Dad Planted Acorns

Memories are a big part of what gets you through the days of inevitable grief when you lose a dear one to death. I’ve been amazed the past couple of days at how many times I’ve panicked thinking “Oh no. Who is taking care of Dad? Am I supposed to be there?” And then I remember the painful reality is that I will see his body tomorrow, but not HIM. I’ll have to wait a while to see the new “him.” When I do, I will know him and we will have forever to reminisce and catch up.

 

And then I go to the only place I can see him with clarity and detail–my memory bank. Here is one memory from 2010 about a “roasting” of my dad in his Prime-Timers group. I’m glad I wrote about it that night when I got home because, every time I read it, the sweet memory is newly etched in my heart. I know there are blessings all around and all 58 years that I’ve had my dad have been nothing but gifts. I know he is in glory. I know he is wholly healed.  In fact, I cannot understand why my heart hurts this week; I just know it does. I think God must give daughters who have good dads a special insight into what devotion to a father is like, so they can be all the more devoted in service to THE Father. I hope it can be true, in my case, anyway. 

Here’s a good memory from the archives. It was written during  my dad’s 88th year:

 

Tonight I went back to the fellowship hall of the congregation where I attended the first five years of my life for a get-together of those sixty-ish and above. My dad is eighty-seven, so he is definitely the senior member of the senior group. He sometimes talks about how it’s fun to go be with those people except “some of them are just really old.” He sometimes tells me on those Thursday nights that he’s going to meet with  the “Alzheimer’s group.”  Tonight Dad took pimiento and cheese sandwiches and egg salad sandwiches. His egg salad is the best ever.

It was really fun to visit with them tonight because it was the night they were having a surprise roast—sort of a mini “This is Your Life,” for Dad. Both of my sisters were able to make it and all of his grandchildren except for my two were also able to be there. We listened as Robert Whiten and Homer Smith said some funny things about my dad; some stories from when he was a kid like how he tore apart a Victrola when he was a small boy so he could see the tiny people inside who were singing; and some stories from now, when he’s old,  like how he accidentally microwaved his hearing aid in a bowl of jelly beans. There were some stories about his extreme frugality and some memories about his football and coaching days. There were a lot of things said that made me miss my mother and be really glad for the longevity of Daddy’s good life.

And then there was some serious stuff about how he had some good parenting ideas that somehow worked to make us all grow up to be Christians. There was a reading from Ephesians 6:4 about fathers training their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There was a little history of the Jacksonville church; how that Daddy was one of the trustees when the property on which the building now sits was purchased back in the 1950s (he helped negotiate that deal); how that he led the singing on the first Sunday night in that old building. Someone in her sixties from the audience spoke up and said that he was her Sunday school teacher when she was a kid back in the old building that pre-dates the present location. Then someone pointed out that Daddy had planted 10 oak saplings in the churchyard back in 1959, when the property was newly purchased.

Now I’m sure that when Dad planted those trees, he didn’t think about how that his grandchildren would one day play under the shade of those trees. He didn’t think about the hiding places that those trees would afford kids in games of hide and seek. He probably didn’t think that one day the architects for the fellowship hall would give attention to the placement of one or two of those trees. He probably didn’t think about the preacher’s kids climbing them and tire swings perhaps hanging from them in the days when they provided shade for the preacher’s house that hadn’t even been built at that time but has now been removed. In fact, he probably planted those trees on a regular day, when he was thinking more about his job, his household budget, his wife and son, and the baby they were expecting (that would be me) and the new house he was buying about that time. He probably was sweating when he climbed back into his pick-up after digging those holes, unloading those little trees and packing the dirt back around them. He was probably thinking about supper that night, but not about a fellowship supper that might occur 50 years later at a VBS under the shade of a big tree you could no longer get your arms around.

Four of those trees remain today. They still make homes for birds and squirrels and they still make piles of leaves for kids in the fall…and they still make acorns which still hold the germ of life from that one acorn that first grew the sapling.

