I gleaned more wisdom from my parents than any blog could ever contain, and I've shared a little of that wisdom in Part 1 and Part 2. This week is my final installation in this series as I share three final lessons that stand out in my mind and heart as I remember Bob and Reka, lovebirds to the end.
Lesson #5 – Marry Well
The wisdom of scripture tells us "He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord." (Proverbs 18:22) My, what favor the Lord lavished upon my dad! Mom was a gem. Forget the fact that she often greeted us after school with fresh baked goods (my grandfather was a baker), or that her smile and laughter could melt the hardest heart. She was the consummate farmer’s wife, a true renaissance woman. She performed the numerous and varied tasks a wife, mother and business partner encountered through over 38 years of marriage and 80 years of living.
Mom was the youngest of eight children and her daddy’s pride and joy. No man would ever measure up to his standards for her future husband. I’m told it took Dad a long time to win him over; but in the end, Gramps’ last words were my dad’s name, repeated over and over as he slipped into the Lord’s presence. Yes, Dad was a gem, too. He was well respected in the church and community. I was always proud as he and I would walk through town on a typical Saturday, making our way to the pool hall, feed store, and grocery. He was a respected leader and godly father who tackled the hardships and challenges of life with a sincere and growing faith in his Lord. Even as he was losing his battle with cancer at 60 years of age, his faith remained firm.
You might get the impression my parents were perfect. Oh no. Not the point. They loved one another as Christ loved them. They committed to a life of love as they raised their four kids and managed the family farm. Yes, they married well, but they had to work hard to make it good.
Lesson #6 – Enjoy Life
Somewhere in their early 40s my folks made a momentous decision. This was the time when farmers were buying up more land and increasing their operations. My parents started farming in the early years of their marriage when a family could live on the produce of 80 acres of land and some livestock. In the 1960s, this was changing rapidly. More land was needed and larger herds of cattle and pigs were called for in order to make a decent profit. My uncle went for the bigger agribusiness operation, but Dad and Mom were content with a more moderate approach.
Now, maybe I’d be richer today had they gone “big time,” but the added burden and complexity of a much larger farming operation would have hindered my parents’ love for travel, the arts, two-week vacations, and fishing. I’m not at all saying my uncle made a mistake – my cousins are great people and are very successful farmers – but I’m glad for the way my folks handled the midlife temptation to expand their operations.
Few farmers ever took long vacations in those days. But every year we would travel to other states, or spend a couple of weeks in a cabin on Lake Okoboji in northern Iowa. Because the farm was smaller and more manageable, we could leave it in the hands of good neighbors for half of August and enjoy the fruit of our labors. Not only that, but because our farm’s size, it was possible for my parents to lease it out for three years when we moved to Huntington Beach in 1965. Another family lived on and farmed the land while we enjoyed the wonderful weather and fun of southern California. And of course, that move changed my life. I received all my higher education here, found my sweet wife, and have lived in this great place for most of my adult life.
A passage from Ecclesiastes reminds me of my parents: "Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart" (5:18-20).
Lesson #7 – Never Let the Sun Go Down On Your Anger
My folks had big personalities. Outgoing and passionate, they were something to behold as they journeyed together through their life of love, work and family. I still recall with great fondness the spontaneous food fights that would on rare occasion break out at the dinner table. One in particular involved the application of ice cream in places on our bodies not designed for that purpose.
But every once in a while the heaviness of life created a tense atmosphere that could bring on raised voices and some heated exchanges between Dad and Mom. Me and my siblings would keep our heads down and try not to further enflame the situation. Yet, one of the most pleasant memories my siblings and I share is hearing mom and dad laughing late at night in their downstairs bedroom. No matter how heated the conversation may have been that day, they never went to bed angry at each other.
Ephesians 4:26 was lived out before us: “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” My folks kept short accounts with each other and with us. We never parted without an “I love you” and a hug and kiss from both of them. They taught me to live life one day at a time with honesty, affection, and forgiveness.
I’m supposing all of us can look back and recount life lessons imparted by our parents. Regardless of how well we think they raised us, we can honor them by thanking God for all the ways His love was manifested to us through their love. Maybe it’s time to tell them how much you appreciate them while there is still time.