Happy Birthday Daddy!!

Happy Birthday Daddy!
Happy Birthday Daddy!

Daddy would be 98 today, and he’s been very near my heart over the past few days. Foy Hart Holden was born to Anna Scruggs and Flave Holden on June 16, 1916 on a farm near Brevard, North Carolina. He was the oldest of nine children and learned from a very early age that hard work was part of life. He worked in the fields, but he also dreamed of more. He told me once that he worked himself to death getting out of the mountains for a better life, and I went right back up there. He asked me what that said about me, and I replied, “that I have more sense than you do.” He and I were on opposite sides of the fence most of my life, but he grinned from ear to ear at my response. He loved the mountains and knew I was right.

I’ve never known anyone who loved to garden more than daddy. Every day, he came in from work, changed his clothes, and headed straight to his beloved garden. He took a small city lot and turned it into a work of art. He filled in the koi pond in the backyard and made it his prize heirloom tomato patch. He composted the scraps from our table and turned them into dark, rich soil that produced mounds of delicious food. He may have left the mountains, but the mountains never left him.

We always had fresh, frozen, or canned food from the garden on our table, and I loved every bite. I wish I had paid closer attention when he tried to get me interested in gardening. I learned some of his tricks, but I regret not learning more. Daddy worked in his garden until dark every week night and all through the weekend. I realize now it was powerful therapy for him to dig deeply and bring life from the soil. There was nothing daddy loved more than the first fruits of his labor, and I always think about that when I come across a reference to first fruits in the Bible. There are many verses dealing with bringing God our first fruits. I know from daddy that it takes a lot to give them to Him.

Daddy did much more than garden. He also taught me the value of hard work and education. He had an appetite for learning that I inherited from him. Tyler, Lillyann, and Mylah all have his insatiable curiosity. They love to take things apart and put them back together just as he did. Daddy always had something he was fixing or making. Those who work closely with Tyler, know he won’t stop until he figures out how to fix a problem that needs fixing. Daddy was the same way, and I love seeing his curiosity in my son and granddaughters.

I was with daddy when he had his stroke. I’ve never been more scared in my life than when I took him to the hospital. This giant of a man was suddenly weak and vulnerable. As the doctor asked him questions, I tried not to look shocked by the answers he was giving. He was looking at me with fear in his eyes, and that was something I’d never seen before. Two men put daddy on a gurney and left us alone for a moment. Daddy looked up at me with something else in his eyes.  I knew he wanted desperately to say something, but he wasn’t physically able to do so.

I held his hand, looked into his eyes, and told him I loved him and knew that he had loved me the best way he knew how. I felt a beautiful sense of peace as I watched his eyes smile and his face relax. Daddy had dancing eyes that were always filled with mischief. I smiled when I saw them dancing in that brief moment. I thank God for a sweet moment of clarity and for the love that filled the space between us. I marvel at the way God closed a gaping hole in both our hearts and brought an end to the senseless war that raged on for decades. Past hurts no longer mattered as love brought our hearts together. That precious moment is what I will always remember most about my daddy.

Happy birthday daddy!! I love you and think of you every time I look at Tyler, Lillyann, and Mylah 🙂 I’m glad we all got your curiosity and your love of life. It makes the journey a lot more fun. I know you’re resting in peace, but I also know you are most likely up to some sort of mischief or following God around asking if there’s anything that needs to be fixed 🙂

The First Fruits

The last reading this week comes from the scriptures for Thanksgiving Day and is a vivid reminder that everything I am and have is a gift from God. I give back a portion of all God gives, not because God needs them, but because it is a way of acknowledging His ownership. It is about giving back the material possessions and riches I have, but it is more about returning the fruit of God’s Spirit to Him. Listen to the passage from Deuteronomy 26:1-11.

Once you enter the land that God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance and take it over and settle down, you are to take some of all the firstfruits of what you grow in the land that God, your God, is giving you, put them in a basket and go to the place God, your God, sets apart for you to worship him. At that time, go to the priest who is there and say, “I announce to God, your God, today that I have entered the land that God promised our ancestors that he’d give to us.” The priest will take the basket from you and place it on the Altar of God, your God. And there in the Presence of God, your God, you will recite:

A wandering Aramean was my father,

he went down to Egypt and sojourned there,
he and just a handful of his brothers at first, but soon
they became a great nation, mighty and many.
The Egyptians abused and battered us,
in a cruel and savage slavery.
We cried out to God, the God-of-Our-Fathers:
He listened to our voice, he saw
our destitution, our trouble, our cruel plight.
And God took us out of Egypt
with his strong hand and long arm, terrible and great,
with signs and miracle-wonders.
And he brought us to this place,
gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
So here I am. I’ve brought the firstfruits
of what I’ve grown on this ground you gave me, O God.

Then place it in the Presence of God, your God. Prostrate yourselves in the Presence of God, your God. And rejoice! Celebrate all the good things that God, your God, has given you and your family; you and the Levite and the foreigner who lives with you.

I hear reverence and thanksgiving in these familiar verses, but I also feel God listening to my cries for help and hearing my heart. My heart, like the ground He gives, is, and always will be, His. That’s the beautiful assurance I find in Deuteronomy this morning. He knows my hurt and weeps with me. He knows my joy and celebrates with me. Through His Holy Spirit, I can bear the fruit of His Spirit. God’s love allows joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness to grow in my heart (Galatians 5:22 NASB). They choke all those weeds of worry, frustration, impatience, and doubt that flourish when I forget whose I am and Who God is.

God takes my heart out of slavery and abuse and brings it to a land flowing with milk and honey. How can I not offer back to Him a small portion of all He gives with the gratitude of a heart once held captive in a foreign land. Coming into God’s presence causes me to prostrate myself, but it also makes me want to jump for joy in celebration of all He has given me and my family. Sharing that with those He places in my path is what the journey is all about.