Our children think back on how
the family held together.
One of my earliest memories is of Mom vacuuming our bedroom in Fort Worth just before I went to sleep. I was in the bottom bunk and the crib was across the room (I imagine Mike was in it). I thought it was great fun to grab the vacuum and duck under the covers with it, but I knew if Mom was in a bad mood that was not the thing to do! So I would ask, whenever she was vacuuming there, "Mom, do you have a headache tonight?"
Another Fort Worth memory is of Dad's series on the kings of Israel and Judah. No, I don't remember any of the messages, Dad! But I do remember that that was the first time I paid attention to the sermon (I must have been seven or eight) and that was the first time it hit me what you did for a living and for a ministry. Watching you in the pulpit had a big influence later on me wanting a Bible-teaching ministry and career, so I would have to say that the series (one a seven-year-old could enjoy) began what would become an influence: your unhypocritical ministry of the Word.
I remember a few of our family fun outings as a young child, like the excitement of going to Burger's Lake. I don't know why that place was so special, but it was! I remember the first trip to Six Flags. I remember looking for "Ready Kilowatt" on the road from Dallas to Fort Worth. I remember surprising Nanna and Grandad at their home for Christmas and the drive north (including the Christmas songs on the radio and Dad getting stopped for speeding).
I remember another, earlier trip when I was so thirsty I couldn't stand it. I don't know where we were going, but I do remember finally getting a drink! In fact, I have many memories of trips in the car. Maybe that's because the whole family was together (if so, that says something about the importance of the father being present to "make a memory") or because the vacation time was just a break from the routine.
Most of those memories are pleasant, except for the boredom in the car and you two getting mad at us because we were irritating each other in the back seat. More on that below. In later years I remember all the historical places we visited. I always enjoyed our family vacations together.
I remember Dad and me throwing the football in the back yard at Fort Worth. I would miss and Dad would say, "You need to say to yourself, 'I'm going to catch it, I'm going to catch it.'" And I would think that as Dad threw it again and, sure enough, I'd catch it. That was a good way to teach concentration, Dad! I try doing that with Mark now (my son)--though he's still a bit young. When it doesn't work he looks at me in disgust and says, "See, I knew I wouldn't catch it!"
I also remember us wrestling together, Dad. I think that was a good way to establish a healthy physical contact with your sons. You know, our family has never been a "kiss and hug" family. I think maybe a little more of that, especially with you, Mom, would have been good to teach the healthiness of certain kinds of physical affection.
The more I think, the more memories flood back, mostly later Fort Worth memories. I know you want more of the kind of memories that were to influence me later on, so let me share the one thing I remember about your own struggles as a couple. I remember occasional, loud exchanges between you and the feeling that you were angry with each other (this is all from Fort Worth days, now). I do remember not liking my feelings at the time.
I would say now that they were feelings of insecurity, but of course I couldn't identify them then. I don't ever remember fearing any specific outcome. For example, I don't remember fearing that one of you might leave the house and not come back or that one might hit the other. All I remember was not liking it.
You asked if they had any influence on me. Who knows?! I have had to struggle with insecurity many times in my life (even now, as a parent). Since I'm not a psychologist, I don't know how much of that stems from your struggles. But I imagine there was some impact on my later feelings of insecurity.
Another possible negative memory is of both of you losing your temper with us. I don't have frequent memories of that, but I do have definite ones! As I look back on it now, for Dad, it was when you perceived we had crossed the line (like when we'd be on a trip and getting onto each other in the back seat, and Dad would turn around, with his hand up in the air, threatening to swat one of us, and then turn back to face the road, then back to us, all the time with Mom saying, "If Dad has an accident, it will be you guys' fault." I laugh as I type this. That would be the ultimate guilt trip to lay on your children!).
For Mom I can't think of any specific times like that, but there definitely were times when I knew I had to tread lightly because you were right at the boiling point. Anyway, I do remember you both losing your temper with us. Mostly we had done something to deserve it, but in my mind you had crossed some line of control and I perceived you as out of patience and really angry.
I remember an incident in second grade when an old man on our road home from school got angry at me for walking through a roped-off area he had seeded for grass but which I thought was roped off so we would walk through it. I still remember the deep conviction I had of being wronged. I knew I had done what I thought was right. I remember telling you about it and you, Dad, getting really angry at the guy and you were going to go over and talk to him about it . . . until I told you about the area being roped off! You backed off pretty quick and told me just to not do it again.
