Author’s Note:This piece started as a regular article but morphed into a letter to my son. The reason is that I used some of the songs he produced to make my point and celebrate the great plan of happiness.
The one constancy in life is change. That dichotomy may sound strange, but if you think about it, the sentiment is spot on. We plan trips, register for schooling, schedule meetings, and arrange our lives, but things don’t always work out like we plan or anticipate. Often our preparations are interrupted before they fully materialize. But that’s okay. God’s plans far exceed our fondest imagination. Do you believe that? I know it. I see it every day. Nothing frustrates God’s plan. Nothing. So when your plans coincide with God’s, you too are immune from eternal struggles, failure, and never-ending hardship.
Maybe I’m just lucky. Yeah. You could say that, but luck is really a misnomer. God does not depend on luck. Everything is allowed, prevented, or caused. Everything! What is more amazing than luck is seeing the tender mercies from God constantly restore, redeem, and heal one’s life. He can and does magnify our lives when we allow it. And that constancy never changes. Never has and never will.
Tomorrow is the big announcement regarding the new program for children and youth: “Focusing on Faith in Christ through Balanced Growth.” I am writing this article today, but I know the program is going to be fantastic. Why do you even care? you might ask. My children are all grown up and have left home. I care because I have grandsons and grandchildren on the way. Their lives will be impacted and, vicariously in many ways, that will influence mine. I have seen it my whole life. The Church always pulls through. In fact, we are promised that the Kingdom of God will keep growing until it fills the whole earth, which we are already seeing the fulfillment of today.
My father was adamant teaching me the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar. Back in those days, the Church boasted 5 million members and an international presence, but there were many more places for missionaries to go. President Kimball encouraged us to pray for the doors of countries to open, allowing missionaries to share the good news worldwide. We saw the fulfillment of that prophecy then but are seeing it at an even a grander scale today.
You know what I just heard today? It’s one of those things I have known all my life, but I had to hear it again for the lesson to be incorporated in my psyche. (Weird, I know.) I was listening to President Russell M Nelson’s 95th birthday celebration. I shared it with Granny, and she said that she loved it. I think I know why, but more on that later. He said, “When you live the gospel of Jesus Christ, you can feel joy every day of your life.” I told you it was obvious—sort of.
Tried & True … “Still, I bet my stars”
Okay. Let me share my thought with you. When I began writing this prose, it was an article. You know I write a lot, but it was more like a chore, actually. I had to get it done to put it on my list of pieces to be published so my editor had it. But then, as I wrote my sentiments this morning, they changed to more of a letter to you, and the writing got really easy. Suddenly, I was typing as fast as I could to capture the ideas before they were gone. It changed everything.
You know what I am talking about. The same thing happens to you when you write music, like the songs you composed on many of your albums. They were sentiments you had at the time and needed some venue to share them with others. Music became that vehicle and the songs you produced are still doing that for people every day—not the least of which is me.
This is not going to sound too impressive, because I am your dad. I get it, but many artists are known for one or two great songs. That is awesome, but your whole Hip & Nerve album is gold… Absolutely gold!
So why would Granny love President Nelson’s 95th birthday celebration so much? I know why, and I’m not sure she even does. It was really impressive and entertaining—that’s for sure—but it’s also because President Nelson reminds her of grandpa. Every time I hear President Nelson speak, read his words, or witness his kind demeanor and love for everyone—his warm smile and twinkling eyes—I think of my dad. It’s a tender mercy I never expected, but has increased over the years. You know it’s been 11 years since my dad died. I can’t believe that. I didn’t think I would last a year without him. But because of Jesus Christ, I know that I will be with him once again… and you, the girls, your mother, my mom, and my entire family and friends. It’s real to me every day of my life. With every grandson, the joy I feel only increases—with every one.
You are who I choose … “Why wouldn’t I stay with you?”
Joy every day of my life is true and real, and it only gets better and better every day. The big “aha” moment for me is because I have a purpose in everything I do. I think my dad understood this principle. Sometimes I wondered how he could get up so early, milk the cow, prepare the bus and work all day with seemingly so little payback. But he did it for me, for Granny, my siblings, and our whole posterity—including you. And Merv and Van and Carly. I can’t wait to introduce him to your family.
I can’t wait for him to meet Carly and for her to meet him. Then I got to thinking, he probably already knows Mervin and Van. He encouraged them and loved them personally—just like he did for us—before they came to earth. He has actually been with them longer than we have. What a great thought that is.
Does that mean that I am always happy and never have a bad day? No. I wish I was more like my dad, but even he struggled with hardships through life. I marveled how he handled them so adeptly.
But I saw my dad be happy even through tough times. Maybe that’s why I wanted to be with him so much. I always felt better after a few minutes with my dad. That’s just how I feel about you.
Dad (grandpa) will not settle for having empty chairs at his table.
The underlying theme of my dad’s life is encapsulated in a letter to us children:
“There is a matter I have long been concerned about. The problem comes into perspective at a sacrament meeting: adults as well as children give tender loving praise for bishops, teachers, neighbors, and the prophet. But too few feel and express it for the Savior. We are not achieving our most important goal until we have established in the hearts of our children and the saints, an even greater love for Him.
Friends may betray us, spouses may leave us, health may fail, and our possessions burn up. But Christ, His promises, understanding, and love will never fail us. With some trials and most tragedies, only this can get us through.
When we can take a thankless, demanding calling; give up something we wanted greatly so we can pay our tithing; or help out someone who has badly hurt us and say, ‘I wouldn’t do this for anyone else, but I will do it for Christ!’ then the power for good He can have in our lives is becoming a reality. He must be the foundation of our lives.”
God lives and He loves us. Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. He lived His life, then gave His life to rescue us from the consequences of sin and death. He has marked the path and shown the way, but it is up to us to walk it. For Him, we can do it. That’s the trick and motivation I was talking about. When we love the Savior in such a way that we would never want to disappoint him, life takes care of itself. The purpose of this life is not perfection. The purpose of this life is humility.
“The eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
One thing I have in common with my dad: I will not allow any empty chairs at my table.
For that, I am relentless.
I love you, buddy.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.