, but the memory that warms my heart the most began with a simple, “Hi, my name is Erin. I think I’ve seen you here before….
And one more thing: I pray that my amazing, cheerleading granddaughter took careful note of her mother’s generous act of kindness. Who knows the impact this has had on her?
I have no doubt that someday she will learn the fine art of how to put on a real smile!
Grandchildren bring joy into my life-a kind of joy I can’t really explain. I just know that when they are around, I feel energized and happy.
As empty-nesters, this Nana and Pop live in a home that is at times, deafeningly quiet. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the peace that the quietness generates, but when those grandkids come bounding through the door, their youthful spirits bring a contagious enthusiasm for life. My tranquil world is temporarily interrupted, but, somehow, I don’t mind at all.
I have come to expect what the first words out of their mouths will be:
“Nana, what are we doing today?”
To which I answer:
“I haven’t really thought too much about it yet.”
These days, kid’s summers are filled with a lot of “going and doing”- usually in the form of some sort of “screens” or going somewhere “cool” to eat or attending camps (football, golf, soccer, robotics, music….)
My old enemy, doubt, begins to nag at me again.
“How do I compete with all of that stuff?”
Electronics are forbidden (with parent’s blessings) at the grandparent’s house, with the exception of an occasional quick game of Hangman (educational, of course) on Nana’s ipad.
Plagued by doubt again, I wonder:
“What in the world were we thinking when we banned devices?”
The 100 degree day isn’t exactly conducive to outdoor play. So, off to the library we go.
I feel the Spirit’s leading today as I immediately spot an old familiar movie from the hundreds of DVDs crammed onto the crowded shelves. “Sounder,” a 2003 release-an uplifting story of one boy’s faith, strength and dogged determination. San Diego Union Tribune hailed it as “Simple, Yet Enormously Grand.” Yes, this is the one!
The boys, having discovered the Star Wars books, are busy leafing through their pages. Across the aisle from where they squat, I spy the craft book section.
“Hmm…how do I choose one that will retain the interest of both a ten and eleven-year-old who hold very different interests?”
I pick up a few books, but quickly return them to the shelf. Then a book entitled “Recycled Science” catches my eye. I eagerly pick it up and read the front cover:
“Bring out your science genius with soda bottles, Pringles cans, and more unexpected stuff.”
As the boys scan the book, their eyes begin to dance as they discover a few fun projects that pique their interest. Looking at the list of supplies for three of the projects, I realize I have everything but tongue depressors and chip cans.
“HEB, here we come!”
I never cease to be amazed. How could getting to have their own can of chips be so exciting? And for the special price of $1.25 per can! I’m sure these chips are full of good nutrition. Right! But hey, we are the grandparents, after all! We even find a bag of tongue depressors in the craft section for $2.50.
Back home, the boys are anxious to watch the movie. They are immediately drawn in, captivated by the story for one and a half hours.
Next on the agenda is to make a solar hot dog cooker and ice cream maker using the now empty chips cans and a cork launcher requiring a clothes pin, tongue depressors, wine bottle corks, glue gun, and a rubber band. The projects, very simple, keep them busy for quite some time.
Following lunch, it’s reading time. If you have grandsons, you must have on hand a copy of “The Action Bible,” illustrated by Sergio Cariello. Its pages read like a graphic comic book. Most visits after they leave I find this book laying open in the middle of the floor, a good indicator that it has been read.
“One day down, two more to go!”
The dreaded question pops up again as I tuck them in for the night.
“Nana, what are we going to do tomorrow?”
Fumbling for words, I reply:
“Uh… oh… well…It’s a surprise!”
Oh boy! I guess I have the rest of the evening to figure out what the surprise will be!
The next morning I utter a little prayer of thanks for kids who are now of the age to actually want to sleep past eight o’clock.
A favorite breakfast of the grands at our house is ABC, 123 waffles (my mom found the coolest waffle iron at a garage sale that has letters on one side and numbers on the other.) This morning, a bit of a surprise math lesson, as Pop shouts:
“Look, I only have a 7 left. What kind of a number is that?”
This sparks a spirited mini-math question and answer session on prime numbers.
Before the worst heat of the day sets in, with football in tow, we drive to a nearby park. This is the ball of choice for today, since one of the boys has just begun playing on a football team.
We make a quick stop at the Sweets Shop for a treat to take along to the park. Feeling generous this morning, we allow each boy to have their own huge piece of ‘moist and succulent’ chocolate cake.
Only requirement will be a Pop & Nana tax, which they readily agree to.
