Our new year started off wonderfully. We had our children home and enjoyed some time together playing games and just relaxing. There’s nothing like special times with those you love. Then a week into the new year, things were no longer quite so wonderful. On Sunday, January 7, my precious Daddy went home to be with the Lord. He had lived his entire life for that moment. For him, it couldn’t have been a more perfect day…Sunday…the Lord’s Day. He preached that morning, but he never really awoke from his afternoon nap. For us, we were shocked and left with the big hole that he had filled in each of our lives. His celebration service and visitation showed us he’s leaving a hole bigger than just in our family. He was a part of so many, many lives.
A few months ago, we did a feature about Dad in our magazine. I had resisted doing that for many years because I didn’t want anyone to think I was showing “favoritism” about a guy I thought was one of the best God ever put on this earth. Now, I’m incredibly glad we did that story and he saw it. But since I didn’t write it, I do want to tell you a little more now about lessons I learned from Lanier Stevens.
- Serve God first. Daddy believed (and he and Mom instilled in each of their children) to love God first. Put Him first, and everything else will fall into place. It’s easy to get covered up with cares and worries of the world, but if you trust the Father and are living for Him first, all the other will work out. You do your part, and He will do His.
- Take care of your family. Dad believed in hard work. His dad, my grandfather M. Roy, was a believer that if a man didn’t work, he didn’t eat. (Daddy liked to eat!) Daddy worked hard. They raised a family of 4 children, and I remember he often was working three jobs. He preached on Sundays and Wednesday, was a rural mail carrier Monday through Saturday, then built houses and did construction work when he got off the mail route. He raised us with an example of hard work and taking care of your family.
- People matter. All people. All ages, all skin colors, all economic backgrounds. It doesn’t matter what label you put on them. God loved them enough to send His son. They matter.
- Kindness matters. My dad taught by example how to be kind. He kept a smile on his face and joy in his heart. Dad wasn’t perfect. He was human, but there are very few times I ever saw him be anything but kind.
- Talk to people. Daddy understood connecting with people…anywhere…anytime. He LOVED to make connections. He talked to total strangers who often became acquaintances and friends. If he didn’t know you, he wanted to.
- Sing. Once again…anywhere…anytime. We grew up singing songs still ingrained in my memory today. Daddy understood the power of music. He loved it. He loved using it in his ministry. He appreciated all kinds of music. In fact, he and I were recently laughing about a Donovan album we had from the 60s folk music era. But the music he loved most of all was gospel music. Songs about the one he worshipped and adored were always in his heart. He sang them, he shared them, and he wrote them. I’d love to say he listened to them, but I don’t think he was ever able to listen to anything without singing along!
- Spread joy. Dad made it a point to spread joy everywhere he went. He wanted to have fun. He sometimes acted goofy or silly. If it made people laugh, he was okay acting that way. Many times growing up, I remember him telling us it was time to take our daily “medicine,” quoting Proverbs 17:22 reminding us that laughter is good medicine.
- Let people know you’re thinking about them. If you knew my Dad, you were probably on the receiving end of one of his “thinking about you” phone calls or texts or unexpected visits. No matter how much I tried to get him to schedule things, he just wasn’t much for planning. If he thought about you, he called you…right then. I will miss those calls.
- Community matters. Daddy loved living in Madison County. He was always involved in ways to make things better. If there was a need that he could help with, he figured out a way to help. I watched him connect his community in so many ways and work in areas others eschewed—the House of Hope, Sunday jail ministry, Community-wide worship service, and the monthly Gospel Gathering singing in Midway. These will all continue without him. But they are all in place, in large part, because of him.
My dad loved Postcards Magazine because it connected our communities. And yes, he was proud of me for listening to the nudge from the Lord to do it. I grew up being so proud to tell anyone I was Lanier Stevens’ daughter. One of the last voicemails I have from him said how proud he was to tell someone he was Karen Altom’s father. I’m sometimes told that I’m too busy…have too much going on. I’ll be proud to say, “I’m a chip off the old block.”
Until next time, ~ Karen