My decade in review

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When I look back on the decade that just past, I am amazed at how many significant events happened in my life.

  • My wife and I took all of our foreign mission trips in the 2010’s. She headed out first, going to Haiti with a medical mission team just six weeks after the devastating earthquake there. She called me in the middle of my Sunday sermon to tell me about the work she was doing. We both went to Haiti later that year, took a team from our church in 2011 and returned one more time in 2016. She and I did another trip to Kenya in 2013 and Madagascar in 2015. (You can read about these trips elsewhere on this blog.)
  • Our two daughters graduated from college in 2010 and 2013, and our son graduated from the seminary in 2013. I had the privilege of ordaining him at our church, my top moment when I was thinking back over thirty years of ministry.
  • All three of our children got married in the past decade. Our son married in 2012, and our two daughters both married in 2014. I got to be there at ground zero to lead them in their vows to one another.
  • All six of our grandchildren were born in the 2010’s: three granddaughters and three grandsons. (We had all six together this past Christmas, all under the age of six! No, we could not get them all to sit still for a group picture.)
  • At church, which was a big part of the decade, we housed the homeless with Family Promise, danced and sang in Vacation Bible School, closed our preschool after twenty-four good years of ministry, and partnered with local churches from other cultures who use our facilities each week.
  • Oh, and of course it was the decade of Sam, our Florida Brown Dog. He had his own memoir here.

It was anything but a dull decade! My family tripled in size, we remodeled our home, and I learned a lot with Child Evangelism Fellowship and Stephen Ministry. I wonder what the ’20’s will bring?

Some highlights from 2019

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Keeping an electronic calendar makes it easier to go back and review the previous year. When I do, I’m amazed at all that happened and all the places I went.

Travel included:

  • Late January and mid-August trips to Springfield to see my Dad.
  • February and August trips to Dallas to see my son and his family, including the birth of our 6th grandchild, Josephine.
  • April trip to the graduate’s call service at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN.
  • May trip to Detroit for a spring pastor’s conference.
  • June trip to Orlando for Stephen Ministry Leader training.
  • July trip to Seven Devils, NC, to get away from some of the Florida summer to a nice cabin on the mountain.
  • July trip to Tampa for the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod convention.
  • August trip to Ridley Park for my Dad’s funeral at the church where we grew up.
  • 10 day September trip to Israel!

Family events included:

  • The birth of our 6th grandchild, Josephine on July 26 and her baptism on August 4.
  • The death of my father at the age of 95 on August 12. My brother, my son and I preached at his funeral on August 16.
  • Two of our grandchildren, Daniel and Cameron celebrated their first birthdays.
  • My son and his family from Texas came to visit in June and again in December.

A few other interesting tidbits:

  • I started holding some of my elder meetings by teleconference. Worked well, especially since some of the church elders live some distance from the church.
  • I got to preach a dialogue sermon with Pastor Brent Hartwig, the uncle of one of our confirmands in April. It was both fun to prepare and deliver.
  • I got to assist in the worship service where my son baptized his newborn daughter, Josephine.
  • I build a really cool wooden fort/swing set in our backyard for the grandkids.
  • Lots of trips to playgrounds, zoos, attractions, restaurants, and movies with the grandkids.
  • I announced my retirement from full-time pastoral ministry, effective July 26, 2020.

I could add to that all the weddings, funerals, baptisms and celebrations I was a part of, too. I am so grateful for a great year!

More thanksgiving memories

A few years ago I jotted down a few memories, too You can read them here.

In the wake of yet another Thanksgiving, I’ll pause to remember Thanksgiving celebrations from my past. My most vivid ones are from my high school years.

Those were high school marching band days, and we played our inter-league rival Interboro High School on Thanksgiving day. Kick off was typically at 10 am on a cold fall day in suburban Philadelphia in a packed stadium. It was the last game of the season, so it was a big deal whether we were playing home or away.

By the time I got home, it was two or three in the afternoon. We had time to play some football in the street in the afternoon. My mom usually prepared a traditional thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn or green beans, dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie. It was dark when we sat down to eat, so we must not have sat down for supper until about 5 or 6 in the evening.

