A Tale of Three Uncles (and what they taught me)

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3 NIV

And then, there were three.

Uncle Jim, Uncle Don, and Uncle Larry.

Actually, Emil and Mary raised ten (!) kids on the farm…five boys and five girls, with really cool names: Aunt Evelyn, Aunt Betty, Uncle Jack, Uncle Bob, Uncle Jim, my Mama Alta, Aunt Ida, Aunt Carol, Uncle Don, and Uncle Larry.

Every single one of them made a forever imprint on my heart, despite the miles between us for most of my life.

I love them all. 

I always will.

Recently, Frank and I made an overnight trip north, a unique opportunity to see all three Uncles during the same visit.

Sometimes the sweetest hellos become the hardest good-byes.

And, in the midst of the melancholy, memories from a lifetime of loving them lathered my soul.

Yet, instead of dwelling on the sadness that is certain, I’m choosing to celebrate their lives by sharing one thing (among the millions) each one has taught me.

Perhaps they will teach you something as well?

Do The Right Thing.

Uncle Jim has always been larger than life to me. And, in the best way. He is outspoken and brave and real.  As a foreman and manager in his job,  his integrity…his “name”…meant and still means…everything. When I became a manager in mine, I sought advice from his wealth of wisdom. On one particular visit, I raved about a wrong hire I made and how, ultimately, I had to fire her. 

He listened quietly, then spoke with approval, “You did the right thing, TT. She wasn’t doing her job well and you gave her many chances to improve. Ultimately, she had to go. And, just so you know, the first firing is always the hardest. It gets easier after that!”

I still smile when I remember the grin on his face as he spoke.

His acknowledgement of “You did the right thing,” reassured me that sometimes doing the right thing isn’t always popular or pretty or pleasant.

But, it’s always the right thing.

His words have weighed in on many of my decisions…personally as well as professionally…since that day.

I am crazy about his honestly and integrity.

Heck, I am just plain crazy about him.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23 NIV

Who has spoken into you in a positive, life-changing way, friend? If they’re still alive, let them know. If they’re not, thank God for them. 

Just do it.

Be There. 

Uncle Don defines the phrase “cooler than cool.” Seriously. He was a successful businessman, starting his own insurance company from the ground up. His stellar reputation speaks for itself. Although he has received many accolades and awards and spotlight moments in his professional life, nothing means more to him than family.


He used to call Mama every Sunday night. Whether they simply touched base or talked for awhile, Mama was glued by the phone, waiting for his call. After she died, “Uncle Donnie” (as many of us still call him) changed the number he dialed on Sundays…to mine…for an entire year. It was his way of being there for me in my season of mourning. He gave advice when I asked for it. He listened. He encouraged. He loved me so well.

He still does.

And, it means the world.

He means the world…

To me.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:3 NIV

Is there someone in your life that needs to know you care, dear one? 

You know there is.

Be there for them, however that looks.

Just be.

Shine His Love.

Uncle Larry has something about him that impacts people, near and far.

It’s Jesus.

He travels around the world, sometimes in places you and I would never want to go, spreading one another love like wildfire.

When Daddy-O died, Uncle Larry…the youngest of the ten…took time off of work and flew across the country to be with Mama and me. He drove us across many states to get us back home, helping Mama with unexpected funeral preparations and sweet comfort. 

Years later, when Mama died, it was obvious who I wanted to speak at her funeral.

And, athough we’ve lived apart for my entire life, I feel his impact and his love. 

Up close and personal.

Watching his light shine like Jesus, in his selflessness for others, has inspired me in my own ministry journey. 

Way more than he knows.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14 NIV

So, sweet friend, what’s one thing you can do right now to shine the light and love of Jesus to another soul?

Don’t wait.

Life is short, beloved.

Oh man, it truly is.

Let’s never forget those special ones in our lives who have loved us well.

Whose examples will continue to cradle us long after they are gone.

May we take their lessons and live them out loud to make the world a better place.

Let’s simply love one another, y’all.

Until we meet again. XOXO 

(This blog post was written with all my love to my precious Uncles: Jim Buren, Don Buren, and Larry Buren, from the depths of my grateful heart.)

Spread your joy,



  1. I, too, am so thankful for these guys. And your message is one everyone needs to hear…..DO NOT wait until it is ‘too late’ to tell those you love that they have made a difference and are important to you. I learned that lesson many many years ago. My heart is heavy, but I am so very thankful.

    Love you little cuz.

    1. Amen, Cuz. Thanks so much for those words of wisdom. You’re a blessing! Love you lots XO

  2. Beautiful, Sis. You have a piece of each of your Uncles within you, and you live the pieces out each day. There is another family member you live out: Jesus. Proud of you. Keep shining…love ya.

  3. As I sit here on lunchbreak at work my eyes are filled with tears of joy as my life too has been touched by these three wonderful men. Thank you for the words that touch the emotions. I love you cuz.

    1. Oh Cuz…yes! We are beyond blessed to have them in our lives. So grateful. I love you very much. XO

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