Over thirty years ago, God gave me my daddy. Not by adoption, but by everyday birth. Not by chance, but by divine providence.
Not many people know my daddy, but my daddy is one of the greatest people I have ever known.
My roots run pretty rural, but any “city girl” in me I got from my daddy. The blonde-headed baby of the family, he was raised in a modest suburb of Arkansas, with classic childhood stories to tell of backyard shenanigans and five older siblings who loved to give him a hard time (or so the story goes). His respectable parents were married sixty years and provided their children with a loving home. As people of faith, they made the decision to take their children to church, and upon hearing the gospel at a church camp, my daddy’s life was forever changed.
His newfound affection for the things of God led him on a path to pursue church ministry, and along the way, he met my mom. Opposite in oh so many ways, their hearts and minds shared one purpose: to live for the glory of the Lord. And so they married. I arrived sixteen months later, and the very first to hold me was my daddy. I wish I could relive those early days. Old photos are proof of the delight he brought to my little soul. In this six-foot, four-inch man, I found a sweet and gentle security and love. He cared for me so deeply, it hurt him to think of it. Little did I know that what many long for in a father, I had – very imperfectly but in gracious measure – in my daddy.
Days and weeks turned into years, and my daddy would go on to catch five more babies in his arms. For him and my momma, babies were never surprises, only answers to prayer. Together, they would experience the pain of pregnancy loss, and my daddy would so lovingly comfort and care for my momma – while grieving himself. They endured much, and God was so kind to bring them healing.
Being a parent was among my daddy’s greatest joys. I could see it every day, about noon, when he would walk across the long parking lot from his church office to our home to have lunch with us. I could see it in his eyes when he laughed and played with us and took us on many a road trip, the family van overloaded with camping gear. I could see it when he captured us on video tape and worried over our every need and tucked us in at night. And I could see it in every momentous occasion in our lives when, without fail, his eyes shed a few tears. He loved his kids more than his heart could handle.
But being a daddy was not only joyous, it was also full of sacrifice. My daddy worked multiple jobs with meager income, while going to school full-time, so that mom could stay home and manage our education. I never knew the numbers in the bank account, but I knew our daddy was on his knees often, trusting the Lord to provide. He worked harder than anyone I knew and paid cash for everything, including the family vehicles. He gave up a plush life for a simple one because he placed a high value on things the world often overlooked.
My daddy taught me many things over the years. He taught me how to hold a pencil correctly, though my fingers never quite surrendered. He taught me how to change a tire . . . over and over again, because I kept forgetting. He taught me to be aware of my surroundings and to carry pepper spray. He taught me to take quick showers and to turn out all the lights when I leave a room.
And when I was five years old, my daddy taught me how to play my first notes at the piano. We soon became a team, and it was my happy place. We synced with one another to the point that I would anticipate his tempos and conducting nuances before he ever indicated them. And my daddy’s singing voice? It was the best. Most people never knew that my daddy had a highly trained singing voice us kids thought comparable to Steve Green. He wasn’t one to flaunt it, so he sang on rare occasions, but every time, I would get the chills. My daddy would forever be my favorite vocalist, conductor, and worship leader. The moments we shared together in music were some of the sweetest of my life.
Of all the great careers he could have pursued, my daddy chose the life of a musician and a minister. His heart was for the people of God to sing. This position would never gain him much popularity or prosperity, but on most days, my daddy persevered with a determined contentment. Content to go to his office and sort through music and lead rehearsals and to do so faithfully in several churches for many years. Though the work was taxing and challenging and even discouraging at times, he would not be overcome. He gave himself fully to the task and brought everything to God in prayer. I’ve watched my daddy serve in church leadership – with its ups and downs – my whole life. I’ve never seen a servant more devoted and willing, arms wide open, trusting God for every moment.
Yes, this is my daddy. Everything you just read about my daddy is still very true of him because my daddy is constant. He is steady and faithful. He is patient and compassionate and tenderhearted. A man of holiness and integrity. A man true to his word and true to his Lord. His faith is steadfast and unshifting. What my daddy believes, he believes with his whole heart, and it shapes the way he lives. The whole world could be against him, and there you’d find my daddy, standing unshaken on solid ground.
And that’s what I love most about my daddy: his resolve to live for what’s most important.
My daddy hates a day wasted. He doesn’t much like TV or movies, because most are filled with junk. He’s never cared for sports or games or social media or the latest trends, because my daddy has his eye set on eternity, and those things tend to get in the way. He doesn’t like to sleep in, and he doesn’t like to party into the night. What he will do is take his wife of thirty-four years on weekend retreats, go on family hikes on Christmas Day, make long video calls with his kids and grandbaby, and sit next to his elderly mother and hold her hand.
And that’s because my daddy sees the future. He sees that this old world is fading, and he’s watching and waiting and hoping and praying for the day when Jesus will come and make all things new. You wonder if that’s really what he believes? Just spend a day with my daddy.
It starts at 5:30am with an hour in prayer and in the Word. EVERY DAY since before I was born. As a little girl, I would often barge into my parents’ room to find my daddy kneeling at the bedside. I came to expect it, and to this day, I can find him there.
And everything good about my daddy flows from that humble place.
When my daddy reads this tribute, he won’t agree with everything I’ve said, because he sees his flaws, and he’s never been one to seek acclaim. But he will agree that this life of his is all of grace.
So much more could be said, and as the years go on, maybe more will be written. But today, my heart is filled with thankfulness for my daddy.
[Photo: My daddy and me, 1986]