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A Father's Wish

My husband’s aunt passed on December 31. Though it was a somber event, the funeral on Friday was also a celebration of her life—past and future. Her granddaughter shared fond memories of time spent together and the sweet love her grandmother shared. The pastor asserted that Virginia is now in peace and how we can ALL plan on being together for eternity.

Though I know it is a temporary situation, the death of my father hurt more than anything I had ever experienced at that point in my life. A week from this Friday—January 17—will mark nine years since his passing.

January 2 is my parents’ wedding anniversary. They would have celebrated 55 years together this year. We remembered their lovely marriage by enjoying dinner out with my mom. She is a beautiful, generous and wise faith-filled woman. She was a real catch for Bennie!

Bennie and Bonnie Shellnut, January 2, 1965 ~ First Free Will Baptist Church, Hazel Park, Michigan

The same can be said for him! Besides being extremely charming, with a twinkle in his eye, he was chivalrous and Christ-centered. Bonnie was his best friend and object of his greatest affection. Though he enjoyed serving others (he did this often!) and sports (he was fiercely competitive), everything took a back seat to meeting his bride’s needs. He doted on Bonnie June.

Bennie and Bonnie, December 2009 ~ Oxford, Michigan

By loving my mom so well, my dad showed me how I was to be loved, and the kind of husband I should pray for and seek. I know that Bennie loved Scott and was thankful that his daughter had found such a good and godly man who would be a Messiah-loving husband and father.

In fact, when Scott surreptitiously took my parents to dinner in the late fall of 1990, to ask for my hand in marriage, he was a bit surprised to learn just how pleased they were with him. When he proposed a summer `92 wedding, Bennie asked, “Why the long wait? Do it sooner!”

Scott and Bennie with Aaron and Jacob in 2007

Both my parents knew he would be a good husband and that I, too, would say “yes!” when Scott popped the question to me. And they also knew that a long engagement is a bad idea for a couple intending marriage.

So, on December 28, 1990, after he got down on one knee on a frozen beach on Torch Lake in Northern Michigan and told me a romantic story of a prince and princess spending their lives together, I said “YES!” and we were married in less than seven months.

We are grateful for our parents’ love, support and wise counsel. We are thankful we have parents still with us today, almost 30 years later. Though my father’s death was untimely, we had many good years that he was around for weddings and births, ballet performances and ballgames.

My Dad and I, July 20, 1991 ~ Ortonville, Michigan
Heather and Dad, October 21, 2000 ~ Grand Rapids, Michigan
June 1995, Poppa and Grandma with their first grandbaby, Bailey June ~ Waterford, Michigan
Late summer 2009, Bennie and Bonnie with their children and nine grandchildren ~ Waterford, Michigan
Late 2010, Bennie kissing Ashton--grandchild #10--as nephew, Ron, and friend, Lorrie, look on ~ Waterford, Michigan

Bennie’s best and most loving advice was written in a letter to his children in 1985. I shared this at his funeral:

“At revival service tonight, I decided to write a letter to all my children as mother has done on different occasions. It’s hard to know what to say or how to say my most inner thoughts. My prayer is that you will be able to understand what I am trying to say because it comes from a heart of LOVE.

Firefighter Father ~ Bennie with children Shawn, Jeremy and Heather, Hazel Park F.D. 1975

Do you remember asking me, ‘Dad, if you had one wish, what would it be?’ If you do remember, do you recall what my answer was? I told you that my greatest wish was that all my children would accept Jesus as their personal Savior. The Bible tells us in Matthew 16:26, ‘For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?' Accepting Jesus as Savior is the most important decision that you will ever make in your entire life!

The second most important decision is whether you should marry or remain single. If you decide to marry, your next decision will be to find the mate that God has chosen for you. This will be your most difficult decision and should not be taken lightly. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:14, ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?’

Remember too, once you are married it is to be until death separates you from your husband. 1 Corinthians 7:39, ‘The wife is bound by law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the LORD.’ Therefore, it is vital that you pray and ask God to direct you in finding a Christian mate if you should decide to marry.

My desire is that you always keep Christ first and that you have everything your heart desires as long as it is in God’s will.

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? ~ Matthew 16:26

This letter does not contain the eloquence that is in the letters that your Mother has written but I hope that you can see that I LOVE YOU CHILDREN VERY VERY MUCH by what I have written.”

Wow. What an amazing man. Everyone that knew Bennie Ray Shellnut was blessed. And his three children were especially blessed to call him Father.

Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the Universe, Who created marriage and grows godly fathers and mothers. Thank you LORD, for my wonderful parents, family, husband and children.

More on this very special man next time!

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