Three and a half decades ago, I was a 19 years old soldier serving in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. On the evening of October 15th of that year, my stomach was doing somersaults and I was splashing water on my face as my daughter Leah was making her entrance into the world.
That beautiful baby girl was just beginning to be a source of learning for this man. Over the years, we have laughed and we have cried. One thing is certain – the Lord has placed her into my life to teach me much.
Through Leah the Lord has taught me joy. I could never forget those car rides in which she belted out songs that put numerous smiles on my face. She would sing songs from church, from cassette tapes with kid’s Christian songs and from one well-worn cassette of songs about Cabbage Patch dolls. When all of that had been performed, Leah would simply make up songs. I still remember well the repeated chorus of her original song “Going Around the Curve”. Those joyful moments have been compounded many times over in various conversations and encounters.
Through Leah the Lord also taught me to laugh at some of life’s failures. One couldn’t help but chuckle when Leah attempted a jump shot on the basketball court. The backboard was always in danger as her shots were hurled toward the goal. She didn’t really have that shooter’s touch. But she could play shutdown defense because of her tenacity.
The funniest failure was when I took her to take her driving test in hopes of getting her permit. I waited outside as she and the instructor took off in my car. I knew things had not gone well when I saw the car coming back into the parking lot – with the instructor driving. She had failed, but we laughed.
Through Leah the Lord also taught me to get back up when we stumbled. During her early teen years we lived in a house that had a bunch of trees in a big yard. Each fall those leaves were everywhere on the ground. On one occasion she and her siblings were grounded for some breach. She asked if she work off her grounding by bagging leaves. We agreed and she spent long hours raking and bagging leaves. Soon she was free from her grounding while her brothers remained on theirs.
That story is important because that same character was instrumental in getting me through the biggest failure of my life. Leah was unwilling for her father to live hypocritically and made sure that I came face to face with the consequences of my sin. Yet Leah was the first one to be there in helping me put back together whatever pieces were left. She helped me experience both truth and grace.
Finally, through Leah the Lord has taught me to fight on when disease attacks. When I suffered my first heart attack in 2011, Leah flew to Florida to be with me. At the time she was wearing a head covering because she had lost her hair undergoing treatment for breast cancer. I’ll never forget the day I stood outside of the hotel at which I worked taking a call from Leah. When she told me that she had been diagnosed with cancer, I felt as if a monster had kicked me in the gut.
Leah faced her battle with cancer with all of the gusto one could muster. She fought and fought hard. Now she earns a living by training others to be physically fit and strong.
Words cannot adequately express the love this father has for his daughter. Neither can they express the gratitude to the Lord for sending her into my life. I am a much richer man because she has been a part of my journey. May her two sons learn these same lessons and many more from their mother.
Leah has helped me experience the grace of God and to live life in light of that grace.