- Fargo wins Best Film at the Critics Choice Awards
- Pete Sampras wins the Australian Open
- The Space Shuttle Atlantis returns home
- Dennis Rodman kicks a camera man in the groin
- The Packers and the Steelers were getting set to play in the Super Bowl (Please, not again. As I write this I can still pull for the Steelers and Falcons…)
- Jessica Rachelle Tanner came into the world
January 23rd, after a long and tiring delivery (seriously, I was absolutely exhausted and Tammi was pretty tuckered out too! – I will pay for this…), Jessica made her presence known with a few grunts and then a well throated wail. She was here and we knew our lives would never be quite the same. We were parents.
Looking back now, I was so proud of my wife and her ability to just know what to do. She took to being a mom like it was the most natural thing in the world, but me? Well I never dropped her on her head or anything, and I knew which end food went in (no doubts about which end it came out) but I remember thinking several times, “Who on earth decided that I have the maturity to raise a child into an adult that will offer some type of value to society!? Shouldn’t there be some type of screening?”
Over all, she was a pretty compliant little rascal. She had her moments when she was handful, but she was a quick learner and was always willing to please. We kept watching her and wondering, “Is she about to go nuts yet?” I know what I was like, and I just kept thinking that eventually I was going to see behavior in her that would allow parents, teachers, Sunday School Superintendents, Little League Coaches, and almost every member of the ladies missionary committee to start with the comments. You know the one in particular…
“Now he is getting the payback he deserves!”
We waited. She turned two and nothing. We waited a little longer and she turned three. Nothing. We waited a little longer and as 4, then 5, and then 6 passed by, we still saw nothing that led us to believe that we were in any trouble or that any was on the immediate horizon.
School was going well, She loved to learn and play with friends. She loved church and all of her friends. She was good in just about any situation and we just kept waiting.
The double digits hit. Then the teen years began and I thought that if it was ever going to happen, now would be the time, but nothing. It was like she just didn’t have it in her to get into trouble like her old man did. She even got along with her little brother! Seriously! Where did this kid come from!
Let me be clear. Jessica is not perfect. She had plenty of times when she made bad choices and got herself into a bit of trouble. There is no such thing as a perfect kid. Also, Jessica was not a push-over. She has a very stubborn streak in her that has been the foundation for a lot of things that have made her into who she is today. Sometimes that stubborn streak made things a little challenging, but it never got to a point of considering a boarding school…
I look back and wonder what did we do. Tammi and I had talked extensively about how we wanted to raise our kids. We discussed discipline, education, boundaries, how we would love on them, all kinds of stuff. We did what we thought was right and we prayed that God would kinda push us into line where we might be slipping off the track. We were consistent, but this was also our first attempt at things!
I realize that there was much more at work than us. It was more than grandparents (although she has four fantastic ones). It was more than aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, and even more than her little brother. It was more than the books we gave her, the television shows she watched or the songs she sang.
It was God.
Jessica knew that she was our daughter, but she also knew she was a child of God, and she wanted to make Him happy. She asked questions when she was little about how she should do things that make Jesus happy, and would talk about how Jesus made her happy. She saw the animals that she loved as a way that God gave something to her to enjoy. (I still think she really believes that all animals were put here for her enjoyment, but at least I have been able to make her understand that she is not responsible to house all of them!)
She knew that she wanted to know God more, and as she got older, she began to do more about it. She started to read her Bible almost every day. She began journaling. She wrote out prayers. She talked with people about God. She had an understanding that the real God, Creator of the universe, knew and loved her, and she wanted to know and love him too.
I think that was the biggest reason the teen years have flown by. We watched her grow into the young lady she is today, and we just keep being amazed at what she has become. Again, not perfect. Again, a touch stubborn at times. In the end, a young woman with a loving heart, a beautiful smile, and a desire to serve God.
Tammi and I are so proud of our daughter. We did what we could. We gave it our best, and we are thankful for who she is today, but we know that her relationship with God is the lion share of what made her into who she is. We are just very thankful hat Go allowed us to have a part in it.
Today, Jessica is 20. Two decades have passed since I was told I had a little girl. I will always be able to see her at that moment. I will always be able to recall that feeling of excitement and fear all wrapped up together. I will always ask that question, “What did I do to deserve this?” I say it now too.
Happy Birthday, Jessica! I’ve loved you from the first moment I set eyes on you, and I am very proud to be your Dad. I know that like your old man, you sometimes feel inadequate – not up to the task. You want to do things the right way the first time and you get frustrated when that doesn’t always happen. You want to be more, to do more, and to never let anyone down. I love those things about you. They scare me sometimes too.
They scare me because I know how the doubts can weigh on your mind. They drag you down and make you feel unworthy of good, unable to help, paralyzed. I don’t want that for you.
As I said to you the other day, I want you to see yourself as I know you are. I am able to stand on the outside and see the woman you are becoming. You have not only potential to become something amazing, you are already potent in this moment as you are making a difference in the lives of those around you. You are already being that amazing woman, and the day will come that you will recognize those strengths. You are going to do great things as you lean on God and partner with him to help others even more.
I love you, squirt! You have done a lot with your first two decades. I can’t wait to recap the next two in 2037!