I’ve always been one to process things through writing. So even though its only been a few hours since I learned of my grandfather’s passing, the most therapeutic thing I can do right now is pour out my heart in words. I hope you will bear with me as I reflect on the most amazing man I have ever met.
My Poppie, known to the rest of the world as Woodrow Stevens, was everything I could hope to be in life. He was the son of a radically-transformed street preacher and that passion for the Lord ran deep in his veins. Life wasn’t easy for him growing up, but you’d never know it because of the way he told stories about his childhood. Everything was an adventure. Riding from Oklahoma to California because it was the Depression Era and work was scarce, growing up with eight siblings, his childhood horse, riding trains and rebellious brothers- Poppie was nothing if not a storyteller and if you hung around him long you were bound to hear some of his childhood adventures.
He was also a devoted husband. When my Mimi died five years ago, he was never quite the same. He adored her, and it didn’t take much for him to start reminiscing about how they met, married and spent their lives together. It was evident that he missed her terribly, and one of the greatest comforts I have is knowing they are together now.
Where Mimi was strict and no-nonsense, Poppie was equally as easy-going and fun. I don’t think I ever saw him in a bad mood. He was always up for a game of basketball, golf, ping pong or anything that involved a ball. He was a devoted OU Sooners fan and most every day was sporting Sooners gear of some type. I remember when we were younger (and even when we got old enough that he wasn’t fooling anyone) he would do this trick where he would act like he was snatching imaginary money out of the air from all around you, shove it in his closed fist, have you blow on it, and then open his hand and there would be a fist-full of money. He was over-the-top generous in every way. He loved spoiling his family and never let us get away without a little something jingling in our pockets.
When I was younger I had the privilege of not only living near him for seven years, but also attending the church where he pastored in Bethany, Oklahoma. I remember singing specials with him as a child- “I’m So Glad I’m A Part of the Family of God”, and “Step Into the Water” were two of the ones we would do together. He was a gifted preacher. Even as a young girl I can remember hearing him teach the Bible in a simple, yet compelling way. He never strayed from the Word, probably because it was hidden so deep in his heart from years of memorizing scripture. Even as he entered his 80’s, he would hand me the Bible and ask me to read along as he quoted Hebrews so he could make sure he was remembering it correctly.
Even after his brain aneurism when I was a pre-teen, his memory was amazing. He could remember everyone’s birthday in our whole extended family. And the way he remembered them is because he would use those dates to help him remember to pray for each person. The last time he came to visit I remember walking by his room late at night and hearing him pray. He called us all by name. That is one of the things I will miss most, knowing that he is calling out my name in prayer every day. Only heaven knows the countless ways my life has been impacted through his prayers for me and my family.
His obedience in following God to South Korea as a missionary years ago was instrumental in the adoption of our son, and our own family’s journey to serve overseas. When I asked him about how he knew he was supposed to go, it was just so simple, so matter-of-fact: “I heard there was a need, so I prayed and asked the Lord if this was something we should do.” He didn’t over-complicate following the Lord. And his steady, faithful obedience to that call has impacted my own spiritual life so deeply. He just loved Jesus so much that he would do whatever God asked of him. He carried that love for Korea and for missions in his heart forever, and when he got to meet Josiah for the first time after we brought him home from Korea, the tears in his eyes and his joy in seeing his ministry and his heritage being intertwined was so, so beautiful.
I could write pages and pages about the man I got to call Poppie, his life was so rich and meaningful. I could tell you of his love for Dr. Pepper and Snickers bars. I could write about the Werther’s Originals he always had on his desk at the church that I was always sneaking. I could share how he collected coins that had dates before 1950 and there’s no telling how many of them will be uncovered in the days to come. But of all I saw and learned from him, perhaps the most important thing is this: your legacy is directly linked to the small things. It wasn’t grand accomplishments in his life that have shaped the fabric of our family’s heritage, it was the everyday commitment to walking with the Lord, loving others, living generously and serving humbly that have helped to make us all who we are. He just lived each day with purpose. He stewarded his moments well. And although the world may never know his name, I can promise you there are many who will never forget it because of the genuine kindness and love he showed to everyone he met. I am honored to be his granddaughter and to carry his legacy in my blood. I will miss him deeply, but I am confident that this afternoon he heard the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” He finished well. He’s finally met the One he devoted his life to serving.
And I bet he’s already telling Jesus some stories.