But you did believe me when I told you that I had thought I was supposed to walk in that area. I had a couple of feelings from that incident: (1) You would stand up for me if I was wronged, so (2) I'd better be careful and tell you the truth because, in standing up for me, you'd find out about it sooner or later! and (3) you trusted me. When I told you I had honestly thought that was the right thing to do, you believed me.
I have many other memories of those earlier years (we moved from Fort Worth when I was eight-and-a-half), but none that I could identify as having a real "influence." So let me pursue later memories that influenced me.
From later years, the strong, formative things that happened in our home include the good times around the supper table with everyone cutting up. I think your presence, Dad, had a strong influence on that. Somehow we knew how to have fun and not cross the line into rowdiness when you were around. But now that I'm raising my own son, tell me, how did you keep discipline at the table and still breed that relaxed, free atmosphere? Another strong influence through early teens was Mom always being home and available right after school. I can't emphasize this strongly enough. It was very important to be able to sit on the bar stool in Huntsville, eat my afternoon snack, and talk to Mom about my day while she worked on supper. I think that is a major reason I learned to be a communicator with my wife; I learned to talk out my feelings with a woman right there. And Marcia thanks you for that, Mom. She says I’m more sensitive as a communicator than she is, and I attribute much of that to your availability during those teen years.
In this day of wives working and being less available to their children, you can drive that home hard! Women want a husband who communicates. Tell mothers that if they want to raise sons who will communicate with their wives, they need to be available to teach them how.
I have only a few memories of us playing sports together, Dad, after I reached teenage years. But your coming to my YMCA football games (and band events later on) and us watching and rooting for our teams on TV are strong memories. When you came to my games it let me know that you were interested in this important part of my life. Our watching games together gave us an area of shared interest during those teenage years when communication is so scarce.
I know I went through a period in the teenage years when I had a lot I didn’t want to share with you, especially emerging sexual temptation and struggles, and dealing with periods of insecurity and peer pressure. Could you have done anything then or earlier to have helped me through that or made me more open about those things? I don’t know. Dobson says all kids go through a time of cutting off their parents during teenage years, so maybe not. I felt like I got the “facts of life” stuff at the right time and in a healthy way. But maybe a weekend discussion when I was eleven or twelve as Dobson suggests would have better prepared me for the intense sexual temptation that a teenage boy faces, how to deal with it, and what God thinks about it. I’m thinking through those issues now since I’m wondering how I’ll handle that with my own two sons.
(At this writing Steve and Marcia, with their three children, are missionaries in Ethiopia with SIM International.)
Almost all of my childhood memories are good memories. Growing up, I didn't know the things about my parents' rough marriage I know now, and which are written in this book. I'm sure that was good for me. Despite the fact that things were not perfect, Mom and Dad did a lot of things right. But first, you need to know a little about a few incidents in my life.
When I was only four years old I remember going to church and hearing the story of Jesus' resurrection. Even as a young child I knew that anyone who could rise from the dead must be special. I asked my mom about this and she explained who Jesus was and that I needed to ask Him into my heart in order to have my sins forgiven and go to heaven. I did that then. I continued going to church and memorizing Bible verses even though I didn't always want to. I'm so grateful now that I was forced to memorize, for most of the Scripture I still know was first learned in my childhood.
I respected my parents and always wanted to do things to make them proud of me. My older brother, Steve, was a good student, a good athlete, and as brothers go, a good brother. He set a good example for me and I tried to emulate him.
I never outwardly rebelled against my parents or against God. However, there were a few years in my early teens when peer pressure was tough and I wasn't really sure that all the religious stuff I had learned as a child was really true and worth holding onto as an adult. Inwardly I had an attitude which pushed God to the far recesses of my life.
I went to a Christian camp during high school and remember being touched by the realization that I didn't really know God as a close, personal friend. I knew about Him, but I didn't intimately know Him. I told God that if He were real, then I wanted to know Him like I knew my parents knew Him. God has been answering that prayer for over a decade now.
Now we get back to Mom and Dad. How is it that two people who had such a rough marriage demonstrated to one of their kids that they really knew God in a way which would challenge him to one day pray that he wanted to know God as they did? First of all, they were not hypocrites. I knew that what Dad preached on Sunday he believed Monday through Saturday. God was a topic of conversation. We talked about what is right and wrong and why we should obey God. I watched as Mom and Dad not only talked about obedience, but did things to demonstrate obedience to God.
