As I continue to get older and reflect on my life, I begin to notice the times that God put people in my life that made a difference in molding me into who I would ultimately become. This is another example of how God makes you a new person. He puts influences in your life that you can learn from and pass on to other generations. Some are blood and some are not but if they are believers in Christ, they are family regardless. These people are gone from this world but never forgotten because I am able to not only live how they taught me but I am able to tell my children and others their stories. I want to start by talking about a sweet lady named Virginia Rolfe. She taught me that prayer is the most important thing when it comes to helping someone change and that just because we don’t see the change immediately, God is always working and hearing our needs. This is so true today in my life because there are so many people that I want to change by telling them what they are doing is wrong and that they need a relationship with God but I know that isn’t the best way to approach things because it shouldn’t be my first reaction. Praying is my first reaction now when I want someone to change for the better because of the importance that my great aunt instilled in me for the constant praying she did for her son. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us clearly to pray without ceasing. Don’t be discouraged through prayer and never feel like God isn’t listening because it is always his timing not ours and even though my aunt is no longer here on earth to see what an amazing Christian father and husband that her son is now, I know that she is smiling down on him daily and is proud. If you want your relationship with Jesus to change for the better, have conversations with him in prayer because it is worth it.
The next person that I want to share about is a man named Charles Booth. This man was my grandpa Charlie. A veteran, a husband, a father, a police officer, and a pastor. He taught me a lot of things in life and the importance of life in general. I remember him teaching me how to drive the riding lawnmower when I was 10 and watching Clint Eastwood on tv with him but the most important thing that I remember about him is that he seemed to balance everything so well. He told me that there will be times in your life when you lose focus of what is important and somedays you can’t take those back but you can always move forward and make each day worth it to those you care for. He always told me that if I wanted to do something then do it, but to make sure that God is first and that you are able to balance everything else to keep relationships with your family and friends strong and never stop fighting for what you believe in. He also said that life is a wonderful thing that God has allowed us to have and that it is not up to us to take away life from anyone and that was only Gods decision. I was shocked in hearing those words from him because he was a police officer and was put in a lot of tough situations where people would try to shoot him but if he needed to shoot that person he always aimed to not kill. I respect that to this day that he cared so much about others lives that he would sacrifice his own when the battle was difficult and he always took time to help people he didn’t know even if they didn’t want it. If that isn’t Christ-like then I don’t know what is. Galatians 5:13–14 says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. My grandpa Charlie was a man of courage in many ways and served everyone humbly in love and I am thankful that God allowed his wisdom to be passed on forever.
Uncle Dwayne was a man with many qualities but it seemed that his faults got the best of him at times but God has a way to get people through the hardest times and be used for His purpose. Just look at Job and Peter and David and many others. Dwayne Dillon taught me how to fish, how to hunt, how to cook ribs, how to drive a standard vehicle, and how to do certain taxidermy mounts. See my uncle was an outdoorsman and a taxidermist and one of the goofiest people you could ever meet. Some say I act just like him and I am fine with that. The most important thing that my uncle was able to teach me was to use my God given talents to not only make you happy but others. He said that your talents God has given you may be something that you love doing for the rest of your life and that was important more than money. He also taught me the importance of temptation and addiction and how it can lead you to a path you don’t want to go but to know that God can get you out of the darkness if you seek his help. Some say they only want to remember the good in a person but I want to remember both the ups and the downfalls in a person because it tells the whole story of how God’s power and dedication can lift us up out of the darkest of days and that nothing is impossible for him. My uncle taught me how to be addicted to the right things in life not only the bad things in life. Yes, his addiction to drugs and alcohol took so much from him and changed who he was but the addiction that ultimately changed him for the good was the addiction of God’s love. When you struggle and you think that there is no hope of getting out of the situation you are in, rely on God to help you like my uncle did when he was in the lowest valley of his life. God sent people to help him and put people in places to lift my uncle up and get the help he needed. God did that, and he can also do that for you. I was able to spend some time with my uncle his last summer on earth and it was great to be able to sit in the boat while fishing and having conversations of the good and bad times in his life and hearing all the things that God did and that if he could do it for him, he could do it for anyone. He said that he was finally addicted to something that had a purpose and that made him feel better than anything before and he wanted others to know that being high on Jesus was worth much more than a temporary high on drugs. He felt that Jesus filled the void in his life. Matthew 11:28 tells us this: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My uncle was no longer burdened by the way of this world but was finally put at rest knowing that the best addiction was Jesus. Eight months later my uncle left this world but his story will always be a part of my life and others as well. May you who are weary find your rest.
