That Dad

A Hug on Day One

It’s funny actually, I realized today I’ve become that dad. I’ve recognized the fact that I have had to leave behind my son and bless him in his journey of becoming independent, failing and learning from those failings, soaring and soaring higher from his confidence and growth. As difficult as it is to do, it is time to let him go to become the man God is working out in him.

I’ve experienced for the first time the living experience of:

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6

The love I share with all of my children is not portioned for them to share. The fullness of love in my heart for them is there in abundance with none to spare. It is an extraordinary truth, through Christ; a demonstration of His own love for His children.

But when one of them leaves, especially for an extended period of time, the heart hurts — aches from the absence of the one you love so much. To make it complete we trust in the One who brings the fullness of love and joy, who fills the holes left by loss, grief or absence. So in this time, I lean strongly on He who has begun a good work in Andy, knowing He will complete it in His time. God will be with him. That alone comforts me.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him . . .

Psalm 103:13

Day One

Day one has come and gone. As a proud dad of this 2023 Coast Guard Cadet, today was overwhelming for many reasons. I cannot help but think of the swabs particularly. This day was hard, emotional, strenuous, long, demanding and seemingly unforgiving. The first hours were spent being issued uniforms and getting haircuts — and getting yelled at. While the second half was filled with drills, training, and learning the ropes — the hard way.

My heart is heavy with not only missing him both now and for weeks to come, but heavy also with the weight and depth of the selfless sacrifice I know he has chosen. A choice to make this land and sea safer for us all. How does a dad respond to such dedication, loyalty and bravery? He doesn’t — this one just stands in awe, because my son is my hero!

Today I was able to write him a note, something quick and encouraging to bring a smile, a cheer, and something extra to take him a little further along.

I wrote to him the words of Paul as he spoke to the Ephesians, a prayer of which I echo:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.

Ephesians 3:16

My continued prayer tonight is that you will find refuge in his Spirit and not your own. Your body is tired tonight – be strengthened and renewed through his glorious riches and with the power of Christ your King!

I’m so proud of you son — sleep, rest, renew. You’re my hero!

Day Before Day One

Mystic River

There is no poetry or paint brush strokes adequate enough to describe this day. For many, it appears to be nothing more than a day to drop your child off at college and text them on the way home — just because you can. But it’s far more, far different. Capped with a silent ride home and a silent summer ahead.

At the United States Coast Guard Academy, it proves to be much different. And while we have yet to experience Day One, that will be tomorrow, today seems like a punch in the gut none-the-less.

No doubt the day was exhausting walking the hilly campus, attending worship together on campus and selecting favorite items from the Exchange to wear — but more so to actually reflect. Emotions were high all day, but often masked by a giggle, a joke, or jesting throughout the day. Dad knew better and recognized it for what it truly was — even he understood what his pre-cadet was feeling. I get it.

We received the heartfelt encouragement and truth about what to expect in the days to come, months to come and even a year or two from now. It’s all so surreal and like my own first day of college some 25 years ago, I felt overwhelmed with even a drop of information.

The sun has set on this day before Day One and with it, the passing of precious time that felt indefinite this morning. It feels like forever just ended. And yet, tomorrow is not the end, but the beginning of a new life, a new way, a new loyalty, and a new perspective. It’s exactly what he wants and craves. Yet, tonight he said goodbye. Yes, we’ll see him tomorrow, but only for a very short time.

Good bye for now my son, but only for a short while. Tonight the sun has set on this day, but my love for you has grown beyond the stars. My words cannot express how proud I am of your willingness to serve our country and keep Christ your King. There is no doubt I will miss you — every day you are gone. I know you are in His hands, with a hedge of protection and God’s angelic hosts on your every side.

Now go . . . go with the faith of Daniel, bravery of David, wisdom of Solomon, obedience of Abraham, strength of Samson, and forgiveness of Joseph. Seek His face and hear His voice.

I love you son! You are my hero!

Sending Off

Sending off a child to serve our country is something I’ve yet to experience . . . until now. The thoughts and mere wonder of experiences have overwhelmed my thoughts in recent days imagining the new world, daily routine, rigor that my son has yet to face.

