(Our family is on a five month RV trip. We are journeying West from Dallas, TX and making our way up the Western coastline finishing in Washington state before we streamline our way back to CO for the summer.)
On our last full day in San Francisco, John called the RV repair shop to verify that the rig would be ready for pickup the following day. When I saw John’s shoulders fall during the phone call, I knew it wasn’t good news. The manufacturer sent the WRONG part?!? And no one called to tell us?!?
If you’re a Bob Newhart fan and watched his spinoff show, picture the eccentric neighbor brothers who introduce themselves the same way every time they make an appearance at Bob’s Vermont Inn. The older, wiser brother does all the talking, “Hi, I’m Larry; this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.” We were dealing with them in real life.
The correct, driver-side axle was to be overnighted to the RV repair shop. With the weekend days and their backlog of rigs awaiting repair, we had another week to wait. My patience was wearing thin. Not John. He was calm, cool, and collected. He found a Napa dog-friendly hotel and we drove away from San Fran as scheduled the following morning.
I’m a lover of all things Napa: the wine history, the soil, the vines, the vintners, the bloom, and especially the harvest. I’ll never forget John’s and my first trip to Napa together. He’d proclaimed multiple times in our young marriage that he was not a wine drinker. Frankly, I wasn’t really a wine drinker either, but I’d traveled to Napa before thus considering my palette more advanced than his.
His first winery tour was at Robert Mondavi and that’s where he fell in love with rich, red Cabernets. But when he experienced Coppola’s Rubicon on the Coppola grounds with a cigar in his hand, he fell deeply in love, forever lost in the oak barrel. Later, when we remodeled our basement in Denver, he insisted upon a wine cellar to cradle his growing collection.
Ten years later, revisiting the manicured Coppola grounds (renamed Inglenook), sitting at a bistro table overlooking acres of vines, sipping a glass of peppery Cabernet, and discussing life’s struggles and blessings with my husband fills my tank. The landscape offers serenity, the drink awakens my senses, and the discussion stimulates my mind.
In the same way that the wine takes on the flavor of the barrel, I feel like these unique times together flavor our marriage. My husband offers a safe place to be vulnerable, but my rooted identity in Christ assures me that He will work all things for good.
In my faith walk, I’m uncorked. I spread my soul open wide while clinging to the one, true vine. I know that my burdens can weigh me down like heavy grapes pulling their branches downward. Great care is taken to tie grapevines to support wires to prevent drooping vines from lying on the ground where pests can destroy the fruit. When I remain tethered to Him, my burdens remain, but He helps to support the weight, preventing damage to the ripening fruit in my life.
Amazing spiritual metaphors of Jesus’ use of the vine and the branches, but something else happened in Napa that had nothing to do with wine or grapes. It happened in our hotel room during John’s ‘facetime’ conference call with his managers back in Denver.
The kids and I were enjoying a leisurely morning in the hotel room ‘off-screen’ but in the same-shared space, quietly going about our business. I never worry about what the kids might overhear during John’s business calls. I never considered the value of what they might get from this particular one.
In the same way that I’ve seen God grant John more and more patience during this trip, I’ve also witnessed a leadership transformation in him. It’s been happening in his personal life, too, as we’re now parenting through the teen years. In many ways, the parenting strife and struggle has launched him into his transformation. Not that he needed a complete overhaul. He’s always managed people effectively, but listening to him on this day’s call catapulted my respect for him to an all-time high.
I think we all come out of college feeling a need to prove our value and ourselves. John’s no different, and owning a successful company at a young age comes with its fair share of trials and tribulations. Begging banks to front equipment funds, providing heaps of documentation to buy commercial real estate, and gaining market share with customers that have run their businesses longer than he’s been alive have all been testing grounds.
It’s been a tough road, but I no longer sense him working hard to prove his value. Rather, today during his business call with his managers, I heard him working hard to highlight their value. He’s begun to know his employees as people, fellow sojourners, and not somebody that owes him, the boss, something. He’s no longer out to be a know-it-all, but strives to be a know-you-all.
Today, I was proud of what the kids overheard during his call. In fact, I gave them a writing assignment afterward: write your dad a letter highlighting the most influential aspects from his conference call.
With my 13 year-old son’s permission, here’s an excerpt from his letter to John:
You are a great business owner but your love for us is your sharpest tool as an owner. The business is not the thing that drives you but your passion for Christ. Thank you for just saying Yes to God and listening to him. It is not always easy to say Yes but you have done a great job. May God bless you and may you still prosper in the work you said Yes to do. The fruit of love is prospering and growing. You are bearing the fruit.
John visiting his customers along our travels is in his wheelhouse. That’s what prompted the trip in the first place. He likes people. He’s more than just a sales guy, he truly delights in solving problems and building relationships with his customers.
Removing himself from the day-to-day office grind has also caused him to more highly value his employees. He enjoys coaching them in their wheelhouse; their innate gifts and talents used in business. He wishes for them what every parent wishes for their child: happiness, fulfillment, and success, not just in their careers, but also in their personal lives.
Yes, the RV axle is still broken. We’re still displaced from our moving home. Our kids continue to sharpen us, even to breaking sometimes. But God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good. And I feel certain that, if the wine holds out in Napa, we’ll eventually begin to value Larry and the brothers, Daryl, back in Manteca at the RV repair shop. Maybe they’re just not working in their wheelhouse…yet.
Next Stop: Redding, CA