Let Me Tell You About My Dad

In a world where fatherhood success stories seem to be all too uncommon, there have been countless times I’ve wished to share my dad with the people I’m surrounded by who haven’t expierenced what a father should be. So this is my attempt to “share” my dad, as best I can.

My dad is wise. Not just about spiritual things, although he is certainly wise in those things. A few weeks ago I watched as a group of people – adults my own age – sat at my dad’s feet and asked him questions about the Bible as if he was a rabbi. He is not thoughtless about his faith. He knows what he believes, why he believes it, and why others believe differently. I laughed to myself as I thought of what the conversation would look like if it was just our family. While these friends sat silently, respectfully listening to his answers,  we would no doubt be sparring with my dad, challenging his views, asking for them to be nuanced and sharing our own views. We wouldn’t be afraid to jump into this type of familial debate because we know he loves that we can spar with him (most of the time). It’s a not-so-secret badge of honor to him to have raised us all to be able to interact in this way. His knowledge and wisdom run deep enough to be challenged and remain unthreatened, deep enough to be unruffled by questions that would cause most pastors to sweat. But he’s wise about finances, careers, conflict, friendship, love, leadership, and politics too. He’s the type of man you would trust to ask about just about anything, and so long as it doesn’t involve plumbing, you’d be right to trust him.

My dad is outrageously generous. Not just to us who are in his family. He’s generous with his encouragement of pastors and younger Christians. He’s generous in lending advice to anyone who asks. He’s generous in opening up his home (with the help and sacrifice of my mom, of course). He’s generous in his giving to the church and to missions. He’s generous with his brothers and sisters, with his nieces and nephews, and of course with my siblings and I. For him, the giving itself is a gift. I can see the look on his face now, the look he gets when he comes up with a plan to give to someone without their knowledge. He loves to be the anonymous giver. He gives in ways that no one notices, like the way him and my mom used to fill our freezer with hamburgers so we could throw a party in the backyard at a moment’s notice if any of our friends showed up. He gives without expectation of repayment, and without strings attached. We could have had a nicer house, gone on more lavish vacations, drove nicer cars, or had more stuff, but instead he viewed himself as a steward of money given to him by God and made decisions that reflected that belief. Teal carpet and Ford Tauruses allowed for more to give than white berber carpet and BMWs, so that’s what we had.

My dad is unbelievably, overwhelmingly, almost embarrassingly for me. He wants me to flourish. This is true of him in all of his close relationships, but especially for those of us who are his children. When all I wanted was my dream car in high school, he prayed with me to ask God to provide. When I would get angry if he even hinted at the word “no”, he prayed for God to give me a gentle and quiet spirit (still a work in progress). When I totaled that dream car (that God did provide) my freshman year of college, he didn’t yell or get upset at me, he just wanted to know I was okay. When I begged him to let me come home instead of going on the all expense paid trip to Israel he had given me, he told me I had to go, resulting in what I would still call 3 of the best weeks of my life. When I was heartbroken my senior year of college, he listened to my woes and assured me that he loved me, but that as much as he loved me, God loved me so much more. When I was afraid of moving out on my own after college, he promised to be a safety net to me, making sure I knew failure was an option and I would always have a soft place to fall. And when I couldn’t pay the bills, he was a safety net for me just as he promised, using my need and his provision as a small picture of our relationship to our Heavenly Father. When I was torn between choosing a church, he guided me to the church that would shepherd and care for me the best although it felt selfish to me at the time. When I moved away from my best friend four years ago, he funded the airfare for (my share of) our once-a-month visits for the first two years before we came to grips with our long distance friendship. And these are just the highlights. This result of his love for me is incredible, and is an incredible picture of God the Father because I’ve done nothing to earn it. The only thing I’ve got, that I can tell, is that I’m his daughter. If you asked him he’d tell you it’s because he loves me and he thinks I’m gifted and blah blah blah, but that’s not the cause. It’s the result of me belonging to him, being his daughter. That’s honestly the best part, because I can’t do anything to lose that.

