For years I watched my older brothers and sisters go nuts (actually a little crazy) over grandchildren. I never doubted their zeal but never got much of an understanding from their attempts to verbalize this phenomenon. Such exchanges always ended with "wait until you get your own". As it turns out they were right!!
When our oldest (Unconventional Doctor's Wife) gave birth to our first grandchild (Lou Lou), it took approximately 10 seconds for us (all of us) to become completely smitten. I can't explain the feeling but I know it is rooted in a love that comes from deep inside and runs strong within me. I remember being afraid that I loved this little girl so much that I could not possibly love other grandchildren with this same kind of intensity. I shouldn't have wasted my time on such silly thoughts. God equips grandparents with a wonderful capacity to experience each grandchild as a new miracle. We now have eight incredible grandchildren and I have been overwhelmed with emotion as I have held each one. There has been no subsiding of emotional intensity, no reduction in joy and no lessening in the sense of blessing. There has been one overwhelming thought that has accompanied each new grandchild; God, who am I that you should bless me so?
As I noted above, Lou Lou is our first grandchild. She did a great job of indoctrinating our whole family into the next phase of life and set the stage for siblings and cousins to come. She has given me moments of such great joy that I could not help but be moved to tears. She is smart, funny and I am always blessed to be in her presence. It was this little girl that began a change in this man's heart.
Before the birth of Lou Lou, I had little sense of perspective regarding the next generation. I have always been driven to succeed and was constantly looking for the next challenge. I was not done leaving my mark on the world and while I loved my family, I was not ready to sit down in a rocking chair, put on 50 pounds and be just another grandfather. There were too many mountains to climb, horses to ride and adventures to experience.
As our family has continued to grow, God has begun to change my purpose and my passion. It started slowly and I can not remember any real big event that happened. I slowly began to get a sense of purpose that has little to do with my career or my “Bucket List”. It has to do with being a grandpa and the role I am supposed to play for my children and grandchildren. I have had an epiphany and understand my most valuable contribution in this life will be to love our little ones with a great love. Some of you will know what I mean when I say a “great love”. I have been fortunate to experience it several times in my life. I am completely committed to our grandchildren and resolute in my devotion. And, while I promise to listen to my children, I have every intention of spoiling my grandchildren in a healthy way. That leads me to this story.
When Lou Lou was about 3 years old, I had a vivid dream. This was a strange kind of dream that gave me pause and I told Grammy about it the next morning. This type of dream had never happened to me before and has not happened since. In the dream, I was on a four wheeler and was riding across a pasture in an open field. It was beautiful rolling land and the sun was glinting off a great little farm pond. I remember feeling happy, free and completely satisfied with life. I decided to stop and just soak in the moment. It was at this point that I heard another four wheeler and looked back. The rider had stopped on the dam of the pond and was taking off a helmet. When the helmet came off, the long brown hair came flying out and I heard her call to me, "Hey, Pop!" as she waved. I remember knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was a teenage Lou Lou. She was smiling, beautiful and happy and I was waving like a mad man. I remember thinking God was assuring me she would be safe and grow to be a beautiful woman. I woke up praising God and thanking him for this assurance. The vision still had me smiling the next morning and a tear might have leaked out when I told Grammy about the experience. I had no idea the significance this dream would have on the acquisition of Four Sister’s Farm.
Fast forward ahead about 3 years and you find Grammy and me living in another state so I can pursue the greatest challenge of my working career. The work is exciting and I am experiencing success and promotion. At the same time, God is continuing to foster the calling to be close to and involved with our children and grandchildren. In December of 2007, we were back in Kansas reveling in a Christmas visit with our family. Our son-in-law, EJ was on the computer looking at rural real estate in the area. He came across a 40 acre farm that looked interesting but severely run down. We drove by the property and it looked kind of interesting but we didn’t have time to officially see it. On the plane ride home I told Grammy, “If that place is still there in February, I think we ought to look at it”. We agreed.
In February, we returned to the place that we love (Kansas) for the expressed purpose of looking at the 40 acre farm. We made arrangements and looked at the place. The house was not much, the out buildings worse, and the place was overgrown with 6 foot weeds which made it difficult to get around. However, the old barn was fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, it was dilapidated, but it was also unbelievably charming. I decided to walk the property with EJ. We walked north away from the homestead and the land was beautiful. The majority of the land is a rolling hay field separated at the half way point by a beautiful farm pond. As I took this walk, the vision of Lou Lou is not far from my conscious thoughts. So when I saw the farm pond begin to appear in the distance, my heart started beating just a little faster. However, as I got closer there did not appear to be a dam, like in the dream. With a little disappointment, I continued my walk.
I reminded myself I was a grown man and dismissed the silly thought of the dream. We continued on and this took us around to the north side of the pond. At some point, I felt compelled to stop and look back on where we had been. It was from this completely different vantage point that I saw the dam on the east side of the pond. I tell you it almost buckled my knees. The farm pond did indeed have a dam. It was overgrown with trees and weeds but it was there. As I looked back, the light was reflecting off the pond, and it did not take much imagination to recognize my dream. I wanted to drop to my knees and acknowledge God’s hand in our lives, but I was afraid EJ might think I was insane and go get Grammy. In hindsight, I should have! (EJ thinks I’m nuts sometimes anyway.)
In the first moment alone with Grammy I related my experience and told her this was our place. She did not question it nor did she act like anything strange had just happened. She simply said, “I’m in Baby”. (She calls me Baby sometimes.) With this partnership decided, we began to seek like acknowledgement from God. This came in so many ways over the next several weeks and culminated in a crazy closing on the property. God was there every step of the way and always just a little ahead.
The final question was, would our family be as taken by the farm as us? Farm Chick, EJ, and the Cowboys answered the question by being willing to homestead the place. Unconventional Doctor’s Wife and Doc had no choice after Lou Lou, Bub and Southern Gentleman (but not Ladybug, she’s too small) got to run around a little bit. (They are now partners in the chicken business.) But the jury was still out on Rock Star and Pretty Princess. Rock Star and PhoJo finally got to see the place and signed off with one stipulation by Rock Star. No poop, no bugs. She has since reneged on this (cause her little super heroes want to live with Pop at the farm; but not sleep there). I knew the Super Heroes would win her over!! Finally Pretty Princess came and walked the place. She was contemplative as she (much like her father) does not like change. She finally gave her blessing and has since frequented the place to take walks to the pond with Romeo.
This farm represents roots for us. Hopefully, it will be where Grammy and I live out this great love of ours. It will hopefully honor God and bless our children, grandchildren, family and friends. My vision is for our little ones to run free and experience unconditional love. I pray I live long enough to see their children run on this land. This is home for Grammy and me. We will look no more and we will put our hearts and labor into making this our family home. It will be a place where all are welcome and there will always be room for one more. People say I don’t smile enough! I’m going to work on that ’cause I want you to feel welcome if you stop by!! Come see us some time and Grammy and I will take you on a walk to the pond.