“The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green.” (Thomas Carlyle)
Allen. A word that comes off my lips probably twenty times a day. A word that sometimes is surrounded by love and other times by frustration. A word like no other in my life. A word that encompasses kindness unlike I’ve known before, integrity that quietly makes a profound statement, humility that lifts others up and spirituality that is deep and genuine.
I’ve struck gold in the landscape of life. This man, who I’ve known for almost 30 years just keeps getting better and better. He’s the best gift I’ve ever been given. And he gave me four more gifts in our incredible children, as qualities I see growing in them reflect who their dad is.
Allen embodies the spirit of “being kind over being right” (and thank God for that, because I like being right just a little too much). I watch it play out in quiet moments with close friends and strangers alike. He is considerate to both immediate family and the homeless that wander the streets of New York City. Co-workers who spend every day with him and the poor who don’t have access to clean water benefit from his heart of benevolence. His gracious spirit permeates his times with his partners in ministry and the engaged couples we minister to together. As you can see, his kindness is genuine, often and without boundaries.
Integrity is the suit of armor Allen puts on every single day. He does “the right thing even when no one is watching.” I would know. I live with the guy. He doesn’t cheat on his taxes, on his expense sheet at work, or me. He is the same person in the morning at work, in a board meeting at our church, on a weekend with the guys, and our family at home. I trust him completely and utterly. What a gift!
I struggle with thinking I’m better than everyone else (#notabigsurprise). I know. I’m working on it. And one of the reasons I’m working on it is because of this man named Allen who shows genuine humility. I want to be seen and heard. He wants others to be seen and heard, including me. He’s the biggest reason why I started this blog. He wants my voice out there. He actually, deep-down-inside, believes that others are valuable and takes the role of a servant much of the time even though he is a highly successful business man with mad skills. You can find him washing the dishes, folding the laundry, performing menial, unseen tasks no one else wants to do and never expecting the notice and applause of others. I am so blessed!
My favorite thing about Allen, and probably why he’s all those other things, is that he is deeply spiritual. His inner life matters more to him than his outward persona. He seeks God with ferocity. He spends time in prayerful solitude in all kinds of places (the woods, his favorite chair in our family room, the airport as he’s waiting for a flight). He seeks wise counsel with me as we work to have a better marriage and partnership for this journey. He has a group of male friends called the Muckmeisters who meet every other week to encourage and be encouraged along their inner journeys. We share our lives with a group of couples where Allen is vulnerable and open with his struggles and successes. He voraciously reads anything he can get his hands on (at our local library because he is an accountant and keeps our money under control) that will help him on his path to becoming spiritually and emotionally whole. He is the real deal!!
Allen is not perfect by any means. No one is. That’s what makes this post even more precious to me! I spend a lot of time thinking about and dwelling on all the things he is not, the ways I wish he was different. But today, on his 57th birthday, I am shouting for all to hear the things that HE IS, the parts of him that are his truest self.
To my boys: you have a great father. I don’t want you to be him. I want you to be yourselves. I want you to see, by Dad’s example, that you can be your truest, best selves in all that God made you to be. You are already great men and a lot of the reason you are is because of the amazing dad that you have.
To my girls: you have a great father. He has been more than enough for you and shown you what a good man is. Sarah, you have chosen wisely and have two good men (one big and one little) yourself. How blessed they both are to have you as their wife and mom. Rachel, you are still to choose. I know you will choose well. Dad will be a blubbering mess when he walks you down the aisle!
To Allen today: you are amazing! You are to be celebrated! I am so grateful to share my life with you! Keep doing what you are doing! Don’t change who you are (even though at times I’m shouting otherwise)! You make the world, and especially mine, a better place just because you are in it! I see you! I salute you! Happy Birthday! I hope we have 57 more of them together!!! And even that won’t be long enough!!