Last week was an almost magical week for me, having had the opportunity to connect with some family members and friends, with whom I needed connecting. For a few days I was back in my state of origin, geographically. But my spirit was in it’s element…happy. There were times that I felt my heart would burst from the pure enjoyment of living one moment at a time, just as my belt would burst from so much Texas barbecue. My face was sore from smiling. There was healing and forgiveness bestowed and accepted, and the kind of camaraderie that only dear childhood friends can resurrect.
Visiting rivers and singing along to songs in the car to Pandora’s “’80’s Radio Hits.”
Seeing how much my hands are like those of my father, who I’ve only ever seen a handful of times in my 46 years.
Coming to know my half-sister and her family.
Remembering that I do have people.
Happiness is to serenity, as serenity is to joy – the ultimate goal, the place where we are in God’s presence with no distractions. We long for supreme happiness, but have only delicious, fleeting tastes of it.
What made me happy last week – Texas – might be different than what makes me feel happy next week. We are fickle creatures.
I suppose I have kind of an emotional hangover. Today, I’m weepy and sentimental, and have this crazy urgent want to make all things right. But that’s a problem in this world, because setting all things right is not my job. Trying to make it my job leads straight to unhappiness. I know enough to know that.
It makes me think that maybe perfect happiness is too much…just too much to ask for. I can’t wait around for everything to get it’s collective act together before I allow myself a slice of ‘happy.’
Oh, how I love the Serenity Prayer – such a simple thing! Most people know the first refrains of it, but it is the last half of the famous prayer that really speak to my heart.
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other. Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, Taking, as Jesus did, This sinful world as it is, Not as I would have it, Trusting that You will make all things right, If I surrender to Your will, So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
– Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
It’s hard to take this world as it is, not as I would have it. Expecting supreme happiness in this life being unreasonable and all.
The state of my origin can also be melancholy, and sometimes I get my wheels stuck in the muck of melancholy. It helps if I just go ahead and feel what I’m feeling already, instead of attempting to stuff, manipulate, or eat my feelings.
Feel the bittersweet. Feel the melancholy. Really let it squish around between my toes like Texas mud. And then step out of it to walk into the courage to change the things that I can. Because I can’t experience the pure joy of living one day at a time any other way than to surrender to His will.
Accept that hardships – those stumbling blocks to happiness (a feeling) – are nothing but paving stones for the pathway of peace.
Grant me reasonable happiness and help me to trust YOU to make all things right.
In working on a series of “Seven Little Action Words,” I was kind of at a loss on ‘Trusting.’ Honestly, I think it is because we are very nearly empty nesters now and I am learning to trust God with my grown daughters. This may seem easy if your child is still in diapers or is navigating the waters of Kindergarten; not so easy in the tween and teen years they seem bent on making the stupidest choices possible in any given circumstance. In the epiphany that I was never in control of my girls’ lives in the first place (illusion, my friends…it was all an illusion) God is giving me a single question: “Do you trust me with these girls who you love so much? I love them even more than you do, you know.” I know, Abba. Thank you. Sometimes I need reminding. I trust you. Your eye is on my little sparrows, too.
By: Jana Greene
The first thing I noticed about it was the blackness of the outline, almost as if it were drawn with bold magic marker. My next thought was that I must absolutely write about this, the design that now lay bare on her skin. As if, somehow putting pen to paper would give permanence to the moment, as the needle brought it to her flesh.
My daughter’s first tattoo.
I had known that it was coming, that she considered it a rite of passage. My girl had always danced to the beat of a different drummer; a lover of eclectic music, performance art and sculpture. If she had a credo it would be this: Live by Deliberate Acts of Impulsivity.
As her mother, I would surely prefer that she not bear any tattoos at all, because (and yes, I am the expert here) she is absolutely perfect the way God made her. I am rather attached to her being, looking, sounding exactly like my daughter – the only one of her kind, anywhere. Tattoos are just not my “thing”, whereas she very much is.
Nineteen years ago, just after she was born, the delivery room nurses whisked her away for her first bath and returned with my infant girl swaddled very tightly. No sooner was she in my arms than I was removing the blankets, unwrapping her like a present on Christmas morning. As mothers have done since the dawn of time, I checked her, head to toe. I found her birthmarks, the dimples in her plump hands, and worked my way to her tiny, peach-fuzzed back. There, between two flawless round shoulder blades, I placed my open palm to her skin. It was a perfect fit. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined anything marring that space.
