Posts tagged dad

With my dad so recently residing in the presence of God, I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven. Trying to figure out what it means, this “going away” or “falling asleep” or “departing”. All of a sudden I want to know:

What is he doing?

Can he see me?

Who else is there?

What would he say to me if he could?

And then this morning my time set apart for listening in God’s Word took me from Colossians 1v1-6 to I Thessalonians 5v8.

Paul is commending his Colossian friends for their faith in God and for their obvious love for “all God’s people everywhere”. Which, he says, “spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven”…

The words strike me.

Faith springs from hope?  Hope in heaven?

Truth is, my faith seems so shaky as I worry my way through everyday life.

Do we have enough savings? Can I write the Intentional Parents book adequately or will I fail? Do I have time for everything I think I need to do? Is Mom going to be okay? How can I help her? How in the world am I going to find a home for their dog, Barney?!

And my love for “all God’s people everywhere” is more like a love for a few of God’s people right here as long as they’re nice to me.

How, I ask Him, did these people become people of great faith and generous love?

And how can I?

And how does hope in heaven have anything to do with my todays?

I stumble on the answer found tucked at the end of a sentence in I Thessalonians 5v8:

“… let us put on… the hope of salvation as a helmet.”

It dawns on me suddenly, this helmet metaphor: A helmet protects my head.

By purposely putting on hope- not just any hope, but hope in salvation, in forever, in what all of life is leading up to—I actually protect my mind from wrong thinking that leads to worry.

Wrong thinking which creates fertile ground for  fretting and frustration when all of life isn’t neat and tidy, just the way I like it.

Wrong thinking that convinces me God owes me more… more money, more time, more ease.

Wrong thinking that makes me self-protective and prickly with people who poke at me, or who express their disapproval of the way I do life.

I need this helmet! 

Because without one I wind up with a sort of spiritual concussion, with ringing in my ears that drowns out the sound of God in my soul.

And so this morning I purposely put on my helmet of hope.

I imagine the way life will be when a new earth replaces this one and God invites me to take part in life as He meant it to be.

I think beyond the deadline that weighs heavily on my day, to the coming day when my life begins again.

I choose to remember what I’m really about: Jesus and His kingdom, His work, His will, His way.

And suddenly everything changes. Hope fuses me with energy to complete the tasks assigned to this day, to do what needs doing while I look for signs of His coming— for signs of Him.

Those blossoms on the tulip tree out back remind me that He is unfolding this day and that beauty comes not from striving but from resting in His working.

Hope rises to turn my tasks into joyous work, to infuse my day with purpose. It won’t always be this hard, Someday is coming.

And in the meantime I’d better scurry because He’s called me to things that will last forever. And I’d better look closely at my lists lest I waste time on things that don’t matter in light of that Someday.

He beckons me towards giving and serving and worshipping and listening close to His words to me. He invites me to protect my mind by keeping Someday in sight.

And my dad is there. He’s stepped into the Someday that lasts forever.

See you there, Dad! Someday.

From my heart,


P.S. I’ll resume my letters to Matt and Simona about OUR HOUSE soon. For now I’m just letting you in on my mourning. Thank you for your beautiful messages of condolence to me. Your kindness soothes my soul.



For a week now, I have been swimming in the fitful waters of mourning. Sadness surrounds me. Loss weighs so heavily sometimes I find it hard to breathe.

I have been pulled up short—surprised by this unpredictable ebb and flow of tears.

I sit at the desk my dad made for me with his own hands. For a man of few words, the eloquence of his handcrafted message was just the affirmation I needed to gather up courage to write. He approved, and I bask in both the affirmation and approval even as I grieve the fact that he will never run his hands over the cover of my book as I run my hands over the surface of this desk.

Somehow I had convinced myself that I wouldn’t really grieve Dad’s death. After all, he’d been diagnosed with this terrible terminal disease of the lungs four years ago. I’d watched the devastation, prayed for his release, begged God to take him home.

