How We Train Our Kids to Be Leaders

A neighbor recently commented that my oldest daughter, Sophie, is such a leader. She went on to say Sophie does an excellent job of getting other kids together and organizing activities without being bossy or demanding. I thanked her for the compliment. Then went on to tell her, “My goal is for Sophie to be a leader, but I actually never tell her to be a leader.”

Why I Never Call My Kids Leaders

Being a leader is not enough. How we lead determines the lasting impact of our influence. To help our kids become the leaders God designed them to be, we must be careful not to add unnecessary pressure, emphasize leaders are not just the people in charge, and help them become the best version of themselves.

Unnecessary Pressure

When you tell someone to be a leader, you may mean, “don’t follow the crowd when they do something wrong,” but the thought of “being a leader” can take own a life of its own in the mind of a child. If we do a good job affirming a child at home, then what we really want in those situations is for them to be who we know they are instead of trying to do what they think a leader would do. To me, that means, affirming their identity is more important than telling them to live up to a certain standard.

Not the Person in Charge

A leader is not just the person in charge. It is the person with influence. When kids hear “leader,” they may think they have to boss others around. If my kids become bossy and try to correct other kids, they lose influence and friends. That is why it is crucial to emphasize identity in young kids instead of leadership.

What We Do Instead

Affirming your child’s identity can help them be the leader they are meant to be among their friends because they will be leading out of their authentic selves instead of trying to enforce and live up to a certain standard. Being secure in their identity will prepare them to lead well as young adults when they can more understand the complexity of what it truly means to be a leader.

Benefits of Affirming

  1. When the child falls short, they land on who their parents (and God) say they are instead of the guilt and condemnation of not being the leader they are supposed to be.
  2. Affirming creates authentic confidence inside a child to lead out of who they are, in their own way, instead of striving to be what they think a leader should look like.
  3. When you affirm a child, you give them security instead of unintentionally inserting the idea that they have to live up to a certain standard as a leader to be good enough for your approval.
  4. When kids know who they are, they will not be afraid to be different. They are not gaining their identity from their friend group, being a part of what others are doing, or being the person in charge.

How We Affirm

Starting at about one-year-old, I created sayings that would build up each of my girls’ confidence and identity. As they grew, I would change what I said over them based on how each girl blossomed. I will share what I would tell Sophie each night as I rocked her to bed. 

“You are so sweet and so smart. So sensitive and so strong. You are my sweet, sweet, Sophie, that is so, so, sweet, and I love you so much. You are my very only special Sophie girl. There is no one else like you, and I think you are so pretty.”

There are some principles built into that saying that are important. 


We celebrate character. Accomplishments are just the product of good character. So even when we point out accomplishments, we always highlight the character that got them there.

Special to Me

Kids need to know they are precious just because they exist and are part of their family, not because they live up to a certain standard. When I say the words, “I am proud of you,” it is connected to a godly decision or character they display 90% of the time. Kids want their parents to celebrate their victories, so of course, we do that. We just don’t make that the focus.

Superficial but Necessary

You’ll also notice I tell Sophie she is pretty, but not until after building up her identity in other ways first. Little girls need to hear they are lovely, just like little boys need to hear they are handsome and strong. Again, I want my daughter to know that true beauty abides in how they treat others. I want Cinderellas in my house and not Little Mermaids. 

I finished the conversation with my neighbor by telling her that a parent who emphasizes being a leader to their young children is a good thing. If you are doing that, you are already thinking ahead of the challenges kids will face and preparing them to stand firm. 

We have just chosen a different path based on our experience and how we have seen emphasizing and even pressuring people to be a leader can cause them to lead, but not from an authentic place. I figure I would spend my kids’ childhood building up their confidence and identity. I hope that as they get older, they will lead, not because they are supposed to or have to, but because their emotional bank account is full. This way, they can help others out of the overflow of who they are, and not because they need anything from those around them. These are the types of leaders I always enjoyed following the most, anyway.

Country Music and Greeting Cards

Navigating the Love of a Father

My dad was pretty cheesy. I guess that means cheesiness is in my genes. This may also explain why I am incredibly corny myself. 