In her “growing up” years, there were manifestations of her free spirit, of course… harmless acts of rebellion, none of them leaving a lasting mark. She formed strong opinions before she could form complete sentences, and had no trouble expressing them. At around age four, she developed magnetism to the camera (any camera) and made it a habit to insert herself into any and every photograph.
Around the same time, Alexandra began displaying fashionista tendencies. An ensemble she chosen for a summer day in the park might include: a sweater with leggings, plastic Disney princess shoes, a toboggan with ear flaps, seven necklaces and a life-vest (after all, it was July!)…all worn together and on dry land. It soon became apparent that stares, glares and pointing in her direction by the public at large was not a deterrent to this behavior. It was more the entire motivation.
This is when the adage “choose your battles” took on meaning for me. And as I became a student of war, the years rolled on like a tank.
With the advent of tween–hood, there were lines drawn, of course. Not a fan of shirts that showed adolescent bellies and shorts that declared suggestive adjectives across their bottoms, those were not tolerated. Alexandra compensated with crazy combinations of adornment, including stick-on tattoos of all kinds.
At twelve, after spending a long day with friends at the beach boardwalk, she returned home with a henna tattoo, ecstatic.
“Until I get a real one,” she told me.
She managed to graduate high school with only a nose ring as modification, but no sooner was the ink dry on her diploma than she was ready to display ink on her body.
“I’m ready,” she said to me one day. “I’m getting my tattoo. A bird.”
Okay. A bird.
“A Tribal Sparrow,” she added.
“What in the world is a ‘tribal sparrow’?” My voice is more condescending than I intend.
Eye rolling and head shaking. Translation: “Mother, you just don’t get it.”
I wonder about the subject she has chosen for the artist, and it’s tribal-ness. Our family heritage is sort-of a homogenized breed. We have no “tribe”. We have no “people”. We are Scotch-Irish with German in the mix, and a little Louisiana-Cajun-French (but you have to really look for it). No- we are very garden variety, Ellis-Island mutt American. Perhaps that’s the attraction for her, the tribal aspect.
“If you’re trying to belong,” I said, in an attempt to appeal to her lovingly (sometimes changing strategy can be effective). “You already do. You don’t need a tattoo to belong here.”
She knows that, she says.
“Is a bird something you now,” I pause for effect. “And forever more want to be associated with? Because you will….you will be ‘that girl with that tattoo.” But as I am asking her, I am secretly grateful she isn’t branding herself with a map of Area 51, or the image of a pop tart, or a beer keg. “It should be something meaningful to you.”
“It is. It represents freedom to me, Mom.”
“You still live at home,” I reply dryly. “We pay all of your bills….. Don’t you want to wait until you are free to commemorate freedom?”
Heavy sigh. “Freedom from things. Personal things.”
“If it’s so personal, why does it have to be permanently inked on your body for the whole world to see?”
“Why would I not?” she counters, and I have no reply. All their lives, my children have been told to be authentic, true to themselves. Encouraged to be real.
Don’t be afraid to show who you are. It’s the message I’ve tried to impart, even during the years of life-vest accessorizing. Don’t wear the masks.
“You know what?” I say. “You don’t even know who you are yet! You are who you are right now, and a mere five years from today, you will be in a completely different place.”
She says that none of us remain the same, not even for a single year. And it’s true. I am a very, very different mother than I was when she was born, unwrapping her like a present on Christmas morning. The particular audacity of getting inked is that it alters your shell, the only one you will get in this life. It is a deliberately impulsive act.
Parenting is not a sane endeavor, and complicating the matter is that she is, in fact, not a child. Still, I have to believe she will listen to reason.
“Not everyone is going to be so accepting of your ways in the world,” I bleat wearily. “There are people who will make value judgments about you based solely on the fact that you have a tattoo.”
But my instincts tell me to RETREAT, as I watch her body tense.