It’s been a quick journey actually. With a delayed appointment, the news came late and swift. But when the decision was delivered, it seemed to move with the force of nature itself – creating a firestorm of activity.

With the fierce chaos, came the realization that my son will be gone – though not forever, for a very long time. It’s like my best friend is moving away. It makes me sad, but knowing what I do about where he is headed, I am at peace and humbled by his desire to serve and help others — more so honored beyond words.

More difficult days are ahead and processing this day is like the introduction to a large novel — without it the story makes no sense. So, today’s send off serves as a celebration of that which is yet to come as well as a lighthouse to those days in my future to saying goodbye.

My intent for this journey is to capture my thoughts of his experience in real-time, sharing my ideas, understanding, and encouragement with him stamped in time forever to be read when he catches back up with the schedule of life he traded in for an amazing adventurous future.

I couldn’t be more proud.

Nothing To Spare

There are days when everything goes wrong, or maybe just one really important thing goes bad.

This morning I walked out to my car only to find one of my tires flat. It was hot, sunny and I haven’t changed a tire since the 1980’s. Then I remembered my roadside assistance benefit! It was heaven!

I was thinking a lot about this and could actually relate in many ways to that tire. There have been days when I’ve felt flat. Maybe you have too. You know, purpose and function seemed to have been sucked from your core. You can’t move forward, stick in one place.

But there’s always that friend. Thank God for friends!! That one friend that says, “Yeah, you may be flat, but let me help!” It’s like they replaced that flat tire with their spare. And together there is healing, support and your day gets brighter.

I’m reminded of the words of Isaiah:

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary , they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Waiting On The Last Man With An Empty Plate

There is something that happens to a grown man when they are sitting around the dinner table, waiting on their food and it never comes — or at least it takes forever.

You know the moment, when you’re out with a group of friends or family, everyone has ordered and the food finally arrives.  Except, the waiter gingerly explains that your meal is going to take a few more minutes.

Then, you realize, you’re the last man everyone is waiting on with an empty plate.

It happened to my nephew just a few days ago.  Everyone received their meal and he was just about to do the same when his plate, filled with food, slips off the tray and crashes to the floor.

It’s a horrible feeling to have to wait while everyone else enjoys their hot meal.  But as I sat there thinking about how he and many others have felt after being told their plate of food will take a few more minutes, I couldn’t help but think about how sometimes it’s because the cook is taking the time to make his food for no one else, but him!

Life is a lot like this.  We often overlook the special attention with the details.  Whether it’s with a plate of food and we are the last one to get it or in life and we think our fix will never come, we tend to feel slighted somehow when we are the last man everyone is waiting on and our plate is empty.

We wonder why everyone else has it so good and how they could be so rich.  But we forget our own story of uniqueness.  We forget that my life holds priceless ingredients to have made it so special, it truly is one-of-a-kind.

God works like that!  I’m so glad to wait on my plate — take your time, make it great!

Believing In Signs And Wondering About Significance

Indigo Bunting SignsMany times I’ve wondered if something I just experienced, whatever I just witnessed and seen with my very own eyes were signs toward a pending decision, an absent person or an action I should perform.

I’ve heard others tell stories about having a “strong sense” about something and arguing in their head about acting on the encouraging thought.  Just yesterday I was told of a woman who was about to leave a room with other people when she had this sudden prodding to go over and pray with a specific someone.  Recently I was told of an experience when a man was driving past a gas station and his spirit prompted him to go pay for someone’s tank of gas.

While these examples are encouraging an action, what about those experiences that prompt a remembrance?  These have a particular mystery attached to them that cause a sense of wonder regarding their significance.  Things seen such as a shooting star, a penny, a red-bird, a floating feather — all provide a measure of curiosity.  There may be a significant experience specific to you prompting you to remember a moment, a person or a place.

We read in the Scripture many times God uses experiences to remind his people of something.  Signs in the Bible are typically taken seriously and their significance is profound with much to be considered.  Take, for instance, the dove on Noah’s Ark returning with an olive branch.  Let’s not forget the dramatic burning bush!  Remember the ravens?  They provided food in the desert.  Perhaps the greatest sign, and certainly most historic, was the bright star leading the way for the wise men as they journeyed to the birthplace of Christ.