My dad loves God. I mean really loves God. He took us to church every Sunday. He made a conscious choice to not go on vacations or let us be involved in sports that would take us away from our church family week after week. He’s always actively served in the church, even when working 50-70 hour weeks at a high pressure job with a 2-3 hour commute. He knows and loves the Bible and taught us to do the same. He is slowly but surely being changed by God, growing into Christlikeness. God’s grace in my dad’s life is unmistakable. He is a different man today than he was 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, or 30 years ago. He owns up to his sins and failures, showing us that Christ’s people, although forgiven, are not perfect.

There’s so much more I could say. But my point is this. To anyone else, my dad is a respectable, intelligent, 6’5”, successful businessman with the kind of commanding presence you just don’t really mess with. To me, he’s daddy. A source of courage and strength, a refuge when I’m weary, and a very small, very fallen picture of my Heavenly Father who is the essence of goodness, kindness, benevolence, strength, beauty, wisdom, righteousness, and love.

Where I’m From

My sister is probably the longest standing hero I’ve had. For as long as I can remember I’ve looked up to her, emulated her, and sought her advice. She’s a successful business owner, the best hairstylist I know, a phenomenal mother & wife, interior decorator, shopaholic, stand up comedian, singer, and now guest blogger.

She sent me this poem today she was asked to write about her story. It brought me to tears as I thought of our childhood & family, so I decided to pass it along. Thanks Care!

Where I’m from

I’m from sponge curlers, Melaluca oil, and the original Zack Morris phone.

I’m from the house with the basketball hoop, where the front door was always unlocked.
From the palm tree and the pool and jumping on the diving board to see if soccer practice had started.

I’m from wild goose chases, home videos, and bursting out in song.
From laughter, sarcasm, and surprises.

I’m from a Dad from the City and a Mom from the Sea.
From “Life is hard, then you die”, and “I like it better that way”.

I’m from the “Two Paths” sermon, and church every Sunday.
From grace and the Gospel.

I’m from the patchwork quilt of adoption, from Burmese Stacky Uppy and Buttermilk Apple Pie.
From a brother who taught me how to throw a baseball and a punch, and a sister who was the baby but taught me what it means to be brave.

This is where I’m from: pictures hang, prayers are heard, and wisdom is written in journals and on my heart.

-Caris Noble

Lessons from a Migraine

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about suffering. Or, should I say, recently God’s been forcing me to think about suffering.

On Sunday Jared (our High School pastor) spoke on suffering and showed this video from Matt Chandler. For those of you who don’t know Matt Chandler’s story, he is the 35 year old pastor of The Village Church in Texas and was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last November. The video was an update to his church right before a 7-hour surgery to remove the tumor in early December. At one point in the video he says,

“There’s this part of me that’s so grateful that the Lord counted me worthy for this. And there’s this part of me that goes, ‘Okay, because now, in an area where it’s not a big win, I get to show that He’s enough. I get to praise Him, and exalt Him, and make much of Him in this’…

…So know that, man, we’ve cried our tears at my house. I’ve held my children and I’ve kissed them and I’ve kissed my wife. What I would love is to be a 70 year old man drinking coffee, I would love to walk my daughter down the aisle, I’d love to see my boy turn into the athlete I never was. I mean I would love to do all of that. But none of those things is better than Him. None of those things. And I’m saying that NOW. I’m saying that right NOW. Not as the guy who has everything, who has nothing in front of him that he could lose. But I’m telling you that now as a guy who could lose everything in an instant.”

The video hit me pretty hard as I sat there wondering if I could accept such foreboding providence from God and count it all joy, even viewing it as God counting me worthy to suffer. I thought of the silly things that seem to be trials to me right now — my friends live a half a state away, I have a hard time keeping track of my budget, my pants fit tighter than I’d like them to since I moved up here to Santa Cruz, I’ve yet to meet the love of my life. These things are largely self inflicted and all very small in comparison to a husband dying of a brain tumor, the sudden death of a child, the betrayal of a cheating spouse. I realized all my trials have an end. They aren’t the final word. That got me thinking about the way I interact with God in them — my temptation is to ask Him to just change my circumstances & give me what I want. If He won’t, I get upset and distrust His love.

So what would I do if He suddenly took my husband away to a brain tumor when we had 2 small kids at home and it seemed our lives were just getting started? That’s the final word. There’s no changing that circumstance. Would I trust His providence? Would I say He is better? Would I feel honored to be counted worthy of such suffering?