RETREAT, or there will be immediate launch into mutual hysteria, familiar territory for us. It seems that – these days –she and I are either dissolving into tears of laughter together (our ‘inside jokes’ are legion), or hurling words of frustration at one another, rapid-fire.
“If I ever care what people think of me based solely on my appearance, than I have bigger problems than having a tattoo!”
How can I not admire that statement? Who can argue? She is, after all, an adult. I surrender, but silently, and with a slow refrain of “Taps” playing in my mind.
What I want to tell her, but do not say aloud, is that she will be marked, molded, and modified, without ever setting foot into a tattoo parlor. I look at my body, once just as perfect as hers, mapped by the story of my life. Constellations of freckles from forgetting sunscreen a thousand times, and wrinkles from the same offense. Smile-lines around my eyes from laughing, scars from mishaps and missteps, and from the pieces I have lost to surgeries….all part of the story. But it’s the pink, translucent ribbons that cover my lower belly that mean the most to me. Tributaries of skin stretched to accommodate the growing bodies of she and her sister long ago….. These are my tribal marks.
When the time arrives, Alexandra comes to tell me it is The Day. . She tells me the name of the artist who will do the work. I recognize his name; he attends my church. She is the definition of “all smiles”, luminous.
“Do you want to come with me while I have it done?” She asks. “You can hold my hand.” I am instantly frustrated with her for acting like a little girl – still needing my approval, and equally frustrated that she is not one anymore.
I politely decline, and her boyfriend goes with her instead. I am considering the natural order of things, pondering the business of ‘letting go’ when she walks out the door with him. I try not to think about ink and needles. I’m glad he will hold her hand.
It finally occurred to me to talk to God about my qualms; it should have been my first response. How many times do I wrestle tiny inconsequential issues to the ground as though they are giants without asking the Almighty God to assist me on the mat? As usual, He was already in that place I had hesitated to invite him.
The Bible has a lot to say, and the gist of the message that speaks to my life is Grace. True, there are passages that warn about marking the body, scriptures that warn against cutting the hair. But it is a verse about birds that God brought to my mind. Leafing through the pages, I found it right away:
Matthew 10:29. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Has my daughter inadvertently given flesh to the scripture I pray over her?
Though I hate to admit it, Alexandra’s tattoo has forced me to consider the messy business of acceptance. The “Choose-Your-Battle” cry of all parents has a different tone for each scrimmage and every life stage. What do I gain, as a mother, if I choose not to accept my grown child’s decisions? Am I selfishly seeking validation that I have “raised her right” if she refrains from what society might be uncomfortable with?
The freedom she is trying to parlay is that today, she can still go anywhere from here. This tattoo is meaningful to her. And she is meaningful to me.
When she returns, she cannot wait to show me, walking backwards into my bedroom so that it’s the first thing I see. There is no hiding the work; she will have none of that. This girl, a lover of eclectic music, performance art and sculpture….Now adorned.
So that’s a Tribal Sparrow…
A clear coat of laminate covers the wound, so that it can heal properly. In the mental melee of preparing myself to see it, I had forgotten that it would scab and scar…that it would be a ‘no pain, no gain’ commitment, as most things that become permanent are.
“It’s lovely,” I say. And I think I mean it.
The Tribal Sparrow is a beautiful bird.
Her outline is striking and very bold, not the least bit likely to fade, but her plumage is just the color of Alexandra’s complexion. Centered between my daughter’s flawless and round shoulder blades, the sparrow is exactly the size of my open palm…a perfect fit. She is in flight, but I’m not sure she knows where she is going, her two tail feathers pointed high. Her eye appears to be a soft swirl, peering neither downward or behind, but straight ahead. Her wings are gently drawn with a curve, as if she is gliding, not yet looking for a place to land. A true Artist painted her right onto my daughter’s perfect body. And every time I see it now, I am reminded that His eye is on the sparrow, and that she can go anywhere from here.
“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.
Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!”
– Psalms 127:3-5
My husband has a full quiver of arrows, if the psalmist’s analogy is accurate.
When I met him seven years ago, it was love at first sight. I was a single mother of two adolescent daughters, and he was a single father to one. His girl was the same age as my oldest … on the cusp of 14.
If you know anything about teenage girls, you know about age 14. Brutal on both child and parent….14 is parental boot camp. Fourteen is a fiery raining down of arrows.
