I have not written a DadPad blog post in a long time. So, not many will read this. But, it’s my only blog space at this time and though it’s not a “dad” post, it is a significant one for me. We are leaving Little Rock after 11 years here and it’s a little “good bye” post to help recall all the things God has done in us and through us during our time here. Hope you enjoy.
As I sit here this morning a flood of emotions are pouring through my mind and heart. Today is our last full day in Little Rock. 20% can be a significant measure. If you only get a base hit 20% of the time you should probably think about not playing baseball. If you complete 20% of your passes or make 20% of your shots, it’s likely that football or basketball are not your game. But 20% of a day is nearly 5 hours. A lot can happen in 5 hours. And 20% of a lifetime is a story in and of itself. A lot has happened in the last 11 years in Little Rock, AR. That 20% of our lives (Sue’s and mine) has seen some significant life changing, memory-making events transpire.
It seems like yesterday that I was sitting in a car in mid-December with my then teenage (well one would soon be a teenager) girls in the middle of a Little Rock snowstorm. Being the hardy Minnesotans we were, we were baffled by the seeming inability of these “southerners” to navigate the white stuff. They did not want to be in Arkansas. They were moving away from the only family and friends they had ever known in Minnesota. In some way, we saw this snow as a gift from God and a message that even in the midst of a move to a new and strange place, He hadn’t forgotten about us. I remember that day as if it was yesterday. But it wasn’t. It was more than 11 years ago and since then a lot of life has happened. And, we’ve happened to a lot of life.
In the past 11 years, our children have graduated both high school and college. We’ve watched them grow from hating Arkansas and swearing they would leave it as soon as they turned 18 to watching each of them graduate from an Arkansas university (2 of them at John Brown University in Siloam Springs and 1 from the University of Arkansas – Woo Pig). Our son found his eventual bride at an Arkansas school and our family grew during our time here as Bryan and Amanda married 4 1/2 years ago. Erin moved to Dallas and has embarked on a career helping children in difficult family situations find and live in better homes through foster care and/or adoption. Bryan is nearing the end of his Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the University of Central Arkansas and will soon be a practicing PT. Jaclyn works in Little Rock as an Account Associate in a downtown marketing agency. That’s a lot of life change in their lives during our days in Little Rock.
Sue and I have gone from being on staff with FamilyLife (which was what brought us down to Little Rock) to different career and ministry paths. For much of the past 11 years, Sue raised our family and kept us sane. I left FamilyLife to begin a fatherhood ministry and a digital marketing and promotions business that focused on helping faith-based individuals and organization’s use online marketing to promote Kingdom oriented events and resources.
During these past years in Little Rock, God has brought us incredible friends. When we left Minnesota, I wondered how we could ever find friends as good as the ones we left back “home.” We did. What we learned was that the friends we had in Minnesota were still our friends. And, now we made new friends. It wasn’t replacement but addition. God has been so gracious to us during these years in Little Rock by providing friends we will have for the rest of this life and in Heaven. We will never be able to thank families like the Butlers, Steeles, Overbys, Davis’, Highs, Meltons, Bluniers, Fowlers, Williams’, Curtis’, Zuerleins, Watsons, Ripleys, Vieras, Barbers, Boykins, Turners, and a multitude of others enough with words or “thank you’s”. (I apologize if I didn’t list you but I could’ve been doing that for hours–that’s how good God has been to us in the area of relationships–if you’ve been a part of our lives please know we know and are grateful for you). I’ve enjoyed the presence of Godly men invest in me like Mike High, Bill Parkinson, Robert Lewis, Bob Lepine, Dennis Rainey, Gary Blunier, Dempsey Butler, Tim Steele and a host of others who took time to meet with me either regularly or periodically to help keep me moving more forward than backwards as a man, husband, father and follower of Christ. Thank you, men. I’ll never forget the role you have played in my life.
I’m learning a lot can happen in the 20%. 20% of my life has been lived in Little Rock. When we came, I had no idea what would transpire. All I knew was where we were going to live and what I was going to be doing at that time. Those were choices we made led by our God. His lamp was at our feet and so we took it one step at a time and 11 years later, we’ve walked a lot of steps (I know that even without a Fitbit).