Signs are always around us and our attentiveness to the mystery and wonder of them is something that if ignored, the message will be missed forever.  Yesterday I’m grateful for being attentive to see perhaps the only thing that would have caused me to stop and pay attention.

As I was leaving my dad’s house, I saw for the very first time in my life a rarely seen Indigo Bunting.  It’s a small bird, bright blue with a song that is majestic and undeniably different.  I have always wanted to see one.  I know too, it was my late mom’s favorite bird.  And there it was, right in front of me, singing to the top of its little lungs.  Expecting it to fly away, I stopped to take it all in.  And then it escorted me to the bottom of the driveway.

I was in total awe and wonder, for I knew this was one of the many signs mom was near.

Another Visit To The Hospital For A Parent

I’m finding today a bit surreal with another visit to the hospital, except this time it’s with dad.

Approximately five years ago the University of Tennessee Medical Center was home for mom.  They cared for her cancer treatments and truly were the best in every way.  As a cancer survivor, mom grew in strength and confidence and this I attribute to her care on UTMC.  However, we all sadly lost mom as the treatments took a toll on her body years following her remission.

Now I’m sitting in the waiting room of the same hospital, except this time it’s for dad.  Results are not conclusive, but it could be bladder cancer.  I’m writing this as he is in recovery and tissue samples of the tumors they removed are being tested.

I feel like there is more than just tumors being tested here with me.  It’s emotionally challenging at best and the images of doctors, waiting rooms, medical conversations and that whole medical power of attorney thing is taking it’s toll.

But I’m a big boy and holding it clearly together.  Oh, and you may wonder about dad . . . well, he is a strong trooper, brave and a hero!

 

Brand New Year, No Kidding Just Laugh

2017On the first day of the new year, I want to laugh — no kidding!  First of all, I can’t say how glad I am 2016 is over — well, I can say it, but then the expression would read incorrectly.  Why do I want to laugh?  I want to laugh because too many have forgotten what it’s like.  Too many are taking life so seriously, they are forgetting to enjoy the humor in the world around them.

Our country has experienced a brutal election overlapping a four-month long Christmas season (it started in October!).  The two of these in and of themselves may be enough to throw lemons on any sugar-patch party, but when the two ran hand-in-hand, lemons are all we found.

It is arguably true there was plenty of Christmas cheer, after all it was the year of millions of red and green laser dots illuminating the fronts of homes.  Laser lights equals cheer in any neighborhood.

But we are talking about laughter, not cheer.  When laugh happens, people are more healthy, more forgiving and generally in the best of attitudes.  We need more laughter.

Entitlement and Injustice are the two new lead dogs on the sled to tomorrow.  I remember the day when we laughed about life with everyone and everything in it.  It was the fuel that burned away at any injustice and overshadowed the illusion of entitlement.

Life was funny and we laughed!  In 2017, it’s gonna be funny.  Are you gonna laugh?

Blessed Beyond Belief

Today people think about many things, but for me, today I know I am blessed beyond belief.  Keeping perspective and knowing this is so important as well as knowing how far my want stretches beyond the need of others.

Every night I am blessed to lay my head on a pillow.  So many, albeit the orphan or the homeless find rest where they are able.

Every day I am blessed to satisfy the pangs of hunger.  While thousands hold signs on a corner, stand in line at a shelter or wander and wonder for their next meal.

Every day I am blessed with the luxury of technology.  In the use of this computer, my phone or driving my car, I take for granted this convenience.

Every day I am blessed to enjoy my family.   During the holidays, many are separated from their loved ones by serving our country, conflicts in the home or because of unfortunate loss.  Today, I am blessed!

Every day I am blessed with freedom.  My freedom, though at a costly price, Blessed to be Half Fullaffords me the ability to pray, to celebrate the birth of our Savior, to play, to live and to love.

I see so much of the world ungrateful and unrealistically discontent with where they are in life.  It can dish out some of the most difficult blows.  I for one can attest to such, but the option is mine (ours) to decided how we see our cup.  Half full?  Half empty?

I am choosing full.  It may only be half full, but full it is.