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Nine Long Months
Mother and Child Need Those Nine Months
The average gestation period for human beings is nine months.
During those nine months of vivipary --simply put, a woman carrying a child inside of her--mother and child are intimately connected with each other.
The delicate entity within the womb needs every bit of those nine months to grow and develop and prepare for the very special day when he or she is finally released from confinement.
With all the physiological, emotional, and hormonal changes the mother goes through, she, too, needs every bit of those nine months to prepare for that very special day when she physically liberates a significant portion of her body.
And what about the father?
Daddy Needed Every Bit of Those Nine Months, Too!
Twenty-one years ago, when Mom first discovered that you had taken up residence inside her body, thus disrupting her all-too-familiar monthly visitor, she shared the wonderful news with me.
I was unable to contain my excitement, and your big brother, who was a little over five years old at the time, wondered aloud what the celebration was all about. Mom and I smiled and looked at each other, and in a mutual understanding that finds its way into the hearts of couples closely connected--one union, under God--we lovingly informed him that he was going to have a little baby brother or sister.
Having been our only child for some time, we were sensitive to how he might take the news that he would soon have to relinquish part of center stage to a complete stranger.
Our concern was for naught. From the moment he found out the good news, Brother fell in love with you. His sweet aloha and respect for and commitment to you has remained intact and steadfast for over twenty years now.
And your daddy?
From the very beginning, I would lay my head upon Mommy's tummy and talk to you. No baby talk, mind you...I conversed with you, heart to heart, soul to soul, laying down a solid foundation of love, trust, and commitment, speaking to you with ever-increasing belief that even your simple-celled substance at the time had the capability to comprehend a father's love for his unborn child.
As the days...and the weeks...and the months went by, I took advantage of every moment I could have to visit you at the site of Mommy's tummy...that beautiful and wondrously expanding tummy that miraculously amplified and added a timbrous element to my voice.
I read stories to you; I prayed with you; I shared my dreams with you; I poured my heart out to you. I reminded you often that I was your daddy and that I would love and protect you for all the days of my life.
In so doing, I myself grew and developed as an individual, realizing with greater conviction, day after day, that God had given me even greater purpose and responsibility and--yes!--reason divine to be a better human being.
Mommy's tummy--I smile as I recall the beauty of it all--became both our figurative and literal family altar. It was where, at the beginning of each day and the end of each evening, we four met to praise and thank God that we were a family.
Yes, my darling daughter, I, too, needed every bit of those nine months to mature into a strong and responsible and protective father for you.
When You Were Two
Dark brown curly hair framing a cherub's face,
You personified Amazing Grace.
Both fluid and solid in your daddy's strong arms,
You held me captive with your little girl charms!
And Then You Were Five!
We played this game, you and I, where I put you on one end of the swing set in the backyard and told you to find a way to make it to the other side without touching the ground.
At first, you weren't strong enough to hold your weight up as you attempted to move along the horizontal pole from one end of the swing set to the swing. But you knew I'd be there to catch you and keep you from hurting yourself. Confident in my protection, you fiercely persevered at your task until one day, you made it all the way across! And then again! And again! Oh, you were so pleased with yourself. And I--oh, I was so very proud of you!
It got to be where you could do this while simultaneously engaging me in a role play where you pretended to be news reporter lady, taking turns interviewing and being interviewed by me. It was your blatant way of telling me, Daddy, you're not the only one who can multi-task! I can be just like you!
At Nine, We Met Keoki
Please assure me that you remember our friend, Keoki.
He's a symbol of the little girl in awe of her daddy.
We had another game, you and I. From the time you were little, I'd snatch you up in my arms and spin you around and around. You loved it!
Again, Daddy! Do it again!
And I'd comply with your wishes, eventually begging you to let me rest. You had me so tuckered out.
About the age of 9, it was getting harder for me to pick you up. Not because I lacked the strength...but because my little girl was growing up and becoming a bit of a sophisticated young lady. Way too early, I thought, as I found myself struggling to let you go.
No, God, she's still my little girl. Don't let her grow up too fast! Extend this special season, Lord. Don't let it slip away too quickly!
One day, I asked you if I could spin you. I know, it was getting a bit silly, and even Mom was raising her eyebrows at me.
I could see you weren't into it, but I wasn't about to give up so quickly.
I don't know if God in His Fatherly empathy gave me the flash of brilliance. All I know is that the thought abruptly came to mind, and I wasn't going to let the moment pass.
Honey, we're going to do a science experiment today!
Always up for new and exciting adventure, you agreed. I quickly picked you up, and before you could protest, I dashed outside and headed for the tall spruce tree next to the creek.
Look up there, sweetie!
What are we looking for, Daddy?
Honestly, I didn't have a clue. All I knew is that I wanted this one last moment to hold my little girl before I would forever have to relinquish the joy of having her perched in my arms. Silly, perhaps, but my eyes felt the conflicting interest of a logjam attempting desperately to hold back the source of the waterfall.
I was about to tell you that I just wanted you to see the pattern the branches made when viewed from ground level when a miracle took place.
