Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Tribute to Rusty Franklin's Wonderful Life!

I lost a really good friend on January 1st. His name was Rusty Franklin. Rusty and I met a little over eight years ago at our church. He and I were close like brothers. I loved him greatly.

Rusty and Anne (his wife) would become people we wanted to know better and better, and we began to spend a lot of time with them. Rusty was so doggone engaging with his bright, happy outlook on life (to Rusty, everything was AWESOME!). He also had a wonderful eagerness/bounce in his step. He just approached everything in life with a positive attitude. Rusty loved God and was always interested in learning more about Him.

Rusty was competitive, a real gamer; well, to be honest, he just loved to PLAY. As a matter of fact, one of the things I most loved about Rusty was that over the past year or two, we played Words with Friends on our phones, nearly every morning. Sometime before 7 a.m. each day, my phone would “ding,” and I’d look to see that Rusty had played our game. I still had a game going with him on my phone up until his final day; he made his last play the morning of January 1st. He and Anne were headed to our house (but didn't quite make it).

So, Rusty and I were friends, and very good ones at that. I loved how he always called me “bud.” But, we really weren’t much alike; as a matter of fact, we were very different types of guys. Rusty was a school administrator/coach/teacher. He was very athletic and had actually been a “star player” in several sports (especially baseball). He was an outdoorsman and loved to fish/hunt, not to mention experience wild adventures in nature (he spoke many times of his thrilling escapades in Alaska!). He also loved to tinker with miscellaneous equipment/machines/projects in his yard, do organic gardening, planting all sorts of things in the ground and then delight in watching them grow. He played with and entertained his dogs, Max and Gracie, enjoying their frolicking around and/or snickering about their mischief! Finally, he was a HUGE Texas Longhorns fan, and generally, a pretty happy-go-lucky, laid back sort of guy.

I’m none of those things. But, God in His infinite wisdom brought us together anyway. What we did have in common was two very important loves. These two loves glued our friendship together forever: Texas Rangers baseball (and a general love of sports); and Jesus.

Over the years I’ve learned that you actually become a lot like the people you hang out with. I believe Rusty rubbed off on me because we hung out together a lot. I’m so grateful to be more like him. But, more important than that, Rusty hung out a lot with Jesus – and Jesus rubbed off on him! Here’s evidence of that, and some of the reasons why I loved my friend so much:

1.   Rusty was a gentle man. I don’t believe there was an unkind muscle or bone in his body. He went through his wonderful life touching people with his gentleness, rather than knocking them down with brash behavior or rudeness. Somewhere along the way, God gifted him with an incredibly peaceful, gentle spirit.

2.   Rusty was loyal and faithful – first to his wife, Anne, then to his job and the students, then to his family members (especially all of his favorite nieces!), and finally to his many, many friends. As a matter of fact, there were times when I was actually pretty annoyed with Rusty because he had so doggone many other demands on his time/life. But, shame on me for being selfish. He gave me plenty of time/attention. The trouble was, I wanted more. Everyone did!

3.   Rusty was a servant leader. He was always serving others. He loved Anne more than anything else in the entire world and served her daily. He loved his job and was compelled to give it his best effort every day. He mentioned to several of us that he believed God had him at his job for reasons beyond what they were paying him for. He truly felt that he was called to minister to young people/students (as well as to the other teachers/co-workers) there. He sought out opportunities to serve wherever he was called (and/or wherever there was need). He considered it an absolute privilege to be the hands and feet of Jesus as he interacted with others he was called to serve. What a great model to follow!

4.   Rusty did things. He and Anne did not wait for other people to make things happen, or just sit around and dream about doing incredible stuff. They actually got out there and made it happen! He told me on more than one occasion that once Anne’s health became a concern (about 10+ years ago), they knew there wasn’t much certainty as to how many days they’d have together. So, they chose to make a commitment to just love life (and each other) to the fullest extent possible, getting out there and enjoying every single day, as though it might be their last. Each minute/hour was absolutely precious to Rusty, and he lived accordingly. He and Anne took a lot of trips together, saw a lot of movies together, experienced fun get-away’ s together (with the school band and/or family members/friends). Sometimes they just took off in one of their cars and went somewhere spontaneously just because it would be fun! And then, when they returned, they loved telling us all about their adventure (with Rusty referring to everything as AWESOME, of course!).

