40 Years of Love

DSC_1004June came and went in a flash.  But in-between, God moved.  In the lead up to June I’d been excited about the upcoming celebration of my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.  When they met they were kids, literally.  My dad was in the 8th grade and my mom was in the 6th.  When they married they were hardly adults.  And yet, 40 years later, they have a beautiful legacy of love.

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Love is what highlights our lives.  Love is what stops one day from rolling into the next without direction or meaning.  Choosing love slows me down and helps me remember to live in the moment.  Maybe I learned that from my parents.

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Because of their choices I am part of a family who is founded in Christ’s firm love.  And so we, meaning my entire family (Katie, Michael, and their crazy five kid crew made the trek as did my younger sister Emmy), celebrated them in the best way possible, up in the mountains.  The mountains are love.  They slow life down and help us know how much we are loved.

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Being in the mountains gave us time to gather around a fire and laugh as we burned our marshmallows.  It gave us time to have deep conversations about our struggles and triumphs as we built a 400 piece Peanuts puzzle only to realize at the end that the box only contained 397 pieces.  The weekend was rainy but we made it outside for the hot tub and zip line.  Spending Uncle time with my nieces and nephews was amazing!

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I captured Emerson, the youngest, crawling for the first time.  I told stories with Breck, in the story he was born a T-Rex but actually a Velociraptor.  I played games and built puzzles with Addi and Linc.  I even started a tickle fight with Treagan.   Because my parents chose to love Christ and love each other day in and day out, I am blessed to be an uncle.  But even more amazing is how my nieces and nephews choosing a life of love and freedom in Christ.

 

As June was rushing by, Linc, my oldest nephew, asked to be baptized.   The morning of the big day he joined me in the living room as I spent time in prayer.  He woke up early, came and sat on the couch, and asked me to help him start a Bible reading plan.  I love that at eight he is making choices to live a life founded on love.  His baptism was beautiful.  I love Lincoln.

 

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My parents’ love has given me the ability to love my wife.  April and I are set to celebrate our second wedding anniversary on the 7th of July.  We are off on an adventure to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Amsterdam. What an adventure!  My prayer has been that this next month doesn’t flash by, but that God stops us, opens our eyes and our hearts so we can experience His love.

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Love is not scientific and so I have no clear idea how my parents did it, but, I would bet it all came down to their choices.  Years ago when my parents were younger my dad took Katie and me on a hike.  I was a baby and my older sister was old enough to complain about how difficult the hike was. My parents hadn’t packed any food, nor brought any water.  We were miserable.  My dad, in all his wisdom, created this beautiful simile, ” Life is like a mountain.  You just have to choose to get over it.”  Katie stated the obvious, “I hate life.”  Yet in love, there are times when it is difficult and you just have to choose to move through it.  My parents’ love is not a difficult mountain, it is warm, open, and consistent, and it, like my favorite mountains, has stood the test of time.  I am so proud that each day they choose to love even when it feels hard.  What an adventure!

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I am sure if you asked either of them, the 40 years came and went in a flash.  But in-between, God moved.

My Little Sister

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Emmy is an award that we have won.  She’s my little sister and she makes being an older brother joyful.  I love having a little sister.  It’s like having a built in friend who will join in on hikes, sit down on the couch with me and binge watch Psych, and stand up with me at my wedding.

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Emmy is life and she knows how to live it.  You know that’s right!  I remember the first time I held her.  I was nine-years-old and the bundle of energy in my arms had to be the most amazing answer to prayer ever.  At age zero and a couple of days, I could tell her small hands and toes were just meant to be tickled.  Her laugh and smile held boundless potential.  Most of that potential was spent making me smile.

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As an older  brother, I thought it was my job to make her smile.  This didn’t always mean being a goof for her, but sometimes attempting to guide her in the right direction.  What big brother doesn’t want to help his little sister avoid all the bumps, scrapes, and mistakes he made growing up.  Wisdom abounded and I knew I wanted to guide her along the way.

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Emmy never brushed her hair when she was little.  It was a wild brown mess.  A birds nest.  So I made a bet with her. Brush your hair for 20 straight days and if she did, I would have to pay her 20 dollars, but if she didn’t manage to brush her hair every day, I’d take home the money.

C’mon son! I don’t remember what I spent that 20 dollars on.  My intent was to help her learn  hygiene and I was willing to pay her to do so.  Emmy was a grumpy Gus, but paid up begrudgingly, but no, I didn’t earn anything for brotherly love.

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My little sister didn’t need me to teach her how to brush her hair.  If I remember correctly, she started brushing her hair last week, or in middle school.  I’ve heard it both ways. Anyway, she now has long beautiful hair and great hygiene.  She wasn’t too apt to listening to my future guidance.  It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t my job to guide Emmy and her true guide was Christ.  He forgave my controlling missteps into Emmy’s life, thankfully so did she.

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Emmy is a wild adventurous girl.  As a kindergartner she went on a hike and started her adventure with Christ.  As adventurous as Emmy is, Christ is even more of an adventurer.  He did not let her go.  After a wild high school experience where we weren’t sure if she would graduate He sent her to Guatemala.  I never stopped praying for her and joy filled me when God broke through. She was serving the underprivileged in the third world.  She came back a stronger woman and with a calling.

