A Missionary Mom

I want to reflect on how my mom touched my life toward mission.

First, she lived out a life of faith and devotion to God. She loved sharing the great missionary stories with us as she encouraged my dad to read stories with us as a family. She shared the detailed stories of her friends that she supported and corresponded with. In fact, when these friends came through the States on furlough, I played with their kids who were near my age. The idea of mission as story and life came to me in a powerful way as a youngster long before God’s call came on my life.

When my wife and I began talking about serving on the mission field, my mom and dad were both very supportive. That gave us comfort as we talked about and made plans to go. It was only after we were in Thailand that we realized how rare it is for parents and family to selflessly say go, we know this is what God is saying to you.

My mom imprinted from the beginning and then released me to go when it was time.

“Fre-dumb” or Processing Grief and Moving Forward

My family is still processing the unexpected loss of my mom. I want to share a snippet of how my dad is processing the loss. My parents were married for 40 years, and I see him at times super sad yet holding onto the joy and celebration that this life is not all that we have. He knows my mom is in a much better place, the place she has wanted to be for many, many years…

Yet in all his sadness, he is also looking forward and thinking about his new life.  Even though he would still prefer my mom to be by his side, my dad sat down and wrote out what how bachelorhood will benefit him. He loves playing with words, so this fits him right down to his socks.

My dad calls this his “Fredumb List”…as he explains, I am now free to be dumb in these areas…

  • I can snore all night if I want to
  • I can put the toilet lid down anytime
  • I can wear two different colored socks
  • I can wear grey socks with tan pants
  • I can make the bed with the quilt pattern crooked
  • I can use a single Kleenex for more than one blow
  • I can eat the cake and ice cream first
  • I can watch sci-fi programs on the TV
  • I can drink straight out of the carton
  • I can wash my hands in the left hand sink even when there are clean dishes on the right hand drying

When my sister’s heard this list, they responded…dad, you can’t undo all the good that mom did for you…

I am sure they will help keep him dressed properly, but I certainly appreciate someone that can be real and vulnerable with his family and friends as he mourns and holds onto the victory that Jesus has over death knowing he will be reunited with my mom again.

If you were to make a Fredumb List, what would you include?

My Mom

As I process grief, I wanted to share some thoughts that I had regarding my mom who passed away recently. A stroke destroyed much of her brain giving her little chance for survival 2 weeks ago Tuesday. From that point to now, my life has felt like a blur and as though I was stuck in time all at once. My thoughts have swirled as I have had tough times eating, sleeping and even thinking…

My mom meeting my daughter

I want the next few posts to share some ideas of hope, celebration and honor to the legacy my mom left to me. Let me start with retelling some of what I briefly shared at the memorial service this week.

I remember when my parents came to visit me at Bible College my freshmen year. After introducing my parents, one of my professors replied that my life was a great commentary on their parenting. I thought wow, but how much can he know me as it was only my freshman year.

In that I see how every life has a story to tell, and every story gets told through the lives of those around that person.

For me one life motto that sticks in my heart from my mom is, “get back on the horse”. My mom exemplified this characteristic and showed me how to literally get back up on the horse after getting thrown off of her horse when I was a young teenager. She also demonstrated for me the ability to get up after life knocks you down. My mom had more than her fair share of life knocking her down. We often don’t understand the Biblical idea of suffering and view it as punishment. My mom suffered and kept going throughout her entire life.

I came into the picture smack dab in the middle of much suffering as I was the fifth child of seven. My older sister died as an infant with a heart defect while my other older sister, Angela, came down with severe brain damage as an infant and lived to be six. She couldn’t do anything on her own, so when I was born my parents rejoiced over everything I did. They imprinted on me how amazing every move I made was. It didn’t matter what…even if I peed on the ceiling as a baby during diaper changing; my mom thought it was the most wonderful thing in the world. I was a great baby in their eyes.

I learned to love life, and at the age of two, as the story goes, I would wake up in the little camper as we I joined my parents on a retreat. I woke up early in the morning (I guess I used to do that back in those days). I would wake up with a big dose of optimism for the day, open the curtains near my bed, look outside to the world before me and enthusiastically say, “Hello, world!”

I loved life and saw my mom bounce back from devastation after devastation over her lifetime. Things seemingly rarely went according to plan, but she always kept pressing forward in her faith and in her life.

So when I was a teenager and began losing my sight, I already learned that obstacles get overcome. Life’s problems don’t keep us down, but we get up and keep riding that horse. My brother who went through similar trials in losing his sight gave me a practical example for this obstacle, but my mom imprinted on my life the attitude to overcome anything.

My mom was an incredibly Godly woman who will be greatly missed.

A Leadership Parable

I want to share a great folk tale from Thailand with implications on leadership. Thai parents tell their children this story to teach them the right way to lead.

Once upon a time a ferocious wind named Saladon met a gentle breeze named Pattaya. The two started talking and the blustery loudmouth, Saladon, declared he could do anything he wanted as he was such a strong wind. Everyone gets out of his way and does what he wants. Saladon went on to say he takes care of business with his mighty strength and sheer force of willpower.

Pattaya replied in wonderment, I am not a strong wind like you, because I choose to refreshing and gentle. I don’t like to use all of my strength. To which, Saladon retorted, why would you do that? Why would you choose to be weak?

Pattaya calmly responded, I get what I want.

However, Saladon wasn’t satisfied, he proclaimed, he could get anything and do anything he wanted, and urged his new friend to be more assertive.

Pattaya thought for a moment not convinced that Saladon’s approach was ideal. Then Pattaya got an idea. The smoothed ocean breeze came up with a challenge for Saladon.

He asked, you can do anything, right?

Saladon replied, of course.

Anything? Because I am thinking of one thing that might be difficult for you.

Yes, Anything, Saladon angrily said as his voice began to rise.

Pattaya kept pouring gas on the fire and stirred up Saladon. Well, I have this one thing that might challenge your claims.

Saladon said, whatever it is, I can do it.

Ummm, I am not sure I want to tell you, because I don’t want you to say no if you can’t do it, Pattaya said.

Now, a fuming Saladon insisted he could do it no matter what it was.

Pattaya then gave the challenge. He pointed out the monkeys that love to climb the trees in the jungle along the beaches. He challenged Saladon to make the monkeys get out of the trees. Saladon confidently  took the challenge.

He thought this was easy as he was all worked up and ready to go. He gathered all of his force and began to whirl a wind so strong the trees began to blow. Leaves blew off the trees and the scared monkeys grabbed onto the trees with all their might. They held on not knowing what else to do. Saladon was just getting started when he began blowing with as much fury as he could. The trees began to bend sideways, but the monkeys kept holding on as tight as they were afraid to let go and fall to the ground.

Saladon blew his mighty wind as long as he could, but after about thirty minutes of frantic wind gusts, the monkeys still clung to the trees.

Pattaya cracked a sly smile across his face. Saladon not wanting to admit his shortcoming said if I can’t do that, there is no way a small wind like you could get them out of the trees. With a small smile still across his face and now a twinkle in his eye, Pattaya said it’s my turn.

When the warm, soft breeze blew across the faces of the monkeys, they began to feel more comfortable and relaxed. Pattaya kept blowing gently and bringing the afternoon breeze in from the shore. The monkeys thought they were getting so relaxed, so they decided to climb down and curl up for a nap.

Pattaya won the challenge and showed that he could get as much done and more with his style of wind. Saladon stormed off in a huff.

And when the parents tell their children the story, they explain that good leaders get more done by being gentle and compassionate.