Category Archives: Family

He Hides…

I see his small, bare, size 5 feet poking out from under the bottom row of clothes hanging in our closet. He isn’t aware that his feet are showing, assuming that if he can’t see me then he can’t be seen. It’s adorable.I pretend for a few minutes that I can’t see him and that he has bamboozled me. I hear him giggle. My heart swells at those high pitched chuckles.

Then I swoop in for the attack. I grab his exposed feet and he breaks out into full laughter. However, at this moment the tables are turned. Gabe’s laughter becomes a growl and the bear hidden inside him charges forward and chases me through the house until he “tackles” me in the den. His smile is stretched from ear to ear and his mischievous giggling is incessant. He runs circles around me (soon in more ways than I will be able to count) as he prepares to dive bomb on top of me. He finally turns in for his attack run and lands on my chest. 

I let him overpower me because it’s important for him to know he is strong and will be strong and how to not abuse or misuse that strength. I let him win because my biological father, Carl, would never let me win.  

I only knew Carl for 1 year of my life; between ages 9 and 10 years. It was a traumatic year. For example, our “wrestling” matches always turned into him pinning me and laying on me until I almost passed out from lack of breath or he would trap me in a blanket or sleeping bag by cinching it’s end together, prohibiting escape. Sure, maybe it made me “tougher” but I never thought, felt, or sensed Car loved me. There was rarely an interaction with him that wasn’t violent or frightening.

No matter how I cried or asked to stop “playing,” he wouldn’t relent until he’d had his laughs, literally. Then he would call me names like cry baby or sissy. I just wanted a dad who loved me. Fortunately, I would receive that dad later in my life when I met my step-dad, Bill.

I don’t have a template for what a heathy, loving dad looks or lives like before the age of 13. So, I fill in the blanks. I look to other dads who have inspired me as they raised their young sons; dads like my uncles Russ and Gary, as well as mentors and friends in Scott Smith, David Hopkins, Paul Ballowe, Ray Ward, Brian Niece, Nate Ward, and Rob Patterson.

Books like The Five Love Languages of Children, Wild at Heart, Way of the Wild Heart/Fathered by God, Killing Lions and Telling God’s Story have proven invaluable.

The more I endeavor to love my son, the more I discover about the great lengths of God’s love for me and the rest of us. The game I play with Gabe as he is hiding in the wardrobe isn’t too much unlike God’s efforts toward me. 

I’m all smiles too.


A little boy’s tears. “Please don’t let anything happen to momma.”

I stayed awake and cried in the dark. I pleaded with God in this prayer, the earliest I can remember as a boy. “Please don’t let anything happen to momma.” I just kept repeating that appeal.

Mom had just put us to bed. I must have been 5 years old. I asked mom something about God before bedtime. In her response, she encouraged me that God was so important that I needed to love God even more than her. She gently encouraged that one day I would grow up and sadly she wouldn’t always be here.

IMG_5400I couldn’t imagine loving God more than mom. She was a single mom, raising two children all by herself…on a teacher’s salary…in Oklahoma. She was all we had.

May 8th is her birthday. Every few years we’d get to celebrate it on Mothers’ Day. I would often make her a hand-made card on this occasion, because the prefabricated hallmark moments would never suffice. Even as an adult, I’d still use crayons and write it with my non-writing hand to give it a childish look.

I will always be her “little boy.” I realize and embrace that truth now, as a parent myself. Gabe, will always be Katherine’s and my “little man.”

She was my first encourager. Her words spoke grace, confidence and comfort. She would affirm my possibilities even in my most vulnerable moments and darkest of days. In her own way, she was there for each of her children: Andy, Kaye, and me.

She illustrated God’s grace through her actions and words before Sunday School class or a sermon could teach me its meaning. A healthy mother teaches her son what to look for in a strong, sensitive, and Godly wife. I would find God’s loving grace and my life’s deepest IMG_0644relationship in my wife,  Katherine. She amazes me as she proves she’s #MomEnough as she juggles mothering our 4 year old, working five days a week, and managing a household all by herself as I’m deployed overseas. Most weeks are tough for her. Many days are overwhelming. But her love and faith is resilient.  Grace, indeed.

Moms are strong.

Mom worried about my salvation after I left the denomination of my childhood and chose the denomination I’ve served ever since. I hope that she saw the triumph in that choice amidst the departure. I wasn’t leaving faith in Jesus Christ…I was fully embracing it. 

It was her lifestyle that introduced me to the tangible person of Christ. Her sensitive relationship with God was transparent. I saw consistency in her commitment during both the good and the bad times. Her faith wasn’t decorated by superficial prettiness or platitudes. It demonstrated happiness borne of struggle and grit.

Faith wasn’t reserved for Sundays or holidays. For her, and subsequently us, it was perpetual…daily.

Much of my own faith echoes hers.

Today is Mothers Day 2016. May 8th. During the 0800 Chapel Service in Djibouti, today’s chaplain speaks of mothers during the message. His selection of hymns takes me back to those small congregations and musty church buildings of my childhood. “Rock of Ages” and “Victory in Jesus” are songs I would sing as a little boy standing next to mom on so many Sunday mornings. I’m transported back in time as I sing them today.

8trackThe chaplain’s sermon reference to the song “Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton churns up more memories of mom. She loved that song and wore out the 8-track on which it was recorded. I can still hear it’s faint melody.

Mom has been gone for 3 years. But I spent this morning with her in this remote, dusty chapel. The hymns whisper the promise of reunion…“I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory. And I heard about the streets of gold beyond the crystal sea; about the angels singing, and the old redemption story, and some sweet day I’ll sing (with her) there the song of victory.”

“Her children rise and call her blessed…” Proverbs 31:28