When I mentioned above about family not always being blood, I wasn’t lying. The last two people that I want to share about that God put in my life to make me who I am today both played grandmother roles in my life. Both became my grandmothers through marriage. I will start with my grandma Anna Dillon. She taught me to comfort my family and those that need help, even if you do not know them and even if they didn’t want help. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to marry my grandpa Joe than her. Even though she wasn’t my blood she never acted differently towards me at all or my brothers. Her willingness to always go above and beyond to love family was the best quality she had and I am thankful that I can be able to do the same because of her. She would go out of her way to get Christmas gifts, Birthday gifts and anything else my brothers and I needed because of her unselfish heart. I miss people like Anna. We need more people like her, where family is important and sacrificing self for others goes above our own wants and desires. Sound familiar? The Bible tells us that the greatest commandments require self-sacrifice. The first commandment is that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36–40). We can do neither of these while still demanding our own way. We must sacrifice our rights and desires in order to fully obey God. Biblical self-sacrifice is being willing to set aside one’s own desires for the good of others. Anna always made me feel like I was not only her grandson but a son and I loved every minute of it. Her youngest son Zach is like a brother to me and I am extremely thankful for that and we tend to not agree on everything but hey, what brothers do? I am glad that Anna taught me the importance to comfort and sacrifice because without it my love for Christ and others would not be as strong as it is today.
Lastly, I want to share about a lady known to a lot of people by Grandma Wagner. Norma Wagner was my wife Amber’s grandmother and my father-in-law Allen’s mom. She recently went to be with the Lord this year and it hurts knowing that I will not be able to see her again until we meet again in Heaven. She has had a big impact on my life in many ways and has taught me so much. I am thankful I was able to know her for 20 years. She taught me a lot about determination and how to be more caring and helpful. She taught me patience as well, which I am sure she had much of that having so many children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren and other strays in her life. See, she didn’t just care for her own but cared for everyone she came in contact with and even cared for a husband of a grand kid that is a Steelers fan. She was always willing to treat you like family and wasn’t afraid to be straight up with you either, which I think was one of her best qualities. People hide behind the truth and are afraid of reality but Norma wasn’t. She would tell you how she felt and the importance of why she was telling you no matter if it was something extremely important like how to burp your first child or simple like how to tie up a garbage bag at a campsite properly or what card to play at any given time in a game of Euchre or Gin. When she gave instruction, I listened because she knew what she was talking about. She had this natural ability to treat everyone like family. She would go out of her way to do the smallest things to make people feel special like the many times she called me when the Steelers would win a game because she was happy for me because they won or call me to tease me when the Colts would beat them. Either way I enjoyed the phone calls from her and will miss that. She never would stay on the phone that long and I don’t think I ever heard her say goodbye on the phone either because she would just hang up. I will miss that. She always thought of others before herself and I can honestly say that I see that gift in all of her kids as well. Ephesians 4:2 tells us to Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Norma “grandma” Wagner lived this out so well in her life and I am thankful I am able to pass this down to my children as well and follow in her footsteps. She will greatly be missed in person on this earth but I will make sure her life lessons she has given me continue on.
In conclusion, all of these people were brought to me in life for a reason by God to use them to make me a new person by what I have learned through them. I am thankful that scripture tells us in Psalm 116:15 “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” All of these people served the Lord which allows me to have comfort knowing that one day we will reunite again in front of our maker, and that is an awesome feeling. If you feel that there is no hope and that you can’t get out of the situation you are in, lean on God and those that love him to show you that He can make you new again like he continues to do every day for me.