Greeting Cards

With my dad, however, this mostly showed up in two ways. The first is he never wrote a card. Instead, he preferred to give Hallmark cards with detailed cliché messages already written in. This is very much the opposite of me. I like to get a card with the shortest amount of text possible and then fill in the blank space to overflowing with a personal, heartfelt note. I never liked that he chose to give me the corny words of greeting card writers to mark birthdays and other special occasions. Why would he not take the time to write a personal message in his cards?

Country Music

The other silly thing my dad loved to do was force me to listen to the songs he enjoyed. Love songs were his favorite, but Country Music would also enter the rotation. Once, he called my brother and me into the living room to play a new song that was sweeping the dance floors of America. Then blasted Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart” from the two giant speakers in the living room. He would also play songs like Garth Brook’s, “The Dance.” In the car, he would quiet me down to listen to “That’s My Job” by Conway Twitty when it came on the radio.

Eventually, my dad became very devout in his faith. Christian music replaced the country songs he required me to listen to with undivided attention. I am so thankful for this change in his life. Without him making the decision to follow Christ, I would not be serving God today.

Rules, Demands, and Discipline

At the same time, I still didn’t know how to deal with my feelings towards my dad. He was harsh. Often, he was mean and controlling. That softened a bit when he became more serious about his faith, but that part of him never really went away. The anger and intensity were always just beneath the surface.

Our home was strict. While full of rules and hard-work, it wasn’t absent of love and fun. We laughed with and at each other. I would never say my dad was affectionate, though. This isolated us from each other. 

Before living with my dad as a teenager, I spent my early years with my mom. My three guardian angels during that time were my mom, grandmother, and aunt. Being raised primarily by three females may be why I so strongly crave affection and expressions of feelings from those around me. That was something I didn’t really get from my dad. Mostly just rules, demands, and discipline.

Seeing Through a New Lens

One day, towards the end of my dad’s life, I noticed a book on the counter of his kitchen. It was for Adult Children of Alcoholics. It took a moment for that to sink in. Then the realization came over me like a splash of cold water. My dad was raised by an abusive alcoholic. Just because he was my dad, it didn’t mean he was over the hurts of his dad. The wounds and the gore of that kind of childhood were seeping through the cracks of the life he was trying to build, and even into his role as my father.

At that moment, I felt compassion for my dad, and I saw his shortcomings through a new lens. He couldn’t give me the affection he never received but did his best despite his own experience with his father. 

All of a sudden, those cheesy greeting cards and times he made me stop playing video games to listen to his music took on new meaning. He didn’t have the vocabulary to give me the fatherly intimacy I so desperately needed. So he used Hallmark cards and tear jerker Country Music songs to pass on the parts of himself that were important to him.

Choosing Your Compass

My dad wasn’t cheesy or superficial. He was doing the best he could with the tools he had amid the pain he didn’t know how to deal with. I am learning more and more that these are the choppy waters every parent has to navigate their love for their children through. Our ships sail in winds of legacy and pain. What we focus on becomes the compass that guides on these mysterious seas.

When it comes to my dad, I choose legacy instead of hurt; love instead of frustration. If my kids use the same measure of forgiveness towards me and my mistakes that I have used for my dad, then I want it to be as generous as possible. I think that is the only way we make it to the treasure of a lasting legacy.

Discipleship On The Go

Helping Busy Families Thread Jesus into Every Day

by: Sarah Blount

You know those memes that make light of expectations verse reality? Like the one of Ariel from The Little Mermaid? Wet Hair Expectations: She’s gloriously exiting the water, hair dramatically flowing behind her. Wet Hair Reality: Her locks, which resemble a lifeless mop, are pinned to her head and covering most of her face.

Or there’s the one of Pocahontas’ hair perfectly blowing away from her face as she paints with all the colors of the wind. That’s my windy day hair expectation, but whenever I paint with the colors of the wind, which often happens in Oklahoma where the wind literally comes sweeping down the plain, that’s not at all what my hair looks like.

And then, of course, there’s there “Pinterest Perfect” Queen Elsa Cake where Elsa looks like she stepped right out of the movie screen versus the “Pinterest Fail” Queen Elsa Cake where Elsa looks like she came straight from the prison yard, where she was working on her shoulders.

The reason we smile when we see an expectation versus reality meme is because we can all relate to them in some way or another. I bet if you were to stop and think about it for a second, you would be able to identify an area in your life where your expectations are not lining up with your current reality- only it’s not quite as funny as the Disney Princess memes. It’s actually rather frustrating. That’s where I found myself toward the end of last summer- frustrated.