“I’m grieving with Dad,” I’d said, “so that when he’s gone I’ll just be happy for him.”


I’ve heard of people who have a definite sense of their loved one’s presence even after death, but I only feel his gone-ness. He isn’t here, hasn’t been since I held him in my arms frantically searching for signs of life.

I know where he is. I know without even a hint of doubt. But as assuring as that is, I am still reeling with the realization of the separation.

And so I mourn honestly— not the man who was so terribly weak and struggling for air— but the J.H. Waterman who gave me life, whose love never wavered, the man whose steadfast faithfulness informed my view of God.

It is His presence I sense so near in these hours of sadness. As if the Father is nearer or clearer, as if He pulls me closer in my longing for Dad. As if I hear my Father better because my dad is with Him.

There is a strange sweetness in this place of mourning, a deep rest. A togetherness with God.

Because I think He is sad too, that He weeps with me. It wasn’t supposed to be this way and that’s why we mourn.

That’s why tears redden my eyes and sighs escape unbidden. Why grieving and loss of any kind cannot be stuffed into a nice clean package and tied with a tidy bow. Why life screeches to a halt and only resumes at half speed.

Why we dread death.

Life was supposed to be a grand celebration in His presence, a great cooperation with God. Life was planned as an endlessly eternal connection with the One who made us in His image, for His delight.

And Someday it will be again. Because of Jesus. Because He chose to die to make it all right.

While we wait for that Someday, sadness is part of our stories. We cannot will it or wish it away. We dare not pretend or push it from sight.

But we can invite Him in to mourn with us; we can sit in the quiet of loss and hear Him speak. And we can listen to His words in the silence and let Him pour oil on the raw hurt.

I’m listening now, finding joy in the midst of sadness. Relishing His presence here.

From my heart,


Have you heard Him in the silence of sadness? Have you seen Him at work even when life stops suddenly? Can you tell us how? Remind us what to listen for as we navigate our own stories?


(image by Bethany Small)


He will wipe every tear from their eyes.

There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,

for the old order of things has passed away.

Revelation 21v4

My dad died yesterday.

And today I am sad. Not despairing, not grief-stricken, not angry that life isn’t what I wish it was. Just sad.

And I feel a little spoiled in my sadness because I am fully aware that what I lost is so much more than most of you have ever had. 

And mind you, I have not lost my father. Because in the early 70’s at a church in California, my dad changed the course of our lives by becoming a follower of Jesus. And now he’s followed Him right up close into His presence, the place I’ll go someday too.

No, I haven’t lost Dad, but I have lost his presence with me.

He’s not here this morning having coffee with cream and two scoops of sugar, talking about what I want to talk about: because that’s what good dad’s do.

And I wish, oh how I wish, that each of you had a dad like mine.

I grieve for you with the Father because He wishes that too. And if you’ll indulge me just a bit, can I tell you about good dads?

Here’s a list:

1.  Good dads fix things. My dad fixed my broken hair dryer, my flat tire, my inadequate study habits, my teenage drama with my mom. He made life right for me when I couldn’t turn myself right side up. And even though I told him over and over, I don’t think he ever thought any of that was a big deal. Just dad stuff.

2.  Good dads get it. My dad certainly did. He got that I was different, would always be different, and that difference was okay by him. A contemplative feeler, ponderer, thinker, reader in a family of highly competitive task oriented doers. He normalized me to my “lets-get-to-it!” mom and paved the way for us to become friends. Because of him we grieve together without tension.

3.  Good dads are present.My father was a brainiac nuclear engineer. Yet he bought cowboy boots when he helped me achieve my dream of having a horse. He learned the lingo: palominos, bits and tie downs, dressage and hoof rot. And I don’t think he actually ever did like that whole equine world, but the truth is, wild horses couldn’t have pulled him from being part of it with me.

4.  Good dads stay faithful. My dad did. In good times and bad, he chose to love my mom and to eschew the “grass is greener” temptation to find happiness elsewhere. As long as I can remember, Dad did his level best to love mom well. Dad would have been appalled at any suggestion otherwise.

