Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Father's Day Dad!

I was blessed by the Lord with wonderful parents. I may have come to know the Lord when I was about 8 years old, when some dear friends of my mom and dad invited us to the Baptist church in New Lebanon, Ohio. When I was about 15, I made sure of my salvation when my oldest sister Laura came home from college telling me that she had asked the Lord to come into her heart and forgive her for her sins--and at that moment I knew that was what I needed.

Through a series of events, one by one all of my siblings trusted Christ as their Saviour, and eventually so did my mom and dad. I thank the Lord for what He has done in the lives of our family. Though saved later in life, the Lord has given us a godly heritage. Three of us are in full-time ministry today--my sister Laura and family are missionaries in Israel, Carla is a pastor's wife, and of course we are in the Canary Islands; the others are serving the Lord in their respective churches and work places, along with my youngest brother who is serving his country in the National Guard. The fruit of their labor will be carried on in the lives of their grandchildren as well--from Africa to the U.S. and who knows where else in the future.

In honor of Father's day, I would like to thank my dad for the many things that he taught me. Probably the main thing that sticks out in my mind is the character he instilled in all of us to work hard. We were expected to work in the family business, and were given responsibilities from the time we could hold a broom or pull weeds in the garden. I can just hear myself complaining to my dad about a job he had given me, and his response:

"This will build character in you--and you will appreciate it when you grow up, how to work hard, and handle responsibility. Some day you will thank me."

I am sure my dad learned to work hard from his father and mother too. His dad, Fred, was basically an orphan from the age of 10 or 11 and as a young man immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden, with nothing in his pocket but a few dollars--and made his way in the U.S. by working hard and eventually starting the family greenhouses and nursery business that my dad purchased when he passed away. My dad was the best grower in the Miami Valley as far as I am concerned--he was a plant expert and could cultivate anything. For over twenty years he taught horticulture at the Montgomery County Joint Vocational School.

Sometimes I was envious of my friends who could go home from school, watch TV, play with their friends, etc. I must have thought I was deprived. Although I did not like it at the time, he was right--it did teach me character, responsibility, and it helped me to enjoy work later in life.

He also taught us to go the extra mile. For example, when sweeping the floor, don't just sweep around things--move them and sweep under them. If you are going to do a job, do it right. When you finish a task, look for something else to do--without being told--just don't stand around and wait for the boss to tell you what to do.

Another thing he tried to instill in me was not to complain. I hate to admit it, but I was a whiner and complainer. Mind you, at six years old the greenhouses seemed way too hot--and I thought it was extreme punishment to be sentenced to pulling weeds under the benches when my dad didn't have anything else for me to do. My older sisters always got the "fun" jobs like transplanting and waiting on customers. It wouldn't have mattered what job he would have given me--I probably wouldn't have liked it. I remember sneaking into the flower cooler for a few minutes of relief and a can of pop. He stressed the importance of doing whatever job you were asked, without complaining or saying "it's not my job." Do whatever you are told--and don't argue.

He taught us the value of money, and how to use it wisely. We were all paid on an hourly basis for our work, and I was the only kid in the sixth grade with my own checking account. He taught us to save a portion of our earnings, but let us spend some money however we wanted. Some of us were wiser than others, saving money for a car, etc. This also taught us responsibility. We weren't just handed everything, we learned to work for it. We also learned to pay our bills, and not live in debt.

Working in the business also taught us the importance of treating our customers fairly, and it helped develop our social skills. I am sure I learned far more working in the family business about how to relate to others than I did in the public school. At an early age I was able to conduct a mature conversation with adults because I was used to waiting on customers in the flower shop, answering the phone, and taking orders. My parents could leave the shop for a few hours and entrust us to run the business in their absence without worrying about it. We knew exactly what to do and we actually enjoyed it.

Looking back, I took so much for granted and didn't appreciate just how much my parents did to provide for us and how they wanted us to have things to enjoy. On our 50 acre piece of land, we had animals, practically a zoo, from cows, sheep, goats, a pony, dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, lizards, ducks, geese, and even a peacock one time. Life wasn't all work either--We had a large pond stocked with fish, go carts, mini-bikes, bicycles and more. There was always something to do on the property, so we didn't need to go elsewhere. It really would be any family's dream.

My dad has always liked to stay busy, and even in his "retirement" from teaching his schedule is jammed pack--he is active in his church and several Bible studies, volunteers for various organizations, works for H&R Block during tax season, and for many years has faithfully donated his own blood and platelets on a weekly basis. He enjoys serving his community and fellow man.

Now as a my father has grown older, he has a greater gift to give us than he did when we were growing up, and that is his time. When we lived in Ohio, I always enjoyed meeting with my dad at Bob Evans for breakfast or lunch, and the fellowship we had together. My kids also loved going swimming with Grandpa, or working for him in the yard or in the greenhouses where he taught vocational school. He enjoyed attending their soccer games, school concerts and programs, and encouraging their achievements. It was a sad day indeed when we moved to New York and our visits became less frequent. But the distance didn't stop him from coming to the grand kids graduations and weddings. Even now, in the Canary Islands, I know that my dad is always just a phone call or email away...and we are always together in spirit. I love you Dad!

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