I wanted to share this blog written by our long-time friend Mike Patz, pastor of First Assembly of God church in Gainesville, FL. Mike writes about what constitutes real, lasting love and provides words to inspire us all to love our spouses with the same commitment we love our children.
Having raised three energetic sons, my husband and I have made many trips to the emergency room. We recounted some of them as we sat in the ER last night with our son Jon who had been injured playing indoor flag football. Jon went deep for a long pass, got tangled up with a defender, and fell headfirst into the wall surrounding the field. Much of the wall is plexiglass so spectators can watch the game; however, this particular corner section was wooden. Jon had a mild concussion, a sprained wrist, and a gash in his head requiring seven staples.
I should add that Jon is 25, married, and the father of a nearly 2-year old son. Jon first decided to join the adult flag football league a year and a half ago. He tore his ACL in the first game and had to sit out an entire year. He played his first full season earlier this year relatively injury free. This second ten-week season has been a different story. He fractured his left thumb in a game three weeks ago but continued to play. His team was playing for the division championship last night, so Steve and I decided we should go to cheer him on. His wife Ashley stayed home with their little one. He played about 10 minutes before being injured. Hearing his head crash into the wall, my maternal instincts kicked in. I hurried down the sidelines to see him sitting up and alert, with blooding running down the side of his head behind his ear. I knew immediately that Steve and I would be making the trip to the ER with him.
Since our sons are all in the mid-twenties, it would be logical for this to have been our first ER visit with an injured son in many years, but that is not the case. We hurried to the ER in the early hours of a cold morning in January of this year after our oldest son Chris scalded his hand with hot oil. (See Jan. 7 blog for details.)
When our sons were at home, we made numerous visits to the doctor’s office or the ER for stitches and occasionally to set a broken bone. We had particularly a scary visit when Matt at age 6 got a twig in his eye; the eye quickly swelled and Matt screamed in pain. After it was removed, he could not read even the largest letter on the eye chart. He had to wear a patch for two weeks and, thankfully, his vision was fine when th patch was removed. The bloodiest injury was when Chris gashed his foot on an oyster shell. Blood poured from his foot. Because oyster shells are full of bacteria, the doctor could not stitch his foot. The gash had to be left open and the foot soaked for several days to prevent infection. It continued to bleed for hours.
Jon and Ashley are expecting their second son in October. Their first son is as busy and active as his father was at that age and I sure the new one will be as well. Although I wish it weren’t so, I have no doubt that these little boys will have their fair share of injuries and that Jon and Ashley have many trips to the ER ahead of them. It’s simply unavoidable when you’re raising sons.
Three weeks ago, our oldest child awakened us with a 4 a.m. phone call to tell us he was in our local emergency room and was about to be transported to the burn center at Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. That was a scary phone call and one no parent wants to receive. Fortunately, his burn was relatively minor and he is healing just fine.
Last week he made his follow visit to the burn center. As he and his father sat in the waiting room, they were surrounded by patients who had been severely burned. My son later told me that he felt a bit foolish even being there when his burn was so minor.
In the waiting room were two men who had been engulfed in flames after a wood chipper they were welding blew up. The other two men with them were also severely burned and one of them did not survive the ordeal. After extinguishing the flames, one of the men had to place a 911 call. When help arrived, the men had to be transported 2 miles on foot to reach the helicopter that would take them to the burn center. The accident occurred last May and the men are still in considerable pain. They have had numerous surgeries and face more in the future.
Among the other patients was a child whose face had been burned. As a parent, it is horrifying to think about a child being severely burned and perhaps disfigured for life. This experience has made us very grateful that our son’s injury was so minor in comparison. It also reminds us that horrific accidents happen everyday. We never know when we or our loved ones will be involved in an accident that can alter their lives.
Our prayers go out to those who deal daily with the after effects of a severe accident. And we are grateful to God that He daily watches over and protects our loved ones. If such a tragedy should befall us, we are confident that God will be faithful to walk through the difficult times with us.
My heart always skips a beat when the phone rings at 4 a.m. No one calls at 4 a.m. with good news. Fortunately, most such middle-of-the-night phone calls turn out to be wrong numbers. Unfortunately, the call we received at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning was not a wrong number. It was our oldest son.
He begins the conversation with “Don’t freak out, but I’m in the emergency room.” Not a good start. But it can’t be too bad, can it, since he is able to make the phone call himself?
“I burned my hand on hot grease.” We breathe a sigh of relief. A burnt hand isn’t that bad.
