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. 

Mama’s K.I.S.S. #49–Babysitting for Free!

As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 49 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

This one needs no explanation, but it’s an all-time favorite for the servant heart. Both of my children, a girl and a boy, learned so much from volunteering to help Christian moms accomplish errands to his glory, study with others, have a date night with their husbands or just catch up on being keepers at home. Sometimes, when our kids were younger, they would keep the children in our home, so adult hands and eyes were present if they needed guidance. As our kids became teens, they were adept at keeping babies in their own homes or even tagging along as helper during a mom’s outing. Finally, they both were able to transfer those car seats to their vehicles and take the children on outings to give the busy moms a break. I remember when Caleb was a college student and working at Apologetics Press, the AP moms were amazed that he knew how to maneuver those car seats and take those kids shopping or out to eat. Best of all, he would ask the parents for these opportunities rather than the other way around!

Often, the teens in our congregation offer free baby-sitting at the building for the parents in the church. It’s a highlight, for sure, for the young ones involved. (Think cartoons on a big screen and popcorn and crafts and hide and seek in the auditorium.) It’s a super opportunity for the parents to get Christmas shopping done or have a date night. But the biggest spiritual bonus, again, probably happens in the hearts of the youth group. They become closer to the young families in the church, more comfortable with the tiny ones, better prepared to teach in the cradle roll and the primary classes and we see them sitting with families on Sundays and helping parents to offer better worship.

Now, all of this is not to say that it’s a mistake for your teens to have “real”, for-pay baby-sitting jobs. In fact, this is great practice for that scenario. First, though, it’s important to let your kids become better for the service. As a bonus, smart parents of toddlers will one day be looking to hire the teens who’ve shown that they enjoy being with their little ones. As your kids grow into the teen years, they will have lots of opportunities for both paid and not-for-profit baby-sitting.

 

Mama’s K.I.S.S. #48: “Pure On Purpose”–Reader’s Special Today

As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 48 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

 

“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering without hypocrisy.”  (James 3:17).

This verse, that my children sang throughout their childhood, draws a clear line from purity of heart and life to a heart that shows mercy to others; mercy resulting in good works. In fact, it places purity as the first step in cultivating God’s wisdom in our lives. This purity of heart ends in the bearing of good fruits with sincerity. That development of heart was something for which  I prayed often as my children were growing.

When Hannah was in college, She and I made several trips over to Chattanooga to a television studio to produce a study DVD series about purity of heart and life for teen girls. It was a fun mother/daughter project for us. We tried to include activities and discussions about the mind of purity and also the practicality of purity in our relationships, ending with maintaining sexual purity. The workbook is jam-packed with age-appropriate projects. This study has been used in lots of classes, but I wanted to include it in this Mama’s K.I.S.S. series, as well, since I’ve been thinking about this verse that connects purity and service.

Glenn says I can offer this set (a DVD and workbook) –a set which retails for $35.00– to blog readers today for $20.00 plus $5.00 shipping. Here’s how: Just email the phrase “POP Special” within the next week to  colley@westhuntsville.org . Your package will be on it’s way . Then please just send a check for $25.00 to:

Glenn Colley

234 Powell Street

Gurley, AL. 35748

or you can deposit it in PayPal at the above email address.

Hope this is helpful to some Mama who’s praying for this heart!

“Finding Him”…One More Thing

One more thing about Rebekah Colley’s new book “Finding Him”. It’s truly great preparation for baptism for your 11-13 year olds. I’m not presumptuous enough to assume that you do not know when your girls are mature enough for that step that takes them from the world and into the kingdom of Christ. But, as someone who lived through that precarious time in my kids’ lives, I know we are thankful for every tool that helps us and, most of all, helps our children to know when obedience to the gospel is truly obedience, rather than the fulfillment of a parental expectation, a conformity to a group of peers or an emotional response that’s largely void of understanding.

This book is about the foundational appreciation for the sacrifice of our God and the building of a real relationship with Him that is the construct of true devotion that lasts a lifetime. It’s not too lofty for your 11-year-old, though.

Maybe best of all is the availability of a chatroom where girls can discuss any questions and concerns with the author. She is studied and, best of all, has the eternal interests of your daughters in her soul. She is unassuming and humble. She just wants girls to know, in her words, “what she wishes she had fully appreciated, at their ages.” Her degree is in Bible, but, more importantly, her heart is in that great Book and in its exposure to as many as will listen in her lifetime. I’m glad she is ours, but even if she wasn’t, I’d recommend this material. It can make a difference for good that the devil just cannot unravel.  I hope she’ll write the sequel soon. I think that’s the plan.

I hope there will be a small legion (at least) of girls who get the whole series in their teen years (as well as “GIFTS” and “Pure on Purpose” and “Seeking Spiritual Beauty” and “Everyday Princess”.) I think their families and congregations in the year 2030 will be stronger and better for it. It’s just a little part of a parental insurance plan for a future that doesn’t end. I know that’s forward thinking, but moms have to be about that!

I’m finding that the market is not saturated with truly good materials for teen girls and even less saturated with those materials for boys, though The Colley House is trying to remedy that.  I’m happy to see new and sound books for those who still have the important decisions, for the most part, in front of them. Let’s help them “find HIM”  before they go about finding that other “him”. 

Sister to Sister: Tommy in Trouble

There was a bat in my dad’s living room last Thursday night. Yes. A bat. Not the one with the baseball glove that’s usually in the closet, but the flying black kind…the kind that screeches. The kind that makes me go behind the nearest door and slam it. The kind that may have rabies, for all we know. 

