Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day.

Dear Daniel,
Today's your day!
I always knew that I wanted you to be the father of my kids.  We were 17 years old, standing on a dock in the middle of nowhere in the dark and you kissed me on my forehead.  You wrapped me in your arms wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and I instantly fell in love with you.  I mean, right away.  You smelled so good-like a young boy.  I remember thinking that someday I wanted our kids to remember exactly what you smell like.  I was young, yes.  But I was infatuated with the idea of starting a family with you.
My ideas of having a family included having child after child after child until we had about seven running through our large white house.  I envisioned lots of chaos and many blue eyes.  I could picture you chasing each child up to bed, laughing and tickling as their curls bounced and my heart swelled.  In my perfect world, we would have home schooled those children and we would have attended church regularly, teaching them the discipline of attendance and obedience to God.  Some day we would have even built the most perfect picked fence that I would lined with rows of beautiful flowers.  I would spend hours weeding and watering our gorgeous garden, both figuratively and literally.
But my ideas of life with you shifted over time.  Actually it was probably about the time that I [surprise!] got pregnant with Braden while you were half a world away.  I never envisioned having a husband who was gone for 7 months while raising a baby alone and growing another one.  I never pictured losing a great friend just weeks after you returned and delivering a baby only days after you got out of the military.  You barely made it!  

I didn't know that we would endure a period of time that left you very sad and confused and angry-maybe PTSD or maybe just life.  Either way, that was not in my perfect picture.  I had no idea that raising two babies so close in age would be SO exhausting and truly not very enjoyable for many months.  It wasn't butterflies and rainbows like my mind had painted.  It was hard and miserable many days, for both of us.  I didn't know that we would rarely get to see each other or that date nights would happen so rarely that we lost track and even forgot that we needed them.