“They’re transferring me to the burn unit at MCV.” Our hearts skip a beat. There is no way to put a positive spin on being transferred to a burn unit 50 miles away.
We hang up the phone and try to process the information we have just received. We begin imagining the worst possibilities. We shed a few tears, hold each other, and pray for our son.
We’ve never been to the university hospital in Richmond, so we call our local emergency room for directions. We are told that our son is still there and will be for another half hour, so we dress and rush over to see him. He seems fine except for the large bandage covering his right hand. “It’s not that bad,” he tells us; however, his nurse disagrees. “It’s pretty bad,” she whispers.
Soon after he arrives at MCV, the burn specialist declares that it really isn’t bad for a grease burn. He had been prepared to perform skin grafts but realizes that grafts will not be necessary. Praise God! However, it is 6 hours before they release him and only after he agrees to having a home health care nurse come to the house to perform wound care for the next couple of days.
The end prognosis is that he should heal fine, if the wound does not become infected. He is home-bound for the next 2 weeks to minimize the possibility of infection. We have been assured he will retain full mobility of his hand. We are unsure whether the hand will be scarred.
We are grateful to the doctors and nurses who treated our son, and we are thankful that he had the good sense to seek medical attention. Most of all, we thank God that He protected our son from permanent injury.
This 4 a.m. was a reminder that we never know what each day (or night) will bring. Even though our children are grown, they are still our children and we worry about them. And that will never change.
The last girl in my husband’s direct lineage, Mary Ann Ball, was born in 1893. She was the fourth child and third daughter born to Samson and Mary Elizabeth Ball. Eight more sons were added to the family over the next 14 years. Samson and Mary Elizabeth were blessed with 45 grandchildren. Twenty-nine of those offspring were boys, including all four children born to my husband’s grandparents Giles and Lena Ball.
Three sons were born to my in-laws, Bob and Katherine Ball. After growing up with three brothers and raising three sons, Bob was anxious to have a granddaughter. Steve and I provided the only grandchildren–three boys.
Now it’s our turn to be the grandparents. We were blessed with a grandson a year ago. At Easter we learned that another grandchild was on the way. Given the Ball family history of producing male offspring, we planned for another grandson. Yesterday we were thrilled (and surprised) to learn that our grandchild is a girl!
We were delighted to share the news with Steve’s mother and wish that Steve’s father were still alive to share in the joy. Of course, a grandson would have been just as loved as this little girl already is. Our prayers have always been for healthy children and grandchildren, and we are happy to have boys or girls, as the Lord sees fit to send our way.
Historically, the odds were in favor of a girl. Going back 12 genereations to 1655, there have been 78 births in Steve’s direct lineage. Of those 20 have been girls. That’s about one girl for every three boys. After 19 boys in a row, the Balls were long overdue for a girl! We can hardly wait to meet her.
Steve and I are in the stage of life where our children have left home and are starting families of their own. We became grandparents nine months ago. Most of our friends are grandparents or about to become grandparents. It is a wonderful time of life.
Yesterday, I attended a baby shower in celebration of the impending arrival of a friend’s first grandchild. The mother-to-be, Jessica, is a former student of mine. She and her husband glow when they speak of their son, growing in his mother’s protective womb. Although the child won’t be born for a couple more months, he is very much loved–not only by his parents, but also by his grandparents and great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. From the first announcement that a child was expected, all who know this family have rejoiced with them and celebrate that a new life has been conceived.
We experienced this same joy and anticipation during the months leading up to Daniel’s birth. We loved our yet-to-be-born grandchild from the first moment we learned that wonderful news that our beautiful daughter-in-law was pregnant. We waited in eager anticipation for the arrival of the “expected” baby. Every moment we spend with him is one of joy and pleasure. We are thankful for this wonderful gift God has given our family.
We spent this afternoon with our grandson and some extended family members. One of them gave Daniel a beach ball to play with. Daniel squealed with delight as he held the ball. When it rolled from him, his father would pick up the ball and bounce it off Daniel’s head, eliciting howls of laughter. We delighted in watching the pleasure Daniel derived from the ball. His pleasure was contagious and brought smiles and laughter to everyone.
As parents and grandparents delight in their offspring, so God delights in and loves his children. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!” (1 John 3:1) As much as we love our children and our grandson, our love does not compare in magnitude to the love God has for us.
