Eleven years ago my husband met a very interesting man at a men's prayer breakfast. They had a great conversation and bonded over their mutual love of golf! I remember my husband saying that he felt strongly that God wanted him to get to know this person. I thought nothing of it at the time.
Eventually they would spend more time together. Often after golfing, they would come back to the house and have something to eat. It was during one of these times that I jokingly told this new found friend that if he continued showing up for meals we'd have to make him a relative. Of course he thought that was funny and was soon known as "Uncle Erich" to the kids. In that moment, none of us knew exactly what that would look like, or what shape this relationship would take in our lives. God knew.
As time went by and we shared life together God took the words I spoke in jest, and truly made us family. Erich has been a cozy spot for my youngest to fall asleep on. He's been a play mate for both girls since the oldest was a 5 year old and the youngest was a 1 year old. I've caught him on all fours playing with the kids. Just a week ago he participated in a "photo shoot" in our back yard with my oldest as the photographer! I must say, he looked especially handsome pretending to pick flowers off of my forsythia bushes! To the kids, he is the giver of stuffed monkeys, a practical joker, a playmate, and a friend. If you ask the youngest she'll tell you "He's a little wild" and "He makes the best corn!" Erich is an important part of every holiday. In the beginning, our families would say, "Be sure to invite Erich." Now, it goes without saying. Erich is as permanent a fixture at Thanksgiving dinner as the turkey on the table! None of us can imagine a holiday without him, nor do we want to.
Today Erich turned eighty. In recent conversations he has asked me not to pray that he makes it to one hundred! I really enjoy my conversations with Erich. We can start out talking about what's wrong with the world and always end up in the same spot, looking forward to being with our Savior. Other than my grandparents, I don't think I have met anyone else in recent years who truly can't wait to spend eternity with Christ. That's the beauty of Erich. He is able to live his life here on earth with eternity ever present in his mind. He doesn't get stuck on the here and now. He knows the best is yet to come and he gets great joy out of picturing it.
When we first met Erich, we had no idea that the best was yet to come. We thought we had simply made a new friend, when in fact we had unknowingly discovered a missing branch in our family tree. Yet God knew. That's the thing about God...He's always looking to grow a family. Who is He looking to add to yours? Will you make room? With God there is always room for one more at the dinner table and the best is always yet to come. I am so thankful that we have had these eleven years together and can celebrate this milestone of a birthday. Most of all, I am thankful for Erich.