When we were dating, my Beloved swept me off my feet with romance – but really wowed me with his fathering abilities. His daughter was his heart….and because she was – he melted mine. He was so committed to her and to the job at hand – being the best Dad he could be.
“Love at first sight” morphed into “I thee wed” in a year. In taking vows with his wife, my husband went above and beyond in assuming the daily fathering duties of his new wife’s daughters. The carpooling, trips to the dentist’s office, and buying the school supplies. This previously single father of an only child tripled his “dad-ness” factor overnight.
All three daughters lived with us in our “blended” family, all the time. Often, we wondered if the family-mixer was on “puree” instead of “blend.” The girls were at the mercy of our love for one another. After all, our daughters hadn’t fallen in love with one another, but were arrows in the same quiver, nonetheless.
If parenting teenagers is walking through a minefield, step-parenting is navigating a minefield during a hurricane while under nuclear attack, without even having had the benefit of boot camp.
INTENSE. For all of us.
Through the usual growing pains of our daughters’ having boyfriends, breakups and broken hearts (and yet more boyfriends) – he offers advice and more importantly, sets the bar for how they should expect to be treated by the way he treats me.
Through graduations and awards, he lets them all know he is proud. He has sat through three times more middle school band concerts, chorus performances and class plays than he ever imagined when he was the father of one child.
He could have shirked some of this extra-mile “reward,” and still have been the bravest man I’ve ever known. He could have done much less and still have been a good father. But in true warrior style, he gave it his all. And still does, to this day.
He has been through 14 three times now, and not only survived, but learned to smile. Our daughters are all young adults – one is a married woman herself now.
Our little pureed family – which surrounds him in chaos, estrogen-laden crisis and drama – is strong. Because my husband is strong, and committed to the job.
How joyful also is the man, and the family who loves him.
They are hard enough when made seamlessly – a Bon Voyage before a long trip, planned and executed with love and attention to detail.
Goodbye is difficult, even under the best of circumstances, but there is closure to a well-rounded farewell – an “Until we meet again.”
When I got sober, I said goodbye to alcohol in all it’s forms. It was a very hard break-up, because the connection was so intimate. We snuck around, alcohol and I. We had memories, a history. Goodbye to tart Chardonnay and mellow brew. Goodbye to neon beach drinks with little umbrellas. Goodbye Nyquil.
The parting was long-wrought but swift. Abstinence – unlike mere absence – does not make the heart grow fonder. The further I separated from my lover alcohol, the clearer it became that I was better off without it. Good riddance.
But a funny thing happened during our breakup. Not unlike the separation of any two coupled entities, our friends took sides. But instead of Team Alcohol and Team Jana, my loved ones seemed to belly up to one of two bars: Team Drunk Jana and Team Sober Jana. And I wasn’t expecting that development, honestly. I had naturally assumed that the people who loved me would rally behind Team Sober, but that is not what happened.
My whole world changed, one tenuous moment at a time. Every single nerve in my being was on high alert, but everyone else just kept living as though nothing was happening. As if nothing had changed. It was at this juncture that I had to erect those pesky boundaries. But boundaries with others are only good when they are respected, and as we know – people in the throes of addiction themselves are not great respecter of boundaries.
Sometimes, that means saying goodbye to people we love.
In truth, “everyone else” did not become more dysfunctional as I grew in recovery. The dysfunction just became clearer to me. It is a testament to my level of disease that I had not realized it before. I developed a mental allergy to high drama, and an emotional allergy to the abusive drinking and using of others.
The sad truth is that there are people I’ve known my whole life that will always prefer Team Drunk. They found me more laid-back, easier to manipulate, and less confident when I was active in my addiction. But the problem with the former me is that I was a dumbed-down, numbed-down version of myself before I got sober. I am a new creation in recovery.
Where does healthy acceptance of others meet healthy self-care? I don’t purport to know.
Is “you make me want to drink” enough of a reason to cut ties? I think it can be.
Is “you hurt me” enough of a reason to distance? Team Sober says unequivocally, yes.
My heart still longs for a connection for some of the people to whom I have said ‘goodbye.’ It is a very hard break-up, because the connection was so intimate. We had a history. I love them dearly, dearly.
