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His Love is Greatest

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Oh Lord, I wonder if this is a little like how You felt on the walk to Calvary.  Tired.  Beaten.  Defeated.  Emotionally spent.  Physically spit on.  Cursed at with words of hate.  By the very people You came to love, no less.  That’s what hit me about half way there.  And then it all started making more sense.

My sweet daughter, we took this drive years ago, you and I.  Well…a similar drive anyway.  Back when you were still in a pumpkin seat, it was a 40 minute one-way drive from Newton, Kansas to Wichita at 3:00 am to get you to fall asleep.  Tonight it’s an hour and fifteen minutes one way hoping you fall asleep so this verbally abusive, self-destructive tirade you’re on will end.  I think it would have been a farther drive had it not been for three things: We drove out of the range of our local Christian radio station – which felt like the only thing keeping me close enough to God to keep trying; your mom and brothers were stranded at church without a ride because we dropped them off mid-meltdown; and the low-fuel light came on…not enough gas to make it home.

Just a few short hours ago, as I cried through the realization that I can’t go on like this, it was my prayer that God would show me how.  How to go on.  How to be the father you need.  How to show compassion through my frustration.  How to help you.  How to love you.

He’s faithful to hear our cries, you know.  As my heart cried out to Him, the words of the song “Every Good Thing” rang out over the radio, piercing my heart and soul like the nails being driven into the very hands and feet of Christ himself.  And He awakened my mind and opened my heart to the realization that the answer to my prayer is found in the life of Jesus.  How do I love you?  I love you how Jesus loves me.  At the height of His pain, He loved the ones who put Him there the most…asking the Father to “forgive them for they know not what they do” – Luke 23:34.

At the height of our pain, His love is greatest.  At the depth of our depression, His love is greatest.  In the solitude of our loneliness, His love is greatest.  At the precipice of our failure, His love is greatest.  At the end of our love, His love is greatest.

I know that when you’re in the middle of a meltdown like this, you don’t know what you’re doing.  I know that you can’t control yourself in this.  I know that the things you do and the words you use are beyond your ability to tame.   I know that this isn’t you, and that if you knew how to stop it, you would.  I know you’re just as powerless to stop it as I am.  And I love you no less for it.  God doesn’t make mistakes.  He doesn’t make anything less than what He intended.  You are “Every Good Thing”.  You are just who He wants you to be…and just who I love…not for what you do or say…but for who you are.  The problem lies within me…not you.

Love,

Dad

And for today, I claim the promise that Your grace, oh Lord, is sufficient.  Lord, please grant it in proportion to today’s need.  And let tomorrow be a new day with a new portion sufficient to meet tomorrow’s need.  Father, I ask that daily You sustain me when I call on on Your name.  When I’m challenged and struggling to love my child through the hate-filled fits in which she knows not what she’s saying or how to stop, bring me to the foot of the cross, oh Lord, that I might see how You loved those who knew not what they were doing.  Show me that kind of love Lord…that I might also show it.  It’s in Your name I bow and in Your name I pray. Amen.

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Are You Awake?

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It really is the little things in life that bring me so much joy.  Simple things like this:

Shortly after lunch today, I walked into the living room to sit down.  SD, you were lying motionless on the floor in a ball, presumably asleep.  So I asked, “are you awake?”  Imagine my surprise when you replied, “No.”  Ha!  You do this a lot, and I love it.

You’re awesome like that girl.  This reminds me of playing hide-n-seek when you were younger…sometimes with me, other times with your friends or other family members.  When I or someone else was was “it”, you would hide, usually under a blanket, or behind the couch, or in the pantry.  I would call out “SD, where are you?”  You would giggle and say “over here” each and every time.  Hehe.  Priceless.

I sat down to write those memories out, and as I’m writing this, another memory is coming to mind.  When you were still a baby, even before the surgery to repair your heart, we danced.  Late at night when your mom had gone to bed, I would hold you tight and play one song over and over as we danced.  I don’t know if your momma even knows this.  I still remember the sound of your breath on my shoulder, the feel of your head resting above my heart, how your hair tickled my face.  SD, you are amazing in so many ways, and I love you for who you are.  As you grow up and become a young woman with dreams of your own, I’m proud to be your daddy.  I’m proud of you for who you are, not what you do or how you do it.  You stole my heart a long time ago.  Wherever you go, whatever you do, always remember that I Do Love You.  If you ever doubt it, play this song to help you remember.

But I Do Love You

Dad

Through the Eyes of Jesus

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SD,

You inspire your mom and me in more ways than you know.  I remember thinking when He brought you to us all those years ago that He was giving us an guardian angel in you.  An angel to soften our hearts and turn us back toward Him…to teach us how to love God and love people.  You’ve done that in so many ways over the years.

Most days, I think it’s harder on us to watch how others treat you than it is for you.  As parents, it’s our instinct to want to shelter you from hurt and pain…to protect you from harm…to seclude you from those who mock and make fun of you…the ones who just don’t get you.  There are days I think that keeping you in a plastic bubble would be best.  Then there are the days I know that God has a plan for you, and that you are who you are for a reason.  I believe with all my heart that God will use (is using) you to change the world.  The plans He has in store for you are bigger than you or I can see.

