I’m driving across the state alone tonight. Just left granny and papa’s house after dropping Cherokee off to pick up her car on her way to her first year of college at Mizzou. I’m headed home, driving highway 54 through small town Missouri, towns with populations of 150 at most. Towns where everyone knows everyone…the gas station is also the local bait store, post office and barber shop…towns where the nightly entrainment is sitting on the front porch watching traffic pass through town. Scattered along the countryside in between each town are thousands and thousands of acres of farmland. Rolling hills and green meadows, populated with the currency of choice in these parts…cattle. Run down and ragged barns standing as evidence of both a generation long since passed, and a generation carrying on the family business. Evidence of a life of hard work and family values. Evidence of my own life passing me by.

As I write this, I’m stopped at a gas station in one such town, trying to rest my eyes at 10:00 p.m. for what is still a three hour drive home. I’m tired and need to rest to finish this drive, but my mind is racing with thoughts of missed opportunities. Your mom and I were talking the other day about the similarities between me and her dad. Two of them that really stuck out for me are how we both always have several projects going at once…some never get finished, but we always have several things going at once, constantly pulling us in different directions. The other is that we are both away from home for extended periods of time when we’re working. Him being an over-the-road truck driver kept him on the road all week, coming home on weekends. My job keeps me away for 2-3 days at a time, and even when I’m “home”, I’m usually preoccupied with one of the many projects or other “things” I am juggling.

That bothers me. I’m glad we talked about it the other day, because hearing your mom make those comparisons has helped to open my eyes to the opportunities I’m missing with you. NE, you wanted to come with me on this trip today. You cried when I said no, and it broke my heart. I really wanted you to come…I did. I would have enjoyed spending the day with you. You would have enjoyed hanging out with me. Now I’m sitting here alone, with a missed opportunity gone forever. I said no to you because I don’t want SI to always see you coming with me while he stays home. It’s not fair to him to do that all the time, and it’ll cause him to resent you (and me) for it…yet he would not have faired well on this 10 hour cross-the-state road trip. You would have done well and enjoyed it. SD starts middle school tomorrow, and it wouldn’t be fair to her to keep her on the road until after midnight the night before the first day of school. And as I sit here kicking myself for making the wrong decision, I realize I’ve made many of these bad choices recently, and it causes me to be alarmed that I’m failing as a dad, in not taking every opportunity I have to spend time with each of you…one-on-one and all together.

Your mom and I used to joke when we were first married that we could never survive for very long in a small town. As a young married couple in our 20’s, small town life was too slow for us. We needed the fast pace of the big city to keep us out of trouble…to satisfy our hunger for keeping busy and moving. Now that I’m 38 with three young children at home, the youngest a two year old, I’m driving past homes with couples sitting on their front porch watching traffic pass by…and it’s looking pretty darn good right about now! A slower pace looks pretty enticing. I know “the grass is always greener” but I have to take pause and reflect on my life…our lives…and wonder if I’m missing the boat.

It seems like I’m always chasing the next “thing”. Always searching for something. I have Christ in my life, so I should be content, right? So what am I searching for? I think I’m yearning for more time with you. I’ve created an environment in which I’m constantly being pulled in different directions, and I need to bring myself back to what’s important…you. I think in my quest to go out and live life, I’ve taken on so much that I’ve caused the reverse to happen, and life is now passing me by. I don’t want to be the guy who sits on the front porch and lets life completely pass me by, but I do want to be able to sit back and enjoy life right where we’re at, a slower paced life, and embrace the opportunities I have to spend it with you.

I’m really struggling with my choice not to bring NE today…kicking myself for this. From here forward, I will be working to find the balance…to find a slower pace in life, so that you don’t grow up with a dad who’s always gone…or too busy for you. I’m missing the boat here, and I promise to do all that I can to get it right. Next to Christ, your mom and you are the most important “things” in my life. It’s time to start making sure my actions are aligned with my words. Time to jump in the boat and cast off…together.