It's true that kids know when their parents are hypocrites. Mine practiced what they preached. I knew they weren't perfect. They don't even pretend to be perfect. But I knew that obedience to God was important to them and that they were trying to obey Him. They also gave us freedom and responsibility. I remember Mom telling me how freedoms given require that we take responsibility. Things were talked about and not just laid down as law. But when we broke the rules we knew that discipline would come. I'm told that I got more spankings than all my brothers put together. Underlying all the "rules" was the fact that we should get our direction from God and His Word.
I always felt secure at home. Mom and Dad may not have always felt love toward each other but I remember a lot of things they did which demonstrated love. I don't know if there is anything which can make a kid feel more secure than having a Mom and Dad who love each other. I don't ever remember seeing them fight. They must have done all their fighting in private. That was good. Dad was always home for dinner. It was nice to know we would all sit down for a meal at 6 o'clock when Dad got home. Consistency breeds security. Meals were fun. We laughed and joked as much as we ate (which was quite a feat for four growing boys). And Dad would always start the "basket shooting" at the end of the meal by wadding up his napkin and missing a shot into someone's glass. I don't know if we ever finished family devotions after dinner because someone would always make some joke which would be picked up by everyone else. But we knew that devotions were important even if we never finished them. We knew Mom and Dad cared that we were secure with them and in our relationship to God.
Last, we were encouraged a lot. Not just when we performed well, but just for who we were. I think that every time we went to someone's house on a social occasion, Mom would tell us on the way home, "You are good kids." I even told her once that she didn't have to tell us that anymore because we already knew it. It was nice to know we were accepted for who we were and not for what we did. In fact, that made me want to do things to make my parents proud and not do things which would be a bad reflection on them.
They say one of the main ways you get your ideas of what God is like is from your parents. Mine did a lot of things right. They kept the lines of communication open. They weren't hypocrites. They showed love and provided a sense of security. They let us laugh even at serious times. I think this is why I knew my parents knew God. I think this is why I prayed for God to make Himself real to me like I knew He was real to my parents.
(Mike has received his Ph.D. in elementary particle physics from UCLA and is currently involved in a post-doctoral program leading toward a teaching career.)
As a child growing up in the Strauss house, I would have to say that I was very much a follower. It would be a great understatement to say that my two older brothers, Steve and Mike, had strong personalities. Both were very influential on me and I generally looked to them for leadership.
Steve, the oldest, really ran the show. He would make up incredibly sophisticated and creative games which Mike and I would join in on. We always felt it was a great privilege to get to play with him and his friends. My real buddy growing up, however, was Mike. We were only ten-and-a-half months apart and I know I leaned and depended on him a great deal. We had abilities that complemented each other well and together we made a pretty good team.
One example of our complementary natures: We often would play football against two brothers who lived down the street. Even though individually they were both stronger, faster, and better athletes than either Mike or me, we never once lost to them. We just worked too well together as a team. This close tie and complementary abilities doesn't mean we didn't argue a lot, as most brothers do. But I would have to say we were very close, and I still feel a tie to him that is unique.
Because of such strong sibling influence, I cannot point to many specific instances of where I feel like my parents individually had a great deal of influence on me. Of course they did, as all parents do, but it is difficult for me to remember specific things. I think instead it was the family situation as a whole that was so strong an influence. I remember especially our times around the dinner table. It seems these were the most special times our family shared. The whole family enjoyed a great sense of humor and one hilarious comment would follow another. Most of us would be on the floor in stitches before the meal was over. I also fondly remember our family vacations. We would all pile into a station wagon stuffed from top to bottom with food and clothes and assorted junk, and would set off on our eighteen-hour driving days, jumping from one relative's house to another.
This emphasis on the whole family does not mean I do not remember anything about individual times with my parents. Positive things include times when Dad would take each of us boys individually out to lunch. I remember I considered it a very special thing when it was my turn. We would go to Shoney's Big Boy (a high class restaurant for us!) and talk together. That was a special time.