We will miss our house. Not because it was such a beautiful structure or the “home of our dreams.” Rather, what we will miss is what we remember–the life that was lived here. We celebrated 12 Christmases here. A lot of tree trimming and gift wrapping happened in our “parlor.” Birthdays galore were enjoyed with many poorly sung but lovingly shared renditions of “Happy Birthday to You.”. We played a lot of games at our kitchen table (some more forgettable than others 🙂 ). We ate a lot of meals together laughing, sharing, caring and even some crying. I learned how to slow cook ribs on a grill and loved to share that southern treat with friends and family. Many family and friends graced our doors with their presence. Sue invested into the life of a homeless man for a season including giving him his first birthday party ever at the age of 80 in our house. Scottie will always be remembered by many because Sue took the time to be his friend and serve him. Our kids brought a lot of there friends to stay with us here and we loved every minute of having them fill our home with laughter and stories, including one year when we picked up some friends of Erin that had tried unsuccessfully to navigate the Mississippi River on a homemade raft (ala Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer). They called from Memphis and let us know they were busing it back to Little Rock and they stayed with us while they dried out and shared their harrowing and very funny saga. So many of those kind of memories flood my mind as I sit looking through our house which is filled with boxes and bare walls. This is the longest we’ve ever lived in one house as a family. It wasn’t perfect. It had a lot of quirks and things we wanted to change but it was our home. A lot of life, really good life happened within these walls over the past 11 years.
There were some very sad and tough times too. Sue lost both her parents during our time in Little Rock. 2009 and 2010 were probably two of the most difficult years in our lives. First, her wonderful mother lost a battle with cancer and then, exactly one year later, her father surprisingly had hemorrhaging in his brain and died about 2 months after being diagnosed. November 29 will always be a bittersweet day in our family. Sweet because of the memories of Peg and Jerry will always be especially prominent while we also grieve their death and missing out on being with them. Though not as significant but still sad for our family, we lost our canine family member, Ginger, a few years ago. She was a vibrant Golden Retriever when we moved from Minnesota and lived another 8 years after we moved.
The tears come and go (now more coming than going :). In a little more than 12 hours we will be packed and on the road (if things go as planned but we know how that goes ;). Our lives in Little Rock will be a memory. We will certainly be back here to see at least two of our kids and our daughter in-law as long as they remain here as well as some of the great friends we have made. But, it will no longer be our “home.” And, though there have been and will certainly be more emotive tears and words, in the end, we will survive. We are following and plowing through the door that God has opened as we have sought and asked Him about this every step of the way. And, whereas I’m very skeptical of audible whispers and voices I do believe in a Sovereign God who orchestrates our lives in ways we will never understand. I believe He does things that we can’t figure out and works in ways we will never see. But, for those who are His children, adopted into the kingdom through the blood of Jesus Christ, He does things through His Spirit we can only attribute to Him. Surrounding all of the unknown is the gift of choice that He has given us. And, we have chosen to start, proceed and continue in prayer. With that as our guide, we have examined the situation and asked God for His Will to be done in our lives. That supersedes where we work or live. And, for this next season, however long that is, it will be done in Atlanta (Duluth, GA) and Blueprint (where I will work).
We have no idea what we will do outside of my working at Blueprint and living in a Duluth, GA apartment. Though I believe those have been orchestrated by God, they were choices we made. And, most of the time, that’s how it works with God, at least in my experience over 38 years of walking with Him (imperfectly). It’s the rest of the unknowns that intrigue me. Where will we go to church regularly? Who will our neighbors be? Who will God bring into our lives? What will happen to us once we get there? Where will Sue work? What ministry will God open doors to? Those are parts of the story yet to be written. Today we see a little. Enough to continue to declare that God is good, always. He has not left us nor forsaken us. Despite my sin, my mouth, my impatience, my impudence, my stubbornness or laziness or a multitude of other fleshly responses to my God, He still gives me grace and His unconditional love. So, we will walk by faith and not by sight. We will stroll the dimly lit path that is right in front of us and as God is our lamp we will keep stepping into the light one step, one moment, one day at a time. We will miss the many that God has brought into our lives that at one time looked just like today but just 11 years earlier in time and life. Then, we didn’t know the who’s, what’s or how’s. But, we walked daily and now look back on what was obviously a path marked out for us despite our inability to walk in it perfectly. The journey continues In a new city with new surroundings but with the same God. That’s our assurance. It’s not in the city or the job. Those may change like they will tomorrow. But, He will never change and because of that we can rest and be at peace.
We leave grateful for the path God carved for us. For the many He brought into our lives to help mold and shape us into being more like Him (we pray) than we were when we arrived in Little Rock. We are thankful for the hard things that we went through that helped refine us and give us character. We are grateful for the joy He has brought us through our children and close friends. Our journey could never have been predicted or forecasted to look like it played out in reality. That’s a good thing because we would have never come up with what God did for us, to us and through us. We now stand on the precipice of another “stage of the journey.” We will embrace it and enjoy the time Sue and I get to explore new territories and adventures. But, we will never forget what God did for us in Little Rock. Good bye, Little Rock. You’ve been a Big Rock of remembrance in our lives. Thank you.