What to do with the jagged, messy edges of goodbye in recovery when the amends I’ve tried to make with others don’t match up with the edges of self-care in a nice, neat seam? When the closure has no well-rounded farewell – an “Until we meet again?”
Team Sober says to approach it just like every other recovery issue – this Bon Voyage before the longest, best journey of recovery – planned and executed with love and attention to detail for the sake of my life.
I’ve been watching you , keeping up with your feelings. I know you imagine I watch you from my throne in Heaven, so far way. But in reality, I’m as close as you as your own heart, the one that’s been broken; the one that has been skipping beats lately. I am as close as the breath you have a hard time catching when you try to cry quietly. I am right there with you.
You’ve been a bit down lately, really kind of “attitude-y Judy” if you will, and I know it’s because of Father’s Day. Well, really, your blues started to settle in around Mother’s Day, just last month. You have been out of whack ever since.
You are estranged from the mother that you dearly love, because you heart has decided that healthy boundaries must be in place, but your brain has decided those boundaries were not being respected. At your heart-brain summit – trying to figure out what to do – there was only chaos. I feel like maybe it’s time to let it go.
Father’s day is an even more loaded occasion. Aside from celebrating it for Your Beloved husband, you have no dog in this fight. The man who was most like father to you (besides Me, of course) was your grandfather, Papa. How much he loved you, and you loved him! It is a beautiful thing so witness so much devotion this side of the Kingdom. Does my own heart good to see.
But when, my daughter, are you going to let go of the others who “fathered” you? The one whose DNA I chose to combine with your mother’s to weave you into being, and knit you in her womb? I am sorry he did not stick around. Is wasn’t about you, you know. Ahhh, perhaps that is the biggest problem – his indifference made it about you.
And others in the “father” position, like the others who volunteered to step into that role. You simply have to understand that it is a tragic thing that he took advantage of his position and that you were hurt. Oh, my child, you were only very small.
In love, I want to suggest to you – instead of focusing on the loss and estrangement, the hurt and the trauma of your earlier life …you could try to consider things from another side? I will not force you to let it go, child. I am quite a gentleman, in that I insist you must make the choice. But when you do, I am here to help you move on.
You, my daughter, are a survivor! Strong in heart and in mind. And what you’ve lost in this life, you can see I have given back to you ten-fold, if you stop only looking back. Your cup is overflowing with blessings … Look around you, my child! Look forward.
All the issues with parents (who are, after all, just human beings like you) cannot dilute the love you receive in your life every single day. Let go of the relationships that make you feel lost, orphaned, alone…and look around at this life I’ve given you!
What you lack in relationship with your parents, I have given you 1,000 times more, through circles of friends whom you love – and love you – like family. People I have purposely brought into your life (again, not by orchestrating from a different galaxy, but from within and with-out and all around you) cradle you in more care than you ever imagined you would experience in this life.
When have you gone through a time of sorrow or joy that you were not surrounded with friends that rush toward you, to climb in the trenches and sit with you in your sorrow, or rejoice with great exuberance when celebration was in order?
In your husband alone, I’ve given you a best friend and confidant, a lover, a helper; and a wonderful father for your children, as well. In all the world, I chose him for you, so that you would never feel lost, orphaned, alone again.
My daughter, if you would just realize this … maybe you would be lifted up. Maybe you could be a bit of a “gratitudey– Judy” – ya think? (I knew you’d get a kick out of that one!)
Let things go that do not matter, look around you and realize what you really do have.
And if you do… if you really see it, your epiphany might help me to have the best Father’s Day ever.
I love you.
“Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too.”
– John Mayer, “Daughters”
I used to be a big fan of greeting cards – Instagram-esque images on the front, the oh-so-eloquent sappiness that makes up the text inside. But these days, I’m finding that Hallmark doesn’t always capture the essence of occasions. Here in my sepia years (not near ‘golden’, mind you) mass-generated greetings don’t cut it.
Looking for a Father’s Day card to recognize my husband, I hovered over a card on the rack that pictured the quintessential daddy-daughter image: A black-and-white picture of dancing feet – a little girl’s bare feet perched upon her father’s leather Oxfords. I love that image.