In 2008 I eagerly entered into my season of motherhood. I had wanted to be a mom for as long as I could remember. I was determined to steward well every second with my new little guy. I played with him, sang to him, read to him, prayed for him, and consistently presented Jesus to him. It was pretty simple. I worked from home and had a very flexible schedule. So in-between naps, strolls around the neighborhood, re-runs of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, racing Hot-Wheels and reading all of the Elephant and Piggie books, I was doing my best to train my son up in the way he should go. I knew God had called me to make disciples of all the nations, but first, my offspring. In 2011 we added baby number 2, and baby number 3 came along in 2013.

With three little ones, I had to be more strategic when it came to intentional spiritual investments, but we got in a nice flow, and I felt like in the Christian Mom Department I was dotting every and crossing every T.

Fast forward five years and my perfectly crossed T’s and dotted I’s were nowhere to be found. I had a ten-year-old, a seven-year-old, a four-year-old, a miniature schnauzer, and a three-year-old church plant that my husband and I founded and pastor together. Gone were the days of working from home and having countless opportunities to connect with my children. I was officially entering a new season of motherhood. For the first time, the kids would all be in school while I would be at the church offices or a coffee shop writing the manuscript for my first book. After school, we had 2-hour long football practices three times a week, plus small group, guitar lessons, cheerleading, and whatever else ended up on the calendar. We were busier than we’d ever been before, and it was all wonderful except the expectations I had for what discipling my children should look like and what it actually looked like were NOT matching up.

Expectation: I sing out a run of notes a princess would use to gather her forest friends and my kids sit around the table, where we do a family devotional, pray, worship together, and everyone produces the fruit of the spirit.

Reality: 10-year-old reads four-year-old a Bible story before bed.

I was tempted to “give myself grace,” but I knew that wasn’t what this frustration called for. I didn’t want to make excuses. I would not settle into a “we’re in a busy season, and the spiritual discipleship of my children looks good on the back burner” kind of mindset. Instead, I begin to examine my expectations with God’s Word and the eyes of my understanding were enlightened.

I realized that while the discipleship model I used when the kids were tiny was effective- we had outgrown it. The training, Bible stories, worship and prayer- the consistent positive interactions between my kids and the real Jesus used to fit perfectly inside this little block of time on my calendar, but it was time to break that box wide open, toss out the previous expectations, and get excited about the new thing God was about to do.

Deuteronomy 6:7 Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about themwherever you aresitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.

Discipleship On The Go became my new expectation. I was so over over-complicating things and trying to find the perfect time and date to water my little sprouts with the word. Instead, I would mist them throughout the day- like the cilantro misters in the produce aisle at Target.

Wherever we are, sitting at home, driving to school (my personal favorite), around the breakfast table, or at bedtime- Discipleship is weaved into every part of our lives. It doesn’t have to look like a once a week Bible study around the table. Really, it should look more like an on-going, never-ending, discussion that you can pick up at any time. With this mindset, there’s not a day that goes by that we don’t talk to our kids about Jesus. It’s all very organic. We thread him into everything. He’s the answer to every problem. He’s the reason for every celebration. He’s our world- which makes renewing our kid’s minds with His Word a very natural part of our day.

We also gifted our two older children with daily devotionals and explained that mom and dad are not the only ones responsible for their relationship with Christ or their spiritual growth. They were mature enough to start taking ownership of their personal walk with God- and they did. What a sweet season it’s been. Seeing your children connect to God personally as they receive their own revelations about who he is is the best!

If your expectations and reality aren’t lining up, let your frustration lead you to God’s Word. Don’t settle. Don’t give yourself grace, because your grace isn’t enough.Meet with God and allow him to give you grace, reveal truth, and free you to walk in the freedom he won for you- in parenting, in marriage, in ministry, in your finances- in LIFE.

Here we are a few months away from the end of the school year, and because I brought my expectation vs. reality frustration to the Lord I not only had an impactful year training my children and leading them toward Christ, but I also produced a resource to help families all over the world do the same. If you’re a parent who is passionate about the discipleship of your children but struggles to find the time, check out my Discipleship On The Go Cards and start looking to weave Jesus into the everyday moments.

Remember, His burden is light! Including the burden to train your one-of-a-kind kiddoes!