5.   Rusty did not live with regret. He just refused to do things that would cause him regret. He didn’t let the expectations or demands of others define his day-to-day existence. I’m guessing that up until his final breath, he probably didn’t have any thoughts of wishing he’d done this or that. Even when he experienced his heart attack and other health setbacks back in March of 2013, he didn’t attract attention to himself or beg for sympathy for his condition. Rather, he got going on his exercises, ate healthier foods, lost a lot of weight, tried to do what the doctors wanted him to, etc. He loved life. And, when life threw him curve balls, he just adapted/adjusted to them (without complaining or regret). When Anne’s health was a concern, his concern was for Anne (not for what he was unable to do because of her limitations). I was frequently astounded by his ability to take the hand he was dealt, and make the best of it, with NO REGRETS.

6.   Finally, Rusty loved God and was committed to His Savior, Jesus. I had the privilege of seeing him grow deeper and stronger in his faith “up-close-and-personal” the past few years. He helped me see new insights into God’s Word, showing me evidence of where God was working in the world. Rusty had a simple faith, but he clearly understood the importance of accepting God's free gift of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

After Rusty died, Anne asked me if I thought Rusty knew he was going to die. I told her that I thought he knew it was a possibility, but that he wasn’t afraid of his death. I believe he was caught somewhere between looking forward to seeing heaven and his Savior face-to-face, and not wanting to leave Anne and his family/friends. One thing is for certain, Rusty mentioned several times that he was aware that God spared his life back in March of 2013. He knew that God was giving him the gift of more time on this earth, and that time was very precious to him.

Thanks for living such a wonderful life, my friend. Thank you for your gentleness, your loyalty, your faithfulness, your servant leadership, and your “can-do” spirit that caused you to go out and just do things. Thank you for living a life with no regrets, and for your love of God and His Son, your Savior, Jesus. I’m really going to miss you, bud…

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Son's Reflection on His Mother

These are the words I spoke at my Mom's memorial service this afternoon:

The fifth of 10 commandments in the Bible says, “Honor your father and your mother…” That is what I hope to do in the next few minutes – honor Dad and Mom with these words.

After Mom died on the morning of June 16th, Dad, Roz, Debb and I spent time together over lunch talking about Mom. At one point it was asked, “What are the things that were truly Mom?” We began to reflect on that a bit, voicing things that came to mind. It was very therapeutic.

We will miss Mom terribly. But, we all have so many vivid memories of who she was that we’ll cherish for eternity. I decided to “alliterate” them (using the letter “L”), just to keep this more light, and to possibly make them easier to remember. So, here goes:

Lists (and Labor) – From as early as any of us can remember, Mom was a list-maker and a hard-worker. I don’t know if she made lists for Dad, but we kids sure had our share! That was Mom’s kind way of keeping us busy, teaching us to be diligent, and making sure we learned to accomplish tasks (and get things done). Roz mentioned something I’d forgotten. Sometimes Mom (who was a super-duper housekeeper) would put on our lists, “Pick up specks.” And we did!

Learning (and Listening) – Mom was a teacher at heart, quietly causing me and my sisters to learn in many ways. She wasn’t overbearing about it. Rather, she indirectly communicated to us that there was always more to learn. She wasn’t a big reader, but she listened and paid attention to everything that went on around her. We learned a lot about what was “proper” from Mom. I will be forever grateful to her for this.

Loving – When we were talking about Mom after she died, I mentioned that I was embarrassed at times about how much Mom loved me. When I would come to visit her and Dad, I truly felt uncomfortable at times at how she waited on me hand and foot. Roz and Debb tease me, saying that she loved me best. But, the truth is, I know that she loved others as much as she loved me, especially Dad! She had a tremendous capacity to love her husband, children, family and friends. Mom was a very loving woman.

Letters – More evidence of Mom’s exceptional love for me are boxes of hand-written letters in our attic in Texas, letters she wrote to me once I finished college and moved away. I am almost certain that I received nearly a letter-a-week from her for the first ten or fifteen years after leaving home following college. She wanted to stay in touch with her son (and my growing family)! She was so selfless about putting pen to paper, sharing her thoughts and life with me and Ellen and our kids. She also stayed in touch over the years with many others. This was her letter-writing ministry of love. What a great legacy! Too bad letter writing is almost a thing of the past these days.