God loved us so much that he sent his son to take the punishment for our sins, allowing us access to God and a future with him in Heaven. “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) God offers his salvation to all. God created each person that has every lived to be his child and to enter into fellowship with him. He desires each of us to accept Christ’s free gift of salvation and to become a child of God.
If you would like to experience the delight that comes from being a child of God, you only have to admit that you are a sinner in need of salvation, believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins, and confess Jesus as Lord of your life. It’s the best decision you will ever make. Won’t you become a child of God today?
I just read Kat Richter’s blog “Are Standards Shallow?” (After I Quit My Day Job) She was responding to being accused of “getting shallow” for refusing to date any man who is not taller than she is when she’s wearing heels. Kat will probably miss out on dating some pretty terrific guys because of her preference for tall men. That’s her loss, and it’s her choice.
Having standards is not shallow. Physical attributes are not standards, however. They are merely preferences. Any woman seeking a date or a husband needs to have standards. When I was dating I had absolute standards—my line in the sand that I would not cross. In my thirty-plus years of ministering to teen-age girls I have encouraged them to decide what their standards are before they begin dating.
For me the absolute most important standard was to date only godly Christian men. Paul admonishes us in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” It was important that my future husband share my Christian beliefs and values. I was not willing to risk falling in love with the wrong man, so I avoided dating non-believers. I met my future husband in high school. I knew he was nice, but I didn’t know if he was a Christian until I saw him at my church one Sunday. Of course, church attendance doesn’t equate to salvation, but seeing him at church gave me an opening to ask him about his beliefs. My interest increased greatly as I realized how similar his beliefs were to my own.
Family values were next in importance. I love children, and I wanted a man who also loves children. As the second of nine children, my youngest siblings are considerably younger than me. I was able to witness how a potential future husband would treat and respond to children simply by taking him home to meet my family. From his first visit, Steve was comfortable with my younger siblings. He spent many a Saturday afternoon taking them fishing in the summer and building snowmen in the winter. During our senior year of college, Steve and I took my four youngest siblings to a movie. They kids ranged from 10 to 18 years younger than us. The next day one of his professors asked him about his children. I guess he thought we got a very early start on our family.
Another standard was that a future husband prioritize family over income. I can still vividly remember sitting in traffic on the Falmouth Bridge and Steve telling me that he wanted his future wife to stay home and raise their children. Those words were music to my ears. Although I was in college and planned to continue my education afterward, I still desired greatly to be home with my children when they were young. Steve added that being home when they were in high school was even more important.
We were fortunate to be able to make that happen. Steve worked hard, and I got to stay home. When the boys went to school, I went with them. For the next thirteen years, they were either enrolled in a Christian school where I taught or I was home schooling them. I cried on the twins’ last day of school (as seniors they finished up a few weeks earlier than the rest of the students) wondering how I would be able to come to school without them the next day. I am so thankful for the time I had with my boys.
Beyond those three standards, everything else was icing on the cake. It didn’t hurt that Steve is tall—a full 9 inches taller than me—and very handsome. But, I would have loved him no matter what he looked like.
I maintained my standards and married the love of my life. And there’s nothing shallow about that.
My parents celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary on Friday. They were married on Christmas Eve and celebrated Christmas with their families the next morning before leaving for their honeymoon.
Getting married on Christmas Eve makes it easy to remember the date, but it makes a romantic celebration nearly impossible. The last time I remember my parents going out to dinner on their anniversary is the year I was eleven. They were home early and declared they would never attempt it again. Few restaurants are open on Christmas Eve, and even fewer have employees who are happy about having to work that night.
My parents had nine children born over a 21-year period. Consequently, their Christmas Eve activities for the first thirty years or so typically involved wrapping Christmas presents, assembling bikes and other toys, and baking pies for Christmas dinner. Their anniversary was almost an afterthought in all the chaos of Christmas, but they always took a few moments to exchange gifts and express their love for each other.
Christmas Eves are a bit calmer for them these days. More restaurants are open, but they still don’t go out on their anniversary. They prefer instead to have a quiet celebration surrounded by their children and grandchildren. They celebrated their anniversary this year with four of their children and three of their grandchildren present. My sister and I brought the food, so Mom was spared the chore of cooking dinner on their anniversary.
I am grateful that my parents’ marriage has withstood the many challenges life has brought their way, including the death of one child and my father’s 26-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps. I am thankful that my parents are both active and healthy and can look forward to many more anniversaries. But most of all, I am eternally grateful that many years ago my parent’s committed their lives to Jesus Christ and made Him the center of their marriage.