Click here to shop Discipleship On the God at Sarah’s site.

Sarah has devoted her life to sharing the story of God’s wonderful goodness. After delivering her son Felix, stillborn, in 2012, she started her blog, 10K Reasons, and God birthed in her a passion for communicating His Word. She has helped many women who have lost babies find comfort in choosing gratitude over grief. In September of 2015, Sarah and her husband, Josh, stepped out in faith, moved to a new land, and pioneered New Song Church in Oklahoma City where they co-pastor and desire to see people come to personally know God. Sarah is also the founder of HIS, a ministry designed for women who prize being found in Christ. Sarah and Josh have been married for sixteen years and have three larger-than-life children—Gus, Beau, and Sunny. Sarah’s first book “Fearless Parenting, Raising Godly Kids in an Ungodly World” will be published in the fall of 2019.

37 Things I Have Learned Over The Years

Today is my birthday. It is also the day I started my blog 5 years ago. So I wanted to write a post on some valuable and also silly lessons I have learned over the years. Topics will range from leadership to bathroom etiquette, from driving to family life, and wisdom on forgiveness to restaurant advice.

Be warned: I am still testing some of these things to see if they are beneficial long term… Read ahead at your own risk!

37 Life Hacks

  1. 75% of vacuuming out your car is shaking the floor mats out.
  2. Never stop in a merge lane of traffic.
  3. Never use your horn when you’re angry. You could end up parking next to the person you honked at in the church parking lot. It has happened to me.
  4. Only use your horn when something dangerous is about to happen (like someone who is stopped in the merge lane of traffic. haha)
  5. Never follow someone into the traffic of life who likes to toot their own horn. They don’t really know where they’re going. They just can’t feel good about themselves without other people telling them how great they are.
  6. 90% of being liked by others is keeping your mouth shut. I guess that’s why blogger don’t have many friends. lol (I am LOL-ing on the outside by crying on the inside. lol, but seriously…)
  7. You can be silent, and people think you are an idiot or you can open your mouth and remove all doubt. – Wayne Austin (I believe)
  8. Giving a compliment is never a bad idea.
  9. Giving a backhanded compliment is never ever a good idea. For example: “You look great for someone who just had a birthday!” Just stop at, “You look pretty great!”
  10. A good rule of thumb is to be generous with what you say and with what you don’t say.
  11. The toilet paper roll should always land over the front. If it is under then it rests against the wall. This means there’s a chance a contaminated hand will touch the wall trying to grab it. Over not under people!
  12. Always wait for someone in front of you to open the bathroom door, so you don’t have to touch it. UNLESS there are paper towels available and a trashcan by the door. Then you can use the paper towel to open the door and toss it in the can.
  13. When changing a baby’s diaper, always have the second diaper already under the old diaper. You never know what can come out of those little things at any moment.
  14. When you take your kids to the park push them on the swing every time they ask. They will only ask for so long and then that time is gone forever.
  15. Treat your spouse how you want your kids’ future spouse to treat them. They’ll most likely marry someone similar to you.
  16. Give everyone in your house a nickname and positive sayings specific to each person. Too many homes have negative labels and negative traits (given sarcastically even) associated with each person. Multiple times a week I tell each of the girls in our house these things: Amy: You are bold, beautiful, and brilliant. Sophie: You are sweet, smart, sensitive, and strong, Gracie: You are gorgeous, genius, gentle, and full of grit.
  17. Always let your kids interrupt you when you are at home to listen to their ideas or to be part of their plans or when they get older they may not allow you to interrupt them to be part of your ideas and plans.
  18. Affirm, hug, and kiss your daughters so much that they will never want to look for those things in the wrong place.
  19. If you are not greeted in the first 10 seconds of a sit-down restaurant, you are better off leaving. They don’t have to sit you, but if they don’t at least acknowledge you, then you are in for an awful dinner.
  20. The restaurant bathroom tells you what the restaurant kitchen looks like. Don’t expect what they know you can’t see to be clean if what they know you can see is dirty.
  21. Never put lemon or lime in your water. Always squeeze it and then discard. You don’t know what was on the surface where they sliced it. It was also most likely not cleaned before or after being cut.
  22. Always tip more generously than you think you should. People are not serving you because you are so special. They are doing it because they have to. If they are having a bad night, you don’t know what is happening at home, what kind of manager they have, or who in the kitchen is giving them a hard time.
