Where did the years go?

WeddingI am going to try my best today to not be one of those sappy dads who cries all the way through my daughter’s wedding. Especially since I am performing the ceremony. But there are no guarantees, because she’s my baby girl.

Where did the years go? Where is the baby with bouncing curls who giggled in the backpack carrier and grabbed my ears and hair? Where is the toddler who looked up at me with big brown eyes and said, “When I get big, I’m going to marry you, Daddy”? Where is the 7-year-old who waded out with me into Beck Pool to be baptized as a follower of Jesus Christ? I can still see the 10-year-old in a pink tutu, smiling happily as she danced on the Paramount Stage with dozens of other little girls, while we fathers jockeyed for position with our cameras. I remember many drives in the country to a place where she could ride horses, and learn to groom and care for them. I can see her as a teenager in Kenya, surrounded by children in the Kibera slum, all of them attracted to her smile and her kindness. I remember her tearful testimony of how God impacted her life on that trip, how He opened her eyes to the world and gave her a love for her brothers and sisters far away.

There’s also the Hannah who asked, when she first heard about “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” if the Democrats had a song as well. And her brothers love to tease her about the time at Holden Beach when she came in from swimming in the rough surf and headed up the wrong steps, walking with confidence toward a house that was not ours.

I remember many phone calls from Hannah who called on the way to the church where she worked as my secretary, offering to stop and buy me a cup of coffee. She was a great assistant for many years and could be counted on to keep up with the details of running the church office like she had done it her whole life.

Four years ago Hannah adapted Francine Rivers’ book, “The Last Sin Eater,” and got permission to produce it for the first time ever on stage. The whole family was involved in the show, and I thank God for the way He used Hannah’s creative talent to bring us all together for a message we wanted to share with the community.

I remember several trips to Bocachica, Colombia, with Hannah. Never one to be afraid of hard work, she shoveled sand and rocks to make concrete, carried buckets of water, painted walls, and did whatever was needed. But when the work was done, Hannah could always be found playing with the children, learning their names, and speaking whatever Spanish she could remember.

Last fall, a trip to Kansas changed her life. She was asked by a friend who had just given birth to her second child to come and help her for a week. Kate knew that Hannah has a big heart and is always ready to help whenever there is a need, especially when that involves children. But Kate had another motive; she wanted to have Hannah spend some time with her husband’s brother, just to see if they would hit it off. They did.

Today, I will walk down the aisle with my baby girl, and a Kansas firefighter will walk back down the aisle with his new bride.

How great are your works, O Lord!