Today is my daughter Sarah's 8th birthday. I asked her if she would like to just skip eight and become nine today, but she refused, saying that God says we can't do that. She often invokes His Name to bolster her position when she knows instinctively that something is true or false, but can't articulate a reason. This tells me that we have done a good job instilling in her the truth that God is the source of all truth.
I was able to spend more time than usual with Sarah over the last two weeks. We took a much-needed family vacation, most of which I spent with Sarah. We stayed in the pool until our skin wrinkled; we explored a small island together; and we talked and talked. We were only back for three days when we took off for a long weekend at the Florida home school convention, where we joined 11,000 other home schoolers for fun and education. While Ana went to classes, Sarah and I played hooky.
I have gained a new appreciation for my wonderful daughter these last two weeks. That's a difficult thing to do, because I already thought she was the most wonderful little girl in the world. But I discovered even more reasons to appreciate Sarah these past few weeks. I will share some of them with you, in no particular order of importance.
HOME ENTERTAINMENT CENTER. Many of my friends spend thousands of dollars on elaborate home entertainment centers. These include high-definition televisions with screens larger than my king-sized bed, surround sound systems that mimic the sound of Carnegie Hall, and numerous other attachments that I cannot pronounce much less understand. We have a 30" TV and a small stereo that fits on our bookshelf.
We invested the money we saved on fancy electronics in a C-section and all the many other costs of child-rearing. Sarah has become our home entertainment center. She makes us laugh, she entertains us with plays and puppet shows born in her fertile imagination, she draws cards for us, tells us stories, and sings made-up songs. She even makes up jokes. Most aren't actually funny, but we're working with her on the finer points of humor, and she's getting better.
Sometimes she's funny without meaning to be. Last week I had a sneezing fit. Sarah, very seriously asked me if I had the "sneezles!" At this age she is always trying on new words and concepts. Recently she asked us if she could go to a health spa. Then, without waiting for a reply, she asked, "What's a health spa?" We cracked up. My favorite: "Daddy, could we get a little sister...or a little brother...or a puppy?"
HUGGIES AND SNUGGLIES. Over the years friends have told me of high points in their lives. One shared how he felt the first Sunday his church topped 1,000 in attendance. Another was excited about catching a huge fish while deep-sea fishing, a life-long dream. Still another described the thrill of seeing his recordings on the shelves of Christian book stores.
I can't think of anything that is more satisfying than walking along and feeling a little hand reach up and take mine. Amazing! This little girl, who is still fascinated and distracted by a caterpillar crossing the sidewalk, who notices every little leaf and flower as we walk, wants to hold MY hand as we walk together.
And then there are the snuggles and hugs. I'll be sitting in my recliner, reading or watching the news, and she'll stop by for a quick "huggie" (as she calls them) on the way to her next adventure. That's worth a million bucks! Or she will crawl into the recliner with me, wrap her arms around one of mine, tuck her little head under my shoulder, and just snuggle. "Snugglies," as Sarah calls them, are worth a billion! Actually, there is no way to describe how a father feels when his daughter wants to be close to him. I wouldn't trade that for all the money in the world.
A PURPOSE OUTSIDE OURSELVES. We were created, all of us, to glorify God with our lives and to serve Him. That is our main purpose. But God calls us to accomplish wonderful purposes beyond our personal relationships with Him. One of those is the joy and responsibility of child-rearing.
Not long ago we had dinner with a wonderful couple who has not yet had children. I got the impression that the husband was much more excited about the idea of having kids than was his wife. My heart was bursting with dozens of things that I wanted to share with them about the wonder of having a child, but I didn't want to overwhelm them.
I wanted to say that we are raising a little girl who will change the world for the good...a girl who will become a woman who will love and serve others. A little girl who believes that being a Mommy is an honorable profession, who will be a great Mommy because she is full of love and joy and caring. I wanted to say that there could be no greater use of our time than investing it in someone who will outlive us and share what we have taught her of the Word and life with others. But they will discover all of this for themselves when they have children of their own.
This piece would not be complete without giving honor to my beautiful wife, Ana. Sarah is who she is, in great part, because of Ana. Ana has spent thousands of hours teaching, encouraging, reproving and caring for Sarah. She has been Sarah's teacher in our little one-child home school since Sarah was in kindergarten. Ana has invested in Sarah, and that investment has paid dividends the value of which only eternity will fully tell.