  23. Always be willing to give retail and restaurants a perfect score on the surveys they send you. Those things can really hurt or help someone. My rule of thumb is that if I would give them a 3 out of 5, then I’d go ahead and give them a 5. If that person were already a 5 at my expectations, then they’d probably be doing something else.
  24. Here is a trick I have learned to remember whose cup is whose when refilling my wife’s drink and mine at the same time. I always put my cup in my left hand, and Amy’s in my right hand because my wife is always right!
  25. Whenever you go to a restaurant, and there is a long wait just go to the bar area and look for an open seat at a bistro table. I can’t tell you how many lines I have skipped that way and you usually get the full menu there too.
  26. Speaking of skipping lines…. This is one of my favorite traffic trips of all time but may take a minute to explain and a couple of tries for you to master. If there is particular lane of traffic that always builds up at light before a turn (Acadian and Perkins before I-10 in Baton Rouge or the U-turn at 280 and Valleydale in Birmingham, but really anytime there is one lane that builds up, and there are fewer cars  in the lane next to the one with the build-up) here is what you do. Get in the shorter lane to the left and skip everyone so that you are the first one at the light next to the long line of traffic. Then one of two things will happen once the light turns green (look the other driver in the eye before it turns green, and you can typically predict what is going to happen). Just floor it. If they aren’t paying attention, then you can just pull in front of them and then continue traveling at a safe speed. The second scenario is my favorite though. Sometimes people will know what you are up to and don’t want to let you pass. Here is the solution. Still, just floor it. When they speed up as well allow them to create some distance between themselves and the car behind them. Then slow down and just get behind them. They’ll never expect it. Then laugh because now you and they both know you win no matter what. In case you are wondering this is about winning not about traffic.
  27. Always have the last word in marriage when there is a disagreement. And that word is, “Yes, dear.”
  28. When you are fighting with your spouse (something I have never done, yeah right!), always be the first to ask for forgiveness. In marriage, it doesn’t matter who is right or who is wrong. It really doesn’t. No matter how big of a deal you think it is in the moment, just ask for forgiveness, and you will both be happy in 24 hours. In 48 hours you probably won’t remember the argument (unless you’re a jerk and in that case, I can’t help you).
  29. Anytime you say sorry, and add a but, you are not apologizing. You are just using the guise of an apology to be a butt. For example, “I’m sorry, but you are always so rude to me.” WRONG!
  30. When you apologize, and you add an “if” at the end, you are not really apologizing. You are cheapening the person who perceives you have wronged them with a partial apology. For example, “I apologize “if” I hurt your feelings.” If you are going through the effort to say you are sorry, then you might as well just own it completely and move on, “I am sorry “FOR” hurting your feelings.”
  31. In our home, we don’t say we are sorry, and we don’t say it’s ok in response. Both of those sort of dismiss the bigger issue while only temporarily keeping the peace. We ask for forgiveness, and then we offer forgiveness in return. In my opinion, that is the only way to fully take responsibility for an offense and to truly release someone from it. For example, “Please forgive me for hurting you with what I said.” And then “I forgive you for that.” You will be surprised how hard it is to say, “I forgive you” instead of “It’s no big deal,” when you have been the one wronged, but it truly helps to put things behind you both.
  32. Last one on forgiveness and apologies… Never be the person who needs an apology from someone else. If you are waiting around for someone to make your life better with an apology you will probably find more happiness in general by just moving on then waiting for everyone to make things right with you. I’d always rather be the person who has to say, “Please forgive me,” then be the person who needs to hear it. Be generous and forgive others just as God has generously forgiven you!
  33. Meekness is not weakness and arrogance is not strength. Arrogance is weakness out of control and meekness is true strength under control.
  34. Live by, “others may, I cannot” instead of “others may, why can’t I?”
  35. “I’d rather be a wet water walker than a a dry boat rider.” – Tony Foster
  36. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot
  37. Realize you are the hero in your story. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim that needs to be rescued or a sidekick stuck in codependence. Ask yourself, if your life was a novel, what would the hero in the story do next? Would they go back? Probably not. Would they go forward into the unknown? Probably. Would they only look out for themselves or would risk their elevation to elevate someone else. God gets the glory when you point to him as you live successfully.

