Be Proud Enough To Stand

Be Proud Enough To Stand

I found this little picture via a tweet early this morning… and it prompted all kinds of thoughts. Be proud of who I am was the thought that loomed large!

Be proud of who you are – we are a combination of our genetic value, and a representation of all historical pieces that make you who you are today. I’m proud to be my parents child. I’m proud to be born a Texan. I’m literally thrilled to look deep in the family tree and track who I am by where we have all come from.

I’m proud to have had a career in IT, pastor a church, be called a church planter, and very proud of my Christian roots. I’m more than proud of my wife and all she means to me. I’m proud of my children and the mate choices. I’m proud to be a granmpa….

I’m proud to have my age shared at the drop of a hat… 62! And still aging just fine, thank you very much! I’m proud to have a marriage that has lasted, when many see it as an unusual thing. 43 years this July!

I’m proud to have good siblings that I know will be there the day I need them the most, as they know the same of me. Equally, I’m proud of all my extended family, even if you sometimes feel like you’re the black sheep of some family dynamic.

We should be proud of who we are today, and knowing that life isn’t over and there’s plenty of time to accomplish even more accolades, awards, and achievements.

My son asked a question of me. Yesterday. I’m not sure of the answer, and pointed him to some others that may know more. I know that (supposedly) on one side of the family tree there are Choctaw roots, and on the other are Cherokee roots, and way back further than any of us know, someone came over from the old country to plant the family tree on this continent. On my bride’s side of the family there is supposedly a connection back to Davy Crockett, and even all the way back to Napoleon Bonaparte.

But here’s the thought for today. Although my legal last name may say “Gurley”, I know that the roots of my personal tree include last names like Simmons, Walters, and Parrish. I have relatives with these last names and they are part of an even differently varied set of roots than I.

I’m proud to have a unique name that almost comes in the category of Johnny Cash’s song, “A Boy Named Sue.” I do not remember much ribbing in my younger days, but there are some who make fun of just about anything and Gurley is one such word. In fact, I often see the name spelled “Girlie”… Just saying. I’m proud of my heritage that penned this name on my frame.

My family is spread far and wide, and many of them are total unknowns. I know I have family an hour or two north of me, and I remember one of them from my youth – but we’ve been over 50 years separated and I could not point him out in a crowd. Over in Idaho there is a branch of the tree that comes from my paternal grandmother’s side of the family. I think. Mom and dad have met them and pointed out the cemetery where some are buried, but I have not yet met that branch.

Track the name Gurley and you find little towns and hollows all across the nation. From Nebraska to Alabama, and yes, even in Texas. I think it may have been absorbed by Waco. [Source] I’ve been to each of these places… including Gurley Hollow, Tennessee… I’m still hoping to make it to Gurley, Australia, about 2 hours north of Sydney…

We all understand that our past may include some history that we are not proud of, and in today’s world we are more enlightened than prior generations. But when you realize that it is simply part of your past, and not your present or future, then my mind tells me to accept that none of us were, or even now are, perfect. All kinds of mistakes were made, and are being made today, and will be made tomorrow. That’s life.

Through the years I’ve collected Gurley memorabilia… My first was a ball cap from Gurley Motors, Gallup, NM… We were driving through on vacation when my son was barely a year old. About 1979, I suspect. An interesting trip that included Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon. (1977 GMC Pickup, Sea Mist Green, 305 v8… bench seats)

And everywhere I go I’m quick to take pictures of the places and things with my namesake attached…

Since then, I’ve added memorabilia of objects, history, music and books to my collection. Some are from current family members with the same last name as mine, others I picked up in my travels, or via eBay. I even have some artifacts from my Uncle Alton Gurley from his time in the service. He was a Pearl Harbor the day it was attacked.

I’m proud of where I was born… Baytown, Texas. And this morning, the Houston Chronicle published a photo essay of the town where my parents, sibling, and son were born. [Source] There was an oil boom back in the early 1900’s and the sleepy village became a booming oil town. Much of it’s economy still revolves around this boom that has been over 100 years in the making.

Maybe part of why I write today relates to the moments of thought as I woke, but the main reason is that we should be proud of who we are, who we have become, or who we are working at becoming. A thought from a tweet yesterday sort of paints the picture I hope to leave you with today.

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

You may not stand on the shoulders of a great history of people that you can identify, or identify with, but you do have the opportunity to work at becoming the person you want to be.

Be proud of who you are!


Yes, We Are Story Tellers

Every aspect of our lives contains a story.

I’ve posted about this many times, even as a focus of Mother’s Day and knowing your mom’s story. Along the way I’ve shared my favorite authors, and the type of stories I enjoy reading – mostly Historical and Science Fiction, Westerns, and biographies of certain people.

