I’ve never seen Jesus’ face in a piece of toast, and I hope I never do, cause that would force me to make the decision as to whether or not eating it would be a sin and I’m not good with that kind of pressure. So, you can believe that I never go around looking for molehills to make into mountains or everyday stuff to make into miracles. By the same token, I try not to discount God’s amazing, little “life coincidences” either. It’s a fine line to walk, but I think it’s a necessary one. Even if I didn’t have my faith in God, I think it would be important for me to help my daughters believe in SOMETHING greater than all of us, me included…because all of us that don’t have the first name of God and the last name of Almighty can and will fail. As an adult, I constantly see how life can seemingly spin out of control, and how easy it is to feel frustrated, hollow, alone, and defeated; thereby paving the path for eventual true defeat. Bills come due and then overdue. Loved ones pass away. Fond memories start to fade. Friends come and go. Our health ebbs and flows and eventually just ebbs. To make matters worse, sometimes we don’t even know where life’s blows are coming from, much less how to avoid them. Sometimes, just living life can seem to make the living of life overwhelming.
Now, I’m not talking to you as a guy with no real knowledge of feeling like I’ve failed, nor because I read some book about being poor, nor because I saw some interview about faith. We’re all family here, so I don’t mind sharing my trials and triumphs. I’ve had my lights, AND my phone turned off on the SAME DAY before. Another time, I spent a day inside Chik Fila with my girls, my niece (who was staying with us) and her newborn baby girl because my lights had been turned off and it was too hot in my house for a baby. We had to stay there until I could borrow the money to get them turned back on. (Thank GOD for free lemonade refills!!) Growing up, there were nights when all we had for dinner was rice with a can of stewed tomatoes stirred in. Heck, more recently, I remember being at the register in Wal-Mart the day before Thanksgiving 2008, only to have my check not clear and have to explain to my daughter (who was right there with us) about financial responsibility (and in our case…irresponsibility), and why we were leaving the “chock full of delectable Thanksgiving dinner goodness” shopping cart behind. So believe me when I tell you that this is all coming from my heart, and as a MAN, I understand how humbling it can feel to know that sometimes, you are not in control, and that you may fall short more often than you succeed, and that you from time to time need a higher power to help.
I’ve had many, many conversations with people on the verge of giving up and don’t be fooled, a lot of times that person was staring back at me from the mirror. There’s no shame in my game, if I didn’t have faith that there was SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE that had my best interest at heart, and that could make sense of what I was going through, there probably wouldn’t be a Daddys’ Doing Hair in front of your eyes right now….That’s real talk. Shame is a powerful deterrent. I wouldn’t be able to talk to you about how important it is to give your daughters faith in God, if I didn’t at least have a mustard seed sized portion myself that saw me thru when I get tested (not past tense). Trust me, no one would get on a bus with no one in control, but sometimes, that is exactly how life can feel.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I would like for the girls to think that Daddy is in control of the aforementioned bus….but if that’s the case, the questions in their minds could quickly become: What happens when Daddy doesn’t have all the answers? What happens if I get sick, and Daddy’s kisses can’t make it all better? What happens when Daddy fails, and he’s the strongest being in my world? If he can’t fix it…then who can??? I can tell you what happens when those thoughts start to surface. Their world falls apart because at that point, the most powerful force in their eyes, has been rendered powerless. For me, acknowledging this, and accepting this, and sharing this with them was all part of my growth process. It freed me up from having to try to be super Dad, from beating myself up so much whenever I didn’t have the answers or when I just flat out failed. It was actually kind of liberating, and I thank God that I came to understand. We all want to think that we can provide all things for our families, but we must understand that by putting all of our trust in someone that actually CAN provide, that we are ultimately doing the best job possible of providing for them, but as a MAN, it was yet another tough pill to swallow at first.
I wish I could say that it didn’t take much for me to start understanding, (in writing this book, I see that I’m a lil slow on the uptake…lol) but in actuality, it was another of those little “life coincidences” that God seems to take pleasure in revealing to me from time to time. I think he understands that sometimes instead of one big leap, it takes lots of small steps for me to get from point a to point b without suffering brain overload. Remember, the seeing Jesus’ face on a piece of toast scenario?
Anyway, the girls were 7 and 8 when we all moved from out west back to NC. I sent my wife, and the girls to kind of get things settled while I stayed behind to tie up some loose ends. To the girls, the stuff that I had to do was minor. I had to do stuff like finish packing up the house, shut off utilities, drive cross country in a rental truck that held everything that we owned ALONE…you know…trivial stuff. To them, their agenda was much grander and a little more personal. Their mental goals list had things like, meet Grandma (of course), meet all of their aunts and uncles, see pine trees in person, find a new school, and see the beach for the first time; all important stuff in 7 and eight year old minds.
It didn’t take long for most of the items to start getting checked off of their to-do list once they got there. Most of them were completed within just a few hours. Seeing pine trees….check. Meeting Grandma…DONE. Meeting some aunts and uncles….marked off. The last two; finding a new school and hitting the beach were proving themselves to be a bit more difficult than the rest though, but let’s get priorities straight, it was summertime, and school could wait. The beach apparently, couldn’t.
Now, as smart as my girls are and always have been, they apparently had no desire to watch the weather channel, and had no aptitude for deciding on their own if a day was a good or bad day to go to the beach. One would THINK though, that they would be tipped off by overcast days, but I guess the lure of sandy windswept beaches, the smell of salt water and seemingly endless surf muffled the logic sections of their little brains. So, that being said, they picked an afternoon for going to the beach that, at best, was not favorable. We’re talking about a thunder and lightning, torrential downpour, frogs in rowboats kind of day.
So, they set out on their journey, the girls and Sharon, to go to the beach on a decidedly dreary day; armed with nothing but towels, blankets, some snacks and a desire for the weather to clear. Soon, though, it was obvious even to their overly optimistic minds that that day may not be the day. Just then, according to my wife, is when the praying started. No joke. She heard it floating up from the back seat. It started with one whispering to the other “Come on, sister…Let’s pray that the rain stops.” (They always used to call each other “sister” like we were on the set of Little House on the Prairie or something…I always found that to be funny.) They started to pray that the day would clear up, that the rain would stop, and that their Mama would stop with the threats of going back home to sit the out the storm. Those little chicks not only prayed…they PRAYED.
Let’s put it in perspective. You know how in church, some old mother would stand up and say something like “…those that know a word of prayer…please pray for me”? That’s the type of prayer these little chicks were laying down; like they KNEW they were going to have their words heard and that they had a bright red, Batman, emergency phone straight to the ear of God right there in the back seat, smack dab between the two of them. And you know what? They got through. I’m not going to say that it was a miracle or anything like that, but according to my wife, who is just as unlikely to smack a “miracle” tag on things as I am, the rain stopped, the clouds cleared and it turned into a beautiful day. They got everything but the chorus of the heavenly host singing.
Whether it was a coincidence or not, normal weather pattern or not, a case of eventually outrunning the storm or not, doesn’t matter. That day there were a couple of little girls riding in the back seat of an older model Chevy Malibu with grins on their faces from ear to ear. They were a couple of little girls that were suddenly blessed with the knowledge that, maybe, just maybe, God actually is in control of everything, and that if Daddy can’t handle it…He can. He helped them to see the beach for the first time, and Daddy had nothing to do with it; he wasn’t even anywhere close by. To hear them tell the story of that day, the beach was the most awesome thing they ever saw in their little lives. And to hear me tell it, God performed yet another amazing small, everyday, “life coincidence” that day, and completely showed me up, and I’m okay with that…..now.