Quote of the Day:   Lord, open my eyes to count my blessings one at a time.  Teach me to be grateful for the people in my life. Amen

My Mom turned 80 yesterday.

We had a long encouraging talk on the phone.

She’s always an encourager in my life and we all need that.

Especially from the ones we love best.


I could've written 80 reasons but stopped at 10.
I could’ve written 80 reasons but stopped at 10.

Due to Internet problems here in Uganda, I couldn’t post this blog.

But an 80th birthday deserves more than one day of celebrating.

So enjoy this story about a woman I’ve always called Momma.



It’s a special day at the end of Clayton Iles Road

Mary Iles turns 80 today.

It’s hard to believe my mother is eighty years old.

Momma’s taken care of me for going on fifty-nine years.

Always there through the thick and thin.

Today is her birthday and I’m a long ways from Dry Creek, Louisina.

As the crow (or plane) flies, it’s 9400 miles from our home in Entebbe, Uganda to my hometown of Dry Creek.

As the crow flies, it's over 9000 miles to my hometown.
As the crow flies, it’s over 9000 miles to my hometown.


This will be the third consecutive birthday I’ve missed.

But this one seems to bother me the most.

An 80th birthday is a pretty special occasion.

A big party is planned later this month.


Mary Iles with her great granddaughter, Emma Iles.
Mary Iles with her great granddaughter, Emma Iles.

I’ll admit this, even though she calls me her “favorite son”*, I’m not first in line. I believe her nine grandchildren and and twelve great grandchildren have that spot nailed down.

I don’t believe I’m even ahead of my wife. Mom has always joked, “Curt, if you and DeDe ever have trouble, I’m taking her side.”

She said it in jest, but I’m not sure. I don’t think I’ll try her.

My parents married in 1953, so CI+ MP was carved at least over 60 years ago.
CI is Clayton Iles and MP is Mary Plott. My parents married in 1953, so CI+ MP was carved at least over 60 years ago.  It’s one of my favorite spots in the whole wide world on Crooked Bayou near The Old House.


There’s a word I use in describing my parents. Steady.

Clayton and Mary Iles always walked their talk on a Godly life.

Like that beech tree in the photo, they had deep roots and a commitment that kept me steady through the storms of life.

Folks would ask me, “What are your parents like at home?”

“They’re just exactly what you see in public.”

Always a “what you see is what you get” kind of couple.

It’s called consistency.


As DeDe and I are in our third year of our African calling, several scriptures have become so real. None more than Jesus’ words,

Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.”

Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age . . .   (Gospel of Mark 10)

We’ve come to realize the reality of this tradeoff.

We’re where we belong but that doesn’t mean we don’t miss home.

Especially on days like today.

Please don’t think my words are complaining or making anyone feel sorry for us. We are right where we belong. Doing what God has called us for this season has been so fulfilling.**

But it is a tradeoff.

In fact, every life decision is a tradeoff.

We gain some things.

And lose others. Our goal is always to make prudent decisions as led by God.

DeDe and I have been enriched in our African experience.

Rich beyond measurement.

But there have been days where we’d like to have been back in Louisiana.

DeDe with her parents, Herbert and Juanita Terry.
DeDe with her parents, Herbert and Juanita Terry. Mrs. Juanita died but as long as DeDe lives, her mother is still alive. She is so like her mom in so many special ways.


Both of our surviving parents have had recent health problems (My mother was in the hospital last week and DeDe’s dad, aged 91, is in the hospital battling a combination of serious illnesses) and we’ve often ached to be there for them.

Thankfully, we each have wonderful siblings who’ve cared for them.

We were home for Christmas 2014 and had a wonderful time with everyone. We were able to meet new grandchildren and enjoy our boys and their sweet wives.

Being with my Mom and DeDe’s Dad were highlights.

During 2013 and 14, I’d dreamed of a hot cup of Community Coffee at Momma’s kitchen  table visiting with her as she cooked.

That coffee was just as good as I’d imagined.

Our visits were the same.

As we left in January, both of our parents sent us back to Africa with these words, “Now you go back to Africa and finish the job you’ve started. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”


We were sent off with a parental blessing.

It’s found throughout both the Old Testament.

Abraham to Isaac.

Isaac to Jacob.

Jacob to Joseph and even bad brother Judah.

Samuel to David.

Elijah to Elisha.


We see it in the life of Jesus.

His parent’s dedication service at the temple.

His real Father speaking at his baptism, “This is my beloved Son of whom I well pleased.”

Read my favorite story on parental blessing, “A Father’s Love.”


That’s a parental blessing we all need.

And some never get.***

Thanks Mom, Dad, Mr. Hebert, and Mrs. Juanita.

DeDe and I both received this blessing from you over and over.

Never with reservation.

Always in love.


Mom, on your 80th birthday, I want to return that blessing to you.

May God richly bless you on this day and in the ones to come.

May you enjoy your family even more than ever.

May your walk with our wonderful Jesus grow deeper and more intimate.


*I always reply to Mom’s “You’re my favorite son” with “But I’m your only son.”

She smiles. “You’d be my favorite even if you weren’t.”


**   Our Season in Africa will end in October after three years. Who knows what we might do next? Only God.

*** An excellent book for anyone who hasn’t received the parental blessing (or even if you have) is The Blessing by John Trent.



One comment

  1. what an awesome birthday letter to your Mom! God bless y’all!

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