Well, I’m no philosopher, but it strikes me that there’s still a lot to be said for the ordinary life. It starts as something very unremarkable. My dad was just the son of a sharecropper. It just takes ordinary days … days of planting seeds; then days of dependence on God for the rain and the sunshine.  Mother and Daddy were given four tender hearts into which the Word of God could be planted. They did this, in the most natural ways through days that have all run together now– in conversations, in choosing faithful bodies of God’s people wherever we lived, and in sacrificially making Christian education possible for us. They did it in benevolent actions toward friendless people and in going out of our way to pick up children we invited to worship with us; children that sometimes didn’t smell good. They did it by always being at every visitation meeting, working the bus route to bring kids to church and then going to every assembly thirty minutes early so we could go pick up the kids who signed up to come. Of course that meant staying thirty minutes late to deliver them home, too. It meant taking our friends who were from un-churched homes to Woody’s Drive –In for ice cream after services. (You know, one of my girlfriends from childhood who had no mom at home is now faithful and married to a deacon in the church in Virginia Beach? We made lots of trip to her house to pick her up for services and I helped her get the baptismal robes on when she was baptized.) It meant teaching us to use those old Jule Miller filmstrips and providing the cookies when we did show them to our friends. It meant sending us up the street to pass out invitations every time we had a gospel meeting. It meant occasionally walking a couple of miles in the snow when we couldn’t get down the mountain on Sunday morning in a car. It just meant lots of different things that we thought were very ordinary. As a matter of fact, I’ve never really thought about my dad’s life as being anything out of the ordinary at all.  In fact, it really hasn’t been.

But God can use even the ordinary for His glory. He does it all the time. He took a little boy’s loaves and fishes, a widow’s mite, a shepherd’s rod, a few pitchers of water and, thankfully, a baby in a manger and provided what multitudes desperately needed. Whatever I have to give Him is surely meager. My time is so finite, my power so limited, my wisdom so irrelevant and my mortality so evident. But He can take my meager and make it mighty. He can take my finite and make it infinite. He can give my wisdom relevance and He clothes my mortality with immortality (I Corinthians 15:54).

I’m glad my mother and dad planted acorns on all those ordinary days—really glad.

 

Tomorrow will be another memory of an ordinary, although very difficult day. But one day…ahh, one day will be extraordinary.That trumpet will blow, we will rise and nothing will be ordinary ever again!

Sister to Sister: Are You Trying to Say “I Love You?”

Tonight in this hospital room, this daughter experienced a few very sweet moments. I will treasure them in memory whether my dad and I have lots of future sweet moments in time or not. As today has gone by, my Father who has said precious little, and only in in breathy, labored tones for several days, has become more and more alert. Mind you, what you might think is pretty much asleep all day was still more alert to those who have been keeping this vigil. 

Every time I see his eyes open, I try to go to his side and grab his hand. Tonight he grabbed right back. He even gave me his signature quick nod of recognition. 

Then I always think of everything I can talk about in his one ear that now has a hearing aid. (The other hearing aid was crushed on the floor of the ambulance—and that was another story as Sami chased the driver down and out of the building to try and find the missing hearing aid.) I talked about football. I talked about getting better. I talked about what I was eating and about breathing treatments. And then I told him I loved him. He slowly forced out the “I” and then put his very sore tongue to the roof of his very blistered mouth to make that “L” sound. 

I said “Are you trying to say “I love you?” 

“Yeah” he said. 

That’s all I needed to hear to be okay through this long night. Such a great little present for a this weary pilgrim. But that was not all. I asked him if he wanted me to read the Bible. This time I got a clear “Uh-huh.” 

Before the hospitalization, we’d been reading in Acts and we were ready for chapter seven, so I read the story of Joseph to Him as told by the first martyr, Stephen. I think I was reading so that all the staff out at the nurses station could probably hear. When I got to the resolution part about Jacob going down to Egypt, Dad just drifted back off to sleep.  

I’ll take it. A few minutes of communication is a great source of comfort in this very well-lit, bustling, but yet, very lonely room. It is the best one of today. There are a few lessons in every gift. Here are tonight’s five lessons. 