At the park we choose an out-of-the-way table under a nice shaded gazebo. The boys quickly snap open the boxes and wolf down their special snack. Then they take the ball and disappear. I, writing journal in hand, sit dreamily, far away from the screaming kids, and breathe in the quiet. Then, I see two moms with their eight little “ducklings” following in a perfect row behind them walking my way. Surely, they are just taking a little hike around the park and my perfect little place is not their final destination. Wrong! They all squash onto two benches of the adjoining table.
“Mommy, is this going to be a snack or lunch?
”How long will we be at this park?”
“I need to go potty!”
“Do I have to share with Sofia again? I want my own drink!”
The incessant chatter shatters my train of thought.
The boys, drenched in sweat, return to the table with a new friend. He loves football! Of course, he does! As they awkwardly straddle the bench, their conversation goes something like this:
“How about that JJ Watts?”
“Which team is your favorite, the Texans or the Patriots?”
“If I were to choose I’d say the Texans.”
“Did you hear about Rob Gronkowski?”
“Is he in?”
“Yep, but the Browns still suck. They have a decent running back and a somewhat good defense.”
Then they’re off again to practice their game.
One of the moms and four of the little ducklings take off toward the slides. The wind gusts and blows my drink can off the table in the direction of the remaining mom. This sparks an interesting conversation about her life as a missionary wife in Venezuela. I sense she is a little down and try my best to share a few encouraging words with her.
The moms and their “melting down” little ducklings decide it is time to go.
Now I know why I brought my journal. I would have never remembered all those sports figure’s names and teams!
Once again, I sit alone in peace and despite the pandemonium of the last thirty minutes, a calm washes over my spirit.
Life is good!
Grandchildren are a joy and blessing!
And, nope, I have no idea what we’re going to do tomorrow!
In early January, our long-dreamed-of family vacation to Hawaii finally became a reality (just 1- 1/2 years before our first grandkids graduate high school and scatter to the four winds). The plan was for all of our grandkids and their parents to go, but…
God’s plans to surprise the Lonards with a pregnancy prevented their making this trip. We dearly missed them, but our 13th grandchild, Sarah Elizabeth–our little miracle baby–has already blessed our lives beyond measure.
We also celebrated Greg’s parents’ 65th wedding anniversary in Hawaii. Wow!
Greg built our first garden at our Texas house in March. It’s critter-proof because we don’t want to share our organic produce with the deer!
Celebrating Mom’s 82nd birthday at a luncheon in Kerrville.
June was glorious with all the kids and grandkids coming for a visit. One of our favorite activities when together is doing a “Chopped” (the tv cooking show) session. The kids paired off and came up with some tasty creations, all on their own.
We had the joy of spending Thanksgiving in Bogotá, Colombia with the Turk family. We supervised home school of the older four kids for a few days while the youngest (Hudson-4 years old) underwent surgery to fix his dislocated hips. His full body cast adds extra challenges. We are all praying he will now be able to walk.
A huge blessing in our family occurred this year when, following years of prayer, we reconnected with our daughter, Deserea. God is good!
As we reflect back on 2016 we feel blessed and thankful for you, our family and friends.
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased. Luke 2:14
Welcome, brother, to the 60s club! I am proud to be your sister, but mostly, I am proud of the amazing man of God you have become.
Congratulations! You now qualify for senior citizen discounts. Not trying to make you feel old! Really!
As I recall memories of our childhood, certain snapshots are still vivid in my mind.
I was 5 1/2 years old when you were born, but clearly remember the excitement that cute, little red-headed baby boy brought to our family. You turned one-year old the month before I began first grade in Natalia.
Daddy fenced in a giant play yard (palm leaves spread over the chicken wire roof to provide shade) in the front yard. You rode your little trike and played with toys, as Mom cleaned the house, periodically checking on you. How times have changed! I doubt that in this day and age a toddler would be left unattended outside, even briefly.
One day I came home from school to discover you had caused a little excitement in the neighborhood. Convulsions, brought on by a high fever, had given Mom (along with a few neighbors she summoned for help) quite a scare. Needless to say, you were pretty lethargic the remainder of the day.
I believe apologies are in order for the times your big sisters were less than kind to you. I’m not sure what possessed us to come up with the wicked idea to convince you that the eggs in the henhouse were in jeopardy of not hatching unless you sat on them in the absence of the mother hen. Shame on us! But, it did provide a few chuckles. I sincerely hope you find it in your heart to forgive us!
The year we moved to Devine, you entered 1st grade. Sherry was in 3rd and I began junior high as a 5th grader. With the birth of Brian the previous year, our little house in Natalia was busting at the seams. The new house on Transportation Drive in Devine seemed like a mansion. The acre of land, complete with an old barn, offered ample space for hours of outdoor exploration.