Or would I run from Him? Would I withdraw from Him, not wanting His comfort in such adverse circumstances because I know He could have done something to stop it? Would I make Him the enemy?

I can say that I am 100% confident that God would give me the grace to endure it. I know I wouldn’t lose my faith or totally walk away because He is faithful even when we are faithless (2 Timothy 2:13). And I know from experience that when the storm hits, somehow God upholds you, He sustains you, and sometimes the hardest trials feel very easy because of His grace.

But, from where I sit now, I feel humbled to know that I can barely accept the trials I do face with joy and gratitude from the Lord…and they can’t even be compared with the types of trials some people have to endure.

So on Sunday I realized I need to re-approach the way I approach trials. I’ve prayed to be one of whom the world is not worthy (Hebrews 11:38) and yet, instead of seeing that God has seen fit to count me worthy to face trials & honored that He hasn’t given me everything I want in this world, I have questioned Him, doubted him, and run away from Him as He was answering my very request!

That was Sunday.

On Monday night, I got a migraine headache. These aren’t uncommon for me, so as I sat at my sister’s house waiting to eat dinner, I decided it would be better for me to just go to my parents house and lay down for a bit before driving home to Santa Cruz. When I got home, my dear mother (who was born to be a mother — the woman oozes love and compassion and care) gave me pain-killing lotion, rubbed my feet and my back, kept heating and re-heating an eye mask for me to put on my forehead, and sat by my side in a dark room until my headache went away.

After I had been feeling better for a bit, I started getting on my way to drive home. My mom told me I should think about staying there…but the thought of waking up at 6 to be at work by 9 the next morning made me want to keel over and die, so I continued on with my intended course of action.

That’s when Papa C stepped in.

Now I can honestly only remember 4 other times since I graduated college that Papa C has told me what to do. He has given me a lot of wise counsel and advice, but generally he leaves the decision in my hands. The man uses his trump cards very sparingly which gives them a lot more power when he does use them. So when Papa C said, “Lizzy B you shouldn’t drive back tonight. If you need to wake up early or go to work late, it’s better to do that than to push yourself tonight,” I started washing my face and getting ready for bed. It wasn’t even a discussion at that point. When the man speaks, I listen. I can’t think of a time when my dad ordered me to do something when he didn’t have my best interest in mind.

  • Exhibit A: After I graduated college, I moved home to be with my fam and to help my dad whose health was declining at the time. I took a job at a church and worked as a receptionist/admin assistant. My dad could tell I was miserable. I loved leading small groups, but the rest of it was not exactly my cup of tea. So my dad stepped in. He saw that I loved counseling, loved small groups and loved people, so he told me that — while he loved having me home and appreciated my love for him — I needed to consider moving back down to Santa Clarita, getting my MABC, and applying to be an RD because he knew that’s where I was gifted. His encouragement quite literally gave me the courage to do each of those things. He promised to be a safety net for me, so I set out on my own. I would have never done it had he not given me the courage to.
  • Exhibit B: The fall after I graduated college, my dad stepped in in a certain relationship I was trapped in at the time – trapped by my own desire – but trapped. We were just friends and I couldn’t reason myself out of it. Wouldn’t that break up the unity of the Body? Wasn’t I called to love him above myself and consider his interests and not just my own? It seemed so wrong to tell a friend I couldn’t be friends — after all, we were brother and sister in Christ, right?  But Papa C walked in a freed me by putting the kabosh on things. I was incredibly grateful to obey God by having to submit to my dad in that. He freed me by making that decision for me. It was the excuse I needed to finally walk away.
  • Exhibit C: There came a time in my post-college years when I was struggling with legalism vs. gospel. I was struggling to teach and pour out to the girls in my dorm while I simultaneously retrained my mind in my understanding of God’s Word and the Gospel. When my dad’s best friend – a man he deeply respects – from college moved to Santa Clarita to pastor a church, my dad asked if I would think about going there. After a year of serious struggle and evaluation at my church, I didn’t feel free to leave. Then after my parents and I went out to lunch with the pastor & his wife at the end of the school year, we drove away and my dad said, “You need to go to that church.” In my heart, that’s what I really wanted to do but felt as though I’d be giving up too easily. He said, “Lizzy, you so are young and you can get turned around so easily, especially when you are having to teach and pour yourself out. I can see it’s just too much for you to process and teach simultaneously and I want you to be somewhere where you can just trust what you are being taught. And here you have a chance to be under a pastor who knows you personally and already loves & cares for you.” Once again, my dad freed me in my decision to go to a church that was a better fit and support for me at the time.
  • Exhibit D: I can remember very clearly sitting on the over sized chair in my parents’ family room as I told my mom, “I will bet you $100,000 that I will not end up with Ricardo* someday.” My dad began to ask me why. He said, “Now wait, Lizzy. Why would you say something like that?” To which I countered a laundry list of reasons why Ricardo was not the man of my dreams. The longer I talked the more my dad liked him (I know this, because my dad said so after my diatribe ended). Then my dad said, “Lizzy. All I know is you are a very unique young lady. Both spiritually and in personality. And you are going to need a very unique young man. And Ricardo is the only young man I know who I think is worthy of you.” It was only because my dad said this that I took it seriously. So I began to pray that God would change my heart and help me see why I was so opposed to Ricardo. And in the process God did a lot of things in me. He exposed my pride, my fear, my unrealistic expectations of men & relationships, my desire for approval and accolades from others, and what I truly valued. God bent my heart during that season, but my heart very much needed bending. Although things didn’t work out with Ricardo,  it all worked out perfectly according to God’s plan because He changed me in the process (not to mention I should have a hefty $100,000 check coming my way).