Isn’t that what father-ness looks like?
What does it look like, as a reel – instead of a snapshot? It is a no guts, no glory endeavor. Father-ness also looks like a million other little acts of devotion.
It looks like canceling long-awaited plans to attend a chorus concert/band performance/theatrical production that a child forgot to mention until the day of.
It looks like children whom he has advised can “tell him anything” will, in fact, tell him anything.
It looks like forgoing something he wants – or even needs – so that the girls can have what they want and need.
It looks like giving 100% in the little things, like positive reinforcement for clean dishes and put-away laundry.
It looks like giving 100% with little or no notice for big things – like weddings. Moves. Driver’s licenses.
It looks like unselfishness.
It looks like knowing a child’s favorite birthday cake flavor, and going to all the grocery stores in town until you find it.
It looks like making taking the time to hear their points-of-view of his kids (even when they make no sense, even when they are “wrong”.)
It looks like insisting that they treat their mother/step-mother with respect, even in the sassiest teen years (such a mouthy time!)
It looks like openly loving God, while respecting the truth that each daughter is on her own the journey to discover that God is real.
It looks like praying on behalf of each one of them, every day.
It looks like midnight runs to the skating rink, and dropping four other loud, yapping, excitable teens off at their own houses, so their parents don’t have to make a midnight run. Sometimes, it looks like four or five loud, yapping, excitable teens having a sleepover at his house.
It means rolling with the punches, constantly – without harboring resentment, or bestowing guilt on the children.
It looks like valor, quietly.
It looks like giving away his life’s treasure to her new husband on her wedding day, and making that day as memorable as possible for her.
It looks like buying class rings that he knows will be worn once, and then sit in a drawer. And it means never mention a word of the expense again.
It looks like treading the fine line to deal with a daughter’s choice to date the over-cologned, greasy haired, lip ring-wearing, juvenile delinquent, junior Bad Ass (completely unworthy of her,) without being overbearing (thus increasing the boy’s appeal ten-fold.)
It looks like buying feminine hygiene products when necessary – without embarrassment. Without missing a beat.
It looks like stick-to-it-ness when going through the drudgery of parenting, honestly – the day-in, day-out homework inquiries.
It looks like having stunt-man like ability to roll off the drama.
It looks like learning – and accepting – that all three daughters respond differently to different situations, that “one size” rules, privileges, and relating does not fit “all.”
It looks like honoring our daughters, even when their behavior is not honor-worthy.
It looks like standing in a darkened window with a notepad in-hand to write down the license plate number of a boy who has picked up a daughter for a date. (Date my daughter? Be ready to be properly vetted. ) Note to daughters: Yes, he did this – and with enough forethought to make sure the dining room lights were off before you left. Better visibility.
It looks like shuttling kids to doctor appointments, play practices, sleep-overs, and SAT tests. And back again.
It looks like listening to Christina Aguilera, when he’s in a Robert Cray kind of mood.
It looks like being the practical parent; not always getting to be the fun parent. It looks like school supplies instead of frivolities, in leaner times.
It looks like treating your wife exactly the way you want your daughters to be treated by their husbands.
My Beloved’s flesh-and-blood daughter was born with the privilege of calling him “Dad.” He has raised her most of her life. She is a married now, still Daddy’s Girl at 22 years old.
“Most people experience just having a mom raise you – or even both parents if you’re lucky – but I always just had my dad,” she recently told me. “He is the one person who told me what he thought and then let me make my own decisions without judgment…always dropping everything to help me, and giving me the biggest hugs, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye. He has given me a life to be proud of, always giving me the best advice and showing me how to better my future. “
For my own two daughters, My Beloved came on the scene when they were 10 and 13; the first and only man I dated as a single mom that my daughters immediately gave the stamp of approval (I only dated a couple, I swear!)
“Mom didn’t really have any boyfriends before my step-father, but she did go on dates occasionally,” my youngest, now 18, says. “Being the grumpy child that I was, I did not like any of them, but something about him was different. He didn’t just care about mom; he cared about my sister and I – and he went out of his way to show it. A few weeks into his relationship with my mother, he surprised me with a necklace of my favorite animal – a penguin. It had a gold chain and crystal eyes, and came in a penguin-shaped case. It wasn’t my birthday or anything … he just wanted to show me that he cared. I hoped that he would be my stepfather, and I am so grateful that it happened!”