Eventually, things settled and when we bought our perfect white house I just knew that it was all falling into place.  I remember driving into our driveway many times in our family van with two redheads staring from the backseat and actually saying, "This has got to be too good to be true."
And before I knew it, just like my perfect plan laid out for us, I was pregnant again.   
3 out of 7 in just 4 years.  Lookin good.  The plan wasn't perfect but it was close and we were right on track.
As you know, because you lived it with me...our plans changed drastically two years and one month ago.  We gave birth to a brown haired, big eyed girl who couldn't hear us for many months, didn't see us and slept for hours.  She was all we ever wanted but nothing like what we expected.
And our lives have changed forever.
Shortly after Mabel was born, Harper's dad walked out.  She was 5 months old.  Rache was still nursing her new and perfect baby when, after an ongoing affair, Harper's dad packed a bag and he walked out the door. 
We prayed and begged until Rache agreed to come visit us and before we knew it, they were living here.  That wasn't part of my perfect little plan but it was everything that God knew we needed and more.  She fulfilled us in more ways than we could ever put into words and you rose up for that little girl in a time when she and her mommy needed that.  The plan was starting to unfold, just in a whole new way.  More complex and more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed up for us on my own.
 In my mind as a young girl, I never dreamed of the kind of hurt that would come into our lives or the changes that we would endure in our marriage.  I never knew the things that we would struggle with, both together and separately.  I also never knew of the kind of strength we would build and respect we would gain.  I never could have pictured the kind of forgiveness we would show and the amount of work we would put into this life that is so beautiful, fragile and perfect.
 When I was planning to become a mother and dreaming of making you a father, there is no way that raising a special needs child crossed my mind.  And if it did it was not at all what I thought it would be.  Sure, we said we would do it-without a doubt and that we would do it great but we had no true way of knowing what that would mean for our family. 
And then it happened.   Our baby got sick and we were thrust into a whirlwind of tests, research, doctors, therapies, disconnect, selfishness, heartache, grief, sadness, milestones, regression, triumph and the greatest love we have ever known.
Again, the plan is unfolding.  So so differently...
 God knew the plan all along.  He made it.
He knew that we would be here now.  That we would have a hot-tempered, gentle hearted, redheaded boy who looks just like you and acts just like me.  God knew that it would drive you crazy but that this boy needed you for so many other reasons and you needed him as well.
  I believe the Lord knew that you would have to reign in your anger in order to teach him to do the same.  That you would have to learn to be humble and ask for forgiveness so that he could see you do so.  I believe that God wants to use you to teach this little boy how to love his wife with passion, gentleness and ease and to love others the same.
 I think God knew that raising this family was going to take someone who was strong, determined, humble, sufficient, hard working and above all, willing to learn and re-learn who He is.
 He knew that in order to love another child like your own He would have to put one right smack in your lap.  And you did that right away, and every single day since.  I know that Harper has taught you compassion, and dedication but above all she has given you the gift of joy.  I see it on your face every time you see her and that makes me love her [and you] even more.
 I believe that God gave Mabel the perfect daddy.  A dad who doesn't care about the things that the world would call 'flaws' but instead sees them as gifts.  A dad who will carry her in every single way until he cannot do so anymore.  Which, because I know you so well, will be never.
 Our girls are so blessed with you.  Even if you get it wrong, you apologize.  You are learning to be gentle and love them differently.  You are willing to learn and pray and re-learn how they need to be loved and I am always so thankful for that.  You want to be the best dad and the desire is so evident.  I see the way you still look at Nora-the little girl who first made you a dad and I melt.  I am in love with the kind of affection you are able to give her.  She will always remember that kind of tenderness and attention from her dad.
 This year, I believe we have learned some of the greatest lessons that we will ever learn about how to be a family and what it means to make this work, no matter what the cost.  
I believe God works everything out for the good and although our family has been faced with some very tough reality, we have maintained the ability to be hopeful, depend on the Lord and depend on each other.  The strength I feel from you is incredible and although it may feel like a boulder mounting on your shoulders, I hope that you know I don't expect or need you to always get it just right.
I just need you to be here.  
 This year we learned so much about what it means to just love Jesus.  We learned, together, that it doesn't look the same as what we were taught.  We learned that the 'church' typically stays in the building and the people will often let us down.  During a time when we felt hopeless all we had was God and although there were times when we drifted from Him, He never let us go and in fact, He drew us closer than ever just by being Himself and revealing parts of our lives that needed tweaking.  
Jesus alone is what we need.  And because we both have a foundation rooted in Him, we were able to depend on one another and move forward.  
I'm so thankful you're the man of God that you are.
 We learned this year that family is more than just those joined in blood.  It is whoever God wants it to be.  We also learned that the people we thought would stand in the gap for us during a difficult time may not and the people we would never expect to do so might rise up.  Many have and I am so thankful.  There are men who are not yet fathers who are watching you and will learn great things from you and I hope that there are men who are already dads who will do the same.  You are a great father.
 People are watching and we're just living.  It's incredible to be able to live out this life so authentically.  We get it wrong, try to make it right, we cry alot, laugh alot, fight alot, make up alot, and every single day in between we just live.  
 I hope you know how much you are loved.  
I am so thankful that almost 11 years ago I let myself fall in love with a young boy who was determined to be a Marine and determined to love me well.  I am so thankful that you are no longer that young boy, but a great man of God and a great dad.  You have loved all of our kids in such unique and perfect ways and I know it feels hard some days but I also know that it will definitely be worth it.  
 I hope that today, of all days, you can look at the faces of these children and know that they are yours.  I hope that you can look around at your life and think, "this is MY family."  
You are doing a great job.  You are a great dad.  
We have built this perfect life together and I am so incredibly in awe.  
Nothing like what we thought it would be, but exactly how it's supposed to be.
How cool is that?
Happy Father's Day to my very best friend.
A man who is a great dad, a great uncle Dan Dan, a great friend, a strong special-needs advocate and a wonderful husband.  You are all I ever wanted and more.
I love you [more today than yesterday.]
Happy Father's Day to my dad.  I love you!

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