So, when my dad told me to stay home, I did. Because I implicitly trusted that he was looking out for my best interest, just as he always does.

I thought of how this circumstance could be misconstrued depending on your perspective. If I only told you my dad told me I had to stay home Monday night, he could look like a very mean, strict, and uncaring father. “Doesn’t he care that you would have to wake up at 6 am to get home the next day? Doesn’t he know you are a grown woman and free to make your own choices? How can he be so controlling?” you might ask. And you would be right on some points if you didn’t have all the information.

But, if you knew my dad the way I know my dad and how he continually sacrifices, serves, and loves me to his own hurt, you would interpret it much differently. And if you knew he has kept my room just the way I left it since I moved out 4 years ago so I had a beautiful room with a queen bed covered in italian sateen bedding to sleep on that night, you might not think he was quite so cruel. And if you knew he makes sure I have a steady backup supply of contact solution and face wash and jammies and everything I could possibly need to stay the night at my parents house so that staying the night was no trouble at all, then you might think he wasn’t just trying to make my life uncomfortable. And if you knew he was concerned about my safety in driving home after having a migraine headache, you might even think of him as wise instead of mean.

And that’s the difference perspective makes in our suffering.

Sometimes when we suffer, it’s not quite so easy to see why God is allowing something in our lives. But we have to convince ourselves by the grace of God, from Scripture and from our own experience of God’s grace upon grace, that God is up to something good. Whether it’s to kill our pride, or to make us more like Christ, or to magnify Him to others around us in our response, or to enable us to comfort others as they suffer, or to draw us closer to Himself and give us greater trust in His love and promises, it’s always necessary. He never inflicts pain on His children arbitrarily. And if He does inflict pain, He also gives the grace to endure it and strength to sustain us. He is a very present help and refuge. He will carry us. He will not drop us.

That was Monday.

I’ll blog another day on what happened Wednesday. That’s when the other shoe dropped.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the innocent.

Ode to Papa C

Yesterday was my dad’s birthday.

This year we were celebrating not only his birth, but his life. Especially through the past year, we’ve come to know what a precious gift his life is!

In honor of the celebration, my sister and I wrote and performed this song for him — to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island Theme Song (which my dad is notorious for making up songs to — he even wrote and performed one at my sister’s rehearsal dinner!)

There’s a lot of inside jokes in this….so just bear with me. It was a good time singing it in the middle of Eddie Papa’s last night with George & Jane (my dad’s donor and wife), the fam, and my parents old friends from college all there with us!

Ode to Papa C: We Kidney You
Just sit right back and we’ll tell a tale
A tale of an uncharted trek
That started a few years ago
To a mighty exec, a mighty exec

The exec was a stalwart finance guy
With a wife, three kids, and pup
The family was still growing too
He was on the up and up, on the up and up

Then one day he saw a doc
Who said his health would fade
They needed to find a donor soon
His kidney to upgrade, kidney to upgrade

The exec set out on this course, but he was not alone,
With Christie Bear
Dave and Sadie too
The Boncheses and Lizzy B
The little guy
Dr. Melcher and the Bowen Clan
All to stand by his side!