Strangely, I don’t have as many specific memories of you after we moved to Devine. I recently read some old letters I sent Greg during my times home from college where I wrote about taking and picking you up from school and activities. I believe you were just entering high school when I was in my freshman year of college. Greg and I married in-between semesters of our sophomore year. By the time you were in college we already had two kids and Greg had accepted his first employment position in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
A special memory of mine is that of you and Brian walking arm-in-arm down the path at his wedding and the picture I have of you, Brian, and me.
So, now here we are, in our 60s, with much to be thankful for-solid marriages, amazing kids who have given us beautiful grands.
Richly blessed in so many areas of our lives!
I thank God for you and pray that our relationship continues to grow stronger in this “Autumn stage” of our lives.
Oh, yes, and don’t forget that the 60s are the new 40s! We still have a lot of life to live!
Happy 60th Birthday, Ken!
And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln
a particular one, my dad and I performing our Sunday afternoon ritual of reading the funny papers, caught my attention. Sprawled on the living room floor under the swamp cooler, I (four years old), in a summer dress, and he, clad only in his jeans, together, looking peaceful and relaxed. That was how our relationship developed, and blossomed through my childhood.
A quiet man by nature, he didn’t talk much, but we did things together. I watched him, and I learned.
Sunday mornings, I, along with my sister, walked with Dad the few blocks to attend Sunday School. Mom usually drove to church after she finished straightening the house. It never occurred to me to question attending Sunday morning and evening church. My dad established this priority early in our lives. He consistently led by example.
When I was nine years old, his employer sent him to work in the devastated area hit by hurricane Carla. He had never been absent over night, so these two weeks seemed an eternity in the mind of a young girl. What an exciting day when he safely returned, bearing presents for my brother, sister, and me. They weren’t expensive gifts, but I thought the frog slinky he brought me was the coolest toy ever!
Following the birth of my youngest brother, as I was about to enter fifth grade, our family of six had outgrown our small two-bedroom home. A house in a neighboring town, a perfect fit for our family, came up for sale. An acre of land, complete with a barn and tool shed, provided ample space for a garden, a clothes line to hang diapers to dry, and plush carpet grass to play on.
After sealing the house deal, Daddy wasted no time plowing a portion of the land for a garden. I frequently observed his “go-to” book, pages worn from daily use, laying on the coffee table. The author, Adelle Davis, a pioneer in her time on recommending methods of healing the body naturally with vitamins and minerals, presented methods for growing food organically.
Many days, after supper, we made the ten-minute drive to our thirty-two-acre farm across town. Much more comfortable with my driving than my mom, Daddy would take his place in the passenger seat, which signaled that I was doing the driving. I much preferred the rustic outdoors to being indoors. A large pond, teeming with fish and frogs, and our small herd of cows added even more motivation for these weekly farm visits. The wide open space provided the perfect setting for us kids to explore without interruption.
Vivid in my mind’s eye was the night I held a light while Daddy assisted our oldest cow (Beauty) with the birth of her breech calf. Arms, deep inside her, he grabbed the stubborn little guy and turning him, assisted him through the birth canal and safely into his new world. Looking back, I am amazed that observing this birth didn’t seem the least bit gross or strange. We had watched, and even participated in all types of animal activities (cattle branding, administering immunizations, doctoring wounds) since we were very young children. Nothing seemed gross, just a natural part of life. We had also been taught the value of life, even that of a tiny calf.
I loved to go places with him. Fond remembrances of a weekly Greek class ranked as one of my favorite Dad and Daughter Activities. I, thirteen years of age, and the youngest member of the class, felt special and valued, believing that my dad thought I was smart enough to attend this class.
A few times a year my dad was asked to replace and adjust lights at a ballpark in a neighboring town. His occupation, an electrical lineman for CPS (City Public Service) in San Antonio, more than qualified him for this task. On these weekends he was allowed to take his pole-climbing equipment home from work. I felt proud, but also frightened for him, as he made the dangerous ascent up the tall creosote poles. Once at the top, he appeared as a tiny stick figure hanging in the clouds high up in the sky.
Although his occupational work required mostly physical labor, he exercised his mind by reading and seizing every opportunity to acquire knowledge. As a result, there was little he couldn’t figure out how to do. This “life-long learning” gene, most likely passed down from his dad, has continued to show up in various members of our family. I feel blessed to have inherited this love for learning.
On work days, rising early before anyone else, Daddy prepared his breakfast; usually eggs scrambled with peppers from our garden, bacon, toast, and coffee. The peppers, spicy hot, triggered beads of sweat that trickled down his forehead. As he ate, he read from the Bible and Reader’s Digest..
