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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Loving hands, helping hands

Finding out that I was assigned to perform service for, or on behalf of, Mom was very exciting because of the many fun things I could possibly do to make her heart happy.

Loving hands

Knowing that she and dad had purchased a new home in Cary before heading back to the Congo to finish their mission, I decided I wanted to do something fun with her grandkids to make her feel welcome when they came back to begin their Southern retirement. Their new home has a beautiful walkway up to the front door, so I set out to have each grandchild create a personalized stepping stone of their handprint for Grammy's new yard.

I knew it wouldn't be easy. My four kids and I had made stepping stones for my wife on Mother's Day and although they turned out beautifully, it was a challenge getting young kids to work with wet cement in a quick drying period. So, I realized that perhaps the greatest challenge would be coordinating with my sisters and brothers-in-law in a peaceful and loving way, despite the time-sensitive and complex activities the project demanded.

I don't have a real good track record on that type of thing with my sisters. I knew that a significant part my gift to Mom would be fighting the urge to be a bossy, demanding, and domineering perfectionist. I realized Mom would rather I focus on creating a terrific memory instead of perfect stepping stones.

The main effort occurred when five of the six families got together for the July 4th weekend. With great support from our spouses, my four sisters, three nieces, and I spent the afternoon of July 3 joyfully shopping together for the many supplies. Squished together in Charise's car, we went to a bunch of stores to collect the supplies – Lowe's for concrete, a second hand store for baking pans to use as molds, a pet store for sea shells, A.C. Moore for decorative jewels and stones, and Dollar Tree for even more decorations. We had a blast just being together and running around town.

On July 4, we had an awesome bbq & pool party at the Bishop's house. While the kids played, a few of us cut pieces of chicken wire to use as structural support inside the cement. Then, as family played in pool in the backyard, I arranged all of the supplies out front and set up for what would be a chaotic couple of hours.

We started with a buffet line of decorations, with each child filling their plastic cup with jewels, sea shells, and polished rocks. Then, we lined up nearly two dozen molds – one in front of each child and one for each couple. Every adult took on a different role. Two of my brothers mixed the cement in small batches. One sister inserted the metal pieces. Others went around smoothing the cement. A few ran around helping kids stick their hands into the cement. Somebody else was taking photos (which I either lost or never received because I can't find them anywhere). After finishing the kids' stones, each of the adult couples made a larger, shared stone for their family.

While hectic, the whole thing went incredibly well. In creating beautiful decorations for Grammy and Papa's yard, we also formed a beautiful memory of cousins and siblings working together.

I'm told that when Grammy and Papa arrived home from their mission to the Congo, they broke down in tears as they walked up the path to their new home, seeing the loving hands of their children and grandchildren.

Thank you Mom, for allowing me to create an instance of loving leadership with the family.

Helping hands

Originally, I had planned to do a couple of other acts of service on behalf of Mom, but as with many things, those plans changes on September 10, when our dear AJ was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I realized that I needed to use my talents to help the Hock family. For a number of weeks, I wondered how I might better serve the Hocks, but after visiting them at the end of October, I knew what the Hocks – and the Lord – needed from me.

I'm pretty good at writing and I'm no stranger to boasting, but on this one... well, there are too many precious things to put in words. While MeiLani has a fair idea of the lengths of my efforts, not even my wife really knows how many hours I spent on this project. What matters most is that for just over five weeks, the Lord strengthened me in unfathomable ways to help MeiLani and Michael turn a trial into a testimony of faith.

He combined my gifts of prose, technology, and design. He taught me a whole new system of website design in a period measured in dozens of hours, when it should've taken dozens of weeks. MeiLani and I were constantly amazed at how much we could accomplish in such little time. You all know how much MeiLani and I both love our full nights of sleep, but I was constantly amazed how service late into the night (and more than a few times into the very early mornings) didn't really take a physical toll the next day.

I know that for a period of a five weeks the Lord used me as an instrument to create a tool that helped share our story of families, trials, love, cancer, and faith with the world. [And it helped us raise a healthy sum to help lighten the Hock's incredible financial burdens.]

Thank you Mom, for reminding me that when you lose yourself in serving God's children, He will multiply your strengths and work marvelous miracles. [And thank you for your kind words in your comment you posted on the Save the Cheeks website.]


  1. These were both beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing your time and talents! We are extremely grateful! Love the stones as well.

  2. loving the stepping stones! great job - definitely a lot of work...holy smokes!

  3. The stones were a memory that I will always cherish. The website. ..amazing!