Lovely – Mom was an attractive and very lovely woman all of her life. As my cousin, Ellen, said in an e-mail following Mom’s passing, “She was always well put-together and looked great!” Very true! Her skills as a hairstylist, and her love for art/design, propelled her to always put herself together well (and she helped Dad to look his best, too!). I really admired that about Mom. To this day, I think about my Mom as I get dressed for each and every day. What I learned from her was that appearances were not the most important thing, but being sloppily dressed/put-together wasn’t the way to be either. She was absolutely lovely.

Lashes – I hesitated to put this in here, but Mom started wearing false eyelashes some time along the way, and she wore them well. One of my favorite stories about Mom is that when our house on the farm was burning in 1976, she went back into the burning house to get two things – her eyelashes and the beauty shop appointment book! Typically, we might think that women who wear false eyelashes have a tendency to be vain, or are somewhat inauthentic. Not Mom. She made it a part of who she was and I loved that about her!

Laughter – Dad, Roz, Debb and I all remembered how Mom loved to laugh. She was always up for a good, clean joke. I remember a time when she and I actually embarrassed Dad out of the room. We were reading from a Norwegian Joke Book, and just got the giggles so bad, we couldn’t stop. Just when we thought we’d had enough, we’d say, “Oh, how about just one more!” And then we’d look into each other’s eyes and communicate, “Let’s just keep laughing like this forever, O.K.?” Mom absolutely loved to laugh, and to the end, we all loved to laugh with her.

Loyal (and Lowly) – Probably the most compelling trait that I will never, ever forget about my Mom was that she was loyal. She faithfully dedicated herself to being my Dad’s life-long helper/partner. No question about that! She was also absolutely loyal to those people/things she loved and believed in. In addition, she was okay with being lowly. Not that she was beneath anybody or anything. Rather, she just deferred to others all the time and whenever necessary without thinking anything about it. She had a true servant’s heart and noticeable Christ-like spirit about her. She did not need the spotlight to be on her. She actually shied away from it most of the time. Her goal was for others to receive the attention, not her. She never demanded attention for herself.

Lord – Finally, Mom knew Jesus as her Lord. She acknowledged her need for a Savior and accepted the free gift of salvation through Christ’s suffering sacrifice on the cross. She knew that living a good life was not enough, that she desperately needed God’s grace and unmerited favor. As a result of her personal relationship with Jesus Christ, believing that He came, He died, He rose and He now lives, she is actually with Him in glory for all eternity! Praise God for that promise and reality, available to each and every one of us.

In closing, I think I speak for all of my family in saying that we were so blessed to have known and loved such a wonderful woman! I will cherish the precious memories of times with my Mom as long as I shall live. Personally, I can’t wait for the day when I will be reunited with her in heaven! I’m sure we’ll laugh together and sing praises to God for all eternity. God bless the life and memory of Doris Ellwood.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It's been over 363 days...

I've always told my kids, "You make time for what you think is important." So, when I look at this blog of mine and realize that it has been almost one year since I published my last post, what does that say? That this blog isn't important to me? I sure hope not.

I really love to write. And, I really love to share my thoughts on this blog. My "normal" time to write previously was Sunday afternoons. A glance at my personal calendar for the past 12 months reveals what I've been up to while not blogging. Not all of this was done on Sunday afternoons, mind you. But, most of this has contributed to the scarcity of my posts the past 363+ days.

TEXAS RANGERS BASEBALL - I think I've probably attended at least five or six games in person down in Arlington, watched nearly 150+ games on TV (can that be right?), and cheered wildly for this baseball team of mine during the 2011 World Series. I really love baseball (!) and blogging sometimes takes a backseat to it. Smile...

