Kevin Tharpe - January 2020

Kevin’s Peace of Mind

www.kevintharpe.com (770) 503-1022

January 2020

Guidance From a Godly Father-in-Law and Grandfather

Pop Pop never forgets a face or a place. I call him the human GPS — and for good reason.

The minute the first of his eight grandchildren came along, he got a new name. On that day, his name forever changed to Pop Pop, and that’s a perfect title and description of my father-in-law, Bob Stidham. If there is anybody on this earth who was created to be a dad and granddad, its Pop Pop. Family is his life, and from the very beginning, Pop Pop and his wife, Sue, have treated me like family. They say that when you marry someone, you marry their family. If that’s true, then the day I married Missy, I struck gold. Pop Pop spent the early years of his boyhood in the cotton fields of rural Alabama. It was just primarily himgrowing up—he had no siblings and only a few older cousins around him. Later, his family moved to Michigan, where there was more work. There he met andmarried his wife of over fifty years, Sue Cole, and two of his three children were also born in Michigan (my wife Missy being one of the two). After serving in the U.S. Army during the height of the ColdWar, Pop Pop went to work for Ford Motor Company. But Pop Pop always knew his true calling was churchmission work, and it wasn’t long before he got a job with the Southern Baptist Convention for the State of Michigan. After a short stint traveling around the state of Michigan, Pop Pop was called to serve in the church loan division of the Home Mission Board in Atlanta, where he served faithfully for over 30 years until his retirement in 2009.

Pop Pop’s territory with the Home Mission Board stretched fromMichigan to Florida. He traveled all over the place, most of the time by car, and he got to know every little side road along his route. Years later, when we would travel those same roads with my family, Pop Pop could remember every church and restaurant in every little town and who lived there. He traveled light, too. Pop Pop was a packing genius. I have heard that he traveled for two weeks with just what he could fit in a grocery bag. He used to take the Stidham family on lots of family vacations, where they’d all load up in one car and drive out toward the beach, the mountains, or the plains of Texas —one of his and Missy’s favorite places. He’d go off and find a couple of churches to visit for business along the way, and they’d all have a great time. Not long after Missy and I started dating, he invited me to go on family vacations. My first vacation with the Stidham family was a memorable one. All of the Stidham family — Pop Pop, Sue, their kids, their kid’s friends, and a daughter-in-law who was“great with child”— all loaded into Pop Pop’s conversion van and started driving toward the beach. Now, I’m the kind of guy who plans out my travels well in advance, especially when there is a pregnant passenger involved. But that’s not the way Pop Pop rolls. Without anything but the map in his head, a bottle of grape Nehi, and a bag of peanuts by his side (and oh yeah, Sue, too), Pop Pop would just drive and drive until he got tired of driving. Then he’d find a payphone (somewhere around Valdosta), call up to the next town, and book a place right then and there. From then on, in my mind, Pop Pop became one of the gutsiest men I’ve ever known. Another time, coming back home from a Stidham family vacation, we were driving behind my brother-in-law. We knew he was driving

using a GPS, but Pop Pop told us to follow his directions because the GPS didn’t know a thing. Sure enough, we got home about 40 minutes before my brother-in-law. Pop Pop knewmore about getting around than any GPS ever could, and that GPS sense was not limited to just his travels on the road. Whether at home or in the church, Pop Pop is also a spiritual leader. Everybody always looks to him for guidance when they’re at a crossroads, whether they’re selecting a new pastor for a church he’s involved in or making an important decision in the family. I look to him, too. When I think about the kind of husband and father I want to be, I think about Pop Pop. I know that one day, Pop Pop will also be a model for me on how to not only be a great father-in- law, but a grandfather, too.

My grandkids will have to come up with a name other than Pop Pop, though.

That honor has already been taken.

Happy birthday, Pop Pop.

-Kevin

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