Tag Archives: Dad

The Secret of the Stained-Glass Revealed!

Stained Glass Message Collage

First of all, an apology to those of you who have asked me repeatedly about my post, late last year, about my dad telling Wendy and me that he had planted a message in the stained-glass window he created for our new home. I have no good excuse other than not getting around to posting the answer. My dad told us at Thanksgiving that if we didn’t guess by Christmas he’d reveal it to us. To be honest, we only got the answer partially correct.

As we looked over the stained glass repeatedly during the holidays we could use our imagination to see different ways our initials could be configured, so we both wondered if dad had planted our initials in the design. We were correct, but we didn’t quite see clearly how he did it.

There are 13 gold squares scattered throughout the window like dots, and when you connect the dots, they make a “W” and a “T.” And, what’s kind of cool is that it doesn’t matter which side of the window you’re looking at, it’s still a “W” and a “T.”

Our stained-glass continues to be a source of daily joy for both Wendy and me as we enjoy its color, beauty and light from the most used and lived in space of our home. Can’t thank dad enough for his special gift (and secret message).


Top Five Tuesday: Five Things I Miss About My Toddlers

Speaking of the toddler stage…I know that pre-school kiddos are a handful. As a father who is about 20 years beyond those years there are things that I truly miss about parenting between when the girls were out of diapers and walking to when they were off to school. And, since I missed my “Memory Monday” post yesterday, let’s do a two-fer today. For the Top Five Tuesday and Memory Monday mash-up, here are the top five things I miss about parenting my two little toddlers:

  1. Bedtime stories.
  2. Cuddling (especially when they fell asleep in my arms).
  3. The screams of “Daddy!” and the sound of four feet running to greet me when I came through the door.
  4. The most hilarious things that came out of their mouths.
  5. Wrestling and rumbling on the floor, tickling, and the giggles, giggles, giggles.

Top Five Things I Appreciate About My Dad

Chip off the ol' block.
Chip off the ol’ block.

It’s Top Five Friday! From the home office in Pella, Iowa. Here are the top five things I appreciate about my father.

  1. He said “I love you”…every day. He has also said “I’m proud of you.” I have met a startling number of men on my life journey who have significant soul wounds from fathers who never said those words. It wasn’t until I set out on a journey of my own to discover about what it means to be a man that I discovered how this simple act, one that I’d always took for granted, was a true act of manliness that many males just don’t get.
  2. He taught me how to be affectionate. I’m a hugger. I loved cuddling with my daughters when they were young. I love cuddling with my wife, hugging her, holding her, touching her. I know that the women in my life value my ability to show appropriate, manly, loving affection.  I learned that from my dad who was always affectionate with my mother, and with me and my siblings. Interestingly, my earliest memory is of my dad holding me. We were sitting in a black leather chair. He was wearing a white t-shirt. I couldn’t have been older than two or three.
  3. He taught me to shoot, to fish, and to hunt. While I never developed a passion for fishing and hunting like my dad had, I certainly value the knowledge and the many memories I have of days spent fishing the boundary waters and walking the autumn fields of Iowa with my dad. As an adult, I was once asked if I wanted to go hunting with a bunch of men from church. They assumed that I was unlearned in the field, but I agreed to go and brought my brother’s 20 gauge Remington shotgun to the hunt. The boys gave me a hefty dose of ribbing about my “small gun” and asked why I didn’t use a 12 gauge shotgun which was more powerful and had better range. A short time later when I was the only member of the party with a pheasant in the bag I smiled at my surprised companions and quietly said, “If you know how to shoot, you don’t need a 12 gauge.” Thanks, Dad.
  4. He taught me the value of hard work. It wasn’t something he said, but something he did. It was growing up watching him do what needed to be done every day. It wasn’t just the getting up and going to work early every morning or sitting and working at the kitchen table on weekends during tax season, but also they way he spent evenings and weekends doing what needed to be done around the house, fixing things up, making things better. It was the expectation of being productive, giving it your best, and doing a good job no matter the task. I watched. I learned. I’m grateful.
  5. He let me become who I was meant to be. I never felt pressure to be what he wanted me to be or hoped I would be. He didn’t tell me what college to go to and I didn’t get a stern lecture when I chose to be a theatre major. I was never told what extra-curricular activities I would be involved in, but got to choose and explore those things which I enjoyed and the things in which I was interested. I was quietly allowed to make mistakes, even tragic ones, that led to failures which I needed to experience in order to grow and mature. There was never an “I told you so,” “If you’d only listened to me,” “I could have told you,” or “What in the hell were you thinking?!” There was, however, if I may reference the top of this list, always an “I love you” and always a hug.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thanks. And, I love you, too.