I would have to say, however, that I was probably closer to my mom than my dad when I was growing up. I always got the impression that I was her favorite (I suppose all children do). Though my dad has always encouraged my strengths and abilities, it was Mom who was careful to point out those things that separated me from the other brothers. Whether it was "Mark knows people, let's find out what he thinks . . . " or, "Mark is creative, let's get his ideas," I always got the impression from Mom that I was "special" and had gifts and abilities that were different and unique from my other (highly talented) brothers. In the face of such strong sibling rivalry and talent, I'm sure this was a key factor in building my self esteem. As I was growing up I really felt that I did know people better than my brothers, and that I really was more creative than my brothers, and that I usually could come up with the funniest statement at the dinner table that everyone would laugh at the most. It didn't so much matter that Steve was able to do just about anything to perfection, or that Mike's IQ was at the genius level, because I knew I was special.
I do not mean to imply by stressing my mother's influence that my father was not influential in this process, but I remember it more from my mom when I was younger. In my college and seminary days, I remember this same kind of encouragement from my dad as well. He would often say how proud he was of a particular accomplishment of mine, or just proud to have me as a son, and that was very special.
I think it was this encouragement that I was "different" in a special sense that gave me the family reputation later of being the maverick, or black sheep (in a family like ours, there has never really been a "black sheep," but I guess I was the most "off white" of the bunch). When I finally realized that I didn't have to do everything my brothers did, that I didn't have to like everything my brothers liked, I realized how fun it was to be different!
An example: I used to think I liked vanilla ice cream better than chocolate because Steve had always liked it better. Whenever I was asked what I wanted, of course I asked for vanilla, because that was supposed to be the best, everyone knew that (or at least Steve knew that, and he was the authority!). At some point in my life I suddenly realized, "Hey, I like chocolate, or even strawberry, more than vanilla!" What a shock that was! I was my own person. This realization of my own identity was quite a breakthrough and was especially important in a family like ours.
I now wanted to be different and often made an effort to show I was. I could play the devil's advocate in almost any conversation, taking the opposite side simply because the other person was so sure of himself. As I look back on my childhood, this was probably the most dramatic change that took place over my later developmental years. I went from an almost total follower to one who today finds it difficult to follow anyone or any cause without much skepticism. This skepticism and unwillingness to follow can have negative consequences, but I know in my case it did much to build my personal self-image.
As far as negative things from my parents, I think I was probably more sensitive to negative things than my brothers. I do remember my parents arguing and seeing my mother angry at us--things my brothers have said they do not remember much of. I also cried a lot when I was young. I remember trying to get through an entire year of early grade school without once crying in front of my classmates. That was an accomplishment! I remember particularly one instance in kindergarten. Whenever anyone had a birthday, they would get chocolate milk instead of plain old regular white milk. What I didn't know was that you were supposed to tell the teacher when it was your birthday so she could arrange for the milk. When my chocolate milk didn't arrive, I was heartbroken. A major trauma for a kindergartner! I guess it hurt to think I wasn't special enough to get this special treat on my birthday.
I also cried a lot in front of Mike, my constant source of support. I would lay on my bunk bed underneath Mike's at night and tell him my "problems" and cry. He would listen and encourage me that it wasn't as bad as I thought. What these traumatic "problems" could have been I don't even remember. But at the time they seemed very serious to me. I was also sensitive to things my parents and my brothers would say. I used to mispronounce a lot of words I had read and my brothers would laugh at me whenever I did this. It seemed they kept a running list of all the words I had ever mispronounced since I had started to speak (I probably mispronounced "dada") and whenever I made another blunder they would recite back to me all the words I had ever mispronounced, reliving the joy of making fun of me when I had said each one (I'm sure when they read this they will pull out their lists and have a ball!).
I remember, too, being very sensitive to anything I considered a negative statement from my dad. One I remember especially: I was having trouble sleeping and, hoping to receive some confirmation that I was "all right," I asked my dad if he ever had trouble sleeping. His response (as I remember it) was something to the effect that, "No, there is nothing spiritually wrong in my life that keeps me from sleeping." I was really hurt because I thought there must really be something wrong with me. I laugh now at how insignificant and mild his statement actually was (if, in fact, I even remember it right), and wonder how it could have hurt me. It really goes to show how much more devastating a parent's cutting or abusive remarks would be on a very sensitive child.
