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This post originally appeared on my “What Is a Dad” blog.

Today I shared three meals with my dad. That’s pretty crazy.

In the morning, I rode with Pastor Steve to the Blockhouse in Dayton (one of only four restaurants) for the men’s Bible study group. It was great to sit at the end of the table and talk to my dad about more things– my extended family, life experiences, etc. It’s just comfortable talking to him. And I’m soaking in every word he says.

Then he ended up swinging by Pastor Steve’s home so that we could reconnect with Mary Kate. It was a treat to show him our wedding album, forgetting that these were the first pictures of my brother, my mom, and my grandpa that he has seen in a long time. I loved the simplicity of hearing him tell my beautiful wife, “You looked so happy.”

MK had a light breakfast (unlike us), so I decided it would be great for her to get her pregnant food on at the Blockhouse (yes, twice in the same day). There we talked more about my dad’s life, travels, and ups and downs. OK, awesome fact of the day. I thought that my dad was a roadie for the ELO. In fact, he was a manager of a band of Christians from Oregon called Rhinestone Cross. Boom, son! That’s epic. He also worked with a group called Tinto Blanco (White Paint). But the epicness is in the fact that he ended up selling all his equipment to an up and coming new band called Stryper. Yes, that would be the totally original Christian 80’s hair band. Music Melvin knew what was going on.

At the Blockhouse you could actually sign the wall. I wrote “Paul & Mary Kate & Evie Mannino: Melvin’s Family, 6/25/11.” I put it eye-level on the way to the bathroom, so he could see it whenever he went there for awesome breakfast food.

Then we went to the outside of the old Baptist Church of Dayton building. MK took some great pictures while my dad told me all about how he got the bell out of the belfry, his aunt broke her hip in front of the church, and how he got baptized there in 1984. Apparently, they had no hot water in the church; and Melvin George Huettl had to suck it up and get an ice-cold baptism in an Oregon winter.

My dad and me in front of the old First Baptist Church in Dayton

Then we went over to my dad’s house. There we met Karen, who happens to be my half-sister. My dad had previously been married. I am going to be meeting my half-brother tomorrow. Karen has overcome a lot in her life. She is now 47 and has recovered from a life of drugs and homelessness. She was baptized a year or so ago, and she seems to be making wise choices in her life. God believes in comebacks. It was cool to be able to watch her baptism on video. Also, while we were over there, my nephew (Brian’s son) Kennith came over. I met him briefly, but he’ll be at the BBQ that my half-brother Brian is throwing us at their home tomorrow afternoon.

Then we rested for a little bit and had dinner at Pastor Steve’s home with my dad. We talked about church life, missions, and heaven. It was great. Pastor Steve gave me a small piece of pottery from his recent mission trip to Morocco. My first keepsake from this trip.

We had a sweet time after dinner talking about our journey in trying to have kids and how Evie is a miracle. God is good. Oh…and I felt her kick for the first time. :-)

It was great to end our evening with hugging good-byes and know that tomorrow we’ve got another full day in front of us. Again, God is good.


This post originally appeared on my “What Is a Dad” blog.

Friday was a crazy day. I almost felt like I had somehow stumbled into a piece of fiction. I had always assumed that I would probably never be able to meet my biological father. Growing up in New York and North Carolina, Oregon seems so far away. And I didn’t really know how he would feel about the subject, so I just thought (for so many years) that thoughts of meeting him were a passing fancy.

And then somehow I found myself getting up Friday morning at 4:45 AM to drive all day up I-5 with my pregnant wife to meet him.

MK, Evie, and me in front of Lake Shasta (on I-5)

Crossing the Oregon border quickened my heart rate. Seeing a sign for Salem got it going even faster. Oh, and when I was finally driving through Salem and crossing the Marion Street Bridge I was definitely getting excited.

Then I drove 20 miles up 221-N to tiny little Dayton, OR, driving past vineyards, green fields, and getting stuck behind farm equipment (of course I’d have to wait longer). We got to the little four-way intersection that was the entry into Dayton and took a left into a picture out of an old-school America (maybe something like “Hoosiers” or even “Pleasantville”). Small little storefronts with a public park to the right. THE grade school. THE fire station. THE Mexican restaurant (felt like Fresno).

Then we take our final right. I’m looking for the church, and MK says, “I see a Bronco on the left.” And there it was– my dad’s car.

I pulled into the parking lot, and was blinded by the sun. I see a few figures coming my way. And there he is.

He is kind looking. He is taller. He’s not as skinny as I thought he’d be, and he’s a lot older. He walks right up and hugs me and says, “Yeah, there’s a Huettl.” I don’t even know what to say. I want to just break down and cry, but I think that’s for later. At this point, I was feeling things out.