What are your top life hacks? I’d like to hear them!

The Year the Saints Won the Super Bowl

Thoughts Faith, Family, and Fatherhood

The year the Saints won the Super Bowl is the year that my Dad went to heaven. He was a huge Saints fan, but died a few months before the season began. As the team was making their historic run through the regular season, I couldn’t help but feel it was coming one year too late. Maybe you have also experienced some things in your life that have come too late, did not happen at all or, maybe took an unexpected turn that left you with a future you don’t know what to do with.

You can probably already tell, but this post is not really about the Saints or the Super Bowl.

A Miraculous Conversion and a Cadillac

I would not be a Christian today if it were not for my Dad. The story of how he came to faith is pretty miraculous. As a teenager he was forced to leave his home. My grandfather was an alcoholic and abusive. One night, me Dad threatened him at gunpoint to keep him from hurting my grandmother. That night changed my Dad’s life forever. He dropped out of high school, left home, and began working as a manager at Sonic.

One day, the owner of the restaurant pulled into the Sonic my Dad worked at in his Cadillac. When my Dad came out, the man asked him if he would like to drive a car like his some day then handed him a leadership tape. “Listen to this.” From that point forward my Dad began to listen to leadership tapes and read whatever leadership books he could get his hands on as he continued to experience promotions.

Eventually he came across a book called, “The Happiest People on Earth.” He thought it was a leadership book, but it was actually about Christianity. After reading it, he started listening to the local Christian radio station. One night a DJ on the radio said that if the listeners wanted to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit he would pray for them if they called in. I bet you didn’t know DJ’s did that kind of thing, but I guess they do. My Dad called. He surrendered his life to Christ, received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and began attending church.

My Dad taught me to pray. He modeled the importance of going to church and serving. He was not consistent in his own faith though. He continued to find success in work but eventually his second marriage quietly ended with a note left on the table.

A Change for the Better

Then one day things changed for the better. My Dad told me that he was going to put God first in his life from now on. He said that I should as well. I was 11 years old at the time. Although I didn’t pray a prayer at that moment, I decided I was going to follow Jesus that day; just like my Dad.

I started reading my Bible after that conversation with my Dad. I quickly became very passionate about my relationship with God. Although I lived with my Mom, and she didn’t attend church, I began going to church regularly and joined the FCA at my jr. high school. Loving God came easy to me. It was and is the most natural thing about life for me – having God be a regular part of it.

Years later I would be able to move in with my Dad for my high school years. He was very involved with church, but also very strict on me; even controlling. Most kids would probably have rebelled against the tight standards my Dad kept on me. Nothing was ever good enough for him. Although I was involved in church, and never got in trouble at school, there was always something I could be doing better. The constant badgering and unreasonable rules became overwhelming, but it never superseded my love for my Dad.

He Saved His Own Life

Eventually, my faith would grow to a point that my Dad was no longer leading me in that journey, although I still respected him as the most important man and person in my life. It became a source of tension in our relationship as I would begin attending church more regularly than the rest of my family and keep different standards than them. Things would change in my Dad’s relationship with his third wife, and she threatened to leave him. He responded by doing what I know is probably the biggest regret of his life. He overdosed on some prescription pills in an attempt to kill himself.

At some point after taking those pills he must of thought about his daughter, his two sons, or the fact that he was only 39 years old and had a lot of life to live. He saved his own life by calling 911. The paramedics arrived after he passed out and rushed him to the hospital.

I was not home when this happened. I was out of town on a prayer retreat right before the beginning of my second semester in college. I found out that something had happened when one of the pastors from our church opened the door to the room where I was sleeping at the retreat and told me I needed to leave right away and head to the hospital.

My Dad lived, but suffered multiple strokes. He was never the same man again. Embarrassed, he never wet back to our church. The disciplined, ordered person I had known my entire life was gone. In his place was a severely depressed shadow of my father that lived with extreme anxiety. He became verbally and physically abusive towards me. Although I did all I could to stay and help him, I had to leave his house to finish college. It was the most difficult decision I ever made up until that point, but I knew that I would never be free to become who God made me to be while staying under the control of my father. Wanting to have a good relationship with him wasn’t going to be enough for it to actually be a healthy place for me to live.

