Daddy Issues

I heard joy in my husband’s voice today when his dad picked up the other end of the line.  One little word both filled my heart and pricked a scar mostly healed.

“Dad!!” he exclaimed, with a genuine and heartfelt smile.

Encapsulated in one syllable lies the longing of so many hearts and the responsibility resting heavily on so many others.

It’s perhaps the easiest and most welcome task for most men to begin the process of a new life.  It is perhaps the most challenging to hold that life as precious for the remainder of his own.

Many fail.  No statistic I can share is necessary.  Just look around at all of the souls obviously clamoring for someone to see them.  There is no need for me to try to tell the story that is already blaring loud and glaringly clear, screaming that we have a world full of folks with some serious daddy issues.

Daddies who are absent either physically or have checked out and are preoccupied mentally.  Daddies standing at soccer games who have no idea the heart’s cry of the child running in front of them, and daddies who aren’t standing at the soccer games at all.  Daddies whose own needs outweigh everything around them.

I write from a perspective of mere observation, and, of course, only my own two shoes of experience.  I can tell you what I’ve seen in the best of daddies.  I can tell you what I missed. And oddly, they are the same.

It’s just love, you guys.  It’s just plain love.

My husband was a busy, busy man through the growing years of my children.  His jobs kept him very occupied;  he took his responsibility very seriously to take care of his family.  He was the only source of income for us, and that weighed heavily.  Responsibility is important.  Providing is really important.  Both of those characteristics are things I admire very much about him.  I think he’d be the first to tell you that he was sometimes too busy.  Not sure he could have changed that, but I know there were things he missed out on sacrificially so his family had what they needed and so that I could stay home with our kids.

But, though that was so vital to us, it isn’t what made him a good daddy.  It’s part of the equation, but it isn’t the key.

My husband rough-housed and had tickle fights.  He built forts inside and outside.  He always went in the water and swam with his kids.  He disciplined justly and paid attention to the little things.  He KNEW his kids — both their attributes and their struggles.  His eyes got wet when their hearts broke.  Their dreams created a cheerleader and idea-maker in him.  He was humble enough to ask forgiveness when he hurt a heart.

All and each of these were things I longed for from my dad, but they aren’t what make a good daddy — rather the force behind each beautiful action.

When I read that list, when I recall all the moments, when I observe them even now, I don’t see perfection in my husband.  He wasn’t designed for that.  When I remember, though, when I watch him in action, I see so much love.  It makes him better.  It makes him present.  It makes him lead.  It makes him strong enough to carry what needs to be carried.  It is the reason and the motivator behind it all.

Love in action makes him a daddy. 

To those of you feeling like you’ve dropped the ball, to any of you who feel like your flaws are outweighing your fathering, don’t give up.  From a daughter who felt like a little girl waiting for her daddy to see her for all of her years, there was never going to be a *too late.*  If at any point, my dad would’ve said, “I see you.  You matter more to me than how I feel.  I would do anything for you,” and then lived it out, it would have changed my life.

It would’ve made me answer the phone with such joy!

Your legacy is what your kids will say about you.  It is the stories that they will tell, good or bad to their kids and their grandkids.

All it takes is to let love lead.  It’s never too late.


Storm the Gates

When I was a little girl–three to be specific–I began singing publicly. My dad was a phenomenal classical guitarist and I was doggone cute and could hold a tune, and this seemed to make folks happy. So, I started singing (while he was playing) at nursing homes, various churches, and by the age of five weddings, and not long after that, funerals. Evie Tornquist was my role model and many of her songs were in my repertoire including one that said, “I’m only four feet eleven but I’m goin’ to heaven and it makes me feel ten feet tall.”
Only, I sang three feet eleven ’cause I was (and may still be) so darn short. Cute, right?

Well, it was until I hit my awkward stage…

And this one is thrown in just because there are so few pictures of my dad and me and this one just hit me square in the heart.

So, I guess you could say that pretty much all of my life, I have been singing.

And hating it.
No matter how many times I sang in public, I despised it. I hated the upset stomach that preceded it, I hated the way it made my entire being shake to the core. I dreaded worrying about what people thought of me.

I despised in myself the love for the attention and the need for praise.

I was told by my mother that I was given a gift, and if I didn’t use it God would take it away from me. That fear of the awful moment when my voice would be snatched away from me (think Ariel and Ursula) worked well on a people-pleasing, afraid-of-everything personality.

So I sang.

At some point when I was in my twenties, things got rough for my Dad and he forgot how to use his gift well. We didn’t perform together anymore. I missed the camaraderie and the bond that came with it, but we just let it fade away.
I still sang alone at weddings, funerals, and once in a while at church, but when I did, I was still battling epically on the inside every single time.

And then I quit.

I just decided that it was not worth it. And I had never found the purpose in it anyway. The suffering that surrounded it just outweighed any benefit. I vowed to myself to quit forever. I never wanted to sing in public again.
Big, huge sigh of relief.

Enter into my life a time where my heart felt like raw meat. I was in the midst of separating from my parents, beginning youth ministry with Christian and telling God He could do whatever He wanted with my life. It was a time of charging forward and storming the gates, if you will.
You see, until then, I was a soft-spoken girl afraid of my own shadow, operating entirely in a life of shoulds. I did what I should because I should and because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t. Anything I did that looked brave was usually bravery resting on someone else’s laurels. Not Alison’s.

I remember taking a self-defense class with Justin at some point in my twenties and punching someone for the first time in my life. Once I started I couldn’t stop. It felt so good to feel powerful. I punched so much I left bruises on my teacher and came home exhilarated.

This is how I felt when I surrendered all and whatever to my heavenly Daddy. I literally felt infused with a power that was not my own. Whatever stood ahead faced my “BRING IT ON” attitude. I had ceased being afraid.

And then someone asked me to sing. Not just any someone. A professional musician needed a singer for a youth event we were hosting. Despite my intimidation of him and much to my own dismay, I heard my own voice agreeing.

It was an entirely new page that had turned in my spirit. If there is such a thing as praising defiantly, I was doing it. The only singing I vowed to do from this point forward was worship. That’s all that had merit to me. And so I began to worship in a new way. I worshiped from the hurt, afraid, and broken part of my spirit. And like a balm, the worship began to cover those deep places and I began to heal.

Through the entire time that things were at their absolute worst in my life, I was passionately worshiping until my body would hurt from the exertion. Like a good coach, the aforementioned musician (who became a brother to me) was still pushing me to worship and he will still laugh at me for the times I literally fought him by stomping my feet as he pushed me out front to new levels of bravery in my ability to take the mess the enemy had tried to ruin me with and turn it into words of public praise. There were days when, during practice, I would go from sobbing in a corner over the latest developments to wiping my face and taking the stage.

It was the most powerful time of my life. A huge part of my testimony about the absolute power of words and even more about the power of a God who saved my life.

I learned that I was made to worship. I was not made to sing, and that’s why any type of singing with the wrong motive felt like torture to me. I was created to tell my God how amazing He is. Whether that’s on a stage or in my kitchen or in the words I speak to my family or a stranger in the grocery store, I am here on this earth to reflect the love of my God. It is my purpose. It is my intention.

It’s about looking evil in the face and declaring a new thing. To see the impossibly high gates ahead and storm them with whatever weapon I have been given.

May I encourage you to open your mouth and use your voice?