The Love of a Father

I recently began planning a trip to see a good friend of mine in Atlanta. As she and I started to review our schedules, we found a weekend in June we thought might work and began planning the (obviously) amazing trip we would have.

But then, it hit me. Like the oaf that I am, I was starting to schedule the trip for Father’s Day weekend. “It’s fine,” my husband said, “go ahead and book it. It’s really not that big a deal.”

To book it or not to book it? I struggled with the question.

You see, I’m kind of new to this whole Father’s Day thing. Sure, I have a father, but unfortunately, our relationship has been tenuous at its best, and at its worst, it has been – well, pretty damaging.

As the fifth of six children, I could never really tell why my dad seemed so angry and disinterested in us growing up, but whatever the reason, it certainly left me feeling alone and unloved.

Not surprisingly, this detachment from the man who was to be my primary source for how to have a relationship with the opposite sex led me to have a pretty distorted view of relationships. You could pore through the myriad research on the importance of the father-daughter relationship, orrr you could just read through the next couple of paragraphs because I’m basically a case study in “daddy issues.”

Throughout high school and college, I struggled with issues around body image and self-worth and ultimately flung myself into relationship after relationship desperately seeking love by any means necessary.

I gave up my body, I gave up my integrity, I gave up nearly every noble quality all in the name of finding love and hanging on to it for dear life. I needed someone to validate me. I made these choices, and in the process, I hurt so many people in my quest for happiness, but most of all, I hurt myself.

By the time 2011 rolled around, I was a mess. Down about 20 pounds and up about 10 drinks a weekend after my most recent breakup, my life continued to spiral. I became lonely, self-destructive, manipulative, and frankly, hurtful to just about everyone around me.

It was in this desperate and lonely place that I really met Jesus. I hadn’t given God a serious look in my entire 25 years, just passing glances here and there. The occasional youth group visit, the “Hail Mary” prayer when I was really in trouble (and I don’t mean, like, the actual prayer… just the “God- if you get me out of this, I won’t eat French fries for a week” kind of prayer), and even a semi-regular stint in my sister’s church choir. At no point prior to 2011, did I think very seriously about who God was or even that He was someone I could meet and have a relationship with.

The story of how I met Him exactly is a longer one for another day, but suffice it to say, when I met Jesus, it was the first time in my life that I was chasing a relationship for the right reasons. I was ready to heal the catastrophic damage that had been left in the wake of years of searching for someone to love me and find me worthy.

That healing has not been easy. I should stop here to note that my dad and I continue to mend our relationship. It isn’t a linear progression; it doesn’t wrap up perfectly and you certainly can’t tie a bow on it. I’ve found that while we often want forgiveness to be the end of our heartache, it often is only the beginning of a long and windy road.

Finding Jesus didn’t fix me. It wasn’t a magic pill. I’m certainly not living some perfectly stain-free and worry-free life as a result of choosing to follow Him. I stumble often… for a lot of reasons. In part, I stumble because it’s hard to walk and live in the love of a perfect Heavenly father when your experience with your earthly one has been less than ideal.

But. God. Shows. Up.

In my life, God shows up in the moments when I hear my husband carefully tiptoe into my daughter’s room in the morning to give her a kiss before he heads off to work. He’s in the moments when I watch Benny whisk her up to bath time, excited to spend some quality “Papa” time with her after a long day away. God’s in the moments when she gets a diagnosis, and my husband scours the internet to make sure he is as informed as he can possibly be about her care. God is in the moments when I hear my husband sing his daughter’s favorite songs to comfort her even though they happen to be his least favorite songs in the history of ever. And God is there each time that I see my husband squeeze our girl tightly and whisper “Hey. I love you madly.”

It is in these moments that I am reminded that God’s love is so much bigger than I can wrap my tiny little brain around. It’s bigger than my experience with my own dad, it’s bigger than what I deserve, and it’s bigger than all my doubts about His perfect, grace-filled love.

So, yea, I’m new to the Father’s Day thing. While I don’t know exactly how this thing is supposed to play out, there is one thing I can say with certainty.

I’m not taking the trip this weekend.
I’m staying home with my husband and daughter.

I’m choosing my family on Father’s Day weekend because fatherhood is worth celebrating. It is a reminder to me that God showed up in my life. More than that, it is a reminder that He keeps showing up to redeem my story. And yours too. And every single story out there.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there who remind us that the love of a father can change everything.

I Just Quit My Job, and I Don’t Know What I’m Doing

Yep. Thought I’d just go straight for the throat on this title. There’s no way to come up with a cutesy title when your brain’s running nonstop and your heart could spontaneously combust with emotion at any moment.

See what I mean? Joy.

Five short months ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She is 13 pounds of joy and cuddles and baby drool.

About two even shorter months ago, I quit my job. In my head. As in – I didn’t actually tell anyone, but I had already quit in my heart.

It was a Saturday. My husband’s work had been busy, busy, busy. On top of the usual we’re-approaching-the-final-quarter madness, state testing time was rolling around for him. At the same time, he was working on applying to a doctoral program and training for a half-marathon. It seemed that despite my taking off for the rest of the school year after having our little girl, our life was still moving at lightspeed. There were work obligations for him, home obligations for both of us, doctor’s appointments, family, friends, church, and – at some point – we hoped to fit in a little time for ourselves. You know, the frantic chaos of living. That’s kind of how we’ve always been. I joke about it, but our life mantra has basically been “The Canans: Doing 15948365 things at once or nothing at all since 2014.”

Anyway, my husband was planning on heading to the gym later that afternoon but popped into the kitchen to ask me if I minded if he went to the office first and worked on a few things.

“I just can’t seem to focus here at home today.”