One of the branches moved.
Honey, look! Did you see that?
Yeah, Daddy! What was that?
I don't know. Keep looking!
There was no movement for a few seconds. And then it happened. Something small and brown hopped from one branch to another. And that's when we were able to identify the sweet mystery.
It's a wood owl, honey!
Yeah, I can see him!
This is really cool! We gotta give him a name. How about Keoki? (Keoki is Hawaiian for George.)
Okay, Daddy. Hi, Keoki!
I've never doubted that there's a God. In this very moment, I was assured that not only does God exist; He also has a very special place in his heart for silly daddies who utter silly prayers that their daughters never grow up.
I thanked Him silently, reveling in the joy that for one last time, perhaps, He had helped me to look like an awesome father--perhaps even a hero of sorts--who could conjure up a wood owl on a whim with which to delight his beautiful little girl.
Such is the magic of a storybook moment.
The Seattle Blizzard of 2009
Fast forward to 2009.
A severe downturn in the economy, and I find myself working a graveyard shift as a bagel baker in Redmond, Washington.
I'm a five-hour drive northwest of my family. But it might as well be 20,000 miles.
I have recently moved to a new residence in Lake Forest Park, a community just north of Lake Washington. It's two bus rides or the equivalent of an hour and a half commute to work in the morning, and the same for the trip back to the house that I share with my landlord.
And then the snow comes.
In eastern Washington, we're used to the snow. But the Seattleites are not as experienced with the white stuff, and the inevitable result is a whole lot of buses that can't make their routes, a whole lot of accidents, and a whole lot of hard feelings.
The snow falls...and falls...and falls.
By the time I return to Lake Forest Park one evening, it is pitch black, and the snowfall is up to a couple of feet. I'm peering out from the bus, unable to identify the exact spot where I'm supposed to stop.
Like I said, it sucks.
I take a chance and get off the bus at the bottom of a hill. I almost slip and fall because the ground is so slick with old snow that has now frozen into treacherous ice.
With each step I take, I have to lift my boots high enough to pull out from the vacuum created from that last step and high enough to step into the two-foot high snow. I'm tired from having worked an eight hour shift, and the additional three-plus hours of commuting, not to mention the freezing cold while waiting between buses, is rapidly taking a toll on my body and--worse yet--my psychological state. Intuitively, I am aware of and dread the impending hypothermia. I am especially concerned about the disorientation I am experiencing.
I scan my environment, praying that I will spot anything familiar that can point me in the direction I need to be going. Suddenly, it hits me like a lightning bolt--the realization that I am lost!
For what seems like an hour, I wander around, desperately trying to read the cross-street signs but unable to because of the density of the snowfall. My heart sinks when I realize at one point that I've been walking in circles.
I look at the blanket of white in front of me, and I am convinced that if I can just lie down for a few precious seconds, I will be warm and comfortable. I am so tired. The ground looks so inviting. If I can just rest for a few seconds...
THE PHONE RINGS!
Like a heralding angel's trumpet, the clarion call cuts through the sheet of white falling rapidly and--more significantly--arouses me from the fugue of my impending death.
"Oh, honey, it's you! Oh, my God, I'm so glad to hear from you!"
"DAD!" (She sounds angry.)
"Mom makes me so mad!"
"You called me to tell me that?" I am deliriously happy to hear from my daughter yet still able to identify her mood state enough to stifle my laughter of relief.)
"She just doesn't understand. I need you to talk to her, Dad!"
"Honey, you both will work this out."
"Dad, why are you talking so funny?" (My speech is slurred. I'm so cold!)
"Honey, praise God! He used you to save my life."
"What?!? What are you talking about, Dad? You're not making any sense!"
"Sweetie, I'll explain soon enough. Listen, I promise to help you out, but give me a few minutes to get back to the house. I promise to call you, okay?"
"Okay, Dad. Are you going to be alright?"
"Yes...now that I've heard from you, I'm going to be just fine."
With a resurgence of strength and conviction, and the commitment to honor the promise to my daughter, I somehow find my way back to the house.
No one can ever convince me that God doesn't exist.
- Eye of the Tiger, Heart of the Lion
What does a father do upon hearing that his daughter, half a globe away, has been robbed and hurt? He does the only thing he can do... He takes it out on God.
Nine Long Months--A Reprise
Six weeks ago, my wife and I said goodbye to our lovely daughter.
She will be gone for nine long months, serving as a student missionary in Cambodia.
Her job will be to teach math and English as a Second Language to students of different ages in a church school.
Amber will learn a great deal about a culture and a people who are foreign to her in several different ways.
More importantly, she will learn some very valuable lessons about herself and her ability to draw from deep within her spiritual well to cope with the many challenges that she'll encounter.
Meanwhile, back at home, the nine long months will be a season for my wife and me to physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually matriculate to the next level of our blessed relationship.
There's something to be said about God's reasons and timing and purpose for our lives.
Nine long months...a beautiful mystery...and definitely something I'll ask about when I stand before Him some sweet day.