WORK/MY JOB - I think I've probably taken over thirty-two separate trips to all parts of the United States in the past year, totalling more than sixty-five nights away from home doing HDR business (at least). I developed a new vision for architecture marketing services at HDR, and then took over responsibility for same, including giving guidance/direction to +/- 60 people on a daily basis. I handed over the Design Excellence initiative I've been working on at HDR for over six years to a new leader. I moved my location in HDR's Dallas office to the 2nd floor, and had to drastically “down-size” all the stuff I had accumulated over many, many years there. I made over a dozen presentations to large groups of leaders, and led four two-day marketing training sessions in various cities. I recruited, interviewed and hired at least six new employees for our company. I started serving on the Management Team of HDR Architecture, Inc.

PERSONAL (Miscellaneous stuff, Prayers/E-Mails/Phone Calls/Texts/Tweets/Instagrams, etc.) - I got some new eyeglasses (really needed the upgrade!). Also shopped for and bought a new car (thanks to my Dad’s extreme generosity!). I made some new friends and prayed in earnest for my family, our church, my work, our country, etc. I probably received, acknowledged, read, answered and filed more than 13,000 e-mails (at least!), not to mention the 3,500 texts, tweets, and instagrams that also passed by my eyes. Who knows how many phone calls I answered and/or initiated over the past year (was it 15,000?).

LIFE GROUP/CHURCH/ELDER ACTIVITIES - I attended REFRESH classes at our church last summer, as well as the Global Leadership Summit (for the fifth year in a row!). I led and/or prepared Bible studies for more than twenty-five meetings of our Life Group (either on Sunday nights or on Wednesday nights with just the men). I attended more than twenty-five meetings with the elders of our church (at least). I wrote several pieces for our church's daily devotional - VERTICAL. We assisted a young Ukranian couple in getting adjusted to life in Dallas (and at DTS), as well as loaned our car to another Ukranian missionary couple for two weeks while they were here. I helped organize a weekend get-away to east Texas with the men from our Life Group and had a great time doing so.

FRIENDS/MENTEE MEETINGS - I believe I had more than twenty coffee/breakfast dates before work with friends/co-workers, and more than twenty-five dates for lunch with guys I consider my closest friends. I probably also had more than twenty-five lunches/dinners with mentees (younger people asking for me for advice, etc.).

HOUSE - We had the countertops/sink replaced in our kitchen and I touched up the paint afterwards. My son and I put new tile backsplashes in our kitchen. I replaced all the hardware and hinges for the cabinets in our kitchen cabinets, and then cleaned and polished them thoroughly. I fixed/repaired our lawnmower shed attached to the side of our house and then we had the entire house re-painted. We also replaced our front storm door and screens on several of the windows on our house. Did I mention the weekly mowing and trimming and edging required for our yard (which I absolutely LOVE to do)?

FAMILY - I played golf with my sons (and others) at least four or five times on Sunday afternoons. I made a washers set for one son on his 17th birthday. We hosted birthday dinners at our house for most of our family members. We traveled to Iowa to help my Dad & Mom get ready for their farm sale. We saw an ultra-sound of our first grandchild three months before she was born! I became a grandpa in November for the first time! I enjoyed numerous Skype dates with Andy in mornings before work, and was captivated by lots of breakfasts/lunches/dinners with other family members, too. I paid off the remaining balance for Katie’s college loans (and will do the same for Peter's hopefully next week). We hosted my Dad & Mom for a few nights in Texas on their way to their home in Arizona. We helped our daughter, Katie, move into a new apartment (twice), and then gave her support and a place of refuge in between apartments. I made five or six trips to visit my Mom in Arizona after her stroke in November. Ellen and I celebrated 31 years of marriage. I attended my Uncle Robert's funeral in Iowa between Christmas and New Year's Day, and then served a ton of pancakes and sausage, etc. to over a hundred people at our house on January 1st. I made two trips to NYC to visit Andy & Annie (including surprising Andy and Katie on their 30th and 28th birthdays). I got to babysit my one and only granddaughter, Brynlee, for the first time (more to come, I hope!). We graduated Nathan from high school and prepared ourselves to send him to Abilene Christian University in the fall. I organized and thoroughly enjoyed MOTEF 2012 with Andy, Peter and Nathan following graduation. We attended the weddings of three or four of our friends’ children. Sadly, I lost my dear Mom and spoke at her funeral. And then nine days later, I lost my Uncle Jimmy and missed going to his funeral in Iowa. Finally, I attended an Anderson family reunion in Colorado with Ellen, Katie and Nathan.