I rarely remember family coming to be with us or us going to visit family. In retrospect, I’m puzzled by this, since both of my grandmothers and other family lived within an hours drive of our house. But in my recollection, we celebrated the holiday as an immediate family. I am pretty sure my dad only got Thursday off, so it was just a one day event. We three kids took turns washing dishes; God help you if thanksgiving was your turn!

I can’t remember every going shopping on Friday. If Black Friday was a thing, it wasn’t a thing for my family. I do remember that on Friday, my mom would set out the turkey carcass out in the center of the table, and we would pick leftover meat for our meal. After that, my mom would use whatever was left for turkey soup over the weekend. I remember that soup fondly for she would often throw in leftover hot dogs and buns.

Thanksgiving was different back then. Now we deal with travel plans, sweet potato casserole (we never had sweet potatoes!), gluten-free pie crust, macaroni and cheese, and having the right beer and wine on hand. I still like to eat, so it’s all good!

First steps

I had the privilege of watching grandchild number 4 take his first steps a few weeks ago. He will never remember that moment, but we have it preserved in photos and videos. After a month of standing up holding onto tables, legs, chairs, dogs, walls and anything else in reach, he not only let go, but took his first steps forward. I could tell from his face that he was thrilled, excited, tentative and delighted all at the same time. So were we! After those first few steps, he fell back on his diaper-padded bottom, ready to get up and try again.

I doubt if any of us remember our first few steps. But there are other first “steps” we do remember, vivid and forward-moving moments in life. Here’s a few that I recall:

  • The first time I rode a bike. No training wheels here. Dad got me up and going for real on a local playground. I was thrilled, delighted, excited and terrified when I couldn’t remember how to apply the brake. No problem. A set of old-fashioned metal monkey bars brought me to a complete stop, ending my very first bike ride.
  • The first time I broke a bone. Actually the only time I’ve broken a bone. I was on the glider seat of a swing set in the neighbor’s yard, put my foot down to stop, but had it bend backwards a little too far. It swelled up and hurt, but I went to school the next day. After limping around too much, my mom took me to the doctor who x-rayed the fracture and wrapped it up in a plaster cast for the next four weeks.
  • The first time I bought a dog for myself. I was living in New Jersey, was sharing a house with a friend from church, and decided I could get a dog. After considering many breeds, I concluded I wanted a yellow Labrador Retriever. I wanted a large dog I could run and play with. I found an ad in the paper and headed for a house about an hour away in the pine barrens of south Jersey. When I arrived, I got to sit in in the middle of a litter of thirteen Labrador puppies, some yellow, some black. I picked out a yellow that didn’t seem too shy too aggressive. Since he was only six weeks old, the owner wrote a number on his tummy with an indelible marker, and I went back in two weeks to pick up my first dog, Gabriel.
  • The first sermon I preached at my current church, Shepherd of the Coast in Palm Coast, NJ. I don’t remember my other first sermons, but this one sticks in my mind. It was based on 1 Peter 3:15, being ready to give an answer for the hope you have. I had just driven from West Des Moines, IA with a chocolate Lab, Michael. We had to stop for the night at a motel. This was over twenty-years ago, when it was a little harder to find pet-friendly lodging. After I got a room on the second floor, I snuck him up the back steps. Then I snuck him out early in the morning. The whole time I thought, “I hope no one asks if I’ve got an animal in the room with me.” No one did! But it reminded me that though we are supposed to be ready to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ, we secretly hope no one asks!
  • I remember buying my first car. It was a 1972 Ford Mustang 2. It was a actually a pretty crappy car, but it got me to and from my first real job at Bell Labs for a few years. White, stick shift, tan interior. It cost $2,000. I think my Dad fronted the money and I paid him $100 a month to pay him back.

I’m sure I’ve got a lot of other “firsts” that will come to mind. Maybe there will be a few sequels to this post. I do know that there are so many firsts I don’t recall at all: first day at school, first sermon ever preached, first consecration of holy communion elements, first baptism, first funeral, first wedding, etc. But I’ll have to give it some thought, search my mind, and see what I can come up with.

What “firsts” do you remember?