  1. “Yeah” is easier to say than “I love you.” . That’s true in just about every relationship. Short answer quizzes in families and friendships are just easier.  Sometimes in all kinds of life problems, we have to help each other say those three words. It’s always better, if someone’s having trouble saying them, to assume he means them till you know differently.
  2. You never know the value of healthy communication until you have to do without it. So don’t let days go by—days when you could be talking and sharing with the ones you love. Don’t let those days escape while you pout or exchange the silent treatment or engage in hurtful communication. Especially, don’t do this in your marriage. You will experience deep regret.
  3. Only the people you’ve really loved with agape can appreciate fully the three words when you say them. See, Daddy did not love me just enough to share some material blessing with me (although he certainly worked hard to do that). He did not just love me enough to put up with my inadequacies (although he surely was in the next room during the messy, late- night-studying, bathroom-hogging teen years). He did not just love me enough to build things in the wood shop for Christmas (although there was the doll bed and the cabinet for my tea set during the sixties and the wooden purse, stilts and shuffle board game of the seventies and the marble mazes and rocking horses and graduation banks for grandchildren of the eighties). He, along with my mother, who was also sharing and making and building, loved me enough to give their lives for me, if needed. They loved me enough to pray about inadequacies and to correct them. They loved me enough to build more than toys and purses. They loved me enough to build character. That’s the most enduring home-made gift.
  4. There’s something very ironic about the goal. Heaven is THE goal. Ironically, God has placed in us a very strong desire to keep our loved ones here with us rather than to be completely willing to have them go and be with the Lord. I cannot fully explain that fierce desire to preserve and protect feeble life. But I know it is right to have it. It is right to protect and preserve life, because that defense is innately built into the moral compass of people of conscience. One has to be trained to devalue life. It is not the natural affection of Romans 1: 31 and 2 Timothy 3:3. So I grab that hand and it’s the best when he grabs it right back.
  5. There’s great comfort—always, in all ways— in the Word. There’s an amazing example, for instance, of the application of Romans 8:28 in that ancient account of Joseph in Egypt. We get to look at how a faithful person perseveres when there are family members who are spiteful or friends who falsely accuse or forget about the good things we do for them. We get to see, up-close and personally, how the  faithful react to both poverty and riches. Sometimes, when we are weary, there’s so much comfort that we can go right off to a deep and peaceful sleep while reading the Word. I think I can maybe even do that tonight…right here in this chair. 

Sister to Sister: Not a Minimalist

I will never be a minimalist. In fact, I am a bit ashamed to say I think I am a maximist. ( Since “maximalist” has a political meaning, I made that word up.) It might not be right, but it’s true. So many people have blessed our family through the years with friendship and comfort and then tokens of those sweet relationships…and I am an avowed sentimentalist. I can’t part with anything that was my mother’s. I have a thimble that my grandmother gave to me when I was a little girl. She said it came over on the boat with my ancestors. My grandchildren are wearing the same clothes that my children wore. I even have a very hard time throwing away a dish when it breaks, if it was made by one of my children in a pottery class or given to me for Christmas by my father. 

But lately, I’ve been trying to make myself part with clutter. I’ve been making a conscious effort to trample a bit on the sentimental side of me and “see” what I can throw away. I give myself all those reasons: If you haven’t used it in three years, then…or…Do you want your kids to have to sort through all of this one day?…or…You know, you can remember the day he took his first steps out in the yard without keeping the stick he picked up off the ground. I know…I need this exercise, so, as I put the Christmas stuff away and put the “regular” stuff back out, I tried to put a little less “decor” back out and a little more in the trash. 

And I saw this book that had been lying on a desk in the study. “I’m going to get rid of that,” I thought. “That book always makes me sad, anyway.” It’s one of those journals that mothers fill out for posterity, telling children all about  how they grew up, how they met the children’s daddy, favorite toys and prices of things in the good old days. Our little family had given it to my mom for Mother’s Day during the year that she passed away, so she didn’t even have enough time left to fill it out. So I picked it up to put it in a give-away place…or at least to try. 

But I looked inside and saw our note to her. I saw the four-year-old and eight-year-old signatures of my kids. Then the note from my father when he gave the book back, along with a couple more notes that he’d sent through the years since her passing. The first one I read said this:

Cindy, 

If crying is wrong  for an old man, I’m sorry, but that is exactly what happened when I  came across this book given to Johnnia in her last year here. The pictures are Johnnia’s type thing. She didn’t have a chance to write diary things in it. 

The message of love from you, Glenn, and the children touched me. I thought of how obedient you were over the years and how miserable you would always be if you slipped a little and disobeyed her in a moment of weakness and how eager you were to rectify it quickly. You and (your mother) are influencing me every day of my life. Not unrelated to this is the Duncan-Smith bunch (her family)…fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins…but of the good qualities of all, you got a double dose. 