5.  Good dads take care of their own. When he married my mom he was a 19 year old with one goal: to never be poor again. With that in mind he put himself through college, poured himself into his career, lived beneath his income always so that he could give us what we needed. At the same time, his aversion to the risk of credit and the flash of status spending kept all of us grounded in fiscal reality. He bought his jeans at Walmart and his cars used even when he could have afforded much more. He was fiddling with his finances the day before he died, just to be sure mom would be well cared for.

6.  Good dads provide safety. My sister’s words to me this morning: “We had a great dad. He made me feel safe…” He did. And I’m not even sure how he did it, though I’m going to think long and hard about that. But mostly I think he was just good and a good man becomes a safe place for his family.

There’s more of course, but this day demands my attention and so I’ll end here for now. Somehow just writing these words helps me to understand why I’m sad today and why that’s okay.

I miss my dad already. I’ll miss him for the rest of my life. And then… my real Father will wipe away every tear and I’ll join my dad in spending the rest of forever in awe of Him.

Waiting with honest eagerness for that Day…

From my heart,


P.S. Thank you to the many of you who have already emailed and texted your heart-felt condolences. I’m relishing every word, drinking in your kindness.




Dear girls,

As you read this I am on my way to California.

I’ll leave my cozy cottage nestled in the woods and spend a few days at my sister’s house in the sunshine.

And since she’s about the best decorator/home creator I know, I will no doubt spend every spare minute oohing and ahhing over beauty. I’ll take pictures and make notes and go home full of ideas for creating loveliness. We’ll stay up too late and she’ll get up too early to go to her job that is really a calling. (remind me to tell you that story some day— for all of you who work hard to help people. But for now, follow her on Pinterest for design inspiration! @darcyscott)

But that’s now why I’m going.

My dad— the one I’ve written stories about is sick. Very sick.

While his brilliant engineer mind is still working at full throttle, his once strong, always-up-for-a-challenge body is failing. And so he is saying good-bye to his beloved Sierra mountains and moving to the Northwest.

A bittersweet journey.

I’ll tuck my parents into their sweet red Lexus (another story about love I’ll need to be sure to tell you soon), load in their luggage and their dog and Dad’s great big oxygen concentrator, and we’ll head north. I’ve got John Mark’s podcasts on heaven loaded and ready for listening. 

And I’ve got myself ready too- for remembering and reminding and reminiscing.

I’ll remember all those stories still vivid in my mind…

Of Dad at the wheel of our Opel sedan, setting off to discover strange and intriguing ands while we lived in Germany. How a poor farm boy choose to succeed by hard work and loyalty. How my mom made every adventure seem magical, green Bedecker guide books always open as she rooted our imaginations in history.

We’ll reminisce about those days of discovering Jesus for the first time. When a traffic jam made us want to go to that church causing the long wait. Why, we wondered, were so many people headed to that warehouse? And how, over the next months, one by one, the five of us each walked down the aisle with “Just As I Am” playing softly in the background. We’ll talk about how Jesus changed everything. How the best stories started then.

I’ll remind them what they know, but need to know again, that Dad is not really dying, though his body will soon. That eternal life is just that- eternal, forever, uninterrupted, ceaseless. That he will step into the presence of the One who changed our lives by His own death. That One we love because He loved us first— that One whose love made it possible for us to love each other even in all the ups and downs of our own brokenness.

And I want to talk and imagine and dream about what life will be like when Jesus comes back to redeem all of creation once again.

Because hope for what’s really ahead brings hope for the hard steps before we get there.

And those hard steps are getting closer now. We won’t have Dad much longer. While we do I want to drink him in, to make more stories, to bring my grandboys and grandgirls to sit by his side as I did as a little girl. I want them to feel the safety of who he is. I want them to know that they belong to him, that his faithful love courses through their veins, giving them a bent towards courage and greatness.