My dad has grey hair and a bushy mustache. He wore a denim long-sleeved shirt over an orange t-shirt. He wore blue jeans that had seen better days and work boots. He was rocking a trucker hat. He had the friendliness of Gepetto from Pinocchio, and the warmness (and worn-ness) of Walter Mathau.

And he’s my dad. And I met him. He’s got a pit bull / Rottweiler mix called “Fiona.” He kind of looks all over the place while people are talking to him. MK says he has my eyes. We only got to talk for a little while at the church that he helped build. It wasn’t long enough before we were whisked away for dinner at the home of our hosts (Pastor Steve and his wife).

Tomorrow morning we’re having breakfast with a men’s Bible study. I’m pumped. I can’t wait to talk more tomorrow. Already I have questions. But really, I’m just so excited. After the Bible study, we’ve got all day to talk. This is a day that’s been twenty-nine years in the making.

Thank you, Jesus.


This post was originally on my “What Is a Dad” blog.

I broke down this morning. I couldn’t keep it together. This Father’s Day business all of a sudden just hit me full force. It’s all about three dads.

Dad #1: Paul Mannino

I think the whole idea of me having a child on the way is so overwhelmingly good that I couldn’t take it all in. I’m not sure if most people know the whole story about what all went into this pregnancy. MK and I have been talking about it ever since we were dating. I’ve already mentioned our two miscarriages. Number one (Fall 2009) was really tough because it happened so suddenly, and we were so excited. In the end, we ended up naming that child Jedidiah. More on that later. So…then we get to Fall of 2010. We chose to be optimistic and hopeful. A lot of other people did too. We even got presents. MK and I bought a stuffed animal from Disneyland (Dumbo) because we refused to let our first setback stifle our joy. And then…another miscarriage. We chose to name this child Grace. More on that later. So, yeah, after years of hard news, blood tests, genetic testing, prayer, tears, and everything in between, Spring 2011 comes around. I’m so excited to have made it through the first trimester. My heart soars every time I can hear her heartbeat. And I pray for her everyday. I want to be a dad.

Dad #2: Melvin Huettl

That’s my dad’s name. Apparently, I’m not the only one who is excited. I’m driving up to Dayton, Oregon this Friday and will be meeting him. He got confused on the timing and actually thought I was coming yesterday. He called me and asked, “Hey, where are you?” I told him I was doing yard work, and he seemed sad and said something, “Oh, well, uh, so you’re not coming?” I said told him it was Friday that I was leaving. I think both of us have a secret fear that somehow this is a little too good to be true and that it won’t happen. But, God willing, it will be happening this Friday. Oh, and I got to wish my dad a Happy Father’s day for the first time ever in my life. :-)

Dad #3: Abba, aka Yahweh

I broke down in tears this morning because I realized that the riches of God’s love with always be enough. I wept as I thought of the lines of the song, “Hosanna” that passionately ask God to “show me how to love like You have loved me.”

You see, it’s been a wild ride. I am so happy to have life in God. I’m so happy to have a beautiful wife. I’m so happy that I get to work at a church like New Harvest that cares about the same things that I care about– I get to be myself for a living. And, oh, I have a girl on the way. And, oh, I get to meet my dad after 29 years (and I never thought that would happen). How much icing can I have on my cake? :-)

Why Jedidiah? I wanted to praise God. In 1 Samuel 12 David loses his child. David still honors God in that time, and God eventually gives David another child. God said that child’s name should be Jedidiah, which means “loved by the Lord.” I just wanted to remind MK and myself that, although we had no promise that we would have another child, this one would be named Jedidiah.

Why Grace? I wanted to remember that people don’t make babies– God makes babies. Perhaps this was an act of grace by God. What if this child would have been born unhealthy? I remember a doctor said that miscarriages were “nature’s” way of ensuring children would be healthy or some jive like that. But I knew that this was an act of grace. Again, I chose to praise God.

Anyway, when you take all that into account, I guess it makes sense that I lost it this morning. I love God. I’m in a good place. Amazing things are happening all around me. Happy Father’s day to me. Happy Father’s day, dad. Happy Father’s day, Father.


This post originally appeared on my “What Is a Dad” blog.

OK, I didn’t anticipate things going in this direction; but ,the more I think about it, this is good. My mom put her side of this “dad story” in the comment section of the “Who Am I?” page.

So I’m going to process through some of what she put.

My mom wrote that she “realize[d] (after many years) that [she] got married to get out of [her] house. [Her] father had an affair which brought great pressure on [her] mom and dad’s marriage and made living at home almost impossible. [Her] mother decided to forgive, but not forget.”