Then there was another note, written following one of our big family holiday visits to his house:

…The sound of feet stomping…the sound of young voices (and old)…the sound of the bounce of the basketball…the sound of and sight of roller skating…the sound of the ultra-young to the older ones in offering thanks for the food, etc…the sound and sight of the splashing of the pool, in the summer…the much work done here when y’all come (allowing me to sit around). All of this is summed up in one word: LOVE. Cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, maybe a grandparent here and there. 

The sights and sounds described herein, at times have likely been annoyances, but to me, they have become music to my ears…Keep up (your mother’s) traditions. Love…

PS…the part I miss most on these occasions is her voice and joy.

Then next, I noticed a letter of encouragement written to my daughter, Hannah, from her grandfather during her teen years. Among other things it said:

“You have not, in any way, let us down…you are of sterling quality and good for the church and the family…Keep on doing what you’re doing and living like you’re living. I love you…You’re my tweetie!

Funny how I thought I could just throw that book away. Funny how words can re-appear and resonate with encouragement on days when you need it most. Funny how one of the people who’s had the most profound influence on me could make me believe that I could influence him! Funny how someone long gone to glory can still influence so many so deeply. Dad’s little notes made me want to encourage people more…especially in writing. I have friends, especially one (Carol), who do it constantly. But I need to be better at written encouragement. 

I didn’t throw the book away. Instead, I think I’ll write in it’s beautiful pages and pass it on down. Maybe when Hannah is a grandmother or when Caleb is a grandfather, one of them will think about throwing it away on another day. Maybe they can be minimalists. But I doubt it. 

Congratulations Mintie!…and…There Arose such a Clatter!

PrintMintie Reagan Welchance, You are the winner! If you put “The Colley House” in your status at any point in the last week and left it up for twenty-four hours, and tagged me in the status, you were in the drawing for a free Colley House Christmas bundle. I hope you enjoy it, Mintie. Valued at $58.50, it’s coming your way on a pretty fast sleigh!

I think we’re about to embark on year eight of the “Bless Your Heart” blog. This year, during the holidays, I’ve received more cards of encouragement from blog readers and Digging Deep ladies than ever before. I don’t know how you would have coordinated, but I’m starting to think you all are in cahoots and have a plan to fill my box with holiday cheer. If so, it’s working!…and I thank you.  And speaking of holiday cheer, I’m up for a lot of it this week. Glenn and I have had our grandson Ezra, for the past five days. Now that’s a lot of cheer…and cuddles… and drives looking for “Pippas yights” (Christmas lights), and choruses of “Dee-dee Bells” (Jingle Bells).”

A couple of nights ago, during our Bible “story time”, I gave Ezra the fill-in-the -blank statement: “When I grow up, I’m going to marry a _______________.” Because he didn’t respond quickly, I added the initial sound of the answer…”Chr…”

Then he shouted with glee “a Pippas tree!!”

We’re enjoying him immensely and are looking forward to enjoying his parents and baby Colleyanna later this week. Next week, we hope to have Caleb and Bekah here, too, at some point. We know we are blessed beyond our imagination’s scope and we praise Him for rich blessings of friends and family.

It will be after Santa’s delivery run that you next get a notification from the “Bless Your Heart” blog page. I hope you are in a place in life in which you can be enjoying family this week, as well. Most of all, I hope you feel the security of the Father’s arms and bask in His salvation. In that vein, here’s a post from the archives about the “clatter” that arose on my roof early one Christmas morning:

It was a shocker, alright. It was in the very early hours of Christmas morning, 2010, when the huge, noise that shook the house abruptly woke up the neighborhood. Glenn looked at me with terror in his eyes and then ran into the room where Hannah was sleeping. He “sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.” I heard him mutter something about a bomb as he ran out of the room. The last time I had heard a noise like that had been many years ago when a big trash truck had bolted over a curb and into our house (but that’s another story for another post). The kids were both okay and, on investigation, we found that, this time, a huge part of a tree had fallen on the house. There was damage, but safety for all. 

Later in the day, the kids and I were talking about how their dad reacts to unknown perceived threats.  He inhales hugely! (BIG gasp that’s a little funny on reflection). Then he runs (dressed or not) to wherever his kids are. The amazing thing was that his reaction was just the same when they are twenty-something as it was when they were 2 and 6. He instinctively runs to his children. Their safety and protection are his only immediate concern. While we were talking about this, Hannah said she could remember one occasion, as a child, when a bumblebee woke her up buzzing around her head. She said, “I was scared of that noise in the dark, I cried out and immediately heard Dad’s footsteps–loud running footsteps– as he ran into my room and took me in His arms. Then he killed that bee. Anytime I yelled in the night, he was right there, right then.”