When it came to singing with his quartet, he easily overcame his natural shyness. When they practiced at our house, I, always an enthusiastic spectator, loved listening to their toe-tapping, acappella renditions of Stamps-Baxter songs, such as “Just a Little Talk with Jesus”. Leading singing at church proved more challenging for him. He had perfect pitch and a beautiful voice, but his nervousness, evident when standing in front of a large group of people, kept him from volunteering too often.
My dad, a handsome man, with black curly hair and dark skin, looked younger than his age. Although, standing only 5’8” tall, he always seemed taller to me. A friend from High School, who used to sometimes come home after school with me, shared she had a crush on him. At the time, I thought this to be so peculiar, but it explained why she would always finagle a way for him to drive her home. Of course, I would always go, too.
A hard and conscientious worker, both on the job and at home, he would have never considered hiring anything done. Besides, there was no money in the budget for such extravagances.
He was highly respected by fellow employees, relatives, friends, and church people. Ready and willing to help anyone in need, he did so with humility and selflessness. I never observed even an ounce of pride in his attitude.
My grandmother (called Mickey by her grandkids), a positive influence in my dad’s life, consistently modeled Godly character. Her unfailing demonstration of these values in our lives spoke volumes. I don’t remember her ever saying a negative word about anyone. She worked hard (even into her 70s), alongside my grandfather, in a hot and dirty plumbing shop, and never did I hear one complaint uttered from her mouth. I will be forever thankful for her example that contributed to the amazing dad he was.
Forced into early retirement, he fought a long and courageous battle with cancer. I remember, as a child, feeling blessed to have a dad who lived such a healthy lifestyle, and thought this most certainly guaranteed him a long and good life. I also felt blessed to have had a dad present all the years I was at home. For reasons we had difficulty understanding, God chose to take him much earlier than any of us were prepared for. I always wondered if the creosote (now known to be a cancer-causing agent) in those poles he climbed may have triggered his cancer. Due to the altered state of his brain following the cancer surgery in 1975, he wasn’t the same man I had known as “my daddy.” He lived twelve more years, seemingly at peace with the changed person he had become.
You really never really know a man
Nor just how much he’s worth,
Until you’ve seen him tested
In the fires of this earth.
The measure of a man is not
The way he uses tools,
But a man is big or little
By how he suffers fools.
It’s not how hard that he can hit
Nor paint his opponent black,
But rather how hard a punch he can take
And still come bouncing back.
If he can laugh a belly laugh
And shiver when he fears,
Or love with all his openness
And not ashamed of tears.
A man will do what he must do
Sometimes that’s all that he can,
But when he does what he should do
Then he knows that he’s a man.
I know an awful lot of males
Acquaintances without end,
But I know a man who is a man
And count him as my friend.
Kenneth Young-As I saw him, by Ben Clement
We chuckle at a young grandson who contends that you are not a man until you have your very own pocket knife. I find myself wishing he could have known my dad. This grandson will someday realize what it really takes to be a man and I have no doubt that he, like his great-grandpa, will understand.
I feel sure all who knew my dad would agree he demonstrated the attributes of a Godly man in integrity, work ethic, strength of character, and selflessness.
Learning to build lasting relationships originates with God. How would we even know how to truly love without knowing Christ?
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:13, 15 (NIV)
The more we cultivate relationships, the better they become. It takes work to create enduring bonds. Friendship, as defined in Scripture, encompasses the companionship and closeness we are to experience with others.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)
A professor of psychiatry at Stanford University recently lectured on the mind-body connection–relationship between stress and disease. He believes that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman. For a woman, however, her most significant nurturing tends to stem from relationships with girlfriends. Women connect with each other when dealing with stress and difficult life experiences. We share from our souls with our sisters, mothers, and friends. Physically and emotionally, this quality “girlfriend time” has been shown to result in positive health benefits, including combating depression.
We often become immersed in our careers, home projects and hobbies, and as a result of this preoccupation with “stuff,” little time or energy remains for building relationships.
Recognizing the importance of teaching our own adopted children Christian principles, we created a wall plaque that included as one of the values, “People are more important than things.” For years, this simple statement was a great reminder for our family of the significance of making people feel special.
“In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble, and honor others more than yourselves. Don’t be interested only in your own life, but care about the lives of others too.” Philippians 2:3, 4 (ERV)
Relationship with Christ, family and others gives purpose to our lives. Existence void of these vital connections would be a dismal life, indeed.
I am extremely thankful to a kind and merciful God for the blessing of relationships.
Happy Birthday, dear Forever Friend! I thank God for bumping us in to each other all those years ago. It has truly been a Lasting Relationship!