So this is a tale of his journey
Uncertain from the start
He put his faith in future Grace
If only they had kidneys at Walmart, kidneys at Walmart

The exec was loved both near and far
He was wise, generous and funny
So when word got out of his need
Two dozen came a running, two dozen came a running

George was a brave soul that came
Jane knew it from the start
That they would be the lucky ones
This journey to take part, journey to take part

The docs marveled that the kidney was
The biggest they had seen
It was as if it had been made
Super sized for a marine, sized for a marine

A year ago we never thought
We’d be sitting here today
George is down one kidney
But the exec will be okay, exec will be okay.

So today we celebrate this man
And his life anew
You’re the greatest dad we’ve ever had….
And WE KIDNEY YOU!!!

God is Great

Tonight I was looking at some pictures from my dad’s recent kidney transplant. It made me remember things I’ve forgotten in the past few months, things I don’t want to forget. So I decided to write the post-transplant update I promised a long time ago to make sure I remember. I’ll alert you now…you may want to grab a cup of coffee, change into PJ’s, or set this aside until you have time to read…because it won’t be short.

First, let me tell you that through all of this, the thing I don’t want to forget is that God has proven that He always knows better and His ways are always wiser.  That’s what I’m going to say in a nutshell.

I also don’t want to forget how thankful I felt that week — thankful for God’s kindness to my family, thankful for my dad’s health and life, and thankful for the way the Body of Christ loved and cared for us. It’s an amazing thing to be on the receiving end of so many prayers and demonstrations of kindness and selflessness. I felt rich.  That’s the only way I can think of to describe it. Rich in….being cared about, I guess? Anyways, the point is it humbled me and made me extremely grateful. I just didn’t understand why so many people cared. I received texts, and phone calls, blog & Facebook comments from co-workers, family, pastors, and friends of the family telling me ways the Lord was using my dad, telling me they were praying for us, offering encouragement, and asking for updates. I remember feeling in awe of the number of people who seemed to care about this transplant. I mean, I love my dad, so obviously it was important to me. But why would someone who barely even knows my dad be so concerned for this typically-not-life-threatening surgery? All I could come up with was that we know a lot of people who love Christ and love his people, so they loved us and were concerned with what concerned my family that week. It was a precious gift to us. Thank you, to those of you who cared about our cares. It meant more than you will ever know.

Let me take you back to the last week of March…

I arrived at my parent’s house Monday night. My dad was off work by then, so we got the chance to be together that night and the following morning. My dad was sick with a nasty cold, so we honestly didn’t even know if the transplant was going to happen (when you get a transplant, they have to put you on medication to suppress your immune system so your body doesn’t attack the new organ as a foreign object….bad news bears for a cold which is normally just a nuisance, but can be fatal without an immune system.)

The following morning my mom, dad, sister, brother, and nephew all went out to breakfast at one of my dad’s favorite spots — Mimi’s Cafe. It was strange to be together, acting just like a normal family, having a normal breakfast on a normal spring morning all the while knowing that the day was anything but normal. We laughed and joked around and enjoyed each other, but there was an underlying seriousness to our banter.

My brother Dave, me, and my sister Caris at Mimi's the morning of the transplant

My parents would leave straight from there to go to Stanford Medical Center. We were about to face the biggest unknown that we as a family had ever faced. We had no way of knowing what was ahead of us; we were totally blind. My dad might get sent home because of the cold. The donor might change his mind at the last second. Things could go horribly awry and my dad might not come out of surgery at all. His body might reject the kidney. He could be totally debilitated after surgery. His recovery might have been slow, and painful, and burdensome for my mom.

It’s strange to think back to that because, clearly, I know how it all turned out now. But I had no way of knowing how it would all go then. I just had to keep trusting that, even though I was blind, God was in control. He would do what was best for my family and me no matter what came our way in the next few days and weeks.

Welp, it’s past my bed time. So that’s all I’ve got for tonight. Tune in next time for more of the story.