TBT: A Father’s Day Special

Tom and Girls

Throwback Thursday on the week of Father’s Day. I have so enjoyed being father, daddy, dad, papa, pops, daddy-0, and faja to these two gorgeous beauty queens. I never ceased to be amazed at the beautiful women they’ve become inside and out, and I’m eternally grateful for their grace with all of this dad’s imperfections. Love you, Taylor-Made and Maddy Kate.

An Honored Role

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This past Saturday night I had the fun and privilege of participating in a father/daughter dance with my friend Megan for the third straight year. Megan and her family became our friends through theatre. In 2006 when Wendy directed The Christmas Post, a young Megan was on stage with her mother and brother, and her dad was the show’s accompanist. Back in the spring of 2010, Megan’s dad passed away and it happened that she was, at that time, capably playing the role of my character’s daughter in the show K.O.L.D. Radio, Whitefish Bay.

Megan joined the PHS dance team, Forte’, when she got to high school and at the team’s annual home performance the girls always do a dance with their dads. It’s been my honor to be asked to play the role of her honorary dad each year. Talk about dancing with the stars 🙂

Thanks to Wendy for her exemplary job behind the camera!

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One Sentence

from ilgunmkr via Flickr
from ilgunmkr via Flickr

Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. 1 Samuel 25:1 (NIV)

Over the past few years I have, on occasion, received an early morning phone call from my dad. A call in the early morning is always a bid disconcerting, but I’ve learned that it probably means  that someone we know has died. My dad’s routine is to check the obituaries in the paper each morning to, as he puts it, “see if it’s going to be a good day.” Presumably, each day he doesn’t find his own name on the page is a good day.

Just a couple of weeks ago Wendy and I attended the funeral of a friend who died unexpectedly. This week I received a phone call asking me if I would officiate the funeral of a gentleman who was in my congregation when I was a pastor many years ago. I agreed to do so and was honored to be asked.

Perhaps because of these recent events my mind has been thinking about death and funerals this week. That’s why I found it interesting to open the chapter this morning and find that it begins with a one line obituary for Samuel. Samuel was such a key figure in the historic events we’ve read in the previous three weeks. He was the miracle baby, the boy who was called by God at a young age, a key figure in the downfall of the house of Eli, the final Judge of Israel, a priest, a prophet, and the transitional character between the period of the Judges and the monarchy. Samuel lived a long and eventful life. And, in the end, his death is given a one sentence obituary amidst the stories of David and Saul.

This morning I’m reminded that the same fate awaits us all in this earthly life. It’s a sobering but critical truth, and one that should not be wholly ignored. At the end, our entire life journey will be reduced to a sentence or two. What will it have to say? How will we be remembered?

Please forgive me if I’m starting the day off with a downer. Look at it this way: The phone didn’t ring this morning, so my dad must not have found your obituary in the paper. That means it’s going to be a good day.

Press on.

Being a Man = Being a Dad

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)

“He’s just not a baby guy.”

I’ve heard that said of many a father or grandfather who shuns holding a little one, getting involved in changing diapers, or relating to infants and toddlers. I’m sure it is cloaked in machismo or family systems in which men avoid getting involved with kids until “they’re old enough to have a relationship.” I wonder, however, if the reality is simply a toxic mixture of good ol’ fear, ignorance and cowardice.

Either way, my experience tells me this is a sad reality for both the man and the child. Relationship, and the lack of relationship, start in the earliest moments of life. If you wait at all to get involved in the rearing of your child, you’ve waited too long. A child, even in it’s earliest stages, needs the strong hands and nurturing of a father. A a man needs both the blessings and lessons that come from caring for his infant child. Being a dad is as much, if not more, a part of the masculine journey as being successful at a career or proving yourself on the field.