So, no wonder there hasn't been time to blog!

I'm not sure whether it will be another 363+ days before I blog again. But, putting this one together has reminded me of Jesus' words in John 10:10 where He said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." Thank you, Lord, for an abundant life! I am blessed beyond imagination, and I am also very grateful for the many blessings He has given me.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A High Price for Freedom

This morning (4th of July, 2011) I woke up to a very precious reality. I am twice a free man.

First, thanks to those who have bravely gone before me to defend my individual liberties, I am privileged to be an American citizen living in a free country. God bless the USA! Second, because I am a Christian (having accepted God's free gift of salvation through the precious blood of Jesus Christ), I also enjoy and experience the joy and promise of being forever spiritually free. Praise God for that as well!

I am truly celebrating today because of a high price for freedom paid for me by others.

Thank God for our Founding Fathers and many brave souls who took their stands for freedom, and then declared independence from the ugly tyranny of a remote English monarchy 235 years ago! Thank God for the first century Church (several of them martyred), who carried the Gospel of Christ to all the world, declaring freedom from the tyranny of sin and telling people everywhere that they no longer needed to be separated from God!

But, if history teaches us anything, it teaches us that precious freedoms (both political and spiritual) should not be taken for granted. What we enjoy today may not be there tomorrow if we don't fight to keep it. There are enemies out there trying to steal yours and my freedoms each and every day of our lives. We must do all that we can to actively protect them because there is a high price for freedom.

The words attributed to one of the founders of our nation, Patrick Henry, as well as those penned by the Apostle Paul in a letter to first century Galatian Christians, seemed particularly relevant to me at this point:

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" - Patrick Henry

"Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you." Galatians 5:1

Notice the references made to life and death, as well as "chains" and "slavery" in these quotes? In the founder's and the apostle's mind, the opposite of freedom was death and/or bondage and indentured servitude to either an overbearing dictator/monarchy, or to sin. In other words, without freedom, there is no life and no independence. Enemies will always attempt to place chains on you and me and/or attempt to entice you and me into the bondage of slavery. We need to daily take our stands against these undesirable conditions.

Yes, there is a high price for freedom for those of us who enjoy it. There is also an obligation on the part of both American citizens, as well as followers of Christ, to rise up and protect it, too. But, unfortunately many of us will rather use our precious independence and freedoms just to do whatever we want, thus destroying them. Shame on us when that is what we do.

Once again, the words penned by the Apostle Paul to the first century Galatian Christians seemed very appropriate for me to read/hear this morning:

"It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?" Galatians 5:13-15

May we all take these words to heart as we celebrate the 4th of July and/or our freedom in Christ, remembering that there is a high price for freedom.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

How the body works

This past Friday, my wife, Ellen, and I were planning to meet some good friends for dinner at 5:30 p.m., and then see a movie together after that. We were really looking forward to it! However, our plans changed in a moment when we received an urgent phone call from a friend before we left our house, a little after 5 p.m.

Our friend was very distraught because her fiance had stopped breathing. She had already called 911 for help. She was reaching out to us for additional support and prayer. Her fiance wasn't responding to the treatment he was receiving. She was scared, really scared! We headed out the door immediately, calling our other friends to tell them we needed to make a change in our plans for the evening.

Sadly, our friend's fiance did not survive a massive heart attack he experienced. His life ended suddenly, and very unexpectedly. A tragic death. We are finding it very hard to comprehend.

Ever since that night, I have been very contemplative about this whole episode, earnestly praying for our friend (and her son) who have now lost someone very dear to them. As I have been reflecting on the events we experienced Friday night, I couldn't help but think about how the body works. When disease or pain strikes, our human body responds quickly.

I'm not a doctor or an immunologist, but here's my limited understanding of how the body works.

For our immune system to work, two things must happen. First, our body must recognize that it has been invaded, either by pathogens or toxins, or by some other outside threat. Second, the immune response must be activated quickly, before the invaders destroy many body tissue cells. There's also a lot of other reactions our human bodies generate, including the proper interaction of non-specific and specific defenses. The nonspecific defenses, like on our skin, do not identify the antigen (a substance capable of stimulating an immune response or reaction) that is attacking or potentially attacking the body; instead, these defenses simply react to the presence of what it identifies as something foreign. Often, the nonspecific defenses effectively destroy microorganisms. But, if these defenses prove ineffective, then the microorganisms manage to infect our tissues, and the specific defenses go into action. The specific defenses function by detecting the antigen in question and mounting a response that targets it for destruction.