Tough stuff. I can’t remember the context, but sometime in my early adulthood I learned that my grandpa had cheated on my grandma. I’m sure that would have affected all of the “kids” (my aunt, my uncle, and my mom); but, given where my mom was in life (just graduating high school), I could see where that seriously derailed her in some ways. Isn’t it interesting how the issue of fatherhood keeps coming up on here? In this case, it’s the father of my mother that affected the climate of his home. Ok, before I get judgmental on this, I really need to point the finger back at me. Am I going to be the kind of man who will always be faithful to Mary Kate?

I think most adults who have affairs are extremely deluded as to how catastrophic it can be to their kids. Someone once told me that the best thing I could ever do for my kids was stay in love with Mary Kate for the rest of my life. In a world full of temptations and easy-ways-out (cheap “love” without responsibilities), I can totally understand how a man would stumble. I love what Job (in the Bible) says about this: “I have made a covenant with my eyes that I will not look lustfully upon a young woman.” I think that’s a great verse for any husband and father to memorize (Job 31:1).

Anyway, back to Mom and Grandpa. Take away any moral baseline from the home (cultural Catholicism doesn’t necessarily provide any binding “this is right” or “this is wrong”), everything probably got sideways really fast. Man, I love Grandma for sticking with him; but I’m sure that was a tough wound to their relationship. Oh, and while they both processing through this, my mom is defining who she is. Really crappy timing.

She goes on to say she “graduated at seventeen…and went right into a full time secretarial position. At age nineteen [she] took a vacation with a girlfriend to Florida. It was [her] first time away from home. ‘Home’ had become a daily emotional powder keg, so [she] was ready to be free and experience life in a whole new way.”

He he he…and this is why I don’t believe in spring break trips! I’m kidding (sort of). I wish I was my mom’s youth pastor. I’ve thought about that before. I think of two things that I want to hammer into high school kids’ consciousnesses before they do leave home for the first time:

Maximum freedom is found under God’s authority. I think there is plenty in this world to cause us to doubt authority. Nixon and Clinton didn’t help. Postmodern thinking doesn’t help. And when your dad, the supreme authority figure in a person’s life, falters– that’ll get you doubting. But, oh, how solid our God is! But, as my mom said, “I had no way of knowing!” So I wish I was a Catholic youth pastor in the 1970’s in Levittown, NY! The kind of freedom that comes from doing what feels good as opposed to the freedom from following what is good are totally different. One will leave you wanting; one leads to life.

Walk wisely. This one sounds simple enough. But, as the Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.” So, without that moral baseline of knowing that what is good and right comes from God, all bets are off. There’s also an interesting wrinkle to this truth that I’m actually going to be preaching about pretty soon with the youth. It’s the issue of looking at your present circumstances when making major life decisions. It’s amazing to me– almost a cliche– how many girls run straight into the arms of a dude when things are going south in their relationship with their dad. I think it’s helpful to ask yourself: “Is there anything going on right now in my personal life that might make me especially vulnerable to impulsive decision-making?” I think parents going through a rough patch, you going through a rough patch with a parent, or some other major life-change can be a witch’s brew that can, when unchecked, create some lame decisions. I’ve been there.

Anyway, my mom goes on to write about how she met my dad on that trip: “Three days later I met a man that I found very interesting. He was a light man for a rock band. He was so easy going, funny and fun to be with. He wrote poetry. He was over six feet tall, tan and had long unbleached brown hair. My time with him went by so quickly and the next thing I know my parents were on the phone wanting to plan where they would meet me at the airport. I can still remember the butterflies in my stomach as I reached down real deep and said ‘I’m not coming home.’ That phone call was about to change my world forever.”

Timing. Isn’t it amazing? Now, before you go thinking that I think that my mom and dad were an ill-fated pair, hold on. I mean, if my mom had not met that hippie dude on vacation, I wouldn’t exist! God is sovereign. And sometimes, even the decisions that we make that are a little weird (or even wrong) can be overridden behind the scenes by a God who, in His Providence, allows all things to work for the good of those who love Him. I can definitely tell you that, if I was on the front-end of all this stuff, I would say this or that to prevent these decisions from being made; but, on the this-has-already-happened side of things, I’m thinking more, “OK, well, this is how it happened; so how is God in this?”

So, Mom, thanks for chiming in. I know that God’s love covers a multitude of sins. How cool is now that you, Grandpa, that sound guy for the rock band, and I are all followers of Jesus? That’s insane in and of itself. Jesus died for all the wrong things we have done, and He’s definitely making our scars into beauty marks.



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