Friday, January 27, 2012

Double Nickles

Fifty-five years ago today, a miracle happened!

A baby named John Franklin came into the world. Weighing just over ten pounds; first born; first grandchild; a SON; surely all of heaven rejoiced. Or at least, that's what his mom thought. And trust me, she still thinks that way all these years later.

That baby boy grew up to become the man who captured my heart. And today we celebrate him!

Norman Rockwell; Carlyle, PA; all things patriotic; all things family oriented; these describe Frank. And topping it off is his innate love of people! Guess that's what makes him such a great pastor.

There are lots of funny stories from his childhood, like the time he rode his tricycle toward a busy intersection. Peddling like the wind with Mom running behind him, screaming for him to stop.

Thankfully she beat him to the stop sign. And as was customary in those days, she beat him back to the house! Just to help him remember never to repeat that particular exercise.

Mischief found Frank all through his growing up years. Typical small-town pranks like doggie deposits collected in a brown paper bag. A doorbell would ring, boys would run, the home owner would open the door to find a paper bag on fire.

Stomping out the fire (natural response) would ruin the home owner's shoe and leave the boys rolling in laughter on the other side of the hedge . (Disclaimer: Do NOT try this at home!)

Mom enrolled Frank in Boy Scouts early on, attempting to channel some of that energy in a positive direction. He excelled, of course and still quotes to us frequently, "Leave the campsite better than you found it!"

Another of my favorite growing up in Dunn stories took place during high school. One of his teachers really didn't want to teach and seldom paid attention to the students. On a dare, Frank waited until the teacher got absorbed in writing on the blackboard and he climbed out the window.

But simple escape wasn't enough for our young hero. No, he had to take it a step further. Frank came around to the door of the classroom and knocked. When the teacher opened the door, Frank asked for himself. The disengaged educator scanned the room and said, "He must be absent today!" Not making it up, dear readers.

I'll forever be grateful for Sandra Bass Palmer who said to me, "You should go out with Frank Hawley. He's really a great guy!" Sandra was the proctor of my hall at Southeastern College and I pretty much took everything she said as Gospel.

So the next time he asked me out, I made sure I went! Even though I had to ask another young man to bring me back to the dorm earlier than planned so I could go out with Frank. No, I did not feel it necessary to make either young man aware of the full story at that time! Besides, Frank had another "special" friend then too.

When Frank left home to attend Southeastern College, his mom urged him to become friends with lots of girls and not date just one. He was always an obedient son!

But in the end, it was Sheri Burke that won his heart. And I've endeavored to keep winning it over these past three decades.

I've turned over all the many things I could write about this wonderful fellow who has today gained membership into the "Double Nickle Club".

The one I finally settled on offers hope to all men who read this post.

I've been amazed through the years at what a wonderful father Frank is to these three daughters God put in his world. That's more estrogen than any one man should have to navigate.

He knew everyone's favorite snacks, drinks and TV shows. He kept up with dolls, curlers, hair bows and heartthrobs. He even knew where to find pantyhose and other girlie things in any grocery store!

Frank worked hard to understand the delicate balance of important issues: Discipline and hugs. Prayer and laughter. A little indulgence and a lot of love.

In fact, God used Frank's relationship with our girls to bring healing to a few issues in my own "Little Girl Heart". Through him, I've caught a much better perspective of how our Heavenly Father loves each of us.

He didn't have the benefit of a consistent father figure in his formative years. His dad went off in search of greener pastures when Frank was eight. He adored his granddad; but polio had left him almost incapacitated. And Dad Hawley (a wonderful step dad) didn't come on the scene until Frank's teens.

No, Frank didn't inherit his loving father heart; he asked God to develop it!

He diligently watched other men who had good relationships with their own children. He read constantly; listened to hours of James Dobson teaching; repented when he missed it and prayed. He prayed like his life depended on it!

And so it has.

A dear friend delivered fresh collard greens and hot corn bread to the office yesterday in honor of Pastor Frank's birthday. The man's eyes lit up like a pin-ball machine! (Southern born; Southern bred.)

Tonight his family - a wife, three daughters, two "sons", and a perfect grandson - will gather around the dinner table to celebrate him. He'll read his cards with a frog in his throat. A few tears will escape. We'll hold our sides with laughter. And as the accolades are shared, he'll genuinely be surprised by what is said.

Heroes seldom recognize themselves as such. But I'm here to testify that John Franklin Hawley can wear the badge!

Happy Birthday, Honey! So very proud of you...........


  1. What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. Especially liked the story about him climbing out of the classroom window and knocking on the door.

    too funny!

  2. Although I don't know you personally, I feel as though I know you personally. Yes, I really just wrote that. You see, Becky Smith, someone else I don't know personally but know personally, introduced me to you, your family, and your writing via suggestion and sharing stories about your family interaction with their family. What a delight to have "witnessed" the tender closeness that has grown over the years between Nathan and Meghan, and what a privilege to have prayed for this union to blossom, and it has!

    So, all that said, I want to take a minute to say "Happy Birthday" to the love of your life and to wish the two of you many, many more years of wedded bliss together. Just a hint of knowing the Smith family and your family has given me such hope for the future of church, of church leaders, and of sharing the gospel to be fruitful and multiply His followers. Church wasn't always led by people who lived Christian lives. I recall many attempts at finding a home church only to be disappointed by the judgmental leaders who not only turned me off to them, but also confused me in my beginning walk with Christ. It is only because of people like you and Becky and your spouses that ministry holds not only meaning for me, but also hope for all of us who seek a closer relationship with God.

    So, yes, happy birthday to Frank. May the love of his heart and for His God continue to shine through him so that more people can be moved closer...closer to God, closer to their hearts, and closer to each of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Thank you for all you do...and for sharing what you do in this blog.

    (I always wish I could be brief yet meaningful like Becky in my comments, but, alas, it is not happening. Sorry if I am tedious in my responses...verbose seems to be a way of life for me.)

    1. Sue, every word you write is a gift so don't worry too much about shortening your comments. You're a blessing to all of us who know you.

      And you're right, Frank and Sheri are true inspirations.