The Joy of a Daddy Heart

There is a pattern you may have picked up on if you have followed my blog at all – a life moment catches my attention, I stop and reflect on it, God teaches me something in a very personal (and often bizarre) way, and I write about it.

The blog has been pretty quiet for most of the past year.  It’s not that God hasn’t been teaching me through life moments.  In fact, it’s probably quite the opposite.  But the lessons and observations have had a much harder emotional pull upon me.  I wrote about my first-born graduating and such, but this past year has seen my one and only girl – my SweetPea – graduate from high school and go off to college.  For those who know me well, you will easily see the gravity of this process.

I’m getting better.  I promise.

Over the weekend, we moved kids 1 & 2 into their dorms.  It was an emotional time, but through some of the lessons learned last year in this process, I was doing a lot better at being excited for them more than sad for me.  As I prayed over my daughter in the process of leaving her there for the next step of her life, I was teary-eyed, but genuinely excited to see what God is going to do in her life.  It really was a sweet time for me.

But then I got in the car.  Directly across the street from my parking spot is a simple, small house occupied by one of the university staff members who was coordinating the new student move-in/orientation activities for the day.  As I got in the car, I noticed a little girl standing in front of the storm door, obviously looking for someone.  A familiar chord struck instantly in my heart as I saw her straining to see.

Her little face lit up and she began to jump up and down – her daddy was coming across the street.  As her mother came by and opened the door, she burst through and across the porch, arms flung wide, joy-filled voice exclaiming “Daddy!”

Her daddy did what daddies do – he scooped her up in his arms and pulled her close.  It seemed like last week I was coming home to that same scene with my little girl (crowded by several brothers, of course).  But now she’s the one that will be making the home-coming.  And I’ll be the one watching out the window to see her coming up the walk, running out the door to throw my arms around her.

This teary moment, replayed over and again in my mind, began almost instantly to stir a recognition in me of my relationship with my Father.  He is always watching, eagerly awaiting when I will simply come to talk with Him.  At the slightest look toward Him, He comes running out the door to pull me up into His arms, anxious to hear all about what is in my heart in as much detail and at as much length as I will give – even though He already knows all about it.

So, you’ll understand if I wrap this up – my Father’s waiting for me to come and talk with Him.

He Shoots . . .

My wife came across this picture a couple of days ago looking through the stacks of old photos that have not yet made it to albums.  It is a picture of my firstborn, Mickey, and me on the walk outside our first apartment in married student housing.  I don’t even know who took it or how we got it.  He could not have been more than five months old at the time.  He couldn’t stand on his own, much less walk.  He was still wearing those tiny little shoes that are made more for decoration than performance.

Tonight that same little boy will put on a pair of dress shoes two sizes bigger than mine and walk across a stage to receive his high school diploma.  He’s a young man with what by all accounts appears to be a very bright future in front of him.  He’s a much better student than I ever was.  He’s a much stronger person probably than I have ever been.  He is the one walking the little bitty feet in our circle of friends and family around with a strong hand and gentle voice.

As I look back to the day I graduated from high school (twenty-two years ago this week, if I recall correctly), I am keenly aware that this son of mine has a much clearer direction for his life than I did.  I think his faith is stronger than mine was and his support structure broader.  I think he’s better prepared for what the next stage of his life will bring than I was at that point.

Parenting is not a matter of trying to correct in ours the mistakes our parents made with us.  I think my parents worked hard to encourage and enable me to go farther and make a better life for the next generation.  I think that’s what we all want, isn’t it?  To see our kids go farther and reach higher than we have?

You know how a kicker has a feel for the result when the ball leaves his foot?  Or a basketball player seems to know the shot’s going to fall by the feel when it leaves his hand?  It’s just a sense that it feels like he’s on target.  I’m sure that archers are the same way.  As the arrow leaves the bow he already has a feel for the accuracy of the shot.  I was given some great advice long ago:

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.  (Psalm 127:4-5)

I’m no archer.  I’m not really an expert at anything.  I just know that, as this arrow is leaving the bow, it feels like it’s on target.  Yes, I’m a proud dad.  I have many reasons to be so.

Soak It Up

It’s been a season of milestones. Many, many milestones.

That’s what we call them. The Romans developed the practice of placing milestones along their famous paved highways. They were a much more stylish and less forgiving version of our roadside mile markers found along our interstate highways.

Over time the term “milestone” has come to reference any of the significant times in our lives. Our birthdays are all milestones to some degree, but some of them stand out as more significant – 13, 16, 18, 21. (I don’t really need any comments regarding the omission of 40 from this list or about that particular milestone being a mere two weeks down the calendar of my life.)

My oldest son is graduating from high school next week. Where in the world did all of that time go?

Tori and I have tried very hard to pay attention and not miss the many milestones along the way. Of course, we have six kids. If we stop to really stare at each milestone along the way, we’ll never get anywhere. But as we see these days with all of our kids at home coming to an end, it’s hard not to feel like they are so much sand sliding freely through our fingers.

So many times along the pathway of parenting we have wished that we could lock it all down and keep them at that age. Right now, though it’s a rowdy and rough and argumentative place a lot of the time, they’re just so much fun. We laugh a lot.

But time rushes by and there is no way to put more time into a day or more days in the year. I want to slow it down – to ride the brakes a while and stretch the days just a little bit longer. But I can’t.

I was warned long, long ago. I was given a very clear plan. I was told to pay attention to how I navigate the days I have. I was advised to use well the time I am given. I was even cautioned that the dark days in which we live would make it much more difficult to do.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Great advice. Solid counsel. Tall order.

And what it is tells me in the context of being a dad and the days flying by and the milestones that seem to be more like fence-posts . . . is just to soak it up.

A few years back I was struck by a song that so beautifully expressed this concept. I hope you’ll give it a listen and then join me in praying for more space in the sponge of my heart to really soak it up.