“Sure,” I said. “No problem.” And it really was NO problem.

When the door shut, suddenly I was standing at the sink and tears were streaming down my face. I started doing the ugly cry that you do when no one is watching. You know, the one where you just let the snot run down your face and into the sink. It’s pretty cute.

 When my husband got home that evening, I waited for us to put the baby to bed and asked my husband to turn off the TV.

Then, I began my explanation.

Afterward, he said that though he was sure he didn’t cheat on me, as I began my monologue that evening, he was sure he was on an episode of Cheaters. In hindsight, I probably could’ve told him in a less dramatic fashion, but… FEELINGS.

“I just realized that you care so much about your job and doing it well and advancing your career and I just don’t care about any of that anymore. I just want to come home,” I blurted out through tears, taking long heavy breaths between words to try to collect myself (which I’m sure he loved).

My husband, ever the calm and steady type, replied “Is that all? Well, that’s great. I’m in!”

Alright, it’s done then. I’d quit my job. That was that.

As the weeks went on, I pretended that I had actually made this life-changing decision. I even started telling a few close family members that I planned on resigning at the end of the school year. Each time I said it though, I almost always managed to say “I’m thinking of leaving…” or “Yea, I’m pretty sure I’m done.” Though I was sure in my heart, I couldn’t make the words come out.

Here’s the thing. I’ve been working as a teacher for the last ten years. I have loved the students. I have loved the work.

If you’d have asked me ten years ago, five years ago, two years ago, if I would leave my job outside of the house for a job inside of the house, I would’ve promptly replied with one or more of the following:

“No way. I’m not really the type of person who could just be at home.”

“I can’t even imagine what I’d do all day?”

“I need to have my brain stimulated. I couldn’t just do ABCs all day.”

“That seems like my own personal hell.”

Basically, every stupid thing you could possibly say to a SAHM or about a SAHM, I said it (my sincerest apologies to all of the people I said these kinds of things to; I was obviously blissfully ignorant).

Without even realizing it, I have spent the last ten years making my career my identity. For ten years, I have found my worth and value primarily as a teacher. It’s been easy too… because not only did I believe that my teaching job was noble and worthy, but in general, most people find public servants to be especially worth admiring. My job was filling my bucket, y’all. It took over who I was, and I didn’t even notice until… I gave birth to this sweet little girl.

So, a few days ago, I found myself face to face with my boss for the first time since my daughter was born. I realized that it was finally time to leave that old life behind (for now?) and make it officially official.

My last Top Ten dinner. Ugh. The feels.

It was after a senior recognition event I’d been invited to by one of my students.

“If I end up in conversation with him, I’ll tell him.” I thought to myself. Of course, I was absolutely leaving myself room to not have to speak the words into existence.

Of course, as things go, the dinner wrapped up, people cleared the room, and there he was, waiting to talk to me about next year’s schedule.

He began to discuss potential scenarios and apologized for mixing business with pleasure. What he was saying exactly is honestly kind of a blur because I wasn’t really hearing him; I was too lost in what I knew was coming. When an opening finally appeared in his thought process, the words spilled out.

“Do you remember when we had our first meeting and we were casting vision? We said we were both committed to this place for the long term? And I told you that the only way I’d ever leave this place is if the next opportunity was a perfect fit for me? Well, I found that opportunity, and her name is Eliot.”

Nothing prepared me for the avalanche of feelings I would experience once I let the words escape my lips. On the way home, I cried. Nay. I lost it. I picked up my daughter at my mom’s, and still, I cried. I told my co-workers the next day, and still, I cried.

For me, this decision feels so right. I am ready to shed the life I used to lead in favor of the one I am building with my family. Still, having always identified as teacher, it also feels like a death. A death of who I am? Was? Will always be? I’m not sure.

I’m sure there are moms out there who make this transition with ease. There are moms out there who say yes to staying at home and are ready to leave their jobs and make the transition as soon as they see those two pink lines on a First Response test. To those moms, I envy you.

Still, I know there are other moms like me out there. The ones who don’t know what the hell we are doing leaving a career we love, a career we worked so hard for and so hard in, a career that is fueled by passion, a career that we never really envisioned leaving so that we can stay at home with these tiny little humans we love so much. And to those moms, I see you, I feel you, and we’re going to figure this out together.

Will I continue to miss my career during this season in which I am not working? Sure. Will I cringe as my husband and I look at the budget each month knowing that I am capable of earning an income? Most definitely. Will I wonder if I can adequately demonstrate to my daughter the importance of independently pursuing your passion knowing full well that I’ve put one of mine on the shelf? Absolutely. Will I ever be able to have it all? Nope.

But I’m finding that I just don’t want it all anymore. What is this “all” anyway? All I really want is to be the one who has the chance to catch as many of my daughter’s firsts as I can, the one who is at home to cuddle her when she’s sick, the one who watches her grow and learn every single day at least until she waves goodbye and steps on to that big, yellow school bus. And yes, to be clear, I want the tantrums, I want the meltdowns, and I want the refusals to share. I want to breathe my little girl’s early years in deeply and exhale them slowly knowing that, in this season of life, I pursued the only passion I really wanted to: her.

Had I gone back to work, I don’t know if I would’ve regretted that decision. But for some reason, I know I won’t regret this one. Identity be damned; I’m taking the leap.

So, as I end this garbled diatribe on my decision to stay home, I am reminded that while I have no idea who I am now, while it all feels like equal parts happiness and equal parts sadness, while I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING… in all of this mess, there is love.

Love for a career I was blessed to have, love for my precious gift of a daughter, and love for this little family my husband and I are building together.

Clearly, she is thrilled by my decision.