I want my children to remember the kind of man who is their heritage so that when life gets hard they know to put one foot in front of the other just like Papa and then to just keep giving and loving and taking care of their own.

Like Dad.

From my heart,


P.S. I am hoping that some of you who live near me can meet my dad before he goes there. I long to share him with some of the young men I know who’ve never seen his kind of faithfulness up close and I want young women to know the kind of man who loves for a lifetime. I want you to see why I wish everyone had a dad like mine.


(photo by Bethany Small)


(image by  Bethany Small) 

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6:19

The Message

And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding…

Hebrews 6:3


Dear Dad,

There is so much I do not understand. So much that remains a mystery to me, veiled by a mist of what I don’t know, can’t grasp, don’t like.

I don’t understand why you, of all people, would suffer.

Why every breath comes as a gasp, why talking ends in spasms of body wrenching, back heaving coughing, why you must remain tethered to that tube of oxygen in order to breathe at all.

I don’t understand why we have to say good-bye.

Why, after having you always there; my stability, my fixer of broken things, my logic-minded advisor— why soon I won’t.

You, who have spent the better part of your life explaining why, showing how, teaching me over and over again the way to do life in fine, ordered, rightness— won’t be with me anymore.

I don’t understand why life ends in death, why you have to go away soon, why you can’t stay and watch my grandsons be like you, why you can’t keep holding my hand and squeezing it just so I know you’re with me.

I don’t understand why Mom will be alone.

After all these years of sticking by your side, or figuring it out, of learning and growing so that your differences are all ironed into one workable weave of cloth like a blanket around these generations to follow. Why will mom have to end life alone?

And what’s more, I don’t like it, not one bit. I want you to stay. I want you strong, hiking in your mountains, taking me with you, talking to me about my dreams, telling me I can do this, telling me I’ve made you proud.

Oh Dad, I do not understand. 

And maybe that’s okay. Maybe I don’t have to get this right.

Maybe having you all these years as my dad has shown me that I don’t have to understand, that I can hold on and trust. That clinging is okay because the Father does understand even when I don’t and He can be trusted because He is like you… or maybe it’s that you are like Him.

Maybe learning to trust you has taught me how to trust the One you trust.

And maybe someday I will understand. Maybe someday I’ll smile and nod and even laugh at God’s audacity to take the incomprehensible and make it good.

I don’t understand, Dad, but I trust the One who does, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

From my heart,





Dear Matt,

Last week I posted the first part of Dad’s letter to you. He packed so much wisdom into his letter that I decided to give it to you in smaller bites so you would be able to absorb it all.  Here is the rest of what he wrote about dating and pursuing a woman and listening to God in the midst of it all.

I know you know this, but I’ve just got to say it again— you have a rich heritage of faith gifted to you by a father who has pursued God single-mindedly for all of your life and many years before. And for all those who are listening in, may you grow to be this kind of man by keeping your eyes on the finish line.



Dear son,

After thanking God for His peace and His promise to guide you, here is my “practical” advice:

This is what dating is for!

1. Take it slow

2. Have fun

3. Become friends…

  • Can you be yourself with her?
  • Do you like just being with her?
  • Do you like talking to her?
  • Can you share your dreams with her?
  • Does she listen as you share your heart with her?
  • Does she really like who your are?
  • As your generation says it: is she "into you"?
  • Do you look forward to the next time you get to be with her?
  • Is that growing or diminishing the more you get to know her?

4. Stay pure 

  • I know I’ve told you this again and again and that you’ve made that commitment already— but remember what 1Timothy 5v2 says.  You are to treat young women “as sisters, in all purity”. You wouldn’t make out with your sister!

5. Does it ‘click'? 

  • I believe God has made us three-part, body, soul, and spirit. When God brings the woman to you that He has for you, it should ‘click’ in all of these three areas.
    • You should be physically attracted to her; you should think she’s beautiful! Your wife will need to know this and will want to hear you tell her often!
    • You should click in the area of the soul. Do your personalities, your goals, your dreams fit together well? You won’t be the same but you must be a good match, i.e. if you want to have three kids soon after getting married, and she wants to wait ten years and maybe not have any, it’s not a good fit.
    • You should fit well in the spiritual area. You both need to know Jesus, love Jesus, and be walking with Jesus.