My adult daughter has shared with me on more than one occasion the experience of having conversations with groups of her peers. Almost everyone, she says, talks about their distant and detached fathers. They longed for their dads to be engaged, to feel their presence and support, to hear words of blessing like “I love you” and “I’m proud of you.” She finds it sad how many never had that experience, and how much it seems to have spiritually and relationally crippled her friend’s lives.

It makes me sad as well. Being a father has made me a better man. I made a promise to myself that I was going to enjoy relationship with my daughters at every stage of their development as infants, toddlers, children, tweens, teens, young adults and adults. I have not been perfect. Both of my daughters can attest to that. I can honestly say that I’ve done my best. There are so many lessons about being a man, being human, and being a child of God that have come directly from the daily role of being a dad to my daughters at different stages of their growing up.

To any dad reading this: Better late than never. Spend time with your kid. Play with them. Read to them and tuck them in. Go watch their game or concert. Write them a letter. Hug them. Tell them you love them or that you’re proud of them. Perhaps it would be appropriate to say “I’m sorry.” However you need to do it, be man enough to rustle up the courage to be a good dad for your kid.

“Sure, Daddy! I’ll be Happy to!”

English: The ark of Noah and the cosmic covena...
English: The ark of Noah and the cosmic covenant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 7

So Noah did everything as the Lord commanded him. Genesis 7:5 (NLT)

When my daughter Madison was very young, about the age of five, I asked her to do something for me. I don’t remember what it was I asked her to do, but I remember the moment like it happened a minute it ago. It’s etched in my memory and I have never forgotten her response to me. “Sure, daddy!,” she said with a smile, “I’ll be happy to!” She then bounced off to do what I’d asked. I was left smiling by her immediate obedience and her willing spirit.

To be sure, our daughters were not always as quick and cheerful in their obedience as Madison was on that day long ago. However, Madison’s attitude and obedience in that moment became a living word picture for me that has always stayed with me. In that moment I suddenly understood what my Heavenly Father feels when I am willingly obedient with a cheerful heart. I can imagine it is the same feeling God felt with Noah’s simple obedience.

Today, I’m praying that I can embody that same cheerful spirit in responding to God’s requests of me. “Sure thing, God. I’ll be happy to.”

Happy Birthday Dad!

Dean Vander Well on his 3rd birthday (1940)

Today we celebrate my Dad on his birthday. He was three years old in the picture above, but today he is three quarters of a century old and still young at heart. Thanks for a lifetime of love, hugs, support, time, assistance, provision, grace, prayer, laughter, wisdom, and integrity.

Love ya, Dad!

Taylor’s 21!


Cheers, Taylor!


Twenty-one years ago yesterday, Taylor was born on a 4th of July evening. With Taylor’s 21st birthday hitting this holiday weekend, my mind has been taking a lot of trips down memory lane. A small handful of my favorite Taylor memories are:

    • Taking her with me on hospital calls and to the nursing home when I was a pastor. Her contagious two-year-old smile and joyful disposition had more of a healing effect than anything I ever said or did.
    • Daddy-daughter trips to the Art Center and Cubs games.
    • Taking a clay class together downtown and teaching her the weather beacon rhyme.
    • Lots of singing and dancing together. I especially loved dancing together at the annual Daddy-Daughter Valentine’s dance when she was a little girl and of course dancing with her at her wedding.
    • Being on stage together.
    • Reading The Lord of the Rings at bedtime, especially when Gandalf fell in the Mines of Moria and she cried.
Taylor drew this as a gift for me on Father's Day
    Taylor has turned into a beautiful woman inside and out. She blessed me with a wonderful Father’s Day gift. She did a great portrait of me in charcoal from a photograph of me in college that she loved. I felt so honored.

Today I took Taylor out for a daddy-daughter date to celebrate her birthday and, for the first time, I bought her a drink. We had a nice conversation, we laughed, and we talked about life.

I remember when Taylor was a baby and I would try to picture what she would look like as a woman, what she would be like and how she would turn out. I never cease to be grateful for such a great kid who has been and continues to be such a blessing.

Happy Birthday, Taylor!