I originally wrote this post in 2015, the year my dad turned 93. Little did I know at that time it would be my dad’s last birthday. As the years pass without him, the life-lessons and principles he taught me are as relevant as ever. Here are fifteen things I learned from my dad.
1. Commit your heart to Jesus. My dad’s faith began forming when he was a young farm boy searching for a lost cow. As he went from field to field looking for the wayward beast, he eventually became disoriented and panicked. In that moment, dad asked God to help him, and he instantaneously remembered that he could tell the direction home by looking at the sun. The seeds of faith sown that day on the prairie came to fruition at age 15 when a traveling evangelist came to town. When the altar call came, dad felt a burning in his heart to respond. “I practically ran to the front,” dad recalled. He says he knew that it was time to “get off the fence” and make a commitment to Christ. My father called it the most important decision he ever made—and one he never regretted to his final breath.
Baby-faced dad in WWII
2. Worrying is worthless. One of the hallmarks of my dad’s faith was how it dissolved fear. As a soldier in WWII, his fellow Army buddies asked him why he didn’t share their fear of dying on the battlefield. He responded, “My life is in God’s hands, and I know that if I die, I will go to heaven.” My dad consistently turned to prayer during trying times, leaving the matters in God’s hands. He was famous for saying, “we’ll take it one day at a time,” a philosophy that focused on the present rather than fearing the future. As the frailties and challenges of old age crept in, dad often said, “I’ll sleep well tonight; I don’t have anything to worry about. What good would it do, anyway?”
When I landed back in my birthplace after over three decades in the Pacific Northwest, I had great expectations of regularly hanging out with “real” family again and re-connecting with members of my large family tree. Yet, over a decade later, I often feel like I still live hundreds of miles away from most of my cousins, aunts and uncles.
The legendary family Christmas parties and summer picnics have all but grown extinct in my hometown. My generation has chosen not to carry on the traditions that brought our large clan together on a regular basis. Over the years, each branch of the family tree appears to have grown increasingly independent from the others.
The disparity between my dreams of having close relationships with my cousins and reality put me into a conundrum—was there something wrong with our family (or me)? Continue reading →
The luncheon after my uncle’s graveside service was winding down, and the cameras were coming out. “Let’s get a picture of all the first cousins,” I suggested. As we lined up, someone motioned to a middle-aged woman across the room to join us. “Whose cousin is that?” I asked, “She’s not my cousin.” Sure she is, that’s Joanie,” another cousin said.
As the woman came closer, she smiled and I clearly recognized my Uncle Bob’s countenance in hers. “Of course,” I said sheepishly. I guess I shouldn’t feel too badly—I don’t think she would have known me, either, had we passed on the street. I can’t remember the last time I had seen Joanie in person—it had been decades. My mental image of her as a pretty little blond girl was long outdated.
I was born into a large extended relation, with thirteen children in my mom’s family and seven in my dad’s. From these siblings came my dozens of cousins, literally. I have fond childhood memories of playing with my cousins in our small rural community. I always looked forward to going out to their farms, especially if they had horses. I grew very close to one cousin and considered her a best friend. Continue reading →