6. Spend a lot of time with her around people you respect.

  • Most should be older and wiser than you.
  • Let them observe the two of you together.
  • Let them speak into whether or not this relationship should proceed to marriage.
  • Although it sounds self-serving, I believe your parents will be a huge part of this.

7. Do you have peace?

  • Is God giving you continued peace as you proceed in the relationship? Granted peace is a bit subjective but here’s what I have discovered about peace. You know when you don’t have it!  And if you don’t have it, as your Mom said: “Wait! No peace? Don’t move!”
  • Because it is either: 
    • Wrong girl, wrong time.
    • Right girl, wrong time; God is saying, “She’s the one, but not yet” or “first finish school”, or “you’re not ready” or “she’s not ready”.
    • OR...Right girl, right time!
  • And if it is right girl, right time -- Go for it!
  • Keep praying, keep seeking counsel, enjoy her company...and when you are ready and able to both support her and spend the rest of your life with her just say…

8. “Will you marry me?”




Dear Matthew, Today, instead of writing you a letter about who you should marry or how you should act,

I’m keeping it simple.

Because what I want to talk about today has nothing to do with her and a whole lot to do with who she will become...

if you will be this kind of man.

And you’ve watched this all your life. This being— this doing that leads to being.

Since 1975 your dad has made a choice every single day that has led him into a life rich with wisdom. Count that, son, 38 years!

I’ve posted this before, but am absolutely certain that this needs seeing again. You and your Jesus-following friends who have set your faces to honor God, to know Him and love Him and lead others to do the same—

you need this.

This is not just another rule to follow.

This is a decision your dad made and stuck to… for a long, long time.

It is why I trust him. Why my respect for him has grown over 34 ½ years of marriage.

Why that respect turned into love so great I can’t see the keyboard as I type these words to you…

And why you need to read this again.

I love you!


DAD STORIES: memories of a man who did it right

(my dad in Haiti)

All my life I’ve watched my father take care of his health.

Every morning of my high school years I woke up to strange sounds coming from the room where my dad worked out. I’d round the corner bleary eyed from sleep to watch him do his Canadian Air force exercise routine.

Squats and jumping jacks and funny sliding motions against the wall.  He’d grunt his way through all sorts of sit ups— side ways, legs in the air, one arm, two.

(hiking in Yosemite)

Way past the age when most men seem glued to their leather recliner, my dad hiked and skied and backpacked with a group of friends in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada’s. He ran 10k’s until just a couple of years ago when his hip finally wore out from the miles he pounded on asphalt paths.

(building his home in the mountains)

I expected him to live forever.

But a while ago he started coughing. A lot.

Turns out he has a dreadful disease that will slowly lock up his lungs, making it harder and harder to draw in that life giving oxygen he needs to stay strong and active.

But once again, my dad is doing it right.

And watching him, listening to the way he embraces life and just keeps plowing forward, fixing everything broken in his path…

(loving children in Haiti)

I feel like I’m learning life at the graduate level from the best.

Who knew that a daughter could learn about living while watching her father slowly ease towards dying?

Does every father teach like this?

Squeezing out all the life he can while he can in order to leave a legacy of hope to the next generation? 

Somehow I think my dad is just getting it right again.

And that’s why I plan to keep learning from him, and remembering what he taught by being who he is.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

I love you,


Things My Dad Did Right:

  1. He taught me the importance of taking keeping our bodies fit so we could have fun doing outdoor things.
  2. He taught me to never burden anyone by complaining.
  3. He ate raw veggies before vegan was even a word.
  4. He took me on hikes all over the Sierra Nevada’s.
  5. He taught me to fix whatever I can and to leave the rest alone.
  6. He’s teaching me how to live well right up until its time to die.