People have often asked me, "What did your parents do right in raising you that you all turned out so good?" At this point I usually deny that we turned out so good and start pointing out the numerous faults in my brothers (not really). I think two things were especially important. The first was family identity. We were a family and we all knew we belonged in that family and together we would make it. There was never any danger (that I knew of) that the family would fall apart. It was a special thing to be a part of our family and each of us individually were special. We had great times laughing and fighting and playing together.
The other thing is a real lack of hypocrisy. I, of course, never thought about this growing up, but as I look back I realize it. Many pastor's homes are full of hypocrisy because the father has to be the perfect and sinless pastor on Sunday, and he is a totally different person at home. This was not true of my father. He did not pretend to be someone he was not. Sure, people thought he was perfect (as some church members always will), but he never tried to give that impression himself. He was the same person at home that he was at church.
(Mark and his wife Roxanne are currently in Scotland where Mark is studying toward a Ph.D. in New Testament Greek at the University of Aberdeen, with the goal of teaching.)
I am the youngest member of this illustrious household. This means I am the major participant in many rituals which only those who also have held this position in their families will truly understand.
For example: "Hand-me-downs." This is a ritual best performed when an age span of at least five to ten years exists between siblings. In our family, brand-new, in-style clothes were originally bought for Steve (the modern-day blessing of the firstborn). He, of course, quickly outgrew these fanciful garments and new ones were dutifully purchased for him. The out-grown ones were then filed away for the next child, which in our case was Mike. Well, with both Mike and Mark around, more new clothes had to be bought, and they were, all to be filed away for that fateful day five years later when the last unsuspecting (and unexpected) member of the family entered the scene. To put it mildly, I inherited cases of ten-year-old clothes, all of which I had to wear out before I could experience the thrill of new clothes.
To further add to the trauma I was experiencing, these clothes were all purchased in the '60s and early '70s . . . you do remember those styles, don't you? Polka dots, stripes, plaid, bell bottoms . . . to this day one of the most entertaining features of our family slides are the clothes we are wearing, and somehow almost all of them ended up in my wardrobe.
The second ritual of the last born I will refer to as "The Spoiled One. " Here the entire family must participate. Everyone must let the youngest know that when they were growing up they never had it as good as I had it. We will start with my brothers' role. Mike and Mark made sure I knew, as they regularly wrestled me to the floor, that they never beat me up as bad as Steve beat them up. Mike would lie on me and tell me he was dead and I had to practice getting him off in case something like that really happened, while Mark would try out all his new wrestling moves on me, including once pinning me to the floor using no arms and no legs (he still brags about that).
Mike also stressed humility by beating me in three moves or less in chess, Stratego, or Risk. They also let me know that they never went to bed as late as I did, as I was tucked away at 7 P.M. with the rest of the family still up laughing and partying until all hours of the night . . . at least that was my perception. They also never had three or four pretzels in their lunch like me, as Mom packed them up with boxes of vanilla wafers, candy, and assorted snacks from Bates' nut farm for their two-hour trips to college. As for the parents' participation in "The Spoiled Child," they simply have to continue to bring up the subject of getting more than all the other siblings for the rest of the youngest's life. Just three to four weeks ago we somehow got on the same subject (I am now a college graduate).
The third ritual I will refer to as "The Picture Syndrome." The modern-day birthright (not blessing) of the firstborn is that parents seem to discover both the camera and how to bring babies into this world at the same time. Our family slides must consist of at least two full trays of Steve's baby pictures. They cover everything from haircuts to baths to playing with pots and pans; everything he did was so incredibly "cute" it had to be recorded with a photograph. By the time Mike came around things changed slightly and not everything needed to be remembered and some things had even lost their incredible cuteness. As Mark came along things got a little bit old; the combined total trays devoted to Mike's and Mark's infant days is probably one-and-a-half trays. Then I came along. Many things were no longer cute as they had once been. As a matter of fact, some of those incredibly "cute" things had become downright bothersome. Needless to say the photographic records of my childhood are not measured in trays. Simple numbers will suffice . . . very simple numbers.
As the youngest, it's easy to think of a lot of pressures that could have been placed on me or felt by me. It seems to me that it would have been normal for me to feel that I had to be as funny and quick-witted as Mark, as intelligent as Mike (straight As through high school and college), or as successful as Steve (who was able to skip his last year of high school and go straight to college), but I never felt that I had to live up to their standards. Mom and Dad always accepted me for who I was, and as long as I was trying, my grades were not only acceptable but great in their sight, despite what my brothers had done.