But we have a guy named Grat who lives with my dad. A bat! Go get Grat! Now Grat is brave but he is the Clean-Meister, too. So he puts on this towel for arm protection and then he dons Ezra’s plastic fire chief hat. (Grat in the hat and the bat, now!) He gets the pool net ( that’s for sweeping leaves) and it’s Grat and the bat doing business while my sister Sami, the lucky dad attendee that week, does the bat-frenzy dance all around the living room. The magic bat was good at escaping the net, but, finally, Grat-man the bat-man and his handy bat-net had him securely under that net flopping around on the settee. Eeeew! 

So what next? Do we squash him? Well, not on the tapestried settee. Try and get him to the door and end his incarceration? Sami decides we are not taking any chances (famous last words). We will put him in this Tupperware and then, tomorrow, if he is still alive out there on the front porch, we’ll figure it out.  So Grat-man slams that bat-ware on the bat and throws away the hat (don’t tell Ezra) and they all profusely thank the Grat and that’s that for that bat!

Until the next morning when the Tupperware is on the back patio instead of on the front porch,  and the dog—you know, the one that wandered up a few weeks ago, is having a good ole’ time  chewing it up (the Tupperware….no bat about.) “Oh dear, we really should have made it to the vet with this puppy to get shots, since Dad has decided it’s name, though a girl, is Tommy and that “it’s the best dog we’ve ever had,” (even though we need a bulldozer to clean up the yard after him and just last week we had to purchase a new pool vacuum because he (I mean she….It’s that Tommy name) chewed up a component of the old one (which was also purchased this very summer)! 

“That’s a gooooood dog, “ Daddy was saying while ambling to the car with his walker that next day after all the bat commotion. “Tommy, Tommy! You’re a good ole’ dog!” he was saying just as Tommy was jumping up between his body and his walker, steadily pushing the walker away from him…just as Tommy was licking his hands and got so excited that he (she) took a playful little plug out of Dad’s hand. 

This, being the series of unfortunate events that it was, of course, left Daddy’s hand bleeding. So now, we have a dog, who needs a rabies shot, who has been in contact with a wild bat, that’s taken a plug out of Daddy’s hand. 

“We really should go ahead and take the dog to the vet,” (although Celine’s just sure the dog has been spayed—“See there’s the scar from the operation,” she said. “That’s what it looks like. I googled it”) turns into “We are going to the vet today. But, if Celine is right, this transgender dog probably had a rabies shot whenever they spayed her.”

But Celine was not right. This goooood dog needs spaying, a litany of shots, a heart worm treatment (Do you even know how expensive that is?), and “…we can put her up for ten days for you for three hundred dollars, till we are sure it’s safe for her to be around people.” 

So this week it’s my turn to be here at Dad’s. I stopped at Walmart pre-arrival and bought some huge project boards. They were for a very important project. They are now duct-taped to the fronts of the fireplaces. They are lovely. You know, white on white is the latest trend in room decor, anyway. I actually told Dad I would paint a fire on them, but, wisely, he chose the Alabama logo I hung there for trial. Perhaps my favorite handyman will have time to cap those chimneys when he comes next, but, for now, I can sleep easier. (Well, truly that’s an overstatement at this house, but I’m getting up in the night for things other than bats, anyway.)

One thing I’m getting up for is to go outside and untangle the wailing dog. (Of course, you did not think we were going to pay three hundred dollars to have them observe Tommy for ten days when we have a 20-acre observation deck here.) So we bought one of those long wire leashes and put her under the woodshed with a little kennel  and there are only about 156 things she can get tangled around. How DOES a dog go around a see-saw handle fifty times, anyway? And why does she do it in the middle of the night? Maybe that’s what dogs who are developing rabies do. And if she does develop rabies, I will be the one to contract it since I am going out there in the night to untangle her and I could never see the froth if she WAS coming at me, when she is jumping all over me and knocking the flashlight out of my mouth (yes, my mouth). 

It takes a village to care for an elderly man who has a really goooood dog. But I can remember when I was a kid and we thought Lassie, who had the worst case of the mange and smelled like a wet dog even on sunny days, was the prettiest dog on Lynn Dale Lane. I remember my tadpole that turned into a frog and the trip Mother and Daddy and I made together to give him his freedom at the creek. I remember Prissy getting on Dad’s cars and I remember that cage he made for my bunny when I was in the second grade. I remember our chihuahuas and that awful lizard that lived in my brother’s room. I remember his peacocks that he loved to show the grandchildren and their being entertained by the squirrel on the patio that would sometimes eat a piece of bread from his hand. I remember. He called each one “Tommy.” That’s just his name for all pets. I remember lots of “Tommies.” And, I guess this particular Tommy hasn’t quite caught me up with dad yet on “Tommy-trouble.” I think I’ll probably never be really our of pet-debt with Dad. I am learning, though, that pet equity is sweat equity.

On Saturday, if we do not have any rabies at Four Mile, Tommy will be free. The deer that have loved his incarceration will not be happy. But Dad will be ecstatic. Garbage will be strewn again and Dad will have a tough time getting to the car. But Dad will be so happy to look out on the patio and see that good dog again. A part of me will be a little relieved, too. Dad, from his recliner by the glass patio door is on “Tommy-tangle” patrol during the incarceration. And he is vigilant. Right now, I’m headed out to the woodshed in the rain because Tommy is tangled around the clothesline pole…and he’s such a goooood dog.

 

                       A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast; But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

Proverbs 12:10