Sitting Around the CampfireI remember sitting around a camp fire as my folks would reminisce about the stories of their youth. Some of my favorite memories are them telling how they grew up and what it was like to walk up hill to school and then up hill home, in 3 feet of snow with no coats or shoes. For many years I just discounted their story, until it happened to me. Yep. Up hill to school, and then back up hill to home in the same 3 feet of snow! Only, I had shoes and a coat…

Some of the best times are listening to people tell a story (hopefully true) and do it in an enticing way that it is a joy to hear. Whether a preacher, or some conference speaker… gasp, even a politician… those that can draw me into their story are the ones I enjoy the most. I soak up these stories! Names like Garrison Keillor, Tom Bodett, Paul Harvey, Charles Osgood… Yep. Good Story Tellers!

We remember the stories of the bible. Those great big stories of people, places and events. Noah. Ark. Egypt. Moses. Abraham. David. Adam and Eve. But there are also little stories that prove my point. Take Joshua, for instance. He’s continuing the work of Abraham, headed for the Promised Land.

Stack of StonesThen Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:4-7 NKJV)

Sometimes we wait for the children to ask, “What does this mean?” Better still, we should be telling our kids something about their past and history so that each future generation carries the stories forward as treasured history. The stones were a memorial, but more importantly, the story would be repeated, and repeated.

What would be a worse thing is that the our stories never make it past us! Do not hold them in. Share them, even when your kids roll their eyes, “Give me a break, dork!”

My mom has been doing a genealogy research on both her names – maiden and married. Through her I am slowly learning my history from both sides of the families. In my travels I collect the memorabilia with my family name – Gurley, and look for places that have our name appended to it. Gurley, NE and Gurley, AL. Gurley Hollow, TN. Prescott, AZ – Gurley Avenue. Someday, Gurley, Australia. Troy, NY has Gurley Precision Instruments that has been in business since 1845. And those that made history! Helen Gurley Brown. A.D. Gurley, Phineas Gurley.  Then add the current generation and you will find a lot of history that is unknown by so many.

It’s a fascinating research! But think about those people with big, and little, stories that travel back in time for thousands of years. It’s sad the stories that are lost and not carried forward, but amazing that there are people who share with the next generation the stories of their past.

I was loaned a book written by a cousin, or something. “East Texas Memories”. Never a best seller, but Arley Walters took the time to write down the stories of growing up and living in East Texas. One of my dad’s stories are buried in the pages… It’s time to read.

So, maybe via a book, or story time, listening to your elders, or while enjoying a campfire… Take the time to tell a story… Better yet, take time to listen to someone’s story and make it part your story.

Claim Your Heritage

Words continually pop into my thinking process…

We The PeopleAnd I spend time thinking about the use of the word, its definition, and then how it applies to me. There were several words that crept into my mind this morning on a quiet 30 minute drive that I had all by my lonesome.

The one that stuck was “Heritage”… You know, its the word that describes what you “inherit” (original use) from those who have gone before. Generally it’s the generation just before, as in our parents, or even grandparents, and what they leave to their successors. Occasionally its the family connection to business or property.

But, it can also be used to indicate that range of historical depth that represents your genetic or cultural past.  For me it includes my state of birth (Texas, USA), my name (Gurley), my DNA (I hear it’s Welsh, Choctaw, Cherokee, UK), along with the experiences of life I’ve enhanced with travel, education, career choices, marriage, etc.. Add to these “natural” things, it includes other important items like my love of books and study, joy of collections, my dislike of deep math, my natural ability with computers, a love for understanding the world around…

This conglomerate view of who I am is passed as my heritage to my successors.

But will they want it? That’s not for me to say. We have watched mothers and fathers all around us attempt to pass on their heritage to the next generation, only to have it rejected and refused. Even laughed at. Talked about.

The older I get the more I look to the past to acknowledge who I am, where I came from and what I have done with the many blessings provided. Consider this post I made the other day:

What shaped you to be what you are today?
This is not a “who” question.
The “who” goes like this.
Who shaped you to be who you are today?
There is a difference between the “what” and the “who”…
Keep that in mind as you work on answering the question.
It is very important…

My heritage includes a walk with God that I greatly appreciate. It’s not something that began with my parents, but it something that has passed through them to me. It comes from a cross sectional view of Christianity that has a heritage of thousands of years. While true that the “life” of a Christian has changed throughout the ages, the very idea that it is not a flash in the pan as something new and crazy like all those multi-level marketing schemes!

Overall its the view of life that I trust my future to.

Here’s my thought. Your heritage may not be the best. Your past may be cloudy by a host of generational bad choices that are not of your choosing. Though saddled with the bad, you are not stuck with them for your future. You have the ability to create a New Heritage!

Generationally, you may be stuck with a heritage you cannot accept. But you have the possibility of creating a new heritage for your successors. There is a quote I keep handy, but it always seems to be lost in the morass of my desk and files. In a letter to his wife, Abigail, John Adams penned these words.

“The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”

By: John Adams (1735-1826) Founding Father, 2nd US President
Source: A Letter to his wife, Abigail Adams, 1780

Every beginner of a heritage path wants to work hard so that subsequent generations will have it better. But notice his focus. The opportunities he describes in the future do not continue the process of carrying forth the work he himself took ownership of. You cannot pick up those future items and not have the desire to keep the foundation strong.

