We sat around the dining table, my two older brothers, Mom, a sister-in-law, and Don, looking at pictures from my childhood and growing up years. And of course I recall my Daddy, whom I adored and who has been in heaven’s realm for sixteen years already. I love this picture of Dad with my two older brothers, Melvyn and Arnold.
Other memories … those awful drapes in an early house in Canada before we moved to California when I was nine years old. That mountain scene was repeated across the whole fabric; I’m sure it was considered lovely at the time …
Mom, Melvyn, Arnold and me on the horse swing at Camp Arnes, a church camp on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, a gigantic body of water that we thought must extend to China on the other side. Walking the mile into camp–or even driving it when we visited my grandparents’ cabin there–was always an adventure. The curved, forested roadway wound back and forth like a slithering snake, and at every turn we eagerly awaited seeing the trees part and the lake open before us. It was there that I committed my life to Christ at the age of eight years.
Three cute kiddos sitting on a piano bench.
Then our move to California, and the addition of a third brother, Bob.
Family waterskiing photos.
Arnold and I participating in a Youth for Christ Bible quiz team competing for the national title at Winona Lake, Indiana. The old photo on the left reflects our goal to get off the chair in the quickest possible way in order to have the opportunity to answer the question. We also had to complete the question accurately if we were off the electronic chair pads before the question was finished. Thus the pelvic thrust jumps!
And the fun we had teasing others. New friends were sometimes surprised by Arnold’s and my close friendship. Once, when we were perhaps 15 and 17, we told two teenage girls sitting across the table from us at a youth conference that we were brother and sister. “No you’re not. You like each other too much.” My brother looked at me and said “Want to show them?” I knew exactly what he was asking and together, we leaned across the table and wiggled our eyes at them–a rare trait that can be a symptom of drug usage (nystagmus) but in our case happens to be voluntary and divorced from any illegal substance. “We believe!” they yelled.
Laughter. Sharing. Catching up. Telling each other stories of our memories. Hugs. Family. Precious. And there was a photo of Melvyn’s old MG, which Mom thought was white but I thought was red. Arnold argued for green. We looked at the picture as Mel stated that the car was actually dove grey. Same car–different memories!
I realize that I was blessed to be raised in a loving Christian family, and that many have not had the childhood I experienced.
But then I enjoyed lunch yesterday with about 25 women. We were together to honor and say farewell to one of our number, a faithful servant of Jesus Christ who exudes grace and giving, and who is moving out of the area this Fall. As the majority of us waited quietly (“shhh”) in the kitchen for Nancy to come out of another room so we could surprise her, I felt a deep sense of connection with these women, beautiful inside and out, and the reality that we share a common faith in a good Father God. While neither the nuclear nor the Christian family is perfect, because we’re finite, sinful individuals, there is love, warmth and acceptance available when these two organisms function under guidelines given by our Creator God. The God who is “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling … (who) sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” Psalm 68:5-6
As blessed as I am to have had the father and mother and family I have, the greatest blessing in my life is my Father God. He has enlarged my family. He loves me unconditionally; He has forgiven me, accepted me unconditionally because of Jesus’ death and payment for my sin, guided me through joy and sorrow, and then into joy again; and given me eternal life. And that life is available to all who receive His gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
How have you experienced a father’s love, either through your biological dad, other caring male mentors, or through our heavenly Father? I’d love to hear your story.