That's a somewhat scientific explanation for how the body works. So, what does that have to do anything previously written?

Well, just as the human body works to protect us from diseases and pain, I believe the body of Christ responds similarly. As a matter of fact, I am a witness to how this transpired with our friend on Friday night. Let me explain.

On our way out of our driveway, we began calling several of our Christian friends who were also friends of our friend who was experiencing the crisis, imploring them to begin praying immediately for the whole situation. The body of Christ was beginning to recognize that something unwanted/unexpected had invaded our friend's life, and that she was in desperate need of prayer. Next, we quickly activated a plan to help navigate the details of the situation. We volunteered to go get our friend's son (who had arrived at his work place a short time ago) and take him to the hospital where our friend's fiance was being transported. Likewise, we asked our good friends (who we were supposed to be having dinner with) to head straight to the hospital, telling them that we would meet them there. Within the hour, twelve other friends assembled at the hospital and were there to comfort our friend and her son when they received the news that her fiance was gone. Before the night was over, more than twenty-five of us gathered at a friend's home to provide comfort and to our friend, praying for her, and asking God to ease her pain and bring her comfort. Several wonderful Christian friends volunteered to spend the night with our friend and her son, helping them cope with the shock and sadness of the situation when disbelief and pain were intense.

While none of us were able to alter the outcome of the sad situation with our presence and/or earnest prayers, I am so grateful to God that He gave us such a vivid picture of how the body works. The body of Christ, that is. It really is a beautiful thing...

We still have questions and don't completely understand why. We probably never will be able to comprehend why God in His infinite wisdom allowed this tragedy to happen, at least not this side of heaven. But, one important lesson I learned in the whole situation is this: Be grateful if you are surrounded by other Christian friends; in your time of need, the body of Christ will be there for you. Praise God for the body of Christ!

That's how the body works.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

He still holds her hand...

I just returned from a quick get-away trip with my wife, Ellen, to Sun City, Arizona. We were there visiting my parents for a couple of days. They live at this oasis "in the desert" from November through March to get away from the bitter cold and endless piles of snow in Iowa during these months. My Mom just turned 83 on January 7th (praise the Lord), so we were doing a bit of a belated birthday celebration for her. Plus, selfishly for Ellen and me, it's just a really great place to visit. Mom and Dad's home is right on the Union Hills golf course. Thus, the view out their back door (and from their patio) is beautiful, gazing over lush green grass to a small lake with fountains, with picturesque Arizona mountains off in the distance. We were blessed with some fantastic weather while we were there, too. Loved it!

But, aside from the setting, I just have to brag on my Dad.

Over the three days we were there, we went out for breakfast, lunch and dinner several times. We also did some miscellaneous shopping and ran a few errands. Consequently, there was a lot of getting in and out of their car, and a bunch of walking to and from their car to the restaurants/stores we visited. While we were doing that, I couldn't help but notice over and over again that after 62+ years of marriage, he still holds her hand...

Wow. I can't begin to tell you how wonderful that is to see my Dad holding my Mom's hand. I really want to be like my Dad when I grow up.

He loves my Mom so much! He takes really great care of her, too. Mom has Parkinson's disease and it is begining to slow her down a bit more and more every year. She's not as steady on her feet as she once was. She gets a little bit flustered/confused at times because she is not as smooth in doing the things she used to do so effortlessly. But, there's my Dad, giving her a steady hand, and telling her by his actions and loving touch that he'll take good care of her. That she doesn't need to worry about a thing. That he's going to take care of her and protect her no matter what.

What's really cool is that Dad would be doing this even if she didn't have Parkinson's. She's his wife, and that's what a loving husband does for his wife. He gives her a hand. He tells her with his actions and loving touches that he'll take good care of her. A husband's desire is to convince his wife that she doesn't need to worry about a thing. He will take care of her no matter what.

Lately, Ellen and I have been caught "holding hands" on our way in to church, or in a few other relatively public situations/events. People have remarked that we are "cute" to do that and that it seems like we are really in love with each other.