So. Your heritage creation needs to lay a strong foundation that will stand the test of time, but you need to ensure that the future generation has the ability to carry forth that foundation so they can enjoy some of the lighter studies of life.

This is what I think about when I consider those early followers of Christ. Their hard work in the beginnings laid the foundation for all of us, but we cannot simply rest upon their work and take a life of ease. No, we still have hard work ahead of us. It is not timely that we relax and rest when so many still need to hear, know and experience the benefit of a Godly walk.

In fact, Peter uttered these words that I live by even today.

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”  (Acts 2:38-39 NKJV)

This future and never ending promise is not to take it easy, but to continue the work begun back then.

So.. What’s your heritage and who is the provider of your heritage? If it is not the best, now is the best time to build upon a solid foundation and make it better for the future!

You Know You Have Arrived….

What are your measures to know that you have arrived?

4th Grade
My Favorite Picture – 4th Grade

Today is my favorite daughter’s 34th birthday, and I thought, “I’ve arrived! All my kids are in their 30’s!” Then I paused and thought – really, I did – by the time 7 more years pass then I could say they are in their 40’s!

Which arrival means the most?

Alright. Neither is as important as their day of first arrival. You know, their original birth day.

For Elizabeth, it was this date back in 1981. It was a dawn birth for many (around 6am), but in Alaska the sun had been up for quite a while. Still, her middle name is Dawn for the reason of timing. As you can see below the sun arose around 4:40 am and sat at 11:29 pm – 18 hours of daylight her first day!

Anchorage Sunrise

“Elizabeth” came because I have simply loved this name for a long time and my bride agreed it was a good name for her! She has shortened it to “Liz” but I simply call her by the name we gave her 34 years ago. Today. Yep. That’s right!

Simple math tells me she’s 34 – but my heart tells me she’s still that little bundle of energy that we enjoyed our first year in Alaska. Jason would be 3 years old in a couple of months and he got to enjoy the night at the grandparents, while we spent the night at Providence Hospital. Though a painful night for Brenda, we were aware that we would enjoy a new experience at our apartment on Boniface…

Checkmate Plaza. 3330 Boniface, Apt 31… Still remember the address!

What a joy those early years in Alaska were. We had made a conscious decision when Jason was born that Brenda would be a “stay-at-home” mom until all kids were in full time school. I believe this was the touch of mom-magic that has blessed both of our kids even today.

Elizabeth, like me, is an introvert. I never thought about the label until she explored the phenomenon of how much we both need time away from people to recoup our energies just to go back into a crowd. She would play with her characters on the porch, or even the bike trail, and be more perfectly aware that she wanted to be by herself than the rest of us could understand.

EDG0138In this photo she was totally mad at me for wanting to take her picture. It interfered with her “alone” time of play! We have another picture around here where she played on the bike path at a park south of Anchorage, around Bird Creek, and she was not a happy camper when hikers and bikers transitioned her part of the trail!

Elizabeth on Swimming TubeNone of this means that she did not enjoy being around others – only it had to of her own timing and choice! She would crawl after Jason down the hallway as he tried to escape for some of his own “alone time!” She would rally with all the other kids in the neighborhood and church and play until all her strength was gone, but I’m sure it’s because she had stored up the necessary energy to enjoy the time with!

Through the years we have had a special father-daughter relationship, but I’m sure there were times it could have been better. In fact, I know there are times when life, career and church kept me so stinking busy that I missed out on so much. But I have always hoped that she knew I was there…

Elizabeth…. Liz…. Happy Birthday!

(Special note: I tried to upload an audio of her singing “You are My SunShine” with the verse she wrote for me… But it’s a trying time to think it through right now!)


Thanksgiving, 2013

Family, Pre-Emma, Depoe Bay, OR
Family, Pre-Emma, Depoe Bay, OR

Growing up Thanksgiving was often split between several family groups… The Gurley’s at one place, Simmons at another place, and often on the same day.  We would get to celebrate the long weekend with both family groups, extended cousins, aunts, and uncles. Some were almost stranger-like because we often saw them only once a year or so.

They say an average Thanksgiving consumption is about 4,500 calories …

I think we doubled that back in the 60’s!

Today, we are celebrating with my son and his family, Felicia and Emma. Elizabeth and Mat are in Virginia celebrating with her in-laws. Here it is sunny, and cold. There it has been raining and cold. Here, the traffic is mild, there it is typical East Coast crazy!

Mom and Dad are eating with my brother, Ken, and his family along the Gulf Coast. Vaughn and family are camping at Garner State Park, and Teresa is hanging out with some teacher friends and eating at the hotel in Dutch Harbor, Alaska…

On one hand, I really miss those older days when we could manage getting everyone together for some special treat days – and sampling all the varied cooking styles. On the other hand, I more often enjoy my small family retreat gatherings and the super casual approach to celebrating the day – minimal cooking effort and great hanging out time…

Regardless of your routine of holiday, may you have a blessed, safe and enjoyable day to celebrate “Thanks” “Giving” …