My eldest, also now 22, came to appreciate that he put in the time with parental grunt work: “A lot of things stick out to me when I think about my step-father,” she says. “He took time to come to all my school events and basically ‘owned’ us all from the get-go. One of my favorite memories is recent – just last month – when he came and sat with you during my tonsillectomy even though he didn’t have to….even though I was pretty out-of-it, and wouldn’t have known if he had skipped it. Waking up and seeing that he was there, that meant a lot to me. That’s just who he is. He is really that person.”
What does Father-ness look like, really look like?
So much better than a Hallmark card; so much deeper than Instagram-esque imagry and sappy sentiment. Off the rack; a reel of a million little acts of devotion. And some really big ones.
It looks like love.
Footnote from My Beloved’s daughter, Lynzee, who is leaving to be with her husband stationed in Japan in just a few days:
“Dad… I’m not a very adventurous person. But you always told me, ‘You’re never going to see what the world has to offer you unless you put yourself out there and try new things.’ So now that I’m an ‘old married lady’; I have a chance to go to Japan for three years. Even though I haven’t left yet, I already miss you. Thank you for working so hard. You’re always my secure place to call home. You are an awesome dad, and I love you.”
“For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Jesus Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change. When Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened,” He assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way. These words are a touching testimony to the genuine humanness of Jesus. He had no romantic notion of the cost of discipleship. He knew that following Him was as unsentimental as duty, as demanding as love.”
― Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out
From the very first minute I met my beloved husband, it was obvious that he was interested in me. He made is so clear! If ever there were a love at first sight, we totally nailed it.
But seemed to be such a good man, that I had this primal urge to warn him.
“You should probably know,” I said, while waited for a lunch table on our first date. “I’m an alcoholic in recovery.”
“And have two daughters, 10 and 13, who I raise by myself. And they are really handfuls.“ He only smiled at me, undeterred.
As that first date progressed, it was clear that this man was special, different. He was warm, attentive, interesting. I had butterflies, but in the most comfortable, natural way. As it turned out, that he had a 13-year-old daughter, too. In our first, long conversation, I kept having the oddest feeling that this was The One.
We saw each other every day after that. We simply couldn’t be apart.
In times of anxiety, I wanted to tell him, “RUN! I am not worth it!” and when he didn’t run, that dark place in my spirit that was born of so much rejection in the past, whispered, “He will one day abandon you, you know. He will figure it out.”
Even after such a brief courtship, it occurred to me that If he wanted to run, I would rather it be right away, before I fell any deeper in love with him. I felt like such a mess, with nothing to bring into this new relationship.
Nothing but me.
“I have medical issues,” I would say at otherwise intimate times. Or, “I struggle to pay my bills.”
I was sure that this sexy, compassionate, amazing man would not stick around, if only he knew the true me. But a strange thing happened … the more he came to know the true “me,” the more he just kept falling in love. The alcoholism recovery (which is a lifetime endeavor,) the single-parenting of teenaged girls, the health issues….none of these – or any of the other in the plethora of anxieties and insecurities – kept him from loving me.
Oh how many times I experience the same dynamic in my walk with God! From the very first moment I accepted Christ as my savior, it was obvious that he was head-over-heels with me.
From time to time I remind him: “I am small, insignificant. I battle anxiety, and fear abandonment, and have nothing to bring to the table. Only me.”
He is such a good God, it’s almost as if I feel I should warn Him.
Often, when I feel those butterflies that come from knowing the Living God has fallen in love with me, I still wonder “why?” I am in awe that the God of the universe is undeterred by my character defects, challenges, and not concerned about what I can “bring to the table.”
I’ve told God that – if he wants to run, I understand. I’m kind of a mess. Sometimes, when I am most anxious and depressed, when the old feelings of being a “mess” crash over me, I think about the early days when I tried to talk my Beloved husband out of loving me, and he just smiled. I was enough, he wanted me, just me – forever.
What kind of God would be crazy about me? The kind that cannot be talked out of it.
The kind who just wants to be with me, because when he created me, it was love at first sight.