I think every child who has a good father remembers what it felt like to be in his arms. I remember pretending I was asleep in the back of our station wagon when I was a child just so my daddy would carry me in the house. Ultimate protection, strength and safety were wrapped all around me.

That’s what God does. The Bible describes our God as “a very present help in time of trouble” (Psa.46:1). He’s right there, right then.  He is the Father who pities His children (Psa.103:13), and hears their cries (Psa 34:17). He is the one who offers His help to His people “right early” (Psa.46:5). Deuteronomy thirty-three, verse twenty-seven says he puts his everlasting arms beneath us.

Let me assure you, even if you’ve never felt the need to cry out to your Father or to feel his arms beneath you, there will come a time when a huge clatter will arise in your life. You will look in horror at the prospects before you and you will desperately want to cry out to Him.  Are you secure in the house of the Father? Will he hasten to your side when you cry? If not, will you contact me and let me help you find that security? I wish this safety for every reader.

Elephants and Rhinos and Fatherless Boys

Elephant portrait

If you can spare about fourteen minutes, watch this documentary. It will make you think. It’s about elephants and rhinos, but it’s about something else, too. It’s an illustration of, if not a scientific parallel to what’s happened in our culture. It really needs no commentary, but maybe this injunction from the Holy Spirit fits, at least for our human species: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

The video is found at the bottom of the following article: https://www.kotafoundation.org/the-delinquents-in-pilanesberg/

 

 

Sister to Sister Holiday Archives: There Arose Such a Clatter

bad-baby

The past week has held some devastating news and sorrowful days for several different families I know in the family of God. Because we live in a world that has fallen to sin, we will suffer the pain of sickness, disease, disaster and death. But, because we live in a world that has been visited by the Savior, we can also experience redemption, grace, hope and eternal life. While the storms come, we have shelter and protection. We are safe in  the house of our Father. We should remember the great hope that sustains us every day. But it’s in the times of sorrow that I find the heart to praise Him most for the realization that this world is not my home and this life is not all there is. Here’s a reminder from another holiday season.

 

There Arose Such a Clatter

 

It was a shocker, alright. It was in the very early hours of Christmas morning when the huge, noise that shook the house abruptly woke up the neighborhood. Glenn looked at me with terror in his eyes and then ran into the room where Hannah was sleeping. He “sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.” I heard him mutter something about a bomb as he ran out of the room. The last time I had heard a noise like that had been many years ago when a big trash truck had bolted over a curb and into our house (but that’s another story for another post). The kids were both okay and, on investigation, we found that, this time, a huge part of a tree had fallen on the house. There was damage, but safety for all. 

Later in the day, the kids and I were talking about how their dad reacts to unknown perceived threats.  He inhales hugely! (BIG gasp that’s a little funny on reflection). Then he runs (dressed or not) to wherever his kids are. The amazing thing was that his reaction was just the same when they are twenty-something as it was when they were 2 and 6. He instinctively runs to his children. Their safety and protection are his only immediate concern. While we were talking about this, Hannah said she could remember one occasion, as a child, when a bumblebee woke her up buzzing around her head. She said, “I was scared of that noise in the dark, I cried out and immediately heard Dad’s footsteps–loud running footsteps– as he ran into my room and took me in His arms. Then he killed that bee. Anytime I yelled in the night, he was right there, right then.”

I think every child who has a good father remembers what it felt like to be in his arms. I remember pretending I was asleep in the back of our station wagon when I was a child just so my daddy would carry me in the house. Ultimate protection, strength and safety were wrapped all around me.

That’s what God does. The Bible describes our God as “a very present help in time of trouble” (Psa.46:1). He’s right there, right then.  He is the Father who pities His children (Psa.103:13), and hears their cries (Psa 34:17). He is the one who offers His help to His people “right early” (Psa.46:5). Deuteronomy thirty-three, verse twenty-seven says he puts his everlasting arms beneath us.

Let me assure you, even if you’ve never felt the need to cry out to your Father or to feel his arms beneath you, there will come a time when a huge clatter will arise in your life. You will look in horror at the prospects before you and you will desperately want to cry out to Him.  Are you secure in the house of the Father? Will he hasten to your side when you cry? If not, will you contact me and let me help you find that security? I wish this safety for every reader.