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She returned alive in Christ and even more my little sister than ever.  But even more than Emmy being my little sister, she is a great friend.  She may have thought that she could do everything I could do whens he was nine and I was 18, namely go for an all-nighter with my high school friends.  Face flaming with furry, Emmy stormed down the stairs. Turns out, she thought I was going on an adventure and wanted to join me.

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Now. her adventurous attitude inspires me.  She works as child whisperer at an in-between home for foster children.  Her stories are filled with curse words, mostly the ones the boys at her home hurl at her.  She is firm with them and I can tell that they love her.  Maybe because she tricks them into arm wrestling and doesn’t take any of their crap.  Maybe I did train her well cause she stopped taking my crap long ago.

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I am proud that April asked her to stand next to her as her maid of honor because I know she is strong enough to have our backs. She is a hiker.  A fighter.  She loves boldly, is a faithful friend, and needs a puppy in her life, just like me.  I am so glad I can call her my little sister.

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My Older Sister

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I’ve always been second.  I am the second child, but that’s only part of it.  I was the second to graduate college, I was the second to marry, but also the second to do a flip on the trampoline.  That is what happens when you grow up with Katie as your older sister.

I can do a flip on the trampoline because I watched her do one first.  I can run a mile because of her, because she taught me how to run.  Without Katie I might not be married.

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I love having an older sister.  Katie was born on March First, 1982 and without her taking the lead I wouldn’t be the man I am today.  One of my favorite pictures from when I was a baby is of her holding me.

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I don’t remember her being an older sister who held my hand, but she would almost always include me in on her fun.  Like in our backyard in Tulsa when we would turn on the sprinkler and jump on a slip-n-slide trampoline.  It’s amazing that neither of us ever hurt ourselves on that thing.  But just like any brother and sister injuries did happen and things were not always perfect.

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Katie, or Katheryn as we called her when I was little, didn’t always share her friends.  She was real good at suggesting I play with my own friends.  This mentality lasted through my middle school years.  Maybe she was just challenging me to be a good friend to others, like other people than her.  Despite her insistence that I play with my own friends, she became one of my best friends.  That’s probably because Katie was a big sister who always helped calm my fears especially when we lived in a dark basement here in Colorado.  At age four I constantly saw monster tall shadows that reached down from the windows at night, but I knew I was safe because my big sister’s room was next door.

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When we moved to Illinois, she helped me build forts and shared a disgust of the egg stench that came from our water.  Katie has never been shy of sharing her feelings and when she first saw our new home she cried.  She did not cry when we moved to Tulsa.   She has always been strong and that strength motivates me to live in wisdom and courage.

Katie has always been great at offering that wisdom.  Sometimes that would drive me crazy.  Like at the Kirk on Christmas Eve, when she continually attempted to correct my public speaking.  I was reading the story of Christ’s birth and about to light the Christ candle when she tried to correct me.  “Katheryn,” I cried. “I know what I am doing.”  I dropped the match and the carpet lit on fire.  Laughter erupted and burned through the audience.  I burned with anger, but now I know she was offering her wisdom and leadership.  She only wanted me to perform well.

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Katie has always had a good eye for houses and during our early years in Tulsa, she taught me how to explore them.  Our neighborhood was new and as the empty lots behind our house turned into model homes we would go and explore them.  We are both still fascinated by beautiful homes.  Our friendship grew even though we fought.  She taught me never to kick back at a girl even if that girl is stronger than you and is currently beating you up because she will tell our parents.  Maybe I started to eat healthily and workout so that I couldn’t be beat up by my older sister.  I am grateful no matter what!

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Katie’s good eye led her to Michael.  Her marriage with her husband, Michael, has taught me immensely.  It has set an awesome example of how I need to love April.  Watching them grow in their relationship has taught me how to love and pursue April.  I love how she loves him and her kids. Michael has a real-estate company and it does not surprise me that Katie helps him explore for new houses.  As we explored she provided love and a listening ear.  She challenged me to keep my eyes open to all God has for me and this challenge led me to April.

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She has trusted me with her kids which has fostered a true friendship to grow between me and them  I think I would be lost if I didn’t have an older sister.  I’m thankful that she has paved the way.  First in birth.  First in marriage.  First in kids of her own.  And first in correcting me when I have remembered something incorrectly. And I love her dearly for the sister and the friend she is to me.

Who Served You?

Memorial Day is a day to say thank you to those who died serving our nation in the U.S. armed forces.  My two grandpas, both pictured above, fought in World War II.  My grandpa Chuck (on the left) served in the Army Air Corp and my grandpa Jim (on the right) was in the Army and served in the Pacific Theater.  Neither of them died while fighting, but the sacrificed non-the-less.

My grandpa Jim died ten years ago.  When he died I was too young to realize all that he gave up to protect my freedoms. I didn’t even know my grandpa Chuck, who died before I was born.  I can’t go and tell them thank you for their sacrifice, which allows me to live freely in the United States.  I am very grateful that I even got to meet my grandpa Jim.  I know there are thousands of Americans who never got to meet their fathers, as they died while serving.

To all the men and women who died while serving my country, I thank you.  I am blessed to live in the United States of America.  I hope as we celebrate Memorial Day we remember who served us.

Happy Memorial Day!