I do remember many times wishing I was as smart as Mike or as funny as Mark, but those feelings were never a result of outside pressure put on me. It always seemed clear to me that I had my own special gifts and I never had to compete with my brothers.
Even when it came down to my choice of careers there was never any pressure. I remember wanting to be an engineer when I was growing up and my parents never discouraged that, which in turn made me want to use that desire in a way that they would be proud of, like using it on the mission field or in some other ministry/service.
I do remember one time being in Dad's study and at one point in the conversation he told me how he thought it would be really neat if I as the youngest also became a pastor. It may sound that it was said in a way that would make me feel pressure, but it wasn't. Dad said it in a way that made me feel extra special--I knew he was proud of me and saw good things in me that maybe were not as prevalent in my brothers.
It seemed to me often that Dad stuck up for me when I felt like the rest of the family was picking on me. I was always accepted by Dad, but it wasn't only a matter of acceptance--he was proud of me and he often expressed that.
I remember doing an object lesson in a Wednesday night service at our church as an example of what we did on a Mexico outreach trip. He made a special effort to be in to hear my part and I remember feeling that I had really not done a very good job. However, his comment at home was, "Looks like we have another speaker in the house." Times like that assured me that all I had to do was try hard and be myself and that would make my dad proud of me. Mom was also very encouraging and accepting but for some reason it meant more to me coming from Dad.
The time our family spent together was always so fun. The dinner table is a prime example of this. I couldn't count the number of times that by the end of dinner we would be laughing so hard that some of us would be literally rolling on the floor. I remember how fun it was when we played games together--Mom would usually fix root beer floats or some kind of milkshakes and we would all play Rook or Uno and at some point we would be dying laughing. This is a characteristic that still hasn't changed. Whenever we all get together it's like this.
I'm supposed to include in this whether I ever felt Mom and Dad were disappointed that I wasn't a girl. I think it's obvious by what I've already said that I never felt they were disappointed. Instead, I thought it was kind of funny that my name was going to be “Debbie Joy.” Our family was always a source of security for me. I always knew Mom would be there when I got home from school, and I always felt comfortable with the family.
I enjoyed bringing friends over to our house, and Mom and Dad always accepted that. There were a lot of times while I was in high school when my friends and I would end up at our house to watch movies or play Risk. I remember whenever a James Bond movie was on TV on Sunday nights anywhere from six to twelve of my friends would come over after church to see it. It was basically assumed there would be a James Bond party at our house on such occasions and I can never remember Mom or Dad ever saying no. It was funny to see how some of my friends would be shocked at how normal and down-to-earth my parents were when they were over for the first time or two. Some of them couldn't imagine my dad in anything but a suit.
As for the rituals which are performed with the youngest: As I grew up, I saw that things weren't really as unfair as they seemed; as a matter of fact, I ended up being the tallest in our family. Because of growing so tall I had the joy of handing a lot of my old, unwanted clothes up to my older brothers. Revenge is sweet.
Neither Mike nor Mark ever challenge me in wrestling matches anymore, and when I try to start one they always have some excuse not to . . . I wonder why? Mike even refuses to play Stratego with me--I've only beaten him about fifteen times in a row. He recently gave in and played me again and I beat him twice.
Mom also faithfully packed me up with goodies as I went off to college just as she had done for my brothers. And when it came to pictures, Dad didn't have as many exciting things going on around the house as the kids moved out, so he often had to use up film . . . you can guess who was the lucky object of that left-over film. As we buzz through our family slides now and get to my teenage years, the comments are usually along the lines of, "Here we go again, Dad had to use up film!'' Which he did. There are quite a few more pictures of my high school years than of Steve's.
The greatest gift that God has given me has been my family and parents who love Him more than anything else. I can't imagine where our family would be if my mom and dad had given up on their marriage--but because they stuck it out and worked it out I have seen and continue to see and experience a prime example of God's love for me.
I realize the security, joy and bond of unity that our family has is rare, but I also realize it's rare because so many couples give up when God has the strength available to produce the same characteristics in their home.
There is nobody in this world I would rather have for parents than my mom and dad. I love them and appreciate them more than I can say, and my prayer to God is that if I have a family some day, I, too, can model His love to my wife and kids as Mom and Dad did to me.
(Tim has graduated from Moody Bible Institute's missionary flight training program and is looking forward to a career in missionary aviation.)