An Unexpected Accident

We stayed in touch, but my leaving hurt my Dad. He never treated me like a son again. Eventually, I was the only one of his kids in communication with him. Then there was an argument, and I didn’t speak to my Dad for over a year. I sent cards in the mail, but never received any contact from him. As painful as it was, I left him alone and continued my life as a new husband.

Then there was a car accident.

My dad hit a piece of concrete on the highway and lost control of his car. It spun in circles while the seatbelt pressed against his chest squeezing him tightly against the driver’s seat. He was rushed to the hospital and released the same day. When I heard what happened, I came over and brought him dinner.

Other family members were there when I arrived. We ate and talked. He told me about the accident, and his time at the hospital. When I started to get up to leave I noticed a bunch of picture albums on the floor near the T.V. Instead of rushing out, I asked my Dad if he would come sit next to me on the couch and look at the pictures with me.

I don’t remember how long we sat there together side by side on the coach, just me and him, but we looked at every one of those pictures from the time my Dad was a baby until he joined the Navy, and then married my mom, until the present time. He talked and told stories. That’s really what I always wanted more of from my Dad; more stories of what his life was like.

When we had looked at the last picture I didn’t know that would also be the last time I ever saw my Dad alive. Two days later a pulmonary embolism passed through his body, released as result of the wreck, and stopped his heart. He died in his sleep with his mom and sister, the two most faithful women to him throughout his life, there in his home with him.

The Year the Saints Won the Super Bowl

Accepting that my Dad died at 48 years old was extremely difficult for me. The relationship was abusive and dysfunctional. He is also the person that started me on my journey as a Christian. He relentlessly fought for me in custody battles, so I alway knew that I was wanted by him. On one hand he had hurt me more than any other person, and on the other was the most important man in my life. He started many great things in me, but didn’t finish his own race the way I think he would have wanted.

Then the Saints began to play football in the 2009 season. They won their first game, and then another. I couldn’t help but think of my father. Oh, how my he loved the Saints. He watched them no matter what. Cheered them through many losses. But now they weren’t losing. In fact, they went on a winning streak that was unlike anything I had ever seen. They clinched the playoffs with an undefeated record. Their only loses coming as they rested their starters in preparation for the playoffs.

They began to call those Saints a “Team of Destiny.” Visiting my Dad’s grave, I told him about the season they were having and how I knew he would have liked to have seen it.

How to Remember My Father

Against all odds, the Saints went on to win the Super Bowl. I couldn’t help but feel this was all very ironic. The Saints having such a memorable season, and my Dad not being able to see it. The man who was their constant fan missed their greatest moment, while I got to enjoy it never being nearly as invested in the journey as he was.

I wrestled with how to remember my Dad for many years after his death. How to talk about him. What would I say to my daughters one day when they could understand? There were many good things but complicated aspects as well.

Then one day recently an unexpected sense of peace came over me. There are some hills near our house that surround a pond. Trees are scattered along the edges of the water and I like to take my daughters there to walk and feed the ducks. While leaning back in the grass under the shade of the tree I watched my daughters run and laugh and play. I thought to myself, “I have never been happier than I am right in this moment.” And almost automatically the thought continued, “And I know that this could never be possible without you, Dad.”

You see my Dad will never see my girls grow up. He isn’t here to see them thriving in a godly family, safe and secure. But they would never have the stable loving home they know as regular life if it weren’t for the decision my Dad made to follow Jesus all those years ago.

Heritage and Legacy

There were some hurts my Dad was battling his entire life that were not his fault. He battled some things I will never have to face. He also found a way to keep going when most anyone else would have given up. There are decisions he made I know he would wish he could change if he had another chance, but those were not the only decisions he made.

There are things my Dad started that he won’t get to see finished that I’ll get to experience as I watch my daughters grow up. He began a godly heritage in me, and I am getting to expand and pass on that legacy on to my children.

So when I think of the year the Saints won the Super Bowl, I don’t think about what my Dad missed out on. I think of all the things that he started that I will get to see finished.

My Dad often told me about the irony of the first play in the history of the Saints. In their first game as a team, after the kickoff, the Saints returned it for a touchdown. He thought it was so ironic that the franchisee would go on from that play to have an overall losing record.

If you stop any story before it’s over, then it’s possible to believe that it’s too late, or never going to happen. But it’s possible that the story is much bigger than you and it’s just not over yet.