I drove up to Williston, ND this past week to see my new great-grandson, Maverick and granddaughter, Sierra and her husband, Micheal. Darlene had flown to Williston earlier to be with Sierra for the birth. I stayed for 3 nights and then Darlene and I drove home arriving back in Belen last night. The visit was a joy and so were the drives up and back. We live in a wonderfully beautiful world – the prairie grasslands in eastern Wyoming and Montana are green this July – their vastness seen as the highway hills are topped driving along seem to go on forever – like looking out on the ocean from a coastal shore. The farmers were cutting and baling hay on the entire route from Cheyenne, WY northward. There were cattle ranging on many of the hills and oil well pumps and equipment here and there sharing the grasslands with the cattle. It is a long drive from Belen, NM -1,150 miles – but I’ve always loved the driving or riding the open road. I’ve been all over western Wyoming and Montana over the years, but this was the first time seeing the eastern part of those states north of Cheyenne and it was my first visit to North Dakota.
Williston, ND sits in the northwest corner of North Dakota 60 miles south of the Canadian border near the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers. The city was established in the late 1800s with an economy based in agriculture until recent years. The population of the city in 1960 was about 12,000 and in 2010 was just under 15,000 – the population had peaked in 2008 during several years of oil boom, then a bust when oil prices plummeted – and the population declined significantly for the 2010 census, but in the boom again years since then population has grown to approach 30,000. The current boom is the result of resumption of oil drilling, fracking and production on the geological Bakken Formation which by 2012 was said to be the largest oil producing area in the United States including Alaska. Recoverable oil reserve estimates in the formation vary widely but have been estimated as high as 100 billion barrels.
Here is a photo of Williston overlooking town from near Sierra’s apartment. If you look closely you can see the Missouri River at the base of the far-off river bluffs.
Sierra’s apartment building:
All of that information about Williston would be fairly boring to me except our grand-daughter Sierra moved to there a year ago with husband Micheal. Micheal works for Halliburton in their oil well fracking operation in the area. Sierra gave birth to our great-grandson, Maverick Mills, on July 1st. Darlene flew to Williston at the end of June and was with Sierra for the birth. Our daughter, Jessica (Sierra’s mom), and granddaughter, Marissa (Sierra’s sister), drove up to Williston and arrived the day before the birth. I want to give Micheal a lot of credit for putting up with a grandmother in-law, mother in-law, sister in-law plus a wife during 11 hours of labor before the birth.
I’m not smart enough to write down words which can express what a great-grandfather feels as he holds his grandchild during those first weeks after birth. I still remember 22 years ago when I held Sierra that first morning she was born. She was our first grandchild, and I remember sitting there at the foot of Jessica’s hospital bed filled with joy and wonder and holding back emotions that were wanting to spill out of me. The feelings are the same as I held Maverick each time those 3 days I was there with them this week. The feelings are a little different than those felt 40+ years ago when Jessica and her brothers were born. There is the same joy and the same wonder, but the years add a dimension that feels not only the moment, but additionally feels a hope for them conditioned by living a lot of years. Those years have seen the joys and heartaches, the challenges bringing successes and some failures, and those years have seen the relentlessness of life that keeps coming to us day after day – life that we live out in the good days, the bad days and all those other days that get lost in our fading memories. Maybe I’ll live long enough to tell Maverick someday to just keep after it day by day – no matter what a day might bring – keep doing good and being good – persevere because of trust in a God that has promised to make all things right one day. I wrote a blog post last fall listing a lot of hopes that I felt for our first great-grandchild, Maddie. Those hopes are the same for Maverick. Sierra and Micheal show their love for each other in lots of ways that are evident as you spend time with them. I’ve seen it for the several years they’ve been together. I watched them show that same love to Maverick those 3 days with them, and I’m still smiling thinking about it.
Maverick was born into a word already filled with everything he could need to begin living a happy life. There is safety and peace for him – a hospital that took good care of him and his mom during birth – a dwelling warm in the winter and cooled in the summer – a couple of good vehicles to take him everywhere he needs or wants to go – there were friends and family of his mom and dad who out of love gave him diapers and supplies and clothes and cars seats and swings and strollers and cribs – with work for his dad which keeps paying the bills – with a nation committed to protecting him and his freedom – with a mom and dad who love each other and him – with a couple of great-grandparents who would go 1,150 miles just to see him, lol. So many babies are born into this world without some or lots of those things. We ask why some like Maverick are so blessed and some not at all? – we’re probably not very good at answering that question. We are tempted to get pretty self-righteous about our answers sometimes. We talk about the hard work of several generations – about the opportunities from living in a free and prosperous nation – about a God who blessed us and not others for some reason. We can become so prideful about our family’s accomplishments and good fortune that we get jaded to the hardship and suffering all around us in a world that has become so very small that we see the suffering continually. We get tempted to believe that if those who suffer in hardship were like us and acted like us their hardships would disappear. We blame those who suffer for their suffering and justify turning aside. We can become hardened against being merciful and benevolent – we can lose having a heart for those not blessed like us.
I worship a God who I believe to be not only just, but also merciful – a God who intends to use us to display his mercy. I hope Maverick some day will choose faith in that same God – I also pray that in his faith he will heed the words of Micah written long ago who told Israel that though they worshipped it was vain and rejected by their God. It was worship, that though offered in faith, was rejected because they had lost their commitment to justice and in their prosperity had lost their heart for the downtrodden and those suffering around them. Micah spoke God’s words to them like this: Micah 6:8 (NIV)
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
May God bless you all your days baby Maverick – with the plenty that your family has known, but also and more importantly with a heart for a lifetime that is humble, just and merciful.