I love holding my wife's hand. We are in love with each other. In my way of thinking, that's what married people are supposed to do. Why is it that a husband holding his wife's hand seems so unusual these days? Whatever happened to romance and chivalry?

I want to honor my Dad's love for his wife (my Mom) with this post. I want to declare to everyone reading this (especially family members) that this is what I plan to do. I hope to continue to follow my Dad's example for many, many years to come. Someday, I want my sons (and daughter) to remark when we have been married as long as my parents (hopefully!), he still holds her hand...

Sometimes it is the little things, the simpler things, that are most important in this life.

Thanks for giving me such a great example/model to follow, Dad! I love you.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dragged, kicking and screaming...

I've heard it said that a child's personality (and a lot about how that child will respond to certain situations as an adult) is already evident at age 5 or 6. Kind of makes you realize how critically important those first few years of a child's life are, doesn't it?

I am so grateful to God for my Mom being there to shape my personality and guide my development at an early age. Likewise, I am so glad that my wife, Ellen, was there to actively influence the personalities of our four children in their early years.

(In my humble opinion, the ideal situation for a child is for their mother and father to be the ones to perform this all-important task. It is that critical to their adult life!)

Just the other day, a vivid childhood memory popped into my consciousness. It made me realize that a dominant part of my personality, as well as how I frequently respond to certain life situations as an adult, is probably wrapped up in this early childhood experience.

It was the first day of kindergarten in Ellsworth, Iowa, probably the fall of 1959. My family lived on a farm about three miles outside of this small town of 400+ people. To attend school, I would need to take the bus into town. It must have been a late-morning session of kindergarten as I don't remember my two older sisters being a part of this story. They were probably already at school when this took place.

I have this mental picture in my head of my Mom "escorting" me down the end of our long lane to catch the bus. Actually, I was being dragged, kicking and screaming all the way! It must have been terribly embarrassing and upsetting for my Mom. You see, at four years old (I wouldn't turn 5 for another month) I just wasn't too sure about this whole going to school thing. I wasn't excited about it at all! I kind of liked being safely at home during the day with my Mom. What was she doing, making me go to school, for goodness sake? So, I decided to fight the inevitable.

In spite of being dragged, kicking and screaming all the way down the lane, Mom won the battle. She placed me on that bus, let the bus driver close the door, and off to kindergarten I went. I must have liked it, too, as I don't remember her having to force me to go to kindergarten ever again. Apparently, once I got on that bus, I was O.K. Whatever I had feared so much before hand, didn't turn out to be as bad as I thought after all.

But, I couldn't have been convinced of that when I was being dragged, kicking and screaming down our lane. I was genuinely freaked out!

Fast forward to today.

I still get a little freaked out by new things. I will frequently dread a new adventure and/or resist a change in venue/responsibilities. It's as though I'm reverting back to being dragged, kicking and screaming down that lane outside of Ellsworth, Iowa.

Even 50+ years later, there are remnants of that part of my personality showing up. Fascinating!

Likewise, once I "get on the bus" so to speak, I usually do O.K. with the new adventures or change in venue/responsibilities. I am reflecting back now on a whole lifetime of initial reluctance to lead, of timidness when it comes to participating in big events, and of massive squirming when asked to take on new tasks/responsibilities, etc.

So what? Why is this even worth writing down (or being read?)? I guess here's what I'm learning about myself through this experience:

- My personality was somewhat settled at an early age in life. That's not an excuse; it's just fact.
- I am who I am based on some of the experiences I had early in life. That's really O.K.
- I should not try to be someone I'm not. Others can seeminly tackle the big stuff and keep begging for more. Others can get frustrated when new adventures and added responsibilities don't come fast enough. Not me. That's just not who I am.
- Sometimes I am required to press on past my fears and hang-ups. Sometimes I just need to take on those new adventures and challenging responsibilities. I must get over my initial reluctance. I just need to buck it up and do it!
- It is always a good idea to ask myself before stepping in to something new, "What's the worst thing that could happen here anyway?"

If you find yourself sometimes being dragged, kicking and screaming into new adventures and/or situations that freak you out, take a hint from me. Just relax. It probably won't be as bad as you think.