It’s your innocence that makes you special.  Your soft heart…your caring for others…your passion for relationships…your attention to detail.  All these things are gifts from God.  You have a way about you that I envy…how you can walk up to a stranger and strike up a conversation, and within minutes know more about that person than most.  Within minutes, someone you’ve just met has become a friend to you…someone you will remember long afterward, regardless of whether or not you’ll ever see them again.  It’s this innocence and willingness to invest time in people that strengthens your relationships…it’s what will draw people to you.  Combined with your beautiful smile and genuine compassion for others’ feelings, it’s a magnetic pull that draws people toward you.

It also pushes people away.  It’s not you that pushes them away.  It’s their own unwillingness to accept someone so different from themselves that hardens their heart toward your innocence.  They see someone different from them, and it scares them…so they use mean, ugly words…they exclude you…they shun you out and push you away. Your mom and I see the pain and hurt it causes you, and it hurts us too.  Sometimes you don’t see it…more often you do.  Sometimes we don’t see it.  Often, we do.  Tonight, we did…and I think what hurts your mom and me most is that it comes from within our church family as much as from the outside world…sometimes more.  Pastor Ralph would remind me that the church is full of people who sin…which is exactly why we’re there – to help keep us from sinning.  And I agree with that…it’s just that we’d hoped by now to have fostered a stronger attitude of acceptance within the sanctity and safety of the church walls.  Mean words always hurt more when they come from those we love.

I wish I could carry you through life on my shoulders, riding piggy-back as you love to do…taking the brunt of each blow for you.  Unfortunately, that’s just not possible.  What I can do is offer you some words of encouragement.  God has a plan for you, my child.  He is creating a work in you that will surpass all we can understand.  What most people don’t get about you is that you’re more like Christ than any of us.  Your mom said it best tonight when she penned these words:

“Little do they know, she is the true example of who we each should be.  A friend that does not judge others by any criteria, she’s friends with all.  A friend who will sit by and talk to anyone with no expectation of what she will get out of it.  A friend who loves others and not because they look like her, dress in the finest clothes, have lots of money, know people in powerful places, or are in the popular crowd.  That is who my baby girl is and I hope she never loses that.  SD, I pledge to do my best to protect who you are and how you see the world.  I love my girl!”

Your love for other people and willingness to invest time in getting to know them is exactly what Jesus was talking about when He answered the Pharisees’ question: “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All he Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40

Loving God and loving people.  It’s the foundation of all that we should do.  You’re closer to achieving those two commandments in all that you do and all that you are than I am in half of who I am.  Keep your head up and don’t change who you are because others use mean, ugly and hateful words toward you.  Continue to embrace all the people you encounter daily with the love of Christ that has been given to you through Him.  You will draw people toward you…and in the process bring them closer to Jesus.  And those who turn from you and mock you also turn their back on Christ.

Like your mom, I also pledge to do my best to protect who you are and how you see the world.  It’s my prayer that you always see the world as you see it now…through the eyes of Jesus.

Love,

Daddy

Where’s My Baby Girl?

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I was sitting in the dentist’s office today with SD waiting for our appointments. As we were waiting, I was preoccupied with my phone (I know…nothing new, right?) when I was caught completely off guard. I looked over in time to see something I rarely see…you.

You see, to me you’re still my baby girl. It’s as though you’ve been frozen in time (in my head anyway) at an age so much younger than you are now. When I think of you, I picture an infant still learning to roll over…to crawl…to pull yourself up to a standing position…to walk…to run. When someone mentions your name, I picture you climbing the stairs one at a time on all fours. I vividly remember walking down the hall of the courthouse hand-in-hand with you as we finalized your adoption. You were truly beautiful in that white dress…those beautiful blue eyes staring up at me…filled with awe and wonder. What a happy day that was.

Today, though, as we sat together in that waiting room, I was scared. Scared because I was sitting next to a beautiful young lady. A young lady on the verge of becoming a woman. Sitting there flipping through a magazine, looking all grown up, I see that you’re not a baby girl anymore. And truth be told, that scares me.

You see, it creates an awareness in me that proves my time with you is limited, and I begin to question the quantity and the quality of the time we’ve spent together so far. I begin to question how many opportunities I’ve missed. Yet I know that dwelling on missed opportunities will only cause me to miss more. Very soon now, you’re going to be entering into a stage in your life that I’m not prepared for. I don’t believe any dad ever is really. I’m not ready for you to fight back against your mom and me with all your teenage strength, and I’m certainly not ready to go from being the smartest person on earth who knows how to make everything all better to an idiot who doesn’t know squat. I’m not ready for that. I regularly pray that one of two things occur: 1. Because of how truly special you are, this stage of life passes you by with minimal impact; or 2. God would fill my cup to overflowing, so that I can withstand it. Either way, I trust in His will and will find joy and contentment in our lives.

Truth be told, you’ll always be my baby girl. When you’re 33, you’ll still be my baby.

Love,

Dad