Lessons from Pops

“Love you Ben”

My dad’s voice still rings in my ears as I hold our final conversation with both gratitude and grief. With Father’s Day around the corner, and a child of my own on the way, I’m reflecting on the example my dad left for me to follow. He was a man of many words and infinite love.

“Eat the meat and spit out the bones”

This was a phrase my dad said religiously. It was his way of reminding me to listen to what he said, but decide for myself what was worth holding onto. He didn’t want me to mindlessly take his advice. Even though he was a man of deep convictions, he understood that what was true for him wasnt necessarily true for me.

Everything a parent does from discipline to play, must be in service of sharing wisdom and helping the child understand how to uniquely move through the world. My dad embodied this belief most profoundly during my adolescence. Which meant he offered advice rather than instruction. He listened patiently when I was frustrated and comiserated with me when my heart was broken. During my teenage years, my dad became my friend. While our friendship took a hit once I went to college, I have always appreciated our friendship.

Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash

Even before we became friends, however, I knew my dad believed everything was about love. This wasn’t something I heard him say, but rather something I watched him live out. He was the most loving person I knew. No matter how many people were added to his family through foster care, adoption or marriage, he loved each person as if they were his own. His love didn’t have an off-switch. He thought about and prayed for each of his children, grandchildren and former foster children. We were always on his heart.

As I anticipate the arrival of baby Jebediah, (don’t worry-Brooke already vetoed that name), I feel even more appreciative of my dad’s committment to being a friend and covering his children with love. I’ll admit that my dad wasn’t perfect. We disagreed on a lot of things, but even still, he gave me a model to follow.

This will be the first Father’s Day in over twenty years that I won’t be able to tell my dad I love him. While my grief has been strong this week, I’m comforted by the love and the lessons he has left with me.

As we celebrate Father’s Day, I encourage you to reflect on the lessons you’re holding from the people who have served as guides for you. They might be fathers, mothers, grandparents, mentors, etc…

Whoever has been there to love and guide you, can be celebrated on Father’s Day. I’ve just decreed it. Now that you have my permission, celebrate whomever is deserving of recognition in your life and take time to appreciate their investment in you.

The Miracle of Life

Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

“There’s the heartbeat…”

The nurse spoke in a matter-of-fact tone, but for me this was anything but ordinary. I looked at the screen in disbelief. The image turned and twirled with an energy I thought impossible. In that moment, I wasn’t hearing the rapid beating of a heart or the frantic movement of a fetus, I was looking at my child. Suddenly I was a father.

In an instant it all became real to me. It’s one thing to know you’re going to have a child. It is another thing entirely to see that child and hear its heartbeat. I was filled with a sense of childlike wonder as I looked at the ultrasound. I’d gone into the appointment expecting to see a small blob on the screen, but I watched in amazement as the nurse highlighted a mouth, fingers, and eyes all beginning to form, and I saw this for what it was…

…A Miracle

This is a miracle, not because we’d been trying to have a child for over two years, but because nothing changes your life quite like becoming a parent. Just as Brooke’s body is expanding to make room for the new life within, our relationship and individual perspectives are doing the same. Previous boundaries and walls are bending and stretching as space is created withing both of us to protect, nurture and hold this new life.

This new space is already shedding light on my secret motivations. I used to selfishly want a child in order to prove that I’d broken the cycle of poverty and abuse. I needed to prove that I wasn’t going to repeat the mistakes of my step-dad. In my mind, being being the father he wasn’t would complete my story arc. I’ve secretely measured myself against him for such a long time. I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to prove to myself that I’m different from him, and in doing so have allowed him to define me. He won’t define my child’s life.

As the full weight of our miracle sinks in, it has already ushered in deeper release and healing for me. The shadow of my step-dad lingers in the background, but its chill is being replaced by the gentle warmth of hope and the winds of resilience. I have nothing to prove to myself or anyone else. My only work is to create enough space and safety for this child to explore who they are and move into their own identity.

The space within me is filled with abject terror, indominable joy and every emotion in between. There is so much to consider, and so much I don’t know. As I think through the myriad of decisions that are to come, the gentle voice of the Spirit whispers “do the next right thing in love.” This reminder pulls my gaze from the distant future to the most immediate step right here, right now. I may not know how I’ll do all of the things, but I’m confident I can do the next thing.

Stinky diapers, sleepless nights and incessant crying are on the horizon, but so too are baby snuggles, first steps, and ecstatic giggles. As we prepare for all that is changing, I return to the first rapid beats of our child’s heart and am reminded that everything from here on out is indeed a miracle.